Auntie Ann Knits

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The Top Ten Five Ways I am Exactly Very Much Sort of Kind of Like the Yarn Harlot

Yep, that's me.

Exactly Very much Sort of Kind of like the famous Yarn Harlot.

And I'll tell you the top ten five reasons why.

5. I like to knit. A lot.

4. I like to knit socks, and almost always have one on the needles.

3. I'm a famous author and speaker.

3. Zillions of people read my blog and in fact my every word.

3. I knit all of my socks on DPN's.

3. I take pictures of my "traveling sock" everywhere I go.

3. OK, I'm female, and short, all right?

2. Um, I live in Canada North America.

And the number one, top reason that I'm kinda sorta like the Yarn Harlot:

1. I was knitting this very fiddly sock, see, and I had gotten to the very tip of one of the points in this weird sock construction and was just reaching for the scissors to cut the tail, when -- I dropped the sock.

And I was still holding the tail.

I think we all know from reading Stephanie's account of this very thing how heart-breaking this can be.

Mine may have been just a tiny bit easier to recover from, though.

And now I have this:

Section 4

Doesn't that resemble a lobster claw much more than a sock?

Yeah, I thought so, too.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Crazy Conservative Socks

As far as I can tell from Ravelry and the internet, the only other pair of these in existence is the sample for the pattern. Maybe there’s a good reason for that!

These are actually a lot of fun to knit (once I figured out the pattern instructions, which IMO could be clearer and more detailed), but I’m not sure yet how the finished sock will be. The pattern is by Gerdine Crawford-Strong, and can be downloaded free here.

BTW – the name I have given these socks is not a political commentary – the published pattern name is “Conservative Socks”, but mine are pink, purple and bright blue.

Ms. Crawford-Strong originated the “Strong Heel”, not named for its strength but for her. I don’t know all of the details of it, but it is supposed to make more attractive socks with self-striping yarn, with less interruption of the stripe pattern for the heel. There are a number of examples in blogland and on Ravelry. It reminds me a bit of Cat Bordhi’s “Cedar” construction, although again I don’t know the details of that.

Picture 1: Cast-on, ribbing, and most of Section 1 triangle. It will be decreased down to a point, then the next section begins in the “V”. Section 1 is Dream in Color Smooshy, last seen in the “Flow Motion” socks.

Section 2
Picture 2: Section 2, mostly done. It starts with a triangle at the bottom, then parallelograms up each side of the Section 1 triangle (nearly done with second parallelogram), and then there will be a triangle on the top tying together the two parallelograms. Section 2 is the J.L. Yarnworks yarn, which is much, much prettier in person, but the scanner doesn’t seem to like it as much as I do, which is lots. It last starred in my “Purple Monkey” socks.

Heel turn done
Picture 3: Section 3 done, heel turn done. Section three includes all of the increases, sort of like the gusset of a traditional sock pattern. The heel turn is done over all of the heel stitches (blue triangle at the back of the heel) plus all of the increased “gusset” stitches (that is, over enough stitches to be the equivalent of the sock circumference). The pink is the Smooshy, of course, and the blue is Trekking yarn, previously seen in my “Falling Water” socks.

The pattern picture that downloaded looked as though Section 1 and Section 3 should be the same color, although that's not how the directions read. I decided to make them the same color. I ordered the back issue this was originally published in (hoping for clearer instructions, and there were some other interesting patterns in it), and the magazine picture clearly shows that indeed Section 3 was knitted in a different color than Section 1. Well, I still like my choice. Also -- the pattern is actually not even in the magazine -- there is some background explanation and a template for designing your own crazy socks, but you have to go to the website for the actual pattern. Crazy, no?

Anyway, this is a fun way to use up some yarn leftovers now that I've figured out the techniques for this sock. One of the reasons I started looking for sock patterns for bits and bobs of leftover sock yarn is that I had a lot of the Smooshy left over after the Flow Motion socks -- nearly half the skein -- and probably 1/3 of a skein of J.L. Yarnworks yarn left after the Monkeys -- and I could not let them just sit around. I just had to turn both of those beautiful yarns into more socks.

I'm weighing all the leftover yarns used in these socks both before and after knitting so that I can have a good idea how much I used of what, and which other leftover sock yarns might be combined into future Crazy Conservative socks.

If I'm crazy enough.

In other news, DD and I took a trip to the Gold Country in the foothills of California over President's Day weekend. We toured a working gold mine and two caves, one of which we took a 165-foot rappel down into. Big fun! Both she and I are experienced rappelers, but even the inexperienced rappelers had a great time and it is set up to be pretty much idiot-proof, as it should be. We also continued on for the crawling part of the tour, and once back above ground we did the zip line. I got back in touch with my outdoorsy, adventurous side, which has been somewhat dormant of late. If you're ever in that part of the world, I recommend this. Check out their website.

Alas, on our one day of skiing I fell clumsily and twisted my left knee pretty badly. I'm seeing the orthopodic guy Thursday. Hopefully a little PT and maybe a brace will be all that is in store for me. I tore my right ACL skiing about 6 years ago and have managed to avoid surgery for that so far, and hopefully won't need it for this tear/sprain/whatever.

The knee slowed me down only a little bit at Stitches West, but that's a story for another day.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

How to Knit a Single-strand Flow Motion Sock

Blocked Flow Motion sock

At last, I have a decent portrait with a blocker and everything.

Maia suggested I should write up my mods for the single-stranded Flow Motion socks, and I am incredibly flattered by this. Maia is a fiber goddess, being spinner / dyer / knitter / designer and possibly weaver (have I missed anything, Maia?) all in one. Me, I just knit.

Since flattery of this type will clearly motivate me, I will now explain my mods. If you do not happen to be interested in knitting a single-strand Flow Motion Sock, you might want to just look at the pic and skip the numbers-blah-adding-blah-charts-blah-blah-blah below. I won't be offended.

First of all, the original pattern by Cat Bordhi (to be found in Vogue Knitting's Ultimate Sock Book as well as in Vogue Knitting, Fall '06 I believe) is written to be knit with two strands of yarn (Trekking sock yarn is the recommended yarn) held together and knit on size 6 (4mm) needles. Clearly this will result in a thicker sock than if knit with a single strand of yarn in the usual way.

I wanted to knit these socks, but with a single strand. What to do? I was somewhat at a loss until New Pathways for Sock Knitters: Book One came out. The Flow Motion sock is based on the "Upstream" sock architecture in that book.

I used the Upstream Master Pattern and cast on to knit from the toe up, per the instructions (using a pretty ordinary toe instead of one of Cat's), using a 2.25 mm KnitPicks circular needle. My yarn, by the way, is Dream in Color Smooshy sock yarn. The gauge I was getting was 8 SPI. For my 9" foot length and 8" foot circumference, the formula in the book called for me to increase to 56 stitches around and then to knit to 4.33 inches before doing the instep increases.

Now, the chart for the instep increases is 26 rows, increasing from 2 to 33 stitches, meaning it has 31 increases. This was not going to give me enough stitches to match Cat's Master Numbers for me for this sock, and I knew that at the smaller gauge there would not be enough rows to give me the right length. I needed to knit more rows, and to increase from 56 stitches to -- well, there was a little confusion at this point.

The chart would have me increase to 96 stitches, but at the same time said that "the arch expansion total is nearly always equal to the midfoot total plus half the midfoot total", which would give me 84. I went with 93, somewhere in the middle but much closer to the chart number. An even larger number might have worked a bit better -- the socks are a little hard to get on, but they fit alright once on.

So, additional rows and increases needed to be worked to get the midfoot stitch total (56) plus the increases from the chart (31) to the desired stitch count (93). Six additional increased stitches, in fact, in my example.

I can't really explain how I decided how many additional rows to do. Guesswork would probably be the most honest answer. I worked 6 extra rounds (a few more would have been better), increasing two stitches every other row, before beginning the chart. These extra increases began on either side of the center instep stitches, and moved outwards as I went. Place markers on either side of the 2 center instep stitches and increase in the stitch before the first marker and the stitch after the second marker, every other round. I used Cat's LLinc and LRinc increases. YO's would be interesting, too.

ETA: I realize now that's not how I actually did it. It would work, with increases spreading out of the two center stitches. What I did, though, to echo the "V" of the instep chart, was make a right-leaning increase in the first stitch after the first marker, and a left-leaning increase in the stitch before the second marker. That way, the markers keep moving outward as you make the increases.

After the last plain round I began the instep chart. Move the two markers back to either side of the center two instep stitches, and then begin.

Once my instep chart was done, I worked a plain heel using Cat's instructions, decreasing per the toe-up heel decreases until I had 64 stitches. The leg chart is 16 stitches across and the original pattern calls for 3 repeats around the leg (48 stitches around the leg). Four repeats and 64 stitches around were appropriate for this size sock in this gauge.

I have two important tips for you here --

The first is that there is an error in the leg chart (the written instructions for the leg pattern are correct as written). In row 5, stitch 10 is shown in the chart as a plain knit stitch, but it should be a YO.

The second is -- where do you start the leg chart? The instructions only make sense if you are knitting the original pattern.

After careful reading and scratching my head and thinking about where the beginning of the chart would have fallen if I were knitting the original pattern, I came up with the answer.

You begin the leg chart on top of the 5th stitch of the last row of the instep chart.

That's a pretty bland statement there, isn't it? But at the time it seemed like a major breakthrough.

Knit (plain knit stitches in the plain ones, KBL if the stitch below is KBL) until you have knit the 4th stitch of the last row of the instep chart, then place a marker and begin the first repeat of the leg chart.

I changed to a 2.5 mm needle when I began the leg, since the instep and heel were a little tight -- I sure didn't want the lower leg to be so tight I wouldn't be able to get the socks on.

And now you're home free, nearly. Work the leg chart four times around, four times, do the top edging of your choice (I chose a plain picot edge instead of the seed stitch picot edge in the pattern), et voila.

And in the timeless tradition of completely pointless instructions everywhere, let me add: Make second sock.

Other pics of my socks in my previous posts are here.

Questions? Bouquets? Rotten tomatoes? Let me know.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Socks for Nicole

You know how sometimes you give hand-knitted socks to someone and they're ho-hum about them? Or how someone might scorn the idea of hand-knitting socks at all, since you can buy them at the store?

Not Nicole.

Nicole is my neighbor and good friend. Her son is in DD's grade at school. I wish I saw her more often. We are very comfortable together and always enjoy one another's company. Once in a while one of us will call up the other and say, "we need to go for a walk right now because there is something one of us simply needs to vent about, or else explode.

I happened to mention to Nicole that I am hooked on knitting socks. That I knit more socks than I can wear myself. She promptly said, "I'd like some". In a way that I quite liked.

So after I finished my then-sock-in-progress, I rounded up all my sock yarn and most of my sock knitting books (scary, that), and all of my own hand-knitted socks, and headed over to her place (mine being full of construction dust and debris and all).

She seemed to quite understand about having so much yarn and so many books. Of course, I was offering to knit her socks, but I really think she gets it -- that if you have a hobby, of course there are shows (I told her about Stitches), and books and supplies that you collect.

She selected a yarn that I was no longer crazy about, and a simple ribbed sock was what she wanted. Perfect! I didn't steer her to these choices -- but she's not crazy about purple, so my nice hand-dyed purple yarns didn't appeal to her, and while she seemed to understand that I get all excited about things like Cat Bordhi's new sock book, she just wanted ribbed socks.

Nicole socks 2

Admire our matchiness, please.

Nicole socks

Darn! Try as we might, we can't both fit on the scanner at once.

I can't find my home-made sock blocker. The disorder caused by our remodel is staggering. I've ordered inexpensive sock "stretchers", but they're not here yet.


O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!

After writing the portion above, I had to attend to some (ahem) actual work for awhile, woe is me. Meantime, the mail came! With my sock blockers!

Nicole socks 3

Yay, I have a proper portrait now! The other sock is jealous!

These sock blockers are, no kidding, $1.88, plus shipping. Go, get them here, now. With shipping, they came to $7.17. These are size small and are maybe 1/2 inch longer than my women's 7.5 foot, but that's just fine. I can't remember now where I first saw the link to these -- whoever it was that posted it, thank you, thank you! If you click the link and click on the product picture, you can see a picture without the socks on them.

They are plastic and very similar to the lovely wooden ones you see many places, but thinner. They might need just a little bit of smoothing out the edges, but otherwise they're just right for me. I know they're not as pretty, but I never could justify spending the money for the lovely wooden ones. And if DH makes me lovely wooden ones using these as a template -- well, that would be just fine and dandy, too. After the remodel is done.

OK, the details:

Lost the ball bands. Some nice self-striping and self-patterning sock yarn with nylon content.
60 stitches around on size 2.5 mm KnitPicks circ, magic loop-style. Plain heel, basic toe. 2x2 ribbing on leg and instep. Long-tail cast-on.

ETA: The link has now been fixed. Give the sock blockers a try, what have you got to lose?