Friday, July 27, 2012

A Tragedy of Errors

Confession time: This story makes me look like an idiot.

Back around my birthday, I took a field trip to Simply Socks Yarn Company. It's a lovely place, and I bought a lot of yarn, including this:

I am trying to buy more semisolid sock yarn because I find I want to do fancy patterns that tend to get lost on busy, variegated yarn. Lola's Thistle colorway is a lovely purple.

Fast forward to vacation a few weeks ago. We spent seven or eight hours in the car to get to Tennessee, and so I started on a pattern I'd had my eye on: 'Olina Socks.

There were problems from the beginning. I don't do toe-up socks much, and trying to watch a youtube video on Judy's magic cast on on my phone while riding in a car is not ideal. At one point I threw the yarn into the back of the car in a fit of rage while yelling, "For fuck's sake!"

Luckily, Andrew is not an easily startled driver.

It's difficult to know whether something is hard because it's a new skill or because YOU'RE DOING SOMETHING VERY WRONG AND SHOULD REEVALUATE.  I'll let you guess which one this was.

I did eventually figure out the cast on, but there was nothing easy about the sock. I blamed toe-upness. I find decreasing millions of times easier than increasing, and toe-up socks are full of increasing.  The pattern is very intricate, and I had a horrible time getting the stitches to move properly.

The fabric was so dense. Why was it so dense?

Ah, I'm using square needles. That must be it.

I ignored the voice that said, "That doesn't make sense. Square needles shouldn't make a difference."

I kept going, and eventually got this:

Gorgeous, right?

Okay, so I could see the errors, but nobody else would. They'd be on my feet. Who would be looking closely enough to see where I miscrossed cables? No one. Plunge ahead.

My hope was to get these finished before the Olympics started. I have knitting plans for the Olympics, and those plans do not include these socks.

After I finished knitting for the day yesterday evening, I was startled to see that there wasn't much yarn left.* How could that be? There was no way I was going to get the second sock finished.

I got that sinking feeling in my stomach.  There had to be a way. I had fought hard for these socks. They were so dense that my shoulder sometimes hurt when I finished knitting from the strain of moving the stitches.** My index finger may be permanently dented from the thousands of times I've used it to shove the pointy needle through a cable.  There had to be a way to finish this.

I went to Simply Sock Yarn's website. She was on vacation, which I knew from reading her blog. Fine. I could wait.  I'd just make sure she still had it. I went to the Schaefer section of the website.

Crap. Lola wasn't even listed as a yarn line she carried, let alone getting the thistle color.

Okay, go to the stash section of Ravelry. Nope, no one had any they were willing to trade or sell.

Okay, go to eBay. Nope.

Then something horrible happened. I looked at the main Ravelry page for the yarn and found this:


I went to bed at this point, mad at the world for discontinuing yarn I needed, mad at Schaefer for putting 280 yards into a stupid skein, mad at Simply Socks for tricking me into buying a skein that wasn't big enough for a pair of socks.

Of course, none of that is rational. It didn't stop me from feeling it though.

Then the story get even worse. This morning, with fresh eyes and a slightly more reasonable attitude, I went back to Ravelry's page on the yarn.

Do you see what weight is listed?

I had been trying to knit socks out of worsted weight yarn. For the uninitiated, the yarn weights go like this (from lightest to heaviest):

super bulky

Most often, fingering weight is used to knit socks. I was trying to use a yarn that is much, much heavier than normal sock yarn. I was knitting it on the small needles I normally use, and that of course is why my fabric was so dense, why the cables were so difficult, why my shoulder hurt and my hands hurt and my fingers hurt. That's why my square needles were actually bending out of shape from the strain.

It is possible to knit socks out of heavy yarn, and that's why Simply Socks carried a few skeins of heavier weights. To use worsted weight, you use bigger needles, and you have less stitches per round. You're making thick socks that you intend to wear with winter boots or around the house with slippers. In other words, you do everything differently with heavy yarn like this.

I've made many, many pairs of socks. I'm stunned by the number of mistakes I made that allowed me to get this far in the process: not looking at the tag and seeing that there were only 280 yards, not looking up the yarn to see what weight it is, not reevaluating when I saw the fabric was denser than normal, not reevaluating when I saw that my needles and my body were saying something was wrong, not reevaluating when I noticed that there didn't seem to be enough yarn left to get through a second sock.

I'll frog them soon, and I'll probably reknit this beautiful pattern. I'll try to use this as a learning experience and be more careful about looking up the specs for a yarn before I use it.

It's just yarn (and time, so much time). Nobody cares. Nobody was hurt my my mistakes. It's no big deal.


*Okay, so I had a suspicion this might happens days before. I had just ignored that feeling and kept going. Yes, I am embarrassed by that.

**Yes, I am embarrassed by that, too.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

In and Out of My Head

I'm in a bit of a funk. I'm having a hard time putting things into perspective. I know I'm extremely, extremely fortunate. I know I really like this little life of mine--Andrew, friends, job, hobbies, family.

But for whatever reason, I can't seem to stay centered. It is taking a tremendous amount of work to think through situations and view them for what they really are. Even when I get there, it's as if my mind has put them into perspective, but my gut has not. That doesn't feel like quite the correct image, but it's all I have.

There's nothing to do but plug on, looking for ways to get out of my head. Paige put out a Call to Needles to get help making 12" afghan squares she'll put together into a blanket for a family who recently experienced a tragedy. Seeing a chance, I knit up a few.

Getting a square that was actually 12" x 12" turned out to be harder than I anticipated. The blue one is a bit big, the purple one is pretty close to correct, and the striped one is too short. Paige assured me she could work some magic with crochet edging to make it work, and if she can't it isn't a tremendous amount of effort wasted. I was able to do these in a couple evenings.

I still feel cranky. It will pass.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Smoky Mountain Spinnery and the Salt & Pepper Shaker Museum

Naturally, I looked up yarn shops before going on vacation in Tennessee. You know, like you do. The only yarn shop near where we were staying was Smoky Mountain Spinnery

It's a lovely shop. A woman runs that shop, and her husband runs the Smoky Mountain Angler. There's an open doorway between them, and as I was wandering around the yarn shop I stumbled through a doorway and, surrounded by fishing jackets, I thought, "This is not my people anymore." It was slightly disorienting, but I love that this couple can work so closely together with their different interests.

I didn't buy yarn at the Spinnery.

I know.

I couldn't find yarn I wanted. It wasn't because they didn't have lovely yarn. They did. The only reason I can come up with is that it was so humid that I was hot, miserable, and sweaty when I arrived at the store. My hands convinced my brain that I would never, ever want to hold yarn again. My hands, of course, are big fat liars.

That didn't stop me from supporting them though. I bought two bars of handmade soap, Colombia Coffee and Sandalwood Vanilla. They smell so good I don't want to use them because them they'd be gone. I just want to sniff them in their brown paper wrappers forever. 

I bought a set of dpns I needed to complete a hat I was working on.*

And I bought this:

It's a black sheep tape measure. Feel free to take a minute to adjust to the adorableness. 

The Smokey Mountain Spinnery shared a parking lot with the Salt and Pepper Shaker Museum.

Yep, you read that correctly.

My favorite set was this one:

It was in a giant case filled with every vegetable you can imagine. 

The museum was fascinating. I would think, "Huh, there's a toilet s & p set." Then, "Huh. There are forty toilet s & p sets." It was like that with every object. Presidents, states, light bulbs, food, cartoon characters, and on and on. Fascinating and awesome way to spend $3.

If you ever find yourself in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, I highly recommend that you eat pancakes at Flapjacks, then walk to the Salt and Pepper Museum and the Spinnery. You won't be disappointed.

*I brought the circular needle I needed for the hat, but not the dpns for when the decreases made the hat too small for the circular. Rookie packing mistake.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Custom Socks

Last week I was on vacation. Andrew, me, and six friends rented a house in Tennessee. We spent the week hiking, shopping, reading, knitting, and generally having a lovely time.

While there, I started socks for one of my friends. He has a size 11 foot, but I love him anyway. He likes his socks tight, and he has skinny ankles.

I made him try on the socks a few times, and I only had to rip out once. Here's what I ended up with:

The first four markers are decreases. The bottom two are increases. It's a normal 3-1 ribbed sock, and I'm trying not to be bothered by the rib getting messed up by the increases and decreases. It's on the back of his leg, and I can't imagine anyone will see it.

Knit in Zwerger Garn Opal 4-ply in the Momo colorway (ravelled here)

The great thing about these is that the yarn came from one of our mutual friends who lives in Germany (thanks, Holly!). These socks have twice as much friendship and love as normal socks.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Poor, Privileged Me

A friend and I have been talking about the hardships we have in our lives so we can laugh and put them into perspective. Here are some examples:

  • I spent a ridiculous amount of time yesterday trying to figure out if I wanted to buy an imperfect Jordana Paige bag for $50. Then her site crashed!  The horror!
  • She was sad she walked all the way to the vending machine in heels and they were out of her favorite candy bar.
  • I have too much delicious food available to me, and so I will always have to pay attention to my weight.

I can add a new one to the list:

  • A friend and I went to lunch and then to our neighborhood JoAnn fabrics. The store is moving, and they're "liquidating." Unfortunately, we didn't realize "liquidating" meant "put your fabric 15% off and have a handful of things at 40%."  But I spent time making a list of possible projects and their yarn requirements! I was all psyched up to buy yarn! 

Oh, wait. Syria is in violent turmoil? The Eurozone is a red hot mess? Half the country (including my little corner of it) is in a serious drought, which means farmers are losing their livelihoods and food prices will go up, disproportionately impacting the poor?

Perspective. Recognize things for what they really are. I perhaps need to tattoo that on my arm to serve as a reminder.

Oh, wait. I already have. Damn.

Thursday, July 12, 2012


There are two things you should know about Andrew for this story: He is picky, and he is honest. If you ask Andrew if your butt looks big in these jeans, he will tell you the truth. You have to learn not to ask if you don't want to know. The good part about this is that when he says you look nice, you can rest assured that you really do look nice. The other good part about this is that he's not an asshole. 

I have knit Andrew a bunch of hats and scarves, but I've only made him a few pair of socks. It's been trial and error to figure out what makes the perfect Andrew Sock.

I think I have it. 

I call these the Tighter Yet Socks (ravelled here.) I made the toes less pointy than normal, and I did 2-1 ribbing all the way down the leg and across the top of the foot. I used Schoppel-Wolle Zauberball Starke 6 yarn, which is a sport weight, so I only had 54 stitches in a round. I'll have to figure out what adjustments I need for fingering weight socks, but I'm learning more what Andrew thinks makes a perfect sock.

And let's take a moment to rejoice that he loves color and doesn't care if they match. That makes the knitting so much more interesting.

I also finished a pair of socks for my oldest sister. I talked about them in this post.

Groovy socks (mine ravelled here) knit in Knitpicks Felici Sport, Dockside colorway

This is a great pattern for striping yarn. I don't think the pattern is online anymore, but it's a simple two row repeat:

Round 1: Knit all stitches.
Round 2 (multiple of 8): k1, yo, k1, k2tog, ssk, k1, yo, k1. Repeat those 8 stitches to end of round.

I didn't intend for them to match, but they did. I ran out of yarn at the tip of the toe on each sock, so I used a bit of another colorway of the same yarn to finish (the very tip done in various shades of blue). I don't think it's noticeable at all. It's nice to have these for the present pile to give her on her birthday!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Double Knitting

Finished! Learning to knit Continental style made a huge difference. 

Dots Cowl (mine ravelled here)
knit in Knitpicks Chroma Worsted, Roller Skate colorway, and Patrons Astra in cream

Double knitting is some kind of magic.  You're basically knitting 1-1 ribbing with alternating colors. Because the ribbing is so small, each side looks like stockinette.

I'm really thrilled with the way it turned out, although I admit that I'm not ready to start another double knitting project yet. It took fifteen minutes per round, and, probably because I'm new to holding the yarn Continental style, it made my hands hurt. It was worth it though! I think the recipient will really like it... and if she doesn't, I hope she lies to me.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Continental Daisy

Ha, ha! (she shouts triumphantly)

knit in Knitpicks Dishie Multi, Daisy colorway

Just to make sure the towel wasn't a fluke, I made a dishcloth with the same pattern. Continental knitting!  

Monday, July 2, 2012

Half Full

I have an emotional investment in my hundreds and hundreds of 3" squares (there are over a thousand of them) that I've cut out for my first quilt. I can't bear the thought of them being destroyed because I don't know how to use a sewing machine.

The only sensible thing to do is to start with another project.

So, I did. The flowered fabric is a valance my friend Lynn made for me. It's hung in our kitchen since we bought our house seven years ago. I LOVE IT.

So I decided to use it as a template and make another one out of veggie fabric I bought from Ikea. I'd hang this one in the yarn room. No problem!

Let me remind you that, despite being an intelligent person, I am not visual. I need words, not pictures. This is a problem. I carefully looked at how Lynn constructed the valance, and very carefully mimicked her seams.

I finished, turned the tube right side out, looked at it, and HUH! The pocket was in the middle of the inside of the tube, not on the outside. I'd sewn the thing inside out. 

Learned: It takes a great deal longer to rip out seams in fabric than it does knitted fabric. 

After ripping, I too quickly put the seams in the correct place and went triumphantly in search of the kitchen curtain rod so I could take a picture of my ultimately successful project.

The pocket I made for the rod was slightly narrower at one end, and it wouldn't go on the rod.

At this point, the only thing to do was to rehang Lynn's curtain, fold mine up, and write "narrow curtain rod" on the grocery list.

I don't care. I'm still counting it as a successful project.