FO-to finishes 09/15

I have to know – does anyone pace their knitting? To keep an even balance between things that are newly cast on, projects that are on their way, things that are nearing complete, and finished objects?

I…don’t. I went through a period of finishing a bunch (for me) of things, and nothing else is likely to be complete for some time. Part of this is gauge. When I cast on a hat that’s in dk or worsted weight, it’s typically not going to take me more than a few days’ knitting, and at that point, I charge through to the end. When it’s a pair of socks or a shawl, I know that the project is going to take a while, and I cast on other things to keep me from getting bored with any one vanilla sock or heavily-charted lace shawl.

First FO, which I’d been working on since April (sort of) was my second vanilla sock in the Regia Arne & Carlos design line, specifically in the Twilight / 3654 colorway. I did what has become my standard for vanilla socks for myself in fingering weight wool that’s pretty normally-thick: 68 stitches on size 1 / 2.25 mm needles, with a 2×2 ribbing at the cuff, and a reinforced heel flap and gusset. The yardage for a 100-gram skein of Regia is fantastic, and so I knit fairly long legs and still didn’t use up the entire skein. (In examining my stash of ends of sock-weight skeins, it looks like it will soon be time to pick a sock-yarn blanket that’s knit in a modular way to work on long term and use it all up.) I do not typically find myself drawn to self-patterning yarn, but I’m apparently very suggestible when it comes to what everyone’s doing on Instagram, and not only do I love the cheery yellow and coral patterns, I might have a second skein in the bright blue / Moon Night colorway, waiting to be a pair of socks for the husband.

Speaking of the husband. C gets a pair of socks every time he finishes a novel (and occasionally for anniversaries, like our second, which was the cotton anniversary per those sites that outline traditional anniversary gifts, and which resulted in a pair of grass green cotton socks for him), and as busy as he’s been with work and his parents, it’s been a while since he completed one. But he did, finally, and so a pair of socks was cast on. I’ve had some Done Roving Yarns Frolicking Feet in my stash for a while, with no idea how it would knit up. One of the colors is definitely for me, but after diving through my stash to find all the yarns I’d had earmarked for C, I pulled the Sunflower colorway, which is yellows and golds and browns and teals. So pretty! I love the way it striped in a spiral, and even more, I love how soft and smooth it was to work with. It’s 100% superwash merino, and that lack of nylon content does worry me a bit. But it’s lovely yarn that I’ve been enjoying the hell out of knitting, and when I checked on Ravelry, it turned out that I took exactly a month and a day from casting on the first to finishing the second, so they flew.

The next thing off the needles is that gotta-finish-now sort of knit – the Traveling Cables hat in a heathered, deep red shade of Cascade 220 superwash. One of my friends had mentioned how cold it was at her desk at work, and as someone whose desk is under a vent in my own office, I can relate. But knitters are a little crazy, and when a knitworthy friend mentions being cold, the very next thing out of our mouths is “do you want a hat?” Reader, she did want a hat. Not slouchy, and preferably in a red or berry color. Easy peasy. I’d had my eye on this pattern for a while, so I ordered some superwash yarn in a color that felt Lauren, cast on, skipped one of the cable repeats (horizontally) so that the hat would be fitted with the brim folded over, and cast off. It wasn’t an instant knit by any stretch –  the ribbing for the brim wasn’t a standard 2×2 or 3×1 or anything, and every other round of the body of the hat had cables. But it was so satisfying to see the cables bend and curve around, so if the hat didn’t exactly fly, neither was it a long-term sort of project. I hope the recipient likes it!

The final thing off the needles for a while is a sock for my mother-in-law. Gosh, is this yarn a pain! I’m probably not using it correctly (it’s rated for much bigger needles on the label for starters), but I’m getting a gauge that’s perfectly acceptable for the Almondine sock pattern that I’m making. It’s a little thick-and-thin, there’s no wool in the yarn, it twists around itself in a strange 2-ply that bunches up on itself as I knit, and it’s driving me up the wall to the point that I nearly ripped the sock off the needles and tossed the yarn, and now that I finished the first sock I’m definitely procrastinating getting the next one cast on. The only thing I like about this yarn is the colors, which are just gorgeous; I also like the Almondine pattern, which is the same pattern I used for the socks I knit my grandmother for her 90th birthday – it’s pretty lace, and has lots of stretch. I hope I have the patience to knit the mate; and after this, since I can’t knit wool, I just won’t knit anymore socks for my MIL.

Still on the needles are a couple second socks (and honestly, I’m having a hard time not casting on a new pair just to have more than 2 socks going at once), a hat that’s in finer yarn than I normally use, and a second mitt. But I don’t think I’ll get another FO parade until considerably later in the year, so I’m determined to bask in the glow of this one for a while. And maybe think about pacing myself better for the rest of the year.

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needlegazing

Has anyone else progressed through different needles as they kept knitting? I moved from straights to circs to interchangeables with bigger sizes of needles and bigger items – and as much as I loved my Denise set when I got them, the past couple years have left me less content with them than I was. Becoming more confident, faster, whatever it is, has made me wish for needles with a little less grip and with significantly pointier tips.

But interchangeable needle sets aren’t exactly cheap, and each brand is a little bit different from the others. So how to decide which kind makes the most sense? I know I want metal, not bamboo or the carbon ones, and I’m certainly capable of reading reviews. But the very last thing I want is to choose the wrong one and spend the next several years convincing myself that it’s okay to buy yet more new needles (since it’s been six or seven years since I got the Denise set).

Knitpicks nickel plated size 1 / 2.25 mm

This is where auditions come in. There’s no way to know how I’d like a set of interchangables, the connections, the length of the tips, the various configurations of cables. But since switching from knitting socks on dpns to magic loop, I’ve been carefully buying different brands of fixed circular needles to compare and contrast what I can.

So far, I have two favorites. They are not Knitpicks or ChiaoGoos. The Knitpicks cable isn’t as thin or flexible as I’d like, and I hate feeling like I’m stretching my yarn as I knit. The ChiaoGoo tips are nice and thin and pointy, and I like how sturdy the cable feels, but the tips are textured or coated or something, and I don’t find that sock yarn (even Knitpicks Felici, which is sublimely soft and smooth yarn) glides as easily as I’d like.

ChiaoGoo knit red stainless steel size 1 / 2.25 mm

So for me, it’s a toss up between the HiyaHiyas and the Addi sock rockets. I just love how light the tips are, and how flexible the cables. Part of me wonders if I like the HiyaHiyas just a little more because I bought them first. The cable is maybe a little bit thinner and bendier, and I feel that they’re perfect. But the Addis are this close behind them in my affections – and I like the fact of the needle size being noted on the cable.

addi turbo sock rockets size 1.5 / 2.5 mm

Here’s the rub. When I started in on magic loop for socks, I was still in transition with my sock knitting – as I moved from dpns to magic loop, my gauge was also loosening, but hadn’t quite settled (if it even has). So my favorites, the HiyaHiyas and the Addis, are size 1.5 (2.5 mm). But unless I’m using thicker sock yarn, I’m pretty much using a size 1 (2.25 mm) needle these days. So my favorite needles are not only more expensive than the alternatives, but also I need a new size if I want to use them.

Do you have a set of interchangeable needles? Do you love them, or do you wish something about them was different? I’m taking all recommendations!

HiyaHiya stainless steel size 1.5 / 2.5 mm

more dash, less stash

I have fallen headlong into podcasts. Knitting podcasts. I subscribe to them on itunes, I play them on the bus on the way home from work, I’ve been systematically listening to the Knitmore Girls from the beginning and am almost caught up to where I started tuning in this past winter.

And so, Stash Dash. I haven’t officially signed up in the Ravelry thread, but in my own mind I’m in for 3000 meters. And am just over halfway there.

Don’t ask me how. With all the projects at work taking up head space and all the things we’ve been doing to get the house finished, I’m surprised that I’ve finished anything let alone 1600 meters of knitting. The rules for stash dash are that some knitting (or crochet or weaving or spinning) has to happen, followed by finishing and blocking, for an item to count – but that anything finished between May 22 and August 14 this summer counts towards one’s total. So that means that anything I’d cast on beforehand and finished since the beginning counts. That means if I knit one of something (a sock, a mitt) and then knit the second within the window, both count.

So far, I have finished the following:

Stash Dash 2015 – off the needles

A Campside shawl, a pair of Porthos socks, a single Rose City Roller, a single (and brilliantly neon) Smokestack sock, a plain vanilla sock, an Escalator sock, and a worsted Hermaness hat. Not pictured is an additional pair of Rose City Rollers for me, from a skein of Knitpicks Felici. I find that pattern just delightful.

And still on the needles:

Stash Dash 2015 – in progress

A Shaped Cable Top that still needs a back and a sleeve (and with August 14th speeding towards me, I don’t think I’m going to be able to finish in time),  a second Escalator, a second Zombie Vixen mitt, and an Almondine sock that’s only a few inches in. Not yet cast on are all those second socks. And not pictured is a vest that needs a big squishy cowl collar, and a baby blanket that’s been on the needles forever.

Even with a vacation in a week (mostly a break from the house – which is now on the market after we worked on it the first half of this year – but also doubling as a week-late anniversary trip), I don’t think I’m going to finish. Part of it is poor planning on my part – I’d finished a bunch of things just before Stash Dash started, by just days in a couple cases, rather than getting a bunch of stuff almost done as smarter knitters do. I also realize that I’ve spent all this time on the front of a sweater that I’m certainly not going to have done, because I’ve never seamed up a sweater before, and will want to go super slowly and carefully. All that time I could have spent on other things. And that Almondine sock – I’d been bored with having just the one sock on the needles, and was feeling a case of startitis coming on (in a sock-specific kind of way). Didn’t feel like knitting seconds of any of the three singles I have done, didn’t want a vanilla sock no matter how much I wanted to use some of the pretty, striping yarns in my stash, and couldn’t muster any excitement for a pattern I wanted to knit in any of my skeins not earmarked for bigger projects or gift knitting. So to assuage some of my guilt over starting another sock so late in the dash, I cast on for the first of the socks for my mother-in-law in some yarn I’d bought to become socks for her more than a year ago. But still, not smart if the goal is finished yardage (or meterage).

Who else is participating in Stash Dash this year? Are you poised to make your goals?

weekend wip

  These past few weeks have been less about knitting and more about everything else. Between working on the house, a family funeral, work that’s so busy I’ve had a few stress dreams about it, and more work on the house, I have finished exactly one sock. And it’s an ankle sock, so it took a little fraction of the time as any other.

In the meantime, though, we’ve had a bathroom gutted and a closet framed out. We’ve tiled and grouted and caulked and sealed a kitchen backsplash, and then tiled and grouted and caulked and sealed a shower and bathroom floor. We’ve primed and painted walls and ceilings and closets and bathrooms and miles of trim. Last week started off with piles of boxes on the floor and a new toilet in our car’s trunk, and little by little the contents of the boxes made their way to electric and water hookups and now there are lights and a shower.

And it’s exhausting. We’re trying to rush to finish things to get the house on the market this summer – it’s just too big for two of us and a dog, and we’d always planned to fix it up and sell it in fairly short order. But as it turns out, I hate redoing rooms from scratch. I hate picking out separate elements all at once and hoping that they go well together (though we’re keeping things fairly neutral, and it worked out beautifully in the kitchen). I hate buying so much stuff at once, even though it’s not so much stuff as paint and lights and grout.

But there’s always an upside, right? It turns out we’re not bad at tile. We’ve already got a painting rhythm down, but now it’s more like a dance around the edges of the room since we’ve perfected it. And as tired and sore as I am at the end of a weekend working on the house, it’s still so satisfying to see things coming together as we do them. That concreteness is so much the opposite of my usual work day, and sometimes it’s just what I need, something I’ve done with my two hands that I can touch or hold or look at.

But I’m still dying for a weekend off!

a KAL and an emergency hat

Is there a knitting equivalent to Murphy’s law? Whenever you need a specific item to wear, you won’t be able to find any of it no matter how many you’ve knit in recent months and no matter how diligently you tear apart the house to look?

This is what happened to me last week. Snow in the forecast, a reading to get to, the first day of spring, and not a single warm hat to be found. I was so outraged with the house for hiding all my hats on me (except for Schwimmen – but with lace and a dk weight yarn, not exactly the level of warmth and coziness I was looking for), and with the weather, and with other things in life that were happening (like not having had a kitchen for weeks, and cabinets not due to be installed until April) that I marched down to Purl Soho during my lunch, armed myself with a skein of a beautiful heathered light turquoise Cascade Magnum and set of size 13 circs, and cast on for a hat. A huge hat. A quick hat. A hat that I started during my lunch and finished at 1 am that morning and wore the next day. It’s stiff and huge and has to be worn with the brim rolled up and was lovely and warm against fat wet snowflakes and cold wind. And by magic, after I made it and wore it, I found another of my hats.

The other thing that I’m working on, besides a thousand (okay, 4 pairs, half on the first sock and half on the second) socks, is a KAL with my grandmother. This is the grandmother who taught me how to knit over and over when I was little. She’s 91 years old now, and has not been in the best of health since a very sudden death in the family this past December. This is the grandmother who we love taking to Webs, the one who cooks, the one who likes my husband better than she likes her own eldest granddaughter.

Anyway, this grandmother has often lamented the lack of sweaters that are designed the way she’s used to – with set-in sleeves, and with the fronts and backs knit separately from the bottom up. So two things came together for me. One is that I’ve been listening to a lot of the Knitmore Girls podcast and love all the KALs they host. Another is that my grandmother’s birthday was earlier this month and I had no good gift ideas. But the matchy-matchy kal stuck in my head, and some blue dk weight superwash that I had sitting around, and a shorter-sleeved Lion Brand sweater that I’d had my eye on for a while. And long story short, I marched (and subwayed) up to the Lion Brand store on 18th St, printed two copies of the Shaped Cable top, bought 6 skeins of light blue LB superwash merino, and wrapped the light blue yarn and one copy of the pattern. In the meantime, I cast on a sleeve in the SMC Juvel that I had in a darker blue in my stash on the drive up to Connecticut for her birthday lunch.

The plan, as long as she’s feeling well enough, is for both of us to have the spring and summer to work on our respective blue sweaters in a sort of Grandmother/Granddaughter KAL. (We both look best in blues, so the color choice was very much on purpose.) And then come the fall, we’ll be able to look excruciatingly cute together in our twin sweaters. I’m done with a sleeve so far, as a sort of huge gauge swatch, and will be making some adjustments to the sizing, and I have high hopes that this will be fun for the two of us.

knit, frog, repeat

IMG_0855How much does anyone else change their mind about their knitting? Start a project, change your mind, rip it out, start another? Finish a project, sigh in disappointment, frog, cast on, work a couple inches, rip again?

My track record for this is not good.

IMG_0825Exhibit A: a nearly finished pair of Skyp socks out of beautiful blue and speckly Colinette Jitterbug in blue parrot. I’m super looking forward to getting these off the needles and onto my feet, but this wasn’t even close to the case when I first cast this off as a shawl. Let’s not go into which pattern it was – I picked a yarn that I liked but was the wrong weight, so it’s entirely the fault of the knitter in this case. But I cast off, sighed in defeat since I knew it would never block into the big, drapey shawl I wanted, and never cut the rest of the yarn. So a few months later, frog shawl, cast on socks.

IMG_0840Exhibit B: A Schwimmen hat that I love. It’s knit from a skein of Madtosh tosh merino DK in the wiskers colorway – this gray, brown, graybrown color with a lovely sheen to it. But it almost didn’t make it this far – it started off life as a short version of the Honey cowl; but I never cut the end or blocked it. Instead it sat while I knit more gifts, and then got frogged and cast on as a Rikke hat. It’s a lovely pattern, which I’m planning to knit in a different yarn, but I got maybe 5 or 6 inches in before I stalled out and decided that the yarn + pattern magic just wasn’t happening for me. So I frogged again, and cast on a third time, finally for the Schwimmen. I love Shannon Cook’s designs, and this just flew off my needles once I got past the ribbing, so I finally picked the right yarn and pattern pairing.

IMG_0911IMG_0704

Exhibit C: Two Understory cowls. It seems like the trick is not cutting the yarn once the knit object is finished, but that doesn’t always happen. Many years ago, when I was a baby knitter, I made a hugely long cowl out of luscious gray alpaca, and wore it maybe twice. Too tight to triple, too much cowl to wear doubled under a coat, and too long to wear in a single loop without catching on my knees on stairs (yes, I’m short, and yes, I deal with a lot of stairs coming in and out of subways stations during my commute). So years later, I knit myself a red cowl on way too small needles, frogged it, and finally made an Understory cowl in a tweedy red yarn, which I love, but which goes with approximately nothing in my wardrobe (which is all blues and grays and black and a single red tshirt that I’ve had for less than a month). I wear it when I can, but I loved making the cowl so much that I finally pulled out the gray cowl (which was a mess of woven ends – it was before I learned how to do it well!) and cast on a new Understory. I can’t wait till this is blocked so I can snuggle with it constantly.

IMG_0852And then there are all the things that never got finished in the first place. I have a black vest that’s supposed to get a scrunchy cowl neck, which started life as a few inches of a cowl, then a shawl that I didn’t want in black, and then cast on to become a few inches of a different shawl that I decided not to continue with. My last minute slouch from the amazing neon speckled holi festival colorway started life as a different hat entirely – I got a couple rounds past the ribbing and changed my mind. I have a Zombie Vixen mitt in progress that used to be a few inches each of two different socks. I don’t think it happens to me all the time, but a sizable percentage of the things I finish and start to wear don’t start off their lives with me in their final incarnation. Happily, I’m pleased with most of the things I’ve finished lately, and don’t foresee any frogging in my immediate future!

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desperately seeking speckles

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I don’t know how this happened, but I have a new yarn obsession.
Speckles Collage 1
For a while, I wanted everything tonal. Then I went on a stripey sock yarn kick. Then back to tonals and solids. But out of nowhere, it changed again. Dots? Flecks? Speckles? Whatever you call them, I want them!

It might have started here, with a gorgeous shawl, and where the Fancy Tiger blog showed off all these exciting speckled Madtosh colorways in that photo down at the bottom. I have traditionally loved Madtosh yarns (though I have too much merino light, which is single ply), but speckles? Sign me up!

It also might have started here, with the lovely speckled socks that Susan B. Anderson is working on pictured down toward the bottom of the post.

Whatever it was, soon I had a skein of MadTosh merino in Holi Festival, and one of merino light in Modern Fair Isle from Purl. I had some purple speckles from The Lemonade Shop on Etsy, and some Koigu from .

Speckles Collage 2And it didn’t end there. My mom picked up some speckly Knit One, Crochet Too in Ty-Dy Dots for me for the holidays, and then it was only a matter of time before I stumbled on some blue speckled Lamby Toes on Etsy, and the stripey AND speckled Republic of Wool (also on Etsy, by way of instagram).

2015/01/img_0778.jpgBut it does end there. Putting everything away, separating out the yarn that’s earmarked for gifts in the future, stash diving for yarn for gifts – I have so much yarn. I have the striping sock yarn from when I was obsessed with it, and tonal fingering weights – socks and shawls for years. I have a whole pile of sock yarn that I’ve been hoarding for holiday socks for my dad and my father-in-law, but at this point I’m good for the next several years of holidays. My record for sweaters is a couple in a couple years, but I have yarn for five sweaters just sitting and waiting. It’s time to knit down the stash.

processing giftknits, 2014

I did a lot of knitting for the holidays this year, and as usual, some got away without being photographed. Most of it was cast on (and even cast off) months ago, and I was mostly happy with the way things turned out. The best was a sweater for my little sister.

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/021/46066721/files/2015/01/img_0827.jpgI started it as part of the SoVeryShannon sweater KAL. Or rather, I started it at Webs a while ago. I’d talked my sister into making herself a sweater, and we’d found a bulky-weight yarn and a pattern for it…and somehow I found myself holding the pattern book and the yarn and agreeing to knit a sweater. So I did. The pattern wasn’t a kind I’d made before – bottom-up raglan with the sleeves knit first – but it was fun. I added extra-long cuffs with thumbholes, since she was always the kid to rip holes in her sleeves, but other than that, it was the Packard sweater just as it was written. We had Christmas a little late (since my family has had a frightful December), but once the sweater was unwrapped and tried on, it didn’t come off. Hooray! I was so glad it fit, and so happy she liked it.

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/021/46066721/files/2015/01/img_0805.jpgThere were two shawls that got away without being properly photographed. One was an Afternoon Tea shawl for my aunt, in Quince & Co Finch, in a pretty robin’s egg blue colorway, which I finished at the last possible second. The yarn was lovely – tight and plied and sproingy and rather beautifully matte – but the pattern calls for MadTosh sock (395 yards), and I had to cut a few rows and skip right to the picot bind-off, ending up with only a few yards left out of my 442 yards. I would knit this again, but would hope not to run out of yarn again!

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/021/46066721/files/2015/01/img_0251.jpgThe other was one I finished many months ago and had waited to block. A second Nefertem shawl (since I had knit one for my mom last holiday season), this time for my mother-in-law, out of Three Irish Girls Bamboo Cotton fingering. It was a pretty, slippery yarn in blues and pinks and purples, and it has beautiful drape. It was apparently the season for half-circle shawls.

It was also the season for socks. I knit three pairs, one each for my FIL, my dad, and my mom. My father-in-law always seems to like getting socks (the blue and sand striped ones, my own design), and my mom seemed very pleased with her Jaywalkers (the second pair I knit this year, again out of Patons Kroy Socks). But my dad finally got over his reservations about how much time and effort it takes to knit a pair, and wore a pair I’d made him a couple years ago the very next day. It’s a good thing, too, since the annual socks aren’t going away anytime soon. He got a pair of Colonel Mustard socks, with 72 sts cast on to accommodate the fingering weight Knitpicks Stroll.

Skocs Pinkwalkers ColRainbowSocks2

But 2014 was not a merry and bright sort of holiday season. I lost my grandmother this summer (it has been a year of loss and health scares for my family and I haven’t felt like myself in months). She had Alzheimer’s, and had for just a little less than a decade, and her health had taken a rather sharp downward turn since this time last year. So we knew that it would be her time soon, but even thinking that you’re prepared – I wasn’t. We weren’t. So this was the first year, the first holidays, without her, and it hurt. Since neither my mom nor my aunt nor my sister is as interested in fiber-related things as I am, a whole bunch of my grandmother’s things came to me. A doll blanket she’d crocheted for my aunt or my mother; her wedding dress (from when she was teensy-tiny and just nineteen); a quilt she’d made for me when I was a baby; and the purple Ishbel shawl I’d knit for her last Christmas. It hurt to see it, and so for the past few months, probably since July, it’s been sitting in a plastic bin that I haven’t opened again or moved. What does one do with a handmade gift like that when the recipient no longer exists? I hate to just leave it sitting, but I think I’d hate to give it away, and I know I’d hate to wear it. But I’ve never had a knitted gift come back like this, and I’m still struggling with the fact that it has.

change in the air

IMG_0669.JPGThis past Sunday was my first quiet morning in I can’t remember how long. Part of it was being sick last week. I went home from work on Thursday, which I never do, only I was so ill that I couldn’t stare at a screen or at printed out pages on my desk, so there was literally nothing to be done. On Friday I alternated sipping ginger ale and tea, napping, and doing the easiest reading for work that I could. I haven’t slowed down like that in a long time, and as ridiculous as it sounds, I feel better now than I did before coming down with that bug.

Of course, feeling better came at the same time as dropping off my husband at the airport on his way to another work trip, so the house is empty, just me and the dog. But that morning was fall breezes, sunshine, coffee (which I haven’t had in 3 days), and knitting. Sunshine and knitting is the most calming combination I can think of, which is interesting in the season that’s finally shifting all the way into fall and in which I haven’t been able to concentrate on any one project for long.

IMG_0645.JPGI’ve started all the things, ripped out, restarted, and finished. So much knitting and re-knitting and knitting the same thing over and over. Part of it was a case of startitis. I’ve been knitting so many things for others that I get bored and start something for me (a sweater, a cowl, a sock), and then feel guilty and get back to work. So there’s been lots of casting on something quick. There’s a hat that I don’t have any pictures of and need to block before it gets to be truly hat weather. There was a dead fish hat for the husband (who loves him some ridiculous hats, and picked out both the pattern and the yarn himself). It was a fun knit, though I think (and C agrees) that the multi-colored stripes in between the green and white he wanted totally make the hat. Pure happenstance, that aspect – the yarn was sitting on my desk when I grabbed the green and white to cast on, and they just went together. Anyway, it’s all wool and it’s in Finland by now, where they’ve already had snow and where I’ll feel better knowing that someone’s got a warm, if silly, hat to wear.

IMG_0636.JPGI finished a pair of socks – unfortunately not gifts, but fortunately, for me. The Smokestack socks that I started back in August are done, and they fit perfectly, and they’re squishy and warm and buttery yellow. Cables and ribbing and garter, oh my! I cast them off last weekend, just in time to wear them on the first truly chilly day we’ve had. This was the weekend of putting away the summer clothes and taking out the tights and warm socks and wool sweaters, so it was fitting timing. The pattern was so nice to knit (fast and easy to memorize), and I love the colors in the yarn. Really looking forward to knitting myself more socks next year.

IMG_0658.JPGI also finished not one but three pairs of mitts. One pair needs the ends woven in and for me to figure out how to steam block them. Back in the early summer, a coworker who crochets but doesn’t knit found the Fightin’ Words pattern, which seems made for her. I told her that I’d make them if she bought the yarn and pattern, despite my trepidation over the colorwork. I think they turned out pretty adorable, and my only regret is not winding up the black yarn and rinsing it to make sure it doesn’t bleed. Because now I’m frightened to block these like I normally would, lest the black bleed in to the white and render them gross and muddy. But I really need to block them, to relax the knitting and let the pattern show to its best advantage. Rock, hard place. Moving on.

IMG_0569.JPGI knit two pairs of Spate mitts, basically back to back. The first pair has no finished pictures, and has already gone to live with a friend I saw a couple weekends ago. I’d started a scarf, didn’t like how it was coming out, pulled it out, and then promptly cast on the mitts with the Manos. The gorgeous hand-dyed colors and the pattern fight a little bit, but the yarn is so pretty and soft and I decided that it didn’t matter. I finished the first mitt and pulled it on and something in my head went ‘Oh, they’re for Pippin.’ These were not for me, but for a friend who I knew we were seeing the next weekend. I handed her the first one when she arrived, and finished up the next over the next couple days, and they’re just the thing for a grad student who works in a chilly library.

Happily, Pippin is glad to be mitt twins with me, and as soon as I finished the second of her pair I cast on another for me. This time the yarn is one that I won a few years ago in a giveaway, and have been hoarding ever since, wondering what to do with it. It’s the Full Belly Feel Good yarn by Annie Claire, dyed with mint, and it’s a sheepy, wooly wool that only a knitter would really appreciate. I love it, and another knitting friend loved it, but it’s the sort of yarn that a non-knitter would find scratchy. I don’t think I’d wear it around my neck, but it’s just right for mitts, and it shows off the twists and texture of the Spate pattern so nicely.

And everything else is ongoing. I have a sock and a couple inches until I’m done with holiday knitting. I have a solid start on a sweater that I will try to finish while it’s still cold, and another that just needs buttons to be totally finished. I started a sock for me that was a couple inches of another pattern that was too big and got ripped. The pile of squishy red above is a cowl that was a few inches of scarf just a day before the picture was taken, and which has just been cast off and needs blocking and its ends woven in so I can wear it this coming week. And now that I have another weekend, packed with work as it’s going to be, I’m looking forward to spending a good chunk of time with some yarn and needles. Hopefully some sunshine and coffee and fall breezes will work their way in too.

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being careful not to twist

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How do you knit socks?

I am still deciding. Or I’m in transition. Or I’m confused.

When I started knitting socks, I knit them with worsted weight yarn. I’d never turned a heel. I’d never knit anything smaller than a hat. I was so frightened of fingering-weight yarn that I did what felt like the safe thing at the time. I have a pair of worsted-weight cotton socks that hurt to put into shoes. It took me five pairs of socks until I graduated to sock yarn – and I haven’t exhausted all the colors yet, so there’s a good chance I’m going to keep obsessing over it.

IMG_0522.JPGWhen I started knitting socks, I knit on bamboo dpns – I had lots of bamboo double points, and so it was familiar to buy smaller ones. When those proved too sticky, I switched to metal ones. I have the whole set of 6″ metal sock needles from Knitpicks. And that’s where I stayed for a long time. Mostly metal (I branched into the square ones, but they were super pointy and hurt my fingers when I’m not careful), occasionally wood. But it started to feel slow. All those needles. All that stopping with one needle and starting with the next. Sliding a quarter of the stitches, and another quarter, and another quarter.

IMG_0520.JPGSo I decided to try knitting on two short circs. I was in a yarn shop in Maine when someone showed me a pair she was knitting this way – it didn’t click right away, but I finally tried it. Success! Half the stitches at a time. It was faster. I’ve knit several pairs of socks with these needles, and it works just fine. But right around the time  we went to Georgia to visit some family, I noticed how much it drove me crazy that that needle not in use clicked against itself every time I moved my hands (which, for someone who’s got ‘learn continental’ on the to do list but still hasn’t done it, is frequently).

IMG_0521.JPGAnd so it was time to try magic loop. I’d used the technique once, three years ago, with much larger needles and a circ that was never meant to be twisted around into a magic loop (those Denise interchangeables – love ’em, but they’re not as flexible as the cord on a sock needle) when I was knitting sleeves for a baby sweater, several hundred miles away from my dpns at home. It had worked okay, but it had felt precarious, like I was hurting the yarn and the needles doing it. I decided that our trip to London would be the perfect time to cast on a test case pair of socks for magic loop. And it was great! I think a lot of the flying feeling my Smokestack socks are inspiring is due to the pattern – I love the cables and the nice, stretchy ribbing and the garter details, and the first sock just flew by.

So I guess my conclusion is that there is no conclusion? I’m looking forward to trying a pair of socks two-at-a-time, but with having to keep track of yarn coming from either end of a ball, it feels to me like it would be messy to take along for commute knitting. And barring loving that, I think I could get used to magic loop. Except I still have all these dpns. And I like how securely on the needles the socks feel on two circs, which is important when that’s the sock on the go with me.

How does everyone else do it? Do you pick a method and stick to it? Has it changed for you over time? Want to tell me your sock story?