Silly Fun!

Knitting socks for the Fairy Folk is just silly fun – but I really like to do it! And I’m sure their tiny little feet appreciate it too  ;o)

Tofutsie Fairy Sock
Tofutsie Fairy Sock

I had included a free pattern for my easy Fairy Sock in the December 2009 PHAT Fibers box with a note that for more detailed instructions, they were to go to a certain web page. To all the PHAT Fiber box recipients who tried this, I apologize profusely!!! I could not figure out how to make a private page. I have published it here, under my “Free Patterns” section (see side bar) and made it accessible to all my Blog readers instead.

Enjoy!!

Deb H

PS – I’ve got the whole private page thing figured out now (I think), but hugs to everyone anyway  🙂

Silly Fun!

Elvish Socks!

Rivendell Sock
Rivendell Sock

Being crazy busy does not rule out all knitting. It just means I’m teetering on the brink of crazy. But that’s not news to my inner circle – busy or not. So I’ve still managed to finish a pair of socks and aren’t they just tooo lovely?

Rivendell - cuff
Rivendell - cuff

When The Eclectic Sole by Janel Laidman came into the shop (had to have been last spring?) I could not stop looking at it.

The Eclectic Sole by Janel Laidman
The Eclectic Sole by Janel Laidman

The cover was tantalizing, the title  a tease, and the patterns are an adventurous delight (anybody want to hire me to write Ad Copy?  😉

Published by Rustling Leaf Press, it has 96 pages of full color, very well photographed socks, techniques, color charts, and discussions of swatching , yarns, WPI (bravo Janel!), color, needles, and some basics. In the back are some photos and instructions for the cast-ons and stitches she uses in her patterns. All very clear and understandable. What I like about her book is that she did not spend a lot of her precious book pages on these things by going into a lot of detail. She used the bulk of the pages on her great patterns. So, while I would not recomend it to a brand new knitter, or maybe even a first time sock knitter, I don’t believe that is her target. Janel has found the happy medium; these are fresh, beautiful and interesting, with opportunities to learn for the sock knitter who is bored with “basic” but not as mind-bending as Cat Bordhi’s New Pathways.

Since I wear Burkies, I ribbed all the way to the tip of the toe.
Since I wear Burkies, I ribbed all the way to the tip of the toe.

Back to the socks… I sucumbed and the book followed me home. It stayed in the kennel (book shelf with all my other “pet” books) until late summer when I could not ignore it’s soft mewling anymore. I took it off the shelf and it popped open to the sock that had to be made first. I confess, as geeky as this is, I’m a Lord of the Rings fan, have been since Jr. High. The first socks from this book had to be Rivendell.

Graceful blending from the ornate rib to the leaf pattern
Graceful blending from the ornate rib to the leaf pattern

I had yarn in my stash from the sale bin in almost the same colorway as the socks in the book; a soft blend of pastels – appropriate for an Elvish design. The pattern was just challenging enough to keep me interested and excited. It would have been perfect except for the yarn. I used Maizy from Crystal Palace Yarns and I have to say, it’s not my cup o’ tea. 82% corn fiber and 18% elastic, it was too stretchy and too wimpy. I usually knit socks on a size “0” or “1” needle to get gauge but had to use a size “3” with this stuff that was like knitting with limp rubber bands. I like the finished product but it was less than ideal to knit with. I also learned, the hard way, that you do not steam socks with elastic in them – it melts! The socks are fine, undamaged and look great but if you rub your hand over the surface (outside only, thank goodness), it has a scratchy feel that the melted elastic gives it. Yes, I should have known better – I guess I was on automatic pilot when I blocked these. Oy!

The cuff again
The cuff again

For the next pair, I will return to my beloved wool sock yarn.

But which pair next, Nordic Lights or Migration? Decisions, decisions…

As always, you can see more of my favorite books, that I highly recommend, by visiting My Book Store (there is a link in the sidebar under Pages). This is an aStore or Amazon store that only lists books I choose.

Deb H

Elvish Socks!

Sock Blank? Its not blank!

Why is it called a sock blank if it’s not blank?????

a knitted sock blank
a knitted sock blank

Because it did start out that way; a blank, knitted rectangle; a blank “canvas” as it were. Usually knit double stranded on a knitting machine and with a total of 100 grams of yarn, enough to knit one pair of socks. This one is pinned out on a foam board, ready to be painted with dye.

sock blank being painted
sock blank being painted

Thickened dye is applied with a foam brush, or other painting tool, in any pattern or design you can dream up.

ready to wrap and steam
ready to wrap and steam

Continue to add layers of color until you have achieved sock-blank nirvana…  or at least something you are reasonably happy with. Seal with a heat-proof plastic wrap (Seran works well) and steam your blank to set the dyes. I’m assuming here that you are using acid dyes on a protein fiber.

knitting socks with a sock blank
knitting socks with a sock blank

After the dyes have been set and the yarn blank rinsed and dried, you are ready to knit. Since the blank was knit with a double strand, you can knit both socks at the same time. Both socks will be done at the same time, avoiding the “second sock syndrome”, and both socks will match exactly. Simply unravel at the appropriate end and start knitting.

Toe-up socks with waffle stitch instep
Toe-up socks with waffle stitch instep

Yes, the yarn you are knitting with is kinky, like Ramen Noodles. Once you have gone a few inches you will be used to it and it should not bother you or be a problem. For those that are annoyed by kinky yarn there are two possible solutions. To lessen the kink  (but not eliminate it) you will need two ball winders. Simply unravel the blank and wind the yarn into two center-pull balls as you go. Let them sit in your stash and “mature” for about a week/month/year and the yarn will be more relaxed when you go to knit with it. To remove the kinks entirely, unravel the blank into two skeins, wash them in cool water and hang to dry. Ball them as you would any skeined yarn and knit.

Waffle socks are not fattening  :o)
Waffle socks are not fattening :o)

Colors combinations and designs are only limited by your imagination, dye supply, and time. You must remember that the design you paint on your blank will not be reproduced in your knitted sock. Blanks are knit flat; back and forth. Socks are knit in the round. For what-you-see-is-what-you-get socks, stick to simple stripes. For everything else, you can only rely on a general mottled color distribution in the final knitted project. If you have a dominance of brown at one end of the blank and mostly blue at the other, so will your socks. Don’t assume that a fancy design or pattern painted on your blank is a waste of time. You will enjoy knitting from a beautiful blank and the dyer has enjoyed creating something wonderful, even if it will get ripped apart.  😉

Zig-Zag painted sock blank
Zig-Zag painted sock blank

Cool idea! Use your double stranded sock blank to knit a scarf. Cast-on with a provisional cast on and knit your scarf from the center out. Go about one inch in one direction, then pick up your live cast-on stitches with the other stand and head off in the other direction. Just keep switching back and forth so both ends progress at approximately the same rate. This is the same technique (knit on one for a while, then the other – back and forth) for knitting your two-socks-at-a-time on double point needles.

detail

Now, are you sorry you asked?

Waffle-socks-1
I even have a finished pair of socks out of this deal 🙂

Waffle-socks-2

Sock yarn is a superwash merino and nylon (90% wool/10% nylon) that I got from Heritage Spinning & weaving. I knit the blank and dyed it as you have just seen. I love the way the colors came out so speckly (is that a word?) and no pooling or flashing. I knit the sock in the same waffle stitch as my fitted teal vest in the hopes they will look dapper together.

Deb H

Sock Blank? Its not blank!

My Bottle is Cozy!

I knit another bottle cozy.

knitted bottle cozy with long shoulder strap
knitted bottle cozy with long shoulder strap

This one was from the ZigBagZ Mini Collection pattern from ColorJoy! This is the paid upgrade pattern from the free “Sipp-a-Roo” pattern she has available on Ravelry. Even if you are not on Ravelry you can download the pdf file here.

knitted bottle cozy before felting
knitted bottle cozy before felting

Before felting it looks a bit loosey goosey. The yarns are Shepherd’s Wool worsted in dark eggplant (they call it Plum), Noro Kureyon in color # 207 (basically purples and oranges). If it looks familiar, it’s the same yarn as the last cozy I knit from the free Sipp-a-Roo pattern. I actually got 3 bottle cozies from one skein of Shepherd’s Wool and two skeins of Noro.

bottle cozy with shoulder strap, after felting
bottle cozy with shoulder strap, after felting

I always say that no knitting project is worthwhile unless you

a) enjoyed working on it

b) learned somthing new

My leasson I learned is that not all wool yarns felt the same. I actually knew that but it was driven home to me with this cozy. My first two were done with the dark plum as the main color and the Noro as the contrast color. For this cozy I reversed the yarns and did not change anything about the knitting pattern. Expecting it to felt exactly the same as the last two I was a bit surprised when the cozy base (bottom of bottle) ended up a bit bigger and the  strap (both from Noro this time) ended up a lot longer than their counterparts from Shepherd’s Wool. After felting it about 800 times (no, I never exaggerate. Why do you ask?) the cozy base finally shrank to fit but the strap was still about 12″ longer than I had planned. Not wanting to just cut it off, I got creative about how to make it work.

the One Eyed Snake
the One Eyed Snake

Hence, the One Eyed Snake bottle cozy.

fused glass button for an eye
fused glass button for an eye

I had to finishe it off with a fused glass button by DH.

I’m not sure if it was the name or the beautiful knitting, but it sold right off my bottle. I’ve replaced the cozy bottom with a round (think round sock toe) version and on the top I’m using an i-cord bind-off instead of Lynn’s rolled version. I’m now looking at the body of the cozy and thinking what a great “canvas” it can be for all kinds of fun knitting and embellishment. Hmmmm…  you may see one or two pop up in my Etsy shop by Christmas  😉

yarns for my Baby Zig bag
yarns for my Baby Zig bag

My next felted project is from the same ZigBagZ pattern, I’m going to do the “Baby Zig” purse next with some teal Shepherd’s Wool (love that stuff!) and some Cascade 220 that I dyed about 2 years ago. I just hope the pattern shows up as the values are very similar. Oh well, it will still be stunning!

Deb H

PS – Happy Autumn!

My Bottle is Cozy!

Reusing or Re-purposing Yarns

kinky to straight
kinky to straight

There are many reasons why someone might want to reuse yarn they have already knit into something (or even a sweater from the thrift store that has good yarn). It may not fit right (gee, it fit when I started it), the design was ugly or boring, he’s a jerk and we broke up, the yarn manufacturer included stealth knots that you did not find (because you were machine knitting and going like a bat-out-of-hell) until it was being blocked for seaming, that stripe across the bust was a bad idea…. you get the picture.

Ugh!
Ugh!

Knitting with very kinky yarn (just rescued from that abandoned sweater, all done except for seaming three years ago, when you decided the design was boring) is usually a disaster. The kinks cause it to tangle more easily; the annoying factor increases at an exponential rate in relation to how much closer to the end you get. And it will probably alter your gauge after blocking/steaming. Possibly, a lot. It is always (with one exception) best to straighten your yarn before reusing it. The one exception is when knitting with fine (fingering weight) yarn in a tight  (7 to 9 sts/inch) gauge. That is why you can knit socks from a painted blank without straightening the yarn and winding it into a ball first. But trust me, this is really the only time you want to short cut this step. It’s easy and fast with a few simple tools, don’t panic!

How to straighten your yarn

Winding onto niddy noddy
Winding onto niddy noddy

Wind it from the knitting (as you rip it out) directly into a skein, under tension. This is easiest if you have a Niddy Noddy or a warping board or clamp-down warping pegs, but a straight chair back will do. Tie some figure 8 knots through the skein at about four places around it to keep the yarn from tangling when you release the tension.

Steaming out the kinks
Steaming out the kinks

Fill the tea kettle and turn it on high. When it is steaming away at full boil, hold the yarn under tension between your hands and steam it over the spout until the kinks relax. I use a clamp to keep my spout open and not whistling. Don’t get your hands near the steam!! It will burn worse than boiling water. Rotate the skein in your hands and steam out the kinks until you have worked your way all the way around the yarn. Hang the skein on a door knob to cool.

Hanging on a warping board
Hanging on a warping board

No tea kettle? You can soak the skein in a sink of hot water (120 deg F) for 10 to 20 minutes. Even if it’s wool, as long as the yarn is put in the water dry and not agitated in anyway (just let it soak), it will not felt. When you see all the kinks relax, drain the sink and let the yarn cool to room temperature. Gently squeeze out the excess water. I put mine in the washing machine on spin only and get it pretty well spun dry. Finally, hang it to dry on a door knob with a weight at the bottom; a 25 oz. can of organic black beans works well  ;o)

Once your yarn is dry it can be wound into cakes (or balls) and knit with. It’s not hard or that time consuming. I had this yarn ready to re-knit with in less than an hour and it was a wise investment of time!

Take a look at some of your UFO’s. Is it time to think about re-purposing that yarn? I’ll post this on it’s own page under Hints, Tips and Techniques (on side bar) so it’s easy to find for future reference.

Deb H

Reusing or Re-purposing Yarns

More Cables!

It seems I go for long periods without accomplishing much and then – boom! I finish several things in quick succession. That must apply to Blogging as well, three posts in one week – whoa!

Cashmere hand warmers
Cashmere hand warmers

Here are a pair of cabled hand warmers I knit for my DD. She needed something to keep her hands warm while she types (she is a writer and types a lot) and they had to be fine enough to not impede her speed. She can get those fingers flying even on that old antique she loves so much!

Writer Girl with her new mitts
Writer Girl with her new mitts

These were also a dream to knit on because the yarn is cashmere and silk; Richesse et Soie by Knit One, Crochet Too (which does not appear to be available anymore – oh, waily, waily, waily*)! Yes, she is spoiled. I am allowed to spoil her; my only kid, as she is a good one.

Long, warm and elegant
Long, warm and elegant

She is also moving 2500 miles away next week so I’m being a bit on the doting side at the moment.

Cable details
Cable details

It’s a “Mom” thing, I’m allowed  😉

Deb H

* Just for you Terry Pratchett fans (I’m a huge one) who have read the Wee Free Men books.

More Cables!

The Cushy Sweater!

The Cushy Sweater
The Cushy Sweater

Yes, it’s finished! I moaned about ripping it out, but Azapa by Araucania is such a lovely yarn to knit with; so soft and cushy, that I didn’t even mind. The finished product is based on a pattern called Emma from the book Araucania Collection Book #1 by Jenny Watson.

A Finished Object
A Finished Object

I confess I cannot follow directions. I always think I have a better idea. I placed a cable down the outside of the sleeves (plain sleeves on a cabled sweater? Come on!) and I added the picot edge (they had on the hem and sleeves) to the neckline as well.

The Details
The Details

My version has narrower cables, a bit of stockinette stitch in between the purl rows defining the cable to reduce the vast amounts of reverse stockinette which is not my favorite thing to look at.

The Flip Side
The Flip Side

I also did the cable patterning on the back as well as the front (my absolute pet peeve is a plain back with a patterned front)!  I think the finished sweater is worth the re-knitting.

It fits!
It fits!

I am very pleased with the results and how well it fits – it’s shaped and that makes such a difference. I’m wearing it here with a skirt but it looks even better with my jeans as it is a longer, almost tunic length.

Cushy Sweater Sass!
Cushy Sweater Sass!

All done just in time for warm weather, oh well!

And yes, I cut off all my hair – I’m still a bit in shock and getting used to it. My neck feels a little exposed, like the Ax Man is looking at me speculatively.

Deb H

The Cushy Sweater!