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.