Sunday, September 28, 2008

Must Stash

I had a busy weekend.

First, take a look at this humongous ball of yarn that recently found it's way into my stash. It has four siblings that haven't been wound yet. This is Cascade Ecological Wool, Color 8063. It's destined to be a blanket that I'm concocting as a Christmas present. I've already been ragged on multiple fronts for the color (or lack of it), so feel free to pile on. I'm immune. My winder is to small to hold this amount and thickness yarn. They have one at The Knitting Nest that could handle it. But no, I was in a rush and though I'd do it at home. Not wanting to make Jeff perform his husbandly duty of holding the hank, I just wound it myself, and, of course, got a huge snarl in it that I eventually had to cut out. When will I learn?

On Friday, I got an email from Staci saying that there was a new colorway of Lorna's Laces sock yarn at The Knitting Nest that I was going to flip over. She was right. I hadn't been there five minutes Saturday morning before I bought a couple of hanks. I really like this color. Lots of darkness and that startling ice blue. Very nice.

I took my Aunt June with me Saturday morning. I mentioned her before when she had gifted me a bunch of my great-grandmother's crochet and knitting tools. She was in town for the Austin Area Quilt Guild 2008 Quilt Show (which was awesome, by the way). It was great for her to meet my friends. We talked knitting and quilting and laughed a whole lot. Great fun. Aunt June totally gets the urge to create with fabric and fibers (she's no slouch herself) and is nothing but supportive of me and my attempts at knitting. Love you, Aunt June!

Saturday evening, I started a pair of socks with my new yarn -- I felt like I needed something on the needles besides the Piano Cushion. So I started these. Then I ripped them out and started again this morning. I'm using the same toe-up beginning that I used on the Back to Basics Socks that I just finished. Then I'm thinking of doing a standard short row heel and then the slipped stitch rib for the cuff from Charlene Schurch's Sensational Knitted Socks. I did vary the increases on the toe by using Cat Bordhi's method of paired increases described in this video* -- thanks, Janelle, for the suggestion. I like the way it looks.

I completely thought through the plan on these socks, which will probably come back to bite me. But for now, I'm having fun.

I've got some goodies coming in the mail. Hopefully I'll be able to post about them soon.

*(Cat Bordhi doesn't say this on the video, but she clearly knits into the back of the stitch that she grabs for the left-leaning decrease. I think it looks better this way.)

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Holding Needles

Sometimes I record strange little films on Turner Classic Films to have on while knitting. A description calls to me and I give it a shot. Such was the case with "The Ghost Train," a British film from 1941.

Imagine my glee when I saw that one of the characters was knitting! She seemed to be working on an amorphous blob. She was knitting rather rapidly, I might add -- although something seemed strange. It was the way she held her right needle like a pen rather than like a knife. I knew people knitted this way, but I'd never seen it.

I dug through my copy of A History of Hand Knitting by Richard Rutt and found this on page 17:
By the beginning of Queen Victoria's reign (and perhaps for a while before) English ladies, as distinct from working knitters, had abandoned the older way of holding knitting needles. Instead of holding the right-hand needle under the palm of the right hand they began to hold it like a pen, grasping the point between the thumb and index finger and allowing the shaft to lie over the thumb joint. Before long, working class knitters, especially in southern England, began to emulate the new fashion, which is inefficient and limits the speed of knitting, but is to this day the commonest way of knitting in England.
Do you or anyone you know knit this way? I thought it looked quite elegant, but on reflection realized I would be terrible at it. The character in the clip, Miss Bourne, was played by Kathleen Harrison. I don't know if there is any correlation between longevity and the way one holds knitting needles, but Kathleen Harrison lived to the ripe old age of 103.

On my own personal knitting front, I'm kind of in project limbo right now. I'm still plugging away on the piano bench. I recently purchased some books that should show up soon, and I've also got some yarn together for a blanket project for the in-laws. But nothing to show right now. Hence the detour into film and knitting history.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Blue Wales

I finished the Back to Basics socks yesterday afternoon.

These were a delight to knit -- doing things differently, learning some new skills, getting good ideas from fellow knitters -- it's what it's all about, right? Definitely give this free pattern a shot if you're looking to shake up your sock knitting.

I'm still working on the Piano Cushion. An earlier post might have given the impression that I was fed up with and abandoning this project -- my apologies. I hauled it out to show to my sister. She oohed and awed appreciatively (sisters are awesome!), and help re-spark my interest in this She also hinted that she might be interested in learning a bit about the craft herself. I've never tried to teach anyone else about knitting. Little skills here and there, but nothing from the get-go. I knit strangely, so I'm a bit nervous about the whole idea. Still, I'm glad she's interested.

Other projects are in the works. I've got some Cascade Eco Wool on it's way to delivery at The Knitting Nest that I'll need to go snag soon (UPS scaled back it's delivery in our area late last week in anticipation of Ike) for Elizabeth Zimmerman's Garter Stitch Blanket, inspired by Jared's awesome example. I'm not double-stranding mine -- I don't want to cause anyone heat stroke.

And, I'm looking at making a Cobra sweater from Son of Stitch 'n Bitch. I'm reading on Ravelry that the pattern seriously underestimates the amount of yarn needed, so I'm going to continue to mull it over.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Strange Shape

I'd forgotten that I had already posted a picture of the Back to Basics Socks showing their unusual structure. But this morning I went to the trouble of hosing down the patio furniture so that I could take another picture without getting the sock and yarn all grubby, so you're just going to have to put up with it. Once I've got a plan, I've got to follow through.

This picture shows the sock right before the heel turn. The main tube of the sock is 60 stitches in circumferences. Through a series of increases (some on the sole, most across the instep), it is now at 96 stitches around, 40 across the sole and 56 across the instep. It's at this point that all the short-row magic takes place.

Just wanted to document this while it still looked like a knitted parfait glass.

Knit Nerd Note: Notice that in the v-shaped area at the top where the ribbing has started taking shape. See how there are little holes on the left and how it doesn't look like the right? If you're having trouble seeing this, try this enlarged version. The increases happen along those stitches, and they are done by executing a kfb in the first and last stitch of the "v" section. When you do kfb, the first stitch looks like a knit stitch and the second has a bit of a purl bump. So on the right, the knit stitch is up against other knit stitches on the edge, whereas on the left, the purl bump is up against knit stitches on the edge, creating more of a contrast. I wonder if there is some sort of increase that could have been done to minimize this difference?

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Back to Basics

On Labor Day, I realized I didn't really want to labor over the Piano Cushion any more, so I decided to start a pair of socks. Sometimes you just need a pair of socks going, you know?

So I plowed through books and the web, looking for something different. My dear friend and fellow librarian Janelle recently started a knitting blog, TT820. In an early post, she described knitting some socks from Cat Bordhi's new book. This entry talks about Sidestream Socks, which I'm thinking might be constructed similarly to the ones I'm tackling right now.

These are the Back to Basics socks from the Fall 2007 issue of Knitty. I've knitted my fair share of toe-up socks, and I enjoy them. I like that you don't really need much of a pattern to make them. But the part I always hated was the crochet cast-on. This pair starts with the Magic Cast-On. I love it. It's so easy, and so tidy. In the spirit of being aware of different learning styles, here's a video of Cat Bordhi demonstrating this method, complete with funny voices. Try it -- you'll like it.

The gussets go off in funny directions (in fact, I'm not entirely sure where they are. As you near the heel, suddenly there are way more stitches than you would think would be necessary, but then some short row action kicks in and the heel is turned (the ribbing extends down the heel, which is neat), and everything is drawn in with a slipped-stitch line running down the sides. It's weird and lovely.

I've tried them on and so far they fit perfectly -- I was afraid they'd be too small. If you're tired of standard sock construction, try this pattern to shake things up a bit. Note to self: get that Cat Bordhi book.