Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Seam away, seam away, seam away

I'm sitting here in my chair, sewing the last seam on my Oblique cardi.

I finally got the second sleeve finished at some point after returning home from our trip to BC, and blocked the sleeves, and then on Monday the seam-fest began. I did the raglan seams, and sewed up one sleeve, and that was it for my crafting time that day. Yesterday, I did the other sleeve, and that was it for my crafting time for the day. Today I've done one of the side seams so far, and what you see in the image above is the second side seam, which I intend to wrap up once this is posted.

While some avoid seams wherever possible, I have no objection to them. There's something rather satisfying about executing a nice seam. My first attempt at seams using mattress stitch are abysmal, because I didn't know what I was doing, and rather than ask Google and have a look at the myriad resources available online, I just winged it, doing what seemed right. It totally wasn't. I was picking up the legs of my selvedge stitches, so the seams were completely visible. Maybe I'll get over my pride and show you one day.

Today is not that day.

Once I stumbled upon some resources and read a bit on how it was supposed to go, my seams improved dramatically. I'm not sure I was ever the sort of person who shied away from a pattern because it promised seams, or the sort of person who rejiggers a pattern written with seams to be done seamlessly instead. Now that I understand it, seaming is a smooth, methodically relaxing process - much like knitting itself, I suppose. When I was a teenager, I went through a counted cross-stitch phase - I'd had a few little needlecraft kits that I'd worked my way through when I was a bit younger, and the last one ended in frustration when I ran out of yarn before the piece was finished. (I had intended to contact the kit's manufacturer to obtain the needed yarn, but I was twelve, and so never got around to doing that.) I then stumbled across some counted cross-stitch pattern books in a craft store, and it was like an epiphany - instead of relying on a kit to supply me, I could just select a motif and then buy what I needed! I think there were a few more kits along the way - in fact, I know I have an unfinished piece sitting in a box somewhere - but there was a definite shift in my crafting at that point, one where I took greater control of my projects.

This seaming I'm doing isn't the last step on this cardi, unfortunately. I still need to do the button bands (sans buttons) and collar. And I'm a pretty slow sewer, but it's not yet noon - maybe I'll have time to do some of that after?

Thursday, August 18, 2016

K'done: Entanglements socks

Aaaaaand here's the home stretch!

Pattern: Entanglements, by ShaylaMyst
Yarn: Invictus Yarns Master of My Feet, in Ambitious
Needles: 2.25 mm / US 1

Cables? Cables!

These socks were a fun knit, though I didn't get them done as quickly as I'd hoped. The pattern is written as an embrace-the-random sort of pattern - you set up 7 cables on the toe of the sock, then for each cable cross round, you use a randomizer to pick out 3 cables, and flip a coin to determine the crossing direction of each cable. Neat concept, though I found I didn't care for a truly random execution - and in some cases, you have to un-random things to get something that works. (For example, two adjacent cables can't cross towards each other at the same time.) One of my socks is closer to true random, the second is more pseudorandom - I allowed for random selection of the cables, but controlled the crossing direction so that I could avoid two adjacent cables moving in the same direction, or avoiding two cables coming together. (The pattern has directions for how to handle two cables coming together for those who prefer to stick closer to true random, but I just didn't use it for the second sock.)

These are done toe-up, but nothing in the pattern hinges on that, so if a person were more inclined to do a top-down version, they'd have no trouble. There may be a pair of these in my sister's future. And maybe my mother's future.

Monday, August 15, 2016

K'done: Six Tastes socks

Gah. So behind.

Pattern: Six Tastes, by Hypercycloid Designs
Yarn: Invictus Yarns Unconquerable Sole BFL, in Raspberry Creme, and Knit Picks Stroll, in Black
Needles: 2.25 mm / US 1

A photo posted by Jen (@pikaknit) on

I've realized that I sort of inadvertently deleted a bunch of photos when I needed to clear space on my phone to update an app a couple of weeks ago - I was rushing, and thought I was in the right place to delete device copies only, but apparently not! Good thing I have most of these shots on Instagram as well. I'll be going through and putting those back as best I can.

What do I remember, three weeks later? Let's see.

1. These are worked using mosaic knitting - you work with one yarn each round, slipping stitches as needed to make the pattern. So, work one round with MC, slipping any stitches that are supposed to be in CC, and on the next round you work with CC, slipping any stitches that are supposed to be in MC. I'd done a little mosaic in the past, but these socks kept it up for the entire sock, save the cuff and toe.

2. These socks maintained the colourwork through the heel and over the sole of the foot too. I like the visual effect, but I'm not sure the heel worked out to be the right shape for my feet - it's a little pouchy. We'll have to see how it wears, because I have not yet really worn the socks.

3. Reading your knitting with mosaic is not exactly like reading your knitting otherwise. I've gotten to be pretty competent with reading my knitting more generally, but the first leg of the first sock here was hard, because I was having trouble reading my knitting, and consequently was getting lost in the charts. I got it sorted eventually, and thankfully that was at some point on the foot of the first sock, because I was blowing a lot of time and getting frustrated with trying to sort out what was going on on my needles.

That being said, it is a really fun pattern. It's a choose-your-own-adventure type, meaning you have several different charts to choose from, and you can mix and match to make lots of different pairs of socks from a single pattern. I opted for matching motifs on my socks, but gave some serious thought to mixing the patterns - for someone who really likes matching things, I have an odd soft spot for this sort of non-matching matching, where the socks clearly go together as a set, but they're not completely identical. I've got a mind to make myself some more, using the other available charts, but that plan will have to wait until I figure out whether the funky patterned heel fits me well enough.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

K'done: A Song of Beads & Lace socks

Eek! I'm behind!

Pattern: A Song of Beads & Lace, by Sarah Bordelon
Yarn: Invictus Yarns Master of My Feet, in Charred
Needles: 2.25 mm / US 1
Extra goodies: 8/0 Delica beads, in a colour whose name I can't remember right now and I don't see the little baggie handy, it was something poetic like 'Orange Red'. I used all but two from a 5 g baggie.

Tour Rank: #94

Well. I'm behind on my Tour blogging, not my actual participation - this round was the best finish I've had so far! Still, not quite fast enough for extra points. Sigh.

But I got another pair of great socks for my sock drawer. Huzzah!

This pattern features so-called true lace - that is, you do patterning on every round, no 'rest' rounds where you zip along just knitting everything. So, lots of counting, and keeping track, and consulting the chart, and yes, this pattern had large not-really-repeating charts. I did not get it memorized at all, so I was a chart slave. It's okay, though - it felt like it moved fairly quickly, even with the pausing to add a bead to a stitch. Which I still find to be buckets of fun, despite the extra layer of finickiness it adds on.

When I was considering my yarn-bead pairing before the pattern dropped, I was a bit worried about these beads. I was rather severely limited in my selection - this is really my last 10 g batch of beads from that time I ordered a bunch before my first Tour, and my sponsor yarn stash is also severely depleted, thanks to budget-related restrictions on yarn acquisition, the weak CAD/USD exchange rate on my end, and the absence of both Sweet Georgia Yarns and Indigo Dragonfly as sponsors this year. (I won a skein of Indigo Dragonfly in a random draw last year. It is awesome and I was looking forward to putting it to good use for sponsor points this year. Maybe next year?) I knew I wanted to use the Charred yarn, because my other yarn options really didn't go well with my available beads. But I worried that the orange-red of these would stand out too much against the grey yarn, maybe I wanted something a bit more subdued? I strung one on, and stared at it, but couldn't arrive at any sort of conclusion. I rustled around in my bead remnants, and discovered I had at least 5 g (but not 10 g) of a darker burgundy sort of colour - like garnets. (Oh hey. I just took a peek at the packet and sure enough, it says that the colour of these beads is 'Garnet'.) I strung one of those on and stared at it. I put one of each of the beads on the yarn and stared at them some more.

Then I stared at the materials list for the socks. It called for approximately 180 beads. Sure, I thought, but how many beads are in 5 g? I spent a few minutes peering at one of the bags, a partially full bag of the Garnet beads, trying to count how many were in there without dumping them out and potentially losing a few. I got a count of 47. Then I weighed the baggie. I think I got 2 g? Memory's not awesome on that detail. Either way, I stood there, in my kitchen (because that's where the scale is), holding this little baggie with 47 beads in it, worrying about how much the baggie itself might weigh - since I didn't want to empty it to weigh it, since that would again potentially lead to bead loss - and trying to do some mental math. If 47 beads weigh a bit less than 2 g, then how many beads would be in 5 g? Roughly 140? Add that 140 to the 47 in the mostly used up baggie, and I'd have 187 beads. That made me super nervous about potentially running out of beads before being done with the socks.

Then the pattern dropped, and I looked at how frequently the charted section placed beads, and decided I'd better err on the side of caution and use the beads I have plenty of, in case my smaller gauge required more pattern repeats than the designer figured on when providing the materials list. As it turns out, I really like the pop of the bright red beads against the dark grey. It reminds me of something, though I can't quite put my finger on what, precisely. To my eyes, they're a bit like small, bright red jewels scattered through some sort of rocky backdrop. This pattern was code named 'Stark', and somehow the yarn and bead combo seems very Winterfell and Stark to me. (Full disclosure: I have not read the books. My impression of both Winterfell and the Starks is based entirely on the TV show.)

Also, I would have had enough of the Garnet beads. Oh well. I'm quite pleased with how they came out.

The pattern also features this intriguing pull-a-couple-of-loops-from-below sort of stitch that I really like, and will be looking to incorporate into other socks. I didn't get a nice up close shot of it on these, but maybe at some point in the future. Trust me, it's nifty.

We'll see how they wear - the beading technique has you slip the stitch that gets beaded, with the working yarn passed behind, so you end up with a layer of yarn between the (potentially cold!) bead and your tender leg and foot skin. I'm not sure it eliminates all skin-bead contact, but we'll see. I don't mind beads against me with my socks - the glass does warm up, and I don't really notice them after that - but this might work out well for my sister, who has expressed appreciation for the look of beaded socks, but is troubled by the cold-glass-on-skin potential. (There's also the hard-bit-squished-by-shoes problem, but that can be solved by restricting the beads to just the leg, and just the part that is well above any footwear.)

Four down!

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

K'done: Diamondback socks

Got variegated sock yarn? Maybe this is the pattern you're looking for.

Pattern: Diamondback Socks, by Kirsten Hall
Yarn: Invictus Yarns Master of My Feet, in Possessive
Needles: 2.25 mm / US 1

Tour rank: #111

A photo posted by Jen (@pikaknit) on

It seems like we all fall for it from time to time: we see a breathtaking skein of sock yarn somewhere, and we make it join our little flock. We're so mesmerized by the colours that we sort of forget that these things can be a bit challenging for knitting up - sometimes, they stripe nicely, but then things get thrown for a loop when you get to the ankle, where the circumference has to be changed up a bit to allow for gussets and suddenly the colour runs aren't being used at the pace they were before, and now there's this giant blotch of one colour on one gusset, with the other one showing weird zigzags of a couple of other colours. Other times, you just get a mess right from the get go - the so-called flashing and pooling that people often complain about.

While I have been more careful in recent times to enhance my sock yarn stash with tonal and semi-solid colourways, there are some variegateds in the mix. It happens. They're so pretty.

And now I have another tool at my disposal for working with them. One that doesn't involve slipping stitches - and there are some great slipped stitch motifs out there, but the problem I have with slipping stitches is it changes your row gauge, which is fine on the leg, but it makes for a difference between the instep and the sole of the foot, so when the sock is off the foot, the sole pouches out weirdly. I suppose, ultimately, it doesn't matter, because that difference doesn't seem to impact fit any, but it still makes me mostly avoid slipped stitch motifs for socks.

This pattern uses short rows, so you're basically knitting chunks of fabric instead of one continuous spiral.

A photo posted by Jen (@pikaknit) on

The resulting effect is a tube made up of diamond-shaped tiles of fabric. Depending on how your colour runs go, the effect can vary quite a bit. My yarn actually had pretty short colour runs, and if you look at the way it knitted up on the soles, it may not have pooled terribly in a plain stockinette sock - although, it did do some flashing in the ribbing, maybe it would have been a mess? There's no traditional heel flap, much like the stage 2 sock, which doesn't bother me any, though I find the diamond pattern sort of pulls on the heels a bit to make them a bit pointy. We'll have to wait and see if that becomes an issue with actual wear.

The designer suggests that knitting backwards while working the short rows can eliminate needing to endlessly turn the work, but I ended up abandoning that strategy fairly early on in the first sock. For one, I knit backwards kind of slowly due to lack of practice, but more importantly, when working the diamonds that are interrupted by ribbing at the sides of the socks and in the gussets, I realized pretty quickly that while I can work a purl stitch backwards, I'd never done a backwards knit stitch before, and with the way I hold the yarn, it's not exactly a simple thing to work out how to make the wrap happen once the needles are in the right arrangement. I also end up knitting combined when I knit backwards - because of how I hold the yarn, the wrap goes in the opposite direction of my normal knitting, so on the right side the worked-backwards stitches present with an Eastern mount (right leg of stitch to the back) as opposed to the Western mount I normally get (right leg of stitch to the front). This is easy to accommodate, you just knit into the back legs of stitches on the right side so they don't twist, but for the decreases - well, really, just the k2tog - I needed to remount the stitches to avoid getting a twisted decrease. So I just turned the work a whole bunch while knitting these. It was fine.

A word to the wise, though - this pattern EATS yarn. Like no pattern I've ever worked before. After finishing the first sock, I thought my remnant cake looked a bit wimpy compared to normal, so when I was done I weighed the socks, and weighed the other two Tour pairs for comparison.

Twists & Turns socks: 74 g
I Remembered It Again socks: 82 g
Diamondback socks: 91 g

Um, yeah. These socks ate 9 g more yarn than a pair of pretty heavily cabled socks, which in turn ate up 8 g more yarn than a pair of lace socks. No wonder my remnant bits from this stage are so small!
So, if you typically use most of 100 g of yarn to make a pair of socks - maybe get some extra bits for a contrast toe and cuff?

So there you have 'em. Another pair for my drawer, another stage done. The next three I really hope for better race performance - my class has completely wrapped up now, so sock racing can be a pretty big priority now! Which is great, because the next stage is the beaded sock. I better go find my beads.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

K'done: I Remembered It Again socks

Second stage of the 2016 Tour de Sock: complete!

Pattern: I Remembered It Again, by Heidi Nick
Yarn: Invictus Yarns Master of My Feet, in Powerful
Needles: 2.25 mm / US 1

Tour rank: #151

Well. I did better this time, but once again work interfered with sock racing. Once again, I knew it was coming, but it's still a bit disheartening to experience it. Stage 3 is also going to be disrupted by work - the pattern is going to drop crazy early in the morning, and I have to proctor a final exam that morning too, which will be followed by marking the exams.

Hey look! Green socks!

A photo posted by Jen (@pikaknit) on

I bought this yarn in anticipation of the Tour last year, thinking it would be good to stretch out of my usual colour box, and socks are a great way to do that. I'm not sure green or blue is great up near my face, but on my feet? No problem. I wound up the yarn as a possibility for one or two of the stages last year, but ended up not using it, so it went back into a Ziploc bag and into the yarn cabinet, waiting for its time.

Clearly, its time had come.

This pattern is super, super cabled. The charts are excellently clear, and even colour-coded for additional visual cues to help you avoid working the wrong cable at the wrong time, but despite the fact that the pattern repeats itself a few times throughout the sock, I was unable to memorize it, and therefore was a chart slave throughout the knitting. There are just too many different sorts of cables scattered throughout the repeat. (To be fair, the full motif is repeated three times per sock.) When I saw all the cables, including some 4-stitch cables, I decided to err on the side of caution and cast on the largest size in the pattern - 71 stitches around. I'm glad I did - I knit socks at a smaller gauge than patterns specify, somewhere in the neighbourhood of 10 stitches to an inch, and cables knock the lateral stretch out of knitted fabric, so the resulting socks really seem to fit pretty well, with me being able to slip them on and off without worrying about exceeding the limits of the yarn's tensile strength.

Also, the patterning on the back is not like the patterning on the front:

A photo posted by Jen (@pikaknit) on

It's not super easy to see in that shot - and by the way, twisting around to take pictures of the backs of your own feet is not exactly simple - but there's a sort of argyle diamond pattern rendered in texture with purl stitches. They continue along the heel instead of the usual slipped stitch heel flap. Since I've never had a pair of socks wear out on the heel flap, I am not at all concerned about the thinner fabric on that part of the sock. This pattern has you continue to work in the round for the gussets and heel flap, which was my preferred sock construction technique once upon a time, before I learned how to pick up stitches without making myself crazy along the way and in a way that I actually liked the look of. Doing the gussets and heel flap together runs into the same situation that toe-up socks do, where it feels like the gussets just take forEVER because the rounds are getting progressively longer, so progress seems to get slower with each set of two rounds (increase round + plain round).

That being said, the sock still felt pretty quick. I'll probably be knitting another pair - Sister has been eyeing them appreciatively.

Monday, June 6, 2016

K'done: Twists & Turns socks

The 2016 Tour de Sock has begun!

A photo posted by Jen (@pikaknit) on

Pattern: Twists & Turns, by Adrienne Fong
Yarn: Invictus Yarns Master of My Feet, in Peachy Keen
Needles: 2.25 mm / US 1

A photo posted by Jen (@pikaknit) on

Tour rank: um, as of this moment, it is undetermined, but I definitely just got finishing points for these. I was the last member of my team to cross the finish line, but at least I got them done before the info for round 2 was released! I'll take it!

In actuality, this pattern just hummed along - the lace pattern is really intuitive, with panels of twisted rib that decrease away with a lace motif, so you don't have to strictly memorize the chart, just follow it for setting up each section and then work the pattern until you run out of twisted rib stitches, then consult the chart for setting up the next section, and after you've done that a small number of times, you get the hang of how the whole thing hangs together and just motor along smoothly. If I hadn't had to lose so much time to work-related tasks - like the 8 hours I ended up giving up on day 2 - then I would have had a much speedier finish. I suspect round 2 will be pretty similar, but once we get past June 25 and my current teaching contract has been fulfilled, and these paper revisions I'm wrestling with have been completed and submitted, my ability to prioritize sock racing will improve dramatically.

I didn't mirror my socks, but that option can be had very straightforwardly (and the pattern tells you how, if you can't be bothered to figure it on your own). While I generally am not a big fan of twisted stitches, I found I didn't mind the panels of twisted rib on these, because the pattern sets you up to decrease them away - they're gradually overtaken by a travelling lace panel, which leaves plain stockinette in its wake. It was sort of like old school video game levels - you work a setup round, that establishes all your baddies (the twisted ribs), then go round by round, taking out one with each successive round, until finally there are none left, and you whip along triumphantly with nary a purl or twisted knit in sight, and then you set up for the next 'level', with a new set of baddies, and a new plan for taking them down, since the direction of travelling lace panel is now switched, producing the switchbacky motif for which the pattern is named.

I am very pleased with the resulting socks, and would happily knit this pattern again - in fact, yesterday I was reflecting on this as I chugged along contentedly, and considered what a shame it is that the other people I knit socks for - my sister, and perhaps from this point forward, my mother - are lace-averse for socks. They think the holes negatively impact the comfort factor by making the socks 'breezy'. Maybe I'll just have to make another pair for myself anyway. They'd be quick.

Now. There's some deprioritized house cleaning - namely, dishwashing - that I probably have no real excuse for continuing to deprioritize. And some other stuff - sweeping floors, cleaning bathrooms - that I'll have to handle in the next few days. Because Round 2 is coming soon!

Ah, sock race season. Even if I'm not able to just immerse myself in all socks all the time, it's still a fun time.