Monday, June 30, 2008

Special Projects + Special Offer

Before I dive into today's customer projects, just a quick word about a special offer in my shop this week.

To celebrate the final installment of the Sins and Virtues sock yarn series, I am offering a free pattern of your choice with any purchase of $25 or more (excluding shipping). The offer is valid from Monday June 30th through Monday July 7th. Limit one free pattern per customer. To take advantage of this special offer, complete your purchase as usual . Do *not* include your free pattern choice in your shopping cart. In the “Message to Seller” field that appears during the checkout process, specify which pattern you would like as your free gift. Choose from any of the wide selection of patterns available in my shop.

(EDIT: Just a side note I'm adding here after receiving a comment about Etsy being down. A few days ago, Etsy migrated their servers to a new home. Etsy is absolutely up and running, but a very tiny percentage of users are unable to get in. The problem has to do with the internet service provider of the user not yet having updated their DNS servers. Normally, service providers do that every day or two but if some are taking longer, users of that service provider may not be able to reach Etsy. This is all very untechnical, but this is my understanding based on what the Etsy administrators have said about it. I'm seeing lots of traffic and volume in my shop, so it does appear that very few people are having issues. If you are one of the unfortunate ones, give it a day or two and hopefully you'll be back on again.)

Now that we have the business out of the way, on to the customer projects for today. Although I'm a knitter and will never tire of seeing knitted project, it's always a treat for me to see occasional projects that are not knitted. I've shown you some crochet projects, woven projects, as well as machine knit. Today, I have something entirely different to share with you: Tatting!

These two lovely items were made by Pam, who has an amazing Etsy shop where she sells her beautiful work. Pop on over; believe me it's worth a look!

This scarf was made by Pam using FF Superwash Merino Wool Sock Yarn in the Brick House colorway. Isn't it glorious?!

And then there's this hat, made with the same yarn:

I can't tell you how much I love this piece! It has a look that's reminiscent of the 20's style -- with a bit of "flapper" to it -- yet it's so contemporary at the same time. A truly unique piece and beautiful crafted.

If these amazing works have piqued your interest about tatting, you can learn more here and also check out more of Pam's amazing work on her blog.

Now that's a fun way to start another week! A big Thank You to Pam for taking the time to share her work!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Order From Chaos

After a frenzy of knitting that I couldn't put down, I've finished the socks-in-progress that I showed you last week.

I call these socks "Order From Chaos" to reflect the experience of watching the stitch pattern emerge. After a couple of pattern repeats, it doesn't look like much. In fact, it looks a bit chaotic if you recall from the stubby sock-in-progress photo I previously shared:

As more and more pattern repeats are added, the strong vertical lines take hold and the patterning emerges.

The pattern for these socks (knit with my Merino/Tencel Sock Yarn) is all ready to go and is now listed in the Patterns section of my shop.

I really enjoyed knitting these socks. In fact, I couldn't put them down. The stitch pattern is easy to commit to memory and works up quickly, yet it's still entertaining to knit. It utilizes an interesting yet simple slip-stitch technique to create the the V-shaped detail.

All in all, my feet are quite happy with these latest socks.

Now on to something new . . .

Monday, June 23, 2008

Two More Projects

Another week begins and I have two more customer projects to share with you. Both of these were knit by Marjorie using FF Superwash Merino Wool Sock Yarn.

First up are Marjorie's Crosshatch Lace Socks in the Marrakesh colorway. The pattern is by Charlene Schurch from the book More Sensational Knitted Socks. Love 'em!

The next pair are Triangle Socks, also from More Sensational Socks. It's a bit difficult to see the detail in the photo, but if you look closely you can see the perfect little triangle wedges running down the leg. The colorway is Lust, although it's more red in the photo than the true color (it's a bit easier to see the lovely detail with this lighting though).

You can see more from Marjorie on Ravelry where she is mmarker.

A big Thank You to Marjorie for sharing her beautiful work!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

One Small and One Large

There are two new projects going on here right now - one small and one large. The small project is a new pair of socks that I just started using my Merino/Tencel Sock Yarn in a color I dyed for myself for the project.

I know the pattern doesn't look like much yet, but have faith! I swatched quite a bit in search of a stitch pattern that would create the effect I had in mind and I'm confident that this will work. It just doesn't "pop" quite yet, since the sock is still just a little stub and there's not enough knitting real estate there for the strong vertical lines to emerge. Soon!

The other project is a large one, but my husband is the one doing all of the work. Just look at that sawdust fly!

He's building an expansion onto the garden shed that already existed when we bought this property last year. You can see the old garden shed on the left, with Bruce's new addition-in-progress to the right:

He's tripling the size of the shed, so it's quite an undertaking particularly for a one-man job. (I don't think my assistance in shoveling dirt and occasionally using my meager drill skills qualify as an extra set of hands.) So far, he's tilled and leveled the ground, dug the footings, put in the foundation, framed the building, and put up the sides (the sides are finished since the time I took the in-progress photo above). He's also right this moment working on putting in the trusses for the roof.

I guess my little stub of a sock pales in comparison to Bruce's project, but we're both doing what we love and that's what counts. The weather is glorious. The garden is growing by leaps and bounds. Bruce is happily building. I am happily dyeing and knitting.

All is right with the world here in my little corner of Oregon.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Two Pair for a Monday

For today's project features, I have two pair of socks to share with you. First up are these socks knit by Manon using FF Superwash Merino Wool Sock Yarn in the Coral Pink colorway. Manon knit these as a test-knit for Sockaholic Kate.

Aren't they smashing! You are all going to need to stop sending me photos of things you've knit with yarns purchased some time back. The Coral Pink colorway is yet another one that I've had on the backburner for a while and now after seeing Manon's awesome socks, I'm itching to whip up a batch.

The next socks were knit by Andrea using FF Laceweight Merino Yarn. Although socks in laceweight sound like quite a chore, the pattern for these socks uses two strands of laceweight held together.

Andrea used the Slippin' Stripin' Sock Pattern for these. If you're on Ravelry, the pattern is available as a free download.

Andrea knit these as part of SockMadness2, which she reports has been a real challenge but has resulted in her knitting time for a pair of socks shrinking from around 6 days to down to less than 48 hours. Now that's impressive! And so are these lovely socks!

You can see more of Andrea's lovely work on her blog.

Everyone have a great start to another week!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

The Fair Isle Bug

After finishing the Fair Isle sock that I worked on a week or two ago, I am officially bitten by the Fair Isle bug. I immediately moved on to a pair of fingerless mitts.

The second mitt is done as well, but of course I can't photograph both of my hands at the same time, so here it is:

I can hardly express how much I loved knitting these mitts. The color pattern is simple and easy to follow, but creates a really nice complex look.

I've already got the pattern all ready to go and have listed it in my shop. It's a great way to use up leftover quantities of sock yarn, but for those who don't have the perfect quantities of coordinating colors I've also created kits with the pattern and yarn in four different color combinations. In addition to the colors I used for my mitts, I've got one with greens:

One with browns and yellow:

And another with purples and blues:

Although I'm rather itching to make another pair of these mitts, I'm sure I'll move on to another design. The Fair Isle Bug has definitely bitten me!

Monday, June 09, 2008

Another Week Begins

Why is it that Mondays can still feel like Mondays to me? Since I'm self-employed, there's no "end of the weekend" and no struggle to get up early on Monday morning. I work every day, although sometimes a lot and sometimes a little. So why should Mondays still seem like the start of another work week? It's not because of my husband's routine either. His work week starts on Sunday. It's an inexplicable phenomenon, born of decades of work-weeks beginning on Mondays I suppose.

Of course, I also have the routine of Monday project features to help chase away any nagging Monday Blues! It's always a great way to start the week.

First up today are these lovely socks knit by Jocelyn in FF Superwash Merino Wool Sock Yarn in the Brick House colorway.

The pattern is Clementine's Baltic Socks. Jocelyn modified the socks a bit to make them knee-high. She also mentions on her blog that it was her first short-row heel. How great does this look?!

You can see more of Jocelyn's lovely work on her blog or on Ravelry where she is WildThingsRun.

Next up is Rachael's version of Anne's Hanson's Gust Scarf. Rachael used FF Laceweight Cashmere in the Endless Night colorway (and yes, I know, I still haven't replenished my cashmere supply ... sigh).

Here's a close up photo lightened up so that you can see the pattern detail nicely:

Gorgeous! You can see more of Rachael's work on her blog.

A big Thank You to Jocelyn and Rachael for sharing their lovely work!

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Let's Talk Fair Isle

Last week I showed you a photo of some Fair Isle swatching I was doing in planning for an upcoming sock project. In the photo, I used some leftover red, green and white yarns, but the plan was to custom-dye some colors for the sock.

Here I am a week later and not only did the custom-dyed yarn dry, but I also completed the design work and finished the first sock!

I used four semi-solid colors for the Fair Isle leg section and then used a handpainted yarn that combined the four colors for the ribbed cuff and foot, including the heel and toe. I know this sock might be a bit busy for the taste of some, but I really love it. That's one of the joys of socks; you can go a bit wild on the design without worrying about being too garish as you might if it were a sweater or other garment.

When I initially posted about this project last week, Lynne inquired about how to deal with the lack of elasticity of Fair Isle knitting. I thought I'd chat about that a bit here, since I've heard this same comment a number of times in different knitting forums. While it's true that Fair Isle by its very nature is less elastic than plain knitting (with the "floats" of yarn on the reverse side constraining the fabric's usual ability to stretch), it's still quite possible to make a sock with enough stretch to fit nicely.

First let me step back and show you the sock on my foot. It is a bit snugger than a usual sock when pulling it on over the broadest portion of the foot over the heel, but it's not a struggle and actually fits quite nicely.

I got to thinking about what folks find challenging about working in Fair Isle for socks and thought I'd share those thoughts here. Let me start by saying that I do not hold myself out as some sort of Fair Isle expert. Like most of my knitting, I'm almost entirely self-taught and most of what I know I've learned through trial and error and a good bit of stubborn persistence as opposed to any vast research. With that caveat to ensure you know that I'm no grand authority, I'll move on to my tips for whatever they may be worth.

The problem with Fair Isle and socks is that socks need to stretch to fit over the foot. The nature of the strands or floats on the inside of the sock can inhibit that elasticity. Obviously, the key is to leave enough wiggle room or slack in the floats to allow the fabric to stretch, but not to create loose loops of yarn that will snag or cause the stitches themselves to loosen up and look too sloppy.

Here's a photo of the sock inside out so that you can see the floats:

The first tip to get the floats right is simply to be conscious of them and to practice. Knit a swatch in the round with several rows of Fair Isle followed by stockinet. The gauge may be a bit tighter in the Fair Isle section, but it is should be very close. Tug on the swatch horizontally to see if your Fair Isle has enough give. If not, try again and loosen your floats.

The next thing to consider is the yarn itself. If you use a yarn that does not have enough stretch to it, then your floats will be written in stone. By that I mean that the floats themselves won't stretch. If the yarn is springy, the floats themselves will have a bit of elasticity. You don't want to rely too much on the elasticity of the floats though, as you could be setting yourself up to stretch them so taut that you end up with the yarn eventually breaking which would be tragic indeed. It is, however, worth thinking about your yarn choice. My Superwash Merino Wool Sock Yarn that I used for these socks has lots of nice spring to it. On the other hand, the Merino/Tencel blend sock yarn that I carry would not be a good choice. The Tencel has very little give at all and so that yarn would be very constricting. Some sock yarns with a healthy dose of nylon might have this problem as well.

Another tip is to spread the stitches out on your needles more than you normally would. Most of us tend to crowd the stitches, bunching them together fairly closely so that we can zip along quickly without much readjustment. This, of course, creates a shorter distance for the floats to travel. By spreading out the stitches a bit more on your needles, you may find it easier to keep your floats looser and longer.

There's also a problem area that I think some people overlook when knitting Fair Isle socks on DPNs. As you move from one needle to another, your work turns a corner. Picture the two needle points where they form an X, with half of that X forming a V shape on the interior of the sock. As you round that corner and move on to knitting from a new needle, the yarn that is carried behind to create a float will follow the shortest path and will make a line that basically forms a triangle from that V shape. The true length of the float you want at that point would actually follow the line of the V. You need to consciously give that float a little extra length so that there is enough float to follow the line of the fabric rather than taking the shortcut. Although that may seem like a miniscule difference, it really does have an impact, particularly with 3 or 4 corners in a sock (depending on whether you knit with 4 or 5 DPNs).

If you still find it difficult to get the tension right, another trick you can use is to knit the sock inside out. This doesn't mean purling on every row. Rather, you knit along the needle at the back of the work, so that the interior (right side in this case) of the sock you are working on is facing you. By doing this, you gain two benefits. One is simply that you can see your floats as you go and keep yourself constantly in check. The other is that the circumference around the sock on the outside is greater than the circumference on the inside. By its very nature, you'll have slightly longer floats knitting this way. You'll also eliminate the "corner" problem described above, because your floats will be wrapping around the outside of the work rather than taking the shortcut around corners inside.

There are other things you can do with increases and decreases to circumvent the problems, but I think of these as band-aid solutions and more of a last resort than a plan. To use this sock that I knit as an example, I might have chosen to knit the ribbed section and then on the first round of the Fair Isle pattern (which is a solid color round), I could have increased evenly by 8 stitches around. Then, on the final row of Fair Isle (also a solid color round), I could have decreased evenly by 8 stitches.

In the example of this sock, the increase/decrease solution is not problematic since each section of this Fair Isle pattern has an 8 stitch repeat. It's not so easy, however, if your pattern combines Fair Isle elements with various stitch numbers. One solution to that might be to add a vertical band of a few stitches in one color to the inner and outer sides of the sock. Positioned properly this could look fine and appear to be a design element. This would give you some real estate to increase and decrease with ease without having to do any complicated fidgeting with the pattern detail.

Well, I've certainly said a mouthful here, although I have no idea if any of this will be helpful to anyone. If you're considering trying your hand at Fair Isle or have perhaps struggled with Fair Isle socks in the past, I do think it's worth the effort to find your way to a solution that works for you. The patterns are limitless and so much fun to knit!

Now that I've been bitten again by the Fair Isle bug, you can expect to see more before long I'm sure.

Now go knit!

Monday, June 02, 2008

Give Me Spring!

After a brief glimpse of Spring, it's back to being rainy and dreary here in Oregon. I know the weather will have to turn soon, but in the meantime I'm going to have to get by with some lovely knitting to give me my dose of Spring. In the vein, today I have two lace shawl projects to share with you.

Susan knit both of these shawls using two different patterns by Evelyn Clark.

This one is the Swallowtail Shawl. Susan used FF Superwash Merino Wool Sock Yarn in the Brick House colorway. Here's a blocking photo to give you a good look at the lovely detail:

What a lovely job Susan did! Kudos!

As if that weren't enough, Susan also made this Flower Basket Shawl:

For this shawl, Susan used FF Classic Merino Wool Sock Yarn in the Hudson colorway. I love how the photo above shows the drape of the shawl. Here's another where you can see a bit of the intricate stitch detail.

can see more of Susan's lovely work on her blog or on Ravelry (where she is SusanS). A big Thank You to Susan for sharing her photos!

Ahhhh. Now it almost feels like Spring again! I just better not look out the window.