March 16, 2006

I'm Wondering

Note: This was actually written on Wednesday (yesterday), but I encountered technical difficulties and couldn't publish until this morning!

This Wednesday, I'm wondering:

Is there such a thing as a too-stiff sock?

Pattern: Denmark from Knitting on the Road
Yarn: Koigu
Needles: US 2s

Pictured here are my Sockapaloooza socks (version 2.0) -- you'll notice that I've switched Koigu colorways since this entry -- and I'm quite pleased with the way the pattern and the colors are working together.

Now, a new worry: I had to make adjustments to accommodate my absurdly loose knitting, and now I fret they may be a bit stiff. (Notice, above, that the sock is standing without support!) Is this a problem? If I call a do-over and restart on bigger needles I'm almost certain it will be way too big -- it stretches out to fit nicely now when I slip it on. Any words of wisdom?

On this Wednesday, some of you might be wondering where the heck the promised Olympic wrap-up entry -- complete with pattern! -- is. Two things have been slowing me down: a maddening lack of sunlight this week for taking nice pictures and something we'll call "Hey! This pattern-writing thing is hard!" It's coming soon, I promise!

Posted by shannon at 7:27 AM | Comments (3) | For related posts: Sockapaloooza, Socks, Wondering Wednesday

February 15, 2006

I'm Wondering...

This Wednesday, I'm not really wondering about anything at all.

Actually, that's not true. I'm intensely wondering (i.e. worrying) about a number of things on my Olympic Sweater. But those wonderings aren't ready for prime time -- no pictures, for example -- and since the Olympic Sweater is all I'm working on these days, I don't have any other questions burning a hole in my blog.

So, instead, I'll show you how a previous Wednesday wondering helped me finish a project:

I'm still perfecting my tubular cast-off. One of the socks has a
much tighter edge than the other. I told Jason that we must
have been watching something really gripping on TV when I did that one.

They're speckled! I love the colors of these socks so much that I found a way to wear them to the office last week with dress pants. Everytime I got glum about the dreary winter day, I just looked at my socks. Instant mood improvement!

Yarn: ArtYarns Supermerino (107)
Needles: US 3s. (Next time, try 2s. Or twist the first knit stitch after purling.)
Pattern: 3x1 ribbed version of Wendy's toe-up sock (with short-row technique modifications)

Posted by shannon at 5:59 PM | Comments (3) | For related posts: For Me!, Socks, Wondering Wednesday

February 8, 2006

I'm Wondering....

This Wednesday, I'm wondering...

How do you tame stubbornly curly yarn?

Almost exactly three years ago, I made Jason a hat. In a frenzy of cleaning and organizing a few weeks back, I came across the hat and asked him why I so seldom saw it on his cabeza. His answer: The hat had been a tiny bit loose when I made it, remember? Not a problem at first, he told me, but with each successive wearing it grew. It got bigger and bigger until it was really too big -- not to mention ineffective for keeping his noggin warm.

In a world of intractable problems, I told him, this was one I could actually solve. I ripped the hat, gave the yarn -- a wool/acrylic blend, by the way -- a good washing, and hung it up to dry. I did some math and got the needles ready for a re-knit. But wait! The next morning the yarn was dry but still really curly. Huh? I repeated the bath (in warmer water this time, trying to relax the fibers a bit) and this time when I hung it to dry I hung a heavy hanger on the bottom of it to try to coax it straight. Still no luck.

My experience has been that knitting with curly yarn makes for uneven, bumpy knitting. What else can I do to straighten this out? Can I apply more tension while the yarn is drying, or will I damage it? Is there such a thing as "straight enough" for knitting?

Posted by shannon at 1:42 PM | Comments (4) | For related posts: Wondering Wednesday

February 1, 2006

I'm Wondering....

This Wednesday, I'm wondering...

What's your favorite cotton/synthetic blend?

I'm looking for the perfect yarn for my Olympic Sweater, and I'd love input! Here are the rules of the game:

  1. No animal fibers. This includes wool, angora, cashmere, alpaca, etc.
  2. No 100% cotton. If I knit only pure cotton for 16 straight days, my arms will be in casts by the time the flame goes out. Also, the synthetics help with durability.
  3. Must be machine washable. How can it become my new Favorite Sweater if I have to hand wash it?
  4. Gauge should be between 4 and 5.5 stitches per inch (ETA: that would be 16-22 stitches over four inches. Duh.). I want it to look sophisticated -- but I don't want it to take a dog's age to knit.
  5. Should come in grown-up colors.

And here are the Olympic sweater hopefuls.

  • Valley Yarns Longmeadow: Meets all of the above criteria, but I don't know anybody who's used it.
  • Debbie Bliss Cathay: I love this yarn, but I'm worried about the growth factor. If you've worked with it: does it only grow once (when you wash it the first time), or does it just keep growing between washes? How annoying is this?
  • Rowan Calmer: What more can I say? It's Calmer.
  • Rowan All Seasons Cotton: A strong contender, though the gauge is a bit big.
  • The GGH family: Samoa, Bali, and Java. Of the three, I think I'd lean toward Samoa or Bali --but I'd love to hear about all of them.
  • Your ideas. So let's hear 'em!

    Judge's Note: The rules are a bit flexible. In fact, you'll notice that some of my contenders already violate them! So if you've got a yarn you think would be perfect, please do tell me about it even if it's a rule-breaker. (Unless it breaks the "no animal fibers" rule. That one's non-negotiable, unless you also have a cure for allergies.)

    Special thanks to Colleen and Lisa who helped brainstorm this list with me!

    Posted by shannon at 12:50 PM | Comments (12) | For related posts: Wondering Wednesday

    January 25, 2006

    I'm Wondering...

    It's Wednesday and I'm wondering:

    What's the best reference book for beginning knitters?

    A few weeks ago, a colleague and friend asked me to teach her how to knit. Her request led to a few other friend/colleagues asking as well, and before we knew it we had a semi-regular Saturday afternoon lesson and stitch-and-bitch thing going. Just last week C., the original and most enthusiastic new knitter, announced that she had taken a job in California and would be leaving Boston, our firm, and -- saddest of all -- our nascent knitting group.

    She's expressed concern that she's going to run into problems with her knitting when she gets to Cali -- where she doesn't know any knitters. I want to send her off with a good reference book to help her through the next few weeks until she taps into the knitting mafia community in Sacramento* for help and advice.

    So let's hear it -- what's the must-have book for beginners?

    *And if you know anything about the knitting scene in Sacramento -- LYSs, knitting groups, etc. -- please chime in!

    Posted by shannon at 8:44 PM | Comments (12) | For related posts: Wondering Wednesday

    January 24, 2006

    Asked & Answered

    Tubular Cast Off
    A pretty and stretchy cast off -- it's a miracle!

    It will come as no surprise to most of you that the answer to last week's question (what's the best way to bind off a toe-up sock?) was the tubular bind-off.

    In my own defense, I had tried it on this sock before throwing myself on the mercy of the blogosphere. At the end of the sock I dutifully pulled out my Knitter's Handbook, girded myself for Montse's somewhat (*ahem*) didactic style, and gave it a shot. Verdict? Too tight.

    I now know that the problem was that the book recommended doing at least two rows of tubular knitting (k1, sl1 on one row, then sl1, k1 on the next) before the bind off. In retrospect, I'm sure the bind-off itself had been plenty flexible, but all those slipped stitches made the cuff too tight. When I consulted the links that people kindly left last week, I saw no mention of the pre-cast-off tubular rows.

    Last night I gave it one more shot, this time knitting the 1x1 rib normally up to the cast-off row. I used this tutorial combined with what I already knew of grafting, and it worked like a charm. Now I can finish the second sock (I've been dawdling on it until I figured out the cast off) and chase away the winter grays with this fabulous turquoise colorway. Success!

    Which reminds me...


    In the midst of my sock-related euphoria, I signed up for Sockapaloooza -- my first sock exchange and my second knitalong in as many weeks. It's gonna be a busy February!

    Posted by shannon at 10:56 AM | Comments (3) | For related posts: Sockapaloooza, Socks, Wondering Wednesday

    January 18, 2006

    I'm Wondering...

    It's Wednesday and I'm wondering:

    What's the best way to bind off a toe-up sock?

    I've been knitting more socks lately, and have had a few mishaps with estimating how long to make the leg before turning the heel. (I usually make the leg too short because I worry -- needlessly -- about running out of yarn; in the end I have a bunch of leftover yarn and a too-short sock.) These frustrations led me to try my first toe-up sock using Wendy's pattern. I loved knowing that I could maximize my yarn without scrimping on the leg length, but once I got to the end I was stumped: how was I going to bind this thing off without making it too tight to wear?

    I tried a number of methods, and got the stretchiest result from the double crochet bind-off. The only problem was the floppiness of the bind-off edge. Look:

    Artyarns Supermerino #132

    Any words of the wise from committed toe-uppers?

    Posted by shannon at 9:40 AM | Comments (5) | For related posts: Wondering Wednesday