Getting Ready to Go Mad

Sock Madness is coming up right around the corner and I’m signed up again.  I made it into Round 6 last year.  So in anticipation, I’ve sorted out some yarn options for the Madness and spent a portion of the other day turning hanks into balls.

This year I also decided to put together a few prizes for the Madness, so I put together some notion bags and fabric boxes with working button holes so you can use them like a yarn bowl if that’s your jam.

The bag tutorial can be found here, and the fabric boxes here.  My only alteration was to add working button holes to the boxes instead of just decorative buttons.

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I bought my zippers and buttons at Pacific Fabrics and picked up the rest of their Row by Row kits to make a nice PNW quilt. (Can there be more hours in the day?) That’s what it will eventually look like there on the left.

Sometimes I feel like the quilting side of things tends to fall behind… and if I want to get my goal of seven quilts this year I’m going to have to kick over into quilt-ville after the Madness. Today I put in the first six days of February of my 365 day challenge.

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And before I forget…. I did finish my KAL shawl!  Its the latest in my bird themed ones.  This one is based on the local Stellar’s Jays with their blue and black.

Sharing and Joining in

Some people that know me would tell you that I am kind of selective about what social media sites I frequent and join.  That has its good and its bad points. On the one hand you avoid the spam style commentary, but then you can sometimes miss other things you might be interested in.

img_20150516_230236Last year was my first year joining Ravelry’s Sock Madness group.  I really enjoyed myself, even if I still have not actually finished my last competition round socks. (I got to the first heel and then made a flub and so I was fixing it and just got burned out…sorry!) So its once again February and I’m signed up to give it another go!  I have quite a bit of sock yarn set aside in prep and its an amazing way to grow my sock drawer.  If you want to KAL with us, the sign ups are open and the competition (which is very friendly) starts in March.

Secondly, someone on a quilting board pointed me to a 365 Day Challenge, based out of Australia in which you make a sampler square every day and at the end of the year you have a 90 inch square quilt.  That’s roughly queen size.  Well I’ve signed up and bought a bunch of fabric and now I just need to get going.  I’m about a month behind, but since I am not going for any of the weekly prizes (See also: Above note about social networks) its just for me.  If you want to join in late, the designer is planning to host 3 months of blocks at a time, so you can still find all the blocks that have been released thus far and do so!

And if you don’t want to join in, that’s fine.. how about I just share some of the things I’ve been working on? I have, naturally, been testing out and enjoying my new sewing machine. And after the latest trip to the quilt shop I managed to pick up some fabrics for other projects.

First up, I decided the plethora of strip remnants from my snowman quilt would make a nice base for a scrappy Dresden style snowflake.

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My original thought was that this flake would be on a green background, but this batik made me feel like frosted windows.  So my flake is all pinned out and needs some hand stitching to tack it down.  I am still debating borders to make it bigger or just leave it as it is (roughly 42 inches square)

Secondly I have been on the prowl for a good match or replacement for the border corner chess boards on my Knights Tour quilt and I finally managed to find just the thing.  So I finally managed to get the borders done and now its down to backing and quilting!

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I also put in some work on my wedding signature quilt and practiced Free Motion Quilting on some small Quilt as you go type blocks.  I guess if you like puns you could say I was sew busy.

 

Sock it to me!

We are now working past the 2 miles of knitting part of the year. 

Ok so this year in addition to getting married, and apparently resuming cookie baking, I also joined a sock knitting competition called Sock Madness.   Yes that’s right, the lady that whined about how bad her Second Sock Syndrome was in April of last year with the prior experience then of one pair of socks that took nearly a year to finish.  Well last year I finished three whole pair of socks, for a new total of four pair, and then pair five was the first project of 2015 so I was on a roll.
So first up, you had to make a reasonable effort in the qualifying two week round. Apparently I’m still sorting out gauging correctly, so the first pair were a bit large and now belong to Ben.

10 days, 2 socks, one at a time.

10 days, 2 socks, one at a time.

After that you get assigned to a bracket team, with people that should be approximately the same skill/speed as you are.  My team is Purl, and the first thing most of us commented on was how much we don’t like purling.  And then it was on to the competition rounds.

Round Two:  Fight!

The first pattern in the competitive rounds was top down and cabling.  Only 32 members of the bracket team would advance.  So while we did take a drive down to Oregon to see the Spruce Goose, I was knitting away the whole way.

Wanted to make sure these fit, so I tried them on a time or two.

Wanted to make sure these fit, so I tried them on a time or two.

The second sock, complete with the kitchener stitch toe (which was required so I actually did) was a bit tight in the leg.  So I knit the leg of the second sock on a bigger needle.  So my submitted socks were not exactly matched, but did qualify.

Sock one on the right, all size 0 needle, Sock Two starts with a size 1 needle on the leg.

Sock one on the right, all size 0 needle, Sock Two starts with a size 1 needle on the leg.

Of the two week timeline, I finished the pair in six days.  And then once I got the advancement confirmation I immediately frogged and reknit that first sock and so now I have a real matched pair, just had to knit three socks to get them.  (Wore them yesterday too!)

Round Three: Fight!

Next up, was a pair of toe up socks with lace.  These knit up so fast the round didn’t even take a full two weeks for 25 members of the bracket team to advance.

Spring Flowers for your feet!

Spring Flowers for your feet!

Round Four: Fight!

So here we are in Round Four… and I’m updating my blog when I should be knitting.  (Don’t panic I’m knitting right after this!)

This round the sock is top down, both cables and lace, AND BEADS.  Oh… and a different gusset decrease too.  Technically I am beading a bit more than required by going all down the leg, but this is shaping up to be some great socks.  I hope I’m one of the 17 from the bracket team that advance!

This yarn has some cashmere in it.  I'm going to feel like I have fancy feet!

This yarn has some cashmere in it. I’m going to feel like I have fancy feet!

Now how I convinced myself to do this whole madness was partially the pile of sock weight yarn in my stash, the prompting of a fellow knitter and the fact that I could really use more awesome socks.  (Though not necessarily for the TSA) Which was why I had actually finished the first sock in my pair of first colorwork socks just prior to joining in Sock Madness.

I have managed to cast on the start of the second sock between rounds, but this will probably take a bit as I’m still working on the wedding shawl, which takes priority since I’d like to take it with me when I go dress shopping. (Which is now just a few weeks away! WAHHHHH!!)  

I better get back to knitting. @_@

PS – A Word about Brackets Teams:  I was soundly informed that while Sock Madness calls them teams, because you are knitting against your team they are actually brackets.  I say… who cares so long as you can explain it.

Smitten with Mittens and Cables

Last week I spent an extra day in Grand Rapids, MI during their record setting November snowfall. Thankfully by the second day, I’d finished my first Mystery Knit-A-Long project, some Marie Curie Mittens.

 

Polonium and Radium as portrayed in yarn and beads

Polonium and Radium as portrayed in yarn and beads.  The picot edge does lay flatter after blocking.

This was my first Mystery KAL, which I tend to be a little worried that the mystery will turn out to be something I don’t particularly like.. but with cables, beads and science… they certainly had things going for them.

The inside of the thumbs have my initials and are dated.

The inside of the thumbs have my initials and are dated.

These were done in Cascade Heritage Sock, and Tipsy Sheep Socktails. Tipsy Sheep has cocktail inspired colorways, and is a local dyer that runs a monthly yarn club.  I am 3/4ths the way through this 4 month club cycle and have already signed up for the next round.

 

I also managed to get through not just one, but BOTH socks of a worsted weight sock pair on this trip.  (Though to be perfectly fair, the last sock was finished during the “snow day” at the airport hotel.)

Cable Twist Socks

Cable Twist Socks

Which means that while my first pair of socks took nearly forever… I’ve somehow managed to get 3 pair done this year. Apparently the key to overcoming second sock syndrome is interesting yarn and pattern.  And magic loop method where its all one big circular needle does help.  The simple cable here is actually done without using a cable needle, and because its worsted weight these knit up so much faster.

But wait!  There’s more!

I didn’t just make one pair of mittens…. I made two!

Sunshine yellow and brick  red flowers, to combat the winter greys and whites.

Sunshine yellow and brick red flowers, to combat the winter greys and whites.

These were a bit more difficult though, because to scale the pattern to fit, I ended up using my size 0 double pointed needles.  Which at times makes you feel like you are wrestling a porcupine. It certainly didn’t help that between the first and second mitt the chair ate one of the 5 needles, so I ended up making the second mitten with just 4 needles.  Still haven’t found that needle…

This is how it looks when you are working with your double points....

This is how it looks when you are working with your double points….

Working these two pair of mittens has inspired me to possibly attempt to make some geeky mitts next year. (Think similar to stockings, but with mittens instead) but I think I will want to pick up a magic loop size circular in these smaller sizes before I start making my own.  Needle wrestling isn’t really my thing.

And because I know its always a bit interesting to wonder how the inside of stranded color work looks like…. here’s an inside out mitten shot.  (Technically these are a Christmas gift, but since I went to see the recipient early, you get the early Christmas update!)  One amazing thing about this pattern was that unlike prior mitts, this pattern had one chart for the body of the mitten, with the thumb in the middle area.  You got the left or right mitten based on which direction you read the chart!

Mirrored coloration.  Overtime these loops will felt together a bit.

Mirrored coloration; loops instead of stitches making the pattern. Overtime these loops will felt together.

Also, for my “guilty I haven’t updated in awhile” pile is one celtic cabled cowl, that was finished in time for Halloween decorations.

The first time through the cable pattern is slow and full of stumbles and learning, but once you get to the repeating it all starts to come together.

Now if only I can get the rest of my planned projects for this year finished….

Colorworkin’ it! (And some Berries to Dye for)

Ok so the KAL challenge this month was colorwork, and to make it more interesting it was a dueling KAL of a cowl or some fingerless mittens.  I couldn’t decide which project I wanted to commit to, so another member told me I was joining the mitts team.  (Sometimes its rather caring to be bossed around and out of your indecision.)

Well here’s the thing… I was born in a state where you get snow; as in build snow forts and snow men, make snow angels, and generally freeze yourself in the cold, but its all ok because there is cocoa.  The concept of an item of hand wear that doesn’t cover ones fingers just does not fit into my brain on a very logical level.  However, I do have a friend that has expressed an interest in such a silly (to me) item of clothing, AND even in the subject matter upon which the pattern was based (See: Agents of SHIELD, sub catagory: villians – Hydra) and so…

Right in your super-powered keester!

Right in your super-powered keester!

These are made using what is called stranded colorwork.  You carry the non-working color along in loops called floats on the wrong side of your work.

But…. in my fit of indecision and due to the size of the yarn in my stash… I decided to also tackle the cowl, because it had interesting looking stitches. the cowl is knit as one piece with three different stitch patterns, all of which use the knit into the stitch below technique.

Cowling on a rock

Cowling on a rock

There were some amazing color choices from the group, and a few people adapted their cowl stitches to work for hats and scarves.  I went with a color group that I’m hoping will match a pair of mittens I want to knit up for a holiday gift… we shall see.

And now onto the berries portion.  I considered making this a separate post, but I didn’t want to pester anyone who actually is being notified of updates with multiple notifications.

Around these here parts (the Pacific Northwest) we have wild plants called salal (Gaultheria shallon). And about this time of year, they grow dark berries, which I had heard in my quest to first identify the plant were edible.  So this year, surrounded by the myriad of berries, I decided to try them out.

Now, first disclaimer here… Salal berries are not true berries, but is actually from the sepal of the flower, and thus is considered an accessory fruit.  (apples, pears and pineapples are also considered accessory fruit) So what I discovered when I was boiling out the juice was that the berry remains were actually very much still a dark coloration, and still giving off an enormous amount of dark liquid.  So… in the spirit of “this main stain” as a yarn person and not as the laundry lady, I decided to see how it would come out in yarn.

First up, I tried it out on some plain white 100% cotton:

And then because it didn’t turn out like a car wreck… with wool:

So there is my first go at dying something… using the most free ingredients, hand picked from around the yard.  (Is Free Range Dye a thing?).  Not sure it is a vibrant enough dye job to make people jump for joy and throw money at it, but it was something to try and now I do have plans for at least some of this yarn already… so stay tuned!

And one more thing…. my giftee finished her Nyan Cowl, and made some amazing mods to the pattern!

The Sequel to Socks

Way back in April of 2010, I made my first pair of socks. They were rather boring beginner simple socks; long ribbed cuff and plain stockinette stitch feet.  I didn’t really understand about gauge and seaming so they didn’t fit me very well and so the first sock was an experience, and the second sock was… a chore.  This is apparently a pretty common issue with socks.  Common enough they call it Second Sock Syndrome.

In 2012, I actually spent the whole year knitting Christmas Stockings.  This safely avoided the problem because this meant there was only ever ONE of a sock.

But I’d see some absolutely stunning looking socks people would make, and I’d have this internal debate on if I dare try socks again.  Well… reddit knitters do monthly knit-a-longs, and for the month of April… it was socks.  So I jumped in with two feet!

I knit these two at a time from the toe up.  And when I tried to explain the method to the non-knitter Ben he looked at me like I was a witch.  (Think Monty Python “She’s a Witch!” not Salem Witch Trials)  So I’ll try to explain and if it doesn’t make any sense to you either, you can just skip ahead to more photos.

Basically you have two needles (circular or double pointed) with your sock toe stitches split so that your top/front of your socks is on one needle and the back/bottom of your socks in on the other needle. If you are using double point needles you’d need a third needle for working, if you are using circulars then you just need two with decent length.  It may help to have two of differing colors or materials so that you always knit back onto the same circular you are knitting off of and don’t grab the wrong needle.

Two Toes on Two Needles

Two Toes on Two Needles

So in the photo above let’s say that’s Sock A on the Left and Sock B on the right and my yarn is at the right sides of the socks.  I’d first knit the front of Sock B (right)  Then set that yarn (Sock B Working yarn) aside and pick up the other yarn (sock A working yarn) and knit the front of sock A (left).  Then you turn the work so you can work the backside of your socks.  Since you turned your work over, now Sock A is on the right, and Sock B is on the left.  Work the backside of Sock A, swap back to the B sock yarn, then knit the Backside of Sock B.  Turn your work and you are back at the beginning of the process, ready to knit the fronts again.

So you have two yarns going to your needles, each for its own sock, which are growing out from some toes.

Toe-taly Awesome Two at a Time

I’m Toe-tally over Second Sock Syndrome 

Now there are a few ways people go about their two at a times.  Some people work one sock per ball and have two balls of yarn either store bought OR people divide their yarn by weight.  And then there is how I did it…. I wound my hank of yarn into a center pull ball  (Using my ball winder I got with Christmas money!) and did one sock from the yarn at the center, and one sock from the yarn around the outside.   I decided to go that route because my yarn was a recycled yarn of which I had 340 yards and I do not own a scale. The pattern itself was calling for 350 to 400 yards so I was a bit nervous I might have to make my socks a wee bit short, which was another vote for doing my socks two at a time.

I am rather pleased to report that these second set of socks came out just fine, at mid calf length with plenty of yarn left.

And while I am reporting on things… I did need to stop at a yarn shop for needles, so I managed to get out to Serial Knitters in Kirkland, WA and they were very helpful and it looked like they have a nice selection.  They offered me needles in Nickel plated or Brass and quite frankly I had to ask what the difference is.  Nickel plated is a very smooth and slick option.  The Brass has a bit more grip, but smoother than the wood or bamboo I’ve used.  I think, but I can’t seem to find a link that specifically mentions it that the reason the Brass grips a bit more has to do with the tarnish it picks up from the oils in your hands.