The Gray Got to Me

Last year I started these socks:

The cuff of gray wool socks knit out of Paton's Kroy on double pointed needles

It was July.  It was my birthday, in fact.  I thought I was safe from the curse of knitting a gray project in winter.

Alas, I was overcommitted on projects and my work on these progressed very slowly.

Before I knew it, it was winter.  Have I complained enough about the long, cold, snowy winter of 2013-14?  Yeah, somewhere around the fifth snow day following the Winter Vacation of Vomit, I threw these socks in the bottom of a project bag, faintly promising myself I would come back to them when they stopped reminding me of sadness.

So I picked them back up again this summer, in August, and I knew I had to get them done QUICK because the long range forecasts for the upcoming winter are bad for Michigan.  You can read that as:

  1. I need some wool socks before the snow flies, and;
  2. I can’t be knitting anything gray when the snow flies.

I had the first, half-knit sock done in a week and the whole shebang done by the time school started.

But I did a thing to make them happy grey socks.  (Don’t get me wrong, I love Patons, but I am reexamining my relationship with neutrals.)  I took some leftover sock yarn from my Jaywalkers — knit in Conjoined Creations Flat Feet — and added in some brightly colored toes.  Yey!  Color = happiness!

Handknit gray wool socks

 

What do you think?

Next time I’ll do stripes.  I have more grey, white, and black Patons — and lots of colorful fingering weight yarns — and I have learned my lesson.

When Your Space Heater Dies in May, Knit Up Some Fingerless Mitts

Photo of Noro fingerless mitts

Feels a little bit like I’m living in a Dickens novel, but I am stubborn enough to wait until fall when space heaters are available again at the corner hardware store.

Photo of a fingerless mitt

Meanwhile, in this cold spring, after working for an hour or two in my basement office, my hands ache from the cold.

It probably goes without saying, but taciturn I am not: it is really hard to take pictures of your own hands when one is using a cell phone.  Do I have a fancy camera that attaches to a tripod and has a timer?  Yes.  It is a DSLR hand-me-down (oh, but we paid for it) from my fancy brother.  I wish I knew how to use it better.  I also wish there were 25 hours in the day, but my tiny tyrant is home in an hour and I need to get this posted, pronto.

Photo of a fingerless mitt

I take breaks from grousing to admire my lovely Pageturner Mitts knit out of Noro Silk Garden.  The yarn was a random lone skein I had and lone skeins, especially those that are beautiful, are so hard to do something with.  Maybe that’s just me.  Now I want to make myself a pair of mitts for every day of the week.  The pattern is the classic and elegant, yet simple Pageturner Mitts by Sarah Jo Burch.  I cast on 40 stitches instead of 30 because I wanted some extra coverage.  I knit each block of garter 6.5″ before sewing up, which gives a nice amount of negative ease.

Pageturner Mitts would make a great quick gift if you use a beautiful yarn, like Noro Silk Garden, or something tonal or handpainted.

I finished these on Mother’s Day weekend and haven’t even worn them out of the house, but they are getting noticed.  My five-year-old thinks they’re the bees knees and keeps stealing them so I am making her a pair.  She is normally into pink, as our species demands of these young females, and when I pulled out pink yarn for her she said, “No, I want orange.”  Okay darling, I will make you orange ones.  And I am.

Matt laughed to see me wandering the house in May, wearing wooly-silky fingerless mitts and all I have to say to that is: polar vortex.  It is still happening, my friends, even if it is only in my mind.  It may not be snowing, but damn this weather continues to be weird.

 

Okay, So the Gift Knitting Wasn’t All Roses

I didn’t tell you the entire story of my holiday gift knitting in the last post.

My parents and siblings decided this year to scrap the round robin of individual gifts in favor of the secret santa system — which wasn’t even secret, not that any of us heathens cared.  So you can imagine my relief when evil-me went from trying to talk good-me into making a whole bunch of stuff — starting, oh, mid-November — to sane-me realizing I could still crank out a gift knit because I only had to make ONE.

I got my brother’s name.  Noah is awesome, fashionable, self-reflective, sensitive.  In other words: a great recipient of handknits.

Noah!

I started off making Noah Purl Soho’s Shawl Collar Cowl in Malabrigo Chunky — Lettuce on the outside, Natural (white) on the inside.  The yarn came from my stash, the project was working up quickly.  At Thanksgiving, I asked Noah’s fiancée Abby what kind of handknit he would like and she said “a cowl” and told me how he tried to buy one on Etsy and it was too long and girlish.  I felt like a champ!  The Shawl Collar Cowl is so chic and manly and I was going to solve Noah’s problem.  And he was going to look smashing in that lettuce green, if I do say so.

my beautiful failure

How does the saying go?  If it’s too good to be true… Well, perfection was far from achieved: I ran out of yarn.  Although I had researched what yarn would be a good substitute and looked up the needle size, I never checked how much yarn I needed.  Why, I cannot say.  This is not my first time at the rodeo.  (This is not the first time I have made this mistake, either, arg!)

Worse yet, this college town has gone, in five years, from having three yarn stores to having half a yarn store.  The remaining half store is downtown, where no one who doesn’t work downtown wants to go.  But go I went — and on the Saturday before Christmas no less.  I knew it was a long shot, that I might have to start over in a new color rather than just alternate between dye lots, but at least this place specializes in Malabrigo.  I still had hope that this project would be saved.

(There’s that foreshadowing of doom again, eh?)

I do believe I gasped out loud when I walked in to this very small shop.  Admittedly I had not been there in a year or more and I knew the owner had been scaling back the yarn portion of her business (she also sells clothing and jewelry). Eyes as wide as saucers, I gaped like a fish for a moment before finally choking out the question, “Where’s all the yarn?” to the owner.  The shelves and walls set aside for yarn were nearly empty — altogether there was only an armful of yarn in that shop.  The needle wall was almost empty.  My stomach sank to the floor as I realized: I have more yarn in my house than this shop now carries.

You might be tempted to conclude that there was a run on her small stock as people grabbed all the yarntastic gifts, but no.  The owner patiently explained that Malabrigo, the small cooperative, cannot keep up with the demand of her customers, so people are putting themselves on a waitlist and when it comes in, she calls.  A month later and I am still aghast at this… solution?  I am sure I don’t know all of what is going on in her store, but isn’t this the kind of thing that a dozen online businesses are doing, only faster?  And charging less?  And if you can’t keep yarn on the shelf, but still have empty shelves, why wouldn’t you carry another brand?  This used to be the place to go for Reynolds brand yarns, as well, including Lopi.  I didn’t see that at all.

At this point I could have gone to the big box store and gotten something else so I could forge ahead, but I decided to cash in my chips and cast on a pair of socks.  There was now no way I could finish in time and I used a precious skein of Trekking XXL that I had been saving for myself, but it seemed that some kind of sacrifice was demanded by nature in order to make this vicious cycle of WTF end.

handknit socks of brotherly love

Noah was gracious about opening up part of a gift that wasn’t finish and I know he looks forward to these extra special  socks.  I’m still not done with Noah’s holiday socks because I  tried to pull off some other knitting miracle for my husband’s January birthday.  But first, I have one more gift knit to tell you about.  And this one is truly epic (the knitting, not the story).  Here’s a preview:

stranded colorwork knitting

Knitting in the Dark

Matt and I went to see Thor 2 this weekend and I realized I didn’t have any “easy” knitting so I grabbed a ball of sock yarn and 2.50mm DPNs. Matt thinks it’s pretty incredible that socks are what I consider easy knitting — as opposed to a scarf — and I think this is because a scarf requires a lot of forethought for me.  Who is it going to? What color, how soft, can it be in wool, and what stitch pattern?  Which needles and how wide and how many stitches to cast on?  The problem is that I don’t have a scarf recipe.  There are too many variables.

For socks I just need some fingering wool (blended with about 15% nylon for durability) and size 2.25mm or 2.50mm needles.  I also need to think about how big the recipient’s leg is — and generally I just do 72 stitches for adults, so that thought process doesn’t take long.

For these I cast on–you guess it–72 stitches and had joined in the round and knit the first round by the time the lights went down.

Maybe I should name these Bifrost Socks?
Maybe I should name these Bifrost Socks?

I had one sticky bit where I dropped a stitch, and then another while I was trying to pick up the first by feel in the dark.  Then the part of the movie where Odin is showing the book to Thor happens and there was some extra light so I could glance at my work and set it to rights.

The best part?  They’re too loose.  I use a 2.25mm needle for socks these days and I should have stuck with that.

Have you ever tried knitting in the dark?

Proof that Dr. G’s Memory Vest Makes People Happy

Dr G's Memory Vest

Mission accomplished!

Dr G's Memory Vest

Being a goal-oriented person, I am pleased to have not only finished my husband’s Dr G’s Memory Vest (pattern by Kirsten Kapur of Through the Loops), but also to have accomplished my goal of knitting a sweater for each person in my immediate family this season.

Except myself.  I am not neglecting myself.  I do not buy into the Martyr Mother role!  And winter is not over yet.  I will cast on for my new sweater any day now.  I just have to make a decision on which pattern…  Isn’t sifting Ravelry for a pattern the best part anyway?

Back to the vest.  On a friend’s suggestion, I went with Aslan Trends Del Cerro yarn.  It was one of those yarns that seemed like it would work, but so did not – at first.  I wanted to make a medium, which would have given Matt some negative ease in the fit, but after casting on and knitting for a few inches, it was clear that it was coming out way too small.  So I threw my naughty knitting into the corner for a few days ripped it out and knit the vest in the extra-large size.

close up of Dr G's Memory vest

 

Well hallelujah and all that jazz because it ended being a great fit!  It’s approximately 43” around the chest, which is about what size the medium was supposed to be.  I’d like to claim awesome knitting ninja powers, but I suspect I just got lucky.  The false start made for a good gauge swatch as well.  The one tricky spot was the v-neck; I had to rewrite the decreases because of the difference in my row gauge.  Row gauge didn’t give me a problem in the other parts of the sweater.

Don’t get me wrong about the Del Cerro, either.  It’s a great yarn.  It is comprised of many small plies and it is very bouncy and squishy.  It was just a bit splitty in the knitting up, but not so much that I am put off using it in the future.  The important feature of this yarn: It has GREAT stitch definition for all those cables.  I hope down the road that it doesn’t fuzz over so much that the cables become blurred, but if it does, oh well – there are more vests to be knit and there is a life-cycle to all these knitted goods.

Coincidentally, Matt’s first opportunity to wear this was on his birthday last week.  We had to go out and get a new white button down and everything.

 

Happy Birthday, Matt!
Donut Mondae at Zingerman’s Roadhouse ~ what more could a person ask for?!

Dah-ling, you look mah-velous!  Happy Birthday!