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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The Spider Queen Part 2

Last night I watched the Devils demoralize the Rangers in the third round of the Stanley Cup playoffs by scoring a goal late in the 3rd period to win 4-3. The Devils had jumped out to a 3-0 lead, scoring 3 goals in the first period, but the Rangers came back in the second period with 2 goals and tied the game early in the 3rd period. But the Rangers are not a high-scoring hockey team and rarely score more than 3 goals in a game. And, sure enough, in front of their home fans, they were unable to score a 4th goal.

For those of you who aren’t hockey fans–Why isn’t everyone a hockey fan? It’s the most elegant sport in the world, and, folks, the players are wearing ice skates! Come on!–the Rangers are based in NYC and play in MSG (Madison Square Garden), the most famous sports venue in the world, and the Devils are based in Newark, NJ. Both teams have won The Cup before–the Rangers are one of the original six NHL teams–and they both play in the same division (along with my beloved Pittsburgh Penguins, so I hate both teams). Both teams have players I like as well as players I don’t like, but I find that I am cheering for the Devils. I’m shocked by this. The Devils are notorious for playing the most boring hockey in all the world. They try to score the first goal, then put everyone, including the opposing players, to sleep with the trap. Ugh! But the Devils have a new coach, Peter DeBoer, and he has totally changed the Devils style of play. They are more physical and more offensively minded. Dare I say it? The Devils are actually playing offense!

But that’s not why I find myself cheering for a hated rival of the Pens. No, I’m not cheering for the Devils because they are playing a more exciting brand of hockey; I’m cheering for them because I love their goaltender, 40-year-old Martin Brodeur. It’s hard not to like Brodeur. Although he’s an old guy (for a professional hockey player), he is still one of the best net-minders in the NHL. I just can’t help but pull for him and his team.

The series now stands at Devils 3 games, Rangers 2 games, with game 6 to be played in Newark on Friday. Can the Devils win the Eastern Division championship and the coveted Prince of Wales Cup at home? Stay tuned.

Of course, during last night’s game, which was, by the way, quite exciting, I worked on The Spider Queen. She’s coming along at a rapid pace.

Spider Queen

The Spider Queen progress 5-23-12

The J & S cobweb yarn is wound on a large cardboard core, and unwinding the yarn is a bit of a PITA. I decided that a Lazy Kate would make the unwinding easier,

A Lazy Kate

but I don’t have a Lazy Kate. So I improvised. I stuck a knitting needle through one side of a box, put the needle through the “spool” of yarn,” and stuck the knitting needle through the other side of the box. Voilà!  A Lazy Kate!

My improvised Lazy Kate

 

The Spider Queen Part 1

Many years ago, I bought a kit for Hazel Carter’s The Cat’s Day Shawl from Blackberry Ridge.  Like many of Carter’s designs, this shawl tells a story, the story of the a day in the life of a Shetland cat. The lace patterns used in the shawl all represent elements of the story. A Cat’s Day was the first Shetland-type shawl I ever made, and much to my surprise, it was not at all difficult.

The Cat’s Day Shawl

The yarn is a nice heavy-laceweight wool-silk blend that feels good against the skin and that wears very nicely. I’ve used the shawl a lot, mostly as a coverlet. It is lightweight and  perfect to use when napping in air conditioning or for layering with other covers when it is cold.

I love this shawl so much that I bought several other Hazel Carter kits from Blackberry Ridge, including The Spider Queen Shawl, which I think is dramatic-looking.

The Spider Queen Shawl by Hazel Carter

The Spider Queen kit includes Blackberry Ridge’s Thistledown yarn, a cobweb-weight single. The kit marinated in my stash for a long time because I thought it would be difficult to knit. You see, the lace patterns used for the shawl are the type that have pattern stitches every row. A lot of lace patterns alternate a pattern row with a row that is plain knit (or purl), and I have little difficulty with this type of lace knitting. But the few times I have attempted patterns that include pattern stitches on every row, I have given up in despair. My Melanie Shawl has sat untouched for years because I found the going incredibly slow due to the difficulty I had getting the pattern correct. So I guess it’s understandable that it has taken me a long time to work up the courage to tackle The Spider Queen.

But the lace patterns aren’t the only difficulty I had with starting The Spider Queen. Another reason I avoided The Spider Queen was because the borders are knitted individually, then sewn up. The seams look awful in the picture on the pattern, and I know that mine would probably look much, much worse, being that I really hate sewing up knitted pieces. I have to come up with a way to knit the borders without having those ugly, ugly, ugly seams.

But in spite of these obstacles, I had an overwhelming desire to knit The Spider Queen, so I took the plunge. The kit includes Blackberry Ridge’s Thistledown yarn, a cobweb-weight single. I cast on in Thistledown and started knitting away. I got this far before I stopped.

Thistledown is a yarn with great variation in its thickness (or thinness, depending on how you look at it), and I was not pleased with how the thick sections looked.

The Spider Queen in Thistledown. The fuzzy thick sections of the yarn ruin the appearance of the pattern.

There was no way I was going to put so much work into this shawl using this yarn. I wasn’t about to end up with bunch of fuzzy places ruining the ethereal appearance of my shawl. So I decided to order some Jamieson & Smith cobweb in natural and start over. The Thistledown will be used for some other project somewhere down the road.

When the J & S arrived, I realized it was even finer than the Thistledown, so when I cast on The Spider Queen for the second time, I went down a needle size. The J & S cobweb is also a single that has variation in its thickness, but the variation is considerably less than the Thistledown. In comparison to Thistledown, the J & S is nearly uniform in thickness, and it knits up beautifully without the difference in thickness being noticeable.

The Spider Queen in Jamieson & Smith’s cobweb. No fuzzy thick spots.

I’ve knitted one-and-a-half repeats of the center pattern so far, and I’m amazed at how quickly it has gone. Even though nearly every row includes pattern stitches, the pattern is easy to follow and the knitting is easy to read. I’ve had no difficulty whatsoever.

The Spider Queen 1.5 repeats of center

The Spider Queen dry stretched.

I have even been working on this shawl while watching the Stanley Cup Playoffs. It’s my lucky knitting, bringing good fortune to the Los Angeles Kings, who beat the Phoenix Coyotes last night to win the Western Conference championship, the Campbell Cup, and the right to face the Eastern Conference champion (either the Devils or the Rangers) in the Stanley Cup finals. Go, Kings!

No More Tears?

After bitching to high heaven last week about how boring scarves are to knit, and how bored I was with the Blue Teardrops Scarf, the knitting deities restored my beaded lace scarf mojo, and I have been knitting away most happily on Blue Teardrops while watching the Stanley Cup playoffs. I have made so much progress on the scarf that I have only one repeat left to do before doing the happy dance.

Blue Teardrops Scarf

Blue Teardrops Scarf nearing completion

 

I have to add that  I did the happy dance when the New Jersey Devils, having opened a big can of whoop-ass following their loss to the F%^ers in the first game of round 2, won 4 straight games to knock the detestable and detested F%^ers out of the hunt for The Cup. Oh, and they did it in Philly, which was the icing on the cake. Bye-bye, F%^ers! Don’t let the door knob…

A Finished Object

Last time, I talked about knitting acronyms and elaborated on some of my UFOs (UnFinished Objects). But today, I’m going to do the happy dance and share an FO (Finished Object) with you. I’m not certain whether this really qualifies as a finished object because it is just a single sock, and I have another one to complete before the project is finished. But, hey, a finished sock deserves a happy dance, so I’m counting it as an FO.

I’m making this pair of socks for my DH, and knitting socks for the DH requires some extra planning. First off, I have to make sure I have enough yarn. A 100-gram ball of sock yarn is sufficient to knit a pair of socks for my 10-inch-long puppies with a little to spare. I can count on 50 grams of yarn per foot to be more than enough to complete a pair of socks for me. But when I knit socks for the DH, I need at least 55 grams per foot because I have to cast on more stitches, knit a longer cuff, knit a bigger heel, and knit a longer foot. This means that I cannot knit a pair of socks for my better half from my stash on a whim. I have to purchase yarn specifically for him. Oh, darn! I have to purchase yarn! 😀

The current man-sock project, a pair of garter rib socks in a lovely Knit Picks Stroll Tonal in the Kindling colorway, is a little more than half-way finished. Sock #1 was finally completed last night, but not without a battle. The first time I finished the sock, I had the DH try it on before finishing off the toe, just to make sure it would fit. Alas, the sock was about an inch too long. No big deal, really. Just rip back and reknit the toe. Toes don’t take long to knit. I can easily complete a toe during a hockey game.

So, I ripped out the toe and ripped the foot of the sock back about an inch. The next night I reknit the toe while watching hockey. Being a cautious knitter, having learned some lessons the hard way, I once again had the DH try on the sock before finishing it off. I was certain it would be a perfect fit. I couldn’t have been more wrong. The darned thing was still too long. So, once again, I ripped out the toe, ripped back some more of the foot, and set the sock aside for the next night’s hockey viewing.

So, last night, while I watched the New Jersey Devils deliciously destroy the hated Philadelphia F%^ers in the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs, I once again knitted the toe. And once again I had the DH try the sock on before finishing it off. Happy, happy! Joy, joy! to quote Ren and Stimpy. Like Cinderella and the glass slipper after the ball, the sock fit! I gathered up the live stitches, fastened them off, wove in the ends, and voilà!

Garter Rib Sock #1 finished

Take that, sock! You think you can defeat Pinko Knitter? Why, projects far more difficult than you have tried to get the better of me and cried “Uncle!” in defeat. There’s no project the great Pinko Knitter can’t handle. Except EZ’s Adult Surprise Jacket. But that’s a battle that isn’t worth fighting.

I’m happy with the way this colorway knitted up. Although there is a little spiraling when worked over 80 stitches, it isn’t unattractive. And the yarn is very soft and cushy. The important thing is that the DH loves it, so sock #2 is already OTN (On The Needles).

Scarves Are Boring!

I don’t knit a lot of scarves. I know that scarves are popular; I know a lot of knitters enjoy making them; I know most women, and a lot of men, enjoy wearing them. But I don’t knit many scarves because they bore me to tears. You have to knit the same thing over and over and over and over and… well you get the idea.

I realize that one can say the same thing about most knitted items, but knitting even a plain stocking stitch sweater includes shaping, necklines, cuffs, and such. The knitter can set goals, knit to landmarks. Even the never-ending sleeves include shaping that keeps you on your toes. Hats are such quick projects that they simply don’t last long enough to become boring. They are finished in the blink of an eye. Ditto for mittens. Even plain stocking stitch socks hold one’s interest because there are heels to turn, toes to make, cuffs to rib.

But scarves? There’s no shaping; just a lot of knitting and turning. Even when a scarf includes an interesting lace pattern, even when beads are added, or color work is used, or a ribbed section is made to go around the neck, scarves nearly always bore me. I reach a point on a scarf where I am just sick to death of it because it’s so freaking tedious. Scarves often take a lot of time to knit, and in the end, all you have to show for your work is, well, a scarf.

But regardless of the tedium, I chose of my own volition, without any coercion whatsoever, to knit a couple of scarves for Comfort Scarves-Southwestern Pennsylvania. When knitting for charity, it is usually best to use yarn that is machine washable, and that means using acrylic or cotton, both of which I hate knitting with because they are so ungiving, or using superwash wool, which is slick and slimy when wet (and sometimes the item grows a lot when it is wet) and which I avoid  like the plague, with the exception of sock yarn. (The addition of nylon seems to counteract the tendency of superwash wool to stretch and to minimize the slime factor.)

For the Comfort Scarves scarves, I decided to use some old Lion Brand Jiffy, a fuzzy acrylic yarn, that I have had in my stash for at least 15 years, and some cotton sock yarn from my stash that would never, ever under any circumstances become socks.

I knew the Jiffy, being a bulky-weight yarn, would knit up quickly, especially since I was limiting the length of the scarf to 65 inches.

Pink Lacy Rib Scarf

And I knew the sock yarn would knit up quickly because I was using a dropped-stitch pattern.

Dropped Stitch Beaded Scarf

It was imperative that the scarves be quick knits. Otherwise, I would have totally lost interest and never completed them. LOL

I’m pleased with the results, but I cannot say that I really enjoyed knitting either one of these scarves. However, they were both mindless knitting, which is just what I needed while watching my beloved Penguins lose in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. Grrrrr.

A little digression here. Acrylic is, as I said, an ungiving yarn. One of the advantages of acrylic is that it keeps its shape. It doesn’t stretch out in the wearing or in the washing. But that can also be a disadvantage. With wool, you can change the size and shape of a garment when it is wet, and the wool will dry to that size and shape and retain that size and shape until the next time it is washed. With acrylic, even if you stretch it out when it is wet and keep it stretched until it dries, once you release it, the item will go back to its original shape. If you want to change the shape of a garment knitted in acrylic, you have to set the shape with heat, a process commonly know among knitters as “killing” the acrylic. “Killing” is permanent, and it changes the drape and feel of the yarn. It is also risky because too much heat will melt the acrylic, which is a plastic, and make it feel like Easter basket grass. But when you knit lace with acrylic yarn and you want the lace to open up, “killing” may be necessary, and it has the added advantage of making the item very limp–at least this is an advantage if the item is a lace scarf that you want to drape softly.

You can see the difference in the lace pattern before and after “killing.”

Pink Lacy Rib Scarf before "killling"

Pink Lacy Rib Scarf after "killing"

(The first picture is pretty true to the actual color of the scarf.)

End of digression.

If you use the right yarn (bulky) or the right pattern (dropped stitch), and make the scarf short (but not versatile), knitting a scarf can be quick and tolerable. But knitting a scarf in a beaded lace pattern in lace-weight yarn to a length that will make the scarf a versatile garment is never quick. And the scarf usually becomes a total drag for me before it is even half-way done.

Once time I did knit a lace scarf that I enjoyed knitting start to finish–Fuzzy Pink Elegance Scarf. But that scarf is the exception that proves the rule. Even when knitting a really interesting and well-designed pattern like Jackie E-S’s Beaded Lace Scarf, I got bored before I was half-way through and now I have to employ Premack’s Principle, which can be summed up as “business before pleasure.” I force myself to complete one pattern repeat before I can work on knitting that is more interesting, fun, and pleasurable. And I have to finish the scarf before I can start any new project except socks or a hat. I keep working on the scarf because the pattern is gorgeous, and I know I will love the finished object. But I’m no longer lovin’ the knitting. Sigh.

For reasons I cannot explain, I rarely get bored with lace shawls, even when the edging, whether knitted first or last, seems to take forever. Maybe the reason is that lace shawls almost always change shape. You see them grow or shrink, you change from knitting a center to knitting a border, you work an edging. Even rectangular shawls can be interesting. The lace pattern is always changing, and it’s fun to watch each pattern develop, take shape, become recognizable. I have a pattern for a lace scarf that uses a variety of lace patterns, and I keep telling myself that it would be really interesting to knit. But I know I’m deluding myself. It is a scarf, and it will start out great, but by the half-way point, it will be b-o-r-i-n-g. But it is a lovely scarf, so I know that one day, against my better judgment, I will cast on with great enthusiasm, only to find myself falling back on Mr. Premack and his Principle. But I won’t be knitting any more scarves for a good long while because as soon as I finish Blue Teardrops, I’m going to treat myself to knitting a lace shawl, The Spider Queen.