Friday, July 22, 2016

Identical Twin Socks, with Afterthought

Normally, I don't mind it if my socks don't match exactly. After all, my sock drawer is full of these, and I wasn't overly disappointed by this little anomaly, because, who cares, they're socks. They are either hiding inside my shoes or worn only in the house as I shuffle around through the dog hair. Worrying about making my socks match each other slows me down. I don't have all minute!

This time, however, I decided to care. The striping action of that yarn (Regia Stripemania Color, #6365, gifted to me by Hilde the Yarn Fairy) was so wonderful that I did not want to disrupt it, and I knew that making matching socks would be pretty easy as a result of it. I would spend a few minutes and make myself care about matching socks.

We spent many hours in the car last weekend, and I knit on road trips to keep myself from going bananas, so these came with me. All the way down the leg of the first sock, lost in reverie about the pretty striping, I idly wondered what to do when I got to the heel. My usual sock pattern has a flap/gusset style construction, but that would have thrown a wrench into the striping, making big, wide segments of color on the flap and then much narrower stripes around the foot at the gusset. If I did that, the two socks would still match each other, but I had begun to CARE now. I started to want these socks to be the best socks ever. I wanted to keep the stripes regular, as the dyer at Regia intended them. I thought about solving it by working a short-row heel, but I couldn't really remember how to do it. I wondered if I could fake a short-row heel, tricking the sock into believing I knew what I was doing. Would it magically work? Maybe if I just went ahead and started wrapping and turning, my brain would cough up the long-ago learned and forgotten short-row heel info? I had a glimpse of the future--myself, unraveling two completed socks past the failed, wretched, unmatching and wonky short row-heels. I was almost resigned to wrecking the stripes by flapping and gusseting, and then saw the future of that, too--unraveling. I was about to put the project away and steel myself for ten hours of sitting still and doing nothing (horrors) when I remembered about the Afterthought Heel. Yes!

This was the best idea I had all week. No more stitch counting or row counting or looking down to make sure my slipped stitches were slipping, or whether it was a decrease row, or, well, anything really, except the wonderful, free, forward-motion lightness of stockinette stitch, round and round and round. I just knit a whole long whopper of a tube, estimating length and measuring nothing whatsoever, and then I knit another just like it. Oh stockinette stitch in the round, I love you so much. Later, at home, I finished the toe caps, and then, having two long tube socks [don't stop there, it's tempting, I know, but tube socks are not comfy] I went in with the scissors and needles and polished them off. Scissors! What??? Here, watch me.

First, you have to figure out where the afterthought heel is going to go. Measure your foot from toe tips to the beginning of your heel--not the back of your foot, but the front of the heel. Better yet, make a footprint and measure that, or trace your foot and draw a line where your heel print would start. Or put the sock on the floor and stand on it, noticing where the front of your heel lands. There's no need to be all perfect about this, because knitting is stretchy, but get an idea. You can find a good tutorial for sorting all this out here.

Once you know where to put the heel, take up a knitting needle and poke it into the stitches, half the total stitches, all in one row. My sock had rounds of 56 stitches, so I picked up 28. The stripes made this easy. I just scooped up the right leg of each stitch, all the way to the other side of the sock.

Then, you take your pointy scissors and snip just one stitch from the row below. Just a little snip, one stitch. This is not quite as nerve-shattering as cutting open a steek, but it still deserves a deep breath. Once you've snipped, start carefully pulling out the new yarn end to reveal live stitches. They probably aren't in a big hurry to unravel, but they will if you give them a reason, so do this carefully. Get a needle in there and pick them up as you go if you're worried about it. Pull out the same number of stitches as you picked up in the row above--28 for me--and get them on the needles.

You'll now have two lengths of yarn at each end of the new opening, and all the live stitches safely on the needles. Whew!
From here, you simply knit yourself another toe, exactly like the toe you've already made for your toes. I know it sounds too good to be true, and I thought the same thing, but listen. For some reason, your heel and your toe will both fit into the same shaped thing. Amazing. I am so in love with all those knitters who went before, who ventured forth into a new way of thinking about these things, and who figured this out. Grandknitters, I thank you all so very much. It may be that this is the unique brainchild of the great Elizabeth Zimmerman, or maybe it was independently discovered by lots of knitters who, faced with deliciously striping yarn or else maybe just a plain need to simply knit a tube and worry about heels later, all came up with the same brilliant solution. In any case, it is brilliant.

Knit a tube. Deal with heels later. Stripes preserved. Perfect, identical twin socks. Oh, bliss.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Sonoma Stole, finished

 

You guys, I can't even. Fringe! Stripes! All The Colors! I love this stole so much.

It was tremendously absorbing to work on, it used up (well, almost) a bunch of leftovers--I had a big pile of KnitPicks Palette leftover from my failed Milano--and, as you can see, it provided a lot of opportunity for color play, which, apart from long stretches of plain stockinette stitch and also The Monkees, is my favorite thing in the world.

This is the Sonoma Stole, designed by Carol Sunday, a ribbed, biasing, crescent-shaped wrap with the fringe built in as you go, which means that even with all those color changes, there are no ends to weave in. I know, right? That pattern, in the beginning, is a pretty good-sized brain teaser; you've got to keep a lot of different things straight all at once, but hoo! Worth it. I love all that fringe-y, stripey, wooly goodness. And I got the hang of it pretty quickly, and once that happened, I hardly worked on anything else.

Also, if there's something in my closet that it won't match, I don't know what it is.

 

Knitting as art again. I'm so interested in that right now. It's hot here today, though, too hot for a scarf, and here's hoping it stays that way. I'm happy to tuck this away for a good long time.

 

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Hand-winding, and further lessons in gauge

 

I've been knitting socks, here and there, loving--again--the plain, orderliness of the simple rounds of stockinette. I made these last week, and then, when they were finished, I laid them together, in a pair, as I always do. That moment of satisfaction, ahhh, a pair of socks...and then I noticed something. Do you notice it, too?

They are not the same size as each other. At all. This is Gauge In Action, people. These two socks were knit from identical balls of yarn (Patons Kroy, colorway "Cadet") on the same pair of needles, using the same number of stitches, and the same number of rows, within the span of a few days. Still, the second sock is smaller, in all directions. Just when I think I have a thing pretty well figured out, whammo. A pair of socks will still do this to me. Part of me wants to blame the news--like everyone, the terrible events of last week left me feeling anxious and sad, something that can certainly affect your gauge. Like many who love handwork, I knit for solace in times of distress, and sometimes, you can see it in the result.

Things to know about me: I do not like to wind yarn. I have been known, and I'm not even exaggerating, to choose a project fully based on which yarn is already wound. I love it when yarn comes in a ball, and while skeins of yarn are pretty, I always dread them a little bit. All the winding, ugh. My swift and ball-winder, gifted to me years ago by my lovely Doc, are wonderful tools and are in great working order, but I hate getting them out of the cupboard, strapping them to the one table where they will fit, hunkering over them and getting a backache (the table is short) and making all that racket--I'd rather be knitting! Thus, mostly inspired by YouTube videos of people doing this, (here's one, oooh, her accent is so lovely) I have been attempting to hand-wind center-pull balls, with--since I as yet have no nostepinne--my thumb. [Side note to Doc: Please make me a nostepinne?] I keep getting that bit of blurf at the top, and it looks pretty raggedy, but ha! The yarn pulls from the center, and it can be done while sitting on the porch, which right now is my criteria for whether I will do anything. Can I do it while sitting on the porch? Yes? Then I will do it. Otherwise, it'll have to wait until fall.

Malabrigo Worsted, in colorway "Grinch"--er, I mean, "Lettuce". Believe it or not, I'm making this into a sweater.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Stripes

Not to harp on about the weather, but July is winning this year so far. Friends, it is so hot here, and so humid, and the grass is so brown and dead, and I just could not be happier. I know I'm all alone in this, but I LOVE the heat. Bring it. Tropical weather makes my bones feel good. Nobody else I know agrees with me about this, and they all try to convince me about how pretty snow is. What a load. Nope, I love summer. Anyway.

As I try to decide which sweater to make next--so many choices!--I am meanwhile knitting this stole, designed by Carol Sunday, and it is consumingly interesting. I am enamored. I have been very uncharacteristically monogamous with this stole. These yarns are all leftover from my failed, felted, and cut-up-to-make-a-hat sorta Milano, and what is it about stripes anyway, but hoo! It's so much fun, I can't stop. It is already halfway finished, which, since this is knit with fingering weight yarn and tiny needles, is crazy, but there you go. Which color comes next? Is it too early to add the mustard again? Ah, I love that dirty olive green. I can't wait to see what happens. It's the best kind of project.

Thank you all for your wonderfully helpful suggestions about the tunic-over-leggings conundrum. I am in search now of some lovely linen, and am envisioning a lot of hand-dyeing in the summer sunshine. Linen tunics in every color, coming up.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Esme, an almost perfect fit

 

I want to make dresses. I have a lot of dresses already, and I have a pretty good pattern of my own all drawn and tested and demonstrated to work well and fit me, but there are always more patterns out there, sewn and worn by you all with so much style, and I guess I just can't help it.

This is the Esme tunic from Lotta Jansdotter's beautiful and inspiring book Everyday Style. Dang, it (mostly) fits me. Probably I will need to move the darts and lengthen it a little bit (uh oh, sewing modifications! Not my jam. Making it my jam, though, because I really want to figure it out) and then this just might be it, my uniform. I see everyone wearing these loose tunics with so much aplomb, over tights or leggings or jeans, with boots or flats or whatever, a statement scarf, and I just wanna. It looks so comfortable, so easy. Felicia from The Craft Sessions is considering using this pattern to sew her own wedding dress which is the highest recommendation I can imagine.

How do you keep the fabric from clinging to the layer underneath, though? That mystery will have to be unraveled before I can venture too deeply into this look, because I don't feel like worrying that the back of my dress is all bunched up every time I get out of a chair. It must be possible; you're all wearing these tunics, everyone out there is wearing these tunics. Tell me.

I realized recently that (way) past age forty, my lifelong fast food and candy-based diet wasn't doing me any favors, so I swapped it out for fruits and vegetables, and doing that has changed the shape of me considerably. I have had to get rid of a lot of clothes, and have a good reason to make lots of new ones. Only now I honestly don't know where to put the darts in things, or even what size to make, really. Oh, life is for learning things. More of these dresses to come, and probably lots of other things, too.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Alpaca for a summer day

 

Apparently, while I was away having an open mouthed love affair, complete with happy sobbing, with San Francisco, summer came and went here in my neighborhood. It was hotter than a mummy's tomb for about a day and a half, and that was it, and now it's chilly again. Hi, New York! I'm trying so hard to love you! Don't make it such a project! Which means I can wear this alpaca sweater I thought I was folding neatly and tucking away for some time maybe in October.

This is Friday Anew by Ankestrike, knitted in Berocco Ultra Alpaca Light, in the beautifully named colorway "Moonshadow"--there's your ear worm for the day, Cat Stevens fans--I can't even tell you what a pleasure it was to have that lovely soft yarn in my lap and on my needles, and now on my goosebumply body, too, in this freezing and fall-like summer we're having. It's the best sort of cozy sweatshirt I ever had. This pattern starts at the neck hole and makes you use your brain really hard for the first few inches, but then the sleeves and body are plain and soothing and go on forever, which is great fun for me. So much more to come from me with this designer.

It's got a few simple details, and a really excellent fit. Perfect. But I don't want to wear this anymore right now! Come on, summer, let's get it together.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

San Francisco casts a spell on me

 

This is the sort of thing that gets me all misty-eyed. Just look at that bridge, will you? With that pink sunset going all ombré in the distance? San Francisco, oh my goodness, I loved you so much.

At home now, my ordinary coffee tastes so, I don't know, bland and disappointing? We sat in the back corner of this cafe in North Beach and my cappuccino brimmed thick with foam. The tiny spoon, the mosaic tables, the reek of art and culture and rich conversation. I swooned.
We walked until our calves bulged with misery, and then we walked some more, climbing hill after hill. I simply could not stay indoors; there was magic around every corner. I think Doc would have enjoyed a rest now and then, but I walked us half to death, and he'll thank me for it when he's recovered. Me: "You can sit down when you're dead!" Him: "So, soon then?" He bribed me with coffee and tiramisu, which totally worked.
There is the famous fog, creeping in over the Bay Bridge at the Port of San Francisco. I really could have stood there and watched that happen for hours. I might have.

A penny bracelet, purchased in a pop-up market and hand-stamped--while I waited--with the word "Peace", which is what I want more than anything for this beautiful little world.

I could not have loved that city more. I traveled with a journal, inspired by the always wonderful loritimesfive, who I narrowly missed having a chance to meet and say hello; we were two passing ships coming and going to and from San Francisco on the same day--I have such a lot of lovely memories to write about and to draw and doodle, leaves and feathers and other natural treasures fallen and foraged from the ground to press and identify, and now I have to go figure out how to enjoy ordinary coffee, what with having seen the promised land and all.