Monday, March 30, 2009

dilly dilly and the lifestyle

How old do you have to be to remember the nursery song Lavender Blue? It goes "Lavender's blue, dilly dilly, lavender's green...." So I named these socks Dilly after the color and to rhyme with the matching sweater I'm making that I call Jilly. More about Jilly later. I'm on the last sleeve.

The pattern is Charlene Schurch's (aren't you tired of reading this illustrious name on my blog?) basketweave rib pattern, the usual eight stitch repeat done on 2.25 mm needles at a gauge of eight stitches per inch. With a seven inch leg, an eight inch circumference, and an eight and a half inch foot this pair took only about 325 yards of yarn. Here is the Ravelry page for this stitch pattern. From some angles this looks a little like bamboo, so I would like to do it in a slinky tan yarn with a slightly narrower repeat to look even more like bamboo.

When I started the Jilly sweater, it occurred to me that I had some leftover fingering weight yarn in the same color as the sweater yarn (Berroco Comfort - my first synthetic). It turned out to be an uncanny match, so I couldn't resist creating an ensemble of sweater and socks.

What makes these socks a little interesting though is that this type of yarn, which is sticky enough for color work, is not usually used as sock yarn. Sock yarn, which is often merino wool, tends to be softer than this shetland stuff. How did it work for socks, you ask? Very well I think. The socks are a little stiffer than I'm used to, but they don't scratch, they feel sturdy, and I think they will wear well. They are as comfortable to wear as my other wool socks. I would use this again for sock yarn, and that's just as well since I've acquired a whole bunch of the stuff. See previous post.

For me, a great revelation came with these socks. And that is the Lifestyle heel, invented by a woman named Priscilla Wild and promulgated by Charisa Martin Cairn in her knitting blog. (I am sending you to the current opening page of the blog so you can say a prayer or send a good thought to Adrienne, Charisa's 24 year old daughter who is battling melanoma.) Scroll down to No Swatch Toe Up Sock on the right.

This short row heel is the smoothest, least holey, unbulkyist, best heel I have ever knit. No backwards yarn overs or upside down wraps here. The heel is formed by simply slipping stitches, leaving them unworked, and knitting each together with the last active stitch on the needle after the turn. To make up for the knit two together and to close the gap, you make a new stitch. Even though this heel appears in a toe up sock pattern, remember short row heels are the same in either direction. Charisa also offers a video tutorial on this heel.

I've been calling this a sock pattern, but really, the reason Charisa calls this a Lifestyle heel is because it is part of what she calls a "sock lifestyle". Some people might call it a "recipe". I don't really like either name, but it is what I've been doing with Charlene Schurch for a while. You get your basic figures (leg length, circumference, etc.) and your favorite heel and toe, and you can insert any stitch pattern that fits the sock format. I just got Cookie A's new book that seems to elaborate on this idea.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

yarn alarm

I guess my last post provided the brakes I needed to stop knitting dishcloths. I have stopped for the moment, no thanks to my blogging friends who suggest that I can move on to hot pads and dish towels. Now though, I can't stop winding yarn.

It all started when my friend Linda decided to sell her loom and give up weaving. She had a little stash of weaving yarn that she doubtfully showed me. She didn't think that the flat, firm wool yarn used for weaving could be knit with. But I knew better. All you had to do was skein it (I used my swift for its opposite task), wash it, and it would fluff up into, in this case, heathery fingering weight yarn.

The tall cone of yarn at the extreme left is lace weight cotton, which I haven't yet contemplated using. But the rest is fingering weight wool (except for the grey which looks like dk or sport) imported from Scotland. This yarn reminds me strongly of Jamieson Spindrift, a commercial knitting wool meant for fair isle and stranded color work and emulating the colors of the now unavailable (except through her website) Alice Starmore yarns.

My mystery yarn is two plies, each ply a mixture of the same two colors. One color must be in larger quantity than the other, because each yarn has an overall color look: green (of a greyish variety), purple, and brown (or dark, dark red - you can't tell which, but I lean toward brown). The mix colors are green yellow, blue, and green blue respectively. Here is a close up of the yarns after washing and winding. They look lighter in the photo than they actually are.

I have 2,000 yard of each. What will I do with them? Well, I have leftovers of similar yarn from many years ago when I made faire isle sweaters. (No, I 'm not a pack rat, but I do know what to save and what to toss.) The purple (on the left) will be a good mixer with the colors I have, so I hope to plan a color work project even if it's only mittens or socks. The brown (center) will not mix as well, but I love it for a sweater on its own. The green could go either way.

In line with this acquisition, I decided to make a pair of socks from some left over Spindrift I had, partly to test this yarn for sock knitting. It did well. I'll save the details for the next post, because I discovered online a new technique for the short row heel.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

dishrag fever

To my shame, since my last dishrag posting, I have gone insane and have knit dishrags uncontrollably. I manged to stop at eight. Now sit back and relax while I insanely review dishrag results.

You will recall that this craze was started on its unfortunate course by (what else?) a Learn to Knit Afghan square called Twisted Columns featuring twisted stitches in two colors. I was pleased with the two dishcloths that resulted. The twisted columns stood up well to use, not becoming too raggy when wet, and I loved the dark brown and acid green color combination I used. By the way, all of these dish cloths were made with small quantities of worsted weight cotton yarn I had standing around for who knows what reason. The twisted columns are on the left.

Noticing that I had a very small quantity of colorful variegated cotton, I went on to make two garter stitch squares. They are OK, hardly worth mentioning, but hey, they're dishrags.
Hungry for more dishrag fodder, I turned to Ravelry and discovered Grandma's Favorite. This is one of those diagonal designs that I find endlessly fascinating, not being mathematically inclined enough to invent them for myself. You start with four stitches and increase with yarnovers at each edge until you reach the middle, 46 or 48 stitches. Then you decrease back to four stitches and bind off. You have made a square with a lacy little border. I made two, one out of a pretty but dated southwest style variegated colorway and one out of the leftover variegated pictured above and some of the acid green. That one made a solid with a colorful stripe placed off center. The southwest Grandma's Favorite is the top rag pictured below. Grandma's Favorite was the most fun to make, but it has the least body and turns too raggy when wet. Never mind because, hey, it's a dishrag.

This brings me to the dishcloth pictured above underneath Grandma's - that Queen of dishrags - the Ballband Dishcloth. Although touted by the Mason Dixon girls, I never thought it attractive enough or believed it to be good enough to bother with. Boy is my face red. It's great. It stays spongy when wet, and, because of it's functionality, it has started to look beautiful to me. at right is another version in my favorite solid blue and dark brown.

I do have a slight caveat regarding this dishcloth. It features slipped stitches, and as I have learned from working with Barbara Walker's Learn to Knit Afghan book, I don't like slipped stitches that lay across a lot of rows - four in this case. I think they're slovenly. So, prompted by a fellow Raveler, I slipped the stitches knitwise instead of purlwise as instructed. This twists the stitches so that they lay closer to the fabric underneath and are altogether tighter and neater.

Now that I have discovered the Ballband I can't promise that I won't knit more of them. But I'll try not to post about it again.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

shadow and sand

Isn't Shadow and Sand a romantic name? I named the a4A child's blanket I finished the other day after The House of Sand and Fog, the disappointing novel I listened to as I began this project. I wasn't disappointed in the blanket, though. Thanks to Ann and Kay of Mason Dixon Knitting for providing this easy and stress free knitting technique - log cabining. Here is the mid-January beginning of this blanket.

I used leftovers of worsted weight wool yarn on #7 U.S. needles. It's all garter stitch, and each stripe is built with picked-up stitches on the edge of a previous stripe. It grows out from the middle - no seaming. It's hard to estimate the amount of yarn this blanket took. Maybe 1,000 yards? The measurements are 42 x 39 inches. It should be perfectly square, but I guess variation in the gauges account for the difference.

I can't resist another view with cat Boo standing by:

How polite she is. She knows she isn't supposed to touch the blanket - when I am looking, that is. So she sits quietly awaiting her chance.

I can't figure out how to remove the formatting on the paragraph above. If you click it you will get a close up of Boo. Did she cause that?

Regarding Anne's recent sock post - thanks to her for the follow up. When I asked if David's socks fit, she said he hadn't worn them yet. I am glad to learn that they fit. They seemed so enormous off the foot. Remember, I have only experienced knitting for a man with a size 81/2 shoe. David wears a 12. I am not too concerned about the baby's sock not fitting though. I only made it to try a Cat Bhordi pattern and to not neglect a gift for baby as I was making a pair for each of her parents. I'm glad Raggedy can use them.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Anne makes some brief remarks about socks

Hi, it's Anne. As a knitter, I always wonder if people actually use and like the things I knit for them as gifts. Of course, this is the kind of thing you could wonder about any gift you give, but because I put so much more time and love into the gifts I make, I wonder a little more. And it's not the kind of thing you can ask about and expect to get an honest answer. Anyone with manners will say "Oh, I love it, I use it every day!" even if your craft has been stuffed in the back of their closet.

For example, I have made a cute and easy bib from Vogue Knitting on the Go: Baby Gifts for several people. Here's somebody else's raveled version; I didn't take pictures of mine. In retrospect, I don't know what I was thinking making these things. I doubt they were ever used - the recipients probably thought something handmade was too "special" to be used to soak up baby drool, and recent experience has told me that handwashing baby puke out of handknit items is a total pain. (Of course I used machine washable yarn for the bibs, but I'm not sure I mentioned that to my giftees.)

But socks are, in my opinion, a fabulous gift. Everybody needs them and can use them. After I dropped several very broad hints, my mother kindly made me the Red Devil socks mentioned last month. They are great, I've worn them several times and they seem to stand up well to machine washing. My husband has huge, crazy Sideshow Bob feet and the gigantic socks blogged about here fit him perfectly. He's a man and therefore doesn't really care about socks, but I think they're terrific.

So far we're two for two on socks as gifts. This brings us to the socks my mother made for Rosie. Sooo cute. However, I put them on the baby's feet at 10:00 am on Tuesday. The first sock was off by 10:06, and we had two naked feet by 10:09. Oh well, you can't win them all. And honestly, the wool is not machine washable, and I doubt I would have had the patience to handwash them very many times. I have put the socks on Raggedy Ann; she seems to like them and they stay on perfectly.

Monday, March 2, 2009

all about squares again

No, not just Learn to Knit Afghan squares, although my latest craze is strongly related. To backtrack, I currently have the ideal number of items on the needles - three, most started recently. One, I started to re knit a very basic sweater I designed and knit in 2007. I call it Jilly. The original prototype did not work out mainly due to wrong yarn choice. I used Cascade Pima Silk, a yarn that I only like when it is knit at 5 stitches to the inch. This sweater calls for 4.5, and I want 4.5 because, unusually for me, I want to see the grain of the knitting.

Two, I realized that I had some Jamieson's fingering weight yarn in the exact same color of the sweater (lilac), and I started a pair of Schurch socks. Three, I am nearing the end of the child's log cabin afghan I am making for afghans for Afghans. Hovering in the background is the silky wool skirt I have been working on forever. I have gotten to the part where I should reduce the width toward the upper hip/waist area, and am still contemplating how to do it.

With all that, I was seized yesterday by an urgent need for knitted dishcloths, so I spent an entire Sunday's worth of knitting doing this:
No, not cleaning the sink, but rather cleaning the sink with the very spiffy cloths I made based on yet another Learn to Knit Afghan pattern, called twisted columns. Here is closer view:
As I have remarked many times, I have been inspired by the Learn to Knit Afghan, and have thought of projects using the stitch patterns of many of the squares. I have been particularly inspired by the twisted stitch patterns, the section I am working on now.I love to make twisted stitches and I love the dimensionality of the patterns Here is the latest. This one was not as much fun to knit due to its complexity, but it was just made for a soft baby blanket: