New Patterns and Obsessions

I am nothing if not obsessive.   All my life I have chosen interests and then followed them with (some might say) excessive enthusiasm.  First there were books… I carried them everywhere, and probably wasn’t seen without a book in my purse until well after the age of majority (and now I’m back there again, but nevermind…)  Then there was embroidery.  Then Crochet.  Then (recently) my obsession with restoring the house.  Knitting has carried on for quite awhile with no sense of waning.  Now you will rarely find me without a half finished sock lurking in my bag somewhere.  I even develop minor obsessions with my knitting.  Currently I’m really into semi-solid yarns, both for socks and sweaters.  Yesterday I started these socks.

The pattern is “Cozy Cables

It’s not a free pattern, but totally worth it… the pattern is extremely detailed and clear.  I’m loving knitting these, except for one thing… the yarn (dream in color starry) is too solid.  Fortunately, it has sparkles, and they will get me through the pain, but I think this yarn should be less solid if they are going to call it a semi-solid.  Other than that the yarn is lovely, and so much larger than the Malabrigo sock I used last that I can’t believe how fast it’s going!

My sock queue on ravelry?  Three pages long.  And I just bought “Folk Socks” and “Knitting Socks in Handpainted Yarn.”  My sock yarn stash?  Let us not speak of it.  I have sold off most of my variegated and am now replacing them with semi-solids and some variegated skeins where the colors are closer together.

The new Winter Knitty is out, and for once I have found quite a lot to love.  I immediately queued up the yarn for Amelia.

I love the little pintucks and the shaping.  Plus I have a thing for garter stitch cuffs for some reason.  The yarn is Madelinetosh worsted in Malachite, and is so pretty that honestly it might kill me.

My other favorite from the issue is Maja.

I love the geometric look, and I already own the yarn called for, Manos Silk Blend.   I bought it so long ago that I can’t even remember why, but it’s semi-solid!

I also really like the Plaited Points socks and have queued them, though I’m not sure if they would be an annoying knit or not.  Finally, Surface is gorgeous (I even like the funny wrap thing) but I have Kingscot to attempt before I queue any other Norah Gaughan patterns.

I did cast on today for the Climbing Vines pullover from the Winter IK today, but I don’t have any good photos yet.  I’m using Dream in Color Classy in Chinatown Apple, because I can squeeze the smallest size out of three skeins.   I hope to have pictures tomorrow!

Does anyone have a copy of the new Knit.1 yet?  They are relaunching with new editors and what appears to be a whole new look.  They seem to have at last been released from the death grip of lion brand, and everything looks beautiful and wearable.

I’m planning to make this garter stitch cardigan from Kathmandu aran tween (I have a really dark blue shade that is lovely, but needs to be a plain pattern or it obscures the details.)  The socks are by Cookie A… lovely.

Hope everyone is having a good week!

FO: Vaila

Pattern: Vaila from Twist Collective Winter 08

Yarn: Malabrigo Merino in buscando azul, 5 skeins

Needles: US 8

Notes: Ah winter… the enemy of the knitblogger.  I apologize for the lack of quality pictures here, but it gets dark at 5pm lately, long before my photographer makes it home!

Knitting Vaila nearly broke my spirit to knit, I have to tell you.  I picked a pattern that had lots of purling, knitting in the round, knitting bottom up, lace… you name the thing I don’t like, it had it.  I made a bunch of mistakes in the lace, but I don’t think you can tell – by the time I got to the yoke I just wanted to be finished, so I probably wasn’t careful enough.

The sleeves were tough.  I tried knitting them inside out (loose gauge) and then tried purling them (enormous ladders.)  Finally I knit them on the Bond knitting machine, which seems to have worked out fine.  In the picture above you can see comparisons between the machine and hand knitting after blocking.  The machine knitting is still alittle tighter looking and has a few vertical lines in it.  It also feels a little stiffer than the body.  You can’t tell a difference at all from the knit side though, so I would consider the experience a success.

I knit the sleeves shorter than the pattern called for, and they are still plenty long.  I also knit the turtleneck far shorter than the pattern – I knit 35 rows instead of 78.  I was concerned about looking like I didn’t have a neck.  I’m happy with it the way it is.

After I finished, I realized I had forgotten to hold the body stitches to graft, so there was some fudging going on, as well as some unintended ease in the bust.  I also did not do the special cast on, and I knit the ribbing on the same size needles as the body to avoid any flare at the widest part of the body.  I also added shaping to the body, making it hourglass shaped rather than A shaped, again because I was concerned about it being flattering around the hips.

Overall I am pleased with the result, if not totally certain it was worth the aggravation.  It fits well, and it is warm and soft.  I’m not so much a pullover person, but occasionally it’s nice to knit one up.  And I am very thankful for my new machine, without which I am quite certain this would have become an eternal UFO.

Vaila and the Bond: a story

Knitting Vaila is turning into quite the ordeal.  This isn’t the fault of the designer, it’s more the fault of me for choosing a pattern that combines a bunch of techniques I don’t like: patterns with lace on every row, sweaters knit from the bottom up, and reverse stockinette in the round.  I started the sleeves several times.  First I tried knitting them inside out, but that didn’t look great and my gauge was off.  Then I tried knitting them as called for, but I got horrible ladders in the purling.  I could have tried magic loop, but that would have added another technique I hate to the mix (I find it fiddly and annoying.)  So I was about to give up on the sweater, when my husband bought me the Bond knitting machine.

I hit upon the idea of knitting the stockinette portion of the sleeves on the bond and then picking up and knitting ribing for the cuffs off of the live stitches at the beginning.  So I made two swatches on the bond, with the #3 and #2 plates.  3 is supposed to be for worsted, but to get 4.5 st/in after blocking I had to use #2.  Washing the swatch is so important in this case – because of the weighted hem, the knitting will be stretched.  You also need to know your row gauge, because you cannot measure your knitting while it is on the machine.   It worked out great – the sleeves are done, though they require seaming, and it looks like the sweater will be finished someday (right now I am knitting the decreases, never my favorite part… remind me no more bottom up sweaters in one piece, ok?)

What follows is a little demonstration of knitting a sleeve on the bond.  I apologize for the quality of the pictures, but I was doing this at night!

First you will use the green cards provided to push forward the number of needles you need.

Take the weighted hem and lay it through the needles.

Make sure all the hooks are open using the transfer tool provided.

Lay a piece of elastic thread across the hooks, and weight down either end with a clothespin.  Now you will fold the hem over the hooks, so that the hem is hanging from the elastic thread.  Push the hem back towards the table.

Reset the needles by replacing the green cards with the yellow one.  Once all the hooks are pushed back to this position, remove the card.

Choose the size card you need for your yarn weight, and place it in the shuttle.  It is also recommended to wax the back of the card with a plain parafin candle (the new sets come with one.)

Close the shuttle and thread your yarn through the guide.  Now you are read to begin knitting.  Push the shuttle down the row, making sure the yarn doesn’t get tangled in the hem.  The hooks should catch the yarn.

One row completed.  Clip a weight onto the end yarn.  Now you continue, pushing the shuttle back and forth.  Be sure to tension the yarn with your hand at the beginning of each row, or you will drop end stitches.

The knitting grows really quickly.  Be sure not to let the hem touch the floor or your lap.

When you are done (be sure you count rows based on your row gauge) you can bind off.  I tried the back stitch method on my swatch, and liked it well enough.  For the sleeves I transferred the stitches on the hooks to waste yarn, and then placed the hem stitches on a needle to knit the ribbing.  After I finished the ribbing, I seamed the sleeves and then attached them to the sweater by knitting across all stitches.

On the left are the machine stitches.  Right now they are a little tight, but they should loosen up when washed.  I did find that machine knitting makes a tighter edge than handknitting, so the seaming was a little tough (I would have been ok on the knit side, but it was hard to see the reverse stockinette.)

I find machine knitting to be more like weaving than knitting for some reason.  In no way does it replace the joy of hand knitting, but it does make it easier for me to think about some basic sweaters to knit eat up the extra yarn in my stash.

I’m planning to knit the above sweater (the Climbing Vines pullover from the new IK) and am thinking of doing the back and sleeves on the bond as an experiment to see how shaping works, but I’m not totally sure I will…

I would consider the machine to be a worthwhile purchse.  There is a learning curve, and it really is only great for stockinette (it can do ribbing, cables etc, but it requires hand manipulation of the stitches.)  It’s a bulky weight machine, and it isn’t going to be good for yarns knit under sportweight.  I plan to use mine for gifts (since I am a selfish knitter, and I hate taking a lot of time knitting something that may not be appreciated) and the occasional boring bit of a sweater.  It’s got to go in the attic, so I need to clear some space up there.

I hope my explanations were a little helpful!

FO: Twisted Tweed Socks

Pattern: Twisted Tweed Socks

Yarn: Malabrigo sock in Abril, 3/4 skein

Needles: Knitpicks Nickel DPNs size 0

Notes: I found knitting these socks to be an overall pleasant experience.  I did make a few modifications.  I cast on 66 instead of 72 stitches, because I thought 72 would be too big.  They fit, but to be honest I could have gotten away with 72 – the fit over my heel is a little tight.  This is a very non stretchy stitch pattern, so keep that in mind when looking at the cast on number.  I mirrored the swirl pattern on the leg of the second sock, because I’m like that.  It’s really easy to do once you’ve knit the first sock… just start with row one of the pattern and then swirl the other way!  I knit the leg for 5 inches instead of 7 for two reasons.  First, I got tired of the pattern, and second I was worried about running out of yarn – I think the row gauge is rather short because of all the slipped stitches, so it eats more than you might think.  I changed the heel from short row to a ribbed heel.  Ribbed heels fit my narrow heels better, and I was worried about them being small.  Without the ribbed heel I suspect these would not have gone on.

About the yarn (since I know everyone is curious!)  Malabrigo sock is a really thin sock yarn.  I would compare it in weight to Lorna’s laces shepherd sock.  I don’t love thin sock yarns – I like my fingering weights on the heavier side.  It’s also extremely soft and silky, with a lovely sheen.  It has no bounce to speak of – it feels very much like a wool/tencel blend to me, though I know it is not.  I think it is going to pill like nobody’s business, in spite of knitting at a tiny gauge.  Just from being in my knitting bag it is already fuzzy, and I think this bodes poorly for its future.  The colors are gorgeous, and the color runs are very short, so that they probably will not pool (this sock would not have pooled even without the slip stitch I don’t think.)  I’m not sure I will use this yarn again because it is so thin, but I will wait and see about the wear issues.  I would recommend it though, with the warning about potential fuzziness attached.  But then again, with so many lovely sock yarns, when do I ever repeat?

The pattern was clear, although I think there may be an error on the toe shaping on the top down version – it called for decreasing 2 stitches at a time, but I’m sure it’s supposed to be 4.  That’s how I did mine, and I got a toe of the prescribed length.  I memorized the pattern 2 inches in on the first leg, and then I didn’t need to look anymore.  Highly recommended – the finished socks look more complicated than they are!

Why my husband is the greatest…

Because he heard me complaining about how much I dislike stockinette, and how many patterns I avoid because of it.  The next thing I knew, this appeared in our house:

Bought with a 50% off coupon, with a promise (from me) to make a little blanket for his sister’s upcoming new baby.  I’m very interested in trying this out, and seeing what possible uses I can come up with for it!  It looks crazy complicated.

I have seen one in action before, so I get the concept.   Maybe I can finally make Marc the Harry Potter scarf he has always wanted, but that I have always claimed was incredibly boring?  I know people who use them to knit the stockinette parts of regular knitting patterns as well.

I’m going to set it up on the dining room table to try out, but if I decide to keep it set up somewhere it will need to be in the attic (fortunately our attic is not scary and has lots of light.)

Legwarmers started and book reviews!

I’m sick again this week… icky, but at least I will be well for Christmas (I have a fear of being ill when I have so many singing gigs.)  Dionne shares my sadness.

We both feel like this

We refer to Dionne as the “bad energy vampire.”  She isn’t a snuggly cat in general – in fact, the only time she usually wants attention is when you are either yelling or crying or really sick.  You could be in the middle of a fight and suddenly find a cat, desperate for attention, in your lap, and she will not leave. It’s cute, really, but it’s also really strange.

The legwarmers are going well, and aren’t too boring.  I got 6 inches out of one episode of Fringe, minus commercials, so I don’t think these are going to take as long as I feared.  I’m really glad though that I knit continental… I can’t imagine how 1×1 ribbing would kill the other way!

I frogged my sleeve for Vaila and restarted… my gauge in regular stockinette was just too large, and the sleeve was going to be huge.  So… back to purling for me!  Have I mentioned how much I love the knitpicks Harmony DPNs?  Seriously… I could never stand to knit on larger DPNs because I hated the bamboo, but these are so much nicer because the yarn doesn’t stick to them.  I am getting some laddering, which is unusual for me, but I’ve decided to just go with it.  I am not alternating skeins anymore for the sleeves, since I don’t think it matters for the small diameter, and since this color of malabrigo in general is not too variegated.

Finally, I’m reviving a blog feature where I talk about my other love… books. Lately I’ve been very into victorian and gothic novels, but I branch out into nonfiction sometimes as well!

I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith

Apparently this is something of a classic, but I had never read it.  It’s the story of a family living in genteel poverty in an old English castle.  Their lives are changed when new neighbors move into the manor house nearby.  I would imagine that when I was a teenager I would have adored this book, and I love it still.  The main character is wonderful, and the ending manages to not be too treacly without being sad.

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

This book was very popular when it came out, and I am enough of a snob that I had avoided it on that basis.  It kept coming up recommended for me though, and my library had several copies.  I will tell you off the bat that my favorite book is Jane Eyre, and so I simply loved this book. I am a sucker for a good gothic thriller, and this was a wonderful one. I also loved the main character’s musings about books – so similar to the way I think many of us feel about them. I did not guess the twist at the end, and I was interested to the very end to find out more. Highly recommended.

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

I have a love/hate relationship with Gaiman’s novels.  On one hand he has written some of my favorites (Anansi Boys, Coraline) but I have been very disappointed in others (American Gods, Neverwhere.)  I loved this one.  It’s young adult, but don’t let that stop you!  It’s the unusual tale of a young boy, who is orphaned and then adopted by the citizens of a village graveyard.  It sounds macabre, but really it’s a sweet story, with excellent illustrations.

Inside the Victorian Home by Judith Flanders

The subject matter – the inner workings of middle class victorian households – might seem dull at first glance.  I, however, found it fascinating.  The author focuses on one room per chapter (kitchen, parlour, drawing room etc) and indeed talks about the rooms and their decor/purpose, but she also uses each room to explain a different aspect of victorian life – for instance, in the bedroom we get victorian attitudes toward birth and death, and in the kitchen we learn a great deal about the lives of servants.  There are fascinating charts, such as one explaining the complicated rules governing the wearing of mourning after a death.  This is easily the best book I have read on the subject, and I would recommend it to anyone interested in the victorians or victorian homes.  It’s a surprisingly easy read for the subject matter.

Lies my Teacher Told me by James W. Loewen

This book was not what I was expecting.  I thought it would be one of those fun “misinformation in history” books.  It did contain some of that, for instance, pointing out that history texts ignore the adult life of Helen Keller because of her socialist associations.  What I found fascinating though was the idea that our society can be shaped by the way our history is taught, and how we as a nation are presented.  The book posits that our history textbooks discourage critical thinking, and that they present a view of our history that is free of errors in judgement (and certainly, like any nation, we have had many.)  Sometimes it does seem a little outdated (for instance, I was not taught that everyone but Columbus believed the world was flat) but I thought it was a very interesting read, and it caused me to evaluate where my own viewpoints come from.


When I was a little girl I longed to be a ballerina.  I would have loved to take ballet, but unfortunately A. We couldn’t afford it, and B. I’m thinking my hippy-ish Mom would not have been into the idea.  She was more the type to take me camping and teach me how to tie knots, so as not to reinforace gender stereotypes.  Unfortunately for her, I turned out pretty darned girly (maybe this was my rebellion?)  I do complain all the time though about gender stereotyping, especially as I see it in my students, so maybe her efforts were not in vain.

So anyway, since I wasn’t a ballerina, and even though it was the 80s, I never had a pair of legwarmers of my own.   (Neon? check. Leggings? Check.  Hair barettes covered in shoelaces and balloons? Check.  Hypercolor shirt? No, but oh how I wanted one…)  The suggestion was raised (on my post about my boots being too large) of a pair of legwarmers.  Then Sockknitters anonymous on Ravelry, of which I am a member, declared that legwarmers counted as “almost socks” for the December KAL.  I took those two things to be a sign, and I am now making these.

These are the simple legwarmers from Last minute knitted gifts, knit with 1 strand of cascade 220, 1 of Madil kid seta (I’m using GGH Kid melange.)  The Cascade 220 (above) is actually a dark gray, not black the way it looks.  I wanted a heathered gray, but I couldn’t find any locally, so I used a lighter shade of mohair to make it look heathered.   This works pretty well (or well enough anyway.)  The two yarns combined make a really soft fabric, and I’m happy to note that I have no problems with mohair when it is combined with something else.  Of course, 1×1 rib for 26″ X 2 isn’t quick (2-4 hours?  Really book?  I think not.) Anyway, here is hoping that I wear these when they are finished (photos soon, it got dark really early here today!)

Right now I’m only knitting things on DPNs (these, the sleeves of Vaila, and my socks.)  I hope I don’t get too tired of them!

Time for an update

Now that Thanksgiving is over now, thank goodness, and I can finally have some time to myself, it’s time for an update.  (I’m not a grinch, really, I’m just an introvert who never gets enough downtime during the holidays… big gatherings make me nervous.)

I finished one of my twisted tweed socks. They look kind of funny off your feet.

The soles are really baggy, and if you hold them up they look strange.  But they look normal on my feet!

Actual color is somewhere in between these photos… purple is hard to capture properly.  I’m not allowing myself to write about my mods yet, because I want to finish the second sock, and to me this pattern was a little tedious.

All the family togetherness has caused my knitting time on Vaila to suffer (I have to have the chart with me, so it makes bad carrying knitting.)  But I have made progress, and am now on the last part of the body before the sleeves.

Curiously, my gauge seems to actually be tighter when purling every round.  I expected it to be looser.  It will fit either way – the lace is very stretchy, but it is coming out a bit small.  I am looking forward to the sleeves now – I want a break from the lace.

Much like my sock knitting, my sock yarn buying goes in spurts.  Sometimes I can’t imagine wanting to ever knit socks again, mostly in the summer (I envy those who can knit socks all summer… I can’t seem to work up an enthusiasm for them when it’s hot!)  But right now I’m into socks, so I’ve gotten some sock yarn.

This is starry, the new yarn from Dream in Color.  It has silver bits spun into the yarn.  The color is Cinnamon girl, one of the new semisolids (although to me it just looks solid.)  I thought the silver would stand out more on a solid backdrop, as much as I love their other colorways.  The yarn feels thinner than smooshy to me, but it’s hard to tell without knitting it up.  I’m not sure yet on a pattern, but I’m thinking of a fancy pattern (for me) because I rarely use true solid yarns.

Two other yarns, bought in a thanksgiving weekend spending spree…

On the left is “My Kelly” from Miss Babs, from the woolgirl thanksgiving sale.  On the right is “Field” from Funky Carolina.  Lovely greenish yarns… how I love you!

We are keeping Christmas small this year, since we still own two properties and it seems silly to spend on things we don’t need (my sock yarn money came from selling off my stash earlier this month.)  We are fixing up the bathroom for a joint present.  Our bathroom has a lovely fancy granite shower, but it has a sinkfrom the 1930s that is falling apart, and cheap laminate flooring that is ruined.  We’ve bought a new sink and medicine cabinet, and we will be tiling the floor and painting the walls a color other than lemon yellow (I’m thinking a soothing aqua, but that is not certain yet.)

I hope everyone in the US had a wonderful Thanksgiving!