Friday, June 29, 2007

XRK Yarn-Along

It doesn't take a sharp-eyed reader to notice that the three XRK bloggers have very different aesthetics, and are inspired to knit for very different reasons. When the same pattern catches all of our fancies, then, it is the perfect occasion for an XRK KAL. So at MDSW when Ann and I both swooned over the same yarn in the same color, we knew it would be the perfect yarn for the first ever XRK Yarn-Along. The yarn, Green Mountain Spinnery's Sylvan Spirit is a 50/50 wool/tencel blend, in a beautiful silvery green colorway called Peridot.

The idea of our yarn-along is to see what the three of us create with this same yarn, to see how different knitters can take the same material and create something totally unique, as well as learn from each other how each of us treat the same material.

So as the first knitter with the Sylvan Spirit yarn, I have some impressions and observations:

- the yarn is even more beautiful knitted up than in the skein. There are beautiful yellow flecks throughout the yarn, and some darker green ones as well. The yellow surprised me, especially with the generally silvery cast of the yarn, creating a verdigris color that makes the fabric rich and interesting, even in plain stockinette. The stitches are beautifully defined, and the fabric it creates is an interesting blend of elegant (the silveriness) and rustic (the tweediness and hand).

- the wool is not like a soft merino, so it does not have that super-soft hand, but I imagine that will change some upon washing. An informative review of the yarn here confirms these suspicions. It has a crisp, almost crunchy hand, but the fabric feels a little smoother once knitted up, similar to hemp or linen, although it is not at all twine-like to knit with. I wouldn't call it itchy, but itch-tolerance is relative.

- I am getting about 5 spi on US7s.

- This yarn would make a beautiful clapotis or any other simple shawl. It isn't smoothly silky, but the drape would be divine, especially knit at a larger gauge.

I originally had the Rusted Root pattern in mind but discarded that idea when I realized that this yarn really is wool. Not in that really scratchy, Lopi-like way, but in that really warm way. This is not a summer-top yarn. So I started the Cropped Cardigan with Leaf Ties from Stefanie Japel's Fitted Knits (also available for free here). Although my gauge is different, I think this yarn is a good match for the pattern, and it is the right weight for a cropped cardigan, a perfect, "throw-it-on-over-something" layer. But through this process, I learned something else about this yarn that I am very, very sorry to report:

- I don't think we bought enough yarn to make a cropped cardigan. A shrug? Yes. Bolero? Maybe. Vest? Sure. But a cropped cardigan with sleeves? Probably not.

- You can buy more of the yarn here.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Enough with the Socks Already!

Alas, my membership in the SSLS was very, very short. I am too type-A to be leaving single socks laying around, waiting for their mate. So, another finished pair of socks to report, my first for the Summer of Socks KAL.

Pattern: Child's First Sock in Shell Pattern, from Knitting Vintage Socks, by Nancy Bush

Yarn & Needles: Tess Supersock & Baby, Twilight colorway, 2.75mm (US 2) KnitPicks circs
I love the twist and spring of this yarn, but I do not like two things: lots of pooling on the foot, and the dye the yarn left on my fingers. The pooling is somewhat masked by the shell pattern, but it pools nonetheless.

Pattern Mods: I had no intention of modifying this sock, and originally knit the first one with no modifications whatsoever. When I knit the second sock, I made the heel flap several rows too long because I wasn't paying attention to the pattern. I assume a heel flap has 30 rows, with 15 slipped chain stitches to pick up, and did this on the second sock, and proceeded to decrease for the gusset as usual, back down to 60 stitches.

The CFS calls for only 26 rows in the heel flap. I noticed my mistake when I tried on the second sock and it fit so much better across the instep with a longer flap. The foot of the first sock did some seriously ugly pooling as well, so I was happy to rip it out and lengthen the heel flap to match the better-fitting second sock.

Now, never would I question the genius that is Nancy Bush, but future CFS knitters might want to lengthen their heel flap too. I remembered Megan complaining that her CFS did not fit across her instep originally either. Megan and I have seriously different feet -- she is quite tall and has, um, substantial feet, while I am quite short, and my feet are decidedly small. Very different feet, same problem -- you do the math.

Despite this little issue, my torrid summer affair with Nancy Bush continues, with continued progress on the Gentleman's Fancy Sock, and perhaps Canal du Midi next in the queue.

I am not a Single Sock gal, but I did learn from my recent sock profligacy that I can knit multiple sock projects simultaneously and still not suffer from serious Second Sock Syndrome. Knitting only socks for weeks, though, has got me antsy for something a little meatier. For the last few months, I have knitted socks, accessories, stash-busting design projects for Rosebud and the like, but now I am hankering for some tops and sweaters for me, maybe some lace to get me through the dog days of summer.

I started one already. I'll blog about it more this week, but for now, a little preview, Fiberlicious-style!

Thursday, June 21, 2007

I've Been Zimmermanned

On a whim about a month ago, I purchased "The Opinionated Knitter" from my LYS. Okay. Not really on a whim. Ever since Liz wowed me with her Baby Surprise Jacket and Spidey (has that baby arrived?) showed us her Tomten, I've been intrigued by Elizabeth Zimmermann and I vowed to buy one of her books. However, I always thought her patterns and writings were for knitters far more experienced and talented than I.

How wrong I was. Every knitter in the world should know and love Elizabeth Zimmermann. Her wit, talent, and, yes, opinion, is clear in every newsletter in this book. Here is my Tomten for an old friend's dear little baby. I enjoyed every minute of knitting this; I have deepened my knitting practice by allowing myself to design on the needles with the gentle guidance of EZ.

Pattern: Tomten by Elizabeth Zimmermann
Yarn: Maggi's Aran Tweed (color 03) and O-Wool Classic (I can't seem to find the color name or number)
Needles: US8s
Pattern Notes: I adjusted stitch counts for gauge and improvised to get the right vertical measurements since the vertical gauge was so different. I will spare you all the number crunching, but suffice it to say, it was not difficult. This size is about 12-18 months.

I had planned on doing an attached i-cord for the borders but didn't like the way it caused the jacket to pucker. I also really liked the way the garter stitch looked going different directions, so I just knit a garter stitch border. I'm afraid of zippers and button holes (I'll need to confront these fears one day soon), so I chose these clasps. I like the Scandinavian look.

I didn't think the sleeves were loose enough, so I didn't seam the sleeves all the way and crocheted a simple border around them. I love the look. They can be kept turned down or flipped up for a more gnomish or elfin look ...

I will gift this tomorrow and immediately start planning my next Zimmermann project. (Maybe an adult Tomten a la Brooklyn Tweed?)

Sunday, June 17, 2007

XRK- Now With Fungus Protection!

My membership in the Single Sock Liberation Sisterhood has been short-lived, but I have a really good excuse. My sister needed new socks.

A student in an ecology masters program, she is about to go to Montana and Yellowstone, and she mentioned that needed to pack lots of extra socks to avoid foot funguses (fungi?) as she plotted geographical maps and collected samples with wet feet crammed inside her hiking boots. My sister cannot have fungal feet, and as a sock knitter, there is something I can do about it!

Only a sock knitter would consider trench foot a reason to buy new sock yarn, but I have been intrigued by TOFUtsies, the new-ish sock yarn from Southwest Trading Company, since its release, and thanks to my dear sister, my most fervent knitting enabler, who provided me with the perfect reason to buy it, I snapped up a skein at Rosie's and cast on right away.

Some longtime readers might remember that not only does my sister enthusiastically request the handknits, she is pleased to contribute posts to the blog to provide a muggle's perspective on the wearing of the handknitted item. This is one non-knitter totally willing to photograph her socks for my ongoing Tricot-in-Situ series, and is happy to provide fodder for Summer of Socks, too. My sister truly deserves a drawerful of handknit socks.

Pattern: Madder Ribbed Socks by Nancy Bush from Knitting Vintage Socks
Yarn& Needles: TOFUtsies, colorway 787, 2.25 mm KnitPicks Options needles

Notes: Because I am a total idiot, I knit this pattern totally incorrectly, but didn't even realize it until I began the second sock and thought the pattern seemed a lot easier that the first time. I went ahead and knit the second sock wrong too, but it looks fine.

I have heard lots of differing opinions about the yarn, but I have to say, I like it. I like it so much that I bought a second skein this week for myself. It is a touch splitty, but the super-pointy KnitPicks needles were the perfect tool for minimizing the split. It has a truly silky feel, and the short sections of color made for mostly pool-less sock knitting. I cannot speak to the wearability of these socks, but the nylon content should provide a hard-wearing pair of socks, and I anticipate that these socks will wear similarly to Regia or Opal.

My sister has promised to photograph her socks in Yellowstone this year. Now, if only we can get her to pick up the needles...

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Center Pull Puke

It always seems to happen at some point. My nice center pull cake of yarn vomits up its guts. It's not a pretty sight. I know that Carol has blogged about this. And if she's not pulling from the center, I'm not pulling from the center either. Who's with me on this?

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Old Yarn, New Skirt

What can I say? Rosebud, she is my muse, especially when it comes to stash busting.

Pattern: Simple Top-Down skirt using techniques from Barbara Walker's Knitting From the Top Down. I would highly recommend this book for any knitter's library. Basically, using very old leftover yarn from the stash, my gauge swatch and some simple instructions, I was able to improvise a simple round skirt with a cute ruffled edge. It would surprise you how many "designs" available on the web are almost straight from this book.

Yarn & Needles: Three skeins of Classic Elite Flash in the Lapis colorway, US 7

This project qualifies as some super-duper stash busting, as I bought a bag of this yarn over three years ago when I was still living in Richmond. I used some of it to knit a Soleil tank, and have had a few leftover hanks hanging around just waiting for the right project. Having a tiny daughter with an endless enthusiasm for her mother's handknits is my best stashbusting tip!

This yarn is a mercerized marled cotton yarn, with two plies of a sapphire blue and one turquoise ply. I have used it for several projects over the years, all of them before I began blogging (thus there are no pics for linking, sorry), and would recommend it for easy-care projects. The different colored plies creates an interesting effect, and some of the colorways are really unusual. I have managed to pick up vast quantities of this yarn twice on major sale, and nothing against the yarn, but after having knit at least five different projects with it, I am officially done with Classic Elite Flash.

The bad news is that I still have two hanks left. I wonder if Rosebud needs a halter top...

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

The Break-Up

Dear Widdershins,

It is not easy to write this letter, but after all we've been through, you deserve the truth. I think our love affair is over. It's almost summer, Widdie, and I think I need my freedom to knit other socks.

It's not you. It's me. No one likes to hear this, I know, but really this time it is true. You are a wonderful sock pattern, one of the best! Your magic cast-on is brilliant, so much better than those crochet-hook provisional thingies. And you know that your toe-up heel flap is clever, well-fitting, attractive and easy to execute. You are great for variegated yarns that don't want to settle prettily into a pattern, and there is nothing like Widdershins to help a knitter use up all of a skein of sock yarn.

You have meant so much to me this year as I endeavored to develop my perfect simple sock. You really were it. Oh, I tried others, and they were fine, but when I met you, it was an instant connection. You fit my small foot perfectly and I memorized you instantly. You were even simple to convert to smaller sizes for the kids.

But, summer has me looking at other socks longingly. There are so many pretty designs out there, and I think I have some perfect sock yarn for some of them. Have you seen the Sidewinder socks that Nona has designed? Don't you think my Opal yarn would be perfect for that?

Lately, a lot of my bigger, non-sock projects have involved a lot of simple stockinette, so I have been looking to socks to provide a little patterned-interest for me. And I said I owe you the truth, and the truth is, I have met someone else. Her name is Nancy, and well, she isn't just a pattern. She's a designer. An author. A sock guru. I didn't mean for this to happen, but well, there was wine, and I bought all these new KnitPicks needles, and the next thing I knew, Nancy Bush and I were having a full-blown sock affair.

(L to R, Madder Ribbed Socks in TOFUtsies, Gentleman's Fancy Sock in Brooks Farm Acero, Child's First Sock in Tess Supersock & Baby, from Knitting Vintage Socks)

Yes. Most of her socks are cuff-down. I know, I know, toe-up is superior for finishing up sock yarn, but let's be honest! We both know I have really short legs and I don't like really long cuffs anyway! I always end up with lots of yarn left over. And I know that her patterns usually work best with solid yarns, but you know what, I am thinking about branching out into solids and semi-solids.

Don't look at me disapprovingly for having so many socks on the needles. I know you counted on me to be a monogamous sock knitter, but lately, I am just too excited to stick to just one pattern. Nancy just does that to me. And lots of other knitters do it. Some even celebrate it! And I had lunch with a couple of them who really encouraged me to move in this direction, and you know what, Megan and Ashley are right. It is time for me to spread my sock wings and fly in all directions.

You taught me so much about how to knit socks to fit my feet, but I think Nancy can move me to the next level, to teach me to tweak existing patterns for fit. You should see all the different heel flaps and toes she has to teach me! You don't want me to stagnate as a sock knitter, do you?

Look, it isn't forever. You are the perfect pattern for self-patterning yarns, and I always have room in my stash for self-patterning yarns. And whenever I need a simple sock, you know I will always, always reach for you.

We had a great run, and I think we are going out with a bang with these Vesper socks we made for me and Rosebud. That juicy bright Sweetwater colorway is perfect for your simple lines, and the stripes settled perfectly into your heel flap.

Twin Widdershins for Rosebud and me
Vesper Superwash Merino & Nylon, Sweetwater colorway

I need my freedom, Widdershins, but I'll be back. I promise.


Monday, June 04, 2007

Digging the Lace

I've been working on a lace scarf with my Sea Silk. I had to knit and frog a few times before I got the hang of the pattern and of correcting my mistakes. Now, after 10 repeats of the border I feel good. Real good. I love it. It is currently sharing knitting time with some other projects, but I hope to be done with this in about 3 weeks or so (I am not a fast knitter!).

The pattern is from Victorian Lace Today: Scarf with the No. 20 edging. Or as I have been referring to it: The Diamond Border Scarf.

I cannot impress upon you all enough how much I love this Sea Silk. I have been unable to capture the beauty of the colors and certainly if you have felt it, you know that one would have to be a poet to fully describe the texture. And the smell is ... well, vacation. Knitting this project is just a feast for the senses (I guess the hearing thing is lacking. But I've been listening to lots of good music while knitting as well ...)

I leave you with today's colors in the garden.