Thursday, June 19, 2008

First socks...

I know I just posted about my first pair of completed socks, but this is the first pair of socks I ever started... way back in the Winter of 2007. I mentioned them when I made a list of unfinished objects in January (the other socks were on that list too). In an attempt to tie up loose ends, I'm currently on a "finish-all-my-old-WIPs" kick.

I wanted to knit socks, but I was intimidated by DPNs. Too many needles, too short, too pointy... Instead, I found a pattern on the KnitPicks website. It's a pattern for toe-up socks on two circular needles. It calls for knitting both socks at the same time, but I opted to only knit one at a time. Since I had no idea what I was doing, the first sock was far from perfect... First, it's definitely too wide. The pattern says to increase until you get the right width, but I overshot it a bit. Plus, I think socks are supposed to have a touch of negative ease. Second, the afterthought heel included in the pattern didn't fit my heel well at all. It was a spiral heel, and my heel is not that round... Finally, I didn't use the right bind off, and it was not stretchy at all. Which meant the sock was hard to put on and take off. I started the second sock at the time (i.e. Winter before last, or maybe Spring...), but stopped at the top of the foot. I can't remember why I stopped. I probably had other projects to work on. But I do remember that I wondered if and how I could ever fix those problems...

I picked up the second sock last week and finished it over the weekend. I used a yarn-over bind off, very stretchy... I used a different afterthought heel. It's triangular and fits my heel much better. I also made the leg longer.

I unraveled the bind off on the first sock, lengthened the leg and bound off using the yarn-over method. I frogged the heel and replaced it with the triangular afterthought heel. They're still a little too wide, but I don't think I could have fixed that easily... still, they're very comfy!

Pattern: Two at Once, Toe-Up Socks, by Kelley Petkun. Replaced the afterthought heel with the one described in Sandy Cushman's Up-Down Spiral Sox, in Interweave Knits Favorite Socks.
Yarn: Colinette Jitterbug, in Blue Parrot. About 0.85 skein or 270 yards (320 yd/110g)
Needles: 2 US 3/3.25mm circular needles (24")
Started: Winter 2007
Finished: June 16, 2008

Ta-daa! A pair of handknit socks!
Funny how fast a pair of socks are done when you start with one and a half socks...

Thursday, June 12, 2008

110 dropped stitches... no problem!

Pattern: Phiaro Scarf (on Ravelry), by Katie Himmelberg, from Knitscene Winter 2007/Spring 2008
Yarn: Southwest Trading Company Bamboo, in colorway 134/Azul. Approx. 1.4 skeins (or 350 yards)
Needles: US 7/4.5 mm
Started: Late April 2008
Finished: Cast off on May 25, 2008. Completed finishing (weaving in ends and braiding fringe) on June 3, 2008.

In April, I decided to knit Emily a scarf for her birthday. I knew she had been eyeing this scarf in the new Knitscene magazine. I picked some Bamboo yarn from the stash, in a colorway I knew she would approve (it has teal in it) and set forth.

This pattern is a wonder of design. It's a scarf, but it's knit in the round in stockinette stitch, so it's pretty mindless knitting. (The cast-on edge is slightly tighter than the cast off edge, but it isn’t really obvious once the scarf is wrapped around your neck. I’m not sure how this could be avoided or fixed.)

The magic comes during the finishing: when casting off, you cast off a block of stitches, then drop the next block of stitches, etc, until you get close to the end and then drop 30 (yes, 30!) stitches in a row. After reading about other people's experience with this pattern on Ravelry forums, I knit through the back loop the stitches immediately before and after the stitches to be dropped (like suggested in the pattern for the Clapotis). This is meant to minimize pulling on the edge stitches.

Once you unravel the dropped stitches all the way down, you now have a big circular band, that just grew to more than twice it's original length and looks like a big mess!

To get the fringe you cut the strands from the 30 dropped stitches right down the middle, and then proceed to braid the bazillion ends you just created... Blocking is essential, or at least getting the scarf damp enough to get the kinks out of the strands of dropped stitches. I didn’t actually pin it down, I just draped it over the back of a chair. It dried really quickly, because it's so airy.

I cast off on May 25, after knitting to a width of about 15 inches (I measured at the time, but now I forget the exact measurement). It’s a pretty airy scarf, so I think this width works. I then spent 3 evenings braiding the fringe… The finishing for this scarf is pretty intensive, with a lot of ends to weave in on the cast off edge and all the braiding to do. But it’s a pretty easy knit (if a bit repetitive) and the end result looks really cool.

Gave it to Emily last night, who promptly wound it around her neck and didn’t take it off all night! I think that counts as a great success!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Seattle in June-uary

Seven inches of snow fell on I-90 at Snoqualmie Pass last night. Seriously.

Yesterday, while waiting for the bus dressed in a long-sleeved t-shirt, a sweater, a weatherproof jacket, and a scarf, I really wished I was wearing gloves. The warmest it got was a record breaking low of 55F/13C (and it got as cold as 45F/7C).

"Seattle just experienced the coldest first week of June, according to climate records dating to 1891", according to the Seattle Times.
Yes, 1891.

Well, at least I'm glad to know that this weather isn't normal.

Can't wait for Friday: if the forecast is right, it will be a balmy 73F/23C!

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Where Art meets Craft

It's been over a year in the making, but I just finished my first pair of socks!

Pattern: Stephanie Pearl-McPhee's Basic Sock Recipe, found in her book Knitting Rules!
Yarn: Opal Hundertwasser Sock Yarn, colorway "Wartende Haüser (Waiting Houses)". Purchased at Little Knits, in West Seattle.
Needles: US 1/2.25mm DPNs for the first sock and the top of the second sock. I realized halfway down the leg of the second sock that my gauge was tighter, and changed to US 2/2.75mm DPNs for the rest of the second sock.
Started: March 2007?
Finished: June 5, 2008

When I first saw this yarn at Little Knits, I couldn't resist. It's the first sock yarn I ever bought, so it is fitting that I used it for my first pair of socks... I also immediately felt that this colorway would be great for my friend Catherine. I started the first sock over a year ago, thinking I would send her a pair of socks for her birthday in April. After one sock, I changed my mind and decided to knit her a pair of mittens (which she did get last year). I only picked up the second sock a few weeks ago (I cast it on last year) and have been working on it on and off in between other projects. Because of my knitting tension apparently changed in the last year, the top part of the second sock is slightly tighter than the first one. It's actually probably better...

Where is the art in this? The colors in this sock yarn collection are inspired by paintings by the Austrian artist Friedenreich Hundertwasser (1928-2000). This particular colorway is inspired by a painting entitled "Wartende Haüser" (Waiting Houses).

You may have noticed that the socks are fraternal twins, not identical twins. I did that on purpose. I think it makes them a little more unique, it gives them a more character. Really, it's just plain cool...

Monday, June 2, 2008