Saturday, December 26, 2009


I've mentioned in the past my utter frustration with knitting instructions that read: "Work to correspond to left front, reversing all shaping." I mean, really. I'm paying for the damned pattern. Would it kill the designer to write out the directions for the right front? Does it really cost that much more to print an extra paragraph? Am I the only knitter on the planet who finds it confusing to change the ssk's to k2tog's and the "end of rows" to "beginning of rows", all the while keeping track of the number of rows and stitches and making sure to remember the "AND AT THE SAME TIME"'s?

I was planning to show you a Red Ruffles just about ready for its front edgings to be knitted on. I was working the post out in my head while whipping through the seams, considering pithy phrasings, imagining colorful expressions...when two inches from the bottom of the second side seam, something went awry.

I had already finished the right side, and it seamed together perfectly:

See that straight seam on the left, and the nice little curve on the right? That's how this cardigan is supposed to look. But as I reached the very bottom of the left side seam, the edges didn't match up. This seemed wrong to me, since I was careful about matching the seams, clamping them, and mattress stitching them up, but I figured I'd been distracted by one or more of the other inmates somewhere along the line and cheerfully pulled the seam to do it over.

Some time later, I reached the bottom two inches of the same seam again...and it still didn't match up. Now this time I was less than cheerful. I knew darned well I had matched the seams properly and sewn them accurately, and the other inmates were all in another room watching Spiderman. I pulled the seam partway out again and took another look.

This is the inside back:

See the straight edge on the right? That's where the side seam should be.

This is the left front:

See the nice curve on the left? That's the one that's supposed to be there. That one on the right? Not so much. And this is the result:

No way that seam is going to be straight. Ain't gonna happen. Because I somehow managed to knit curves into both sides of the bottom of this piece. And as this is a bottom up sweater worked in pieces, the only remedy is to take it apart, rip the entire left front, reknit it, and resew it to the rest of the cardigan.

Now, I would love to blame this little mishap on the instructions. I would love to heap invectives on the head of the designer for failing to write out the directions for both fronts individually. I would love to rant at the magazine editor for allowing such shoddy pattern writing. But the fact of the matter is...the front I screwed up is the one for which the directions are written out. The other one? The one that reads "work to correspond to left front, reversing all shaping"? That one I did perfectly.


Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas!

I just popped by to link to this poem, because I laughed so hard I nearly wet myself, and any knitter who's ever stayed up past midnight on Christmas Eve to finish up those knitted gifts will recognize the sentiment!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Look! Up in the Sky!

It's a bird! It's a plane! It's...a toe-up sock!

The specs:

Yarn: Mountain Colors Bearfoot. (Love it!) Not sure of the colorway.

Needles: 2.24 mm, long, slippery, metal Susan Bates dpns. (Not so much.)

Pattern: I started with Wendy Johnson's "easy toe", which wasn't. Halfway up the foot, Cynthia took pity on me (thanks, Cynthia!) and turned me onto her pattern (Rav link) for toe-ups. It includes instructions for a short-row heel (love it!) and a really easy, stretchy bind-off (ditto). I can't wait to try the toe on the second sock. The top of this sock is done in 2x2 ribbing, with every other knit rib done in a 1x1 cable for a ropey effect. I would have done this all the way around once I reached the ankle, but I forgot, so it's only on the front of the sock. I finished the cuff with basic 2x2 ribbing.

To my great relief, it fits perfectly and feels like it will stay up. I particularly like the short row heel. I have narrow heels, and my flap heels always sag. I also never seem to get them the right height. This short row heels fits the shape of my foot much better and didn't require picking up gusset stitches, which I dislike.

Unfortunately, I didn't knit two at a time (sorry, Melissa!), so now I have to go cast on for the second.

Friday, December 11, 2009

The Trouble with DPNs*

It took me about an hour to get to this point.

I've never done a toe-up sock before. After a quick check of Rav, I looked up Wendy Johnson's "Easy Toe." It's not as easy as the name would have you believe, but I am willing to believe it is easier than the alternatives. Unfortunately, it calls for the use of dpns, which are not my favorite knitting tools. I'm sure there is a way to do it with a long circular, but frankly, my brain was pretty overtaxed just following the directions as written.

I'm not one of those people who can manipulate five tiny needles with speed and grace. When I have to use them, I prefer short, blunt, bamboo or nylon needles with a little give and a little stickiness to help me control the stitches. The only dpns I have in the right size for this yarn, though, are rather long, pointy, slippery, metal needles. This did not make for an easier first toe-up experience.

I did eventually get the toe finished, but I'm not at all sure it looks right. It seems to me the increases ought to be on the sides, not on the top and bottom. Yes, I could just lay the sock the other direction (and in fact that's what I will do), but then the tip of the toe is vertical rather than horizontal. This seems wrong to me, even though I'm sure I followed the directions correctly. Does anyone understand what I'm talking about?

This is what it looks like now. I'm not the world's fastest sock knitter, obviously.

(Can you see what I mean about the toe now? The stitches on the very tip are turned sideways because I turned the toe to put the increases on the sides.) I'm not using a pattern. I just ribbed the top in 2x2 ribbing, because I like ribbed socks, and did a twisted stitch cable for every other knitted rib for a little more interest. I'm sort of regretting that, actually. I don't use a cable needle and I've dropped quite a few stitches because I can't really see the little buggers that well, even with my glasses on, and the metal needles aren't helping. But I do like the effect.

All in all, I'm finding the sock knitting pretty interesting. I'm hoping I can sustain this level of interest, because this is what the mailman has brought so far--and there's more coming.

I may have gotten a little carried away.

*Please note that I am not in any way disparaging dpns. I know many people love them with a deep and enduring passion. I am not one of them, but I do understand. I love alpaca like that.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Now That's More Like It!

This is not the yarn I am planning to overdye. That plan is still in the works. This is the yarn that arrived today, and I am beyond pleased with it. This is a skein of Mountain Colors Bearfoot that was admittedly a splurge. I've often fondled this yarn in my not-so-L YS, but as a confirmed non-sock-knitter, I could never really justify buying it, no matter how soft it is or how rich the colors.

In my new knitting-socks-may-not-be-so-bad world, I decided it would maybe be okay to buy just one skein of unreasonably expensive sock yarn, just to try it. Sort of like testing the heroin, because, ya know, you can always go back, right? I found this skein in a Rav destash, and it was less than retail, so I'm working that angle, too.

It's really nice. It's a lot nicer than the cheap sock yarns I've tried. It's softer and denser and richer colored. It's like sweater yarn for the feet. I haven't tried knitting it yet, but I'm sure doing so won't lead me into any trouble. After all, my ability to resist beautiful yarns is well documented.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009


I'm pretty sure I've used this post title before, but sometimes it just applies.

I ordered some sock yarn online. I don't really have an LYS. I have a not-so-L YS, but I only go there once a month for my spinning group (it's more than an hour drive round trip), so when I get impatient, I order online. No driving, less waiting. The only problem is, since the gratification is not instant, I tend ordering until stuff starts arriving. I'm not sure exactly how much sock yarn is on its way, and I won't know until the postman stops knocking, but the first of it arrived today.

Here's where things start getting interesting. When I first started ordering yarn online, I was often shocked at how...dissimilar the yarn looked in person from how it looked on my computer. I have yarns in the stash that no one in their right mind would buy in person, but they looked pretty darned good on my computer screen. As I've become more experienced at online ordering, I've learned to read the descriptions carefully and check photos of the yarn I'm interested in on multiple sites to get the best idea of how it really looks. I'm rarely surprised or disappointed anymore. Sometimes, though, I still open a box and think, "WTF?"

This is the yarn I ordered:

Pretty, huh? It is described as: "A Subtle Combination of Creme, Beiges, Dustings of Cinnamon & Rose Hues". I think that's a fairly accurate description of this picture, and I like it. I like the golden tones and the green and beige and just generally the whole thing. You know what I don't like, though?


This is the yarn that showed up in my mailbox, and yes, the colors look accurate on my screen. I would describe it as "A nasty combination of greyish mauve with a dusting of puke green." No resemblance at all to the picture or the description of the colorway I ordered. And before you ask, yes, I did check the tag and the colorway is the one I ordered.

So I won't be casting on any socks today. I will, however, be breaking out the dyepot for some creative overdyeing. Stay tuned for the results!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Red Ruffles

The day before yesterday I finished my socks, and yesterday I finished my current sweater (bringing the total of finished-but-unblogged sweaters to three). So today, I found myself in the unaccustomed position of having nothing on the needles (excluding those shawls and scarves that I do not consider either wips or ufos--because this works in my world).

I really wanted to cast on another pair of socks. ( didn't hear that from me, and I'd just as soon the Knitting Goddess didn't, either.) I wore my new socks to Legoland on Saturday with my new clogs, and despite standing and walking for nine solid hours--it was the Southern California FLL Championships and Younger Son's team was competing--I came home with feet that were neither sore nor swollen. My socks stayed up and my feet stayed warm and it was just generally a lovely experience. So lovely, in fact, that I've decided I need more handknit socks, and I want them badly enough that I am willing to knit them. Unfortunately, I don't have much in the way of sock yarn stash, since I am a devoted non-sock-knitter. I am in the process of rectifying that (anyone have any favorite sock yarns that don't cost $25 a skein?), but while I wait for the postal service, I have no sock yarn to cast on.

So I chose another sweater pattern instead. I've wanted to knit this (Rav link) for a while now. I think it's been near the top of my queue for over a year, but I've never quite gotten around to it. In scrolling through my queue today, I thought, "Hey, that's what I want to knit!" And since I am nothing if not prompt, I immediately began mining the stash for likely candidates. The winner, much to my surprise, was a yarn I believe to be the oldest inhabitant of the stash. I know I bought it back before I even had a stash, so it's at least four years old. Back then I didn't even have a specific place for yarn, since I didn't have any to speak of. Oh, how the times do change!

The yarn is Dale of Norway Sisik. I bought it from Herrschners online because it was on sale. I didn't have a project in mind for it and didn't have any idea how much to order, so I just ordered a lot. Really, a lot. When it arrived, I thought, "Hmmm. That's kind of a lot of yarn. I need to find a place to put it." I put it in the guest room closet, and voila! The stash was born.

But alas, poor Sisik--there it remained, month after month, year after year, as the stash grew around it and newer, flashier yarns stole the limelight. There was Lorna's Laces, and Malabrigo, and Noro...they came and visited for a while, but never stayed long. And in time, Sisik was relegated to the back of the stash closet, next to the lime green kitchen cotton and the ill-advised hot pink acrylic.

Until today. Because for some reason, this yarn that never seemed quite right for anything is just perfect for this project. The problem I always had with it is that it is very light, almost airy in weight, but has a heavy tweed texture. It's too light for tweedy sweaters and too tweedy for light sweaters. But holding it doubled, as I am for this project, results in a fabric that is chunky without being heavy. It's surprisingly springy and soft, too. And the color is a rich, dark red with multi-colored tweed bits and a lovely sheen from the mohair content. (My photo does not even come close to doing it justice. Red yarn+indoor light+digital camera=bleah.)

And as an added bonus, the chunky gauge means that a hour of knitting got me six inches up the back, which is a nice change from sock yarn and size 1 needles. This one will probably be done pretty quickly, although I hear there is a dreadful amount of seaming involved. Perhaps that will keep me occupied until the mailman gets here with the sock yarn.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Friday, December 4, 2009


Aaaaand they're done! (They really do match, right down to the last row. The picture just makes them look like they ended at different places. I think I was curling my toes.)

The yarn is Supersocke Summer, if I recall correctly. It's a wool/cotton/nylon blend, which my feet like, but my hands don't. It's kind of splitty and doesn't really have the bounce of wool, although it's not terrible.

The shoes (my new favorites) are Born Joey clogs. They're super comfortable, lightweight, and go great with jeans or pants. They also show off handknit socks nicely. I got mine at, but they're available all over online.

I don't know how all you sock knitters get decent pictures of your own feet.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Small Victories, Simple Pleasures

Earlier this year, I wrote about the decision my husband and I made to declare 2009 "The Year of Small Victories". I even had a contest inviting people to share their small victories with the rest of us. I, for one, found all the appreciation of small things uplifting and inspiring. And all this year, we've done a good job of recognizing those small victories and enjoying the simple pleasures of life at a time when there is so much distressing news every day.

In the spirit of sharing the joy, I want to share with you my greatest small victory of the year:

It's a working washing machine! It's not a new washing machine--and that is the small victory. I did not have to replace my expensive and unreliable three year old washing machine with an even more expensive and less reliable new washing machine. There's a long and painful story behind this washing machine, which is my third in only five years. The washer it replaced was only two years old, and died the day before we were leaving for Paris, with 11 loads waiting to be washed prior to the trip. I spent over $900 on this one, and it died immediately after the one year warranty expired. I paid almost $500 to have it repaired two years ago. So when it broke down again last week, I tentatively decided to replace it with a new one--until I went online to research new washers.

In case you're considering buying a washer, here's what I learned:

1. Forget the old style top loaders completely. Two years ago, the US government mandated that manufacturers cut energy usage of these models by 20%. The result is that, according to Consumer Reports, none of these washers are now capable of actually cleaning laundry. If you want your laundry clean, you need to pick another style.

2. Forget the unconventional top loaders, such as the Whirlpool Calypso and the Kenmore Elite Oasis (which is what I have). While they do a decent job of cleaning clothes and are reasonably energy efficient, they have a terrible reliability record. (If you don't believe me, Google "Kenmore Elite Oasis". The invective against these machines will scorch your screen.)

3. If you want clean clothes and a washer that works more often than it doesn't, your best bet is a front loader. But be prepared to fork over at least $900. And don't expect that amount of money will get you a good machine, either. Even the machines that are rated "Best Buys" by Consumer Reports only score 2 or 3 stars (out of a possible 5) when rated by consumers. The biggest complaints are "my clothes don't get clean" and "it keeps breaking down," followed by "it smells horrible!" and "it sounds like a jet engine."

After reading all of this, I boiled it down to this simple formula: I could spend $1000 on a piece of junk, and it would probably break down in the next year; or I could spend $400-500 to repair the piece of junk I already have, and it would probably break down in the next year.

Put in that way, it wasn't such a difficult decision after all.

The repair guy came today (as scheduled, on time, and with a courtesy phone call in advance). He knew exactly what was wrong with it and had the necessary parts on his truck. And he did the repair for only $154--which, if you've ever had a modern appliance of any sort break down, you already know is barely short of miraculous. I was fully expecting that it would either a) be irreparable, or b) be reparable, but only if I were willing to sell a kidney or a child to finance the repair. (Actually, I might be willing to give away a child or two after the past week of "togetherness", but I suspect that just my crankiness--exacerbated by a week's worth of dirty laundry--rearing its tired head.)

I was darned pleased when the repair guy gave me the quote, and even more pleased when it turned out not to need a new pump (something he said it might). But I think the crowning touch was that the problem turned out to be totally and completely not my fault. The bad sound the washer was making, followed within days by its complete and utter failure, was the result of a pair of brass collar stays making their way down into the pump and jamming it. I do not wear collar stays. I am not responsible for removing collar stays from the shirts of those who do wear them. I have, in fact, no relationship whatsoever with collar stays. Ergo, the broken washer and the subsequent repair bill were not my fault. And this is its own small victory. [By the way, the repair guy told me that the most common cause of pump failure is the underwires from underwire bras working their way out of the bra and into the pump. He recommended always using a laundry bag for washing bras in the machine. A word to the wise.]

I almost feel bad about blaming the washing machine for breaking down, seeing as how it's not really the washer's fault about the collar stays. I almost feel bad about wishing, loudly and repeatedly, that I had never gotten rid of my old but incredibly effective and reliable Kenmore top-loaders. I almost feel bad about all the nasty things I said about my washer, the Kenmore brand, Sears, and laundry in general. But I still bought the extended warranty. For the washer and the dryer.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009


I am not a sock knitter. It's not that I can't knit socks, or that I don't like handknit socks, it's just that I don't quite get the thrill of knitting twenty- or thirty-thousand tiny stitches to come up with something no one's ever going to see anyway. I have knitted several pairs of socks. For various reasons, I don't wear any of them: wool is itchy--yes, it is!;I have thick ankles and skinny feet, so they always slide down; they're too thick to wear under most of my shoes, because my feet are really big and I can rarely find shoes big enough to accommodate my feet, much less my feet plus thick socks; most of the year I wear sandals anyway; etc.

But when the weather starts to get cold (that is, below 70F), I trade my sandals in for clogs (yes, I am a fashion maven, why do you ask?), and this year I've bought a new pair with open backs, which would be perfect to show off some nice, warm, handknit socks that wouldn't be prone to sliding down, since there is no shoe heel to pull on them. This is a convenient excuse to forget how much I don't like knitting socks and cast on a new pair. Except for this:

This is the last pair of socks I cast on, about a year and a half ago, in celebration of a new pair of Mary Janes for springtime. Evidently, my enthusiasm for the project waned before the end of spring and the socks ended up stuffed behind the sofa, not to be seen for many a long month. (For the record, I don't count socks as either WIPs or UFOs--ditto scarves and shawls, but that's a topic for another post.)

And that is just disgraceful. It's not like I fell victim to Second Sock Syndrome--that second sock is more than half finished! Even with my lackluster sock knitting skilz, it can't be more than a couple evenings' work to finish these off. They're even kind of cute, the stripes match, they fit, and they're a non-itchy cotton blend.

And so I'm going to go on record here and state that I will finish these darned things (darned socks--*snort!*) and actually wear them this winter. There. I did it. And you can all hold me accountable.

If sock yarn doesn't count as stash, do socks count as FOs?