Saturday, April 20, 2013

Socks Saturday: Not again.

Bear with me a moment.

You know that first real boyfriend you had? The one you were convinced was your dream come true, made for you, just absolutely perfect? You know how that first relationship was the Best Ever, a true and deep meeting of the souls, and anyone who tried to hint otherwise Just Didn't Understand Our Love? Remember how every day you were walking around half swept off your feet, in a daze of wow, I'm with this guy! - and remember all the kind-of-embarrassing things you said to him, or about him to everyone else?

Did anyone else here have a heartwrenching emotional breakup with that guy, and then a little bit later, try to get back together again? And it was all awkward and wrong, trying to make it work again - all bitterness and possessiveness and nostalgia and recriminations - but you were going to try, dammit, because you didn't want to make all that earlier energy and enthusiasm you had look stupid?

Any of you think back on that guy, years later, and just wonder, my goodness, what was I thinking, how did I ever think that was a good idea? Why did I try so hard that second time? How could I have sunk so much time and energy into that? Why didn't I just break up with him earlier?

I think sometimes, your first sock yarn is a little bit like your first boyfriend.

Friday, April 19, 2013


About a month ago, I donated my shawl-knitting services as one of several items to be auctioned off to raise money for Doctors Without Borders. I've been in touch with the winner, an acquaintance of mine, a few times since then, and she's been wonderfully cooperative. I have almost everything I need to start working.

The only problem: deciding what yarn to use.

She asked for the shawl to be "dark gray or aubergine". Well, I say to myself, dark gray is boring. (I usually love dark gray, but not after just finishing an entire beaded shawl with it!) So I've been looking for suitably aubergine yarn. After not quite managing to convince myself to use stash yarn and try to fudge the colors, I gave in and looked at this as an opportunity to try out Dye For Wool yarn for the first time.

I don't have a very good grasp on what shade "aubergine" is, and Google image search, it seems, can't quite decide either. So, I'll outsource the decision-making to you lovely readers. Which yarn do you think fits her request most closely - which yarn should I use?

Poisoned By Love - "A dark and intense reddish violet with very subtle variations in brightness."
Bewitched - "A very dark and saturated magenta purple with subtle variations."
Freshly Squeezed Cherries - "This is a semi solid reddish purple reminding me of cherry juice."
Dark Blood Velvet - "This is a very dark and saturated solid bluish red."
Dancing With The Devil - "This is a muted almost black reddish purple. This dye lot is a bit more intense than the last."
Bat Biting The Dust - "This is a dark and somber purple which reminds me of a bat flying at night."

Myself, right now I'm leaning towards Dancing With The Devil for the name alone! But I keep looking at pictures of all the pretty yarn and changing my mind every few minutes.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

A word about Boston.

I went to college near Boston. The Monday of the Boston Marathon, in Massachusetts, is a holiday called Patriots' Day. We called it Marathon Monday, and all classes were canceled for the day. There's a longstanding tradition of students turning out en masse to line the streets where the race course approaches campus, kiss runners, and scream their hearts out in encouragement. (I never did this myself. Unconsciously I avoided almost all of the college traditions, and I'm not sure if I regret that or not.)

I remember one year two of my fellow students ran in the marathon, and the outpouring of love and support from the whole campus was overwhelming. I remember reading about runners who run for loved ones, living or lost. I remember reading about a father running with his son, who has cerebral palsy, by pushing him in a wheelchair. They've run the marathon thirty times in total.

Yesterday as I watched the news unfurl everywhere, including Ravelry, one of the things that surprised and hurt me was the sentiment that kept cropping up again and again - the one that goes, "I've lost faith in humanity" or "Human beings are sick to be able to do this to each other" or anything remotely resembling "X wide-ethnic-or-political-group is behind this". This is the best answer I've found to that sentiment so far. (If you're like me and despise being on Facebook, you can view it even without being logged in.)

I'm not about to forget the events of yesterday anytime soon. But to my good memories I'm going to add even better memories: the pictures of brave men and women running towards the explosions to try to help people out, the local residents who opened their homes to runners who couldn't get to their hotels, the Red Cross's announcement that they have more than enough blood donated now, thank you, you can wait on donating until later in the week.

These are the things I choose to remember about Boston and its Marathon.

No one I know was injured or killed. No one I know was anywhere close to the scene. It would be infinitely harder for me to say these things if they had. I respect and grieve for everyone who suffered a loss. But it's possible - and important - to grieve without falling into cynical depression. We need to not lose sight of all the good things, past and present, in the shadow of the bad. If, years and years down the road, we think of Oklahoma City or Manhattan or Boston and can remember nothing except the bombs, then we have already lost.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Fret not.

Here's what's going on with the socks.

The pattern is Francie, by Rebekkah Kerner. I cannot stress enough how simply fun this pattern is to knit. There's always something interesting going on, whether it's the evershifting cuff pattern or the gusset decreases are all the way down at the sole or the way the arch shaping curves slowly up and around the foot again. If there's one thing I don't like so much about this pattern, it's the left-lifted and right-lifted increases, both in knit and purl - I find them fiddly and distracting. I might end up trying out a KFB or a few M1s the next time I knit these.

I knit this pair with Dream in Color Smooshy, casting on the number of stitches that the pattern recommends (64) but using size 2 needles, one size up.

And here's the thing. It fits me. It's snug but still comfortable, with some stretch to spare. It's like a woolen hug for my tiny little size 6 women's foot. I'm not sure whether it will fit Pickle's size 12 men's foot. (Even if he does assure me that he likes his socks really snug.) Rather than take my chances with the sizing game (because that worked out so well for me with Amy's socks), I've decided to just keep this pair and knit another with 72 stitches, now that I know the pattern well enough to improvise a size-up.

It turns out, too, that Dream in Color Smooshy has a lot of yardage.

You're looking at what's left of the first ball, after I've already knitted two and a half socks from it. There's an entire second ball still sitting in plastic in the stash. There will be enough to finish this pair for me and knit another, larger pair for Pickle.

It will be okay.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Socks Saturday: So, uh.

I was going to post about Pickle's socks, which I have finally restarted.

It turns out, these aren't Pickle's socks at all.

They're my socks now.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

A silly thought.

I was writing up a short list of the friends I mention most often on this blog. (You can see this list on the right sidebar now.) Since they're recurring characters, so to speak, I figured that there should be some reference point so that I don't feel like I need to periodically explain who everyone is. If you're on the list and object to how I've characterized you, please let me know!

Anyway, I've been playing some Star Wars: The Old Republic recently. And while I was trying to figure out how best to describe my friends in a handful of words, I started thinking about how, just maybe, knitters train each other like Sith masters and apprentices.

Think about it. The master usually chooses who is worthy of being taught, but in some cases a particularly precocious or determined student may pledge herself to the service of a master. In my own experience, I might share techniques or tips with all sorts of knitters regardless of skill level, but there is only one new knitter (at a time) whose training I feel personally responsible for, and only one more-established knitter I consider to have overseen mine. The master and apprentice usually pursue separate projects. In addition, the master isn't required to teach everything systematically and methodically from the very basics; rather, the master provides encouragement and inspiration (and sometimes adjustments of worldview), and the responsibility for going forth and learning is on the apprentice.

Of course, the whole "eventually surpass and kill your master" thing is a minor snag in the comparison. I have absolutely no desire to harm my knitting master, who is a lovely and delightful person. (Although she's never shown me her stash, and has therefore never put temptation in my path.)

For the purposes of my sidebar I use the Jedi analogues because I think the terms are easier to recognize. But I'm not sure which side fits the relationships that teaching knitting produces more accurately. What do you think? Are you a Light Side or a Dark Side Knitter? Are you strong in the Force Stash? Have you ever had a Padawan or a Sith Master? Can you create a yarn version of the Jedi or Sith codes?

(Come to the Knit Side. We have Malabrigo.)

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Closings and Ink

A little while back I mentioned that Mind's Eye Yarns was closing down. Just a few days ago I got an email from the Down Cellar mailing list saying that they were closing as well. This put me into quite a shocked and grieving mood. (It put Pickle into a frantic one, as he is now deputizing for all the yarncrafters he knows at the closing sales. I mailed him my half-filled discount card.)

I'm not sure what it means that I can accept with sadness and resignation Mind's Eye closing, but cannot imagine Down Cellar closing with nearly as much equanimity. Does it have to do with the size of the store, or how long I've shopped at each one, or how well I know the owners? Maybe all of them, and maybe something more. I've tried imagining some of the other LYSes I've visited over the years announcing that they have to close down. It's too sad an exercise to keep up for long.

In any case, if anyone near Basking Ridge, NJ has ever dreamed of owning a yarn store... there's your chance.

Given these back-to-back announcements from my two oldest and most beloved LYSes, I've been a little bit wary of cementing my loyalty to any new yarn stores lately (what if my patronage is cursed?!) But last week I decided that surely WEBS is too big to be brought down, and I ordered three skeins of Madeline Tosh Merino Light in Mare. Named (I assume) for the Latin word for the sea, Mare is a gorgeous colorway - it's so dark it's nearly black, but when you look closer there are all these underlying glints of rich sapphire and copper.

This is the same yarn and colorway that Amy and Luna got for me as part of last year's birthday present. I had no idea what it wanted to be then, other than beautiful. Recently I saw the cardigan pattern Ink and thought, well, I do have some gorgeously soft fingering yarn that I'm not going to be using for socks...

I ordered enough to make any of the sizes I'm trying to decide between. When you have a 31" chest and are getting perfect gauge, are you supposed to knit to the 30" size or the 34" size?

The beginning collar edging is knit exactly the same way for all sizes, so at least I have some time to consider it.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Socks Saturday: FO Bandit's Socks Redux

Sneaking this in here while it's still technically Saturday.

Started: January 10, 2013
Finished: April 4, 2013


Divide leftover alpaca sock yarn from last pair of socks into two equal-ish balls, for contrast toes.

This will be the easiest part about the whole process.

Attempt to cast on using Judy’s Magic Cast-on. Drop DPNs constantly. Try unsuccessfully to find a circ of the correct size. Keep tangling yarn and dropping stitches. Finally cast on: 30 st on a size 2 dpn and a piece of green electric wire. Curse liberally. Do the other sock toe too, before you lose the trick of it.

Realize you accidentally cast on for the second sock with a size 3. Do your best to ignore it, because heaven help you if you're going to go through that again.

Knit around three rounds with size 1 dpns. Begin increases two stitches from the end of each needle, each other round (4 increases each other round) until each needle has 25 stitches on it. On plain row following, Russian join the new yarn: Berroco Sox, divided into two roughly equal balls. 100 st in total.

Begin 4x2 ribbing on top of foot. Knit 40 rounds. On 41st round, change to size 0 needles. Marvel that this makes absolutely no difference gauge-wise. Knit 25 rounds with size 0 needles and rapidly become tired of cramping hands. On 66th round, switch back to size 1 needles. Continue knitting 20 more rounds, badgering Bandit to try it on every so often.

On 86th round, pull out the pdf for Toe-Up Socks with a Difference. Puzzle over the numbers given. They're not a simple linear increase. Realize you can't figure out how to extrapolate the numbers given for the number of stitches you actually have (because honestly, who knits a sock with 100 stitches?) Ask LYS owner for help. Feel slightly vindicated when she can't figure out the extrapolation either. Poke around the designer's website. Find errata for a similar heel construction, complete with a series of numbers that still doesn't quite get to 100 but gives you an idea of how you should be extrapolating. Begin gusset shaping for heel.

*Finish gusset shaping, start turning heel, get Bandit to try it on, realize the heel is too long. Rip out. Start knitting again, beginning the increases at an earlier point, and updating the numbers above as you keep changing your plan. Repeat from * once.

Try yet again. However, instead of alternating increase rounds with plain rounds, do three increase rounds and one plain round. Increase until there are 79 gusset and heel stitches, then begin turning heel.

Worry about how quickly the heel increases widen out the sock, and about the probable lumpiness of the bottom of the sock. Decide not to put yourself through that ordeal yet again.

Continue 4x2 ribbing on top of foot and plain stockinette on back for all eternity. Discover that one of your half-balls of yarn is much bigger than the other. Alternate knitting rows on each, then switch every half round, then switch every needle. Join the ends and knit right up until the yarn is all gone. This will take weeks. Try not to be too surprised when the cuff is still too short for Bandit's liking.

Dye silly red and white spotted sock yarn specially for the top of the cuff. Change your mind about using it, and crack open some plain gray cotton/acrylic instead: Kraemer Yarns Saucon Sock.

Knit seven rows of 2x1 ribbing. Try not to scream. Bind off.

Try on the socks, just out of curiosity.

Wonder why you just had to go and date a guy with feet that will actually fit into these socks.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

FO: Nouveau Beaded Capelet

It's done.

Started: February 12, 2013
Finished: April 2nd, 2013, at about 2 AM
Yarn/yardage used: Skaska Designs 18/2 lace, 50% merino/50% silk. Used just over 1000 yards.
Beads: Size 8/0 ice blue seed beads from Fusion Beads, 16 10-gram bags (around 5000 beads).
Tiny crochet hook: Indispensable.
Blocking materials: Nine foam blocking squares, two supplementary pieces of cardboard, two blocking wires, 17 T-pins, over 150 straight dressmaker's pins (I lost count). And a deep innate excitement about hunching over for over an hour at 3 AM, putting pins into every single border YO in hopes of getting the scallops perfectly curved.

It was worth it. It was all worth it. And should anyone ever cast doubt on the usefulness of blocking, I will direct them towards this pair of pictures.

I made one mod: up near the neckline, there are a few rows where I substituted plain stockinette for the horizontal bar yarnovers that the pattern is so chock-full of. That was the day of the convention for which I needed this shawl to be done, and I thought that maybe if I stopped worrying about the very fiddly and time-consuming horizontal bar yarnovers, I could somehow speed up enough to finish in time. Alas, it wasn't enough. I went back to following the pattern after the convention was over. You can see the stockinette area as the seven little dark chevrons inside the diamond shapes close to the neckline.

Seeing how much more beautiful this is when fully blocked, when the lace opens up and the weight of the shawl evens out and settles down elegantly around the shoulders ("like a string of real pearls", says the pattern) I'm saddened all over again by the fact that I didn't get this done in time to wear for the convention.

Having this done has made something of a hole in my life. I no longer have a large project to work on, nor easy access to materials to start in on any of the other large projects on my knitting resolution list. I suppose I could burn through a couple of pairs of socks for the present. But soon I'll be looking for something enormous and elaborate again.

Monday, April 1, 2013

The post with all the pictures.

As promised, a picture of the half-completed shawl in action. (Pardon the quality - this is a carefully cropped close-up from a larger picture. The original wasn't aiming to be a FO picture. Also, it had my face in it.) In the picture it's still about thirty rows from completion. It's now only around ten rows from completion, which means an actual FO post will probably be next.

While I was in the Boston area, I stopped by my old LYS, Mind's Eye Yarns, twice. The first time I went with Kay (of last year's inter-state yarn trip), and it happened to be on the Saturday of the annual Red Line Yarn Crawl. So when I bought a skein of the owner's hand-dyed sock yarn, I got a 10% discount card for my next purchase. I didn't anticipate being in the area again before the card expired, so I took some time on Monday to drop by again while visiting with Shoshana. Shoshana is one of the few remaining friends from college I'm still in touch with, and the one who got me onto Ravelry and inspired me to start knitting more adventurous things. She also introduced me to Mind's Eye, so it was not very difficult to suggest that we hang out there.

While looking around for the perfect thing to use my discount on, my eye naturally fell on the cones of undyed yarn above the merchandise shelves. They weren't exactly for sale. I bought one anyway. I feel kind of bad about it - did my asking about it pressure the very nice employee to come up with a price on the spot? and should I not have asked about using the discount card on top of that? - but I don't think I was pushy or rude about it at all, and would easily have taken no for an answer. In any case, a pound of lovely laceweight for under $30 goes a long way towards making me feel better. (I did some research later and I'm pretty sure it's this yarn.)

(As a side note to anyone in the Boston area, Lucy, the owner of Mind's Eye Yarns, is looking to sell her store this month, for reasons more fully explained on the shop site linked above. If it isn't sold by the end of April, the store will probably close. This would be a very sad thing for everyone in the area who's enjoyed the hospitality and warmth of the store over the years, so do check it out.)

So on Friday I went to Down Cellar again while hanging out with Pickle. This place has pretty much turned into my LYS away from home, and I'm always pleasantly astonished when I walk in after several months and the employees still remember so much about me. Almost immediately I found something that tugged at my heartstrings.

Two skeins of Plymouth DyeForMe Suri Alpaca Merino Glow.

There were exactly two of them on the shelf, and I knew then that I had to have both or none at all. I tried to convince myself of the superiority of the "none at all" plan by walking around the rest of the store for distraction. Pickle posed a compelling argument for the "both" option, by slipping twenty bucks into my coat pocket. You can see what the result was.

(This was the second time in a week that he's reverse pickpocketed me without my noticing. Watch your pockets around him.)

Then yesterday, after coming back to Colorado, I met up with Shannon and Alexis for a yarn-dyeing day. I'd ordered a cone of sock yarn, and wound up full skeins for both of them and two little mini-skeins for me.

While I taught them to kettle-dye their skeins in the conventional way, I dyed my mini-skeins all twisted up into hanks. This resulted in an orangey-red dye on the outside of the hank, while the inside remained white. After they're dry, untwisted and wound up into cakes, you can see that the dye patterned up into extremely short color changes. Shannon dyed the bright blue skein in the photo, which is now sitting on my table in a beautiful, slightly variegated cake that I might be tempted to keep if I were of lesser moral fiber. Alexis produced a lovely skein that reminded me of peaches, golden-yellow in some areas and red-orange in others. She declined my ball-winding services, saying that she should learn how to wind yarn the hard way first. Good luck, Alexis. We've all been there, and I for one don't ever want to be there again, especially with 400 yards of sock yarn.