Tuesday, August 31, 2010

An Impractical Love Affair

I will admit it: I love variegated yarns. There's something about seeing a skein of yarn blending together a symphony of disparate colours that just makes me reach for my wallet. I love to just look at it, sitting in the basket on my wall, like a work of art, or to take it down and stroke its softness, to wonder at the way the colours meld together and complement each other.

Of course, yarn isn't meant only for looking at; it's also meant for knitting (or crocheting or weaving or whatever your thing is.) The thing is: sometimes once you wind that skein into a ball and start knitting with it, you might begin to think that it's lost its charm. The yarn may start to stripe in some weird way, or to pool colours into big blobs, and you might look at it and wrinkle your nose at the way it's distracting from the stitch patterns. I mean, face it -- sometimes variegated yarns don't make the nicest end products.

With that in mind (and because of my self-imposed yarn diet) I've been plugging away, this year, at using up all of the variegated yarns I bought back when I was so enamored of them. I decided that perhaps semi-solids are more my thing, since they show off fancy patterns more, and don't look so (dare I say) gaudy when you wear the end product.

What I inadvertently discovered is that I really love variegated yarns. I realized that the joy of knitting a pair of socks is only partly that you get to wear them and show them off when they're done. There is also so much joy and pleasure in the quiet hours and hours (and hours) of meditatively knitting them, of seeing one colour parade after another along my needles, of making each little loop and watching how the change from magenta to coral makes this fantastic fade of rosy pink for just a moment in the middle. To see each of the colours I love slide past my finger and onto the needles never ceases to amaze me.

Some people wonder why sock knitters don't buy the $1 sport socks at department stores. Why would I want to deny myself hours and hours of pleasure, soaking in the saturated myriad of colours in a skein of sock yarn, not to mention the satisfaction and comfort of wearing custom-sized socks that I made myself, just to save a few bucks? Besides, what you might spend on going to see a film that will entertain you for a couple of hours, I will gladly spend on a skein of variegated sock yarn, that I get to enjoy for days or weeks as I knit it, and for months or years as I wear the gaudy stripey colour-blobby socks, afterward.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Impulse Cardigan

While knitting on my new little sock at the cafe, last week, I was struck by a sudden urge to knit a cardigan. Once I got home, I went through my favourites on Ravelry for inspiration, and was reminded of how much I love the Girl Friday cardigan from Knitty -- so casual, so comfy. I must have one.

I went through my Cascade 220 stash and decided to make it with this crazy lime green I have six skeins of. I wound some up and got ready to make a swatch, but upon closer inspection of the pattern, I realized that I would be one skein short. I did have seven skeins of rose pink set aside for another cardigan; when I looked at that pattern, I realized that I need eight skeins for that one, so the pink became my default for Girl Friday. I am really happy with the choice, although maybe it will be a bit of a Girlie Friday, instead. The pattern looks super squishy right now, but it will block out much flatter, and hopefully will look really cool.

By now, I have knit far past that photo: I am done the back up to the arm holes, and just past the ribbing on the fronts. I am planning to join the back, fronts, & sleeves all together above the armpit and knit it in one piece from there on, thus saving myself the effort of sewing the sleeves into the body, later. Call me lazy, but I think it's clever.

One (more) warm cozy cardigan, here I come.

Monday, August 23, 2010

The Next Sock

When I chose the three motifs I used for my Real Love socks, I had a few other motifs on deck that I really liked together, and thought maybe I might make a second sock design using them. That time has come. I am planning this one out better than the first, and even making different sizes and stuff. I made up the charts and printed them off so that my own pair of socks will actually be a test of the pattern, as I write it.

Good thing I did, since I realized right away that the first row after the ribbed cuff is actually row 2 of the pattern, not row 1 -- whoops. I also noticed after knitting one repeat that the amount of travelling stitches in this sock draws the fabric in more than I expected, so the socks are going to be a bit too snug for a so-called Large. I also realized very quickly that this isn't the best yarn for this sort of a sock. It is a bit too splitty, which is somewhat aggravating for a travelling twisted stitch pattern. Perhaps aggravating is too strong a word -- but they are not relaxing and enjoyable, that's for sure. If that weren't enough, it is also getting quite a halo of fuzziness as I knit them, which I normally enjoy in my knitting, but in this case it is just going to obscure the lovely travelling stitch motifs, particularly after they are being worn.

So it will be back to the drawing board: rewrite the charts so the right row comes first, add a handful more stitches for a Large and make this chart the Medium, and begin again with a new yarn. I am going to use some sock yarn royalty for the second time around -- Madelinetosh Tosh Sock, in a spectacular ruby red grapefruit colour that will make my mouth water with every perfect little twisty stitch. Swoon.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Charybdis Socks

Although I've been pretty preoccupied with other things this week, I've still managed the finishing touches on my Charybdis Socks.

They were a simple but satisfying knit -- I really only had to refer to the pattern once or twice during the whole thing. When I was knitting the second sock, I think I only referred to the first one, rather than using the pattern at all. They went fairly quickly (despite all appearances) and fit so nicely. If only the weather wasn't so warm, I would be wearing them right now. I think the various shades of blue really work well with this pattern, too -- they were designed with a sort of whirlpool theme, after all, and the stitch pattern is visible through the variegation but still lets the yarn shine.

Now that I am finished them, I have a new use for my size 2 needles: knitting the second pair of twisted-stitch socks I designed. I am pretty excited about them, and have already started writing up the pattern. Hopefully they turn out as nice as they are in my head.

By the way, almost 400 downloads of my first pattern, by now, and there are actually a couple of other pairs being knit, too. Check it out:

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Red Letter Day

After a few people on Ravelry admired my Real Love socks and showed some interest in seeing a pattern for them, I decided I would try to write it up. It would give me some practice for the next pair I have designed, and if I offer this one up for free, then I won't feel guilty about the unpolished nature of the pattern, this time, while I get some experience and feedback for the next pattern.

So I wrote it up over a couple of days and plugged in my unprofessional photos and some charts and popped it up on Ravelry, last night.

It's already been downloaded 150 times! Now I know that I have downloaded a lot of patterns that I haven't knit, yet, so I'm not expecting that many to actually be knit, but still... that's pretty cool. Even to see one or two pairs would really make me proud.

If you want it, you can have your own copy, too: download now

Friday, August 6, 2010

Out of Desperation

As I was finishing off the final toe of my Real Love socks, I looked around all of the packed boxes in our new place and realized that I didn't have another project on the needles. I'm not sure where my crocheted hexagons ended up, and I didn't really have anything else on-the-go to putter away on.

Panic set in.

I still didn't have the internet at that time, so my options were pretty limited. I only had a couple of pattern books unpacked, and the majority of my yarn was still packed up. My printer was still packed away, so I couldn't print off any pdf patterns from my computer. I had a few balls of sock yarn peeking out of one shopping bag in my room, and I managed to find a pattern on my computer that was simple and intuitive enough that I would be able to knit it without having to refer to it often.

Thus, my Charybdis socks were born. The yarn is a nice round sock yarn, called Monarch, in a colourway called Shades of Teal. I chose this particular sock pattern because I thought it would stand up to the striking variegation in the colour of the yarn. I think they look pretty good for something I threw together, on the fly.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Real Love Socks

With the lack of other entertainment on the weekend (and because I am still trying to spend a lot of time resting my knee) I managed to get a lot of knitting done. After I finished my Monkey socks, the only thing I had left unpacked and in-progress were my Real Love socks. It was probably a good thing, since the complexity of the travelling twisted stitches meant that I put these off more often than I worked on them.

If you recall, I got a twisted-stitch reference book for my birthday, and right away I threw together a couple of potential sock designs out of it. This was the first one, and is wide enough that it will fit my feet, in a very fine gauge. I had thought about potentially writing the pattern up to offer it to other people, but I'm not sure it would be very useful, since people with more normally sized feet would probably have a hard time making them fit without a lot of adjustments, anyway. In my experience, it's easier to upsize a sock pattern than to downsize one (assuming you can't just knit the whole thing at a tighter gauge, and I think that trying to knit a sock at a tighter gauge than 10 stitches per inch might just be crazy.) The next twisted-stitch sock pattern I have planned will be more appropriate, that way, and I may try my hand at selling knitting patterns, then.

I think I went into some detail on the patterns last time I mentioned these socks, but basically I just chose three that I thought were interesting together, that had the same repeat length in rows, and that created an interesting negative space (i.e. the purl background between the center motif and the one on either side, which you can see better on the first photo, or even better on this one I posted ages ago.) There is a span of the patterns where the stitches don't move, so I used that piece for the ribbing at the cuff, and also for the heel flap and for the toe. I think it looks pretty cool.

I named them Real Love socks partly because it takes some real love and dedication to make a 96-stitch circumference sock for size 10 feet, and also because I had John Lennon's song Real Love running around in my head while I was knitting them.

Funny side note: the current issue of Interweave Knits has a few twisted-stitch designs in there, and two of them use the same motifs as I did for these socks. Check out this one which uses the motif I have on the side of the leg, and this one which uses the double chain motif that I have beside it. Out of literally hundreds of stitch motifs in that book, we ended up with duplicates. Great minds think alike.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Monkey Socks

Though we are still living out of boxes, mostly, I did manage to find my camera, and now that I'm back online, you get to see my finished Monkeys.

I am really happy with how they turned out -- they fit really nicely, despite being the medium size. The yarnovers give the stitch pattern a lot of stretch, and leave the socks pleasantly snug. I could have knit them in the large size, but it required many more stitches in a tighter gauge, which wouldn't have worked with the lovely yarn I had chosen, so I gambled that the medium would fit my wide feet -- and won.

The yarn is Socks that Rock in a colour called Sweet Pea. It was the May Rockin' Sock Club yarn, and while I wasn't inspired to knit either of the patterns that came with it, I was definitely inspired by the subtle variegation of this yarn. It is mostly off-white, with some soft grassy green and a barely-there peach which is only visible in the right lighting. Perfect for a cute little stitch pattern like Monkey.

As I mentioned before, I am planning another pair of Monkeys, but using SpillyJane's variation of staggering the stitch pattern. Soon, soon, my pretties...