Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Surmount the Stash 2013

Last year at this time I did an inventory of yarns in my stash with a focus on dishcloth cotton, assorted DK cotton, Baby Yarn and Sock Yarn. My goal is to eventually work through all the yarn in my stash and just have a couple of shoeboxes of Sock yarn. I'm not there yet.

Still, I started 2013 with 456 grams of dishcloth cotton and finish with less than 200 grams - that's just a few dishcloths to knit in 2014. I'm sure I can manage that. As for the other assorted DK cottons I've cut that quantity to less than half, ringing in the New Year with about 230 grams. I was very successful with the baby yarn - it's all gone. Same goes for lace yarn - it's gone too. Thanks to a cup cozies, gnomes, stockings and hats knit for craft shows, I've worked through most of my worsted weight and acrylic DK stash. There are two shoeboxes of assorted scraps left; I need to think about how to use up the rest of this. I should also mention that there's a skein of MadelineTosh Pashmina that was a gift - but I'm looking for a very special pattern for selfish knitting for that one!

Now for sock yarn. I started the year with 7 new 100 grams skeins and 7 new 50 gram skeins. This morning, I've counted 10 new 100 gram skeins and 1 new 50 gram skein. Same number of grams! That's okay though, because there are nine sock patterns left in my Year of Projects so those skeins are mostly allocated to patterns. I made a small amount of progress on my sock yarn scraps ... the scraps weigh just over 850 grams now. All in all, the sock yarn fits in two shoeboxes which satisfies a mini-goal for me.

But that's the stash I'd really like to address this year - sock yarn scraps! And in that vein I've decided to knit baby socks over the next several days. Ann Budd created a set of five different pairs of Better than Booties Baby Socks for the Summer 2005 issue of Interweave Knits. Three of those are available for free from Knitting Daily. This is a pattern I've done before, and the parents of the newborn were really pleased with how well they fit and stayed on - so that's a pretty good endorsement. Friend's are expecting in March, so a few pairs will be gifted to them and then the balance will be donated to charity. Each pair takes about 18 grams of sock yarn, so we'll see how far I get. A lot of my sock yarn leftovers are less than 18 grams.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Year of Projects 3: Mince Pie Mayhem 02

SOCKTOPUS: Totally Vanilla • Kandahar • V Junkie • Kwalia • Farmer McGregor • Shur'tugal • 2luvcrew • Vorticity • Rumpled! • Crowley • Om Shanti • Mince Pie Mayhem • Hundred Acre Wood • De Stijl • Fiori di Zucca • Caretta Caretta • Spring Shoots

These socks are something special ... and not just because they are a gift for a friend who turns 60 today! Even Gavin is impressed by the pattern of these socks; he shows them to whoever visits.

They really are quite something. The construction, with the heel expansion area, is really neat and interesting. The toe as written is a star toe. Because I'm participating in a KAL I've knit the toes as written, but shortly after photographing and logging the finished socks on Ravelry, I ripped out the toes and reknit them as wedge toes. Much more comfortable not having lines of decreases beneath your toes!

The yarn is Alley Cat Sock in a colourway called "Big Red Barn" and I think it's perfect for this sock. It's subtle tonal variegation doesn't detract from the pattern. It's a lighter weight, tighter twist fingering than Top Cat MCN, but with the density of this fabric, lighter is definitely better. I was worried about 80 sts on 2.25mm needles, but I needn't have worried - it's a nice snug fit.

The next sock on the KAL list is Fiori de Zucca. It's not a sock I'm immediately attracted to ... well, until I read the project notes of several Ravelers who remarked that about how pretty they are. I've got some honey coloured MCN sock yarn that strikes me as perfect for these socks, so I'll cast those on next week. Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Year of Projects 3: Mince Pie Mayhem 01

SOCKTOPUS: Totally Vanilla • Kandahar • V Junkie • Kwalia • Farmer McGregor • Shur'tugal • 2luvcrew • Vorticity • Rumpled! • Crowley • Om Shanti • Mince Pie Mayhem • Hundred Acre Wood • De Stijl • Fiori di Zucca • Caretta Caretta • Spring Shoots

It's a picture heavy post today - sorry if it takes a while to load. First things first: last week I was just short of the toe on the second of my 2luvcrew socks. Six weeks after casting on, they're finally done. To be fair, they sat unloved for several of those weeks, so you shouldn't conclude the pattern is that labour intensive.

I'll admit that I like these socks better than I thought I would. Lace socks aren't really my thing, and a patterned toe? Well that just seems wrong to me. And then there's all that knitting through the back loops ... grrrrr. All that being said, the finished socks were worth the effort. I haven't actually worn them in shoes or boots yet. It's been cold, wet and icy for the last several days, so lace socks haven't held much appeal.

With the pink socks off the needles it was time to cast on Mince Pie Mayhem socks. I'm knitting the medium size on 2.25 mm needles. With 80 sts I'd have guessed that the size would be largish, but all these criss-crossing stitches have really condensed the fabric. If you're considering this pattern, don't go small!

The construction of this sock is very interesting. Rather than a heel flap and gusset, the heel continues in pattern while stitches are picked up between the heel and the instep to form an expansion area - a technique that originated with Cat Bordhi, I think. As written the pattern allowed for 11 sts added in each expansion area. Some Ravelers noted that the heel was too shallow, and since I generally lengthen heel flaps anyway, I decided to add another chart repeat to the heel to increase 15 sts instead. As a result, my heel is almost 3/4" deeper and the circumference around the heel and instep has been increased almost an inch and a half. It's still snug, so this was a good call.

Working a heel this way keeps you working entirely in the round except for the actual heel turn. And you don't need to pick up any stitches so there are no holes. I'm fascinated by this technique and am considering some vanilla socks using this technique. The expansion area would totally disappear into the fabric, wouldn't it?
It's also been a good pattern for practising cabling without a cable needle. The mind boggles at how long the knitting of this sock would take if you were crossing the stitches using a cable needle. Just as well it's going quickly - I need to get these done by the end of the week.

Looks like I'll have plenty of knitting time today; we're just emerging from an ice storm. Everything has a coating of ice. Gavin spent 45 minutes this morning chipping the ice off the windshield to drive home from work, but reports that the roads are brutal. Lots of trees and tree limbs are down. Much of the city has power outages. More than 250,000 households have been told that power might not be restored for 72 hours or more. I guess that'd put a stop to Christmas baking. My neighbourhood has power, so we're lucky, but I don't plan to venture far from home today.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Work-in-Progress Wednesday

Over at the Socktopus KAL on Ravelry we are knitting Mince Pie Mayhem socks from December 1st to January 31st. I've finally cast on and made a start.

As written there are small, medium and large sizes knit on 2.5 mm needles knit over 72, 80 and 88 sts respectively. After reading the comments in project notes on Ravelry I decided to cast on 80 sts and work the sock on 2.25 mm needles. So far I've found it necessary to shift down a needle size on every pattern in the book to get a nicely fitting sock, but now with this sock, the sock might end up small. It's really quite amazing how much the fabric is condensed by the criss-crossing twisted stitches. Still, it fits over my heel, ankle and leg, so I'm continuing as is.

The yarn is a colourway called "Big Red Barn" from Wandering Cat Yarns. Every year I knit a pair of red socks for a friend whose birthday falls just before New Years, so this yarn was the perfect choice. It's Alley Cat sock which is a light fingering - nice tight twist and not splitty. With this many twisted stitches, that "not-splitty" part is a must. And with this dense a fabric, the lighter the yarn, the better I think.

That's it for me, this work-in-progress Wednesday. I've been finishing up some other projects to show on Friday, all with a view to ending the year without any WIPs on the needles. So far, so good. As you can see in the photo, it has snowed AGAIN and there is more and more snow in the forecast. Can't wait to see what my drive to work is going be today!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Year of Project 2: 2luvcrew 04

SOCKTOPUS: Totally Vanilla • Kandahar • V Junkie • Kwalia • Farmer McGregor • Shur'tugal • 2luvcrew • Vorticity • Rumpled! • Crowley • Om Shanti • Mince Pie Mayhem • Hundred Acre Wood • De Stijl • Fiori di Zucca • Caretta Caretta • Spring Shoots

In last week's post I suggested that I'd be finished these socks by now. Yeah ... overly optimistic once more. Still, they're close; just a few more repeats on the foot and then the toe. Of course it didn't help that I had to rip back and reknit the transition to the heel flap three times ... stupid not-reading-pattern-instructions stupidity.

Although I fell a bit short of my knitting goals last week, I don't feel badly. All in all it was a very productive week. The secret Christmas knitting is done. Almost all the gifts are wrapped. The out-of-town gifts have been mailed. I've even made a good start on grocery shopping for the holidays. Hmmm, I wonder what I've forgotten?

It has also occurred to me that it's within the realm of possibility that I could finish every single WIP before New Year's Eve. The idea has its charm, and with that in mind, I've pulled out the second Brain Hat - this time in sport weight acrylic - and pinned the gyri for the right hemisphere. That's a ton of sewing though - not my favourite thing - so this might also fall into the overly optimistic category. We'll see.

So those are my two priorities for the coming week. Once the socks are done I'll cast on for Mince Pie Mayhem. According to my plan, that's the last bit of knitting for 2013. But you know what usually happens to the best laid plans, right?

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Year of Projects 3: 2luvcrew 03

SOCKTOPUS: Totally Vanilla • Kandahar • V Junkie • Kwalia • Farmer McGregor • Shur'tugal • 2luvcrew • Vorticity • Rumpled! • Crowley • Om Shanti • Mince Pie Mayhem • Hundred Acre Wood • De Stijl • Fiori di Zucca • Caretta Caretta • Spring Shoots

You'd think that after a month without blogging that I'd have more to show you. Sadly, not. November was terribly busy - two craft shows and a weekend in New Brunswick for a book launch - so I didn't find much time to knit. I did sneak in a few secret Christmas knits. And honestly, I lost my knitting mojo for a few weeks there. It didn't help that I miscalculated how crazy long the toe section of this sock pattern is. I tried it on just before grafting the toe to find that the foot was much too long. Aargh! RIP!

There's a finished 2luvcrew sock in the photo but that photo is several days old. As of this morning I'm at the heel of the second sock and things seem pretty firmly back on the rails. At least I don't have to guess how far to knit that second foot. More good news? Sock one weighs 46 grams so I've got yarn to spare to finish Sock two.

The jury is still out on the long ribbed toe section. While I was knitting, I was mostly set against it but now that I've had the sock on my foot I'm warming up to it. This is definitely one of those patterns that looks better on your foot than on your needles.

There is one bit of Christmas knitting I can show you - one more (last and final) gnome. I sold out of the half dozen gnomes I'd made previously within just a few minutes at the first craft show. And then took a special order for one more. If I do more craft shows next year I'd best make a bunch more of these. They're a pretty quick and easy knit especially now that I've converted the pattern to knit in the round.

My plan for this week includes one final secret Christmas knit and then to finish these socks. I've already wound the yarn for the next pattern of the Socktopus KAL - Mince Pie Mayhem. They'll be the perfect gift for a friend with a birthday just before the New Year!