Tuesday, May 03, 2016

I Could Kiss These Heels

Hey, look what I finished last night!

Pattern: Fish Lips Kiss Heel (toe up) by Patty-Joy White, aka the Sox Therapist
Yarn: my handspun Corriedale from Southern Cross Fibre in Splendour
Needles: US 0 (2.0 mm) 40 in. Addi Sock Rockets, magic loop
Started/Completed: April 17/May 2

I'm very pleased with these socks. In fact, I'd even say they're the best-fitting toe-up socks I've ever knit. There's a reason why this pattern is so popular on Ravelry, and it's well worth the $1 it costs. The pattern is long, but that's because it's filled with explanations and photo tutorials to show you how to work this ingenious and simple short-row heel. I may just use this short row method from now on, in fact.

For these socks, I started with 20 stitches and Judy's Magic Cast On, then increased to 72 total stitches. I knit the leg for a total of 7 inches (5 inches of stockinette and 2 inches of 2x2 ribbing), finishing off with the Miraculous Elastic Bind Off. I ended up using approximately 316 yards of my yarn, and there's still a good portion leftover for who knows what (into the leftover bin it goes).

I won't go as far as to say that I'm a toe-up convert; overall, I still prefer a cuff-down sock (mainly because I miss Kitchenering when working toe up). But it's good to know that I can knit a pair toe up that will fit well when I'm limited on yarn or need to go toe up for some other reason.

Meanwhile, I've reached an important point in my Hitofude: I have joined the sleeves and moved on to the ribbing around the neckline. And, as you can see, I've also moved on to a new color.

It looks a little strange now, but once I get through about eight more rounds of this, I'll be binding off the neckline and moving on to the body. It should be smooth sailing from there -- perfect for the drive down to Maryland this weekend!

I've also started a new project for my lunchtime knitting, now that the socks are done. Lisa of the 90% Knitting podcast and Fibernymph Dye Works is hosting a knitalong for the month of May that she's calling Mini Mayhem. All projects must be 100 yards of yarn or less. I thought this was a perfect excuse to bust some leftovers stash.

The pattern I'm using is the Earbud Pouch, which is super simple and quick to knit (also free, an added bonus). I'm using a bunch of Fibernymph sock yarn leftovers to start; I figure I can knit up a bunch of these and then use them as little holiday gifts. The first one was cast on last night and finished up at lunch today, and it only used about 16 yards. I'm already about halfway through the second. Perfect for instant gratification!

Sunday, May 01, 2016

There Goes the Weekend

I had grand plans for doing a lot of spinning this weekend -- plans that never came to fruition.

On Friday night, once I got Rainbow to bed, I only managed about an hour. Yesterday, in between errands and cleaning and cooking for dinner guests, I squeezed in only about half an hour. I figured I'd make it up today. But then we spent about three hours watching the runners in the marathon this morning, and after we went to lunch and ran some more errands, I found myself with only about an hour and a half left to spin. So I did not finish spinning all the singles as I'd hoped. At least I have made some progress -- progress that, unfortunately, is not so easy to capture with my camera.

When I was spinning in the dim light in our bedroom on Friday night, I didn't realize that the yellow and green in the fiber were actually neon. These singles are so vibrant that they completely blew out when I tried (several times!) to take an accurate photo. I figure I'm a little more than halfway done, and I'll try my best to finish them up in the next couple of evenings because it looks like the next shipment of this club will be coming tomorrow. I can't wait to see what it is!

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Same Old, Same Old

I'm afraid my knitting isn't very exciting these days. I'm still working on the same two handspun projects, my toe-up socks and my Hitofude. Both are seeing progress -- I'm halfway through the heel of the second sock and I've added another lace repeat to the sweater.

When you don't have stitch markers when you need them, you make do with what's on hand.

I wouldn't say that I'm getting bored with either of my two current projects, but I am getting the itch to cast on something new. That's an itch that will soon be scratched, as I'm preparing to cast on for a new design this weekend for Mad May (it's something I've been swatching for this week). I've got a skein of Tosh Merino Light in the stash that will soon become a new shawl.

Today I received a package in the mail that I'm hoping will help to speed up my handspun production -- a new-to-me WooLee Winder and three bobbins for my Lendrum.

I'd been thinking about getting a WW for my first wheel for a while now, as I really enjoy spinning on it but find the stopping to move the yarn guide a bit disruptive to my spinning flow. The WW will allow me to spin continuously and will be especially helpful when I'm trying to fit an entire batch of fiber on one bobbin. I acquired this through a detash on Ravelry that I happened to spot at just the right moment.

At this time next week, I'll be packing for Maryland Sheep and Wool, so that means that this weekend I should probably take a good look at my stash and figure out what I can allow myself to buy at the festival. So far the only thing on my list is some honey to bring home to the family. Other than that, I expect that I'll just be doing a lot of browsing and perhaps making an impulse purchase or two. And I'm keeping my fingers crossed that the weather cooperates for a pleasant weekend!

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

It's Good to Try New Things

If you've been reading this blog for any length of time, then you know that I consider myself to be a serious sock knitter. Moreover, I am a serious cuff-down sock knitter. I've done a few pairs of toe-up socks in the past, but I was never fully satisfied with them. They never fit me quite as well as a cuff-down pair, and there was always the issue with the bind off being just a tad too tight.

Because I've gotten to the point where I can pretty much knit a pair of cuff-down socks in my sleep, I decided that I should really challenge myself and try something different. The impetus for this was twofold: First, I'd bought the pattern for the Fish Lips Kiss Heel a bit ago after hearing about it on podcast after podcast, with many hosts encouraging people to buy the very affordable pattern (only $1!) to support the designer, who's currently battling breast cancer. Second, I had a skein of handspun just begging to be made into socks but with somewhat limited yardage, so toe up seemed like the way to go. So I did it. And I'm happy to say that I'm very pleased with the results.

I finished the first sock on Sunday evening and it fits perfectly! Coincidentally, I'd been watching the latest episode of the Snappy Stitches podcast that afternoon, and Chrissy had mentioned that she'd used the Miraculous Elastic Bind Off on her latest handspun socks. I'd never heard of this bind off before, but it seemed like exactly what I was looking for. It's a variation of the lace bind off I generally use on shawls, and it's extremely stretchy. The top of the sock does flare a bit when it's off the foot, but that goes away once it's worn.

I haven't been all that pleased with the fit of short-row heels in the past, but I like this one. My only concern is that there is no added reinforcement like you get with a heel flap, so I'm worried that I might wear through the back of the heel sooner with this heel. I might restrict my use of this heel to more durable yarns (this handspun is a slightly coarse and very woolly Corriedale) and stick to my tried-and-true heel flap for superwash merino and the like.

I've started the second sock in the pair, and after a couple of false starts on the toe (first I messed up the cast on, then I was doing my increases differently than on the first sock), I'm cruising up the foot. I weighed was left of my yarn after the first sock was done and I have plenty left -- there should even be some leftovers once the pair is complete.

Meanwhile, I'm still working on my Hitofude, and I've now completed nine repeats of the lace pattern and moved on to the third color in the gradient. I can usually get through one repeat or so in an evening of knitting, so my hope is that I will be able to finish the sleeves before Maryland Sheep and Wool. I'll have the whole trip down and back to knit, plus the the evenings when we're sitting in our hotel room, so I'd like to get the awkward three-needle bind off out of the way before then.

I'm starting to get very excited for the trip, even though it's more than a week away. I'm ignoring, for now, the fact that I've hardly used what I bought last year; I don't think I'll be buying very much this year, actually. I'm just looking forward to having a weekend away with my girlfriends, none of whom will care if I spend hours and hours knitting!

Sunday, April 24, 2016

I Need to Spin Faster

I thought that by limiting myself to my two fiber clubs and not buying additional fiber, I'd finally make a dent in my fiber stash. I think I need to spin more and faster if I'm actually going to do that.

After I finished the two batches of Southern Cross Fibre Comeback wool, I turned my attention the most recent shipment of the FatCatKnits club. The theme for this go-round is Under the Sea, so all the colorways are inspired by aquatic life. As a reminder, here's what the fiber looked like:

Sea Anenome (left) and Cinnamon Clownfish (right)

I liked the colorway on the left better, so I decided to start with the one on the right, figuring my desired to get to the preferred colorway would be good motivation to get through it. I had decided to spin each colorway on its own, from end to end, and chain ply. I just finished up the first bobbin this afternoon:

I thought I should let it rest a bit before attempting to ply, so I started right in on the second bobbin:

I feel obligated to point out that the little purple bump you see there is some fiber that was stuck to the end of the leader, not a giant nepp or something. As you can see, I've only just started this bobbin, so there's not much on there yet. I'm spinning fine singles that look like they should ply up to a light fingering, but as this is Targhee, I'm counting on it poofing up some in the finishing.

I had a bit of a surprise when I got home on Friday, and while it was not unwelcome, it's not helping the fiber stash situation any. I'd completely forgotten that I'd ordered a couple of coordinates for the March SCF shipment -- Silver Mine:

and Phaser Plum:

I think perhaps I'd better spend some extra time at the wheel this week just to keep things under control. After all, Maryland Sheep and Wool is coming up in less than two weeks, and there's no telling what might follow me home!

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Adventures in Heel Knitting

I've been knitting socks for a long time, and I've knit a lot of socks. I've tried different methods and styles in that time and have always seemed to come back to a traditional top-down heel flap sock. It's just something I can do without having think. Doing the same thing again and again can leave you in a bit of a rut, though, so I felt like it was a good thing to do for myself as a sock knitter to try something new.

The Fish Lips Kiss Heel has been out for nearly three years, and in the past few months it has seemed like every podcaster I watch or listen to has been doing it. It seemed like it was high time I give it a try. I'm really not sure why I hesitated for so long -- after all, the pattern costs only a dollar and is very detailed -- other than the fact that I have not had great luck with short-row heels in the past. It did not seem like a huge sacrifice to try it on one pair of socks (I do wear my other socks with short-row heels, even if they're not my favorite), and I figured that knitting that pair in handspun would make it more enjoyable. So I dutifully had the Mister trace my foot to make my template, did all my measurements and calculations, and cast on.

I made quick work of the foot, no doubt in part because the way I spun the yarn makes me knit faster to see the colors change. By this morning, I was ready to start the heel, and it only took me a couple of rows to get the hang of it. By this evening, I had a completed heel.

I do like the look of this heel and found it easy to knit, but time will tell if I really like it. I've got to wear the socks a bit and get a better sense for how they fit my foot. If I like them, I can see myself using this heel method a lot, especially when I'm knitting with handspun and want to use up as much as possible. Is it crazy to think that I might become a converted toe-up sock knitter?

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

I Kouyou'd

It turns out that when you work on something a lot, you finish it sooner than you thought you would!

Pattern: Kouyou by Angela Tong
Yarn: my handspun BFL/silk, approximately 430 yards
Needles: US 4 (3.5 mm) Addi Rockets
Started/Completed: April 2/April 16
Mods: added stockinette rows, changed up the bind off

This pattern was the second in my LYS's Shawl Adventure for the year. I'm attempting to do them all in handspun (or at least partially, in the case of the first pattern). This particular skein had been in my stash a long time, just waiting for the right project to come along. It seemed to work well with this pattern, and knitting with it was certainly a delight.

Because my yarn was so much thinner than either of the weights called for in the pattern, I made two big modifications. First, I went down -- way down -- in needle size. The size of the needle was still big relative to the thickness of the yarn in order to create lace that was actually lacy, but I wanted my stockinette to have some body to it, so I didn't want to go too big. However, because I was going down in both needle size and yarn weight, I added additional stockinette rows to prevent my shawl from coming out kerchief size. I started by following the directions for the largest size in the pattern and then did a bit of math to figure out how many stitches I would need for the lace to work out.

The other modification I made was to the bind off. At first I followed the directions in the pattern, but my bind-off edge was coming out way too inelastic, so I ripped back and started over, this time working the picots as specified but substituting the lace bind off (k2, *slip both stitches back to left needle and k2tog tbl; k1; rep from *) in between. The result is a very stretchy edge that I was able to block aggressively.

I did kind of screw up the picots, and I'm not sure if I miscounted or what, but they don't seem to fall where they're supposed to in order to highlight the lace patterning. I didn't really notice this until I was pinning the shawl out last night, and at that point I wasn't about to unpick the end I'd woven in, tink back, and redo the whole thing. I doubt anyone is going to look that closely, and it's not really bothering me at this point, but it's something I'd certainly pay more attention to if I was knitting this pattern again.

I am pleased that I finally managed to knit with this yarn, though I didn't use it all up (I had a feeling I wouldn't, but I expected to use about 100 yards more than I did). I will have to find something creative to do with what's left.

Because I finished the shawl just before going to bed on Saturday night, I got to Sunday evening and suddenly realized that I only had one project on the needles -- my handspun Hitofude -- and nothing to take to work with me. So I quickly wound up another skein of handspun (this Southern Cross Fibre Corriedale) and cast on for a new pair of socks. I've been meaning to give the Fish Lips Kiss Heel a try for a while now, and this seemed like a perfect opportunity.

I got the whole toe done on Sunday evening (yes, I'm actually knitting a toe-up sock!) and have been speeding along ever since. Watching the colors transition in handspun always seems to make me knit faster, and I'm enjoying this sock immensely. I can't wait to get to the heel and try out the magic!