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 :)

on the blocking board

I’ll have a lot to say about this piece when it’s finished… For now, here’s just a quick photo from the blocking board.

For the buttons, I was struggling for ideas… until someone mentioned wood. Yes, I think nice natural real-wood buttons would actually fit perfectly here, don’t you agree?

blocking-in-progress Thursday

On my recent trip home, I finally bought myself a “blocking board”. When I was getting it, the friend who came with me to the shop asked which kid in the family it was for…

Well, I guess I count as a kid… :)

I’m very happy with how it’s working out so far. I might improve it by drawing lines with inches on it, though, it would make blocking to measurements easier. But I’m worried the marker lines might smear on the wet yarn… Do you have any experience with such things? Perhaps there is a type of marker that wouldn’t smudge?

second mitten syndrome

Tonight at knit group, one of the ladies who hadn’t attended in a while glanced at my knitting and went: “You’re still knitting those mittens?!” And she was right, though only partially. Yes, the last time she had been there, about two months ago, I was working on my Fiddleheads. But where she was wrong was that I’m not working on them still – I am working on them again. Oh yeah, after I finished the first one, I got me some of that good ol’ second mitten syndrome! Funny how I don’t get that with socks… Well, I better not say that twice! ;)

Anyway, yes, I am working on the second Fiddlehead. And as I navigate the troubled waters of colourwork again, I’d like to say two heartfelt thankyous.

Firstly, to Adrian Bizilia, the designer, for having the brilliance and the foresight to divide the chart into 5×5 squares. It is indescribable how much easier it is to read and follow a chart that is presented like that. So great that it should be made obligatory, by knitterly law, for all charts. Ever.

Secondly, to the several people (both here and in real life) who advised me to try turning my colourwork inside out while I knit. At first the idea baffled me, but since I’ve tried it I haven’t gone back. I am now best friends with my floats and my tension.

And I think there might just be a finished pair of mittens soon. Maybe even in time to wear this winter… :)

WIP week: blocking mittens

I finished the colourwork on my first Fiddlehead mitten a few weeks ago, but given the fact that the mittens come with a lining (which I haven’t knit yet), I was unsure about the size and wanted to see how they would react to blocking. And since colourwork, especially by inexperienced colourworkers, requires heavy blocking, I found myself in a kerfuffle. How to block this thing and make sure everything is stretched well and stays like that until dried and set? I thought and thought and thought, and then I remembered this tutorial.

So I went and found some plastic placemats. I bought three because I thought they were kind of thin and wouldn’t be sturdy enough to resist the pull of the knitted item. I was wrong, one was more than enough. Turns out that wool is not that strong in the end! ;)

I didn’t exactly bother to pull up the tutorial before I started cutting, but worked from memory (and of course forgot some things). I also thought I’d be a smartass and go “why on earth should the thumb be separate?” (and of course found out exactly why when trying to put the mitten on the blocker). In retrospect, holes (which I forgot) would’ve made the drying much faster, and a separate thumb (which I ignored), would have resolved the issue of plastic being slightly less flexible than human fingers. I guess what I’m saying is: follow the freakin’ tutorial, if you’re smarter than me.

In the future, I do plan to improve my ‘prototype’ by adding the holes, making the shape smoother, and making the wrist part longer, so that it sticks out of the mitten. Ok, and maybe even separating the thumb. ;) Luckily, I have enough placemats left to experiment.

Oh, and one more thing. Consider it Fridica’s bonus advice: be careful with where you’re cutting the mat. You wouldn’t want your scalpel to slash into the surface of your desk, for example. Purely hypothetical. Purely. :/

Here’s the blocker in action.

Not bad for a placemat!

diary

Well, the computer has had an autopsy and has been pronounced dead-dead. Apparently my hard drive is physically broken. My data is most likely lost, though some people I know might give it a shot to rescue it later on… I did do a backup of all the important stuff fairly recently, so guess what is the main thing I lost? Photos! Not all of them, but a good part. (Boy am I regretting now not uploading any photos of my Amsterdam trip on Facebook…) But in any case, I choose not to dwell on this too much and get on with life. :) And until I figure out when and how to buy a new computer (or how to upload photos onto my work computer ;), I’ll just have to find ways of non-photographic expression.

Which is all to say… that I’ve started a diary! A knitting diary!

So, last Sunday, I finally started my Fiddlehead Mittens. (And when I say “finally”, I mean after a year and a half of having them in my queue and at the top of my wish list, and about 10 months after having bought the yarn). Because I want to actually wear these this winter, and because I find colourwork challenging, I decided to set myself an aim and monitor progress regularly. The aim is to knit 5 rounds each day and to write down my progress each day. In addition, I think it will be quite fun to have the story of the progress from the very beginning to the final product, which I will be able to look at even years later. I don’t get paid for my knitting, but if I write about the process in such detail, if I write down every round I make, it seems to somehow acknowledge the value of the time and effort I put into it. So here goes, my diary of knitting my very own pair of Fiddlehead mittens, first five days!

Sunday, October 9
I didn’t have a project to bring to knit group today. I searched frantically for a new project to start half an hour before leaving home, but rushing it like that didn’t work. So I just did some (long overdue) seaming at the group. But after I came home I was still in the crafting mood and suddenly inspiration hit – I would finally start my Fiddleheads! I did the I-cord cast-on (the I-cord looks decent, but the cast-on stitches are huuuuuge and unelastic, any ways to get around that? Since I’m working with a 3mm needle on DK yarn, going down a few needle sizes is not really an option) and 5 rounds of colourwork. I tried using the thimble I bought recently, but gave up very quickly (I couldn’t find a way to tension the yarn, things were just flying all over the place) and took up my method of two-handed colourwork.

Monday, October 10
15 rounds!

Tuesday, October 11
0 rounds
French class after work, then meeting former colleagues visiting from Croatia, came home at midnight and collapsed into the bed immediately.

Wednesday, October 12
Knit group, did 10 rounds with only messing up a few times and noticing it straight away, I’m quite proud of myself for that (though to be honest it was a very quiet group, only about 5-6 people showed up).

Thursday, October 13
0 rounds
I was really looking forward to some nice stitching after French class, but had forgotten that I had a dinner planned with the flatmates. After a few beers colourwork was no longer an option… But since I did a few more intensive days, I’m still averaging around 5 rounds a day, so I’m on schedule!

So, that’s the beginning. And maybe making it even more public like this will give me an additional incentive… ;) Feel free to join in with diaries of your own projects, I’d love to read about everyone’s everyday knitting habits. :)

chilly sunday

It. is. really. cold. here.

So I have no choice but to bundle up with a biiiiig mug of coffee (with some chocolate flavour added, of course) and my knitting. Before we go on to a proper FO post for the socks you glimpsed in the last post, let me show you what I’m working on now. The red socks from last week are actually my “Fourth Socks”, and I feel bad showing them off when I haven’t finished “Third Socks” yet. I’m doing my best to rectify the situation, though!

I’m working on these sort-of two at a time. I want to use up all the yarn, so I’m knitting them toe-up, one from each end of the skein (for one I’m using the centre-pull end of the skein, and for the other the outer end of the thread). I knit one section of one sock (e.g. up to the heel-flap), then leave that sock aside and knit the same section of the second sock. It’s working very nicely, I like this method! It also makes it easier to remember what I did on one sock and repeat it on the other one…

Another thing that’s been helping me remember everything properly is this little gizmo.

I know some people find row-counters to be useless, but I wanted to try one and I’ve found it really helpful (it’s also quite satisfying to look at it and go “whoa, I’ve knit eighty six rows!”)! It is tiny, though, and prone to wandering off in the recesses of my bed-slash-knitting-studio, so I decided to make it into a necklace (I must remember to take it off my neck before leaving the house though, as I can imagine it’s not quite the trendy accessory everyone’s been talking about… ;). What luck that I had some perfectly matching yarn!

Hope you all have a warm Sunday!

travelling with your needles

It is my pleasure to present you the second fridica DIY tutorial! :)

This one is just as simple as the first one was, but since it’s sometimes the simplest of solutions that don’t come to our minds, I hope it’s still worth sharing! As soon as I started knitting, I became quite inseparable from the activity, and wherever I went, I wanted to have all my tools with me to be sure that, if inspiration for a new project strikes, I am well equipped to put it into practice! Wherever I’m living, I usually display my lovely tools something like this…

However, long pointy things that can pierce through other stuff yet also be easily misshaped are not the easiest of transportable objects. So I had to come up with a way of bringing my knitting needles safely (both for them and for other objects in my suitcase) with me on all my travels!

It didn’t take long until I noticed this cardboard tube at the top of my closet.

If you’ve ever bought a poster online and had it shipped to you, you have one of these. The posters arrive rolled up in a hard-cardboard tube, with a plastic top like this. The top is usually stapled to the tube on one end, and free on the other.

I always felt bad throwing the tube away after I retrieved my poster. Good thing I didn’t! I decided to put my needles inside it, but the tube was quite long, and the first time I tried it the needles kept rolling back and forth, and creating a hellish noise at it. So I added some improvements.

First, I asked my Dad to cut the tube shorter. He used a handheld electric saw (my parents live in the country, they have these sorts of things), but I’m pretty sure you could do it with a good kitchen knife as well (hehe, I’m imagining scenes from telemarketing – “You can cut a tin can with it, and even after that it still cuts a tomato perfectly!” :D), after all – it is only cardboard. The length I chose was a few centimeters more than my longest needle. That came out to about 45 cm. Don’t forget to add another 1cm of length for the depth of the plastic top (it goes partially inside the tube)!

The other improvement I added was to pad the bottom of the tube, so that the needle tips don’t get damaged when my suitcase is being pulled and pushed in different directions. This was very easy – I simply used yarn scraps! I always feel bad about throwing yarn away, even if it’s so little that you really can’t do anything with it. So whatever scrap yarn I had after weaving in and cutting off ends, I just stuffed it at the bottom of my tube…

… and soon enough, my needles had a soft cushion to rest their tips upon! :)

After that, all that’s left to do is decorate your tube! I haven’t been so good on this part yet, I’m actually embarassed to show you my little “drawing”, but it’s a start at least! :)

Ummm, those are supposed to be needles. Blush…

Since I’ve had it, I’ve made plenty of use out of this tube. I can testify it holds up well in big suitcases (it’s never spilt open!) and it’s even small enough to shove into a backpack for shorter trips (yes, I’m that obsessed!). So now I never have to be apart from these again… :)

I hope you’ve found this tutorial helpful! If you have other ideas for transporting knitting needles, please share! I still haven’t found a very elegant method for cable needles, and my collection of those is rapidly growing…

heaven

Someone asked for in-progress photos from the project I wrote about starting yesterday. Little did I know that I would have some progress to show today already!

This shows about half of what I have (if you look closely, you’ll see it’s folded over) – a good chunk of the back. I just couldn’t stop! As you know, by now I’m pretty used to working in k1p1 for long stretches, so getting into that rhythm wasn’t an issue at all! And I’ve found I don’t mind purling, when it’s combined with knitting. What I really dislike is just endless rows of purling only. That tires me out.

But the reason why I’ve made this much progress in one evening is something else, I think. The needles. When I had just moved to London, and Ysolda (who is having a 25% off sale today only!) had just published her Snapdragon Tam pattern, I was dying to make it asap! I bought a wonderful yarn, but I couldn’t get the correct gauge with the needles I had – everything indicated that I needed a 4.5mm needle. But that seemed to be sold out at whatever store I went to. Finally I found Loop, where the lovely shop assistant spent quite a bit of time digging through their needle stash to find me the right size. The needle she found was kind of short, and I wasn’t sure if the cable length would be enough for a hat knit in the round, but she worked with me and was really nice and knowledgeable.

The needle was a Hiya-Hiya. I had never tried them before and was a little suspicious, but she recommended it warmly and I decided to trust her. I am so thrilled now that I did! This needle is a joy to work with, it’s very light, the cable is nice and flexible, the joint between the needle and cable is not at all noticeable, the needle is slippery enough to let you knit fast yet sticky enough to not make yarn fall off the needle on its own. And let me say it again – it’s very light. I didn’t think this would mean much, I mean how much does a needle weigh anyway, but I can really feel the difference when I’m using it!

I have also used Addi needles since, but I wasn’t as thrilled with them. That doesn’t mean I disliked them, I think they are very high quality and if you want a reliably good needle, they are highly recommended. But the Hiya-Hiya gives me that extra thrill! Let me say that this could also be biased by needle size. The only Hiya-Hiya I have is 4.5mm, and that is arguably one of the most comfortable needle sizes generally. But I still think I’m onto something here and I’ll definitely be buying more Hiyas in the future!

Oh yeah, and Hiyas combined with this amazing blend of wool and acrylic just takes me straight to heaven! I think this cardi might be knit up sooner than any of us expected! ;)

resourcefulness

One of the things I really love about knitting is that it seems to develop a new ability of my brain – that of resourcefulness. I have already written about my makeshift sponge-armchair-turned-blocking-board. This week, however, I was faced with baby shoes in need of blocking, and since they were pretty shapeless when they came off the needles, I needed something to give them the right shape – flat blocking just wasn’t gonna cut it! So I thought about what I had at hand, and came up with this! I was so proud of myself for my silly little idea that I decided to share it with you, so here is my first ever DIY tutorial for blocking baby shoes!

You will need:

  • two socks (size will depend on the desired size of baby shoes)
  • one plastic freezer bag
  • some scotch tape

Before I continue I must add no socks were harmed in the making of this tutorial! And yes, all my socks are this silly.

Now, the first thing you want to do is roll up the sock. This is an almost automatic movement for me because it’s how my mom has always stored socks, but in case you’re not so familiar with the technique, here are the steps. First, roll, making sure the heel part is on the inside of the roll.

Then, turn inside of cuff out.

Don’t pull it too far so that you get some sort of solid shape, resembling this.

Now, put the sock inside the plastic bag (I used one plastic bag and cut it in half, because the rolled up sock is really small, and that way you really don’t waste much!). Wrap it all up!

Secure the little wrap with scotch tape.

It’s gonna look something like this. You can play around with some more tape to smooth out the edges and make them rounder, to resemble the shape of a baby shoe better. Since the sock is soft material, this is really easy to do.

Insert into knit up baby shoe!

Because the sock is made of fabric, you can actually stick pins in it as well, in case you want to make sure lacey parts spread out the right way or you just want to secure certain parts of it.

And voila, after it dries, this is what you get!

A perfectly shaped baby shoe! I’m very happy about the shape of the front and the perfect roundness of the heel. Trust me, before this process it wouldn’t even stand up on its own.

I hope this little tutorial may come in handy to you some day! I would also love to hear how you block baby shoes… Perhaps there is a much easier way that I missed, my brain tends to ignore obvious things sometimes… ;)

p.s. After you’re done, simply remove the socks from plastic and you can wear them again, no need even to wash them! (Mine remained completely dry despite being wrapped in wet wool, the plastic bag protected them perfectly! :)