Category Archives: Project – Knitting


It’s been a long time since I added a sock knitting pattern. But I had so many requests for this one after I posted about it on FaceBook, that I had to write it up and add it to the collection. Like all the rest it’s toe-up, with a short row heel. It’s written for DPNs, but it’s very easy to adapt to work on a circular needle, or use with the two-circular method.

So to that end, my pattern for the Faux Weave Toe-Up Socks can now be found on the sock section of my knitting patterns page.

As for the ongoing work on the eyeball bolster cushion, I’m up to hand-sewing on the second side of the zipper on the end flap. Inside out the thing looks quite menacing. Like an gigantic and omnivorous sea cucumber. It’s slow going but I’m getting there. I hope to post final pix of the thing stuffed with its interior cushion quite soon.


My try at replicating a sweater I knit back circa 1983 has both failed and succeeded.

I started out wanting to redo this Penny Straker original – her Eye of the Partridge men’s pullover.

I remember having done it in Germantown, a 100% wool true worsted (5 spi). Younger Spawn (the target recipient) and I took a detour to Webs back in January, and we selected some Babe 100, more of a DK (5.5 spi) than a worsted, but very soft, in the perfect colors, and bargain priced.

I took it home and using the kid’s measurements against those of the Straker pattern, and compensating for the finer gauge, I set in. The original was worked in four pieces, front, back, sleeves, and then seamed. Front and back flew by quickly, no problems. But the sleeves were problematic. I knit them both at the same time, and I ripped back and restarted three times. No matter what I did, I couldn’t get the length and the rate of decrease on the sleeve tops to mate neatly enough with that on the front and back. And without that direct match, neat seaming would be impossible.

So after crying about much spilled milk, I gave up, unraveled the entire thing and began again. This time though I thought I’d attempt a one-piece/top-down construction to gloss over the whole matching decreases for seaming problem.

With the specifications of “narrower ribbing, boxy, oversize body to a specific length, and sleeves of a specific length” I began, roughly using Knitting Fool’s percentage system. I input gauge and measurements. At a couple of places, I modded the instructions as per instinct. And it worked.

Yes, there’s a glaring anomaly in the thing – the below-elbow double-wide yellow stripe. But since both sleeves match (I worked them side by side), I decided to claim it as a feature instead of a bug.

The recipient has tried the thing on and is totally thrilled with fit, especially liking the deliberately baggy and swiftly tapered sleeves. So I count this one as both a failure for not being able to wrangle the initial pattern properly, and as a success, for having pulled off a satisfactory finish that’s more or less faithful in look to the original.

Now back to stitching, maybe with an occasional side trip into socks because they are the poster child for a quick finish, portable summer beach project.


Two bits of nostalgia and a rant today, but no fine needlework, just some knitting. Apologies for the disappointment.

First a bit of fun nostalgia, and a reminder that family heirlooms needn’t be pricey bits of bling. As I was putting my new backgammon board away I found my chess set. It’s an unusual one, but not by any stretch of the imagination, precious. Except to me.

My grandfather Mack gave me the set around my 9th or 10th birthday. He had a jobbing print company back when you needed presses, engravers, and actual lead-set type. The company printed magazines including New York’s Social Spectator; pamphlets, brochures and catalogs; small private run books, luxe bespoken stationary, and even precision hand-engraved items like stock certificates. This chess set was part of a late 1950s/early 1960s catalog of some sort, but I have no record of what company it might have been made for. The board/box in which it came was damaged during the photo shoot, so he was able to keep it.

The set itself is housed in a very ordinary storage case/playing board. The damage is to one of the two velvet lined nests into which the pieces fit, but it’s not fatal. The figurines look to be inspired by fancy hand-carved antique ivory sets, but I believe they are some sort of plastic, each with a little “Made in Japan” sticker underneath. Still they are nicely designed with a netsuke-derived look. Especially the pawns, which come in two flavors – four bearing conch shells and four bearing scrolls.

Now my grandfather didn’t play chess – not to my knowledge at least, but I did. My dad had taught me the rudiments a few years earlier, and I read up on some beginner strategy. I never got good although I have retained a peripheral interest, even hanging out with the chess team in high school (they teased me by saying I was seventh board of a five man team). Younger Offspring is a far better player than I ever was, proving it by beating me soundly three times in a row many years ago, in spite of playing as a 14-year old hospital in-patient with a ruptured appendix, high fever, and under sedation.

I have designated this set as “an heirloom of our house” and in some ways, it’s fitting it’s only plastic.


Now on to the rant, plus some wistful but non-visual nostalgia.

I just finished yet another pair of heavy slouch socks – mindless knitting to occupy the fingers while The Resident Male and I campaign through the first computer game we’ve played in more than two decades. I can watch for Imminent Peril, monitor vital statistics, and consult on strategy and puzzle solving, but not while doing more complex attention-sink type handwork. So socks it is.

I admit I was seduced by a yarn that even under best conditions would be marginal. It’s a sport weight polyester/acrylic blend from Lion Brand, “Moroccan Nights.” I was weak; seduced by the colors. I knew it was a long-repeat variegated, and bought two balls of the same color number and dye lot. They looked identical with the same repeat section on the outside of each ball. But….

This yarn is the absolute worst knitting or crochet product I have used in a very long time. So bad I would swear that this yarn was spun from the devil’s own nose hairs.

Yes, these two socks came from two balls of the stuff with the same color number and dye lot number (Magic Carpet, color 514-307, dye lot 16561). I don’t mind a long variation, but the color jumps on these socks are largely NOT due to continuous change in the yarn itself. Instead they are due to multiple knots in each ball that united color discontinuous sections. Every major color transition you see here means that there are two more ends to darn in because the knots were too slippery to trust. One sock has three knot-induced extra end pairs to deal with, the other has four.

In addition to the poor quality control in skeining, the yarn itself is impossibly unruly. It has a severe overtwist which makes it rat-tail around itself. The structure is two very flossy, barely spun strands of acrylic plus one thin thread of mylar or other shiny polyester metallic, wound together to make a rag-style yarn. The flossy strands split and fray, fusing together in the overtwisted rat-tails, and make stitch formation a nightmare. Constant stopping to let the work spin out and ease the overtwist is required. Decreases and increases are wrestling matches because the needles catch on every microfilament.

Yes, I concede that using this yarn for socks was over-ambitious. Perhaps big needles and plain garter stitch or crochet would have been a better choice. But usage aside, the basic twisty, frizzy, fraying, fusing nature of Lion Brand Moroccan Nights makes it an unpleasant experience at any gauge.

Now for the wistful nostalgia.

For many years I ran the on line Yarn Review Collection at wiseNeedle, my former website. It started as a plain text document passed around the old pre-Internet KnitList mailing list, in the early days when email systems were just beginning to branch out and connect with each other. Eventually, with the copious help of The Resident Male, it transformed into a searchable on-line database.

The whole thing was volunteer run. I was the shepherd, confirming yarn detail (gauge, yardage, ball weight, proper spelling/manufacture), and combed retail catalogs entering data for new base entries as yarns were released for sale. Anyone who wanted to could contribute a review, and many did. We appreciated achieved gauge, some indication of what the yarn was used for, and any comments – good or bad – about the experience of using it. Stuff like “tons of knots in each ball”, “yardage seems very short,” “sheds dye on the hands and needles while working,” “falls to pieces in the wash,” were common comments. So were things like “fantastic for the tight detail on a traditional gansey,” and “wonderful stuff, soft, and a at great price.” I even computed a value score, calculating the cost per yard for each review that reported the retail price, so folk could compare relative value.

The Yarn Review Collection ran for 13 years. The wiseNeedle website never accepted direct advertising payments although I did have some general audience ads (tightly controlled) to defray expenses of running the thing. But I took no in kind gifts or monetary payments from anyone in the industry, and refused all planted information – supposed “reviews” furnished by retailers, wholesalers and makers. For the most part wiseNeedle broke even or ran a bit behind, and I floated it from my own pocket. UNTIL.


When the Ravelry site broke big time, traffic at all independent knitting websites plummeted. People stopped contributing reviews to wiseNeedle, stopped asking/answering questions on its advice boards, and even traffic to its free patterns plummeted. Eventually I was the only person contributing reviews, and my own views represented 80% of my weekly traffic. The String-or-Nothing blog subsection was the only thing that had even minor residual visits. So I threw in the towel, killed wiseNeedle and ported String to a new stand-alone venue.

Why dredge all this up now?

I really wanted to post a review of Moroccan Nights. I added a comment to the Ravelry yarn page for it, but in doing so noted that actual comments about the yarn are not exactly up front and center. You can see data on it and pix of it, see how many people have stashed it, see how many projects people have worked from it, and see a combined satisfaction score of the projects (not the yarn itself); but the comments section is a second tier behind the data cover. What’s presented is superficially and inadvertently deceptive. A 3.9 star out of 5 review for this stuff? Not. Will anyone page through and see the actual feedback? Probably very few.

Moral of the story: If you ever want to use Ravelry’s yarn pages to find out more than simple data about a product, do hunt around for that comments link. Leave comments for yarns you have used if you feel that feedback would help others. And don’t rely on that star rating to indicate actual usability, quality or value of the yarn being discussed. It has nothing to do with the yarn, it’s all about those finished projects.

Am I going to reinitiate wiseNeedle and the yarn review collection? No. It’s too time, money, and materials intensive. There’s no way anyone can catch up with Ravelry, which is now a social and industry juggernaut in its own right. The halcyon days of the non-monetized Internet are over, and I refuse to accept subsidies. By doing so I compromise my principles by becoming a paid influencer.

Nostalgic and a bit exercised? Yes. Today I am. Maybe I need to go and knit something to calm down.


It’s true I haven’t knit in a while. But I did do nine pairs of socks for the holidays this year, some of which are shown below. And while I was at it, I dropped hints to Younger Offspring, who was enthused by the thought of a new pullover.

I first knit this classic Penny Straker unisex design decades ago. It was probably the third sweater I made and was a present for one of my sisters. This is the cover photo from the original leaflet. Note the armhole depth (we’ll get back to that later).

It was the early 1980s – long before blogging, so I don’t have pictures or notes detailing my first attempt, but it was a happy success. I’m pretty sure I used Germantown worsted, in a deep burgundy and a lighter, coordinating plum. I do remember that it was super thick and stiff because of the Eye of Partridge stitch uses a lot of slip stitches, making a double-thick fabric. In fact that stitch often used as a self-reinforcing treatment for sock heels, to make them both cushier and more wear-resistant.

My sister’s sweater ended up being a great outdoor activity wearable – perfect for someone engaged in winter exercise like cross country skiing, and too warm for indoor wear. But as we were flipping through some possibilities it was the one that caught Younger Offspring’s eye. So I downloaded a copy of the revised pattern from the Straker website (it’s now offered in an extended size range) and off we went to Webs, making a small detour out in western Massachusetts on the official Deposit-Child-Back-At-Home-Away-From-Home trip to Troy, New York.

At Webs I found a candidate yarn that came in the desired black and screaming chartreuse colors – Euro Baby Babe 100. It’s a butter-soft acrylic/polyamide (nylon) blend, and at 356 yards for 100g, a great value.

But it’s not a true worsted. It’s a DK. That means that instead of the standard 5 stitches per inch (spi) in stockinette, it works better at 5.5 spi in stockinette.

Complications ensue.

Although the pattern is clearly written for a heavier yarn, but I took a risk and bought the Babe anyway. I swatched until I found a needle combo and gauge that I liked. In this case, 6 spi/8 rows per inch (rpi) on US #7s (4.5mm) in Eye of Partridge instead of the pattern’s specified 5 spi/7 rpi on US #8s (5mm).

I’ve done the math for Younger Offspring’s chosen size (a swim-in-it oversize fit), and have cast on the revised number of stitches, plus two more – I always add selvedge stitches for easy seaming. I will work my new number until I am close to the specified length for the below-arm torso, then I will figure out the raglan shaping, taking notes so I can match the row count on the sleeves. I know that these Straker patterns were all written with very tight armholes by modern standards. It was the style back then. So there is room for me to err on the up side. If I need a few more rows to accommodate the raglan shaping than the original used, that will be ok. The armhole will end up a smidge larger, and that won’t be bad at all.

So to finish this already over-long, stitching-free post, here’s three evening’s worth of progress on the back. The drape is fluid, and the yarn is super soft and luxurious, uncommon in an acrylic. The color contrast reminds me of fireflies on a dark night. With luck this one should knit up quickly into a bundle of fun.


Where have I been? What have I been up to?

Long time readers here know when posts go few and far between, I’m very busy. But what’s up?

Several things, in fact.

The basement rehab project continues, after a month delay to ensure all asbestos was properly removed. The team is now up to rebuilding the walls, and roughing in the fixtures for the half bath:

At left is what will be our pantry/storage alcove. Eventually the freezer now in the furnace room will go here, along with freestanding shelving. In the center is what will become a tiny but fully functional half-bath. And at right is the view down the length of what was the basement bonus room and my office and needlework library, but will become our TV room/exercise area. That heavy brick bit is the foundation for the two fireplaces above. It was awkwardly paneled in before, and the alcove next to it was one of those oh-so-common tacky 1960s-era home bars. I had repurposed the bar shelving as my library. Sadly the partially and strangely painted brick will be much easier to repaint than it would be to strip, so we’ll probably be doing that, but we won’t be enclosing it.

I find myself knitting less and stitching more lately, but that doesn’t mean I’ve given up knitting entirely. I started a new pair of “briefcase socks” even though I am no longer going to work or carrying a briefcase. But they are handy to have to work on between other projects, and for relaxing on the beach when it’s too windy to haul out the stitching:

Standard toe-up construction but a bit less fine than my usual socks. This pair is only 80 stitches around on US 00s. I’m using a standard wool/nylon sock yarn using a set of 5 DPNs. The toe is the maligned figure-8 toe (fiddly but I prefer it) followed by a dead plain stockinette foot. I find a low-texture foot more comfortable in the shoe than one with patterning, so I don’t begin the fancy part until after the short-rowed heel is finished. Toe up works out fine for me because if I did that fancy ankle part first I’d never slog through the ultra-boring foot. All of my free sock patterns use this style of construction and are very easy to adapt to two-circs, but feel free to swap in any other toe you favor.

I’ve been working on T2CM – combing through and readying it for final pub. No ETA yet, but I’ve done a ton on it, removing both written and drafted typos, correcting bits to coincide with research developments, and the like.

And in stitching… Well… RUN FOR THE HILLS! IT’S COMING!!

It’s driving me nuts that I can’t do more than tease. But soon…

Back story: I fell in with a crowd of Enablers who egged me on to design a massive band sampler for a free communal stitch-along. It’s not a historical piece. not by a long shot. Instead it’s a celebration of fandoms and nerdy/geeky culture in general – done in an inclusive spirit, to unite many communities in our common joy. The project will premiere in the sponsoring Facebook group, and be echoed here on two-week delay. We’ll be posting advance info on suggested supplies by the end of June/beginning of July, and the component strips will be released periodically starting in early/mid August. And who knows. I couldn’t cover EVERY fandom in one project. If folk find fun in this project there may be crowd calls for inspiration to do follow-ons, so even if I’ve not included your particular darling in the first set, future stand-alone strips or even whole projects may happen, too.


Long time readers here know that I knit and crochet as well as embroider. These things tend to happen in phases, and I rotate among my hobbies, going from one to the other to keep fresh.

As I was going through the endless piles of cruft in my basement I found this.

It’s a tiny sock, full figured, worked with the same figure-8 cast on and short row heel that I use on my normal size socks, but knit on blunted hat pins using the reinforcement yarn that comes with some brands of sock yarn. I’ve done a couple of other teeny socks over the years, but this is one, from 1996 or so was one of the first. And it has a story behind it.

At the time I was working for Bay Networks. It made the high capacity routers and other networking equipment that large companies and even service providers needed to connect to the Internet. I was a proposal specialist, and worked side by side with engineers and sales teams to respond to opportunities. Bay decided that in order to write about the equipment I had to take the same training classes as the sales engineers, although I was not expected to sit for the qualifying exam to get the exiting service certification. So I sat in several training classes, auditing them and absorbing what I could. They were multi day sessions, and I have to admit my mind would wander as the class did exercises in provisioning or “speeds and feeds” – info with which I needed to be vaguely familiar, but I would never be called upon to calculate.

Outside the classrooms was a lobby. I could see it through the glass door. On the wall opposite me was an enormous mounted swordfish. One of Bay’s founders had a serious fishing mania, and many of the common areas were decorated with his trophies. An Evil Idea came to mind.

I went home and that night knit up the tiny sock. I rolled up a bit of one of my business cards and stuck it into the ankle, so the sock looked like it was on the leg of a tiny person. Then I snuck into the lobby early the next morning, and put the sock into the fish’s open mouth, posed to look like the fish had just swallowed a victim. And I told no one about it.

The next few days of class were enlivened by watching the fish and the people who passed by. Several noticed and fell out laughing. A couple dragged their buddies over to see the thing. After the class was over I left the sock there, and so it remained.

Flash forward five years. I am leaving Bay quite unceremoniously after it was acquired by Nortel. I swung by the fish lobby to retrieve the sock. Other employees saw me reaching for it and told me not to touch it because it was a fixture of anonymous company folklore and affection. I told them to look at the scrap of paper inside. It being my card and my name, they had to admit that I had the right of first possession.

The sock and I left Bay forever. Given Nortel’s steep subsequent plunge into obscurity and acquisition, they might have been right about its talismanic virtue.


What have I been doing of late? Well, being lucky, I can work from home, so that’s been taking up most time, especially with major deadlines in the past week. In the time that’s left over, I have to stay busy, and not as a sacrifice to the “cult of productivity.” Mostly because unless my hands are occupied, my thoughts wander to dark places.

I have subdued a reluctant sewing machine and run up some face masks for my family:

Image may contain: one or more people and closeup

I’ve been knitting a pair of socks from a gorgeous ball of yarn I had put away as being “too good for socks.” Well, I deserve nice things, too.

No photo description available.

I’ve done some casual research, and found another rendition of The Old Castle design, dated to 1590-1610. I added it to my round-up of the designs in that family.

And I’ve embarked on a new stitching project. It’s a curious one that has no short explanation behind it, and in a way – it’s the ultimate FanGirl project.

As I’ve mentioned before, The Resident Male (pictured above) writes prime SF/fantasy. He is currently working on the second book in his Blair and Terendurr series. One of the delights of living with an author is that you get to read the output long before it escapes into the wide, wide world. And if you are really lucky, parts are read out loud to you as they are completed.

One of the stories in the forthcoming second book features a rather unusual band of confederates. I can’t go into more detail because I don’t want to post spoilers. But they have a motto in an other-worldly language, “Lucus Orthai Ta,” which translates roughly to “Life’ll kill ya.” I thought it would be fitting as his #1 fan to make a present for my author: an embroidery of this phrase, framed with The Dance border I posted here last week.

I started by combing through my usual haunt for unusual alphabets, Ramzi’s Patternmaker Charts collection of near 100 year old Alexandre, Sajou and other pattern booklets and leporellos, The one I picked is the third one on this page. They don’t get much more baroque or difficult to read than that set of squiggles. Perfect for an alien language.

And so I present the start – working out from the center and in cross stitch for the lettering, on 44 count almost-evenweave linen in “art silk,” it will take me a while to get to my skeleton army in double running stitch. But I will…

As for the story, you are just going to have to wait for him to complete the second book. It will be worth the wait!


It’s doldrums here at String Central.  Younger Daughter is back to university.  Others are back to work.  I fill my time with nosing around for grant and proposal contract assignments, and my various projects.

First, my sanity project – the doodled decoration on the pre-finished napkins I bought on sale from Wayfair, using the cotton four-ply embroidery floss I picked up when we visited Sajou in Paris (stitching with three plies).  I can show a modicum of progress.  I’m just picking out random designs from my books and doing them rather informally, with a different design along a single edge of each of eight napkins.  The first of my mismatched set is complete.  The second in process.

The linen is soft and once washed, a bit mushy.  That makes count work a bit more troublesome than it otherwise would be, especially on so coarse a ground.  But it’s still rather quick work.  The first napkin with the interlace took three evenings (about half shown).  The in process photo shows only one evening’s worth of work.



On to knitting.  I finished a pair of socks, packed up and sent to the recipient before I remembered to take a photo.  They were my “briefcase project” – the thing I always have with me to work on while I wait on telephone hold, on line at the post office, or for appointments.  Since I ALWAYS  have a pair on the needles, the next pair is already cast on and sitting it its bag, itself waiting for me to be waiting.  This pair however is special.  Younger Daughter picked out this yarn with the proviso that I knit something for myself with it.  I comply.


And my project of long suffering guilt.  I promised these Octopus Mittens to my niece late last winter.  It was inadvertently destroyed, then was re-started with new yarn, and is now sitting next to my project chair, chiding me that it is being neglected.  I plead laziness, lack of inspiration, and frustration with stranding using two strands of DK, knit at sock yarn gauge for warmth.


I MUST finish these.  I promised.

How do you flog yourself back into working on a sidelined project?  All suggestions gratefully accepted.

Oh,  And if you know of anyone looking for a project manager/writer/editor specializing in high tech grants and proposals – send them my way, please.


I continue to produce samples for the Chanterelle pattern.   This one is in a narrow self-striper – the kind of sock yarn that when knit up, makes socks with stripes of two or at most three rounds.


And for reference, what the ball looked like before it was consumed:


This scarf is another oddity.  It has the same gauge and width as all of the others.  The Steinback Aktiv Effekt yarn is marked as being 421 meters (460 yards) – comparable to  the others.


I was only able to knit up nine full trumpet sections, plus the beginning and end section.  I did have a bit of yarn left over, but only enough for about a third of a trumpet.  So based on what I’ve seen so far, here’s the scarf length to yardage result.  As you can see, it doesn’t quite make sense.



Labeled length

Number of Full Trumpet Segments and Length

Steinback Wolle
Aktiv Effekt
Narrow stripes with one faux Fair Isle inclusion
460 yards
421 meters

9 segments
54 inches
137.1 cm
(about 12 yards left over)

Schoeller + Stahl
Fortissima Colori Socka Color
Combo of narrow red and white stripes with one medium length blue/white stripe
459.3 yards
420 meters

10 segments
62 inches
157.5 cm
(less than a foot left over)

Zwerger Garn
Opal 4 fach
Half medium, half narrow stripes.  One faux Fair Isle inclusion
465 yards
425.2 meters

10 segments
62 inches
157.5 cm
(about 8 yards left over)

Zauberball Crazy
Gradient with two independently shading plies 459 yards
419.7 meters

11 segments
70  inches
178 cm
(about two feet left over)

Zauberball Crazy
Gradient with two independently shading plies 459 yards
419.7 meters

10 segments
62 inches
157.5 cm
(about 18 inches left over)

The saving grace of the pattern is that the trumpet segment and the final section are identical until one is half-way through the trumpet sequence.  At that point the knitter can look at the remaining yarn and decide on whether or not to risk finishing out the last trumpet and then going on to the final segment (which would require about 36 yards remaining), or punting and just finishing off the segment at hand according to the instructions for the final section.



I didn’t expect this.  I’ve finished the Chanterelle knit from the Schoeller and Stahl’s Fortisimma Socka Color, # 1776, “Stars and Stripes.”  In the ball it looked like it would present as medium width stripes, narrower than the ones in the ocean-wave blue sample scarf, but not particularly special in any way.  In my standard  socks, I would guess that each stripe would be about three or four rounds, with the blue areas about four or five rounds.



In the directional world of this pattern, look what happened!

chant-5 (2).jpg

In a serendipity I seldom achieve, the directionality of the Chanterelle pattern, coupled with the narrow width sections make a flags-in-the breeze effect.  And see that little butterfly at the right, containing about 18 inches of yarn?  That’s ALL I had left.  A squeaker, for sure.

Although I can’t bring myself to sport this, I have the perfect family to give this to – friends with a son in international competitions.  It will be the perfect thing for them to wear as they cheer him on.

Now on to yet another.  My goal is to show off a wide variety of self-stripers and variegateds, so folks can gauge what their own yarn might look like.  Digging down into the stash, I come up with another Nancy-Gift Yarn (it was a very generous gift).  This is Steinbach Wolle Aktiv Effect sock yarn, and as you can see from the 100g skein promises to have narrow stripes – probably manifesting as only two rounds each in a standard sock.


As always, you can find the Chanterelle pattern for free at the Knitting Patterns tab at the top of this page.

And in other news, because there can always be other news, I’ve been asked to do a quickie set of fingerless mittens, from the leftover screaming yellow shawl yarn.  I’ll be casting on for that over the weekend.



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