Saturday, March 28, 2015

Texas Two-Step

After finishing my pillow, I found myself this week in a bit of a lull between projects. For the next pillow, I had the yarn but not the pattern. It's coming, but I'm at the mercy of the Interlibrary Loan system. For a runner I'd like to make, I have the pattern but haven't settled on the yarn. So I decided to fall back on my favorite thing to knit. Socks. I'm not a big yarn hoarder, but I always try to have some sock yarn around.

I decided to return to one of my Charlene Schurch books, More Sensational Knitted Socks for inspiration. There are several stranded patterns in this book that I haven't tried. And with good reason. They take twice the yarn and are thus twice as warm as normal handknit socks. Not exactly necessary in Texas. But some of the patterns intrigued me, and I had just purchased two skeins of yarn that would work well together.

The pattern is called Moorish Stripe. I like the little one-stitch lice pattern interspersed with the geometric stripes. On the foot, a much jazzier stripe that is a variation ofthe one on the cuff runs around the sole and instep -- pictures to follow when I get there. The tan color contrasts pretty well with the dark navy, but I think the effect might pop more if the contrast color were a variegated or semi-solid yarn. This is looking a little flat to me. I still like it, but if I do more of these stranded patterns I'll try to remember that.

I bought this yarn last week while I was on spring break. I met my childhood piano teacher and longtime friend Leah for lunch in La Grange. Non-Texans probably know La Grange from its most infamous business, but it's a great Texas small town with lots of little cafes and shops. One of its big draws is The Quilted Skein, just a block off the Fayette County courthouse square. It's right next to the Texas Quilt Museum, which unfortunately, was closed.

The Quilted Skein, which is dedicated almost equally between yarn and quilt fabrics, is one of the most beautiful yarn shops I've ever visited. Everything is new shiny wood, and the ceilings go up forever. The selection is really wide, with lots of yarns I'd never heard of. The back of the shop has large windows that overlook an intimate garden space. The staff were very friendly, too. I didn't get to meet the owner, Stephen, when I was there, but hope to get to on future trips. Because there will be many more trips down there, I'm sure.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Spring Break Squared

Turns out my college's spring break framed my latest knitting project from start to finish. I cast on just hours after getting home a week ago Friday, and finished sewing up the seams this morning. I'd been wanting to make some cabled pillows to match our duvet cover and had bought yarn in colors I liked in January. Then I got side tracked making toys and socks. But as spring break loomed I found a pattern with cables I liked -- the Christmas Cables Pillow.

The only thing that read "Christmas" about this was the red color, but I had to change a bit more than my mindset to make this work. I had already bought some pillow forms, and didn't have one in the 16" square size that the pattern was designed for. I "knew" I had a 12" one, so I swatched carefully with the needles and yarn I wanted to use and reduced the number of horseshoe cabled from 6 to 4 to get close to a 12"x12" square pillow and set to work.

It's really an easy pattern to memorize. The edges have a cable motif that crosses stitches on every right-side row, and the larger horseshoe cables only cross every eight rows. The whole thing is made in one long piece and then folded over the pillow form and seamed on three sides.

I worked along until it was a little over halfway done and then grabbed the pillow form to see how things were looking. The form that I'd had in mind (and now had in hand) was for a 14"x14" pillow. Sigh. For a while I played with the idea of just stretching the hell out of it during blocking, but figured it would just look too stretched and strained. The cables would have been distorted beyond recognition. So I bought a new 12"x12" form. And, looking on the bright side, I now have an additional pillow size to experiment with. Not exactly a win-win situation, but close.

The new pillow turned out fine, with just the right amount of stretch across the form. The edges of the pattern have built-in knit column runways perfect for mattress-stitch seams. And I was able to line up the cast-on and bind-off edge stitches so that they flow into each other on the final edge seam -- it doesn't look that different from the opposite, folded-over edge. I only had one cable snafu, but it wasn't too difficult to rip back and get on the needles, even without a lifeline. The looser-than-usual gauge helped with that.

So now, I get to troll around for some new pillow patterns on Ravelry. I have a 16" circular form (yes, I just double-checked the size!), so I think I'll tackle that next.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Two by Fours

I started some new socks in late January, and just finished them last weekend. But I haven't gotten around to writing anything about them until today.

I knit these on size 2.25 (US 1) dpns. I go back and forth between using dpns and a long circular needle for magic loop sock knitting. Right now, I'm in a distinctly double-pointed mood. Sadly, I seem to have lost one of my favorite green Signature Needle Arts size 1s, so I may have to go back. I'm sure it will show up somewhere. I imagine it's lurking in a cushion or pillow, waiting to impale me at some opportune moment. I just discovered that you can replace these singly if necessary. I think I'll put that off since I still have the bare minimum of four, but it's nice to know it's possible to get single needle replacements. I love these sharp pointy things so much.

I didn't really follow a pattern, but used my standard personal sock recipe. I did a German twisted cast-on of 72 stitches and knit in a K4, P2 pattern to the heel. I executed an eye-of-partridge heel across half the stitches until I had 18 slipped stitches on each side of the heel. I actually ended up picking up 20 on the edges after turning the heel on the first sock, so I made sure I did the same on the second. Then it was just reducing the gusset back to a circumference of 72 stitches and knitting on down, with the 2x4 pattern continuing across the instep and stockinette across the sole. The toe was pretty standard, ending with 8 stitches left to be grafted.

The yarn was Trekking XXL, which I've used before. It's nigh on indestructible. And I can get nice man-sized socks out of one ball. I could have even made them a bit longer. I had close to 7 grams left over from100 when finished. This yarn was a gift from someone in Jeff's dance class! She used to have a yarn shop, and had some yarn to give away, so Jeff brought this home for me. How nice is that? Thank you, Karen! I'm really going to enjoy these.

Spring has finally sprung around here. My college is on Spring Break this week, and some of my time-off plans involve a yarn shop not far from my hometown. More on that soon, I hope.