Veritas

On my first visit to Brussels, a friend who was well aware of my yarn addiction, but not sure of whether there were any yarn shops around, remembered Veritas – a craft-slash-accessories chain where she had seen some colourful yarns.

The idea of a craft chain was somewhat new to me, as most craft shops I’ve encountered thus far were one-of-a-kind, though I had heard of things like JoAnn in the US. I have to admit I was a bit skeptical. When I think of my craft, I usually think of words like ‘unique’, ‘small scale’, while a chain shop implies mass production, and I wasn’t too keen on that association. However, Veritas surprised me pleasantly, and I have come to appreciate the advantages of a chain craft shop as well!

The knitting equipment they sell is mostly from Prym, which was the first ever brand of knitting needles I used – they’re not amazing but they are good value for the price and I wouldn’t shy away from recommending them to someone looking for a budget option. Seeing Veritas stocked with Prym equipment gave me the impression that, above all, it was a very sensible shop. Nothing fancy, good quality, at a good price. And above all, well stocked. So far, every one of my visits to Veritas has resulted, in terms of knitting equipment, in finding everything I had come in looking for.

Unfortunately, smaller yarn shops are not always able to restock their equipment regularly, and that can be quite a problem when you’re looking for a particular needle size. Especially in Croatia, I’ve found that yarn shops order a batch of knitting needles – with say 10 pieces of each size – every three months or so. Can you guess what happens? The ‘most popular’ sizes (e.g. 4mm) sell out as soon as they arrive, but no new ones are ordered until it is time for a new batch. So unless you’re lucky to walk into the yarn shop a few days after the new batch arrives, it’s more likely that you’ll be faced with a whole bunch of 7mm needles and no 4mm ones at all. In light of that, I really appreciate the reliability and well-stockedness (hehe :) I’ve found in Veritas.

And then there’s the colourful yarn, too.

My friend was quite right! Yummy! The yarn, like the equipment, is reasonably priced and sensible. It’s not really the kind of yarn you’d go impulse buying, but I have turned to this shop on a few occasions when I knew exactly what I needed, and it would definitely be my choice for a larger project, say a blanket, where I would want to go for a cost-effective yarn. There is a good selection of fibre contents and colours, and there are even regular discounts with the seasons. Lovely!

All in all, I like Veritas – it’s well-priced, reliable for equipment, has a good selection of yarn, and the space is large and inviting – allowing you to hover around petting the yarn as long as you want until you finally make your choice. It also puts a big emphasis on sewing, and has a good amount of equipment for other crafts, so if you are looking for a one-stop-shop for your multi-crafting, this is the place. The one thing you’re not seeing in these photos, though, is that it is also (maybe even primarily) a clothing and accessories shop. The craft section, while large, is usually at the back, and you might not notice it peeking in from the street. So if you come across a Veritas and see nothing but bathing suits in the shop window, don’t say to your travel companion “I don’t know what that Fridica is thinking, this is clearly not a craft shop at all!” but have some faith, poke your nose in and enter the sensible knitter’s heaven… ;)

there and back again

I’ve been arguing with Third Socks. They are being difficult. I tried the Sam pattern, and very promptly remembered that I really disliked cabling and so what on earth was I thinking. I ripped, and tried the Monkeys pattern. That was better, but at some point something went wrong with my stitch count, so I had to tink back, then had to tink back some more, then decided to rip a few rounds, then couldn’t find my place, then ripped everything. Which amounted to the third time I ripped this yarn. Leading me to the conclusion that it’s all the yarn’s fault. It’s going in the doghouse for now. I need a break from it.

In the meantime, I’m knitting Second Socks, again. The thing is, one of my friends saw the ones I made (and promptly gave away – after taking these few poor photos), fell in love, and demanded an exact same pair. Insisted that they wanted this pattern and nothing else. Insisted that this was the perfect colour. They are even the same shoe size as the last pair. So I’m knitting the exact same thing again. Can’t say I’m thrilled about it, but sometimes I just give in. It’s ok, they were fun anyway.

And it’s comforting at least, to be knitting something that I know I enjoy, and I know (exactly) how it will turn out. Actually, might be just the thing to cure my frustration from attempts at Third Socks.

And they’re not going in the official count. They’re more of a re-play. Once I’m done with them, I’ll get around to proper Third Socks. Hopefully to finish this time…

other stuff

Hello! The computer had to pay a little visit to the doctor recently, which is one of the main reasons why I’ve been absent. It was nothing serious, just a bit of preventive cleaning – but I can tell you it was well needed. When I picked it up today, in addition to the maintenance report and invoice, I got a little plastic bag with a chunk of felted dust – the stuff they took out of it. A true testament to the need for these cleanings (and to my computer doctor’s sense of drama, I reckon.)

I’ve been knitting very little, too. The temperatures here are slowly settling into their summer levels (we’re around 30 Celsius now, and it’s only going to go up), and while that doesn’t really prevent me from knitting usually, it made me feel like a break, and like doing some other stuff. So I whipped out my weathered, but reliable, Ice Coffee shaker…

…and let this book pull me in like a whirlwind – I just couldn’t put it down. I must have read 300 pages in two days. That hasn’t happened in a while, so I highly recommend it.

I hope you have something cool and yummy to drink and something irresistable to read this weekend! See you on Monday :)

Next Socks

The thing about socks is – you finish one and then there isn’t much to blog about anymore, because all you’re doing is doing it all again. And who wants to see photos of that? :D Luckily, my second Kai-Mei is going much much faster than the first one so there ought to be a proper FO post soon. In the meantime, here’s what I plan to start as soon as Kai-Meis are done.

Photo is ownership of Interweave

It’s another pattern from Cookie A’s Sock Innovation, called Sam and inspired by Cookie’s dad. One of the really sweet things about this book is the personal story that comes with each pattern – explaining who the socks were named after and why that person is influential in Cookie’s life. I love reading them and it really sets the patterns apart – it makes them something a bit more than technical instructions.

I’m going to be using the skein of madelinetosh tosh merino light I won in a giveaway from Photo.Knit.Dog a while ago. I had already tried using it once, but that ended up ripped because I disliked the pooling.

However, the little bit of sleeve I knitted before frogging made me confident that I would like the look of this yarn a lot more done in a small circumference. If you look at the 2 cm between the needle and the armhole (the bit that was done in a small circumference), you’ll notice that the pooling is quite different there. I hope it will work nicely and not clash too much with the cable pattern. The pattern calls for a 100% merino yarn and it makes me happy that I actually had that in my stash.

I’ll let you know as soon as I cast on! :)

now that feels like an accomplishment

I gave my right pinky quite a blister last night with this – but I felt sooooo close and I just had to finish and show it to you! Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the first half of my Second Socks.

I loooooove this sock. It was quite a significant leap in complexity from my first vanilla socks, but the pattern is very clear and well written. This definitely wasn’t your TV knit, but after a while I even memorised (without trying to!) the pattern for the lace pannel and was able to do the last few repeats while listening to an audio book.

I have to admit, when I first looked at the lace panel instructions, I kind of went “Hm?” and was not at all convinced that they would result in anything similar to the lovely photos. But it seemed to work for everyone else, so I gave Cookie the benefit of the doubt. And oh my. What a gorgeous decorative motif achieved in such an easy way! I love it and have already been thinking about how I could incorporate it in, say, a pullover.

I like the plain side of it quite a lot too. I think I’ll have to make a pair of plain socks in this yarn later, it’s so warm and wooly.

Luckily, it’s a leftover from a ripped sweater and not in best shape (despite the fact that I washed it and rewound it, it’s still looking quite wrinkly – which also explains why some of my stitches aren’t so neat), so I don’t mind using it for socks despite its whiteness. :)

Well, if I remember correctly I showed you the beginnings of this sock last Friday. That means – a week for one complex sock, in addition to working on several other projects at the same time. Not bad. Not bad at all! :)

Happy Friday! :)

Oh, handsome

Free patterns have been rocking my world lately! I am not one to shy away from buying a pattern I really like, but my credit card has been sporting a bit of a sad face lately, and this has led me to explore more the free patterns I already had on my queue. One great source of free patterns is Pickles, a Norwegian duo who sells yarns and provides a bunch of free crafting resources. If you haven’t been there yet it’s definitely worth checking out. I like their philosophy very much: they always provide one size of a pattern for free, and they alternate between sizes “to make it fair for everyone”. That’s a very cool approach.

The project I’ve been eyeing the longest on their website is Oh, handsome – a toddler sweater pattern which comes both in a summer and a winter version. The one-size-free idea worked perfectly for me here, because I didn’t have a specific recipient intended for the sweater – I just wanted to try out the pattern. So I just knit whichever the free size was (in this case, it was the 2-year-old size).

The reviews of this pattern on Ravelry weren’t all that bright, though. Many different people had many different complaints, but I decided to brave it, thinking that I would solve any snags as I went (and encouraged by my success in dealing with this poorly written free pattern). In the end, however, I had no major difficulties. (And if you followed that link above, you know I wouldn’t hesitate to tell you if I had. ;)) There were a few places where it could have been polished out a bit, things that were just plain impractical – like the bit where you separate the fronts and the back, which has been widely commented on, and rightly so, but which takes about 15 seconds of thinking to come up with a better way of doing it. Overall, there was nothing that would give one much headache and I would recommend this pattern without hesitation.

The one thing that could be improved is the formatting. Before setting off to knit, I copypasted everything into a Word document, removed all the unnecessary bits and converted all measurements to centimeters. I ended up with a pattern that fit on half of an A4 page and which was much easier to follow visually than the one on the website. But you could say that that’s just personal preference. I tend to do that with patterns a lot.

If you look at my project page, you’ll notice a fair amount of modifications. Their purpose, however, was not to change the design (I really loved it as it is), but to reduce the amount of seaming as much as possible. In the end, the only thing I had to seam was the bottom of the collar, and it pleased me very much that I had been so clever with that! If you’d like to make this pattern and you’re as lazy about seaming as I am, I think you could find my notes helpful. Let me know if anything needs clarifying.

The detail that I am very proud of are the sleeves. Look, look how nicely set in they are! :) Instead of knitting them separately and then attaching them (which I dread), I went in the opposite direction, picking up stitches at the armhole and knitting down. I was a bit too lazy to do the calculations for short rows, so my sleeves don’t have shoulder cap shaping like proper set-in sleeves, but I reckon it doesn’t matter too much on a sweater for a 2-year-old. The good thing about baby and toddler sweaters is that perfect fitting does not matter as much as it does on adult ones!

Oh, and then there’s the collar. I looooove the collar. Well, let’s be honest, it’s the only interesting bit of the sweater – the rest of it is basically just a plain vanilla stockinette sweater. The collar is so distinguished though. So cool. So unusual for a toddler garment. So so SO! I am completely in love with it.

And the best part is that it would probably even eliminate the need for a scarf, since it goes high up the neck and closes in snugly. Thus putting the dot on the i of this perfect little warm winter sweater. Now just to find a model… :)

what I wore yesterday

Guess what I wore yesterday? My first very own knitted socks! :)

This has been a long time coming, but better late than never. I got my basic instructions and stitch counts from Wendy Johnson’s book Socks from the toe up. I really can’t recommend this book enough, if you’re a sock beginner it’s the perfect thing, with detailed explanations of sock construction, many drawings for basic techniques, and a choice of several techniques to use for each section of the sock. (And after you go through all that, there’s a good number of sock patterns too.)

My socks are constructed with:

Judy’s magic cast-on – a small miracle, if you ask me! If you don’t know this method, you should really check it out.

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A short-row heel – this was OK, but not great. There are definitely some holes on the join between the short rows and the front of the foot (even though I picked up extra stitches to prevent it – it didn’t help), and the heel doesn’t feel terribly sturdy. Having tried a slipped-stitch heel in the meantime, I’d say I much prefer it to this method.

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A Russian bind-off – again, I was so-so about this one, and I’ll be looking for improvements. It’s just stretchy enough, getting the socks over my heel is a bit of an effort but it works. Next time I do a toe-up sock I’ll be trying Jeny’s surprisingly stretchy bind-off (don’t you just love these names?).

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When I started the socks, I thought it would be best to just do plain socks without any stitch patterns, to get the hang of the sock construction itself. However, pretty soon I got bored. Most of it, after all, is just plain tube knitting. So I started thinking – I wanted to add something that wouldn’t distract me too much from the construction but would add a little bit of interest. And then I remembered the socks I had been admiring a few weeks earlier, made by two blogging friends (and my most recent favourite discoveries in the blog world) Jenny and Dona. A simple cable at the back, yes – that was exactly what would do the trick!
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Mmmm, what a brilliant idea from those two girls! When I did the second sock, I actually mirrored the cables, to add a bit more interest, though I can’t tell you which one is right and which one left! It doesn’t really matter… Finally, when it came to ribbing, I thought it would be nice to make something that would flow nicely with the cable in the back (I love patterns that flow well from one section to the next), and did the cabling in the same cable pattern. I think that was a good decision! :)

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And there you go – I made my first socks. I’m so happy that this watershed is behind me now and I’m looking forward to many more socks to come. There was a special kind of thrill yesterday when I realized all my socks were in the laundry and I had to wear my handknitted ones. ;) Oh, and yes – they are as warm as people say…

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All the details on how I did the cabling and construction can be found on my project page.
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starting over

I’ve gotten to the stage where I feel a bit overwhelmed with all the half-finished projects I have lying around and need to sort them out. It’s nothing unusual, an already familiar sensation that I welcome every once in a while, because I know it gives me the impetus to tie up loose ends (no pun intended) and go on. It means not only finishing up the projects I have on the go before starting any new ones, but more importantly, dealing with those things that I have pushed away into some dark corner because I was stuck with them and didn’t know in which direction to go. Sometimes that means finding a creative solution, or even just getting on with it, and sometimes it means ripping.

On this particular project I’ve been debating ripping with myself for a while. I finished Jane in about three weeks’ time, but I was not happy with it. The main problem was the fact that I was working with tiny scraps of yarn, and this got worse towards the end of the hat, where I had to join a new thread on every round, and to skip the last round of decreases (which then resulted in a very big hard hole at the top of the hat – because I had to thread through about 20 stitches, rather than 10). It turned out much more snug than I like my hats, with a million ends to weave in (and hope the whole top of the hat doesn’t come apart), and this big hole on top. Still, overall it looked nice and I wondered if I should just weave in the ends, block it and gift it to someone with a small head who liked snug hats. Indecision ensued. Most of my friends know, to what I can only imagine is great frustration which is endured quite stoically (thank you), that if I am the master of anything, it is indecision.

But today, finally, the decision was made. I need to do this properly. So I ripped. Once the psychological part was out of the way, I thought ripping would be easy, but it actually proved quite a challenge. As I said, I had been working with scraps of yarn and I had come up with various creative ways to put this hat together. Of course, when I’m knitting, I don’t expect to rip back, so I don’t think about doing things in a way that would make it easy to rip. Hm. Well, I got there in the end, and now I’m ready to start over.

fallback project

You know how I said that sock knitting was hurting my fingers and I needed another project to fall back on when the pain from gripping small needles appears? Well, I found one. And then, several episodes of Doctor Who later…

The “fallback” project seems to have somehow taken over. I didn’t touch my sock once yesterday. This was too much fun! :)

I’ve been wanting to make this baby/toddler cardigan ever since I first saw it. It was one of the main reasons why I bought the book (this one), though I love most the patterns in it. But somehow I could just never find the right yarn for it. Until two days ago, when I realized I had the perfect amount of the perfect yarn in my stash!

In DK weight on 3.5mm needles, after days of only sock knitting, this feels like super-loose knitting. The diamond pattern is easy to follow (even if you’re giving more attention to Matt Smith than to it) and is creating a sort of quilted look.

I have a feeling that I’ll need another fallback project soon… This one might not last much longer!

sock fun

Whoa, I am totally loving the construction of these socks! There are so many interesting elements, I am never bored! Check out my first ever heel flap.

Pretty cool. And it looks super sturdy too. You wanna see the wrong side?

I’ve since gone a few steps further and have started working on the gusset (I still couldn’t define a gusset if you asked me to, but as long as I can make it… ;) ). I have to say I really loved this heel construction, it looks way neater and sturdier than the short-row heel I did on my first socks. And it was more fun to do too!

I’m already looking around for my Third Socks and having to tell myself to take them one at a time. Luckily I only have one 2mm cable needle so I can’t start new ones without finishing these. Good disciplinary method, for sure!