Amphibious Monkey Socks

I've finally finished my Monkey socks!

Monkey by Cookie A.
Started: February 8, 2008
Completed: March 28, 2008
Materials: Koigu Painter's Palette Premium Merino (KPPPM), 2 skeins
Needles: US 2 / 2.75 mm

Of all the socks I've knit to-date, these are some of the most fun. I can honestly say they made me happy every time I picked them up.

In addition to Cookie's great pattern — which I highly recommend — I credit much of my happiness to the amazing Koigu yarn. The colorway is just gorgeous, and it's painted with such subtlety and depth as to keep me always in awe.

These socks have already gotten considerable blogtime here and here, so I won't repeat myself now. Instead, this post marks their completion and my final thoughts.

I knit my Amphibious Monkeys using magic loop, two-at-once, from the top down. I would have preferred to do them toe-up, but at the time I was itching to cast on, I couldn't figure out how to reverse the lace. I admire Cookie's application of the lace and didn't want to have her pattern appear upside-down on my socks. (I have since solved that problem. See my next post for the chart.)

Modification: I replaced Cookie's heel stitch with Eye of Partridge, which provide better cushion and fit and, as I've said, I believe better suits the design. I adore this stitch, so let's see it again:

Only a few yards of the Koigu remain, the rest got eaten up in the knitting. About 3 inches from finishing, I thought for sure I'd run out of yarn — I even started planning ways to handle a shortfall. Anyone with feet bigger than, say, 8-1/2 will want a third skein if they go with Koigu.

I made mine with a little more ease than the pattern intends because I wanted to keep the bumpy texture. That's why I opted for US 2 needles. It created a slouchier version of the sock, and I'm really happy with the results!

Why "Amphibious"? The color. Don't they just look like something that crawls in and out of water?!


Angelus Knit Tie Pattern /
My Husband's A Designer

My husband has published his first knit design for men! It is with the greatest pride that I share with you J's Angelus Knit Tie.

Angelus Knit Tie Pattern
Words cannot describe...

You can follow all J's knitting projects and progress on Ravelry.
He's Knotwhatyouthink. Check out more images of the tie on Ravelry:
Angelus Knit Tie project page!

Obviously, he's made the pattern available for free. You can print it through his flickr account by clicking the above image.

And yes, I agree: Men who knit are very, very sexy!


How To Prep A Tidy Sock Project /
Coffee Makes Everything Better

I've learned some great things about knitting from my co-Raveling sister:
   1. How to knit socks.
   2. How to work magic loop.
   3. How to knit socks toe-up using magic loop and Judy's magic cast on.
   4. Addi Turbos rock for magic loop.
   5. KnitPicks Options rock even more.

This tip from her is my current favorite:
   6. How to keep two-at-once sock projects portable, neat, and tangle-free.

Recognize my Monkeys?
I'm about to start the toe decreases!


1. Get a sturdy, clear-plastic, zip-top bag large enough for two hand-pull skeins of sock yarn. The one pictured here came from Weaving Works, one of the many fine LYSs here in Seattle. I imagine you can find these bags any number of places.

2. Using a hole-puncher, put two holes — evenly spaced — in the bottom. If it's a round- or flat-bottom bag, you'll need to make a little fold where you want to punch the hole.

3. Put something on or in the bag to differentiate one side from the other (i.e. a sticker on one of the sides or a picture of your pattern on the inside). I like to use the manufacturer's case for my needles, if I'm using Addis. For awhile, though, the price sticker on the bag did the trick.

4. Put your 2 skeins of yarn inside the bag so the "marker" is on top, pull each end through its respective hole, and zip the bag.

When you're working magic loop, you'll always know when you're at the beginning of a round based on whether the marked side is up or whether the two strands of yarn leading to the bag run parallel or are crossed.

This technique can be a real lifesaver if you're working an allover stockinette pattern for your socks. Everything stays tidy, and when you're done for the day, you can pack up the knitting into the bag as well. Just be sure not to zip it closed over top of your yarn!

If you don't want to spend the $1.63 for a bag like this, with a real zipper, use a standard zip-lock storage bag. You'll want at least the quart size, not only because it will hold more but also because the plastic is a little more durable.

The set-up above works really great if you're not reinforcing the heels and toes. But when you add the two additional yarns for reinforcing, it can get messy.

I tried two solutions, both of which failed. First, I put the reinforcing threads inside the bag using the same holes as for the normal yarn. But the fibers didn't pull evenly, and I ended up with all sorts of rolling. Next, I left the reinforcing thread outside the bag. But this way, the yarn cards (or miniscule skeins) flop and roll all over the place. Completely destroys your chances of knitting on the bus!

The solution?



I solved the problem quite by accident. I wanted to have two sock projects going at once and needed a second bag. I remembered the stack of fantastic little bags my favorite espresso beans come in, which I had been saving for a good way to re-use.

Let's face it — for a true coffee connoisseur and knitting enthusiast, it's a yummylicious match made in heaven!

WARNING! Shameless commercial plug: Espresso Vivace is, IMO, the finest roaster in Seattle. We get their decaf (i.e. let me sleep) and vita (i.e. wake me up) beans, and we go through about a half pound of each every week. Needless to say, the bags pile up. I just can't bring myself to get rid of them, even through recycling, because they're so nice. I'd already been using them to store remnants from knitting projects. I realized they were great candidates for sock project bags.

What makes these bags special — and, thus, provided my lightbulb moment — is the pressed "selvage" around the edges. I like the bottom construction, too, because they stand upright, but that's beside the point. When I punched for the two holes (in the side rather than the bottom of these bags), I made not two openings but four: two stacked sets of two.

So now I load the center-pull skeins of yarn into the bag, with the skein top facing the punched hole, and I pull the working thread through the upper hole. I wind the reinforcing thread off the cards into little center-pull skeins (often I just divide one card's worth in half to do both) and load these in front of the main yarn, pulling the tails through the bottom set of holes.

The two threads don't tangle around each other, and the reinforcing thread doesn't bound freely across the room or bus!

You're right: I could have had this brainstorm, eventually, without the coffee. But I didn't. It took the beans.

Speaking of which, Vivace does sell its beans online. You can get them (and thus your own nifty bags) here. Believe me: It's worth every penny!

Just make sure to wash the bags well before putting your yarn in them. You'll want to remove all the coffee oils and smell. (Well, if you're like me, you don't mind a little lingering coffee aroma.) I've had the best success turning mine inside-out and running them through the dishwasher on the top rack.

Not interested in buying the coffee but like the bags? I've got a few extras. Pop me an email with your address, and I'll send one.

No Knitting Outside in Seattle Today

My sister wrote from New Orleans yesterday to say she and Mom had spent their sunny, warm afternoon knitting outside on the back deck. While things are generally moderate and pleasant throughout the winter in Seattle, if I were knitting on my back deck right now, I'd be anything but warm!

I've been in Seattle since fall 1999, and I've never seen snow in late March. Our Ohio family might laugh at this paltry accumulation, but you all should know that I took the picture early in the snowfall. We've gotten more since then, and it looks like it's actually going to stick. On some parts of the deck, there's already 3/4-inch!

Safe to say I'm not going anywhere on the scooter today.


Hanging in the Balance

Some things take persistence. Determining the accuracy of my $2.99 thrift-store kitchen scale, it seems, is one of them.

The plan was simple: Make a test skein of my thrifted wool. Measure the yardage. Weigh it at home. Weigh it at the post office. Calculate the difference and note it as a statistical variance on my scale.

Test skein = 46.5 yds
Weight on Kitchen Scale = 10 g
Weight on Post Office Scale = 0.3 oz (8.50485 g)

5.4675 yds/g, which is more than the 4.65 yds/g I thought.

Difference = 1.5 g — more than 10%

It is a statistically significant amount: If I were calculating yardage based upon weight, I would have been off by 6.975 yds just on this little test skein. Potentially 177.9 yds on the entire 9 ounces recycled.

I decided that I can't decide yet whether this is acceptable. I need more research. This time, I'll take the entire batch to the digital scale to find out if the variance is the same with a larger weight.


Monkeys Back on My Back

It's been awhile since I gave a progress report on my Amphibious Monkeys, which hibernated several weeks while I flirted with other projects. With the Urban Aran Cardigan, BSJ and Hemlock Ring Blanket behind me, the Monkeys are back on my back!

I've modified Cookie's pattern in two ways, both of which give relevance to today's update:

First — and this is, more properly, a modification of technique rather than pattern — I've knit them on magic loop, two at once. The pattern lends itself to this technique rather easily: The lace stitch has a 16-row repeat which is evenly balanced across 2 or 4 needles without any awkward pattern starts flanking the gussets. You start with two repeats of the pattern on each needle: those which will land on the top of the foot are on one; those for the bottom of the foot are on the other. However, to work the gusset, you need to re-jigger the needles to put the right side of the sock on one and the left side on the other. (Note, I did not reverse the pattern to knit toe-up. I'm still knitting top-down to preserve the design.)

It's not impossible to do this part without stitch markers, but I like to use them to mark the gusset junctures and remind myself to track rows. I use four total markers, placing a more fancy one at the juncture marking the beginning of the round. The above picture shows the right side of the socks, which are worked as the second half of each round. The needles are at the bottom of the picture; the cable loop is at the top. See the pretty black, painted stitch marker? It marks the beginning of my row, and it's actually attached to the lower needle (left side of socks), not the top one. The pink stitch marker dangly thing for the right side of that sock is mostly hidden in this picture, but you can see the ring.

Many knitters will tell you to use stitch holders to assist with the cable shift. I prefer to use DPNs in the same size as my cable. That way I can knit on and off the holding needle without having to spend time just transferring stitches. I also find it pulls less on the stitches at the needle change.

To make the shift, you're going to have to accept the fact that one half of your sock bottom will have one row more than the other half. It's ok — believe me. This is a standard process. Your socks will fit and feel just fine!

For my second modification, an actual adjustment of the pattern, I swapped out Cookie's heel flap stitch for the Eye of Patridge. It's cushier and more interesting to look at. From a design perspective, too, I think it suits Cookie's pattern better because it doesn't insert strong vertical lines to conflict with the lace. The Eye of Partrige complements the effect of the lace's purled stitch so nicely. And isn't it pretty?

In general, I use reinforcing thread on my heels and toes, but I decided to forego it for these socks. I know, it's a risky call. To put so much work into a pair of socks and then put my toes through them would be a major bummer. I just don't see myself trying to turn these into my daily, go-to, workhorse socks, though. For one, the Koigu is too pretty to destroy with reckless wearing. For another, they read as a dressier sock to me. I'm such a big fan of boots, and I'd never hide these beauties under all that leather. So I'm taking a chance on the assumption that I'll treat these more like delicates.

When I start the next pair of socks that uses reinforcing thread, I'll post pictures of how I keep all four yarns tangle-free while knitting magic loop two at once.

As of bedtime last night, I'm about 4 inches into the foot. Knitting forecast predicts a completed pair of Monkeys by the weekend!


Inaugural Spring Yarn Resurrection

Easter Sunday seems a fitting time to post an update on my first yarn reclamation project.

In my previous post about this project, I had spent a fruitful morning ripping the heck out of a black New Shetland wool crew neck, and the fiber needed washed.

The neat little center-pull balls I'd made had to be re-wound into hanks suitable for washing. So Friday evening, after confessing to my husband that I'd embarked on another cool, new project, I enlisted the help of my entire family. We wound the yarn onto our arms — electrical-cord style — which lasted all of about 10 minutes before we all had aching muscles, and I lost my two helpers! After another 5 minutes' struggle against the burn, I became brilliant and started winding the yarn around the plastic box I carry knitting projects in, rather than my left arm. This worked really well and made hanks with a larger diameter. By night's end, I had five noodly looking hanks tied figure-eight style with scrap Cascade Ecological from the Hemlock Ring.

It's important to use colorfast scrap yarn to avoid accidents in the wash.

I filled the kitchen sink with very hot tap water and a dab of C's No More Tearski shampoo. Who wants weepy wool?!
At 9:30pm, I submerged the hanks and left them to soak while I went off to knit, figuring I'd come back in a couple hours to rinse and hang it to dry. Yeah, right... I was knitting in bed...

With a jolt, I awoke at 5am, realized I hadn't tended to the yarn, and ran to the kitchen in a panic that I'd find a swollen mess of unsalvagable yarn muuuhhhhh. Fortunately, that wasn't the case. With great care, I rinsed and squeezed the yarn as quietly as possible so as not to awaken my sleeping family... or yappy dog... and hung it in the bathtub. The next morning, I transferred the yarn from our bathroom to the back deck. Doesn't yarn drying in the sunlight look glorious?!

We managed time enough to have it dry and get it back inside before the rains came, and last night J and I wound it back into center-pull balls. I made two mistakes of judgment in how well the yarn could handle turning the swift, so where once I had 5 skeins, I now have 7. The biggest problem was that the hanks just weren't quite large enough for the swift. We did best with J holding them and me operating the ball winder.

After about 20 minutes' work, we had this:

Here's one really important tip, especially when working with finer yarn: Mark the ends so you don't lose them! I used Scotch tape.

I know it doesn't look pretty, but the tape has been invaluable. With all the waves in this yarn, it's almost impossible to find the ends otherwise.

Last night, after helping Peter Cottontail hide eggs for C, I assessed how much usable wool I had culled. Mind you, the calculations may be impressive, but this isn't quite an exact science yet because, while some of you use fancy digital scales to weigh your yarn, I use this:

My $2.99 Value Village bargain. Thank you to whatever erstwhile dieter donated this gem! It's quite large, and I love the big bowl, rather than a platform for keeping whatever I'm weighing contained. (Apologies for the finger smudges.) But it's a temperamental beast, needing recalibrated several times during a single weighing. So I consider these "ballpark" numbers. For final counts, I'll take my test skein to the automated postal center at the end of my street.

For now, here's what I have:

My test skein measured 46.5 yards and weighed 10 grams on the kitchen scale — roughly 4.65 yards/gram.

I've washed and wound 9 total ounces of yarn. At 28.3495231 grams/ounce, that's 255.14571 grams.

Calculating out further, then, my total reclaimed yardage is about 1,186.

Not bad, eh?!

And that's just what I've processed. I still have several smaller skeins that are thoroughly usable and just need prepared — at least another 4 ounces. Probably more.

You may be thinking that I could have gotten a comparable amount of fingering weight New Shetland wool for about the same price (remember, I paid $9.99 for the sweater) and without all the hassle. That may be true, but I selected this sweater for the experiment more than for the value. Next time I'll try different yarn or a different sweater. Perhaps the sweater I select will be marked down further. For now, I'm feeling great about what I've learned and gotten out of this.

Now... to figure out a project. The yarn's a little too fine for the satchel J wants to make, so I'm looking at doing a shawl. Perhaps the Candle Flame or the Moonlight Sonata. Thoughts?

This project has been so successful that I think I'm going to start an annual Great Yarn Resurrection Campaign every spring!


Hemlock Ring Lap Blanket

Pattern: Hemlock Ring Doily (1942 vintage pattern), modified into a blanket by Jared Flood
Started: March 1, 2008
Completed: March 17, 2008
Materials: Cascade Ecological Wool, latte, 2 skeins
Needles: US 10 / 6.0 mm (40" circular)

At most recent count, I am one of 963 people making Jared's modification of the Hemlock Ring. That's on Ravelry alone! The current project count is here for any curious Ravelry users.

I like the pattern. I like the idea. I'm not completely smitten with my finished results. I opted to take it to a dry cleaner to be professionally steamed and blocked, but I don't think they blocked it quite as aggressively as it needs. There's still some rippling in the feather and fan section, and the edges are pretty frilly.

If I had the stamina for six to eight more rounds of increases, the finished piece would be closer to the size I fantasized wrapping myself in on cold days. While I wouldn't exactly call it tiny, it's definitely a lap blanket. To give you a sense of scale, I took a a full-on picture the likes of which I normally would never do. Here it is on my 54-inch diameter table:

See what I mean?

The fact that the center medallion didn't lose all its texture makes me really happy. I like the three dimensionality. Pics like this make me feel all warm and gooey inside:

Deep inside, I know I'm going to have another go at the blocking. I have a professional steamer, so I think I ought to be able to do at least a little good. I'll try to leave the texture in the center medallion and just straighten out the feather-and-fan section.

I do like it! It's warm, and it looks lovely on the back of our comfy chair upstairs!

I'm curious how many more people will make this pattern with the modification. I'm not sure the project really merits all the interest. I'm not sure I'd make it again.

If I had to take a guess at what, exactly, draws so many of us to it, I think it's a sense of being part of something larger than ourselves. We've all seen and knit lace patterns before. There's a comfortable, conventional way we go about it. We use delicate yarn. Doilies are doilies. Shawls are shawls... and so on. But Jared repurposed the doily. He defamiliarized the familiar — made it strange. In theatre, thanks to Bertolt Brecht, we call this kind of defamiliarization Verfremsdung Effekt. And in making the familiar strange, Jared caused us all to start looking at things differently. What other pattern types might we work with a radically different fiber weight than is called for? Are there other doilies that can be expanded endlessly?

It's not enough to simply see the results of Jared's experiment. We need to try it, too, so we can learn the same lessons Jared learned but in our own hands. So we can carry that knowledge, through our fingers, into our own experiments.

The experiment itself may not produce the results we desire, but it's a worthy experiment. It's a learning process, not just the fetishization of someone else's cool project. Jared creates learning opportunities with many of his projects. Just think of all the sweaters being turned into cardigans these days thanks to the influence of his modified Urban Aran.

I think we pick up his projects because they give us new ways of seeing and knowing through the craft of knitting. Well, that and the guy has killer taste!

As for my final take on this particular pattern, the flower attracts me the most. I plan to design a project sometime in the future that makes use of the central medallion in another way, perhaps setting it into a square rather than continuing in-the-round. The wheels are turning... !


Busy Hands

Finished the Hemlock Ring blanket last night. Took more than four total hours to complete that bind-off row! Not one to stay idle long, I started two new projects right away. The first: a Berroco pattern called Sacha's Slippers.

I had picked up a few skeins of Berroco Suede at a deeply discounted price a couple weekends ago when J and I were hanging out at the Acorn Street Yarn Shop during C's Irish Step lesson. (A dangerous habit we indulge weekly!) I had no idea what I might do with the yarn, but I liked the color, I wear a lot of suede, and I trusted I would find something. A little searching turned up these slippers and a lariat necklace in a leaf motif. I think I have yarn enough for both!

It's been ages since I’ve worked on straights or done a two-of-a-kind project one at a time. When I saw that the pattern requires you to join a second skein to work the sides, I didn’t feel like dividing skeins. So here I am with a single, partially finished slipper!

The slippers seem to move quickly. The pics show about 2 hours’ work while watching TV (WWWTV). Right now I think it looks more like a Barbie dress or a flamboyant man's tie than a slipper.

The second project is more of an adventure than anything. I've been interested in the idea of recycling yarn from thrifted sweaters for awhile. Last spring, my MIL and I felted some thrifted sweaters for various projects (including a nifty laptop case for me!). So I popped by Value Village on my way home from work Wednesday to see if there were any good potentials. There were. I could have brought home a dozen things. I decided to play it cool and pick one, safe bet to see if I liked the endeavor. $9.99 later, I walked out with this:

A nearly new crew-neck in black New Shetland Wool. This morning I set about deconstructing it. Seam ripper in-hand and website tutorial in front of me, I fearlessly set to work. Just taking the pieces apart took a little longer than I expected. Even though I had "good seams" to work with, I had a lot of trouble seeing the crochet line at the seams so I could just unzip it. As a result, I did a lot of piece-by-piece cutting. I mangled the neckline, too, but figured that was ok since I could cut that off without creating a bazillion little pieces like would happen if I were working on the side seams.

And, hey, I only gouged myself with the seam ripper twice!

I checked gauge on the original knit before beginning:

Looks like 6 stitches and 7.5-8 rows per inch to me. You?

The yarn is much more delicate than I expected. It's definitely sport/light worsted or DK weight, if not fingering. Looks like it gets 14-15 wpi.

Things I learned:

Try to get sweaters with heftier fiber until I get better at the reclaiming process.

This job is messy! My goodness — the yarn dust floating in the air while I frogged the thing was amazing. Like a mini storm in my dining room. Not only was I covered with the stuff, but later that night I found myself blowing black dust out of my nose. It was almost as bad as when J and I removed cork from the solarium walls at our house in Ohio!

I used my ball winder to help move the frogging process along — and I highly recommend that. This yarn sometimes broke, though, when I was winding faster than the fiber wanted, so I have a higher number of skeins than I might have otherwise. Even with all my rookie mistakes and the pile of useless, too-short-to-mention ramen noodly-looking fiber littering the table, I got about 12 ounces of usable yarn broken down into one 3-ounce ball and several 2- to 1.5-ounce ones.

I still need to re-wrap into hanks and wash it.

What will I do with it? J's been thinking about making a cool monk's satchel, and this yarn fits the profile. I'll give it to him if he wants it. Otherwise, I think it will make up into a shawl and/or some dynamite socks — perhaps even a pair for J, who's asserted his belief that men only wear socks without color. [Sigh.] Enlightenment has its limits!


A Family That Sits Together Knits Together

We got a new chair!

While this may not seem knitting-related, it really is. We have a tiny house with just two non-bedroom "living" spaces. There's a family room downstairs where we keep the TV, and there's an itsy-bitsy living room upstairs by the front door. We have the living room crammed full: 2 bookcases, a large birdcage for our cockatiel, a 2-seat antique pew, a 6-foot (gorgeous) antique grand piano, and just one comfy chair (that leather one periodically visible in my pictures, like here). The seating works fine when we have visitors, and I regularly hang out in the comfy leather chair knitting or reading, but it just doesn't work if both J and I want to knit upstairs away from the TV. Either one of us takes the chair and the other finds somewhere else to go or we both sit at the dining room table or, at night, we sit in bed knitting. We needed a second comfy chair.

Craigslist to the rescue! I check out Craigslist periodically to see if anything's been posted that I like. Obviously, I liked this chair and thought it fit our aesthetic and our budget. I was surprised to find out that it's made in China. Anyone know anything that might help me identify it better? I love that the front of the footstool is low enough to tuck underneath the chair and make more floor space. It does position you back at a bit of a reclined angle, so if you're tired, you're sure to be out cold in no time! We still need a nice pillow for lower-back support. Ah yes... a reason to shop!

I sit in it now as I write this post. The lap blanket Mom brought me from Ireland for my bridal shower looks fabulous on it. J and I haven't had an opportunity to sit in the living room together knitting yet, but I have no doubt we will soon.

Of course, C discovered right away that she could tip it backwards. Fortunately, that little parlor trick scared her enough that I don't think she'll do it again. If she does, we may end up with broken glass by the door... and I'd have to think about selling it for safety's sake.

The pew will go down to the family room, unless we can come up with a better solution. We can't move Cooper (the bird) because his cage doesn't fit anywhere else that has a stable temperature. The downstairs gets too cold at night.


Neverending Bind-Off... [cue music] ahh ahh ahh

My plan to finish the Hemlock Ring last week and post pictures of the finished object over the weekend were thwarted by an anxiety-ridden job interview with all its related madness, a 17-hour post-interview sleep marathon, and a neverending bind-off. In my heart and soul, my priorities are straight. They really are. But in reality, I must finish the dissertation and secure gainful employment for any hope of repaying the horrifying mountain of student loans I've amassed since starting my PhD.

In lieu of a finished Hemlock, here's my WIP update. I've learned some things while binding off that someone might find useful.

I had grand visions of making mine a 7-footer like others I've seen who've posted off-the-charts extensions. I worked my way through Jared's chart but ended up stopping without going to the Extreme Hemlock chart. (A good chart is on Ravelry here: 3rd discussion post by MissPrint.) I knew I wouldn't be able to hold many more stitches on the needles, and I didn't want to crack into the third skein of wool if I wasn't going to use a goodly portion of it.

For the last 5 sections of the pattern chart, I made a minor modification, completing 5 rows of straight knitting between the pattern rows rather than 4. By the time I neared the end, it took me 30-40 minutes for a single row.

I finished my last round and started binding off around 10pm last night and expected to have the blanket off the needles around midnight. I expected the bind-off process to take about 2 hours. Boy was I mistaken! Since there are 17 (+bind offs) stitches to make for every 4 stitches on the needles, it's taking considerably more than that. By the time 1am rolled around, I had only managed to work my way around 5 of the 8 major fan segments — a little more than half way!

Understatement: I've still got quite a bit to do.

One trick I found really useful in the bind-off was removing the right-hand needle tip from my 40" circular and putting on the cable cap. (I'm using KnitPicks Options interchangeable needles. If you're not familiar with them, see my previous post here. The end cap is that purplish-colored thing in the picture.) This way I didn't have to turn the entire weight of the blanket back and forth as I was making the edge loops. Took a lot of pressure off my hands as well as the needles -- and I had been worried about the weight snapping the connection between the needles and cables. And I really appreciated the fact that it opened up the bound-off edge more for me to admire while I worked.

This is the first I've been able to get a real sense of what the blanket will look like.

See that glimmer in the lower-right area? That's the needle. I've already bound off the visible portion of the throw in this image, but the back half is still on the needle.

Not sure yet where I'm going to block it. I'd use the bed, but something tells me it'll need more than a day.

Until now, it's been an ever-growing amorphous blob that looked, alternately, like a giant Rastafarian hat and a wad o' pizza dough ready for tossing. Glad to be past that stage!


Fave Fingerfree Mitts
How to Cast on Magic Loop

I made these fingerless mittens in October and put off posting a blog because I keep them at work and didn't have pictures. Never too late to share a great project!

My office in Pioneer Square freezes in the transitional months before building management turns on the steam heat. Last year I bought fingerless gloves, but I wanted something without fabric between my fingers slowing down my typing. These have been perfect.

Pattern: Chavi's Fingerless Mittens (The pattern used to be available for free online, but it's no longer there. I wrote the designer asking to have it reposted. Original URL: mashpitsknits.blogspot.com/2007/09/cabled-fingerless-mittens.html)
Started & Completed: October 2007
Materials: Cascade 220 Wool
Needles: US 6 / 4.0 mm

I've never knit mittens or gloves before. Not sure why. Once I decided to give it a go, I searched around for a pattern that really spoke to me. This one did! I love the cable. It's so perfectly balanced for the scale of the mitts.

Used 40" circulars (Addi Turbo) so I could knit both at once using magic loop technique. Worked fabulously. This was only the second project I ever did using magic loop, though — the first project had been toe-up socks — so I had to figure out how to cast on since I couldn't use the closed method. I didn't have any tutorials, so I did it the hard way. Here's what I know now:

Casting on magic loop, 2 at once on one needle, open end:

1. Cast on the first half of the stitches for item A.
2. Cast on all the stitches you will need for item B.
3. Pull cord through at the half-way point between stitches for item B.
4. Cast on the second half of the stitches for item A.

I only used about 53 grams of the skein — just a little more than half. Plenty left to make another pair for C!

As for time-to-finish, these didn't knit up quite as quickly as I expected. Even so, I was done within two weeks of beginning, and I only knit in odd hours before bed. My expectation must have been unrealistic.

I love the way they look and feel. I get all sorts of compliments. And they're holding up very well!


Christmas Again: Pumpkin Koolhaas Redux

My sister sent pictures of the Koolhaas I made her for Christmas! She's been making wonderful gifts for everyone else for years — even when there's not really an occasion other than that she loves us. Back in December, when we talked about the Koolhaas hat and she mentioned how much she wanted one, I decided to make it for her for Christmas.

Pattern: Koolhaas by Jared Flood
Started: December 14, 2007
Completed: December 17, 2007
Materials: Peace Fleece Worsted in Glastnost Gold
Needles: US 6 / 4.0 mm; US 8 / 5.0 mm

B adores all the colors of fall, so I knew the yarn would be in the autumn color range. I looked forward to an opportunity to work with colors outside my normal color scheme. I had just finished the J's Pumpkin Koolhaas, so I figured I'd keep B's out of the orange colorway. I knew from my conversation with her, though, that she was interested in something tweedy like I'd done for J. Peace Fleece had been on my mind since the planning stages of J's Urban Aran. I knew it would be great for this hat.

So off I went to my LYS, all but flinging myself towards the Peace Fleece. Fortunately, I had cell phone in-hand. As I perused the stacks and contemplated the options — and found myself holding tweeds in lovely reds and greens (colors I do usually work with) — I realized I needed to get B on the phone and talk through the fiber selection with her. Just hearing her voice got me right back on track with my thinking: "This is a gift for my sister. Her favorite color in the world is orange. Of course her hat should be orange."

Peace Fleece is quite dense in this pattern. (Read: Will get you through the deepest freeze.) I like the way the cabling nestles in to the fabric rather than popping way out on top. It’s a very different look that I find really beautiful – and the hat looks better on people (like me) who have fuller faces and, therefore, can’t pull off skullies in lighter weights.

It’s a little hard to tell from the online screed res, but this is a beautiful, subtle tweed, with red, yellow, and teal/green in the little nubbins.

I got better gauge with this than the Tahki Donegal I used on J’s. It didn't turn out as long as his. No need to roll the brim.

Note that I had quite a bit of yarn left over. I purchased one skein and still have about 50g left!

In the end, I'm so glad I went with the orange! My fears that two orange projects in a row would get boring were unfounded. The Peace Fleece and the Tahki Donegal used on J's hat are so different that I found myself fascinated with the nuances of difference between the two and was actually glad to have done one right after the other.

Best of all, B says she loves it and, occasionally, even has opportunity to wear this woolly wonder in New Orleans.

I enjoyed working with the orange so much that I went and got myself a skein of orange sock yarn and look forward to knitting it up!


Tweedy Cabled Cap

Pattern: Mine
Started: March 4, 2008
Completed: March 6, 2008
Materials: Queensland Collection Kathmandu DK
Needles: US 7 / 4.5 mm. I used 5 DPNs throughout. Kept things very clear on the 4-section cap.

This pattern is an original design, with influence from Cathy Campbell's
Between-Seasons Cap (from 101 Designer One-Skein Wonders). I really liked Campbell's use of left and right twists along the decrease lines, so I lifted that technique.

The pattern for my cable braid is a 15-stitch, 8-row repeat. You do off-set, continuous CF6s and CFBs at rows 3 and 7, respectively.

Day One: I cast on 16 stitches for the band, putting an extra RSpurl on every row to anchor the cap. Knit the band for 19-1/2 inches to fit my head, cast off, and sewed the band together. You can knit the band to whatever length you need to wrap your noggin.

I decided to use US 7 needles instead of the 6s specified on the wrapper, and I'm really happy with that choice. Definitely better for the cabled band, which I had started on 6s but frogged because it was too dense and hard. I stuck with the 7s on the cap portion, too, in hopes that it would move me along more quickly and prevent me from running out of yarn. This was critical because I only had the 1 skein, which I found on a discontinued table but couldn't pass up. (Discontinued colorway 424.) I really didn't want to purchase more off ebay — where shipping charges would bring the entire project back up to pre-discount prices anyway. (Who wants to have their great bargain turn into a not-so-great bargain?!)

Day Two: Picked up 100 stitches around the RSpurl edge and started the cap. You're picking up roughly 3 of every 4 purl-edge stitches. Be careful not to skip more than one stitch at a time. If you have a bigger head, you'll probably want to increase the number of stitches you pick up. It really doesn't matter how many stitches you pick up as long as it's divisible by four (that's what I did, anyways — you can make as many top sections as you want) and you plan your decrease rows accordingly to get the shape you want.

I put equal numbers of stitches on each of 4 DPNs, and I plotted the LT/RT decrease line to land in the MIDDLE of each needle. This made it so I wouldn't have a decrease/twist line running up the front-center of the cap... not a look I like. With 100 stitches picked up, on each needle you knit 9 stitches before doing the LT/RT decorative sequence, then you knit the 9 remaining stitches.

Day Three: Didn't get a chance to knit again until after dinner.

I started my decreases when the cap hit about 5.5" (k2tog/ssk on either side of the LT/RT decorative sequence), and I decreased every other row until I needed to intensify the shape of the bend.

When you get down to about 13 stitches on each needle, you'll start doing more K2/ssk decreases per row than just around the decrease line — and you eliminate the LT/RT within about two rows of this. Plot the decreases to work down all knit stitches and LT/RT stitches. When each needle has just three stitches on it (you'll have just completed a row of K2tog P1 SSK), then cut the working yarn and use a tapestry needle to draw together the remaining stitches.

Finished it before I went to bed. Didn't run out of yarn. It fits great. It looks great. I love it!

Of course, I'm not set up to photograph myself wearing it (read: I didn't feel like getting cleaned up), so I recruited a darling model.

This is what she thinks modeling is all about... I give you C's "Blue Steel":

Please forgive this proud parent for gushing, but I'm more partial to this sweetie look.