Wednesday, January 31, 2007

I love socks

Christine, over at Pointy Sticks, is having a little anniversary contest. She wants to know all about socks - why we knit them, what we like about them, what kinds of yarns and patterns we like best - basically anything about sock knitting. I'm listening to my first ever Podcast right now as I type. Squeee!!

I learned to knit 14 years ago from a dear friend who worked a wonderful LYS. She worked on Sundays and I sat in the store, visiting with her, while she worked. That year I knit 5 Christmas stockings for my husband, myself, my mother and father in law, and one brother in law. I also became pregnant that year and knit tiny baby hats and a baby blanket.

Over the years, I knit many mittens, a slew of hats and the occasional sweater. The thing is, I hated knitting sweaters. I thought it was just because I didn't know how to seam properly so I took finishing classes but the fact of the matter is I really don't enjoy knitting sweaters. For years I felt like a second class knitter because I only knit small projects. I wondered if I could even call myself a knitter if I didn't knit fabulous sweaters or huge afghans.

I don't remember when I discovered knitting socks. It was a gradual thing. I knit the socks in the back of Homespun, Handknit and a couple of other socks that I found in knitting books or magazines. I loved the process and found heel turning and grafting to be quite easy. I made a couple of socks which didn't turn out so well because the first row was too tight and I didn't know how to make it any different.

Finally, one day I discovered the Socknitters list on yahoo. It was like I'd found a home. Now, the Socknitters list is not my all time favorite list by any stretch (way too heavy handed moderating for a darn knitting list) but it was on this list that I learned that I AM a real knitter. That I can be a real knitter even if I only knit socks for the rest of my life. Soon after this I discovered Nancy Bush and I knew that sock knitting had a real and deep history.

I recently went through a long period when I didn't knit at all. I completely lost my knitting mojo. When I returned to knitting last August, the first thing I knit was a simple pair of Regia socks with yarn from my stash. I started a new knitting blog and found wonderful knitting blogs to keep me going. I discovered all the wonderful new sock yarns and great new sock yarn vendors.

I love knitting socks because I love having socks that fit my large feet. I can knit socks exactly how I like them - wool socks with cuffs that aren't too tight, with cuffs that don't come up too high, and with long enough feet. Sock yarn has come a long way and I enjoy all the wonderful soft yarns available to me. Some of my favorites right now are Lorna's Laces and Cherry Tree Hill but I'm slowly discovering smaller indie yarns and I'll be sure to have favorites soon.

I prefer to knit my socks cuff down, one at a time, on two circs. I adapt all my patterns to be knit on two circs as I find it much more comfortable than using double points. There are too many favorite patterns to list but if I could only knit Nancy Bush patterns for the rest of my life, I wouldn't get too bored.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Just a day

Please imagine a picture of a beautiful wooden swift at the top of this post. That's the picture that would have been there. The swift I ordered arrived today. I happily opened the box, got the swift set up and gathered the proper hank of yarn. Before I put the yarn on, however, I noticed a problem. The swift wouldn't move. It didn't turn even a teeny bit. After searching online and trying various things I called the company. We talked things through over the phone and determined that the top part of the swift somehow got glued or lacquered to the center post and will not spin. I had to pack up my brand new swift and send it back. *big sigh* It was a sad moment.

It was that kind of day for me today. Frustration abounded. I'm trying not to dwell on it but none of the things have easy fixes and some of them involve big bureaucratic stuff that I avoid like the plague.

Instead of dwelling on the not so great things happening right now, I'll share a few good things.

1. I decluttered some preschool things and delivered them to a neighbor who I knew would appreciate them. I love to get rid of stuff and she was very happy to get some high quality preschool toys for her boys.

2. I decluttered some knitting books that I'll never use. They were gathering dust on my shelves and I decided to take action. I traded good books for even better yarn. I have some very nice Brooklyn Handspun and Furryarns coming my way in exchange for my books. I think everyone is happy all around.

3. The stealth scarf is now 50 inches long and is looking like it will definitely be finished by February 6. Jared's second sock is started - cuff finished. It won't be a fast knit but I'm feeling pretty good about it. Even duty knitting can be enjoyable.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Duty or Devotion

Jared's new sock

My friend, Melanie, always says that we do things out of duty or devotion and that it really doesn't matter as long as we get the job done.

This is a sock of duty and not devotion. I made my middle son a pair of socks last fall and when they were finished he proclaimed them "too tight". I decided that rather than frog them I'd donate them to Dulaan. He's been nicely reminding me since then that he still needs a pair of socks.

I had this gray and blue Silja in my stash for years and he liked it so I decided to make him blue socks with gray cuffs, heels and toes. He's thrilled with how they look and feel. The problem is that I HATE the Silja - really, really hate it. It feels fake and plastic and nasty. My hands are spoiled by "luxury" yarns and I just don't like the way this feels. It's not a bit fun to knit with.

Still, I'll cast on for the second sock cast on tonight so my son has a pair. Duty not devotion is what keeps me going.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Chocolate cinnamon chip muffins

When this is what your thermometer looks like in the morning, it's a good day to bake. Actually, by the time this photo was taken the temperature had risen 5 degrees. The top number is the temp outside and the bottom number is the temp inside. The amazing thing is that it's already much warmer than it was yesterday.

Based on a basic recipe in the King Arthur Flour 200th Anniversary Cookbook, I made Chocolate Cinnamon Chip Muffins. I've been waiting for just the right time to use the cinnamon chips I picked up last time I went to the King Arthur Flour stour.

Chocolate cinnamon chip muffins
1 3/4 cups King Arthur Unbleached Flour
1/3 cup cocoa
1/2 cup sugar
1 Tbl baking powder
1 Tbl baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup cinnamon chips (you could use chocolate chips here instead)
2 eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 400 F.

Blend together the first six ingredients and mix in the cinnamon chips. In another bowl, beat the eggs, oil, milk and vanilla together. Add the wet ingredients to the dry, all at once, and mix together until just blended, about 20 seconds. Don't overmix.

Spoon the mixture into greased muffin tins and bake for about 20 minutes.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Retail therapy

I found some inspiration in a little retail therapy.


When I heard that the Interweave Press book, Favorite Socks, was released early I wanted it right away. While I was in the city yesterday for my father's funeral, I went to one of my favorite local yarn stores in search of this book. There it was, just one book, on the sock shelf in the store. I picked it up and carried it around for awhile. I perused some yarn but didn't purchase any. Not one skein. All I left the store with was this book. And that was enough.

Now I have access to some wonderful patterns and plenty of inspiration. I know that many people have knit most of the patterns in this book before (waving lace and go with the flow) but there have got to be many of us who haven't had access to the patterns before. I can see a wonderful Favorite Socks KAL starting up as soon as more people own the book.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Tell me what to do

I'm bored. I need some inspiration.

I started January off with a bang. I was excited about the Mountain Colors Bearfoot yarn I got for Christmas and couldn't wait to finish the socks I started on Christmas Day. Then I discovered the Knitting Vintage Socks KAL and became very excited about the Fancy Silk Socks. Now both those pairs of socks are finished. I love them both but they're done.

Project Spectrum is right around the corner. The boys and I are gearing up. In fact, there is now a nice Flickr group for Project Spectrum Kids. If you're participating in Project Spectrum with your children please come join us. We'll still post the kids' creations to the adult group but this group should have smaller numbers of postings and the pictures will stay around longer.

I've got some great yarn to knit with for this triad. There's the J. Knits Boston yarn I bought right before Christmas. This yarn is yummy and I can't wait to try it. Then there's the amazing Yarn Pirate Malamute yarn I bought from Sheri at The Loopy Ewe. Oh my. It's perfect for this triad of colors - it's white, grays, and blues in a merino/tencel blend. I'm very anxious to try it out.

j knits yarn boston malamute

I even ordered a yarn swift today. I had a great weekend on ebay and my lovely husband agreed that a swift was a great idea if it means he won't have to hold yarn on his arms anymore.

I've got the stealth scarf to knit but it's been hard to find the time or motivation during the day. I also decided to start a pair of simple socks for my middle son who has been begging for wool socks. I'm using some Silja yarn that has been in my stash for years and I'm not enjoying even one minute of knitting with it. Thankfully, they're knitting up quickly. They're perfect for Project Spectrum also with gray cuffs, heels and toes and blue legs and feet. He'll love them when they're done.

I'm really looking for some inspiration. Something to be excited about. The new sock for the Knitting Vintage Socks KAL hasn't been decided yet. I haven't picked out patterns for either of the socks above. I want something that moves me. If you have any ideas for sock patterns for the yarns picture above please leave me a comment. I've got all the usual sock books - all the Nancy Bush books, Sensational Knitted Socks and many more. I just want someone to tell me what do do.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Fancy Silk Socks

Fancy Silk Socks

I completed the Fancy Silk Socks from Knitting Vintage Socks by Nancy Bush for the January Challenge of the Knitting Vintage Socks KAL. This is my first sock from Knitting Vintage Socks and I enjoyed it tremendously. I followed the pattern almost exactly. The only modifications I made were to knit the fancy cuffs on a size larger needle. The smaller needle made a cuff that was just too snug. I also added 10 plain rows of stockinette after the last pattern on the foot. I didn't want the lacey part on my toes.

The pattern was well written and easy to follow. I never memorized the 12 row pattern repeat but I got the hang of it quickly. I like patterns that have row repeats because it makes it easy to make both socks the same and it keeps you motivated. Every time I sat down to knit these socks I attempted to complete a full 12 rows rather than put the sock down mid pattern.

I'm still working on my stealth scarf. It's hard to complete a project that can't be knitted a night. I don't really care for knitting scarves because I always get bored before they're finished. The cashmere, however, is wonderful to work with and my husband is sure to love the scarf. That keeps me going.

Finally, thank you to everyone who offered such kind thoughts on my father's passing. His funeral is this Thursday. It should be interesting as the only family my father has is his four children from two marriages. The children don't know each other very well. My father was a long time AA member and an AIDS educator for the state - some interesting people should turn out from his associations. My oldest son has decided to attend the funeral with me. He was the only grandchild who knew my father at all.

Friday, January 19, 2007

We're gearing up

We're getting reading for Project Spectrum. I went through my stash and flashed a picture a little while ago. I've been doing some thinking and planning and while I haven't made any final decisions I'm enjoying the planning.

Yesterday the younger boys and I were in the big city (you'd understand how funny that is if you lived here) for dentist appointments. I was explaining Project Spectrum to them and telling them that we'd be doing it together as part of our homeschooling. My middle son was pretty excited as he loves crafts. He has some fine motor problems that make many crafts difficult for him but he's always willing to try new things. My youngest son is going to be a little more difficult to include because he never likes to try new things. We brainstormed things they could do for the first triad of colors - blue, white and gray. We realized that we had pattern blocks and legos in those colors and the boys thought they could make some cool designs with those.

We stopped into A.C. Moore to have a look around and to see if we could come up with some affordable crafts for the boys to work on. I was shocked at how many things we found.

I had the Peg Loom sitting in a closet. I bought it ages ago at Goodwill - there's still a $1.95 price tag on the back - and we've never used it. I need to get out some white, gray and blue yarn from my stash and the boys and I will learn how to use it together. We picked up some cute little wooden birdhouses and a little wooden chest that the boys plan to paint. We also got a dolphin sun catcher and dolphin Perler bead set, a wooden cat shape that will be a picture frame, and some engraving art. Finally, we bought two big spools of gimp.


I haven't used gimp since I was a preteen but I'm pretty sure I can figure it out. I'm hoping I can teach the boys. I used to love this stuff when I was a kid. It brings back all kinds of warm, summery memories.

I think we have enough to keep the boys busy for a little while. I hope they enjoy themselves.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

I could just spit!

I've been knitting for a long time now so I'm always happy when I discover something new - especially when that something is simple. I didn't actually discover anything - it's just that I finally decided to give something a try.

I don't know why I've never done it before. I guess I didn't think it would work or that the way I was doing it was working fine. Whatever the reason, this morning I woke up determined to give it a go.

I took my stealth scarf in one hand, and the newly wound ball of cashmere in the other and I ... well, I unplied them and spit on them. Yup. I finally tried spit splicing and was shocked at how great it works. Within seconds I had a great join in the yarn and I could continue on with my stealth knitting. I am just so happy with how well the splicing worked. It's wonderful not to have to weave in ends on the scarf and to know that it will be truly reversible without any little ends poking out where the yarn was woven in.

It's good to try new things.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Flathead Cherry socks

First finished objects of 2007. Sheri at The Loopy Ewe is collecting pictures of socks in trees or bushes. I took this picture this morning on my ice covered rhododendron. Ooohhh ... it was COLD out there.

The Bearfoot Mountain Colors socks in Flathead Cherry. My 7 year old son gave me this yarn for Christmas. It's the first time I've knit with Bearfoot. I used a simple Garter Stitch Rib and only 56 stitches on size 3 needles. I'm not sure I'm too fond of the fabric - I don't know if it's the yarn with the mohair content, or the sport weight yarn, or only getting 7 stitches to the inch. We'll see how I feel about them once they're washed. Right now they just feel kind of squishy.

The stealth scarf is growing. It's at 24 inches now. I'm hoping to get 30 inches out of the first skein as I think a 60 inch scarf would be perfect. It's moving along and I'm enjoying the pattern. The cashmere yarn is a dream to knit with.

Now that the Bearfoot socks are done I'll make faster progress on my second Fancy Silk Sock. I shouldn't have any trouble getting them done by the deadline of January 31 for the January Sock challenge.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Foggy brain

Foggy brain today. I didn't sleep well last night.

My father died quite unexpectedly yesterday. We weren't particularly close. In fact, we had barely spoken in the past few years. My parents were divorced when I was very young and my father was an alcoholic for most of his life (although the last 18 or so years he has been sober). My relationship with my father was complicated. He was never a very good father but he never mistreated me. I always knew he loved me in his own way - he just loved himself more. I had made my peace with my father years ago. I didn't expect him to change; I accepted him for who he was. We just didn't have any need for a lot of contact.

Now he's gone. I don't have any regrets. It's just weird that he's gone. In his passing is a house FULL of stuff and no paperwork (insurance, deed to house, will) to be found. My younger brother is the one trying to sort everything out as he was the only child close to my Dad. It's a complicated and trying time.

I switched my blog over to the new blogger system and now my foggy brain won't let me figure out how to add photos to my links (like for KALs). I'm too tired and drained to figure it out properly. If you can help, that'd be great. For today, I'm going to try to do some uncomplicated, non-thinking kind of knitting. Then I'll try to take a nap.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Yarn Pr0n

Isn't that lovely?
Louet Gems in Robin. This is the first time I've ever seen Gems. It feels wonderful and the colors I saw were beautiful. I had a hard time deciding between this color and a more solid orangey color the same hue. I let my 7 year old decide. I'm thinking that it might become a pair of Whitbys.

Back to my stealth knitting. The scarf is now over a foot long. I've also been knitting my second Bearfoot sock - working on the gusset now. This weekend when dh is around I won't be able to knit much on the scarf so I'll finally get the second Fancy Silk Sock on the needles. I am very happy with all three projects I have going right now. They're all a pleasure to knit and I should have a nice little pile of completed projects by the end of January.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Bargain hunting

Oh. My. Goodness.

Not much stealth knitting was accomplished today as youngest son and I went bargain shopping. I love bargain shopping and the time after Christmas is the best time for it. I won't bore you all with the details of how I bought ten bags of chips, 3 Giggle Gear Masks, and a skateboard for $6.37 at Target but I will tell you that that's the kind of thing that gets me excited.

I decided it was a good day to return the defective Cherry Tree Hill yarn to the store from which I bought it. Beverly, the owner of Ewe'll Love It had already replaced the hank not once but twice but I needed to return the original hank so she could send it on to Cherry Tree Hill. While I was there I did a little shopping. I saw Louet Gems for the first time and I had to buy some (picture coming another day). I thought it might be nice to check out the books to see if they had Hats On! because I'm having problems with the amazon seller that I supposedly bought the book from. She was all out of Hats On! but she did have a copy of Knitting Marvelous Mittens!

I'm not sure how I first became interested in this book but I was shocked when I tried to buy it only to find that it was selling for $99 at amazon marketplace and is out of print. So you can imagine this bargain hunter's delight today when what to my wondering eyes should appear but 1 copy of this very book at the yarn store. It had to come home with me. It just had to.

There were other purchases today and I'm happy about all of them but for now I'm just enjoying this one.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Some progress

My first Fancy Silk Sock is done. After a little tweaking and soul searching I have knit a sock that I'm very happy with. Both my husband and oldest son have asked me why I'm knitting a sock with so many holes in it. "Doesn't that defeat the purpose of socks?" asked my oldest son. I knit the Fancy Cuff on size 2 needles so I could get the sock on comfortable but knit the rest of the sock according to the pattern in Knitting Vintage Socks.

Last night I got the first sock I started off the needles and rewound the yarn into a brand new center pull ball. I'll get the second sock started later today.

The second sock will be slower to the finish line because I'm now doing some stealth knitting. Shhh ... I'm knitting a scarf for my husband for his birthday on February 6. Most of my knitting is generally done at night watching tv with dh. This knitting must be done during the time he is away (or asleep). The yarn is a gorgeous dk weight 100% cashmere from Sarah's Yarns. I'm knitting a pattern called Little Pyramids and I think it looks great with the yarn. I've got about 6 inches done so far. I plan to keep knitting until I run out of yarn. We'll see how far that takes me.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Planning time

I don't have much knitting progress to show. I'm still working on the Fancy Silk Socks for the Vintage Socks January Challenge. I should be done the first sock tomorrow. I have decided to frog the first sock and start over. The second sock with the larger fancy cuff fits much better. These socks are different from any other socks I've ever knit - rather girlie for me really - but I really like them.

This weekend while the weather was warm and bright I decided to go through my stash to pick out my yarns for Project Spectrum. February and March call for blue, white and gray. I had a surprising amount of yarn that fit these colors.

Blue, white and gray stash

The Irish Hiking Scarf was started in September and really needs to be finished. I made great progress on the scarf during fall baseball season but once baseball season ended I put the scarf aside and haven't picked it up since. It only needs about 5 more inches to be finished. The gray center pull ball and the hank next to it are 100% cashmere. I bought it from Sarah's Yarns with the intention of making a scarf for my husband's birthday on February 6. I still haven't decided on a pattern and I plan to knit it when he's not home so I really need to get started. The blue and gray skeins of Silja have lived in my stash for many years. I intend to make a pair of socks for my middle son with one or both colors. If you click on the photo it will take you to my Flickr page where you can learn more about the other yarns.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Project Spectrum

I've been waiting for Lolly to post the color selections for Project Spectrum. I've been thinking that it would be fun to align my other KALs and knitting plans to coincide with the Project Spectrum colors. This could be a fun way to help organize my knitting for the year and help me to make plans and set goals.

I still have some of that Christmas money my mother in law gave me burning a hole in my Paypal pocket. Sheri at The Loopy Ewe has promised some wonderful new yarns will be arriving in her shop this month. I've been waiting to make a purchase from Sheri and now I can't wait.

I already have that wonderful J. Knits yarn in Boston to make some blue socks in February. I think I've got the pattern picked out also. Wait until you see the gray cashmere that I ordered to make my wonderful husband a scarf with. It might also be a great time to try some of those paper snowflakes that Lolly and Julie made last month and try my hand at more origami. Baking and photography are sure to be part of my plans, too. I can't wait for Project Spectrum to begin. That gives me one month to finish my Fancy Silk Socks and my Bearfoot Flathead Cherry socks.

February / March
Blue, White, Gray

April / May
Green, Yellow, Pink

June / July
Red, Black, Metallics

August / September
Brown, Orange, Purple

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Fancy Silk Socks

Wow, it's really hard to get outside shots in New England in the winter. The sun never seems to get high enough in the sky to let me take photos without shadows. It was clear and bright today so I did my best.

These are the beginnings of the Fancy Silk Socks from Knitting Vintage Socks. On the left is the sock I started on New Year's Day. I finished the Fancy Cuff and 4 (out of 5 or 6) repeats of the leg when I realized that I'm not going to be happy with this sock. The Fancy Cuff part is just too tight going over the ankle. I've made socks like this before and I've never been happy with them. While pondering what to do about that sock, I cast on for the second sock and used a larger size needle for the Fancy Cuff then returned to the smaller needles for the legs. Although I've only completed one repeat of the leg pattern they seem to fit much better and slide over the ankle more easily.

Monday, January 01, 2007

In the beginning

I have taken on the January Challenge for the Vintage Socks KAL and decided to knit the Fancy Silk Socks. In accordance with the rules I waited until January 1st to start them. I got ready last night by winding my skein of yarn but I didn't cast on single stitch until this morning.

I'm using Lorna's Laces in the Grapevine colorway. As always, I love the softness of Lorna's and the stitch definition is great also. I had to start the cuff of double pointed needles because one stitch needed to be moved every other round and that's so much easier to do with dps. After the cuff was finished, however, I was only too happy to get the sock onto my usual circulars (Knit Picks this time).

I told Penny that I'd post a picture of what I bought at my LYS store yesterday. This store doesn't carry much in the way of sock yarn that interests me but I did pick up a skein of Mountain Colors Bearfoot in a beautiful, fallish colorway called Gold Rush. I think it will sit in the stash for a bit but I'm anxious to knit it up. I want to find the perfect pattern for it. As you can see, I also bought myself a ball winder. Woohoo!! Only problem is that my dear husband makes a lousy swift and I do believe I will have to buy myself a swift also. I thought I could make do with just the ball winder but last night's winding session left a lot to be desired.

It's a rainy, icy day here in New Hampshire. Perfect knitting weather.

Happy New Year!!