Thursday, April 30, 2009

In which I almost give away Branden's socks.

I was sitting on the bus this morning, finishing up the STR socks for Branden. I've been getting a lot of attention with the bus knitting lately. Pull out the knitting, and within 10 minutes someone will be talking to me. I'm up to at least 4 people this week, in the 3 days I've actually taken the bus. (It doesn't help that I am one of those people that everyone just wants to talk to anyway...)

This morning, I got on the bus, pulled out the sock, and within moments noticed someone watching me. A few seconds later, he asked very softly "are you knitting a pair of socks?" I replied in the affirmative, and he smiled a little, and then said "My gramma used to make me socks. They were the best socks in the world. I still have a few of them, but I don't wear them anymore, because I'm afraid they'll wear out." And then he talked about how he was from the country, and how people used to make things for themselves, and how that's so rare nowadays. He was definitely choked up about it, and I had a very strong urge to give him the socks and make Branden another pair. There was so much heartfelt appreciation in those few sentences, and more than a little homesickness. I didn't manage to finish the socks before my stop, but I kind of wish that I had. Instead, we parted ways with a "have a good day," and that was it.

I'm used to getting talked to on the bus. I'm not used to making grown men tear up and get homesick. I hope he finds someone to make him a new pair of socks. It's a lucky knitter that has such a grateful recipient.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Swatching Laces

After passing in the thesis, I decided that I really needed to reclaim some of my evenings and weekends if I wanted to remain sane for the rest of the quarter. I worked very hard last week to avoid the urge to keep working all night (and all weekend), which meant that I suddenly have some time to myself again. Which means knitting.

The only problem is that the project on the needles is my handspun sweater, and the heavy yarn hurts my hands after just a few rounds. So, I needed a new project.

I asked myself what I wanted to work on, and my brain immediately cried "lace!" I laughed and said that I didn't think it was really smart to think about designing lace with so much going on right now. So, what else is there? And the little voice popped up again: "Lace!"

After a few exchanges, it became obvious that I wasn't winning this battle, especially since there was a new yarn also pushing for lace. So, I picked a simple pattern (only two rows), and started swatching.

(Warning: excessive swatching details to're welcome to skip to the final swatch shot at the bottom if you like!)

First, I knit it as written (Stripe with twist bars, BW #2 p 260). It's a garter stitch lace with a single stitch rib separating the columns. (Right side is on the left, wrong side on the right, backwards as that sounds...)

I actually think I might like the wrong side better...

Then, I tried a three-stitch rib, which I liked a lot better.

Working both ribs and lace with a garter basis made it all turn to mush.

Then, I tried a stockinette lace to match the stockinette ribs:

I'm not sure that you'll be able to see it, but the bottom 4 repeats use a k3tog, and the top three repeats use a centered double decrease. It gives it a slightly different texture, but the left-leaning diagonal bars were a little too heavy for my liking, so I stuck with the k3tog. (It's more obvious in person. Even Branden says so.)

I really like the scalloped edge that the pattern creates, and the firm vertical lines of the ribbing:

I think I'm going to make a lace shell out of this, and so I wanted some internal shaping to help with the garment fit. The join between a one-stitch rib and a three-stitch rib was a little more obvious than I'd like for garment shaping:

So I tried a two- to three-stitch transition instead:

This one is much less jarring, and the decrease makes the perfect ratio for the hip-to-waist transition. Here's the swatch after blocking:

You can see the difference in width really well here; over three pattern repeats it's almost the equivalent of adding a full repeat to the width of the piece (which is what I did at the top of the swatch).

And with that, I'm off into a new project. It's actually quite a simple piece (or at least it looks simple on paper), so I'm hoping that it will be a good distraction from other things. So far, I'm finding it really helpful in keeping me from jumping back to work every 10 minutes (yes, my workaholic tendencies are showing). It's a very simple lace pattern - I think I had it memorized before finishing the second repeat - so it's a good transition project. Yay for new knitting!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

A few for the stash

It makes absolutely no sense to go out and buy more yarn when I have barely picked up my needles in months. None at all. But where's the fun in making sense all the time?

One of my favorite yarn stores had its birthday sale last weekend. Things were 40% off. Need I say more?

I couldn't believe that their Cashsoft was on sale. I love this stuff. I've only knit one stole with it because it's more expensive than I tend to buy for this weight of yarn. But, at 40% off, it was a really good buy. I couldn't resist, despite the fact that the one garment I have in this yarn also happens to be in this color (well, the darker of the two). But it's a great color. I'm not sure how far this will go; I'm always surprised at how fast these little skeins run out, so I got a couple of skeins of the lighter color to match. Not sure yet what it wants to become. For now, it's just waiting for something special.

This next yarn is the real reason that I went to the sale. I saw this Malabrigo a few weeks ago when we were in the store last, and I fell in love with it. I am not a gold/yellow person at all (love it in flowers, not so much on me), and so I resisted the urge to buy it when I first saw it. And then it haunted me. For weeks. This is a bad picture; it doesn't show you all the colors of red and green and purple that come out as red melts gradually into gold. It's not often that I continue to think about a yarn for weeks after saying "no." And, since I knew it would be on sale, I thought I'd get enough for a small project. Again, no idea what this will become. I'm just breaking all the rules this time.

And then there's this. I don't know where it came from, really. It leapt off the wall and into my basket. I have no idea why this particular yarn wanted to come home so badly, but it did. So I let it.

It also had something very specific that it wanted to become. We're working on that. Swatches soon (I hope).

Monday, April 20, 2009

Feeling uprooted

As I'm starting to finish up, we're also starting to think more seriously about our next move. This has been somewhat accelerated by an unexpected offer from Branden's job, which may mean that we're moving in June rather than August (yipes!).

When we moved in to this apartment, we promised that we'd put the lawn back before we left, and so my garden needed to go (can you imagine someone wanting grass over an herb garden? Insanity, I tell you...)

All of our raised beds now look like this:

The herbs were the only plants I'd carried through the winter, and I potted them all a couple of weeks ago (hence the rash, which is now, thankfully, gone).

I am always amazed that you can stick a shovel in the dirt, pull a plant up by its roots, stick it in a pot, and have it survive. Thrive, even. There might be a lesson there...

Yesterday, my garden moved to a new home. I was thrilled to have someone take it, but a little sad to let it go, too. Pulling up the garden is definitely a sign that we're getting ready to pull up our own roots and move on. Lots of big changes coming all of a sudden!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

The beginning of the end, part II

Think back to some seemingly endless project that you've knit. Maybe a blanket in garter stitch. Or some fiddly lace that just wasn't all that fun. There's this period in the middle of the project when there is just no progress; you work and work, and you just can't tell that the piece is getting any bigger.

And then, all of a sudden, you're at the end. A few repeats left, and you're done. All of a sudden, it doesn't matter that there are still 5000 stitches to go, because you know you've conquered it, and the rest is all downhill.


That, ladies and gentlemen, is 5 years of my work and 200 years of literature condensed into 250 pages, and I just put the period on the last sentence.

There's a ton of editing left to do, but it most of the changes should be pretty minor. A figure here, a footnote there, some more references and labels. But the writing is pretty much done. It needs one more proofing before it goes to my committee on Monday, but I think I'm going to take the rest of the afternoon off.

Have a good Saturday!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

We have a sock

And I have a new favorite sock yarn.

The fabric is a little bit thick for a sock, but it is really nice. We'll have to wait for the second sock to find out if Branden will get purple feet out of the deal.

I'm not sure if it was the needles, or the yarn, but this is one of the first socks I've knit where I wasn't itching to be done by the end. I think that's a good sign.

And, speaking of itching, I think I owe the Alpaca Sox an apology. My feet were itchy last weekend when I wore the socks, and I assumed that it was the fiber. By the middle of this week I had a rash all over both of my arms and most of my legs. I have no idea why...maybe this is my body's latest fun thing to do to punish me for too much stress? Maybe some new and evil plant has arrived in my back yard and got me when I was outside last Sunday? Dunno. In any case, the itchy appears to have had nothing to do with the socks, and everything to do with my skin. In a strange kind of way, I think I'm glad.

Maybe next week we'll have two socks. Wouldn't that be exciting? (Thesis draft #3 is almost out the door, after which I'm hoping that we can return to something like interesting blogging...)

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Knitting with no time

What do you do when you have no time to knit? Put some sock yarn and needles in your purse and see what happens.

(I find that this is very similar to what happens when I put a project I'm dreading next to my chair with no others in reach; you get amazing progress in very little time, just for lack of anything else to do.)

I began these socks right after Christmas, and have knit them entirely in waiting rooms in the past 3 months (excepting the last two inches of ribbing, which I did at home). All those doctor appointments have to be good for something, right? (Nothing dangerously wrong...just trying to fix some chronic back problems.)

The yarn is Alpaca Sox, and I'm not sure what I think about it. It's soft and warm, but it's very fuzzy, and a little bit itchy. I can't believe I just typed that. Me, who loves "hard" wools, saying that something is itchy. But they are. Just a little bit. Takes a while to stop noticing that they itch when I put them on. I was surprised, because the yarn feels so soft to my hands. Maybe my skin is just dry. I'm also expecting the alpaca to be a little more fragile than wool, so these socks will be getting the easy treatment (don't know exactly what that means, but I promise I'll be nice to them.)

I am also not sure that I'm a fan of the color patterning. Or lack thereof, to be more accurate. The one on the right has reasonably nice stripes, but there's a lot of pooling in these socks. Pooling doesn't particularly bother me, but it's also not the most attractive look out there. I'd like my socks to look good when I'm done, not just ok. I've been thinking that I might be ready to give up on handpainted yarns for socks. I like my socks to be plain stockinette, and I don't want to have to use two balls or crazy stitch patterns to get a nice-looking sock. If I can't get good color patterning out of handpaints, then maybe I just need to knit socks with plain yarns.

And then, I started a new pair:

This is a skein of Blue Moon Fiber Arts Socks that Rock that I picked up at Madrona. When I took Cat Bordhi's class, I asked what her favorite sock yarn was. I've tried a few, but hadn't found the perfect one, and I was curious about what her thoughts were. She said that this is the yarn she'd pick if she needed to choose just one.

I can see why. This is the medium weight, which I think is actually really heavy, but it has great bounce, and it makes a beautiful fabric. It feels like it will wear well, and these will definitely be cushy on the feet. And, there's no pooling at all, which is great. I absolutely love the colors that BMFA sells, so I'm very happy to have an excuse to buy more. The only downside? The dye is leaking on my hands! I'm hoping that a good wash and a little synthrapol will fix that, but we'll have to see. If it doesn't, Branden may just end up with purple feet when he wears these socks. I've had really good experiences with the BMFA yarns before, so I think the leakage is just a fluke.

Note that the sock is on Knit Picks wooden needles; Branden bought me a gift certificate for the Knit Picks store a while ago, and I finally ordered some needles! The box came on Monday, I think, and I like them a lot. I'm not a fan of bamboo or other clingy needles, but these are beautifully smooth, and also nice and sharp. I'm not sure if it's the yarn or the needles, but I'm making very good progress on this sock, and I'm not feeling as impatient as I usually do with sock knitting. I bought a full set of sock-sized dpns, which I'm sure I'll be using quite a bit. Also in the box were a set of blocking wires, a skein winder, and one harmony cable needle to try out (I'm hoping for lace as soon as the thesis is done!).

So, there's my week in knitting. How was yours?