Monday, December 31, 2007

Christmas Stash

I have the best sister ever and I know so because this is what I got to open on Christmas morning:

Yessireebob, that thar is four (FOUR!) skeins of Blue Moon Fiber Arts Socks that friggin' Rock. Like the ingrate that I can be, I was a bit disappointed in the Downpour colorway.

I even blamed BMFA for sending her the wrong colorway. But we have email proof that I myself picked out that dull, rainy day skein. I don't know what I was thinking. When you see the little circle, with all the color strands represented, I kinda, maybe, sorta can see what intrigued me, but with that colorway looking just like the dreary woods outside my dining room window, I'm thinking it may take the red hot heat of summer to kindle any desire to knit with it.

I apologized up and down for the poop I was about it. It's in my nature to say exactly how I feel. Though I totally know how awfully rude that is to the gift giver, I just wasn't in control of that all important facility known as "thinking before one speaks." A nice pair of socks, though, will help gloss over this faux pas, don't you think?

That isn't the only stash enhancement that was happening around Chez Yarn. I have some Christmas money which was supposed to cover long-coveted things such as a Flickr pro account (done!), a larger set of sock blockers (not done), a dpn needle case (not done), size 0 circs (done!), and Cat Bordhi's New Pathways for Sock Knitters (not done). On my path to self-fullfillment, some yarn got in the way. But before I get into the yarn, I want to talk about my disappointment with needle cases.

I was almost sure I'd find a simple dpn case on Etsy or at one of the LYSs in my area. However, on Etsy, all of the pretty little cases found in fabulous fabrics had seriously elaborate closures. I'm in and out of my case very often so it needs to open and close quickly. The cases I saw had belt loop closures that would frustrate me to no end. That meant I had to hit the brick and mortars and the cases I saw at the two LYSs I visited just didn't come in styles that were functional. I guess maybe I'm spoiled because the case I have now I made myself years ago, to my own specifications, and well functionality speaking, it's perfect.

I made this case during the lean years so the fabric and trimmings were what I could scrounge up. I never did sew up a closure so I've been using a rubber band all these years. Aside from these little quirks, the case is exactly what it should be except that there isn't enough room to house my ever exanding number of size 0 through size 2 sock needles.

Yes, I could just whip up another one. The problem is I generally loathe sewing. In fact it's not the sewing I loathe so much as all the all the steps one needs to do before one puts the fabric under the whirring point of one's sewing machine. I have no patience for the designing, measuring, and cutting. (Well, strike that last one, since getting a rotary cutter a few years ago, I totally love the cutting part.)

Add to this loathing the perfection issue. Since I now have better resources I totally feel obligated to make something perfect and that means finding the most perfect fabric and the most perfect trimmings and the most perfect design. This perfectionism stacked up against my loathing of the task breeds discontent. And so what did I do with some of my Christmas money instead? Well, to get back to a happier place, I purchased the ultimate yarn crack:

Who knew the Fabric Place in Woburn, MA had Malabrigo?? My recent obsession with sock knitting has meant far fewer visits to this store since they don't carry the type of yarn I prefer. One thing they have had in the past were decent needle cases but not on this Friday night. I found nothing of interest. The only cases I could find included needles and these were tucked away in an awkward corner facing the fabric section. The Malabrigo also wasn't in a section I usually focus on. I walked right by it at least once. But once I saw it, I was hard pressed to only walk away with these three skeins. Yummy.

That's not the only damage I did, but I've got to move on today.

Happy New Year, blogland

Friday, December 28, 2007

New Socks, Celebrity, and La Digitessa

So I did wind up taking Project Stole and La Digitessa to Arizona. But after I had packed Saturday night, I rethought my knitting plan and decided I needed a more portable knitting project for all those stop and go moments that travel throws at you. La Digitessa couldn't fill those boots and neither could all 60 inches of Project Stole.

As I sat on the couch that night one skein of the Rhinebeck STR beckoned me, the effervescent Seal Rock. I had been staving off the urge to knit this yarn for a long, long time so it seemed the perfect gift to myself to help face the horror that is contemporary, holiday, economy airline travel. It worked out perfectly. Whenever I needed it, my Seal Rock Socks kept my hands busy and my blood pressure down.

It even brought me close to celebrity. As I knit away at Logan Airport Sunday morning, I must have seemed innocuous because the inimitable Terry Francona and family sat right behind me, as it turns out they were taking the same flight. I couldn't bring myself to blatantly take his picture while he sat there, much less bug him like others did for an autograph, but I did try to wheedle in a phone pic after we disembarked. Try is the operative term.

This is not a tall tale, that bald man in a black jacket and blue jeans is the one and only Terry Francona. I wish I had had the moxie to at least give him my overwhelming thanks for not one, but TWO Red Sox world series wins. I know he didn't do it alone, but still. Terry freakin' Francona.

Back to knitting, and some fabulous knitting at that. I did start La Digitessa on the flight out and have found it a very rewarding, if strenuous knit.

The pattern and chart so far are easy as pie to read and follow, but cabling and twisting stitches on size US0 needles takes concentration and a lot more dexterity than what I usually knit. And you know the front snaking cable was the thing I originally liked the least about the pattern when I purchased it, but seeing it knit up, I am won over completely. Yarnissima's designs are beautifully elegant.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Candy Socks Wrap Up

I do have a pre Christmas FO that I haven't had a chance to post about, my Candy Socks. I brought them out to AZ in the hopes of getting this post out but it didn't happen. All I did manage to do was get pictures of them in that fabulous Arizona sun.

I offered them to my sister, but she declined. I like to think it was the colorway she wasn't too fond of, rather than her modesty in accepting another gift. Taken as a whole, all knit up, the colors may not necessarily be the most inviting to an adult, even an adult woman.

But knitting with this colorful yarn was satisfying. The constant changing of the colors from the dusky teals melding into scrumptious olive to the bubble gum pinks transforming into burnt orange, I was in color heaven.

The one problem I can't seem to master, even knitting toe up, is gauging how much yarn to use per sock. I still have about 28 grams of yarn left over.

Cherry Tree Hill in the Water colorway.
100% superwash merino wool in a DK weight.

I used US2 circs and dpns.

The prototype of the "make it up as I went along" pattern I used on hubby's Xmas Spice socks, with the exception of using a K2P1 rib. Like the Xmas Spice socks, the gusset consisted of a purl frame with the inner triangle in stockinette. The only difference being with this pair I used twisted stitches to bring some definition to the knit stitches framing the gusset.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Christmas Milestone, Christmas Reflection

Six and a half months and 100 posts later, I am still here. I'm not one to take stock of my life at milestones dates; I have never made, much less contemplated, a New Year's resolution in my life. I've had the kind of life where getting by takes all my effort. I don't have the bandwidth to plan for the future, with the exception of budgeting those all important finances.

I've always been okay with that because I've seen a lot worse and I know I've come pretty darn far. I don't wait until New Year's to realize how lucky I am to be where I am in life. I probably have a bit too much pride in how often I do stop to acknowledge the blessings in my life. It's the only thing I have to keep in check my anger at what I have had to face and what I continue to face as an Aspie.

But for a person who has never been able to maintain much consistency, I am damn proud that this here is my 100th post. I'm still posting and still knitting and thanks to the ever expanding knit blogosphere, and Ravelry, my skills and confidence have improved exponentially these past six months.

From Arizona's Valley of the Sun, I wish you Merry Christmas blogosphere.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Onward Knitting Soldier!

What I was afraid would happen did.

I purchased two sets of size US0, US1, and US2 KA circular bamboo needles at Now and Zen Yarns on Long Island this summer. On Thursday night I confirmed two of the three sets are worthless. Worthless.

The size 0 and 2's metal connectors snag anything that crosses their path. I've known about the size 2s for a while, but I've never had an occasion to try out the size 0s until last night.

I had planned to begin La Digitessa socks on the plane but I had a feeling I'd have to deal with snagging so I decided to cast on the toes before travelling in case I had any problems. This is not something I wanted to deal with at 30,000 feet.

My hunch was on the mark. What do people do when they buy defective needles? It's not like I can return them to the store, I wont be down in that area until next summer at the earliest. A helpful booth owner at Rhinebeck implored me to contact the manufacturer directly, but I think I'm too lazy for that. Then again, this is $24 down the drain. I guess I'll just think on this another day. For now, let me get back to how I dealt with the problem.

I know I could have gone with Yarnissima's short row toe using dpns but I don't really like the wrap and turn technique nor do I like having to pick up provisional stitches, which her short row toe requires. I like the magic cast on toe a lot and that's how I wanted to proceed.

On my first attempt I decided to switch to the size 1s once the snagging became apparent. After seven or eight rows, though, I reconsidered this plan. I didn't want to work the pattern on size 1s, I wanted to knit it on 0s. I next tried using four dpns, but this totally didn't work for me. I had to abandon this plan after half of a row. My final solution was a hybrid. I settled on the snagging circulars for the first three rows after which I introduced the dpns. This did the trick.

Two toes done. Yeah!

Friday, December 21, 2007

Xmas Spice FO

On Tuesday I succumbed to the cold my husband had been fighting for a week. I'll blame it on my weakened immune system that I totally gave up on the tubular cast off technique for his Xmas Spice socks. After three or four stitches into the tubular cast on I said f- it. I had no interest in learning a new technique.

I totally felt like a failure of a knitter. A loser with a capital L. But I ignored this and moved on. So I was not a process knitter on that day. Big whoopee. I still have a lovely pair of socks to give my husband for Christmas. That's definitely the more important point here.

If you click to see it larger you can see there is snow fallen on the socks. Snow. Again. For the 3rd time in a week. It was supposed to be a dusting Wednesday into Thursday. Instead it snowed for 24 straight hours I think. I don't know for sure b/c I've been busy in my own world trying to feel better. Which I finally do this morning. It's like a miracle.

I'm always so deliriously happy after a bad cold. So unlike my normal sarcastic self. I think the tone of this post reflects that. I even told some stranger in the parking lot "happy holidays." The "I grew up in NY so I don't talk or look at strangers" me voluntarily spoke to a stranger to exchange perky tidings. I make myself chuckle sometimes with how weird I am.

Anyhoo, back to the knitting... Yarnissima's Firestarter pattern taught me that I can have the slipped stitch/short row heel that top down socks have. And it's totally easy to fudge to your own liking. Well, let's get to the wrap up:

Cherry Tree Hill in the Earth colorway.
100% superwash merino wool in a DK weight.
The color variegation in this skein is significantly different than CHT's identically named Earth colorway of the supersock merino yarn from which I made my husband's Earth Socks this summer. Here we have a deep espresso base color with hints of olive, pumpkin, pale brown ochre, and even an occasional red stitch. The Earth Socks consisted of alternating shades of evergreen and mauve. I much prefer this colorway.

I had started this project on size US2 circs for the Judy's Magic Cast On toe, using size US2 dpns for the rest of the sock. When it became clear I couldn't finish two socks at this gauge I frogged and began again with US5 needles.

This was a "make it up as I went along" pattern. The top of the foot is K2P2 rib, the bottom stockinette. The gusset consisted of a purl frame with the inner triangle in stockinette. I came up with my own variation on the short row heel which I'm too impatient to type out at the moment. I used the technique of joining the slipped stitch heel to the gusset with K2togs gleaned from the Firestarter pattern.

I think this pattern will become my default sock pattern. It's easy, engaging, and lovely. And before I go, let me just share a little snow...

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Travel Knitting

I am one of those people that looks at the clock on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon and thinks woefully "Gee, if I sit down now, I'll only have six hours to knit." Yet, if you put me in a car or on a bus, train, or plane for more than an hour I'm a friggin' Mexican jumping bean. On my own I'm quick to find a couch, but once I'm cooped up with no choice of movement, I'm a ball of nerves.

Recent discoveries in technology have changed all that. My hubby bought me a portable DVD player two years back and it's therapeutic benefits are consistent. I can now face being cooped up with aplomb, as long as I'm well stocked with movies. I can look forward to the five or six hour plane ride with thoughts of productivity, not hysteria which is good because in the last few years my Christmas tradition has taken on the form of travelling across the country to see my sister and her family in one of the least Christmassy of locales, the American southwest. It's a five hour plane ride one way and a six hour plane ride the other way. I can never remember which way is faster but the important thing is I have to decide on the knitting I'll be bringing.

With this in mind I thought I'd take on another Yarnissima sock pattern as my plane knitting and if this fails me, my backup will be my Project Stole and maybe a simple sock using some STR mediumweight I have in my stash. The stole has the added benefit of being big enough to keep me warm on a drafty plane.

I only just finished collecting the items I will need for the Yarnissima socks this weekend:

It was drooling over Yarnissima's sock patterns a few weeks back that made me realize all I really wanted to knit were socks. I am intrigued by her patterns, all the while knowing that they are not the kind of thing I would wear. I'm a practical woman that wears practical socks. I have no interest in wearing lacy confections or delicately ribbed socks. My one deviation is for those practical socks to be in vibrant colors.

So what possessed me to purchase the PDF of La Digitessa almost two weeks ago is not yet to be fully fathomed. I barely made it out alive, and with my dignity intact, knitting her Firestarter, and that was with the help of Peaknit's knit-a-long. All I can say in my defense is that I am drawn to her patterns.

I am going to try to to knit this on size US0s in a solid color to better showcase her fabulous design. The hardest part was finding the yarn to use. I really wanted to find a superwash yarn that was luxurious because I know I'm going to be hating on this pattern at more than one point so a soft and wondrous yarn between my fingers will be needed to ameliorate the frustration.

An early release from work last week gave me the opportunity to find the yarn. I purchased two skeins of Lana Grossa's Meilenweit 50 Seta/Cashmere. I've never worked with this yarn but it's fiber content of 65% merino, 15% Silk, 16% Polyamide, and 4% cashmere fit the bill.

Monday, December 17, 2007

This month in socks

The past two weeks have been all about the two pair of Cherry Tree Hill socks I've been working on. I still haven't had the presence of mind to bind off the one sock of Candy I finished over a week ago.

I scoured the web and Ravelry for information on tubular casting off and found some conflicting information. I found one source says that it must be in k1p1 rip and scads of bloggers and posters at Ravelry saying they just do it no matter what rib pattern they've knit up. My Candy Socks are k2p1.

Oddly enough many Ravellers and bloggers referenced Montse Stanley's The Knitter's Handbook, which so happens to be one of two knitting books I purchased when I began knitting five or so years ago. I rarely ever reference it because I am a visual learner and it's pictures are drawings, rather than photographs. That has always put me off. So here I sit on the tubular cast off bible and I'm still no where near attempting it.

In my defense, I have been trying to get the Xmas Spice socks done in time for Christmas. By last Tuesday night I had turned the heel and was working my way up the calf when I could ignore it no longer. I took out the scale and was given incontrovertable proof I was way over my yardage if I expected to get two socks out of 340 yards of this Supersock DK. My two options? Buy more yarn or frog and reknit in a much higher gauge.

My preference was definitely more yarn but my LYSes had none. I resigned myself to frogging, nixing the cable motif, and going up three needles sizes to a size US5.

Needless to say they knit up pretty darn fast on size US5. I turned the heel and had just begun some calf shaping on row 10 of the calf when I tucked it away last night. When I finish it up tonight or tomorrow I'll have no excuse but to hunker down and face the tubular cast off.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Knitting right along...

At the end of last week I was working on mastering Judy's Magic Cast-On for toe up socks. I still am having some problems with basic math, but the actual knitting part came easily once I remembered it must be done on circular needles. I also kept forgetting that in order to get the final # of stitches I have to cast on an amount that is less than a number that is divisible by four. Even with these two, I wound up fudging the numbers a bit.

Aside from some toe fuzzying, I love these two Cherry Tree Hill socks I cast on last week. I haven't knit DK weight socks in a while. They knit up so quickly, they are total morale boosters!

That's not to say these haven't been a pain to get right. Saturday morning saw us on the road running errands. Seeing my Candy Socks in the light of day was a bit dispiriting:

The blues and ambers were pooling on either side of the sock, and on both the top and the bottom of the sock. I ripped back to the toe and reduced the stitches by two. This seemed to do the trick.

The Firestarter was my first toe up and now casting on these two in the same fashion, I admit I am hooked. I definitely poached ideas from Yarnissima's pattern for my gusset and heel turning and I love how they came out.

This sock is just waiting for a bind off. I'm really interested in a tubular cast off. All I need now is to learn how to do it.

Friday, December 7, 2007

For some reason it's not all about me, darnit!

I've come to realize this week that I cannot seem to muster the interest in finishing a single project that I love, that is just for me. I don't count the Watermelon Firestarters since I knit these because I loved the pattern, not necessarily as a knit for myself.

I have several fantastic projects on needles. First, Blueberry Moon has received nary a glance for almost two months. I just can't commit to the design element. That it's hogging up all my size three circulars hasn't facilitated completion says enough on it's own.

Then there is Project Stole. Last this project saw action was as Thanksgiving weekend travel knitting. That was two weeks ago. I could really use this extra warm, ultra luxurious wrap at work. What's in my way here?

Then there is my Queen's Forest scarf, which, truth be told, is in hibernation. I only cast on the project to reduce the tension in the yarn cakes. I still feel strongly that all scarf knitting must be channelled into Project Stole, so no consternation here.

Where does that leave me? Sneeking off to Sit 'n Knit in Melrose, MA Wednesday morning before a doctors appointment to buy gift yarn and yarn for knitted gifts. These first two skeins of Rowan Big Wool are going to my Dad's wife. She isn't one to buy herself luxury yarns, so I thought I'd indulge her.

My other hope was to find a skein of the spicy incarnation of the Earth colorway from Cherry Tree Hill for a pair of socks for the hubster. I succeeded, and in doing so felt impelled to buy a skein of the Water colorway for another gift recipient.

That picture barely does either skein justice. These are much better.

Yum! I first saw this iteration of CHT's Earth colorway in the supersock merino a couple of months ago. I was very happy to see Janet at Sit 'n Knit still had some left. I thought I'd go for the superwash DK yarn, which I've yet to work with.

After finally getting a decent start on a sock with the Earth, I decided that the Water colorway wasn't going towards a gift after all and I cast on a toe. They'll be for me, me, me, me, me. Since a) not everyone likes socks the color of candy and b) I LOVE socks the color of candy, therefore c) these socks should be for me. Right?

So what have we learned? Really, the bottom line is I only seem to want to knit socks, so socks it will be, with one pair for me. Whee!

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Firestarter FO

I finished my Watermelon Firestarters last weekend. I have been waiting for the sun to come out so that I could take a decent photo of them.

It's so hard getting a decent photo of anything without the sun. And it's not just for photos that I'm craving the sun. December is a dispiriting month because of it's obvious absence. It's no wonder our ancient forefathers put the craziness of Christmas right at the end of the winter equinox. It gets our minds off how blighted things are now that the leaves are gone. It's harder to ignore the grey days when all around us nature is grey too. The garishness of garland and Christmas lights are needed to distract us from how little we see the sun.

I'm obsessed with December 23rd, not December 25th. On December 23rd the days finally begin to get longer. My turning 40 years old next week, which has taken front and center of my mind all year, is a blip next to my obsession with December 23rd. Since the end of November arrived, taking with it the last of the fall foliage and the sun, I've been hanging on to the mere idea of a December 23rd as a child hangs on to a security blanket.

Back to the FO.

Madelinetosh Sock in the Violas colorway
100% merino wool
Used apx 380 yards of a 400 yard skein. This yarn is tad too brittle for me and is not superwash. I definitely prefer the softness and pliancy of merino superwash sock yarns. This and my disappointment with how the colorway knit up will most likely keep me from using this yarn in the future.

1 crochet hook of unknown size for the provisional cast on
1 set of size US1 dpns for the toe and heel of the sock
2 size US1 circular needles for the instep
1 set of size US2 dpns for the calf

I pretty much stuck to Yarnissima's Firestarter pattern. Although looking at how the yarn knit up below it is obvious I must have added a rogue stitch or two somewhere. I seemed to have been having a little problem with basic math last month.

I do adore this pattern and will come back to it again.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

A Chez Yarn LOLCAT First!

My Grissom has made his debut on the lolcat website icanhascheeseburger. Can you guess the movie reference?

If you want to vote on him, please do!

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