My current work in progress:

Seaforth designed by Alice Starmore, knit in British Breeds 5-ply Guernsey Wool on US 3 needles.


Archives for January 2007

A Journey of a Million Stitches . . .

. . . begins with one tiny swatch.


I posted a photo of that little turquoise swatch yesterday. That swatch is knit from this yarn:


Koigu Kersti, in a pretty, almost monochrome, turquoise. I have 21 skeins of it. (It’s been in my stash for at least two years, I think.) Anyone want to hazard a guess as to what it will become?


In the meantime, I’m just working on the second Slayer sock.


Laura commented:
The Slayer socks are great! But how do you photograph the red so that it doesn’t look like a flaming foot?!

Beats me. I am shocked that the Slayer yarn photographs true to color. I’ve taken photos of it with and without flash, and the ones with the flash, indoors, under my dining room chandelier, are the ones that turn out true to color. I’ve never, ever, had any success photographing red before, so this is a mystery to me.

Perhaps the Slayer socks do possess mystical powers?

A couple of you asked about the finish at the top. It’s just six rows (three ridges) of garter stitch, then a knit-wise cast-off. In my Feather and Fan Sock Pattern (pdf) I specified four rows of garter stitch, but on this sock tried six, and liked the way it looked.


EricaLynn asked how the feather and fan socks fit — if they fall down. Mine don’t. They fit me very well and are comfortable, which is one reason why I make so many pairs of feather and fan socks.

Lace Fidelity?

PennyT asked:
Have you figured out what makes a lace pattern boring? Why, I wonder, is a knitter (e.g. you) fascinated by a pattern like Wing o’the Moth and not by the current one? It must not be the border, entirely, since you said you were bored by the middle section as well. I’ve done only one big lace project, Icarus, so I don’t have much experience in choosing, but I have lots of laceweight yarn and would appreciate some insight.

And Mt-Mom asked:
And, about how some lace patterns can get boring, while others can retain their hold on one’s imagination: can *you* tell ahead of time? Trial and error? Or does it have to do with the repetitiveness?

Yeah, good questions. I could sorta tell ahead of time that the Maltese Shawl was going to be an arduous knit. It’s about three miles long and is a rectangle, so not much in the way of alluring shaping. Neither the pattern in the center panel nor the edging are particularly challenging to execute. All that adds up to a yawn-fest. I specifically picked this pattern to knit, though, based on the the likes of the recipient.



Commenting on the recitation of my schedule, Bridget was impressed that Lucy lets me do anything when I first come home before feeding her. Lucy is quite unexcited about food and she seems to eat very little. This is a constant concern for me — I wish she’d eat more. Somedays it looks as though she eats nothing all day, but some days when I come home, her dish is empty. Still, she is healthy and happy, so I guess she just has odd eating habits for a kitty.

And she’d like everyone to know that she does move from her Cozy Cushion now and then.


Whoa, There!

Judging from a couple of comments and some emails I got, a few of you got the impression that I was going to abandon the Maltese Shawl. Not at all! What I said in yesterday’s blog post was that I thought I would keep it for weekend knitting because, for me, knitting a lace edging is not something I want to do in small bits of time snatched here and there during the week.

I actually have very little knitting time on weeknights. That pesky “working for a living” does get in the way. A typical evening:

1. Come home from work. Lucy is at the door to greet me. She waits very impatiently while I take my coat off. Sometimes I am allowed to change clothes before playing with her, sometimes not.

2. Sort mail, deal with that which needs to be dealt with immediately. File the rest for future reference. If laundry needs to be done, start laundry. Perform other household tasks.

3. Half an hour of knitting time, interspersed with taking photos of knitting and of Lucy, and checking email.

4. Compose blog entry, download and edit photos, post blog entry.

5. Make and eat dinner. Clean up after dinner.

5. Another hour of knitting time, interspersed with watching television and answering emails.

And that’s it.

I always try to get all my “chores” done on weeknights so I have long stretches of uninterrupted time on the weekends to do with what I will. I run errands on the way home from work and do what little housework I indulge in during the week.

The shawl edging has a repeat of 30 rows. It behooves me to do a full repeat in one sitting without interruptions. This is next to impossible on a weeknight. Much more do-able on a weekend. That’s why I decided to save the shawl for weekend knitting.

In the interests of project fidelity, I will not start another big project until the shawl is completed, although I reserve the right to change my mind about this at any given time. We’ll see where I am after this weekend. For now, I’ll work on socks during the week.

As I mentioned before, this shawl is destined to become a gift, and I don’t need it for nearly two months. I don’t feel any sense of urgency to finish it up asap.

I did, however, finish one Slayer sock.


Close-up of the top:


Bonnie asked:
Have you changed your toe up wrapping/unwrapping protocol? I finally mastered the technique after many, many tries and love it! I have been dragging around a copy of your knitty article with instructions for multiple toe up starts which is dog-eared and mangled and highlighted, but goes with me as a lucky charm in my knitting bag, even though the pattern has been committed to memory.

I recently printed a copy of the new, unabridged, row by row, toe up pattern. I read it. I noticed that you have different instructions for unwrapping the wrapped stitches.

I don’t think I’ve changed how I do it — rather, I described it in more detail in the new pattern.

Photo Hijinks With Lucy

Knitnana commented:
I wish I knew how you get such scrumptious photos of Lucy without having her appear to be possessed by “red-eyes!”

I use a Canon digital SLR camera that takes really good photos, but sometimes I do get a bit of Lucy red-eye. I used image editing software to correct the red-eye. I am currently using Paintshop Pro XI. It has a red-eye removal tool. I use the “freehand” option and carefully edit any red-eye zoomed in at 600 — 900%, pixel by pixel. Yesterday’s photo of Lucy was edited for red-eye.

See why I don’t have too much knitting time on weeknights?

Lucy sez:


“Catering to my every whim is far more important than any stupid knitting!”

Be that as it may, I still found time to doodle up a wee swatch. Hee hee!


Slayer Socks!


My new sock-in-progress is being knit from Sweet Georgia sock yarn in the “Slayer” colorway. I purchased this yarn from The Loopy Ewe shortly after Sheri put it up for sale and it’s a good thing I did, because it sold out immediately. (And I don’t think L-B will ever forgive me for getting to it before she did.)

I’ve got some Sweet Georgia yarn in a couple of other colorways in my stash, but this is my first time knitting with it. I love it! It’s got a nice firm twist and is knitting up on my ubiquitous size 2mm needles at the ubiquitous 8 stitches/inch. I really, really love this colorway. Looks like a bloody wound, doesn’t it? (And yes, New Jersey Laura, knitting with red yarn is a good way to cheer yourself up after being sick!)

Because no one distracted me via telephone when I was getting ready to start the leg of this sock (sorry, L-B, couldn’t resist that), I did manage to start the leg of the sock in feather and fan, and I’m really liking how it looks.


I think knitting socks in a colorway called “Slayer” on sterling silver needles has got to imbue the socks with some sort of mystical power, doncha think?

In the last blog entry I described how I cast off the tops of my socks. Mandella commented:
I use the same bindoff for toe-up socks as you except I do k2togtbl rather than k2tog. I’ve never really considered why, but thinking about it, it avoids the need to slip the stitch just knitted back to the lh needle. Like you I knit the knits and purl the purls. Alternatively if I’m feeling flirty I use a picot bind off.

Brilliant! Henceforth, all my bind-offs shall be done k2togtbl.

Wannietta commented:
I’m not a sock blocker user – I don’t get it. They’re going to be on your feet and that stretches them kind of perfectly. Maybe you can help me out with this. Why the sock blockers?

The truth is, I’m not a sock blocker either. 🙂 The only thing I use the sock blockers for is to model the socks for photos!

The Black Hole of Lace

I have just entered the Black Hole of Lace Knitting: knitting the edging onto the shawl. This is going to take forever, if past experience is anything to go by.


You start with a provisional cast on.


Then you attach the edging to the edge of the center panel on every other row — the wrong side rows in this case. You attach by knitting the last stitch of the edging together with one loop on the edge of the shawl.


The loops were created by slipping a stitch at the start of every row. So you’ve got one loop for every two rows of center panel, and you attach the edging on every other row. The corners are executed by easing in fullness by attaching more than one row in the same loop on the edge of the center panel. The pattern gives you explicit instructions for how many times you do this and where. I’m not at a corner yet, so haven’t experienced how accurate the instructions are yet. We’ll see. Even if there is a glitch in the math, it’ll be okay. You can fudge attaching an edging and no one will be the wiser. Blocking can cover a lot of anomalies.

I am at this point officially bored with this shawl. Knitting 528 rows of the center panel got really boring less than halfway through, and I can predict that I’m going to find the edging excruciating as well. I think I ‘ll delegate this as a secondary project and bring my socks to the forefront as primary knitting. I’ve got lots of pretty new sock yarn and I’m eager to try it all. That’s my excuse, anyhow. In fact, I might leave the shawl edging for weekend knitting. The couple of hours I have each weeknight is not conducive to hunkering down with a big chunk o’ lace.

Besides, I’ve already starting pondering a new project . . .

Lucy sez:


Yeah, she’s up to no good. I think she’s gonna swatch something!

Apple Pie Socks

It’s a dreary and drizzly Sunday afternoon. The temperature is hovering a few degrees above freezing, so we’ve got rain, not snow.

I finished the Apple Pie socks.


The pic I posted on the second sock in progress showed a coilless safety pin pinned to the sock. Vickie asked in the comments:
Can you tell us what the coilless safety pin is for in your sock? I know I use them to count every ten rows so that I don’t get carried away. Do you use it for counting rows?

Yes, it’s my measuring device. Because I knit socks on the train, it’s not always easy to lay them flat and measure them. So at intervals, I measure them and put a pin in to mark the length. Then I know I need to knit, say, 2 inches beyond the pin before doing the next shaping or whatever. It’s much easier to measure 2 inches on a moving train than 8 inches. Or, I just count rows up from the pin because I know how many rows per inch I’m getting.

Oat asked:
I notice that you knit your socks toe up. Do you have a special way to bind off? Whenever I make toe up socks my bind off is always too tight. I bind off as loose as possible and have gone so far as to UNbind off and rebind off several times to try to get it as loose as possible. Any tips would be appreciated.

One nice loose bind-off is Elizabeth Zimmermann’s Stretchy Sewn Cast-off

I used to use that technique on all my toe-ups, but lately I’ve been doing a variation of a Russian bind-off. The technique (worked loosely):

Knit 2, slip these 2 sts back to the lefthand needle, k2tog, *k1, slip 2 sts on righthand needle back to the lefthand needle, k2tog*. Repeat from * to *.

I’ve seen it stated that you work it in purl all the way around, or in knit all the way around. When I am doing a ribbed cuff on a sock, I do the bind-off in ribbing. I generally do k2 p2 or k3 p3 ribbing, so I knit the knits and purl the purls. When it comes to working the 2 stitches together, I work it knit or purl, depending on what the second stitch of the two is. And the top edge looks just fine to me. And it’s stretchy enough for me, too.


In other news, I have at long last finished the center panel of the Maltese Lace shawl.


Now comes the task of knitting on the edging. It always surprises me how long it takes to knit an edging on a shawl and this one will probably be no exception. It’s an extremely long shawl — the center panel is 528 rows long.


So I’ll hunker down and do the edging a bit at a time. And try not to moan about it too much.

I did start another sock . . .


And Lucy still loves her cozy cushion!


How to Have a Hap, Hap, Hap-py Day

Read this book:


This is Shetland Hap Shawls — Then and Now by Sharon Miller.

I got this book a few days ago and have been poring over it since then. It’s a very nice quality paperback, full-color, 64 pages. By clicking on the link in the paragraph above, you can go to Sharon Miller’s website and look at a few sample pages from the book.

The book is a combination of the history of hap shawls and patterns to knit hap shawls. It’s full of absolutely wonderful old photos, postcards, and other illustrations. You can see some of these by looking at the sample pages on the Heirloom Knitting website. Even if I never knit a thing from this book, the illustrations make it worth its weight in gold to me. I love old photos of knitting, and the ones in this book are particularly wonderful. In fact, I’ve been enjoying the illustrations so much, I’ve barely read any of the text. Every time I open it to read, I get distracted by the pictures. Eventually I’ll get to reading it. Honest.

I called in sick to work again today because I was really was not up to crawling in to the office this morning, but I do think, as of this afternoon, I’m getting better and might possibly live through this. Does anyone have any suggestion on how to unblock your ear that doesn’t involve permanent damage to one’s eardrum? Why do I ask? Oh, no reason.

My knitting mojo is still suffering, though. I am working on the second of the Apple Pie socks because knitting lace still seems too arduous. L-B posted in the comments to yesterday’s entry that she got the yarn at Wool-Tyme in Canada (note that prices are listed in Canadian dollars — there’s a link you can click to convert to U.S. dollars or Euros) and that she gives them high marks for excellent customer service.


L-B also mentioned to me that the socks she’s knitted from Apple Pie yarn are the softest and hardest-wearing socks she’s made — the mohair content makes them soft and the nylon and silk in the yarn make them wear like iron. Good to know, eh? I also like how the yarn doesn’t randomly stripe or pool when you knit it.

On another note, someone seems to like her brand new Cozy Cushion, does she not?


It took her approximately 3 seconds to make herself comfortable.


On yet another note, has any one of you ever heated a frozen burrito in a microwave and succeeded in getting the center thawed, and not have the filling ooze out of the ends? Or is that just one of those mysteries of the universe?