Friday, May 31, 2013

Here we go

This is it.

Tour de Sock 2013 starts tomorrow morning!

No, I still don't have my beads. But it's okay. I can think on my feet, so I rustled up some different yarn from the stash - some grey Knit Picks Stroll that I think looks quite nice with the silvery beads that I was able to pick up locally a couple of weeks ago. It's all wound up and ready to go, with a set of DPNs smashed into one of the cakes - or should I go stereotypically Canadian here and start calling them pucks?

My plan - if I can even really call it that - is to post here regularly during the Tour, but perhaps in a sort of wordless way. After all, time spent blogging could be time spent knitting, and my competitive side demands that I try my best to actually compete with an eye on the available prizes. (Not to the point of disrupting the lives of others around me, though.) I'm thinking what I might do is snap a quick picture of what I've got at the beginning of each day - when the light is somewhat decent, depending on the weather - and posting that. This will make for a nice little record for me when I eventually go back through my archives - because every once in a while, I do that - and also gives anyone who stops by here a bit of a peek into my progress. Actual posts about the finished socks will likely be put off until the Tour has ended, though I may do up k'done posts as I wait for the next stage to finish.

Because, you know, I'm never going to take it down to the wire. No way. Not me.

That snorting sound you hear? Yep, that's me. I can't even type that without snorking.

I'm quite excited for this whole thing to start. It's going to be an interesting time!

Speaking of interesting times - I've learned I'm going to be attending a wedding reception about midway through Stage 2. It's in Vancouver. I'm in Calgary. We're going to be driving out there and back. And I'm going to be the one behind the wheel. Hoo boy. Strategy: finish Socks Alpha before that trip. Can I do it?

Well, we'll see.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Oh I do not understand

Two posts in one day! Zoiks!

The USPS tracker updated - saying my beads are now in Los Angeles.

Say what?

I'm in Canada. Canada is north of the United States. Washington State is, in fact, right on the border there.

So why oh why oh why did my package get flung way down to the other end of the country? Yes, California's on a border too, but it's the wrong one! I am not in Mexico!

Grarrrghhhh. We'll see what happens to it from this point.

C'mon, postie

Eep. Still no beads.

They were shipped last week - entered the postal system on 22 May, left the origin sort facility on 23 May.

And that's all the information that the USPS tracking website will give me.

I had been hoping that they would make it into Canada before the weekend, since it's a long weekend for the US, and they didn't have too far to go to the border - they were shipped from Washington state.

Maybe the package just didn't get scanned when it crossed into the hands of Canada Post?

Or maybe it's still sitting in a truck just on the other side of the border, waiting to get on the move again tomorrow?

Eek.

Four weekdays left before the Tour commences.

Eef.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Dive in

For a while now, I've been a bit intrigued by the notion of adding beads to knitted things.

Intrigued enough that when I placed an order with Knit Picks earlier this year, in March, I threw in a packet of beads and a set of three small gauge steel crochet hooks. When my order arrived, I pulled the smallest hook - a 1.3 mm hook - from the packet and opened up the little box of 8/0 beads.

The hook did not fit through the hole.

Admittedly, I hadn't really done much research before adding those things to my order - I just sort of figured that the smallest hook would do the trick, that the store wouldn't sell beads without also selling appropriately sized hooks. (At the time, I didn't see any smaller hooks on the site. They're there now. They may have always been there, but I'm going to go on believing that they weren't there when I placed that order.)

A bit of Googling revealed that there were other options available to me, so I didn't get too upset, and just set that stuff aside, figuring I'd get there one day.

Now. I'm officially in the Tour de Sock. There is beading in two of the patterns - and the sock for stage one, code name Sock Echo, is one that requires a few beads. (The hint says 50.) I have some beads, not great ones for the yarn I wanted to use, but I figured I could make do in a pinch, but I'd need to figure out beads for one of the other patterns - code name Sock Bravo - which calls for a whopping 500 beads, divided between two colours.

So I knew I'd need to buy some beads. I looked at Knit Picks again, found the smaller hook, which is on a tiny sale right now, and added it to a virtual cart, and started tossing in beads and looking for other things to try and get up to the $7 USD flat rate shipping to Canada. The colour selection for beads is not fantastic, though, and I was having some niggling doubts about whether I'd really be happy with any of those colours combined with the yarn I want to use for both Sock Echo and Sock Bravo.

I had also been looking around the interwebs at videos for alternatives to the crochet hook beading method - the superfloss method, the twist tie wire method, the Fleegle beader - and had spent a bit of time seriously considering just buying a couple of Fleegle beaders to be done with it.

Today, though, I remembered something I had seen in the Fleegle beader how-to video. It noted that one type of bead, Delica beads, have larger holes.

I Googled, and found information indicating that 8/0 Delicas have a 1.5 mm hole.

I have a 1.3 mm hook. 8/0 Delicas have a 1.5 mm hole. 1.3 is smaller than 1.5.

Today, I made a trip to a local bead store that sells Delicas to try and get beads for my Tour socks. Their selection was rather poor, and the prices they were asking made my jaw drop. I ended up selecting a single vial of the lowest price Delicas - $4 CAD - and took it home. It's not a colour that I really want to use with my Sock Echo yarn, but it will work with pretty well any sister yarn, and I wanted to test out whether using Delicas would save me from having to hunt down a new tinier crochet hook.

I got the beads home, grabbed my hook, removed the lid, and...



It totally works. I found an online source and ordered way, way too many Delicas - like, six different colours - for a better price than can be had locally - even with the expedited shipping option I selected to improve the odds that I'll get my beads in time for the start of the Tour.

Now I'm haunting my own email inbox waiting for the shipping confirmation notice, and then I'll be haunting the mailbox waiting for my packet of beads.

That's normal, right?

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Building excitement

I did it.

I signed up for the Tour de Sock.

I haven't gotten my invoice yet, and haven't yet paid for my participation, but having made the decision has ramped up my enthusiasm. In fact, I've pretty well got my yarn choices down - I started thinking about it yesterday, and today I went and tore through enthusiastically sifted through my remnant stash, picking out some colour combinations that I think will work where the available hints have indicated that multiple colours of yarn in less-than-one-skein amounts are required. Plus I like the idea of stretching a little more garment out of my sock yarn purchases - I'm looking to use up remnant stash for two of the six socks.

There's going to be a fair bit of pink and purple in this Tour, it would seem.

I'm a tiny bit worried about one sock - Sock Foxtrot. I'm supposed to have 50 g each of two colours, and 15 g of a third. I rustled up 42 g each of two colours - I'm not worried about the 15 g amount. I'm hoping that I'll be able to get away with it, since my feet are small. I suppose, worst case scenario, there will be a mad last-minute scramble for another colour.

Also? I need to go bead shopping. I'm thinking I'll be able to do that Tuesday.

I'm pretty jazzed up to see how I'll do in this. I'm not part of a team as of this moment - but I may end up joining one. Part of me thinks that's dangerous, given that this is my first Tour, and if I fail to finish a leg, that means my entire team fails to finish the leg. But then again, it's all in good fun, right?

This could be the start of something, um, interesting.

Meanwhile? I'm trying to wrap up a sweater - the body is getting pretty close to being done. There are still sleeves, but still. Plus, there's another video game knit going on in the background.

Hoo boy.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Pondering

I'm thinking about doing the Tour de Sock (Rav group link) this year.

I've never done this before - never even really done this sort of thing before. I thought about it briefly last year, but ended up deciding against it, and, to be honest, never really gave it another thought.

Today, though, I got an email from Blue Moon Fiber Arts announcing that they are one of the Tour's sponsors. And I remembered being interested last year, and so I've been poking around the available pages today.

And I am intrigued.

Two of the patterns require beads, and I've been a bit curious about knitting with beads lately.

I'm also curious as to whether I can keep up with the pace of the Tour - the first stage is effectively nine days. Can I actually churn out a pair of socks in nine days?

I'll have to have a bit more of a think.

But right now? I'm leaning towards jumping in.

In fact, I'm mentally sorting through my stash picking out supplies.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Slacker Monday

It is nearly 4:15 local time, and I have not done any work today.

The day got off to a later start than a typical Monday - Someone Else had a doctor's appointment, which meant he took the morning off, so we slept in. He actually took the day off since he wasn't sure how long the appointment would take - it's nothing serious, it's just that doctor's offices can often end up being places where you go to sit and wait. He didn't want me to sit and wait with him in the waiting room, so I did a bit of light grocery shopping and then brought the food home, stashed it all in its proper place, and then sat down to finish getting the next video game knit ready for actual game time.



That's Madelinetosh Tosh Sock, in Wren, which in real life is more greeny-gold than it appears in that picture. I use my iPhone to take my pics, and it seems to have its white balance set to enhance blues, which means that all colours appear cooler than they actually are. I've got the barest beginnings of a cowl - a bit of an experiment. Not my own design from scratch, but what I hope will turn out to be an interesting twist on an existing design.

We'll see. If it's not what I'm imagining, I may rip it out and disavow all knowledge, instead presenting whatever I end up turning the yarn into as if that had been my original intent.

Anyway. So I put off trying to get real work done - because I do have some, with an informal deadline to boot - because I didn't know when I'd be called to go pick up Someone Else. The sort of work I have to do is not of the do-a-little-here-and-there variety. It's the sort that requires a fair bit of dedicated, relatively uninterrupted concentration. The sort of task that I want to have a time window of at least two or three hours available to take a run at.

So the uncertainty allowed me to justify procrastinating, and I was sort of vindicated when I got the call about 30 to 45 minutes after getting home. Out I went, and he decided it was late enough in the day that it wasn't worth it for me to take him to the office, so we came back home, and if he was needed at work, he'd telecommute.

The thing is, even if he's working, I find it terribly difficult to find the focus to actually do any work myself.

So I'm calling this day gone, and I'll have to bust a move tomorrow and Wednesday and Thursday.

That's okay, though. If anything, that's how I roll.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

K'done: 22 Little Clouds Shawlette

Whoosh!



Pattern: 22 Little Clouds, by Martina Behm
Yarn: Claudia Hand Painted Yarns Fingering, in Blue Ridge
Needles: 5 mm / US 8

I gave my sister this yarn as her birthday present in 2011 - good thing I made a note of that in my Rav stash-minder, I didn't actually remember the circumstances under which the yarn was presented to her. In any event, I usually give her yarn as her gift nowadays, with the promise to actually convert the yarn into some item for her, since she doesn't knit. (I have just taken a moment to go into the stash minder and add little notes to the entries of other things I've got squirreled away for future gifts, and to update the notes on ones I've already given.) There's a slight hiccup in our system, though, in that it usually takes some doing to settle on a pattern for the yarn - I browse pattern offerings online with some regularity, but she really doesn't, and I don't always remember to sit her down and show her whatever I've found that seems interesting at a given point in time. Consequently, we end up with a bit of backlog of sister gift yarn here - skeins waiting to be knit up into something.

This was the case with this yarn.

I stumbled upon this pattern, and thought it would play nicely with the variegation in this yarn - I was actually looking to see if I could find some pattern recommendations for the yarn I gave her for Christmas 2012, which is still sitting out on a table here, but when I saw the plain stockinette, my mind snapped back to this variegated colourway. (The Christmas 2013 yarn is a semi-solid tonal sort of skein.) I showed my sister the sample photos in the pattern, and she agreed that it was a nice shawlette, and I was off and running.

Well, winding.



This may have been the fastest scarf/shawlette I've ever cranked out. It was six days from cast on to bind off, and that's not six days of nonstop knitting - an hour here, maybe two hours there, forty-five minutes here, twenty there, the way it usually goes. I sort of wish I had timed this one - I would estimate that it took me less than ten hours to knit the shawlette. Very simple, straightforward knitting - once you get the hang of the increase rates, the stitches just fly onto the needles. Also, getting the increase rates into your head is not terribly challenging - one set goes every row, the other set goes every third row. Being able to read your knitting is a huge help in keeping track of the every-third-row increase set. I also used the pattern's 25% rule in order to maximize the available yardage - I knit the main body of the shawlette until I had about 25% of my yarn remaining - I weighed the skein(s) to figure that out - and then started on the ruffled edging. When all was said and done I was left with 1.5 g of remnants.

Sister is pleased, and so I am pleased as well. I presented this to her along with her actual birthday gifts this year - it was the one bonus item that made it into the bag.

If I make this one again? I might try yarnover increases instead of the lifted-bar increases given in the pattern. It might be visually interesting to have some negative space detail added. Or it might be a hot mess. Won't know till I try.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Defeated

I'm not gonna make it.

It's currently 5:40 PM, and I have about an inch of foot and the toe left to go.



Photobucket is being strange right now and not finalizing the light editing of my picture that I want. If it ever lets me have it, I'll post it here. Victory is mine!

This is not the result of cranking away both yesterday and today - it's the result of cranking away yesterday. I've added maybe ten rounds today.

So what happened? Work happened - something came up and I had to haul myself down to campus to meet with a student. After that, I stopped at a grocery store to pick up some mussels for my sister's birthday dinner, and got caught in some really terrible traffic circumstances. The store I was at is a 20 - 25 minute drive from my house.

It took me 1 h 10 min to get home.

So, yeah, not so much with the knitting time.

And now, once I post this, I'll have to go into the kitchen to start scrubbing those mussels up so that they can be simmered in a red Thai curry and coconut milk sauce for dinner. With avocado slices and red pepper sticks. And maybe kale chips, if I have time.

I guess the socks will just be handed over without fanfare some other time.

On the plus side, I did finish reading the entire thesis yesterday.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Go go go

Tomorrow is my sister's 31st birthday.

I've got a gift planned out and sorted for her, so there's no real panic about being ready for it. Yet I feel this sense of urgency. That's because of this:



Here we have the socks that I started for her last fall, where the first one ended up needing a complete rip and re-knit because of sizing issues. I fixed the problems by juggling around needle sizes to play with gauge on the leg, and then once I'd had her try on the new and improved sock - the complete one in that picture - I pulled apart the original bad one and started the in-progress one you see in that pic.

Now, these socks are not part of her gift - that was never the idea, she paid for the yarn.

But, you see, I have a dream.

It seems a bit oddly grandiose to use the term dream when talking about knitting plans. Still, I got it into my head that when I hand over my sister's gift tomorrow, in addition to the actual gift, there would be a couple of other things in there for her. Things that aren't really part of her gift, since she knows about them, and gifts should be a surprise, and what kind of surprise would that be? No, just things that were promised to her relatively recently, just to sweeten the overall birthday experience.

So I want to finish that there sock by tomorrow late afternoon. As you can see from the photo - or maybe not - I had just completed the heel turn before setting it aside last night. Since taking the photo, I've picked up for the gussets and gone back to working in the round, putting in the gusset decreases as I go.

The big question is, can I make it?

I can't just sit and crank on the sock - I need to wash up kitchen detritus today, and there's also the matter of some career-related work that I should do. That, however, is a bit of good news in this department - yesterday I started a complete read-through of my thesis, as a necessary step in preparing a portion of it for publication as an academic paper. I didn't get very far yesterday, but today I'm hoping to make a significant dent in it, if not finish the whole thing. (I know. Let me enjoy this optimism for now.)

That means that this afternoon will be spent curled up in the comfy chair, reading the thesis on my tablet.

And I can totally knit while I do that.

Maybe these socks will be done in time?

Monday, May 6, 2013

K'done: Mr. Bluejeans Cardigan

This sweater has been done for ages, and I've been wearing it - rather a lot, it's showing a few pills in some areas - but it has proven to be impossible for me to take a good picture of myself wearing the sweater using my iPhone's camera. My arms aren't long enough to hold the device far enough away to get the whole sweater in the shot. Also, I end up with a whole lotta arm in the shot. Two possible solutions: one, I could ask someone else to take the picture, or two, I could simply lay the sweater out on the floor and photograph it unworn.



Pattern: Mr. Bluejeans Cardigan, by Amy Swenson
Yarn: Knit Picks Swish Tonal, in Thunderhead
Needles: 5 mm / US 8

Oh, don't judge me too harshly - here, have a nicer close-up shot of some of the details:



I got a crazy case of sweater-covet when I first saw the pattern for this one, and pretty well launched right into it and cranked away whenever possible. I've been wearing it since it's been finished and blocked, and I really really like it a whole bunch, and I've gotten some nice compliments on it from co-workers - one of them told me one day that she thought it was the most elegant sweater she'd ever seen, and then added, Particularly from behind. Well, shucks, I'm all for anything that makes me look elegant - to be honest, I'd prefer that it did it equally from all angles, but I'll take what I can get.

It's a pretty easy, straightforward knit - there's no waist shaping, so once you've finished the raglan increases and split off the sleeves, it's a straight shot to the bit with short rows (I did shadow wraps instead of wrap-and-turn), and once you've gotten going on the horizontal band that thing's also a straight shot with no shaping. The pattern, as it appeared in Knitty, isn't perfect though - or at least, not to my mind. The first stumbling block I ran into was in casting on the stitches for the horizontal band - I found that in order to maintain the rib of the horizontal band, I needed to cast on 55 sts, not 54, or else I ended up with only one purl stitch between the border of the body and the horizontal band, where all other purl ditches were made of two stitches. Also, I ended up changing up the ordering of cabled bands and plain ribbed bands so that they matched the sample photo - as written, you end up with a cabled band closest to the hem, but the sample shows a plain band closest to the hem. I also did my last row of the horizontal band with cables, to better match the other end of the horizontal band.

I didn't take any pictures of the finished sweater before blocking it, but the horizontal band made me super nervous - it's basically ribbing, so it was all bunched up and gave the cardigan a rather spare tire-esque silhouette. It also made the sweater much shorter. Imagine that - a slightly cropped cardigan with boatloads of spare fabric scrunched up around the tummy. So flattering. Of course, blocking fixed that all right up. That being said, even though this yarn is superwash and the label specifically says that it can be machine dried, I don't think I'll ever do that - I'll need to lay the sweater out to make sure that the horizontal band blocks out properly.

One other problem with this sweater - the fronts have that nifty angling to them, thanks to the short rows worked along the lower edge of the body before starting the horizontal band, which is great, but results in a lot of fabric swirling about your torso, which in and of itself isn't a problem, but those angled fronts are not exempt from gravity, so they want to hang down. What I mean is, because of the angling, the tips of the two fronts of the cardigan are higher up than the remainder of the hem of the sweater. The sweater isn't fastened, though, so gravity just wants to pull them down - the sweater hangs open, and the fronts end up at roughly the same level as the rest of the hem. This pushes the fabric out at the sides, which I've found - if I'm not careful - can make me look wider and bulkier than I am. (Perhaps not from the back, though?)

A concerned individual could remedy this by fastening the cardigan closed - a belt would probably work really well. I may try that next time I wear it to work.



Also? I used yarn that was all from the same dye lot in making this sweater, but one skein was apparently different from the others - I did some alternating of skeins as I approached the switchover point, but for whatever bizarre reason, you can see where I stopped alternating and just continued on with the single skein. Fortunately, this happened right where a side seam would have been if there had been any seams in this sweater. So, really, you can only see the line if you look closely from the side. Otherwise, things seem just fine.

I think that gets me all caught up on things I've finished in the past little while - really, this sweater was the one thing sort of lurking in the back of my mind as 'unblogged'. There's still a lot of yarn kicking about - I, um, bought a tiny bit more last week.

Better keep knitting.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

K'done: Chi-Chi Cowl

Oh, gee, look. Another cowl.



Pattern: Chi-Chi Cowl, by Sarah Wilson
Yarn: Scarlet Fleece Silk & Ivory, in Claret
Needles: 8 mm / US 11



I cast on for this as my game player began playing Hitman: Absolution. It was a bit slow going at first, because you jump right into a chart, and it's hard to watch video game play while consulting a chart. That being said, the chart isn't super complicated, and once I'd worked out how the cable crosses fit into the lace scheme, I didn't need the chart anymore, and things started going more quickly and smoothly at that point. Still, he finished the game before I finished the cowl - I think I only got about 2/3 of the way through while the game was on. The rest just got knocked out in odd moments here and there.

While the chart is totally memorizable and logical so you don't need to be a chart slave, it's still got enough going on to provide what some would call interest - meaning if you're the type who gets bored with straight-up stockinette or garter, then you will not be bored with this. I knit it with the yarn held double, and was worried about that giving me grief as I did the cabling, but it was fine. No problems due to doubled yarn at all. There may have been a few moments where the cabling itself did not go totally smoothly, but that was due to a malfunction of mine, and not of the yarn.



I knit the second smallest size in the pattern, for a couple of reasons. One, I wanted to maximize my yarn usage, and I had 4 skeins of the Silk & Ivory, which is about 800 yards. Two, I knew I wasn't going to hit the target gauge - 10 sts to 4" - so I knew my cowl would come out smaller than the pattern predicted. Instead of going out and buying a new needle - something ridiculous like a 10 or 12 mm needle - I decided to roll with the smaller gauge, and cast on more stitches. Then, because I was trying to use as close to all my yarn as possible, I ended up with 3.5 repeats of the chart. I actually stopped consulting the pattern once I got the chart in my head, so I'm not sure how many repeats are written in there - it's possible that I didn't do any upsizing in this department at all.



I love it when a plan comes together - I am thrilled with the finished piece. The cables and big gauge give it squish value, while the lace and silk/merino blend give it some polish. Or, well, I think so, at any rate. I can absolutely wear this one to work - which is great, because that's exactly what I want. Awesome.

Oh, and for those who are wondering about how much difference blocking makes? Check this out:



That's a shot of the cowl fresh off the needles. Admittedly, the pic was snapped at night, so the colour looks different because of the absence of natural lighting. But what I want to point out is how nubbly and lumpy it looks before blocking. Blocking saves, yo.