I have a LOT of socks to knit now

This afternoon I wandered up to the post office to send off my Secret Pal recipient’s first package of goodies and what did I find waiting for me? A parcel from my own Secret Pal!

Inside was a apple green bag with nifty handles that I suspect may become a sock-in-progress bag:

And look what was inside:

A ball of Mega Boots Stretch sock yarn. How did you know I was lusting after this yarn, oh Secret Pal? (I suppose I probably left an unsubtle hint on my blog somewhere…)

Some elsebeth lavold ‘Hempathy’ yarn. 34% Hemp, 41% cotton, 25% modal. (What the heck is modal? I know, I know – google is my friend.) I’ve never heard of it before, so it’s very exciting. I’m going to have lots of fun experimenting with it, learning how it knits up, and thinking of the right project for it. Love the name, don’t you? Hempathy. He he.

Some Villars Chocolat Noir (70% cocoa mass). There’s a little banner with “l’Amour du Chocolat Suisse” which I imagine translates to “Swiss chocolate of love” or “The Swiss love their chocolate” or “Love those chocolate Swedes”.

Thankyou Secret Pal. I love it all! All I want to do now is cast on a Mega Boots sock and eat chocolate while smoking marvelling at yarn made from hemp.

The Secret Pal parcel actually eclipsed an earlier stash enhancement parcel arrival. I knew what the parcel contained, so it was a smidge less exciting – but still exciting nonetheless. Mr postman delivered this:

My order of Lisa Souza sock yarn. Though ‘my’ order is a little inaccurate, as Peeve had joined me in this shameless sock yarn aquisitional undertaking and one of these skeins is for my Secret Pal recipient. Here’s a close up:

Notice something missing? The sixth skein is still winging it’s way toward my door. One of Peeve’s skeins. I’m afraid she will have to savour the torture excitement of mail-order ancitipation a little longer. Then I believe she’ll either have to knit faster or buy a larger storage tub for her sock yarn stash.

(I googled ‘modal’ and came up with this site. Model is made from beechwood! How cool is that!)

I’ve got that mood indigo

“That feeling, goes stealing, down to my shoes…”

What’s this?

It’s the foot of my Jaywalker sock. I realised when I reached the instep shaping that I had knit the zig-zag pattern all around, wheras it’s supposed to be plain on the sole. I realised this last Wednesday or Thursday and deliberated for a while on what to do, if anything.

I wasn’t keen on walking on the ridges formed where the zig-zag changed direction, but I wasn’t keen on ripping right back to the toe either. So I removed the toe and ripped out the bit of instep shaping I’d done. The remaining tube is going to be grafted on when I reach the ankle.

That meant going back to the start. (I did consider trying to save the short-row toe, but it takes me about half an hour to one and I reckoned trying to save this one at the same time as saving the tube would take me longer.

But what’s going on here?

Two toes. Inspired by Lynne, I’m going to knit two socks at once. Not on two circulars, however. Just stage by stage.

And now, what the heck is this?

Last year, before I headed os, I knit myself up a cover for my camera. This was my first attempt. The tube was a few cm longer when I abandoned it. I decided that sock yarn wasn’t thick enough to protect my camera against me dropping it or accidentally turning it on through the knitting, and the tube was too small anyway.

On Friday I finally caught up with my techno-savvy friends and bought an i-pod nano. I’m having allergy shots, which means each week I have to spend an hour in the doctor’s waiting room in case I have a bad reaction. It just seemed the perfect time and place to listen to knitting podcasts. And they play 3MP.

Of course, my nano needed a cover. When I dragged out my sock yarn leftovers there was a ready-made tube exactly the right width. With holes for drawstrings and all. I just ripped a few cm off the bottom, grafted it closed, crocheted a drawstring and knit an i-cord wrist strap.

It occured to me this morning that both the nano cover and Jaywalker socks qualify for June Project Spectrum bluey goodness. So I’ve done a woven, crochet, photographic and (soon) knitted item. The other two creative outlets I thought I’d include were jewellery and cooking. July is purple. August in neutrals/black&white. Hmmm.

Plucking up the courage

Early last year I visited the Austalian Country Spinners shop in Wangaratta and bought armloads of wool. I confess I bought some novelty yarn. It was called Firefly, and contained a thread of dark red wool plied with a thin white one with little ‘wings’ at intervals.

Why did I buy it? Well, it wasn’t acrylic. It was red. And it was dirt cheap (about 50c a ball). And it was… cute.

Back home I knitted up a swatch. As I’d suspected, the cuteness of the wings became an overwhelming mess of ‘fur’. I hit on the idea of knitting it doubled with some Bendy in the same dark red. I liked the swatch. It reminded me of a jacket on the Fluffa blog called Popcorn. I like much of what skinny rabbit knits. Of course, she’s an experienced knitter and fashion-designer-in-training, and I was (and still are) an inexprienced hack.

I used a jacket pattern from Vogue Knitting. It knit up really quick.

Close up:

Now, as I knit this a few names came to mind. ‘Coconut Ice’ was suggested by several people. But I should have known things weren’t going quite to plan when the name that stuck in my head was ‘Dandruff’.

I only wore this jacket a few times. Nobody said “my god what is that thing you’re wearing”, and it is delicously warm. A few people complimented me on it. But… every time I wore it I felt like a penguin chick halfway through moulting, with a rash. I felt like I was wearing the pelt of some strange red-skinned orangutan with a flakey skin problem.

Of course I’d had twinges of doubt as I knit it. I’d told myself that, since the ‘wings’ come out easily, I could always pluck them out of the jacket if I didn’t like it. A few days ago I brought the jacket out and hung it up. Was it time for it to get plucked?

Yesterday I decided it was. It took a LOT longer than I imagined it would. I listened to three one hour podcasts. You could say it took a plucking long time.

Much better. You can see the double moss stitch cuffs and band now. The white thread gives it a subtle texture that I like. I left a smattering of wings in place.

And here’s the pile of ‘wings’ I removed.

Quite a pile. I hope the jacket wasn’t warm because of them. I doubt it. It’s still a good heavy double 8ply fabric. And with builders coming this week to start the extension, which will probably involve the turning of eletricity (and heating) while they demolish the roof of the garage, I may need a heavy warm jacket.

I hereby re-dub it the “Plucky Jacket”

(Oh, and I’m having some email trouble at the moment, so I might not get emails for a day or two. Should be fixed soon. Better be.)

Internet goofiness

I’ve been a bit run off my feet lately, so no posts for a few days. You got three on Saturday, so it’s drought and flood over here at knitting and chocolate.

A few years back I spend a month down on Flinders Island, working on a book. When my Mum heard I was going there she told me I should visit Flinders Island Fleece. My aunt swore that their yarn was the best you could get.

I hadn’t rediscovered knitting, however, but I did visit and was impressed by their knitwear. I bought an aran beanie and a jumper.

Recently I wore that jumper and decided to see if the company had a website. Google searches brought up only tourist sites, and when I rang the number provided a helpful lady told me they’d sold the business to a couple in NSW. So I googled the couple’s names and found an email address (Lesley Cummins, fifleece@bigpond.net.au). A few emails later and this turned up in my letterbox:

Flinders Island Fleece shade card. The wool is like Bendy Classic in thickness and plying, but smoother and nicer. (It’s also twice the price.) So now that I know they still exist and the yarn is as nice as ever… I just need to think of something to make out of it.

This morning something else turned up: my replacement Wendy Knits book. The first thing I did was flick through the pages. And guess what?

It, too, has a section bound upside down. Boy did I laugh.

So what should I do now? Should I request another replacement from Amazon? Having seen a big book warehouse in action in the UK, I know the system is probably all mechanised and doesn’t allow for an actual person to check books before they’re sent out. I’m tempted to just shrug and forget it. The upside down section isn’t in the middle of a pattern, so it’s only annoying if you’re reading the text.

I wish I could use book buying disappointment as an excuse for the spontaneous sock yarn purchase I made at Lisa Souza, but that happened yesterday. And I sucked Peeve into the evil sock yarn buying vortex as well.

I’d found Lisa’s site a while back and fell in lust with the Mahogony colourway, but restrained myself. Then my will weakened a little when Wendy of WendyKnits made up some socks in it and they looked beautiful. Then I went looking for something to buy my secret pal recipient…

Winging our way (or they will be as soon as the beau does the magic Paypal thing) are six skeins in Poiple (I love that name), Garnet, What-a-melon, Pacific, Mahogony and Wild Thing.

I am a wicked and greedy thing.

Squares Jumper Report: First row of squares finished. I don’t think I’ve visited this level of intarsia insanity since I knit a Kaffe Fasset shawl back when I had recently rediscovered knitting and was on the blissful side of ignorance. 12 colours per row. But at least I know how much wool each one takes. Cutting lengths of it and winding into little managable balls makes all the untangling much easier.

Jaywalker socks: Still on the foot of the first sock. About to start the instep. It’s slow going only because I’ve not had to many opportunities for transit knitting.

The Great Sock Review of 2006

This last week I’ve deliberately worn every woollen 4ply sock I’ve knitted in order to rate the fit and comfort. This is what I’ve found:

Glitter Socks
My first self-patterning sock knit late 2004/early 2005. The yarn is Opal and it contains a thread of silver. Typical of me to try 4ply socks because the wool was glittery. I used Wendy’s Toe-up Sock Pattern for the first time. I’m pretty sure I knit them on my bamboo needles, which are around 2.5 mm. This, and being unused to knitting in the round in 4ply, meant that while they fit nicely when first knit, after a few washes they’ve become a bit loose. They’re easy to get on, however.

Grey cabled socks
The yarn came from Australian Country Spinners shop in Wangaratta, so I know I knit them after April 2005. They were knit on 2mm metal dpns and are a tight fit when first put on, but then they ‘relax’ and are a snug fit. The heels are a bit small.

Stripey Socks
I knit these on the 2mm metal dpns out of Regia sock yarn while I was travelling around the UK last August/September. They’re tight. I think I began to knit tighter as I grew more confident. They’re really hard to get on, and the ‘foot’ is a little short.

Opal Socks #2
The first sock was knit on the plane to and from the UK and the second sock was finished after I got home. I increased the number of short rows for the heels and toe from 8 to 10 and the extra room does make it easier to get them on, but they still stretch around the heel and foot a bit alarmingly.

Ribble socks
Knit early 2006 from Koigu. Concerned about the tightness issues, I changed to the bamboos again. I’d also read that some knitters thought the heel flap method of knitting heels made for better fitting socks if you have high arches. I didn’t want to knit top down, so I made my own toe-up heel flap pattern. The rib pattern and heel flap both contribute to making these socks easy to get on and comfortable. They’re a smidge loose, however, and I’m yet to see if washing makes this worse.

So there you go. I can’t believe I’ve only knit five pairs in a year and a half. (Actually six – there are the lacy cotton ones too). Though I always have a pair of socks on the go, they’re my transportable project and I work on them mostly when in queues, doctor’s waiting rooms and on the train. But because I work from home I don’t get that much ‘transit knitting time’.

I really like the look of the short row heel, but I’m coming to accept that it isn’t suitable for my big-arched skinny foot. It would also help if the top of the sock was ribbed. Then I could add a few stitches to help the socks stretch over my heels and they would still cling nicely around my skinny ankles.

Winding me up

Wow, three posts in one day!

At craft night last night I got to see a skein winder being used by someone who had a clue (unlike me). I hate to admit it, but I have been draping skeins on top of my winder and gently ‘lifting’ the yarn free. It wasn’t that I hadn’t tried putting the skein on the ends of the winder’s ‘arms’. Whenever I did it fell off, because the winder I have has no tension or spring to it.

Well that was fixed in moments with the application of a simple elastic band.

Since I had that bit solved, I could now set up the ball winder and give it a try. Instant gratification. In a few minute I had yarn cakes. (I so love that term!) In fact, I was like a child with a new toy, going through my stash looking for skeins to transform into yarn cakes and even contemplating rewinding balls of yarn. I wound handspun alpaca. I wound sock yarn. I wound slubby silk. Then the skein and ball winder met their match:

The silk thread.

I immediately encountered many new problems. The first was finding an end of silk to start winding with. How do you find the end of a yarn that really, truly is about the thickness of spider’s web? Answer: you don’t. There was a bit of yarn tied in with one of of the loops of cotton around the silk. I cut the silk there and started winding.

Twenty minutes later the silk on the ball winder was about 2mm thick and the skein looked no different. I realised that this was going to take some time. I also realised I should have wound the silk onto a toilet roll or something, as it was probably going to unravel at the centre like a slinky made of cobweb.

Forty minutes later I found that the silk kept looping out over the end of the ball winder and I’d have to stop, unwind, rewind over and over. I tried holding my finger against the roller to discourage this, but it didn’t help at all. In fact, I swear it was looping through my finger.

An hour later the skein looked less than half unwound, the silk on the ball winder was about 4mm thick, and I was fed up. I cut the silk, twisted the skein back on itself, slid the silk on the ball winder onto a roll of cardboard, and went for a walk.

Now I’m wondering just how insane I am for thinking I can knit this stuff.

Lots of fun… and funghi

Yesterday I washed the swatch for the Squares Jacket, and just before I set off for craft night I measured it again. It had grown a few cm. So at craft night last night I frogged the band and started again using the smallest size.

During the day I worked out the colour placement:

Next I’m going to knit a square separately, then frog it and use the yarn to measure out an extra ball whenever I have more squares of a colour to knit in a row than I have balls of yarn in that colour.

Also at craft night, Lynne pressed this into my unresisting hands:

Sock wool she has cleverly dyed into stripes of solid and varigated colour, plus a ball of straight varigated, I think. It’s gorgeous! This in exchange for the Wendy Knit’s book with the upside down pages – but I figure I better wait to hand it over until the replacement book arrives just in case Amazon suddenly decide they want the old one back or proof that it is flawed.

And now some photos of mushrooms. Yes, funghi.

I haven’t been out in the cat run since we had to dismantle part of it so the plumber could install new drainage for us. (Typical tradesman, he hasn’t shown up yet and the cat has been steadily going crazy as the weeks of being locked in the house go by.) Even when it isn’t a mess of puddles and mud out there, it’s too depressing to look at. So when I did glance outside the other day I was surprised to see masses of little mushrooms all over the retaining wall.

The caps are about the size of the thumbnail of my little finger. They’re so cute!

FO and Project Spectrum Greeeeeen

Liquorish Allsorts is done!

Yesterday I reknit from the last orange strip upward. I started the neck shaping furthur into the front panel and gradually decreased the collar edge so the neckline wouldn’t be so square. When I’d decreased the sleeve stitches between the raglan ‘seam’ out of existance I continued with the decreases on the outside of the seam. This meant the shoulder was still growing toward the neck, but sloping half the rate. Then I continued the decreasing into the rolled hem, to stop it wanting to curl outwards.

All that sound too technical? Basically, I shaped it so the side of the neckline sits closer to the neck, and slopes gradually up rather than doing an abrupt 90° turn.

The new neckline. Looks like a normal neckline. Which is what we want.

I tried it on over a jumper (to get a man size look) and it’s much better. Last night I sewed down the inside of the hem, finished weaving in ends. This morning I gave it a quick dunk in woolmix (note: the water ended up quite black, so the dye in this wool isn’t 100% fast), spun out some of the water and blocked it on a towel on the bathroom floor.

And now for my Project Spectrum fo for the month: a crochet headband.

I have to admit, I knitted this in the last few days of May, not June. I kept forgetting to photograph it for the blog. There’s a mistake in it, but went to some trouble to take photos in which it isn’t visible so I’m not about to point it out!

I have half a dozen of these, some triangular, some rectangular. I wear them while my hair is drying, which trains my hair not to hang over my face. I’ve noticed a few ‘ear warmer’ patterns appearing in magazines lately that are effectively the same sort of thing. In fact, I’ve bought magazines simply because they had a nice ‘ear warmer’ pattern. Ear warmers are definitely on the agenda.

What next? Well, last night I started the Squares Jacket. I knit a tension square and found I was a stitch out. I then cast on and started knitting the hem of the back and sides in one, in a needle size smaller… and found I was a stitch out. This always happens. I’m a slightly loose knitter and going down a needle size or two doesn’t make a lot of difference. Instead I simply knit the size smaller. Or, with garments like these that aren’t slim-fitting, just start and when I have done twenty or so rows put the stitches onto a thread, measure, then decide if the extra cm are worth worrying about.

Almost FOmous

Two nights ago the raglan decreasing on the Liquorish Allsorts jumper had the promised accelleration effect. Knitting speeded up, rows flashed by in a giddy rush, and then it all sputtered to a halt.

The anticlimax was caused by a combination of the instructions for the neck shaping being a bit vague, and the stripes not quite finishing up where I hoped they would. According to the pattern they either finished four rows after I need to begin the shaping, or right where I needed to. Naturally, I decided to believe the latter.

As a result I have a very odd neckline:

The neck shaping adds extra rows of black to the sides and back, then I topped it all off with a rolled hem. This all adds up to a neck that is a little high at the front but too wide at the sides. If I’d followed the first interpretation of the neck shaping, I would have had a neckline lower at the front, but even wider at the sides.

I spent last night sewing in ends and considering my options. I think I’m going to have to frog back to the orange stripe and just fudge a new neckline shape, keeping the height at the front but bringing it closer at the sides.

The good news is I have plenty of wool left for that beanie. Why was I so worried?

Peri Peri thought I was paying waay too much attention to this dilemma, and waaay to little to him. So he tested the sleeping nook potential of my knitting basket.