Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Sock Repair

You've heard of darning socks? At its easiest, darning socks consists of working duplicate stitch over spots that are about to give.

At its hardest, darning is something I don't do. I haven't mastered (or even given more than one mediocre shot at) the art of laying a ground, stitching in duplicate stitch over what doesn't exist, then removing the ground and having a repaired sock. No, I try other things.

Consider this sock, which is 100% merino. It jumped into the washing machine with its mate and survived, but there was a hole. Or so the sock owner told me.

I looked and found two holes. Slightly felted holes. I decided that the way to fix this was not with easy darning, nor with hard darning, but with reknitting. So I hunted for a nice spot at which to pick up stitches, and discovered a third hole. It's tiny (the perfect size for easy darning) but evident ... so I picked up stitches right around the last row of the heel.

I knit the sock with size 2 needles, and I used size 0 metal needles to pick up stitches. I merrily pick-pick-picked up anything that looked like a stitch, and then amputated the foot. After amputation, I picked out all the loose threads I could find and ended up with two longish ends (the frizzed red and green ends in the photo. I contemplated their origin and their destination, and discovered that they were two ends of the same piece of yarn. I searched for another end, but it was fruitless. I decided not to think about that too hard, and started reknitting the leg.

While knitting, I mulled over my options. Do I reknit the remainder of the sock? Or do I reknit it until I'm past where the last hole was, and graft the ribbing onto the new portion? I very quickly decided to reknit the whole thing. Knitting is more fun than grafting. That settled, I continued to knit. And knit. I began considering how long it would take me to knit the ribbing. And how long it could possibly take me to graft 60 stitches to each other. Even if it took me a minute to graft each stitch, that would still take less time than knitting the ribbing.

So I changed my mind. I did a second amputation on the sock leg, cutting a row or two below the round of stitches where I wanted to graft. I debated picking up all the stitches on another set of needles, and decided against it.

I grafted, and grafted, and grafted, and before I thought it possible, I was finished!

Then came a small snag. In my grafting, I'd split some of the yarn, thus insuring that it would be A Bear to remove most of the yarn I'd left in below my grafting row. There's a slight seam in there ... oh well.
They've been returned to the sock owner, and if the seam is bothersome ... I'll get out my tweezers and embroidery scissors and pick away.

In my spare knitting time, I've started another pair of socks, FINALLY made Julia's Hat (from September of the 2006 Knitting Pattern-a-Day Calender), and been delighting the small fry of church with custom-made headbands.

And other things ... but no photos of that, yet.

Monday, October 23, 2006

A First Knitting Project

Some people say knitting is hard, and beginning knitters should start with something easy.

I'd like to present to you The Brioche Sweater, knit from scratch by a friend of mine. If you exclude small swatches (one must figure out the knit stitch before knitting a gauge swatch, of course, and a gauge swatch is mandatory when you're not following anything resembling a printed pattern), this is her First Knitting Project. She's never knit a scarf. She's never knit socks (although those are starting to call to her). Her daughter just had a sweater that was beginning to wear out, and she thought she'd learn to knit so she could make a replacement.

When you have a friend (me) who doesn't know the meaning of 'learning curve' or 'hard' , those are dangerous sentiments to have. I sicced a beginning knitter on Brioche Stitch, and with the help of the Interweave Knits article on Brioche, and the Knitter's Handy Guide to Sweater Pattens, and a bit of fudging, we recreated the sweater. Of course, this is just a sample sweater, to make sure it would turn out, and to get the hang of the stitch It's not the right color at all -- the ideal color is Chartreuse, like the new dye KnitPicks offers. Except that dyed the yarn kelly green. How annoying. I haven't pointed out to her yet how felicitious it was that she dyed the yarn FIRST, rather than knit up the sweater and then dye the garment. That would have been a sad day in the annals of her life.

She's still speaking to me, and I'm hoping to talk her into making a pair of socks next. After Brioche double-decreases and double-increases, what troubles can sock heels on double pointed needles be?

If you lived in Minnesota, Denise, see what you could do?

Now, for my Infomercial on the figure eight cast on. The focus isn't the greatest on some of the photos, but I hope they serve their purpose.

Start with two double pointed needles. Somewhat pointy, light, and not too slippery are ideal. Wrap the yarn around them in a figure 8 form.

In the photo above, I've cast on 8 stitches. Four on the upper needle, and four on the lower needle. The next step is to, with a 3rd (and possibly 3rd and 4th dpn, depending on your preference and the number of stitches) to knit across the stitches on the upper needle. Observe that the last stitch formed is on the lower needle? This is important. If you were to try and knit across the stitches on the lower needle, you'd have an odd first stitch.
Above, you have the result of knitting across one needle. I usually cast on 24 stitches or so for socks - 12 on each needle - and knit six stitches onto one dpn, and the next six onto another. But with just four stitches? I forgot to change needles.

Next, you'll turn your work so that the lower needle is on top (you're knitting in the round, remember?) and knit across those stitches. Here's me in the middle of a row.
You see that I'm knitting into the back of the stitch? That's because , due to the my wrapping, the 'leading edge' of the stitch is in the back. I suppose it's possible to wrap the needles so that the first needle you knit across has stitches with the leading edge in the back. Wherever you find them, knit those stitches into the back, so that there isn't a row of twisted stitches in your project.

How do you know which edge is the leading edge? Look carefully, and you'll see that the yarn which comes down from the top of the needle and heads over to the stitch you just knit into forms the leading edge of the stitch. In typical American knitting, if there is such a thing any more, the leading edge is in front. In Eastern knitting, it's in the back. In combined knitting, it varies. If you find all this confusing, simply knit the stitch however you need to so that it's not twisted.
After I knit around my cast on once, I start increasing. For this project (and for most all my projects of this sort) I use a bar increase. For socks, I like increasing at each side of the foot -- so I k1 p1 into the last stitch on one needle, and repeat that in the first stitch on the next needle - at the edges. If you number the needles '1 2 3 4' , then I'd increase at the end of 4, the beginning of 1, the end of 2, and the beginning of 3. And then *knit around plain, and then do another increase round, and repeat from * until I had however many stitches I wanted. For the mitten thumb, I increased every round. and then knit round and round on 16 stitches until I had a thumb-looking object.
It's fun to make thumbs this way, if you have the recipient's hand handy, because there is No Way you can make it too short. If you look in the photo of my cast on, you'll see a spare mitten thumb, just sitting on waste yarn, waiting to be incorporated into a mitten. You can try the thumb on as much as you want. Unlike feet going into socks, your thumb is almost guaranteed not to break any wooden dpns if you try on a thumb in progress.

And at this point in the project, I left my camera behind and simply knitted.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Gauge Woes

I mentioned some gauge woes in my last post. Sadly, they are not of short duration. While I was cleaning some things out of my former craft room closet (now dd's closet) and moving them elsewhere, I came across a sock I made in bygone years. It was also a rude lesson in color selection, but I'd rather not talk about that. This lovely Fair Isle sock, made from a pattern in Threads magazine, was one of my first attempts at sock knitting. If I could get it on, it would function beautifully as a tourniquet. Fair Isle, as you probably know, doesn't have much give to it. And my gauge is about 11.5 stitches per inch on it. The floorboards which you see in the picture are 1.5 inches wide .

Strangely enough, the gauge of my mitten is also 11.5 - 12 stitches per inch. At least I know what size needles and yarn I used for it, so I can learn from my error. It's a lovely mitten, even if it is snug.

You know, there's really nothing less inspiring than finishing a mitten thumb. Especially if you know the mitten is not proportioned to fit any living human -- such as a Small Child with a hand length of a Medium Woman. Working on the thumb was an exercise in willpower. I considered frogging the mitten rather than finish it. My compromise, in the end, was to knit the thumb 'about yea long' and then bind off, with no thumb decreases. It's an open thumb. Nothing so short as would fit a Small Child, nor the annoyance of making the thumb the correct length for a Medium Woman who couldn't begin to get her thumb into the mitten to begin with. And so, the mitten is done.

But, since I had a grudge against mitten thumbs, and mitten gauges, I decided to trot out a Real SRP. I brought out some Worsted WoolEase, some size 5 Bryspun needles - lovely and lightweight for mittens - and use up some stash while providing for my family and anyone else within range. I cast on 8 stitches, and started a pair of mittens Top Down. When I got to the area where one would typically put a thumb, I put my mitten on a holding thread, cast on another 8 stitches, and started a thumb Top Down. Then I used a 3-needle bind off to connect the thumb to the mitten at a hopefully strategic point, and worked a gusset in reverse by decreasing every 3rd row, one stitch at each side of the thumb. When I was back to my original number of stitches, I switched to a ribbing, and ribbed. To finish my seat-of-the-skirt creation, I did a picot cast-off. I didn't like the one in Vogue, so I unvented my own.

I took oodles of pictures of the second mitten in progress, so I could do a nifty tutorial on how in the world one does this tip-down mitten. Unfortunately for the tutorial, I was away from my camera all day today, and there's a gap in my photo sequence between 'increased to 4 stitches on each needle' and 'finished mitten.'

I was also away from home when I finished the mittens, and still had a lot of visiting time, plus a 30 mile ride home. So I cast on for an ear warmer, requested by a boy at church who wanted one like ds's so he wouldn't muss his flat-top.

Now my son wants an earwarmer like his friend (yes, the one who wanted an earwarmer like my ds) except in the black and orange. That same son unearthed the proper colors from my stash, so I can say that my stash reduction project is continuing.

My stash also increased slightly today, as I was given a skein of Caron's Simply Soft in a lucious winey red. But I can honestly tell my husband that I am *trying* to reduce my stash. For really and true.

And for you, Rosemary, here's a picture of my knitting buddy.

My next post will hopefully be about figure eight cast ons, increasing, and the delights on figuring out gauge while the mitten still has a chance of fitting.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

It's snowing!

Today is going to be a difficult school day. The school table is right in front of a window, and we're having our second snow of the year. And our first snow with big, fluffy flakes. Sticking. At least for a few hours. My son wished he were more like me ... loads of free time to watch the snow. He's missing something ... but that's okay.

This free time of mine ... I do not think the word means what he thinks it means.

Among other things, it means wrestling with a computer that doesn't want to upload pictures, editing files that don't particularly want to be edited, teaching children that would rather be playing in the snow,making meals for people with conflicting dietary requirements and wierd taste buds. Try being gluten free and avoiding rice at the same time ... it can be tricky.

But enough on my free time. After I finished the blue blob (at right) I cast on for another project. It's a SRP (Stash Reduction Project) and was intended for me, but things didn't work out that way.

You'd think, wouldn't you, that if you worked with a certain yarn, in a certain technique, on size 1 needles, and ended up with a guage of 18 stitches (per 2"), that if you wanted a gauge of 20 stitches, you'd use size 0. Right? Of course right. So I merrily cast on - having knitted not a gauge swatch, but an entire Sampler Gauge Project, and worked away. Pretty, ain't it? But the gauge is not 20 stitches. Nor is it 19, or 21, or 22. No, it's pretty indistinguishable from 24 stitches per 2". The 'Medium Women's' item has the appropriate circumference for a Small Child.

But it was so pretty, and so very different from my other knitting, and I didn't want to cast on an extra 27 stitches and rewrite the pattern to have it be the right size ... so I decided to make it be a Sample. It's getting close to being done, and after it is, I will cast on something with bigger yarn and bigger needles.

But I wonder ... how WILL I manage to get the right gauge? Use sport weight yarn instead of fingering? (Hah -- imagine Telemark at 10 stitches per inch?) DK weight? Use something that doesn't come from Knitpicks? (Horrors!!!)

I'm also considering parting with some cones of weaving yarn that I've had forever. I really can't see myself knitting up anything with 2 lbs of 10/2 warp cotton ... can you? Zephyr WoolSilk is so much more delightful to contemplate.

Recess is over ... back to school!

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Christmas is coming

and that means it's time to start (or continue) knitting Christmas gifts.

I had a lovely weekend of knitting at the Desiring God Annual Conference. And it was an excellent time to listen, think, and be challenged. The conference audio is available on-line, and I plan to listen to the sessions I missed, and re-listen to some of the other sessions. Voddie Baucham was the most charasmatic speaker ... and he added a new description to my vocabulary. In the world, he said, there's black people, and not-so-black people. God loves the not-so-black people just as much as he does the black people.

Just think how much simpler forms would be if the race options were 'black' and 'not-so-black'. And the uproar if they were 'white' and 'not so white'. I am sure there are people in the world who would be offended at having to describe themselves as 'not-so-black' as well.

Here are my Conference Socks...

I tried a new toe with these. Instead of increasing at the sides of the foot, I did a star-shaped increase, sort of. After casting on 14 stitches with a figure eight cast on, I increased one stitch at the beginning of each needle, every second row, until I got to my regular 60 stitches. Above the heel, I used a ripple pattern over 66 stitches ... but didn't bother with evenly increasing. I just changed one k2tog from each repeat into a k1, and all was well.

My knitting basket currently looks like this:
And, in honor of wacky hair day, my daughter currently looks like this:

We've added a few post-it notes to the skewers to help her remember her various errands at church tonight. Not that she can read the messages, of course, stuck in her hair as they are ... but for those forgetful people who are supposed to be getting things from me via her, they'll be a handy reminder.

A package arrived today from KnitPicks with yarn for my Christmas knitting. And another very small package arrived with an ancient (1880) grammar book in it. Imagine my surprise when I opened the front cover and found MY first name in there. In handwriting that is as dead-on mine as any I've ever seen. Wrong last name, though. But how strange to open a new-to-you book and find your handwriting in it!

My new harp is still consuming as much time as I spare to devote to it. I'm tuning it daily, and playing recognizable songs. Practice, plus some time, should make it even more fun!

And somewhere in the back of my mind is the realization that I should be either re-reading Pride and Prejudice, or else starting to answer discussion questions for it. I keep pushing that into the back of my mind, though. I can get away with that for another week, and then it will have to move to the forefront.