Vaunt

So I lied.   The plan had been to do these tomorrow.  But in the interest of being all scholarly and productive tomorrow (a girl can dream), I’m doing them today.

I’m pleased to present Vaunt.

These are the latest in the ongoing attempt to find patterns that are subdued enough to appeal to both guys and girls but still interesting enough to not send the knitter mad with boredom.  I think they hit the spot.  Well, I think this pattern in this color hits the spot.  One of the testers made them in a lovely pale purple that might not work for some guys.  But these are safely in the boy color palette.

I’m rather taken with them.  They’re easy to memorize, and they work up quickly.  I’m especially pleased with the spiffy heel flap and the way the pattern continues all the way down the toe.

They’re over on ravelry if you want to make your own.  I’ll get a page up for them here at some point, just not today.  Probably not tomorrow either.  It’s going to be that sort of a week.

Strike a Pose

On our way home on Sunday, we stopped by Bully Hill, one of our favorite wineries.  We’ve been going to Bully Hill for years…a fairly alarming number of years now that I think of it.  We first went many moons ago when we were starry-eyed, fresh-faced college kids on our first trip together.  It was good then, and it’s still good now. In addition to picking up a bottle or two of wine, we also found a spot to take some sock pictures.

Now this area of New York is full of Grand Sweeping Vistas.  I, alas, do not seem to be able to get both the grand sweeping vistas and the tiny stitches of a sock in the same picture.  I’m working on the theory that you’d like to see the knitting from me, and that you can find the landscape pictures somewhere else if you want them.  So with this in mind, we grabbed a handy bench and went to town.  The Boy was, as always, completely unfazed by the sock modeling shenanigans.  I spent the whole time wondering if someone official was going to come scold us.  I should have known better.  Their motto is “Guilt Free.” It’s not a scolding kind of place.

Not Quite

It has been a rage-y sort of day.  The kind where you stub your toe and burn your tongue and somehow don’t quite manage to rinse all the conditioner out of your hair and all of your clothes are itchy and all the sounds in the world are too loud.

I’m firmly convinced that the only way to remedy such a day is to go back to bed, take a nap, and try again later. Alas, I didn’t follow my own advice.

Instead I tried to take pictures of the most recent socks.  In the heat.  On The Boy.  In the heat.  On the patio.  In the heat.  Did I mention it was hot?  It was also too bright, too itchy, too noisy, and too beset by bugs.  The Boy was a good sport (he always is), but I was slowly becoming overcome by fiery burning rage.  I had to sound the retreat.  I didn’t get any pictures I can use for the pattern, but I did get one that will suffice to prove that I’ve finished the things.  See?  Two whole socks.

Proper pictures will have to wait till it’s not so blasted sunny and hot. Until then, I am going to consume massive quantities of iced tea and pet a kitten and possibly take a nap.

Unexpected Maturity

Last night, in a totally uncharacteristic fit of prudence and temperance (and possibly a few other virtues, though certainly not fortitude), I did an impressive thing.  My hands hurt, so I put my knitting down.

I know, not exactly rocket science.  But it becomes all the more stunning when I explain that I put my knitting down when I had only 8 rounds to go to finish the second sock in a pair.  And they weren’t even the traditional 64 stitch rounds (64*8=512, which is actually a fair number of stitches).  Nope, they were the decrease rounds at the tip of the toe where everything goes zipping along and each round has 4 fewer stitches than the last (in this case, a total of 224 stitches…why yes I DO keep track when I’m doing the toe, don’t you?).  But somehow, I still put it down.  I’m a bit in awe.

Of course I finished it up in a few minutes this morning and the socks are soaking in the sink as I type.  Pics of the finished sock tomorrow (if the weather holds and The Boy can be convinced to model wooly socks in the mid-June weather).

And now, I need to go cast on something else.  Because with the completion of that sock, I suddenly have absolutely nothing on my needles.  This cannot be allowed to continue.

Snag

So we all do it.  Or at least I hope we all do it.  This morning I realized that I’d worked part of one row of the sock much much looser than the others.  Now for some things this might not matter or might come out in the wash.  But this is a sock, and I didn’t want to leave a place that could wear our or irritate the foot. But of course it was many many rounds back, and I didn’t want to rip. So if you ever find yourself in this unenviable potion (you of course won’t because you’re much more clever than I…but someone you know might), here’s how to fix it.

First, free up at least two inches of yarn.  Do this by following the line of stitches, tightening as you go, one leg of the stitch at a time.  You may have to tighten up quite a few stitches to get enough slack.  I did almost all of the stitches on the sole to get this much.  You’ll only get a tiny fraction of an inch from each stitch, but eventually you’ll have enough.  Don’t over tighten, just snug it up enough to match the rest of the piece.  When in doubt, get more yarn.

Snip the loop in half.  You need to weave in the ends, one at a time, each tracing out the path of the other half of the yarn.  It’s rather like duplicate stitch.  The final effect will be what you would have gotten if you’d held two strands of yarn together and knit several stitches with both strands (as though you were joining on a new piece of yarn).  But you won’t have enough yarn to work like you normally would.

There are two ways to handle this.  The first approach is to thread your needle and then sew backwards.  That is, push the eye of the needle into the fabric first rather than the pointy end (sort of like how a sewing machine does it).  This lets you trace  out the path for your yarn to take, even though the total length of yarn is shorter than the needle.  This pictures shows the yarn/needle working from left to right.

The other option is to take your needle, unthreaded, and trace it through the path you want your yarn to take, pull it almost all the way through, thread it, and then tug the yarn through at the end.  This picture shows the yarn/needle working from right to left.

End by tugging the ends through to the wrong side and giving the fabric a bit of stretch and tug.  The final result is nearly invisible.


The Mysteries of Gauge

On a lot of my recent patterns, I’ve included a wee little chart like this.  The shaded column on the left is gauge (in stitches per inch).  The shaded row on the top lists the various sizes the pattern is written in.  The cells in the middle tell you what size finished object you’ll get if you make a given size at a given gauge.  So with this chart, if you were working at a gauge of 4.5 stitches per inch, and you make the size medium, you’ll get a hat with a finished size of 20 inches.

This demonstrates one of the most basic things about knitting, and one of the things I think a surprisingly large number of knitters haven’t quite internalized.  You can really fine tune your sizing through yarn choice and gauge. Now this isn’t magic (it’s math) and it doesn’t work for everything.  But it is an awfully handy tool to have in your box of tricks when you want to nudge the size of something just a bit.

The socks I’m working on now are a perfect illustration of this.   Let’s look.

The gray socks on the top have a 64 stitch foot.  The blue socks on the bottom have 54 stitch foot.  Yet as you can see, the blue socks are quite a bit bigger than the gray socks.  This is because the gray socks are worked at a gauge of 8 stitches to the inch, and the blue socks are worked at a gauge of 6 stitches to the inch.

This only works because the socks use radcially different yarns.  The gray socks are a traditional sock weight, and the blue socks are a heavy dk. So both socks are knit up at an appropriate density (nice firm fabric suitable for socks) for the given yarn.  You can’t just use the gray yarn at 6 stitches per inch (it would feel like walking on little wires, and it would wear through in a few hours) or the blue yarn at 8 stitches per inch (you’d break your needles and the fabric would be stiff like cardboard).

But, with a bit of planning, this approach can let you use a wider range of patterns and yarns than you might think.  Let’s say you’ve fallen madly in love with a  pattern that comes in a 64 stitch size and calls for a gauge of 8 stitches per inch.  That gives about an 8 inch sock.  What if your feet aren’t 8 inches?  If you’ve got bigger feet, pick a thicker yarn and work at a gauge of closer to 7.5 or 7 stitches per inch.  If you’ve got smaller feet, pick a thinner yarn and work at a gauge of closer to 8.5 or 9 stitches per inch. This trick lets you fine tune the final size without having to adjust the pattern itself.  Especially for something like a sock where a half inch one way or the other can make all the difference, it works beautifully.

Now I can’t speak to the skinny yarns (I’ve got big feet and I’m a lazy knitter), but I have a nice little list of excellent thick sock yarns.  I’ll come back and post them later if people are interested (and I’d love to hear from you folks with tiny feet or more patience about which skinny sock yarns are your favorite).

One Down

Thanks to a truly butt-numbing amount of time spent in the car this weekend, the first sock is done, and the second is well underway.  The thick yarn has totally spoiled me.  These felt like they took no time at all (and the contrast to the other socks on the needles, the cable-filled gray ones, couldn’t me more dramatic).  I’ve written them up for testing, and if you want to make your own you can volunteer over here.  With any luck at all, I’ll have them finished some time in the next few days.  Just in time for it to get really really hot and to ensure that no one in their right mind wants to wear wooly socks.

Give me Some Men Who Are Stout-Hearted Men

First, my apologies if the title leaves you whistling terrible songs all day.  That song pops into my head every single time I hear someone talk about manly socks (with the substitution of the word ‘socks’ wherever you hear ‘men’ of course).  I wouldn’t want to speculate as to why exactly this happens, but it does. Hopefully I’ve spread the pain a bit. Now with that out of the way, on to the socks. See?

The goal was socks that were thick, blue, and guy-friendly.

I’m confident I’ve gotten the thick part down, and pretty comfortable about the blue part.  That’s Dream in Color’s new(ish) yarn Everlasting in Tidal.  This is the 12 ply that I used (and loved) in Carom.  It is definitely thicker than a traditional sock yarn.  It is, in fact, not really a sock yarn at all.  These are much closer to slipper socks than to ‘stuff them in shoes’ socks.  Dream in Color does offer Everlasting in an 8 ply sock yarn for those who want a more traditional sock weight.  I, however, wanted something super thick, and this seemed perfect.

Now for the guy-friendly part.  This one is always tricky to judge.  First, and most importantly, guys are no more a homogeneous set than are girls.  I know for a fact that there is at least one guy out there who has knit Gramercy in a lovely pale peach and is totally rocking them.  But most of the guys that I knit for would not really love pale peach lace.  They tend to lean more toward the more somber end of the color spectrum and to prefer to avoid lacy or swoopy designs.

I’m hoping that the straight lines, complete lack of anything that could be seen as lace, and decidedly blue coloring will help it pass muster as a boy sock.  And if not, I will steal them back and wear them myself because I love super thick socks with an unholy passion.  And if they do pass muster, I see another pair in this yarn for me in my immediate future (I may possibly have several more skeins of this yarn sitting right on the very top of my stash).

Oh, and on an unrelated administrative note, I got some exciting news the other day that may necessitate just a bit of schedule shifting.  I will still be putting the two patterns mentioned the other day out very soon, and I will totally put the hat out first, but I may be shifting the schedule back by a few days.