Sunday, January 28, 2007

Knitting in the Fifth Dimension

I had a student in my first sock-knitting class who said she was a two-dimensional knitter: she followed directions step-by-step, following each instruction in turn until her work was done. That made me realize that I'm a three- or four-dimensional knitter: I like to have a vague sense of how what I'm doing at the moment fits into the whole, of where I'm going and how I expect to get there. It's why I made the rainbow sock, to show where you begin (in white), and the order of the sections you knit as you construct the sock (in spectrum order: red, orange, yellow, etc.).

Last night, I may have broken through into the Fifth Dimension, going back in time to change the future.

As I pondered how to start the sleeves of my sweater, I was troubled by something: I didn't like the ribbing at the bottom. My favorite sweaters don't have ribbing; they have a straight silhouette, much like Brooklyn Tweed's seamless hybrid (and the sweater Matt is working on). I'm too far along to just start over, so I decided to alter the past.

I ran a circular needle through the stitches back down near the ribbing, just above a round of accent color. I then pulled out the accent yarn stitch by stitch, leaving live stitches on the needle at the bottom of my sweater. Now working in the opposite direction, I purled a round, switched to a contrasting color, and began knitting the cuff that I will hem on the inside.

I'm going to be a lot happier with this. And I think the fact that I skipped backwards to change what had already been done just makes the whole thing that much cooler.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

The Gusset Experiment

As I've said before, the main reason I adore Simple Socks, Plain and Fancy is the nearly fool-proof method for making socks that fit. But it's only nearly fool-proof: many people prefer the fit of the standard top-down sock that uses a gusset for shaping, and affords a roomier fit around the top of the instep.

So the Gusset Experiment is based on this hypothesis: the fit of the sock can easily be improved if, at a point roughly one inch (or x rounds) before starting a short-row heel, you begin increasing every other round on both sides of the sock. Complete the short-row heel, and then begin decreasing on subsequent rounds until you've returned to your desired circumference. I also propose that x is generally equal to 20% of the number of circumference stitches, the same number as the width of the toe or the point of the heel in Priscilla Gibson-Roberts' formulation.

My first pass at this was with some gray Trekking XXL, which knits up 8 sts/in for me on 2.25 mm needles (size 1). For my foot, that means 72 stitches for the circumference. I cast on 14 stitches (20%) for the toe, and began knitting the typical toe-up version of a banded toe.

After several inches into the foot, I checked my vertical gauge. 14 rows was a little over an inch, so about an inch before reaching my desired length, I began adding stitches on either side of the instep, increasing every other round for 14 rounds. (M1R, knit across instep, M1L). I then knit the short row heel over 36 stitches (50% of the original circumference count).

I learned that I prefer decreases at the opposite side of the gusset from my increases. So since I increased on the instep side, I would decrease on the heel side. (Knit gusset stitch together with first heel-side stitch, knit heel stitches, join last heel-side stitch with gusset stitch using SSK). When all the additional gusset stitches have been decreased away, I've reached the point where PGR recommends beginning the ankle ribbing.

These socks were feeling a bit snug -- they never would've fit properly if I hadn't put in the gusset increases. In the picture to the left, you can see how the gusset makes the sock wider at the point it needs to be. To keep the sock from pulling too tightly at the ankle, I didn't decrease all the additional stitches, and worked the ankle over 76 stitches instead of the original circumference of 72. (The back of the ankle is simple K2P2 ribbing; creates a better fit for me than continuing the dragon scale pattern all the way around).

Wider Wyvern Scales
Early in the year, a listsib mentioned the Wyvern Sock pattern. I glanced at it, thought it was interesting, but probably not for me. But then I began a pair of socks in gray Trekking XXL for my gusset experiment, and once I had completed the toe, the yarn said, "Make me into dragon scales."

Because the Trekking has a smaller gauge than the pattern calls for, I needed to widen the scale pattern; my scales are worked over 32 stitches instead of the 26 in the original pattern. My chart is below.

One sock down. One to go.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Amazing Week

This has been a fantastic week. I'll try to avoid writing endlessly about my new job. Suffice to say, it's wonderful. I love the place, and I adore my new colleagues. I'm exhausted, but I'm thrilled.

And The Stitch Stops Here is two blocks away. I dropped in after work on my first day and blew my raise on sock yarn and another Addi Turbo.

Koigu, Colinette, Tiny Toes, and Strapaz Cotton Effekt. I've already made socks in that color Strapaz Cotton before. I like it better than Fortissima.

My "Wider-Scale Wyvern" socks with the gusset experiment are coming along nicely (pictures and pattern to be posted soon), and the lower body is nearly done on the tweed sweater. It's time to cast on for the sleeves, but I haven't yet decided how I want to handle the stripes of color on the sleeves. Options include:
  1. Don't worry about making the colors match.
  2. Do ridiculous amounts of math to calculate sleeve length and the placement of the stripes.
  3. Continue the body, learning to do steeks at the arm holes, pick up the sleeves at that point and knit them down to the wrist, matching colors from the body.
  4. Cast on the sleeves provisionally at the upper arm, knit the chest (I'm in love with the look of the seamless hybrid), and then knit the sleeves downward.
I'm leaning toward option 4. What do you all recommend?

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Revered for being acerbic?

You are Shetland Wool.
You are a traditional sort who can sometimes be a little on the harsh side. Though you look delicate you are tough as nails and prone to intricacies. Despite your acerbic ways you are widely respected and even revered.

Take this quiz!

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Tinking Time

I've been thinking for some time that Listsib JoVE is right, and I can make better-fitting socks by adding some stitches for a gusset. So I decided to experiment with the current sock project: a pair made from some gray and taupe Trekking XXL adapted from the Wyvern Socks pattern.

All was great for the increases. Almost an inch before I was ready to knit the heel, I began adding stitches on either side of the instep, increasing every other round for 14 rounds. I could tell by slipping it on that the fit was greatly improved. I made the heel, and then began decreasing. That's where things went wrong.

The red lines are there to highlight what I don't like. The ridge created by the increases suddenly angles to the left. And notice how the stitches to the left of the increase/decrease ridge seem to curve around, forming an arch? Yuck.

I think I'll be happier if I decrease someplace other than the point where I increased, maybe seven stitches over, on the "heel" side rather than the "instep" side. But getting back there is going to be painful, slowly un-knitting (or tinking) back to before the decreases I dislike.

Thursday, January 11, 2007




For Mike, to replace his old pair, the first felted clogs I ever made. These are made with single strands of Lamb's Pride Bulky.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Comics and PBJ's

Normally when I get a cold, it starts as a weird feeling in my sinuses, progresses to a sore throat, adds some sneezing and other features, and works its way out as a cough. So when I developed a cough on Saturday, I figured it wasn't a cold. I was wrong; it's just working through my body backwards. So at least part of my week off is going to be spent trying to get over it before I start the new job.

I'm enjoying the sick day though. I got the first two volumes of Rising Stars from Amazon yesterday, and finished them both today while munching on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. I feel like an 8-year-old and I'm loving it. Next I'm going to get some soup started, pick up some knitting, and watch some more episodes of Supernatural.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Game? What game?

I cast on for these during the OSU-Michigan game in November. It would be a better story to say that I finished them last night during the BCS Championship Game, but the socks were finished last week. And in defiance of a number of local ordinances, I didn't watch the game.

They're Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock in variegated scarlet and gray. I hated it. The yarn was soul-crushingly thin. The colors were muddy. Luckily, I hit upon the idea of knitting it up double-stranded. The resulting socks, while butt ugly, are nevertheless strong and thick, and will please the heart of the OSU fan who gets them. (Technically, these were initially part of the "Socks for Co-Workers" project, but since the recipient had left for another job, his socks got a lower priority than the others).

If I ever make scarlet and gray socks again, I'd probably try to snag some Cider Moon Buckeye Blast. They've done a lot of work to make the colors keep their integrity.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Deadlines met

Yesterday was my last day at work. I'm uninsured for a week, and then I start at the new job.

As I mentioned before, my only serious Christmas knitting was for the people I worked with, but two projects were unfinished. I got them finished in time for my last day.

First, the socks made from Mountain Colors merino:

And second, the fingerless mittens, which Karl calls "programmers mittens."

Made from "Tundra" by Katia, half wool, half acrylic and rayon. These are kind of a mash-up, mostly inspired by Michael's "Medallion Mitts" but constructed using instructions from Pop Up Paws (although I'd think any mitten pattern with a thumb gusset would do). I think the wrists aren't long enough and the ribbing is off-center (see the close-up picture), but Karl likes them. So let's think of them as pre-release beta tests.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Knitting Along

Our Wednesday night knitting circle now has a name, "Sharing Needles," and a project: a sweater knit-along using Elizabeth's Percentage System. A couple people on the group haven't made sweaters, and I need to get over my sweater antipathy, so it's a great project to start the new year.

I'm making mine out of some Donegal Tweed generously provided by the Stash Fairy. I thought I would try to make the yoke interesting by adding some cables, but the yarn had other ideas: little stripes of accent color throughout the body.

Speedy progress initially, but now I need to set this aside and finish up the last of my Christmas knitting.

Monday, January 01, 2007

2006 in review

Scanning through the pictures on my hard drive, it looks like I finished about 2 dozen pairs of socks this year, plus seven hats, six scarves, one clapotis, three pair of felted clogs (one pair a disaster), and one sweater. Most of which I've already talked about endlessly here (in the 89 blog posts I made in 2006).

I read fewer books in 2006 than in any of the years I've been keeping track. In fact, I only read one book between the end of March and the beginning of September. Knitting did cut into my reading time, as did sudoku and kakuro -- I got in the habit of doing number puzzles rather than reading before falling asleep. I started off the year as usual, with lots of new books lined up on my shelf to be read, but I found it difficult to get into any of them. I just wasn't enjoying them, and I'd had such high hopes, so I put them down and hoped I would be in a more receptive mood later.

In September, I put the LibraryThing sidebar on my blog, on the theory that public exposure would cure my aliteracy. Since 60% of this year's reading was done since September, that might have worked.

Mike and I only made it out to see movies in theaters about 20 times last year. Favorites:
I'd watch any of those again. And of the movies I saw for the first time on DVD this year, my favorite was probably 40-Year-Old Virgin.