Monday, November 25, 2013

In the Mood for a Test?

It seems like it's been a long time since I've put up a new pattern for testing.  In reality, it's only been 3 months, but a lot has happened in that time!

If you're a sock knitter, like working new patterns, and are willing to keep a careful eye out for problems or errors, please join this test!  You can find the details here.

These might be the best socks I've ever knitted, thanks to the "fleegle heel".  A tester that worked on the Unisox pattern pointed me toward it, and I'm so glad she did!  No little holes to fix up after you're done with the heel.  It works beautifully!

I hope everyone is doing well and you're well into enjoying your holiday knitting by now.  I've been procrastinating with next project is making a boat load of headbands and hats.  But by the first week of December, I hope to move on to a holiday project!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Recovery Socks

This past summer, my grandma was diagnosed with a pretty serious heart situation, and in September, she underwent open heart surgery to take care of the problem.  Her doctors say she's recovering well, and I can see a huge improvement in her coloring, but she's still having trouble getting out of the post-surgery funk.  I'm no stranger to medical funk, so I decided to make an attempt to boost her spirits by sending her some notes and little gifts in the mail.  I wish I could do more, but since I live 2 hours away, this is the best I can do for now.  Luckily, the holidays are coming up, so I'll get to see her in person at the end of this month and next.  She's been telling us since her surgery that her goal was to be well enough to help wash dishes after Thanksgiving dinner.  My aunt flew in from Florida last week to take her turn at nagging Grandma into we're all pulling for her!  If you're reading this blog Grandma, I'm happy to wash your dish for you, but I hope you're feeling well enough to sit at the table to visit and eat dessert with the women for an hour after dinner, while the men are in the family room watching sports and dozing!  I don't want you to have to go home for a nap at 4pm!

Anyway, keeping in mind that I wanted these sock to be easy-care and warm (but not too warm because my grandparents keep their house pretty warm in the winter), I went to my LYS looking for some mid-thickness yarn in a washable fiber.  I was thinking maybe superwash merino, but I also had a very specific color scheme in mind, and I didn't find any superwash that matched the colors in my head.  So I settled on this acrylic / nylon yarn from Cascade - Cherub DK.  My swatch looked great after being machine washed & dried, but this is my first experience with the yarn, so I can't vouch for how well it will wear.  It has 4 out of 5 stars on Ravelry though, so it can't be too bad.  And the price was certainly right - at $3 a skein, you could easily make a pair of socks for $6 (or $9 if you want to do stripes.)  

I am super-excited about this pair of socks, because it is my first experience with using the Fleegle Heel.  During the Unisox test-knit, one of my testers told me about this heel, but at the time I didn't have another pair of socks to knit and I was busy working on other things, so I bookmarked it to use next time I wanted to make socks.  Well, I'm so glad she shared this heel technique with me!  I've done a number of heel techniques - doing a heel flap & picking up stitches, short-row heel (and a couple modifications of this technique trying to eliminate tiny holes), and the after-thought heel, but I have to say, this heel is by far the easiest to work and it HAS NO LITTLE HOLES TO CLOSE UP.  None.  You get beautiful, tight gusset stitches and no holes at all.  Seriously, you have got to try this heel technique.  

I did a basic toe-up sock, simple pattern to follow if you're interested:                                                                            

Women's size M (L).                                                          
The size M would fit a size 8-9 shoe like a regular sock.    
The size L would fit a size 8-9 shoe like a slipper sock, meant to be worn over another pair of socks.

I used the magic loop method, so that is what this pattern is written for, but it could just as easily be done with two circular needles or a set of double-pointed needles if you prefer one of those methods.                                                             

2 balls of Cherub DK (3 balls if working stripes)              
(Skeins are 180 yds each)                                                   
US Size 4 Circ Needle                                                     
Gauge: 24 sts x 34 rows = 4" x 4" in stockinette st              

My stripe pattern alternated 10 rounds of the dark purple with 5 rows of the light purple, but this is easy to modify depending on your taste.                              
CO 12 sts divided bet 2 needles using Judy's Magic Cast-On.  
R1: (needle 1): K1, M1, K to last st, M1, K1.                            
       (needle 2): rep needle 1.                                                         
R2: Knit all sts.                                                                            
Rep rounds 1 & 2 until there are (20) 24 sts total on each needle.

K in stockinette until sock is long enough to fit the entire foot to the point where the leg meets the top of the foot.

Begin Fleegle Heel:
Make sure stitches are still evenly divided between the two needles.  Needle #1 will be your gusset needle (bottom and sides of the foot) and Needle #2 will be your instep needle (top of the foot).
R1 (needle 1): K2, M1, K to last 2 sts, M1, K2.
      (needle 2): K all sts.
R2: Knit all sts.
Rep rounds 1 & 2 until needle #1 contains 36 (40) sts.

(You'll notice that my math here is slightly different than the blog post I linked to suggests - my first attempt was made by repeating these two rounds until I had 46 sts on needle #1, but my heel was way too large and the back of the sock was baggy.  So I frogged it, reduced my stitch count to 40 on the gusset needle and the heel came out great.)

Turn Heel:

Place a marker in the middle of the stitches on needle #1 (There will be 18 (20) sts on each side of the marker.)

R1 (worked on needle 1 ONLY): K to 3 (3) sts past marker, K2tog, K1, turn.  Pull the yarn tight.
R2: Sl1 Pwise, P to 3 (3)  sts past marker, P2togtbl, P1, turn.  Pull the yarn tight.

R3: Sl1 Pwise, K to the gap, K the st before the gap tog with the st after the gap, K1, Turn.
R4: Sl1 Pwise, P to the gap, P the st before the gap tog with the st after the gap tbl, P1, Turn.

Rep Rows 3 & 4 until 20 (24) sts rem on gusset needle.

Work Cuff:

Resume working in the round.  For my first round, I did a plain Knit row, then I established 2X2 ribbing.  Since I was doing a stripe pattern, I made sure to Knit one round plain each time I switched colors, so the lines between the stripes aren't distorted.  The remaining rounds were all done in 2x2 ribbing.

The cuffs on my socks extended 3" past the heel, but you can work them as long as you like (just make sure you have extra yarn).

Switch to a US size 8 needle to work the bind-off so the cuff is stretchy enough to fit over the foot and ankle.

I hope these socks keep Grandma's feet cozy while she recuperates this fall, and I hope this simple sock pattern comes in handy for you sometime!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Trip to Madison

My kids had a 3 1/2 day weekend this past week due to parent / teacher conferences.  Since both kids are in junior high and teachers don't request conferences at their school unless they have concerns about a student, we were completely off the hook.  My health has been relatively stable for the past month or so, so we decided to make the 4-hour drive to the Wisconsin Dells for the weekend.  

It was not terribly busy there, so our accommodations were nice and relatively inexpensive, and the water parks and other attractions were not overly-crowded.  We all had fun and it was nice to get a little break for a few days.

On our third day in Wisconsin, we met my sister and her family in Madison.  We live a little over 3 hours away from my sister's family, so since we were only an hour from her house, we had to make a point to meet up!  We spent the day at the Farmer's Market, visited a little geology museum on the university campus, looked around the capitol building, and went out for lunch together (Porta Bella - good food, terrible service, and we were one of two tables of customers at noon on a Saturday...that should have been our first clue!)  
  After we parted ways, I used my "Yarn Finder" iPhone app to see if there were any shops I needed to investigate.  I was very excited to read the description of "Off The Beaten Path Yarn Shop", because it said they specialized in local yarns, hand-painted yarns, and eco-friendly yarns.  After driving about 10 minutes down the road, we we realized the shop no longer existed.

I called the phone number listed for the second shop on my list.  That number was no longer in service, either. 

So we forged on!  Knitting Tree seemed like they might carry some yarn lines that I wasn't familiar with, so we headed over to that shop.  I wasn't disappointed!  Plenty to choose from, and lots that I liked.  It was a little pricier than many of the other LYS I've visited, but they definitely had plenty to tempt me!

I came away with 3 skeins of Prism Yarns Merino Mia in the "Dune" color way.  I thought they might make a lovely winter scarf or cowl.

These two black & white skeins from Rhichard Devrieze 100% merino in the "Peppino" color way looked like men's socks to me.

This skein of Malabrigo sock yarn in the "African Violet" color way is my "regret yarn".  I love this color purple, and I saw this exact yarn at a shop about a year ago.  I wanted to buy it, but my local yarn shop had just started carrying Malabrigo sock yarn at the time, so I thought, "Eventually they'll order this color and I'll buy it from them."  Well, it's a year later and I haven't seen it, so I jumped at the chance to buy it when I saw it this time.  I think this skein is definitely going to be a fun pair of socks for me.  Purple.  Love it!

I was out of energy before I was out of yarn shops, so next time I'm in Madison I'll have to finish the yarn tour!

Saturday, November 2, 2013

A Coat for Baby

 The year my husband and I started dating, his roommate was a guy named "Slobe".  That was not his first name, but it was what everyone called him (and we still do, 20 years later.)  He put up with us always being in the dorm room making kissy faces at each other.  He never complained when the three of us would have slumber parties together.  My favorite memory of him at college was the day I was complaining about an ugly, octagonal, circa 1970's-style, marble-topped end table that the two of them had rescued from the trash someone had set out at their curb.  I was joking that we could never move in together if that awful table was part of the package he came with.  Slobe, freshly entering the room from the shower with just a towel around his waist, leapt on top of the table with the intent of doing a silly dance, but instead of that happening, the top of the table cracked and he came crashing down.  Luckily, it appeared that he had planned ahead, and he was wearing shorts under the towel.  That's our Slobe, always cracking jokes, but in the most practical way possible.

Anyway, for quite a while after college, Slobe didn't find the right Mrs. Slobe.  Then, during one of his yearly visits at our house, he mentioned a woman from his church who had told him that the two of them should get together to plan things for their "young singles" group.

My husband and I are a couple of busy-bodies, so of course we immediately shook him down to get every detail we could about this woman.  He answered our questions, but insisted that this woman was not interested in him.  "Slobe," I remember one of us saying to him. "If a woman is suggesting that the two of you meet BY YOURSELVES to 'make plans' for your group, it means she wants to be alone with you and get to know you better.  Ask this woman out!"

And by golly, he did.  And they hit it off so well that the next year when he visited us, he brought her along.  And she's the kind of person who just jumps right in with people she doesn't know and within 30 minutes you're discussing birth control and telling her every funny story you can think of that involves the man she's dating.

So of course we were thrilled when they got married, and we were happy that they included my husband to be a groomsman, asked me to play piano, and let our 6-year-old daughter be their flower girl.  We were happier yet a couple years ago when they had a little girl.  I knitted her a little cardigan sweater and hat set that you can see here.

Mrs. Slobe proved herself to be quite knit-worthy, taking good care of the hand knits I made for their daughter and giving me far more compliments than she needed to.  So I wanted to top myself when I made a gift for baby number 2.

They didn't find out the sex before the birth, but I was about 75% sure that it was a girl.  I'm glad I didn't follow my instincts and make something pink or frilly, because, as it turns out, baby was a boy!

I finished up the Latte Baby Coat in less than a week, although it took me twice as long to get my butt to JoAnns and pick out buttons.

All in all, a very quick, fun project and a very cute result.

Details are here on my Ravelry project page