My current work in progress:

1. Drachenfels, designed by Melanie Berg, knit from Madelintosh Pashmina in the Black Walnut, Seasalt, and Mineral colorways on a 4 mm (U.S. size 6) needle.
2. Myriad stealth projects.

Mittens for Beginners

Warning! Digression ahead!

When typing the title for my blog post, I started thinking about Songs for Beginners, Graham Nash’s first solo album. It was released in 1971 two months before Who’s Next by, of course, The Who. Those two albums were the soundtrack for my summer that year when I was 14 years old. Whenever I hear a track from either of them (which is pretty often, given my iPod commuting playlist) I flash back to where I was and what I was doing as vividly as if it were yesterday. Sigh . . . memories . . .

Okay, digression over.

Carol S. asked in the comments:

I have always wanted to make a pair of those mittens! Is there a beginner pattern you would recommend or perhaps a book for beginners?

A good, easy, pattern to start with would be one in a heavier yarn, I think. My mittens are knit at a gauge of 9 stitches to the inch. Try a sportweight pattern, at about 6 stitches to the inch. A good place to start might be with the Pirate Mittens pattern, available free at Hello Yarn.

Another great resource at Hello Yarn for all you mitten-knitter-wannabees is the generic mitten chart, available in pdf format here. This is a blank template for a mitten knit with 48 stitches around. You can chart your own design on it.

Which segues nicely in to the next comment question . . .

Liz in IN asked:

Did you create this pattern, too, using…that software I’ve forgotten the name of? I think you must have, otherwise you would have linked the designer.

I did create this design. With Stitch and Motif Maker? Nope, I create my mitten and glove patterns using good ol’ trusty Excel.

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Chart 012408

There is an excellent tutorial for creating charts for knitting in Excel on Twistedspinster.net here.

I created some mitten and glove templates in Excel and use them to start the design for a new mitten or glove, tweaking as needed. While I love the Stitch and Motif Maker software for small charts, I find Excel to be much faster and easier to use when I’m creating one huge chart for an entire mitten.

Belinda asked:

I’ve noticed that recently (since summer of socks, I think) you knit a lot of the same thing but with many different stitch patterns and colours – first the socks and then the mittens. Do you like to have many different (but equally lovely) handknitted goods to rotate through, or do you give away a lot of your stuff?

I tend to obsess, then move on. As I’ve mentioned before, I am first and foremost a process knitter and when I start on something (like socks) I tend to immerse myself fully in it until I’ve exhausted either myself or all possibilities I care to explore.

All those socks I knit during the Summer of Socks? I haven’t worn a single pair of them. I did give some of them away as holiday gifts, though.

I haven’t worn my handknit mittens or gloves either, but there’s another reason for that. When it is cold enough for me to wear gloves on my commute, I wear polar fleece gloves because they are easily machine washable in hot water. I take the subway to work, and change trains once, so there are three sets of stairs or escalators that I walk up or down twice a day. Because I am an old geezer and because the walking surface is often slick or wet, I grasp the handrail with my left hand as I walk these stairs and escalators. You should see what the palm of my left glove looks like after just one day’s commute. Huge streaks of black dirt. And no matter how vigorously I was the gloves, it doesn’t come out completely. I wouldn’t subject my handknit mittens and gloves to this daily grind of grime.

So why do I knit them? I’m a process knitter. icon wink Mittens for Beginners

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Mitten 012408

(It is really really hard to use your left hand only to hold a camera and press the shutter button which is on the right side of the camera so that you can photograph your right hand wearing your mitten-in-progress.)

Stoopid Internet . . .

I’ve noticed some email issues lately. An email I sent to the KOARC last night (telling him the date and time of Lucy’s annual check-up at the vet) took hours to get to him. An email he sent me about the same time about his new Tiger Woods Nintendo Wii golf game still hasn’t reached me.

As the KOARC so eloquently put it:

Internetz sez “I can has ur e-mails with cute widdle tiger kitty kat subject lines”

Please don’t tell Lucy she is going to the vet next month. I want it to be a surprise.

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Lucy 012408

Tonight Lucy and I will be watching Camille on TCM. Starring the greatest actress of all time: Greta Garbo.

Oh, Look. Another Mitten.

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Mitten Back 012308

Yes, I’m knitting another mitten.

This one is being made from Claudia Hand Painted yarn in fingering weight — the colors are Navy Olive and Lemon Ice. I do think they work nicely together.

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Yarn 012308

And of course I am craving lemon sorbet right now.

Here is the palm of the mitten:

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Mitten Palm 012308

Wanna see better photos of the yarns? Look at the photos at The Loopy Ewe. Lemon Ice is here. Navy Olive is here. Click on the thumbnails to enlarge the photos.

That’s the trouble with winter blogging — by the time I get home after work, it’s too late to get good photos in natural light so I have to resort to using the flash, which does distort the color.

I’m plugging away at my second Temptation Top-Down Sock as well, on the commute. Marji asked me if I’ve ever tried knitting two socks at the same time. I haven’t. And I’ve never knit two sleeves at the same time either. I know some people prefer to do that, but I’m a one-at-a-time kind of girl.

I’m also still a toe-up sock kind of girl. While it amuses me to knit a sock top down from time to time, I really prefer knitting toe up.

Lucy is a “give me a treat NOW” kind of girl.

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Lucy 012308

Temptation Top-Down Socks

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Sock 012208

Yep, that sock was knitted top-down. Sneaky of me, no? Here’s a transcript of my telephone conversation with L-B last week when I told her about it:

Me: I’m knitting a sock top-down.

L-B: What??!! You need to warn me before making a shocking statement like that!

Me: I was thinking: why can’t I reverse my slip-stitch heel from my toe-up sock to make it work top down? I’d do the gusset increases while working the slipstitch heel, then short rows to turn the heel, then decrease the gusset stitches, and work the foot. That way I can do a top-down sock without counting heel flap rows or having to pick up stitches along the sides of the flap.

L-B: I like picking up the stitches along the heel flap.

Me: I don’t like having to keep count. When I’m on the train, I like my knitting to be automatic and not have to think.

L-B: So, in other words, you are going to all this work because you are lazy.

Me: Yeah, pretty much.

There it is. L-B pretty much nailed it. I figured out this heel because I am lazy. icon wink Temptation Top Down Socks

To recap, what I did was to cast on (over a needle 2 sizes larger than my working needle), knit a ribbed cuff and stockinette leg. I started the slipstitch heel and gusset increases while still working in the round. Then I worked only on the heel stitches to short-row a “heel cup,” and then worked short rows back and forth only on the heel and gusset stitches to decrease the gusset stitches back down to my original number. Then I worked in the round to the toe. For the toe I did 4 decreases every other row until I had 12 stitches, then grafted the toe shut. Ta-da! A sock.

I tricked many of you who entered the contest by knitting top down, because I am always bleating about how I hate knitting socks top down. I also tricked a number of you because my photo really didn’t show the toe too clearly — you really couldn’t tell that it was grafted. So I didn’t take any points off for people who got the toe construction wrong.

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Toe 012208

(Incidentally, if you can figure out how to get from my blog to my flickr page of this sock, you can view a huge version of the photo.)

A number of you got it right. And a lot of you guessed other creative ways of constructing the sock. You people are smart! So I picked a winner at random from those of you who figured it out. The winner is:

Alexis D! Alexis has been emailed, and the skein of Wollmeise will soon be wending its way to her.

Thanks to everyone who submitted a guess. A number of you suggested heel constructions by names that I’d never heard of, so this was an interesting exercise for me.

Anyhow, I wrote up the pattern and here it is, in pdf format:

Temptation Top-Down Socks

The pattern is also posted on my free patterns page (link in the sidebar).

L-B suggested the name. I was gonna call it the Top-Down-No-Pick-Up-Stitches-Along-the-Heel-Flap-Gusseted-Slip-Stitch-Heel Sock, but that seemed a bit much. Because the prototype was knit from Tempted yarn, and the temptation was strong enough for me to briefly abandon my toe-up only status, the name seems fitting.

Note that the pattern is written in two sizes, medium and large, and in the pattern I am starting with either 66 or 74 stitches. For the sock I knit, I started with 64 stitches so I could do a k2 p2 ribbing around, then I increased a stitch in the heel stitches before I started the heel.

Also note that I wrote this pattern up from my scribbles as I worked the sock. It really hasn’t been thoroughly tested yet, so proceed at your own risk. I am currently knitting the second sock, so I’ll be able to test my pattern as I knit to make sure there are no errors. If you find one, feel free to let me know.

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SIP 012208

I make no claims to having invented this heel, but I did figure it out myself by doing it. That doesn’t mean that someone else didn’t figure it out before me. I have just never seen it.

Will I start to knit all my socks top-down? Heavens, no. But it is nice to have options. If I see a cool top-down pattern I want to make, and the pattern doesn’t lend itself to being turned upside down and knit from the toe-up, I will likely be able to adapt it to fit this pattern.

I started another project.

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New Project 012208

And Lucy is back on the job!

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Lucy 012208

All You Need is Glove

I completed my second project from the two skeins of Hazel Knits sock yarn I have, these gloves.

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Gloves Front 012108

Like the mittens, they are knit on a 2.75mm needle and are my own design.

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Gloves Back 012108

Also like the mittens, I have no immediate plans to write up the pattern — sorry!

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Gloves Front and Back 012108

So, one pair of adult mittens and one pair of adult gloves later, there’s still a nice amount of the yarn left.

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Mittens and Gloves 012108

It might even be enough for another pair of mittens.

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Mittens and Gloves Stacked 012108

Today was a federal holiday so I had the day off from work. I did all sorts of boring stuff including sewing buttons back on a coat. Question: why do manufacturers do such a lousy job of sewing on buttons? This is a coat I just bought this season and have only worn two or three times a week for the past 5 or 6 weeks. But one button has already fallen off and two more were loose. The coat came from Lands End which usually has decent quality stuff.

This is what Lucy does on her day off.

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Lucy 012108

Tune in tomorrow to see how I knit the sock in yesterday’s entry. You wouldn’t want to miss that, now would you?

Sock Quiz

We’re having the first really cold day of this winter, with wind chill temperatures that bring it down to feel even colder. It’s a good day to stay inside and snuggle with a Ragdoll.

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Lucy 012008

Yesterday I took some time out from glove knitting and completed a sock.

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Sock 012008

This is knit from Tempted Yarns in the “Roxanne” colorway. Yarn purchased from The Loopy Ewe. It is knit, as usual, on a 2mm (US 0) needle. But the construction of this sock is completely different from my usual modus operandi.

Here’s the toe:

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Toe 012008

Here’s the cuff:

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Ribbing 012008

And here’s the heel:

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Heel 012008

Can you guess how I knit this sock?

I f you think you know, send me an email to the Official WendyKnits Contest email address: blogcontestATcomcastDOTnet before 4:00pm Eastern time on Tuesday January 22, 2008.

In the email, tell me exactly how I knit all the elements of this sock. The person who comes closest will win. If more than one person gives the right answers, I’ll have the random number generator draw a name.

Rules:

1. One email per person.

2. Only entries emailed to the Official WendyKnits Blog Contest email address, above, will be counted. Entries in the comments will be ignored.

3. As usual, anyone on Planet Earth with a mailing address where I can send a package is eligible to enter.

Oh, what does the person who gets it right win? This:

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Wollmeise 012008

This is a skein of Wollmeise sock yarn, in the Raku-Regenbogen colorway. If you very cleverly figure out how I worked my sock, it can be yours!