Oh Yes I Did!

Okay. As you, my dear reader, already know, I have these lovely projects OTN at the moment.

 

And with all these lovely projects from which to choose, with all these beautiful, hockey-friendly knitting projects in various stages of completion vying for my knitting attention, what did I do?

I cast on this.

Butterfly Vanilla Socks

Butterfly Vanilla Socks

Oh yes, I did!

Twisted

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This is one of my hockey-knitting projects. Because this pattern has both cables and lots and lots of twisted stitches, and because I’m knitting it on US #1/2.25 mm needles, it’s a slow go. These socks will probably take forever and a day.

Stitches are twisted by knitting the stitch through the back loop rather than the front loop, and it takes me a bit longer to knit a stitch that way. It’s also a little hard on my hands to knit the twisted stitches, so I can knit on the sock for only a couple of pattern repeats at a time.

But the pattern, the Simple Elegant Cable Socks by Judy Alexander published in Simply Sockupied 2012 (also available on Ravelry as a download), is so lovely, it’s worth the extra effort. Judy, from TheKnitter.com, is one of my favorite sock designers; her designs are well-thought-out with great attention to detail.

The yarn is vintage Froehlich Wolle Special Blauband in color 53 Barrier Reef, a bluish green. I think this yarn was discontinued quite a few years ago. When there were rumors of its demise, I bought quite a bit of it, both Special Blauband (solid colors) and Maxi Ringel (self-striping). It’s a good thing that wool yarn doesn’t go bad if it’s properly stored. 🙂

Trekking Along

I’ve been doing a lot of sock knitting while watching the Stanley Cup Playoffs. I have four different socks going, three of which are in Trekking XXL, which is one of my favorite sock yarns. Socks make for good hockey knitting.

The most progress has been made on my Trekking 2 x 2 Ribbed Socks. Sock #1 is completed.

A glorious slef-striped sock

A glorious self-striped sock

Sweet, eh?

Using 2.25mm/US#1 dpns, which are giving me a gauge of 9 stitches per inch, I cast on 80 stitches and started knitting away in 2 x 2 rib. When using a yarn as busy as this one, a simple design is best, and it doesn’t get much simpler than 2 x 2 ribbing.

I made the cuff 7 inches long. I decided to work a short-row heel because a gusset would mess up the striping. And because I wanted to keep the flow of the striping from the leg to the instep, I started the short-row heel  with a new working yarn.

I work short-row heels over approximately 60% of the stitches. I wanted to keep the instep stitches balanced, so I knitted the heel on 46 stitches, leaving 34 stitches on the instep needle. The instep pattern begins and ends with Purl 2, which keeps it all nice and symmetrical.

After getting the stitches all situated, I dropped the working yarn and started working the heel stitches from the opposite end of the ball. I didn’t cut the main working yarn because I knew that when the  heel was finished, I would break the “new” working yarn and the original working yarn would be sitting right there patiently waiting to continue going round and round, keeping the stripes intact.

When I work short-row heels, I wrap the stitches in the usual manner, but when I knit the wrapped stitches, I leave the wraps along. This creates a very nice line of tiny, decorative eyelets that for my money give the best looking short-row heel ever. It also has the advantage of not requiring the knitter to pick up and knit wraps. In my opinion, that’s a big plus.

So, after knitting and knitting and knitting some more, the foot of my sock measured 8 inches, so it was time to do the toe. Yeah, I have big feet. They are 10 inches long. There are many options for toes, and normally I chose a nice round toe because it just fits me better than a wedge toe. But for these socks, I decided to knit a short-row toe that is nearly identical to the heel.

Can you see any difference between the heel (right) and the toe (left)? Me, either. :-)

Can you see any difference between the heel (right) and the toe (left)? Me, either. 🙂

Although the heel and toe look virtually identical, there are a few differences. First of all, I just continued using the original working yarn to knit the toe. Also, the toe was worked on 50% of the stitches, not 60%. It’s knitted on the instep stitches, then grafted to the stitches on the sole. And I left only 14 unworked stitches instead of 16 between the wrapped stitches on the heel.

Yeah, that’s a lot of Kitchener (40 stitches grafted to 40 stitches), but I can Kitchener in my sleep or, in this case, while watching game #2 of the Western Conference final of the Stanley Cup.

Can you pick out where the graft is?

Can you pick out where the graft is?

BTW, the Blackhawks won to take a 2-games-to-none lead over defending champs the L A Kings. Go, Hawks!

Sock # 2 was cast on the moment I finished weaving in the ends on sock #1, but I haven’t gotten beyond the cast-on. I have three other socks clamoring for my attention. I had to work a little on each of them just to shut them up. 🙂

Because It’s The Cup

Round 2 of the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs is nearing its end. The Eastern Conference final pairing is settled; the Pittsburgh Penguins will take on the Boston Bruins. LET’S GO PENS!

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The Pens beat the Ottawa Senators in five games, while the Bruins sent the New York Rangers packing in five games, too.

The Western Conference is a different story. The San Jose Sharks tied their series with the Los Angeles Kings last night at three games apiece, so the seventh and deciding game will be played in L A tomorrow. The other pairing, the Chicago Blackhawks vs the Detroit Red Wings, will play game six tonight, with the Wings leading the series three games to two.

Because it’s The Cup, I have a lot of playoff knitting OTN. In addition to a couple of sweaters, I currently have four different socks on the needles. Hey, variety is the spice of life!

Stanley Cup Playoff sock knitting

Stanley Cup Playoff sock knitting

I hope you are watching the playoffs. It’s the best hockey in the world. LET’S GO PENS!

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Finns To The Left, Finns To The Right

As yinz know, I’m something of a hockey fan. Since my wonderful, thoughtful, amazing DH gave me Center Ice for Valentine’s Day, I have been watching NHL games every evening, usually from 7 pm EST until the last west coast game ends somewhere between midnight and 2 am. I am really enjoying seeing the Western Conference teams. I normally see them only during the Stanley Cup playoffs, so I’m grateful for this opportunity to become more familiar with the players in the West.

Watching so many games, I am gobsmacked by the number of players in the NHL who hail from Finland. Oh, everyone knows Teemu Salanne, who plays for the Anaheim Ducks. He’s a superstar player who has been in the league forever and at 40 shows no sign of slowing down. But are you aware of how many starting netminders are Finns? Miika Kiprusoff of the Flames; Pekka Rinne of the Preds; Tuuka Rask, aka The Romulan, who plays for the Bruins; Antii Niemi, who won a Cup with the Blackhawks and who now plays for the Sharks; Kari Lehtonen of the Stars; Niklas Backstrom of the Wild (not to be confused with the Swede of the same name who plays forward for the Caps). There are brothers Saku and Mikko Koivu, who play for the Ducks and the Wild, respectively, and Olli Jokinen of the Jets and Jussi Jokinen of the Canes, who are not related.  Forwards Valtteri Filppula (Red Wings), Lauri Korpikoski (Coyotes), Antii Miettinen (Jets, who came back from an injury, only to get injured again), and Sean Bergenheim (Panthers), and defensemen Sami Salo (Lightning), Kimmo Timonen (F^%ers), Joni Pitkanen (Canes), and Toni Lydman (Ducks) round things out. And there are a couple of Finnish players who are out for the season because of injuries, like Ville Leino of the Sabres. (Disclaimer: This list is for entertainment purposes only and is not necessarily exhaustive but it is accurate to the best of my knowledge.)

But hockey players are not the only great thing North America has imported from Finland. Finnsheep have also been imported, and from Finnsheep, we get Finn wool. When I first started spinning, I bought a 4-oz braid of Finn wool from The Cloistered Lamb. I wanted to try different breeds of wool, and I had read good things about Finn wool. The fiber rested in my stash for months until last week, when I decided it was time to give it a spin. (Get it? Give it a spin? LOL)

The first thing I noticed about the Finn wool was that it is very soft. It has a nice staple length and a lot of crimp, similar to Corriedale, but there is something that really sets the Finn wool apart from any of the fibers I have spun so far. It has a wonderful luster that continues to show through even after the wool is spun.

When I started spinning the Finn wool on my Ladybug, I learned very quickly that it wanted to be spun thicker than I normally spin. I generally spin singles that are very fine, in the neighborhood of cobweb to laceweight. But the Finn just wouldn’t hold together when I spun it that thin. So I spun the singles a bit thicker–fingering weight–and two-plied the yarn. I ended up with approximately 200 yards of worsted weight yarn, and I think it’s the best yarn I’ve done to date.

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Skein of Finn wool handspun drying on my fancy skein dryer

A very pretty green

A very pretty green

The finished Finnish yarn snuggling up with the label

The finished Finnish yarn snuggling up with the label

I haven’t decided what this yarn will be when it grows up, but I’m thinking a cowl would be nice because the yarn is definitely next-to-the-skin soft.

The Bayside Pullover On A WIP Wednesday

Hockey has been so enjoyable this season. I think part of the reason is that the lockout dragged on for so long that many of us hockey fans feared there wouldn’t be a hockey season at all. And we missed hockey a lot. So we are joyous to have it back.

Another reason is that, because the hockey season is shortened to only 48 games, every game is important, so every team is giving its all in every game. Just last night, two games went to a shoot out. The Bruins were trailing the Rags Rangers 0-3 going into the third period, but Boston came on strong and tied the game, sending it to OT. They ended up losing in the SO, but at least they got a point out of it. Then, later in the evening, the Blackhawks and Ducks went to a shootout. Unfortunately for me, the Blackhawks lost, but at least they got a point. In this shortened season, every point counts. Big.

Of course, while my eyes were busy watching these exciting and entertaining hockey games, my hands were busy knitting. I’ve been working almost exclusively on the Bayside Pullover. It is definitely autopilot knitting and a great project for hockey knitting. I’ve progressed quite rapidly on the sweater, but there have been a few bumps along the way.

Bump Number One

When my 40-cm Aero circular needle became overcrowded with stitches, I wanted to switch to my 60-cm Aero circular needle. But it is AWOL, and I have no idea where it could be. So I grabbed the handiest 3.5mm circular, which happened to be Knit Picks Zephyr acrylic needles that were on exactly the size cable I needed. I had bought one pair of Zephyr tips when they first came out so that I could give them a try, and this was the first time I had used them. I went to work on the sweater, and I was loving the Zephyrs, when this happened.

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Can you see it? If not, here’s a picture that is a little more “in your face.” You can’t miss it.

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Yes, the point of the needle broke off and went flying. Where it landed, nobody knows. Crap. I had to search for yet another needle. I ended up using Knit Picks Options, which are really nice needles, as long as the cable doesn’t decide to do something funky, like separate from the bushing while you are mid-row. So far, the cable is holding up just fine, and I’m doing everything in my power not to anger the knitting gods.

Bump Number Two

The second road bump was a little more serious. I’m knitting this sweater in linen, and the only way to be certain about your gauge is to knit a gauge swatch, then wash and dry it. I did that, and was using the swatch and my rudimentary but adequate math skills to determine how many rounds I would need to knit to get the correct length. The pattern is knitted at a gauge of 9 rows per inch, and my gauge swatch was 8.5 rows per inch.

The yoke is supposed to be knitted to 7.75 inches long from the cast on edge, at which point the sleeve stitches are places on holders and the underarm stitches are cast on. I did the math–simple multiplication–and knitted the yoke until there were 66 rows (8.5 rows per inch times 7.75 inches equal 65.875 rows), then put the sleeve stitches on holders, cast on the underarm stitches, and knitted several rounds of the body.

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The yoke, of course, was not 7.75 inches long from the cast on edge, but the swatch told me it would be, once the sweater was washed. But, damn, it sure looked way too short to me. I just wasn’t trusting the swatch. So I did what any knitter would do when faced with nagging doubts. When I came to the end of the working ball of yarn, I put the stitches on holders and washed my work in progress. When it was dry, I measured and remeasured, and while my stitch gauge jibed with the swatch, my row gauge did not. In fact, my row gauge was 9 stitches per inch. This means that I can simply go by the measurements in the pattern. I don’t have to make any adjustments whatsoever because my gauge, both stitch and row, is spot on.

So I ripped out the five or six rounds I had completed after casting on for the underarm and continued knitting the yoke until it measured 7.75 inches. I cast on the underarm stitches and kept knitting round and round, and now I have nearly reached the body decrease round. If you look closely at the picture, you can see where the washed section ends and the unwashed section begins. The fabric changes a lot when it is washed.

The Bayside Pullover as of February 13, 2013

The Bayside Pullover as of February 13, 2013

This pattern is a lot of fun to knit. I will probably knit it up in wool for myself sometime down the road. And if Em likes her linen version, she, too, might get one in wool.

Check out Tami’s WIP Wednesday to see what other clever folks are up to.

 

A Sweater!

For the past six months or so I’ve been jonesing to knit a sweater. But I already have two drawers full of handknit sweaters, so I need another sweater like a need a hole in my head. But my son does have a lovely GF who adores hand knitted everything, so why not knit a sweater for her?

I started pouring through pattern books and searching on Ravelry to find sweaters that would be contemporary but classic. I went through my stash to find yarn suitable for sweaters. And I thought and thought and thought some more. I have been inspired by Ravelry friends and by knitting podcasters, especially the Knitmore Girls, whose back catalog has been my spinning companion. Through these folks, I found some lovely sweater patterns that are now in my queue, but they are not on my needles. Yet.

But more importantly, due to the recommendations of just about every knitting podcaster in existence, I decided to purchase a knitting book that everyone has been raving about, Coastal Knits.

A must-have book for any sweater knitter

A must-have book for any sweater knitter

Let me state first that I rarely buy knitting books any more. Too many of them contain either poorly-thought-out projects that I would never even consider knitting or trendy stuff. I don’t do trendy. But this book is different. It is filled with patterns, mostly for sweaters, but also some for accessories, that are classic and very knitable. The sweaters come in a large range of sizes and have shaping that makes them feminine. And if you don’t want the entire book (and I cannot imagine why you wouldn’t), you can purchase the patterns individually as PDFs.

When I got the book in my grubby little hands, I was so thrilled with it that I could barely contain my enthusiasm. The next time I saw the GF, I handed the book to her first thing and told her to take her time and go through it and choose any items that she would like me to make her. I allowed for the possibility that there might not be anything in the book she would want, but I knew the odds of that were somewhere between slim and none. And I was right. When I saw her a couple of months later, she said that she loved pretty much everything in the book, but the thing she wanted first was the Bayside Pullover.

Classic, not trendy

Classic, not trendy

Oh, my! She does have good taste. 😀

Next question–what size? That was answered quickly because she had been measured not all that long ago for a bridesmaid dress.

Now comes the most important question. The sweater in the book is knitted in linen–Quince & Company Sparrow–but it can just as easily be knitted in wool or a wool blend. What fiber would she prefer? Her choice was linen. Now, let me state for the record that I knew that linen would present a challenge, but that would just make the project more interesting. And a sweater in linen would definitely be scrumptious.

The next step was choosing and ordering yarn. I certainly don’t have sweater-quantities of linen yarn in my stash, just some leftover bits of Eurosport Linen that I knitted up into facecloths many years ago. I went to the Quince & Company web site and discovered to my delight that their linen yarn, Sparrow, is very well priced and comes in some lovely colors. I sent a link to the GF and asked her to choose the color she would like. She sent me three and asked me to choose, so I picked Nannyberry, a lovely dusky rose color.

Bayside Pullover and Sparrow–a lovely combination

Bayside Pullover and Sparrow–a lovely combination

I placed my order, which was quickly filled, and when the yarn arrived, I was totally blown away by how beautiful it is. I couldn’t wait to knit it up. So I hand-wound a skein into a ball and started swatching. And here’s where the challenge of knitting a sweater in linen lies.

For a lot of knitters, swatching is a dirty word, but when knitting a garment where size matters, it is essential. The swatch must be knitted, then laundered in the same way as the finished item will be laundered. Then the stitches and rows can be measured to determine the gauge. This is a step that should not be left out if you want the garment to be the size you intend. And this is especially true for a fiber like linen. No matter what size needles I used for knitting the swatch, the unwashed gauge was 5 stitches per inch. The pattern calls for 6 stitches per inch. I couldn’t possibly know the gauge until after the swatch was washed and dried. After knitting and washing several swatches, I finally found the needle size that gave me 6 stitches per inch. We are a go!

I was ever so eager to cast on, but something happened that made me put the sweater on hold for a little while longer. The NHLPA and the NHL reached an agreement and the hockey season was about to begin. I needed to have lots of mindless hockey knitting OTN, so I got busy casting on socks. The sweater would have to wait its turn.

Finally, last Saturday, after the Penguins had demolished the Devils at the CEC, I finally cast on the Bayside Pullover. This pattern is a very simple one, a top-down raglan embellished with a simple 6-stitch cable, but the casting on takes some concentration and stitch counting. Once I got the pattern established, this sweater became mindless knitting that I can work on while watching hockey, so the knitting should go quickly. I hope to have the sweater finished in a few weeks so the it can be worn this spring.

Side and back view. I obscured some of the text to protect the copyright.

Side and back view. I obscured some of the text to protect the copyright.

I've got three inches knitted so far.

I’ve got three inches knitted so far.

I’m very happy with both the pattern and the yarn. I just hope that when the dust settles, the sweater fits the wearer and lives up to her expectations.

 

Another Week Of Hockey And Knitting

This year, I received the best Valentine’s Day present ever. The DH gave me Center Ice. Hockey seven days a week, games on the East Coast, games on the West Coast, games in the Canadian hinterlands (I’m talking about you, Winnipeg!). Games in the desert. Games in the mountains. Even games in the subtropics. It’s glorious!

Screen Shot 2013-02-04 at 1.32.06 PMThe other night, the Chicago Blackhawks played in Vancouver, British Columbia. For a couple of years now at Canucks home games, there has been a little boy seated behind the Canucks bench always wearing a Canucks sweater and ear protectors. This is the only picture I could find of the boy, and it doesn’t show him at his best. He is very well behaved and attentive to the game most of the time. But in this picture, I think he is expressing his disappointment after his team lost to the Kings in the playoffs last year. Anyway, whenever I watch a game that is being played in Rogers Center in Vancouver, I always look for this boy. When I spotted him in his usual place behind the Canucks bench during the game with the Blackhawks, I could hardly believe my eyes. Was I seeing things? No, I wasn’t. The little boy was wearing a Blackhawks sweater. His taste in hockey teams appears to be improving as he grows up. 😉

That’s just one of the many joys of watching a lot of hockey. The other is that watching hockey means knitting. And that brings us to the reason for this blog entry. Another week of hockey knitting has brought forth this:

Last week in hockey knitting

Last week in hockey knitting

From right to left, She Loves You Skyp sock # 1 is finished and sock # 2 is well under way. I put the gusset decreases on the sole of the foot on either side of the two center heel stitches. I’ll share the results in another post.

Very little progress has been made on the Sporty Spice Socks, but that’s mostly because I tried two different rib patterns for the instep and didn’t like either. After much knitting, ripping, knitting, and ripping again, I decided to just knit the foot in plain stocking stitch and save the ribbing for the leg. With this sock, it was two steps forward, one step back.

The 3 x 2 Rib Socks are coming along nicely. The foot of sock # 1 is done, the heel is turned, and the leg has been started.

Last but not least is the Bayside Pullover from Coastal Knits, which I finally cast on Saturday. It isn’t far enough along to be able to show you any detail yet, but I will be telling you all about it as I knit it. The sweater will probably be the featured project on WIP Wednesday.

That’s it for today. Happy knitting and happy hockey. Unless you are a F^%ers fan. Then I wish you happy knitting, but unhappy hockey. 😉

Hockey Socks

Or, more accurately, hockey knitting socks. I’ve been watching a lot of hockey since last I wrote, and a few movies on my favorite television channel, Turner Classic Movies, where the beautiful and elegant Loretta Young is the featured star of the month. I thought you might like to see my progress.

Clockwise from the left, Reversible Rib Socks sock #2, 3 x 2 Rib Socks sock #1, Say You Love Me Skyp Socks sock #1, Spicy Sport Socks sock #1

Clockwise from the left, Reversible Ribs Socks sock #2, 3 x 2 Ribbed Socks sock #1, Say You Love Me Skyp Socks sock #1, Spicy Sport Socks sock #1

You may be saying to yourself, Why in the name of Elizabeth Zimmermann does Pinko Knitter have four different socks OTN at the same time? Why doesn’t she finish one sock before she begins another?

If you just asked yourself that question, here’s my answer. Each of those socks is hockey knitting. Hockey knitting needs to be mindless knitting because hockey is a fast-paced sport that requires one’s viewing attention. So I need knitting that doesn’t take a lot of concentration or constant visual attention. In other words, I need knitting that I don’t have to think about or constantly look at while I’m doing it.

Each of these socks is in a pattern that occupies a different point on the mindless knitting spectrum.  The Spicy Sport Sock, for example, is as mindless as it gets because it is simply knit every round, and being on two circular needles, I don’t even have to fish around under the chair cushion for the needle I just dropped. If I drop a needle, it just hangs there. 😀

The 3 x 2 Ribbed Socks are just a plain knit 3, purl 2 pattern that requires the knitter only to remember to knit 3 before purling 2. That’s a little more thought than plain knit or knit 2, purl 2, but once you get going, you get a rhythm established and it’s pretty mindless.

The Reversible Ribs socks are just 2 x 2 ribbing that is offset every other round. One round is (k2, p2) across, then the next, you k1, p2,  then (k2, p2) across to the end and finish with k 1. When I am about to start a round, I have to take a peak to see whether I’m on a round that starts with k2 or a round that starts with k1, but otherwise, the pattern is mindless.

The Say You Love Me Skyp Socks pattern takes a little more attention than any of the other patterns I’m knitting, but it is still pretty mindless. I worked on this sock yesterday as I was watching the Penguins beat the Senators in a shoot-out, 2-1. It was an outstanding hockey game. Both teams played well, both goalies were excellent, and the pace of play was extremely fast. The hockey didn’t interfere with the knitting, and the knitting didn’t interfere with the hockey. Every other round of this pattern requires me to peak at my knitting when working the skyp stitch, but the stitch is simple to work and quickly becomes automatic. If it weren’t for having to pass a slipped stitch over, I wouldn’t even have to look at my knitting.

Okay, Pink Knitter, you might be saying to yourself. I get the whole mindless knitting thing. But why do you need 4 different mindless knitting socks. Wouldn’t one sock suffice?

The answer to that question is a resounding, NO! One sock is not enough. And for a very simple reason. Socks have beginnings and ends. They have toes and heels and gusset stitches to pick up. As long as I’m knitting a leg or a foot, everything is hokey spokey. But what happens when I come to the part of the sock where the heel begins, or the toe? Heels and toes need attention. Patterns must be centered, stitches must be counted and shifted, heel flaps and heel turns must be knitted, gusset stitches picked up  or, alternately, a short-row heel must be knitted.  And heels and toes take more attention, both mental and visual, than the leg and foot.

So when I’m knitting along and suddenly it’s time to start the heel, if I’m in the middle of a game, I can just set the sock aside and pick up another one and keep on knitting. Then I can work on the heel (or toe) during intermission or after the game. (I’m not a fan of so-called Afterthought Heels, aka peasant heels, which would allow me to just keep knitting round and round until I reached the toe or the cuff, depending on whether I’m knitting the sock cuff-down or toe-up so that is simply not an option.)

Okay, you caught me. I lied just now, at least a little. Although it is true that heels and toes take more mental and visual attention than legs and feet, I am perfectly capable of doing heels and toes while watching hockey. I knitted at least 6 pairs of socks during the 2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs, so I have had lots and lots of practice. If I’m honest with myself, I have to admit that the real reason I currently have four different socks OTN is that I just like having a lot of projects going at once. I like to be able to choose what I want to work on, and if I have several projects going, I don’t get bored working on the same thing all the time. I’m just not cut out to be a monogamous knitter. I admire knitters who work on only one project at a time, who never start the next project before finishing the previous project. But I could never be like that. The lure of casting on a new project is a Siren song I cannot resist. I don’t even try any more.