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Archive for April, 2011

Turning the Heel

So the heel turn worked out just fine. I don’t know that it’s EXACTLY like the first sock but close enough for me and the 9-year-old who will be wearing these socks. I also am not completely sure that I have the same number of stitches on the heel flap as on the first one, but it’ll all work out fine in the end I’m sure. I’m just annoyed with myself for wasting some good, productive knitting time on obsessing over this and hope that it doesn’t put me past my April 30th deadline for this month’s pair of socks.

Note to self: put all future calculations on my Ravelry.

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You may not know this (or maybe you do), but paper is mischievous. And has legs. You can’t see them, they’re really tiny, but they’re there. And paper is a big fat meanie head with an extra dose of UGH!

My April socks are a lovely pink pair of knee socks derived from the “Small Wings Socks” pattern in Beth Parrot and Charlene Schurch’s Little Box of Socks. Knee socks are best done toe-up, just to make sure you have enough yarn, and the pattern is written cuff down, so there’s a conversion process. The pattern is completely reversible, but I had to do the heel backward, which was complicated.

When I turned the heel on the first sock I was at a conference in Providence, RI so I did the intricate mathematical calculations and wrote them on a handout from the conference. It was a difficult process, since I have all the computational talent of wet tree moss, but the calculations worked out well and the heel on the first sock looks great and is (almost) devoid of unintentional design elements.

But paper, in its overwhelming mischievousness, has gotten the better of me. Just as the One Ring slipped away from Gollum, so has my paper with the heel calculations betrayed me.

Crap. Crappity Crap. I am not happy.

UPDATE: And on top of all this, the pic turned out fuzzy. Ugh.

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Darning Day by John William Godward (not approved for commercial use)

Today was an icky, craptastic day weather-wise and my original plan of doing something outdoors with my daughters just didn’t work out (no, I don’t check weather forecasts very faithfully or I would’ve known). Fortunately, I have a solid vacation-week to-do list which included, among other things, darning some of my beloved broken hand-knit socks

I would’ve loved to be sitting in the idyllic setting of the lady to the left for my darning, though I could do without the hard marble bench. My darning space was the comfy rocking chair in my living room with a nice view of icky, craptastic weather through the picture window. Nevertheless this was a great day for darning.

I started off with my first socks ever, the Navy Blue “Guitar Man” socks from Whimsical Knitting Designs. For my initial darning experiences a few months ago I used an egg-shaker instead of a darning egg but due to the fact that a) I had a larger hole to darn and b) it was on my mind due to the season, I used a large plastic Easter egg. The bright green showed nicely through the navy blue.

"Guitar Man" socks gettin

After finishing with the “Guitar Man” socks I put my Dragon socks through their second darning (first one on this particular dragon sock). Desperate need here…it looked like Cinderella’s stepsister had gotten to it because it had a sizable chunk out of the heel. And though there was no hole yet, the ball of the foot was clearly on the verge, as the yarn was little more than spider’s webbing, so I did some work there too.

All of this, of course, got me thinking. First off, it’s just nice to have this skill. Some people don’t want to be bothered with darning, and still consider even hand-knit socks disposable, but I can’t easily chuck something that I spent a month (or sometimes more) of movies, church sermons, and faculty meetings on. I wanna keep it around.

But I also got to thinking about my washing habits. No, not my personal bathing! My sock-washing. All of my hand-knit socks (I think) are superwash merino, some with some nylon, with the notable exception of the March socks in Classic Elite Alpaca Socks. But I normally just toss ’em in the washer and lay them flat to dry. Washing socks by hand is a little more of a pain in the arse, but not too bad. I am generally a fairly lazy person, but I think it is high time I started hand-washing my precious socks, because darning is also a pain in the arse. I may be wrong, but I think machine washing these things is kinda’ like beach erosion.

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Hooray for Free Yarn!

As I walked into Seed Stitch Fine Yarn I was clearly the most hated man in the store. Of course, I was the only man in the store, but I was arriving to claim a very sought-after door prize from the North of Boston Yarn Crawl…the Swan’s Island tote. Everyone in that shop wanted it, and nobody was even attempting to hide their jealousy. The tote was MINE…Mwaahaahaa!!

This little mini tote bag contains three hanks of the fabulously delicious Swans Island sock yarn. Swans Island yarns are 100% organic merino, naturally hand-dyed in small batches in a 1790s farm house in Maine. The yarn is all in good, solid colors…something I’m seriously lacking in my sock yarn collection. I love my funky variegated sock yarns, but I am looking forward to having some solid-colored socks as well. My mind is full of complex cable or lace patterns that these yarns will show off well. Due to the hand-dyed nature, there will probably be subtle variegation, but that’s okay by me.

What’s more, this just about rounds out the necessary yarn for my year of sock-knitting. I’ve got enough to last me through November, so I’m in really good shape. Thank you, Seed Stitch, for this fabulous prize.

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As some of you have seen in previous posts, I have decided to do a Yarn Harlot-inspired self-imposed sock club. Now, the Harlot had a cool approach, in which she bought all 12 months’ worth of yarn and got all 12 months’ worth of patterns gathered up and matched with appropriate yarn, put them together in individual baggies, and blindly drew a new baggie every month, making each month a little bit of a surprise. I’m not quite going that crazy with it, but am buying the yarn as I go and just picking a pattern at the beginning of each month.

I am a quarter of the way through and it’s going very well. I’ve remained largely on schedule despite double-whammy of a major life change combined with a couple of months of an insanely busy schedule while directing and producing my school’s production of Fiddler on the Roof Junior. My sock knitting habit has been a source of great comfort and therapy during some trying times, and I remain dedicated to my socks. At this point, here’s where we are:

January–Devil’s Snare

In January I kind of cheated by deciding halfway through a sock that I was going the self-imposed sock club route. I felt no guilt about this because I knew I was coming into school musical season and would have less knitting time than usual. These socks are the Harry Potter-inspired Devil’s Snare design by Erica Lueder, a design that I would find fabulous even if I wasn’t a big fan of the movies and books. I used Malabrigo sock yarn in the Stonechat colorway, a yarn I practically stole from a yarn store in Charleston, SC as it was mis-priced at $10 for a 100g hank! This yarn and pattern were made for each other, and go beautifully together. My one issue is that the lace panel along the front is getting rubbed a little raw where the tongue of my shoe hits it.

February–The Gansey Sock

For February’s sock of the month, I decided to try out a new technique–toe up socks–and who better to follow on this quest than the splendiferous goddess of toe-up, Wendy Johnson. I bought her book Socks from the Toe Up back in January, following the lead of a friend who swears that toe-up is THE best method for knitting socks.  I often have difficulty following written directions for new techniques, and this was no exception, so I had my toe-up expert-in-residence coach me through the one part that worried me most…the cast-on. She taught me what she said was “Judy’s Magic Cast-On,” which worked very well, though I found out later it was really the Turkish cast-on. Good thing I did my research too, because by the time I started sock #2 I had mostly forgotten the cast-on and had to look up a Youtube video to refresh my memory. This sock was Johnson’s Gansey Sock knit in Knit Picks Stroll sock yarn in some kind of greenish heathered thing whose name I can’t seem to recall. I like how it came out…simple knits and purls, which is just what I needed leading into the big production the first weekend of March.

March–Rick

My March socks are my favorite yet on this adventure, the Rick pattern by my all-time favorite sock designer, Cookie A. Cookie is a legend. Her mind works in ways that mere mortals can’t possibly understand and couldn’t handle if they did. This pattern is from her revolutionary book Sock Innovation. Last winter I knit a cell phone sock based on this pattern, but hadn’t done the socks until now. What I love is that it is fairly simple (for Cookie) but the two socks are different from each other…they’re symmetrical. This meant using a slightly different set of stitches on the second sock than is used for most of the first. I say most because as you can hopefully see from the photo, the raised rib spirals change direction halfway through the instep, with a ribbed triangle on much of the foot. These are easily the most comfortable socks I’ve ever worn, and the raised rib/lace combo allows them to breathe, but also keeps them from falling down or being eaten by the shoes. For this one I used a very special yarn, Classic Elite’s Alpaca Sox in a colorway I’d love to share with you if I hadn’t forgotten it. Look at the picture and try to match it if you like it. I have a bit of a thing for alpaca: incredibly soft without all the weird hairy quality of mohair, and this was an absolute dream to work with.

So that’s my journey so far. Tomorrow I’m planning on casting on my April socks, and this time it’ll be a pair for my 9-year-old daughter in (dare I say it?) pink. I don’t like pink. I pretty much loathe the color, but the love of a father transcends all color preferences. Besides, she photographed the first three months’ worth of socks for me this afternoon, so I guess I owe her.

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