Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Santa's Mitts

I've been so busy doing things that I haven't had time to blog about doing them.

Most of them haven't been knitting (it's that time of year) but I did get the mitts for Santa done in time for him to wear them for the first big parade that he did, right after Thanksgiving.

I think they turned out rather well.

The finished mitts, unworn

He likes them a lot, they are warm, and the kids are as scared of him when he has them on over his white gloves. (I wondered if they'd work that way, since small children get hurt by people in white gloves aka doctors.)

The mitts, worn with gloves, modeled by Santa Himself


In order to get them, though, I had to do a lot of things I've never done before, like dye wool with food coloring. That was an adventure, all by itself.

See, when I looked at the knitting I'd done in the last post (was that two months ago! Oh dear! I'm so sorry!) I realized that I didn't really care for the colors much at all.

So I got on line, and started to look for the nice green and bright yellow-gold that I wanted. I couldn't find them. Not in Super Wash wool, anyway, and I needed super wash, because Santa sees a lot of kids, and kids get things kind of sticky. Santa's gloves need to be washed a lot, and it's much, much easier if they can be washed by tossing them in with whatever load I'm washing.

I did, however, find some very reasonably priced bare Superwash wool at Knit Picks. So I decided to get a couple of skeins, and dye some of it the colors I wanted, and use the rest as white.

When it came, I was absolutely delighted with it. It's the softest wool imaginable; not a bit harsh or scratchy, and really really nice to work with.

So the next weekend, I thought I'd go ahead and dye it, so I'd have the dry, colored wool to start knitting on the following Monday.

I divided it up, and soaked some in vinegar, according to the directions I'd found, and then dyed it with food coloring.

The green and yellow came out exactly the shades I wanted. The blue, not so much; but I liked the cobalt I'd purchased, so that was alright.

But I learned a very valuable lesson about not swishing the wool around while it's dying.

On that Monday, instead of knitting, I spent the day untangling wool. All. Day. Long. By the end of the day, though, it was all neatly made into Cakes, waiting to begin knitting the following weekend.

Which I did.

The knitting itself was great fun, and went quite well. I got the mitts done two Mondays, and a bit on one other day, to get them ready by the day Michael needed them. So about 2 and a half days of knitting to make the pair.

I haven't done any knitting since, though, because the last couple of weeks have been like that. More next Monday!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

I'm a Real Knitter now!

I can tell, because I'm working on two projects at once. :D

You see, now that I have colorwork figured out, I can knit the mitts that Michael wants to use on cold days when he's being Santa. But, as I mentioned last week, I didn't have yarn for that.

We discussed it, and decided that we'd go to the yarn store and pick some out. But the only night they are open late is on Monday. And Monday is the day I knit.

So, I started the day by working on the September socks from the Chameleon Colorworks Sock of the Month club.

It's an interesting pattern; mostly purling, with stitches that are slipped for four rows (I didn't know you could do that!) and then two rows of knitting, to make a kind of offset basket weave. It also uses the Bambino yarn that I'm so very fond of. And it has an Afterthought heel, which I've been wanting to try.

So, even though I'm not terribly fond of this colorway, I thought I'd give it a go. Here's what I got done before Michael got home.

Basketweave Sock Started, in yellow, gray and beige

When he saw it, by the way, he said that he loves the colors! So this one is going to be for him. Assuming that it fits him, that is.

When we got to the store, I found that they really don't have much in the way of solid color sock yarns. I should have noticed that one of the two other times I was in that store, but I wasn't looking for them then, and I'm afraid that all I saw was the gorgeous splendor of the yarn that they did have, not the lack of what they didn't.

I was hoping for a nice, bright green, blue, gold, red and white as the five colors I would use for the pattern.

They had a very dark green, dark cobalt blue, kind of pale yellow, red, and exactly one ball of white with some blue in it, that was a few yards shy of what was called for in the pattern. But the lady in the store pointed out that I could change the colors around, and save enough of the white to make it last. (I wanted the main part of the mitt to be red and white, to go with the Santa suit.)

So we took what we could get, in more or less the colors we wanted, and I came home and settled down for a long evening of knitting, happy as a clam.

I'm using the Latvian Fingerless Mitts pattern from Knitting Classic Style by Veronik Avery, which my friend Dora loaned me very soon after she taught me to knit.

I made the first few rows, which don't happen to have colorwork, and they were easily large enough to fit over Michael's hand. So I happily went to work on the rest, hoping to get the entire cuff done, and the main hand pattern started.

Which I did, as you can see.

Colorwork Cuff, started

And, the inside, because I'm still tickled that there are no floats.

Inside of the cuff. No floats, lots of trailing yarn

All that yarn is where I was adding and removing colors, and will be worked in. Well, really, it's theoretically already worked in, but I want to be really sure, so I'm going to work it in a bit more.

So I got the cuff and the first repeat of the main pattern finished, and realized there were a couple of problems.

First, I'm not delighted with the way the colors fall.

I was thinking of hiding dirt, when I started the cuff, so I used the dark green in place of the white, which I wanted to save anyway. I failed to realize how important it is to have that color represented in the cuff, so that it looks like the cuff is really part of the mitt. Goodness knows I should have realized that; it's the kind of thing I was taught as an infant. But I was so concerned about saving the yarn that I didn't.

I also failed to realize how very difficult it would be to see the cobalt blue against the dark green. Once more, I should have. I work with color and contrast every day. But somehow I overlooked it.

But the most important thing is that they are too small. Way too small.

I took the time to do a swatch, and everything, but I forgot to check to see how large the mitt was supposed to be. It turns out that it's 7.5 inches in circumference. Which might fit an "average woman" but sure won't fit me, and certainly isn't going to fit over Michael's hand. If he could put it on backwards, so it wouldn't have to go over his thumb, maybe. But not the way you have to wear them.

Mine is also about a quarter of an inch smaller than that, even. Apparently, the yarn does draw in a bit.

So yeah, it's time to restart.

Which wouldn't be a problem; this is on an eight-stitch repeat, so I could easily add a couple of extra repeats and get all the room I need.

Except that there's no way that white yarn will make it.

So, I'm going to order some undyed white, and I'll use some as white, and some I'm going to try dying green and some gold, so I can have the colors I want, too!

Can't wait to see how that turns out!

Wish me luck!

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

I Did It!

Let me explain. :D

The Christmas that we were 10 my best friend, Rachel Alexander, gave me a pair of mittens that she had knitted. They were red and blue, with a design on the front. They are, as you can see, beautiful. I still have them, 45 years after she gave them to me.

Rachel's Mittens, one inside out, showing that there are no floats

But the most amazing thing about them, as far as I was concerned, was that on the inside, instead of having long loops of yarn where the color wasn't used on the front, it was all neatly woven in, so there was nothing to catch my fingers.

I asked Rachel how she'd done that, and she said, "You just carry the yarn," with the utter disdain that only a 10 year old girl can muster up.

When I started to knit, last February, one of the things I was determined to do was to learn how Rachel had done that, and make all my color work the same way.

Months ago, I asked in my Local Yarn Shop (Old Village Yarnshop in Plymouth) if they had ever heard of such a technique. They showed me a book by The Philosopher's Wool Company that explained how to do it, but I couldn't figure it out from looking at the pictures, since I was completely unable to read knitting diagrams. (My knitting never looks like that.)

They did have a website, and i went there, but I couldn't see the video. It wasn't Mac compatible. (It is now! I just found it again, when I went there to get the address to give you guys. I wonder how long that's been up there?)

All I knew for sure was that the technique that they use is two=handed. You hold one color in one hand, and knit "continental" style, and the other in the other hand, and knit "English" style.

So I taught myself both styles of knitting, and then tried again to figure it out. No good.

Well, I was adding the last color of yarn to the Jaywalker socks (I decided to finish them, and wear them imperfect as they are, by the way, because there are so many other things to knit! :D ) I was trying, once again, to use that technique to work in the ends of the yarn as I went along, when the penny dropped!

I finished the socks as quickly as I could. Here they are. The "different yarn" starts where the toe is black, and goes on into the green. Not much, and I think it's okay. You can see that the foot is bigger than it should be, and they haven't been washed and blocked yet, but at least they are done. :D

Finished Jaywalker Socks

Then I got out some cheap acrylic yarn, and practiced a bit, catching the yarn using the English style very handily. Then I got out the book, took another look, and found that this time I'm familiar enough with knitting that I was able to figure it out! (It's not hard, after all.)

So I practiced that, and then I got out a circular needle, and made a small practice cuff thingie. It's not very good, because the acrylic was too thick for the needles I was using. (What can I say? The size 9 needles were uncomfortable, this evening, and the next smallest size I have was six. I thought it would be okay. I was mistaken.)

So it's lumpy and weird, and by the time I was done my hands were quite sore from fighting with the yarn. And it probably has an armor class of at least 3. But it's recognizably the pattern I was using, there are only a few tiny little floats on the back, and I am comfortable with the technique now.

Here it is, showing the outside,

Colorwork Practice piece, bright blue and white

And the inside!

Colorwork from the Inside. Look! No Floats!

Hooray! Color work, here I come...

(Too bad I didn't realize that I was going to have this breakthrough earlier today, when I was at the yarn store. I would have gotten yarn that I could do color work with! Ah well. I guess I'll just have to buy more of yarn! Shucky-darn. :D)

So, that's that! Pictures tomorrow. Next day, at the latest. :D

Monday, September 22, 2008

It Was This Close!

It's Monday again, so once more, I spent a significant portion of the day knitting.

Today, I was working on the second Jaywalker sock, and I almost made it. I even unraveled my Gauge Swatch, and used that, but I still didn't quite get there. About the sixth row of toe decreases, I ran out of yarn.

The really sad part? I made a mistake in the pattern, on both socks. If I hadn't, I would have had enough yarn, and the two socks would probably have been identical twins. So I would have finished them both back in June.


See, I knit on Mondays.

The reason that I have that time is that on Monday I spend the day without my contact lenses, to give my eyes a really long break. This is because I haven't had new contacts in far too long, and I want my eyes to last for another thirty or forty years. Yes, I do intend to see an ophthalmologist Real Soon Now. But, in the meantime, I spend Mondays blind, for tax purposes.

The flaw in this plan, of course, is that I don't see well without my contacts. By which I mean to say, with my spectacles on, I can see clearly for about a foot. But they are heavy, and uncomfortable, and interfere with my breathing, and let's face it, a foot isn't very far.

So, generally, on Mondays I walk around carrying my specs, as a kind of "badge of blindness" and just use my naked vision.

Which is about 2.5 inches.

This isn't a problem for knitting, although I do have to close my eyes when I'm pulling the circular needle through, because it can whip around, and it's too close to my eyes (which I would really like to keep, see paragraph above) to leave them open.

But reading the pattern can be problematic. I can't read it while holding the knitting, of course. I have to put the knitting down, hold the pattern next to my nose, remember what it said, knit, rinse, and repeat as necessary.

And too, there's the cat, who likes to sit on my left arm while I'm knitting (or typing on the computer - she's there right now.) So it's more of a move the cat, find the right line, read it, remember, knit, rinse and repeat.

The real problem is that this wasn't my first pair of socks. So, when the number of stitches after the gusset decrease matched the number on the leg, I stopped decreasing.

I totally missed the whole paragraph in the pattern that told me that there should be 42 instep stitches, and 36 sole stitches. It was at the end of a page, and I never even saw it.

I did the whole foot, on both socks, with 42 for instep and sole. 47 rows of six fewer stitches per sock would have made all the difference. 564 stitches not worked would have saved more than enough yarn.


I do remember, back in June, being puzzled about the toe decreases, and deciding that I had done something weird, or the pattern had, but fudging and finishing anyway.

Tonight, though, with nearly twice as many socks under my belt (as it were) I carefully went back through the pattern, and found the paragraph.

Which will teach me to read it all very carefully as I go along, in the future.

The thing is, the socks do fit. I have wide feet. So, with one long done, and one only a few rows from being finished, do I really want to frog and do it right, or should I just chalk this one up to learning, and move on, with a pair of imperfect socks which I'll wear anyway?

What would you guys do?

Wednesday, September 17, 2008


I'm sorry! I've been really busy, and I haven't looked at this blog for months, so I didn't realize until tonight that I do have readers! (Or I did. It's possible that you've all wandered off, since I've neglected you for about 3 months. I'm so, so sorry!)

So, ummm... where were we?

The Bamboo socks were finished on July 7. I think they came out very well.

I love the colors, too, and yeah, the pattern really does look like bamboo.

Haven't worn them yet, because it's been too hot, but now that the weather is cooling off, I'm really looking forward to trying them out.

So, once I finished those, I got some Zwerger Garn Opal Rendez-vous out of my stash, that I'd gotten in one of my very few visits to an actual yarn store. (I really must get out more!) Then I fired up Sock Wizard, and put together a pattern that would let me make a simple pair of ribbed socks.

That was on July 14.

Sadly, for the last several months, I've only had time to knit on Mondays, which is my day off. (I had Jury duty, which lasted for 2 days because it took me a while to convince everyone on "my" jury to see things my way. But they won't let you take knitting needles into the courthouse, so I wasn't able to knit there.)

So, knitting for about four or five hours a week, it took me most of a month to finish the pair. Even though it wasn't anything fancy at all.

But, once again, I'm pleased with the results.

These were a lot of fun to knit. I love the self-striping yarn; you never know what's going to come onto your needles next, which makes even a very simple pattern fun.

This pair had a knot in the yarn, which I found when I was working the heel flap of the first sock. I cut it out, and left the ends, which I worked in later, since everything I read assured me that if I didn't, the knot would work its way to the front. Or, worse yet, it would come undone at some point, and the whole sock would unravel.

But when I started the second sock, I realized that through no planning, but sheer coincidence, they were going to be almost identical twins!

So, when I got to the heel of the second one, I made my own "knot", cutting out what I thought was the right amount of yarn so that the twinship would continue. I almost made it, too. It turns out that I was off just a bit, so that the single row of dark blue yarn that you can see on the ankle of the sock on the front in the picture doesn't appear on the second sock. But I cleverly hid it, when I was shooting the photo, so you'll never know.

Except that I just told you, of course. :D

So, those were done on August 11.

Which meant it was time to start something else.

Remember the Jaywalker socks? The ones I put on hold because I blithely assumed that I was going to be able to find another skein of Lana Grossa Meilenweit 100 Two In One in the right colorway to make a second sock that matched the first?

Well, I couldn't. Neither of my local yarn shops had any, and the only skein I could find on line would have had to be shipped from Europe. The cost of the yarn was quite reasonable, once I translated from Euros, but the shipping! It would have come to about $70, US, just to get it here.

A $100+ pair of socks didn't seem reasonable to me, especially when I'm really just a beginner. (Only six months of knitting under my belt, at the time. Now, of course, it's nearly seven, so I'm much more experienced now. Still not enough to spend over $100 on yarn for a single pair, though.)

So, anyway, I've brought them back from hibernation, and for the last several weeks I've been working on the second sock. Really, I'll be surprised, nay shocked if it turns out that I have enough yarn to finish them. I've turned the heel, and I'm working on the instep now, and it seems to me that the remaining skein is getting a bit thin.

But I guess we'll find out next Monday, if all goes according to plan.

So stay tuned, and I'll let you know, now that I know that you are watching. :D

And once again, I'm sorry that I wandered away for so very long.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Working with Bamboo!

I've been terribly remiss in my blogging, so I'm doing three posts at once. I hope that's okay. (I'd worry more about it if I had any readers, but since I'm pretty sure I don't, I don't imagine it will bother anyone.)

A few months ago, I signed up for the Socktastic Sock-of-the-Month club, at Chameleon Colorworks

I got the yarn and the pattern for April, May and now June right on time. But I was busy with other things, and none of the colorways are the things I would have picked on my own.

April's socks, which came in mix of green, yellow-green, brown and light blue called "Lichen" is my late Mother's colors; but not so much mine.

June's sock is browns and tans, (which makes sense considering the pattern is called 'Rocky Road', after the ice cream, but, once again, not so much my colors.

May is pink and light green, and is a lace sock to boot. Springtime in Paris, kind of feeling. Except that I'm not exactly a lacy pink kind of girl, even if the yarn is just the color of apple blossoms.

So, the yarn went into the stash, the patterns went into the notebook, and it all just sat there.

But the yarn texture is lovely. It's a mix of Bamboo and superwash Merino wool, with just a touch of nylon. It's soft and smooth, and I did really want to try it.

On Monday, I decided that it was time to start.

So I got out my new Swift and Yarn Baller, and made a cake of the yarn (which was a lot of fun, and much faster than doing it by hand, as well as making a better cake.) Then I got out my size 4 needles (larger than recommended, since there is only one size in the pattern, and, as I may have mentioned, I have big feet, and the legs to match) and started.

The first few rows are seed stitch, and went really well. the yarn is beautiful, and it was fun to work with.

Then came Row 5, which was just plain confusing, and which also didn't seem to have any reason to be that way, followed by several rows of alternate knit and yarn over, which I found very confusing, but I think I did them okay, and I like them the way they are, so I'm leaving them this way, anyway.

And then the real fun started.

Now, granted I've only been knitting for a few months, and this is only my fourth sock pattern. But I'd been given the impression that rounds are supposed to start with a Knit Stitch, if possible.

Apparently, this isn't so. Or, if it is, no one told the person who designed these socks.

I'm doing them with Magic Loop, of course, and every. single. needle. starts with a purl stitch.

Every one.

It took me quite a few rows before I really figured out why I kept getting Mysterious Yarn Overs.

It seems that when you're starting a row with a purl stitch, the yarn has to come under the left needle, but not under the cable on the back. Furthermore, it has to be to the right of the loop that you're putting the needle through.

Simple stuff, I know, but it took me rows and rows to figure it all out. (I blame it on the fever I've been running the last few days.)

There are also a lot of purl stitches in this sock. Which is probably all for the best, since I wound up knitting the Jaywalker English (American) style, so I haven't been practicing Continental knitting much at all.

I'm doing it now, though, and since what I needed practice in most of all was the purl stitch, it's just as well that I'm getting lots of it.

So, I'm enjoying it all more than I thought I would, and this is what I have done so far.

partially finished sock leg, still on the needles

The color looks better than I thought it would, too, since there's more blue in it than it looked like there would be. I think I'm going to really like these socks!

Jaywalker Socks - on hold

Things have been happening, even though I haven't had the time to blog about them.

So, after I finished the Toe Jazz socks, I decided to use some Lana Grossa Meilenweit 100 Two In One self-striping yarn I have, and make some socks for me.

I thought I'd also teach myself Continental Knitting at the same time.

So I got out some really cheap acrylic yarn, and did the Continental Knitting for a while, until I thought I had the hang of it, and started a pair of socks.

A couple of days later, I looked at them, and realized that they were looking awfully small. So I tried them on and, sure enough, once again they were too small for my feet.

Once again, I had to frog them, and I used Sock Wizard to get the correct instructions for a plain sock in my size.

I started over, did about half an inch of 1x1 rib, and realized that if I did a whole sock in stockinette stitch, I'd be really really bored.

So I looked through the Ravelry patterns for one that used the same number of stitches I already had. (I wanted them to fit, this time,) and came up with Jaywalkers.

One finished sock, and the yarn left from it.

As I knitted, I realized that I really, really liked the way the striping was falling on this sock. And I began to suspect that a Jaywalker sock takes more yarn that a simple stockinette stitch sock.

By the time I was on the toe (which took weeks, because I haven't had any time for knitting except for a few hours on Mondays, which are my day off,) I knew that I wanted the second sock to be an identical, not fraternal, twin.

For a bit, I hoped that this sock would end just where I wanted to begin on the next one, but it didn't happen.

So I've decided to get more of this yarn, since I'm pretty sure there's not enough for a second sock, anyway, and just wind off as much as necessary to get to this point in the striping before I start the next one.

I just hope I can find the yarn with no trouble!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Toe Jazz Pictures

I know, it's been ages; but life is like that sometimes. In any case, here are the promised pictures of the "Toe Jazz" socks.

Toe Jazz Socks, in the sandals they were made for.

This shows them in their "natural habitat," the way that my partner actually wears them. As you can see, there's not a lot showing, but that separate toe is a very important part.

Socks from the back, with her jeans held up

And this is a picture of them from the back, so you can see the cables. (Her legs are much tanner than they look in this picture, by the way. Just in case you thought she was as pale as I am. :D)

I still need to really block them, and I'm debating getting real sock blockers to do the job. But I'd need them in a couple of sizes, and I'm not sure if they are really worth it, so the debate goes on.

Any ideas?

Friday, May 16, 2008

Toe Jazz Socks Done!

It took longer than it should have, but I finally finished the Toe Jazz socks for my partner, and she was able to wear them both to her massage school!

I'll get pictures when I can.

The reason it took so long was that I was so snowed under doing other things that I didn't have much time to knit. Life is like that sometimes, I guess.

But the pattern was great, and they weren't at all difficult to do.

They also took a lot less wool than I thought they were going to, which means that I have more than an entire skein left to do a matching hat, or mitts, or a scarf, or something. We'll see what my partner wants when the weather starts to get chilly.

In the meantime, they're off the needles, and I can start on something else!

I think I'll do a pair of plain socks in the self-striping yarn I got, and teach myself to knit Continental style while I do them.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The Cure for "Second Sock Syndrome"

Just a quick blog tonight, to tell you that my partner has found the cure for "Second Sock Syndrome." You remember yesterday, when I blogged that I'd finished the first sock in the pair of Tabi I'm making for her?

She said, at the time, that one of her feet was going to be cold today, since I hadn't finished the second one.

I thought she was joking.

But no.

She wore the single sock (paired with a commercial, black one) to her Massage School today.

I guess that I'd better learn to make two at a time after all!

(Exit stage left, laughing.)

Monday, April 28, 2008

Toe Jazz Socks - Work in Progress

My partner likes to wear sandals in all seasons. When it's cold, she wears tabi socks with them. (Japanese socks, with one place for your big toe, and one for all the others. Kind of like mittens for your feet.)

Since I'm knitting socks now, I decided to make her a pair of tabi. I found a pattern, called Toe Jazz, by Joanne Clark, published by Fiber Trends, at one of my Local Yarn Stores (Old Village Yarn Shop) and a bit over a week ago, I started to knit it up.

The socks, one week ago.

This is where I was a week ago. The cuff and leg done, the heel turned, moving right along.

But then, I got involved with work all week, and barely had any time to knit. So it didn't get much farther until today.

I finished the first sock this evening. I didn't photograph it, but I did finish it.

It fits my partner perfectly, and she really likes it. So do I.

I used Alpaca Sox to make it; a blend of Alpaca, Merino wool, and nylon (so the socks will stay up.) It's really really soft and lovely, not splitty at all, and the colors aren't pooling.

You can also see my hand-wound, center-pull "cake" of yarn in the background. Winding that convinced me that I really do need to get a yarn winder and a swift, even though my partner was kind enough to hold the yarn, and act as a swift for me. They are expensive, but I think they might be worth it, if I'm going to be doing much of this.

And it looks like I am. My partner really likes the sock. I showed her what it looked like, dangling from the needles by its toe, just before I took it off. She came right over, and sat and waited while I wove the ends in, then immediately put it on. She wants the other one now. (In fact, while I was writing that sentence, she came by, and asked if the other one was done yet.)

So yeah, I think she likes them. :D

I'd think I better go cast on now. :D

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Anklet Socks Done!

I finished the socks that I started so I'd be working on socks when the Yarn Harlot came to Ann Arbor.

There are a couple of mistakes, but I don't think that they are very noticeable, and it's too late to do anything about them now, anyway.


All, in all, for the second pair of socks I ever made, I'm quite pleased with them.

(There are more pictures in my Project stuff on Ravelry. If you happen to be reading this, and aren't a member, I have them at Flikr, too.

So, those are finished.

Next up, the Toe Jazz socks for my partner.

I did the swatch last night (and had to move up to needle size 4 from the 2.5-3 that the pattern calls for, to get gauge) but was too tired to cast on.

The yarn I'm using is Alpaca Sox, and it's amazingly soft and beautiful. With any luck, I won't have any mistakes with these. If I can manage that, they're going to be gorgeous.

I think I really like making socks! :D

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Seeing the Yarn Harlot

The Yarn Harlot (Stephanie Pearl-McPhee) came to Ann Arbor yesterday, and I got to go to her speech!

Michael was at work until 4 pm (as he usually is,) and Skyia was working at the Student Clinic at her Massage School (as she often is,) and we only have the two cars. So I had to wait until Michael got off work, and then he took me to the Ann Arbor Library for the show. (He wanted to see her too.)

We got there an hour early, and that was too late. The room only held 137 people (with chairs, according to the sign outside it,) and it had gotten filled to capacity 45 minutes earlier.

We were sent up to the "overflow" room, where we could watch her on closed circuit TV. Considerably better than nothing, but not really like being there. We missed all the things that the audience said, for instance; we just heard her response (rather like hearing one side of a phone conversation.) Really, I wish she'd just sell CDs of her speech. It would be just like my experience, and I could watch it as often as I liked!

The only thing that was different from watching at home was being surrounded by knitters while we waited, which was kind of cool.

I bought my copy of the book during the hour between getting there and the speech, but I didn't read it until I got home. Instead, I sat there and worked on my Sock, as planned. Michael got up at one point, before it started, and told everyone that as long as we were upstairs, and not in the room where she'd be speaking, we should all hold up our socks, and he'd film them. And he did.

The speech was wonderful; as great as I had hoped it would be. Very funny, and also very informative and thought provoking.

Before she starts to speak, she takes pictures of the audience, for her blog. In our case, she took one of the camera, to represent all of us who couldn't be in the same room! :D

There was a question and answer session afterwards, but of course none of us had any way to participate in that. We did get to hear those questions, though, because the people asking them were required to go to a microphone so that we could.

Which was nice, because our room was just about filled to capacity too. Michael guessed that was around 150 more people. I think that she's outgrown the Library. Time to find a bigger venue for next year.

Then it was over, and we all went downstairs and stood in line to get our books autographed and have a moment to talk to her ourselves. Michael and I stood in line for about an hour and a half. I started talking to the people in line with me, and had to be told when it was finally my turn. (Which was a bit embarrassing, as you can imagine.)

I had already decided, having been on the other end of such lines, to forgo the autograph, and give her a short hand massage instead. I'd even had Skyia coach me, so htat I'd do it right. So that's what I did. I think she might have liked it.

Then I showed her my socks, and she took a photo, and then it was time for the next person, so we left. (I did mention that I think her publisher is trying to kill her. She said no, they are trying to sell books. It just looks the same.)

After that, we went to the Busy Hands, which was having a 20% off sale (they had sponsored her, and were open late for us,) where I bought a couple skeins of self-striping sock yarn, and asked to be notified when another one was in stock again.

After that, it was off to Real Seafood for an excellent dinner, and then we trundled home, exhausted.

So I got to meet a number of other knitters, (although only one from Ravelry, as far as I know) and got most of my sock done, and generally had a wonderful time, in spite of several attacks of "shy." (This is the most I've mixed with other people in years. Pathetic, but true.)

If you are in a place where you can see the Yarn Harlot, I highly recommend going to see her!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

The Yarn Harlot is coming...

..and I want to be ready for her. So I'm knitting socks.

I wanted something that I could knit while I was listening to her. Which meant something plain, so I could just do stockinette stitch (knit all the way around.) I'm afraid that I'm not good enough yet to do much else without paying close attention to my work.

So I looked for a plain sock pattern on Ravelry and found one that was designed by the Yarn Harlot herself!

The thing is, in the pictures she looks fairly small. I'm not small. My legs aren't small. My feet aren't small. And the more I thought about it, the more I realized that I probably wouldn't use small amounts of yarn to knit socks that would fit me.

I had already figured out that I could use the same stitch-counting techniques that I used to make the mitts fit Michael to make socks that would fit me. But I bought the yarn when I'd only been knitting for two weeks. (I will have been knitting for seven, when I go to see the Yarn Harlot, so of course I'm much more knowledgeable now.)

Back then, when I was just a beginner, I'd gotten two 110 yard balls of Crystal Palace Yarns Merino 5 in the Seascape colorway to knit socks. (I thought I'd use Good Yarn, since it's going to be seen at a Knitting Event.) But after having done a couple pairs of mitts, and seen yarn consumption, I wasn't sure that was going to be enough to make two "standard" length socks for a foot the size of mine.

So I did a little research, and found The Sock Wizard, which I've heard good things about, and which has a version for the Mac!

It's also very reasonably priced ($34.95), and I could pay with PayPal and download it instantly, so that's what I did.

I put in my measurements, looked at the Estimated Yarn Use, and made the sock shorter until I could probably get two socks, only a tiny bit small for me, out of 220 yards of yarn.

And then I came upstairs and unknit seven rows of stitches.

I'm making ankle socks. Fairly short ankle socks. Ankle socks that are almost entirely cuff and foot.

But I should have enough yarn, so I started to knit. All was going well until I turned the heel, which I did without counting carefully, because it's so easy to see where the stitches need to be closed. And then I was finished, and the pattern said there should be 16 stitches remaining, and I had 14.

I had not a clue how to unknit that, and didn't really like the heel flap reinforcement pattern I'd chosen (pigeon eye, or something like that. I can't check now, because I have a cat lying on my arm, and the bag with the knitting is out of reach.) So I frogged it down to the beginning of the heel flap, and did it again, counting carefully.

Same result.

So I frogged it down to the end of the heel flap, and tried again.

Same result.

So I counted the rows in the pattern, and realized that there were two extra reducing rows there. If I left those out, I'd have the 16 stitches I was supposed to have. Or maybe I was really only supposed to have 14, and that was the error.

Not knowing for sure, I unknitted two rows, and went with that one. There were still more edge stitches on the heel flap than there were stitches I was supposed to pick up, so there are some holes in the sock. I suppose when I'm a more experienced sock maker (which I fully intend to be) I'll be able to tell at a glance which ones I should grab, or if I should just make a longer gusset or something.

But, in the meantime, I have a sock that I'm ready to take to the talk tomorrow. (Well, later today, really.)

I'm just doing stockinette on the sole and instep at this point, so I should be all ready to listen while I knit.

Thank goodness my foot is large, as I may have mentioned, so I've got plenty of rows to listen with!

Monday, April 7, 2008

Baby Steps with Baby Socks

I really want to knit socks.

So yesterday I decided to try a pair.

I looked all over, on line, and found that there was a video tutorial about turning the heel of a baby sock at so I decided to download the .pdf of the sock she was using, and try it.

Since I use the Magic Loop technique, not double pointed needles (fewer needles to buy) I also had to figure out how to translate a pattern that uses instructions like "Knit until there are 3 stitches left on Needle 1" into something that I could use. (Answer; use Stitch Markers, and pretend.)

But it worked out, and I have Achieved Socks!

I made them in Sugar'n Cream, which is a fairly thick cotten yarn, because I was experimenting, and I wanted to be able to clearly see my stitches, and keep track of what was going where. Which worked quite well.

They aren't perfect. There are some tiny holes in the fabric where I picked up the stitches after turning the heel. But they are undeniably socks.

The next project is to make some full-size, for me, since the Yarn Harlot is coming to Ann Arbor on Friday, and I plan to be there if I possibly can. The thing is, when you go to see the Yarn Harlot speak, it's necessary to be knitting a sock. So I'm going to start them now. That way, I'll have one on the needle to show socktitude!

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Mitts for Michael; part two

I finished the new mitts late last night. Michael got them this morning (I left them on the table for him,) and he loves them.

The second one is exactly the same size as the first, except that the opening for the thumb is slightly larger, since that's what he wanted.

He took them to work, and said that the first thing that everyone said was, "Are you cold?" He explained that yes, he was. That's why he'd been saying that he was, all winter long.

They are longer than the pattern would have called for; but that, too, is what he wanted since he can turn them back when he's typing, and have them cover his hands when he's not. He also asked to have no length on the thumbs, since he was pretty sure it would annoy him to have to work with his thumbs muffled like that. So that's what he got.

I learned quite a bit more about knitting with the Magic Loop while making these. You'd think, since I've done two and a half pairs of mitts, that I'd be really familiar with it (and I guess I am, now.) But I didn't learn as much from the first pair as you might think, since I couldn't see the stitches.

Turns out that the trick is to be careful with the stitches at the end, when you switch needles. You need to remember that the stitch isn't the start of a new row; it's just the next stitch along, and do exactly what you'd do for the next stitch, when you're manipulating the yarn. So, if you're changing from Purl to Knit, you need to move the yarn to the back of the work before you change the needles. And then you just take that small loop for the next stitch.

I was making an extra loop, about half the time, trying to work the yarn around all the cable and so on, and that was making the stitches head the wrong way, for some reason. The leading edge of the stitch was on the left, not the right, and that made them very hard to knit. Fortunately, I could see what I was doing, so I was manually turning the yarn (it was too tight to just knit into the back of the stitch) but it was much easier once I realized what the problem was, and corrected it.

It made the side of the mitt look lots better too, as you can see from the second picture, above.

Since Michael didn't want his thumbs covered, when I got to that part, I just bound off the stitches instead of putting them on waste yarn. At least, that's what I did for the second mitt.

For the first one, I was several rows past that, with those stitches on waste yarn already, when he told me this. (I did give him the option, because I know him. I should have done so before I was quite so far along, though.) So I very carefully unknitted down to that row; but that meant that the extra cast on stitch that the pattern called for after putting the gusset on waste yarn was gone, as well.

In addition, I wasn't sure that the area above the thumb would close properly. So I added a couple of stitches, and knit a couple together, and came out with the right number; but the thumb is a little ... ummm ... imperfect right there.

Michael tried it on, and told me that it fit his left hand beautifully, but the thumb bound just a little on his right; could I make it a bit bigger?

So I added another stitch in the middle of the gusset, on the last row (where it's not very visible) and two more on either side in the row where I bound off the gusset. That gave me the right number for the rest of the glove.

So I found a pattern for these mitts, which also just had bound thumbs, from a much more experienced knitter. She simply kept knitting for the next row without doing anything special, so that's what I did, too. And lo and behold, it closed up perfectly, without any trouble, and is as smooth and neat as you could want.

So; I think I'm going to use this pattern as a base for any other mitts I do. I can add cables, colorwork, or whatever from any other mitt patterns; but if I base them on this I know that they will fit. And when Michael asks for a red pair of these, I'll know just what to do with the thumbs!

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Mitts for Michael; part one

The great thing about being this new at a skill is that it's almost impossible to do anything and not learn a Valuable Lesson. Even when it's one that any sensible person wouldn't have to learn in the first place.

For instance; did you guys know that mitts that are sized for a "Women's Medium" hand will not fit a slightly-over-six-feet-tall man? I mean, who would have been able to guess that, right?

But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Remember the other day, when I said that the next thing I made I was going to make for myself, as a practice piece? Well, when Michael heard that, he pouted. Seems that his hands are really cold when he's working in the office, and he doesn't care about the quality of the knitting. He just wants something to keep his hands warm.

So, of course, I gave in and looked for a pattern for him. He didn't want cables. He just wanted plain old mitts. In gray. Nothing fancy.

I actually got him the gray merino a couple of weeks ago, when he first asked for these mitts. So I looked for a pattern that specified that wool, because I've learned from the last mitts. And I found one on Ravelry for "Plain Ole' Fingerless Mitts." Which would seem to be exactly what was needed.

So I very carefully made a gauge swatch, like a Good Kid, and it was spot on, which pleased me. (Yay) And then I cast on and started to make a mitt.

Which very quickly started to look like a mitt for a child. A fairly small child.

I showed it to Michael, and he was able to force his hand into it, and said that it was going to be snug, but snug is good.

So, since I apparently hadn't learned the lesson about not listening to my family when they say, "No, it's fine! I like it like that" I kept going.

I got past the thumb gusset, and almost to the top, and it wasn't looking any more like it was going to fit anyone who wasn't about ten or so. Tops.

So I tried again to show it to Michael, and this time when he forced his hand into it, and said, "I'll be able to wear it." I said, "No. It's way too small." And he admitted that it was just a little tight. (You could see every stitch spread out in all its glory, as if it was lace or something. Just a tad tight.)

So I let Skyia frog it, which she really enjoyed, measured Michael's hand, and made the Custom Fit Fingerless Mitts instead. Which required an extra 12 stitches to be cast on and, oddly enough, fit perfectly. :D

The first one is done. Michael asked me not to make the thumb stitches, so I just bound off the top of the thumb gusset. He thinks that the extra length there would just have annoyed him, and they're his mitts. :D

I'll make the other one tomorrow. Will it be the same size? Tune in tomorrow night, or possibly the next day, and find out!

Friday, March 28, 2008

First Project Finished

I got the mitts done this evening, and learned a number of very valuable lessons.

Among them; when you're just learning a skill, try to avoid doing something that requires matching parts. The two mitts have the same number of stitches. Goodness knows, I counted them often enough that I know this to be a fact. However, for some reason, the cuff on the second one is much more cuff-like. The ribbing is tighter, and holds closer to the wrist, and because of that, the second mitt looks much more shaped, and much less like a simple tube.

Don't buy yarn unless you know what you're buying it for (at least roughly) so you can get enough. A corollary to this is; one skein isn't enough to make a pair of mitts. Not quite. When I went back to get the second skein, I found to my dismay that Jo-Ann had lots more yarn of the same color, but none in the same dyelot. We looked at every skein they had. None.

Not all yarn can be used for all patterns. The yarn that I chose, while soft, fuzzy, and beautiful, was completely unsuitable for this. I couldn't find anything on the package that said what weight it is. But, in retrospect, the fact that the guage swatch calls for size 11 (8mm) needles should have been a hint. The pattern used size 4. My beloved has large hands, so I used a size 6 (4 mm.) The main yarn looked about the same width as some Worsted weight I had. I just didn't realize the effect all the other fuzzy bits and threads that were wrapped around the main yarn would have. (I was using Sensations Angel Hair, from J0-Ann.)

What effect, you might ask? Well... it was rather like knitting something that was being felted as you went. It's very fuzzy, the cable is impossible to see, and the stitches are totally invisible. So I couldn't even check my work as I knitted. I think I was doing it right, but who will ever know?

Not so good for learning.

If you alter a pattern, write down what you changed. The mitts looked way too long, so I decided to skip some of the rows after the cable repeated three times. The pattern called for 10 more rounds at this point. I was sure that I had done three, instead. Positive I had. I held the two mittens together, one on needles, the other finished, and checked the size. It really, really looked like I'd only done three rounds. (I couldn't just count, because it was impossible to see any stitches at all. See the Lesson Learned above.) Now that they are both off the needles, I think I may have done five in the first one. It's noticably longer than the second one.

You can't tell how long something really is while it's still on the needles. See explanation above.

Don't make the first one ever for someone else; instead, count it as practice. If I hadn't been making the mitts for my partner, I would have changed yarns after the first few rows. But then, if I had, I wouldn't have learned all these valuable lessons. :D

If you realize something isn't going to work, don't show it to someone and ask if they want it this way anyhow. See lesson above. If I hadn't shown them to her, had just quietly changed yarn, and told her that I'd have to make something else for her out of the beautiful, fuzzy, purple one, I think we'd both have been a lot happier. (And the mitts would be better, too, because I could have seen what I was doing!)

If you're pretty sure that it's impossible for a mistake to have happened where it seems to have, and you can't see the stitches to be sure, don't correct for it. I did. Repeatedly. I won't enumerate, there were too many examples. Suffice it to say that I wound up totally frogging the right (second) mitten seven, count 'em, seven times because I was correcting for things that hadn't happened, and couldn't correct the corrections. At least I hadn't gotten very far. But I did make such a mess of some of the yarn that I had to just toss it, and start with fresher yarn that hadn't been knit and unknit quite so many times. (The fine wrapping thread, and the fuzzy bits, get very frazzled after a few times.) Hummm.. maybe that's what happened to the cuff...

And, finally, People who love you will insist that the pair of mitts you made them is really nice, even when they don't match, the cable is invisible, and one is shorter than the other one. So, if you're going to make all the mistakes above, make sure that you make them on something you're giving to someone who really loves you. :D

I also learned that knitting patterns aren't as hard to follow as they look like they will be. And that most of the things you'll need to know are on the internet, in video format, so it's possible to find out stuff that the pattern doesn't tell you. (For instance, it said to put the thumb gusset stitches on waste yarn, but not how. Turns out you use a needle to do that. It also said that you should start knitting the thumb, but, once again, no clue how you're supposed to do that, when you don't have a loose end of yarn. So I hunted, and found out that you can just hold a new piece of yarn where you need it, and start knitting, and it'll be okay.)

All in all, I really enjoyed most of this, and can't wait to start a new pair. I might do the same pattern, so I can see how it actually looks. Or I might try a different one, because I've just done this one twice. But, whatever I choose, the next pair are going to be for me.

I need the practice. :D

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

XO Fingerless Mitts, just begun

As promised, I've started to work on a pair of fingerless mitts for my partner.

The problem is, as I mentioned before, that I'm just beginning to knit. So I choose some beautiful, fuzzy purple yarn, and started on the pattern. (You can find it here, if you're interested.)

About six rows in, I realized a couple of things. First, you won't be able to see the cable, because the yarn is way too fuzzy.

Second, it's possible that it's not a good idea to knit gloves with yarn that Ravelry describes as "Super Bulky" even when it doesn't appear to be any thicker than the Worsted weight acrylic I've been practicing with.

So I took them over to my partner, and said, "Honey, are you sure that you want them in this yarn?"

Yes. Yes she does. She says it's a beautiful color, and warm, and fuzzy, and the cable will be kind of "stealth" kisses and hugs all up the back of her hand.

So I'm working them in the yarn she likes.

Partially finished very fuzzy purple fingerless gloves with stealth cable on the back

I had to wait for a delivery for a couple of hours yesterday, so I got the body of the glove done. (Not that I did it in a couple of hours, that was just added to the time I was going to knit anyway.) I still have to do the thumb, which should be .. ummm .. interesting.

However, the knitting isn't hard; and the other things, that look really hard when you see the description on paper, seem to make much more sense when you're actually doing them.

So that's what I'm going to be doing tonight.

I also found another yarn store, that's quite a bit closer to me and has a lot of really great yarn; but I'll blog about that later. Right now, I want to start knitting!

Monday, March 24, 2008

Learning to Knit

About four weeks ago, a good friend of mine was visiting, and while we chatted, she was knitting (as usual.)

I've been sick a lot in the last few months (lingering bronchitis, nothing serious) and haven't felt much like working. But it would be nice to be doing something, since I'm really not good at sitting around.

So I asked her to teach me to knit, too.

She loaned me a pair of needles, gave me a skein of Sugar and Cream cotton, and showed me how to cast on, how to knit, and how to perl. And how to unknit (which I've been using a lot.)

Then she went home, and I practiced.

It wasn't long before I got bored with stockinette, so I looked up some stitch patterns on the web, and practiced them.

By the next time she visited, a week later, I'd knitted the skein, and made a sampler. And because I'd been in the middle of a pattern when the skein ran out, I knitted that pattern on some cheap acrylic yarn I'd gotten.

She took me to the local yarn shop, and I got some good needles, some really beautiful yarn, and an idea of how much money you can spend on yarn and needles!

She also got me to sign up for Ravelry.

Another three weeks have passed, and I've made myself a pair of mitts (because it's still really cold, here in Michigan) without a pattern (because I couldn't read them yet. They're in code.) and experimented with knitting lace and cables.

These are the mitts.

The fingerless mitt, which is bright blue, green, and yellow, on my hand.

And this is the lace.

Lace, with the first repeat in Garter Stitch, because I didn't know you had to purl the even rows when translating from a pattern 'in the round'.

This is the first cable I did.

White cable, very plain, and fairly wide.

And this is the second.

Double cable, with extra twists and things. Much more complex than the first.

The mitts I wanted to make for my partner use an XO cable, so I practiced that one.

A sample of XO cable

Today I plan to start my first "real" project; a pair of mitts for my partner.

I'll keep you posted!