26 February 2006

O Say Can You See...

...that gold medal that will be posted soon?

I finished the socks! I'm as shocked as you are. They're not perfect and they certainly are beginner socks, but they're wearable and mom will (hopefully) like them. If not, she can send them back and I'll wear them!

Olympics Socks
Pattern: a hodge-podge; I cast on 64 stitches and knit in 1x1 ribbing for about an inch, then switched to stockinette for about 6 total inches. I used this short row heel and then went back to stockinette. I used the toe in the basic sock pattern in Nancy Bush's Folk Socks book.
Yarn: Opal Rodeo; 1 skein with enough leftover to try another toe-up pair
Needles: Addi Turbos Size 1
Recipient: Mom
Date Started: 10 February 2006
Date Completed: 26 February 2006
Notes: I had a good time with these. I like them much more than the sock I completed in the class, but there are still problems. I don't like my gauge at the heel section, although the second sock is a huge improvement over the first. I think they are a bit on the short side but I don't know if I could wear them higher without adding a few stitches. My gauge is on the tight side and I think if I did 64 stitches in stockinette, they couldn't really go too much higher on my legs without being tight. I was shocked at how much yarn I have left. I think I want to try to do a pair of toe-up socks and knit until I run out of yarn. In my mind, it'll work out great if I buy another sock needle and start one from the inside of the skein, one from the outside and knit until they meet in the middle, sort of the Lady and the Tramp spaghetti effect. Now if the theory matches the reality...

I'd still like to reinforce some of the holes at the heel but I think this should also wait until after I finish another pair so I can use yarn from matching stripes.

Overall, I'm counting these as a success. I'm glad that I abandoned my plan to knit various socks in various patterns to see what my ideal pattern will be. (See tomorrow's post for more on this.) This is one pair down, many more to go on the sock knitting bandwagon.

And in true Olympic spirit, I hosted a knitting/game Olympics party on Friday. There was an M&M tribute to the rings. Wouldn't Martha be proud?

22 February 2006

Still Knitting

Did you think I'd been axed by a Tonya Harding henchman determined to keep me out of the Knitting Olympics grand finale weekend?

Well, sort of, only my arch enemy doesn't wear sequins. It's been a week of diss writing, novel reading, paper grading and office working. I was a little worried when I signed up for this event that life might get in the way of finishing. I knew I'd start with needles blazing, but completion, that's where I get into trouble. And knitting two of something? That's just asking for it.

Then there's that whole monogamy problem. I told you I was a loose knitter and I didn't mean just gauge. Stick to one project for 16 days? Um, that's tough. So did I cheat? Does Hugh Hefner wear dressing gowns for a reason? I can justify it though! (And I'm sure he can too, but let's not go there... ewwww.) My fingers started hurting so I bumped up to a worsted weight project that's been lingering since last summer. I also was oh so close to finishing my Ribby Cardigan that I just had to give it some love. (There will be a finished object post as soon as I get time to have a photo shoot. Such the celebrity that I just don't have time to meet with the paparazzi... or maybe I just felt too silly to have the girls take my picture in the coffee shop at our last knitting night.)

Anyway, I do actually feel like I've learned more than just the magic loop in this challenge. I'm still mulling it all over for a better post, but sticking fairly close to one project has been a good lesson for this slowly reforming knitting hussey. (I know, I know, but I've been reading Pamela/Shamela/Anti-Pamela... hussies are something I seem to talk about with lots of regularity these days.)

Need proof? That, my dears, is yarn. Yarn that is leaving my house via the wonders of eBay, not yarn that is entering through the same evil, evil portal. I sold yarn. Shocking, yes?

So will I get my gold? It looks likely. I'm on the second half of the heel for the second sock. Barring severe finger injury, I should be able to finish this off this weekend. That is, unless I totally cave and cast on for something new!

15 February 2006

Knitting Olympics Make It Big

So have you heard that we're mentioned in the latest edition of Time? Yep, get 4000 people together and you have a trend. Well, I'm not so sure being a "crochet collective" and "crafty couch potatoes" is really a good thing, but hey, no knitting pressies for you. So there...

Anyway, just wanted to report that to stave off any SSS (Second Sock Syndrome), I have managed to cast on the mate to the first item of footwear.

These will be fraternal twins with closely related stripes, but not identical. I'm only slightly type A but haven't completely entered ODC territory yet... yet.

Just wanted to prove that my plans to knit a complete pair of socks weren't a complete sham. Get it? As in, Shamela, the slightly naughtier younger sister of Pamela... Wouldn't want to falsely convince anyone of my virtue just to woo you into buying more yarn (mom).

Sometimes I worry myself with the literary jokes. Don't worry, I don't subject my students to these little nuggets of humor. I save them all for the three poor souls who are stuck reading the blog while at work. Next time, try soduko games, really. I'll just stick to socks and books.

13 February 2006

Wearable? Froggable?

So there is a new sock in these parts and we haven't decided how we feel about each other.

The heel is still a touchy subject, but overall, it just may work. I'm also considering cutting the heel and unraveling to that point and inserting a peasant heel. It's kinda crazy, but I like living on the edge. Or mom may just get a baggy heel. She's my mom, she's gotta love me (and my sock knitting).

No new sock has been started due to knitter injury. Fingers. Sore. On the DL until at least tomorrow night. Considering sleeping with Ben-Gay on my hands. Even choosing dissertation reading over knitting tonight. See, that's proof of sore fingers.

12 February 2006

Olympic Knitting, Day 2 Report

What's that old saying about pride coming before a fall? Anyone know any good sock patterns where you don't have to do any ribbing or heel shaping? As in, can I just knit a tube and stick it on my feet and call it good?

To recap, day one left our intrepid sock knitter pretty happy with finishing the leg of her sock. She had some concerns about the inch of ribbing at the top, but who sees the top of socks, right? If mom wears these suckers with shorts, she's got bigger fashion problems than my knitting deficiencies.

Basically, intrepid sock knitter was ignoring the problem since the inches below the cuff looked great and she didn't have the fortitude of Lone Knitter who has the sense to rip when the going isn't going so well.

Blissfully in denial, she pulled up her heel references and poured another of those slushy drinks and got busy with her short rows.

I know, that's a lot of sock knitting that's been done in two days. It's all a personal bribing strategy. "Grade one student paper and you can knit a row.... Okay, grade a paper and you can knit for 5 minutes... Okay, 15, but then you've got to read The Economy of Character." I'm weak, what can I say?

While speed of knitting has been strong here, technique is a little lacking. Just call me the Bode Miller of the knitting world. See the heel, the bulbous one that looks suspiciously like the bulbous toe of the previous sock flub? A minor gauge issue, I'd say... like a nice, even 8.5 stitch/inch on the foot and leg and a floppy, holey, inconsistent 6.5 - 7 stitch/inch on the heel. Ugh, not pretty.

I still like the look of the short-row heel (more store-bought, I suppose), but the difference in stitch definition and gauge is pretty bad. I think I have a defective purl stitch. Yikes! I'm hoping there's some sort of ointment or something for it.

To rip, or not to rip? That is the question.

I suppose I've already killed the suspense on that question by showing you how far I went past the heel. The late night verdict was to continue on, finish this sock and try a pinch-hitter sock in the middle of this pair. I suppose it's all that empiricism that I'm throwing at my students, but I've decided to make this the Grand Sock Experiment, complete with data collection, maybe even a graph or two. Exhibit A has great stitch definition in the round parts, but a defective purl-related heel/ribbing region. Exhibit B will focus on eliminating the heel problem with a return to the heel-flap method which minimizes the prominence of the purl. Exhibit C will hopefully be the mate to A or B, whichever one looks more wearable.

Or maybe I'll just go buy my mom a pair of tube socks and call it a day!

11 February 2006

Sock Knitting... The New Paper Piecing*

In one of the lesser known Shakespeare plays, A Midsweater Night's Dream, the sage gives us all some advice, "Thou shalt not underestimate the power of a woman possessed."

Last night's knitting group had a few of these**:

Which led to one of these:

For those of you keeping track at home, that's peppermint twists + Olympics Day One = six inches of a sock. Well, maybe it's vodka + obsession = 2 a.m. crafting. It does sound much more civilized when it's about socializing over cocktails and not the frantic fingers of someone who can't seem to put down the sharp little needles. Really, I was feeling just ever so slightly like a crackhead when I finally made myself go to sleep rather than attempting to master the short-row heel with another batch of the slushy pink stuff. Like any good junkie would say, throw the needle(s) my way.

At least I can say so far, so good on the sock knitting. I don't like the top ribbing at all, but the thing seems to fit (of course I tried it on just before making myself give it (and myself) a rest). I think the next pair (which may actually become an addendum to the K.O. challenge if I continue at this pace) will have to find an alternative to the ribbing at the top. Perhaps if I do them toe-up the ribbing will be better if it starts from the stockinette section rather than the cast-on edge? So many experiments to be undertaken in the sock-knitting world...

But onward and upwards, or in this case, downwards and around...


Not being a fan of the heel-flap method, I'm planning to forge into new territory with the short-row heel. In theory, it works like this:

Short-Row Heel Tutorial on Purlwise
Here it is in the toe-up method
And here it is in a slightly modified form

Now the question is, how will it work for me? And more importantly, can I restrain myself from the sock long enough to finish the last 60 pages of Pamela?

* In other moments of weakness (of which there are many in my crafty life), I've referred to Paper Piecing as The Craft Which Shall Not Be Named for its power to render me entirely insomniatic and close to heart attack peril with the thrill of projects to be completed. I really should seek help for these issues.

** Did you notice that my choice of stemware and drink match my knitting? Yeah, I'm classy like that...

10 February 2006

And the Yarn Harlot Saith...

Let the games begin!

I probably shouldn't confess just how excited I am about the Knitting Olympics. Someone might just say "dorkily excited." Yes, I am celebrating as if this is a holiday of significant importance. I suppose I'm pretty comfortable with the "dork" label as I am working on a PhD in Victorian lit after all, but this may be reaching a new dork low. The date is marked on the calendar... yeah, that dorky. I haven't gone so far as to create Olympic-themed treats for knitting group tonight, but I would have had I not been busy doing all that cleaning and laundry and teaching business necessary to facilitate 16 days of actual sock knitting.

Anyway, since I'm sure you're all just dying to know as much about my sock knitting process as, say, the results of the luge, here begins the expenditure of excessive quantities of text about socks...


1 skein Opal Rodeo sock yarn
Addi Turbos 2.5 mm 40" (marked a US 1, but I think they may be between a 1 and 2)


I used a long-tail cast on and did 64 stitches over both needles to start. This little trick is supposed to keep the top edge loose but also even over your cast on.

Since I'm basically just throwing caution to the wind and cooking up my own pattern from the melange of resources in my knitting library and beyond, I'll try to keep track of all the details as they happen. Yes, it will be as stimulating as the ESPN coverage of the ice growing in Torino.

Lone Knitter, Here we go! May we be as productive as Dickens in our latest endeavor!

05 February 2006


Okay, kids, why exactly does Ronald McDonald have to wear those shoes?

The critics are still debating and I know the current theory is that he's stuffing the toes with an extra chicken nugget or two for safe keeping... or maybe it's the body parts of that filmmaker who blasted them with Super Size Me, but I've got the real answer. Just call this the Smoking Gun Knitting blog.

His father, Old Father MacDonald, actually was getting busy with one of the ducks down on the farm and little Ronnie's feet are flat, webbed and kinda wide in the toe/webbing region.

And just to show my support, I've knit him a sock.

This is my first foray into the sock knitting world, and you can easily see why I've not gone back until the Olympic challenge was issued. See the toe region, where one is supposed to decrease? My stitch numbers got smaller, but the sock got bigger.

Let's excuse the hideous choice of yarn color for a moment and just admit that this is pretty much agony of da' feet. (Sorry, just thought I'd use that pun and get it out of the way. You know you were waiting for it, Laurie.)

So before I attempt to redeem myself, I feel a little justification is in order. See, I was taking my sock knitting class with my ex's mother while we were in our wonderfully entertaining on again/off again phase. The weekend we worked on gauge went sorta like this:

Friday night: the hottie with the most amazingly soft J Crew t-shirt ever snuggled up to. Not so smart, but really, with a t-shirt like that stretched over muscles like that, he didn't need to be able to construct a complete sentence.
Saturday morning: "Leslie, you look sleepy." "Oh, I'm fine, I was studying late last night. Let's knit socks!"
Saturday afternoon: trompsing through the woods with the oh-so-sweet boy who designed and built his little log cabin in the middle of the nowhere, trying to convince myself that I liked him, even if he was too short and a horrible kisser
Sunday afternoon: coffee with the mysterious Romanian with wonderful stories of living in South Africa and a framed picture of W on the wall. (I hate it when the hotties are politically confused.)

So, see, it's no wonder I was a loose....

....knitter!!! *cough, cough*

But, alas, a new era has come upon my knitting life wherein dating has been replaced by dissertating. If reading about Victorians won't get you to tighten up that loose gauge, I don't know what will.

So, on to swatching with the real yarn. For attempt #2 I tried 60 stitches with only 2 rows of 1x1 ribbing at the top. Liking the yarn, not liking that ribbing. But, I have at least decided on a casting on plan.

Come Friday afternoon, this knitter will be casting on 64 stitches on addi Turbo size 2.5 mm 40" needles to do mistake rib for about an inch before settling into stockinette.

And for the literary types out there, catch the theory of the novel reference there? Swatch #1 was pictured with Ian Watt, 1957. Swatch #2 gets Michael McKeon, 1987. Betcha can't wait what theorist gets to be a shining star once I start the socks for real.

02 February 2006

Things That Make You Go Hmmm....

Overheard while shopping:

"Oh my god! I thought he was going to pierce my nose with his teeth!"

Yeah, think about that one for a minute...

I almost turned around and told the chic that she should consider getting a new boyfriend but then I saw her and realized that she probably liked it.

If she tells those things in public for all to hear, I'd really hate to know what secrets she keeps to herself.

01 February 2006

It's All in the Numbers

Shhh, don’t tell anybody, but this crafty business, it’s math, lots and lots of math.

Don’t get me wrong, I love that part of it. Makes me feel like the analytical part of my brain still exists even in a tiny, mutated form. But there’s also something that makes me feel like those of us spreading the crafty love are tricking people. “Here, pick out colors and move some pointy sticks around and woo-hoo, you’re making a scarf.” All the while we’re snickering in the background knowing that once we get ‘em hooked on scarf-making, we’re going to bring them into sweaters where they have to figure proportions or we’ll have them using protractors to do quilts. All a big pro-math conspiracy, I tell ya…

Anyway, I learned me some figurin’ yesterday. I had to run into the yarn shop and pick up a skein* because my previous figurin’ of the blue/grey yarn proportion on my Ribby Cardigan was a little skewed. Lots of blue for future felted bags, not enough grey for a collar. So while I was there getting dye-lot lucky** I got a handy dandy equation for picking up stitches to do button bands. The rest of the knitting universe probably knows it, but I’m going to write it down here so I remember it in the future.

stitch gauge*** / row gauge = picked up stitches / total rows

That’s clear as mud. Basically, here’s the deal. If you get 4 stitches to the inch horizontally and 6 rows to the inch vertically, you need to pick up 4 stitches for every 6 rows. Or, after that whole reducing the fraction magic, you pick up 2 stitches and skip a row 4/6 = 2/3. Believe it or not, it makes sense to me. And a knitting teacher I only claim to be after a few drinks. And so long as my students stick to scarves…

So, now that I’ve got button bands in the works, time to start training for those Olympics. I’m in the process of collecting my sock data, i.e. so much info on socks that my head is starting to spin. I’m going to do a blog entry in the next few days with all possible patterns and so on but for now, here’s the start of the process… the math. I have managed to actually knit a sock on double points before. It doesn’t really fit and doesn’t have a consistent gauge so I’m not sure it even counts though. Yes, I'll show pics. It's not pretty.

In the latest training endeavor, I’ve managed to come up with this.

I think this is a sign the Magic Loop method works, at least for now. I started to play with some Lion Brand Magic Stripes that I picked up on sale somewhere as “practice” yarn (don’t worry, before the yarn embargo started…). I started with the pattern on the label and it says to cast on 56 stitches. I’m getting a fairly consistent 8 stitches to the inch, so that’s a 7 inch circumference. Hmm, will that work? I’ve got numbers for average length of the foot, but don’t think I’ve come across any for average circumference.

I’m using Addi needles which seem to be somewhere between a 1 and a 2. I know the Opal yarn will be different, but I’m wondering about numbers for casting on. One pattern I have says to cast on 60, one says 64 and another gives 72, all for sock weight yarn. Ay yi yi, back to the math…

And noooo, I’m not knitting to avoid reading that page turner Ian Watt, not at all… I loooooove prepping for class.

*Yes, you read that correctly, I went into the yarn shop and bought one skein of yarn. It’s still within my rules since this is only yarn to finish a project. No other yarn was adopted by yours truly. Yes, it was difficult, but I restrained. Picture of strength, this girl.

**If they have the same dye lot 9 months after you buy your yarn, you’ve picked an unpopular color. I’m sure it’s the other people who have bad taste and can't recognize a great color, not me.

*** or whatever you call it, the usual gauge you measure, at least if you’re ambitious enough to measure your horizontal gauge but not the vertical gauge.