Stuff

I said I would try to post more often. I meant it. Really.

But here it is, over a month later. At least it’s not a whole year this time, right?

Bistro Shirt - sleeve is happening...

Bistro Shirt – sleeve is happening…

Knitting: Working on a Bistro Shirt, which I really should be doing in a cotton/linen blend, but I’m so iffy about working with cotton that I just impulsively bought some good ol’ Patons Classic Wool and started knitting. (Yes, the yarn purchase was in a little fit of pique after a bad moment/afternoon with my mom, but I’m not writing about her today. I have decided, though, that I will buy plants instead of yarn in that circumstance. My yard is getting quite Eden-like…).

So this lovely little sweater will be much too warm to wear when I finish it. Likewise, the darling little “Orenburg Lace” scarf I knitted to wear at my daughter’s wedding – it finally occurred to me about halfway through the project that the Saturday before Memorial Day might not be a scarf-y day. But it’s pretty, and the color is called “Forever” – very fitting for a wedding, yes?

Miss Babs Yet in "Forever"

Miss Babs Yet in “Forever”

The lace was practice for a bigger scarf I plan to make with some lovely incredibly fine yarn I picked up at Stitches West – funny how when you see a knitted sample, and it seems so simple, and you don’t want to pay for the printed pattern because, really, it’s just the same stitch pattern over and over with a garter stitch border – it’s so FUNNY when you can’t seem to find that same stitch pattern ANYWHERE. Finally found one that seems similar enough, and I’m truly hoping the bloom of the teeny tiny 100% merino laceweight will make it look more like the one I should have bought the darn pattern for… Smack my forehead, please.

Listening to Linda Ronstadt today as I write – bought a couple of CD’s (more Amazon fun, but this time with a better outcome*), because, y’know, she’s not going to record anymore and she really is a big part of “the soundtrack of my life.” What a talent – so versatile, like no one else I can think of. If you don’t think so, just Netflix “The Pirates of Penzance.” So sad to think that she will never sing again, due to Parkinson’s Disease. Thank God she DID sing – that she DID put her voice out there and live her life, tough though it may have been.

Sometimes I wonder what might have been if I had not “let fear hold me back,” as one of my former bad-boyfriends once said about me. (A bad boyfriend, and a “bad boy”… too many of those). Usually, though, I’m just so glad that I did what I did (get a good day job, stick with it even though it wasn’t lots of fun, sing when I could, have a beautiful baby, finally meet my prince after the frogs and now I have a lovely little life and I can knit and write and maybe even someday start that book…). Maybe somewhere there’s someone who remembers me singing in a piano bar or at church or in the Symphony Chorus. Maybe not. It’s okay.

Still, sometimes that fantasy flits through my mind…

*Amazon update – Never found out what the problem was with them and my beloved Harlot’s latest book, which I pre-ordered and they apparently didn’t believe I really wanted. So, it was with some trepidation that I ordered two Linda Ronstadt CD’s and the Whole30 book, “It Starts with Food” – ordered on April 15, over $35 so I could get the free shipping… Got an estimated date of delivery of MAY 27-JUNE 7!

I’ll admit I didn’t even notice that until April 19. So I called them. Not a good experience. Seriously, I’m not that person, but I couldn’t understand anything the rep said other than that it was one of the CDs that was holding up the order. Out of stock (even though online it said there were two). Then she said a number of other things that seemed to be some kind of choice I needed to make, but since I couldn’t understand what she was saying, I was reluctant to say anything one way or another. So I said I couldn’t understand. She repeated. I said I couldn’t understand. She repeated. I asked to talk to her supervisor. She repeated. (AAAARRRRGGGHHH!) I asked to talk to her supervisor. She put me on hold. Someone else came on, said she was the supervisor, then started giving me options (I assume)… I couldn’t understand a word. I finally just said “I’m sorry, I CANNOT UNDERSTAND YOU. I don’t want to be rude, but I’m going to say goodbye now and I will EMAIL Amazon.” Jeeeeezzzz. So, got online and found out that they have a Live Chat feature. So even if I am chatting online with another country, which I believe must have been what was happening on the phone, it will be TYPED, and VISIBLE and presumably more clear. Had a lovely typed chat with “Joe” and he fixed EVERYTHING, got EVERYTHING shipped (the book and one CD overnight!, and even the “out of stock” one has now arrived), and I still got free shipping. Thanks, “Joe” – Amazon lives again for me! And Live Chat RULES!

In other news, I started my Whole30 yesterday – it’s a way of eating that I hope will help with aches and pains I’ve been experiencing, maybe with some body composition improvement (please?), and a way forward for a healthier life. Six decades late, but whatever. This pasta addict will let you know how that’s going in a couple of weeks. These two weeks at the beginning are supposed to be kind of tough. (No grains, no sugars, no dairy, no beans or legumes, no pasta, no alcohol, for the whole30… Your positive thoughts would be appreciated!).

The beginning of a Whole30 "Meal 1"

A Whole30 “Meal 1” in progress…

And maybe I’ll give Amazon a little more love and order Linda Ronstadt’s book

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The amazing thing…

The amazing thing about the Yarn Harlot is that she is totally inside my brain. Well, not the part about hating teeth, I find teeth quite incredible and intriguing and I actually made a Tooth Fairy costume for my daughter when she was 4…

But everything else.

I have just finished her book, The Amazing Thing About the Way It Goes, and it’s true, I laughed, I cried, I marveled at her talent, I laughed and cried some more… AND, she made me feel like a total piker about this blog and writing and just getting it done. So, good on ya, Stephanie! Convicted. Chastened. And at the same time, with the same words, slightly convinced that I need not write another word, because she will do it for me…

Naaaaaaah.

Because I’ve been itching to find a place to write down how I feel about Amazon and John Travolta.

John Travolta, Scientology celebrity, stood up at the Oscars the other night and absolutely butchered the name of a very talented singer. She’s not a nobody, or a newcomer, and her name isn’t that difficult to say. He managed the rest of the introduction just fine, and then said a name that bore, really, very little resemblance to Idina Menzel. “Adele Dazeem”??? C’mon!
(Luckily, Ellen was quick to mention her actual name immediately after the song).

Twitter erupted with humorous one-liners, AdeleDazeem became a Twitter ID with thousands of followers, and the media covered it the next day… But Travolta basically just said he was “beating (him)self up about it” but then decided to “Let It Go!” Oh, hahahaha.

I WANT TO KNOW HOW IT HAPPENED. What would be wrong with Travolta giving some kind of explanation?… I was too vain to wear my glasses. I was drunk. My super Scientology mind isn’t all that super. The teleprompter was wrong. SOMETHING. But no. Radio silence. No explanation.

Similarly, I pre-ordered my copy of Stephanie Pearl-McPhee’s new book from Amazon as soon as I knew I could. (January 2, to be exact). I was thrilled to have a new book by the Yarn Harlot coming out, as I basically worship her, and want to read every word she writes ASAP.

March 4 – Hooray! the book will be here today, or at least tomorrow, right? Well, no. “Not Yet Shipped” – ??? Why not?

Contacted Customer Service. Got some guy who put me on hold twice to “see what’s going on.” He came back and said I’d definitely have the book sometime between the 7th and the 11th, and sent me two (2) emails saying:
I can confirm that we will your order in time to be delivered to you by March 7, 2014 -March 11, 2014 .
I wasn’t particularly impressed or convinced by that message. (He spoke just as clearly as he typed, too.)

Then, at 4:15 a.m. the next morning, I got the email saying they were “still trying to obtain” the item I ordered on January 2.

What???

AND:

Still want it? We’ll keep on trying. To keep your order for this item open, please click the link below. Otherwise, we’ll cancel your order on April 04, 2014, if we haven’t located it by then.”

WHAT????

What part of “pre-order” doesn’t Amazon understand? And how is it that they would offer a book on pre-order and then NOT HAVE IT when the release date arrives? And why didn’t Mr. Customer Service have any info about the book actually being unavailable?

I WANT AN EXPLANATION. Don’t I deserve something other than, “Sorry, can’t send it, maybe in a month, or maybe not”?

I went to my local Barnes and Noble, and got a copy. Huh. I’m a big fan of Amazon, before this. Not so sure anymore. Sadly, I have Amazon gift card balances to use up, and lucky for them, my copy of Rachael Herron’s new book arrived today. I’m wary, though. Very wary.

Travolta, I could take or leave before he “Let It Go.” Now, I’m just gonna let him go…

In other news – Here’s my latest scarflet, my own design, done in Sweet Fiber’s Tea Leaves. Very simple design, lovely yarn – and I’m just crazy enough to voluntarily finish it with a picot bind-off. My Instagram friend who I met because of Holden will maybe think this is funny.

I love eyelets!

I love eyelets!

Yes, that’s the yarn I was using for the Yorkshire Shawl in my last post. The hard feelings were still there when I tried to pick it up again, and I decided to just frog it and make something of my own simple design. Is this how knitting designers are made?

Finished my Swirl, and wore it to Stitches West. Was chatting with a lady at a booth where there were about 30 Swirls on a rack for several minutes before I realized I was talking to Sandra McIver!!! What a charming, warm, and wonderful person!

Sandra McIver, Swirl Genius, on the right!

Sandra McIver, Swirl Genius, on the right!

See, when her next book comes out, I’m gonna want to pre-order – maybe I’ll go to B&N. Amazon, you hurt me, and your lack of explanation makes me think you’ll just do it again. It may take a while to heal…

The problem with blogging while knitting for Christmas…

So I’m pretty sure that the people I might be knitting gifts for don’t actually read my blog, but one can’t be too careful. So that means that I can’t discuss what’s occupying my mind.

I decided at the outset to avoid politics, so that part of my brain consumed by the election will not appear here. That leaves family stuff, which for the most part is private (though I’ll never miss an opportunity to link to my daughter’s blog, Good Day Howard), and (mostly) what I’m knitting, or planning to knit, or worrying about knitting… And since from now to Christmas I probably won’t knit anything for myself (poor Kate!), that means I have, basically, nothing to talk about.

Unless I do this:

I’ve actually finished _______’s _______, except for weaving in the ends. I hate weaving in ends, but there are only ____, so I guess I’ll do that in the next couple of days.

Started ________’s _______, had some design issues and now need twice the amount of yarn that I bought and also, coincidentally, that is available on the face of the earth. Checked Ravelry to see if anyone has some in their stash that they want to trade or sell. Guess what? LOTS of people have it in their stash, and not ONE. SINGLE. ONE. wants to get rid of it. This yarn is SO pretty, people buy it just to keep it around and pet it. So yeah, I picked a great yarn. Go, ME!

________, somehow sensing that I’ve already purchased yarn for the _________, has suddenly completely changed ___ hair color. Not a little. A LOT. I’ve decided it’s going to be okay.

That’s about as specific as I can get.

In other news, that isn’t all that new, because it was a month ago, I got to take a day off from the Cafe and go to Lambtown! This fiber fair takes place in Dixon, CA, this time each year. Last year I only got to be there for under 2 hours, at the end of the day. Not much fun. This year, I was there from 10 a.m. to almost 3 p.m. – got to circle the main exhibit hall three times, and saw different things each time!

Got to see the “Sheep to Shawl” competition outside pretty much from beginning to end, though I don’t know which group “won” – seems to me getting to participate in such a great group effort would be enough of a win. Three teams, each consisting of one carder, 4 spinners, one plyer, one weaver = Three Beautiful Shawls. Love the name of one of the groups – “Weft to Our Own Devices” – Hahahaha!

“Weft to Our Own Devices” – hahahaha! They do beautiful work!

Bought one little new toy – a punch needle. Kind of a miniature rug needle, or giant Russian embroidery (igolochkoy) needle – great for stash-busting, using ends of skeins, and making a beautiful, strong fabric suitable for purses, seat cushions, coasters, and a really stunning, unique vest. Una Walker, of WoolyWalkers, was very helpful!

Punch Needle – I have yet to try mine, but this nice lady sat down and gave it a whirl. This is the back of the work.

The red vest is AMAZING – and all the rest of the stuff is pretty fantastic, too!

Got to play with a loom for a little while. I actually hope I’ve staved off my yearning for a loom for just a little while longer – really want to get to at least “proficient beginner” on my spinning wheel before I take on anything else (except aforementioned punch needle). Here’s a picture of the nice lady (Robyn) who let me weave a while on the loom in the photo. She’s from Meridian Jacobs, who apparently do, well, everything.

Fighting the urge to get a loom – not sure how much longer I can hold it off…! This is Robin from Meridian Jacobs.

Spoke to some spinners, but not in any detail. They always look so peaceful, I hate to interrupt their reverie. Plus, I feel guilty about that baby alpaca that’s been languishing on my wheel for so long. If you’re learning to spin, don’t start with baby alpaca fleece.

Ran into several fiber friends, including one of my idols, Joan McGowan-Michael, of White Lies Designs, in her booth. We hatched a plot for a knitting group, which I need to follow up on. Upon which I need to follow. Follow up upon which I need to… !!!!!   I gotta do something about it.

Knitting idol Joan McGowan-Michael and dear friends Leigh and Cecile. Knitting makes people happy!

Towards the end of the day, I finally stopped at the booth with the REALLY bright yarn – it actually took my friend Leigh to make me look and see how really great the Fishknits colors were. And the young man in the booth was a great salesman, standing there knitting the best pair of toe-up two-at-a-time self-striping socks and telling us about the yarns and some of their names. My favorite was the sock yarn in shades of pink, grey and black – “Baby’s Got a Dark Side.” They have an Etsy shop, be sure to check it out!

Leigh and the wonderful Billy from Fishknits! LOOK AT THOSE SOCKS!!!

Bought some of that yarn, and some other yarn,…

Shaggy Bear Farms, in Scio, OR – more stock on the farm than people in the town. Sounds like my kind of place…

and a beautiful pattern (Little Sparrow Shawl, from Kira K Designs) for which I will now need to buy more yarn, and then there was some more yarn… Oh, and I got some yarn. You know, each skein doesn’t really weigh very much, but by the end of the day, my big ol’ knitting bag with the incendiary political statement on it was REALLY HEAVY. I really need to learn how to tell myself “No.” Someday.

Lambtown celebrates everything about sheep – sadly, this includes how darn tasty they can be. I kinda hate to admit it, but I LOVE to eat lamb. Vegans, close your eyes. Herewith, a photo of a pretty tasty lamb kabob. Poor little lamb… yum.

So yummy…

LYS – your Local Yarn Store

I love the feeling of walking into a good yarn store – it’s like a big “ahhhhhh” that flows all through your mind and body. Something about the colors, the fiber, the general zen-ness of it all. Maybe it’s lanolin hanging in the air – maybe it’s the mellowed-out knitters, the camaraderie – maybe it’s the sense of possibilities, of creativity, like the big 64-color crayon boxes of my youth.

Can’t say I get that feeling entering a chain hobby store that carries yarn. It’s just not the same. The good independent local yarn store has something they just don’t carry – it’s called “passion.” It means that the person at the register actually knows something about knitting and fibers and can help you with a problem – and is willing to do so. It means carrying natural fibers, in colors someone would actually want to wear.

It means that there are classes, knitting groups, a sense of community – not just yarn and needles and patterns and books, but a real resource for encouraging your passion and improving your abilities.

I like to see organization in a yarn store, too, particularly when it comes to displayed samples – I might fall in love with some little sweater or scarf that’s hanging up in the store, but that’s no help if it’s not labelled to identify the yarn that was used, and maybe even the pattern or the source of the pattern. But I’ll overlook the lack of a label if there’s a store employee who can and will answer my questions!

My problem when I get into LYS nirvana is that I can be completely overwhelmed by the possibilities. I go “tharn” a la Watership Down – (omigaw, I go yarn tharn!) and have to force myself into action. This can lead to impulsive choices that seem okay at the time, and then days later (when I view them in the cold light of my home) seem absolutely insane. Or dull. Or just “what was I thinking?” – Any of these can then lead to yarn buyer’s remorse. And an ever-growing stash of skeins that may or may not ever be knitted up… Of course, none of this is the fault of the yarn store.

Here are a few LYS’s that I know and love:

Babetta’s Yarn and Gifts: It’s a bit of a drive, cuz it’s in a part of town that just doesn’t seem close to anywhere else I go in town, but it’s worth it. Babetta herself is very nice, the place is packed with beautiful yarns, notions, buttons, books, patterns, and TWO comfy areas in which to just sit and knit. I say this, but I have yet to actually go there and “just sit and knit” – cuz I’m a little shy (no, really!). But I’ve made a promise to myself to actually do that within the next six weeks. There’s a coffee/latte/tea shop IN the store! There’s also a little area for kids to play. And Babetta does a newsletter, Gustine and Maya do classes,… Knitter happy!

Rumpelstiltskin: Right in Midtown, so it’s really easy to get to, and in a nice location next to a couple of art galleries and a tea shop (all kinds of English goodies – yum!). Everything is labelled, type of yarn, pattern, cost to make… Linda is very organized! It’s a tiny shop, crammed with yarn, roving, books, patterns, notions. And I love the name!


Had to stifle my burbling devotion all through class – it’s the honest-to-god Yarn Harlot!

A Verb for Keeping Warm: Okay, I will admit I don’t get the name of this shop, but it is a beautiful place to be. Wonderful people, a great little shop doggie, and it is where I got to meet and take a class (and a photo!, above) with my knitting idol, Stephanie Pearl-McPhee (the Yarn Harlot)! They have lots of classes here: sewing, quilting, dyeing, knitting – probably more. It’s a $56, 98-minute train ride for me, which may limit the number of times I can go there, but will NOT eliminate it from my list of favorites. Kristine blogs, and tweets, and the larger scope of the store doesn’t take away from the luscious yarns they carry. And if you look at their website, you’ll find they’re into all kinds of lovely natural fibers, dyeing, spinning, and they even have their own dye garden in back where they grow the plants to produce the natural colors… (And there’s a wonderful “hipster” cafe right next door, where I got the best brownie I’ve had in my life – and I am pretty old, so that’s compared to a lot of brownies…). I flatter myself to think that A Verb for Keeping Warm is like the store I might have had if I’d actually studied textiles in the Bay Area in the 70’s like I wanted to before my second divorce… coulda woulda shoulda. I’m glad Kristine followed through!


Yes, I did take a bite out of the brownie before the delicious sandwich. I’m a grownup, I can do what I want…

Tempe Yarn and Fiber: Oh, what nice people! This shop is in my home town in Arizona, so I only get to go there when I visit my mom. But I manage to fit it in every time, because it’s just such a pleasant, relaxing place to be. They have classes, and a big table where you can sit and knit – I fear this will never happen for me at this store, since it’s pretty much impossible to go somewhere else to knit if Mom is sitting at home waiting for me… They also have looms, and weaving classes, and, God help me, I can feel myself sliding in that direction. I have to get better at spinning before I do anything else, though…… 😉  TYF is also a very charitable store. They were the organizers of a project I’ve mentioned before, the DanDoh Hugs for Japan, for the tsunami victims. And they also promote and provide Knitted Knockers for breast cancer patients.  And finally, this store is where one of my favorite “small (knitting) world” stories happened – I was there, buying too much Marina (why? I don’t know – yarn tharn?) and they asked if I wanted to be on the store mailing list. Well, I usually don’t, but this time, I decided I would. They handed me the sign-up sheet, and there was just one other customer name on the page – it was someone I went to high school with – 40 years ago!  I said, “I know this woman! I went to high school with her!”  And they said, “Well, you can say hi, she’s sitting right over there!” What are the odds? Neither of us actually live in Tempe anymore. Very cool – interrupted her class, hugs all around, knitters all smiling… So, another reason to really like Tempe Yarn & Fiber.

AND, just yesterday, at the end of a wonderful lunch with my daughter and her godmother Jamey, I discovered a new friend, The Tin Thimble. Not right in town, but in a great location in a converted fruit packing shed that is now a great restaurant, a nursery, candle shop, gift shop(s), art gallery, and, most importantly, fiber heaven… The Tin Thimble is a self-described “little creative sewing shop” – beautiful fiber for spinning, felting, etc., great fabrics, buttons, vintage sewing patterns, new sewing patterns, sewing and felting classes, jewelry, silk scarves for dyeing, dyes, and on, and on,… They have an Etsy presence. They blog. Large area for classes, a super creative vibe, and really welcoming. Although the emphasis is definitely on other fiber arts and crafts rather than knitting, I’ll be going back there… intrigued by the dyeing of silk…


The Tin Thimble – delicious!

Should I mention an LYS that I sorta liked, but didn’t really love, and now they have closed? Not that MY feelings about them killed their business – but maybe my experiences were shared by others… Not naming names, but the store was run by a woman who, while a very sweet person, didn’t actually KNIT. She had a knitting machine. She was a crocheter (is that a word?). Okay, maybe I’m a bit of a knitting snob, but I think a yarn store owner should be able to KNIT. And maybe if she’d been a knitter, she’d have known that she needed to stock all the sizes of needles, and display them so you could find what you needed. Seemed to have a lot of trouble with technology – debit cards, email group lists… And I got the feeling that she started the business on a shoestring (haha), since the store was teeny-teeny-tiny, had no place to sit, hardly enough room to turn around, really, and no bathroom. Definitely not a spot to hang out. And now it’s, well, gone.

Here’s hoping you find or have found your own knitting nirvana spot in which to revel, commune, commiserate, or just sit and knit… Where it’s cool in summer, cozy in winter… There are refreshments available, help if you need it, new things to explore, and beautiful, natural, inspiring fiber…

And if you find one with a wine bar, I’d really like to know about it…

Waiting – Yay!

Most people really don’t like it when they have to wait for something; when the doctor is running late, or they have to go to the DMV, or they have to get to the airport 2 hours ahead of their flight. Knitters, on the other hand, love a nice wait. It’s a perfect excuse for knitting right in the middle of everything!

Of course, it’s best if it’s a seated wait, but if we’ve planned ahead, we’ll have something that can be worked on even while standing (another reason to love socks!).

Anyway, how wonderful to have a period of time where you’re clearly making the best of things by knitting – great on a plane or a bus, doctor/dentist/optometrist’s office, kids’ sporting events, hospital waiting rooms (I wouldn’t actually wish anyone I love to be in a hospital or having surgery, but knitting through it is very therapeutic). I consider knitting to be my “non-prescription Valium.”

It keeps the hands and (part of) the mind occupied and produces something of value – very important when you have so much to do and someone is “wasting your time.” My mom, who doesn’t knit, gets pretty bent out of shape every time she goes to the doctor and they leave her in the examination room for “forty minutes!”. A: I don’t think it’s really 40 minutes, and B: If she had knitting with her, she might even be a little sad when he finally shows up.

I’ve taken to carrying my knitting with me when I leave the house. I have several different sized bags – the huge one which also happens to have an incendiary political statement stenciled on the side; the medium one that is very low key, but still big enough to stuff a scarf or even a lace shawl into; and the small one I made myself (felted), which can easily hold a sock, yarn, etc., and besides, it’s so cute!

My little felted knitting bag. Love the magnetic closures – hated sewing them in.

So I do need to take a moment when I leave the house to decide how long I might be gone, so I know which project, in which bag, to carry with me. There was that one time I thought I had a simple nonstop red-eye flight home from New York – had just a small project with me, a little DanDoh scarf that was to be sent to Japan as a gesture following the tsunami. (I bought the yarn in a yarn shop in NYC – but that’s another story…). Anyway, nothing else to knit. Well, I was planning to sleep a bit, so it seemed like that would be plenty. NOPE. Six hours delay at the gate, but we were on the plane. SIX HOURS. And I had nothing else with me to knit. NOTHING. And this was before I had a smart phone, too, so I couldn’t even browse Ravelry (which I can happily do for hours…). They let us off the plane for about 20 minutes at some point – WHY isn’t there a yarn store in every airport??? I finished the scarf. Then I had nothing else to do but sit there and try to stifle my silent screams of anguish throughout the flight. ALL THAT WASTED KNITTING TIME!!!

So now I tend to put more yarn than I will ever need into my bag. And extra needles. And the instructions for the next project I’m considering… Just in case. Here’s a little list of other things you might want to keep in your bag:

  • Scissors (I carry small kitty-nail-clippers, just in case I have to go through security – photo below)
  • Tape Measure
  • Crochet hook (to pick up dropped stitches. I know, I never do either, hahaha)
  • Waste yarn (something bright, and enough to put your project onto in case of emergency, like a broken needle, or a TSA agent who doesn’t know you can take your needles on the plane…*)
  • Nail file
  • Row counter (in case you might get interrupted and have to jam it all in the bag…)
  • Instructions for your current project (and the next one…)
  • Stitch markers (regular and locking)
  • Small notebook to note any changes you make in your project
  • Chocolate (shouldn’t there always be chocolate?) (I leave it to you on how to keep it all from becoming chocolate knitting…)

Pretty sure I got these at a big chain pet store

That’s it for today. Oops, here’s a shot of the completed socks from last time:

Working on another pair now – LOVE these.

Next post: The all-important LYS….

* Incidentally, it’s never happened to me, but I did once hear a lady say she had to take her project off the needles because an agent said she couldn’t have them on the plane. So I ALWAYS print out the TSA info online that says knitting needles are okay – I print this when I print my boarding pass, so it has a current date on it. Just In Case.)

Matching Self-Patterning Socks…

I really like sock yarn, for a number of reasons.

One, it’s generally pretty affordable. A couple skeins of sock yarn isn’t going to break you.

Two, it’s an excellent choice for “souvenir yarn”, that yarn you buy because you’re visiting somewhere and you must visit the LYS (Local Yarn Store), or you won’t have any idea what the place you’re visiting is really like. You wouldn’t want to buy a “large project” amount of yarn, since you can’t easily go back to buy more (if you run out), or to return the extra skeins you buy (so you don’t run out). So, a couple of skeins of sock yarn are good for something you can knit up pretty quickly (before you forget where you got them – maybe even while you’re still on the trip!) and then you’ll have a useful souvenir of your visit.

Three, it’s usually available in some pretty interesting colorways and patterns. Now, here is where we get into a tricky part about sock yarn. I’ve used some self-patterning yarn in the past, with varying degrees of success. Here is a little project I did that I would call less than successful:

Photographing knitting projects is an art… sometimes it’s just a LIE…

I had several skeins (looks like it might have been at least 3, probably 4) of this great kind-of-ugly self-patterning sock yarn. I wasn’t knitting socks at the time, just wanted to see how it was to work in that weight and scale (smaller needles). One thing led to another, and I just started the mindless, long, long, loooong, zone-out kind of knitting. Ended up with a scarf (tie? muffler? noose?) about 6 inches wide and 7 feet long.

Sadly, the sock yarn doesn’t have enough body to make this scarf practical. It’s too narrow, and since it’s primarily stockinette, it also tends to roll itself into a seven-foot-long 2″ tube. Yes, I did work garter stitch on each edge, but it was clearly not enough to keep it from tubing itself. Most unsatisfying. What’s really incredible about this (scarf?) is that the pattern actually appears to have come out just about right so that the ends actually match. I have NO IDEA how that happened. Obviously, the pattern wasn’t meant for a scarf – it should have been knit up as socks, then it would probably look more uniform. I am seriously considering frogging the thing and actually making socks out of it. What a concept.

I am ambivalent about self-patterning yarn – when it works, it looks like you’ve really accomplished something, when all you’ve done is go round and round. No special counting, no charts, no joining, no keeping track of every row and stitch, and no massive amounts of ends to weave in. It’s ingenious – and kinda sneaky. I love the convenience, I respect the planning that goes into the making of the yarn, and there’s no way I would actually knit a pattern in socks that would require that much end-weaving-in. Or any, if I could get away with it. But I do feel just a little guilty about the whole self-patterning thing.

On the other hand – it can be pretty difficult to get TWO socks to come out THE SAME. Well, for me, anyway…

I knitted this sock.

Incidentally, knitting in the late summer at a coffeehouse with your daughter and a lovely cool cider – Priceless!

[I haven’t finished the toe yet – same issue as last pair, I’m just not confident that I have enough yarn to get all the way to the end of the second toe, so this time I’m planning to use some wildly unorthodox color for the toes. My daughter, Good Day Howard, suggests orange. I’m not sure…]

So now, I needed to find that same place in the yarn pattern to start the second sock. I determined this by closely inspecting the previous and following colors and combinations of colors at the beginning of the sock and in the remaining yarn. I noted that there were 12 distinct colors/combination changes in the pattern, and the celery appeared twice. I noted that the pattern from the top of the sock went celery-grey/celery-grey/white-pea-moss-white-celery-pea-etc., ending in white-grey/white. I looked at the yarn before the celery color at the top of the sock in the long-tail remnant and determined that it was a grey/white combination, then looked for a grey/white, then celery portion in the remaining yarn. Bingo! There it was!

Celery – grey/white, meet celery – grey/white!

Now, I thought the hard part was over. HA!

I checked and re-checked, and checked again. Once I made absolutely certain that I had the right spot to start my second sock, I moved the first one onto a piece of waste yarn (still need to pick a color and do the toe), and picked up my needle to cast on the second one. But, WAIT! Where do I start my Long Tail cast on in order to make sure the celery stripe is four rows long; not 3, not 5, but four rows long? Otherwise, the stripes will not really match, don’tcha know!?

Oh, crapski!

I do love the Long Tail cast on for socks – stretchy, simple, and with ribbing, the top just looks very pretty. But how would I know where to start the thing to match the length of that first stripe?

It took quite a while. I love Downton Abbey, but I watch it with subtitles because sometimes I need them, even though everybody is speaking English – so working out a knitting problem challenge while watching is probably not the best idea… did it anyway. I tried trial and error, which was mostly error. Time-consuming error, because casting on 64 stitches may sound fast but it really isn’t, especially if Mary or Sybil or Bates are having a difficult time of it, and you miss the dialogue and/or lose count and have to rewind, or start over, or recount. And if you do it enough times, you begin to lose your sense of humor about the whole thing.

So then I checked the Internet to see if I was missing something about figuring out how long the Long Tail should be. Huh. Nobody seems to have a very clear idea. Of course, they’re not trying to hit a particular teeny-tiny spot in the yarn (I tied a knot in it where my first stitch had to be) at the end of the 64 stitches to be cast on. Because they aren’t crazy.

Crazy? Heeeyyyy, maybe Math is the answer! I cast on 20 stitches, pinched the end (beginning?) between my fingers, pulled the stitches off, then measured the amount of yarn it took to make those 20 stitches. It was 22 inches! So I divided 22 into 20, which is .91. So that’s the ratio of stitches to inches. For me. On these particular needles. With this particular yarn. Last night.

Multiplied .91 times 64 stitches, and it would seem I needed approximately 58.24 inches of yarn to make 64 Long Tail cast on stitches. Gets a little tricky to say here: Take the 58.24 and divide by two, for 29.12 inches. I measured from the little knot to a point 29.12(ish) inches down the yarn, and made that the very starting point of my Long Tail cast on (the place between your thumb and forefinger where you first place your needle). And darned if it didn’t actually work. None too soon, either. I was out of Downton Abbey episodes.

Okay, then. Here’s the best part. If we plan this ahead of time, we won’t have to do the math or spend the evening casting on repeatedly to hit one tiny particular spot! Here’s what we’ll do: Wind the self-patterning yarn into two 50g balls. Look at the first skein of yarn, figure out where we are in the pattern – then find the corresponding spot in the second skein. Then, use whatever cast on we prefer, but somehow MARK the starting point on both pieces of yarn. On my next pair, I plan to cast on both socks immediately and set the second sock aside.

I can’t begin to express how happy this makes me…

Perhaps I will frog the weird scarf/noose thing and that will be my next pair of socks…

Socks… specifically, Toes

I don’t know about you, but my toes are not symmetrical. My feet are not shaped like most socks, or even like most sock-knitting patterns. I have a left foot, and a right foot. Like shoes. Huh.

So I was thinking the other day, why don’t socks follow the curve of my toes? Is it because then we’d have to look first before we put them on? Is it because it would mess up the evil plan of all those folks who suggest that you only buy one color of socks, so you won’t have to match them at all when you take them out of the wash? It just doesn’t make sense to me.

I got to the toe section of that sock I was knitting in my head* at work last week (when things at the cafe get stressful or too hot or slammed, I imagine I’m sitting somewhere knitting; last week it was the sock). Anyway, when I was really knitting it at home (you may recall, the sock for which there was almost enough yarn in one skein – did I do a swatch I don’t remember? not likely), after I changed to the purple and charcoal yarns held together, and started the toe, I decided to do a little research on why sock toes don’t look like people toes.

One of the rules in my house has always been “There’s always money in the budget for books.” So I have a nice little library of knitting books. I didn’t look in every. single. one., but I checked a few that talk about socks. I looked at a lot of sock toes. They were all symmetrical, except for the toesies (you know, the ones like gloves for your feet). I haven’t graduated from fingerless mitts to gloves yet, and I’m certainly not ready to try that action on something as non-standard as my pinky toes.

So I sat and gazed at my feet for a while. I observed that, at least on my own feet, the big toe is reasonably straight up from the foot, while the tops of the other toes form a slanted, somewhat curved line from the little toe up to the full height (or length) of the big toe. Well, here, it’s kinda like this:

Better or worse than the real thing? You’ll never know…

Forgive the graphic – it’s a bit crude, but not as crude as actually putting a photo of my toes on the Internet. My daughter (Good Day Howard) made me promise I wouldn’t do that.

So anyway, given that description and that graphic, why would we routinely make toes that symmetrically reduce on both sides? Round toes, star toes, origami toes, wedge toes… every one I looked at did that! To my mind, that would mean there’d be a big empty space over the last couple of toes to form a lump in your shoe, or there’d be a too-tight area on the big toe – and maybe both of those things would happen. Well, I decided that this sock would be different.

Elizabeth Zimmermann (Knitting Idol) “unvented” stitches, techniques, etc., with the thought that probably many, many other knitters had come up with them before her. I’m sure that people must have made socks that follow the contour of the toes more closely. Seems to me that back in the days before pantyhose we had stockings with feet that looked more foot-like. (Yes, I do remember the days before pantyhose. Or should I say “tights” now?)

So – with my 32 stitches on each needle (I like to use the Magic Loop for socks, and anything else circular), I did a regular Classic Toe (usually: K1, ssk, knit to last 3 sts on needle, k2tog, k1), but only decreased on one side of the foot, until I was about halfway up the big toe. I also eliminated the 2nd row of plain “Knit” usually called for in the Classic Toe, to allow the decreases to be more definite and follow my own foot more closely. (I tried a couple of double decreases on one of the socks – it was too much and caused a lump, which has mellowed after washing and some vigorous tugging, but it wasn’t really necessary, so I don’t recommend it.) You might find it helpful to put a locking stitch marker on the “decrease/little toe” side, just to keep it in mind – I need that kind of reminder, myself. And PLEASE – make sure you’re not making two right socks, or two left socks. I don’t want any nasty emails. 😉

Once I was halfway up the big toe, I started doing the decreases on both sides of the foot, but alternated decrease rows with “Knit” rows only on the big toe, to allow it to decrease more gradually. I tried the sock on about a million times while knitting it, to keep it as close to the contour of my toes as possible. Last few rows, decrease on both sides, every row. Gauge how much decrease you need as you go. Good reason to knit barefoot. And if you’re knitting for someone else, how about a picture of their toes? Or, sit with them and drive them crazy trying the sock on repeatedly. Whatever they’ll put up with…

Keep going till you have only 16 stitches, 8 on each of the needles. Graft, weave in ends, and enjoy your custom socks!

And now –

Voila! Absolutely individual, custom-fit socks!

Next time, because I’ve started another pair of socks today, I’ll be exploring the joys of trying to make two socks with self-patterning yarn that actually look alike…

* Knitting in my head – I tweeted about it. I don’t think anyone saw it. Oh well. @uptownknitting