Tuesday, July 21, 2015

K'done: Ophidia socks

Sliding and slithering in on time.

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

Approximate knitting time: 35 h 15 min

Tour rank: #115

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This technique doesn't work for vertical stranding.

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

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

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

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

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

Bring it!

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