Holy Cow!

I cannot believe how long it has been since I wrote a blog post. How did I let that happen? It isn’t as though I haven’t been doing some knitting, albeit really boring knitting, or spinning–lots and lots of spinning. So, here’s a quick catch-up.

The kitchen remodel still isn’t done. It was a year ago February 12th, I think, that we signed a contract to have our kitchen remodeled. The job was supposed to be started right away and finished in 3 to 4 weeks. After more than a year, we finally terminated the contract and are now in the process of getting bids to get the work finished. All that’s left to do is the tile backsplash and some trim work. After some back and forth wrangling with the contractor from Hell, we finally gained possession of the tile and got him out of our lives forever. I’m hopeful we can have the rest of the work finished before the end of April, and then we can move on to other parts of the house.

My knitting mojo has been in the doldrums. I’ve finished some fingerless mitts and a scarf knitted out of handspun. I have a custom-order scarf nearly finished, too late for the recipient to wear this winter (it will be Spring in a couple of days), but in plenty of time for next winter. And I have a pair of plain vanilla socks OTN. I need to start an interesting knitting project, but I just can’t decided on anything.

Spinning is a different story. I’ve been spinning up a storm. I currently have 8 ounces of handspun 2-ply yarn resting on bobbins, ready to be wound off on the niddy noddy, two bobbins of singles resting and waiting to be plied, and another bobbin of singles-in-progress. And I have at least eight other skeins of handspun completed so far this year.

I am going to try to keep up with my blog starting now, but I’m not going to promise because I once was told that one should not make promises one might not be able to keep. 🙂

Here are pictures of a few of the finished items linked to the appropriate Ravelry project page, in case you are interested in the details.

Shades of Green Handspun Scarf while still in progress. I haven’t take a picture of the finished scarf yet.

Opalicious

After complaining a bit about Opal sock yarn when I was working on the Opal Clouds Socks, I started another pair of socks in, you guessed it, Opal sock yarn. This time, it’s Opal Elemente, which is a more classic Opal colorway. This is the reason so many sock knitters like Opal.

Look at those gorgeous colors!

The pattern is Adrienne Ku’s Skyp Rib Socks (free Ravelry download here)

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The Skyp Rib Socks done in two colors

with a few modifications. I cast on 72 stitches, did 20 rounds of 2 x 1 cuff, and turned a Fish Lips Kiss heel.

The Fish Lips Kiss heel fits me perfectly.

I’ll finish off with a round toe instead of a wedge toe because a round toe just fits me better. And, of course, I am knitting the sock in just one color.

I’m using one of my new Hiya Hiya sock needles, 2.5mm, and I must say that I like this needle a lot. The points are very sharp, which I like, and the cables are flexible without being too floppy. And the length of the cable is perfect for doing Magic Loop. I think I like the Chiao Goo Red Lace needles just a teeny, tiny, little bit better than the Hiya Hiyas, but it’s really six of one, a half-dozen of the other.

I’m happy with the yarn, happy with the needles, happy with the pattern. Life is good.

Note To Self

I got a package from Amazon today. These are the contents.

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The book Sock Architecture has been in my Amazon Wish List for quite a while, but the HiyaHiya sock needles were sort of an impulse purchase. I have been wanting to try HiyaHiya knitting needles for years, and I do have some HiyaHiya needles in my Amazon Wish List, but I just never got around to actually ordering them.

In the meantime, I kind of fell in love with Chiao Goo Red Lace circular needles. The needles are beautifully polished stainless steel, the cables are plastic covered steel cable, and the joins are smooth as can be. The cable has virtually no memory and is flexible without being floppy, so these needles are perfect for knitting in Magic Loop, which is a technique for knitting an item with a small circumference in the round using just one circular needle instead four or more double-pointed needles.

"Gray Vanilla" sock on the Chiao Goo using Magic Loop

“Gray Vanilla” sock on the Chiao Goo using Magic Loop

I have one Chiao Goo circular needle in size 2.5mm (US 1.5) with a cable that is long enough for doing Magic Loop, and when that needle is in use, I can’t start another sock unless I use double-pointed needles. I used to be a die-hard, double-pointed-needle kind of sock knitter. I used the Magic Loop technique for knitting sweater sleeves and neckbands in the round, and for finishing hats. But I didn’t like the technique for socks. I sometimes would knit socks using two circular needles, but not Magic Loop. In fact, I actually started the Gray Vanilla sock on DPNs because my Chiao Goo was in use for another sock, the infamous Opal Cloud socks. But as soon as I knitted the last stitch on the second Opal Cloud, my Chiao Goo 2.5mm circular needle replaced the DPNs in Gray Vanilla.

I don’t know when everything changed and Magic Loop became my favorite technique for knitting socks. Probably when I found a short-row heel technique that fit me well. Anyway, I am now a Magic Loop convert. And when I saw this set of HiyaHiya circulars in sizes most used for socks–I use mostly 2.5mm and 2.25mm needles for sock knit in fingering weight yarn–that came in a beautiful needle case at a very reasonable price, I just couldn’t resist.

Four 40-inch circular needles all snug in the case.

Four 40-inch circular needles all snug in the case. The lining of the case is black; it looks blue in this picture because the flash washed it out.

The sizes include 2.25mm, 2.5mm, 2.75mm, and 3.0mm.

The sizes include 2.25mm, 2.5mm, 2.75mm, and 3.0mm. And there are pockets to hold two more circular needles, and also pockets to hold DPNs and/or crochet hooks.

The case folds and buttons shut. It's really beautiful.

The case folds and buttons shut. It’s really beautiful.

There is a zippered compartment on the outside that is perfect for storing a yarn gauge, stitch markers, Chibis, or even a small pair of scissors.

There is a zippered compartment on the outside that is perfect for storing a yarn gauge, stitch markers, tapestry needles, and a small pair of scissors.

I don’t know whether I will like the HiyaHiya needles as well as the Chiao Goo, but I’m going to have fun finding out. 🙂

Note to self: don’t buy any more knitting books about socks, no matter how many rave reviews it gets.  Just. Don’t. (More on the book at a later date.)

PS: If you are interested in exploring Magic Loop, there is a pretty good video here. If this link doesn’t work, just google Magic Loop, and there will be lots of links to direct you to information on how to do Magic Loop.

Joy!

That gray “vanilla” sock I told you about? You know, the one that I couldn’t finish because I couldn’t find the rest of the yarn? Well, here it is.

A plain vanilla sock nearing completion. It’s definitely autopilot knitting.

Yes, that’s two more balls of gray Socka Sport & Strumpf you see.

The other night, I decided to sort through my handspun and pick some out to knit. My handspun was was still sealed up in the plastic storage bin from the move last December.

While I was opening the bin containing my handspun, I decided to open up the three other still-sealed bins that I had stored in the closet of my spinning lair/computer room/library. And what do you suppose I found? You got it! There, in one of the bins, were the other two balls of gray sock yarn, just hanging out with some the other yarn.

I don’t know why my yarn and knitting needles and even finished objects like to hide from me, but they do. I wish they’d stop it.

Pretty Yarn, Ugly Socks

You remember August, don’t you? Back in August of last year, I posted this picture of the first sock of a pair I had started using some Opal sock yarn from deep in my stash.

The leg unstretched

The leg unstretched

I mentioned that I thought the yarn was supposed to look like clouds in a blue sky, but although the yarn looks beautiful in the ball, when knitted up it isn’t all that attractive. The leg of the sock doesn’t look much better when stretched.

The leg stretched on the sock blocker

The leg stretched on the sock blocker

At first the yarn did knit up looking sort of like clouds in a blue sky if you really wind up your imagination, but the patterning changed as I continued knitting the leg, and then it changed again when I got to the heel and foot, probably because while the instep was still ribbed, the sole was stocking stitch. Purl stitches use a teeny tiny bit more yarn than knit stitches, and that difference is enough to change the way the colors stack up. And naturally, the second sock looks a lot different from the first.

The legs of the socks don’t look like they were knitted from the same yarn, do they.

You’d never guess that both these socks were knitted with the same yarn on the same needles with the same stitch count and same gauge.

First sock is on the left, second sock is on the right.

I guess I knitted the leg of the second sock slightly looser (or maybe tighter) than the first sock. Notice that on the first sock, the patterning changes from looking a little bit like clouds in a blue sky to ugly flashing. I loathe flashing, which is that zig-zag type of pooling that often occurs on handpainted or space-dyed yarn with short color repeats. On the leg of the second sock, the colors just spiral around the sock. I much prefer the spiraling that you see on the leg of the second sock to the flashing on the first sock.

I worked a Fish Lips Kiss heel, which is a short-row heel that fits me better than any other heel I have worked, and it’s easy to knit, too. The great fit makes up for the lack of aesthetic value. I can live with the turning stitches not being very pretty when it means having a perfect fit.

The Fish Lips Kiss heel fits great, but it isn't especially attractive.

The Fish Lips Kiss heel fits great, but it isn’t especially attractive.

The feet of the socks look pretty decent. The yarn pattern didn’t spiral, nor did it flash. While the top part of these socks is flat-out ugly, the bottom part is only semi-ugly. I think they actually turned out the way the yarn supposed to look.

Does the patterning on the feet look like clouds in a blue sky to you?

Once upon a time I was quite enamored of Opal sock yarn, and I have quite a bit of it in deep stash. But that was back in the 1990s. After knitting a few pairs of socks in Opal, I finally realized that while the Opal colorways look really pretty in the ball, when they are knitted up they all too often are just a hot mess. And the yarn itself isn’t that great. It’s a little rough and not that pleasant to knit with.  I am so over Opal. What took me so long?

 

Nuts To Knots

So, I started a pair of socks in Regia Design Line by Kaffe Fassett, which is a self-striping yarn. The yarn comes in 50g balls, and I wanted the socks to be identical twins, so I was very careful to begin sock #1 at the very start of a color change so that it would be simple to start sock #2 at the exact same place in the color sequence.

I decided on plain 2 x 2 rib socks because–self-striping yarn! Duh! I cast on and had knitted about two inches of the leg, and there it was. A big, old, ugly knot in the yarn. Knots are a fact of life in knitting. Normally they aren’t that big a deal. But this is self-striping yarn, and I’m planning to make the socks match, so this knot definitely throws a spanner in the works.

For the uninitiated, self-striping sock yarn is dyed in such a way that the different colors form stripes as you knit without the knitter having to change to a different yarn of a different color each time and having all those god-awful ends to weave in. When a knot appears, that means the color sequence will be thrown off, and maybe even reversed. If you aren’t going for totally symmetrical socks–and fraternal twins have many charms, I must say–a knot in the yarn isn’t a big deal. But when you want the socks to look the same, it’s a cosmic shake-up.

Fortunately, the knot appeared pretty early in the ball, so I just ripped out what I had knitted to the knot, found the beginning of the next complete color, and started over. I found the joy, for sure. It was smooth sailing all the way to the tip of the toe. No more knots in ball number one. YAY!

Regia Striped Rib Socks sock #1

Regia Striped Rib Socks sock #1

I pulled out the second ball of yarn, found the beginning of the appropriate color repeat, and cast on the second sock. As I knitted on the second sock, I was feeling pretty good because my socks were matching up perfectly. I was knitting along happily, and maybe a little smugly, and had completed about two inches of the leg when–What’s this! Oh, NO! I can’t believe it. Another freaking knot. The knitting gods were definitely not smiling on me.

I had no choice but to take what I had knitted so far off the needles and start all over again. After finding just the right spot in the yarn, I cast on again and started knitting. Thankfully, ball number two had no more knots, either.

Sock #2 is nearly completed.

Sock #2 is nearly completed.

Look at how well the stripes match. :-)

Look at how well the stripes match. 🙂

I would be in my happy place right now if only my knotty story ended here. But, sadly, it continues. This past weekend was my son’s wedding.

My DS and my DIL saying I do!

My DS and my DIL saying I do!

As you know, my son’s GF is most knit-worthy, having received from me numerous hand-knitted socks, a scarf, fingerless mitts, three sweaters, and a lace shawl. I’m very happy to say that she is now officially, legally my DIL. The nuptials were in Pittsburgh, and that meant over 6 hours total on the Pennsylvania Turnpike, and that meant I needed a take-along knitting project. The Regia Striped Rib socks were not the optimal choice because they are on double-pointed needles.

I don’t know about you, but when I knit on DPNs in the car, I always, without fail, drop a needle. Not. Good. For car knitting, I much prefer circular knitting because when I drop a needle, it doesn’t go anywhere because it’s, um, attached. Nearly klutz-proof. So shortly before we left for the ‘Burgh, I grabbed a ball of sock yarn and a couple of Ciao Goo lace circulars. I thought I would do two circulars, but I ended up doing magic loop. I have a history of hating magic loop for socks, but I think I’m now in love. Magic Loop works really well with Ciao Goo needles.

At this point, your eyes have probably rolled back into your head, and you are saying to yourself–I thought she was going to tell us more about knots in her yarn. Instead she’s rambling on and on about highways and Magic Loop. Get to the point, already! You do have a point, don’t you?

Fair enough. Here’s my point. DH is driving west on the PA Tpk, and I’m in the passenger seat knitting away on a pair of 2 x 2 rib socks in a really funky Opal color way. I’ve completed nearly two inches of the leg when, there it is. A knot. What’s up with all these knots in my sock yarn?!?!?!?!? At least I didn’t have to worry about this knot disrupting the color pattern on my sock because this yarn knits up to look like bird shit on a blue rug clouds in a blue sky.

The leg unstretched

The leg unstretched

The leg stretched on the sock blocker

The leg stretched on the sock blocker

Hey! I managed to post a couple of WIP for WIP Wednesday! Check out Tami’s blog for more WIP.

 

The Syncopated Alpaca Socks

It’s another Finished Object Friday, and although the Tour de Fleece is in full swing, the FO I am sharing with you today is not a spinning or plying project. It’s a pair of socks.

I call these socks The Syncopated Alpaca Socks because they are my take on Mary Henninger’s Syncopation Socks and are knitted in a scrumptious alpaca yarn from Berroco, Ultra Alpaca Fine. There was no color number or name on the label, so I have no idea what the color is called. I only know that my pictures don’t do it justice.

The Syncopated Alpaca Socks in all their glory!

The original Syncopation Socks are knitted toe-up with a gusset heel. I knitted mine cuff-down with a short row heel and finished them off with a round toe.

For the heel, I gave the Fish Lips Kiss Heel a try. I didn’t do all the measuring, nor did I make the cardboard cut-out because it simply didn’t seem necessary. Since I was knitting the socks cuff down, I simply started the heel when the leg of the sock was the length I wanted it to be. The FLKH is knitted with an inch of plain knitting on the heel stitches of the sock while maintaining the patterning on the instep stitches before beginning the short rows. This is a matter of aesthetics and is something I have done in the past when knitting my usual short-row heels.

The FLKH uses a method for making short rows that doesn’t involve wrapping stitches. Instead, you manipulate stitches from the row below the working stitch, which gives you a pair of stitches that are eventually knitted or purled together. These are called “twin stitches,” and this method of making short rows is sometimes called shadow wrap or shadow twin short rows. When all the decrease and increase rows have been worked, you end up with a very nicely-shaped and well-fitting heel. Sadly, the line of short row stitches isn’t very attractive.

My Fish Lips Kiss Heel close up.

This heel design really does fit better than any other short-row heel I have tried. I normally knit short-row heels on 60% of the stitches on my needles in order to accommodate my high instep. However, I worked this heel on just 50% of the stitches, and it fits me better than any heel I have ever tried. I think the secret is that the way the short rows are worked, you end up with an extra round between the decrease rows and the increase rows. This creates a more rounded heel pocket and hence a better fit.

Although I really don’t like the appearance of the short rows themselves, the fantastic fit more than makes up for the ugly. This is definitely my new go-to short row heel. I’ll take fit over beauty anytime when it comes to my feet. 🙂