Sunday, March 18, 2018

Year of Projects 7: Week 38

Most of my attention this week was focussed on Gschnitztal Socks, and after numerous false starts and much ripping back I've finished one sock to my satisfaction. My apologies for the photos; this yarn photographs very oversaturated particularly in the yellow/orange tones. You'll have to take my word for it - the colourway is very pretty, and not as harsh as the photos suggest.

There were lots of mods to get to this result. The twisted stitches draw in A LOT and are VERY inflexible so the sock is difficult to fit. The pattern as written works five 13-st repeats around the leg for a primary stitch count of 65 sts. Even after shifting up two needle sizes I couldn't make that work, so I added a repeat for a primary stitch count of 78 sts. Crazy, huh?

Although sock patterns typically allocate half the leg stitches for the heel flap, that was just too much in this case. Besides the pattern has separate narrower charts for the left and right edges of the instep which I wanted to incorporate because I though they added more interest to the pattern. After stringing a lifeline - just in case this was all a terrible idea -  I worked the heel flap by ribbing in pattern over 33sts, leaving 45 sts for the instep. Still sounds crazy, right? Fortunately it worked out as the pattern really draws in.

After working three repeats on the foot it was necessary to add some patterned rib rows to lengthen the sock before starting the toe. Not quite enough length for another full repeat though, and it's probably just as well not have all those twisted stitches across the top of my toes. Truth be told, I miscalculated this the first time too, so I ripped back once more to get the length right. After all the work in getting to that point, why not perfect it? Another repeat on the leg would have been nice but I'd have run out of yarn for sure! To start the toe area I worked a decrease row to shift from 45 sts to 30 sts ... did I mention that I continued the gusset decreases to bring the sole to 30 sts for a snug sock?

It was hard fought but what a pretty sock! I've already cast on sock number two and now that all the mods are figured out, it should be smooth sailing. As you can imagine, I'm also pretty good at working these twisted stitches... with all those restarts on sock one, I've had lots of practice!

Aside from Gschnitztal, I also devoted some time to Clue 2 of the "On the Other Foot" MKAL which was released on Friday. With each clue participants receive two options for the next section. In this case, foot option one is a cable and lace pattern, and foot option two is a stranded colourwork pattern.

The cable and lace option is very nice, although I have some reservations about it. I personally don't like lace for socks, so there's that. Will a 7-stitch cable down the centre of the instep be comfortable inside a shoe? Doubtful. And the large size is the same chart as the small and medium with added purl stitches on each side, resulting in a 5-stitch purl gutter down each side of the instep. Yuck! I don't like wide purl gutters so instead I've repeated the mock cables on each side to extend the patterning out to each side of the instep. Then there's that spiral toe - I'm still not a fan. It fits better than the toe on the colourwork sock, but not as well as a traditional wedge toe.

The stranded colourwork pattern is cute, but feels very fussy to me. Honestly, I feel like I'm knitting a Ukranian Easter egg. I'm tempted to halt the stranded colourwork and finish the foot as a vanilla sock. And I'm seriously tempted to cut off that garter stitch toe that I strongly dislike and rework the toe as a wedge toe.

But more than that I'm undecided about whether I want to complete either sock or make a finished pair of either pattern. With that in mind, I've put both socks in time out to await the release of further clues. Perhaps the reveal of the heel and leg patterns will make my decision for me.

That's it from me this week. There are 14 weeks left in this Year of Projects and I've got 8.5 pairs of socks to go. Doesn't look good, particularly as my knitting mojo feels at a bit of a low ebb. Maybe some spring weather and sunshine will help to perk things up?! Here's hoping!

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Year of Projects 7: Week 37

March came in like a lion with two snowstorms in the first week. The snow was quite heavy at times and the driving treacherous, so that kept me housebound with lots of (knitting) time on my hands.

No surprise then that my Leyburn socks are done. The pattern is simple and it's easy enough to see where you are in the pattern while knitting, so it all goes very quickly. I knit these toe-up as written so that I could use every last yard of yarn for the longest possible legs. Although I prefer to knit socks cuff down - perhaps because I prefer the look and fit of heel flaps and gussets? -  I have to admit that knitting toe-up is a great way to maximize yarn usage.

I worked an FLK heel, which has quickly become my go-to heel for toe-up socks. There are a few reasons why I really like it...

• it's easily memorized; no need to reference the pattern
• it fits really well, especially when I add 4 stitches evenly across the sole before starting the heel to accommodate my pointy heel and high instep
• there are no stitches to pick up, no wraps to fiddle with and there are no holes

The yarn is from Songbird Yarns & Fibres and it's quite lovely. The colours are really bright, clean and saturated, and very much reminiscent of a Blue Jay's colouring. We get flocks of Blue Jays in the yard the minute we put peanuts out in the feeder, so I can certainly vouch for that. It's a bit of a heavier fingering with a very sheep-y feel to it. It's not overly soft but not rough either. It reminded me very much of Mineville Wool Project sock yarn. I was worried that the skein might be a bit short on yardage given the heavier weight but I did pretty well with leg length in the end.

With nothing else on my needles I turned my attention back to Gschnitztal Socks. Remember that I first attempted these socks with dark purple yarn and 2.25 mm dark carbon fibre needles - too difficult to see the stitches and too small to fit over my heel. So I tried again with light red-orange yarn and 2.5mm steel needles - much easier to work the pattern, but still too small to stretch over my heel. If at first you don't succeed.... so now I've tried for a third time still with the light red-orange yarn and the 2.5mm steel needles, but with an added pattern repeat for a primary stitch count of 78sts instead of 65sts ... and success, the third time is the charm!

The Leyburn socks were knit on 2.25mm HiyaHiya Sharp needles. The Gschnitztal Socks are being knit on 2.5mm HiyaHiya Sharp needles. And I suspect that these are now my preferred needles. They are reasonably lightweight, strong and not prone to bending, and boy oh boy are they SHARP! Those pointy points are making the twisted stitches of Gschnitztal so much easier!

There is another sock project on needles here, but I'm not too sure about its future. I signed up for a MKAL on Ravelry, and no sooner than receiving the first clue for the toes I was reminded why I don't like MKALs.

• not knowing what the final socks look like makes yarn selection challenging. I've decided to go with stash yarn that I'm not overly fond of because I'm not prepared to invest $$$ (or nice stash yarn) without seeing where this is going.

• there are two toe options but both appear to have been designed to make them novel in terms of techniques used and appearance. Novel, but perhaps not practical, attractive or even well-fitting.

Option 1 is a "garter stitch toe" wherein you cast on then knit a flat garter stitch rectangle, pick up stitches through the garter ridges to encircle the rectangle and thereby create a toe. The end result does not look like it's going to fit terribly well, although the designers assure us that the garter section will easily stretch to fit. Umm, yeah, well... maybe not my feet with my long pointy toes. Besides, it looks more like a Phentex slipper from the 1970s than a sock I'd want to wear in my shoes. sigh

Option 2 is a "spiral toe" wherein you cast on a small number of stitches and the increases spiral out form a narrow point. Of course casting on a small number of stitches in sock yarn and sock needles is terribly fiddly, and besides, does anyone like this kind of toe? Won't the increases spiral across the top of my toes? Isn't there going to be a weird pointy bit at the end of my foot? sigh

• the next clue comes out on Friday, so with 2 toes done I have to set this aside and do something else.

My current thinking is that I will knit a left sock with option 1 and a right sock with option 2, and see where it goes. If I hate the finished socks, I'll rip them out and repurpose the yarn. At least I'll have tried some new techniques and learned some new things. Maybe one day I'll learn not to sign up for MKALs?

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Year of Projects 7: Week 36

My Grade Nine Physics teacher told me that I'd be an ideal University student - prone to postponing until the very last minute but very good under pressure. That turned out to be true in University and proved true again as recently as last week with my February Paper Bag Project. 

I started my Yaacov Socks promptly at the beginning of February, knit to the heel flap of the first sock and then put them aside in favour of my Mojo Socks. I wasn't enjoying the knitting of the Yaacov socks in no small part because I wasn't happy with how they were knitting up so my motivation flagged. But once the Mojo socks were complete and as the end of February loomed I dug deep and pushed through. I wove in the last end of the second sock at 10:53pm on February 28th with just about an hour to spare!

And you know, I actually really like them now that they're done. So why did I put them aside in the first place? Sometimes I'm my own worst enemy! 

I'll admit I might like them even more if they were in the brighter greener/bluer rainbow colourway, and I'll admit that the un-stretchy corrugated ribbing at the cuff is not ideal, but never mind that. The floats on the inside of the toe area bug me too, but I'm washing and drying them inside out to see if they'll felt into the sock. I think they will.

Aside from the un-stretchy cuff the socks actually fit really well. They're also super soft and comfy thanks to the yarn which was a nuisance to knit - lot of halo and very splitty. And they are very colourful. I especially love the blue/red/brown stripes in the toe area which almost seem to glow like a gas-fired BBQ grill! Fun! 

Let me also say that the pattern design strikes me as very clever. The idea of staggering the gradient  between two balls of the same colourway to create the colourwork pattern - brilliant! Working a two colour heel turn and angling the gusset decreases across the bottom of the heel without disrupting the colourwork pattern - brilliant! I'm glad I knit them and finished them.

On March 1st I opened the next bag for my 2018 Paper Bag Project Year Long KAL on Ravelry to find a skein of sock yarn from Songbird Yarns and Fibres in a colourway called "Blue Jay". It's quite a busy colourway so I went with this Leyburn pattern that uses slipped stitches and lifted floats to break up pooling in variegated yarns. I've turned the heel on the first sock and love how it's knitting up so far. But more on that next week!

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Year of Projects 7: Week 35

  • Yaacov Socks - using Lang Jawoll Magic Dégradé, 60% complete
  • Gschnitztal Socks - ripping and restarting in Tanis Purple Label Cashmere sock in papaya  
I missed posting last week because of computer problems. Just one problem really: my computer would not boot up. Most of last weekend was spent sorting that out.

• restart ... would not boot
• restart with all unnecessary peripherals disconnected ... would not boot
• restart in Safe Mode ... would not boot
• restart in Recovery Mode, run Disk Utilities to scan for and repair errors ... would not boot
• restart in Recovery Mode, reset PRAM and SMC ... would not boot
• restart in Recovery Mode, run Tech Tools Pro to scan for and repair errors ... would not boot
• restart in Recovery Mode, re-install operating system software from App Store ... would not boot
• restart in Recovery Mode, take a deep breath, ERASE DISK, and restore everything from Time Machine Back-up.... WOOHOO ... THAT WORKED!!!

Clicking "ERASE DISK" and "CONTINUE" felt like stepping off a cliff, but there was nothing else left to try so que sera, sera... Thank goodness for the online Apple Support communities that give me suggestions about what to try and how to go about it. And thank goodness that I had a complete current Time Machine Back Up on an external drive to restore. I won't be nonchalant about my back ups again; lesson learned!

The hours watching disk utilities check my hard drive sector by sector were a mix of stress and tedium - time better spent knitting than worrying about what could go wrong and what was left to try. So I spent a lot of time last weekend knitting my Mojo Socks which were exactly the sort of mindless knitting to fill the stressful hours perfectly.

The pattern is a mix of horizontal and vertical ribbing which creates some very interesting distortions in the fabric. The horizontal ribs pull together across the instep and shin, whereas the vertical ribs pull in around the instep and leg. To make things a bit more interesting, the direction of the ribbed sections is reversed from the left sock to the right sock for fraternal socks. No doubt about it, the socks look downright weird off my feet - like some crazy kind of poodle cut or topiary - but when worn, they stretch in every direction to fit and feel great! Yeah, I love these socks!

The yarn is some unknown stash yarn that I inherited from someone else's stash, although I'd guess that it's a Merino-Cashmere-Nylon blend. The cake was 120 grams, so I knit both socks toe-up to use every last inch. Hurray for socks with long legs!

By Tuesday my computer problems were resolved, my Mojo socks were done and I was back to knitting my Yaacov Socks. It's Sunday afternoon now and the plan is to finish these by end of day Wednesday in time for the deadline for the 2018 Paper Bag Project Year Long KAL on Ravelry. Can I do it? Not sure, but I'm going to give it my best effort. It'd be a shame to strike out in the second month of a twelve month KAL. Working in my favour is that I'm home alone - Gavin's in Nicaragua on a surf vacation - and the forecast is for strong winds, chilly temperatures and drizzle... stay inside and knit weather, in other words. Also time to catch up on all those Netflix titles that Gavin won't watch, starting with The Crown.

One way or another my Yaacov Socks will be done by next week's update so I'll have more to say about them then. But once the second Yaacov sock is done, all my WIPs will be complete and I'll have to cast on new projects! On Thursday I'll open up my mystery Paper Bag for March and cast on that. Also my HiyaHiya Sharp DPNs finally arrived so Gschnitztal might also be cast on next week.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Year of Projects 7: Week 33

  • Yaacov Socks - using Lang Jawoll Magic Dégradé, 25% complete
  • Mojo Socks - using purple unknown stash yarn, 20% complete
Through most of the past week I've been knitting my first Yaacov sock, but my enthusiasm for these socks has flagged somewhat.

First, I'm not altogether happy with the yarn. Although I did purchase the yarn shown in the pattern photo, I did not match the colourway and that has led to some disappointment. The Rainbow colourway shown in the pattern photo has a lot of yellow and dark blue, whereas the colourway I have has orange and brown; it's just not as bright and fun. I'm going to carry on with the hope that the more I knit, the more interesting it becomes.

As well, I'm not altogether happy with the pattern. The ribbed cuff is worked in two yarns - like corrugated ribbing - so it's not stretchy. In fact, the entire sock is worked in stranded colourwork so it's not very flexible at all. It fits so far, but I don't dare make the leg longer and I'm not convinced that the heel cup won't be too shallow. We'll see. I'm fully prepared to give these away if they don't fit me. That'd be easier than trying to modify the pattern to fit, so that's the plan.

No matter, progress will continue. There's some interesting shaping about to happen through the gusset which should be fun. Maybe that will restore my enthusiasm?!

The Plaid socks are done and I'm reasonably pleased with them. They are certainly warm and comfy, although the pattern is nothing special. And they worked entirely through that handspun yarn with just a couple of yards to spare, so that's another point in their favour! I much prefer the look of these socks with contrasting cuffs, heels and toes as compared to the pattern instructions with a 2C stranded colourwork heel flap. Mine have a kind of work sock vibe to them that I quite like.

The Hiya Hiya Sharp DPN needles I ordered have made their way from Alabama to Illinois... maybe they'll get here by the end of the week? Gschnitztal awaits! In the meantime I cast on Mojo Socks. The right sock is written with the toe pulled inside out before working the foot. I tried it, didn't like the look of it, ripped it out and restarted. I also added some stockinette to start the foot as I have very long toes and don't like too much pattern across the top of my toes. It's a very weird looking sock off my foot, but super comfy on my foot so full speed ahead! I hope to work the heel today and maybe have one finished sock to show you by next weekend!

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Year of Projects 7: Week 32

The Plaid socks are progressing well but they are definitely a tedious knit. I decided against the colourwork heel written in the pattern going with an afterthought heel instead. The finished socks are quite big and thick, in part because of the columns of slipped stitches within the pattern, and in part because the natural colour yarn is quite thick in sections. I'm guessing that the natural colour yarn is a handspun yarn inherited from someone else's stash - it's very high twist (annoyingly so) and very uneven in thickness. In some sections the yarn was so worryingly thin that I doubled it, but in other sections it felt almost like DK or heavier. All of which explains why the plain stockinette sections of the sock look lumpy. Maybe some washing and blocking will help out? I hope so.

I've never been prone to Second Sock Syndrome, but if there was ever a time for it to strike, it would be with this pair of socks. Immediately after kitchenering the afterthought heel of the first sock I was overcome by an incredible urge to cast on something entirely different. Fortunately I was foiled by not having the needles for the sock I wanted to knit, so I gave myself a stern talking to and cast on the second sock. The big and thick character of the first sock inclines me to think that the finished pair will be thoroughly appreciated by the Warm Hands Network - they specifically request warm, non-lacy socks in larger sizes.

For my 2018 Paper Bag Project Year Long KAL on February 1st I opened another paper bag to find the yarn for Yaacov socks. Hurray! That'll brighten up my February! Now I just need to find the sustained willpower to finish my Plaid socks. I'd dearly love to cast on Gschnitztal but those needles are still in the mail service somewhere. Last time I checked my tracking info they were in Alabama!

What did arrive in the mail from lovely Frieda at Restless Needles was Silk Road Socks by Hunter Hammersen! That was a lovely belated birthday gift; the book is absolutely gorgeous. It's an interesting read about the history of silk rugs by geographic area, and illustrated with stunning photography. Oh and the sock patterns!!!! My head is just spinning!!!! Expect many of these patterns to pop up in my list for Year 8 ;)

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Year of Projects 7: Week 31

Last week I rolled up my sleeves and opened my Hand Dye Sock Kit from Louet North America. The kit contained three 50gram skeins of natural Louet Gems fingering weight yarn, small jars of dye crystals labelled Silver Birch, Cornflower and Blueberry, a squeeze bottle and instructions.

First I soaked the undyed yarn for 40 minutes in warm water. Next I mixed the Silver Birch dye with hot water, then squeezed it onto the yarn skeins. I realized after the first colour that I should have untwisted the skeins from the very beginning, so I did that right away. I repeated the dye step with the Cornflower dye and the Blueberry dye, turning the skeins to make sure that all the yarn was dyed.  Next I wrapped the skeins in plastic wrap, bagged them in Freezer bags (unsealed) and microwaved them.  Being careful not to burn or scald myself, I unwrapped the skeins and hung them to dry overnight. And finally I rinsed the skeins in a SOAK bath to remove excess dye and hung them once more to dry.

I think they turned out beautifully! The three dye colours resulted in a nice tonal yarn with an overall denim-y effect. I'm so pleased with the yarn and highly recommend the kit. It was easy and fun!

I decided to knit Ringwood Socks from the yarn. It's a very simple traditional pattern that creates a nice texture which works well with variegated yarn.

Ringwood Pattern:
R1: K1P1
R2: Knit
R3: Knit

I knit them toe-up with an FLK heel, although with 3 skeins of yarn there was no chance of running short. As well, because I made the legs longish, I increased 8 stitches at the top of the leg before the cuff to accommodate the widening of my legs at the calf. That worked out great, I think.

The socks are great; and I'm not the only one who thinks so. Gavin keeps trying to steal them. That's a backhanded compliment, I'd say!

Now what to knit next? My Mystery Paper Bag for February is coming up in just a few days, so nothing too complicated. For my Gschnitztal Socks I've decided that I'd better work with metal 2.5mm needles - which I don't have so I've ordered them. I was thinking Mojo Socks, but there was a delay when I purchased the pattern from Ravelry. So now I'm knitting Plaid Socks... but more on that next week.