Embracing the Sock Blank

Last month I went to the Estes Park Wool Market and scored some great additions for the stash; most intriguing were the sock blanks that I found in the Bonkers Handmade Originals booth. They were single stranded, so suitable for mismatched mitts and socks, or maybe for a little shawl. Hmm…  I bought two of them.

Sock Blank and Mitt
You know that I had to cast on right away. Look, look: a mitt! I started knitting right off the blank and thought that the kink in the yarn would contribute to the funkiness. OK, the fabric is wonky, but I like it. It’s rustic, right?

I have to be honest here. As soon as I had satisfied my burning curiosity about how the yarn would knit up I stuffed the project into a bag where it languished out of sight for a few weeks.

Then I went up to Shuttles, Spindles & Skeins in Boulder Colorado three weeks ago to get some more bobbins for my current weaving project and I saw these stacked in a pile of yumminess right by the front door:

Sock Blanks
Oh, my goodness. Look at those colors! These babies are from The Hummingbird Moon. You know that I was unable to resist casting on a sock right away since I am completely lacking in will power. Luckily I have several pairs of 2.25mm needles hanging out in my knitting bag.
Sock Blank
This sock blank was single stranded, so I knew that my pair of socks wouldn’t be an exact match, but after the first rush of knitting had worn off I took a better look at the blank to see if I could understand the dyeing pattern.  Hey, look at that! The blank had been folded lengthwise at the midpoint and the two halves are mirror images of each other. There must be a way to get two matching socks from this blank.
Cutting the sock blank.
I cut the blank at the midpoint, pulled out a long runner, cut it off and I had the two halves separated. Easy, peasy. I wound the bottom half into a ball using my ball winder.  Because of the way the blank was dyed the yarn that I wanted to start the new sock with (the bottom of the blank) was on the outside of the ball of wound yarn.
Ball of yarn and the blank.
Since I had already started one sock from the blank I had to cast on the second sock off the ball of yarn onto ANOTHER set of needles (hey, I’m an addict. I have lots and lots of needles…) and as soon as I had the second sock (from the ball of yarn) the same length as the first one I transferred it to the needles the first sock was on.
TAAT socks and patient cat.
Bam! I now had TAAT socks going on one set of needles. As always, MacKenzie was supervising my work.
Socks
From then on I worked off the ball and my half-blank. Look at how well the socks are matching up. I want to mention that if I had figured out the dye pattern sooner I could have wound both halves of the blank into balls; to make matching socks the trick would have been to knit from the outside of one ball and the inside of the other.

I did run into some issues when I got to the heel gussets; I had to use an extra needle (one for each sock heel) to handle all of the stitches during the gusset decreases. Once the stitch number was down to a reasonable number I was able to transfer stitches back to the original needles and finished up with no problems.

Finished Socks.
These are the first TAAT socks that I have ever done. I just love them! This simple vanilla sock pattern is Dave by Rachel Coopey. My Ravelry notes are here.

Flush with the success of the socks I pulled back out the mitts that I had started with the first sock blank that I got from Bonkers. This blank didn’t have a reversed dye pattern so I just went ahead and made mitts that are complementary but not identical.

Mitts
Here they are. These two will play well together but aren’t perfect matches. The fabric is a little funky so I put them into the sink this afternoon to soak for a while to see if the knitting will even out. They fit well when I try them on, so I’m sure all will be well after blocking. I haven’t woven in the ends yet as I thought that might be better done after blocking. My Ravelry notes are here.

I still have two blanks to play with, but as of today I have absolutely no projects on my needles at all; MacKenzie’s WIP basket is empty again. It’s kind of crushing. I have the yarn for three sweaters all lined up, but I’m torn about which one to start on. Should I start the artsy Stephen West Marled Magic sweater that will be very labor intensive, or should I just go for the easy knitting of another drijfhout in a single color? Then there is the crazy colored yarn that I bought for that I See Spring sweater by Joji Locatelli…

Time to start winding yarn. Good thing I am a knitting addict with a lot of needles on hand!

The WIP basket is empty!

It took a month, but look at what has happened:

Cat in empty WIP basket.
MacKenzie has a new toy!

Yep. This is an event of such astonishing rarity it makes a blue moon seem common: every single one of the languishing items hanging out in the WIP basket has been finished. The basket is now empty. MacKenzie was all astonishment for at least 20 seconds before he moved in to make the basket his own. It took the whole month of May, but I now have all of my needles and stitch markers back where they belong.

Socks.
Arent these cute? I love the way the lace pattern switches on the socks to make a mismatched pair.  It wasn’t too bad keeping the different lace patterns under control as a different needle is used on each side of the sock. This pattern is Milfoil by Rachel Coopey. My project notes are here.
Cowl
The moebius cowl that I was working on is also done. Like my model?
Stitch close-up.
Moebius knitting is really fun. I started with Cat Bordhi’s cast on and then knit from the center outward in garter  and blackberry stitch that I had to modify a little to accommodate the circular  knitting and my stiff hands. Because this is a moebius the right side has the “up” side of the blackberry pattern, and the left has the “down” side.
Cowl
When worn the shape allows the wearer to fold the cowl with the same pattern on both sides.
Stitch detail.
This is the same cowl with the other side up. I like them both. If the cowl is doubled up or worn draped around the shoulders both patterns show.

I took really good notes while knitting this time so that I can post the pattern in my next blogging adventure. If you want more info you can find my project notes here. That yarn is Tosh Merino DK in the colorway NIght Hawk. I was worried about how it would knit up, but I like the finished project.

I’m off to cast on a shawl using yarn from the stash and a pattern a friend gave me.

MacKenzie, get out of that basket!

FO Friday: June Socks, Joker Shawl and Roses!

I’ve been working out in the garden all week except for when the afternoon thunderstorms roll in. Then it is knitting time! I worked on the June 2015 socks all week and got them done yesterday with a few days to spare.

Socks
Ta-daa!!. These are the Petal Socks by Rachel Coopey. Here are the project notes on Ravelry. 
Sock Feet
The colorway of this yarn is called “Thunder”. That turned out to be really appropriate as I knitted the socks to the sounds of thunder, rain, and even the tornado sirens one afternoon. 

I am really happy with these socks. The pattern come with complete charts for three different sizes. I made the medium size (66 stitches on size 1.5 needles) and they fit really well (which is something that I always worry a little about in a lace sock). I used double pointed needles in the leg portion of the sock, but switched to two 16″ cable needles as soon as the sock divided to make the heel and that made the lace panel on the top of the foot much easier to manage. The yarn (Becoming Art Cielo) was kind of elastic which I think helped.

I’ve also been making some progress on my second Joker and the Thief shawl. I was not happy with the colors at one point, but I am liking it a little more now that the color pattern is easier to see.

Shawl
It is about at the halfway point now. That bright blue doesn’t stand out that much in the actual shawl. 🙂

Look what happened in the garden with all of the rain this week!  My Princess Alexandra of Kent rose is blooming! I just love this one.

Rose
This rose sometimes struggles in the dry air of Colorado, but not this year!

That it for the week. The clouds are really rolling in again for our afternoon soaking, so I think it’s time for me to fire up the knitting needles for the afternoon. Orange is the New Black, here I come!

Knitting Updates: Slug Time

Gosh. Life has really been clobbering me lately. My systemic sclerosis (a type of scleroderma) has become more active this month, and as a result I have  been laying around like a slug thinking about the slugs in my garden and posts that I should be writing. (As a special type of irony this is Scleroderma Awareness Month. I’m encouraged to take a pledge to explain about scleroderma to at least one other person. Fabulous. When I feel better I will do that! Post to follow in the near future, or at least before the end of the month.)  Predictably I haven’t done anything about the slugs, but I have been collecting pictures and notes for posts. As soon as I start to feel better I will be posting like crazy. 🙂

I am not, however, feeling too poorly to knit. I mean, let’s be serious here! Knitting is Life!! Since I have been carefully rationing my energy expenditures the last couple of weeks I devoted some time to shopping the yarn stash and getting going on some great projects. Say hello to my new companions while binge watching Netflix (how is it possible that I never watched Orange is the New Black before? If I was incarcerated would they still let me knit? If I sent Piper some cute fingerless mitts would she wear them while fixing electrical equipment? See where my mind goes while I’m living the life of a slug? OK, enough of this. Back to the topic at hand…)

June sock
I got started on the June 2015 sock (Petal Socks by Rachel Coopey). Here are the project notes on Ravelry if you would like more details.
Finished sock.
I finished the first June Sock last night. This is the right sock; the left will have the lace details on the instep reversed so that the finished socks mirror each other.

What can I say about this sock? It was pretty easy to knit. The lace for the legs divided evenly on three needles and the chart had a 6 row repeat, so the pattern was easy to manage. When I got the heel turned I switched to two cable needles which worked really well and kept the lace on the instep (which has more stitches at this point) easy to manage. This sock fits my foot well and is nice and high on my leg which will be welcome warmth this winter. 🙂 The lace pattern doesn’t show well with this yarn, but it is so cute I’m over it.

Joker and Thief Yarn
Yarn to knit the second The Joker and the Thief shawl.

When I originally put together the yarns to knit The Joker and the Thief shawl by Melanie Berg I struggled to make up my mind. I ended up packaging together two sets of yarn. I already finished the first shawl  a few weeks ago and am really happy with it. This week I also cast on and started the second Joker so I could see how the colors look together. What do you guys think?

Shawl.
The start of the second Joker. 

Some of my knitting friends are turning out summer tops like crazy. Every time I go to knitting group on Wednesdays at my favorite yarn shop there is a new top being shown off. I am inspired! I am motivated! I am drowning in knitting projects, but since when did that ever stop me? I found a cute tee in the current Interweave Knits Magazine, located 10 skeins of Linen Jeans yarn by Borroco in my stash, and cast on.

Knitted top.
This is the start of the Clove Hitch Tee by Courtney Cedarholm.

I may not have enough yardage for the sweater as shown, but since it is knit from the top down I figure I can knit until I run out and then cast off. Hey, it’s a plan.

Time to go lay down again. Have a good week knitting everyone.

 

May and June Socks

I am really trying to keep up on my New Year’s resolutions this year. If you’re not keeping track of them (what, you have a life?), one of the big resolutions this year was to knit a pair of socks each month using a pattern from one of my (many, many) sock books and stash yarn. Sadly the end of May came and I only had one sock done for the month and the start of another. It’s not my fault. There are so many cute patterns and yarns out there that I keep getting distracted by a shawl or knitted hat. I guess I could stay off Ravelry and out of the yarn stores, but that is so not going to happen. Let’s be realistic here!

So I have a few projects lined up. I seem to be spending time in the craft room playing with yarn, beads, fabric, and organizing different projects. Lots of ideas; not enough time to get them done.  Yesterday I ignored the craft room, settled down by the television and binge knitted on the May socks for most of the afternoon. I was approaching the toe when I ran out of steam, so this morning it was pretty easy to get them done before lunch. Here they are!

This sock is Milfoil by Rachel Coopey from hr book CoopKnits Socks. The yarn is Madelinetosh Sock in the colorway Grenadine.
Here is the sock the day that I started it. The pattern is Milfoil by Rachel Coopey from her book CoopKnits Socks. The yarn is Madelinetosh Sock in the colorway Grenadine.
Finished socks
Ta-daa! The finished socks.. The lace pattern on the ankle and foot are switched between the two socks, and it is also different on the ankle portion of the sock (the front is one lace, the back the other). I used two 16″ cable needles to keep the patterns separate while knitting. The color changed a little as I knitted the second sock, but they are still cute!

So, I went into overtime a little on this one, but I am ready to dive into the June socks. I thought the Rachel Coopey sock was so cute that I selected another pattern by her (from a different book!) and matched it with a blue-ish yarn. Here it is.

June sock
It’s the end of spring. Obviously “Petal Socks” (found in the book knitting wizardry by Amy Clarke Moore) are appropriate to knit this month. The yarn that I am using is Becoming Art Yarns Cielo fingering in the colorway “Thunder”. Perfect color: there is a thunderstorm almost every afternoon this time of the year. 🙂

I have several little (excessively cute) projects to get done before I start on these socks. More knitting!! Must knit faster!!

Starlight, a Joker and OMG: Empathy Cards!!

Wow. It has been really, really rainy here. I had three inches of rain in the back yard bucket (my very-low tech rain gauge) before there was a downpour with hail this afternoon. Needless to say I have been making good progress on my knitting this week. Here’s what has been going on.

I got the Sidere Shawl by Hilary Smith Callis finally done and blocked. (Yep. There was another battle with the cats during blocking. This time they totally outdid themselves. One of them THREW UP on the shawl and then tried to bury the mess by raking damp shawl parts over the evidence. I love my cats. I really, really do…) I think that it turned out nice.

Info about the stitch
The shawl used a new stitch to me called Starlight Stitch (Sidere is Latin for starlight) that really made it have strips of interesting texture.
Shawl in Tree
Here is the finished shawl hanging displayed by my ever helpful ash tree. The rows of Starlight stitch open to one side of the asymmetrical shawl. Here are the project notes on Ravelry.

As I was finishing up the shawl I realized that it was now May. Time for another sock!! (As one of my New Year’s resolutions this year I have been knitting a new sock each month using a pattern from one of my many, many sock books and some yarn from the stash. So far I have been good and only used yarn from the stash. Notice I haven’t mentioned whether the stash is growing or getting smaller at this point…) Monday I dug through the sock yarn and here is what I settled on for the May 2015 sock:

This sock is Milfoil by Rachel Coopey from hr book CoopKnits Socks. The yarn is Madelinetosh Sock in the colorway Grenadine.
This sock is Milfoil by Rachel Coopey from her book CoopKnits Socks. The yarn is Madelinetosh Sock Yarn in the colorway Grenadine. Since the sock is divided into two distinct halves with different patterns I decided to knit it using two small cable needles instead of  my usual (and beloved) square double pointed needles.

Now that the Sidere Shawl is done I jumped right into knitting the first Joker and the Thief shawl by Melanie Berg. Woohoo!! This one is a keeper for sure, and is lots of fun to knit. Here’s where I am on it right now. The shawl and the sock are knitting up fast, which is a good thing as I have an awful lot of knitting going on.

Joker and the Thief Shawl
The navy yarn is the “Thief”, and the color gradient yarn is the “Joker”. This shawl is fun, fun, fun to knit. The sections of garter stitch are separated by stripes of criss-cross stitches. It is going to be really nice and squishy to wear. Here are the notes on Ravelry if you want the yarn details…

This week has been one of reflection for me as I knitted along in the gloomy rainy days. Tuesday was the anniversary of my mom’s death from ovarian cancer. What a difficult time that was for all of us in the family. Now I am exactly as old as my mom was at that time, and I also am struggling with a serious condition. I’m noticing again some of the things that we dealt with during my mom’s illness: friends and family saying hurtful things, distancing themselves, and trying to make the illness seem trivial. If anything is said at all, it is so superficial or cliche that it reveals a total disengagement. What is up with that? It’s almost as if they are lacking in… empathy.

OMG!! Guess what hit the market this week? Empathy cards! The exact cards that call to the heart of every person struggling with a serious illness, and the life preserver for every person who just doesn’t quite know what to do or say. I can relate to these cards totally! These cards are created by Emily McDowell to fill that huge gap that too many of us are aware of where people of good heart and intentions struggle to acknowledge unhappy truths (some of us will never be old…) as they try to express their concern and support. Here’s what I’m talking about:

Empathy Card
I would love it if someone gave me this card. I would love it even more if that person really would punch someone for me! 

See what I’m talking about? One visitor told my mother that her terminal illness was a “remarkable opportunity” as it gave her the chance to plan the end of her life. I never allowed that person to come visit her again. People who say everything happens for a reason are smugly assuming that somehow your illness was something that you deserved (and they didn’t), or that it will somehow make you a better person. That is just wrong, folks.

Lemon Card
This happened to me! Not nice! 

I bet you want some of these cards too. Here’s Emily McDowell’s blog about these cards and her store where you can buy your own. Emily is a cancer survivor and definitely understands the problem and the need for these simple vehicles to scaffold caring and meaningful communication of support for others dealing with a hard time. I know that people do care. We all need help sometimes to know how to show others how we feel.

So what other empathy cards should there be? I personally am tired of people telling me that they are glad that I’m so much better. (Say what??! I look better right now because I’m between naps and between crisis…) or that they will pray for me (Thanks! I appreciate that! What I really need, however, is someone who is willing to do some grocery shopping for me or even take me to my next major medical testing appointment of the gastroenterology torture chamber variety…) What about the times when people tell you that at least you don’t have __________ (some other disease that sounds worse to them), or ask if you have your will made? There has to be a great card using these comments!

Lots to think about while knitting on a rainy day.