Posted in Worsted - Wait!

Gail (or, “Completely Ignore that Last Post about Socks”)

So last week when I was all excited about knitting socks? Yeah, forget that. Well, not entirely; I mean, I’m still working on the 3 pairs from last post, and am still excited about them. A few books I’d requested from the library on colorwork came in since then and I do still find the whole idea of knitting motifs into socks and doing eastern-inspired footwear enthralling. But something shiny fluttered past my monitor and caught my eye, damnit. And so now- for the time being, at least- I’m doing lace.

I’ve had a skein (500+ yds) of Creatively Dyed fingering-weight since the 2009 Pittsburgh Knit & Crochet show, and it’s been gently hanging above my monitor since then, just waiting for the right project to come along.

Creatively Dyed Tradewinds in Kiwifruit

One night, lurking in the Ravelry pattern database (don’t so many of these projects start that way?) I thought it would be interesting to see if anyone else had that colorway and what they might have done with it. I hadn’t checked since buying it, and with so much time passed maybe something else had popped up.  Well, no one else had Kiwi Fruit, but I did find a few knitters who’d used Creative’s Tradewinds yarn, and one of them made a Gail shawl with hers.

It appears that about 1300+ people have made Gails, in fact.  And normally, I prefer to live off-the-beaten-path, but looking at page after page of these gorgeous leaves and these pointy little edges all done in every colorway imagineable… well, she sucked me in, did Gail.  I wound the skein, the first skein of hand-dyed yarn ever bought for my little stash, and decided to throw caution (and socks) to the wind and cast on.

It’s been less than a week, and I already have four of the seven repeats done. 

4 repeats of Gail done

They get longer as you go along, so that’s hardly impressive, but for some reason lace shawl knitting always seemed to me like one of those tedious afghan-type projects that take practically years (around here, anyway).  I can already see the end of this project, especially if I keep knitting on it like I have the last few days. 

Gail

Posted in Worsted - Wait!

Socks and Sensibility

This may very well be the year – or at least, the season, depending on how long it lasts- of socks. I’ve got three pairs on needles at the moment: Aragorn, Be Mine, and a toe-up DK weight sock. Aragorn and Be Mine are lovely cabled patterns. The toe-up sock is part of a class at a LYS (okay, it’s an hour away but seriously, that’s the local-est yarn shop going at the moment.)

After doing several really large projects, I’m liking the smallness of socks. I appreciate the smaller needles, the finer yarn, and the manageability of the work. I can knit them anywhere, unlike big afghans that require lots of space. And best of all, I can try out new techniques without a huge time or cash commitment.

Aragorn

Aragorn in progress

I found this pattern while lurking around Ravelry’s pattern database. It’s a gorgeous sock, but the thing that really drew me to it were all the new techniques I’d never tried before: tubular cast on, knitting a sock on one long circular needle, twisted stitch ribbing, and a gusset on top of the foot. And that’s all before you even get to the heel. L and I both cast on for it during the winter Olympics opening ceremonies with the vague notion of doing this as a Ravelympics event, but it worked out better as a vague KAL instead. We both have other projects we want to work on in addition to this one. Plus it’s nice not to feel obligated to knit something in an impossibly short amount of time. I think I like it more than she does, which is fine considering it was my ridiculous idea to begin with. She’s a good sport for playing – er, knitting- along.

Aragorn

Aragorn was not originally written in English. The translation is very good but there are a few subtleties that may have been lost along the way. Still, the pattern is not as difficult as I thought, and the directions are thorough enough that I’ve been able to figure it out without a lot of difficulty.

Be Mine

Be Mine

Be Mine is from 2-At-A-Time Socks and has been both a blast to knit as well as a pain in the butt. This is the first pair of socks I’ve done simultaneously on one cable needle. I like the technique, but it’s fussy. There are two balls of yarn connected to the project, which already feels precarious enough perched on a 40″ needle. Every time I pull it out of my bag or slide stitches around, I’m terrified the cable will get pulled out and stitches will go flying. Pros: My socks are basically identical, including tension. I’m likely to finish both of them at the same time instead of having one lone one languishing next to a ball of unknitted yarn for all eternity. Cons: feels slower going, I can only do one or two rounds (on both socks) at a sitting before getting bored/tired. And if I were to do socks again on one needle, I’d get a longer cable.

Be Mine- 2.5 repeats

Toe Up Socks on Two Circulars

Toe up DK weight socks

I like this technique a lot. Similar to magic loop in that you let the stitches for the side you’re not currently working rest on the cable, two circulars has got to be about the easiest circular knitting method I’ve tried. I had a 16″ needle in my circulars drawer and bought a 24″ at the shop. The cast-on is brilliantly simple and produces a seamless toe without any fuss at all. I tried a few different increases and decided that the lifted increase from Aragorn was my favorite: for a right-leaning increase, pick up the right leg of the stitch below your next stitch to be knitted. Knit it thru the back loop, then knit your next stitch and proceed from there. For a left-leaning increase, knit the stitch before the increase, then pick up the left leg of the stitch now two below the last knitted stitch. Place it on the left needle, knit thru the back loop, then proceed. It made a very snug and attractive increase. The bar increase also seemed to work. The instructor also suggested an “e” increase which I’ve never seen or tried, but I think it is akin to a twisted YO and in my mind would leave a little gap. Any increase near a toe, in my opinion, ought to be firm and snug or else you’re asking for disaster.

Toe up sock

After finishing the increases and starting the foot, my right hand started to ache. I’ve come to the conclusion that the 16″ was workable but uncomfortably short. Later, I rooted through the circulars drawer again until I found another size 4 needle, which thankfully had a 24″ cable. Things were much better after that, and I sailed through the 50-odd rows of stockinette for the foot.

Our homework was to finish the foot so we can begin the heel in the next class. I finished the foot in about two days and decided to slip it onto another cable needle and cast on the second sock. There are about three pairs of increases done already and it’s coming along nicely. While I adore the other two cabled patterns, this is plain stockinette and gives me a chance to simply knit without having to really concentrate. It’s good teevee and social knitting, unlike following a chart, where I scowl and my tongue hangs out from all the mental gymnastics.

Second toe

Of course, I mean that in a good way.

Posted in Worsted - Wait!

Bunny Hop Blanket

This is the pattern that inspired me to learn how to knit.  It was sometime in mid-2007.  I had learned to crochet in fall of 2006, but quickly discovered that the patterns I was most attracted to were for knitting.  Crochet seemed so coarse and chunky compared to the soft drape of knitted fabric.  So when I came across the Bunny Hop blanket pattern, I knew I just had to learn how to knit.

I went out and bought myself a Learn-To-Knit book and some needles, grabbed some yarn (probably a boucle or eyelash, knowing me at the time) from my then-meager stash, and set down to figure it out.  How hard could this be? I thought.

While the book had plenty of pictures, it was incredibly limited in scope, showing only one cast-on and the English (throwing) style of holding the yarn.  There was no mention of long-tail caston or cable caston or even that there were multiple methods of casting on, depending on your project.  There was no mention of different styles of holding the yarn.   Having come from a crochet background, I was used to holding yarn in my left hand.  Now I was supposed to hold it in my right, juggle a pair of needles instead of one hook, and work these crazy stitches while sometimes holding the yarn in the front, sometimes in the back.  It was a disaster.  I’m pretty sure there were tears and many curses involved.

Then I got the brilliant idea to find a video of someone knitting.  This led me to Knitting Help, without which I probably never would have knitted a single stitch.  There I discovered something called “Continental” method, in which you hold the yarn in your [proper] left hand and pick it into your knit stitches, instead of throwing it around the needle.  I learned that there were no fewer than five caston methods, and actually several more.  Before I knew it, fabric was coming off of my needles.  I was knitting!

Of course, I tried to make this pattern right away.  And it was a disaster.  The pattern tells you to “knit your knit stitches and purl the purl stitches” on the wrong side rows.  Well, that was confusing.  Did that mean I knitted into stitches that I had knit on the opposite side (effectively knitting the purl stitches and vice versa)?  Or did that mean I knitted into stitches that looked like knit stitches?  And what did a knit stitch look like, anyway?  Then I accidentally pulled about 20 of the 125 stitches off the needle.  Of course this was an unrecoverable error for a newbie knitter, but since I was only 5 rows in I dutifully ripped it out and cast on again.  And then I dropped a stitch.  And then I got a knot.  It seemed like this pattern was just not in the cards.  So I quit and went on to something else, a proper scarf – which is where you’re supposed to start with knitting, apparently.

Several scarves, dishcloths, cabled afghans, socks, felted projects (some intentionally, some not), a top, a few hats, two pairs of mittens, and some household knitting projects later, and I’ve come back to the Bunny Hop.  A good friend and his wife are expecting, and this seemed like the perfect time to try knitting my inspiration again.  And as they say, third time’s a charm.

Here’s the right side, where I’ve just started a third skein:

Bunny Hop RS Progress

The yarn is actually a very dark shade of purple, but the lighting was a little wonky for these pictures and here it looks much lighter and redder than it really is. I’ve completed one and one-half repeats so far (a repeat is about 36 rows). At first the pattern didn’t look like anything at all, but now I see the reverse stockinette diamonds with moss stitch and stockinette diamonds inside/inbetween them.

The pattern is reverse on the back side:

Bunny Hop WS Progress

This yarn was originally purchased for an afghan for my niece (post coming soon). I had six skeins left over, which is exactly enough yarn for this project. Isn’t it wonderful when a plan comes together?