Saturday, June 29, 2013

Meep

Round four of the Tour starts tomorrow.

I'm all atwitter with anticipation. I've really been enjoying this whole thing.

In fact, I'm enjoying myself so much, I've started to worry about what I'll do once the Tour is over.

On the one hand, it'll be freeing - I can knit whatever I want, and if there's something about the pattern that I would rather do a different way, I can totally do it.

On the other hand? No more Tour till next year. Which bums me out.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. There are still three rounds to go!

Come on, pattern release. I need to make a final decision about my yarn and beads.

Monday, June 24, 2013

K'done: Chicane Socks

Playing catch up here - these socks were round 2 of TdS 2013, finished last week, but I had no time to blog them because round 3 was starting!



Pattern: Chicane Socks, by Debbie O'Neill
Yarn: Knit Picks Stroll Tonal, in Blue Violet, with a little Eggplant (not tonal) for the colourwork
Needles: 2.25 mm / US 1



Captain Obvious says there are a lot of cables in these socks.

If you're like me and enjoy cabling, then that's good news. If you're cable averse, you may wish to avoid these socks. They're not the sorts of cables that require a cable needle (though I must admit I am becoming increasingly convinced that one does not ever need a cable needle) - they're just little two-stitch twists. Much as I like twists, I did find that they slowed my knitting down, which started to grate on my nerves simply because I was in a race. Also? The Stroll worked against me in the twists.

Now, don't get me wrong. I like Stroll, and I think there will always be some in my sock yarn stash. It's machine wash and tumble dry, which makes it super easy care, it comes in a nice, fairly wide range of pleasing colours, it's mostly merino and is thus pleasantly soft, and the nylon content in it makes it wear fairly well. The price isn't outrageous, so it appeals to the thrifty person in me, and the price gets even better if you wait for a sale - which I do. In fact, I just bought some more Stroll in the past few weeks - I picked up a knee-high sock kit that bundled 13 50g balls of Stroll together for $40 USD on clearance.

The downside of Stroll, though, is that it is pretty loosely plied - or, well, maybe someone who knows something about spinning can correct me there, but the plies separate really easily, which means it's easy to inadvertently split the yarn as you knit - instead of picking up the entire strand of yarn, your working needle pierces through the strand, grabbing only a portion of the leg of the stitch to be worked. Now, I've used Stroll for many socks now, and I've never been overly bothered by this splitty tendency, but for these socks? Working all those twists? The splitting became a real nuisance.

Take home message: choose your yarn wisely.



These socks also mark my first foray into stranded knitting. Since they were worked over a whopping 72 stitches, I didn't go up a needle size for the colourwork, I just turned the work inside out and paid attention to my floats. Clearly, they fit - those are my feet in the pictures - but there is a rather dramatic decrease in the stretchiness of the fabric over the stranded portion. I think a small bump in needle size - like, a 2.5 mm - is called for in future stranded knitting worked over a similarly large number of stitches. (I went up as far as 2.75 mm for my Lebowski socks, because those were worked over only 66 stitches.)

All in all, I am very happy with how these socks turned out, and I'm also extremely pleased that they were done in time! During this round of the Tour, I lost nearly three days as we rented a car and drove from Calgary to Vancouver (Friday - it's a 10 hour drive!) to attend a wedding reception (Saturday evening and night), and then drive back to Calgary (Sunday). My initial plan had been to finish the socks before we left, but the newness of stranded knitting and the decreased pace due to the twists, along with other errands that needed to be done before embarking on a road trip made that impossible. I took the socks with me, but being the driver, found very little time to work on them. I managed to get maybe an inch of foot, a toe, and then an inch of leg done over the entire weekend. I wasn't worried, though, because I still had time - my head told me that the cutoff time was 5 AM local time on the Thursday, so as long as I finished on Wednesday, I'd be fine. Then, on Tuesday afternoon, I double-checked, and the cutoff time was actually 5 AM local time on Wednesday, which meant I needed to finish that night. I was into the foot of the second sock at that point, so it seemed doable. Even though I had dinner plans for that evening that couldn't be changed.

I sent off my finished pictures to the Tour Director at 2:17 AM local time.

So these were a bit of a squeaker. So much for not letting the Tour disrupt my life!

Like I said, though. These are done. I like them. I am happy.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

K'done: Lebowski Socks

Dude.



Pattern: Lebowski, by Star Athena
Yarn: Knit Picks Stroll Tonal, in Royalty (purple), Summer Blooms (pink), and Eggplant (very dark purple - this one's not tonal), all remnants from other socks
Needles: 2.25 mm / US 1; 2.75 mm / US 2 for stranded portion



I want to say this was a fun knit. A plaintive voice in my head wants me to put a big qualifier on that, though, because while I enjoyed the two-row stripes, and the mosaic curlicue pattern, and the stranded darts, I most definitely did NOT enjoy the intarsia on the heel flap.

Except, that's not actually true. Yes, the first flap was ridiculously slow - but probably because it was the first time I've ever done intarsia. There are lots of strands to keep track of and manage, and lots of switching of working yarns as you go, so the first time takes some additional time and concentration. The second heel flap still required a lot of attention, but it did go quicker, I think. The actual knitting of intarsia isn't really that bad.

It's the finishing that'll get ya.



This is the wrong side of the heel flap on the second sock - tidier than the first one, because I wasn't so hyper about running short on yarn, I left the tails too short to comfortably weave in on the first one, so I ended up using a small crochet hook to try to secure the ends, and that got tedious in a big hurry, so I ended up weaving in the tail over fewer stitches and just leaving the end so that if disaster struck and the end worked itself loose, I would have enough tail to re-secure it. With the second sock, I could clearly see that there would be no yarn shortage, so I left longer tails and used a tapestry needle like usual.

With all the ends tucked away, it doesn't look so bad. But I also took a shot of the first sock's heel flap, before securing any ends:



So. Many. Ends. An image to strike fear into the heart of anyone who, like me, dislikes that part of finishing that requires securing the ends. As I did so for the second sock's heel flap, I counted the bits of yarn that I trimmed away. The total count? 22. That's right. Twenty-two ends to secure. On a single heel flap.

A-yup. If I can help it, I'm never doing intarsia again.

Now, I realize that some motifs just don't lend themselves to other techniques - that's why we have intarsia in the first place, right? So if the motif is one that you just can't live without, then you have to suck it up and do the intarsia. For my personal taste, though, that eagle on the heel flap isn't a sufficient payout for the intarsia finishing cost. The only reason I knit these socks exactly as written is because I had to for the Tour.

When I do 'em again - because I probably will, I liked everything else about the pattern quite a lot - I'll switch that heel flap out for a standard one with slipped stitches.

For now, though, I'm done with Tour knitting until next week, when Stage 4 begins at 5 AM local time. I will not be waking up early to begin knitting, and that's a Sunday, which means I likely won't be able to start knitting until early afternoon - I'll have a handicap going into this stage. It's okay - I'm in this for fun, and really? I haven't a hope of winning any of the big prizes anyway. I just want to keep up and finish the Tour.

Now. What to do till next Sunday?

Oh. Right. I have work-related stuff to do that I've been procrastinating on in favour of prioritizing sockracing time.

Well, they say balance is the key to everything, right?

TdS 2013: round 3, day 4



Getting there - just a cruise down the gussets and foot, then the toe.

No more intarsia. Phew.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

TdS 2013: round 3, day 3



Ignore the bit of pink on the new cuff - I joined it on first thing this morning and started chugging before remembering to stop and snap a photo. When I went to bed last night, I only had the purple of the cuff done.

But the first sock is all done, including all the weaving in of ends! And, I'll save the gory picture for the eventual k'done post, but that intarsia heel flap? Results in boatloads of ends to secure.

And now I should probably do a bit of kitchen cleaning before moving on with sock #2 - just about to start the heel flap. More intarsia. More ends.

Wheeeeeeeee.

Friday, June 21, 2013

TdS 2013: round 3, day 2

Hm, this day sort of got away from me. Here's yesterday's progress:



Pretty pitiful, because the flipping intarsia panel heel flap took me for-freaking-EVER. While I was there, I snapped the required shot of the wrong side, showing all umpteen ends that need to be secured, and then I also took a few minutes 30 - 45 minutes to go through and secure them all. I figured it'd be a pain and a half to do it later. I didn't go through and secure all my other colourwork ends from the mosaic and stranded portions, but those won't be too bad to deal with later. A few of them I wove in as I worked.

I just have to do it all one more time. For sock #2 of the pair.

Guh.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

TdS 2013: round 3, day 1



I know. I fell behind here. I'll catch up later. I did finish the round 2 socks, just in time - more on that later. Right now I need to go tend to some basic personal hygiene (i.e., I need to have a shower), and then it will be knitting time.

Because the first few finishers are already done!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

TdS 2013: round 2, day 3



It's become clear to me that these socks will not be wrapped up today, so I thought it might be prudent to get the second bit of stranded knitting taken care of yesterday. I hope to get sock #1 wrapped up today, but today is sort of busy with non-sock pursuits.

I still have lots of time before the cutoff of this stage, so I'm disappointed, but not worried yet. I had been hoping to improve upon my performance from the last round, but that's clearly not happening.

And for round 3? The word intarsia is being bandied about. I quiver in fear.

I've never done intarsia before.

Of course, I'd never done beading or stranded colourwork before either, and now I've done both. Still, something about intarsia makes me nervous.

Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go bake a batch of cookies and then clean up the cooking detritus. Sigh.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

TdS 2013: round 2, day 2

Quite a few folks are already done. And here's where I'm at:



I'm honestly disappointed with how little progress I made yesterday. I sure hope today will be better, but it's not off to a great start so far - been out running around all morning. I'll eat something as quick as I can, then hunker down for some quality knitting time this afternoon.

Time to bust a move.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

TdS 2013: round 2, day 1



I meant to get this up earlier, but the day sort of got away from me.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

K'done: The Secret Fan Socks

All done on day 4 of round 1!



Pattern: The Secret Fan, by Adrienne Fong
Yarn: Knit Picks Stroll, in Basalt Heather
Needles: 2.25 mm / US 1

I wove in the ends and took some hasty pictures for racing purposes right before sitting down (a bit late) to dinner, and then later took a few more pictures, hoping to improve on the visual presentation.

Honestly, I was a little on edge about the whole signing-on-to-knit-a-pattern-I-haven't-seen-yet thing that is the Tour de Sock. Add to that the fact that I'd never worked with beads in knitting before. When I opened up the pattern on Saturday morning, though, I was relieved - the first sock is not wildly counter to my own personal tastes. To be honest, I'm not sure I would have chosen to knit it on my own if I'd just happened to stumble upon the pattern.

I am, however, very glad that I did knit these. For one thing, adding beads to knitting is a pretty good time. A slow time, but a good time. For another, this pattern is full of little details that are quite clever, and I found them to be immensely satisfying to knit and behold in the finished object. I found myself completely charmed by the gentle twists that travel down the outside edges of the pattern repeat - so, two on either side of the sock, until they split off for the heel, where one carries down the edges of the heel flap while the other continues down the foot. I was enchanted by the patterning on the heel flap - slip ribs in the middle, as if to create a (rather large and sturdy) handle for the bottom-most fan at the back of the leg, with eye of partridge on either side. I'm not sure it ever would have occurred to me to mix up different heel stitch motifs, but now that I've seen it done, I'm scheming about other visually interesting things that might be doable. The gusset treatment is different and intriguing as well, placing the decreases on the bottom of the foot, rather than at the sides where the instep stitches meet the sole stitches. The result is a sort of tear-drop shaped bit of fabric that goes under the heel, and creates a sort of pouch in the sock to cradle the heel. The twists on either side of the foot travel all the way down to the toes - the toe decreases are shifted away from the outside edge of the instep stitches to allow the twists to continue undisturbed, and they very nearly meet at the very tip of the toe. Very cute touch.



The pattern only calls for one beaded sock, and when I saw that on Saturday morning, I wondered if I could press my luck and work up the non-beaded sock first, and then hopefully have my beads on Monday to do the beaded sock. I decided against it - for one, I wanted to be a bit faster than that anyway, and for two, there was no guarantee that my beads would arrive on Monday. My non-gamble was a good call - according to tracking, the beads were delivered yesterday (Tuesday), though they didn't come straight to my house, which I was expecting with expedited shipping, but they should be up in the superbox up the street - I'll take a wander up there to check a bit later today.

Also, I decided to put beads on both socks, for matching, but I respected the pattern's asymmetry by putting the beads on a front fan on one sock and a back fan on the other. The bead and yarn combination I used resulted in not terribly secret fans, but I'm okay with that.

From what I can tell from the Photo Finish thread, I am finisher #59 for this stage of the race. (Edit: I found the official leader board, and it turns out I am finisher #62.) Not great, but pretty decent, I think - I knew from the beginning that this stage would be a bit slower for me since it started at 7 AM local time on a Saturday, which meant I would have a several hour handicap because our Saturday routine does not include me waking up at 7 AM to start frantically knitting. Really, weekends in general don't have much knitting time in them. I managed to force more than usual in - more so on Saturday than Sunday - but still the weekend totaled about 15 hours knitting time, I think, and some of those hours - two or three? - were slower because they were video game knitting hours.

Stage 2 starts next Monday, 9:30 AM local time. I have a Skype meeting scheduled for noon that will probably last about an hour, but other than that? Should be a pretty sockracey day.

In the meantime? I desperately need to tend to the cooking detritus that I've been willfully ignoring since Saturday, and I have some stuff that needs to be done in the next couple of days to prepare for that meeting on Monday, but knitwise? I have some things on the go, but I'm sort of wondering if I should give my hands a bit of a break. They don't hurt or anything, but after a few hours of dedicated sockracing knitting, I could feel a bit of fatigue in some of my hand muscles. They were always fine in the morning, so I'm not worried about injury, really. There was one worrisome moment on Monday afternoon when I realized that for some reason, I was doing this death-grip thing with my right hand, and the increased tension in my fingers shifted the needle into the tipmost knuckle bend on my ring finger and put increased pressure there, and the tip of my finger went numb. I paid particular attention to my grip and needle position after that, and it's fine. I think it was the p2tog that made me tense up - carrying the yarn in my left hand means a less than optimal angle for a p2tog, which was usually fine but ended up sort of problematic if I was trying to do it with the last two stitches on the needle - the working yarn would slip out as I was trying to pull the new stitch through.

It feels a little weird to not be reaching for a sock at every opportune moment because I'm in a big hurry to get them done. I have the yarn for stage 2 all wound up and ready to go, and sort of feel like I should be casting on. But the pattern's not out yet. I have to wait till next week!

Maybe I'll put a little more time into a sweater.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

TdS 2013: round 1, day 3



Here's hoping today sees me finish!

Monday, June 3, 2013

TdS: Round 1, day 2



Didn't quite get the toe finished last night. But I have high hopes for today.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

TdS: round 1, day 1



That's a completed leg, heel flap, and heel turn. And the start of picking up for the gussets. I'm not timing these - there's enough pressure to go as fast as I can!

Oh, and when I checked the thread last night, as I was starting the heel flap? There were two folks who were already done the pair. I knew when I signed up that I wouldn't be first or anything, but seriously? It's rather humbling to realize that I am so significantly outclassed.

No matter, though. It's all in good fun!