Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Best. Kneesocks. Ever.

I actually finished these last Wednesday but have been lazy and busy (a weird combination, I know). Here they are at last!

For those who care, I knit them toe up on size 1's (started with DPNs, switched to two knitpicks circs) using Koigu KPPPPPPPPPM, dye code appears to be P423. It took about two and a half skeins. I used Widdershins to make the heel.

I invented the lace pattern, which grows wider as you go up the leg. I talked at one point about doing a tutorial on "kneesocks that fit your calves" but I am lazy and busy. So here's the no-picture version. Please remember I'm talking about a toe-up sock, so just exchange "decrease" for "increase" wherever you need it.

Look at your legs. Many (most) of the kneesock patterns out there put the decreases or increases (depending on which way you go) on either side of a seam right up the back of your leg. This can work sometimes, but the truth is, when my calves get bigger they get bigger all over, not just in the back. I want my motifs that run up the side of my leg to stay centered. To do this I'll need to increase all over the sock, not just in the back.

Hey, someone has already thought of this! In Nancy Bush's Folk Socks, the Norwegian stockings (top-down) have all their decreases in one round, below the widest part of the calf. But my calves aren't shaped like that. They change size gradually. Plus, the way that pattern is written you only change the circumference of the sock by about an inch, and I don't know about you guys but there's more than an inch difference in my shapely legs.

Here's what I did. I got out a tape measure and a pen that I knew would wash off. I marked the point on my ankle where you switch from the foot part to the leg part. I measured up to the top of my shin. 13". I then used the tape measure (a mirror is helpful here too) to put 13 lines at intervals of one inch all the way up my shin. Then I measured the circumference of my leg at each interval and marked it down, and then I made a little graph. I found out that there was a four inch difference between my ankle and the widest part of my calf.

Next I designed my motif. You can see how easy it would be to add an extra yarn-over in there to widen the pattern. (Can you? I can try to take better pictures) Each increase section was about eight rows, and increased the sock by 8 stitches. I wound up only needing two increase sections.

It's going to be a long time before I knit kneesocks again, because these took forEVER, but I know the next time I'll do something similar to this so that the motifs all line up and follow the curve of my leg. I think this is a lot more flattering and way more fun!

(Can you tell it's time to dust the mirror?)

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Saruman is building an army

My bear army is growing. You can see the makings of Bear #4 here. I just finished the faces of bears 2 and 3. I did Lumpy's about a week ago and then brought him around to my friends to ask their opinions ("does this look loveable or pathetic?"). They liked him, and his name, and the other two bears got names- bear 2, on the left, is the Everybear, and the bear on the right is the Carebear. I don't really have the time or energy to embroider a little heart or whatever for Carebear, so he'll just have to pretend that he can shoot lasers out of his belly.

An additional recipient has been added to the list, which is why I'm working on #4. I think I'm just going to keep making these until I run out of yarn because they're so easy and I think they'll make good gifts. Now that Lumpy has a face I am so in love with him and glad he's staying with me. I'm pretty smitten with all the bears, but Lumpy, in his misshapen glory, is my favorite. Maybe it's an underdog thing.

I have a finished object to report as soon as I can get some good pics. Sexy kneesocks!

I also started my dad's Christmas present, a pair of socks (to sleep in) in a lovely brown Cherry Tree Hill. So everything on my needles is brown, now that the kneesocks are done. Dad has agreed to make the great sacrifice of not reading my blog between now and Christmas so I can show y'all progress pics. These are my first two-at-a-time socks, woo hoo!

Tuesday, October 17, 2006


I finished the right kneesock tonight.

The reader thinks: how is this possible? Wasn't she going to do some crazy sideways knit cuff, knit right on to the sock? Last time we saw the socks, wasn't she not even done with the ribbing, which she kept complaining was taking forever?

Well, yeah. But I sat down to start on that part tonight, and before I knew it I was binding off. I don't regret it a bit.

Maybe I'm not such a fearless knitter. I started trying to do the cuff and just couldn't get my head around it. It was too much to deal with. But I've also been feeling really discouraged about my almost-nonexistent progress and the fact that there's a whole 'nother sock leg to knit. I was ready to be done with this sock, and now I am.

The next time I try a turn-down cuff, it will be a top-down sock. Easier to start with that rectangle, at least I think so. But that will be a long time from now.

Eliminating this step means that there is a chance I'll finish these by the end of Socktober, which is the most encouraging thing of all. I know Lolly says you don't even have to have a specific goal, but I did want something to show for a month's worth of sock knitting.

Also, I left my sock at school yesterday, which only made me more anxious about finishing them, but gave me time to finish these:

Cute, huh? The one on the right was my first try and I'm not terribly happy with the way he turned out. I named him Lumpy McLosingstuffing and he'll stay with me so that I don't have to choose which of my friends gets the crappy bear who will probably fall apart if he is loved too much.

It may not be snowing here, but we did have a rather spectacular Weather Event. It rained, hard, all day Sunday and most of Monday. Monday afternoon this is what the bayou (stream) less than one block from my apartment looked like:

I wish I had a before picture. This stream has a CONCRETE BOTTOM. And SIDES. Can you see the concrete? No, because it's flooded. Ten feet deeper is a conservative estimate. Fifteen feet is probably closer. It's also three times wider than usual. The water was moving fast, too. Scary stuff, but this makes me glad I'm on the second floor. I just wish my car was that high, too!

The rain has stopped and the water receded, but it's SO muggy and gross outside. In a couple of days we'll probably have the mother of all mosquito clouds. Good thing I never leave the house.

Monday, October 16, 2006

My finished sweater, and a visit from Mom

Sorry for all the suspense, guys!

I finished the sweater on Thursday night but didn't get the last of the ends in until about ten minutes before Mom showed up. She stopped by to visit on her way home from an exciting weekend of visiting relatives. Great news: my aunt finished her PhD!

I took advantage of the occasion to have her take pictures of me in my FIRST SWEATER EVER!

Not bad for a first try, eh?

The pattern is Licorice Whip by Blue Alvarez. Top-down raglan in one piece. I used the recommended yarn because it was free! Blue Sky Alpaca Dyed Cotton, a 2-ply very soft worsted yarn.

My modifications mostly happened in the collar. I started the collar with more stitches so that it would be wider. The original pattern calls for you to knit one round, then knit three rounds tbl, then k2tog, YO for a round, knit a round plain, and then knit another round tbl. I had just picked up addis for the first time and found knitting tbl to be horribly unpleasant, so I skipped two of the first three tbl rounds. Then I decided the designer was smarter than me, so I ripped out the first few rows (such a pain! omg!) and redid it to match the bottom and the sleeves. I guess that means there are no cast-on edges on the sweater at all. Crazy!

In all it's a great fit, a great pattern, and I'm super pleased with the result. Sadly a warm front is currently making my poor city very hot and soggy, so I'll have to wait till January (when winter gets here) to wear it. Ah, the pain of being a knitter in the South!

(Ok, I will totally wear it before then. The good thing about being a knitter in the South, especially a cold-natured knitter in the south, is that air conditioning does for us what the weather does everywhere else. All year round)

While Mom was here I forced her to model her socks so I could finally take a picture of them. Yay!

Student-teacher sock conference.

These are the bears I'm making. I'm doing the pattern kind of "freehand," which is to say I have no pattern at all. I'm calling them "raglan bears" because their shoulders use raglan shaping. I'm using the yarn left over from the sweater for cuddly little brown bears. Actual size without legs: 3" Yes, I will put legs on them. ;-)

Friday, October 13, 2006


I finished the sweater.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Knitting guild and a meme

Last night my knitting buddy Ileana and I went to the Houston Knit at Night Guild's monthly meeting. What a blast!

We were pretty late because a) we didn't have directions and had to have my Mom look them up, with help/interference from my brother who didn't want to relinquish the computer and b) we didn't even call for directions until like five minutes before the meeting started.

Even though we came in late they wanted us to introduce ourselves, which I guess means we were forgiven, and I told them my good old joke about learning to knit when I was 8 and learning to purl when I was a sophomore in college. It's fun making a room full of about 40 knitters crack up. The problem with that joke is that I'd just said I was a student (didn't mention the "grad" part) and that I look like I'm about 16. They were probably thinking "gosh, she's a sophomore in college? she looks so young!" So they probably figured I'd been purling for all of a month.

At the break, though, about five women came over to see my kneesocks. (I'd meant to work on the sweater at the meeting, because I am *this close* to being done, but I forgot the extra DPN. Grr.) And they *loved* them. I felt like a rockstar.

The best part of the meeting was at the end when everybody showed off their finished objects. It was amazing to see the range of experience and all the beautiful things people were working on. There were women knitting variations on the garter stitch scarf and women knitting ganseys on size four needles, women knitting with Red Heart and one lady who said she'd just finished her first project with a synthetic yarn in the whole length of her knitting life. What was so great about this group was that they really celebrated each other. Ileana and I loved it, and we can't wait to go back.

Auntie Ann did this meme- "10 knitterly things you didn't know about me" and I am trying to come up with some things.

1) My first project, a pair of mittens to be felted, took me about six years to finish and i'd outgrown the mittens by the time they were done. By that time I'd also lost the book with the felting instructions, and never got around to felting them. So I guess that technically counts as my oldest unfinished object-- somewhere around 15 years old.

2) As much as I love knitting socks, I'm not sure that any of them will ever get worn in public more than once or twice. It's hard to say yet because I started knitting socks right when it got to be about 80 degrees last spring, so we'll see, but I just don't have the shoes or the style required for crazy handknit socks. And I hate clogs.

3) I knit a Fair Isle PDA cozy once, to practice my two-handed fair isle, but I made it with some slippery cotton yarn that stretched out too much to hold the PDA.

4) I don't want to knit anything that I wouldn't buy in a store, so I will never (I hope) knit shapeless, unflattering sweaters.

5) I will tolerate very small mistakes in my knitting, but only if they're almost completely unnoticeable. As much as I hate frogging, I hate obvious imperfections more.

6) I can't wait until I can knit a sweater for my boyfriend. Something with ribbing to show off his muscles. I'm not worried about the Curse as much as I'm worried about the Laundromat.

7) In case my advisor (with whom I took a class on the writings of Karl Marx last semester) ever gives me grief about knitting, I have devised an elaborate defense based on Marx as to why I should be able to knit. I think he will like it. ("This is labor from which I am not alienated!")

8) I kind of believe #7. My knitting is the only thing I have that's truly mine, that I do for myself and no one else. But maybe Marx would want me to knit for the common good? He's a little fuzzy on the details.

9) I am a fearless knitter--I'm never afraid to try anything (except knitting ugly things)--and I sometimes have a hard time understanding why people do fear things in knitting. Especially because they're always surprised when they realize how easy it really was.

10) My mom is my knitting hero, so I felt pretty L33T when I got her knitting socks.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

A Socktoberfest Salute

Check me out!

I bought these socks at Target last year and whaddaya know, they're just like the ones in the Socktoberfest button! (which I ought to add, but I am laaaazy. and busy).

The socks and I have made up, and I'm more in love with them than ever. This does not mean that there will be no more frogging, though, as I made about three inches of progress and decided to revise the last two inches of lace pattern. Le Sigh.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

A Dear Jane Letter

Around lunchtime I realized that the sock was trying to tell me something. Something along these lines:

Dear Liz,

We haven't been getting along very well lately. Don't you think that frogging the same inch three times in three days is too much? I think we should take a break.

The right kneesock

I can see where the kneesock is coming from. I'm going to take some time to actually chart the pattern, and maybe finish up that sweater. It may be harder to carry around but wow, is it easier to knit on.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Socktoberfest homework

Socktoberfest is in full swing. Last night I celebrated by frogging those four rows I messed up on, re-knitting them, realizing I'd goofed again, then getting the ball of yarn all tangled up. Gotta frog again.

Anyway they asked us some questions. At Lolly's blog you can read the other responses.

* When did you start making socks? Did you teach yourself or were you taught by a friend or relative? or in a class?

I started making socks around february. I learned from a pattern someone in the LYS gave me and from Sensational Knitted Socks. Great resource.

* What was your first pair? How have they "held up" over time?

light blue baby cashmerino on size 3s. I gave them to my mom and she loved them. I think they're still in good shape but I don't know how often she wears them, since they're pretty warm.

* What would you have done differently?

I wish that yarn came in colors other than pastel and black. I wish I'd been able to do a better job tacking down the last two kitchenered stitches. I think I knit a purl somewhere. Other than that they were great socks.

* What yarns have you particularly enjoyed?

Koigu, but I've decided to stick with solid yarn and complicated patterns from now on.

* Do you like to crochet your socks? or knit them on DPNs, 2 circulars, or using the Magic Loop method?

Crocheted socks don't sound very pleasant for feet. I knit on 5 dpns or 2 circs. I am lovin the 2 circs.

* Which kind of heel do you prefer? (flap? or short-row?)

Heel flap and round heel. I like Widdershins' imitation too.

* How many pairs have you made?

Just 3! I am on pair 4 right now.

They didn't ask whether you prefer toe-up or top down. I am doing my first toe-ups right now and am glad to have this skill in my knitting arsenal, but there's something nice and straightforward about a top-down sock. It does leave you with a lot of extra yarn, though.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Guess it's time for an update

Not a whole lot of knitting news. Kneesocks being kneesocks, I am on what you might call the "long haul," where actual progress will not really be visible until one day when I decide to try on the sock and realize I've gone two inches past where I needed to. I am watching with great paranoia for signs of pooling, as I've just hit the second increase section and now have 16 more stitches than I started with. Or at least I will, once I frog back the three rows I knit while waiting for takeout pizza last night. I missed an increase round. As the priest in my Italian class told me this summer, "molto male, stupido!" (It was a skit.)

Friday night Dave came into town, but before he got in I finished the body of the sweater and got started on a sleeve. Dave was in town, so not much knitting happened, but I've done some today. I learned something today about the value of Sewing Things Together--when knitting a top-down raglan, it becomes a major PITA to spin your work every time you switch dpns on the sleeve. I mean, every 14 stitches (well, fewer now, yay for shaping) you have to pick up this big, worsted-weight cotton sweater and spin it. Sigh, tedious. The sleeves are long enough now that I only have to spin every other DPN if I want to, which is nice. Still a long way to go. I have long arms.

We went to the Renaissance Festival on Sunday with some friends of ours. TONS of fun. I tried enquiring about the sock market but at the one shop where I asked their manager wasn't in, and I felt pretty stupid without a sample or even a sketch, so I didn't go back. Plus it was about 95 degrees and I wasn't sure I was willing to inflict wool socks on anybody at the RenFest, even those with more money than sense. Must look into cotton sock yarn.

I have no knitting pics so how about a few Italy flashbacks? Remember when I got slightly inebriated in Siena and was worried all my pics would turn out blurry? Well they did, but luckily the stuff is pretty enough that it looks ok anyway.

This is the cathedral. In my defense, I probably couldn't have taken a no-flash, really-long-exposure pic in the low light and have it come out clear under any circumstances. Doesn't it just make you want to say "Beetlejuice" a few times?

This was my last night in Florence and my last gelato. The gelateria is La Carraia, on Ponte alla Carraia, and is the cheapest, best gelato I found in Florence. One euro for a cone! I got pink grapefruit and ACE, the best juice in the world is now a gelato flavor (orange, carrot, lemon)!