Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Isn't She Lovely?

I'm in deep smit. I am smitten with this sock. (If only I had the photography skills to do it justice...)

The pattern is "Rib and Cable Sock" by Nancy Bush and it's from, I think, the Fall 2005 issue of Interweave Knits. I've had this pattern in the back of my mind for a long time (well, since fall 2005) but haven't found the right yarn for it.

Then came Friday, March 21, 2008. I had the day off. I had the day off with my children in school and my husband at work. I was going to knit and watch movies all day. Thursday night I had been feeling discouraged...I knew I had all day Friday to knit without interruption, but had no projects I was really excited about on the needles.

Then came Friday, March 21, 2008. I dropped Josie off at school and went straight to River Knits. I found some Jitterbug sock yarn that I loved. I went home and cast on for this sock. I knit on it all day. It was wonderful. The yarn was wonderful. The pattern was fun. The results were encouraging. I knit on them while I watched a favorite literary adaptation featuring the latest pretend person I'm crushing on. For 6 hours.

If I hadn't slept all day Sunday, this sock would have been done early Sunday afternoon. As it happened...I finished it last night. I can't wait to cast on for the second sock tonight.

Monday, March 17, 2008

In Which I Use the Word "Aesthetic" A Lot

I've been talking to people a lot about knitting socks lately. I always talk about knitting socks, because I'm always knitting socks and spend a lot of time with other people who knit a lot of socks, but the last couple of Saturdays I've spent the morning teaching a beginning sock knitting class...so opportunities to preach my socky obsession have abounded. What I've discovered is that when I talk sock knitting, I use the word "aesthetic" a lot. So much that it started to sound like I was using it incorrectly. I had to look it up in the Great Big Book of Everything to be sure I wasn't. I think this definition is the most appropriate for my purposes: "pertaining to, involving or concerned with pure emotion and sensation as opposed to pure intellectuality."

Mostly I'm talking about why I knit socks the way I do...I switch a lot between 7 inch and 6 inch needles, sometimes Crystal Palace needles feel the best to me, sometimes good old Clover dpns are the thing. I do ribbing on three needles, then switch to four needles for the stockinette bits, purely because of how it looks and feels on four needles. I will always prefer dpns to the magic loop or 2 circs, and no amount of coaxing from those who tell me it's faster the other ways will change the fact that I knit socks according to what is most aesthetically pleasing to me...and that means dpns.

I also love the way a sock looks and feels when it's hanging off of dpns...particularly after the heel has been turned and there's some foot progress to be seen. For example, this Mona sock is at the just about perfect, aesthetically speaking, stage:

I'll bet you didn't think there would be a "but" in this one, did you?

BUT...I have also discovered that there are times when it is necessary to take short cuts in sock knitting. Like when you are at the Lafayette Theater watching A Streetcar Named Desire and you just want to knit around and around and around so you don't have to look away from the brilliance onscreen.

That's when you feel glad to read the Yarn Harlot and that you know Debbie Doggett, so that you can throw in the not-quite-as-aesthetically-pleasing-but-practical-for-continued-mindless-knitting technique known as the "Afterthought Heel". I read about it on the Yarn Harlot's blog...she was at a concert, not wanting to monkey around with turning a heel, and yet at the point of a sock where a heel was becoming necessary. I investigated further and found that River Knits' own Debbie Dogget is an Afterthoughter and she helped me to discover the simplicity of the afterthought heel. Here's how it works...

When you reach the point of the sock where you feel a heel should be placed, knit half of your sock stitches onto waste yarn (I've used a strand of cotton in a pastel shade, to make it easy to see it in the middle of the blue stripe):

Then you keep right on knitting around and around and finish the foot of the sock. When you have finished the toe, you go back to the heel...and here's the payoff for the thrill seeking knitter...you unravel the waste yarn...
...and pick up the stitches. Once you have the stitches back on the needles, you'll work these stitches exactly as you did the toe (decrease a round, knit a round, etc...)

I am really pleased with the two socks I have used this technique on. So pleased that in April, I will be offering a class to help others discover the wonders of the afterthought. I don't think this technique will replace my much loved, aesthetically sound heel flap technique, but there are benefits to using the afterthought heel:

1. It can keep the knitting mindless for longer, so you can watch old movies and keep knitting (I even fixed a dropped stitch in the dark at the theater last week! It was quite a moment.)

2. If you don't like the heel flap technique, this is a good heel that is easier than the short row heel technique.

3. Debbie says the socks with the afterthought heel fit her feet better.

4. If you're using self striping yarn, your stripes will not be disrupted the way they can be with other heel techniques.

5. If you have a very clever boy at home (like I do), the sock can become a puppet when you pick up the heel stitches...

Sunday, March 9, 2008

The Democratic Hat

This hat was inspired by “The Republic Hat”
Since campaigning is in high gear now, the name for my version seemed just right. You may wear yours regardless of your political persuasion.

1 skein Araucania Loa (47 yd/100g)
1 skein Araucania Limari (61 yd/100g)
1 set #11 16” circular needle and 1 set #11 dpn’s (or size needed to obtain gauge – I knit loosely; you might need #13’s to get the same gauge)

Gauge: 2 ½ stitches per inch

Size: Adult medium; approximately 22” circumference

With Loa (brim color) CO 50 st. on 16” circular needle. Place marker, join, being careful not to twist.
Beginning with a purl row, knit in garter stitch (k one round, p one round) until piece measures 2 ½ inches from cast on edge.

Switch to Limari (main color yarn) and knit in stockinette (k every round) until hat measures 6 inches from cast on edge.

Begin decreases, switching to dpn’s when work becomes too tight on the circular needle:
*K 8, K2tog* repeat around
*K 7, K2tog* repeat around
*K 6, K2tog* repeat around
*K 5, K2tog* repeat around
*K 4, K2tog* repeat around
*K 3, K2tog* repeat around
*K 2, K2tog* repeat around
*K 1, K2tog* repeat around
*K2tog* repeat around

Cut yarn, leaving a 6” tail. Using tapestry needle, thread yarn through remaining stitches and weave in tail on the wrong side of the work. Weave in remaining ends.

Add a fancy button or campaign button to the brim if you wish!

Copyright 2008 River Knits

Monday, March 3, 2008

Sock Knitters' Pentathlon Begins

Jacobean Silk WIP
Originally uploaded by RiverKnits
If ever there were an event to remind me that I am a VERY SLOW knitter, this is it! The Sock Knitters' Pentathlon is a contest that has brought together knitters from around the world to knit 5 pairs of socks, a sock every 2 months. The fastest to post pictures of WIPS & FO's win. Easy enough. I really wasn't eager to try to place because I figured it would be impossible. But I was really blown away by the fact that the first knitter had a finished pair of socks in something like 9 or 10 hours after the pattern was posted. Truly amazing!

This is my sock in progress. The pattern is called Jacobean; it is knitted toe up with a Magic Cast on. I had never tried that before but found it easy and fun. In case you're wondering those ARE 2 circs in the picture. Who would've thunk it? I know. The yarn is Panda Silk. Let me say these Panda Silk socks are going to be possibly my most luxurious feeling socks ever. They feel dressy and expensive (but they're not!).

Overall I think this will make a very sharp sock. I'm sure I'll have mine done sometime in the allotted 2 months!