Well not, actually. Just socks that feature hips:
These are the socks I mentioned in my last post, bespoke by the Resident Male as a gift for his hip replacement surgeon. A frenzied week of knitting, to be sure, in order to be ready to be given at the scheduled follow-up appointment.
I will say that both TRM and the socks have knit up well. Thanks to all for the get well wishes. He’s hobbling around quite spryly with cane, and gains movement range and strength every day.
On the socks, as previously posited, I worked them on two circular needles, in the round on 80 stitches around (US #00s) with figure-8 toe and short rowed heels. I kept on that way until just after the completion of the heels, then splitting them at the center back, adding a stitch to the new left and right edges for later ease in seaming, and then continuing to work side by side, but this time, flat.
Here’s a typical late-night, poorly lit shot of the pair, side by side, being worked flat on a single circ, which I remembered to take at last minute:
All in all, while I was happy to fulfill the special request, and interested in the experiment of working a pair on two circs with an Intarsia clock, I have mixed feelings about this project.
- If I had more time, the socks would be about an inch longer before the ribbing. The proportion would be better.
- I still am not a fan of Intarsia. That’s my mother’s favorite style of knitting. I vastly prefer textures, lace and stranding. Taming the multiple bobbins or yarn butterflies drive me crazy, no matter how careful I am at always using the strands in the right order and orientation.
- I should have used proportional graph paper rather than plain 1:1 squares when I charted the hip. The stitch height:width ratio has flattened the design somewhat, and has lost some of the more gracefully round curvy details. Here’s a place to make printable graph paper in any proportional ratio you need.
- I have and will probably use two-circs again for larger things like sleeves, but I don’t like that method for socks. Not one bit. Stopping to assort the needles and yarn slows me down big time over plain old DPNs. I know others adore the method, but it’s not for me.
On the up side, the socks are complete. They are the right size (I aimed at a guessed shoe size of men’s US 12-13, for a 6-foot guy), and although just a tad short from heel to ribbing, are totally wearable. The motif sits well in place, and the copious end-darning doesn’t create uncomfortable ridges inside. The mattress stitch seam worked perfectly, and the result is invisible from the outside of the work.
Now on to other projects!
Apologies for silence at this end. Things have been a bit unsettled here at String. The holidays came and went, with their obligatory cookies:
Foods were cooked for the appropriate occasions, including cassoulet, latkes, boned-out stuffed ducks, panforte, ham, roast beef, and all sorts of sides. Gifts were obtained and exchanged. Wine and champagne were consumed. Visitors popped by. Spawn were supported as they wrestled with college application deadlines. And The Resident Male (TRM) had his hip replaced. He’s well on the road to recovery, and is delighted to be regaining utility that he had thought lost forever. Warning to his golfing pals – by the Spring, he’ll be back in training and itching to test out the new equipment, to see what it can do for his swing. But as you can see, the interval since my last post, although long, has been a tad hectic.
Even on the project end, I haven’t had time for as much as I planned. Between working from home part time and the rest of the laundry list, above, plus standard household stuff like shoveling, I didn’t get a chance to sew the the new curtains for the library that I had planned as my end-of-year break effort. I’ve also set aside the Mixed Wave Cowl for Elder Daughter, and didn’t get started on some other holiday knitting or needlework. Those things were derailed by a request from TRM to knit up a pair of socks as a post-surgical gift. So I am now trying to motor through a pair in very boring grey fingering weight. They will be enlivened by a design on the ankle – probably something skeletal and hip-like, worked in Intarsia. Here you see them, with the feet and half of the heel complete, almost up to the motif area; two rather dull, shapeless grey blobs.
To do Intarsia on the ankles of these toe-up in-the-round socks, I’ll cheat. After the heel is finished I’ll split the rounds at the center back, and work both socks flat. Since I’m doing them now side by side using two circs, I’ll re-assort the stitches onto one circ and continue, to guarantee uniform length and design placement.
How do I like the two-circ method for knitting a pair of socks at the same time? Frankly, not much.
I find I am actually faster at five DPNs because I don’t have to stop and fiddle at the end of each half round to retrieve the correct needle end, and I don’t have to pause to untangle twisted feeds from two balls of yarn (or both ends of the same ball). But the idea here was to use this project to try something new to me that so many others recommend, and to ensure the hard-to-count charcoal color yarn produced two socks of the same size and length. On the latter, I have to give kudos to the two-circ method. No actual counting – just keep on and you are guaranteed uniform products.
So here we are. January has been achieved. All sorts of seasonal and special-case speed bumps have been successfully traversed. Bring on the rest of the year. After December 2015, I can handle anything.
Here it is, totally finished, and with a vaguely decent picture (but as yet, unsigned and un-mounted).
The recipient is thrilled, which is always gratifying.
UPDATE: People want the specs on this piece so they don’t have to hunt through previous posts. 30 count evenweave linen ground, stitched over two threads (15 spi). The 6-strand floss is man-made “silk”, rayon actually; a vintage find brought back from India, slightly thinner than standard DMC floss. I stitched all of the foreground using two strands. Some of the background I did in single strand for contrast. Pattern strips with one exception are all from my forthcoming book The Second Carolingian Modelbook. The alphabet is from a vintage Sajou booklet #104 reproduced at Patternmakercharts.blogspot.com. I hemmed my linen by hand before starting.
The reason I haven’t done the last teeny bits is that I’m trying to finish off some end-of-year gifts for the spawn.
First up and already done was the new pair of Susie Rogers’ Reading Mitts, done in a sparkly yarn for Younger Daughter. She’s a fan of the surreal Welcome to Night Vale podcasts. One of their taglines is “Mostly void, partially stars.”
To get the partially-stars look, I used Loops and Threads Payette – an acrylic with a running lurex thread and small paillettes (flat sequins). Both inspiration and enablement are courtesy of Long Time Needlework Pal Kathryn, who sent this stuff to me. Just seeing it sparkling at me kicked off this project. Kathryn’s initial intent was to knit socks from the Payette, but that effort was a no-go. And rightly so. The stuff is not fun to work with, and would make supremely uncomfortable socks. The base black yarn is waxy feeling. The lurex thread breaks easily and is scratchy, and the paillettes can make stitch formation difficult – especially on decreases. Oh, and forget about ripping this stuff back. The lurex snaps. But the look can’t be beat, especially for a big-box-store available yarn.
Yarn aside, this project is a great quick-knit. Both mitts together took two evenings. I used the Payette doubled, and knit the smallest size, which fits perfectly. The only change I made to the original design is eliminating the bulk of cast-on and cast-off. To begin, I work a figure-8 or provisional cast-on. When I get to the last row before the cuff welt, I reactivate the bottom stitches and fold them up, knitting one bottom edge stitch along with its live pre-cuff counterpart. This melds the bottom into the work, and eliminates the final bit of sewing up, and cuts down on pre-cuff bulk.
To cast-off, instead of making a finished edge and then sewing it down, I leave a long tail and fold the live edge inside the work. Then I use that to secure each last-row stitch to its counterpart in the first row after the fancy welting on the upper edge.
Final verdict – the kid loves these. The original design’s pretty welt and eyelet detail is lost in the sequined look and it’s over the top sparkly. But it fits in perfectly with the Nightvale-inspired theme.
Next on the needles is a new scarf for Elder Daughter. As I mentioned in the last post, I’m enchanted by Sybil R’s designs and was determined to make one or another of them. At first we contemplated a different scarf, but rummaging through my stash, we came up with yarn better suited to her Mixed Wave Cowl, an exercise in nested short row enhanced stripes. Here you see the bare beginnings of mine:
I’m using an eclectic mix of well-aged stash denizens, plus a more recent variegated yarn seen here in a rather blue-shifted photo. The black and russet are both Lang Jawoll bought who-knows-when. The claret (again not as purple as it looks here) is Froehlich Wolle Special Blauband, which I’m pretty sure I had when we moved back to Boston in ‘95. The variegated scarf thingy is Regia Creativ one of the unravel-me-and-knit dyed strips, in a mix of autumn colors including chocolate, russet, claret, and burnt orange. The pattern is written for DK, on rather small 3.5mm needles. I’m using fingering-weight sock yarn on 3.0mm needles, which is making a slightly looser fabric.
More on this one as it grows…
This is the last quadrant. I’m using yet another non-historical fill behind the scrolling flowers. This one is just cross stitches, arranged on the diagonal so they form on-point squares. I also worked this filling (and for that matter – all of the other fillings) using only one strand of my floss, so the shading is quite light. By contrast, all of the foreground stitching is done with two strands. You can see this quite clearly in the red lozenge twist, about five strips down. The foreground is two strands of red, and the simple box treatment background is only one strand of red. I’ll post a whole-sampler shot when that last stitch is complete.
So what’s next?
A couple of things. First, I have another sampler promised to a pal. This one will be heavy on the words, with far fewer accompaniments. I haven’t composed it yet, but I’ve been playing with concepts in my mind. One idea that keeps popping up is to work the thing more or less like a manuscript page, with a very demonstrative single large capital letter in the upper left; the phrasing flowing down from there; possibly with a single figural strip across the bottom, but a foliate edging of some type all the way around. Oh, and it will probably be monochrome or nearly so – a darker, unbleached natural linen ground, with deep forest green stitching. I’m not ruling out accents in another color yet, but the predominating color will be the green.
I also have promised some knitstuff to the spawn. It’s cold-hands time here in Massachusetts, so Younger Daughter has requested a replacement for her pair of fingerless mittens (muffatees). Long time needlework pal Kathryn has sent me some sequined black yarn that just cries out to become a pair of Suzie’s Reading Mitts. I’ve made this design before, and I know it knits up quickly and looks great, especially in black. Here’s one from the last iteration, knit as a gift for my niece:
And Elder Daughter has loved her angel-variant Wingspan scarf to pieces. It was the first one I did, and she’s been seasonally-inseparable from it since 2012. Here it is in less frayed times:
I’m considering several candidates for this project, but right now the leader is the Stripes, Stripes & Stripes Scarf from Knitting-and-so-on.blogspot.ch. I think Sybil Ra’s stuff is pretzel-clever, and with some screaming orange fingering weight, plus some wild but coordinating variegated, I think I can make an eye popper for sure. After this I’d probably attempt one of her even more dramatic pieces, for myself. :)
Another question from the inbox: “So, what’s up with those snails?”
No mystery – just a bit of silly that’s been codified into semi-tradition.
The original strip of snails was one of the first patterns I doodled up – inspired by the non-counted snails in Scholehouse for the Needle (1624). That was way long back ago, when I was still in college. They’ve wandered in and out of my notes over the years, first appearing as a spot motif, and eventually ending up in my first and second hand drawn pattern collections (published in ‘76 and in the early ‘80s) and eventually my own New Carolingian Modelbook. I dedicated that form of the pattern to Mistress Peridot of the Quaking Hand – a local resident of the SCA Barony of Carolingia (Eastern Massachusetts/greater Boston area), famed for her calligraphy and her unselfish sharing of the same. The artist behind so many excellent awards scrolls. Peridot’s own device features a sleepy snail.
Maybe it’s a subliminal comment on slow, steady perseverance inherent in needlework, but for whatever reason, I have used that snail on the majority of my samplers. Not all, but most. Here are charts for some of the ways my little creeping friends have shown up. The original row is at the top left. The all-over of snails circling little gardens with ominous intent is from the Trifles sampler. The ribbon strip at the lower left is the bit I’m currently stitching in blue and red.
Based on questions from Elaine and others, here’s a bit more on the thread I’ve been using on both the Permissions and Trifles samplers.
As I’ve said before, my stash came from a small needlework/beading supply shop in Pune, India. It wasn’t current stock. The head clerk sent a boy scampering up into the storage attic for a VERY dusty box of odds and ends. I picked out the best colors left, avoiding pastels, and looking for what high impact/high contrast hues that still remained in quantities of 10+ skeins. I bought them all. They were very inexpensive – just a few rupees per skein. At the then-current exchange rate of 60 rupees per dollar, I think I spent less than $20.00 translated, and came away with a huge bag full, well over 200 skeins divided up among about 15 colors. Here’s just a sample:
The name brand is Cifonda Art Silk. It’s not a spooled rayon intended for machine embroidery. As you can see, the put-up is more like cotton embroidery floss. And it turns out that the stuff is still being made, and is available in Australia, and even in the US – although mostly by special order.
The websites that offer this thread vary a bit in description. Some say it is a 35% silk/65% rayon blend. Others say it is all rayon. Contemporary put-ups specify 8 meter skeins. My vintage stash skeins are a bit longer, possibly 10 meters (I’ll measure tonight). The large bundles above are actually “super-packages” of ten individual skeins. You can see the bright red one at the left is broken open, with the single skein labels showing. On mine, color numbers are written on each skein by hand, not printed. There can be hue variances between the super-packages of the same color number, so I suspect that special care should be taken to buy all that’s needed at once, so that all is from the same dye lot.
Cifonda’s structure is that of standard floss – six strands of two-ply relatively loose twist. The individual strands are quite fine, two of them are roughly the equivalent of one ply of standard DMC cotton embroidery floss. The colors – especially deeper ones like red and indigo – do run when wet, although they do not crock (shed color on hands, ground cloth, or wax when stitching dry). I would not advise using this thread on clothing, table linen or other things likely to need laundering. It may be possible to set the colors before stitching using a mordant bath or long water soak, but I don’t have the experience, time, or materials quantity for experimentation.
I am pleased with the way the Cifonda looks in my work. It’s a bit shinier and finer textured than cotton floss, although it does not have the coverage of the true silk floss I’ve used (Soie d’Alger). My Cifonda is quite slippery. Two or more plies held together tend to disassociate and slide past each other for differential consumption, even when using short lengths in a small-hole needle. I tamed this by aggressive waxing – running the entire length of my threads over a block of beeswax before use. Since I’m doing linear counted work, any change in color or texture is not noticeable. Someone using this for satin stitch, long-and-short, or other surface stitches that maximize thread sheen would probably want to wax only the inch or so that threads through the needle.
Like all lightly twisted rayons, this thread does catch and shred a bit on rough skin. Care must be taken to use needles with very smooth eyes, and to hold the unworked length out of the way when taking stitches, because the stuff snags extremely easily. My own stash, well aged as it is, contains some colors that are a bit brittle. The bright yellow I’m using now, and the silver-grey I used on the last sampler are both prone to breaking under stress, and must be used in shorter lengths than the other colors.
I will continue to use up my India-souvenir thread stash, working smaller and smaller projects until it is gone. But in all probability, I will not seek out the Cifonda to replace that inventory as it is consumed.
Anyone else have experience or hints on using this rather unruly stuff?
With an extended time sitting in one place and thinking yesterday, I’ve come to design decisions on the direction for the Permission sampler.
I’ve decided to do another bank of two solid columns of multicolor narrow strip bands above the motto, and finish out the top with either the same pomegranate border used at the bottom edge, or a coordinating one with pine cones, of the same size and visual density – also in the blue.
Progress is obvious since the last post. I finished the red voided buds with the grid-background at lower left, and marched the pomegranates across the entire width of the piece. I also did a quick strip of acorns over the words (aligning with the strips below), and I’ve begun on a yellow and red interlace and quaternary rose strip above that one. I’ll do a monochrome design above the red/yellow, probably green and relatively narrow.
As you can see, I am just ripping along. The large stitches on this one (it’s only 30-count stitched over 2×2), plus the sit-on frame that frees the second hand to pass the needle underneath the work are helping me to set local house records for sampler production.
Am I liking the thread? Yes and no. It’s “man made silk” and at least 20 years old before I bought it. Possibly even older. It’s thin and unruly, and needs extreme waxing to make it behave. My little beeswax block is being whittled down, slowly but surely on this one. I do like the sheen of the faux silk – even waxed. What I like less is the damage of age – brittleness, and a tendency to shred. Some colors have aged better than others. For example, the yellow I am using now is very prone to breakage, and must be treated gently, stitching with very short lengths. By contrast the red and blue are horse-strong, and far less likely to snap or denature. Perhaps my yellow is “elderly” compared to the other colors. In any case, I do notice that working with it does take longer and is more fiddly due to the short lengths and stops/restarts after an inopportune Thread Damage Event.
These are from my inbox, about this project or stitching in general. Feel free to post questions here or write to me – kbsalazar (at) gmail (dot) com.
1. Do you decide on your patterns before you begin?
Not really. I pick them on the fly. On some pieces I stick to a style or unified theme, but often I just thumb through looking for something that has a pleasing contrast with the designs around it; like layering a geometric next to a floral, or using something with a lot of curves next to something that’s strongly angled.
2. Do you prepare your cloth?
I do now. I’ve had some projects that might have been better composed, but because I didn’t clearly mark my margins or centers, I lost track of where I was. Now I outline my stitching area, plus it’s center and quarter-center marks both horizontally and vertically. I use a single strand of Plain Old Sewing Thread, in a light color (in this case – pastel blue), basting it in to indicate those lines. The basting itself is rather haphazard. For example, I do not bother to make my basting stitches over the same number of threads as an aid to counting later. Others do.
I also hem my cloth. I used to use other methods of fray prevention (deliberately raveling out a half inch or so, a line or two of machine stitching, serging, or in a moment of poor judgment – tape), or not bother at all. However I find that I now prefer the finished edges and mitered corners of a nice, even hand-done finger-folded hem.
3. Will you be issuing a kit for this or any of your other projects?
Probably not. Definitely not for a composed kit, complete with thread. There are too many things I want to stitch myself to sit down and figure out thread consumption, buy fabric and thread in bulk, compose the kits, and do inventory management and fulfillment. That would suck the fun out of the thing, for sure. I might consider releasing full, drafted charts for some of the smaller projects like bookcovers for small standard-size notebooks or needle case/biscornu sets, but that also would eat up time I’d rather spend on my own work, or researching and drafting up new designs. I see myself sticking mostly to reference books of patterns and designs, and leaving employment of those designs to the readers.
4. Where are the snails?
One of the folk who visit here has noticed that I put snails in almost every sampler I do. Not every single one, but I do use a variant of this design from my first book on most, especially those for family:
I haven’t gotten to the snails yet, but they are on the list for this project, too. Possibly next – the green strip I’m thinking of doing just above the current bit.
The permission sampler is rolling right along. At 30 threads per inch (15 stitches per inch) it’s fairly zooming. Here you see the whole cloth. I’m already mostly done with 25% of the patterned area:
That small bit of solid blue cross stitch at the bottom? I hate it and will be picking it out, presently. Originally I wanted to frame the piece top and bottom with a denser border, done in cross stitch. But I don’t like the look. The bottom border will still be blue, and will still span the entire width of the piece, but will be something directional in double-running, instead.
Now for the two newest strips:
Both are patterns from my forthcoming The Second Carolingian Modelbook. The top one is done in two weights of thread – double strand for the red and green sections of the motif, and single strand for the yellow half-cross stitch ground. There’s no historical precedent that I can find for treating the background of a voided piece this way, but I do like the look of the more delicate field against the heavier outlines. It’s something I’ve used a couple of times now. Since there’s no requirement for this piece to be historically accurate, why not play? The pattern itself does have a source – a stitched sample book of designs in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, with a posted provenance of Spain or Italy, early 1600s.
As for the lower bit, in blue – that one is interesting, too.
Here’s a close-up:
And here’s the source:
This is an excerpt from “Tafel 47” in Egenolff’s Modelbook of 1527. Note that the original is clearly a freehand piece – not graphed. But it translates very neatly to work as a counted pattern. If you look closely at some of the freehand drawings in Egenolff and his contemporaries, you’ll see that (to my eye at least) they were intended to be congruent with counted execution. That’s not to say they couldn’t be done off the count, but with constrained angles, no fine detail, and geometric execution, working them that way is a cinch.
Back to my modern piece. It’s pretty clear that the area below the words will be two columns of strip patterns. I am still thinking of what to do in the top part. I could do more strips of similar proportion. I could do one moderately wide strip (the area there is too narrow north-south for any of the really big patterns in T2CM, believe it or not). Or I might do a collection of spot motifs, or one large all-over. I haven’t decided. More bungee jump stitching ahead, as I continue to design on the fly.
This one’s a quickie – a present for Denizen (one of Younger Daughter’s pals, currently staying with us). She’s also headed off to university next year, and deserves her own bit of stitched wall art with a favorite saying.
Denizen has requested the immortal words of Admiral Grace Murray Hopper, “It is often easier to ask for forgiveness than it is to ask for permission.”
As you can see, I’ve already laid in the saying itself, using yet another of the alphabets from Ramzi’s Patternmakercharts.blogspot.com website. In this case, I’ve chosen a very simple all lower case set from Sajou #104. A fancy font would be too bombastic for this sentiment. I used plain old cross stitch (POCS) for the letters.
Ground this time is a large-as-logs 30 count even-weave linen remnant from my stash, long since disassociated from any label, vintage, or maker identification. The floss is more of my India-purchased faux silk – deep crimson, bright green, strident blue, and daffodil yellow. Patterns (so far) are all from The Second Carolingian Modelbook. Being unbound by any historical or usage constraints on this one, I’m happily playing with colors, limited only by the availability of my remaining threads. I’d like to use far more red to anchor the piece, but it’s the color of which I have the least, so I have to work it in more sparingly.
I’m also changing up the orientation and proportions of this one. Instead of long and thin like historical samplers, or portrait orientation like a standard reading page pieces I’ve stitched lately, I’m doing this one landscape – with the longer dimension east-to-west rather than north-to-south. I’ll probably run a more solid border the full width top and bottom, either POCS or long-armed cross stitch. There will be two banks of geometric bands, left and right both above and below the centered saying. Although I might mix that up with a collection of spot motifs above the saying. I haven’t decided yet.
One failure of note though. I wanted to do some Swedish Weaving stitch on this one, as a nod to the Denizen’s heritage. While that style is usually done on huck towling, it can also be done on plain tabby weave fabrics. Unfortunately, this particular ground cloth and my ultra-fine floss are a bad combo for the technique. I didn’t like the look so I picked it out and went with what I have. I’ll do a Swedish Weave project another time.
The motto took just one weekend, and at red bit is only one night’s stitching – about 2 hours worth, so I forecast that I’ll rip through this project in no time.
It’s done. All 80+ gears, each with a different filling pattern, worked with well-aged “Art Silk” (probably rayon) purchased for a single rupee per skein in India, on 30-count linen. The soot sprites (little black fuzzy creatures) playing the part of “Trifles” are in discontinued DMC linen floss, so that they contrast shaggy and matte against the brighter, smoother silky stuff. I’ve also attached some real, brass gears as embellishments, to add extra Steampunk flavor.
Here’s a close-up of the sprites in process, adapted from the little soot creatures in the movie Spirited Away.
To stitch them I worked totally off count. (Yes, I can do that, too). I outlined the eyes in split stitch using one strand of floss, and placed the eyes’ pupils, using French knots. Then I worked long and short stitch, encroaching on the split stitch eye frames, to get that spiky, unkempt, hairy texture. The arms and legs are close-worked chain with two strands, with the little toes and fingers (what of them there are) also in split stitch, but with two strands. The gears are filled in using (mostly) double running, with some departures into “wandering running” using two strands of the very fine art silk floss; and outlined in chain stitch using three strands of the stuff. All threads used were waxed using real beeswax, for manageability.
I am happy to say I’ve hit all of the specific design requests. And there were many:
- A good motto
- Steampunk (the gear theme)
- Something Whovian (the Daleks)
- Octopodes (dancing in one of the fills)
- Snails (ditto)
- Unicorns and/or dragons (ditto, and the winged, serpent tailed, beaky thing is good enough)
- Anime (the soot sprites)
- Interlaces (also inhabiting the gears)
- Autumn colors (brown, gold, russet, silver)
- Something from India (the thread itself)
The saying itself is particularly suitable for the target Daughter. It’s one of Mushashi’s Nine Precepts. The Daleks are from a graph by Amy Schilling, intended for knitting. The narrow border is in my forthcoming book, The Second Carolingian Modelbook. I found all of the alphabets used (there are four) in Ramzi’s Sajou collection. The gear shapes are adapted from a freehand tracing of a commercial airbrush stencil by Artool. Most of the gear fills can be found in Ensamplario Atlantio. The few that aren’t from that source are recent doodles, and will be made available in time, either as a fifth segment of that work, or perhaps as their own stand-alone sequel. Ensamplario Secundo, anyone?
Now Younger Daughter doesn’t head off to school until next fall, so I have about a year to add hanging tabs, or back the piece with contrasting fabric to make a scroll-like presentation. So while the stitching is complete, this piece may revisit String when I decide what the display treatment will be.
On to the next. I’ve got two more original stitched pieces in queue, with only a general idea of what each one will be, and what styles/designs/colors I’ll use. Free-fall stitching! Gotta love the adventure!