Thursday, February 26, 2015

Surprisingly Stretchy Socks for Wool-Aid

Socks really are a great canvas for trying things out. A new stitch. A different heel method. A new cast off.

I recently finished the green ones I've been working on. Unlike most wool raveled from a sweater, this wool was spun. It was rather tightly spun but still soft to the hand. Perfect for socks.

The sock body was 40 stitches around and I worked a type of broken rib (or is it a waffle stitch? I don't know) once I had finished the short-row toe.

I did two rounds of 2x2 ribbing and then purled a round.
It is bumpy and cushy and will provide a lot of insulation. But the inside should still feel smooth on the foot as you can see--
It acts just like a 2x2 rib on the inside.

Like some other recent socks, I added a gusset (8 stitches each side), did a short-row heel on the original number of sole stitches (20) and then knit a flap after the heel, decreasing the gusset stitches.
I worked the gusset stitches in purl just for fun.

The leg was worked in the broken rib all the way around until near the top when I changed to a plain 2x2 rib. I ended with a new (for me) bind off--Jeny's Surprisingly Stretchy Bind Off.
I've heard about it for a long time (that link will take you to a tutorial from 2009) but had resisted using it. For one thing, I have a bind off that I like to use that functions very well. But it works best on a 1x1 rib and I didn't want to end this sock with 1x1 rib on top of the 2x2. The second reason I've resisted is the name, quite frankly. It's so clumsy and...I don't know...stupid? (Is that too harsh?) Even the usual abbreviation, JSSBO, bugs me because an abbreviation shouldn't be so long you can't remember all the letters. Blech!

But anyway, it was time to try it. I followed the tutorial linked above and the bind off worked very well. Unlike any other bind offs I know, you can see that it "corrugates" with the ribbing.
It will do that with any type of ribbing (3x3, 2x3, whatever) because you treat the knits and purls differently as you bind off. I will definitely us it again when needed, but maybe I'll call it "the Bind Off That Shall Not Be Named." Hmm...that doesn't exactly roll off the tongue either.

The socks finished at 8" which should be good for the age group Wool-Aid aims for.
Project Stats
: 31 Jan '15
Finished: 18 Feb '15
Pattern: made up as I went along (more details on the Ravelry page)
Materials: 136 grams from a Pendleton sweater (used doubled)

Monday, February 23, 2015

All. The. Things.

That's what I feel like I'm making. In a sudden burst, it seemed like, once I finished the Wool-Aid socks I was working on (more on those another day). Once they were off the needles it was like everything looked tempting and possible.

I showed you the red cashmere swatch I had started (here) and now I've picked (and even purchased) the pattern. It's an Amy Herzog design called Trimmings. I'll do it with the larger cowl neck and three-quarter length sleeves. Or shorter sleeves if the wool is running out!

Somewhere she suggests doing the contrast colour in some handspun. That caught my attention and I thought, "I don't have any handspun. But I could make some!" So I took the fiber I got for Christmas in a kit (a spindle and 2 oz of three different kinds of wool) and got to spinning.

I had started one batt or roving or sliver or whatever you want to call it while on the Christmas trip and had done a little since then, but not much. I set to it in earnest after having watched the "Spindling" class from I learned more by watching the class, but the real thing is to do it.

So I spun some wool and my fingers and hands learned better what to do. By the end I had this:
"I made that." It never gets old. I made that!
 I thought some areas looked pretty good:
 And others were still a little thick and uneven:
I tried knitting some of it onto the top of my previous swatch. (I just undid the bind off, picked up the stitches and knit a few rows.)
You can see that all is not well. The handspun is thicker than the cashmere and either the cashmere gets stretched out or the handspun buckles.

I liked the idea of using grey as the contrast at this point though, and I had another grey batt in my kit. This time Jacob wool instead of Coopworth. No you don't have to remember that, but they were different to spin with. I think the Jacob acted much more like hair.

I could tell pretty quickly that I was not getting a much thinner product with the Jacob wool. It was also going to be too thick. Well, then. I thought I may as well dig into the last batt in the kit--some white Blue Face Leicester. (That last word is pronounce "Lice-ster".) That's the same breed that I knit Troy's sweater out of and I loved working with it.

I started spinning the BFL and got a lot thinner results. I'm still not sure I'm spinning really nice yarn, but it's all a work in progress. Certainly this feels better and drafts more easily than the Jacob for me.

Here are the two side by side:
Top is the grey Jacob. Below is the white BFL.
I am using both "drop spindles" as supported spindles and I enjoy that way of spinning much better. For one thing I can sit more comfortably instead of leaning forward to let the spindle drop in clear space. I put the point into a smallish bowl that is sitting on my lap. I've taken the hook out of both of the spindles because they were catching the yarn too much and now the wool just spins off the top of the stick. Works great.

Here is a close up so you can compare the two:
I have put the Jacob aside for now and I have quite a bit more of the BFL to spin up. Naturally since I am spinning it thinner I am getting a lot more yardarge out of 2 oz and it is taking longer. But I am enjoying it and not in a hurry. Assuming it works with the cashmere, I think the white will be fine with the red cashmere as well. A little different than grey, but still good.

In between all that, I raveled a sweater I picked up at Goodwill:
So much potential released!
The wool felt great and I liked the stripes, but it was far too short and wide for someone to wear. It didn't take long to cast on a sweater for Wool-Aid to work on when I'm out and about.
So far I have a few inches done of the back. I'm making the same pattern as last time (see it here) in one size larger. And don't worry, I'll be adding some stripes very much like the original.

And then in the last day or two, I finally jumped off of the fence I was sitting on and started a swatch for a skirt I've been thinking about since last Squam!

I picked up a book from the "free-take me" table, Modern Knits Vintage Style just because of one skirt pattern. I love the classic look!

I've haven't had a yarn to use for it and also I've been plagued with doubts about whether I need another knitted skirt. (And let's face it, no matter how nicely it comes out, it won't top my Missoni inspired Vogue skirt.) But I threw those thoughts away and got started because I couldn't forget about the idea.

Plus I'm going to Squam again this year so I would love to wear something that resulted from my last trip to Squam.

It also helped that I raveled this sweater that Troy no longer wears:
It's a lovely maroon/burgundy colour and about the right weight for the skirt. I'm not certain I have enough of it to cover what the pattern calls for, but I keep thinking that a sweater has got to have enough yardage for a skirt. (I mean you could pull it on over your hips if your legs could go through the shoulder seams, right?) Worst case scenario, I figure the skirt will be a little shorter than the pattern, but really I think I have enough.

First up was a swatch (because apparently I am being such a responsible knitter these days):
The bottom was done with the smallest size used in the pattern (US2) and the top with the largest (US5). But you may have known that already by the holes I knit in! (Refer to my previous tip, if you are wondering what I'm talking about.)

Once I get the skirt going (math done for size and cast on), I think it will be an easy sail.

So do I have enough projects going? I don't know but I've been enjoying them all. I'm just missing a fabric project. The art gallery in my church is going to display work from the congregation and I wish I had a quilted project to display, but nothing comes to mind. But I did just have someone offer me an old quilt they got years ago wrapped around a bed frame when they bought it! Sounds like it will be worn and used enough to justify cutting it apart and using the pieces. Hmmmm....

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Valentine's Day has Passed, but Red is Never out of Season

I probably have more than enough yarn to keep me busy for a while and I can occasionally resist a good thing when I see it. But. Sometimes something is too good to let it go.

Someone on the Ravelry Unravelers group announced that she was destashing all of her sweaters. She used to sell the yarn but she was getting out of it. She had boxes of them. Give her a colour and she would give you a sweater. Four for $10 plus shipping. That's a pretty good deal.

So I asked if she had and true red. Not purple red or orange red, but red red. She said she did. So I said sign me up and these four sweaters winged their way to me via USPS:
All cashmere and three of them very luscious. One didn't feel like "all that" but still good. I gave them all a bath and then I just enjoyed the potential of them. Ok, and enjoyed patting them like bunnies every now and then. I even wore two of them for a day because they fit well enough. But the styles weren't all that flattering on me.

710 grams of cobweb weight cashmere. I couldn't begin
to guess how many metres that is!
And I had plans.

Last weekend I enacted phase one and spent most of my free time on Saturday taking the sweaters apart. Sunday was spent raveling the pieces. Church in the morning was cancelled so I had even more time to do it! (And one station had the Princess Bride on. I realized that is the perfect crafting movie. I don't have to watch to know what is happening, and even if I can't hear it over the whirring of the ball winder, I can recite all the lines myself anyway!)

I didn't quite get it all done Sunday, but was able to finish up on Monday. The only piece that gave me much trouble was the first one. The strand broke at least a dozen times or more. I didn't bother with knots or making it a continuous strand. I just started the new end on the ball winder and kept winding. My plan is to use the four strands at once and if one of the four isn't continuous in a spot, it won't matter. I'll just leave some length on the inside to work in later.

I think that piece was troublesome in part because it was cabled. Where the stitches cross each other, it creates an easy place for the yarn to become tangled or felted together. But the rest of that sweater went fine and the other cabled sweater wasn't nearly so bad. But I had learned and went a little slower on the cable rows.

Once I had all that yarn balled up and organized, I couldn't wait to start knitting with it. I still haven't decided on a pattern, so I thought I'd start with swatching and let my gauge direct where to go with a pattern.
I put a ball from each sweater in a box to manage them and started knitting. You do have to manage the string so that they are kept at an even tension, but it's a lot less work than the alternative of plying them together. In this case, just not worth it to me.

I knit up my swatch and used a tip I just learned from someone:
See those holes from yarnovers on the right side? That tells me which size needle I did that part of the swatch with. Brilliant right? I realized it works a little better with US needle sizes because they're all whole numbers. I have mostly metric needles so whereas the first one is 4mm and the second one is 5mm, I had to modify the code on the top one for 4.5mm. I just put one hole above the row with four holes to indicate the half size. No, I don't know what I'd do for 3.25mm. (Don't need to yet. :) ) It's surprisingly hard to remember which needles you used even when you're sure you won't forget. And yes, making notes is one solution, but it doesn't seem to happen around here!

I think I like the gauge and feel of the top one the best, but it will still partly depend on what pattern I choose. I'm looking at something fitted because I want to make sure I'll have enough yarn. There's one pattern that could use just a little of some handspun so I'm also toying with doing that. Yes, I'm still working on a little spinning! Slowly I am making improvements and it is feeling more natural. Very slowly. But I don't mind. I don't make things by hand to get them done quickly.

For now with this project, I am savouring the possibilities before I settle down. If you have suggestions, I'd love it if you would post it in a comment.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Where to Start?

You may recall my plying this orange yarn from a raveled sweater:

The full story is here. I was planning to use it to make sturdy socks.

Well. After searching for a suitable pattern and settling on this nice tulip pattern by Stephanie van der Linden, I started to knit with the plied yarn. It did not take me long to realize that it was too thick for socks at my normal gauge! All that work and it wasn't going to work. Not in this pair of socks, anyway.

So for plan B, I took the yarn from the front and back of the sweater (since I had already plied the sleeves) and started the same socks with just two strands. Since this pattern is more like a recipe (including such "detailed" instructions as "turn heel") I figured it would be easy to convert it to my usual toe-up method.

But. Once I had the toes done, I took a look at the cable pattern. It was not something I wanted to have upside down on my sock. Most of the patterns I convert to toe up are either identical or just as nice when done upside down. Not this cable.

At first I thought I would be able to convert on the fly while knitting. You can't just turn the chart upside down, but I thought I could figure it out. Then I wasn't sure. I actually did a swatch of just the cable pattern. I figured it out, but didn't do the entire pattern, or write down what I did.

I went back to the sock, but didn't work on it for long. When it had been sitting forlornly in a basket for a few weeks, I realized there was just too much going on at once and I was expecting way too much of myself to be able to convert the chart.

Then. I broke through my mental barrier on this pattern when I realized I didn't have to do it toe-up just because I usually do. What a thought. It's not like I'm worried about running out of yarn--I have a whole sweater's worth. So I ripped out those toes and started again at the cuff.

It's going much better now. As in, I am actually making progress. ;)

They're not speeding along because I only work on them at home. Working from a chart just isn't good take-along knitting. (Well, maybe to a knitting group where the expectation is that you'll be knitting, but not to meetings and other places where you should make eye contact as you listen and talk.) And the chart is 24 rows of non-repeating cabling so I'm not going to be memorizing it any time soon!

It's a very enjoyable orange colour to be working with. My sister made a comment about my orange and grey zig zag quilt, that my trip to the Netherlands is still having an effect, and I think she's right. Hup Oranje!

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Orange to Zig and Grey to Zag

We went to visit my in-laws in Missouri over Christmas and one thing I like to take advantage of is all of the quilt shops there. My mother-in-law likes to quilt and it's something fun to do together. (In this case, she enjoyed helping me spend my money!!)

The fabric prices there used to be about half of what I would spend in my area, but not so much anymore. The shops set up in people's homes or garages are still a lot cheaper, but the larger commercial shops are now about the same price. But they have nice shops, good selections, and it's always more fun to shop with someone else.

So I may have picked up a "few" new fabrics. I got the idea to do a grey quilt, but of course I needed a least one other colour with it. I decided on orange. And then I went to see what I could find:
We found a lot of great fabrics. I have arranged them from dark to light to dark and the order above is the final one I settled on.

I wanted to make a zig zag quilt pattern that uses no triangle pieces. I mean, triangles are fine and all, but the simplicity of the rectangle pieces this pattern was made from really appealed to me.

So I cut three length-of-fabric strips from each colour:
I then arranged them so that 1.5 strips got sewn to the colour on its right and 1.5 to the colour on its left.
It was quite an organizational process!

I then pressed the seam and then the strips open:
Pressing is so satisfying!
Then I cut the strips into squares:
Arrange the squares right and you get zig zags:
The top half of the quilt.
And the bottom half.
(Obviously the whole thing doesn't fit on my
curtain/design wall.)
The width didn't fit on the curtain so although it looks a little long and skinny, the final quilt will be two blocks wider.

I got all of this progress done in one weekend (!) and had a great time doing it. For no good reason, I don't enjoy sewing in the room where my machine is set up right now. Being disappointed that I wasn't getting more sewing done, I pulled the machine into the living room and sewed on the large coffee table. It worked.

I've put it away again and I think I will be happy with this progress for now. And I'll enjoy looking at the squares on my curtains. A little brightness in what can be a colourless season.

I hope to have it done in time to show at the fair (end of July) and putting together the top shouldn't take long. It's all straight piecing and besides the corners of the squares, there are no seams to line up to make the design.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Taking Your Knitting With You

I spent most of this weekend at my sister's celebrating her "big" birthday. (Ok, I'll tell you--it was 50.) We had a very fun time of it and I still had time for a little knitting.

I worked on the second pair of striped socks I made from my Lorna's Laces leftovers. I finished the first sock before going, so the second one was just a matter of matching stripes. I took it along to homecoming at my nephew's high school:
He was playing in the pep band. He spent his spare time trying to avoid his mother and her four sisters!

By the end of the night I had the second one done and all the ends worked in--no small feat!
The socks are 6.75" and I used up all the leftovers except the red. It worked out pretty well.

Now don't you fret--I had brought more yarn so I could start the next pair!
This was a beautiful wool I raveled from a sweater some time ago. I just did the two sleeves because I used the front and back for pillows. I thought the sleeves would be just right for socks. For Wool-Aid, I am working with the yarn doubled.

I decided to do a broken rib on this pair, just for something a little different:
I worked on this during our breaks between activities on Saturday, and also while waiting for my sister to get some necessities like ice cream...
By the time I left, I had the gusset done and most of the heel:
The wool is wonderful to work with and has quite a tight twist which should make it more durable. Once the heel is done, I'll continue the broken rib all around the leg.

May I suggest?

I Say! or at least I did once...