the socks that started it all

Here they are, the socks that reminded me that knitting socks is easy and that I love it.

For this first pair, I kept it simple and easy – the so called “plain vanilla” socks: all stockinette, no special features, letting the yarn tell its own story. For these kinds of socks I usually turn to Wendy Johnson’s Socks from the Toe Up book, which helped me make my first steps in sock-knitting and remains a trusted resource. While I have nothing against cuff-down socks, toe-up knitting can be really handy in certain situations, for example when you’re not sure how much yarn you will have exactly. You get the non-negotiable part of the socks (i.e. the length of the foot) knit first, and then for the cuff you can just keep knitting until you run out of yarn.

I really love that Wendy presents a number of different toe and heel techniques, and these kinds of simple socks are perfect for experimenting and finding your preferred option. For these socks I went with the short-row heel, which I think of as “the standard” heel type. The finished heel was fine, but I did find the process rather hard on the fingers (lots of tight wraps to pick up and knit), so it’s not my favourite heel type.

Further experiments in sock construction techniques to come…

a break

I got up earlier than usual today, to finish something up for a deadline, and kept on working at my computer for a while. I haven’t really gotten as much sleep as I would’ve wanted to the last couple of days, and I had a very telling moment at one point: I got an email asking “Can you do this by 11am?”, which completely bamboozled me – since if you had asked me a moment before what time it was, I probably would’ve said “around 2pm”. I was completely shocked that it was only 10 something… Which is a pretty good sign I probably need a bit of a break. I’ll definitely be finding some time to spend today with these two:

After the wonderful response I received to my last book recommendation, I thought I might as well let you know what I’m reading now. I love Toni Morrison and have found everything I’ve read by her so far absolutely unputdownable (‘Beloved’ had me crying, smiling, trembling with fear and cringing, and definitely did not have me putting it down). This one, however, doesn’t have me in such a tight grip yet. It might be because everyone in it seems to be so utterly miserable. So I’m reading it in small increments, I don’t want the misery to cross over to me… ;)

The repeat socks are also a nice source of breaks. Last night I decided to do them sort-of-two-at-a-time. The main reason was the fact that I had finished the simple cuff section on one and was faced with either starting on the heel or putting my knitting down. I was quite tired so didn’t feel like doing anything more complicated than 3×3 ribbing, but I was also in the middle of an audiobook chapter and didn’t want to stop yet. So I decided to put the first sock on a spare needle and cast on for the cuff of the second one. I’ll try to do this for each section, I think it should be a fun new experience! :) I don’t think I’m made for “proper” two-at-a-time, because I don’t like juggling two different yarn balls, I find it quite cumbersome. But this seems like a good method! What are your opinions on two-at-a-time socks?

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! :)

you know what? giveaway!

Hey, you know what? My exams are over! Wheepeeeeeeee! You know what else? I’ve been blogging for over six months! Whooooooa! And you know what else? Google Reader says I have 41 subscribers! Yeeeeehaw! That’s more than I ever expected!

So, you know what? That’s just way too many good things not to celebrate! In that spirit, we are having the first fridica giveaway ever!

What can you win? This fabulous book of vintage baby knitting patterns. You may have seen me go on and on about it before. I’ve made two baby sweaters from it so far and I am loving them. I am about to start the third!

There’s an interesting story connected to this book. I had been eyeing it online for a while, and very soon after I arrived in London, I decided to order it online. But something went wrong. I did the whole process, clicked buy, and the system came back saying that my order didn’t come through and I should try again. So I did. I got the same message again. I gave up and tried later at home. That time it worked. So I rested my heart and started waiting for it. You can imagine my surprize when a few days later I got a message from my building reception that I had received THREE packages. I hadn’t been ordering anything else, so this sounded smelly right away. Yup, all three copies of the book had arrived, it HAD worked all three times after all. So what should I have done? Well, the first thing I did was to open one up and examine it thoroughly (I was really excited about finally getting my hands on this book!). Then, being satisfied, I gave it some thought. I had bought the book (well, the three books!) at a bargain. I had just arrived somewhere where I had the prospect of meeting many English-speaking knitters. So I decided not to go through the hassle of returning the books, and simply wait for good opportunities to give them away. I had one at Christmas and now I have one, an even better one!

So there you go, you get one, brand new, still in its original mail package, wonderful vintage baby pattern book!

What do you need to do? Comment on this post, and in your comment, leave me a link to your favorite crafty blog (not mine, I’m fishing for new reads here! :) Feel free, but not obliged, to tell others about the giveaway in any form you like.

It’s one entry per person, and you have until the end of the day on June 24th.

I’ll select the winner by random number draw and announce who it is on June 25th. Oh, and one more thing – I will ship anywhere in the world, so feel free to sign your name even if you are from Tasmania, Zanzibar, Alaska or Siberia!

EDITED TO ADD: Absolutely NO NEED to subscribe to my blog in any way in order to participate in this giveaway! Sorry if I gave anyone the wrong impression. All you need to do is sign your name below and leave me one link to a blog you like. :)

Let’s start the celebrations! :)

trusty helper

I’m not a big fan of crochet. Nothing personal, I just don’t like the look and feel of the resulting fabric. Kind of reminds me of weaving straw baskets rather than sewing (which is what knitting reminds me of). I am, however, a huge fan of one crochet hook!

When I first started knitting, a dropped stitch was the most dreaded thing that could happen. I just didn’t know how to deal with it. If a stitch did drop off my needle (and you can bet it did!) and I noticed it three rounds later – you know what I’d do? I’d rip. Rip the whole three rounds. And then go through the torture of getting all the stitches back on the needles (which can be terribly difficult or relatively easy, depending on the type of yarn you’re working with – I worked with the former), and generally get really frustrated about the whole thing. And then… I was given the Ultimate Knitting Bible, which has a very thorough section on something I think all craft books should have: troubleshooting.

It covers

  • dropped stitches (both on knit and purl rows, one row down or multiple rows down)
  • unravelling work
  • twisted stitches
  • incomplete stitches
  • uneven knitting
  • slanting work
  • altering length
  • correcting color and cables
  • mending snags and holes
  • and care of knitwear

Wow, that’s an impressive list! I don’t use half of it, but one thing I do use on almost every project is the technique of correcting dropped stitches with a crochet hook. It basically entails grabbing the loose horizontal strand of yarn with the crochet hook and pulling it through the dropped stitch. Depending on whether it’s a knit or a purl row, you pull the strand through from the front or from the back. It’s incredibly simple and quick, it works even if the dropped stitch is ten rows down, and the mistake is literally unspottable once it’s fixed! This is what I call the perfect troubleshooting tool! Therefore, let me just say: thank you, Crochet Hook, for making my life so much easier and my most desperate knitting moments completely surmountable!

p.s. I have no affiliation with the Ultimate Knitting Bible, its author or publisher. I just love it. :)

crazy for mitts: patterned

I’ve been wearing my Veylas and Juniper Mitts constantly for the last two days and they’re getting compliments all over the place! I’ll try to photograph them over the weekend so I can show you, yay! I’m also noticing that they will get worn out much faster than hats, which is kind of obvious, but hadn’t ocurred to me before… But knitwear is there to be used and worn, and I am perfectly fine with that :)

Continuing the series today with patterned winter mitts. Perhaps it seems a littly silly to be thinking about knitting mittens when your fingers are finally becoming quite comfortable without wearing them, but I think it’s never too early to start thinking and knitting for next winter! If you only start when winter is already at the door, you are probably not going to have them ready on time…

Fiddlehead Mittens

Of all the mitten patterns I’m going to be presenting to you in this series, Fiddleheads by Adrian Bizilia are definitely at the absolute top of my list, without a competitor in sight. You have to look at the color schemes people come up for them, they are absolutely brilliant. They also come with a knitted lining as well, so they are guaranteed to be the warmest mittens you have ever worn. The only exception maybe being thrummed mittens, but more of them at the bottom of this post…

Anu’s Mittens

Anu’s Mittens feature a simple repetitive snowflake design on a white background and I just love them for the wintery feel they give me (good wintery, as in Santa bringing gifts and bells on sleighs, not bad wintery, as in oh-my-god-i’m-so-cold-i’m-gonna-die-and-there’s-yellow-slush-everywhere). Unfortunately, the pattern is from a book and doesn’t seem to be available anywhere online… Well, you can check it out on Ravelry and the book (Folk Knitting in Estonia)does look interesting!

Vespergyle Mittens

I would love a pair of Vespergyles for myself. I’m just a sucker for stripes, checkers, polkadots and the likes… But if you are considering making something for your boyfriend (beware of the Sweater Curse, though), I think this is a great direction to go in! They have a certain manly feel about them, don’t they?

Thrummed Mittens

Finally, Thrummed Mittens. As far as I understand, this is more a technique than a specific pattern, but this particular version is from Interweave. If you want warm in the sense of wear-my-mittens-in-Alaska-while-my-fingers-actually-sweat, this is the way to go. The fact that the thrums also create little heart shapes on the outer side of the mitten doesn’t hurt either ;)

Hope you like my selection! Next episode: mitts or paintings? Stay tuned… ;)

grass

As the sunshine is slowly returning, my thoughts keep going only in one direction, something I have been dreaming of all winter: using up any little patch of grass I can find in this beautiful city for sitting, lying, napping, knitting, reading, studying, sunbathing, smiling…

Made for: Mina, in India

Pattern: Madyson by Katya Frankel

Material: Garnstudio DROPS Silke Alpaca, dark purple

Ravelled: here

I never took proper photos. And, as things go, I never got photos of the recipient wearing it. Actually, in this case, I never got any feedback from the recipient whatsoever! (One of my classmates at a summer school asked me to make it for his girlfriend, I made it before the summer school ended and he took it home with him. We haven’t kept in touch much since, and when I tried asking him about it, I never got a response.) Wherever Blueberry Girl is now, I hope she’s in good hands and she’s making someone happy…

I named it after Neil Gaiman’s wonderful picture-book Blueberry Girl. The poetry is sweet and magic, and the illustrations match it perfectly. You can’t go wrong with it, whether your intended recipient is a girl or a mother-to-be. I want it for myself! :)

It was also my first attempt at a ‘label’. Blush.

Oh but I stray! What I really wanted to do was ask you – what’s your favorite thing to do on the grass? :)

blue

As I already explained, I don’t own many books on knitting. One of the few I’ve succumbed to, though, is Boutique Knits by Laura Irwin.

I’m a big lover of hats of all shapes and sizes, and this book contains some that I simply adore. It also features interesting structural solutions, and while the patterns do not have that additional element of pampering the knitter that I so love in other designers (e.g. line by line instructions, detailed explanations), they are clear and concise. Even though I’ve had the book for almost a full year now, I’ve only made one design from it. How is this possible?! Indeed, I must rectify this situation asap! My first candidate is the hat pictured on the cover of the book (Side Slip Cloche), and the second one is this (click the photo to find the pattern on Ravelry).

In the meantime, let me show you the one and only I’ve made so far: Argyle Lace Hat.

It is modelled gracefully by my former flatmate, who got to keep it!

I had some issues with this project, and considered ripping it for a while, but Sana liked it. It was my first lace ever so it looks really sloppy. Also, there are way too many buttons, which makes that side of the hat very stiff and just weird, if you ask me.

And the visible crown decreases make it look a bit too much like a chef’s hat for my taste.

However, if you have lots of hair, the extra slouchiness will come in handy!

And finally, I cannot stress enough how much I love love love the brim – I will definitely be using it for many projects to come. It is so simple to make and yet so decorative. All in all, I was surprized by the reaction on Ravelry – this seems to be one of my hats that other people like the most!

beauty

Recently I wrote about two things most knitters dislike: checking gauge and sewing in ends. I was a bit dishonest in that post, though, because I didn’t mention the thing I really dread: sewing pieces of a garment together. Most of the things I make are seamless, and not by coincidence. I just dread the thick seams and the fiddliness of it all. Knitting in the round is so much more… elegant.

However, there was this one book I really liked.

And there was a friend who had a baby girl a year and sometime ago, on my birthday. So I decided that the girl should get a vintage baby thing for her first (and my 27th) birthday. Unfortunately, there are no seamless knits in this book. (Perhaps because there were not cable needles back then?) So I broke my rule. The thing knit up pretty fast, and since it was just a baby garment, it wasn’t really heavy on my needles or anything like that. And then the sewing. I put it off and off and off. The birthday is long gone. I am in a different country. I am wondering if it will even fit her any more (she’s a big and fast growing baby). But February 2nd came, and I went to post those parcels, and it made me so happy and excited, and somewhere, finally, I found the strength to tackle the seaming.

I put on some relaxing music, turned the radiator up, made myself chamomile tea, made plenty room on my desk, and set myself to finishing it tonight. And then, somehow, the scene was so beautiful that I had to share it with you.

short rows

Today I decided that I should learn something new – something that has been troubling me ever since I first encountered it: short rows. I resorted to my favorite knitting companion:

– clicking the photo takes you to the Amazon page where you can see more photos and/or buy it –

I really cannot recommend this book enough. I have found that I am very picky when it comes to books on knitting, whether they be instruction manuals (like this one) or pattern books. I have very few of the latter ones because most disappoint me when I give them a thorough look. As for manuals, I only own a Croatian one from which I learned my first stitches and this one. The Ultimate Knitting Bible is really what it says: all you need. It is thorough and is not afraid of using all the space it needs to explain each technique in detail. It has helped me with silly simple questions (e.g. How do you join a new ball of yarn? This had been a total mystery to me for a very long time.), complicated techniques (Well, is anything in knitting really complicated once you learn it? I guess an example would be What the hell is a skpo and how do I do it?), it has taught me the importance of gauge swatches and the difference you can make with blocking, and it has bailed me out when I was utterly desperate (e.g. when I realized I had dropped a stitch 5 rows below – it taught me how to fix it without ripping). The sections are really logical and it is easy to find whatever you need. I don’t really think it’s a book you’d go through from beginning to end (though you could), but more for looking things up when you need an unfamiliar technique or when you’re just stuck. It also offers instructions for small practice swatches, like the ones I used today for finally mastering short rows.

Oh yeah, and the photography – gorgeous. As well as the design. Someone really put a lot of effort and (at the risk of sounding cliche) love into it. I thank them for it.