Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Socks for dads

My dad's Christmas list this year included hand-knit "cozy socks." Of course I would never turn down a sock request, especially when the requested socks would be best knit in worsted weight. These are the first non-fingering weight socks that I've made, and it felt amazingly fast to be knitting rounds of only 48 stitches! 

The pattern I used for these is Thuja, available from Knitty, and the yarn is Malabrigo Rios. I really enjoyed working with the Rios, and I'm already planning to get some more to make cozy socks for myself once my LYS gets a restock in. (There wasn't much Rios left on the shelf when I bought this, which is why I had to get 2 skeins that came from different dye lots. The difference between the socks is obvious to me, but I hope my dad won't mind.)

My boyfriend's dad also got some cozy socks this year. These are also in worsted weight, Cascade 220 Superwash this time, and the pattern is one I made up myself. I cast on 52 stitches and did 2x2 ribbing all the way around, except for one column of faux cables, created by doing a left twist (or a right twist, for the other sock) every 4th row.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Christmas gifts

Remember that cowl I made for myself, using the leftovers from a secret project that I couldn't talk about yet? Here is the secret project, a Christmas present for my boyfriend's sister!

This is the Greyhaven Cowl and Greyhaven Hat by Robin Ulrich, knit out of Malabrigo Worsted in Polar Morn. As with her Amethiste, this is a well-designed and well-formatted pattern. The only modification I made was on the hat, which turned out a little too long and slouchy. I think that was due more to the way the Malabrigo Worsted was working up for me than the pattern, but I've seen other people make similar comments, so maybe keep that in mind if you make this in a heavy worsted. To reduce the slouch, I just did one pattern repeat before the decrease section, instead of two repeats as in the pattern.

And for my honorary brother-in-law (my boyfriend's brother-in-law), I also made a hat:

It's Turn A Square, a very popular pattern by Jared Flood, another designer whose patterns are not only well designed but so beautifully formatted! The yarn is Cascade 220 Superwash - I already had the lighter one (Feather Gray), and the other color is called Jet, which is one of my favorite colors Cascade makes in the 220 line. It's a deep, slightly heathered gray that I have been wanting to use for a while. I changed the stripe pattern in the original pattern to something a little more minimalist, and I'm really happy with how it turned out!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Christmas feet!

From the moment I first touched a mini-skein of Fancy Gnome sock yarn, I decided that this year my feet would be getting a Christmas present, and that present would be socks in that wonderfully soft merino-cashmere-nylon blend from GnomeAcres.

I knitted these over Thanksgiving this year, and although my plan is to wear them only on Christmas and then put them away until next year, I've found lots of opportunities to try them on. Just to make sure the cashmere still feels amazing.

The pattern I used is called Ribbelmuster, available for free on Ravelry. It required a little more thinking than I expected, but was not difficult. Unfortunately - through my own fault, not the pattern's - I made the heel flaps a little too short. I don't know what I was thinking, but the upside is that the relationship between the length of the heel flap and the overall length and fit of the foot is now explicitly clear to me. It probably should have been obvious to me all along, but hey, at least now I know. And for indulgence socks that I'm only going to wear once a year, it's fine. And Juniper approves:

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Handspun mittens

No, I have not yet become a spinner. But I am fortunate to have a few generous friends who do spin, and who occasionally find themselves with purple yarn that they don't especially want, because they prefer other colors. When I was offered this brown and purple handspun, I immediately started thinking of something warm and cozy to match my winter coat:

Perfect! I used Kris Percival's Warmest Mittens pattern as a guide (and I would like to note, also, that I competently and confidently used DPNs for this whole project). Although I haven't had mittens since I was very small, I've been wearing these every time I put on that coat, and they make me so happy (and warm). I like thinking of them as a joint effort between my friend who spun the yarn, and me who knitted them.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Dyade set

For my mom's birthday this year, I made her a matching cowl and mitts from Vanessa Smith's Dyade set. I had a full skein of tosh sock in Tart that I bought for my Amethiste shawl but didn't end up using, plus a bit extra. Tart is a glorious color, but not one that I wear often, so I wanted to use my extra skein to make a special project I could give to somebody else. I thought something warm and pretty that my mom can wear either inside or outside would be just right.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Quick projects to keep me warm

We moved to Pittsburgh last year, which finally motivated me to collect some serious cold-winter gear. Last year I got a warm and wonderful down jacket, and this year I have brand-new snow boots. And of course, I can never have enough knitted things.

This is Present, a free cowl pattern by Mademoiselle C. It was very quick to knit, and was a nice way to use up the leftovers from a project that I can't talk about yet. The yarn is Malabrigo Worsted in the Polar Morn colorway. As I was knitting the other secret project, I was already planning to buy more of this yarn for myself, because it's so soft and squishy and the color is beautiful. The other project took a little less yardage than I expected, so I used up every last bit making myself this cowl. Small cowls like this are nice to wear inside, when you could use a little warmth on your neck but don't need to wrap up in a shawl or scarf.

I wear a beret now. Berets are cool.

Although my neck is never cold these days, my head is not as fortunate. I don't really consider myself much of a wearer or maker of hats, but that is changing as I'm starting to look for more things to knit, and more things to keep me warm. This pattern is Alana Dakos's Autumn Vines Beret, knit in Neighborhood Fiber Co. Studio Sport that I picked up at fibre space earlier this year. I am a bit bemused by this hat. Up until I finished it and put it on my head, I couldn't really picture myself either making or wearing a beret. I like the yarn pretty well, but it's surprisingly variegated, a little too much so for this pattern. The size of the hat is okay, I guess, except that the cast-on edge grew a lot when I blocked it - maybe I'm just an inexperienced beret wearer, but it feels looser than it should. But hey, it doesn't fall off or look stupid, and it's a pretty color, and it's warm. I think I like it?

Friday, December 13, 2013

La dame de fer

Named after the Eiffel Tower, not Margaret Thatcher.

This is Jessie Dodington's Dinner in the Eiffel Tower shawl, knit in madelinetosh tosh DK. The colorway is Whiskey Barrel, and I used it in this pattern because the dark brown-blue color reminds me of the way the Eiffel Tower looks early in the morning. (I am a Foreign Service brat who spent a few years looking at the pre-sunrise Eiffel Tower on my bus rides to school.) It's a nice pattern - nothing too difficult or too tedious, but a good blend of simple stitches and slightly complicated lace.

The LYS where I work recently stopped carrying madelinetosh, so this yarn came from the hoard I amassed after we made that decision. Part of the reason we discontinued our tosh selection was quality issues, and I have to say that this yarn was not as nice as the older tosh DK that I used in my Calligraphy shawl. It felt rougher as I was knitting (after washing, it's not as bad), and there were a number of pretty large slubs that I would have cut out, if I had been making this project to give away. I still love tosh's colors, but I'm not too sad that we'll be bringing in something new instead.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Little bellydancer

This project holds the record for longest span of time from the date I started it to the date I finally finished it: started in March 2009, and finished on November 11 of this year, four and a half years later!

This is the Amazon amigurumi pattern from Creepy Cute Crochet by Cristen Haden, aka NeedleNoodles. You may recall that I started a couple other amigurumi at the same time, and very gradually got around to finishing first the ninja, and then the monkey in 2011. This poor girl, though, continued to languish. I think the main issue was that while she was hibernating, I decided I didn't really want an Amazon any more, but I wasn't sure what else to do. Then, finally, inspiration! And a while later, motivation! And now she is living happily on my amigurumi shelf as a tiny bellydancer!

Monday, December 9, 2013

Because my cat really needed another blanket

She did, though. I left my granny square afghan on the floor in a moment of laziness, and Juniper claimed it and proceeded to spend most of her time lying on it or under it. While I continue to be flattered that she likes my crocheting so much, I didn't really want my blanket to stay permanently on the floor, so I made her a floor-blanket of her own.

Trying out her new blanket immediately after I finished it

I was in the mood to get rid of some stash, so I triple-stranded some Knit Picks Brava in black and white and that purple acrylic that continues to haunt me. The blanket is just rows of double crochet, alternating the colors until I was nearly out of yarn, then I did two rows of double crochet around the border. To give the blanket a rolled edge, I then did a thing that came to me out of the blue and is very hard to explain, but basically, I folded and "seamed" the edge to itself by slip-stitching it through the base of the first row of double crochet.

The blanket is nice and thick, as Juniper likes it. It makes a good place to sleep in front of the radiator, although her preferred use is to burrow under it. In fact, if she's in the right mood, I can stick her under the blanket and she'll just stay there for hours. Seeing her snuggle on or under her blanket is as much of a "thank you" I'll ever get from a cat, but it's enough.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Un-vanilla socks

I've been knitting socks for over a year now, so it's time to expand my horizons. Since I don't see myself giving up my sock habit any time soon, I want to develop a more intuitive sense of what I like in terms of construction and methods. There are so many options that I'm sure I have yet to discover my Perfect Sock.

Until now, I've used magic loop, and almost always worked cuff-down, so for my first adventure, I decided to try DPNs and a toe-up sock. That turned out to be a bit too much adventure when I discovered that the way I purl clashed painfully with my inept way of holding my needles, so I scaled back to a toe-up sock on magic loop.

I used Carle' Dehning's recipe for vanilla toe-up socks with an afterthought heel - another technique I hadn't tried yet. For the toe, I used Lynne Ashton's rounded toe recipe, since I think the "normal" toe-up toe looks a little too chunky.

I knit these in Loops & Threads Luxury Sock, with the toes, heels, and cuffs in Knit Picks Stroll. Both of these were leftovers from my iPod cozy and my iPad cozy, and although I was just trying to use stuff up, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I like the finished socks. I've heard that people sometimes have trouble with Loops & Threads' color consistency, but since I squeezed two socks out of a 50-gram ball, they match fine. The fit of the sock is good, too, including the heel. Rather than working in a gusset, the recipe just adds a few stitches to the heel area, which seems to work fine for my foot.

Now that I have a toe and a heel that I'm happy with, I think I'm ready for my next pair of self-striping toe-up socks!