Monday, March 31, 2008

"My" week begins

I finished the socks last Thursday! What a journey! I love them, they fit like a glove and they are ever ever so comfortable and snuggly warm. I'm wearing them now, in fact.

I've started another pair. I wanted to do socks using the magic loop method. I wanted to knit two socks at one time. I wanted to knit some toe up socks. Then I found a pattern...well, no, it's really a tutorial. which is what I need anyway, since I had no idea how to do any of those things. I'm using the yarn I dyed, with a few alterations to compensate for the dyed yarn having a smaller guage. Things are going fine so far. The hardest part was casting on. A fiddly "figure 8" cast on, which felt like you were knitting stitches into thin fact, I reckon I was from time to time.

Which brings me right up to today. Monday! I woke up at 3:15 AM to see Chris off. He's left today for his geograpy camp, a working week away in the Flinders Ranges with about 35 Year 11 students. Tonight and tomorrow night they will be staying in a relatively modern campground at Wilpena Pound, but Wednesday, they seriously go bush, with no toilets, no kiosk, no conveniences of any kind. It's a wonder how he ever gets any teenage girls to go!

And here I am. On my own! Boy, am I stoked! I love Chris, I really do, but I really really really was needing some serious downtime! Which, now, I have. I have so many knitting, dyeing and spinning things on my TO DO this week list that I almost don't know where to start. But start I did, at 3:15 this morning no less.

After seeing Chris safely off at 4:30 (I even did the Aussie stand outside and wave till they're gone thing), I came back in, put a tape in the VCR and started knitting on my jumper. Yes, the long neglected Fringe jumper..the one I mentioned WAY back in the Alpacomplete thread. The one I've put aside in the quest for a finished PAIR of socks. The one with the really big needles and the obscenely long rows that hurt my hands, forearms and even shoulders. Ahhh, what we do for our craft! Well, this morning and on and off thru the day, I got a bit accomplished. Quite a bit really, but it doesn't really look like it because the thing is soooooooo long!

I came and got online at around 7:00AM and saw my youngest son on here. We got on the webcams and phoned over Yahoo messenger, and I got to wave and blow kisses and talk to the grandbabies, which was certainly the highlight of my day. Then I made a quick trip to the grocery store before the crowds showed up.

I mentioned in the last post how I had gotten two black balls of Patonyle, and should have gotten 3. Well, I decided to get any big drives behind me, so at a bit before 9AM I left to go to Stirling to pick up the other ball. I wound up getting 4, the last 4 they had, but now I've gotten enough for 2 pair of dull black conservative socks. Ah well, it will justify my much needed trip to the optomitrist if nothing else, trying to SEE the stitches in all that blackness.

On the way back, I decided to check out a little shop in Hahndorf that carries some local homespun along with regular commercial yarn. It was off the beaten path, but only by a little, so I went. I got there to find the shop didn't open until 10AM. I had 10 minutes to burn, so I went in search of a toilet, which happened to be a bit over a block down the main street. On my way back, I passed a candy store, but what caught my eye was not candy.

Mom, if your reading this, you'd better be sitting down!

There, right inside the doorway, on a shelf, was a pile of cans of DR PEPPER. My mother had almost refused to come visit me when she found out that there was no DR PEPPER in Australia. I had searched everywhere locally. US Foods in Melbourne had them, but cans of soda pop are not light, and never mind the steep (by US standards) price tag...the shipping costs made it prohibitive. Anyway, I felt like I hit the jackpot. Maybe, just maybe, she would come back to visit her loving daughter now.

She wasn't here now however, so I didn't bother buying any, but I did decide to go inside and look at what other treasures this store might offer. To my utter Shock and Awe...they had...yes, that's right...Reese's Peanut Butter Cups. My food group of choice! I bought as many as I could afford, which wasn't nearly as many as I wanted (and sent one off later to a fellow expat). But now that I know where they are, I WILL go back. I've eaten only two cups so far, which certainly attests to my strength and fortitude. I want to savor them slowly. If you can make out the price tag, you will figure out why.

There were lots of pretty things in the wool shop, but nothing I could afford after buying the Reeses, so I made my way home. Since then, I've messed around on Ravelry, mailed off my RAOK to my fellow US expat, knitted on the Fringe jumper some more, knitted on the Magic Fruit Loops socks, watched a couple of programs I had on tape, retied (with cotton) some more TeAwa Natural wool I'm going to dye tomorrow and threw it in the utility room sink to soak, and skeined two balls of the white Patonyle that I plan on dyeing tomorrow.

Not bad for day one. Tomorrow I WILL pull out the spinning wheel. I WILL dye the TeAwa and the Patonyle and maybe, if I feel particularly froggy, some of the white alpaca fleece.

I'm on a ROLL!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

2nd sock sydrome sucks

Well, I'm knitting away on my second sock, working my way up the foot towards the toe, but it is hard to get all excited about this one. All the "firsts"...first stretchy cast on, first heel turn, first kitchener stitch (you know, I'm not too sure about that...when doing the kitchener, it seemed I'd done it before..though I can't remember when). All in all, while the 2nd sock has certainly (so far) gone faster than the first, and provided days of mindless knitting, it's just not been as much fun. But if I get off the computer and get on with my knitting, I could most likely finish it by tomorrow. At any rate, I'll get a fine bunch of knitting done tonight.

Another care package of Koolaid arrived from MOM...this time bigger and better than the last. There's even blues and greens in this package! I'm trying to hold off dyeing anything until I have the house to myself next week, when I plan on having yarn hanging to dry all over the house :) That's the plan anyway. But, I'm also planning on getting lots of spinning done, knitting up a storm, and making myself some DIY sock blockers. The instructions are easy enough, and the material easy to come by. Should be a breeze. And one set would do me for me and mom, as we are the same size.

I went on a bit of a shopping excursion yesterday, mainly for sock yarn. I got some Patonyle, which sadly has been discontinued. I got 6 whites (destined for the dye pot), 2 beige and 2 black. The black were supposed to be for Chris, but I made a miscalculation and I really need 3. I'm going to try to make it back to the shop where I bought it in the next day or so and get another.

Until nextime...

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Sock it to me!

I finally finished Sock Number 1 this morning after two weeks (post frogging...I'm not counting the days it took me to get the cuff right). I have heard from other sock knitters that a 2mm guage is insanity, particularly for a first time sock knitter, but hey, I read the ball band and that's what it said to use. But I will use bigger guages in the future, at least, most of the time.

Actually, I'm liking the way non-knitters are looking at my socks and saying "wow, they look just like socks you buy at the store". With the tiny guage, it does look like that, and that's pretty cool.

To sum up quickly, because I'm pretty tired, the toe was a cinch...just decreases. Doing the kitchener stitch to graft the toe closed was another sock making anti-drama. I just did what it said to do in the Stitch and Bitch's Knitters handbook (including getting my environment very quiet and concentrating) and it went off without a hitch.

Here is my sock...complete with foot inserted:

I feel so darned CLEVER :)

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Gems from Binkaboo

I joined a Random Acts of Kindness group on Ravelry. I'm having soooo much fun. I've already got my first few things shipped off to others, but I recieved my first package yesterday, and I was SOOOOO excited.

I've always wanted some pretty stitch markers, and I had mentioned that in a post where you list things you would like. I've always either used an old piece of scrap yarn or cheap plastic circular ones. Well, a member by the nickname of binkaboo just happens to make lovely, lovely things, which you can see HERE!
She sent me these absolutely devine stitch markers!!!

I also recieved the addi turbo needles I was waiting for, and switched the socks off the cheapo needles and onto shear knitting heaven. Thank GOD for german engineering! Socks are progressing rather nicely, but I reckon I can go twice as fast with the new needles. It was seriously slow going, having to pick almost every stitch over the hump every time I changed working needles. I have a renewed ZEST for sock knitting! But...I've also got the new NORO, and I'm really starting to get the urge to knit the short row scarf with it.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

I feel like such a HEEL

It's been a long time, almost two whole weeks, since my last post. I almost don't know where to start! Usually, I have to try to think of something to post, but today, I have oodles of things to write about.

My only real shopping expedition this fortnight was a trip to the Yarn Barn in the city. She had some gorgeous silk/cashmere blend yarn, but at $29 a ball, I figured I'd hold off on that for now. Instead, I bought some "possum" yarn, Naturals Merino and Fur, and some NORO Silk Garden, which I have been pining for forever. There is a scarf I would like to make for ME out of it on Ravelry. I was sooo tickled to find some. She only had two balls, so I'm hoping it's enough. I could have gotten Noro Koreyun (sp?) but I don't like it nearly as well as the Silk Garden.

I also had a friend at work give me some lovely unspun tops. It's not a huge amount, but maybe enough for some socks, or parts of socks. It's lovely, and the blue is soooo soft.

I made up a little extra something for mom for her birthday to go along with the scarf, and I mailed all that with Justin's hat to her this morning. I've also joined a RAK (random acts of kindness) group on Ravelry, and I've sent out a few little odds and ends to some of the members, some Tuesday and some today. Lots of fun, that is. It's nice to give (and get) little unexpected gifts. Plus I got lots of new friends on Ravelry out of the process, which is indeed fun!

I haven't made much progress on the Fringe Jumper, not even enough to warrent a pictorial update. My excuses are as follows: a.) I needed to get Justin's hat and mom's little extra something finished before I missed mom's birthday completely. b.) Those darned big needles hurt my hands after just a little while knitting, and now that I'm on the body part, knittng from cuff to cuff as I am, one row is about 230 stitches or so. c.) It's HUGE to tote around with me already d.) I've discover the joy of knitting socks, which are light, easy, portable and fun! e.) I spend too much time on ravelry.

What I have been devoting the vast majority of my knitting time on is a pair of socks. Well, to clarify, only one sock, although I do intend to make a pair. The sock saga is pretty long, so I will condense it as best I can (which anyone who knows me will know, condensing words, written or verbal, is not my strong suit).

I kept seeing online that everyone, or so it seemed, was making socks these days. It's all the rage apparently. I was in Lincraft, back before Christmas actually, and I bought myself some sock yarn. The ball band said get some 2mm DPNs, so I did, even though I despise knitting with DPN's, I figured I'd do what I had to do to be in vogue knitting wise.

Now you hear basically two things about sock knitting. You hear how wonderful it is, something akin to falling in love, winning the lottery or having Leonardo DiCaprio give you a back rub. How turning the heel is a marvelous experience, a veritable self affirmation and life changing metamophosis. How the leg portion of the sock is like a knitter's canvas, inspiring knitters to masterpeices beyond compare.

Or you hear how horrible it is. How working with DPN's is akin to wrestling an octopus with 8 very pointed legs. How working with the tiny stitches makes you want to rip the thin membraneous tissue off the outer part of your cornea. How turning the heel is emotionally sapping to the point of suicidal ideation.

So there you go. What's a serious knitter to do but give it a try. At worst, I would have some horror stories to tell. At best, I'm gonna have some super comfy socks. I'm pretty sure the experience, once finished, will be somewhere in the middle.

Having the yarn, and some vague intention of knitting socks "someday", I also bought a book on sock knitting (and on dyeing yarn for socks) called "The Twisted Sister's Sock Workbook. To tell the truth, it has far more in it about dyeing then it does about socks, but never mind, I like dyeing too. There was also a pattern on the ball. I've been using both. Don't ask me how, cause I don't know.

I also started paying attention to what I read on the internet about knitting socks, and what I'd seen (and done) already about knitting socks on two circs and the magic loop. Unfortunately, I never went out to buy two 2mm circ's (2mm DPN's being what the pattern called for), but I did read how easy it was to convert DPN patterns to circs.

It was a fine Sunday morning. I had worked all night, but I was off that night. Chris wanted to take the little boat out (yeah, the little fast one) and I was hankering to try out the sock knittnig thing. So I grabbed up the DPN's and away we went. We got into the boat, and we're speeding down the Murray at about 30kph while I'm trying to cast stitches onto DPN's. I won't go into details here, just use your imagination. We brought some Subway's along, and when we stopped to have lunch, I actually did get the stitches on and a couple of rows done, and I continued from there on the way home.

It had been years since I've worked on DPN's, and I will tell you plainly I like them no more now than I did then. I don't know what brain genie made me believe that somehow I would have grown an affinity for them. But I continued on the DPN's for the rest of the day.

The next day, I went out and bought two 2mm circs at the LYS. I can't say they were exactly cheap, they were a common brand here in Oz, but they are not all that great for knitting on two circs. When knitting on two circs, you have to slide the stitches up onto one needle, knit them, then slide them off, pick up your other needle, slide stitches on, knit, slide off. The word slide I'm using very loosely here, as none of them slid. I put the stitches on my DPN's on my circs and tried to knit. I had to pick and pry almost every stitch, both on and off the needles. After I got a couple of inches knit on, I tried them on (a trick you can do with circs that you cant do with DPNs). They would barely go over my heel and not much further up on my leg than over my ankle.

I frogged. What else could I do? I started over, using a method mentioned in the Twisted Sister's Sock workbook. I cast on twice the number needed for my working stitches, then decreased every stitch, cutting my stitches in half, then knit in 1x1 rib. This made a very very stretchy top to my sock, with which I am still well pleased. I can't see myself using any other method from now on, but hey, I'm still learning so who knows.

Back to the needles. I hated them, and I kept reading about Addi Turbos, how smooth the join was on their circs, and how they were the best thing to get for needle sizes below 3.75 (my Denises will handle anything above that). So I ordered some addis from an online shop here in Oz. I ordered two 2mmx30cm needles to do the socks I'm working now with and one 3.25x120cm to do the magic loop method with the yarn I dyed. They were processed and shipped very quickly, but it was a holiday weekend, so I didn't get them until the next Tuesday. Unfortunately, I only got one of the 2mmx30 needles and the 3.25mmx120. I wrote to the company and they promised to send me another right away.

Figuring one was better than none, I replaced one of my old needles with the new one, only to find out that a 30cm cord was too short for me to knit with comfortably. DAMN. Back to the computer, and I ordered 2 more Addis, one 2mmx40cm and one 2mmx60cm, as I had read somewhere in the meantime that different length cords helped you keep track of your front and back better.

So, now I'm waiting on those, and still picking the stitches on and off, which is maddening. But I turned the heel last night. The pattern(s) I'm using call for the short row method, which I'm already familiar with, so really it wasn't dreadfully hard, and I did feel an odd sense of achievement when I finally got "around the bend". There are little holes, which are common and to be expected. I have read tutorials on how to get rid of the holes, but I reckon I'll just wrap my head around making the actual sock for now rather than perfecting it. I can worry about the sordid details when I make my next pair.

Till next time!!!

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Dyed in the wool

I'm dead tired after working all night, but having just dumped the pictures off my camera, I couldn't wait to put them up on the blog. Don't expect any inspirational (or even coherent) writing in this entry.

The day that I dyed the wool, hubby decided, for no occasion whatsoever, to buy me some flowers. Awwwwwwwwww! A very pretty bouquet of "Easter type" flowers. I set them on the dining room table, as I always do.

The next day, I checked the wool. Nope, still wet at the curvy part of the bottom of the skein where all the water drained down to. I jostled the yarn around a bit, letting air get to the parts that it hadn't managed to get to before, and then left it be while I slept the afternoon away, and then worked the night away.

Day two, and the yarn is finally dry. Yaaaaahooooo! It looks awesome. True to the word of all the literature I read on the subject, the dry colors were not nearly as intense as they were when wet. Fair enough. The skein, by this time, had taken on it's final, more pastelly hues.

Hubby was home and willing, so it was time to make a ball! I took it up and carried it into the dining room, untied the strings holding the skein together and laid it on the table. Then I noticed something. It matched the flowers.

The color coordination was quite by accident, I assure you, but then I just had to get a picture! Okay, okay, I posed and reposed the yarn and flowers and took about a dozen pictures, but whose counting. I promise though, I won't post them all here.

Then it was time to have hubby hold the skein while I wound the ball. (See how happy he looks to be helping out!!) I was sure it was going to be (more or less) a tangled nightmare to wind. I had been careful in the dying process, mindful that the day would come when it would have to be wound. Still, in my wildest dreams I didn't think it would be completely tangle free, but so it was!

Then, of course, I had to take the ball and pose IT with the flowers.
So there you have it. My first dyeing experience, front to finish. Now, I'm going to bed before I drop.