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!