Friday, June 27, 2008

Socks of many techniques 3: the 'body'

The heel in these socks is going to be an afterthought heel. There are three reasons for this:
(i) I need a contrast heel because I don't have enough handspun for full socks;
(ii) I don't want to interrupt the stripes/ variegation in the handspun; and
(iii) I get bored with knitting the leg.

When I knit toe up socks, I am always so anxious to finish after I turn the heel. I get bored of knitting the legs. So I thought rather than break the flow by turning the heel, I'd just knit a long tube - I'd be finished before I got bored! After I finished the first tube, I put it on some spare needles, and started on the second. Note that I didn't knit the cuff at that point - it made sense to leave the live stitches to check that the tubes were the same length before I did the cuffs.

Another nice thing about an afterthought heel is that the sock is flat. It makes it easier to check that both socks are the same length when you don't have some crazy heel sticking out the side. Once I knew they were the same length (well, half a round out and I wasn't going to fuss) I knit the cuffs on one sock then the other. Then just the heel to go!

Zimmermann tam (or: the cute beret)

Don't I look tired? This is me, after a day at work.

Now here is an admission: I have never been very good at knitting hats. I have knit two okay ones, and two truly terrible ones for BCB. The first looked like a mushroom, and the second was comically too tight. Then I knit a Gretel for me, which, while it is an excellent pattern, just didn't work out for me, as I used the wrong weight yarn.

Then came the recipe for a tam, in Zimmermann's Knitter's Almanac. It just works. It's cute. I love it. In the 'monster tam' sizing (27" circumference as the widest part). Messing with the gauge, I squeaked this hat out of 111 yards. It has a contrast under-band. You can't really see from the photos, but this yarn is just luscious. Simply luscious. It's the most buttery soft merino, handspun by the wonderful Linda Lee. And while it looks just grey in the photo, it's actually a wonderful subtle dark grey with red, turquoise and white fibres too. Look.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

I have in my hot little hands...

two return tickets to Melbourne, in October. Question is, what do I do when I get there?

Suggestions, anyone?

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Little Arrowheads Shawl

At a craft show recently I bought two skeins of Frog Tree alpaca in this luminous purple colour, because it struck me as being a very 'in' colour right now, and I've been feeling a little unfashionable recently. And I was sort of sick of my faithful Noro entrelac scarf. I wanted a new scarf.

I decided to go for a little shawl instead, because (a) the gauge was close enough, and my yardage right; and (b) I dig how cute a little triangle tied in a knot looks around the neck. Much more chic than a long rectangle, I think.

This puppy followed the free Interweave pattern exactly,* and was done in ten days (I surprised myself!) I have to admit that I didn't particularly love the look of the arrowhead stitch at first (or the name of it - it sounds so dull!), but the look of it has grown on me. The name hasn't, so in my head I secretly call it 'holly stitch', because the little solid sort-of-diamonds look like the sort of wibbly way I drew holly leaves when I was a kid.

I am completely sold on shawl-ettes now. Next I want to make Laminaria, in a grassy green. And another Little Arrowheads Shawl for my nanna for Christmas.

* I lie. I didn't follow the pattern exactly. On the last row I didn't do any of the decreases, I just knit across instead of decreasing, so that I could block the edges into points. The points along the edge of a shawl are the best bit. Why would ever make a shawl with a straight edge?

Socks of many techniques 2: The toe

I forgot in my last post on this topic why overspun yarn isn't a bad thing for socks. Overspinning makes the yarn much tougher, more resilient. And thus really quite suitable for socks.

These socks are going to make that handspun go as far as possible, so the 'body' of the sock will be in handspun, with the toes, heels and cuff in some the onion-dyed Lang merino.

I usually use a short row toe for my socks. I like this toe because by the time you have to put things on a circular needle you've got lots of stitches and enough knitted-stuff to weigh them down a bit. I find magic cast-on impossibly fiddly - too few stitches, too hard to wrangle them without getting tangled.

But I recently finished my first pair of top-down socks, and I've decided that I really do like the look of a toe with those nice neat decreases better than the short rows. But I want to use every single scrappet of handspun, which means I need to knit the socks toe up.

Solution? Easy. Provisional cast on, then knit the toe down, and graft the end closed (just like in this picture). Then unzip the provisional cast, and start knitting the foot from the toe up. I get my neat looking toe, I get to use up all my yarn, and I don't have to wrangle small numbers of stitches on a circular needle.

For those that suffer second-sock syndrome, this method of starting socks has another benefit. You can knit one toe, straight after the other. Because the provisional cast on keeps the toe from unravelling until you're ready to use it, you can do both toes before going any further. Just store the toe you're not knitting onto somewhere safe until you need it. Then, when you're all "Ugh! I sooooo can't be bothered to do the second sock!" you can pull out your pre-made toe, and you're already on your way. No fiddly cast on or anything, you're already about a sixth of the way through, and on to the good bit (if your sock has a fancy stitch pattern and you regard knitting the fancy stitch as a good thing).

Friday, June 13, 2008

Observation of the day

So I was catching the train home tonight. And on my train was a guy playing with a Rubix cube. Solving the Rubix cube. Like, every face a solid colour solving. It was half done when he got on the train, and he solved it a couple of stations later, and by the time I got off a few stations after that he'd messed it up and halfway solved it again. It was fascinating - the guy moved with such speed and skill! He was so confident with his movements. I couldn't stop watching this young, very hip looking guy doing something you just don't see people do anymore, something a bit anachronistic, something so interesting to watch.

And then I realised - this is what knitting on the train looks like to everyone else.

(image by Russell Bernice, used under creative common licence. Trains in Perth look a bit nicer than ones in NY though. Pretend all that grey is white and green and yellow, and the windows are much bigger).

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Tropical Island socks/ Socks of Many Techniques

I'm on a massive handspun kick right now. I'm not even going to tell you about all the Etsy goodness wending its way towards me right now. I 'destashed' recently, only to replace it all with handspun! Anyway, that's some handspun sockyarn I bought from DivineBird, 'Leapyear' colourway. I loved the colours. It's a very fine sockyarn - drops down to laceweight in parts - and a little overspun (easy to fix). But the colours are just great, and the yarn very soft. Because there's only 200 yards of it, it's coiled around what will be the heels, toes and cuffs. Some pure merino I dyed with onionskins and vinegar as a mordant a while ago. I'm not sure that the colour won't fade out a lot, but I don't mind.

Now, I've been reading some Elizabeth Zimmermann recently, and she's inspired me to think about the way that socks are constructed, and how I might best make them. I've broken down the socks into four elements: toe, heel, long tube (foot and leg) and cuff. Now normally one knits either cuff, half of long tube, heel, rest of long tube, toe; or vice versa. I'm going to break the order up a little, for reasons of motivation, neatness of sock, and limitations of yarn respectively. I intend to, over the next couple of weeks, run a set of tutorials on what I've done. None of it is terribly original (more EZ's 'unventing'), but hopefully it might give some of you some ideas.

Tutorial one involves the mystery of getting that single hank you saw above into this.

Two even cakes. I don't have scales to work it out by weight. But this method works nicely if you have a swift and winder. Take your little twisted skein apart so it's a big hank of yarn. Count the number of strands at any point in the hank (I counted by twos, it's quicker). For me it was 105. I want two even cakes, so I'd want 52.5 'rounds' of the hank in each ball. I put the hank on my swift, and tied a scrap of yarn to an arm of the swift where the start of the hank was. Lined that up with my ball winder. Then I just had to count that scrap of yarn passing the ball winder 52 times, and cut the yarn off halfway around the 53rd pass. Easy! I admit I did count in batches of ten, with a little pause between each to stop my poor little brain getting confused.

I also discovered when winding that in general, the yarn went dark - light - dark across its entire length. If I want the light and the dark on my socks to roughly match up, I'll knit one cake from the inside and one from the outside. Also easy.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Stop right now!

Hehe. A doorstop. I made it ages ago, in fact, in Summer (it's Winter here now, remember?) because we sleep with the doors open (we have security flyscreens) in summer for airflow, but that meant the laundry door kept slamming shut. It's the doorstop pattern out of the Lotta Jansdotter book, made with some Lara Cameron fabric. It is large. It looks all funny and oozy because it has two kilos of lentils inside it, plus polyfill to fill up the rest!

"The rules of the game get posted at the beginning. Each player answers the questions about themselves. At the end of the post, the player then tags 5 people and posts their names, then goes to their blogs and leaves them a comment, letting them know they’ve been tagged and asking them to read your blog. Let the person who tagged you know when you’ve posted your answer."

1) What was I doing 10 years ago?
Um... I was halfway through my first year of highschool, so I was probably alternately moping about and laughing hysterically. Negotiating the arcanery of an Established Private School, like boater hats, and rowing teams, and matching hair ribbons, and standing whenever an adult entered the room.

2) What are 5 things on my to-do list for today?
It's nearly the end of the day, so I'm not sure if there's five. Do the grocery shopping, fill out a form to get my superannuation transferred to my new fund, knit some rows on the Arrowhead Lace Shawl that I'm at serious risk of finishing in a week. Make dinner... I think that's it.

3) Snacks I enjoy:
Lollies. Peanut butter spread on a slice of low-fat cheddar (so sue me! It's a really good meat-free protein hit). Really good, thick yoghurt with no thickeners or preservatives or fillers or anything. Twisties (oh my god. In finding that link I just discovered that Twisties aren't available in the US because they use an 'unsafe' food colouring! They are bright, bright orange).

4) Things I would do if I were a billionaire:
I woud buy a little house for me and Badly Coloured Boy, and a house each for my parents. Pay off BCB's dad's mortgage. Establish a prize or a scholarship for art history majors at the university I went to. Travel. To Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan and Iran. And London and Berlin and Marrakesh, since they're my favourite cities. I'm sure there's plenty of space in that money for more philanthropy too, but I'd have to think more carefully about it.

5) Places I have lived:
Port Hedland, Western Australia
Perth, Western Australia

I'm feeling a little insular right now...

6) Jobs I have had:
Kitchen hand, bookpimp (okay, retail assistant in a bookstore), cashier at a different bookstore, promo girl (not the kind in a bikini - the kind in Chuck Taylors handing out flyers outside live music gigs), my current job which I don't really like to say what it is because then I'd have to kill you.

I have also been paid for an afternoon of prepping hair transplant follicles, babysitting, and selling my DNA to a genetics study.

7) Bloggers I am tagging who I will enjoy getting to know better:
Cast on a Cupcake
Studio Home Creative
By Elin
Knitting School Dropout