a year of socks

Towards the end of last year, knitting slowly crept back into my life. I was enjoying this resurgence of my old passion, so as I packed my suitcases for a week off at my parents’, I was eager to bring some knitting along as well. What’s easily transportable (my suitcase already bursting at the seams with xmas gifts) and easy to work on (i.e. won’t distract me from participating in all the family chatter going on), I thought? Socks, of course.

So I pulled out a ball of sock yarn from my stash, checked my trusty reference books, and did the fiddly part of casting on, so that in the midst of the family hubbub I could simply dive in to some mindless knitting. I saw this as a sort of experiment for my hands, which had struggled with RSI for a long time, but seemed to be doing ok lately. If they could handle a week of almost daily knitting on teeny tiny needles, we might be getting somewhere. I approached it cautiously, but enthusiastically.

And it worked just fine. Not only did my hands not complain too much, but I also rediscovered that funny thing about socks. You know, that thing about how they seem sooo scary (the fine yarn, the small needles, the complex construction elements), but then you knit one and remember that it’s mostly just knitting a rather small tube of stockinette, with a little shaping in the beginning (toe) and middle (heel). It’s what I love about socks.

And so, having come back home in the last days of 2016 with two socks almost finished in one week, somehow the decision was already half formed in my mind before I even articulated it. 2017 would be my year of socks. I would work from my stash, experiment with patterns, and see where it got me. Mostly, I would have fun.

So here we are. Two pairs are already off the needles, and will be making an appearance here soon. But if I was to have a year of socks, well, then surely I deserved a little treat to properly show them off when they were done. And I’m even knitting from stash so I’m not spending any money on yarn. Surely that should be rewarded, I reasoned. A few clicks around Etsy and I ended up with these beauties. I absolutely luuuuurve them and I’ll be putting them to good use this year.

Stay tuned :)

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space robot

Space Robot is my first knitted toy! It took about three weeks to knit up, stuff and seam. But the moment it was done, Space Robot started having a life of his own.

First he went for a swim. I came home from work one day and immediately noticed the smell of wet wool. I had no idea where it was coming from, until I wandered over to the kitchen and saw that Space Robot had dived from the counter into the sink and was taking a dip in the leftovers of my morning cereals… He got a proper talking-to, and it seemed to have worked – he avoided swimming afterwards (at least when he could get caught!). This is his guilty face below.

Then he started experimenting with music. And like adults often do, I regretted my actions and started wishing he would go back to swimming. Do you know what space drums sound like when played by a rebellious young toy? If you don’t, trust me on this one – you’re better off for it.

Finally, he tried his hand at modelling. The girls that came with it were nice, but he found them a bit too empty-headed. In the end, he decided it wasn’t quite for him.

And then he announced that he would be packing his suitcases and flying off to Croatia within two days’ notice. I was devastated! Ok, we had had our differences, but he was still my favourite little chubby Space Robot! I would miss him so much. And worry about him too. He told me not to fret and gave me a biiiiiiiiig space hug.

And then he was off. Just like that. I was sad, but also proud. He was going off to make his own place in the world.

He writes to me regularly. He says he’s very happy. He’s taken up house with my nephew and they are working together at a Lego construction site. In their time off they do math homework. And he’s even learning to play football… (I say he’d make a great goalie!)

Space Robot was knitted without any modifications as per Ysolda Teague’s Trinket pattern. I found the knitting to be quite a bit fiddly, but absolutely worth it. The construction is very inventive and it will take you through a large number of different skills on a fairly small project. I had never done intarsia before, for example, and here I had a chance to try it out small scale. I recommend the pattern without hesitation. Some additional technical notes and links to tutorials I used can be found on my project page.

I used Cascade 220 Heathers because I had some lying around in nice colours. I am really a fan of this yarn and think it may be perfect for knitted toys. Before stuffing the toy I wet-blocked it, a process which works wonders for this 100% wool yarn. It helps the stitches blend together, thus making the toy surface smoother (and softer for children’s hands and cheeks) and closing up any holes where the stuffing may leak through.

The photos were taken by a wonderful friend of mine.

reflections of a shawl knitter

My Whippoorwill has been finished for a while now (almost two months actually!). I am counting it as my first official shawl, and as such, I can say that it has illuminated me greatly on many things.

The knitting

The knitting itself was quite easy. Let’s face it, as shawl patterns go, this one is pretty much as simple as they get. But what worried me more than potential complexity was the fear of boredom. You often hear shawl knitters complain about those endless rows of several hundred stitches, about how they lose interest on purl rows, and also about how easy it is to lose track of where you are and mess up a pattern. I can happily report that I experienced none of that. I completely breezed through this pattern, at remarkable speed. I did mess up a few times, coming to the end of a row and realizing that my stitch count was a bit off, but I was equally remarkably unconcerned about that. I just picked up an extra stitch here and there, and things worked out on their own. I challenge you to locate the mistakes in my FO!

Ha!

The fabric

I usually consider myself quite a big fan of densely knit fabric. My ideal gauge is that thin line between a fabric that is compact, yet still soft. If pressed to choose among the alternative extremes, though, I would go towards the stiffer, tighter knit fabrics, much sooner than towards loose, open gauge. Whippoorwill taught me, however, that I may have underestimated what loose gauge can do to a knitted item’s softness. Whoa! This baby is so soft that I feel like I have to whisper the word soft when talking about it. (And frankly, while Malabrigo is amazingly soft, I think the gauge gets all the credit here.)

And the lightness, oh my, the lightness! To have something so soft, so light, yet so warm, now this is a completely new experience to me.

The size

I knit the size small (that’s how much yarn I had), and I was convinced the finished object would be the size ‘too small’. Again, underestimating the gauge.

When something is knitted so loosely, it becomes stretchy, and this small little thing wraps around my neck, twists itself into a nice knot and even leaves some ends hanging out of it prettily without any effort.

The rolling

Anyone who’s ever knit a shawl knows that they are ugly ducklings in the process and only turn into beautiful swans after you stretch them out like crazy, pin them out like a voodoo doll and block even the thought of scrunchupedness out of them. So I trusted my shawl while it looked all old-lady-skin on me, and waited patiently for the blocking to do its magic. Needless to say – it did. Wonderfully. However, after wearing the thing on and off for about a month, I can report that the edges are now rolling in again. I have to say I expected greater durability…

Am I going to have to keep blocking this every two or three weeks?

The wearing

Actually, the main part of my skepticism towards shawls comes from the fact that they simply do not fit into my wardrobe. When it comes to neckwear, I’m more of a chunky, elongated kinda gal (as opposed to the light, triangular kind). In this section, I have several things to report. One, this shawl is not too triangular for me. It might even be a good stepping stone towards more properly triangulary things. Two, it’s the perfect thing to have on your neck in these transitional autumn days. Not too warm, not too cold. Three, the shawl cuts into my neck. Now here we have a problem. The upper edge (longest edge if you think of the shape as a triangle) is the least elastic one. That is because of the construction of the shawl, from the centre of that side outwards, so that edge is formed by the stitches you keep casting on in each row.

That is also normally the edge that is in most contact with the neck and I would want it most stretchy. I find this quite discouraging since most shawls I’ve seen have the same method of construction, which means that they’ll all have this unelastic edge? As it is I end up wearing my shawl “upside-down” (with the unelastic edge towards the bottom and the decorative edge towards my face), to prevent it from cutting into my neck.

I hope you guys have some advice for avoiding this!

So there you have it! I am really happy with all the lessons learned from this experience and I think it has expanded my horizons as a knitter. I look forward trying out new shawls, and maybe even discovering constructions that suit me better… Do you have any additional reflections on shawl-knitting? I’d love to hear!

p.s. Have a great weekend everyone! :)

look!

Another perk of my new place – the wash basin in my room is big enough for blocking even large items, like the back of my to-be Minimalist Cardigan! :) Please ignore the rust etc. – it is a student residence after all… :)

Doing this is long overdue – I meant to do it just before I set off to Paris so that it was dry by the time I got home. However, as I am the master of putting things off until the last minute (I started packing at about 7pm on Sunday evening, we were leaving at 5am in the morning), certain things simply didn’t get done. Oops! :)

I’m considering this a sort of a test-block, so I didn’t pin it out or anything, I just lay it flat on a towel on the floor, I want to see how much it will grow and whether I’ll need to rip and make a smaller size. It definitely feels too big already, but then again – I’ve never made a cardigan for myself and I don’t know how the pieces are supposed to look before you put them together. The measures seem to be just slightly off from the pattern, so maybe it’s ok after all? We’ll see. For orientation purposes, you get a(nother) nasty photo. My feet are included for size estimation! ;)

Oh, and Paris, you ask? It was lovely. Lovely! I was so sad to have to come back to London, and the obligations that come with it. I definitely needed a longer vacation… But I’ll stop moaning about that and very soon I’ll share with you lots of yummy photos of the trip! Watch this space… ;)

blocking a monster

It is done. It is huge. It is, officially, a Monster. But a beautiful Monster, if I may say so myself.

In any case, as soon as I finished up the knitting  (a year and a half after starting!), I wanted to get it completely out of the way, so I sewed in the ends immediately and set about the business of blocking. I got some free samples of Soak during the Worldwide Knit in Public Day, so I decided to test them on this.

Step number 1: pour into cold water and stir.

And before you ask, yes, I do my blocking in a gigantic kitchen pot. And yes, I also use that pot to cook pasta in. Student life… :)

Step number 2: add Monster.

While adding the Monster, try to avoid this. Especially if your room is about to be inspected to make sure you haven’t caused any damage before you move out… Hm…

Step number 3: let it soak for about 15 minutes. The cool thing about the Soak liquid is that it does not require rinsing. I hate rinsing. Thus, we can proceed directly to Step number 4: remove Monster from its bath and roll it into a towel to drain the excess liquid. Or a blanket, if there is no towel big enough to contain the Monster.

Did I really just make my friend a scarf LONGER than a full-bed blanket?? Well, she asked for it…

I didn’t feel the need to pin this one down, I like the natural curves that the faux cables create.

Step number 5: reward yourself. :)

When it dries I’ll let you know if I see any difference for having used the Soak liquid. In the meantime, I hope you’re doing something similar to Step number 5! ;)