Sunday, December 30, 2007

Square One

"Why, Steven," you might say. "Weren't you a lot further along on that British Checks Sweater when I last checked?"

Oh yes, I was. In fact, while knitting at the in-laws last week, I got all the way through the 9 and a half pattern repeats that took me to the point where I was to start knitting flat to form the armholes. Just to see if I was on track, I slipped it over Jeff's head when we got home to see how things were shaping up. The shape we were getting was a very slutty-looking tube top.

I knitted a gauge swatch and everything. Some point after that, my knitting must have gotten much tighter, because instead of a 24-inch wide piece, I had a 20-inch wide piece. Why I didn't check this earlier is beyond me.

So with Jeff's help, I bravely unraveled the whole thing yesterday afternoon and started over, this time using the recommended needle sizes. Ouch! Things seem a bit more drapey, although I'm still getting the flare around the bottom. Again, I can only put my faith in the miracle of blocking on that front. I'm discouraged, but I plopped down some bucks for this yarn and I want it to look nice. Jeff, patient as he is, deserves it. On the upside, I have the pattern very well-memorized at this point.

Also, while up in north Texs, I finished the Mocha Mint Latte Socks (as reported via cell phone previously), and started another pair. This is the Gentleman's Sock in Lozenge Pattern from Nancy Bush's Knitting Vintage Socks. I've made several pair from this book, including these and these and I've been quite happy with them. I first saw these when Kristin was working on a pair at the knitting meetup. At first I didn't think that this dark brown tweed sock yarn would work well with the pattern. It's subtle, but I think it's working. I'm modifying the pattern a bit. The original pattern makes very long socks and calls for 500-something yards of yarn. Since I have 425 yards, I left out a 9-row section in the top of the sock, and I plan to make the foot an inch or so shorter. The pattern is for a size 11-12 foot, and I wear a size 10, so I'm hoping things will work out. For all the good my planning does, hope ought to work as well.

Doesn't it look like a pineapple right now?

Monday, December 24, 2007

Newly Minted

I can get so much knitting done when I'm visiting the in-laws. I sent this picture from my cell phone, so it may not be the best quality.

I'm really pleased with how these turned out. Very minty. I had about two feet of yarn left over -- a little too close for comfort, but all's well that weaves in well.

Now back to the sweater. Oh, and I brought a Nancy Bush book and some extra yarn on this trip, too. My feet will be warm while visions of sugarplums dance in my head.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Around the World in 100 Posts

It's my 100th blog post. Who'd have thought? Not a whole lot of writing as the blogging world goes, but enough that people in some pretty faraway places stumble across my musings.

How do I know this? A few weeks ago, I signed up for a free account with a web tracking service called StatCounter. Mostly, I wanted to see how many hits I was getting. I know that most blog readers are like me -- lurkers. We read, gather information, get ideas, and move on. So I wanted to find out a little more about what kind of traffic I was getting. I was just looking for a counter, but this service is pretty cool. It shows places that hits came from, the actual search that someone used to find your pages.

My favorite so far was from some anxious soul in London who typed into Google "How do you know if you have got crabs?" and was pointed to this post which pops up at number 6 in the search! Someone else also found this search by typing "What is Kosher yarn?" Come to my blog for all your questions about STDs and religious dietary laws!

Another cool feature is that you can get a map of the places your hits came from. I'm all about maps. When I'm trying to decide if I'll enjoy reading a book or not, discovering that it has a map in the front (or a genealogy chart) will often make the deal. If it's got both, look out. If you're a fan of maps too, check out this blog -- it's always worth it. Pictured here is a map of locations from which I've received hits in the last few weeks. Who knew?

I've been holing up at home, watching the last bit of the landscaping transformation happening in my yard, and catching up on the knitting. I realized with some concern the other day that I had tightened up gauge-wise on the sweater at some point. I'm back on track, but I'm afraid the middle of the sweater might get a little hour-glassy. I'm going to put my trust in the miracle of blocking on this one. Not too far off, but I'm going to need to watch myself. I've completed 6 of the 16-row pattern repeats. I've got 3 more before I divide for the front and back and start the adventure called stranded flat knitting.

Also, the Mocha Mint Latte socks are coming along. I finished the first one and per tradition, weighed the sock and the remaining yarn to make sure I'd have enough. The sock weighed 2.3 oz and the remaining yarn weighed 2.4. Yay! But when I pulled off enough yarn to get the same part in the striping pattern so the socks would match, I had 2.3. That's cutting it close. I kept the part I pulled off since it has some of the latte color that might well end up being used to finish the toe.

Since it's dry today, I'm going to try and make some divinity. I haven't made any in a couple of years. My grandmother and great-grandmother always made fudge and divinity this time of year and it just makes Christmas seem more like Christmas to me when it's around.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

How do I come up with blog post titles when Andy Williams isn't crooning away in the background? It's a cold, sunny, gusty day here -- just perfect.

One of the great perks of working in higher education is the time off during holidays. As of today, I'm on winter break. I don't know what I would do if I didn't have this time to catch up on last-minute shopping, getting out Christmas cards, holiday baking -- and, of course, knitting. I've come to depend on it.

Today was my Saturday morning meetup at a south Austin coffee shop. I didn't want to take the sweater. Even though it would probably hide coffee stains pretty well, it's rather unwieldy, what with the two balls of yarns going at once. I described this to my sister yesterday as Double-Dutch Knitting. Too much movement, and not enough lap/table space. So I got back to the Mocha Mint Latte sock.

I was proud of myself for knitting not only most of the heel flap, bu actually turning the heel while at the meetup -- and all without a, book. I couldn't remember if the knit side used K2 or SSK, but once Abbe got me on track (SSK), it took no time. Thanks, Abbe. I was little concerned about how the striping would play out around the heel, but I was pleased with the results. The light brown (latte) part is just wide enough that it covered most of the heel. The next mocha/mint section pooled around the heel turn. A big chunk of the gusset was made of the next latte section, and even though the next mocha/mint part will be slightly thinner than the rest of the stripes on the sock, I think it looks great. This stuff is a pleasure to knit with.

Still working on Jeff's British Checks Sweater. I'm getting the hang of knitting in two colors at once with two hands, but I'm not sure if the tension is very consistent. When I hold it at different angles, different colors seem to be emphasized, and it seems to me that the little diamond/cross patterns are getting smaller as I go up the body of the sweater. But no disasters so far. The pattern is pretty easy to memorize, so for right now it's just slogging along. I'm not looking forward to the part where I split the front and back and work the pattern flat. I've only ever done stranded knitting in the round (and not much at that), so I'm nervous about stranded purling. We'll see.

Hope everyone is joining this lovely time of year. Maybe it's a southerner's misguided romanticism about any weather below 80°F, but I just love winter . I hope you're enjoying yours -- even if it doesn't start officially for a few days yet.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

British Checks and Minty Stripes

I finally got started on Jeff's sweater last weekend. The yarn AND the needles had all arrived. I swatched madly most of Saturday. I had to go down a needle size, which contradicts my belief that I knit too tightly. But I got the gauge spot-on. I actually knitted a little mini-version of the sweater through a pattern repeat. I'm going to be glad I did, because this sweater is going to be a bear to un-do if circumstances call for it (i.e., I screw up). It's a little weird, because right now everything is bunched up on the circular needle and it's going to be a while before I'll be able to reconfirm that I'm getting the right number of stitches per inch.

In the meantime, I'm having fun. I'm slowly getting the hang of knitting with both hands for the stranded part. And I'm finally getting what is meant by one yarn traveling beneath the other. I couldn't get it before, but somehow a light bulb went off. It's very important to decide which color will travel above and which one will travel below -- and then not to switch them. The lower color (in this case, the lighter one) will "pop" more than the other. I did the opposite in the swatch, and I can really tell a difference. In this picture, I wanted the lighter color to be emphasized, so it's carried below the darker. This post at nonaKnits has an excellent photo that shows what a difference yarn dominance can make. I don't pretend to have a firm grasp of the physics involved here, but I believe it occurs because the stitches from the yarn carried below have tendency to be slightly larger than the stitches from the yarn carried above. If I think about it, I'll try and get a picture from the back of the sweater to illustrate.

This yarn is a dream to knit with. Very soft and easy on the hands. It has little fly-away strands that pop up every now and then. It kind of makes the fabric look likes it's covered in cat hair. Jeff said he doesn't mind, as long as it isn't actual cat hair. Achoo.

I also cast on for some socks late last week. As mentioned, I ditched the navy socks I was working on. This new pair is made from Sknitches Syncopation self-striping sock yarn. The color? Mocha Mint Latte, which is a combination that sounds great at first, but kind of makes me queasy after a while. The latte, not the yarn. I really like the wide stripes and I really really like that while the latte part is quite solid, the mocha and mint parts are semi-solid, color-wise. Great stitch definition. Like all self-striping yarn in a cuff-down pattern, weird things will happen around the heel, but overall I'm pleased.

I worked like crazy on these for two days, but since the sweater came in to my life, I haven't touched them.