Tuesday, December 31, 2013

I Don't Know What I'm Doing Posting At 7:37pm on NYE...

...And I've eaten dinner.

Whatever. So I'm not exactly partying tonight.

At any rate, here is my latest execution of A Simple Sock - the socks we're making in our current knit along. (Note: the ones photoed in the KAL are a totally different pair. I can't stop knitting!):

I think we can safely call this my last finished object of 2013...
This is the same Koigu KPM I used to make Scott's Xmas gloves (which he really likes, even though they're not quite up to the mid-winter). I was on the fence when I knit this yarn up on a US3 needle. But on a US1 needle, it makes a really nice, dense fabric. You can tell that Koigu is making yarn with socks in mind.

I am very happy for 2 reasons:
  • Opting to go down a needle size and to work K2P1 rib (both a departure from the norm) produced a nice, firm cuff - that's something I strive to achieve.
  • I was able to knit the majority of this pair of socks using my recently acquired ability to do the flicking method. I'm not super fast by any means, but I'm getting more natural at it - and it's really easy cuz I barely have to move any part of my hands or arms. More to the point, I am now able to create an evenly-tensioned fabric, no mean feat! I'd say that this method produces stitches about 20-30% tighter than my other method. It leans to the tight side, IMO, but I'm not exerting any extra effort. It's just the nature of my actions in this style.
No need for concern if you haven't had a chance to follow along with our knit along so far - you can begin this at any time. Just look over at the sidebar and check out that healthy archive of posts!

And with that, there's a pint of Hagen Dazs waiting on me...

Un Coeur En Hiver

Seriously, every winter I wonder why I don't just bite the bullet and move to Montreal:

Photo from Spacing Montreal.  This scene is veritably "downtown". You can just walk up that mountain for exercise - and access to one of the most unexpected water and city vistas in the world. Plus there's hot chocolate at the top!
(And it's even better in the other seasons.)

Two Socks, One Week: Make the Toe and Graft it Closed

Baseline: Sock 1, Day 4
Timeline: 105 minutes OR Steps 8 an 9 (minus blocking and weaving in ends)

Wait a second... Is it New Year's Eve?? What a great span of time in which to knit! Way to bid adieu to the old. Of course, if you're going to be partying hard, get this done now. And maybe even take tomorrow off - except for reading the next post, of course...

But on with the show:

Step 8 - Making the Toe brings us to the final decrease section, worked within the context of N1, N2 and N3. All of your markers remain in place so it's simply a matter of following the instructions...
  • Round 1, as always, is the decrease round. This time, however, you'll decrease 2 stitches in N2 (the top of the sock) just as you'll decrease 1 stitch each in N1 and N3. A total of 4 stitches will be decreased in every R1.
  • Round 2 is worked plain.
You'll start with 56 stitches and, over the 18 rounds you'll decrease 36 stitches. At the end, you'll be left with 20 stitches.

Here's how it looks when you've done a couple of rounds:

And here's how it looks when you're almost finished:


Step 9 - Graft The Toe

Grafting the toe simply means closing it via 2 rows of live stitches. The end result creates a fabric with no seam. While you're technically using this to seam the tip of the toe, it will look like a fluid fabric. It's like magic!
  • Cut a tail of approximately 11 inches. Yeah, you just severed your sock from the skein, but it's cool. You don't need it anymore!
  • Ensure that you have 10 stitches on each needle and that those stitches reflect the top and bottom of the toe. This means you'll have to remove the stitch markers and knit another 5 stitches on the needle you're working from, to get things correctly oriented. Otherwise, you will end up grafting such that the large and baby toe stitches touch - which is all wrong. Don't get scared about this. Just look at your sock. How do you need the final toe "seam" to run? Ensure you get your stitches on the needles to reflect that, 10 on each side. As always, needle tips point right and the tail is on the back needle.

  • Grafting is done with a regular needle (well, one of the thickness used for working on wool). So put that thread through the regular needle you've had in your notions bag till now.
  • Set up the grafting by doing this one time: Purl through the stitch closest to the tip of the front needle. Leave that stitch on the needle. Then knit through back stitch closest to the tip of the back needle. Leave that stitch on the needle. (Note: Video linked to below, shows this).
  • What you need to remember, so that you never run into problems with grafting, is that you must complete every 4-step sequence before stopping. I remember that sequence by saying, as I do it: Knit, slip, purl. Purl, slip, knit. (The woman in the video uses a mnemonic that seems overly complicated to me, but maybe it'll work for you.)
Here's a video to show you how it works...

I suggest you leave sock 1 at this point. We'll weave in the ends and block when both socks are complete.

But look at you! Once sock down in 4 days. Now you can either get going with sock 2 tomorrow, or take a day off and knit a bit longer over the two days following. I mean we did start early (and we also gave the week 8 days). Moreover, chances are you'll speed up on the second sock! Note to reader: Do not knit while drunk or hung over.

Today's Questions: How's it going?? Are you having fun? Does this grafting thing make sense to you? Leave questions in the comments. Or just comments! If you're knitting tonight, I wanna know.

BTW, here's my finished first sock, hanging out next to my second sock - remember, I had a head start as the hostess of the KAL! Both are unblocked which is why they look wonky.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Winter Sewing: Janet Jacket Muslin and Fabric Choices

I'm in a posting kind of mood, apparently, about all of the crafts...

As you know, yesterday I cut out the muslin and stitched up the bodice shell for my proposed next sewing project: the Janet Jacket. The fit, following my numerous "pre-muslin alterations" was not bad. In addition to those, on the basis of what the muslin told me, I've made additional muslin-to-pattern alterations:
  • The back was too wide (effectively the back seam where it meets the side back) so I removed about 1.5 inches over those 4 seams, tapering 2 inches above and 2 inches below the waist. Update: I undid this alteration, once I added the sleeves and realized that the addition of them had an unintended impact on the fit of the back of the bodice...
  • While I removed an inch above the waist, from the length of the bodice pieces, I ended up adding it back to the bottom of the hem. I want a bit more length once I hem this thing up... And now I've added it where it needs to be, and where I won't get any pooling above the waist.
  • The bust, while it fits - somewhat miraculously, is potentially a little bit snugger than I'd like. I've opted to add .5" to the centre front piece, starting just at the place where my bust gets full, all the way down to the jacket hem. I may remove this in the end, but I'd like to have the extra width, in case I want it as I finish the seams... I'm pleased to say that the centre bust fullness of the shell is at the same height as my centre bust fullness. That can be a tricky negotiation as one's bust line grapples with gravity, even as a pattern draft does not. This shell isn't gaping above the apex, as some patterns do, once I alter the bust at the princess seams. And, because the original side front pattern piece was so straight, it was pretty easy for me to lower the apex slightly without having to do to much fancy footwork. I eyeballed it, but it seems to have worked. You can actually see the lowered apex in the photo from yesterday's post...
  • I did have to take an inch out of the sleeve head height (my upper arm is short, what can I say?) and, as a corollary, I had to remove 3/8" of fabric from the shoulder seam area on each of the side front and back pieces. I tapered to nothing as I moved towards the underarm...
  • And finally, I darted the side front piece - 2 inches wide, starting from the front armscye to the bust apex. I know I can probably make this adjustment and move the dart to the side seam (aka get rid of it but keep its effect), but that step just isn't coming to me at the moment. And seriously, I don't care if there's an extra seam there. It looks just fine (IMO) and, seriously, the bust fit and armscye depth are made perfect by the inclusion of this dart. To me, at this time, a bust dart isn't a sign of failure to maintain smooth princess seam-lines - it's a sign of my increasing fit awareness. I actually like it!
I managed to learn all of this via one muslin - 2 steps (bodice and then sleeves). Now, I hope my alterations are precise, but I did use a smidge of intuition in lieu of math. (Just occasionally to make things seem more magical!)

I also went out to buy my fabric today:

That's indigo wool crepe, though you can scarcely tell it from black on my monitor. Lord I love navy and wool and crepe. I don't care if it's the same colour as everything else in my wardrobe. Trust me, I look seriously credible in navy.

But, to undercut any potential "boringness", I decided on canary yellow silk charmeuse for the lining:

I know - insane! People, this is what a lack of Vit. D will do to you. And, pls. note: I take 3000 IUs of the stuff every day but I still bought this lining?!

There's method to my madness, however. Every time I've made a tailored jacket in the past, I've used fabric with a certain degree of intrinsic ease (my preferred sort of woven). My rationale is: if you like fitted-ness and you don't want to gain it with wearing ease (what the pattern provides in its base measurements) you have to make up for things with fabric ease (the natural give in the fabric). That's all well and good, esp. given my smallness-with-curves body-type, but, in the past, I have always used lining that has very little fabric ease - and I don't cut it on the bias (which would give the fabric more stretch, as is the nature of bias cut).

The net result of a using lining with no ease is that the ease in the fashion fabric is all but wasted. Nothing will stretch more than the fabric with the least amount of give, which in most cases is a lining.

This time, I was prepared to cut my silk lining on the bias (a huge pain in the ass - and fabric waster) unless I could find some silk charmeuse with stretch. The fabric store (L.A. Fabrics) had just such a lining, but only in one colour - the canary yellow I purchased. Thank goodness it complements navy! (Note: It still might be hideous... Who can say?)

Hilariously, while I checked on the cost of the crepe fabric (a reasonable 15 bucks a yard on sale), I neglected to do so with the lining fabric. Turns out it was 36 bucks a yard?! I got it for 32.00/yd in the end but, egad, that's 64 bucks in lining?!

You know you're making progress - or losing your mind - when you spend $130.00 on suiting materials without batting an eye. (And this doesn't include closures, interfacing, shoulder pads or other notions.) Ah, here's to skill development in the new year...

Today's questions: What do you think of my new fabrics? Thoughts on these alterations or my "one muslin, one garment" process? I suppose the proof will be in the pudding, yes? Let's talk!

Two Socks, One Week: Working the Foot

Baseline: Sock 1, Day 3
Timeline: 105 minutes OR Step 6 (from yesterday's post) and Step 7

So, now that you're finished making the gusset, let's move on to a much more mellow part of the process...

Step 7: Working the Foot is the easiest part of the sock - IMO - especially as the end is in sight. Simply knit those 56 stitches again and again and again till your sock foot is the desired length. Put it on and check every now and again. 7-7.5 inches is what works for me, but this is dependent on the length of your foot and the give in the fabric you're making.

Don't merely consider the ruler numbers. Compare one sock to the other to ensure you've got two socks that look the same. (Note: I neglected to do this, so intent am I on documenting things, so my socks are actually of slightly different foot lengths. Blocking will probably take care of it but, really, don't make my mistake!)

Here's my sock just before it's time for Steps 8 and 9 - making the toe and grafting it closed.  Oooh, fun times:

How's it going for you?

Tomorrow we finish Sock 1, peeps! (well, save for weaving ends and blocking, which we'll save till the very end of the project.) Exciting!

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Winter Sewing: The Janet Jacket

How is it that, even as I've posted 3 times today (re: A Simple Sock KAL), I'm somehow compelled to write about my latest, potential sewing project:

I say "potential" because, if there's one thing I've learned about tailored jackets, it's that you'd better fucking scrap it all if the muslin indicates that the finished garment is gonna suck. Former Kristin couldn't handle that. It seemed to her like giving up. Current Kristin is all: I have too many things in this world to care about. I'm not wasting my time on a garment that's destined to fail.

Don't worry, I'm armed with a glass of wine and lots of rulers.

In truth, this approach has been a while in the making. I'm sure you know - either from personal experience or intuition - that one cannot continue to make 7 muslins for every project without starting to feel incredibly worn out. That's like making the garment 7 times before you actually start to make it - once you consider all of the math and alterations that are involved.

I'm not interested in that for this project. My last handmade jacket, despite all of my best efforts, is a dud. If you want to know what my one, true fail was in 2013, it was that. I've worn it once, didn't like it and it hangs in the closet - a beautifully constructed garment that looks mediocre on my body.

This time, I want to make a tailored jacket that will nonetheless be "simple" (I know, ridiculous concept for a pattern with 18 pieces...) What I mean is this: I will make one muslin with all the bells and whistles. Whatever it manages to tell me, I'll extrapolate from. The jacket I've chosen has no collar. That means I have no collar to worry about. Furthermore, I intend to use fusible interfacing. This will not be a "hand-tailored" affair. I'm making a useful work garment. It happens to be a tailored jacket.

And I'm not buying any fabric until I make the muslin. If it sucks, into the bin it goes. And I'll find something else.

Having said this, I've decided to make the most of what I've learned about fitting to date, and to alter the pattern, prior to making the first muslin, as such:
  • I know I have to shorten the jacket, above the waist, so that the final length is 23". In this instance, I have cut an inch from the length.
  • I know I have to shorten the sleeves so that the final length is 22". In this instance, that means I've cut 3" from the length of the sleeves?!
  • I'm going to have to get to a full bust measurement of 39". That gives me 1.5" of wearing ease, and I intend to use a woven fabric with give (like wool crepe) to give another inch or so. I like my jackets very fitted because, when they're not, I look thick given that the boobs have proportionately much more circumference than the under bust or waist. This is what works for me. I measured the full bust of the size 12 pattern, the size I bought, and got 36". That means I've got to do my own version of a princess seam FBA. I'll add .75" to the front piece where it meets the side front, and another .75" at the side front. If you multiply that by 4, you get 3 inches... It's risky to add more than 2 inches to the bust using this method, but I've found that it often works given my shape. This time, we'll just have to see...
Now, following the construction of the muslin, I'm likely going to have to raise the armscye, shorten the sleeve head, narrow the shoulders, and narrow the arms. Maybe someday I'll feel confident that I'm actually a pattern size 10, not anything larger - despite the depth of my breasts, and then I won't have to adjust so extensively. Till I learn that lesson, I'm apt to have to apply these alterations. I suppose, technically, I'll be making 1 muslin in 2 steps. The first will figure out the bodice, the add-on will be sleeves and whatever adjustments come to light.

What I'm happy to say about this pattern, by comparison to the last Style Arc pattern I made, is that the seam lines align perfectly. When you walk this pattern, you get what you paid for. And, the two-piece set in sleeve has the kind of curve one expects from a fitted jacket (longer in the front than in the back).

So, here's the shell I'm starting with (prior to cutting the muslin):

Seems the knitters have been getting all of my love lately. But sewist readers, I'd love your thoughts on this...

Two Socks, One Week: Set Up and Work the Gusset

Baseline: Sock 1, Day 2 and Day 3  
Timeline: 105 minutes OR Steps 5 (Day 2) and 6 (Day 3)

(Note: I'm putting these concepts into one post, even though you may work them on different days, because they really do go together conceptually...)

For starters, um, what's a gusset? Just to clarify, before we get going, the gusset is the part of the sock that joins the flat-worked heel flap and turned heel to the top of the sock. Without it, you've got no tube. The gusset must also be shaped because your ankle is shaped! And that shaping is done with a bunch of decrease rounds. As with most sock steps, you need to set up the gusset before you can work it.

The Gusset Set Up, or Step 5, starts on the RS row. At this point you will begin to knit, and keep knitting, because we're back to working in the round from here on in.
  • Knit the first 8 of the 16 stitches of the heel. Place your green marker. From here on in, as the first technical diagram of the pattern shows you, on page 4, this will be the beginning of the round vis a vis working the stitches throughout the rest of the sock. While I didn't put the green marker on the needle before I shot this photo, it will go right between those two needles...
  • Knit the next 8 stitches.
  • Now start picking up 16 stitches from the first side of the heel flap. (This video shows how to do this, Continental style...) You may need to try this step a couple of times to ensure that the picked up stitches are evenly spaced. Note: you should be able to pick up one stitch for every slipped stitch on the heel flap, given the number of rows you knit on the heel flap, but don't get fussed. Just end up with 16 new stitches. When you're finished with this step, you'll once again start using those stitches that have been resting on the holder for so many rows.
It's tricky to show the picked up stitches along the heel flap. The video referenced in the bullet, above, gives a better sense of it...
Note: I go through both legs of each slipped heel flap stitches. But you can go through one (as I've sometimes done) if getting through both seems impossible.
  • Now place the first of your orange markers... There will be 24 stitches between the green and orange markers.
See the orange marker hanging out on the right needle?
  • At this point, the needle holding your just-picked up stitches (the right) will become the back needle. Pull that needle out till the picked up stitches are held on the cable (just like the old days, though not shown in the photo above) and start knitting the stitches on your left needle, the one that has been holding those stitches for all those rows. (It's closure!)
  • Before you start picking up the heel flap stitches on the second side, place another orange marker. There will be 28 stitches between the 2 orange markers.
  • Now pick up the next 16 stitches from the other side of the heel flap. When you finish this, go back to the 28 stitch section and count back approximately 10 stitches from the third orange marker. Pull the cable out at this point (so as to once again enact a magic loop FROM THE BACK NEEDLE, carefully ensuring that you don't pull out any stitches inadvertently). This will provide you with adequate slack.
  • Then pull the back needle out again (maintaining the first loop, you just made) and knit the final 8 stitches to the green marker, beginning of round.
  • Knit to 4 stitches after the green marker and pull the cable again to enclose the marker.
I'm showing this from the wrong side, even though you will be knitting on the right side, to indicate how all of the stitches are joined between the markers.
If you're following our KAL, that's all for day 2 of Sock 1... Tomorrow you'll return to this post to reference the section that follows:

Step 6 - Make the Gusset (Read on Dec. 29, Day 2 of the KAL, work Dec. 30, Day 3)

You will now begin to make the gusset - which involves decreases. Word of warning: It's a fussy next row because you need to make the decreases where they're indicated, at the same time as you sort out the magic loop and ensure that you enclose all required markers.

Don't worry though, you'll be just fine! Take it slow. First read through the entirety of Step 6 carefully. Understand that the goal is to have 38 stitches on each side of the cable (or a total of 76 stitches) as of the first row, after the set up, of the new gusset. On the second row, you'll have decreased 2 stitches so you'll have 37 stitches on each side of the needles (or a total of 74 stitches). Enclosing the markers is useful, but not necessary, so feel free to leave that for a row or 2 as you get this section established.
  • Ensure for the next round, Round 1, that you understand how the markers delineate the places where the decreases will happen: at the end of N1 and the beginning of N3. N2 is knit plain at this time.*
  • Round 2 is knit plain. Make sure you mark off these rounds, on the chart, as you work them.
Every other round, you'll decrease 2 stitches until, eventually, there will be 14 stitches in N1, 28 stitches in N2 and 14 stitches in N3. The total stitch count at the end of the gusset will be 56 stitches.

Here's what it looks like part way through making the gusset:

And here's what it looks like when the full gusset is made:

Once you finish this, Step 6, on day 3, you will immediately start on Step 7: Working the Foot... This is an easy part! That'll be up later on day 3.

*Arguably, my notable value-add, when it comes to having documented this sock pattern, is that I describe how to use markers as delineators in lieu of multiple needles. Understanding this, you should be able to take any sock pattern, devised for DPNs, and easily adjust it for magic loop in the future. Of course, I'm not suggesting I have made up this technique. But I did come up with it on my own, not from any pre-existing pattern I've reviewed.

Two Socks, One Week: Turning the Heel

Baseline: Sock 1, Day 2
Timeline: 105 minutes OR Steps 3, 4 and 5

Dontcha love your heel flap?? It just gets better when now you will Step 4: Turn the Heel. That's when fun-sock, three-dimensionality really starts to occur.

This next part of the process continues to be knit flat (aka with wrong side and right side). It is perhaps the most formulaic and enjoyable part of the whole sock. There's a lot of bang for your buck in the next few rows.
  • First do the set up: The pattern instructions explain this straight-forward step pretty clearly. Just keep in mind, you will be turning your work BEFORE you get to the end of the round, which is kind of weird-seeming, at least as far as I'm concerned.
  • From here on in this section is very intuitive. Row 1 is a knit row, aka the right side. You're going to slip first stitch purl wise (see instructions from previous post) and knit till one stitch before you get to the gap - you will observe this gap, even if you're worried that you won't. 
See, it's right there!
  • At this point, decrease with slip slip knit (see this video for info on how to do this English style. If you knit another way, look it up online with your style as the keyword). Now knit one more stitch and then turn the work (weird seeming, just like in the set up). Effectively, your decrease spans and closes the gap.
What's odd about this, as mentioned above, is that you actually turn around, again and again, in the middle of a row, not at the end. It's likely to feel wrong - unless you're familiar with short rows - but it's the thing to do.
  • Once you do turn around, you'll be on Row 2. At this point, you're going to slip one stitch purl wise and then purl until one stitch before the gap. The decrease stitch on this side of the work (the wrong side) is p2tog (see this video for info on how to do this. If you knit another way, look it up online with your style as the keyword). Again, the decrease stitch spans and closes the gap. Then, purl one more stitch and turn.
Keep on as such till you have 16 remaining stitches on your needle and the final 2 rows each end on a decrease stitch. You'll actually finish at the end of a purl row, ready to start the gusset set up on the right, or knit, side.

Here's what it looks like when the baby heel takes shape...

Once you've done a few more rows you get to this point:

Here's what it looks like on the wrong side:

And finally, stitch markers waiting, we're just about ready to set up the gusset...

If you want to know my least loved part of making a sock (not that it's hard), it's the gusset set up. This, we'll discuss in the first half of the next post.

Two Socks, One Week: Knitting the Heel Flap

Baseline: Sock 1, Day 2
Timeline: 105 minutes OR Steps 3, 4 and 5 (Each will be discussed in its own post...)

Step 3 (Heel Flap): I personally like Steps 3 and 4 the most. It's so satisfying to make the slip stitch heel flap, with its weird, sturdy fabric, and to create the turn of heel.

Today, if you're following the one week timeline, you'll knit for 105 minutes or until you finish Steps 3, 4 and 5- making the heel flap and turning the heel and setting up the gusset. If you're still finishing Steps 1 and 2, keep on with that, but do aim to finish Steps 3, 4 and 5 today, if possible...

Administrative Note: These 3 Steps are separated into different posts so you'll see 3 posts about 4 Steps today. Just worry about Step 3 (in this post), Step 4 (in the next) and Step 5 in the post after that. (Note, Step 5 is in the same post as Step 6: Making the Gusset, because they're naturally aligned. but we'll worry about Step 6 on Day 3, tomorrow...)
  • Now, first up, you will have to revert to the original beginning of the round for this part of making your sock. That means, if you've encased your marker to keep it from dropping at the beginning of each round, now you need to ensure that the green marker and the round start at the same place. Yeah, it's a tiny bit fussy. Just do what you did to enclose the stitch marker, in reverse.
And, for what it's worth, as of now, we're back to working in rows because we're about to knit Steps 3 and 4 flat.
  • Ensure you've got 28 stitches (or half of the total) on each needle. Push the stitches on the needle (not associated with the working yarn) to the cable. Then, remove the stitch marker. You won't need it for the flat-knitting portion.
This orientation reflects the true beginning of the round. It's in the same spot as that wherein the magic loop begins...
  • By way of set up, turn the work around and purl a row. Yeah, go in the opposite direction, which will seem very weird at this point, I realize.

  • At the end of this single purl row, you'll be at the right spot to begin making the heel flap - a back and forth / "right side, wrong side" experience wherein, on the first row, you slip the first stitch purl wise. (That means put the right needle into the stitch on the left needle, as if to purl, but slip the stitch off the left needle to the right instead.) Then knit a stitch, then slip purl wise the 3rd stitch and repeat stitches 2 and 3 till the end of the round. You'll end on a knit stitch. On the second row, a purl row, you'll slip the first stitch purl wise and then purl each stitch to the end of the row. That's all you need to do for the next 32 rows. 
When you start, you work the right side. The other half of the sock stitches are enclosed on the cable behind (can't see it in this photo...)
  • Just make sure to mark off every row on the chart provided in the pattern. And a quick note about the tick charts in the pattern: I've produced one for each relevant step. When you get to sock 2, you can simply use a different tick in the same boxes. (This saves space on pattern pages. Next time, though, I might aim to make the charts more two-sock friendly...) I like to check mark for the first sock and use a dot for the second...
But back to the heel flap... Here's what it looks like from the right side:

And here's what it looks like on the wrong side:

There are those unworked stitches being held on the cable (referred to above). Also, see how the fabric is ribby-looking on the front, and weavey-looking on the back. That's the mark of slipped stitch heel flap fabric...
Next up, later today, is Step 4: Turning the Heel and then the monster post that covers Step 5: Setting Up the Gusset and Step 6: Working the Gusset. You'll be in very good shape if you make it through Step 5 today...

But enough of this - what about you? How's the knitting going? Do you have questions? Please do leave comments. I'm interested to hear from you...

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Two Socks, One Week: Getting Started Cuff to the Ankle

Baseline: Sock 1, Day 1
Timeline: 105 minutes OR Steps 1 and 2

Of course, it only occurred to me 5 seconds ago that I'm going to have to publish the posts for this KAL in 4 days - not 1 week - given that you need to make 2 socks and all of the meaningful info applies to the first sock.


So that's why I'm starting a day early. (I will put up a post or 2 while you're making sock 2, but obvs, you need the instructive deets before then...)

Now, in order to ensure that there's distinction between the steps, and so as not to make one post overly complex, my goal is to more than once per day, when relevant.  I will indicate, in the first post of the day, if you should check back later for more. Hopefully this system will work optimally for everyone.

But enough preamble, let's talk about today's plan: Starting the first sock!
  1. First up, cast on with your method of choice... 
  2. Then, as required, I suggest that you check back over my video tutorial post if you need a reminder about how to get into the swing of magic loop. It just occurred to me that I forgot to link you to Gail's post having a terrific video which describes how to fix, super easily, a twist in the stitches after the first row. It's so simple when you see it - why didn't I ever think of it before?? You really must check it out!
  3. Of course, your primary working document is the pattern, which you can always access here.
Today, you're going to work either a) for 105 minutes or b) till you finish the cuff and leg of the sock. At the top of each post, you'll see a baseline reference with suggested timelines and daily "step completion". I hope it will help to keep you on track! Feel free to ignore it, natch, if you're working to a different schedule.

Presuming you get through the cuff and leg of sock 1, by the end of Day 1, you'll have knit 6 inches - 2 inches of rib and 4 inches of stockinette.

A few pointers:
  • Don't forget to place the green marker at the beginning of the round (where the tail is), once you get your magic loop going. For this part of the sock, we require only one marker - the green one.
  • If you go down a needle size for the rib portion (not instructed, but potentially desirable) do ensure that you knit onto the "sock body" size needle you'll use on the first row of knitting (after the rib). If you find it tricky to decrease AND move from one needle to another on the same row, decrease on the first knit row - on the smaller needles first. Then move to the new needle on the second row of knitting.
  • If you're using self-striping socks with long stripe repeats, I suggest you consider how you want those stripes to start. If there's a top colour you prefer, maybe separate the skein of yarn into 2 separate skeins. Or at very least remember that you may need to sacrifice a few yards of yarn when you start the second spot, to ensure you get the same striping.
  • Don't forget - and I have done this before! - to decrease 4 stitches on the first row of the leg of the sock (Step 2). How you do this is up to you, though I do give a suggested method in the pattern. I find this gives an additional snugness to the sock leg that I really miss if it's not there. (Note: I have fairly skinny ankles and calves.)
BTW: At 6 inches, just before beginning to work the heel flap, this is what my sock looks like:

Arguably, between the magic loop tutorial and the relatively simple nature of this phase of the sock construction, this will be (hopefully) a fairly simple couple of steps. But pls. leave questions in the comments. Or, if not questions, please let me know how it's going for y'all. Do you find this amount of knitting easily doable in a day? Is it a breeze? Kind of challenging? I only have my own experience to go by so I'd love to know your perspective.

Total aside: I can see, by the view of my 8000 photos (wait for them), that I will have to do my rib on smaller needles in projects going forward. And maybe move to 2x2 rib. I'm just not loving my loose stitches - even if they get prettier after blocking...

Next post, which will look at Step 3, the working the heel flap, up tomorrow...

Friday, December 27, 2013

Two Socks, One Week: We're Almost There...

So, tomorrow you'll see the first of my pre-composed knit-along posts. I'm starting a day in advance of our scheduled start time (Dec. 29) because I want to give you a bit of a head start. You'll be able to read, if not begin, on Dec. 28, if you so desire.

But today, having just started the pair of socks I'll be knitting while we all knit along (I had to finish the KAL socks ahead of time because, um, had to take photos!), I have a couple of interesting things to tell you about how I've shaken things up with my latest pair.

Of course, you too can try these alternative ideas, but the pattern - as it stands - is still the pattern we'll work from (and which the photos will refer to). Note: I have found a couple of small errors in the pattern, my apologies. They're not tremendously meaningful (you'll have no problems) but they drive me crazy. After this KAL, I'll post up a revised version. But won't have a chance to do so till next week at the earliest.

Anyway, my current socks are different than the pattern version in that:
  • I went down a needle size for the rib portion. (Great idea for loose knitters out there...)
  • I used the cast on from the Eastern European video linked to in this post. It is SO much better, so much stretchier, than the long-tail cast on version I found on knittinghelp.com (not that I'm not grateful for that version, since I've used it until now).
  • I changed up my rib from K1P1 to K2P1. It produces a stretchier rib (great for tight knitters out there) and it also gives a more refined look. Frankly, it's a prettier rib - especially if you knit loosely.
And finally (but I do NOT recommend this for you! I'm playing fast and loose):
  • I am knitting in 2 different styles on this pair of socks - and I'm seriously improving with my chosen alternate method: flicking. Flicking is actually a variant of right-handed knitting (British style), which is very appealing to me because, truly, I prefer to knit right-handedly. It just comes to my brain more naturally than the left-handed version (at least at the moment). The difference between my regular style (see the magic loop videos for a visual) and this new style is that flicking requires you to keep your right hand on the needle at all times and to use your wrist action and index finger to pivot the yarn (vs. "throwing" the yarn). I've chosen to alternate one row of my regular British style with one row of flicking - so as to maintain some semblance of tension constancy. Let me tell you, this learning (previously applied to swatches of different needle sizes) has been SLOW going. I'm starting to approach the same pace with flicking as I achieve in my regular style, though not consistently, so I can see how it is likely to be MUCH faster, in the course of time. Undoubtedly, and fantastically (from my vantage point), it is incredibly efficient.
So, there you go. BTW, I'm using the remainder of that manly glove yarn for this pair of socks. That yarn has been a real hit. Everyone loves it.

And I am keeping this pair for myself. Really.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Polar Opposite

It's really difficult to be winter-depressed in this landscape.

IMPORTANT: In order to see the panoramic view in all of its glory, you'll have to click on the photo...
The photo, above, is a panoramic shot that Scott took with his mobile. What has the world come to when you can take a picture like this with a phone? It's the top of the mountain that my sister and her family live on.

We hiked through the brush to get here. Although you can see a road in the distance, that's road access from the opposite side of the mountain. We can't get there from our side but by ascending through the woods. It's only 200 feet of elevation from the cabin to the top, but man, it's straight up.

Mind you, Scottie wanted to be at the highest point of the highest point, hence this photo:

Can't decide if it's manly or Napoleonic :-)

This is the sky:

People, it's azure.

And here's the weird shot of me, petting a little Xmas tree (they were all over the place and so cute):

I find my crazy-look kind of hilarious (if decidedly not glamorous).

We also discovered an ominous school-bus wreck, said bus, crushed to the ground like a pop-can, brush growing over it, rhododendrons encircling it like a wreath. I wonder how long ago that accident happened. Goes to show, tragedy and beauty live together.

Monday, December 23, 2013

High Spirits

Did you all give me your positive energy?? Cuz today's airline experience could not have been better. There were actually fewer travelers than I've seen, in recent memory. When the check-in kiosk failed, I didn't freak. I just tried another (it worked). When the officious officials tried to get me to go to the holding pen, that precedes the holding pen, that precedes the Customs line-up, I was all "no thanks, we're standing here" (and no one batted an eye). We actually took off on time. They only changed the gate once. Sure, they checked all of our bags by hand and put us through the scanner, sans shoes, but who cares?!

And now I'm here and there's lots of booze and a pretty Xmas tree.

Moreover, here's a story of holiday joy: My sister, Allison, regaled me with a tale of her teaching assistant, Karen. (My sister is a kindergarten teacher in a bucolic mountain valley, the likes of which you've probably only seen in the movies.) Karen, her assistant, is as American as a person can be - like Mayflower-style. Her family has owned hundreds of acres of farmland in the Blue Ridge Mountains (right by the Tennessee state line) for just about two hundred years. Every Christmas, Karen gives the most beautiful, artisanal gifts to my sister, that ever a person could receive.

To wit:

Seriously people, Karen canned those pickles, that jam, those pear preserves. The sausage, at the back (obscured), was made from her pigs and then canned for longevity. Those potatoes were grown in her garden. And she double knit the pot holders. Double knit?! This is to say nothing of the soup she made (already eaten by the time I'd arrived), the homemade cookbook she wrote up for Allison, or the country ham she cured (unphotographed). When I saw all of this, I was BLOWN AWAY.

Honestly, this woman is an artist - a very generous artist.

Allison was thrilled but also horrified, because she gifted Karen something far less organic than any of the above... sure to be appreciated, I imagine (though Allison doesn't agree). But no worries. Just so happens that I finished my knit-along socks yesterday. And I took all kinds of important photos and wrote up all the posts. (Don't worry, I'm going to knit another pair while y'all are knitting, just so we're all on the same page. Thing is, I had to be sure you'd have the info you require ahead of time. So pre-posting was de rigeur.) And I just so happen to have brought those socks to NC, for the cold, or whatever.

Well, looks like whatever is the thing. I am compelled to gift those socks to Karen, a woman who will most certainly enjoy small batch, hand-dyed, American-grown merino in a way that most people on this planet would not. (I seem to be incapable of keeping socks, you might have noticed.)

What I loose in a few hours of knitting, I will gain a hundred times in the joy of giving. Really, I am filled with joy. Like all of a sudden.

I guess it's a Christmas miracle.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Bleak Incarnate

Look, I'm not going to try to ruin your warm holiday feelings. Suffice it to say, I'm not in your camp this year. At least not yet.

And given that today we're in the midst of an ice storm, and tomorrow we're traveling to America (well known to be the most painful place to get to via air travel, no matter where you're coming from, never mind two days before Xmas), let's just say the Christmas spirit is not infusing me with warm, egg-noggy joy.

Toronto in the winter is one of the drabbest places I have ever been. In case you think I'm lying, we're going on a week of this being the brightest light the day sees:

And this lasts merely from approximately 8:00 till 4:30. It could easily go on this way for 3 weeks. Three slushy, dirty, dark, damp weeks.

Honestly, it's difficult to deal with, especially if the lure of gifts and elves and trees are having no impact.

Here's a shot of my dwarf lavender today:

If the power lasts and the ice turns into rain, that's the best we can hope for (which is quite a lot, actually). I guess I should be grateful that we weren't booked on a flight today.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Making Gloves: Won't Be Doing That Again...

Remember how, when I made my first pair of socks, I seriously didn't like the process, but I kept on? Somehow I knew that it was a worthy undertaking, that I had benefited from the process, and would continue to do so.

Not so with gloves, my friends. Gloves, they're a huge pain in the ass - one instance, in which I suggest, machines can do it better.

Actually, I think gloves should be kid skin lined with cashmere shells (machine knit cashmere shells as light as gossamer). Or at very least Gore-Tex.

What's the use of wool gloves? They're not as warm as the other options. They're not as cute. The finger crotches (whatever we call these things) are hideously deformed - not my fault people. I tried everything. Hand needles don't get into that spot elegantly.

Somehow, though I did the exact same thing on the second glove as on the first, they look totally different. (To me, probably not to the average viewer...) And - regrettably - the second glove looks worse than the first. Which I didn't think was possible.

But I will say (and I hope Andrea or Sara might weigh in on this because they're the only ones who saw the horror that was the pre-blocked first glove), blocking was a lifesaver in this instance. And I don't think steam blocking would have done it. This blocking was freakin' surgery.

The finished product is entirely adequate, if not worth the effort:

I used Koigu Premium Merino, colour 144

You know how impossible it is to show texture and colour on blue-black fabric. And this yarn is actually blue/black variegated with little plumes of white. It's quite pretty, and textured like the actual glove pattern, but it really doesn't photograph well.

About the yarn: I used half of what the pattern suggested I would need, and I made a highly modified (aka bespoke to the hand) version of the medium. I've got just enough left over to make a pair of socks. I like this yarn, it feels nice, it's very sturdy. It's an interesting colourway - in a manly sense (and lots of colours are not so manly). I might use it again but I do think it's on the pricey side. And, while I go pricey when I love a yarn. If I'm merely satisfied by the hand, I tend to search out other options. Mind you, we'll see how it wears. Note: It stained my hands blue as I worked. And then a ton of indigo came out in the blocking. I would definitely suggest that you need to wash these by hand once to remove excess dye. And def. machine wash with like colours.

I'm glad I gave this a go. I learned things - though not how to use DPNs nor how to make finger crotches look good. I have a finished product that will act as a perfectly adequate Xmas present. But I didn't enjoy the process (this could have as much to do with where I'm at right now, aka flat out, as with the pattern). Most likely, I'd improve with practice - as I have done with socks. But I don't really care.

So you see, some mountains I have no need to climb.

Today's questions: What's the garment you've made once but never feel the need to reproduce again? Do you like glove-making? If so, why?!?! And, while we're at it, do you like this outcome - the colour, the pattern, the fit? Let's talk!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Two Socks, One Week: Deconstructing the Pattern (Part 2)

So, a propos of yesterday's post, today is when I suggest you review the Simple Sock Pattern from beginning to end. When it comes to familiarizing myself with new patterns, I like to find a comfy spot, get myself a snack and a glass of wine. Natch, sub in any beverage, the consumption of which you find pleasant. My point is that relaxation is your friend.

Happily, this pattern is a simple as they get (IMO), and it doesn't reinvent the wheel. If you've made socks before, and you've watched my magic loop videos (presuming you haven't used the technique in the past), you're likely going to have a very easy time of this part.

Let's kick it off with Page 1, the administrative part of the pattern - the place where you'll find all kinds of necessary information about what you'll need to create a sock having dimensions described by the pattern. Pay attention to the length of your circular needle cable. I've mentioned it before, but do ensure your cable is at least 32 inches long, or the magic loop is going to be tricky to impossible. Remember, in the video tutorials, how I refer to the 2 loops of magic loop? If your cable is shorter than 32" it becomes very tricky to find the span required to create both of them.

You'll see, by the indicated gauge, that my knitting, on needles of 2.25 mm is a loose 7.5 stiches per inch. Many get 9 stitches per inch on a needle of that thickness. The good news is, that if your calf is a bit sturdier than mine or your foot a bit wider or taller (note: my dimensions are provided in detail on page 1 of the pattern) , you can still use the same needle size and pattern numbers indicated and, chances are, unless you knit as loosely as me, you'll be fine. See these posts for more detail...

The remaining important piece of info, on Page 1, is that about required notions. They're easy to come by online or at any knitting store...

Finalize the Bits and Pieces: It's December 19 today. That gives you a full 10 days to get anything you may be missing. Do you have enough yarn? Do you feel the need to get another cable needle, just in case? On that note, this line (not plugging the eBay vendor, whom I don't know) of ChiaoGoo needles is very affordable and the cable is particularly excellent for magic loop projects as it is quite malleable. The needle to cable join is entirely adequate too. Sara tried them, on my suggestion, and she loves them. And neither of us particularly likes bamboo. Note: They're NOT the metal ones with the red cable.

Now Let's Take it in Order: Read the rest of the pattern, first time through, at a high level. I hope that this pattern facilitates this because I specifically articulate the 9 steps involved in making each sock. Once you have a sense of each step for each sock, all you need to do is ensure that you have a comfort level for the specific stitching that happens during each step.

Then Read That Pattern Again: Look carefully at each step. If there's something you've not done before, check it out on the net, in a book, or feel free to leave a comment asking for clarity. Sure, we'll talk about various elements of each step during the week long KAL, but maybe you want to get some concepts ironed out ahead of time...

This pattern comes with handy charts for keeping track. So that's one thing you won't have to worry about. But get yourself a nice notebook, for future projects, and maybe take some extra notes to help you next time.

Decide to swatch or not. And then do it, if you're going to. And don't forget to a) swatch in the round and b) block your swatch, if that's the approach you choose.

A bit of extra info: The two diagrams in this pattern show you the circumference of the sock in terms of a) stitch numbers at given points and b) "DPN needles" (denoted by the three tick marks or, for the magic loopers, stitch markers).

One of the reasons I've done this is to show you how a pattern using DPNs (i.e. 3 needles with stitches evenly distributed over each, knit with a 4th needle) is easily converted into a magic loop pattern (wherein you simply have to keep track of half the stitches on one side of the cable and the other half on the other side of the cable.

If you've never made socks before, via any method, this aspect won't be particularly relevant though the diagrams should still assist you re: stitch numbers and marker placement. If you've always used DPNs, I hope that this will help you in understanding how the set up is distinct between the two methods, though the outcome is the same.

The thing to consider - and I'll remind you when we start the KAL - is that your stitch markers are the ultimate guide. Just keep approximately half the stitches on either side of the cable, at any given time, and follow the instructions.

So, this is it on Simple Socks till Dec. 29 (will aim to post on Dec. 28, if possible, travel depending), when I'll be back to chat about the day-to-day knitting associated with each step of making each sock. Be prepared to knit for 105 minutes on that day - unless you're fast - in which case you may get through that day's suggested steps, in less time still. Please leave your questions, whatever they are, in this post and I'll respond to them, as best I can, over the next 10 days. I also encourage all readers with knowledge to weigh in and give us your perspective.

  • Feel free to do this in your own time, with your own pattern (if that's what you prefer), on your own terms. I think it's empowering to complete a project quickly. But those finished objects are just as lovely, even if they take longer than a week to finish.
  • If you're going to follow along - but not participate, feel free to ask questions, or to answer them.
  • If you intend to participate - or even if you're not but you want to give this KAL a bit of press - please link to it on your blog or tell your knitting friends.  

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Two Socks, One Week: Deconstructing The Pattern (Part 1)

If you look at the side bar, over on the right, you'll notice that I'm keeping all of our KAL posts in one handy place. This is a good time to hop on over to the post called "Two Socks, One Week: Download The Pattern" and, um, download the pattern.

That's cuz, over the next couple of posts, I'm going to talk about how I manage patterns in general (my process, as it were) and how I developed the Simple Sock pattern to assist me (and hopefully you) in creating simple socks in the simplest way possible.

How Kristin Approaches The Knitting Pattern for Efficiency:

1. The first thing I do is read the whole pattern through. Inevitably, it's all doublespeak and I have a moment of intense anxiety, throw my hands up in the air, and decide I'm never knitting anything again.*

I don't recommend that part of my process.

2. Mind you, soon afterwards, I move into mindset B, wherein, since everything is so miserable anyway, I decide I might as well have another look at things. Just for kicks. Inevitably, at this point, I start to speak "knitting", if rustily.

Here's what I hate about written knitting language: Could these people not use a complete sentence occasionally? Or even a complete word???

Alas, it is what it is. And even if I don't particularly like the conventions of the written language, I'm kind of at its mercy. But here's where it's not so bad...

3. Type any knitting gobbledy-gook into Google (17 letters with no reasonable meaning) and, I swear, a minimum of 5 resources (in a variety of formats) will pop up in an instant. Do not fear the lingo. As long as you have a couple of knitting books and a web browser.

If I don't understand what I'm reading, I search the pattern for some explanations (usually on the back page), then I hit the 'net.

Now, I do love the kind of pattern that answers all of the questions in the way that one of those "slim" patterns overlooks. I love the ones where they explain why you're doing something, that show pictures, that spend some time giving you the extra deets which an experienced knitter won't require, but which I probably will. And, though I've rarely if ever seen it, I love patterns that facilitate your note-taking within the instructions themselves.

4. This is key: I urge you to take "good" notes in order to stay on track with any kind of efficiency. You may keep those notes in the vault of your mind, but I don't recommend it. Which is why, every time I begin a project, I keep a book beside me and clearly indicate the project I'm working on, the part of the pattern I'm documenting info about, and the clear results of my work. The strong likelihood is that you will need this information again, if only to complete the second half of that particular project. It is not a waste of time. It's a serious time-saver.

5. If you intend to swatch, now's the time.

Let's turn this general concept to my sock pattern for a second. I've said elsewhere that you might choose to swatch or, with experience, to use a needle size you're comfortable with. My goal is to emphasize the simple in this project. Not the fitting. But your goal may be to explore both of these. In which case, swatch.

But, if you're on the simple track, recall my recent post about how I knit loosely. Note that my pattern, unaltered, is recommended for a certain size of foot (happily within a broad range). And, if you know you are a tight knitter (kind of like I'm a loose knitter), consider one of these three suggestions:

  • Go up a needle size or 2 (before swatching - or in lieu of it). 
  • Of course, you could also just add a few stitches to the pattern without having any meaningful impact on the directions or how to work the socks (as long as you do so in batches of 2). 
  • If you have knit many a simple sock, then I suggest you use your standard needle size - UNLESS your standard simple sock pattern uses a vastly different stitch number at cast on.
But this is the main thing: You can make your alterations on the fly, as I've done in the past. The sock is a little tube, the dimensions of which will be quite clear with only an hour of work. The time it would take to swatch, if you think about it. (Of course, this sock won't be blocked when you're making your sizing assessments, but the yarn I've suggested is the sort that doesn't vary after blocking in any meaningful way...)

One more word about sizing and then I'll simply leave it to KALers to ask questions, as they arise: I truly don't think sizing is going to be the slightest issue for the majority. For what it's worth,  next time I make socks I intend to go down a needle size - without changing any other element of my pattern. I'm sure it will only produce a snugger sock, which I would prefer, in all honesty. So if you knit somewhat more tightly than me, and ankle and foot circumference dimensions are similar to mine (see page 1 of the pattern), I don't think it's problematic. Of course, if you're my polar opposite, carefully consider the bullets above or, better yet, just bite the bullet and swatch.

Next up, Deconstructing the Pattern (Part 2), wherein we'll refer to my actual pattern and its various sections, in more detail.

In the meanwhile: How do you approach your new knitting projects and their patterns? Are you a planner? Do you rush right in with the spirit of adventure? Let's talk!

*Quick side bar: The reason I emphasize 1., above, is because you will potentially be sidelined by concepts you don't get (or notions that you need) if you don't have some sort of concept of what you're about to do. I would far prefer to know what I have to figure out before I get 6 hours into a project. I mean, if I don't want to deal with it, I don't want to have wasted my time...

Monday, December 16, 2013


Just want to say how much I have learned from our comment thread (from yesterday's post). Lord, how many interesting ways there are to knit and purl and be efficient! Thank you to all of you for your insights and amazing feedback. I can't say how much I appreciate it.

For my own part, here are some of my great take-aways:
  • Eastern European knitting (which may also be known as combination knitting)! I sense that this is the left-handed knitting option I'm going to get with. I practiced quite a bit last night and, gotta say, knitting through the back of the loop on the knit stitch means that making the purl stitch is super easy (by comparison with Continental-style purl stitch).
  • Moreover, the cast-on which Berta, the instructor of this Eastern Euro video illustrates, which is quite like long-tail cast on but produces a MUCH better and stretchier edge, is so easy and so great, I suspect I'll rarely ever use another. BTW, this is the the cast on I recommend for A Simple Sock, now that I've learned it. If only I knew what it was called!
  • I'm starting to realize that all of knitting is about the "tensioning" of the yarn. If you can find a way to tension consistently (at whatever gauge, within reason), you've got a method. The reason I can't lever knit YET (though what I do has many properties of that method, which is likely why I groove into a good pace) is because I can't figure out how to hold the yarn effectively for my body's preferred movement and my brain's predilections. The reason why Eastern Eur works better for me (vs Continental), so far, is because I can grasp elements of the movement (simpler than Continental, truthfully). Don't misunderstand. I SUCK at it. But I can see how time and practice - and body awareness (there it is again...) will lead to new abilities.
  • Efficiency can be defined broadly. Sure, this sounds simplistic, but I love to hear about how people use a certain style because, on balance, it produces an efficient outcome. I may not knit as fast as an experienced lever knitter, but I have a system that produces. It has to do with the rhythm I can find naturally, the way I approach a pattern, the process of knitting, for me, in general and my personality. In light of this, I bet that some of you Continental peeps could do a pair of socks in 10 hours - not the 14 I'll likely spend - on the basis of your stitch speed. But, will you do it? What else facilitates or hinders your production? Do you care?

Sunday, December 15, 2013

The Vagaries of Gauge (Trust Me, You Wanna See This)

So I had the most lovely snow-storm Saturday, knitting at Ewe Knit with Andrea and Sara. I met Sara for the first time and she is delightful. (Andrea continues to be delightful.)

I was reminded of my general nature - that's always fun - which is to say competitive. Don't misunderstand. I'm not bad-tempered in my competitiveness. I just want to win! So, as I watched Sara (a knitter of under 2 years) cast on Continental-style and knit most of the rib of a sock, probably 30 per cent faster than I can go knitting British-style, I realized I've got to switch that shit up.

Sure, as I sit in my cozy home, with no one else to compare myself against, my pace seems just fine! But seriously, peeps, I could be knitting twice as many things in the same period of time. My efficiency argument is trashed by my knitting style, even if I don't seem to be able to wrap my brain around the faster one.

Sara helped me to continue the Continental learning process and, really, it was painful for everyone with in visual-range. I'm not even interested in purling at this point. I just want to get the knit stitch down so that I can make those gorgeous stranded socks without having to pick up, twist and drop the yarn every other stitch because I can only do one method.

Some things...

For starters, here we are:

I realize, at this point you probably don't believe I have a physical form anymore, so let this photo disabuse you.

But let's get to the point - which is potentially germane for the knit along. Sine I never knit around others, I have determined that I am a "loose" knitter (that sounds so dirty!), but I've never really had evidence to go on.

Um, please observe the difference between a loose knitter (me) and a tight knitter (Sara) (never mind our methods). I have 60 stitches on the needle and I'm doing K1P1 rib. She's got 64?! stitches and she's doing K3P1 rib. We're both working on the same size of needle - 2.25 mm.

Forgive the muffin box styling...
Now, Sara admits to being a SUPER tight knitter and it is so observable. Her stitches NEVER fall off the needle. Neither do Andrea's, btw, and she too is a tight knitter (British style), though not as tight as Sara. Mine fall off so routinely, I don't even freak out at this point.

People, I think I know now why every sweater I knit ends up being too big unless I modify as I go or make the smallest size. Though I gauge swatch, I just get looser and looser as my project progresses. It has big implications.

But How Does This Impact Me for the Sock KAL, Kristin?

Well, I think we need to consider, as my pattern comes in one-size (unless you choose to modify stitch numbers), that I am a knitter, currently on one end of the gauge spectrum. If you knit at a super-tight gauge, you may well want to use a different needle size than I suggest. Like 2 sizes bigger?! Of course, if you swatch in the round, you might also decide to add a couple of stitches - which is easily done and doesn't have big implications for actual knitting. Just make sure you do it in batches of 2 stitches. I do think my socks are as loose as I would like them to fit my foot. So you could probably just use the same numbers, unless you're a crazy tight knitter, and (as long as your foot is about the size of mine), you'll simply end up with a snugger sock than I make. Snug in a good way, I mean.

Can we take a moment to be shocked that applied knitting is the one area in which I leave the Type A at the office?

OK, one other fascinating thing (and I do think it's fascinating!): When I worked a couple of rows in Continental knitting, my gauge tightened so significantly that I realize I won't be able to practice on my current sock (sock 2 of the pair) because it would, no doubt, end up being an entirely different size than the first. I don't know if this is because I was taking pointers from Sara (she of tight-knitting fame) or if it's because Continental knitting promotes a tighter stitch? Maybe it simply varies from person to person? Maybe I was stressed by the method so I tightened my grip? Who can say?

I think I'll have to do another post soon wherein I discuss ergonomic naturalness (for want of a good term). I am so comfortable knitting in the British style. Despite the fact that I cannot go as quickly as a Continental knitter, it is very gentle and predictable for my brain. It puts me into a meditative state and, as I go, I gain speed through efficiency of movement. My father taught me when I was 12 and, though I put down knitting from the age of 13 till when I was in my 40s, when I picked up the needles again, my brain knew exactly what to do.

I think of myself as a very adaptive person. I feel fairly dextrous (though much more so with my right hand, despite the fact that I write with my left hand). I've been told I'm ambidextrous as I do most things right-handedly (and most of my dominance is on my right side). The only thing I do left-handedly is write. As a result, I find it easier to do some things than others, because I just click into whatever mental zone is most useful. I wonder why this isn't coming to me. Perhaps I'm mentally lazy and, if I don't find my groove almost instantly, I get irritated and give up.

Egad, the thought that I'm a giver-uper is too hideous! I must not ever go that way.

Anyway, that's what I've got for you today.

Questions: Tight or loose? How do you knit? And, while we're at it, do tell whether you knit Continental or British style. Also, if you struggle doing both methods with equal dexterity, please do share your experience. Moreover, I want to talk to the peeps who are more natural at one method but who have managed to become knit-bilingual. How did you do it?

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Two Socks, One Week: How Do I Set Up Magic Loop? (Tutorial)*

Let me start by thanking every person who's ever uploaded a video tutorial - whether I liked it or not. This whole "watch me while I show you" thing is a challenging process requiring good technology, the ability to speak clearly and intelligently for minutes at a time, charisma, comfort with the medium and an ability to keep your freakin' hands in the frame.

I cannot say that I have been overly successful on any of these fronts but I do want to share my process with you, if only to show you that "regular people knitting" is an actual thing. Furthermore, my goal is to be your hostess and guide on a learning and creative journey I hope we will undertake together from Dec. 29 - Jan. 5. (That's a plug. Pls. see the sidebar for a the KAL post archive.)

I truly hope this video gives you a meaningful sense of the how of magic loop cuz, if it doesn't, I sure as hell have wasted many hours. Of course, on camera, I forgot to say one of the most relevant things, IMO, about how magic loop suffers: by its name!

Magic loop is actually not about creating one loop (the one we all think of when we talk about dividing the stitches on either side of the cable and pulling that loopy cable out from between them (see video for more).) Magic loop is TWO loops. The second one is entirely necessary and, for people who struggle with the method, potentially overlooked.

You'll observe, as you watch the endless footage of me knitting, that in order to join the flat cast on row into a small-diameter tube, the first thing I have to do is to "pull the back needle out" (moving the stitches, formerly on that needle, onto the cable) so that the back needle, when it joins the front needle to create the first (or next) stitch of the round, produces the second loop.

If it doesn't make sense here, don't worry. You really will see it ad nauseum (but not particularly artfully) in the video.

A couple of other points because I'm vain:
  • My house does not look as crappy as it does in the video (even though there's not much of it to see). Lighting video is apparently an art, as all the porn cinematographers will tell you.
  • Yeah, my hands really are as huge as they look on the screen. I have huge hands. What can I say except they're not as noticeable when you see the rest of me at the same time. And on that note, I really have to start showering more often and putting on makeup. I've hidden my hideousness because, duh. 
And now, without further ado:

How to Begin A Simple Sock, worked in Magic Loop: The First Three Rounds Set Up

Round 1:

I hope you can laugh @8 minute mark when my hands completely leave the frame - despite the fact that I speak about what they're doing at length. Just go with it...

Round 2: 

Round 3:

Moving to Round 4:

I was all set to trash-talk DPNs compare DPNs to magic loop in the next post :-) but alas, I'm not smart enough yet to have figured out how DPNs work. I guess I'll have to omit that element of the KAL because, if I don't have the knowledge, I don't have the knowledge. So, next up, some detailed discussion about the pattern.

Till then, please leave feedback if these videos make sense - or even more so if they don't! We don't want them out there in the universe if they need improving. And, if they do make sense - and you're new to the method - please do a bit of practice over the next couple of weeks. Then, you'll be old-hat at the cast-on and magic loop set up by the time we start the fun stuff.

*I considered calling this "Magic Loop in 4 Easy Videos of a Total Duration of Approximately 20 Minutes" but, on balance, I don't imagine that that title is an up-sell.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Foxhall Gloves Continued...

Let's talk about hand-knit gloves. I've finished the first of the Foxhall gloves for Scott and I now have some strong feelings about this particular handmade objet:

Look, gloves are really no more difficult than socks. In fact, I think they might be easier (which is to say quicker), but they are way more freakin' fussy. For starters, you can't just make them. You practically have to take a 3D cast of your gift-recipient's hand. Or sit next to him on the couch. Even my 2D (with measurements) map - recommended by the excellent pattern writers of the Foxhall gloves - was kind of useless in the end. Happily I have Scott's actual hand to measure from every 3 minutes (note: not a popular tack. Whatevs, when he has bespoke gloves, who'll be laughing last?)

The one thing that the pattern might have clarified a bit, especially since, IMO, there are scarce online resources on this topic, is how (technically) fourchettes work. I'm no expert, but I can say that the first 2 finished fingers were, um, not exactly profesh. 

My problem wasn't following the directions - and they were quite clear. It wasn't in understanding the why of fourchettes, (they give a bit of extra width at the base of each finger which has implications for depth). My problem was in deciphering the how. As in, how do you construct these things so it doesn't look like a toddler did the knitting. If you've never seen a fourchette being constructed - and everything's a mystery - being instructed to cast on fourchette stitches (and maybe pick up a few extra stitches which you'll then, one row later, decrease - to mitigate mini-holes at the front notch) isn't so meaningful. 

Where you add those extra picked up stitches (and which of the new stitches you decrease) is key. If you decrease at the front-side edge of the finger "crotch" (what I did the first couple of times) you get some nasty looking finger-bases. Hey, I made it through, and I improved fairly quickly, but it's only because I brought other skills to the activity.

Let's just say, I'm only showing these off once they're blocked. And I reserve the right to hide the pinkie side of the left-glove (first knit) under the right.

On an interesting side note, I did not knit one stitch with DPNs. I know, I've failed at skill-gaining. My brain just could not make it happen. What really cinched this path, however, was watching a video of a woman (a serious knitter) making fingers using DPNs. Lord, it was such a mess I could scarcely believe it. Even this knitter said: I know, this kind of looks like a mess. But it's not that bad! 

Yeah, right. It actually offended my sense of order. 

On the plus side, I figured out that it's really quite easy to knit the entirety of a glove using magic loop. With nary a ladder, without needles poking into already finished fingers and getting stuck on the stitches on the holder. If anything, I'm more hooked on magic loop than ever I've been?! Which is good, I guess, since I don't seem to have an alternative (yet). I will say it helps to have excellent joins at the (circular) needle where it meets the cable, and a cable that's quite malleable. And natch, one improves with experience. But it's in no way difficult. Simply fussy and a bit slower than other knitting in the round (or slightly larger small-diameter knitting).

Now, if that's the worst of it, I guess I shouldn't complain. I mean, half my glove is pretty nice! And maybe the whole of the next glove will be too.

What do you say?

PS: OMG, I LOVE this pattern:

Starry Starry Night by Suzanne Bryan
I have no interest in doing all kinds of challenging colourwork (never mind on socks) but these amazing things are so compelling, I have to put them on the list. Never mind when they get made. I clicked on the button to buy the minute a saw it.