June Beetle Socks

It’s the end of June. The weather is always interesting in Colorado, and I’ve spent the month working outside on landscaping projects and gardening in the late morning and early afternoons.  As the afternoon wears on I usually need to move inside to escape thunderstorms, and if they are bad enough I end up watching weather updates on the television while knitting.

Early in the month I saw a June Beetle in the garden. I haven’t seen one of these guys since I was a kid in Southern California when we would catch them, tie threads to their little upper bodies, and then fly them around like little pets. I was still thinking about the beetle when I cast on this yarn to make some new socks.

This yarn is mostly blue, but it has some green in it too which reminded me of the beetle. The yarn is from Hedgehog Fibers, which is an independent yarn studio located in Ireland. I decided to knit a sock pattern called “Origami” which uses a lace pattern that is Japanese in origin. The pattern comes from the book Knitted Socks East and West by Judy Sumner.

Origami folds in sock.
The pattern makes the leg of the sock fold into a strange shape.
Lace sock.
The lace opens up once the sock is on.

As I knitted the socks and watched the thunderstorms bloom and thunder across Colorado on the weather radar I pondered the international connections open to me and other knitters. How fun this is! I made socks of Irish wool in a Japanese pattern to fit my fat little Swedish-American feet while watching thunderstorms in Colorado in a color that reminds me of my childhood in California. What a time to be alive.

Finished socks on feet.
Socks made with Irish wool in a Japanese pattern on my Swedish-American feet.

June is almost gone, the weather is beautiful and summery outside, and my socks are done. Time to go back into the garden to show them off to that June Beetle.

Cowl Study Part 2

What can I say? I had some more of the Freia yarn in a turquoise-blue-purple colorway called Blue Velvet, and a tube of beads that kind of looked like they would go with the yarn. The beads , size 6, are called Serenity Mix by Miyuki. I had to get knitting!

Beads on fabric of cowl.
These beads were a mixture of greens, purple, yellow and clear in pastel colors. Pretty good fit!

The last time I knit this cowl (Zuzu’s Petals by Carina Spencer) I was reaching the end of the cowl just as I arrived at the most flashy color in the ball of yarn. To get some of that color into the cowl I knitted a picot edging to use up more yarn and to make sure that I captured the color. I weighed the leftover yarn from the first cowl and discovered that it was 7 grams. To reduce the amount of light yarn for this new cowl, and to maximize the amount of purple color at the end of my cowl project, I pulled off 5 grams of yarn from the middle of the ball before I cast on.

I decided to attach the beads to only the lace portion of the cowl, and only in the part of the pattern that was one knit stitch with a yarn over to either side of it. (YO, K1, YO). To attach the bead I slipped a bead onto this isolated knit stitch with a small crochet hook, put the stitch back onto the knitting needle and then knitted it.  This placed the bead at the tip of the petals in the lace pattern.

Beads in Lace
I decided to place the beads into the lace so that they would be at the tip of the petals.

The edging of the cowl has a pattern of stacked YO,K1,YO sections. I added a new bead into each of these knit stitches.

Lace with beads.
Beads at the edge of the lace pattern. I put a bead into each YO,K1,YO part of the lace edging.

When I got to the end of the cowl I was just getting to the start of the purple yarn. Curses! I thought I was so clever to remove yarn at the start of the knitting, but it just didn’t work out for me . I had to put on another picot edging to get any of that purple onto the cowl. I weighed the leftover yarn again when I was done knitting, and there was 5 grams left over. I must have knitted tighter, or the yarn was a little thinner (this is one-ply rustic spun yarn), or… Such is life in the knitting universe.  Clever tricks will just get you so far. Another lesson learned.

Finished Cowl
Here’s the finished cowl. I just barely got that purple color in, and had to bind off with the picot edging again to do it.

Now I’m wondering what it would look like if I added beads in a scattered fashion through out the stockinette portion at the beginning of the cowl?  Heading to the yarn stash to see what I can find. 🙂

Cowl Study

For some inexplicable reason I have suddenly gotten stuck on cowls.  Never mind it is already spring and summer is on the way. I seem to only be interested in cowls, scarfs and socks. I put the socks onto the back burner last week and dived into cowls.

I have had this nice pink yarn for a few months now, and couldn’t seem to find the right project. Dream in Color “Perfectly Posh” yarn: it is made of merino wool, mohair, silk, and cashmere not that I’m letting that intimidate me. Then while poking around the patterns at my local yarn store I discovered a nice pattern for a lace cowl that looks a little like a scarf with the back point tied to the front. That’s a look that I really like, so I bought the pattern Zuzu’s Petals. Here’s the finished product.

Finished cowl made from Dream in Color "Perfectly Posh" yarn.
Finished cowl made from Dream in Color “Perfectly Posh” yarn.

See, it looks just like a little scarf, but it is a cowl with a narrow back. Perfect to wear over tops with a cardigan or jacket.

Detail of the cowl. I added a picot bind-off to the original pattern.
Detail of the cowl. I added a picot bind-off to the original pattern.

Well, it was hard to not notice that the original cowl pattern was designed to display yarn that changed colors gradually, so I just had to buy a couple of cakes of Freia Handpaint Yarn even though I have more yarn in my stash than I can knit in my lifetime. I ended up with the colorways Conchinilla and Blue Velvet .

I think that the cowl really shines with the color changes. I was running out of cowl just as I arrived at the brightest magenta yarn so I added a picot bind-off again.
I think that the cowl really shines with the color changes. I was running out of cowl just as I arrived at the brightest magenta yarn so I added a picot bind-off again.

I just love the way the colors change in the cowl.

I plan to wear this with a navy cardigan next fall.
I plan to wear this with a navy cardigan next fall.

I can’t help but wonder what the cowl will look like with beads added, so tonight I started another version of the same cowl in the Blue Velvet colorway of the Freia yarn. Hey, it is a cowl study. I’m just surrendering to this thing without giving it too much thought. I wonder what I can find in my yarn stash for the next cowl after the beaded one? I think that I have some silk/wool yarn that I got on sale a couple of years ago…

 

Swedish Family Bootie Pattern

Wow. This week I was definitely stuck in the baby bootie knitting rut. I went ahead and made two more pairs for friends of my original customer; kind of a ripple out effect. While I was making them I realized that while the pattern is pretty simple and straight forward, it is hard to visualize what is happening. So here is the pattern, exactly the way that it was taught to me, with picture support. The booties in the picture are being made on 2.25mm double pointed needles with Broncos Football colored fingering yarn that I bought at my local yarn store. In case you haven’t guessed, this is Broncos Country since I live in Colorado.

Cast on 10 stitches. Knit each row (this is garter stitch) until you have 18 ridges on each side.

This little rectangle of garter stitch will become the sole of the bootie. Like those Bronco colors?
This little rectangle of garter stitch will become the sole of the bootie. Like those Bronco colors?

You have knitted a cute little rectangle that is going to be the bottom of the baby bootie. Now things get a little tricky as you need to bust out more double pointed needles. You already have 10 stitches on one needle. Without cutting the yarn, turn the rectangle and pick up 18 stitches on the closest long side of what you just knitted with a new needle.  Use a 3rd needle to pick up 10 stitches along the bottom of the rectangle, and a 4th needle to pick up 18 stitches on the final long side. This is what you now have.

Stitches are now picked up so that you can start knitting the sides of the bootie.
Stitches are now picked up so that you can start knitting the sides of the bootie.

Needle management is an issue as you knit these booties. I use square metal needles, which hold the yarn fairly well, but you may want to use wood or bamboo needles as they grip the yarn nicely and won’t fall out. I am using 6″ needles in these pictures, but if you have smaller needles you may want to use those.

Mark the start of the round, and knit four rounds of purl stitches, then four rounds of knit stitches, then four rounds of purl stitches, then four rounds of knit stitches, and then finally four rounds of purl stitches. Got that?  You just knitted up the side of the bootie, and it should look like this.

This is the view looking into the bootie from the top.
This is the view looking into the bootie from the top.
Side view of the bootie after the sides are knitted. The knit stitches don't show as they fold themselves in, but they are there.
Side view of the bootie after the sides are knitted. The knit stitches don’t show as they fold themselves in, but they are there.

Now we are to the part where I always got lost and gave up. My mom would just say, “Now you knit back and forth from one end catching a stitch from each side as you go.” Say what? What she should have told me it that starting with the 10-stitch end I just knit across, turn the bootie and knit back across the stitches with the toe of the bootie towards you. Knit the 10th stitch on the needle together with the stitch on the side needle closest to the corner. Turn the bootie with the heel towards you and purl back across the 10 stitches, and purl the last stitch on your needle with the stitch on the side needle closest to the corner. You are creating the toe box for the little baby foot, and you are knitting stockinette stitch.

Creating the toe box: I'm knitting across the 10 stitches and the stitch from the side is already on my needle (the blue stitch to the far left) waiting to get knit together with the 10th stitch.
Creating the toe box: I’m knitting across the 10 stitches and the stitch from the side is already on my needle (the blue stitch to the far left) waiting to get knit together with the 10th stitch.

Continue doing this until there are only 10 stitches left on each side needle. Turn the bootie and knit one round across all 4 needles. To make things clear let’s call the toe needle #1, and the other needles are #2, #3 (the heel), and #4 as you knit around. You will be starting the round with the toe stitches on needle #1.

Closing the gap after completing the first round of the ankle by knitting the stitch BELOW the the last stitch on needle #4 together with the first stitch on needle #1. stitch on
Closing the gap after completing the first round of the ankle by knitting the stitch BELOW the the last stitch on needle #4 together with the first stitch on needle #1.

As you arrive at the needle #1 again after the first round you need to do some trickiness to close the gap so you won’t have a hole. You can pick up a stitch in the gap and knit it with the first stitch on the toe needle (#1), but I pull up the stitch below the last stitch on needle #4, place it on the tip of needle #1, and then knit the two stitches together. Sweet! If that seems confusing just pretend we didn’t have this discussion, pick up a stitch, or close the hole with a little yarn on a needle when you have finished the bootie. No one will know the difference.

Knitting the rounds of the ankle of the bootie.
Knitting the rounds of the ankle of the bootie.

Knit two more rounds, and then create the holes for the bootie’s tie during the 4th round this way: (K2, YO, K2together), repeat until you have finished the round. Knit 20-25 more rounds (until you think it looks pretty good), and bind off. The top will roll. I think that this top looks pretty good if your yarn is really busy.

Finished bootie with the cookies I baked while knitting the ankle.
Finished bootie with the cookies I baked while knitting the ankle.

If the yarn is a little more sedate I often finish the top by knitting 15 rounds, then 5 rounds of garter stitch (three purl rows), and then casting off with a picot bind-off.

Pink Baby Botties
Superwash wool booties made from Malabrigo Arroyo on 3.0 mm needles for a 3 month old baby.

You can use knotted i-cord for the ties like I did here, or crochet laces like my mom did, or even use a ribbon. Happy knitting!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Swedish Knitting Genes

I grew up in the world of knitting. The neighbor was having a baby? Baby booties were produced like magic. I needed a red sweater to match a new outfit for school? Ta-da! It arrived in the mail from my grandma. I didn’t know there was any other type of dishrag than the knitted kind. When mohair sweaters became popular, a fluffy pink one arrived under the Christmas tree. All the women of my family knitted, and suddenly, around the age of 8, I was a knitter too. I made slippers for everyone, made clothes for my dolls, and began to collect my own knitting needles and yarn. There were some off years, but by the time I was a mom myself there was hardly a day when I didn’t find some time to knit.

Hey, it’s not like I had a choice in any of this. This is the fault of my mom, her mother and all those ancestors living in the Swedish countryside who passed down these knitting genes. I think that  knitting was probably a survival skill back in Sweden, but once the family was in America and located in the desert Southwest the knitting continued. It’s hot in New Mexico and Southern California, so a lot of that knitting  was done for the house (placemats, bedspreads, pillows, and even a tablecloth) and gifts. In general, if there was spare time and you couldn’t read, some knitting got done: obviously a genetic trait!

Knitting Heritage
My knitting heritage: a placemat made by my mom, a knitting pattern from grandma, and antique wooden needle case and wrapper.

I received a lot of  knitting artifacts from my mother, aunt, and grandmother as the years went by and their knitting stopped. I have antique patterns, old needles and hooks, and even an ancient darning egg. I still have some of the things that they knitted, and a little collection of patterns that my grandmother knit up and sent to my mom over the years. Of all the girls in the family, I am the only one who is a compulsive knitter, and so I got the stash. The knitting gene must be a recessive one I guess.

Pink Baby Botties
Superwash wool booties made from Malabrigo Arroyo on 3.0 mm needles for a 3 month old baby.

One of the patterns that I remember the best from my childhood is for a baby bootie that my grandmother used to make. The big deal about the bootie was that it was kick-proof and it stretched as the baby grew so that it could be worn for a few months. My mom and her sister also made these booties, and the pattern (oral tradition only – I never saw this thing in writing!) was explained over and over to me. I’m not an auditory learner, and I never caught on until the booties for my own boys arrived. Then suddenly I understood the pattern as I tied the little booties onto their tiny feet. Clever, clever, clever. The whole bootie is constructed in one piece and definitely performs as advertised. I loved these booties and used them until the boys were walking. Now I make them for other people.

White Baby Booties
Bootie made from KnitPicks Stroll on 2.25 mm needles for a newborn.

This weekend I made two pairs of the booties for the office manager at my car repair shop, who needs to give them to new mothers as baby gifts. They are just little booties, but they are so much more than that. They are the past, the present and the future all at once. They are my connection to the women of my family who gave me the pattern and the Swedish knitting genes. With each stitch that goes into them the gift lives on.

The baby bootie pattern was written up by Christine Bourquin, a woman about the same age as my grandmother, and was published as a letter to the editor of a magazine in 1989. The pattern and more information can be found online at Fuzzy Galore. There is also a great online tutorial posted by Major Knitter. I wonder if Christine was Swedish?

Just Desserts: Serenity Socks

What can I do? I went to my favorite yarn store over the weekend, and they had this absolutely fabulous sock yarn in colors to dye for made by Zen Yarn Garden . I have a lot of sock yarn already, but sometimes a skein is so unique and perfect that I just can’t pass it by; I just know that I will never see it again. This yarn was called Serenity 20 and it was 20% cashmere, 70% superwash merino wool and 10% nylon. In other words, a yarn that is wonderful to touch, can be machine washed and will wear well. I found a skein that was extremely interesting, put it back on the shelf, and then took it down to look over at least twice more before I decided that it needed to go home with me. It was part of what they call their Art Walk Series, which I think means that the yarn is dyed in colorways that invoke specific works of art. This skein is inspired by Ice Cream Dessert by Andy Warhol.

This is the label that came with the skein of yarn.
This is the label that came with the skein of yarn.

Not a great shot, but you can sort of see the colors in the picture; the yarn is dyed in these same colors, and these colors go with almost everything in my wardrobe. I love mauve and plum colors, am constantly in denim jeans and darker blues, so the colors are perfect matches. The socks made from this yarn will blend in with most of the things that I wear. To be honest, now that I am retired, everything that I wear goes with jeans!

So, here is the yarn.

Ice Cream Yarn Closeup

The socks that I decided to knit are my old favorite, Chouwa from the book Knitted Socks East and West. I love this book, and have made several of the different patterns, but Chouwa is my go-to pattern. The socks always fit and wear well, no matter what yarn I am using. I know it so well that I can knit away while watching TV or reading. The word “chouwa” means harmony, and what could be a better match for a yarn called Serenity?

Here's the finished sock!
Here’s the finished sock!

I knit the socks while watching Firefly. (I’ve been watching all the old Firefly episodes because I just read some books that reminded me of the show). As it turns out, this was the perfect show to be watching while making these socks. I mean, what else can you watch while knitting socks made with Serenity yarn? Can’t help but think that the crew would have enjoyed some ice cream dessert and that while the socks invoke the harmony of the tea ceremonies that Inara conducts, they would have been a favorite worn by Kaylee while working in the engine room.

How Many Yards?

How much yarn is in that mitt?

So, I’ve gotten a little crazy with the mitt making. I’ve been making them while I watch television or read; basically they are something that I can produce while watching television or reading as they are kind of automatic knitting. Since I have so much yarn in the stash, they are kind of a stash buster at the same time. The only problem with this is that I don’t like making the thumbs as I need to focus a little on what I’m doing to make them. That’s how I found myself with 10 pairs of mitts without thumbs.

Unfinished Mitts
After knitting in the thumbs I still had to weave in all the ends to finish the mitts.

Good grief! I had to spend the entire weekend working on thumbs to get them finished. I watched all the episodes of Firefly again and settled into the project. While I was working I started to wonder just how much yarn was in each pair of mitts.

I have a little electronic balance that I use when dying yarn (to figure the amount of dye to use for the weight of dry fiber), and realized that I could use it to measure the number of yards of yarn in the mitts. I had already started using the balance to determine if I had enough yarn left in a ball to knit another mitt by weighing one mitt, and then the ball of yarn. If the ball weighs more than the mitt, there is enough! With a little calculator action and some simple algebra I could use the balance to get my yardage.

Mitts on the balance.
I weighed both mitts together on the balance with unwoven ends attached.

Since I had so many pairs of mitts that were made of the same yarn (but different colors…) I was able to weigh all 10 pairs and then figure the average. These mitts (the Darwinian Mitts pattern on this blog)  made in Malabrigo Rios yarn weigh 43 grams each. To make sure I was measuring the amount of yarn needed in the construction of the mitt and not just the yarn in the finished mitt I weighed them before weaving in and trimming off all the loose ends.

Now for the math! Malabrigo Rios comes in 100 gram skeins with about 210 yards according to the wrapper. I’m just going to take their word for this. Since my mitt weighs 43 grams, and if I use “X” to stand for the number of yards of yarn in my mitts, the relationship can be expressed as:

mitt math_1Then if I cross multiply so that I can solve for “X” I get:

mitt math_2This can be cleaned up by cancelling out the grams and dividing the 43 by 100 to convert it to a decimal. That leaves:

mitt math_3Which forced me to use a calculator. When I multiplied the numbers I discovered that in this case:

mitt math_4Which is the number of yards of yarn I need to create these mitts. This is great, as I have some skeins lurking in the stash that are right around 100 yards, and I think that I will put some of them on the needles to see what they look like as mitts.

Now that I have worked this out I think that I see the pattern that I can use to do future calculations. If I know how many yards are in 100 grams of yarn, and I weigh my knitted item to get the number of grams in it, I just need to move the decimal place over two places to the left on the weight of my knitted article, and then multiply that number by the yardage in 100 grams of yarn. Fast, easy, simple.