Sunday, May 27, 2007

Struggling with Second Sock Syndrome

(or, battling the bewitching butterscotch)

First, a finished object. Last week, after abandoning the ill-fated Jaywalkers, I did manage to finish a whole pair of socks without incident!

Nothing exciting, simple garter rib in a colourful Regia yarn:

After a long search, I finally found a toe-up sock pattern with a traditional heel. I decided to be bold and defiant in the face of my seemingly retreating knitting mojo and started on it. The yarn is lovely and soft - colour by Jayne. I completed the first sock yesterday.

The yarn is still attached to the ball because I am not certain whether my cast-off is loose enough. I'll have to recruit a foot model to give it a try. It didn't occur to me until I was nearly at the heel that I should have knit this sock in my size so that I could test it out as I went along ... but then, I've got Fred Flintstone feet and the accompanying boulder-sized legs ... so knitting socks for me is quite the endeavour!

Since I started the mad sock knitting in December, I haven't had any trouble with the "second sock syndrome" I had read so much about. I would finish one sock and immediately cast on for the second as soon as number one was off the needles. I did give the "knit two socks on two circulars" idea a try but this caused me stress ... which defeats my "knitting is relaxing" mantra. So I am definitely a "one sock at a time" knitter, but I also wanted to be a "knit both socks of a pair before you start another pair" knitter. Don't know why, but it seemed like a good system. Until I met this yarn:

This colourway has been haunting my dreams since Jayne posted a picture of her sock in progress on her blog. When Jayne got some Blue Face Leicester to dye, I could resist no longer and placed an order. It arrived earlier this week and after much fondling of the lovely skein, I wound it up, ready to go. I wish I'd had the brains to take a picture of the skein as it arrived - it was so pretty, with a lovely little stitch marker attached to the label.

My fingers have been itching to cast on with this yarn all week long. I've resisted, so far. I think I would have given in if it wasn't for the fact that this is my first attempt at the toe-up sock and doing the second sock right away will provide me with the repetition I need to "get" the pattern. So, I was a good girl and cast on for the second sock as soon as the first one was done. I've turned the heel and am now in the home stretch. I can smell the butterscotch at the finish line.

The golden hues of the butterscotch made me think of Gryffindor (it doesn't take much these days since I have been listening to my Harry Potter audio books while I knit, in anticipation of Book 7) and I think this yarn will become Horcrux Socks.

Moonlight Sonata Shawl Update. Moving along rather slowly - I've only knit a few rows since I posted the first photo. I hadn't read the pattern through before starting it and had not realized that the wrong side row was not "all purl". Since I have to pay more attention at all times, this will be an ongoing project ... unless I find that it is needed for a birthday gift. It will not be for me ... triangular shawls just do not fit me well as I am a very large person. I prefer Faroese type shawls which sit on my shoulders better. I didn't have the patience required to figure out the adjustments required to make this fit me. I'm sure the Moonlight Sonata will find a good home when it is done.

Update on the great 2.25mm needles search. Since I knit socks on circulars only (I could never get the hang of the DPNs), the search for 2.25mm needles has been frustrating. I did order some Japanese made needles (HiyaHiya). The points are nice and, well, pointy, but the cables are the kind that need to be dunked in hot water and stretched out of their "kink". Having grown accustomed to the lovely KnitPicks flexible cables, I was a bit put off. However, this is one for the "ask and ye shall receive" department: KnitPicks now has some 2.25mm circulars! Hopefully these will solve my gauge woes and the Jaywalkers may yet get another chance.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Back to my Knitting Roots

I’ve been having a difficult time with sock knitting for the last couple of weeks. After turning out so many good pairs since I first learned “how to” in December, I have come to expect successful results. I have been quite dismayed (… ok, “dismayed” is not really the word I want to use … but I’m trying to stay away of foul language here) with the fact that I’ve knit and re-knit the jaywalker socks twice now and I’m still not happy.

I decided to try something else to take my mind off the problem and started a toe-up sock since I’d never done it before. I was having the same problem here – a gauge problem. I knit with circulars. I use KnitPicks in either size 0 (2mm) or size 1 (2.5mm). The problem I’ve been having is that 2mm is giving me a too-tight fabric while the 2.5mm is too loose … way too loose. I kept on knitting anyway – I didn’t see the point of ripping back immediately since I didn’t know how I’d do on the heel part. Well, I don’t like round heels, so I ripped this sock out too.

It seems to me that what I need are 2.25mm needles. I found some HiyaHiya needles online. They make 2mm, 2.25mm and 2.5mm. I ordered some of the 2.25mm and I am hoping that the “in between” size will solve my recent problem.

This whole sock knitting frustration was getting me down this weekend. I was sitting there aimlessly, looking at the accumulated stash of sock yarn and wondering what I was going to do with it all if this trend didn’t come to an end.

I needed to feel successful again. I could have gone back and finished that cotton baby blanket that has been sitting there, halfway done, since last year; I could have assembled those two baby cardigans which have been in-waiting since … em … so long ago I can’t remember when; I could have finished the child’s Weasley sweater I started only two weeks ago – but the “fun” part (the front with the letter “H”) is done and only the boring plain back and sleeves are left. None of these choices appealed to me. It was now obvious to me that what was needed was to cast on something new.

A shawl! I haven’t knit one of those in months. I went looking through my stack of “must knit” shawl patterns and right there at the top of the pile was Shui Kuen Kozinski’s Moonlight Sonata Shawl (a free pattern at Elann). Since this whole knitting fiasco trend seems to have culminated with the last full moon, I thought it might be able to break the spell with a full moon shawl. I dug out some of my favourite Elann Baby Cashmere yarn and cast on. Not too far along, but I’m loving it:

There is really nothing like knitting lace! My first knitting project was a lace shawl. Well, I’m not counting the pre-requisite scarf I knit when the nuns at catholic boarding school taught me to knit when I was 9 or 10. I learned, I knit, I thought I’d never do it again … until, as a 17-year old catching the tail end of the hippie-dippy era, I came across a pattern for a triangular lace shawl and decided I must have it. I bought yarn (I don’t remember what it was, but I remember it was soft and a dark peach colour) and needles and taught myself how to knit again. I was already living on my own, so there was no one to ask if I was doing it right (both my mother and grandmother knit), but I relied on the pictures and instructions in the pattern book. I remember that the shawl was knit from the bottom of the triangle up and that I started it many, many times before I finally got through it! I had no trouble re-learning to knit, but I didn't "get" the logic of the lace pattern and I remember quite well that I just couldn't be interrupted in the middle of a row or else I would never be able to tell where I was in the pattern. I am nothing if not persistent, and the shawl was beautiful when done. I kept it for many years until I finally gave it away to a friend who admired it. I just wish I had a photo of it.

I went through my Barbara Walker books to see if I could find the stitch pattern and I’m pretty sure this is it:

Would you recommend this to someone as a first project pattern?

While I was in a shawl mood, I decided to block the Gracie shawl (from Stahman’s Shawls and Scarves) – modified so it would fit my extra extra large body. I finished knitting this months ago. I’m glad I finally blocked it because this morning was perfect shawl-wearing weather. It was fortunate that my office neighbour was wearing black today and agreed to model the shawl … as long as I didn’t show her face. This shawl was also done in Elann Baby Cashmere. I can't remember what the colour was called; it is a mocha shade which is not in stock at the moment. On my monitor, the back view photo shows the true colour.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Here a Sock, There a Sock ...

I received my new HP R967 camera last Thursday and I have been reading the instruction manual (yup, I'm one of those people) and playing around with this great new toy. The large 3" screen is just wonderful!

I lined up all the socks for their official portraits:

The one that started it all - Elann Sock It To Me Yarn - The basic pattern from Socks Soar on Two Circulars.

Same basic pattern in Regia Ringel. Notice how the stripes match? I'm "one of those" too!

I then discovered Charlene Schurch's Sensational Knitted Socks and Fleece Artist merino sock yarn.

Sweet Georgia Yarn - I believe that's my favourite yarn so far. Wonderfully soft.

Applelaine Apple Pie Yarn is also lovely, but there were loads of knots in both skeins.

Reynolds Swizzle.

Plain socks in KnitPicks Memories.

Garter Rib in Super Soxx.

More Garter Rib in Socks That Rock lightweight - Scottish Highlands colourway.

Garter Rib (notice a trend?) in Lorna's Shepherd Sock.

Gryffindor socks in Regia Nation colors. I've knit two pairs of these so far. This pair is mine; the other one went to an office buddy who is also a Harry Potter nut.

What to do with all the leftover sock yarn? A blanket, of course.

I toyed with the idea of doing mittered or log cabin squares but then decided I wanted to knit something as mindless as possible. Mindless is a good thing when all the other knitting is being abandonned because of full-moon hijinks (my jaywalkers have come to a screeching halt).

I cast on 50 sts and am knitting in sock heel stitch - just because I like the texture. I bought black yarn to use as separator and I plan on picking up and knitting black borders on either side of the strip.

Now that I look at this picture, I note that some of that sock yarn wasn't used for socks.

... a few minute of digging through old CDs ...

and here is a cute baby sweater - from a pattern in one of those Pattern-A-Day calendars from a couple of years back.

Nice to have all these pictures to share when I have little to talk about!

This new camera of mine also takes videos. I kept it near me all weekend long in case Mrs. Weasley did something cute which would be worth filming. No luck ... the minute I pointed the camera at her, she would just sit down and stare at me. The only cute pose she struck all weekend long:

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Blame it on the full moon

Back in the dark ages, when I was a teenager, my mother would always say "Ghislaine is in a bad mood, it must be the full moon" and I, in typical teen-aged fashion, thought she was crazy. She was into astrology and other "weird" things at a time when the term "New Age" was yet unknown. I learned then that I was born "on the cusp" (Gemini/Cancer) and I like to blame my Gemini side for the tendency I have of buying things in multiples of two.

My life has been filled with petty annoyances this week and my mood has been going downhill with each new stumbling block. So when, while I was busy royally cursing my computer, my office neighbour piped up to say that "it must be the full moon", I had a good laugh as I heard my mum's voice saying those exact words!

My knitting has also been suffering from the full moon curse. I had started knitting a lace scarf on the weekend. I wasn't happy with the resulting fabric because I had used needles too small, so I frogged it. I started again with larger needles and this was better. After knitting a good 10 inches, I weighed what was left of my skein and realized that I wouldn't have enough yarn to make the scarf a suitable length. I frogged again and decided to try taking out one of the pattern repeat (a difference of 15 stitches). I knit this up for about six inches and decided that even when blocked I wouldn't be happy with the width. Frog no. 3. I went through the stash looking for some more lace weight yarn I knew I had in a complementary colour; I thought I could "mix and match" and maybe work the two yarns together. I tried that and couldn't come up with a satisfactory result. I took it back down again - this time for good. The yarn is back in the stash until it matures a bit more and decides it really wants to become something worthwhile.

I've gone back to my sock. Think that this is a no-brainer? No. I decided to count the stitches and I am missing two. Somewhere along the way I must have worked a decrease on a row where it was not called for. I put the sock back in its bag until I can decide whether to leave it as is and just work two extra stitches in (I am about to start the heel flap and the chevron pattern looks just fine so I could easily add in the missing stitches). I tend to be very picky. Even though I will often say "just ignore it, no one will notice", invariably after working for hours after uttering such a statement I will rip back down and fix the mistake. At least now I just stop and think about it.

I'm in a much better mood today and things have gone smoother at the office. I also received a new toy - a new digital camera! I can't wait to try it out. It has a a big three inch viewing screen - my main reason for buying this model (HP R927).

Just think of all the great sock pictures I'll be able to take!

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Socks Saga

In April 2004, I placed my first order with Elann for Sock It To Me Harlequin sock yarn and some DPNs. I had never knit socks, but an office friend and lunch-time knitting buddy kept insisting I should learn. When the (soon-to-become-extremely-familar) Elann white box arrived, I made my first attempt at socks - without success. A few days later, my second attempt ended up with me flinging yarn and needles across the room - those d... little needles were just useless in my fat hands. Sometime in 2005, I tried again and the sock yarn and DPNs soon found their way back into hibernation.

In 2006, I bought Cat Bordhi's book and also found a number of excellent tutorials online for knitting on two circulars. I was determined to knit some socks before the year was over! I cut it very close. During my Christmas holidays, out came the sock yarn and circular needles. Two days short of the new year, I had my first pair of socks:

I was hooked!

I did have a problem though ... no sock yarn in the stash!! I placed an emergency call to Urban Yarns. As much as I wanted yarn, I didn't want to make the trek there on the bus (I don't drive) - so I selected three different brands, asked the lovely ladies to surprise me with different colours and sent a courrier service to pick up the yarn! I ended up with some bright and cheerful Regia stripes, lovely Lorna's Shepperd Sock and ever so yummy Fleece Artist.

Of course, since then, my stash of sock yarn has grown to form its own little clique.

The sock family has grown since December. I'll try to post pictures of all the individuals, including those members who have flown the coop - but for now, a group portrait.

Just last weekend I finished a pair knit with one of my original purchase from Urban Yarns - the Lorna's Shepperd Sock:

This week's SIP (sock-in-progress):

This pair might take a bit longer to complete though as I am "cheating" on the socks this week - there is also a lace scarf on the needles which needs to be completed for an upcoming birthday.