Sunday, August 16, 2015

K'done: Nordic Stripes socks

Finished! Um, a while ago.

Pattern: Nordic Stripes socks, by Tobi Beck
Yarn: Sweet Georgia Yarns Tough Love Sock in Pomegranate (dark pink) and Black Plum (dark brown-purple), and Invictus Yarns Master of My Feet in Peachy Keen (light pink)
Needles: 2.75 mm / US 2 for stranded portions, 2.25 mm / US 1 elsewhere

Tour rank: #85

Approximate knitting time: 32 h

Yup, I did it again - I finished these socks, sent pictures to the Tour Director, then tossed some clothes in a suitcase and caught a plane out of here for another family vacation. Truthfully, I had a few days between sock finish and go time, but those days ended up being rather full of other preparations for the trip, and not much time for pursuits such as blogging. So here I find myself, trying to remember all the things I thought might be worth commenting on while I was working up these socks.

First up - I met my goal this time! In spite of the multiple bands of stranded fancy work! Yes, this means that on this tour, the two pairs of socks that I thought were least likely for me meeting my goal worked out in my favour, while the the ones that were most likely (stage 3) were my lowest-ranked finish. Huh. Not sure how to interpret those results.

Second - these were super fun. Something about stranded motifs make them seem to whiz along. Clearly, from my posted knitting time, they're not actually fast for me, but they sure felt fast. Maybe it's the super visible progress made when working the colourwork? To be fair, my approximate knitting time posted is truly approximate, because I forgot to run the timer for the second sock, so I just doubled the time for the first sock to get the time for the pair. That's likely going to overestimate, since second socks tend to be a bit quicker due to established familiarity with the pattern. (I'm not saying I'd memorized all the charts by the time I got to sock two, I'm just saying that I was able to be slightly less obsessive and weird about the charts.) I could totally see myself putting together more remnant bits and making more socks with this pattern. (Then again, I said that about the Rolling the Bones socks from last year, and I still haven't knit a second pair.)

Third - oh man, the ends. The ENDS. Colourwork always means more ends, but these socks upped the ante by also calling for an afterthought heel, which had some consequences for end management. One: the afterthought heel itself added in two more ends to deal with. Two: I had to break the contrast yarns to create a gap where the heel would go, which meant an extra four ends to take care of. When all was said and done, there were 12 end strands to tidy away. Per. Sock. That's, well, a lot of ends. All those strands also mean the sock isn't particularly portable.

Tech specs: this pattern came with a little more flexibility than Tour patterns usually do. It's worked toe up, but we were allowed our choice of cast on, so I used Judy's Magic Cast On. The size I used was worked over 64 sts, so I went all the way up to a 2.75 mm needle for the stranded bits, worrying about fit the whole way through. (Clearly, it's fine.) Because of my gauge, I needed to add some rounds to get enough length for my foot, and I added these into the band where the afterthought heel would eventually be placed. I also added a few extra rounds after the heel placement, in part to make that stripe a bit less lopsided, in part to try to move the next stranded section away from my ankles a little. I used Jeny's Stretchy Bind Off at the top of the cuff. For the afterthought heel, on the first sock I picked up all the stitches before removing the waste yarn, and that worked but seemed to require a lot of tugging, so for the second sock I switched to removing the waste yarn from one stitch at a time, and scooping up each newly liberated stitch along the way. It seems fiddlier in concept, but it felt smoother and easier. That being said, I'm not sure I'll use afterthought heels much - I'd rather not have the extra ends to play with.

And with this sixth pair, my Tour is complete!

Monday, July 27, 2015

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

K'done: Ophidia socks

Sliding and slithering in on time.

Pattern: Ophidia Socks, by Hypercycloid Designs
Yarn: Sweet Georgia Yarns Tough Love Sock, in Espresso; used scraps of same yarn in Ginger for contrast
Needles: 2.25 mm / US 1

Approximate knitting time: 35 h 15 min

Tour rank: #115

Yup. Another round where life limited my knitting time, thus preventing me from meeting my top 10% goal. Sigh. It's okay, though, I have yet another pair of awesome new socks to show for it. Plus I learned vertical stranding - yay!

I have sort of conflicted feelings about this pattern. On the one hand, it was fun to knit, and I had a great time executing it. The results are fantastic - a lovely mix of cables and textured seed stitch, the vertical stranding gives an eye-catching pop of colour, and the cables are spread out in such a way that they don't impact stretch. I knit the pattern's M size, which is worked over 64 stitches, and the socks fit just fine. Maybe the teensiest bit snug in pulling them off and on? But nothing that makes me worry about them as I do so.

Plus, the sole is a blank canvas that you can do as you like with the vertical stranding - I made mine travel a bit in sinuous, non-matching paths:

Um, not that you can see that terribly clearly in this shot. It is really tricky to take pictures of the bottoms of your socks while you're wearing them!

So the socks are quite happy making. Still, in the context of the race, something about it felt awfully slow - I don't know what it was. But the perception of slowness brought my yarn high down a notch or two. I'd wave my hands dismissively and attribute it all to life interfering with knitting time, but I ran my timer, and came up with a time just over 35 hours. That's a pretty rough estimate, because a couple of things happened to make the timer time not truly accurate: I knit for about half an hour while waiting in the car one day, and I had to redo a portion of the first heel, but didn't run the timer for part of that, I simply forgot. It's not the longest time I've got on record for a pair of socks - that would have been the stranded pair from stage 2. It is, however, rather longer than the time I clocked on the sport weight socks from stage 1. I really wish I had remembered to run the timer for stage 3, that would have been a useful bit of data for comparison purposes. Oh well, maybe next year.

Tech specs: I did a double knot CO, which is pretty much my go-to CO for stretch sock cuffs. I followed the pattern as written, which is what the Tour dictates, but the heel turn messes up the staggering of the vertical strands: when you set up the heel turn, you end up working one of those contrast stitches an extra time, which puts them both on the same row/round as you complete the heel. I posted in the Tour's help thread about it, and the designer noted that she needed to slip a stitch to restagger them in one of her socks. I solved the problem by ignoring the contrast yarn when working a decrease on the heel turn.

One other technique-related thing that I feel I should mention: vertical stranding is fun, but I suspect it plays a significant role in what felt like a sort of slow pair of socks, because of my own knitting technique. I carry my working yarn in my left hand, wound a couple of times around my index finger for tension. It's not continental knitting, because I'm not holding the working yarn steady with that left hand - my right hand is pretty steady, I actually move the fingers of my left hand to do the wrap: move the middle finger to wrap a knit stitch, quirk the index finger backwards to wrap a purl stitch. Maybe someday I'll make a little video, I sort of cobbled it together on my own. When I do conventional stranded knitting, I wrap both yarns around my left index finger, and use my middle finger to select the appropriate working yarn and then work the wrap.

This technique doesn't work for vertical stranding.

The problem is the contrast yarn isn't carried around the sock - it's left in place after that singular stitch has been worked. So for all but the very last repeat on the second sock or so, I was doing this:

1. Work in MC until one stitch before contrast stitch.
2. Drop MC yarn.
3. Pick up both MC and CC yarns, as if to knit stranded.
4. Work next 3 stitches as charted.
5. Drop both yarns.
6. Pick up MC yarn only.
7. Continue following chart.

All that dropping and picking up and dropping and picking up probably added up, and I strongly suspect that that is what felt so slow on these socks.

So what changed at the very end? Oh, you know, I remembered that I have another hand. Instead of dropping the MC yarn, I instead would start processing the contrast stitch (insert needle), then pick up the CC yarn with my right hand, wrap it, finish that stitch, and continued on my merry way with the MC yarn. Loads faster, I bet. Some days, honestly, I am not smart.

Stage 6 starts today, with pattern drop at 4 PM local time. My yarns are wound and ready to go. I am excited.

Bring it!

Monday, July 20, 2015

TdS 2015: stage 5, timelapse

Obviously, not a round with lots of knitting time, and not a particularly quick knit for me either.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

K'done: From A Distance socks

So close to meeting my goal, and yet so far.

Pattern: From A Distance, by Meagheen Ryan
Yarn: Sweet Georgia Yarns Tough Love Sock, in Ginger
Needles: 2.25 mm / US 1

Beads: Approx 8 g each of 8/0 Delica beads, in Cranberry on one sock, and in Auburn on the other

Tour rank: #92

I really wanted to meet my top 90 goal on these, even though I know from past experience that beading, while fun, slows me down. Alas, life did not cooperate with me. Again. Rather than whine in detail about how things didn't go my way, I'll just sit back and admire my new socks. Because I am super thrilled with these beauties.

For starters, can I get a big YAY for memorizable charts? Seriously, that chart was in my head by the end of the second repeat of the motif on the leg of the first sock - meaning I'd executed it four times by that point, twice on the front, and twice on the back. It's not the smallest chart in the world, but it has a nice smooth logic to it. It felt like it whizzed along.

Which is good, because Tour specs demanded that I do seven repeats of the motif on the leg before beginning the heel. Tour minimums also demanded six more repeats down the foot, but I knit these at my usual super tiny gauge, so my socks aren't crazy tall, and I ended up needing an extra repeat on the foot - there are fourteen total repeats of the motif on my socks, and all of them are beaded. (Beading on the foot yielded bonus points!) In fact, the beads don't match, because I didn't have enough in one colour to do both socks with beads all the way. Had I decided to omit the beads from the feet, it would have worked out, but who am I to say no to bonus points?

I initially thought the bead mismatch between the two socks would make for an interestingly fraternal pair. Once the beads were on the yarn, however, their colour differences blended away pretty effectively. I can pretend the socks actually match.

The pattern calls for a tubular cast on, and I used the Italian method shown here. I quite like tubular cast ons for 1x1 ribbing, but I rarely choose 1x1 ribbing for socks anymore, so I don't often use it. True to form, I had to do it three times for the first sock - tail too long, snagged a stitch working the first row and lost it without being able to recover it, third time's the charm. The second sock only needed two cast on attempts - again, I snagged a stitch while working the first row and lost it.

The yarn was quite pleasant to work with, but I did find this skein to be more loosely plied than I remember other skeins of Tough Love Sock being. There were many instances in which I would slip a stitch and instead of a nice rounded loop of yarn on my needle, I'd have a flat ribbon of three adjacent plies. That looseness also meant I'd often pick up only one or two plies when working a stitch, or I'd snag a ply of the next stitch while working the previous. Still, nothing rage-inducing - I definitely have plans to replenish my Tough Love Sock supply! I also plan to use my last precious skein (and remnants) for the last two socks on this year's Tour. (See? I totally need more for next year.)

Bring on the next pair!

Monday, July 6, 2015

Monday, June 29, 2015

K'done: Touring Bubbles socks


Pattern: Touring Bubbles, by Karen Buhr
Yarn: Invictus Yarns Master of My Feet, in The Game is On

Needles: 2.25 mm / US 1

Tour rank: #137
Actual knitting time: who knows? I totally forgot to use my timer for this one!

Ahem. Please ignore the autofocus fail there.

I shouldn't be so down on my finish for these socks. I mean, sure, I missed my goal by a fairly wide margin, but I'm still done well before the cutoff date. Thing is, I was anticipating that this round would be great for me - it's a sock done up in a single colour, in a gauge that I am used to, in a pattern with a memorizable chart. All those factors should come together for super zippy knitting.

Unfortunately, the world at large had other plans for me and my time, and funny thing about knitting, if you don't touch the yarn and needles, no progress gets made. Picking them up and then putting them right back down again doesn't count either. I tried it.

So while I am disappointed with my performance, even though it wasn't really me being slow, it was me not being able to knit, I am still happy with the socks. Note the colour - not red/pink! I realized I was on my way to having this year's Tour turn into the Tour de Pink, and my sock drawer is rather well populated with reds and pinks and purples already, so it was time to venture into other areas of the colour wheel. I'm glad I did - this yarn photographs super blue with my iPhone, but in reality it's more of a slate grey-blue to my eyes. Lovely dye work - exactly what I've come to expect from Invictus - and the base is a nice smooth yarn to work with. There were a couple of moments where I managed to pull a stitch off the needle by inadvertently dragging it with the most recently completed stitch - a bit of fuzz or something got caught - but no disasters were suffered.

Pattern-wise, I was so happy to see a memorizable chart with a 10 stitch repeat, but its small size did lead me to a small goof - I forgot to take the cables into account. The pattern does this to a certain extent - the leg of the sock is worked over 70 stitches, which is a lot, but the pattern also makes use of 2x2 cables, and the rounds that have these cables actually are almost entirely composed of cables, which eats up a lot of lateral stretch. The socks still fit me, and it's a bit close getting them on and off - not uncomfortably so, but if I were to do this pattern again, I'd do the ribbing on the 2.25 mm needle, go up to a 2.5 mm for the leg for a little extra room, then switch back to the 2.25 mm for the heel, foot, and toe.

All in all, a fun sock!