Sunday, March 26, 2006

Boston is for knitters

I've just come home from a job interview in Boston (well, Cambridge). From the point of view of a knitter, things to know:

  1. Knitting needles don't get one searched at security checkpoints. Accidentally packing small scissors doesn't get one searched. Dusty (or salty) shoes, however, are very suspicious and will get you searched.
  2. Knitting on the Red Line gets a lot of friendly interest, especially when something breaks and everyone spends a bunch of time sitting around. (Now I'm a Subway Knitter too, even though I don't have photographic proof.)
  3. The concierge at the Charles Hotel (thanks, job interview!) knew where to find a yarn store. I bought a nice bit of Koigu from Woolcott and Co.. That's the kind of service I'm impressed by.

4. Bostonians in general, and Bostonian knitters in particular, are really friendly. I wandered into a cafe for a while after my yarn expedition. The only seat left in the only place was opposite a woman knitting a sock. She graciously allowed me to share the table with her, and I spent a lively hour chatting with her and the motorcyclists at the next table. (One of these bikers really loves hand-knits (indoctrinated by his mother), and claims that alpaca is essentially free in Turkey. I think I might need to take a vacation sometime. I could buy enough alpaca to recover my airfare, right?)

Thank you, Boston/Cambridge and your inhabitants, for reminding me that you're a great enough city to make me want to take a job here, even with all the snow. Perhaps more snow just means more knitting friends and more opportunities to wear woolens. Still, I think that if I move back there, I'll need one of these.

How much is 50 grams?

I'm forever scared that I'm going to run out of yarn in the middle of a pair of socks if I skimp, and so I always end up with a ton of extra yarn. (Until I get a good scale, I don't think I'll have the courage to combine leftover scraps into new socks, either.) My sock pal has feet which are very close in size to mine, and for her, this is 50 grams. I want to find out how far 50 grams of sock yarn goes on me. I don't know that I have the patience to do this in stockinette, so I'll probably use a bit of a cable pattern (c.f. Nancy Bush).

By the power of toe-up socks, I'm going to find out how far up my leg 50 grams of Koigu goes. As long as I'm at it, I'll run a little contest: guess how many inches up my leg 50 grams of purple Koigu will go (starting at the anklebone. I'll send whoever comes the closest 100g of sock yarn to conduct their own experiment. Personally, I'd be extremely interested in collecting pictures of how far 50 grams will go for as many people as possible; how much yarn does one really need to knit socks for someone of a certain size?

You don't have to guess blind. This isn't a particularly good picture, but here's my leg (ooh! blinding!). I have a size 6.5-7 (37-38) foot, and wear 33-34" inseam pants. There is a bunch of dancing crammed into that calf muscle.

Shannon has gotten us off to a good start with two examples on her size-10 feet: 10" and 7". Lesson? Consistency in foot-length is important, but more key is that cabling-ish patterns use up a lot of yarn.

This is 50 grams

I'm showing you this level of progress on my sock pal's socks for two reasons: (1) to prove that I've been spending way too much time on airplanes; and (2) to celebrate people with small feet. These mostly-completed socks are made of one 50 gram skien of Lorna's Laces Mixed Berries. Having small feet is like producing the miracle of Hanukkah every time you knit socks!

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

One sweater, two sweater

The wrappy cardi is getting bigger, slowly but surely. Quite a bit of the "slowly" part is because the sweater is really not very portable anymore. I'm sure it has nothing to do with the gauge.... really. Anyway, my LYS was kind enough to run some shoulders through Sweater Wizard for me. I'm not sure if I trust the figures, but I may as well give them a try. There is a lot more flexibility in constructing shoulder for a wrap sweater than for a pullover, because they can move across the shoulder without ill-effect.

And yes, there's a new swatch there of Jo Sharp Silkroad Aran in Quartz. I spent quite a bit of time obsessing over the yarn and colours for this next sweater; it needs to show the stitch pattern clearly, without being uncomfortable. What can I say? I like soft yarn! (Yes, the Silkroad yarn is soft, even by my standards.) I spent a huge amount of time searching for pictures of this yarn online, because I couldn't figure out how dark the purple is. After seeing the yarn in person, I could see why it was so hard to photograph: it's a deep eggplant purple, but it's not of extremely high saturation. Because the yarn is "light" enough to retain contrast between the shadows between the stitches and the stitches themselves, it doesn't melt into a continuous blob. While that sort of effect is nice for some sweaters, it's not optimal for cabling.

Monday, March 20, 2006


I seem to have contracted a bad case of start-itis. I can't finish a thing.

Almost finished : socks for a friend. I like the metal needles for sock knitting, they're easier on my hands than the bamboo, but I am having a lot of trouble with stitches slipping off the ends if I don't pay attention.Begun: a big bad baby blanket. I have three friends due in the next 8 weeks, so this will be for whoever's baby shows up first. Two strands held together, seed stitchy goodness.
Barely begun: Branching Out, in KnitPicks' Shadow (Jewels colorway). The process here was actually: knit 1 pattern repeat on new size 9s (from KnitPicks). Love the needles, hate the fabric. Frog. Knit a little of some other lace pattern on the 9s. Hate. Frog. Knit a little of yet another lace pattern on the 9s. Frog. Knit 1 pattern repeat on old bamboo size 8s. Feel "meh" about both needles and fabric. Frog. Knit some other lace pattern on the 8s. Frog. Knit 1 pattern repeat on bamboo 7s. Like the fabric, can live with the needles. Continue. (Watch this space for further frogging).Finally, Norton was irate about the proportion of dog pictures to cat pictures on this blog, so he agreed to show off the sock yarn Chialea bought me from KnitPicks. I was going to knit socks for the winner of a certain basketball tournament pool, but then my Tarheels lost, so basketball is dead to me until the fall.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Lost kitty, found kitty

Rule #1 of living anywhere cold or anywhere with any crime whatsover: it is a Bad Thing when your door blows open in the middle of the night. No, let me add to that: when you have a pet, it is also a Bad Thing when your door blows open. I woke up yesterday morning and no longer had a cat. In addition, I no longer had a cat who was not wearing a collar, because I take it off periodically (it wears off his fur and then chafes him). He's front-declawed (I didn't do it; he came like that when I adopted him at age 4), other cats can beat the crap out of him, and he's never been outside before, other than in a carrier or one of the two times he ran out, became terrified, and then ran back in. I was sure he was gone forever, but my fiance and I walked around the neighborhood looking for him. (I called for him on my walkabout; my fiance just listened. As he said, "that cat is bloody loud when he's unhappy". He has a point.) We put up posters by 9am, put out his favorite blanket and food, and then went back to our major cleaning spree. (To mom and FMIL: this would be the time to visit, before the entropy takes over again ;) ) That afternoon, two moms and a gaggle of kids brought kitty back. Apparently he'd come back on his own, but didn't come as far as our steps. Instead he preferred the downstairs apartment's porch. These nice neighbors didn't want the reward, and actually had been walking around the neighborhood looking for our cat, since my fiance had talked to them when we were searching earlier. There are things I don't like about Pittsburgh, but these sorts of things make Squirrel Hill a great place to live.

Kitty doesn't deserve a reward, but I finished seaming up one of Krista's swatches and stuffed it with catnip. (An excellent use for swatches, btw, and seaming is an excellent use of leftover sock yarn.) Kitty gave the new toy a vote of confidence by trying to snatch it out of my hands while I was finishing it up, and promptly sitting on it. This is a vote of high praise, believe me. This is one of the only pictures I got in which one can actually see the toy.

A note on the plastic needles: I'm almost done with my first sock-buddy sock, and I wanted to clarify my comment about k2tog on these needles. (Just a question about sockapaloooza: do they match people up by foot size? I got someone else with really tiny feet, which was a great relief. Nothing personal, people with big feet, but I think I'd need to know and love you to be really happy about knitting socks for you.) Doing k2tog is not a big problem if you don't knit extremely tightly; I'm knitting these socks quite easily. However, they don't have the kind of feel I look for when I'm knitting lace, so I think that kXtog (for X > 2) would be really annoying. For everything else, they feel great. They do bend and don't come back to 100% straight, but I just bend them back into place. They're not like bent bamboo needles, which are harder to work with. Also, I find that metal needles make me think about them more, as they press against my hands. These needles make the knitting feel like part of your hand.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Sock buddies are soft buddies

I've started to work on my sock buddy's socks for sockapalOOOza. I've been sucked back in by Lorna's Laces; it's just so soft and comfy. (I really want to try Koigu KPPPM or KPM (Canadian yarn, 2 skiens/pair of socks) and Socks That Rock (west coast yarn, 1 skien/pair of socks)... maybe I'll buy myself a birthday treat sometime.

Anyway, I'm using the stranded pattern Crusoe (ha ha), even thould this wasn't my original intention. I had intended to knit a lace leaf pattern to match my sock buddy's blog, which is filled with lovely pictures of fall. The yarn is kinda fall-coloured, too, so it made a nice theme. However, I'm using my new plastic sock needles, which nixed that plan. Since these needles don't seem to be particularly common, I'll lay out my experience thus far (quick overview: I like em, but they're needles with a purpose):

  • If you look at a past post after I recieved my needles, you can see the woman who sells them commenting that I got some of a bad batch (I have no idea what's wrong with them, I haven't used them). She actually sent me two sets of needles, at no charge, to make up for this. Three cheers for Katherine! She's obviously responsive and responsible, and I'm very happy to have supported such a great business.
  • The needles are great to knit socks with. They're bendy, but I like that in my sock needles, so they're quite comfy. I don't have problems with the stiches coming off or sticking on, and I can throw them in my backpack without fear (especially as she includes 6 needles in a pack, just in case). These needles have already begun to see heavy use in the socks I carry around with me all the time.
  • These needles are great for socks, but they're not great for lace socks. The nice bendiness means that k2tog is annoying (though SSK is not), so I tossed my original lace pattern in favour of a stranded one. I seem to prefer very pointy metal needles for lace, and these just aren't metal (though they are very pointy).
  • My cat has a fondness for plastic. I've tried explaining that these are not snacks, to no avail. If your cat is similarly insane, don't leave them out.

I tried something new with the heels this time, slipping (purlwise) only on the knit rows. This makes a really cool false ribbing (click on the picture above to see it a little closer) that's stretchy, narrower than k1p1, and less "busy" than k1p1. These socks should be nice and cushy for my sock pal. She says she's never had hand-knit socks before, so I'm trying to give her some incredibly confortable ones to enjoy.

One last glimpse of one of the reasons I don't knit as much as I'd like (after job interviewing, TAing, Actual Work, and life maintenance). Doesn't he look neglected? He's just looking at the plastic knitting needle "snacks".

Monday, March 13, 2006

The neverending sweater

Now, I fully recognize that I'm insane for: a) designing my own sweater from scratch when I haven't knit a reasonable sweater from a pattern yet; b) knitting said sweater at 7 sts/in. That said, this isn't as much of a disaster as you'd guess from that. Here are some pictures of my wrap sweater pinned to my shirt. I'm not flexible enough to pin it well in the back, and it is pre-blocking, but there are a few things I can observe: this fabric stretches a lot more than my prototype (and thus would fit a bigger person than I quite well), but it's still going to be a soft, warm sweater that shows curves. I haven't achieved the look in the front that I was aiming for, but I think some trimming can alter that -- I can always pick up stiches for the edging a ways in from the edge. I still have a few tricks up my sleeve for making the hem drape as I'd like, but I'm reserving those until I see how the sweater blocks out.

Note that the sweater is sitting a little further down than it should be, because pinning only goes so far in holding up a knit fabric, which accounts for some of the oddness of fit. I'm relatively satisfied with the sweater so far (especially because more coverage means both more warmth and less chest emphasis), but I still have a lot to do on it: armscyes, arms, and trim. I have a contrasting grey for the trim, but I still haven't decided exactly what to do with it; I can do a lot of design-tweaking with the trim. Anyone still interested in a pattern?

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Fuzzy Feet

Sorry to go so long without posting! I've been busy busy and a little sick, and Lea's been in California. Since the knitting olympics, I've finished a pair of fuzzy feet for another one of my grandmothers (I have three. Aren't I lucky?)

Here's one felted and one not yet felted. I knitted them tighter and smaller than the pattern, because my grandmother has tiny feet, so they only felted to a point (after 3 wash cycles).

I love, love, love these toe decreases, especially the kitchener stitch at the tip. I think this will be my default sock toe from now on.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Blog post #50: taken out by others

Welcome to Woolly Mammoths blog post #50. I'm sorry my Olympic coverage dissapeared. Last Thursday was the deadline for one of the two top conferences in cryptography (unsurprisingly named CRYPTO). After that I was looking forward to a relaxing weekend with my friend. Instead, I scheduled job interviews for this Thursday and Friday 3000 miles away from my current position. As my job talk wasn't finished and I had a lot of grading to do, let's just say I was busy.

I still found some time to work on Zippy, the Olympic Sweater. I recieved my Pirate Blue zipper in record time, knit the sleeves and collar, and seamed. These were all new experiences, and they actually turned out quite well. However, this sweater isn't going to be wearable unless I either rip almost half of it or knit some extra bits and steek.

Behold, the shoulder. Looking at this shoulder one might say to oneself "self, this looks like a slightly long armhole." One would be right. I harboured some suspicions about this while I was knitting, but I had decided to knit this sweater according to the pattern. (Frankly, the pattern has nothing to it besides the set-in-sleeve-shaping, so why bother paying $16 for it otherwise?) I checked the armscye when I knit it and thought it was too long (specified in cm). I checked the sleeve cap when I knit it and thought it was too long (specified in rows). They fit very well together, but they don't work as a shoulder. Because this sweater has narrow sleeves, the long armhole goes rather far down my arm, and effectively ties it to my side. Fixing this is a bit involved, and I can't really face it right now. Instead, I'm just going to post a warning: If you want to knit the York sweater pattern from Noro Knits, do not knit the sleeve shaping as written (it's very similar for all the sizes). Frankly, this leaves very little to the pattern, but DO NOT knit the sleeve shaping as written. Hopefully that warning will show up to dissuade anyone else from this one. (I search for the patterns I'm going to knit on the net, so I assume others do as well.)

As for the yarn, Karaoke (colour: New Blues) is really nice stuff. It's softer and flufflier after washing, it has great drape and a nice subtle sheen, and it bleeds like someone with a stab wound to the aorta. Since the colours are very, very saturated and vivid in the skien, I'm very happy about this; the sweater ended up brightly coloured but not shine-in-the-dark coloured, if you take my meaning. If you're unhappy with the irregularity of the Silk Garden striping patterns, you'll really like this. I had to work pretty hard to get mine to be at all un-matching.

My Olympic results are thus as follows: nice try, but just like those poor cross-country skiiers taken out when other people fell down on the job. At least I am confirmed in thinking that I know what the heck I'm doing, even though I should have no reason at all for knowing these things. Anyone need a 22" #3 sweater zipper in Pirate Blue?