February 7, 2016

The Sock Project: Stocking Betsy McCarthy

I have come, once again, to the heel gusset of my toe-up sock, Rosebud, by Wendy Johnson. Now it is getting exciting! I like this pattern because the lace is not overly complicated and is (so far) only across the instep. Plus, there is a nice relaxing plain-ish round on the even rounds. An advantage of toe-up knitting, as we all know, is the try-on factor. And this socks seems to fit well so far! I think it is a keeper.

In keeping with my spazzy knitting style, I have, of course, started a second sock simultaneously. My rationale is that one needs a plain, simple knitting project for those times when the show you are watching is getting too good (X-Files? Oh, YES!!! Plus, Ghost Adventures just started up again...ahhh, guilty pleasures!), or if you are visiting with friends, or your family is asking for dinner...again! I love to feed people, but does this seriously have to happen every day?! In this last scenario, as I stand up and roll my eyes, headed to the kitchen, I have not lost my place and I will not be freaking out later about which round I was on. 

My second, simpler sock is another "back to the beginning sock," by Betsy McCarthy from her first Knit Socks! book. I purchased this book years ago when it first came out. I didn't know at the time there were loads of knitting books and this one was recommended to me. Plus, Betsy McCarthy is sort of a neighbor to me. She lives in my city, Vancouver, WA. She lives in the quaint downtown area of Vancouver. I even know where. 

Look! It stands up on its own!
And without starch, too!
Am I stalking (or is it stocking...) her? No, but not too long ago, I happened to have just one degree of separation from her. I should have taken advantage of it at the time.  I had a casual acquaintance through work who was her neighbor--like across the hall neighbor. And Betsy McCarthy personally taught this casual acquaintance of mine to knit! For free!  This casual acquaintance of mine is also the person who recommended the "Knit Socks!" book! Once I had realized the significance of all this good fortune, it was too late: my casual friend had disappeared and I have never seen her again. 

That's okay, I still have the book. And later, I also purchased the second version, you know, just to support my local gal. Plus the patterns are very, very simple and functional -- and well written. Pretty important stuff. 

The sock I am working on from her is simply called Starter Stockinette (now we really are getting back to the beginning!) I was having a little trouble her recommended getting gauge on a US3/3.25mm, on my Rowan Superwash Wool worsted weight yarn, which I am madly in love with, but I digress. The pattern called for US3/3.25mm to get 6 stitches to the inch. 

Two things: 
1. That is pretty dense for worsted. Red flag or hard wearing sock? 
2.  I have only knit this particular yarn at about 4.5-5 stitches per inch in the past, so was unsure about needle size. 

It fits! Just enough slouchy on the ankle. I can push it down a bit after
washing. Superwash softens up anyway. 
The answer to the second question required a bit of swatching. So, I knitted in the round for a while and realized I had to go down to a US2/2.5mm. And what do you think? Yup. Almost total cardboard. BUT I am going for it because I think it will be tough fabric and it feels like a boot sock. I need some of those. I am seriously down to the holiest of holies on that. I so love them in my hiking boots -- even if it just for walking around town in order to accidentally bump into Betsy McCarthy. 

I wonder if she likes Starbucks...there is one near her building...and I do sooooo love Starbucks....

Get cozy,


February 5, 2016

The Sock Project: February 5, 2016

The old one
I have decided that the best way to name the posts on my ongoing sock project is to use the date. I was thinking of  "Stardate," or "In the Year of Our Lord," but neither quite fit the bill. So, for now, regular ol' date it is.

This week's story is about learning -- and when is knitting not about learning? It is endless, which is one of the most enjoyable, challenging and annoying traits of the sport. Or hobby. (I dislike that descriptor. Look, the only time I am closer to a sport is when I cook for the family on Superbowl Sunday. Let me have this one.)

I began at the beginning, sort of. I picked out a pattern I had downloaded (free!) long ago called Diagonal Lace Socks by Wendy Johnson. I even had the yarn for it. Alas, since my last post, I have frogged the toe, foot and part of the heel. I felt it was too big, in spite of getting gauge, to stretch well enough on my foot to show the lace. I could have easily altered the chart and pattern for 8 less stitches or so, but I decided that I also didn't love the lace pattern. And what is the use of spending so much time on a knitting project if you don't love it? The yarn has been redirected to another Wendy Johnson pattern from the Toe-Up Socks for Every Body book called Rosebud Socks.

This pattern is interesting, has the same design elements that attracted me to the last pattern: a gusset
Rosebud Socks. I like them already!
from the toe, up; lacey (but prettier), and a toe-up heel flap. Same brand of yarn -- Dream in Color Smooshy -- and same gauge as the previous one. There is one small catch:  it calls for a 66 stitch circumference, just like the last one. Pushing it for me, especially with lacework that needs to open up when worn.

And to boot, this lace pattern is also a bit more complex.  Won't be able to alter this one "easily" mathwise! So this time, I went down a needle size. Last time I used a US1, and I got gauge, but the pattern really called for a US0. This time, I am following the rules and using the smaller size. Sometimes I have learned, you might be getting gauge -- or you think you are -- but just a tiny adjustment makes all the difference. (Ever have that weird experience where you get the stitch gauge, but not the row gauge? Or vice versa? I think this might be something like that. I am hoping, anyway!)

We'll see what happens! So far, so good. And I think a toe makes a good swatch. And a foot is an even bigger one if one is still not certain whether to continue a pattern.

And if you haven't checked out Wendy Johnson, you should. I love her patterns and her blog. On the blog, you can watch her knit up project after project. And she knits so fast!! It is positively inspiring. Especially if your socks are wearing out and you have to really get on the stick.

Happy cozying,


January 31, 2016

The Sock Project: Sock #1 and the start of #2

Turning attention back to the project of replacing all the socks in my sock wardrobe,

I have found the label for my first socks! I was a bit wrong about their make and origin. In fact, I got them backwards! The yarn is Mille Colori socks&lace by Lang. The label says they were made in Italy for the company, Lang, that is based in Switzerland. The language on the label is varied, but two things that jump out at me are the german, which predominates and the english, which is UK english. ("Colour," not "color" was the giveaway there.) These little details remind me of one of my favorite things about knitting: it is international, transcending language and culture. Lovely.

This charming yarn is very nice and the colors are mighty fine, too. 

My socks used up 365 yards/334meters of the original 437yds/400m on the ball. I have 72 magical little
Like my little yarn tag and my squished out heel?
That's what I get for hurrying to get the photo!
yards left to play with. 

If you are like me, and want your socks a little more snuggly around the circumference of your foot, here is the (very) rough idea of what I did:

  • Gauge: 8sts/inch
  • US1/2.25mm dpn needles, bamboo
  • Work top, down.
  • For foot: 9" Circum. at the widest part/ball.
  • To begin: CO60stitches
  • Work 4" 2x2 ribbing, followed by 4" in stockinette stitch.
  • Work a 2.5inch heel flap, followed by a regular ol' heel turn. 
  • Pickup about 15 stitches or so down each side of the flap. 
  • Decrease as normal (eg. every other round) through the gusset till you get back to 60 stitches.
  • Work in stockinette until about 2.5inches to desired length (This should give you a length 1/2inch shorter than your actual foot length.)
  • I did my decreases on the toe only to 20 total stiches, as I like a less pointy toe than is often seen. 
  • Use kitchener stitch to close it.

**NOTE**If you need a bigger space to get your foot through the bend in the heel/gusset area, but you still want the other parts of the sock to hug your feet, there are a few things you can do:
1. Pick up a few more stitches on each side of the heel, decrease as normal on your way to the toe.
2. During the gusset decreases section, work the decreases only every third round a few times. Then return to every other round. This will "flatten" out your angle and make the whole thing a little bigger. Continue on as normal till you get back to your original number, which in this case, is 60. Finish as described above.**

I realize this sketch of a pattern could not be more sketchy. If you all would like, I can work on a more complete pattern. Any takers? Let me know in the comments section below. 

Here is my next project: Diagonal Socks by Wendy Johnson. This pattern is available for free on her blog. Here is Ravelry page and her blog link. This pattern is published in Socks from the Toe-Up and a couple of other publications. 

I printed this one out ages ago, and then realized I had already purchased the exact yarn it called for. What better way to continue my new sock wardrobe than using up some of that massive stash of sock yarn I have while making a pattern I printed all those years ago? (I was lucky I found it in the pattern mess!)

This is a fun one for me as I have never tried a heel flap form the toe, up. I am almost there. The lace pattern was easy to memorize and the yarn is yummy. I do really like the Dream in Color yarns. The most fun part: the name of the color of the yarn is "Strange Harvest." Oh, how that speaks to  my darker sense of humor -- or humour, however you like it...

January 28, 2016


  1. a sudden and ignominious failure; a fiasco.
    "the economic debacle that became known as the Great Depression"


Last post, I discussed socks and how they really pulled me in to the knitting world. I mentioned sock vs. scarves. I began to really get off track while writing the post. The "aside" became so large, that I thought it might make a better story on its own. Errrr....incidental rant. Here we go.

So, about scarves. As Joan Rivers used to say, "Can we talk?"

Yes, scarves are simple and wonderful and I do soooo love to wear them. For experienced knitters, they make great mindless knitting like for sitting with friends or in front of a 5 hour binge-watching of BBC's Pride and Prejudice. They are a great idea for teaching beginners to work the basic stitches and they can sometimes help to work a difficult-to-learn stitch in repetition.

But can we please face it? Can we call it out? Let's hold hands and do it together:

SCARVES ARE HUGE AMOUNTS OF FABRIC! (If you want to actually wrap them) They have up to thousands of stitches, rows and rows of potential monotony.

Picture this:

You are working your first project. It's a scarf. Easy enough. A rectangle. You started out with such excitement!! The first knit and purl (or maybe only knit!) stitches were so exhilarating! Now, believing yourself to be nearly finished with your project, you have mastered those stitches. You hold up your monumental accomplishment. The piece looks really long. You say, "This must be like 3 feet! Whew! What a task! But it was worth it. I am almost there! I cannot wait to wear this and show it off! Hmm....what will I make next?" But when you whip out your tape measure, the piece measures only 10 or 11 inches long.

Realizing that you have so much more to go, and setting the project aside -- possibly forever -- and possibly with some force, you might then say something like, "I GET IT ALREADY! KNIT AND PURL THIS!!!" And you hope it was not out loud because you are with friends. In public, in a coffee shop. You sigh a little sigh of relief as you realize that no one noticed the whole debacle. Your friends are laughing at other things. You sit in mad frustration. You attempt a smile, looking around as if to say, "I just put my knitting down because I needed a little break." You try to casually reach for your coffee. It's cold. Crap.

Sometimes, isn't nice to finish a project? Especially as a beginner? To feel accomplished; that is a treat! And isn't that why God created cowls? Hats? Fingerless mitts without thumb gussets? Disclothes? Bookmarks? Amigurumi?

This is why I have only made one scarf. I did it as a beginner. On super-duper bulky yarn and US13 needles. Huge. Sort of fast. Had a cable, too, that improved the experience too.

Will I continue to make them? Of course! They definitely have a real and useful place in our knitting lives. I just don't want to make that many

;) Happy cozying,


January 27, 2016

The Sock Project

Previous sock purchases. Used up? Not entirely.
Yes, I have a lot of irons in the fire. Usually there are too many --and yes, it causes me to drop some of them once in a while. (Or every single one of them all of the time.) But I have been, low these 7 years of my knitting life, wanted to put just one more iron in.

Early on in my knitting life, I learned to knit socks. I loved it. In fact, it was one of the aspects of knitting that totally sucked me in. I know in my heart that if I had started out knitting scarves, I would have never kept it all up.

Back then, 7 short years ago, I swore to myself (that way, I was not committed...you know, accountability and all that...)  that I would replace every sock in my sock wardrobe with a hand-knitted one.

They fit better anyway, I told myself. They are portable, inexpensive, and contain just the right amount of complexity to keep a person interested.

I looked at my socks to see if I thought I could truly replace them all. After all, store bought socks are their own animal. I bought clogs and even some Keds slip on mules one size too big to make one particular pair. I heard that was a good idea.

I read book after book, bought yarn after yarn, made list after mental list of which sock patterns I would try out. And then....

I didn't do it.

The socks on the blocks (no, not sock blocks. go morbid)--not even all of them are shown here.
Oh, I made a few, but I did not accomplish the original goal. Not by a really, really, really long shot. Today, I still own all the same socks from that original wardrobe. And I am still wearing most of them. But they are 7 years older. Some are doing well, some are still just ok. Some are sort-of ok. Some are ill. Some are in critical condition. And some are in the sock-morgue. I cannot let any of them go, because that would mean facing emotional sock defeat.

So, now, 7 years later, wearing old and holey socks, I will finally begin the replacement of my socks. For real. Perhaps I may lose more along this journey; after all, who knows what frustration or roadside treachery awaits me? The fallen socks will be remembered along the way, but then finally released to that better place in the trash under the sink, where my shame will be hidden forever.

I may say a few touching words each time I drop one in, too. Like, "Woo hoo! I have some new socks! I don't need you!"

We will see.

Add caption
Let's begin here: above, you see -- on the desk in front of me -- a pair of socks I have been working on off and on since last summer. These are basic socks. I like to use US1/2.25mm dpns on fingering weight yarn for most socks. I like to drop the stitch count down to create  at least 10% negative ease (if not a little more), and I like to stop the sock length knitting early, to end at about 1/2" short on my foot. I believe socks fit better with pretty snug negative ease around, but not too much too short. (Then they cramp your toes and make you paranoid that your big toe will pop right through!! Dang it!!) So...as an example, with this yarn on my needles of choice, I am getting 8 stitches to the inch in stockinette. I have a 9" foot circumference, but for this pair,  cast on only 7.5" worth of stitches: 60.

The particular pair of socks I am working on now contains very old Rose City Yarn Crawl yarn. I think I bought it at Twisted on Broadway in Portland. It was so squished up and old that the label is now lost. I believe it is Italian yarn, but made in Sweden. (Does that even make sense?!) It is a single ply merino wool (100%, possibly) with a cool sort of blurred solid strip that reminds me of candy corn.

The first one fits perfectly and I am nearly done with the second (been knitting while watching all the past episodes of The X-files, of course). I then plan to hit each sock in some order. I am thinking of re-visiting the beginning. A little trip down knitting memory lane doesn't sound half bad. Those are some seriously good sights and smells!!

And yes, I decided to do all this while continuing to work on a wedding dress. But isn't variety the spice of life?

Happy cozying,


January 20, 2016

Journal Entry #2 -- The Dress

While I have been "away" from the blog (again....ahem....) I have been doing a great many things. I will reveal these moderately interesting things over time, but you may be wondering about Jo's dress.

Yes, she is still getting married, and yes! I am still knitting it.

Jolene admonished me, however, pretty early on in the knitting process that Andrew can never be allowed too see the dress -- not even in parts -- on the blog, or anywhere. After an appropriate "duh....." from me, and an acknowledgement of my feminist daughter's tendency to adhere to some old traditions (I supposed I just learned that this is one of them), I agreed. Sort of.

I will share some pictures here, but only a few until the big day (which is yet to be determined by the completion of the dress... no pressure....) . And, as I believe that Andrew gets the blog postings from Facebook,  I will not be announcing new blog posts about the project on Facebook. Twitter and email notifications will still go out. I hope these precautions will satisfy everyone.

So far, I have completed the body of the top and the button band. I am now working on the sleeves. Having just re-read my last post, I see that I explained the dizzying array of needles and yarn for each piece of this project and the fantastical pain that getting gauge was! I am preparing to do all of that again for the skirt -- and not looking forward to that piece! In fact, it is my belief that the diversity in needles, gauge and materials is likely the biggest reason not many knitters have attempted this pattern.

So far, no regrets on the materials I have selected. They are all working splendidly. And I have not had to re-measure Jolene.  (Whew!) Things seem to be going pretty well, except....

I have noticed a phenomenon during this project: anytime I work on the dress, math, gauge swatches, writing notes, taking photos, trying it on, knitting...I hold my breath. The whole time. Each time, I only realize I am doing it after I am feeling strangled. To come up for air, I have been doing other projects, too, which may put me behind, but who doesn't need to breathe!? I ask you!! If I end up staying up for sleepless night, re-living the writing of complicated 15 page research papers for AP English in high school? So be it! Some of my best work is done under pressure, but it must be done with a little side of O2.

The pay-off so far for all this hypoxia? The top FITS! It fits how she wanted it too. (Long breath here...I just noticed I was doing it again....dang it!!) I had to shorten the waist, which made me very anxious. and Jo lives about 2.5 hours north of me, in Seattle, That was a toughy. I cannot post a pic of that (yet). you will just have to believe me :)

Here are a couple of pics:

The picture above was taken "on the blocks," before shoulder seaming and button bands were completed. The pic to the left is just a close up of the edging.

These are all I have for now. but more to come!!

So much to share from the summer, but for today, this is it!

Get your cozy on, it's winter!

Janelle, fellow rabid knitter