Thursday, June 30, 2011

Where's the knitting?

Before the question arises, here's a rundown of what I'm knitting. No one should ever ask, anyway. I'm always knitting something(s).

An unexpected request for a toe-up version of my latest sock pattern made me wonder if I could knit a 56-stitch sock that would fit me. With some Fannie's Fingering Weight, the question was answered with a Yes! It was a quick way to check my calculations, a good plan that was foiled by my inattention as I knitted the heel. Although I knit from toe to heel in a two days, I failed to write down the row numbers. There was nothing to do but knit the second sock to double check the numbers.

I stewed about it for a day or two since I didn't want to cut the yarn mid-stripe to cast on another sock. I finally decided that I'd rather risk the stripe being reversed than interrupted and cast on from the other end of the ball. That's why there are two toe-up socks in progress. The legs are simple to knit while paying attention to other issues. When I want something more engaging, I'll start the mate to this sock:

The pattern is Ilga's Socks by Nancy Bush. I'm using the the version in the book, Favorite Socks. I thought I read there was errata in the earlier magazine version, but there's none in the book. I modified the ankle by adding ribbing and mistakenly knit a slip-stitch heel instead of the pattern's birdseye. Since I don't like birdseye, I'm not sorry for the error and will repeat these mods in the second sock. I'm using my size 0 blackthorn needles to knit the foot in the Sportlace yarn. The resulting fabric is so tight, I decided I didn't need to knit the foot inside-out as I've done in the last few pairs of socks I've knit. It will be smooth enough on either side. I used various sock yarn leftovers for the patterned cuff, including some variegated yarn for the background of the main motif. I really like the effect and promise a more color-true final photo.

One thing the photo above does show well is my latest big FO--a hardwood floor. It is the result of one of those one-thing-leads-to-another projects. A ceiling repair lead to painting that prompted new carpet. Once the carpet was ordered, we pulled up the old carpet and found peg-and-plank flooring. All it needed was cleaning and waxing. I'm happy to have the hardwood floor, but not the new task of tearing apart another room to put down the new carpet. At least we found another room that doesn't have hardwood under the carpet.

Also hoofing along is a sweater, at last. It's the cover sweater from last fall's Vogue Knitting.

The color is more rich than this photo shows, but the lighter exposure makes the pattern more visible. That ought to be enough knitting, but on a whim I started a potholder with some tapestry yarn I bought cheap at a craft sale.

I adapted the chart from a sock pattern and plan an i-cord edging in the pink. Maybe I'll add some embroidery as well. For now, I've got to go move furniture. K has the bright idea that we should stack the two queen beds on the same bed frame when we empty out the second room. We would have to sleep on all of them, princess-and-the-pea style. While that arrangement would be fitting, considering my current obsession with princess-soled socks, I'm afraid it will be too teeter-tottery.

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Sunday, June 19, 2011

RMNP, the beetle goes on

On our recent drive to Estes Park, we drove through the Rocky Mountain National Park.

The mountains were breath-taking, at first glance. There's something wrong with them, though. We kept our eyes peeled for wildlife in vain nearly the entire trip. There were elk, at the end. They were just south of the eastern park entrance.

I stretched my camera to maximum zoom, taking several shots of these bulls and some mule deer bucks that were grazing nearby. They were sooo far from the road. Ironically, once we got to Estes Park, there were elk a-plenty.

The path around the golf course has a sign warning of agressive elk during breeding season. The danger didn't bother this golfer who stopped his play to take a cell-phone photo. I'm not sure why there weren't the usual elk in the park. Perhaps it is the lateness of the spring at the higher altitudes. It might be the pine-bark beetles who have rampaged through the park, taking advantage of the drought and warmer winters to invade and kill large stands of trees.

That's what is wrong in the first photo. The snow among the trees at the higher elevations shouldn't be visible. Those are evergreens, not decidious trees that haven't leafed out yet. Most of them are dead.

We saw the same thing at the Dillon dam, huge mountains covered with dead trees.

The Park Service has posted a recent article about the beetle problem.

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Thursday, June 16, 2011

Estes Park Wool Market, 2011

I highly recommend Estes Park Wool Market. This year was my first time to attend. Although I live within easy driving distance of Estes Park, I hadn't been interested in attending until this year. Most years, the date of the Market wasn't convenient. There's so much going on in Colorado in the summer. A lot of events conflict. However, the timing worked this year. I'm very glad it did.

The fairgrounds is a great facility with several stock barns. Still, there wasn't quite enough room. There were so many animals that large tents were set up to hold the overflow.

There were lots of sheep, of course, all kinds. I'm sorry that I'm not better acquainted with sheep breeds. I can't identify these two, except to say that they were the the only ones who were cooperative in posing. Most of them either crushed to the back of the pen or stuck their nose in the lens when they saw the camera.

I did have a wonderful encounter with a small black ewe. She came up to me and closed her eyes in bliss when I scratched her cheek. After a bit, I noticed that whenever I scratched, she would switch her tail rapidly back and forth. Hilarious!

I left the sheep and moved on to the alpacas and the llamas, only to find they didn't much care for the smell of sheep on my hands. Oh well, camelids not much for petting, but they are photogenic.

There were cute and fuzzy ones and tall and regal ones. I was so surprised that the llama in the photo below posed. He was coming toward the camera for a sniff, but when I said, "no", he stopped and posed. I'll bet he's well-behaved in the shows.

For cute and fuzzy, though, you can't beat the rabbits.

This angora bunny is certainly prettier than the wild rabbits I watched play outside my hotel room the evening before. As I admired this one in its tiny cage, I wondered, if it was let loose in a field, would it scamper around as friskily as the wild rabbits did? I would have asked the breeder, but she was thronged with enthusiastic angora lovers.

One last my attention was captured by the impressive display of ribbons. When I asked the lady who was putting the pack saddle on this llama if she minded being in the photograph, her response was to complain that the llama had lowered his ears.

I know llama and alpaca owners think their animals look better, or at least, happier, with their ears up. When I went to an alpaca ranch a couple of years ago, the rancher was displeased that all of the alpacas would lower their ears when I pointed the camera at them. It was my recounting of that story that made the woman laugh as I took the photo above.

I didn't realize that I failed to take any photos in the vendor barn. I was just too busy shopping. There was a great selection of vendors. I'll put my purchases together and photograph them soon.

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Monday, June 6, 2011

Knitting Princess-footed Socks

I usually knit up a pattern idea over and over again until I'm satisfied. I consider it a form of test knitting, along with a trial and error approach to design. On the third of fourth knit, I follow my notes to check my written version. Of course, with socks you can multiply all these repetitions by two. My new sock pattern began last fall with these gift socks.

The recipient has sensitive feet. I had knit him a pair of socks a couple of years ago following a pattern for a princess sole (one that is purled instead of knit). The pattern by Susan Zivec has a bit of ribbing between the heel turn and the sole. The added ribbed bit looks very nice, but since I've never worn these socks, I can't say whether or not it improves the fit. I found purling the remainder of the sole after the ribbing very tedious. Once I knew I had to knit a second pair for the same person, I decided to avoid the purling by knitting the foot inside out. That's when I began to work on a means of incorporating a reverse-knit foot into any sock pattern.

For this second pair (the ones in the above photo), I selected a cabled pattern on a reverse stockinette background that merged with the reverse stockinette pattern of the foot. I followed the pattern as far as the heel gusset, and then knit the end of the cable pattern as I knit the gusset. Once that transition was complete, I turned the sock inside out, made a wrap and turn, and continued in knit, except for the two lines of ribbing on either side of the instep. Those were worked as purls from the wrong side. more on these socks here....

I wasn't happy with having to change direction of knitting and pick up a wrap once I turned the sock inside out. Even though I tried to hide the change near the heel, I could still see the bump. My next attempt included developing a pattern designed to be turned inside out.

This pair incorporates several changes of ribbing in an attempt to provide a gradual transition to a p3, k1 rib over the foot. I thought this might make it easier to knit, since it is knit as a k3, p1 from the wrong side. All in all, the changes in ribbing proved too fiddly to be worth the effort. The important development in this pair occurred when I realized could change the direction of knitting at the heel turn. Which I did, right at the end of the heel flap. more on these socks here....

Since I was fairly happy with this innovation, I repeated it in my next pair.

The big change I made in these Saguaro socks (a free pattern) was to continue the simple cable pattern down the instep and down the heel, even though that meant working the cables from the wrong side. Cabling on the wrong side is not as hard as it sounds. It just requires a crossing of stitches while purling. The hard part is mentally reversing the direction of the crossing.

Since the yarn I used for these socks has cashmere content, I knitted a strand of bamboo content yarn along with it to reinforce the heel turn. That's where my socks usually wear out. As a side effect of this addition, I looked hard at the transition to purl in the heel. more on these socks here....

Since I wasn't at all happy with this transition, I put the change from knit to purl at a different point in the next pair. By this point, I was knitting socks according to a simpler pattern I had written. I'll cover those in my next post.

One last pair, the most recent ones I've knit inside-out:

For these Wakefield socks, I made the transition from knit to purl in the heel turn according to my pattern and then dropped most of the lace patterning after the gusset. I reasoned that the smoother pattern would be nicer to my feet inside my shoes and wouldn't be visible anyway. Also, I was lazy. Once I turned the sock inside out, I completed one repeat by working the chart from left to right, reversing all the knits and purls, knitting k2tog as p2tog and ssk as ssp. This conversion was difficult. Tiring of the tricky pattern, I just continued the k1tbl's down the foot as p1tbl's, replacing the lace pattern with knit stitches between the ribs. For a bit of interest, I worked the toe decreases between the sets of ribbing. more on these socks here, at the end of the post...

Now that you have read about my development of a more comfortable pair of socks, you may want to try knitting the feet of your socks inside out. If you don't care to try to figure it out on your own, the pattern will be available as soon as I finish editing the pdf file, hopefully at the end of this week.

If anyone wants to receive a free pattern in return for test-knitting, please comment or e-mail. If you do comment for that purpose, be sure to tell me how to get in touch with you.

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Thursday, June 2, 2011

Fiber Fest, dry this time

There's nothing like good weather to improve an outdoor festival, especially the kind of weather that graced Pagosa Springs, Colorado this past Memorial Day weekend.

My second visit to the Pagosa Fiber Festival had it all over my first, the one that I blogged as the Wet Fiber Fest. Of course, a snowy, rainy day in May is somewhat rare, even in Southern Colorado. Besides the great weather, this festival offers the all the usual attractions, just on a smaller scale. There were 30 vendors, mostly from Colorado and New Mexico, with a couple from Texas adding to the western vibe.

There was a variety of animals, notably a Wensleydale sheep, the festival mascot (an alpaca named Thunder), Highland cattle, and this pair of llamas imitating a pushmi-pullyu.

The one facing the camera looks a little different than your average llama. With the dreadlocks, a slim and elegant body and those finely curved ears, he reminds me more of a Suri Alpaca than a llama. He's llama-sized, though. Whatever he (or she) is, I think I have a crush.

There was shearing.

Just one shearer, though. He made his way through a pen full of sheep while I shopped the booths. Here's my haul.

The pretty colors in the back are the work of The Natural Twist from Albuquerque, NM. It's a chunky weight mohair/wool combo. I picked several colors in their Enchantment Series, planning more fair-isle pillow covers.

The front-and-center hank is Blue-faced Leicester and silk sock yarn, dyed by a mother-daughter team from Boulder, Co. Their company, Wild Orchids Fiber Arts, offered a selection of unusual yarns, beautifully and tastefully dyed. Mink yarn, cashmere, bfl, merino, I was really happy to get the bfl, touted to be the best sock yarn ever. The unusual sage colorway is just my taste. Don't expect to see it knit up anytime soon. I usually enjoy my favorite yarns in a hank for a while before I wind them up. It's like the knitting project I took on the drive to Pagosa Springs.

The yarn I used in these socks is a perfect example. It was part of my prize for second-place in the Socks Revived pattern contest last summer. It's the Spring Grass colorway of North Loop's superwash merino sock. I puzzled for a while with it, but once I settled on the Chouwa pattern from Knitted Socks East and West, everything fell into place.

I just love how the slight pooling works with the feather and fan pattern in the leg. The cables in the pattern tighten the leg considerably, though. It's a little tight pulling them on over my heels, but once on, they are a good fit. I followed the pattern through the heel flap, taking a chance that the shorter-than-my-usual heel flap would still fit. It does, barely. I turned the sock inside out after the heel turn to knit a smoother, princess-style sole with no purling.

I plan to blog incessantly about this method of sock knitting as I work up to my next pattern launch. I have found that turning the knit side toward my foot makes a more comfortable sock. Since the entire foot in this sock is reverse stockinette, I'm not satisfied with the term princess sole. These socks have a princess heel, princess sole, princess toes, and a princess instep--what should I call it? A royal foot?

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