Gift socks

I think I remembered to mention here that Christmas Day found my mother and my sister perusing the Webs website and ordering an rather embarrassing amount of sock yarn. My sister has a pair of dark green/sagey Cascade Fixation socks that I honestly didn’t even remember making until she brought them out to show to me after gushing for at least five minutes about how they were her favorites. Cascade Fixation being big for sock yarn, I told her that if she wanted more, she just needed to order it and have it shipped to me and I’d make her as many pairs as she wanted. That’s when mom got involved, and before I knew it, they’d ordered something like two dozen skeins in a variety of colors and sent them zipping on their way to me.

The attraction is the combination of the cotton – breathes well – and the elastic – doesn’t slump. For my sister, the addition of a lacy pattern helps, but mom likes solid patterns (which given that mom likes solid colors while sis likes variegated yarn makes for some muddy patterns here and there, but hey, it’s what they want). And since it’s Fixation – which, did I mention, is big for sock yarn? – it knits up into socks lickety-split. So when I realized a couple weeks before my sister’s natal day that I hadn’t thought much about a gift and then remembered the surprisingly small box containing all those future-socks, it was no trouble at all to whip up her first pair:

Photobucket (Clickable thumbnail.)

They’re.. hrm.. one of the patterns from Charlene Schurch’s first Sensational Knitted Socks book.. Um.. one of the 12 stitch patterns even, but I can’t remember the name. Anyway, I sent them off and she got them and said they fit perfectly, which is good because I was a little worried that the foot got a bit long on them (they were knit toe-up, oh and on US7s for those who’ll want to know that, over 48 stitches – told you, big yarn, goes quick).

And I’ve started mom’s version of this pair – using the Charade pattern (PDF)  that I’m ever so fond of:

Photobucket

Hope it to have those finished before Easter (that’s still awhile from now, isn’t it? Hrm.) and then to bring the rest of the box they ordered to Easter so they can tell me which one of them ordered which colorways since there are only 3 or 4 that they ordered enough for them each to get a pair out of.

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Current Knitting

As hinted in my last post (which was, surprisingly, just this week instead of sometime last month!), I’ve been doing some, but not a lot, knitting. As expected, I finished the knitting for the Baby Surprise Jacket this morning in the car.

It took about two and a half skeins of Tahki Cotton Classic, one skein of the blue and a skein and a half or so of the red. The mom of the intended recipient is allergic to many animal fibers and they live in CA, so I figured cotton would be a good alternative. And as a bonus, it’s washable.

This is my first time doing a Baby Surprise Jacket, and it was kind of fun to see how it all went together. I wasn’t sure how the stripe would look as I wasn’t sure how the piece got folded up, but I think I like it. Something I never noticed in pictures of Baby Surprise Jackets is the increases across the back and at each cuff, which I think are certainly more noticeable in the photos above.

The cotton makes the diagonal increases in the second half (front) of the piece look a bit exaggerated, but I think a little blocking will tame them some. I may at some point try to figure out reverse engineering this so the diagonal decreases fall on the front of the jacket because they look a little neater. I may not, though. *shrug*

Also, as I tend to bind off too tightly, I replaced one of the ends of my circular Options needles with a larger needle and it worked like a charm – I bound off as I wanted too without worrying about trying to keep things loose and having it be uneven, and it looks neat and clean.

So, now I just need to figure out buttons, and which side of the sweater the buttons vs. button holes go on so that I can get it to the recipient before it’s too small for him!

In the mean time, I’ve been dabbling with some socks. I’ve fallen absolutely in love with the color of these (but can’t remember what the colorway is.. it’s Trekking, though) because it reminds me of the deep and varying blues of the ocean.

The pattern may be familiar, but I decided I wanted a pair of my own and to my eye the pattern works very well with the yarn. I’m into the gusset at this point and now that the Baby Surprise Jacket is done, these will likely become my car knitting.

And I’ve done a bit more knitting on Jack’s Panda Cotton socks, which are also into the gusset. These are a bit more tedious, though, both because it’s a solid black yarn and because it’s an intentionally simple pattern. I’ll keep plugging away at them, though and eventually he’ll get handknit socks.

I was also lucky enough to get in on the group of test knitters for Cookie A‘s new pattern, so sometime in the nearish future, you’ll be able to get a sneak peak of what that will look like as she’s very graciously told us that we’ll be allowed to share photos of our progress in our blogs and on Ravelry. While we wait for the pattern, though, I’m trying to figure out a good yarn. I have some candidates in my stash, but I’m thinking I need a solid or a yarn with more subtle variations than most of the stuff I have. I’m also thinking that I’d like to support one of the many smaller hand-dyers out there, so if you know of some good candidates, pipe up in the comments.

Random.. Thursday.

I lose whole days all the time. This year.. I think I lost the whole month of November. *sigh* So.. this will be a sort of catch-up, wrap up loose ends kind of post..

First up – the last photos from last weekend’s dyeing spree! When I last posted, there was some yarn soaking in the 2nd exhaust dye bath of the cochineal, along with some blue vitriol mordant. I promised pictures the next morning, but I forgot to actually take the yarn out until the next morning (or maybe I was supposed to do it in the morning and didn’t get to it until that night? Something like that) so here’s both skeins sitting in warm water but not really rinsed while I reheated the dye bath and added the 2nd mordant (cream of tartar):

(All images are clickable thumbnails; click to load a larger version)

Both skeins have a definite purplish cast to them which I believe is due to the blue vitriol mordant. I was tempted to just leave the cotton skein (the lighter, lavenderish one) because I really liked that color, but I was also aware that it would likely fade quite a bit once I rinsed it well. So back they both went in, and when they came out the second time and were rinsed, they looked like this (sort of.. this shot is a bit washed out from the flash):

Definitely more reddish, but still more purple than the previous stuff. I hung them to dry and they ended up like this:

It’s pretty neat, all in all, especially since this was essentially the third set of items we dyed with this dye bath. I really love how the skein of wool turned out – it’s got some variation in it, but it looks like it’s been dyed in a nice red wine – and I can’t wait to see what Carol makes with it. The cotton is fairly subtle, but still definitely purple, and I’m thinking I might need to figure out a little girl shirt of some for my niece for her birthday in May.

Right then – up next is the Easy Lace Jacket. I’ve had a few people contact me, either here or through Ravelry, with questions about this pattern, as well as asking for modeled pictures.

Generally speaking, if you have questions about any pattern, I would strongly recommend you contact the person who wrote the pattern – in this case Joan McGowan-Michael at White Lies Designs – as they’re going to be the best person to help you out. I can tell you, at least as far as I remember, how I did the decreases (one stitch in from the edge, adjusting the lace pattern as I went) but I really am not that great at relaying the details of exactly what I did to text. Similarly with the lace for the cuffs & collar – I followed the pattern, knit each piece separately, and sewed them all together at the end. Sorry not to be of more assistance, but really – contact Joan if you’re running into difficulty or have questions!

Modeled pictures, though, I can do. *smile* First, though, I should pr’bly admit that I never bothered to do buttons or button loops for this one. I pretty rarely ever close cardigans when I wear them and I was excited to start wearing this one pretty much as soon as I finished it, so that part never got finished. For me, it works fine, especially because the lace pattern – which acts very much like ribbing – would make the cardigan more clingy than I’d be comfortable with, but your mileage may vary.

Sort of profile.. (and a bonus shot of one of my favorite prints in the background!)
An attempt to better show the collar and sleeve lace better

I think I mentioned this when I first finished it, but it’s worth mentioning again now – if I were to do this one again (and I might), I’d change the sleeves a bit. They are both too wide and slightly too short at the cuff. I would make them a few inches longer and taper them more to the wrist, and also likely try to figure out shortening the lace dags so the seam fell closer to my actual wrist. That said, I wear this one as it is pretty frequently and I *LOVE* the length of the body.

Right then, moving on.. the holiday sweater I’m working on is not terribly exciting to photograph, but I will let you know that the back is finished and the front is about 2/3rds finished. It should be finished in plenty of time and I’ll take pictures when it gets there.

I’m continuing to work on the DNA scarf, though not as diligently as I thought I might.

I have the cable chart memorized at this point, though, so I can knit it just about anywhere. It will need some judicious blocking when I’m finished as it’s a little lumpy at the moment, and at some point I’ll need to figure out how long it will want to be so that I know when to start crossing the cables in the other direction (I’m not doing the ribbing in the middle because I don’t like how that would look, so I’ll just end up picking a point at which to make the helix twist in the other direction).

And since I’m pretty sure my sweetie doesn’t make it over here to check up on me, here’s a peek at one of his holiday gifts:

I’m doing a pair of Garter Rib socks, toe-up, in black Panda cotton. I’m glad I heeded Cathy‘s advice and went with a non-cabled pattern because the Panda is a bit splitty! Socks in a men’s size 11 are *huge*, too, and I’ve been trying not to knit them when he’s around (he doesn’t always pay that close of attention to what I’m working on, but sometimes he surprises me), so I’m hoping I can snag enough time in fits and starts to get them finished on time.

I’m trying not to be disappointed..

*sigh* I finished the first Sprung sock:

(Clickable thumbnail; click to make it bigger) With flash, on my desk
Without flash, modeled

It really is lovely. And I generally really like handpainted yarns – especially how they pool. But as I’ve mentioned before, I really dislike it when colors pool in striped pairs. It just doesn’t sit well with me; if yarn is going to stripe, I want it to have nice, big, fat stripes. So while the foot of this sock is lovely and gorgeous, I’m .. trying not to be disappointed in the striping in the leg.

Maybe I just need to stick with more subtle variations in my yarn, or longer swaths of color on the yarn so the stripes are thicker. :/

Across the pond..

Last week I was blessed with the bounty of many friends. I received two gifts from two friends recently returned from England, and another from a dear, dear friend as a half-birthday gift. Apparently, though, I remain so excited over the receipt of these wonderful gifts that my hands shake resulting in blurry photos.. *smile*

From the Wholly Spirits company, Carol brought me a bottle of 12-year old Speyside single malt, called Love Shovel (no I haven’t tried it yet.. I’m saving it for some as-yet-to-be-determined special occasion):

From Time Traveling Traders, Tori got me a pair of sterling silver and amber earrings – the first pair I’ve worn other than stainless steel piercing rings in over seven years:

And from her travels in Wales, Betsy brought me a enameled brooch of the Welsh Red Dragon, in honor of my many “baby dragon”* days this past spring:

I am well and truly blessed, not only by these gifts but also by the presence of these three truly wonderful women in my life. Each of them, in their own way enriches my life beyond words and I am grateful they each choose to call me a friend.

Moving on to less sentimental thoughts, I cast on a toe-up sock on Artisan’s Row with the Yarn Pirate sock I got from my Gnome Swap pal:

At the time I started it, I didn’t have a plan for the leg, but have since decided on the Sprung Socks pattern from the Keyboard Biologist. I’ve started it since this picture, but think I’ll have to rip it back out since I seem to have skipped half a pattern repeat at the very beginning. These will be my plane knitting for my upcoming trip to Long Beach, so expect a finished picture sometime in the next week or so.

Yesterday was our office’s midsummer potluck, which, at the request of one of our student workers, was centered on cheese cakes. I’ve been wanting to try a recipe posted by TwoSheep since it was posted, so this was a perfect opportunity.

It turned out well, if I do say so myself. This is the first cheesecake I’ve ever made that didn’t crack, and it was creamy and smooth without being underdone. I took a picture of it after I unmolded it from the springform, but am too lazy at the moment to go get the camera to upload it, so you’ll have to trust me that it turned out beautifully. I also made a butterscotch sauce to drizzle over it (recipe from The Joy of Cooking) and let folks add that as they wanted. And it went over very well.. even with no fewer than 8(!) cheesecakes, there wasn’t a single piece left at the end of the day!

I was hoping to get some updated pictures of the garden in here, too, but after spending the day at the Hokah Fun Run, it’s about all I have in me to put out the sprinkler to make sure the tomatoes don’t shrivel up and die. Suffice it to say for now that the garden is doing very well, there are tomatoes on the plants (still small-ish and green, but there), the onions are almost ready to harvest, and I finally got around to thinning the carrots, radishes and peppers. I might try to take some pictures tomorrow morning, but given that I have a noon flight, that might not happen. Especially if I don’t actually manage to pack tonight.

* There are times in my job where it is assumed that I have either more authority or greater sway with those who make the Big Decisions(tm) than I do, largely because I report directly to our Provost, who in turn reports directly to our Chancellor. I have repeatedly assured people that even with such a direct reporting line, my influence is small and rather limited, however this doesn’t seem to stop them from assuming otherwise. This results in me often being frustrated because I *can’t* actually effect change on the level that others assume I should, nor can I mete out retribution on any grand scale. One such day, I expressed this feeling by stating that I felt like a baby dragon, because I’m not big enough to breathe fire, so all I can do is stomp around and “rawr”. Betsy decided that was a very apt definition, and hence, “baby dragon” days were born. So it seems I now have two animal “totems”, as it were – monkeys and dragons.

Quick event recap and VSA redux

Wow. Last week both went way to fast and seems like it lasted a lot longer than just a week.

After finishing the tent repair with mom and dad, we came home to prepare for WW which including making a three entirely new outfits in pseudo-Near Eastern style, one for Jack and two for me. Fortunately, the outfits went together very easily (for those who might understand a bit of SCA jargon, the undertunics are basic t-tunics, just a little longer; the pants are essentially harem pants (yes, I know they’re not entirely appropriate for this, but they are quick and easy and comfy); the coats were just basic t-tunics slit up the front). No, I don’t think there are pictures of either of us in them, but if I find someone who snapped a shot or two, I’ll post them.

We were on site from about noon Wednesday until about 10 Sunday morning. It was rather nice to have a long stretch of time camping and an event where my primary responsibility was to co-coordinate the Artisan’s Row. The Row was a bit larger this year, or at least had more arts represented, which was very neat. In addition to the fiber arts (which are usually well represented) – knitting, spinning, sprang, embroidery, tablet weaving, hand sewing, hand braiding, dyeing – we had a couple wood carvers, a few leather workers, at least one calligrapher, a bowyer, a couple bakers (who treated us to some very tasty flat breads), a brewer demonstrating how to make mead, and even for a short time a musician.

The classes we were able to host (period dyeing, bread making, mead making) seemed to go over well, especially since we didn’t get quite as much posted advertising as I’d planned (my fault entirely – time just seemed to get away from me all week and I didn’t get things where they were needed). As usual, I think we learned some things to do differently next time (whenever that might be), including making sure that folks who aren’t necessarily interested in teaching something on the order of a class know they can come to just hang out and work on their projects on the Row. Additionally, a larger (or maybe just more contiguous) shaded space may be necessary as folks tend to want to congregate in the same space and a single shade fly gets crowded quickly which I think discourages folks from just wandering in to ask about what everyone is working on.

Personally, I wrapped up and plied a decent hank of the Clun Forest lamb’s fleece (not all of it, but maybe a couple ounces worth), but didn’t manage to make it up to Baroness Eithni’s dyepot to try my hand at dyeing it. I also started another pair of toe-up socks with the Yarn Pirate yarn I got from my upstream Gnome Swap pal and I really, really, really love how they’re knitting up. Oh, and I worked a smidge on spinning more of the baby camel/tussah silk top from my SP9 pal. I will snap some pictures in the next few days and post them.

On an unrelated topic, but one that I posted on a couple weeks ago, if you are or know someone who is a prospective/current/former college student, or the parent of a prospective/current/former student, please consider taking a few moments to complete a quick survey about what information you think is most important to assist in the college selection process. Feel free to spread the word if you’re so inclined; the more feedback we get, the more useful we can make the finished product!

Finished Sockapalooza Socks

See, I told you there’d be a post with knitting content today. 😛

I spent the weekend camping in northern IL at an SCA event. This was the first event I’ve attended in quite some time where I had no responsibilities, official or unofficial: I wasn’t running a tourney, I wasn’t teachin any classes, I wasn’t holding “office hours”, nothing. It was glorious. I had two projects I wanted to really put some time in on – the first was to finish my Sockapalooza pal’s socks and the second was to try to finish spinning the Clun Forest lamb’s fleece so I could have it ready to play with some period dyeing that will be happening on Artisan’s Row at another SCA event next week.

While I did succeed in finishing the socks (as a reminder, this is the Baudelaire pattern from Knitty, knit in Wildfoote in the Ragtime colorway on US1 needles):

(Click picture to load a bigger picture.)

.. I’m still plugging away on the Clun Forest fleece. I did get some solid time spinning on Saturday afternoon and evening, though, so it should be at least finished through the singles stage in time to play with some dyeing stuff, which should make plying it sort of neat, too.