Friday, November 30, 2012

Socks Undone and Done

For my travel knitting, I took socks to SOAR.  I decided to try one of the patterns from Ann Budd’s book, Sock Knitting Master Class.  It has been quite awhile since I knitted something from someone else’s pattern.  But I thought it’d be a nice task for travelling.  My goal was to stick to the instructions as written and avoid imposing my own opinions upon them.

I chose the pattern, “Slip-n-Slide”, by Chrissy Gardiner.  I do like slip stitches so this pattern spoke to me.  The yarn used in the pattern was indicated to be fingering weight (#1 super fine), with 450 yards per 100 grams.  The gauge specified was 16 sts per 2 inches.

Ann chronicled her own experiences with all the patterns in this book in her blog.  You can find some of her comments on this particular sock in her blog entry, February 19, 2012.  

I selected from my stash some yarn that had been a birthday gift from my friend, Sylvia VM:  Lorna’s Laces, “Shepherd Sock” (80% superwash wool, 20% nylon), in a mix of berry pink and medium-light blue (color 501 argyle, dye lot 6662).  I thought the colorway would be especially effective for the slip stitch patterns highlighted in the sock.  approximately 215 yards per skein, suggesting a gauge of 7 sts per inch (also #1 super fine).  I figured I could get gauge with this yarn.

In fact, on US size 1 needles (2.25 mm), I got ever so slightly more than 8 sts per inch.  So, I figured this yarn would work for this pattern.

I confidently headed off on my trip with yarn, pattern, and needles.  I happily knitted the leg of the sock, then started the heel flap.  I was concerned with a minor error in the heel flap instructions.  How handy was it that Ann Budd happened to be at SOAR too, so I could ask her about the sock!  I did modify the heel flap to suit my “urge”.  And I’m happy I did.  After I knitted the heel turn, I tried on the sock.  Or, I tried to try on the sock.  No way was it ever going to fit me.  Just too small.  Honestly, I didn’t think I was off that much in gauge.

Three possible solutions that I could think of:  1) adjust the pattern by adding stitches,  2) knit at a looser gauge, or 3) knit the pattern with a different, thicker yarn.

I did not want to knit at a looser gauge; it has been my experience that socks tend not to last very long if they are flimsy.

I thought about adding more stitches.  In fact, that is exactly what Ann Budd had done when she knit the socks.  But for what ever reason I was disinclined to this solution.

I opted for solution #3:  using a thicker yarn.  I knew I would be able to find an appropriate yarn in my stash at home, but I did not have such yarn with me.  Thus the socks remained undone at SOAR.  Instead, I worked on a sock of my own design (see my previous blog entry  for that sock).

When I got home, I rummaged through my stash and found just what I was looking for.  A yarn that was also a gift from my friend Sylvia VM.  And, interestingly enough, in a similar but darker colorway!  It was a yarn that called out to be knitted into slip stitch patterns.

I regret that I do not have the tag for this yarn.  Sylvia had already wound it into a ball and its tag was long gone.  I am confident that the yarn is wool.  Superwash perhaps.  Perhaps not.

I got a gauge of 7 sts per inch on US size 2 needles.  Not the gauge called for in the pattern, but I liked the firmness of the fabric and thought it would be better for the sock to be a bit too big than too small.

Success!  Now the socks are done.  Here is a picture of the socks, with a bit of the yarn I used, and a ball of the yarn I didn’t use.

The socks were fun to knit.  The stitch patterns were easy to memorize and perform, yet interesting enough to entertain me.  I mostly followed the directions as put forth in the pattern.  But I did make a few very minor changes:

1.  I modified the toe to be longer and more graduated of a wedge shape.
2.  I used a cable needle to perform the twisted slip stitches (as opposed to just letting the live stitches hang free), and I worked until 18 sts remained, instead of 14.
3.  On the heel flap, I worked even rows starting with “Sl 1 wyf” instead of the suggested “Sl 1 wyb”.

I’m happy to report that the socks fit!  All in all, a nice sock experience.  I can’t seem to stop knitting socks right now; I’ve got another pair on the needles….

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Socks Ahead of Schedule

On May 16th,  I blogged about a trip I took to Minnesota.  My friend Judy McL and I had a wonderful series of fiber adventures, including a trip to her local yarn shop, YarnHarbor.

Judy and I both bought the same yarn, a sock yarn in Christmas-y colors of green, red, and white.  And we agreed that we’d only buy the yarn if we promised to knit up the yarn into socks by Christmas.

Well!  I’m actually ahead of schedule!  The yarn in question is a Swedish yarn, J√§rbo Garn, “mini raggi”, in color way 68104 (and lot 43066).  Approximately 100 grams, and 420 meters.  That was plenty of yarn for a pair of socks.

I took the yarn with me to SOAR  in October as backup travel knitting.  I’d started a pair of socks from some other yarn, but the yarn  wasn’t working out with the pattern (more about this in a future blog post).  So, on my last day at SOAR, I started swatching my “mini raggi”.  Ideas for cables and seed stitch came to me.  I incorporated both into the sock design.  I placed a horse shoe cable down the back of the leg, and two cables that are half seed stitch and half stockinette stitch along the front of the leg with a section of seed stitch in between the cables.  When I got to the foot, I started to narrow the band of seed stitch so that the cables got closer together.  When I got near the toe, I stopped the cables, and continued the remaining seed stitch to the tip of the toe.

Here’s a side view picture (in yesterday's pale sunlight with snow as a backdrop).  You can’t see the horse shoe cable very well.  I’ll need to have someone model these socks for a better picture of front and back.

I rather like the result.  These socks have an alligator vibe to them.  A Christmas alligator?  I plan to knit this pattern again in a different yarn, then write up the pattern for publication.  What do you think?

Sunday, November 18, 2012

SOAR Report 3: Giving

Despite having no money to spend in the vendor hall at SOAR, I did return home with many new items.  All gifts.  All from gracious and generous folks.

Upon arriving, we all got “welcome bags” which included samples of fibers, coupons, and so forth.  And a beautiful bag handwoven from alpaca fiber from Centro de Textiles Tradicionales del Cusco.   Lovely!

Many attendees used their bag throughout the week.  I would have if I hadn’t just gotten a beautiful new bag from my friend Becky McD.  I’d asked her to sew me a bag using some Dalmatian fabric (see an earlier blog post  about the fabrics involved).  She finished the bag the day before I left for SOAR.  I was so very pleased with the result, and I was very pleased to debut it at SOAR.

Another Interweave gift was this terrific mug.  I’ve had many a cup of tea from it since.  I do like its shape and size.

A number of the participants in my workshops surprised me with gifts.  MarySue French  quickly picked up a few bits of information about me and incorporated them into a sweet little Christmas tree ornament.  On day 1 of my Spin-Knit Nexus workshop, we spent some time spinning wool from two of my favorite sheep:  Lucy and Lonnie.  We also spent time talking about slip stitches in knitting, one of my central knitting passions.  And, of course, I managed to make it known that I adore my dog, Toby, a Dalmatian.  The following day, MarySue gave me this ornament in the shape of a bag, spun from Lucy and Lonnie, with a cabled, Dalmatian-y strap, and showing a bit of the woven stitch (one of my favorite slip stitches) at its base.  She got my number alright!

Deb Behm  sat to my left during that workshop.  At the end of the 3rd day, she shared with me a booklet that she’d written.  In it she presents her thoughts on the use of spinning as meditation.  It is an intriguing treatise on what is and what isn’t meditation.  I share many of her notions of mindfulness, practice, and focus with regard to spinning.  It has been a delight to read, as is her blog.

One of the exercises that I have participants do for the Spin-Knit Nexus workshop is to try to spin a yarn that will match one that already exists.  Part of the idea is to examine the effects of spinning-then-dyeing versus dyeing-then-spinning.  One of the participants then knitted a wine bottle cozy from these “before and after” yarns.  I think it was Nancy, but I’m not sure…..I wish I were better with names!

Terri Guerette took the Mechanics of Your Wheel workshop on the last day of SOAR.  She gave me some beaded stitch markers that she’d made.  I think I will use them as embellishments on a hat.

On SOAR’s last evening, Jane Wadsworth, who had been in the Spin-Knit Nexus workshop, and her husband treated me to wine before dinner and excellent conversation during dinner.  It was a perfect way to relax at the end of six days of teaching.

Then, my roommate, Joan Ruane  gave me a copy of her DVD, “Cotton Spinning Made Easy”.  This may be just the inspiration I need to attack the several pounds of cotton that are “maturing” in my fiber stash.

All these gifts tell me that I am one lucky so-and-so.  Fiber people share.  Fiber people give.  Fiber people are good people.  I am truly thankful to all for the things and stories and ideas that folks shared with me at SOAR.  Really.  Thank you!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

SOAR Report 2: People

The people make the event.  Spin-Off Autumn Retreat  draws folks from many walks of life.  All have a love of fiber and spinning.  This was only the second time I’ve attended SOAR – and the first time as a “mentor” – so I was a bit on the reserved side when I first arrived.  But it didn’t take long to warm up to all the warm people.

I met so many fantastic people in the workshops that I taught.  Many were from the western parts of the country.  All were cheerful, engaged, open, enthusiastic, and interactive.  I couldn’t have had a nicer teaching experience.  (In addition to the fabulous workshop participants, I was in a terrific teaching space, the Aspen Room:  excellent light, plenty of room, windows, nearby bathroom and kitchen.  I felt like a queen.)  At the end of my 3-day workshop, I did get an earful from a few wonderful participants who chastised me for under-pricing my handspun yarns.  Lesson learned!

One of the very nicest things about SOAR is the opportunity to have meals with other attendees.  I got to have extended chats with some very interesting folks.  We talked about the weather, the World Series (as a Detroit Tigers fan, I had to take a lot of guff from a few very enthusiastic Giants fans), living out west, evidence-based practice in medicine, publishing, internet retail sales, socks, tablet weaving, Japanese quilting, felted lace, the creative process, dyeing strategies, raising chickens, the cost of hay, apple cider, dogs, and more.

By the way, the food was marvelous at each and every meal.  I will reminisce often of the Eggs Benedict, the salmon, the scallops, steak, roast duck, fresh tomato soup, sweet sweet sweet pineapple, chocolate mousse, tiramisu, and the cash bar!

It was especially nice to get to know a few of the other mentors a bit better.  My roommate was Joan Ruane.  She lives in Bisbee, Arizona, and she specializes in spinning cotton.  She gave me some pretty good advice about how to “revive” some older cotton that I have in my spinning stash (by putting it in a steamer for a bit).

I had a couple of very interesting conversations with Michael Cook.  He was teaching workshops on reeled silk.  And he knows his stuff!  He lives in Dallas, Texas, and had some fun stories to tell of his life there, including some wonderful chicken stories.  I now have a strong urge to try reeling silk.  It is so beautifully shiny!

Kate Larson  taught in the classroom across the hall from mine.  She’s from Indiana and she raises Border Leicester sheep.  It turns out that we’ve taught at other events at the same time, but this was the first time we’d actually met.  She’s a delight!

I had a couple of sock chats with Ann Budd.  She’s the editor of Sock Knitting Master Class.  As my travel knitting, I’d chosen a pattern from that book, “Slip-n-Slide”.  And I had a question about some of the instructions.  I mentioned this to Anne Merrow (editor of Sockupied), she passed on my concerns to Ann.  The following morning, Ann stopped by my breakfast table to, as she put it, “take the bull by the horns.”  Essentially she suggested that I follow my instinct.  I did.  Ann, by the way, has a wonderfully dry sense of humor.

I had a few conversations with Diane Gonthier.  She’s from Montreal, and she is a felt artist.  She’s recently started felting with yarns to make lacey looking art.  Amazing stuff!

If only SOAR lasted for two weeks!  Then I would have had the chance to chat with even more people.

This event went so swimmingly in large part due to the staff from Interweave Press:  Amy Clarke Moore, Liz Good, Anne Merrow, and Maggie Reinholtz.  They were fantastic to work with, so very helpful and gracious.

Gracious, too, were the staff members of the Granlibakken Resort, from the front desk, to shuttle service, to food service, room service.  It was all good.

Yes.  People make the event.  And what an event!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

SOAR Report 1: Trees, Snow, and Fire

Before I left Lake Ann on October 20th to head to Tahoe City, California for SOAR , there were leaves on the trees.  The maple trees were just past their peak, and the oaks and aspen were nearing theirs.  It was a beautifully colorful autumn.

I arrived at GranlibakkenResort  on a gorgeous day.  The aspens were at their peak there, too.  And I saw Ponderosa Pines for the first time.  Their pine cones are enormous; they looked so perfect I wondered if they were fake.  I was later told that Ponderosa pines are special in that they smell like butterscotch (some say vanilla).  I wanted to sniff a tree to find out, but had this nagging thought that someone would take a picture of me smelling a tree.  That might be weird….

I also saw Sequoia trees for the first time.  My!  But they’re tall!  Here’s one picture of the top of a Sequoia:

Here’s a picture of Sunday sunrise at SOAR.  The sky was lovely.

The following day, it snowed.  And the next day.  And the next.  I heard a report of over 20 inches total.  I loved it.  Here are two snow pictures:

The snow may have made walking a bit more of a challenge, but it certainly was a positive addition to the ambience.

Most of the snow was long gone by the time SOAR was over and all the wonderful fiber folks headed home.  The day after I returned home I heard the news that Judith Mackenzie’s studio had burned down while she was teaching at SOAR.  She lives in the Pacific Northwest, and her studio is in Forks, WA.  Some other buildings were also destroyed, but no one was hurt.

It is impossible to appreciate the full extent of the lose that Judith has suffered:  notes, equipment, fiber, yarn, books, finished items.  What a heartbreak it must be!  As you might imagine, many fiber folks are jumping right in to help her.  Please take a look at the website, Rebuild Judiths Studio, to see how you can help.