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You’d have thought that a caffeine shot would have energised my yarn into knitting itself speedily into fabric, but apparently caffeine doesn’t have the same effects on everyone. It took way longer for the Tosh Sock skein in ‘Nutmeg’ to turn into a wearable pair, and despite great initial ambition and effort, they eventually managed to achieve only a plain vanilla stockinette grade. (At least the coffee stains don’t show!)
I knit exclusively on this pair for much of April and May, a good part of the latter month on a glorious holiday to Mexico, recovering from a horridly busy semester. Apart from the Knotty-knice pattern I first tried for it, which ended up too loose on the foot and a pain with all those twisted stitches, I also tried a pretty cabled cuff and various other things. Alas, the photographs of those iterations (imagine my nutmeg cable climbing up the pyramid at Teotihuacan) and of the trip in general, are now with the person who found my camera on the bus after I kindly, thoughtfully, left it there and traipsed off. Long, winding, bus journeys through mountains apparently don’t just make me nauseated, they also make me lose my brains and valuable things.
SO, I had a fantastic and gorgeous time in Mexico; I just don’t have the pics to show for it. The spouse mounted a very spirited critique of photographic reproduction as a poor and illegitimate approximation of reality to cheer me up, for which I was very grateful at the time, quelling all inner wails about ‘but how will I blog about it?’ Now, with some distance, I too am philosophical about the ephemerality of possession, of material goods, of memory, but boy would it have been nice to share some of the pics with you!
In any event, none of the patterns I tried on these toe-ups were satisfactory either because they were too long, or too tight, or whatever, and I finally fell back on stockinette. But then I got obsessed with just using up all the yarn (a substantial 390 yards in this skein!) to see how long the socks would get. I increased 2 stitches along the calf every ten rows 8 times. (60 + 2 st every 10th row, 8 times = 76 st total at cuff).
Then I tried them on and realised that socks look longer when off, than when on your leg. I was confident the cuffs would kiss my kneecaps, but they barely managed the point in the calf where I was sure they would slide right down, so I added some scrap sock yarn I had to get them past that hump. Now they don’t slide down, exactly, but merely threaten to. If they do slip with some stretch and use, I might add more lines with another yarn to the cuff later. Still, it felt really good to knit right to the end. I have just a few yards of the Tosh Sock left, which does feel good.
They look like soccer socks, no? I looked at all the World Cup team colours, though, and these colours seem to fall right between Brazil and Spain. Actually, they look like the colours of another, magical team – a variation on Gryffindor’s quidditch socks.
I am suddenly, obsessively, in love with Judy’s magic cast-on and magic loop for sock knitting. Why haven’t I used either of these techniques before this? Move over bendy, bamboo size 0 dpns, I have some shiny size 0 circulars.
I bought these Pony circulars in India a few years ago, and the points are really sharp, but they are really useful for the twisted stitches of this pattern. Amazingly, it isn’t at all difficult to slide the stitches over the join.
In the hustle and bustle of Stitches West, I almost forgot to post about my Arch-Shaped socks, which I finished a week or so ago.
Possibly the longest I have taken for a pair of socks without any cables or lace. Also a project that involved more frogging than most – as I complained, the mix of distraction and odd wording in the pattern made for lots of confusion, and then the more I tried to get things right, the more they went wrong. But, at any rate, here they are.
I like them a lot – they hug the feet very well, and the rib on the soles also gives a very pleasant, nubby feel on the soles. These are not socks to wear on a long hike, but on a short walk they feel very good. I had been a bit worried about that, but thankfully the ribbing is not annoying.
Pattern: Arch-Shaped Socks, (.pdf link, free!) by Meangirl
Yarn: Koigu KPM Solid, in Rust/1110, dye lot 152, just under 2 skeins
Needles: Takumi bamboo, size 0 DPNs (I also broke 3 needles in the course of this project, so you can imagine how much it stressed me out!)
Modifications: The pattern as written calls for a stockinette arch, but I followed a few others and continued the k3, p2 rib throughout. This is why I needed to pay attention to the increases along the stem of the sole, making sure the m1s were m1k and m1p according to the pattern.
The main thing is keeping track of these decreases and increases. This is not something I should have so much difficulty with, really, but I knit the pair almost exclusively while watching back-to-back episodes of Jeremy Brett’s Sherlock Holmes episodes (Netflix Instant Watch zindabad!), and it was often a few rows before I realized I had forgotten one increase or decrease and had to frog back. Also, m1 on a purl is extremely fiddly when you have to twist the yarn picked up between two stitches, twist it and purl through the back loop.
But this arch shaping style does offer a lot of design possibilities. If I make them again, I would cast on fewer stitches, like my usual 60. I followed the given number – 65 – because I wasn’t sure if modifying the stitch count would mess with the pattern later on, and now I know it doesn’t. (Note to self: reading a pattern through before starting is not such a bad idea!) 65 made it a little loose on the cuff and ankles for me; it was only much later that my maths-challenged brain realised that I could have cast on 60 and still stuck with the ribbing pattern. It would have just reduced one multiple. Duh.
Ah well. Warm, well-fitting, comfy socks. Do I really care that the decreases at the top centre are not the tidiest? Trust me, I tried, many times, to get them to be neater, but somehow, they look a bit ragged. Again, that’s not the pattern fault, I should have planned ahead to make one of the k3 bands flow smoothly from cuff to toe in the very centre, and worked out a neater formula for the arch-ribbing to flow into the toe. By the time I got to the toes I was so done with the frogging that I did it a bit half-heartedly. Anyway. Next time!
I knew this would happen. No sooner had I waxed eloquent about the Koigu highs and the Koigu hues, than things began to go wrong. I found the most beautiful socks to knit with my deep red Koigu, and they seemed to have an interesting, yet simple construction. The pattern, happily, is freely available here.
So I knit the first sock up to where the interesting arch shaping begins, and like Slippedstitch’s version linked above, decided to continue the ribbed pattern on to the arch and foot. The arch shaping takes place along the two lines of the triangle (with its tip facing towards the toes). So you decrease as usual for the gusset (right line), but also do paired increases at the centre line of the sole that are matched by decreases alongside the left line of the triangle.
I was chugging along nicely, except I realised that I had far too many stitches midway down the foot. So I started the second sock, hoping to pay closer attention this time and then figuring out what went wrong with the first, when I find that I keep getting left with more stitches than I need. The triangle lines meet too soon, making me wonder where to continue the gusset decreases that still remain, and which the pattern asks you to complete. Although the pattern is a bit oddly worded in parts and confused me with a lot of extra instructions for magic loop (I’m using DPNs), nobody in blogland or Ravelry has pointed out any major problems. I find I’m frogging, frogging, frogging, making even more silly mistakes, and very little progress. The pair currently lies in disgrace, reminding me of a couple of bloody, decapitated fish.
Which brings me to the whole Koigu rant. I still love the colour and feel, but this yarn is such a bitch to place back onto the needles, especially when you’re already knitting firmly with size 0s!! It splits every other stitch, and makes a ghastly sound when it does so. (Yes, the splitting is actually audible!) It also doesn’t stay put, so you always have to pick up stitches that have slid down a few rows. But last night, this really made me mad:
A knot! There is one in each skein. And they came apart with very little tugging!! They also appeared when I was doing the foot, which means whether I spit spliced or carried over the fresh yarn a few stitches, I’d have a bump on each sole, reminding me of its existence every time I walked. I did the best I could, but honestly, with that price, quality and following, you’d think the least Koigu could do was avoid knots in its skeins. (Yes, I know, my fucking up the pattern has nothing to do with the yarn, but hey, while I’m mad I might as well vent all around.)
I am tempted to frog the whole thing and start over with another pattern for now, but I keep thinking that I should just frog back to the heel, take a deep breath, get over the putting-stitches-back-on nightmare, and finish the damn pair. I should, shouldn’t I?
But first, I think I’m going to cheer myself up with some brunch.
No, I did not finish these while watching the Australian Open. I haven’t watched a game of tennis since Ivan Lendl stopped playing. (I know. Even I am embarrassed about him now, but I used to weep horribly every time he lost at Wimbledon!) I mostly watched Law & Order SVU reruns on my fragile TV reception, and Murder, She Wrote reruns on Netflix Instant Watch. After every episode I feel my eyes widen and stay like that, my head bobbing eagerly like Angela Lansbury’s, all cheeks and no chin. She wears handknits quite often on the show (’80s arans, mostly) but I haven’t ever seen her knitting, have you? She’s quite the active, running older woman on the show, and I wonder if they consciously stayed away from any knitting to avoid the granny image.
ANYWAY, one pair down, two to go.
Austermann Step socks, colourway no. 8. Pink and grey is a beautiful combination!
Toe-up with a crochet chain cast on and wrapped stitches, which I first learnt from Wendy’s tutorial here.
60 stitches for the foot, and 64 from the ankle up, size 0 bamboos.
A Russian bind-off. The way I learnt this (somewhere on the web) is to p2tog loosely, slip stitch back to left needle, p2tog, repeat all the way, preferably with a larger needle. But here is a video for a completely different Russian bind off , which is most intriguing, and which I look forward to trying.
I took care to make the stripes line up. All seemed well, until the very end of the second sock, when a couple of straight white lines threatened to derail everything. The cuffs were going to be all wrong.
I was whining about this to a (non-knitting) friend who couldn’t understand the fuss, and said, well isn’t that what handicrafts are supposed to be, slightly off? I muttered in my head about how I wasn’t sure who or what was off here, and after a deep sigh, frogged the second cuff, cut off some yarn and reknit it to get the two cuffs to match up. The Harlot is right, as usual; only a sock dork can understand the joy of the stripes matching up. I am not usually very obsessive-compulsive about these things, but I am, I find, a sock dork. The cuffs match, and I am pleased.
This yarn is good! A little fibery, but soft, and very warm. Cosy on my feet on a chilly saturday afternoon. I am itching to knit up the other two sock pairs, but I’m also dying to try out that sideways hat my grad student was wearing. Maybe head before feet next, then.
People usually lose socks in the laundromat, don’t they? In Boston there used to be a laundromat called “The Found Sock” near our flat on Comm Ave. In all these years I have lost many a store-bought sock in this way, but never the handknit ones. Rather than subject them to this sorry fate as the poor machine-made ones, over this winter I lost them rather more spectacularly – I took them across the world and lost them there. I know I took several pairs home with me; on return I find that only one pair made it back, that too because it was on my feet during the journey. I have no idea where I left the others, and it is so maddening! I opened my drawer here to find only one pair, now sadly frayed and torn. (I really don’t care for Louet Gems sock yarn).
It is cold, wet and windy in the Bay area, and so I went to Article Pract and got me some Koigu, Austermann and Trekking, and immediately cast on. The idea is to knit these up super-fast, every waking moment, before the semester swallows me whole. The Austermann is a gorgeous, soft colour, much like the hesitant, early morning light I snapped the picture in, during a brief break in the rain. It’s apparently treated with some aloe vera that stays on even after forty washes. I don’t know what it will look like after forty washes, but right now it’s smooth and glides neatly over the bamboo needles.
I also got some bright Koigu, and a sober Trekking, which looks like it’s bristling next to the more fiery red Koigu! I love the mess the Koigu skeins make, even when wound up. They always do that, refusing to stay in place, feeling slippery and nubbly in your fingers. I know what you’re thinking: that is not lovely, that is downright annoying. But I cannot help it; Koigu is above criticism, as far as I am concerned. The sales clerk allowed me to go back into the storage area to find some shades, and as I rummaged through nearly a hundred skeins and innumerable hues, I felt this strange sense of joy – a Koigu high of sorts! Even the relatively dull oatmeal shades dance and shimmer in this yarn, somehow. It is possibly my favourite among all yarns of all time.
I had my first graduate class today, and after a couple of hours of historiography and methodology and epistemology and so on, I finally couldn’t help myself and asked one of the students if she had knit her gorgeous garter stitch hat herself. She hadn’t, but it was handknit. She showed it to me, and before I knew it half the class had crowded around as we tried to figure out its construction. It was knit in three parts, one of them sideways, resulting in vertical garter stripes. Half the students in the class, turns out, are avid knitters. I closed my eyes momentarily and imagined all of us knitting away in the next class as we took apart the assigned book for the week. I won’t do it, because it’s too distracting for the rest of the students. I was sorely tempted, though, because I do urgently need to finish some socks.
We open the new year’s blogging with a hearty “Good effing riddance!” to 2008, and a polite request to 2009 to please pass uneventfully without any major upheavals. Travels may be included, even arduous ones, especially to see new places and old friends, but please, can we not have any emotional rollercoasters, dramatic events, or surprises, good or bad? If I could wish for one thing this year, it would be that it pass like this:
Quietly, bathed in just the right amount of sunlight, feet up on a couch with an interesting book, wearing comfortable handknits, and a cup of hot ginger tea (just outside the frame). Really, is that too much to ask for?
In the foreground is a pair of Regia Silk socks my sister has been demanding for ages now. Pune used to have a decent winter in November and December, but now you can bear to wear warm clothes only for about a week around the new year. So over a couple of lovely, lazy days at home spent gossiping with her and watching old films, I made these anklet socks. Quick, easy pair, 60 stitches, 2×2 rib, cuff down stockinette on size 0 needles. Good thing her feet are tiny and these are tight for me, cause I really don’t feel like taking them off.
I also got a delightful gift for the new year from my lovely knitter niece Gargi. A couple of years ago I had helped her make a hairband for herself, and she made one for me this year, complete with sewed elastic at the bottom. The most hilarious part was helping her through this one, joining a new piece of yarn, picking up dropped stitches, etc. while she weaved an elaborate tale about how this was actually for her best friend in school. Now, it turns out, the best friend is really asking for one after seeing mine!
May 2009 bring you what you ask for, dear readers.
Remember when this was a knitting blog? I actually have some updates to post, of new WIPs. I have been knitting a bit on and off, mostly on the sampler shawl from Victorian Lace Today. Surprisingly quick progress for the amount of time I have been able to devote to it.
So far it’s been smooth sailing, except for one major rip (hence the lifeline). It has faggoting on the edges, and I decided that I dislike faggoting. Not enough visual interest for the work involved. But now it’s there, so I’m going to continue it. The samples are a mix of knitted lace and pure lace (with patterning on both sides), with leaf motifs. These are simple patterns with just enough variation to keep them interesting. I think basic samplers like these are great to avoid the monotony of stoles. I am on the brink of finishing one major set in the pattern, but another travel stint is coming up, so it’s going to be set aside for a week or so. The red colour and the lace is very hard to photograph correctly (I don’t have pins and a carpet handy), so let me distract you with another blurry, artsy picture. The yarn is so fine I keep worrying about breaking it.
Here is something else I started for knitting while travelling, a pair of simple socks for my sister. Yarn is some Regia something. She wanted some multicoloured grey-blue; that’s what she’s getting. Right now, though, she can’t even bear to look at them, cause it’s nowhere near wool-sock-wearing weather, so they’re going to take a while. I also have to find buses with good suspension in which to knit them. Knitting is such a Nov-Dec activity here that it’s really unusual to see anyone knitting in public here outside those times. The fun thing about this project is that it’s a joint project; my niece Gargi shows up every now and then and knits a few rounds. This is her first project on DPNs and she coos every few minutes – such thin needlllllllllllles!
Finally, remember my yarn for the Cobblestone pullover? I had one 750 yard hank left over, and my mum has cast on for a Clapotis with it. Should look good in this yarn, no? I have a feeling she’s going to get bored with it once the increases end and both Gargi and I will pitch in, but right now she’s heroically at it. It’s worsted weight on size 8. Any suggestions about how wide to make it to get a long enough stole? I tried looking online, but was hit by an avalanche of Clapotis posts and suggestions.
I have a feeling all three projects are going to be WIPs for a while, though.
Hey, all! Thanks so much for all your good wishes for my trip – here I am, on the other side of the world, recovered from jet lag already.
Plane travel is exhausting, disorienting, annoying and many other things. It also infantalises travellers like none other mode of travel. It’s not just the security staff who speak to you slowly but loudly as if you were either deaf or retarded, barking out orders in elaborate legalese-politese and processing you on a long and complicated assembly line from dangerous unknowns into government-deemed safe travellers. It is also the feeling of being strapped into the small, uncomfortable seat for so many long hours, with food brought to you every few hours. You sleep, you eat, some sort of entertainment hovers in front of your eyes to keep you diverted, and then you sleep and eat some more. This is how babies must feel – slightly out of focus and irritable and trapped. The flight attendants also treat you with a combination of firmness-laced-with-nice that parents whose patience is about to snap use on kids running wild. If the airlines provided diapers with the headphones and acrylic blanket wrapped in plastic, I imagine our regression to infanthood would be complete.
Speaking of actual babies travelling, there seemed to be many more than usual on this flight. Or maybe my claustrophobia was conjuring them up all around me. They wailed and howled throughout – sometimes in unison, sometimes in harmony, but always in dreadful cacophony. It occurred to me that anyone unsure about whether they want children would do well to travel on a transcontinental flight surrounded by infants and toddlers before they make a final decision. But I do feel bad for the parents, who always have this hunted, apologetic look about them. It must be awful to juggle discomfort and disorientation with a shrieking baby and dark looks from people all around you. I was virtuous, though – in keeping with the whole kids theme, I took refuge in The Sound of Music. (Btw, these are the Regia socks I began on another transcontinental flight in February – 64 stitches on size 0 needles, very plain and simple.)
That’s one point for Continental, I gotta say, even if they do, rather horrifyingly, charge for alcohol on international flights (WHY do American airlines do that?) – they have a whole set of very diverse films for you to choose from on your own little individual screen. Along with Julie Andrews, I also indulged in Jane Austen, with the wonderful, smart Emma Thompson adaptation of Sense and Sensibility, and the godawful Keira Knightley adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. If you permit me to rant about this for a second, I wonder what Austen herself would have made of some rather odd moments in this adaptation. I didn’t mind that it took liberties with the dialogue – the S&S adaptation did too, but the ones in P&P somehow didn’t work as well, mostly because they seemed to turn this elegant narrative of manners into a faux-historical teenage drama. “Don’t you dare judge me, Lizzy!” Charlotte Lucas says (after choosing calmly to marry that horrible Mr. Collins), and that wooden Darcy, who looks like a confused, drowned rat with that oddly dishevelled look, unpardonably blurts out “I love you” instead of the glorious “You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you” to Elizabeth Bennet. She, in turn, yells “Leave me alone!” to her family, slamming the door and running upstairs. WTF?? Ah well. At least the von Trapps were as familiar and saccharine as ever.
It is hot here, and very erratic and strong thunderstorms are allowing the electricity department to cut power even more than usual. But it’s also cool and breezy and deliciously overcast in the evenings, and I started a longue duree lace project to keep me company on my equally long research project. It’s the Beginner Sampler stole from Victorian Lace Today, in Jade Sapphire Lacey Lamb, in tomato red, on size 3 needles. I am already loving it, but expect an FO only sometime around December, I think. My mum is convinced that my eyes are going to get worse from squinting at the tiny yarn and needles.
Oh, and I’m eating a lot of Alphonso mangoes. Mmmmmmm.
Over the last week, I must have knit thousands of stitches in total. A few furious inches here, some leisurely centimetres there. The days were crazy and involved much running around reading endless admissions files and preparing syllabi and course-packets. But the evenings were quiet. My Netflix supply was well-oiled, with lots of long, mindless, Hindi melodrama on full tap. I knit an awful lot of stitches. I should have not one, but two Cobblestone sleeves to show you.
But of course, I do not. It is the first sleeve, back to where it was last week. It made the trip all the way up to the armhole and slid right back, like an unlucky Snakes-and-Ladders player. Reason? The increase gradient was too gentle, and the sleeve threatened to be a bit too tight. In keeping with my new virtuous, gauge-and-fit-cautious 2008 self, I figured it was too early to slide back to my bad habits myself, and frogged.
It was a bad omen, no doubt. But in rash optimism and disregard, I cast the sleeve aside, and bought three skeins of a gorgeous forest green in Cascade 220 to make another Back to School Vest. Remember the one I made last month? I gave it away to a friend, and decided to make a better fitting one for myself. I cast on with size 7s like before and was an inch or so into it when a thought rose, unbidden, that the fabric was too loose, and that I might try with size 6 needles instead. A Counter-Thought naturally presented itself: did the first vest feel that way too? The thought, now stronger, insisted that it did, especially around the waist. Counter-thought, weakened by its adversary’s confidence, wilted and began doubting its own doubts about this apparent looseness. So I cast on again, with a different skein, with size 6s.
Thought and Counter-thought were clearly fucking with my mind and enjoying it, because now, an inch into both versions, I am thoroughly confused – too loose? Too tight? Not sure which one to do, I am altogether sick of this pattern already. But I can’t tell you how lovely this shade is – it reminds me alternately of moss and henna, which I feel I can almost smell or touch when I sniff or knit with the yarn.
No doubt my mind is mimicking the whole moss sensation, because yet another thought keeps forming threateningly in a deep recess somewhere, flinging more doubts and alternatives at me. Will this really look good as the BTS Vest? Wouldn’t the forest green rather be a comfy hoodie instead? Walk in the woods after rain; jeans, sneakers and green hoodie, maybe a cardi with pockets? Or, perhaps another Fitted Knits project – the feminine cardigan, in a dark green to minimize the overly cutesy look? It was this foolish thought that led me to rashly buy three skeins of another shade yesterday in charcoal grey for the Vest. Now my indecision is even worse – grey or green? Both are quite lovely, you gotta admit, but I’m too afraid to even wind the grey for fear that it will develop an identity crisis of its own.
Enough of Cascade, I told myself. Find a mindless, easy project to keep you occupied. I idly picked up a skein of Nashua Worsted and cast on for the Koolhaas hat for some instant gratification. No sooner had I done that than the alpaca strands got up my nose and created a fuss about too much fuzz, too little stitch definition, and there I was a day later, with the same project, but this time in Malabrigo Teal. I did two rows of the cabled pattern and another nasty thought, no doubt from the same subversive brigade, began to play in my head – do I really want this hat? I haven’t quelled the thought yet, and the two yarns are poised, waiting:
Socks! Always the last refuge, reliable, simple socks. My friend Madhavi got me two skeins of Regia from Germany this Christmas, and I brought them out this morning to pick one to cast on with. Just the thought of picking one over the other made me so superstitious, though, that they got photographed and went right back into the drawer. I’ll deal with them later.
This madness, it is hoped, will not last. I will sensibly match yarn to project, even progress a couple of inches, and not let the damn A.D.D turn me a complete, indecisive A.S.S. I just wish I could figure out which yarn to tackle first….
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