Monday, June 29, 2015

K'done: Touring Bubbles socks

Finalement!



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!

Friday, June 26, 2015

TdS 2015: stage 3, day 6

Getting there.



In fact, I think these will be done tonight. Given that today has so far had zero knitting time, and it is now 4:30 PM local time, that might seem like a pipe dream, but I anticipate being able to put in some good time after dinner, and really, there's only about 30 rounds of foot left, and then the toe. Easy peasy, right?

Thursday, June 25, 2015

TdS 2015: stage 3, days 4 & 5

Yesterday, when I woke up, I had this:



It looked as though if I really put in the time, I might be able to make my top 10% goal after all.

As the day wore on, and I found myself forced to attend to other things - so many other things - finisher #91 rolled in somewhere. I'll have to settle for completion points on this one, because this morning? I have this:



Yep. I only managed to get in maybe 20 25 rounds throughout all of yesterday. Sigh.

Let's see how today goes.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

TdS 2015: stage 3, day 3

What you see is what I got:



Honestly? Not as much as I'd hoped. I cruised down the leg in the morning, thinking that I might be well into the foot by the end of the day, but then the rest of the day happened, with not much knitting time. Sigh.

Back to it!

Monday, June 22, 2015

TdS 2015: stage 3, days 1 & 2

I'm not sure if today is officially only day 2 of this stage - it was released at midnight official Tour time. Locally, though, the pattern dropped at 11 PM on Saturday, so to my mind that makes my Saturday day 1, and Sunday day 2.

Not that it matters much, because Sunday was also Father's Day, and while the Mister is not a father, we both have fathers, and while his father is too far away for more than a phone call, mine is a short drive from here, so we had my family over for dinner last night, so yesterday was really really not so much with the knitting time. Witness, day 1:



Day 2:



I swear there is a difference between those two, but it's subtle - about five rounds' worth of difference.

Meanwhile, there are many many finished pairs appearing - or should that read Finnished pairs? Because the vast majority of those who are done are Finns. Oh well. I better get a move on if I want to meet my goal!

Thursday, June 18, 2015

K'done: Far Into the Forest socks

Boo-yah!



Pattern: Far Into the Forest, by Kirsten Hall
Yarn: Invictus Yarns Adventure, in More Power (pink), and Knit Picks Stroll, in Basalt Heather (grey)
Needles: 2.5 mm / US 1.5

Tour rank: #90
Actual knitting time: 44 hours, not a word of a lie



I'm feeling really good about these socks right now because I was so sure I didn't make my top 10% goal when I submitted the finished sock pictures to the Tour Director yesterday evening. There had been so many finishers, and the leaderboard hadn't yet been updated beyond finisher # 75 or so, and I just wasn't up to spending the time trying to figure out if I made it or not - I was so sure I hadn't.

Then I woke up this morning, and checked, and it had been updated, and there was my Rav name - in the very last possible position to get more than completion points. Instant euphoria.

Because these socks had teeth hiding behind those spooky leafy eyes.

Charts don't scare me, or bother me - in fact, I usually prefer them over written directions now, great big walls of text can be hard to parse, but charts you can sort out what's going on fairly quickly once you've got the symbols in your head, so you can usually just give them quick glances as you work your way through. Even large charts - I see them and have a mental ugh moment, but once I start working it comes together nicely fairly quickly.

These charts, though? I don't know why, but I had a really hard time with them. I had to stop and count more than I thought I should. I lost my place as I worked through them many, many times, leading to much tinking back to correct errors. All made the more frustrating since I was trying so hard to be nimble and quick, knowing that I am wickedly slow with colourwork due to lack of practice. The most frustrating thing that happened, though, was on the leg of the second sock - I missed the first double decrease on one side of the calf chart, and didn't realize it until the chart was nearly complete. Some 21 or so rounds later. That led to this:



To correct the error (and prevent my socks from becoming an exhibition only pair), I dropped a few stitches down to where I figured the chart began, to rework all those stitches as they should have been. I dropped more stitches than I needed to, because I didn't think that part through very carefully since I was trying to hurry, and about halfway through the dropping process I realized I should probably figure out how far I needed to go. I took a good look at my knitting, and isolated the row that I needed, then told myself this was no time for silly errors and went back and counted the rows down to where I needed to be - one row lower than my eyeballing had picked. Except, I did something wrong in the counting process, because when I got back up to the top, I realized I had actually dropped down one row too far. I'd been right when I eyeballed it. Back down I went, dropping stitches all the way back to where I'd been before, working a plain row, then doing the chart as I should have the very first time. I didn't time this bit specifically, but I'd guess it took about 2 hours - it felt like FOREVER.



It was really gratifying to see today that I met my own little goal on these socks after all!

Colour-wise, I ended up going for the grey and pink contrast after all, despite the similarities in values. I did this because when I saw the sample pair in the pattern, worked up in super high-contrast yellow and black, I looked at that column of leaves looking like wicked eyes marching up the fronts of the socks in pairs, and I felt the beginnings of a whimper start in my larynx, and reasoned that making myself a pair of socks that will make me yelp every time I open my sock drawer is not a good plan. I hoped that a less stark contrast between yarn colours would make for an overall friendlier looking pair of socks. I think the plan worked out - these don't make me want to fling them away and flee in fear.

Despite the fact that these were more demanding, effort-wise, I really enjoyed working the pattern. No big crazy long floats to manage - in fact, the colours alternate so frequently that the floats seemed to sort of manage themselves. The strong vertical patterning also makes my feet look rather narrow and dainty, instead of the odd oars attached to sturdy ankles that I know them to be. The heel turn and heel flap were a bit cumbersome to work because you have to purl while still alternating colours, and the way I hold the yarn for purling doesn't work for more than one yarn strand, so I had to switch to a two-handed practice for those, which felt a bit awkward because I haven't carried yarn in my right for so long now. On the second sock, I tried continuing to work two-handedly on right side rows for the heel and up the leg, wondering if it might be faster, then gave it up - it didn't seem to be speeding me up any, but it did seem to be tightening up my work a little, the dominant yarn wasn't 'popping' as much as before. I don't think it's a super noticeable difference in the finished socks - didn't affect the fit in any way that I can detect - but I don't think I'll bother with that in the future. It actually started giving my right hand a bit of a cramp!

I probably used about 50 g of each yarn for these socks - that one 50 g ball of the Knit Picks was nearly completely used up. I haven't weighed the remnants of the Invictus yarn, but there looks to be a goodly amount - certainly enough for another pair of stranded socks!

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

TdS 2015: stage 2, day 5

Hey, hey!



My second sock nearly has a complete heel flap. From there it's a cruise up the leg. With, like, 88 sts per round. Still, if I can put in the time today, there's a (very small) chance that these could be done tonight!

Which would be great, because tomorrow's shaping up to not have tons of knitting time in it.

Monday, June 15, 2015

TdS 2015: stage 2, days 3 & 4

Another twofer, because weekends can be like that.

Day 3 saw me to here:



Agonizingly close to a complete sock. Sadly, it took me a fourth day to get that done, and because weekends are not so much with the knitting time for me, this is far as I was when the lights went out last night:



I could wave my hands around dismissively and say something about just not being able to put the time in to get these done, but that wouldn't be the whole truth: my timer app tells me I've put in over 24 hours into that sock and toe. I cannot deny that adding that second colour slows me down a whole bunch.

But that's okay. It may not be true for all - there are many finished pairs already - but it's gotta be true for more than just me, right? I better get back at it if I want to meet my top 10% goal.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

TdS 2015: stage 2, days 1 & 2

Photobucket wouldn't let me save edits to the photo I snapped yesterday morning for reasons that are unclear to me. Rather than waste time trying to futz about with it to make it work, I just gave up and went back to my sock. Today it's working as it should, so we'll catch up now.

Day 1 saw me produce this:



Quite a bit less than stage 1, no? There are two blindingly obvious reasons for why I'm going more slowly this stage:

1. This is not sport weight yarn. No more 56 st rounds!

2. This is stranded. I, um, have not had much practice with stranded.

Day 2 got me to here:



That doesn't seem like a whole lot more, but that there is a two-colour heel turn and flap, and stranded purling was a new and puzzling experience for me, and also I'm pretty sure I didn't 'lock' my yarns right on the heel flap, because when I push my fingers against the join, little gaps appear - I'll show you later.

I gotta get back to it. I'm hoping to have this first sock done tonight.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Halp

Combining colours isn't really my thing. I can certainly appreciate good combinations other people put together, but ask me to put things together, and I kind of flail around picking things semi-randomly.

For this year's Tour, several of the socks call for more than one colour of yarn, and the next stage is one of them. There's all sort of wild speculation about what technique the pattern will actually call for - people with more experience in this area are basing their ideas on the indicated pattern gauge, with terms like shadow knitting, illusion knitting (same thing as shadow knitting, I know), mosaic, or even straight up stranded being tossed around. I've never done illusion before, and it's on my list of techniques I'd like to have a whack at some day, so that would be fun, but I don't do much mosaic or stranded either, so I'd be happy with those too.

In any event, I'm not speculating, because I don't have any experience to guide me, but I do need to prepare for pattern drop on Thursday. That means gathering up two yarns that I think work well together, and because I am me, I want them to match in fibre content. Optimally, they'd even be from the same dyer/brand, and my original plan was to just pop two skeins of sponsor yarn together. But, looking at the quantities, it seems as though there'd be lots leftover - the supply list calls for 190 - 250 yards of each colour. That's basically 50 g per colour. Understanding that made me hesitate in breaking into two skeins of precious sponsor yarn - after all, I only need to use one to get the sponsor bonus point.

Then I remembered the skein that I used for last year's stage one socks, then undid because I didn't care for the fit. That yarn is a 75%/25% merino/nylon blend. I have a few random balls of Knit Picks Stroll in my not-so-mini-anymore stash, and some are even in weird quantities since I got them in kits, so there's too much for a pair of socks, but probably not enough for two. Pairing these up seemed a good opportunity, since the Stroll is also 75%/25% merino/nylon.

One of the odd quantities I have is in a colourway called Basalt Heather - it's a deep grey, and I used some of it in my first Tour. Thanks to that one kit I bought, I had 3 50 g balls left, plus the remnants from what I used for that one pair. It seemed to me that this was a great way to use some of it up, and still have enough left for another pair of socks. So I grabbed the odd ball, and wound it up in preparation. If it turns out that the 50 g isn't really enough, I can dig out the little remnant balls, and still not have to break into the remaining two balls.

I put my pre-wound cakes together, and all was happy and fine for a couple of days. And then I remembered something I saw ages ago, something about colour theory, something I've been seeing in the Tour chatter threads since it snuck its way back into my consciousness.



There they are, on a black background, with a ball of black Stroll too. The grey and the variegated pinky red are quite distinct from each other. But, if you convert the photo to greyscale to assess contrast:



Suddenly they're not so different. They have similar values. And that's got me worried, because the supply lists recommend high contrast yarns, and while my eyes tell me that these are really different colours, I'm worried that whatever the stitch pattern is, it'll get muddied up by the similar values of the two colours.

That's why the black ball is there. I'm going to wind it up, and it'll be my fallback plan, and when the pattern drops and I can see it, then I'll make the final call. I'm just so unsure. Does value only matter if your colours are in the same family/part of the colour wheel? Or is it always going to factor in to contrast?

If you've got some colour theory know-how, advice is well appreciated. This monochromatic girl is so very confused.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

K'done: Virrat socks

Woot woot!



Pattern: Virrat, by Tiina Kuu
Yarn: Invictus Yarns SportMaster, in True
Needles: 2.75 mm / US 2

Tour rank: #72
Actual knitting time: approx. 19 hours

I snapped that image in my rush to submit to Tour Officials, and yesterday was cloudy and grey, with not much light coming in through the window, so I didn't take any extras. Today is better, but I am feeling lazy, and I cleaned up the kitchen this morning and made a batch of chocolate chip cookie dough, which sort of took all the oomph out of my getting-things-done sails. Maybe this weekend I'll take some better pictures and update this post. It's supposed to be gloriously sunny. When I woke up this morning, I thought I'd wait until the weekend to write this up, but I realized that there would be no progress shot posted today, and I've got a bit of time now anyhow, so here we are.

This was my very first sport weight sock. I ordered a single lonely skein of SportMaster to try once the supply lists for the Tour were released (and she had some in stock, and the exchange rate worked out a bit better), and fretted about the gauge. I rely a lot on past experience to tell me something about what needle size I should use to hit a given target gauge, and my lack of experience with sport weight socks and the required gauge - 27 sts to 4" - meant I didn't really have any past experience to guide me. I sat down a couple of days before pattern drop and wound up the yarn, halved the skein, and then did some very minor swatching. Not proper swatching - I cast on 14 stitches, knit a few rows, measured, then pulled it out. I did that twice - once on 2.75 mm needles, and once more on 3 mm needles. My little fabric bit was closer to 2" with the 3 mm, so I decided to go with that.

And then the pattern dropped, and I saw the stitch counts for each of the sock sizes, and freaked out suddenly past experience started telling me things. The smallest size in the pattern was worked over 56 stitches. Once upon a time, when I was still relatively new to sock knitting, I worked socks in fingering weight yarn on 2.75 mm needles, because that gave me 8 sts to the inch, which was what the patterns told me I should be aiming for. I found, though, that I got a nice fit with the sock worked over 56 stitches, rather than the 60 or 64 that the patterns I was working from were sized for. (Unless there were lots of cables, then I needed to bump it up.) So here's this pattern worked with sport weight yarn over 56 stitches, and I was about to cast on with a needle that was a bit bigger than I had previously been using for socks worked over 56 stitches. I switched the needles out, and then cast on.

And proceeded to worry about the fit pretty much the whole way through the first sock. These are worked toe up, and I was able to try the sock on up until I finished the heel, at which point trying it on becomes a no go unless I take the time to thread a lifeline and remove the needles. (I've never done that for socks, by the way.) I gave the leg nervous glances the whole time I was coaxing it into being. I have sturdy ankles. Would this leg accommodate my sturdy ankles? Would it go over my heel? There are twists/2-stitch cables/traveling stitches in this pattern. Would they allow the required lateral stretch?

Once that first sock was done, I pulled it on - with no trouble at all. Good. On to the second.

It's not super obvious in the image I've shared here, but I had a bit of laddering going on with these socks, and some of the stitches adjacent to the cables are a bit loose. A wash will likely solve the laddering - always seems to with the minor ladders I sometimes see in socks - but I'm thinking maybe I will like myself more if I actually start taking proactive steps to prevent sloppy stitches at DPN joins, or at cable edges. They've never really bothered me much, but maybe I've been in denial.

Tech specs: since these are Tour socks, I couldn't deviate from what the pattern told me to do. These socks feature a star-shaped toe, which was new to me, and while at the moment I think I prefer the look of a rounded wedge toe, we'll see how the wearing goes. Part of my hesitation with the star-shaped toe is that the sock starts its life with a hole at the tip of the toe. It gets fastened off, much like the top of a hat, so it doesn't stay a hole, but I'm still a bit nervous about it. These also featured a sewn bind off, which was simple to execute, came out quite tidy, and is fairly stretchy, but I'm still a bit ambivalent about it on principle - I prefer to avoid cast on and bind off techniques that require you to estimate and set aside a long stretch of yarn, because if you estimate wrong and end up too short, it's crazy making, and if you estimate wrong and end up too long, you end up with a stretch of wasted yarn. With the amount of yarn chicken I end up playing, wasting yarn is a big no-no in my book. Then again, I've figured out how much of a tail I need to leave for Kitchenering a toe closed, so maybe with some more practice I'll get better at estimating the length needed for a sewn bind off?

What else is there to report on these socks? The yarn was fabulous. I heart the colour, and the feel of it in the hands was wonderful - which I was expecting since it's a heavier version of Master of My Feet, which I knew to be fabulous. Nice and smooth, not splitty. I have some regrets about having only ordered a single skein. Then again, we'll see how much I wear these - I haven't tried them on in shoes yet, and I probably won't until the fall.

Also - in terms of Tour ranking - because there are more participants this year (just shy of 900, I believe!), the Tour Organizers have rejiggered the points system again. I realized that they're basically aiming for more points for the top 10% of finishers. So I totally met my goal of getting more than just completion points on this round!

Here's hoping I can keep this up.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

TdS 2015: stage 1, day 2

Yesterday's work:



Gotta go - I think I can finish today!

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

TdS 2015: stage 1, day 1

I meant to get a sort of teaser post done, rounding up all my sponsor yarn, but life got in the way.

Yesterday, I managed to produce this:



Before you get too excited, it's a sport weight sock, but I'm being weird on gauge - more on that later. Also, I think somewhere around 15 people have already finished, so it is a pretty fast pair. That being said, with the way yesterday went, and with the way today and tomorrow should shape up, I think I'll be done at some point tomorrow!