back in the saddle

Last month I got a bit of a body blow on the crafting front. I lost my knitting bag on the subway, and it was never turned in to the lost & found.

The bag included my tools pouch, which amongst other things contained the One Perfect Tapestry Needle I'd had since I was nine years old. It came with the first needlepoint kit I ever made all by myself, and I'd been using it to sew together and darn most anything yarn-like ever since. It's hard to explain, but it was just the right size, shape, and finish to do everything from bulky sweaters to fingering-weight socks with. I would use other needles, but it was my default, and I'd used it for over half my life.

The knitting was a second pair of Space Invaders Socks I was working on for my friend Cathy, a request from her. I'd just made it past the leg and was working on the foot of the first sock, and I was already late with them.

The bag itself was a loss. It was a hand-made, hand-screen-printed promo item for Alice Hearts Welsh Zombies, a hilarious novel I picked up a couple of years ago when it was first published. The authors themselves made the bags as giveaways for when people bought two or more copies of the book.

Of course, the grown-up thing to do is chant, "They were only things, if it happened it was meant to be, you've had lots of close shaves before and it was finally your turn," but still... it's hard to get going again. Of course the day I lost the bag I was feeling physically crappy, and had had a busy day at work, and of course there was a subway weirdo near me who was being weirder than the norm and not a little scary... it was one of those perfect storm things.

To make up for losing the Space Invaders Socks, I made Cathy this Skull Cap:

It's a free pattern that Icy Sedgwick posted to Pinterest. I added the optional lining (hard to see here) in a greyish-purple colour. Despite adding some extra rows of the black lattice pattern, the hat came out shorter than I would have liked, but Cathy says she's been wearing it, so that's what's important.

The entire hat was sourced from stash yarn and crocheted in an evening. It was exactly the kind of quick, funky project I needed to get my crafting mojo back in gear again.

I also made (and managed to not lose) Cathy these orange spider socks:

These were another free pattern from Ravelry. The instructions on these were excellent — they were a lot easier to make than they look. The only real mod I made was when I was working the little spiders, but that was just to suit my brain, not because I disagreed with the pattern per se. The finished spiders look about the same as the ones in the pattern. These have been done since before December, but I didn't want to post about them until Cathy received them.

That leaves one more thing for Cathy on the needles and one new thing on the needles for me. I'm slowly getting used to my new tools pouch. But I'm still on the lookout for a new One Perfect Tapestry Needle.

KTS: beep!

I actually finished these about a month ago, but I've been busy writing up a storm for NaNoWriMo. So no blog post until now.

This is the third and last pair of socks slated as part of Knit that Shit. Like the other pairs of socks in the list, they were started just as my spine was going badly out of alignment, which is why they took so long to finish. I had to wait until I could knit without being in pain.

My chiropractor noted that I seem to be getting better at keeping my spine and other joints in place, so getting these done is a nice reward for that.

The original pattern is free online from Knitty. There were a few mods on these. I chose to use an olive instead of lime green for the bottom row of invaders, mostly because it was already in the stash. I also did my standard square heel instead of the striped short-row heel given in the pattern. Finally, I used my usual double-pointed needles instead of using circulars as given in the pattern. I know it's heresy, but I just don't find the circulars easier to work with for socks. Nothing against those who do, but I just don't.

Besides the thrill of actually getting these done, I was very pleased with the duplicate stitch "shooter" on the foot of the game sock (the sock on the left in the photo). My duplicate stitch has not always been consistent in the past, and this time I found a way to make it more consistent, which made me happy. (Turn the work upside down every other row so you always work right to left, or else switch hands so you are always working away from you.)

I've finished some other things in the meantime, but they're all Yule gifts, so they won't get posted about until later next month.

links and chains

I just saw that my last previous post was about seven weeks ago. That feels funny, because I've actually been working on lots of things — just not finishing much.

Partly that's because I keep adding on new things to do. My bead collection is a bit of a mess right now, because I've been sorting it into two new sets of drawers I got. They're not "crafty" at all — they're made by MasterCraft and I got them at Canadian Tire. They're the best thing I've found to sort beads, though.

That's got me thinking about jewelry making again, but the whole point of getting the drawers is that my beads are too disorganised to start a new project right now. So I went through my chain maille book (Chained by Rebecca Mojica), and ordered some jump rings in the appropriate sizes and colours from MetalDesignz. I figured since I'm on vacation this week and the Beaches Celtic Festival is this coming weekend, it was appropriate to get some chain maille jewelry done.

So far I've made a Helm chain necklace (about 50cm):

and a Helm Wave bracelet (about 23cm — I like my bracelets loose-fitting):

The bracelet was extra-fun to make. You start with a regular Helm chain that is about 40% longer than what you want the finished bracelet maille to be. In the photo, that's the aluminum links, which if you look closely have copper links every three repeats or so. Then you attach more copper links that form the visual "straight line" through the piece and make the aluminum parts wave.

Right now I'm working on a Byzantine chain necklace. I've played around with the Byzantine pattern before with spare jump rings, but this is the first time I'm actually going to make something with it. In its final form it will be the same length as the Helm chain necklace above:

As for the inevitable "how long did that take" question, the Helm necklace and the bracelet each came in at about two hours apiece. The necklace went a lot faster than I was led to believe from the instruction book, but that may be because I already have done some work with jump rings because of the beading I've done. The Byzantine chain is going more slowly, but that seems to be because the links are smaller and the chain pattern is both denser and a bit more complicated (the photo shows about 8cm).

So what about all those socks I was making? They're still on the go, although I admit I've had a lull lately (surprise 11-hour workdays plus having a sinus infection will do that). But I have got another pair done, the Longitudinal socks from Knitty:
If you squint at the sock on the left in the photo, you'll see there a few dark rows right in the centre. I made the leg section a bit longer than called for in the pattern and wound up being something like 4 metres short. I wound up getting some yarn that was close, but not a perfect match.

Having said that, I think these would be great socks for someone who wants to knit socks but doesn't have the confidence to do sock shaping yet. They're done entirely in garter stitch, and you just need to be able to increase, decrease, and graft. Yes, graft. In fact, these are great socks to learn how to graft on.

The stranded socks are started enough that the pattern is visible now:
That's just before I started the heel shaping. This pattern is about the third time I've tried toe-up socks, and I have to say I am not a convert. It's one time where I really can't figure out what everyone's raving about. I usually wind up doing the heels twice because I seem to have this magical power to make asymmetrical short-row heels, and contrary to the claims of adherents, I have a hard time getting the foot the right length.

The other three pairs of socks on the needles have all had good progress, but nothing worth taking a photo of. Next time I blog it will probably be to announce the BMP Space Invaders socks are done, which means I'll have one more item done for Knit That Shit. Can't wait.

this is so socked up

First, some good news: I finished the Heelix socks this morning! Here they are:

Okay, the ends still need to be darned in. But the knitting is done. So, yay!

The thing is, I've decided that I must have a Sock Project for Every Occasion on the go. That means that there are more socks on the needles.

For example, there's the colourwork socks I started with the leftovers from the pair I just finished (plus two skeins of background colour I bought):

But don't worry! I've been working on socks I was already working on. I made it past the heel shaping on the Carousel socks:

And it's not like I've forgotten about Knit that Shit either! Progress has been made on the Space Invaders socks, the last pair of socks from the meta-project:

And I've been stash-busting by starting a pair of Longitudinal socks:

That sock is considerably farther along already since I took the photo this morning.

I also did some more stash-busting by starting the Grün ist die Hoffnung pattern from Ravelry:

All in all, I have six pairs of socks on the go (one pair of which only needs the ends darned in), and I only bought two new skeins of sock yarn in order to use up some leftovers. That's a net loss of 600g of sock yarn. Plus for once I'll go through a winter with more than two pairs of warm socks to my name. Plus, as you can somewhat see from the photos, every single pair is constructed in a different way: heel out, toe-up half-stranded, sideways, cuff-down stranded, lengthwise in garter stitch, and finally instep-toe-sole-heel-leg. Educational. And fun.

And while it is fun, I can't wait for all of them to be done.


It is summer, which means that here at The Eyrea it's time for sock-making and stash-busting. Sock-making because it's one of the few projects one can work as a take-along during the summer without dying of heat exhaustion, and stash-busting because the summer always makes me want to de-clutter more.

I always seem to wind up with as many socks on the needles as I have needles to make socks with. In addition to the Space Invaders socks from the Knit that Shit meta-project (now on the second sock!), I have a pair of Double Heelix socks doing a decent job of using up some stash yarn:
The sock in the photo is done, and the second sock has the heel done and the foot about halfway done, with the leg left to go after that. These are surprisingly comfy socks (surprising because the heel is similar to a short-row heel, and those never fit me right). They have been getting a lot of positive comments from non-knitters when I work on them in public, mostly about the colour combination. Sadly, no-one appreciates the implications of the heel-out construction unless they are a knitter themselves, and even then they don't always spot it until I point it out. It's interesting: a sock that starts off as a very tricky geometric construction, but gets admired for its aesthetics!

If anyone reading this has been wanting to try to this pattern but is getting put off by the heel construction, don't be. For both socks I worked from the YouTube video, pausing it as I worked each step after watching the relevant part of the video. Once you get as far as the video takes you, it's not hard to work at all. I also made these to my usual 72 stitches, which is not given in the pattern but is easy enough to get to if you've made a few socks before.

I also used some more stash yarn to start the Carousel sock:

For this one, you knit a 12-stitch strip around the circumference of the leg and foot, attaching it in a spiraling fashion. That's most of the leg part in the photo. These are a little boring to work after you get the first round done, but are a great excuse to practise knitting back backwards.

On top of the three pairs of socks I have on the go, there's also the mitred jacket I started from leftovers. It's from the Swing, Swagger, Drape book by Jane Slicer-Smith:
That's most of a sleeve in the photo. I discovered to my horror that I have over two kilos of mismatched white, off-white and black yarn lying around, and this seemed like the most logical way to use it up. The yarns are all over the place in terms of shade and texture, but as you can see from the photo, they seem to blend well enough. All of the "white" areas in the photo are different combinations of white and off-white stripes. I'm not really following the stripe combinations in the book — just using them as a guide to make my own combinations. Although I have a lot of black, I have much more white and off-white, so that dictates the colour choices a lot.

The nice thing about mitred squares is that you're pretty much encourages to weave in the ends as you work. The two white ends at the top of the photo will get woven in once the side panels on the sleeves are completed. It makes for a tidy wrong side and, let's face it, uses up a little bit more yarn than having long runs of single colours.

Of all of these, the Space Invaders sock and the Double Heelix are the farthest along. It will be nice to start reporting some finished projects again!

KTS: one down

Today I finished one of the KTS projects! The hearts and harps (Kristi) socks are done, done, done. That means they get their own page, and a FINISHED date on the main KTS page.

It didn't take very long to do the last part of these. The gauge is a little bigger than what I usually use for socks because the cables make the fabric tighter, so that means that the toe shaping goes more quickly (fewer stitches to start with once the sock switches to plain knitting).

Here's the grand finish shot (taken in the Starbucks at Davisville this afternoon):
It feels so great to actually finish one of the projects on the list. Plus I got some of the double knitted jacket done while waiting for The Dark Knight Rises to start.

One down, fourteen to go...

KTS: better

Tonight I went to Yonge & Dundas Square for a free outdoor screening of Harold and Maude. It was all the ever-cool Tara's idea, and we went together.

On the way downtown I managed to cast on and knit a few rounds of the second hearts & harps (aka Kristi) sock. So that is finally underway properly again.

But it's past midnight, and this is the second day this week that I haven't worked on the double knitted jacket. I'm going to lose that sprint I planned. Still, I have tomorrow night (except I'm going out), Thursday night (ditto), and Friday night to catch up. Let's see how close to the goal I can get.

KTS: this is your brain on knitting

Late last night (more like early this morning) I managed to find some of the yarn I'm going to need for some of the things on the project list. I found the most likely candidate for the black sock yarn I need to complete the Space Invaders socks:
I also discovered that the most likely candidate for the correct grey yarn was already stowed away with the partially finished sock in the photo above.

The fractal cardigan that is already on the needles and therefore counts as a fifteenth project had its photo taken today:
I found some of the yarn I need with it, but not all. Still, it's something. What's in the photo is the lower back and the start of the sleeves.

Today I was on the subway and hanging out downtown a lot. I took the first timeslot to go see the Picasso exhibit at the Art Gallery of Ontario, met J-A for lunch, did some bookstore shopping, and then hit the library on the way home to pick up some DVDs I'd put on hold. During that time, I made zero progress on my knitting. Oh, I was knitting. I even knitted a lot. But I kept screwing up the casting on and first two rounds of the mate to the hearts and harps (Kristi) sock:
So the only thing for it (obviously) is to sit down quietly tomorrow morning and get that sucker going before it completely kills my progress. The thing is, the second sock is a mirror image of the first one, so I have to read the charts backwards. This should not be a big deal. I have been reading charts backwards for as long as I have been reading charts — since the early 80s. And I've read a lot of charts. I got into knitting right during the height of the last Great Age of Intarsia, when conversations about knitting would go like this:

"What are you working on?"

"Oh, you know, the koala bear."

"Is there anything on the back?"

We were all using DK and worsted weight yarns, and we were all making oversized pullovers with dropped sleeves, the better to knit pictures into them. The pictures were all that was left to talk about.

I screwed up that sock chart three times this morning.  I really don't want to make it a fourth.

Speaking of chart knitting, the last bit of yarn hunting I did in the wee hours of the morning was to find the rest of the yarn for the double knitted jacket:
I did find it, which is good. I even figured out which rows to omit to get the jacket to work. I think.

Speaking of the jacket, the yarn sprint is going... haltingly. Already the amount done in the photo is noticeably shorter than what I have now, but I need to get a lot more done. Which is as good a prompt as any to go do it.

that shit is KNIT

Tonight I got together with a bunch of knit friends for dinner. Because we were out and about, I packed my hearts & harps socks (the Kristi sock from Sock Innovations).

Progress at last. I managed to finish the first sock of the pair. Here's the evidence (photo taken at the restaurant to prove I do get out and about):

See the teeny tiny ball of yarn beside the sock? That's how much I had left. It's about five metres. In terms of sock-making, that's really going down to the wire, especially on a pattern like that has lots of cables (cabled patterns use up more yarn than plain).

So: the work is on its way. Now what I'd really like to do tonight (except it's getting late and I have to finish off my Friday Flash for tomorrow) is get another row and a half done on the double knitted jacket.

milestone socks

They are done.

These are one of the three pairs of socks I was working on when my back went out just over a year ago, thanks to a drunk driver rear-ending me two years prior to that (actually, he rear-ended the car behind me — he hit three cars in total that night). For a while, I couldn't knit at all, although I did find I could crochet whilst lying down. If you scan back through my blog posts, you'll see that I have been making a certain amount of stuff since I've gone into spinal maintenance mode. There were a lot of things lying around half-done though, these socks included.

I know they're just socks, but it feels so good to have this pair off the needles. For one thing, the needles I was using for them were my favourite set — the grandmother who taught me how to knit gave them to me when I was in high school, and I use them for almost every pair of socks I make. For another, the pattern is a lace-and-cables super-complex thing from Cookie A's Sock Innovations book. I love Cookie A's designs, but I have the earlier edition of the book that only has everything in small sizes, so I had to do some extra work to make a version that would actually fit me.

Finishing these socks made me more aware of just how much stuff is lying around on the needles in my apartment. Some of it I started but set aside because it was wool and the Toronto summer squelched down on us like a sponge soaked in boiling water. Some of it got put away before I had friends over and then wasn't dug out again after they left. Some of it isn't very portable, or needs a lot of attention paid to a pattern chart. Some of it got set aside while I made a gift for someone, and then I never found my way back to it.

So I'm going to start a Project, with a capital P. Yesterday was the first day of the second half of 2012. My goal is to have all the stuff I'm going to list finished by New Year's Eve.

As I wrote those last two sentences, I thought of two more things I need to photograph and add to the list. Julie Powell ain't got nothing on me in the nutty deadline department.

creative leftovers

Over ten years ago I bought a pair of classic Roots boots with some gift certificates I'd won at work. It was definitely not about fashion — I was just sick of having to worry about falling down on Toronto's icy sidewalks every winter.

To my great surprise, the boots have held up, although they're no longer as waterproof as they used to be. Usually at the most I get two seasons out of a pair of winter boots.

The one thing that does keep wearing out on these are the bootlaces. For years I would buy replacement laces, but this was a bigger deal than it sounds because for some reason it's hard to find replacement laces for boots (shoes are easy, but not boots).

I finally remembered reading about I-cord laces in an old copy of Interweave Knits, grabbed my Inox I-cord maker, and cranked off some of my own.

Turns out I-cord makes great laces for hiking-style boots. If you leave the tails on the ends of the I-cord, it's easy to pull the laces through the grommits, and if you use leftover variegated sock yarn like I did, you can get a nice funky look going:

Just make sure to take into account that the laces will stretch a little once you use them a few times. I couldn't get the laces comfortably into the top grommits when I first made the laces, but now they not only fit, but they're plenty left over for tying them up.

it's august. fuck.

Today is the first day of the second half of summer for people in the Northern Hemisphere. It's all shorter days and end of the growing season from here, folks.

[ducks as rotten fruit and verbal abuse get thrown]

Still here? Don't blame me — get angry at the Earth's orbit or move to New Zealand or something. I'm just pointing out the obvious.

The obvious, if you're a knitter, is that all those lovely sweater-weather sweaters you want to wear this fall aren't going to make themselves. So if you want at least one new jacket to wear this fall, you're going to have to find some air conditioning and get started on it now.

That's precisely what I did this morning. I agonised a little (and still am, a little) over finishing some stuff that's been on the needles for an embarrassing amount of time, but in the end I decided to grab some stash and start Sway by Fiona Ellis (it's in her Inspired Fair Isle Knits book). The original is in a lilac grey with pink trim; me being me, I'm making mine in brick red with black trim, and have decided to make some modifications. If I ever get the thing done, I'll be posting photos here. Wish me luck.

The other "September is less than five weeks away" crisis I'm going through is that I started cleaning out my bedroom closet this weekend, and I discovered that moths had eaten five pairs of my hand-knit socks, plus three skeins of sock yarn that I was keeping in the same closet. That explains why, as of Friday night, I had three new pairs of socks on the go and plans for several more. I'm all for tossing stuff I don't want anymore, but I'd like it to be me that decides what goes, not a bunch of stupid fibre-eating insects.

(By the bye, in case you are smugly patting yourself on the back because you only buy cotton and synthetics, I have some bad news for you: I have had moths eat 100% acrylic gloves with plastic palm grips. They are evil vermin right up there with raccoons.)

Two of the socks on the needles are from Cookie A.'s Sock Innovation book. The last one is a free download from Knitty, but by the same designer. I like how this woman thinks. Her suggestions for resizing the patterns are reasonable and treat the reader like a grown-up.

I find my knitting goes through phases. I don't just mean in terms of colour, technique, and output, although that happens too. Right now I'm in high production gear because I need the clothes. I like to wear jacket-y cardigans to work because actual jackets are too uncomfortable when I'm going to be sitting in a cubicle all day. Last winter, though, I wore the left elbow out on no fewer than three cardigans, leaving me with just one that I could wear (I have a bad habit of propping my head up on my left hand when I'm reading, in case you're wondering how I managed that). So it's time for more jackets, even though I also need to get the first draft of my novel done. I have enough stash for [glances around the living room] three more plain coloured ones, plus one or two that are already on the needles. There is one that I bought the pattern for and would like to make in a colour I don't have in stash. Maybe that can be this fall's yarn purchase. Yeah, I know. But hey, it's mostly stash-busting!

And, thanks to the moths, it's also time for more socks, and that can definitely be 100% stash-busting. To be honest, a lot of those socks were near to worn-out anyhow, so the critters just sped up the process a little. Not that I'll be forgiving them any time soon.

Sock Off

I say this every year, but this year I mean it: this is the Summer of Socks for me. A lot of my existing socks have been around for five or more years now (hand-made socks lasting longer and all), and some of them are worn down to the nylon at the toes. I never seem to wear out hand-knit heels, just the toes. I know I could darn them, but that wouldn't reduce my yarn stash as quickly and the truth is I'm not very good at darning toe points. Under the ball of the foot or elsewhere on the sole, yes, but not right at the end where all the decreases are.

New socks it is, then — about the only wool knitting that's bearable in the summer.

Noro sock yarn:

I'm glad I bought my yarn at The Purple Purl, because the ever-cool-and-helpful Jennifer advised that I should go down a few needle sizes to get the yarn to work — 2.25mm instead of my usual 2.75mm. (Note to those who don't knit fine yarn: at this weight, half a millimetre makes a big difference). Jennifer said she had cast on the same number of stitches as usual, though, so I tried that for mine, and encountered one of those "weird gauge things" that show up from time to time. Apparently the smaller needle size only affected the row gauge, not the stitch gauge — the socks are the same width as the Lana Grossa socks I was making at the same time, but the cuffs and heel are shorter. Just one of those things, I guess.

Anyways, Jennifer's advice was excellent as usual, because the smaller needles make a smooth, firm fabric. The Noro is a loosely-spun single-ply, just like their their thicker wool yarns, so it needs to be shown who's boss. Just like the other yarn, too, the sock yarn can be a bit "breaky" in places, but it also spit-splices well, so it's only a minor annoyance instead of a major setback (so long as you're not squeamish about spit, anyhow). I'm glad they put some nylon in it to make it proper sock yarn, as opposed to "artisan" stuff that is beautiful to knit with but wears out in about a week.

Lana Grossa sock yarn:

This is the finished version of the sock I started during the storytelling festival I blogged about a few posts back. It's just nice, well-behaved, proper sock yarn with good striping and great texture. See how the colours matched up again after I finished the heel shaping? I love it when that happens. I find the European brands that offer self-striping all tend to do that — they must plan out their stripe lengths so that they will work with an average-size adult sock. As a bonus, my stripes ended in the colourway about where they began (100g skein, so two socks per ball), so my second sock will approximately match the first one and I didn't even have to trim away any yarn!

The Noro sock yarn is also a 100g ball, and those socks won't match — the colours will be shifted about one stripe. Since the Noro has long repeats and has that lovely gradual transition between colours, I think that will be a benefit, not a drawback.

I'm looking forward to wearing both these pairs next winter. More immediately, I'm looking forward to getting the mates to each of these done so I can finish the cotton/wool socks I started two summers ago (oops) and try out the ball of Tofutsi I got when Gina was here. The other Lana Grossa and the Austermann moisturised wool yarn should come first, though, to take advantage of this cooler spring weather we're having.