I wish I weren’t but it’s been so, and for a while.
Sadly this means that not much substantive is getting done on any of my main projects. I feel quite badly about this because I promised a pair of Octopodes Mittens to a niece. Thanks to the ungentle hands of the Philistines at TSA, during my trip to Florida, my on-the-needles project was unceremoniously dumped out into my checked baggage, the needles were pulled out of the work (and one was lost); the magnet board I was using was bent, the magnetic strip that marked my place is missing, and they broke the yarn to remove and lose the Strickfingerhut knitting thimble thingy I use to make stranding easier. So progress has been stalled while I replace the needles, Strickfingerhut, and magnet board.
Here is the barely-begun first mitten prior to TSA’s pillaging:
Back to Square One on that project.
In the mean time, my mindless “briefcase project” socks march on. These require little to no thought, and are done in stolen hours while waiting on line at the post office, in large group meetings at work, and the like. The ankle patterns are improvised on the fly. Since January, I’ve done 3.75 pairs – all toe-up, quick knits on 76 stitches around, (US #00s – big as logs…)
Starting with the blue pair with red accents, yarns used were blue striped Cascade Heritage 150 Prints, with Kroy Sock toes/heels/ribbing; orange Cascade Heritage 150; Plymouth Neon Now (it really does glow under UV light); and Berroco Comfort sock, in pastels – which is an acrylic/nylon blend with no wool in it at all. The last one is an experiment, we’ll see how it feels to wear, and how well it holds up in regular sock rotation.
Now that I have the requisite replacement materials, it’s back to the Octopodes Mittens. Winter 2018 may be almost over, but I have a feeling the niece will appreciate them in 2019.
A couple starts and finishes here at String Central.
First – a scarf for Elder Daughter. She favors autumn colors, and the last scarf I made her about five years ago was due for a replacement. I had a ball of Zauberball Crazy in my stash, that was way too nice to waste on socks that won’t be seen. Something that demonstrative is better out in the open rather than hidden away in shoes. But she wanted a strip-style classic scarf, not an abbreviated shawl or wing-shaped piece, so one ball of fingering weight yarn wasn’t going to be enough unless the chosen stitch was very lacy. But it’s hard to make the color gradations pop in a lace design…
The most obvious thing to do is to eke out the fancy multicolor yarn using a solid – either a component color of the multi, or something contrasting. So I went stash-diving. And I came up with another problematic yarn that fits the mission envelope. Lister Lavenda fingering weight 100% wool, circa the late ‘60s.
How do I come by such a superannuated yarn? Easy. I stole it from my mom.
To be fair, “stole” is a bit of exaggeration. She let me have it, from her own stash. My mom has been a prolific and talented knitter as long as I can remember. She tried many times to teach me when I was a kid, but I didn’t actually pick up needles until after I was out of my own. BUT I did crochet quite a bit as a kid and teen. Mom let me stash dive on occasion. This particular mustard color wool was part of a vest project she began for my dad, long, long ago. I’m not sure why it was never completed, but mom had a huge bag of the stuff, well over a dozen little one-ounce pull skeins. I adopted them and have used them slowly over the years. Pretty much any gold/mustard yellow accent in anything I’ve knit from fingering weight has been mom’s Lavenda.
The yarn itself is quite nice, a bouncy, spongy 100% wool,, but fragile. It fulls if you so much as look at it with damp, warm eyes. It rubs through in socks all too quickly, even when reinforced. So scarves and hats are the best use. I had four skeins left, a bit over 100g, all told. About the same amount as the one Zauberball.
I used a free pattern on Ravelry, Christy Kamm’s ZickZack Scarf. I used 3.0mm needles (about a US 2.5), and did the recommended eight repeats of the 12-stitch garter stitch pattern. swapping the multicolor and mustard yarns every other row (each garter stripe). Every row was the same – as such it was the perfect totally mindless piece to work in the evenings, even while watching subtitled movies.
Here are the front and back:
Note that they are close, and both are pleasing, but they are not identical. Nor could they be. Garter stitch produces identical TEXTURES on front and back, but when you change colors, the appearance of the row is different front to back. If I had knit 3 rows of multi, then 3 rows of solid, the two sides would look more alike, BUT I’d end up having a lot of long floats up or ends to work in because my other-color yarn would always be on the wrong edge of the work when I went looking for it to change.
And the finished piece:
Lessons learned: If I had to do it all over again, I’d only do six or seven repeats across, to make the thing just a bit narrower, but longer. The recipient loves it, but I prefer narrower scarves. Also, the design benefits from not being worked loosely. If you attempt this one and are a loose knitter, go down a needle size or two for best effect. All in all though, I’m quite happy with the piece, and offer thanks to pattern source Christy for thinking of adapting this traditional heavy-knit blanket zig-zag to a light weight scarf.
And the other start – Bumblebee Socks for Younger Daughter
This project also started off with the yarn. Long time pal Wendy has embarked on a yarn dyeing venture. She brews and experiments, and when she’s accumulated enough inventory, offers it up on line or at knitting festivals, via Facebook or her Etsy page, under the “Strings N’’Strands” imprint. As such it’s sporadically available but worth waiting for.
Last month she posted that she’d just finished dyeing a black/yellow combo, and posted pix. It sang to me:
Younger Daughter has a thing for bees. She adores them, and advocates for bee-preservation causes. This yarn would be perfect for a pair of socks for her.
So, a new conundrum. How to use a variegated to best advantage in socks? Not every hand-dyed variegated works out well in-project. Sometimes the colors flash in an inopportune way. Sometimes they don’t flash at all, and end up muddy. And how to work in the bee theme….
After some experimentation, here’s the end result:
Entrelac! The little entrelac segments are like a scrum of fuzzy, striped bumblebees. And the periodicity Wendy dyed in worked out perfectly, making a nice, even self-stripe on my toe-up foot.
For the record, this is improvised as I go. I’ve knit several entrelac projects at this point, both in the round and flat, so I’m pretty comfortable with the base concept. It does tend to be less stretchy than flat stockinette, so some fudging of count was required, but it all worked out.
This particular pair of toe-up socks uses a Figure-8 toe, and short-rowed heel. I am knitting on five relatively large US 0 needles (four in the work, one in hand) – on 72 stitches around (18 stitches per needle). I worked my standard no-think sock until I was two rounds past the heel, then broke into entrelac on 6-stitch groups. Although the math works out perfectly to have six entrelac pattern units , doing so makes a tight ankle (see above), so I fudged my start-up triangles to end up with 7. That’s working out quite nicely, to make a comfortable, not quite slouchy sock.
I’ll continue on this ankle part until the sock, when folded in half along the heel diagonal that part is equal to the length of the foot, then I’ll do 20 rounds of K2P2 rib to finish.
Thanks Wendy! Your yarn made this project, and will go on to make Younger Daughter buzz with joy.
Ok, I know it’s been a while. Where have I been?
Working on several projects, two of them in major Stealth Mode.
Stealth Project #1 is a baby blanket. That much I can say. I can also say that the recipients are family, and they have specifically requested cotton and pink. I’ve done something original, an improvised pattern, and it’s done. But I won’t post pix here because family does visit this page and I want the finished object to be at least a bit of a surprise.
Stealth Project #2 is for my Stealth Apprentice. She’s starting up an Etsy business, hand-dyeing silk embroidery thread using researched historical dye recipes. She’s busy perfecting her products, and I’m her Beta-Tester-in-Chief. I won’t show the sampler where her products are being play-tested against standard DMC cotton floss, but eventually we will break Stealth Mode and post details and links.
Project #3 is a volunteer effort. I’m one of many people in the Arlington Knitting Brigade, a town Council for the Arts project that is working to do a yarn-bombing installation on the public bike path that bisects the town, for display in September. The group provided acrylic yarn in orange, light turquoise, white, and fuscia, with permission to eke out that lot with stash colors, in order to make a piece that’s 2×5 feet – knit, crocheted, in macramé, weaving, whatever. I’m woefully behind, but getting there. As you can see I’ve chosen a rather chaotic mix of crochet and knitting. Younger Daughter says that the thing has a look that reminds her of the classic kids’ game Candy Land:
I am going to have both aggressive blocking and a TON of ends to finish!
For the record, my piece goes at the very top of one of the trees, far from eyes that can see the questionable bits.
Project #4 is yet another pair of socks, the latest in my constant stream of briefcase projects. I carry a pair of socks on the needles with me just about everywhere I go, working on it in stolen moments while waiting for appointments, getting the car inspected, waiting for a movie to start, or standing on lines at post offices or ticket counters.
This pair is in Plymouth Neon Now, worked toe-up with a short rowed heel, on US 00 (1.75mm) needles. It’s 76 stitches around (19 stitches on each of four needles), with an improvised texture pattern on the cuff. The feet are totally plain – I find that is the most comfortable inside my shoes. I started this pair in mid July, and finished last week while waiting at the optometrist. Needless to say, I immediately cast on for the next pair.
As ever, things have been very hectic here at String Central. Holidays, work obligations, family – you know the standard round of excuses. But that doesn’t mean that progress is not being made.
In no particular order, I present a subset of the accomplishments since the last post:
The Red Licorice pullover – finished. Amended slightly to meet the recipient’s specifications. Pix on this one are belated, since I gave it to the wearer who scuttled off with it before took photos of my own. I’ll go back and update this post when the pix come in, but I’ve held back publishing this long enough.
Six Pussyhats for the upcoming marches.
The now standard run of ten types of holiday cookies:
If you must know, clockwise from the top, they are coconut macaroons dipped in dark chocolate; chocolate chips; chocolate crinkles (aka Earthquakes); peanut butter, stamped with suns; hazelnut spritz with chocolate ganache filling (aka Oysters); raspberry jam filled vanilla wafers; Mexican wedding cakes; lemon cut-outs; bourbon/cocoa balls; and iced spice spritz cookies. In the center is homemade fudge, with and without hazelnuts. I also did two panfortes. Recipes for any/all available on request
And of course there were latkes (this year done in goose fat):
And of course over the three-holiday-week there were the donor goose; some heavenly fish quenelles (think gossamer gefilte fish and you would not be far wrong); a fantastic cassoulet made with duck confit we put up back in the summer; leek and potato soup; a home-made paté/terrine type loaf; our own sourdough bread; and an amazing spread of cheeses. Most of the heavy lifting cooking was done by The Resident Male.
We’re still eating the cheeses – there was so much that was (and still is) SO good. Thanks again to Cheese Gifters, Kim and Mike; and a shout-out to the Cheese Makers, Jonathan and Nina at Bobolink Dairy. If you love well-crafted, delicious cheese and have not tried theirs, you are missing out.
Along the way, I also started a couple more projects. First – curtains for the library. I’ve been threatening to do it for years, and have the linen and trim on hand, the trim being one of the embroidered things I treated myself to in India:
I’ve done all the calculations, pre-washed the linen, and ironed out the first panel of four. I’ve also obtained and pre-shrunk the lining. Next is to calculate placement of the trim and stitch it on to the first panel, prior to doing final assembly and hemming. I intend to use rings to hang the panels, from black iron or iron-look rods. Those will either be clip- or pin-type, so tabs are not needed. Parking these mysterious secret sauce numbers here for future reference (90, 10, 3).
And having finished the sweater and hats, I embark on another knitting project – Sandra’s Shawl, pattern by Sandra Oakeshott. This one features lots and lots of nupps – little multi-stitch bobbles. I am not a fan of making them, so instead of the nupps, I’m using beads. I’m using some really intense variegated green Zauberball Lace yarn (pix shamelessly borrowed from unrelated retail website):
And the beads are silver tone. As you can see, I’m already well into this one, past the unadorned center and out into the infinity rows where the beaded fun happens:
I can say that the pattern is well-crafted and easy to follow. I suggest putting markers at the beginning and end of the pattern repeat, to segregate out the edges in which the design is a bit perturbed by the increases required for shawl shaping. Some may wish to use markers between each pattern repeat, but I found it wasn’t necessary for me – the thing is easy to proof visually as one knits. And I most heartily recommend the use of beads rather than the fiddly nupps. Apologies to the designer, of course for using a non-traditional/alternative interpretation of her excellent pattern.
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…
It’s been lonely here at String. So few posts over such a long period of time. I apologize for that. Life has been hectic, with work deadlines, the close of Younger Daughter’s school year, and house projects just getting under way.
For a start, here’s Younger Daughter, decked out for Junior Prom.
No copycat column dress for her, she took inspiration from decades past, and found a bargain repro-1950s dress on line. Much child/parent conspiring took place to round out the outfit. The rhinestones for example are excavated from my jewelry box, and ultimately belonged to my grandmother and great-aunt. Younger Daughter looked great, and had a wonderful time. And not a bit of envy for dance-able comfort from some of her more elaborately dressed peers.
On the Trifles sampler, I ran into a roadblock. I tried drafting and tracing meshed gears, which I intend to use as a background, filling each one with a different counted blackwork-style filling. But I wasn’t finding a great amount of success. So I caved in and bought a plastic stencil. I’ll use selected bits of it, tracing the precision cut cams onto the cloth and tiling the thing where needed (it’s calculated to do that!). More on this once I get going.
I’m also working on a two-person knit-along with Friend Kim – a mesh-knit three-quarter sleeve pullover from a Kate Bellando pattern. I think we’re both at about the same mid-sleeve point:
For the record, we’re both using SMC Select Reflect, a light DK/heavy sport yarn in rayon/cotton blend. I can say that both of us have had extreme problems making gauge and have had to adjust needle size and move down in selected garment size to compensate.
And I’ve done a ton of socks as I noodled out the various problems and challenges, above. This pair was knit up from a hand-painted sock blank – Plymouth Happy Choices, in the Fiesta color.
In essence, a sock blank is a long scarf-like machine knitted strip that a dyer then paints with her or his chosen colors. When the scarf is unraveled for use, its patterns knit up in unexpected ways. I knit mine straight from the blank rather than re-winding, working my standard figure-8 toe, short-rowed heel sock. The crinkle made no difference in the finished product, and the convenience of working from something that wouldn’t escape and skitter down six rows was perfect for airplane knitting. The lace pattern on the ankle is from Walker’s fourth treasury.
And on larger, family projects – we start to consider redoing our kitchen. The floor tiles are worn past their surface color, the cabinets and countertops are sagging beyond simple repair or re-use, and the layout/look is inefficient and dated. The room was spruced up around 1980, as a peace offering between the warring couple that sold the house to us. I have detested the shell pink/mint green/faux Colonial cabinet combo from the day we moved in. Before pix in next post, for sure. Ten years is enough, and it’s time!
We’ve got columns up and down, and rows across. Bingo!
A simple double-eyelet lace pattern from the first Duchrow book. Knitting on modular-style using the pull-loop method I learned doing the Forest Path entrelac stole. The same large-eyelet edging I invented to use with my Motley scrap yarn blanket. And a measly 10 evenings of knitting time, using US #10 needles and 5 skeins of worsted weight Plymouth Encore Colorspun. A lightning project if ever there was one.