Sunday, January 15, 2017

Year of Projects 6: Week 29

Vallisneria Spiralis
Things are really moving along with my Vallisneria Socks. This picture is from Saturday morning - just two more repeats and then the toe. We're winter camping at the cottage this weekend, so with the 2.5 hour drive each way I'd expect that I'll be well into sock two by the time we come home on Monday.

The pattern is named for a fresh water aquatic plant Vallisneria, commonly called eel grass or tape grass. The KAL theme was "Biology" so I picked out this tonal green yarn from the stash and matched it up to this pattern for Vallisneria Socks by Jean Clement.

As written the pattern is knit on 2.75mm with a primary stitch count of 64 stitches. Breezing through the Ravelry projects, I noted a couple of mentions of the sock working up small. So I opted to add two pattern repeats and cast on 80 stitches and then shifted down to 2.25mm needles. I couldn't be happier with the result. The pattern is quite stretchy horizontally, so when worn it opens up nicely without being terribly stretched.

Just before starting the heel flap I purled together every instance of two purls stitches to bring the stitch count for the heel flap down from 40 to 30. I have pointy heels - narrower and longer heel flaps work best for me. I continued with gusset decrease until I had 30 sole stitches. Add those to the 40 instep stitches and the primary stitch count for the foot is 70 sts. That's on the high side for me, but seems to suit the pattern. When I reach the toe I'll employ the same decrease strategy to reduce the instep stitches from 40 to 30 sts before starting the toe decreases.

I'm actually amazed at how much I like these socks. I almost never repeat a pattern but with this one I just might. I'll admit that I still think the pattern's a bit pricey for what it is, but the fact that I'm so happy with the result goes a long way to making me happy with my purchase. That being said, I did have to do a lot of modification to get the fit where I wanted it, so that's not a great reflection on the pattern. Never mind all that though - awesome green socks!!!!

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Year of Projects 6: Week 28

We're in a bitter cold snap right now - perfect weather to stay inside and knit, in my opinion. And lots of knitting has been happening around here. My Thornfield socks are finally done, thanks in no small part to last minute efforts to finish them in time for Christmas gift giving. Sadly they weren't done on time but at least one was done so that the recipient could try it on and await the second sock of the pair... the gift of best intentions rather than a finished pair of socks!

The pattern is actually quite lovely with intertwining lattices of travelling stitches but it is almost entirely overwhelmed by the busyness of this yarn. If I make them again I'll stick with a light solid coloured yarn to show of the pattern. As a result of the travelling stitches the sock knits up quite small. I had originally planned these for myself, with the idea of wearing them to Rhinebeck, but when the trip fell through and when the first leg was so obviously tiny, I decided on a change of course. Rather than rip the leg and restart, I earmarked this pair for a friend.

The yarn is Sock Talky by the Dye Guy. I picked it up when my friend and I went to a "HandMade Market" at a Niagara region winery and stopped in the little village of Jordan Ontario for lunch and a poke around. The yarn feels gorgeous! Very soft. But it's on the thick side for fingering weight sock yarns so these are definitely going to be WARM socks.

In my last post I mentioned that I had signed up for a couple of KALs in the Solid Socks Group on Ravelry. I've made a bit of progress on each of the KALs.

The mystery KAL is a pair of toe-up socks designed by Sarah Ronchetti. I don't mean to imply anything negative about the pattern, but my participation is reminding me why I don't usually like MKALs. The pattern is not really my cup of tea. In general I prefer to knit cuff down rather than toe up for my socks. I find that heel flap and gusset construction allows me to tailor the fit of the sock better than a short-row sock. As well the sock pattern as written features a very blunt squarish toe box - that won't work for my pointy toes at all, so I've already altered that. And the pattern section on the instep is centred between wide purled panels. I don't much like that either.

The yarn came from a destash by a fellow Raveller. And the fact that I hate the colour isn't helping. You could call it a warm shell pink. It just makes me think of hot flashes. In the skein it appeared pretty solid, maybe slightly tweedy but it's knitting up faintly stripey, and I'm not loving that either.

I considered using twisted stitches to tighten up the transition from knit to purl, but decided against that. To qualify for prizes in this group you must knit the pattern as written. Looking back on it now, I'd rethink that decision. Having altered the toe, and with the yarn inclined to stripeyness, I'm pretty sure I've already disqualified myself. The transitions look a bit crappy now, but I think blocking and wear will help. That's what I'm telling myself anyway.

Clue one is done. Clue two dropped last night so I'll get to that some time next week.

For the second KAL I picked my own pattern based on the January theme "Botany". Once again the yarn came from a fellow Raveller's destash -  an unlabelled cake of green yarn. For my pattern I chose "Vallisneria" which is meant to be reminiscent of sea grasses. I can't tell you how much I'm enjoying this green. Not too dark to present any difficulty seeing the stitches on the needles or in the knitted fabric. Not even remotely pastel or wishy-washy. And not a hint of pink! Ahhh, bliss. This KAL is meant to finish at the end of January... I'm not sure I can manage that, but we'll see. Gavin wants his grey socks sooner than later so I might have to switch gears and re-cast them on instead of working on anything else.

And finally, some of you showed interest in my paintings, so here's a collage of my favourite six from 2016. I start painting workshops in about ten days so it will be interesting to see where it goes from here!

Monday, December 26, 2016

Year of Projects 6: Week 26

The good news is that the MKAL "Not Bothered By the Cold" socks are done. I finished them up on the evening of the 23rd, leaving myself enough time to wash, block and dry the finished socks before wrapping them up and gifting them on the 24th. They are pretty socks but all that stockinette makes the legs a bit baggy and saggy in my experience. But pretty socks nonetheless and I think Barb is going to love them. And if you're wondering, yes the socks are too small for me as shown in the photo, but Barb's feet and legs are much thinner/smaller :)

The bad news is that my Thornfield socks are not done. I'm more than halfway down the leg of sock two so I should finish by the end of this week. Time will tell whether I see the intended recipient before that. The original plan was to drive out to the Lake today but the police are closing highways in every direction because of severe icy road conditions from freezing rain, so that plan has been cancelled.

The revised plan for today is laundry, painting and maybe some quilting. Those who follow me on Instagram know that I've been painting my way through the book "50 Small Paintings". With any luck I'll complete painting #47 today and get started on painting #48. I'm motivated to finish the 50 paintings soon for two reasons: I got another painting book for Christmas, Acrylics Unleashed, and, Gavin bought me an eight week course of painting workshops at the local art centre starting in mid-January. Very exciting (and just a little intimidating too)!

As for the knitting plans, the list looks like this:
• finish Thornfield Socks
• finish Crest Socks
• re-cast on Twisted Flower socks
January/February MKAL in SolidSocks group on Ravelry
January "Botany" theme KAL in SolidSocks group in Ravelry
• re-cast on black/grey ribbed socks for Gavin
• knit Albert de Moncerf socks for Warm Hands Network

Feels like I'm being overly ambitious... I guess we'll see what happens! Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Year of Projects 6: Week 24

To overdye or Not to overdye, that is the question
As expected my pink socks are done, but I'm still up in the air about whether to overdye them or not. Using photoshop I tried to simulate what the overdyed result might look like with three different food colours, but there's no guarantee that my simulations will be accurate. I am leaning towards the Sky Blue food colouring - I find it unifies the cuff and leg yarns and is a bit brighter than the teal food colouring. The burgundy seems a bit darker and more intense than I think I want. But what do you think?

The toe colour is darker than I'd hoped but it really was the only stash yarn that I had that in anyway complemented the leg and foot colour. There was another yarn that I had in mind but after knitting several rounds it turned out to be self-striping which added another unwelcome element of contrast. I put that aside for another pair of socks.

I knit a super long cuff - mainly to use up a bunch of this Louet Fingering yarn that has no nylon content - but I think I like this style. It keeps the leg nice and snug. I suppose you could also roll the cuff over by half. I think I remember doing this as a young girl with my knee socks?

MKAL clues 1 and 2
Once the pink socks were done I was supposed to go back to sock two of my Thornfield socks. I didn't though. Instead a MKAL caught my attention on Ravelry and in a blink of an eye I'd purchased the pattern and signed up for the knit-along. I've knit clue 1 (the cuff) and clue 2 (the leg) of the first sock so far. Clue 3 doesn't come out until the end of the week so I think I'll shift sock one onto scrap yarn and knit sock two to the same point.

You may be surprised to see me knitting pink yarn again. I'm sure I've mentioned that it's really not my favourite colour?! This time around these socks are to be a gift for someone who specifically asked for a pretty, girly pair of pink socks. So pink it is. I bought the yarn on Friday at Spun Fiber Arts. It's Peppino from the Yarns of Richard Devreize and what gorgeous yarn it is to knit! Perfect weight for fine socks, very smooth and springy yarn, lots of twist, and a distinctly lanolin feel to it. I'm really enjoying knitting with it. I am already imagining knitting various Rachel Coopey colourwork socks with it... like Alfrick or Twylla. With two skeins yielding 440 yards I'm bound to have lots leftover!

So that's my week's work cut out for me. And that second Thornfield socks really DOES need to be done by Christmas, so I'd better get going on it!

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Year of Projects 6: Week 23

My secret swap package arrived in Louisiana so I can do a reveal. It's a Christmas Monkey! What makes a monkey festive? Hmmm... a red and white striped scarf, maybe? I don't know; I just thought he was cute.

The pattern is Mini Monkey Christmas Ornaments from Boo-Biloo. It came up in my Facebook feed from LoveKnitting and I thought it was just hilarious.

The individual pieces were pretty quick knits but the finishing was very fiddly. Each piece - arms, legs, tail, ears, scarf and body - was knit flat and then mattress stitched closed. I think if I did another I'd have a good think about how to knit most of this in the round. And the hairline and face were done in Intarsia. All the little complications did keep it interesting. Also I learned from the pattern instructions to position a piece of felt on the inside of the toy behind the area to be embroidered to support the embroidery stitches. Works perfectly!

Kudos to the pattern designer too;  the pattern included really good quality photos and finishing instructions. I tried to match my embroidery to the pattern photo and it's turned out better than I expected. Usually my embroidery is terrible!

Mr. Monkey ended up about 6" from top of his head to bottom of his foot, so I don't know how "mini" he really is. To my mind, that's on the large size for an ornament. Cute nonetheless and KristiRose in Louisiana seems to really like him!

I was a day late in sending my swap package. As I was packing things up and reviewing the questionnaire responses I was reminded that my Swap recipient is lactose intolerant which made the planned chocolate treats entirely inappropriate. The next morning I re-shopped and got a quick lesson in how difficult it is to find commercial treats that are milk free and produced in milk-free facilities. After striking out at the local grocery stores I finally found some appropriate choices at the Health Food Store. I'm so fortunate not to have food allergy or sensitivity issues!

I did finish the blue-green vanilla socks and then cast on another pair of vanilla socks. This time I decided to cast on my least favourite colours - pink and purple - from amongst the yarn donated by a fellow Raveller just to get the yarn knit and out of my stash! The cuff is knit with Louet Gems Fingering which is a lovely yarn with no nylon content. The variegated pink/purple yarn I've used on the leg came with no label but it feels like a superwash merino/nylon sock yarn. Within the first dozen rounds I realized that the variegated yarn was pooling badly... so badly that it seemed likely that the purple was going to stack up on one side of the leg, and the pink stack up on the other side, and never the twain would meet. Agh. Maybe that's the reason it ended up being destashed??

I tried alternating with another yarn but I didn't like it any better, so I settled on another strategy. Every fifth round is worked as K1 Sl1 which works to kick the colours about halfway across the round. The result is somewhat striped but I like it well enough.

There's definitely not enough of the pink/purple variegated yarn to complete two legs, two heels and two feet - even with these super long cuffs. Instead I've knitted both socks to the same point with the plan to knit both as far as I can to the last few inches of yarn and then switch to another not-quite-matching pink/purple yarn to finish the feet and toes. I hope it's not too horrible.

If the final result is really horrifying I can always overdye the finished socks to subdue the pink, unify the colours and flatten the contrast. They might just end up purple. Could happen! I've got teal food colouring in the cupboard at the ready!

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Year of Projects 6: Week 21

Just a handful of rounds before I cut the two main yarns and start the toe of the second sock. I'm still infatuated with these socks and have already gone stash-diving to select the next bunch of yarn leftovers for vanilla sock treatment. As you can see in the photo, there's a ridge where I've changed yarns at the end of one round to the beginning of the next, but I'm pretty sure this will block out with the first wash and wear. It's a super comfy sock and the bright colours are a nice contrast to the grey windy winter weather that's arrived. I'm hoping to finish up this pair in the next day or two and get started on the next. But before I do that, I'd like to finish sock number two of my Thornfield socks - they've been neglected for the past week or more.

I was in Ottawa for the last few days and had a chance to finally meet Anita, an extraordinary good-hearted knitter who started and manages the Warm Hands Network. She is an inspiration. Over breakfast and coffee she showed me photos of one of her contacts in the northern communities she serves - a woman who organized and administers the only two shelters in Iqaluit... and she stressed the urgent need for socks. How lucky I am to enjoy knitting gorgeous yarn donations into much needed and valued socks for entire communities of knit-worthy kids and adults! Depending on the weather and driving conditions, I'm already planning another road trip to attend one of the upcoming packing nights at Anita's house in Ottawa. It'd be fun to meet the whole crew! 

At the same time I've cast on some secret Christmas knitting. At the moment it's cute and fun, but it shows every sign of becoming a fiddly nuisance in a hurry... particularly as the next steps are intarsia. Oh well, nothing ventured, nothing gained. So that's what I'll be doing for the next week or more. Have a great week and for those of you in Ontario (and possibly northern US too?) enjoy the season's first snow!

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Year of Projects 6: Week 20

Several weeks ago I caught sight of a post in the GTA forum on Ravelry - Yarn Free to Charity. Another generous Raveller on Ravelry was destashing sock yarn for free. I was all over that!

A few days later I picked up more than three shopping bags of sock yarn; mostly 40 to 50 gram partial skeins. Enough to keep knitting scrappy socks for the rest of my life!

I've already packed up about a third of it for another Raveller in Ottawa who also knits socks for the Warm Hands Network. I feel good about that. I was starting to think I could never knit fast enough for all that yarn!

In the meantime I've cast on my first sock with three yarns chosen from the destashed yarns. The cuff and heel are Tosh Sock in a colourway called "Forestry". I'm not sure what the blue and green yarns are that I'm using for the leg and foot but don't they make a a very bright and dramatic fabric? Maybe it's a reaction to the last couple of  pairs of grey vanilla socks, but bright is exactly what I'm in the mood for!

I'm heading to Ottawa at the end of the week. Hopefully I have this pair of socks done to add to my pile for the Warm Hands Network. Now let's see if I can keep up with my knitting AND blogging.