Festivus For The Rest Of Us

The holiday season is upon us. From Thanksgiving through Epiphany, the period from late November through early January is filled with all sorts of holiday festivities. Christmas, Human Light, Kwaanza, Channukuh, Winter Solstice, Boxing Day, New Year’s Eve, New Year’s Day, Twelfth Night, and best of all, college football bowl games—yes, the holidays are in full swing.

All of my holiday shopping is done, and I don’t do any holiday baking anymore. If I bake it, I eat it. And, trust me, I don’t need to be eating cookies and candy. My holiday knitting is also all done. I didn’t do much holiday knitting this year, but I did make two pairs of socks. The Froot Loop Socks I made are resting under cousin Vickie’s ginormous Christmas tree in Ohio. Unlike me, she can wait till Christmas to open packages. Me? I get a package in the mail, I open it. LOL

The other pair of socks, Christmas Lights Socks, were made especially for The Boy’s sock-worthy GF. They arrived in Pittsburgh yesterday. (Thank you, USPS.) The Christmas Lights Socks came into being because of the Steelers beaded squares I wrote about yesterday. While searching for just the perfect beads for the Steelers squares, I found myself totally unable to resist buying lots of beads in different colors and finishes.

“So, what am I going to do with all these beads?” I thought to myself. “Well, I could knit socks with beaded cuffs.”

For inspiration, I turned to Ravelry, the knitting world’s great enabler, and searched for patterns for socks with beads added to the cuffs. (Trust me. You don’t want to add beads to the instep.) There was one sock pattern that really jumped out at me. It is called Winter Frost Socks and the lovely pastel beads on a white sock make a very pleasing combination.

Winter Frost Socks

Winter Frost Socks

But the minute I looked at the picture, I saw bright red socks with green, gold, and silver beads that just screamed Christmas. And, lucky me, I just happened to have some bright red Socka sock yarn in my yarn stash; and in my bead stash I had silver-lined green beads, silver-lined yellow beads, and silver-lined crystal beads. Silver-lined beads really catch the light and sparkle, and I just knew this combination would make festive Christmas socks.

Christmas Lights

I made only a couple of changes to the pattern. First of all, I made the 2 x 2 ribbed cuff a little longer. I like a 2-inch cuff, so I knit 20 rounds of ribbing.

Second, I added a repeat to increase the number of stitches from 64 to 72, which means that I had to recalculate the number of beads I needed. Even for someone who is mathematically challenged, as I am, this wasn’t difficult. Each pattern repeat uses 3 beads, and I was doing 9 repeats: 9 x 3 = 27

And because of my wonky row gauge, I knew that I would need to knit the complete pattern 6 times in order to have a cuff that is long enough: 6 x 27 = 162.

So I strung 162 6/0 Miyuki seed beads, 81 of each color, in this order: 9 silver, 9 green, 9 gold. Repeat 5 more times.

The 6/0 beads are a little on the large size for fingering-weight wool, so they really stand out. If you want a look that is a little more subtle, size 8/0 beads would be the way to go.

Third, on the beaded section, I purled the stitch after adding the bead on round 7 instead of knitting it through the back loop. I found that when I knitted the stitch, the bead buried itself and disappeared from the front of the fabric. I realize that when the socks are worn, the cuff will stretch and that third bead will pop to the front, but I decided to purl the stitch and keep the bead to the fore even when the socks are not being worn.

Christmas Lights cuff

The Winter Frost Socks pattern, which is available as a free download on Ravelry, is very well written and easily adaptable. It can be knitted with or without beads. The lace stitch is a simple one, and both written and charted instructions are included. The sock is an easy knit, although the beads make it a little fiddly, especially if you want the colors to be in a specific order because then you have to be very careful when you string them. But it doesn’t require any special techniques–you just slide the bead into place and work the next stitch as usual.

I want to thank Brenda Lindsay of Owlsrook Designs for sharing this lovely sock design. I never cease to be amazed at how generous my fellow knitters are in making their designs available at low or no cost. Winter Frost Sock is a pattern worth paying for; the directions are detailed and cover 4.25 printed pages. But Brenda has made it available for free. Thank you, Brenda.

Bobble Bobble

When I was a very little girl, my dad asked me at Thanksgiving, “How does a turkey go?” My reply was, “Bobble bobble.” So it became a standard part of our Thanksgiving celebration that my dad would ask me how a turkey goes and I would answer, “Bobble, Bobble.” Last Thursday marked the 5th Thanksgiving that has passed since my dad died. I miss him very much. And my DH continues the tradition of asking me how a turkey goes.

This Thanksgiving was one of the best ever. The boy and his sock-worthy GF drove in from the Burgh on Wednesday and didn’t leave until Sunday, although they did go with the DH to Morgantown on Friday to watch the Mighty Mountaineers of WVU beat the Pitt Panthers in the Backyard Brawl. The GF is currently a grad student at Pitt, but she’s a WVU fan all the way, which is just one of the many reasons why I love her so much.

I didn’t go to the game. There was just too much football to watch on TV, and hockey, too. And you know what watching football and hockey on TV means. That’s right. KNITTING!

I have some progress to report. First, I finished the Froot Loop Socks. This is a great pattern that is a lot of fun to knit. It never gets boring; at least, I never got bored with it. YMMV. I did adjust the pattern to suit me and knitted it on 84 stitches with 2.5mm needles. When I was ready to start the toes, I decreased to 80 stitches by leaving out 4 of the increases in the close loop toe pattern. Then I worked a round toe. The yarn is Sparkle from Draygone Yarnes in the Prom Dress color way. Unfortunately for us sock knitters, Draygone Yarnes is on hiatus at the moment.

Froot Loop Socks

Froot Loop Socks

The pictures always make the socks look redder than they are. They are pink. Very, very pink.

I have been trying to finish up some WIP, but I’m an abject failure at this point. I just cannot motivate myself to start working on St. Moritz again or to restart the knitted-on edging of my Stonington Shawl. I managed to work a couple of rounds on St. Moritz before setting it aside. I guess I have to be in the proper mood to do stranded color work from complicated charts. For the St. Moritz, I have to work from two different charts, and it’s a royal pain in the you-know-what.  And I’m just not in the mood for knitting that’s complicated.

As for the Stonington, I have tried two different edging patterns so far, and I don’t like either of them. So I have been searching for just the right pattern. I don’t know whether I’ll find it. I’m not very enamored of the Stonington technique. My shawl is going to be really small, and because of the way the borders are knitted, I cannot enlarge it by simply continuing to knit the borders. I’m considering ripping the borders back and reknitting them in the round, but that might be a little too drastic. Besides, the yarn I’m using is very sticky and ripping out is an even bigger pain than the St. Moritz charts. I’m mulling over the idea of picking up stitches around the edge of the shawl and knitting a second border, then doing an edging. But to be honest, I’m just not feeling this yarn or this shawl. At this point, I’m perfectly happy to let it marinate in its project bag and hope it improves with age.

But I do have the lace shawl itch, and it’s an itch I just have to scratch. I haven’t made a lace shawl in a while (Stonington doesn’t count), so I decided to start one. In black. Much to my surprise, I’m not finding the black yarn difficult to work with, even at night. Having settled on a yarn, Knit Picks Gloss in lace weight, I had to find a pattern. After searching through dozens of shawl patterns, I decided to try the Magickal Earth Shawl from A Gathering of Lace. I planned to substitute a different pattern for the unicorn section. I’m not a big fan of unicorns. I charted out my substitute pattern and even bought beads for it. I got out the yarn and needle and went to work.

The Magickal Earth Shawl is a square shawl that is is knitted from the outside in, that is, you knit the edging first, then pick up stitches along the edging and knit the rest of the shawl towards the center, decreasing as you go along. I’ve never knitted a square shawl this way; I have always started in the center or with a center square. It’s fun to try new-to-me techniques; this technique is actually an old one that was and still is used by knitters of traditional Shetland shawls.

I started to work on the edging, but I was having a difficult time following the chart. Normally I prefer knitting lace from charts, but this chart was giving me fits for some reason. The edging consists of two separate patterns, one of which is repeated four time, the other three times, combined into one chart. And maybe that’s what was throwing me off. But I think the main problem is that the chart is in really small type, and I was too lazy to scan it and enlarge it. Instead, I got out Gladys Amedro’s book Shetland Lace

Shetland Lace by Gladys Amedro

Shetland Lace by Gladys Amedro

because I knew she used the same edging on one of the shawls in that book. No, I don’t have a super-great memory. Shetland Lace was one of the books I looked through when I was trying to decided on a lace shawl to start. The directions in Shetland Lace are written, not charted, but they are written in a type of knitter’s shorthand that is very similar to how I break down row repeats in lace patterns. I have found Amedro’s pattern much easier to follow than the chart in AGOL.

The Magikal Earth Shawl edging happens to be identical to Amedro’s Sheelagh Shawl. And the Sheelagh Shawl

Sheelagh Shawl

Sheelagh Shawl

is one that I have been wanting to knit for many years. So my Magickal Earth Shawl has morphed into Sheelagh.

I am close to having 3/4s of the edging done.

Sheelagh edging

It’s always surprising how long it takes to knit the edging of a shawl, whether it is the first part knitted or the last, but I have been progressing rapidly. Once the edging is done and I have picked up all the stitches, the rest of the shawl will go quickly because it will be getting smaller and smaller.

Sheelagh edging up close

Sheelagh edging up close

So far I am loving the Knit Picks Gloss lace weight yarn. I made a sweater in Gloss fingering weight a couple of years ago and liked working with it. The sweater still looks good although the yarn has fuzzed a little. The Gloss is not quite as nice as Zephyr, but it’s definitely one of the better yarns in Knit Picks’ arsenal. The pattern calls for cobweb yarn on 3.0mm needles. I’m using 3.0mm needles, but my yarn is lace weight. This size needle results in a solid-looking stocking stitch, which is what I prefer. If the pattern were garter-stitch, I would use a larger needle. But only a small part of the edging is garter stitch. The rest of the pattern is stocking stitch. The edging is very stretchy, so I think I will end up with a large shawl even though I’m using lace weight yarn instead of cobweb. When I get the edging finished, I will definitely do the happy dance, but knitting it is quite enjoyable.

There’s a lot more going on, both in knitting and in football and hockey, so stay tuned. 🙂

Where To Begin?

Time has a way of getting away from me. I cannot believe that so much time has passed since my last blog entry. And now I have so much to report that one entry simply won’t do. If I report everything that has happened since my last entry in just one post, you will quickly become bored with reading me yammering on about hockey, knitting, birthdays, etc., etc., etc. So I shall break it down into smaller parts in order to keep your interest, dear reader of mine.

In answer to the title question, I think I will begin with my nemesis, Elizabeth Zimmerman’s Adult Surprise Jacket, or ASJ for short. The ASJ is back in time-out. It has been behaving very badly and doesn’t deserve my attention. I have tried to seam up the sleeves and shoulders using umpteen different methods, and everything I have tried comes out looking like hell. I hate this project more than any other knitting project I have ever done. I’d rather knit a 4ft x 7ft afghan with Red Heart yarn than make an ASJ with pure cashmere. As much as I love EZ, I have to say that this design is a big stinker.

Warning! Hockey Metaphor Ahead!

I consider the Adult Surpise Jacket to be the Alexander Ovechkin of knitting.

Ugly and obnoxious, it plays dirty. People talk like it’s the greatest player in the world of knitting projects, but when you shine the light of day on it, not only are you dumbstruck by how ugly it is, you realize that it is little more than an attention whore disguised as a knitting project.

I haven’t packed the ASJ away, yet, but I think I will do so soon because just looking at it lying on top of my knitting pile makes me queasy, kind of like seeing Alexander Ovechkin’s ugly mug.

End of hockey metaphor.

Sorry about that.☺

I bet you are asking yourself, Well, if Pinko Knitter isn’t working on her ASJ any more, just how is she spending her knitting time? I’m so glad you asked. I’ve worked some on my reworked Froot Loop Socks. Sock #1 is close to completion.

This is a fun pattern to work on, but it doesn’t go well with watching hockey on TV. Hockey takes a lot of concentration, so my hockey knitting must be totally mindless.

Mindless Knitting Project 1

Mindless Knitting Project 2

No, your eyes are not deceiving you. I made two, count ’em, two hats in “Blaze Orange,” also known as hunter safety orange. I supposed it isn’t surprising that one can purchase hand knitting wool yarn in such a bright orange. After all, hunters need to keep their heads warm just like everyone else. My older sister hunts deer and she subtly hinted that she would like a hat in orange. I Googled to find a source for blaze orange yarn and, violá! Bartlett Yarns in Harmony, Maine, offers a nice worsted-weight, woolen-spun, 2-ply wool in “bright orange.” Bright orange? That’s something of an understatement. I swear this yarn glows in the dark☺.

The Bartlett yarn is similar to Briggs and Little Regal, with lots of VM (vegetable matter, that is, vegetation that got caught in the sheep’s wool as it was out grazing and doing whatever it is that sheep do) that I picked out as I knit. I don’t mind VM in yarn because it is an indication that the wool has not be over-processed. The yarn from Bartlett is pretty scratchy before it is washed, but it softens a lot after washing. It also blooms a lot when washed. The beanie I knitted on 3.5mm needles looks almost felted since it was washed. I’m glad I used 4.0mm needles for the ribbed hat.

Preview of upcoming features: another hat, another sweater, more hockey, and a very special birthday. Stay tuned. You don’t want to miss a single episode.

Not A Bed Of Roses

I am quite certain, dear reader, that you are well aware that life isn’t always a bed of roses. Even when life is sweet, there are always a few dark clouds around. Yeah, I know, I’m mixing my metaphors. So, sue me!

Anyway, right now life is pretty sweet. It’s autumn and that means football is in full swing and hockey is just around the corner. Yesterday was a pretty exciting day in the NFL. My beloved Buffalo Bills finally beat the Boston New England Patriots in a very exciting game. I think it was the Bills first victory over the Pats since 2003, and folks, these two teams are in the same division and play each other twice a year. Yikes! That’s a lot of losses to your arch rival, and to finally get a victory feels really, really, really nice. It actually makes up for the Mountaineers losing to LSU on Saturday night. And last night the Steelers managed to limp to a victory over the Colts. It wasn’t purdy, but a win’s a win. I’ll take ‘em any way I can get ‘em.

And then there is hockey. The season begins in earnest on October 6, but the preseason is in full swing. The Pens are 3-0 in preseason games and looking great. Evgeny “Geno” Malkin has recovered from his knee surgery and has never looked better. The Pens are so deep that they will have to send some mighty fine hockey players back to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. I just hope Eric “Big Dog” Tangadi isn’t among them. I really want to see him stay in the Burgh. I think we need his rather sizeable presence in front of the net. And the best news of all is that Sid Crosby is progressing very well in his recovery from last year’s season-ending concussion. He had some set-backs earlier, but now he’s not only skating with the team, he’s scrimmaging with them. Let’s hope that there are no more concussion symptoms and that he will soon be cleared for contact. Maybe he’ll even be back to playing before the end of the year. Wouldn’t that be grand?

Okay, here come the clouds. 🙂

If only my knitting were going as well as football and hockey. Sadly, it ain’t no bed of roses. I decided to finish up some WIP before starting anything new and now I’m committed. Or should I say that I should BE committed. LOL

Ages ago, I started one of Elizabeth Zimmermann’s Adult Surprise Jacket. This is a grown-up sized version of EZ’s famous Baby Surprise Jacket (BSJ). I’ve never made a BSJ, and maybe I should have followed Meg Swansen’s advice–Meg is EZ’s daughter, for those of you who don’t travel in the wonderful world of knitters–and made a BSJ before starting the adult version. The  BSJ is an adorable baby sweater; the ASJ is anything but adorable. All that freaking garter stitch in worsted-weight wool?!?!? What’s the word I’m wracking my brain for?  Um, ugly. Yeah, that’s the word. Ugly.

I started working on the ASJ back on October 1 of 2009. Like a tattoo, at the time, it seemed like a good idea. And I will admit that there are things about the ASJ that are fun. The construction is really ingenious. But it get very boring very quickly. Very. Boring.

I had progressed this far

ASJ in progress

when I set it aside to knit socks. And there it sat, on top of my knitting basket. Looking forelorn. Making me feel guilty. Day after day. Week after week. Month after month. I just didn’t want to pick it up again. Did I mention it was boring? But I’d gotten this far, and I needed something mindless to work on while watching football and hockey. And endless rows of garter stitch is about as mindless as knitting can get.

Last night I finally got the button band started. It was my third or maybe fourth attempt at picking up stitches along the edge of the center front of the sweater. I kept ripping it out because it looked like sh#t. This most recent, and dare I say final, attempt looks better than all the rest, so I’m going to live with it. I have the buttonholes done and only a few more rows of mindless, boring garter stitch are left. Then it’s on to the sleeves. More mindless, boring garter stitch. Then comes the fun part–folding the messy-looking blob into a sweater and trimming it with I-cord. Oh, I cannot wait to knit yards and yards of I-cord. (That’s sarcasm, folks, in case you couldn’t tell.)

I’m bound and determined that I am going to finish my ASJ. And wear it, too, even if it is less than lovely to look at. Normally I have no qualms about ripping out a project that is not going well, even if it is nearing completion. But the ASJ is such a trainwreck that I just cannot take my eyes off it. If I don’t finish it, it will haunt me to the end of my days. So my plan is to finish it, then toss it into the corner of a closet and forget about it. 🙂

The ASJ isn’t my only knitting cloud. As you may recall from a past episode, I started a sock in the Froot Loop pattern using a lovely sparkle yarn from Draygone Yarnes in a colorway called Prom Dress. The knitting was going very well, and I had progressed to this point…

Froot Loop Sock #1 ripped

Froot Loop Sock #1 before I ripped it out

and I decided to try the sock on. Yikes! It was just a little too tight. Not so tight that I couldn’t pull the sock on and off, but just tight enough that the sock wasn’t comfortable. What’s a knitter to do? I can only speak for myself, but what I did was–you guessed it–rip it out and start over. On bigger needles–2.5mm instead of 2.25. What a world of difference a quarter of a millimeter can make.

Froot Loop Sock #1 Remake

The fabric is much nicer and the pattern looks even better. I think the sock will fit this time around, but I won’t know for sure until I have turned the heel and knitted a few rounds of the gusset decreases. Fortunately, I enjoy knitting this pattern, so it isn’t a big deal that I had gotten so far only to have to start over.

I have a few more unfinished projects waiting for my attention, most notably St. Moritz,

Dale of Norway St. Moritz in progress

so as soon as I finish ASJ, I’ll get to work on St. Moritz again. The big question is, can I restrain myself from starting Joan Schrouder’s lovely lace sweater in A Gathering of Lace when the yarn I ordered for it arrives?

I was thinking it would make a nice Winter Solstice present for a certain someone, but I doubt I will have enough time to finish it by then if I finish St. Moritz first. Oh, what the hell. St. Moritz has waited this long; what’s another three months?