Tuesday, October 31, 2006

I Can So Knit Socks

So, having started out Sock Hop month vowing to finish numerous socks-in-progress, I then defied myself by barely touching a sock until the final week. And then, for some reason known only to my apparently neurotic psyche, I became obsessed with socks and began knitting as if possessed.

I made progress on several of my already in progress socks - a few inches on the Sunshine Yarns Daffodil sock, a dab on the STR Purple Rain, a bit on the beaded bed sock - nothing worth photographing but enough to encourage me in the belief that these are projects that may be completed within my lifetime.

I also finished a few things. I knit everything Magic Loop style on U.S. size 1 needles. I have done socks on double points and actually really like the technique but Magic Loop is faster for me and easier on my hands.

The yarn is Yarntini's Cherry Cordial superwash. I have several skeins of Yarntini yarn and love all of them. Jessie custom dyed the brown for the heels and toes. Contrasting heels and toes are one of my sock knitting quirks. I just love the look. The pattern is the Chevron Sock from Sensational Socks by Charlene Schurch, one of my favorite sock books. I really like the way the pattern works with self striping yarns but I find that this pattern, like the only other chevron type pattern I've done, is not real stretchy. They fit fine once they're on but they do require an extra tug going over the heel. I make a serious effort to match stripes on socks. Unmatched stripes tend to give me the feeling that one leg is shorter than the other.

These are the Child's French Socks from Vintage Socks by Nancy Bush, another highly recommended sock knitting book. The yarn is Lorna's Laces' Douglas Fir, a nice blue-y green-y color. This pattern looks complex but it's really straightforward and not difficult at all. Like with most patterned knitting, it helps enormously if you can read your knitting. That makes it easy to see what row you've just done without having to keep records that you will then lose - not that I have ever done that or anything. There are some great details in this pattern that may not show up in the photos. The ribbing is designed to flow gracefully into the patterned leg of the sock and the heel flaps also continue the patterning. They're subtle touches that really make the design special.

I don't think I made any changes to the pattern except to screw up in some mysterious fashion on the second sock, resulting in four lost stitches on one side of the scallop pattern. I have no idea where these four stitches went. They disappeared somewhere after the gusset shaping and by the time I noticed they'd vanished, I was halfway down the foot. After three or four seconds of serious analysis, I decided I could live with a lopsided pattern.

If you look carefully, you'll notice that these socks don't actually match. The difference is subtle, I know but I'm sure you'll be able to pick it out. The sock on the right is not really a Sock Hop success story. I finished this a couple of months ago and forgot to include it in my initial grand plans for sock knitting glory. The pattern is Ribs on the Side from Fiber Trends and the yarns are Lorna's Lace's in Carol Green and Mountain Colors Bearfoot in some purple color whose name escapes me.

I knit this sock in a two day frenzy because I was dying to see how it all came together. The cuff is knit sideways in some sort of garter stitch rib kind of pattern, then you graft the whole thing together in a tube, pick up stitches along the bottom and knit the foot. It's one of those projects that sounds complex and mysterious but makes perfect sense when you're knitting it. It's actually a fast sock to knit and is very comfortable. The leg does seem to be a bit loose and I'm wondering if it's going to be too loose but I won't know that until I finish its mate and can actually wear them.

The sock on the left was just a smidge of ribbing at the beginning of the month. The main yarn is Lorna's Lace's Sassy Stripe. The heel is from Regia and the toe is an Opal Uni. I orginally planned to use just the yellow, then I decided to use just the turquoise and I finally settled on using both. Now that the sock is done, I think I might have liked it a bit better if the heel and toe were both yellow but I'm not unhappy with this.

I figure I knit the equivalent of four socks this last month. I finished three socks that were barely started and made progress on three or four other projects. It's certainly not going to set any records but I'm pleased. It's great to have two new pairs of completed socks and I'm hoping to keep the sock knitting on a roll so I can get some of the others finished up.

A quickie

Last week I discovered that someone 'borrowed' my favorite knit earwarmer, and that someone else 'borrowed' my favorite half-mitts. I was not pleased.

I grumbled. I growled. I visited the yarn stash.

Ooooo! Pretty! Soft! (I'm such a yarn slut!) At the bottom of a big rubbermaid tub I found a small skein of perfectly imperfect yarn. Two-ply bulky handspun. The brown strand was spun from naturally colored Manx Loghton wool roving. The white strand is pure angora, combed from a rabbit I used to own. Her name, if I remember correctly, was Sabrina. She and her sister, a nestmate from the same litter, lived in a very large wire run in the barn and raised their babies together in the same nest. Once, on an icy January morning, I checked the fur-lined nest and found four tiny day-old kits in the center, another four 8-day-old kits in a ring around them. The two Angora does took turns tending the nest, and all eight kits grew up fat, fuzzy, and gorgeous.

But I digress...back to the earband. First I measured the wraps per inch -- that is, I wrapped the yarn around a ruler. It took 8.5 strands of yarn, side-by-side and touching, to cover an inch. I got 3.5 stitches per inch in stockingette on US 10 needles. So for the headband, the cast-on was 44. I knit in stockingette for 8 inches in the round on US 10 double-points. I folded the tube over and joined the top and bottom edge while binding off -- and done!

It's soft, incredibly warm, and the fit is snug enough to stay put while I'm working. I'm not so happy about the bind-off - it left a bumpy ridge, and it's not as stretchy as I'd like. Next time I'll take the time to do a good kitchener's stitch. Despite its flaws, I'm delighted with this earband. The quick, easy knitting was just what I needed to restore my knitting mojo.

GET FELTED Grand Prize WInner from Barbara - 11/15

GET FELTED Grand Prize WInner from Barbara - 11/15
Originally uploaded by sockhoppers.

Somebody once said that less is more. Personally I think that somebody should be locked away. Less may be more when it comes to things like taxes and deadlines but if you're talking yarn less is simply not enough.

The Grand Prize winner of our GET FELTED contest will be drawn at random on November 15th and will receive 3 skeins of Gjestal Naturgarn Lopi; 6 skeins of Elann Peruvian Highlander; 5 skeins of Cascade 220. All guaranteed 100% wool and 100% feltable.

Watch this space because the Grand Prize winner gets some books too! How great is that?

(To find out what else I'm up to, please visit my website!)

GET FELTED Grand Prize Winner - Part 2 from Barbara 11/15

GET FELTED Grand Prize Winner - Part 2 from Barbara 11/15
Originally uploaded by sockhoppers.

Yarn and books. It just doesn't get any better than that.

GET FELTED Grand Prize Winner - Part 3 from Barbara 11/15

GET FELTED Grand Prize Winner - Part 3 from Barbara 11/15
Originally uploaded by sockhoppers.

Books and yarn! No matter how you say it, it still sounds great.

RIP, Red Spiral #2 (October 2006 - October 2006) BB

RIP, Red Spiral #2 (October 2006 - October 2006) BB
Originally uploaded by sockhoppers.

I am sorry to report that Red Spiral #2 passed away this morning around 9 o'clock EST. The 3/4 finished sock broke free of its needle and flung itself into the frog pond. By the time I reached the scene of the suicide it was too late. The sock was gone.

Clearly this sock had issues. I tried to help. I really did. But the sock's problems were bigger than both of us.

I have since cast on anew. I know The Spiral would be proud.

No flowers, please.

SOCK HOP - Day 31

And a Happy Halloween from Brendan Fraser and all of us at RTY

Wasn't it nice of our last Barefoot Boy to show up in costume?

So this is Day 31 and the end of our first annual Sock Hop.

I finished three and three-quarters pairs of socks. My Toe-Up Lucys. The Fisherman's Best Foot Forwards. Goldisox's Sirdar Highlanders. And 1 3/4 of a pair of Wool-Ease red spirals. That's more than my average yearly sock output so I'm pretty much astonished.

My knitting took a step forward that it wouldn't have taken without this blog. I figured out THE Wendy's provisional crochet cast-on. I made a sock with baby cables. I finally got the knack of cabling w/o a needle. And I discovered that red sprinkles is not my favorite shade of Wool-Ease.

How did you do? What did you learn this month?

Nicole's Black Watch Socks - complete

Nicole's Black Watch Socks - complete
Originally uploaded by sockhoppers.

Nicole, these are breathtaking. They almost look like they're plaid!

And let me quote what Nicole has to say about this accomplishment, "Finally finished! Yay!"

Monday, October 30, 2006

The Grey Sirdar Highlanders (BB)

The Grey Sirdar Highlanders (BB)
Originally uploaded by sockhoppers.

As modeled and photographed by Goldisox.

I have to weave in the ends and give an extra tug to those elfin toes and I'm done.

Fuzzy Feet by Denise

Fuzzy Feet by Denise
Originally uploaded by sockhoppers.

Nancy is raring to go with her GET FELTED project and now here's Denise cleverly winding up the SOCK HOP with a perfect pair of Fuzzy Feet destined to GET FELTED!


Lobster & Corn Chowder

2 cans fat-free chicken broth
1 cup each celery and onion
2 cans cream-style corn
1 large or 2 small lobster tails, cooked & diced*
1 1/2 cups fat-free half-and-half
1/3 cup instant potato flakes (or one potato cooked and mashed)
1 tsp parsley flakes
salt and pepper to taste

Cook the celery and onion in the chicken broth over medium heat for 20-25 minutes. Add everything but the half-and-half. Simmer until hot. Add half-and-half and heat through.

* You can also use the imitation lobster pieces if you prefer.

Easy and delicious!

Copyright 2006 Fran Baker

Jumping the Gun

Being the amazingly organized person that I am (do I hear raucous laughter somewhere out there?), I went to the LYS and bought two things for our Get Felted extravaganza. Okay, it wasn't really hyper-organization that drove me: it was that I'm so depressed about being a Sock Flop that I couldn't wait until November started and we left all those nasty memories of failure behind. Anyway, this is what I got at the LYS:

First (drum roll), one of the weekly prizes we're giving away to all you Get Felted devotees:

Four skeins of gloriously hued Noro Kureyon yarn, two #194 and two #95, so you can knit one Football Warmer Purse for yourself and one to give as a holiday gift. The pattern for the purse is included with the prize and it's really, really cute.

Second, the supplies for my own first attempt at felting in which I will knit one of the Mason Dixon felted boxes. It's that organizational thing again: I love sorting and storing things by category. If this box works out, I will make lots and lots more in all different colors. Fingers crossed that it doesn't end in the same depressing pile of frogged yarn that my sock did.

Just look at those gorgeous GIANT needles! So much more visible than those nasty little DPNs I tried to knit a sock with. :-)

SOCK HOP - Day 30

Dennis Quaid.

Socks? Who cares about socks?

The grey Sirdar Highlanders for Goldisox are finished. I still have to tug on the round toe and weave in the ends but basically they are history.

I made him try them on a few minutes ago and had him take a few photographs. I wasn't crazy about the fact that he posed against a nasty old beige towel we had in the laundry room but men follow their own instincts.

I suppose I shouldn't have made the "elf feet" comment but I was so surprised by the pointy way the nominally round toes looked that it popped out. Besides what's wrong with elfin feet just because a guy is 6'3"? Height shouldn't be an obstacle . . .

Blogger won't let me post a photo but I'll keep trying. All in all, you're not missing anything. Think big grey socks with flecks of tweedy color. If you've seen one, you've seen 'em all!

Sunday, October 29, 2006

SOCK HOP - Day 29

Morgan Freeman.
Simply the best of the best.
Definitely a 12 sts to the inch wool/silk socks kind of guy.

Handwarmers and sweaters. That's all I can think about.

I spent more time yesterday than I'm going to admit in a public forum surfing the net in search of patterns, hints, tips, everything I can gather up on handwarmers/fingerless mitts/whatever you want to call them and snagged some Debbie Bliss Cashmerino Aran on eBay. (Fingers crossed the USPS actually delivers it.) Then I started thumbing through sweater patterns with Goldisox in mind. I tried to match up the pattern with my stash and started getting very confused.

I don't know about the man in your life, but the man in mine accepts only a limited palette. Oh yeah, and a limited number of style possibilities too. Oatmeal. Grey. Blue. V-neck. Crew neck. No cables. No stripes. No patterns. There must be ribbing at the neckline, hem, and cuffs. Raglan sleeves are suspect. I'm starting to think most men should be issued a uniform as soon as they exit the womb and just update it for size as they move along through life. They'd never know the difference.

I made real progress on the second Highlander sock this evening while we were watching Grey's Anatomy Season 2 on DVD. (Is it just me or was that prom a half-step away from jumping the shark?) Leg is done. Heel flap finished, heel turned, gusset stitches picked up and knitted, now I'm merrily engaged in alternate rounds of gusset decreases as I proceed toward the wild ride down to the toe.

I'm glad we did the sock hop. It pushed me out of my knitting comfort zone and encouraged me to learn a few new techniques and to up my productivity. Normally I'm one of those who rebel at any kind of restriction or demand but this time I didn't and I'm glad.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

A Real, Live, Good Samaritan

I'm such a smiley lady today and it's all because of a complete stranger whom I've never met. A fairy godmother who flew through the cyberwaves of the internet to come to my help.

Basic, brief backstory: back in the 1980s I began to design knitwear professionally, i.e. sending off the designs to magazines in the hope that they'd publish them. I was working from home then, being a mum, writing novels, knitting (do things ever really change?). Flash forward to the present and I'm currently starting to resurrect both career paths, so I went through my meagre stacks of old knitting mags (the house has suffered several serious de-clutterings in the intervening years) in order to put a portfolio of published designs together. I found some, but not all. Four were lost forever, including one of great sentimental value, an outfit covered in cats that I made for my little lad who was coming up to three years old at the time. (He's now a hulking 22 year old).

I have to admit I got obsessive about these four missing magazines, even going through old tax accounts (shudder) which for some reason had not been chucked out with the rubbish, looking for date references for payments so I could work out the month and year of publication. I pinned down all but one. For that, all I could find was a scribbled reference to when I'd posted the finished article. Oh, did I mention that every single one of the magazines in question ceased publishing in the knitting slump of the nineties?

Without much hope but with my ever optimistic 'it's worth a try' attitude, I put out a couple of 'Want It Now' posts on Ebay. Heard nothing for weeks. Until last week. I had an email from a lady called Pauline who still had heaps of old knitting magazines stored away and would I like her to look through them? Would I??? Yes please! I felt a bit guilty, putting her to so much trouble, but she did offer. I gave her names and dates of the ones I knew, and descriptions of the designs for the ones I didn't know the dates of, and this lovely, wonderful lady rolled up her sleeves and set to, searching through the lot. Not only did she actually have - and find - every single missing magazine, but she also found an article I wrote which I never mentioned to her because I'd forgotten clean about it!

The point of telling you all this is to sing this kind lady's praises to the world, to shout out that there really are good Samaritans around in this ever more crazy world we live in, and to say publicly (I've already done it in private of course) a huge 'THANK YOU' to Pauline E. who lives in England.

Aren't knitters fab? I don't think I've ever met a knitter I didn't like.

Oh I've had such fun browsing through those old magazines - talk about memory lane. Not just from a personal point of view, but the fashions, the hairstyles (big), the makeup (thick)...did we really look like that? I guess we did.

SOCK HOP - Day 28

This is Johnny Depp. He's probably barefoot inside his pirate boots.

I stayed away from the red spirals yesterday. The number of mistakes was escalating into the realm of the truly absurd and I decided no good could come of it.

As horribly as the red spirals are progressing, that's how well the Sirdar Highlander #2 is going. I'm zooming down the leg right now without a care in the world. There's something very satisfying about big fat thick-wooled socks. Goldisox is gonna love 'em.

Dallas's beautiful sweater inspired me to dig out the fistful of sweater patterns that have been calling to me. The Celtic Cardigan is right at the top of the list. Mountain Colors has one whose name escapes me that I'm thinking about. Any number of goodies from Oat Couture. One from the old Family Circle Easy Knitting. Salt Peanuts from a back issue of Interweave Knits.

Speaking of Interweave Knits I ordered their holiday issue from Elann and it came today. There are a few interesting wristwarmer patterns in there but I'm a little disappointed in the other, more familiar, patterns. Can you spell retreads? I know some of those patterns. I'm reasonably sure one of them was in Scarf Style. And those crocheted slippers look like something I've seen before too. Okay, maybe it's just a granny square-based design that can't help looking something like every other granny square-based design but I'm not exactly convinced I got my money's worth from the magazine. Now I'm a huge IK fan. I think it's the best knitting magazine out there--at least to me it is. I had high expectations for this issue and instead I'm feeling vaguely ripped off.

And don't get me started on Vogue Knitting. The current issue arrived last week and it took me all of two minutes to see there wasn't one single thing in there I would even daydream about knitting, much less actually cast on for. Meg Swansen is the only reason I still subscribe.

Maybe the Internet and sites like Knitty have spoiled me. There's such high quality design work (not to mention the great photography) coming out of independent sources that knitting magazines just might be going the way of the dinosaur.

What do you think?

Friday, October 27, 2006


Sit down, make yourself a cup of tea, and please please help a knitter in search of suggestions.

1. I'm dying to make all manner of wristwarmers but I'm stumped about what yarns are the best. I told you about the Debbie Bliss Cashmerino Aran I ordered to make the gorgeous wristwarmers Cindi and Elizabeth Boyle made but beyond that I'm clueless. Would Kureyon be too scratchy? I wanted to make a pair from the Lion Brand Wool-Ease Fisherman that I used for the cable socks but a harsh dose of reality made me think twice about using a light color, even if it is machine washable. I mean, these go on our hands and our hands touch things that aren't always sparkling clean. Would Silk Garden be too fragile? Is sock weight too ridiculous? (Even though I've seen patterns for wrist warmers done up in sockweight yarn.) HELP!

2. I did a stealth survey of my friends' shoe sizes and feel relatively well-armed with information to forge ahead on making socks for them but there's still something a little scary about taking the plunge. One woman's 8.5 may be another woman's 9 if you know what I mean. It's strange how we can all stuff our size 6 through 10s in the same stretchy commercial sock but balk at even the slightest tug in a handknit pair. That's why I've been obsessing over spirals. How do you get around this need for exact measurements? One thing I've learned in my sockmaking odyssey with Goldisox is that what he deems comfortable changes every single day.

3. I really thought handknit washcloths were the height of ridiculous until Dallas made me one that I used to death. Now I get it. (Although I still don't think I'll be knitting one to do dishes with. I mean, that's why God made the Dobie pad, right?) If you've made washcloths, what yarn did you use? Kitchen cotton? Euroflax? This is another holiday idea I'm toying with. (Watch what happens. I'll end up giving everyone gift certs to Netflix.)

4. If you have a beloved pet (with you now or only with you in spirit) who you would like to see featured as our Guest Pet on the blog, please send me a JPEG with a short anecdote and a link to your website or blog and we will be absolutely delighted to showcase your furry or feathered or scaled friend. The parade of pets will begin November 1st and last through the end of the year as part of our GET FELTED fun.

Socks and more

I finished the cable socks! Knitted with Regia Bamboo on US#1 double-points, cuff-down.

I also wanted to say a big thank you to whoever it was that posted the pattern for the fingerless gloves (wrist warmers). I knit up a pair from some cashmere yarn I'd been saving. I'd intended the yarn for socks, but worried the cashmere wouldn't wear well. It makes great wrist warmers and I've already used them a couple of chilly days in my office. And they knitted up super fast.

Now I'm busy perusing slipper patterns for my Get Felted! project. I need new slippers and this seems like a perfect introduction to felting for me. I'm having so much fun as a part of this blog, learning new things and trying new projects. Thank you all!

SOCK HOP - Day 27

I love David Bowie.
There, I said it.
I love the man and I'm
not taking it back.
(Even if he does bear a
striking resemblance to
Edward VIII aka the
Duke of Windsor.)

And I love David Bowie and Iman as a couple even more. Why? Beats me. They just strike me as a perfect match.

How about this: I won't talk about the red spiral socks and you won't ask me why. I think that sounds like a good idea, don't you? Red Spiral #2 is snakebit. That's the only explanation I can come up with to explain the sheer number of dumbass mistakes I've made on a simple, basic entry level sock. I had to rip back a total of at least 30 rows today -- two and three rows at a time which means a whole lot of mistakes. I found dropped stitches. Extra stitches. Twisted stitches. I'd blame it on Mercury going retrograde but I don't think Mercury holds any power over my knitting. What a total disaster of a knitting day it's been.

So instead of whining about my total lack of skill for a few more paragraphs, let me take a second to urge you to check out the links over there on the right. There are a lot of them so you might need to do some scrolling, but I promise you it's worth your time. Not only will you find links to our individual websites (where most of us hold monthly contests) but you'll find links to our Sockhoppers and I am here to tell you that these ladies are not only terrific knitters but talented, fascinating individuals in other ways as well. I just spent some time on Sharon's website and -- well, what can I say to you but "Go visit Sharon! Right now!" And congratulations, Sharon, on Taphonomy, your prize-winning poem.

And she can knit too.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Here be Dragons! (from Jill)

Here be Dragons! (from Jill)
Originally uploaded by sockhoppers.

Dragon Scales! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Jill says, "Finished the socks a whole five days early. I might even get pictures of him wearing them."

Congratulations on a fabulous pair of socks!

Sharon's Baby Cable Rib View 3

Sharon's Baby Cable Rib View 3
Originally uploaded by sockhoppers.

Sharon says, "One more view! I adore the feel of this yarn and I fear I may be spoiled for all other sock yarns now. I was very pleased with the heel turn/gusset on this pattern - it's seamless, no holes, no gaps. "

Take a close look at the point where Sharon picked up the gusset stitches then began knitting outward. It looks like a four or five row pattern there. Am I right, Sharon? It looks fantastic!

Sharon's Baby Cable Rib View #2

Sharon's Baby Cable Rib View #2
Originally uploaded by sockhoppers.

From Sharon: "Baby cable rib from Sensational Knitted Socks. I really like this pattern! It was easy to follow and the repeats are very simple."

Sharon's Baby Cable Rib Socks View 1

Sharon's Baby Cable Rib Socks View 1
Originally uploaded by sockhoppers.

Sharon says, "Here's my finished baby cable rib sock (from Sensational Knitted Socks) in Socks That Rock 'Siren Song'! Now, if only I had one more...."

I say, "WOW!"

Special Days

I’m late with this blog and it’s not about knitting because yesterday was my husband’s birthday. As a result, I spent my time making it a perfect day for him (he’s retired).

First, I got up early to take the children to school, even though it was his day to do so. Then we went bed shopping. This may not sound exciting to you but we just switched around half the beds in the house and ended up with a king-sized mattress in our bedroom. The problem is that it’s just sitting on a nasty little metal frame with no headboard or footboard. My DH loves to shop for furniture so we hit Furniture Row, a.k.a. Route 46, and finally found the headboard of his dreams.

We also stopped to look at a new condominium development which my DH is hoping his mother might be interested in. This is another thing my hubby loves to do: look at real estate.

We went to dinner at a delightful Italian restaurant (DH’s favorite cuisine) in the city and came home to open presents with the kids.

That was his dream day. The only thing missing was a round of golf but he’s off playing that today.

So my question is: how do you make a day special for yourself or for someone you love?

Kim's Lana Grossa MegaBoots

Kim's Lana Grossa MegaBoots
Originally uploaded by sockhoppers.

Kim just gets better and better. Here's what she says about her MegaBoots: "Using another pattern from Sensational Knitted Socks.
Also found this old photo from a "knitting party" at tulip time in Pella, IA--not to far from where I live! (although it's obviously before my time!) "

SOCK HOP - Day 26


(One word is quite enough here.)

(Although a pair of Fixation Bulkys might be appreciated by the Oscar-winning actor . . . )

I finished Sirdar Highlander #1 (the sequel) last night. Round toed it, made Goldisox admire it, then put away my needles for the night.

I'm hearing the call of wristwarmers in my ear. I bought some Debbie Bliss Cashmerino on eBay--some in a Moss Green, some in Burgundy--and hope to be casting on before long.

Here's how the finished sock turned out. (Could there be a more boring pair of sock photos?)
And there's the whole felting extravaganza to consider. I'm going to shop my stash for some Lopi and a little fun fur and cast on for THE Wendy's Kitty Pi. (You can find the pattern on line or in her wonderful book, Wendy Knits.) Last year my friend Sunny (who'd better not be reading this) adopted Sylvester from her local shelter and I fully intended to present him with a Kitty Pi of his very own but one thing led to another and I never got around to it. This year I intend to right that grievous wrong and make sure Sylvester knows he's held in high regard here in central NJ.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006


Ready for more fun? It's time for a new contest and a new knitting challenge. Beginning November 1st we're going to GET FELTED. It's another one of our loosely structured knitalongs (no pressure, no deadlines, just fun) and you're invited to join us. If you'd like to be able to post photos of your works-in-progress, you can "officially" join the knitalong by sending an email to me at Wickedsplitty with GET FELTED in the subject and you're in. If you want to follow along on a more casual basis, you can do that too just by showing up.

And that's not all. We're going to run a series of contests between November 1st and December 31st with lots of prizes and lucky winners. Want to enter? Send Romancing The Yarn an email with CONTEST in the subject and you're entered.

Too much to remember? No problem. When in doubt, check the right hand nav bar and click! We've got you covered.

The Grand Prize winner will be drawn on November 15th and the lucky knitter will walk away with a copy of KNIT ONE FELT TOO and Vogue's FELTING, not to mention a windfall of 100% wool yarn from Gjestal, Cascade, and Elann. (See the photo for colors.)

And that's not all. We're going to give away yarny prizes each week thereafter to six lucky contestants on November 22, November 29, December 6, December 13, December 20, and December 27! (Details on those prizes will be announced as soon as we can figure them out!)

That's it! Just send us an email and cross your fingers. We'll do the rest.

So are you ready to GET FELTED?

SOCK HOP - Day 25

Benjamin Bratt.

Clearly Julia Roberts was insane. (We'll forgive him for those leather pants.)

I'm too lazy to scan my progress on Sirdar Highlander #1 Redux so you'll have to trust me when I say I'm 6 decreases away from the downhill slide to the toe. Funny thing. The tweedy yarn actually looks better in plain stockinette than it did in that half-baked cable. The texture actually did nothing for the yarn, something that surprised me.

Then again, what doesn't surprise me these days? The roofing guys finally showed up. (It's only been two months.) Goldisox says it's like living on Neptune but without the 1000 mph winds. We are draped in blue. Blue sunshine streams through our windows. I woke up around 7:30 (not something I plan to make a habit of) and thought I was having a bad reaction to Viagra. (Joke. I promise that's a joke!) We are definitely (with apologies to George Gershwin) a Rhapsody in Blue around here and it is freaking me out. The noise level is beyond description and I have a fairly high tolerance for aural chaos. (I live with parrots. If I didn't have a fairly high tolerance I'd be in a rubber room by now.) Right now they're scraping away the old roof (don't you love technical terms?) and hauling the new shingles up the side of the house. It sounds like we have giant angry mice up there stomping around. Mice with clawfoot hammers.

I think it's time to get out the headphones.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Not Exactly A Sock

So, I have a finished object to share. Not a sock, alas because, as you may recall, after challenging myself to see how many of my socks-in-progress I could finish, I immediately rebelled against myself and began knitting a sweater. What can I say? I just hate being told what to do. On the downside, it's pretty obvious that I'm certifiable but, on the positive side, I've got a finished sweater so insanity is not without it's rewards.

This is the original Eliza. The pattern is from the book Simply Shetland 2. I think the book is still widely available. I happened to purchase mine from Elann, source of many things wonderful.

Eliza is a very basic cardigan, knit in one piece up to the armholes then divided to knit fronts and back separately. I like this method of construction because everything gets done more or less at once. When you finish knitting the body, all you have to do is knit the sleeves and you're home free. I'm not one of those knitters who hates seaming but it is nice to finish knitting and actually be finished. The thing I don't like about knitting a sweater mostly in one piece is that the project becomes bulky very quickly. You go from barely started to having a lap full of wool in very short order. Because you're knitting the whole body at once, each row can seem like a major commitment but that's soon balanced out by seeing how rapid progress is and the fact that it looks like a real sweater after just a few rows. For Eliza, in particular, it seems like the only reasonable method because it allows the row of lace diamonds to continue uninterrupted around the bottom of the sweater.

Here's a picture of the completed body. The shoulders are joined with a three needle bind off. It's a simple technique and gives a lovely, clean finish. I've heard rumors that it's possible to miss catching a stitch or three and, because the knitting gods have a sick sense of humor, the stitches might hang in place until the whole thing is done and the ends woven in and, just when you think you're a knitting success, you'd notice a really, really huge ladder running down the front of your sweater. Not that I know this from personal experience or anything.

I did make some changes to the pattern and this was one of those times when the knitting gods took pity on an idiot knitter. The pattern says to knit 17" before dividing for front and back. I got to 16" and decided that, since I'm short - 5'3" - and the pattern is presumably designed for someone a bit taller, I'd just lop an inch off that measurement and divide for the armholes immediately. It wasn't until I'd knit a couple rows on the left front that it occurred to me that the lace pattern is designed to complete at a certain point and chopping an inch out of the bottom might mean that I'd either have extra large armholes or a truncated diamond.

A sensible person might have reversed course, frogged a couple of rows and added that extra inch to the bottom but I never claimed to be sensible so I kept knitting. I held my breath as I began the decreases for the neck but the lace pattern moved inward just a little faster than the neckline decreases and I was able to complete the final diamond with a row or two to spare.

I got a second stroke of dumb luck doing the ribbing. The pattern said to pick up 90 stitches along each front edge. Since I'd cut an inch out of the body, I thought 85 stitches sounded about right. (No, I didn't do any calculations. I don't need no stinkin' calculations.) Then, because I wasn't already living dangerously enough, I decided to take Annie Modesitt's advice for picking up stitches and pick up 3 stitches for every 4 rows. This gave me 78 stitches. I pondered this, wondering if cutting one inch in the body length could possibly justify cutting 12 stitches from the button band. (You're not going to bring up the whole calculation issue again, are you? Good.) I stretched out my measly picked up stitches and squinted a lot, trying to envision the completed button band. Would it be too short? After three or four minutes of serious consideration, I decided to give it a try. Against all odds, the finished button bands are the perfect size.

I'd put this in the 'don't try this at home' category. I am not such an expert knitter that I can eyeball a sweater and make on the fly alterations. In this case, I succeeded through dumb luck, the mercy of the knitting gods and a certain comfort with guestimating. Also, I'm never afraid to frog. Particularly on a small thing like a button band, I wasn't risking that much time. If it looked awful, I could pull it out, pick up more stitches and try again.

The final alteration I made was on the sleeves. The pattern said to knit them flat, sew them into the armhole and then sew side and sleeve seams. Clearly, they plugged in standard instructions without considering the fact that there aren't any side seams. I really liked the idea of picking up stitches around the armhole and knitting the sleeve down from there but I've never done that and I just didn't feel I was up to the reverse engineering necessary to make it work. I was, however, comfortable with knitting the sleeves in the round and then switching to knitting flat when I got to the shoulder shaping. Then it was just a matter of setting the sleeve into the armhole.

So, a whole sweater with only two seams. Not bad. And here's the finished sweater. I went out this afternoon and found some pewter flower buttons that are the perfect finishing touch. They dress the project up a bit more than I had planned but they look so pretty that I couldn't reisist.

General thoughts on the finished project? I'm delighted with it. I wanted a comfy 'old' sweater and that's what I ended up with. After blocking, the fit is perfect - not baggy, not snug - just cozy.

I can't emphasize enough how important blocking was in this project. It looked decent in an unblocked state but blocking smoothed out all the decreases in the lace pattern and allowed me to adjust the fit from maybe-a-little-too-snug to just right. I had actually done a gauge swatch and blocked it so I knew the gauge was going to relax quite a bit after washing. That meant that I could relax when the sweater seemed to be coming out a bit too small.

The yarn is Elann's Highland Chunky. I like it very much. I used something like 13 balls and only found one knot which is more than can be said for a lot of high end yarns. It's very soft and the yarn itself is softly twisted. My guess is that it's going to pill but I've got one of those nifty sweater stones so I can live with that.

Changes to the pattern? I think I might make the ribbing just a little deeper. It looks all right on the body but the cuff ribbing looks a little skimpy to me. This is six rows of 2x2 ribbing. I think I'd go with 8 rows on the body and maybe even 10 rows on the cuffs. It's a minor complaint but it's something I'll keep in mind when I'm making sweaters with ribbing on the cuffs.

Would I make this again? Probably not but only because there are so many other sweaters I'd like to make. I love the lacework around the edges. It's simple and adds just enough interest to keep this from looking like I bought it at Target. It also kept the knitting from being deadly dull because there was that little bit of interest on both fronts. So, it's not exactly a sock but I can live with that.

And one last, gratuitous shot of the sweater, complete with cat. Meet Chloe, who loves to lie on any project I'm blocking. Unlike THE Lucy, Chloe is not declawed so her penchant for wet wool makes me jittery but she looks so content, I don't have the heart to move her. So blocking time is enlivened by my every minute, on the minute checks to see if she's accidently dug a claw into something. Needless to say, blocking is not exactly a relaxing experience for me.

SOCK HOP - Day 24

The girls of St. Bartholomew's had their own Doctor McDreamy long before Grey's Anatomy came along.

Oh, there were a few girls who claimed to be Ben Casey fans but we knew they were just pretending. How could you not fall under the blue-eyed blond-haired spell of the gorgeous Richard Chamberlain as Doctor Kildare?

(sigh) I feel like I'm thirteen all over again and burning with jealousy over Yvette Mimieux and her love scenes with Doctor McSurfer over there.

So I go out for the day and come home to find Elizabeth has joined us! Is this great or what? A Knitty-caliber knitting novelist/novelisting knitter! If you scroll down about a week you'll find a link to the wonderful 2-needle sock pattern Elizabeth published in the latest Knitty. (BTW, Elizabeth looks like a younger and even prettier Leslie Caron.)

I finished the cuff on Sirdar Highlander sock #1 Redux today. Plain old stockinette. Clearly this addled brain can't handle the hard stuff right now. I'm wondering if I'm socked out. I've been mooning over Lady Eleanor (you're so right about her, Nancy) and dreaming felty dreams. Not to mention a wee bit of an obsession with fingerless mitts that seems to have taken hold of my imagination. Still, I'd love to finish the second Wool-Ease Red Sprinkles spiral and the Highlanders if at all possible before the month is over. I wouldn't mind writing a book too but first things first.

That's a bowl of steaming hot Cape May Clam Chowder photographed by yours truly this afternoon. I do a pretty nifty job of duplicating it with clam juice, two cans of diced tomatoes, bacon, potatoes, onions, green peppers, chopped clams, bay leaf, and a liberal splash of Tabasco.

Faithful readers of Wendy Knits already know this but just in case you missed it, Lucy has her own cheesecake calendar for 2007! All profits will go toward animal rescue so you might want to check it out with an eye toward holiday gift-giving.

Watch this space, knitters. We have some more Get Felted news on the horizon.

Monday, October 23, 2006

FIL Slipper Socks by Kim

FIL Slipper Socks
Originally uploaded by sockhoppers.

Kim says, "For my FIL for Christmas. I need to figure out a way to make the bottoms less slippery as he is prone to falls. Would puff paint work???"

Dumb Knitter says Hi.

It was Barbara's plea for other dumb knitters that finally made me wrestle with my technophobia and get to grips with doing this blog thing.

First, hi all. My name's Elizabeth Allen and I can't tell you how thrilled I am that 'the girls' have invited me to join Romancing the Yarn. I'm chuffed to bits. About me, very briefly: I'm English. I write novels. I knit. A lot. At the moment it's socks. I'm so into socks. But when I'm knitting, I feel guilty that I'm not writing. When I'm writing I feel guilty that I'm not attacking the oodles of WIPs I've got busting out of bags all over my study. So I reckoned why not do both at the same time, or at least something that might fool my conscience into thinking I was doing both at the same time? Current projects therefore: writing a book about knitting, and about to start first draft of new novel in which one of the main characters knits for a living. So now when I'm knitting I can happily tell the little rat that lurks somewhere over and behind my left shoulder that it's legitimate research. Clever, huh?

Yes, I know I should be doing either of those instead of this blogging thingy, but hey, I've got a stinker of a cold and I work on the principle that when you're not firing on all cylinders (or even when you are) a little bit of self-indulgence is the best medicine. So here I am.

OK, so this dumb knitters thing? Here's my confession. I'm supposed to be good at socks. I design my own (something to do with my inner rebellious child who doesn't like being told what to do, so following patterns or recipes is something I'm not good at) and even got published in Knitty (woohoo!!!) which is how Barbara found me when she published a picture of Sox on 2 Stix... anyway, there I was at the end of last week, patiently knitting away at a new sock design (I design 'on the needles', which is another way of saying I make it up as I go along). Two whole days I was working at it.
"That looks interesting," said Husband. I should have heard the alarm bells ringing then - 'interesting' is that kind of word. "Doesn't look much like a sock yet, does it?"
"I know," I said, feeling rather clever, "but it'll be great, you wait and see."
So I carried on, finished it, even kitchener grafting the seam all the way up the side of the leg (it's a sideways knit sock on 2 needles). And I still didn't notice...

Husband was perfectly right - even when it was finished it didn't look much like a sock. In fact it was anatomically impossible. The heel increased where it should have decreased, and decreased where it should have increased and the only way I could make it go on my foot and leg was to swivel it round so the 'heel' part was on top. Duh.

I blame it on the lurgy. My brain feels like porridge. Lumpy porridge. And speaking of food, that night's dinner wasn't too good, either. I put the frozen oven chips in on time. Cooked the peas, hacked up the cold chicken, was just about to dish up so opened the oven to get the chips out - and there they were, white and frozen. Guess who'd forgotten to turn the oven on?

The good news is that thanks to the disaster of the sideways sock (which I've kept as a souvenir and might post a photo of one day when I've worked out how to get pics up on to the blog) I now know exactly what I did wrong. Which is, of course, the first major step to getting it right. That's the theory anyway. And I always was an optimist.

So it's felting next month huh? Haven't done that before but I've got an idea for a pair of thick and quick knitted slippers to felt. I've got the yarn, I've got the needles, I've got a bucket and a plunger and I'm raring to go. And if it doesn't work (the state I'm in at the moment, that's a strong possibility) I shall tie strings on them and dangle them from a doorframe for my puddy tats to play with...

See ya.

Elizabeth. Monday Oct. 23. (I think)

SOCK HOP - Day 23

John Cleese.

Now you're talking.

It's Monday. I'm running out of barefoot guys and sock stories. I had a weekend of knitting mini-disasters, disappointments, and dead ends and I need to know I'm not alone.

Please tell me you've been a Dumb Knitter once or twice yourself. Better yet, would you be willing to share the gruesome details?

Yes, I'm begging. (Hey, I'm the woman who knit four rows of her STEP socks with the tail end of the yarn instead of the working end! I know from dumb.)

C'mon, 'fess up. We won't tell anyone.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Morning at Ogunquit Beach (Maine - October 2004)

Ogunquit Beach in the morning (Maine - October 2004)
Originally uploaded by sockhoppers.

My idea of paradise. The motel was pretty awful. (The word "spartan" is overly generous.) But the view was worth everything. All I had to do was step outside my door and there was the Atlantic waiting for me. A long walk on a deserted beach on a chilly morning in late October. If there's a better way to start a day I don't know what it is.

Share your autumn photos with us! Just email them to me at Wicked Splitty with a short note and we'll post them here for everyone to enjoy.

Too Big For My Stitches

Remember yesterday's Sirdar Highlander DAD'S EASY CABLES from SOCKS SOCKS SOCKS?

Goodbye, Blog.

Hello, Frog Pond.

Yes, they are no more. (Isn't that something like Yes, We Have No Bananas?) (Did you know Merv Griffin made I've Got A Lovely Bunch of Coconuts famous?) (Have you ever even heard of I've Got A Lovely Bunch of Coconuts?) (I am the repository of all things unimportant, inconsequential, and irrelevant.) I finished the cuff and leg then decided to ask Goldisox to try them on before I started the heel flap. The damn things were starting to remind me more of chain mail than knitted wool and I figured for once in my misbegotten life to err on the side of caution.

He couldn't yank the blasted things over his (admittedly high) instep. So I decided to give it a try. Imagine my surprise when I couldn't do it either. Okay, cabling tightens up your gauge. That's a given. I knew that. A little light started flickering in the dark recesses of my mind. Hmm. Could that be why they wanted me to knit the cabled part with a needle THREE SIZES larger than the one used for cuff and foot? Is it possible they knew what they were doing and I SHOULD HAVE LISTENED TO THEM?

I feel like a schmuck. A total dingbat-headed moron. I know how cables operate. I read the instructions. I know they specified multiple needle sizes for different parts of the process.

But Ms I-Don't-Need-a-Pattern chose to ignore the advice and ended up knitting a sock leg that could be used in hospitals to provide lower leg compression for bedridden patients.

Remember I said there was a lesson to be learned somewhere?

Guess I just found out what it was!

SOCK HOP - Day 22

David Beckham.

I think he's an athlete.

(Kidding. I saw BEND IT LIKE BECKHAM. I know who he is.)

Here's the finished Red Sprinkles Spiral #1. It looks like a sock snake, doesn't it? I'm trying very hard to like it (liking it makes the second sock a whole lot easier to knit) but so far I just plain don't.

Wool-Ease. #2US Addi Turbos. The After Bertha pattern from SOCKS SOCKS SOCKS.

I'm not too sure about this one either. Sirdar Highlander. #4US Addi Turbos. A weird cable stitch that doesn't form a criss-cross cable at all. It's more of a glorified spiral with the ghostly image of a pattern between the spirals. Yawn.

This is the Dad's Easy Cables (or some such) pattern from (what else?) SOCKS SOCKS SOCKS. I couldn't wait to start this pattern and now I'm . . . disappointed. I considered frogging the whole thing and turning to a new pattern but a fierce knitterly stubborness seems to have taken root and I'm determined to grit my teeth and finish it or know the reason why.

There's a knitting lesson to be learned with each of these socks and if I ever figure out what it is I promise to share.

Right now I'm trying valiantly to keep myself from casting on yet another pair of socks to make up for all of this drab disappointment. (And that's not counting the STEP socks still in medias res.)

Boy, do I wish it was time to start felting . . .