Saturday, November 30, 2013

It's Winter

Alas, winter in TO generally means dull skies and a certain amount of humidity with that cold (aka the most drab version of the season). So let's look at a Canadian city, geographically situated for dry, sun and cold - ok, and snow:

Martin New's take on Old Montreal via Spacing Montreal
Wouldn't you like to be there right now?

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Two Socks, One Week: The Pattern

Click here for the pattern: A Simple Sock

Note, I did test this link, so I hope it's going to work for everyone. Do let me know if you have challenges accessing a printable version of A Simple Sock.

As mentioned, this is the first pattern I've ever documented. I think it's accurate to say that I did not devise the methods, but I did construct the process. As mentioned, I did it in such a way that - I hope - will take much of the guess-work out of the equation. (It's called hitting you over the head with info :-)) The goal is for the pattern to act as the repository for all of your info as you work. There are charts within each of the relevant stages, so that you simply need to check off your rows per round as you go. I believe that efficiency is achieved when you can put all of your notes into the pattern as you go.

If you find any errors or lack of clarity - either on first read, or when we're working on the socks together - please don't hesitate to let us all know! I want to ensure this works for now, and in the future. I've done what I can to refine it in such a way that it's error-free. But different people work differently and info that is totally clear to me might be unclear for other users.

You'll note that this sock is made in 9 distinct steps. Of course, during the KAL we'll talk about these in more detail. These steps do not teach methods - they simply refer to them on the assumption that you know how to do what is instructed. But of course, I will, during the KAL, refer you to sites that show ways of doing the various things that are required. I will also speak about these things in detail - providing info and tips of my own - so that you are supported in the construction process, even if you've never used one of the methods before.

This concludes the first phase of our KAL - the info-gathering part. We'll pick it up again in mid-December, when I'll start getting into the knitty-gritty (ha!) about magic loop and some more deets about the pattern.  Till then, please continue to ask questions and provide feedback!

Reminder: Phase 2 is still about learning, not doing. We'll actually get going with our socks on December 29. Anyone who's on the fence about participating, this still gives you lots of time to get your materials together and consider whether this pattern works for you.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

In Case You Thought This Was Going to Be Simple...

Thank goodness for the back page of catalogs :-) When I began to carefully review the 20-odd pages of info about making gloves for Scott, I realized I was going to need some serious measurements. Did I mention that he's totally princess-and-the-pea when it comes to gloves?

I also realized that they'd be far more useful, here in Canada where it really does get freakin' cold for the hands, to have a way to use the gloves with the iPhone. Whereupon I sourced this:

Etsy Vendor: Urbanstein
It's conductive thread which allows for the transfer of body heat to the touch-screen so that you don't need to remove gloves in order to text.

The vendor is Canadian, and the price is totally reasonable. All in, 5 yards cost me 7 bucks. That'll last for a many pairs of gloves, not that I'm committing to glove-making in any meaningful way.

So, whatcha think of the thread? Whatcha think of using the back of a mag to draw your husband's hand? Let's talk!

Brief Update: I'd be lying if I told you I've figured out how to use the DPNs. I'm knitting the gloves using magic loop - so far. I guess, necessity is the mother of invention so, if I can't make the fingers using magic loop, I'll just have to learn. Really, though, I cast on 3 times with the DPNs and I could not mentally grasp where to go from there.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013


You know I don't go clothes shopping that often. OK, I'm sure that's a total lie, but I don't go nearly as often as I used to - or nearly as often as many others who totally love clothing (as I do).

On the weekend, after my great Club Monaco score, I was motivated to do a bit of shopping. Truth is, I didn't want to make something. I didn't want to think about it. I didn't want to consider math. I wanted to go into a store, beautifully set up for the holidays, touch all of the things, look at the sparkles, consider the possibilities. And then buy a few things that fit me well right. fucking. now.

Fortunately, I have a gift in that respect.

Club Monaco (really the only high-street store I visit - I really do love that place and have done forever) is having some of the more amazing sales I've seen. This whole Americanization of Thanksgiving/Xmas has totally transformed the landscape of holiday shopping. I can't say - as I love to shop and I love a deal - that I'm unhappy because of it. Even though it is a wholesale change to the philosophy with which I holiday-shopped for most of my life.

The store was a zoo. I don't like crowds but it was under my freak-out threshold so I persisted. I was there to by Scott an Xmas outfit - really adorable merino sweater in electric blue and hipster jeans. He's gone back to the gym in the last year so he's rather trim. I needed to buy him a couple of things in his current size. I have to say, for a guy who'll be 50 in June, he's looking fine. How many men in that age range fit into 31" slim jeans designed for 20 year olds - and not look like they're trying?

Anyway, enough about him. This is about me.

I bought 3 things - 1 of which is a wide(ish) / deep(ish) v neck black Italian merino slim-fit sweater. There are no good photos of it because CM insists on showing everything oversized on models with no curves (not even the kind of curves the curvy models have) and it's unfortunate. Sweaters benefit from boobs. So I'm not showing a photo, but you can find it in store and online.

Shoppers take note: Everything in store and online, which is currently on sale, is on sale for an additional 30% off. You did read that right. This means that, after tax, a total haul which would have cost me $412.00 ended up setting me back $180.00. And for that I got BEAUTIFUL garments that I'll be able to wear under many circumstances. They feel gorgeous, they look gorgeous. They fit well.

In addition to the sweater mentioned above (originally well-priced at 90 bucks, I got it for 59 bucks) I bought the following:

Georgia top - I'm showing it without a body cuz, of course, they style everything over-sized and I find that lackluster...

It's silk and merino - very fine merino - and I love the construction. The dolman sleeve gives some interest and a looseness but the sweater portion fits snug. It's a bit sexy but in no way inappropriate. The colour and textures are rich and I can totally knock this off with my own fabrics, when the mood strikes. To give you a sense of the over-sized ridiculousness, I bought mine in XS and it's not tight. Original price: $119.50. I paid: $44.00.

And finally, some more pants - cuz really I need them. Casual pants only have a certain lifespan, especially when you walk miles in them every day:

Carolina Skinny Waxed Pants in navy
Fun story: When I was seeking these out in a size 8 (the size I tend to be in pants these days), the SA urged me to go up a size, since they fit "super small". Alas, there were no 10s, so I just said, whatevs, let's try the 8 anyway. Well, the 8 fit pretty well, which makes me feel like maybe the work I've been doing, to undercut the ravages of perimenopause, is having some observable effect. These are super-cool - waxy but not shiny, and not thick in their waxiness. They're a dulled-navy shade and, while in a perfect world I'd have the rise an inch higher - the height is not a deal-breaker. I will say, if you carry mass in your hips or thighs, these may not flatter. They're also pretty short. I don't need to alter the length at all. While my legs are long, proportionately, I'm only 5'3". Original price: $149.50. I paid: $69.00. Seriously, who can find a pair of pants for that price?? You can barely make a pair of pants for that price.

At any rate, may I urge you to get yourself online, or in store, if you're in the market for anything chic but casual for Xmas. They also have ZILLIONS of gorgeous gift items (cashmere everything) for great prices. If I were buying gifts this year (other than the rare few for M and Scott), I'd be all over this stuff (as I usually am). Note: I'm making my gifts this year. It's not that I'm totally bah-humbug...

So, whatcha think??

Monday, November 25, 2013

Two Socks, One Week: Yarn and Needles - And Gauge

I tried to find a way to turn this into a couple of posts, but I really do see contingencies between all of these three concepts: yarn choice, needle choice and gauge. So this post is apt to be, um, full. But my aim is to make it super useful - and comprehensive.

Let's return to the basic premise: we're making a pair of simple socks. Not fancy socks. Not complicated socks. Not over-the-knee socks. Just simple, cuff-down, mid-calf, rib cuff, stockinette socks. Now, this doesn't mean they're going to be dull. Oh no! Some of the most exciting things in the world are simple. But we're going to achieve our primary impact through yarn choice. And simple will be decided, in some measure, by working with yarns that are knowable in their properties.

Here are my recommendations. (Note: You can completely ignore me and you'll still make great socks. They just won't be as simple.)
  • Use a yarn that's 80 per cent wool and 20 per cent nylon (or synthetic) OR
  • Use a yarn that's 100 per cent wool (consider superwash so that it can go in washer and dryer) that's designed specifically for sock-makers
  • Ensure the yarn is fingering-weight. We're going for a gauge that's more-or-less 13 stitches (horizontal) and 20 rows (vertical) in 2 inches. You can certainly choose thicker yarn, but you'll end up having to alter the pattern to do so.
  • Use a yarn that's got a good rep for sock-making - you want something that will keep its shape, that will knit a nice, dense stitch, that isn't too hairy, that feels strong and sleek on the skein. Some examples include:
    • Regia Twin Colour (or others in the Regia line) makes incredibly durable socks. In truth, this German-made yarn is not the luxest, but it makes a seriously dense stitch. If you want a sock that mimics one you'd buy, you may get closest (IMO) with this brand.
    • Also in the "work-horse" category (but much more fun) is Sweet Georgia Tough Love Sock. It's more pricey, but you're paying for the small-vendor experience and the care that tends to go along with it.
    • Of course, now that I've tried Madelinetosh Tosh Sock, I don't know how I'll ever use anything else again. If I were you, I'd just buy this in your favourite colourway and call it a day. It's superwash merino, but I've already made one of my 2 socks from it and I feel it's produced the nicest outcome. It holds its shape but it's soft, soft, soft.
  • Please feel free to weigh in in the comments about sock yarns that work for you. I'm sure peeps will be grateful to learn more.
But How Much Yarn Should I Buy??

I suspect you'll require between 300-350 yards. I've made these very socks with 250 yards (in the Regia, somehow - and I realize it makes no sense since they were the snuggest fitting) or with about 325 yards (Sweet Georgia, Cascade Heritage). I think you'll be safe with 350 but, if you choose to make your sock larger (in the circumference, foot length or height of leg), then I'd go with 400 yards.

Other Considerations:
  • If you're new to knitting socks, choose a slightly variegated yarn in a colour that isn't too dark. I mean, you don't have to go crazy, but the variation in colour and the brightness will assist you in determining things like how many rows you've worked and whether you've accidentally dropped a stitch.
  • If you're going to go with self-striping yarn, consider getting a skein with a short pattern repeat. The larger the stripes, the fussier it is to match one sock to the other.
  • If you're on the fence, spend a few extra dollars and get the nicest yarn you can afford. These socks are special! You're going to wear them or gift them but more to the point, working with nice yarn for hours and hours is worth the money. And good yarn makes a better, longer-lasting sock.
  • Ya'll know I love cashmere, but really, don't make these in cashmere. It's too prone to stretching. It's weaker than wool. It's not the yarn I devised this pattern for. So know that, if you opt to use a yarn with these properties, you'll may end up with a sock that fits differently than the pattern indicates.
Here are the finished dimensions of the sock made from the pattern:

Close to or exactly 9 inches in length from heel to toe. The rib cuff measures from 3.25 – 4”, flat, unstretched (depending on the amount of give in the yarn). All rib, despite how it holds its shape, should still stretch to 5.5” at least. The ankle measures 4”, flat.
And here are the dimensions of the foot their designed to fit: 9 inch length from heel to large to. Ankle at cuff height is a circumference of 8.5". Widest point of foot: 8.5' at the toe base. I like a snug, but not tight sock. We'll talk more about this when we start to knit...

*Pre-purchase Action Item: Take a moment with a tape measure and another pair of socks you own. Hand-knit socks are best but thick-ish store bought will work too. Measure the dimensions of the sock as per the info provided above. Measure your foot too. These are useful comparators to the info provided above and will help you to decide whether my pattern, as is, is right for you, or whether you'll need to make certain elements smaller or larger when you start to knit.

My point is, if you're not going to deviate from this excessively - and I don't suspect you'll have to - then 1 skein of sock yarn having at least 350 yards should be enough. Of course, buy 2 skeins so that you can make the very same pair again (and have extra yardage should you need it) - perhaps with a couple of tweaks having learned from the first pair. See below, in the section about gauge, for more on this.

How About the Needles?

Use the type of circular needle you prefer - but I like Addi turbo lace needles (they're titanium with pointy ends). I don't find them so slippery that it's a problem - but I do think the pointy end is key. Bamboos may also work well, if you're someone who tends to lose stitches.

The reason I recommend Addi is because the join on those needles (between the needle edge and the cable) is impeccable. No snagging or dragging will occur and, when you're working with magic loop, this is KEY. Mind you, Addis cost more than other brands. Furthermore, sometimes, the plastic cable is really committed to its loop (which makes moving the stitches around a bit tricky). You can soften the cable by steaming it over a kettle, but I also find that the metal cables found on certain, thinner-gauge ChiaGoo needles are more pleasant to maneuver. And those needles are much less expensive - if potentially less durable.

BTW, if you don't have access to an LYS that sells Addis, I've found them online at very good prices via eBay. I have purchased from this vendor with no issues...

You'll want to work with a 40" length - or 32" in a pinch, if you've already got a set lying around. Smaller than 32" won't work. Note: when you refer to circular needle cable length, you're actually considering the entire length of the needles from tip-to-tip. Don't ask me why.

Recently I purchased mega small circular needles - 20 cm from tip-to-tip as they're the size you'd need to knit socks in the round, on a circular needle, without using loops. I haven't had the nerve to try them as a recent foray knitting with a 16" cable to make a hat almost threw me over the edge. It was fussy and hard on my hands in a way that magic loop never is. So what you think might be easiest and most efficient is not necessarily easiest.

Though I've made many socks with different fingering-weight yarns, I've only used one needle size: 2.25mm. Some of those socks have been a bit snugger, some a bit looser but they've all fit more than adequately. Unless you knit insanely loosely or insanely tightly, I'm going to go out on a limb here and suggest that this size will probably work for you too.

Kristin, are you insane?? (The Part About Gauge)

Look, we're making a simple stockinette and rib sock, not a sweater. Not even a sock with a fancy pattern, which might impact gauge considerably. Would it be terrible to admit I've never made a gauge swatch for a pair of socks? I would NEVER advise avoiding to swatch and block under sweater-making circumstances, but does everything need to be a production?

Note that I've advised you use very firm yarn, the kind that doesn't tend to grow or lose its shape. This is because you don't want a sock that's going to look very different after blocking than before. And furthermore, I've suggested that you use the kind of yarn that's wash and dry. Everything loosens in the wash and cinches in the dryer. In a worst case, you can let them air dry or tumble a little longer.

But keep in mind, I basically used my first sock-knitting adventure as a test of gauge. I put my first sock on as I worked to ensure that it would fit. That's how I adjusted the pattern on the fly. Furthermore, I suggest, for your first simple sock experience, that you buy enough yarn to make the socks twice. Then you can easily refine the second pair without having to worry about any added variables. Plus, you get another pair of socks.

Thing is, if you're going to swatch for mega-accuracy, you're going to have to swatch in the round. Flat gauge is not a reliable indicator of round gauge because knitters tend to knit and purl at slightly different tensions and, when you knit in the round, you only use knit stitch. And it's really just as easy to start your sock in the round as it is to do a round swatch. I mean, you can't get much smaller in diameter and still have a reliable outcome with a swatch.

So, my recommendation is that you let your own working-style be your guide. If you are comfortable casting on a couple of times and using an hour or two of the sock-knitting timeline to confirm your sizing works, that's great. If you've knit many socks and you understand your gauge in this needle size with sock-yarn, great.

If you want to do a gauge swatch in the round, perhaps a good idea if your dimensions are very different from the pattern's and/or you are a new knitter / have never knit on tiny needles, check out this useful tutorial.

I will be knitting with fingering yarn on a 2.25mm needle and I will probably use 325 yards of yarn when all is said and done. Over many instances I've learned this works for me. The small variations in size produced by yarn properties or my own gauge tension at any moment are entirely acceptable to me. And I'm pretty fussy.

But you need to be happy with this process so I urge you to swatch if it makes you comfortable. And, if you're going to, the next couple of weeks will provide an adequate opportunity to do so.

So, today's questions: Do you find this info helpful? Are you horrified by my methods?? Do you have questions about yarn or needles or anything else at this time?

Next up: The pattern - so that you can see how this all plays out on paper. Cheerio.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Xmas Knitting: Foxhall Gloves

Have you seen this pattern?

Foxhall Gloves by the Rainey Sisters
When you purchase it for the totally reasonable price of 6 bucks, not only do you get a really well-organized pattern - with TONS of info on fitting and men's hands and how to work the pattern - you also get a really cool Glove Guide. The Guide is 11 pages, relevant (I believe) for making any gloves, and I imagine I'm going to be very happy, once I start making these things, to have the extra support.

These gloves will be an Xmas present for Scott but, in truth, I don't know how much he'll appreciate them. I mean, I have fair warning; he told me not to go to the trouble. Mind you, everyone else at Xmas will have a hand-knit and, therefore, so will he. By making this project, at least I'm going to learn a new skill.

These are the first full gloves I've undertaken. The others had a thumb, but no fingers. This is also the first project I will ever have made with DPNs - 5, insanely mini, scary-pokey seeming Addi bamboo needles. I don't know, people. I realize that one should learn all the techniques possible, to widen one's arsenal of abilities, but there are so many needles to contend with. I think I know how to cast on and set up but, really, do I? I figure it will make me a better KAL host to have worked using the most popular method for small diameter, in-the-round knitting, even though it's not the kind I'll be concerned with. It'll be hard to convince you of the superiority of magic loop if I don't actually know anything about the alternative.

Truth is, though, I'm pretty sure magic loop is the best. Not that I'm trying to start an argument!

Today's questions: Have you ever knit gloves and, if yes, are they difficult? Have you ever knit these gloves? Have you used both magic loop and DPNs? If yes, which do you prefer? Let's talk!

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Two Socks, One Week: How About These Crazy Timelines?

The first sock I knit took me 20 hours. (Admittedly, I was pretty sick at the time so let's say my brain wasn't at its best). The second took 10 hours. The third, 7 hours. And, since then, that's pretty much how long it takes me to knit one simple sock.

Fourteen hours may seem like a lot to dedicate to a project in one week, but socks are very portable. And there's a weekend built in. I tend to make one sock between Monday and Thursday and the second on the weekend. That's about 1 hour and 45 minutes of knitting on each weekday (or less, if you knit on Friday). Remember, this KAL lasts a week. Lots of daily knitting is not the new norm - unless you want it to be!

You may wonder how it is that I'm suggesting you will be just like me in this respect. And, what if this is your first sock? Should you expect it to take 20 hours??

Here's what I have to say about this:
  • I'm not a fast knitter. I've said this before and it's very true. I'm simply focused. Having said this, I do my 1 hour and 45 minutes in front of the TV from 8 pm - 10 pm, which is infinitely pleasant in the beginning of the dark and cold winter.
  • I've worked really hard - and over many instances of sock knitting - to produce a pattern that removes the guess work. You'll see later in the week when I upload it (ahem - that is when I figure out how to upload it. But hey, if I can write a knitting pattern, I can figure out how to upload a freakin' doc to Blogger).  I've got diagrams to show how the markers and stitches fit together. I've got colour coding. I've got little tables with tick boxes, to make sure that you know where you're at in the process with as little extra effort as possible. Of course, I aim to use very clear language and to avoid ambiguity (the bane of knitting patterns, IMO). The less you have to wonder what I'm talking about (and the KAL will also clarify many elements and provide resources), the more efficient this will be for you. Remember: I had no KAL, and the pattern I started with wasn't designed with magic loop in mind. That added to my time-challenge notably. I hope our community undertaking will facilitate things for everyone! 
I also want to reiterate that there is no prize at the end for finishing your socks in a week. Well, except for socks. The instructions will be here when you need them. The comments are open. If you would like to spend 2 weeks or a month, then go ahead. Please don't feel that you are exempt from this KAL if you like a different pace.

Having said this, you all know me well. You know that, in as much as I'm a process knitter (I love the yarn and materials and the set up is everything for me - we'll talk at length about this), I'm really a product person. I knit for the outcome. I enjoy setting myself time challenges because I'm competitive that way. I want to take a photo of finished socks and put it up and get positive feedback. I want to archive the finished project in Ravelry.

I can't tell you how enjoyable I find that element of knitting so I urge you, just for kicks - and if it suits you - to get on board with the speedy timelines. If nothing else, it will make for a fun story at a dinner party! To which, natch, you'll have to wear your socks.

Next Up: Specifics about yarn and needles. Or maybe first we have to talk about gauge. Egad, it's a web! Next up, something fascinating.

Friday, November 22, 2013

You Are Going To Love This Story.

Remember this post?

Then, remember when I decided to be frugal and mature and returned the loot I'd purchased?

Well, my lovelies, there's a silver lining (or, perhaps a pleather one?) to share...

Club Monaco online is not known for sending a whack of promo code discounts. Sure, the site has sales, but it's no Banana Republic. Well, today I was on the online site - they're have 30 per cent off cashmere till tomorrow - and I signed up for the newsletter (I'm already on the newsletter but I figured it wouldn't hurt to reapply since it came with a 15% discount code.)

Then, on a whim, I decided to see if they had the pleather leggings I'd bought and returned. They're a continuity item, which was in stock in my preferred colourway (black on black) in my size. 15% off the price I'd paid first time seemed adequately motivating. I've thought of those leggings many times since I returned them.

Somehow, and I swear I wasn't looking, I came across the paisley sweater I'd also returned. It was there - on sale for 30 per cent off?! before the 15% discount?! OMG people. Can you say click, click? I repurchased the exact same loot, only this time I saved 85 bucks. And the shipping is free.

I can't tell you what a thrill this is. 5 minutes of shopping. Savings. Items I love (that should fit, unless this stock is of a different batch that is radically differently sized). It's a beautiful shopping tale.

You've got to admit, that's awesome.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Two Socks, One Week: Let's Do This Thing

OK, it seems we have a quorum of interested participants so let's make it official!

Here's what I propose re: high-level timing. Some of you have pointed out that it's important to know about yarn and needles sooner rather than later - so that you can purchase before the Xmas rush. Of course, that starts to raise topics such as "what about gauge" and "what length of circular needle is optimal". I'm going to address those questions up front along with thoughts about yarns that work best. And I intend to do it sooner, rather than later (even if we see those posts and then have a bit of a break on the topic), so that you can pull together supplies.

In brief (and posts will happen to clarify what's happening when):

From Now and Through the Week of November 25: 

  • A discourse on yarn and the optimal needles for magic loop aka what do I need?
  • Gauge and socks: How necessary is it really? This will no doubt be supported by a post that considers the dimensions of the socks I've made vs. the dimensions of my foot
  • Meet the pattern (just to show you what we'll be working with - not to discuss it in any depth at this time)
  • How do we do this in a week? (What does this mean, practically, in terms of day-to-day knitting requirements?)

In the Middle of December (not too close to Xmas, so y'all can give it some attention):

  • A in-depth discussion about magic loop - how and why
  • An in-depth discussion about the pattern and how it will work (I hope!) to facilitate fun and fast completion of your socks
  • Magic loop vs. DPNs - hopefully I'll have used DPNs at this point. I am chagrined to tell you that, heretofore, I've never knit in the round without using magic loop. I'm planning a gloves project to start in the next week, for which I do intend to use DPNs. Needless to say, this post may be more conceptual than "long-term-experienced-by-Kristin"-based.

The Project Week (Dec. 29 - Jan 5)
  • Technically this gives us 8 days, or 2 Sundays. This is more for me than you - because I intend to post the first post on the 29th but you might not start your work till the Monday. I'm going to stay one-to-two posts ahead of the curve so that you have enough to occupy you, but not to overwhelm.
  • Obvs, sock 1 is the same as sock 2, so they'll be more to say in the first part of the week than the second. But I'm ready for lots of questions - which may require additional posts - and I do think there are considerations when knitting the second sock we'll need to address.
  • There is a way to use 1 pair of circulars to make 2 socks simultaneously. While it's very appealing, I haven't tried it yet cuz it would be some work to figure it out and, as I've suggested, the thing I like most about knitting socks is that I don't feel compelled to get all inventive. Note: We won't be using this version of magic loop sock knitting in this KAL though I welcome discussion about it.

I'm so excited to work with you on this as a community undertaking - skill and experience sharing - and with enthusiastic feedback from you all. I would ask that, if you do intend to participate, and you have a blog, that you might mention this KAL in one of your upcoming posts, so that we have an opportunity to get the word out. And on that point, it's very enjoyable to see finished objects so, if you care to take a photo of your completed socks (and post it up on your blog - or email it to me so I can post it here), that would be great. No pressure, though. This is about learning and discussion - and making 2 socks in the most efficient fashion. You don't have any obligations...

Thoughts and feelings about timelines? Topics we'll cover? Do you have something you think I should add in? Let's talk!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

This Idea I Have...

Despite the current pace of my life (somewhere between electrical current and speed of light), ever since I made my first pair (grudgingly) on a dare :-), I've been thinking about leading a sock knit-along of sorts.

Don't misunderstand. My version of such a thing would not come with a sweet logo and you wouldn't have to sign up. Of course, I'd want to know if you were participating! But it wouldn't be particularly regimented. Why? Because I'm not the kind of person who likes participating in process I perceive to be regimented. Seems it would be kind of hypocritical for me to expect it of you.

Let me start by explaining my rationale for undertaking such a thing - and of course I wouldn't persist if no one is interested so please do let me know if it appeals in the comments below or by email... I am not a natural sock-knitter. In fact, of all the things on the planet to knit, socks were at the bottom of my learn-to-make wishlist, a mere 11 months ago.

But, you know what? Since I learned to make them I've discovered a number of fascinating things:

  • Socks are very popular gifts.
  • Socks don't take too much yarn, so they're an affordable project.
  • Socks are portable, in every respect.
  • Sock-making is meditative, because (as long as you make the same pattern again and again) you figure out quickly how socks come together and then you just need to keep track. There's no wheel-reinvention. 
  • Socks are fun to look at on your feet.
  • Socks aren't hard to fit.
  • Socks are warm in the winter!
  • You can easily knit a pair of socks in a week. Really.
It's the final point that's cinched my interest in leading a knit-along for a simple pair of socks. In fact, I've done it before, in real life - so I know it works at least one-on-one. 

How Exactly Does One Knit A Pair Of Sock in a Week? Don't those Things Take A Long Time?:

Ok, for starters, no one's compelled to knit a pair of socks in a week. In fact, you can take a month, for all I care. But why would you want it to drag on?? I mean, you get socks at the end.

Over the past year, I have written a personal sock pattern - which, let me be clear is in no way novel; every technique described has been learned from someone far more knowledgeable than me. Nonetheless, I like to think my document manages to be clear and organized with the aim to facilitate a final outcome. (Warning: Did I mention I'm not a pattern drafter?) This pattern works for me and, every time I test it (5 times now), I make adjustments to improve clarity.

Were I to undertake this proposed knit-along (KAL), which FYI would be called Two Socks, One Week, my goal would be to demystify the individual steps in making the most simple sort of sock and in this way, to streamline the process. The pattern - and the KAL - is devised with this in mind.

In a stupid irony, the knit-along would take longer than a week because, seriously, there's a lot of writing involved. What I'd propose to do is break it out into the "Planning Stage" and "Knitting Stage".

Planning Stage:
  • Let's talk about yarn and needles
  • Let's talk about techniques - aka magic loop vs. DPNs
  • Let's talk about prep and gauge
  • Let's talk about the pattern and how to use it. (Natch, the pattern would be provided for free, what with it being a mash-up of everyone else's skill...)
Knitting Stage:
  • Sock 1 - Monday - Thursday
  • Sock 2 - Friday - Sunday
  • Blocking
Who'd Suit This Sort of Thing?

I'm not proposing to teach anyone how to knit. I'm not even proposing to teach techniques (though I would link to some excellent sources and answer questions and, knowing me, I would go into some depth re: magic loop and its relevance to this process, IMO.) I imagine that the ideal participant would be someone with a basic knowledge of how to knit - (s)he's made a few things, knows how to cast on, bind off, increase and decrease, has a comfort level to work in the round using a preferred method.

The pattern is scaleable but I'd be "teaching" it as-is. Unmodified, it's a sock that fits a medium-long foot (this sort of modification is easy) that is neither excessively narrow nor wide. The neck of the sock is designed to fit a small-med ankle and a slender-med calf. That doesn't mean I wouldn't discuss modifications, I'd just opt to refer to pattern dimensions when I speak about numbers.

At any rate, a lot of you have asked me how I knit my socks quickly, how I avoid laddering although I always use magic loop, how I find my yarn, how I keep my motivation to complete the second sock. I do believe I have some potentially useful feedback to provide. And I do love a gimmick!

Today's questions: Would you be interested in this concept? I'm thinking that starting soon (by the beginning of December) could be useful. The first few posts - as you run around readying yourself for the holidays - would be simply information-oriented. Then, perhaps we'd start the knitting part in the week between Xmas and New Year's - or in the first week of the New Year. It occurs to me that, at that point, everyone will be ready to knit something for him or herself. The crunch will be over. The holidays may be on. And baby it's cold outside. Of course, you sock knitters may already have your system down, so don't hesitate to advise if it's not your thing! Thoughts or feelings?

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

In Which I Skim The Surface

I was just reading a fascinating post on how one can get gauge in a blocked swatch and still experience inches of growth in a final garment and discovered this sweater:

New Towne by Amy Herzog, made and modeled by Jackie Pawlowski
(Note: The article, while profiled on Amy Herzog's blog, isn't by Amy, but by Jackie Pawlowski, photoed above.)

For starters, isn't this woman ethereal?! Secondly, don't you dig that sweater? (Click on the link below the pic for Ravelry deets.)

I can think of so many people this would suit beautifully and, no doubt, you can purchase a Custom Fit version.

I know very little about Amy or her new venture - which is why I feel a bit odd referring to her by her first name here. I have to say though, she looks like the most down-to-earth person on the planet. I'm sure she wouldn't mind... I know even less about Jackie, with whom I also seem to be on a first name basis, and I might be making this up, but I think they might be working together.

Don't you love it when you click on a blog for meaningful content but instead you get gossip, all of which may be entirely fabricated?

OK, back to the point at hand: Read the article I linked to at the top. It gives an reason other than "you measured your blocked-swatch gauge wrong when you counted with the gauge gizmo" for this crazy thing, which often happens to me: I get gauge. I make a sweater. The whole sweater turns out to be too big. Who knows, maybe I'm making my fabric all wrong - not in the loop tension, but in the bar tension - cuz I do experience that phenomenon. Of course, I've simply taken it upon myself to knit a modified version of the smallest size and call it a day.

Also, even though I do love that New Towne sweater, I suspect it wouldn't look that fabulous on me, which kind of sucks. But it also means that I don't have to queue (either mentally or on Ravelry) Project 250 that I might one day have time to create.

I wish that I had the time to fully engage with Custom Fit, the concept, because - if it works - that will make everything MUCH easier. Yeah, I know I like complicatedness, but sometimes you just want to start knitting a sweater without it turning into an engineering dissertation. And I've got the kind of body that really goes off-road from those standard knit-pattern measurements.

I appear to be the only blogger I know (unless I'm forgetting and I might be) who's mentioned it / kind of reviewed it. Are there any other reviews you can point me to?

What I want to know is: Is it really as easy as it sounds? Are there still beta errors? (Peeps, it's very new.) How easy is it to make up your own sweater in your mind and produce a customized, written pattern? Are there hidden costs? (I think not but what do I know...)

Anyway, let's talk about sweaters and articles on gauge and Custom Fit. Your feedback is so welcome!

Monday, November 18, 2013

A Simple Sock and A Simple Story

From this:

Photo courtesy of The Loopy Ewe (though I got my yarn at Ewe Knit in TO)
To this:

Feet courtesy of my mother (Note: they'll fit better when they're washed and dried)
Adorbs, yes?

And by way of brief anecdotes: Today, while we were out, my mother was asked about her form of insurance. When she told the requester that it was Medicare, the woman looked dubious. She asked again. My mother answered. And then she asked a third time - at which point my mother (having a bit of chemo brain) was convinced she had forgotten the name of her insurance provider. Turns out, as we detangled the matter, that the woman thought my mother was "no older than 40" (Medicare only kicks in at age 65)?!?! When I disabused her of the misunderstanding, by advising her that I (the daughter) am already 43, she disdainfully looked me up and down and retorted with "Well, I thought you were her friend."


At least one of us is looking young.

So, what do you think of the socks??

Wednesday, November 13, 2013


So, there I was, all set to make a pair of socks for myself, when it occurred to me that you can't very well go to see your chemo-having mother without bringing her a pair of socks (especially if she stole another handmade pair when last you saw her).

But don't worry. I've got a plan.

It's called feeding the habit purchasing more (entirely necessary) yarn. And it comes with the added bonus of allowing me to experience, not only the Sweet Georgia Tough Love Sock, but also the Madeline Tosh Sock (which I was secretly traumatized to leave at the store).

To wit:

Madeline Tosh Sock in Smokey Orchid
Yeah, this is the colour of the year for me. I've purchased variations on "merlot" so many times in the last 2 months, I can't even keep track. Well, I can keep track because I archive my entire stash. And no, that doesn't make me weird.

So, I'll bring (one half-complete) pair of socks to NC, and finish it while I'm visiting. And then I'll start the next pair just for me.

Today's questions: Do you buy the same colour of yarn over and over again (at least for a few months at a time)? Do you like Tosh sock? Do you like this colour (really, the stock photo doesn't do it justice)? Does everyone steal your homemade socks?? Let's talk.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Chair of the Board

I guess I should have kept my mouth shut. The headache is in fairly full force, if manageable, but I'm not feeling 100% so that could be the cause. I've totally taken it easy today (well, all week really) and I guess my knitting will not be done as quickly as I'd hoped.

At the risk of this turning into Kristin's blog about yoga things, I do feel like telling you about a few yoga resources, new and old, that have really been working for me lately.

I've wanted a yoga chair for quite a while. (I used to have many of them but gave them away when I stopped teaching which was, in truth, short-sighted. I kind of got "chaired out" after years of using this prop. Sometimes, it can feel a bit cumbersome getting into the chair postures and, a few years ago, I was all about freedom and vinyasa (flow poses) and mega-active practice.)

They're not rocket science:

As you can see, a yoga chair is merely a short, backless, metal folding chair. They stabilize weight very well over a wide base and are optimal for doing supported halasana, supported sarvangasana (shoulder stand) and a variety of supported backbends such as viparita dandasana. It goes without saying that these poses can be dangerous to get into and out of, if you don't know what you're doing, so take a few Iyengar classes to learn the ropes first (as it were). Note: This prop, like the head stander, is not an either/or. One can practice shoulder stand and variations at least a dozen different ways. While this removes much of the weight-bearing element of the pose, it intensifies the action of the asana and allows for long holdings (like 10 minutes plus).

Stupidly, this prop costs a lot of money - if you don't find it at a school closing sale. But I sourced one in TO, at a yoga studio, and - while the price was quite reasonable based on the info I've found online (though not the school sale prices, natch) - I managed to spend a bomb on cab fare to-and-from the studio. Sure, I could have taken the subway for 6 bucks, but I really didn't have the appetite for a slog in bad lighting next to a bunch of people coughing. Hell, I could have had it delivered for less (I suspect) but that would have been complicated - the studio staff was entirely unhelpful. This was the easiest way to achieve my goal. Sometimes you spend for leisure.

FWIW, on purchase, my chair had the chair back (that metal piece to support your upper back, not pictured), but I got my husband to smack it off with a hammer/screwdriver combo (breaking the tack welds, if you want the technical story) and then filing it down. Yeah, I spent 100 bucks getting a folding chair to my house and then got my spouse to break it. And now I've got to paint the exposed metal bit so it doesn't rust. Is it wrong to suspect that will be fun?

Maybe I should have ordered this one online...

In order to justify this purchase, which was very easy to do in light of how much use and benefit I get from the head stander, I had to make space in the closet in the sewga room. I abhor clutter but I love organizing stuff, especially when it produces enough space in the closet for the chair and the head stander both! Ah, minimalism, how you thrill me.

In the process of organizing, I found a wealth of yoga books that had been smushed into an inconvenient spot (thereby obscuring their titles). It was just like going to the library but I didn't have to get off my ass and I get to keep all the loot!

A few of these books were faves of mine, at various points, and I hope it wil be helpful to tell you about a couple of them. Really, I've used these Iyengar-based texts to the extent that they're practically falling apart. They provide really good technical information with useful photographs and excellent practice sequences:

Yoga the Iyengar Way:


This book is not overly visually appealing. It's super-1990, but the poses are explained expertly and with information about the impact of each pose. You just have to get past the red outfit. It also gives some very comprehensive info about pranayama (breathing work) which can be done entirely independently of asana (yoga poses) and which falls into the more meditative category of yoga.

This book, though, has captured my heart:

Complete Stretching: A New Exercise Program for Health and Vitality

It's so gorgeous - even after all these years. Sure, the guy wears a ponytail, but this couple is cute and they do beautiful poses that are beautifully photographed. First and foremost, the book is simple (I mean, bare bones) but it is also totally useful. There are many 30 minute sequences, visually explained, to address a whole host of needs from relaxation, to yoga for specific sports (lots of them), to yoga for energizing etc. I can't believe I haven't looked at it in upwards of 5 years. 

If you are a beginner and you question how yoga might work for you, read this. The authors are students of Iyengar yoga but the book is geared towards anyone who wants to move his or her body in a conscious and symmetrical way. I love that this book talks about yoga for "enhancing the body". It's not done in that yoga-meets-aerobics and weight-training way of modern books. It's very "London in the early 90s".  Really, you'd do well to check it out, if only as an experiment. I've never seen a text that walked this line before or since.

Today's questions: Do you practice yoga? If yes, what kind? Do you know about these books? Do you work with props? Let's talk!

Friday, November 8, 2013

A Little Something

Sure, I'm knitting Xmas-style, for a small army, which is why I shouldn't be knitting for myself...

Oh well:

A Simple Sock (my modified pattern) using the irresistible Sweet Georgia Tough Love Sock in Stormchaser
I'm kind of addicted to crazy-colourways of self-patterning yarn. It's all a big adventure.

I know I don't care for homemade socks but, actually, they're very cheerful and warm all winter. And every other pair I've made has been knicked.

I'm at home today as I'm feeling under the weather - and very committed to winning the fight against germs, especially in light of the fact that I'm going to North Carolina next week. Monday is a holiday (for a lucky few, of whom I'm one). This gives me two unexpected days to sit around and knit. Oh, the postman just knocked to deliver a box of chocolates that I ordered online last night at 8 pm?!?! I know it was intra-city shipping, but still.

Can't say I'm complaining...

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

A Pain in the Ass Is Better than a Pain in the Head

It's been a while since my last post because, really, all the things I have to say are kind of a downer. You know, there's a point at which even I have to stop talking :-)

While the stupidity of perimenopause continues to thwart me, I do want to tell you a bit of a happy tale about how I'm managing the migraines. (Isn't it an irony that I've worked my ass off to mitigate their effects, only to discover a whole new batch of things which, worry not, I will not bore you with today.)

At any rate, it's taken me a good long time to feel as if I've got some semblance of a method that works. And, I'm not getting cocky! I don't have to tell ya'll that migraines are complex. Hormones are complex. People, with their individual biochemistries are complex. But last year, or the year before, I sure would have liked to have stumbled on a blog post that posited some practical approaches which actually worked on a real, live human being. So here's my method.

Managing Hormonally-Triggered Migraines

1. Do a ridiculous amount of yoga (specifically an Iyengar practice for endocrine balance):

I've referenced my yoga practice (and my new head stander which, let me tell you, has improved the quality of my life so dramatically,  it's almost bizarre). No doubt, near-daily practice of supported backbends, followed by inversions, followed by forward bends is having an exceptional impact. It's also taking a remarkable amount of time but it's justifiable.

It's interesting to note that all of the yoga practices for migraine management, that I've been able to source, take a similar (endocrine-based) approach, implying (as does current medical theory) that migraines and neurotransmitters, many of which are hormones, are closely allied.

If you do yoga on a regular basis, and you struggle with migraines, this info (with which I am in no way affiliated) might also be of use.

2. Get Yourself A Good Team - And Work with a Baseline

Big props go to my naturopath, with whom I've been working (in addition to my GP and my gynecologist and my cardiologist) to intersperse a variety of approaches. What I will say is that these headaches are fuckers. They've managed to get around intense acupuncture and to defy drugs (which I can't take due to an arrhythmia). But my naturopath, with the benefit of the results of a three-part hormone-panel I took in the summer, was able to determine clearly that my issue is hormonal but it isn't all about progesterone imbalance. (Oh no, peeps, that was so three years ago.) It's the precipitous drop in estrogen, which seems to crash now whenever it feels like it, that is causing my difficulties these days. This is why the formerly knowable headache pattern has become increasingly erratic. And lengthier.

Hilariously, given the incorrigibility of these headaches, my naturopath would generally recommend a low-dose birth control pill (not that she's a BCP pusher by any stretch!) But, because some of my migraines are preceded by an aura, that puts me at a slightly statistically higher risk of stroke on the Pill. Furthermore, while my mother's cancer was not hormonally-receptive, no one's psyched to put me on a strong bunch of hormones at this point. Including me.

And yet, to some extent, one has to fight fire with fire - which is to say, to balance reproductive hormones - the only trick left in my particular arsenal re: headache management - I have to use something that my hormones will respond to. Sure, yoga (and walking and sleep and eating well) are key for endocrine balance, but they're only part of the story...

3. Supplement, Supplement, Supplement (in accordance with your baseline and your health history, natch)

As compelling as it may be (and it may), this is not the time to go willy-nilly with whack supplements you read about online.

I've opted for a (carefully-monitored) cocktail of:
  • a phytoestrogen made from rhubarb (a gentle form of hormone mimicry), 
  • a hormonal precursor (which is upcycled by the body in whatever form is most required)
  • a supplement designed to help my body to metabolize excess estrogen 
  • diindolymethane, also known to promote metabolism of estrogen, specifically for women who may be at a risk of cancer
For me, the impact of the supplements (which I take in addition to 8 zillion other vitamins, including high doses of magnesium and riboflavin and an adrenal gland support supplement - based on advice from a neurologist, cardiologist and naturopath) has been notable:
  • Headaches are far less extreme and occur less frequently. I still get them, but they are manageable with an Advil gel caps/sleep/yoga. Noise and light sensitivity are diminished.
  • Night sweats are drastically reduced.
  • The mushball stomach thing is noticeably abated. Tone has returned to my upper abdomen, if only around the edges so far.
  • I have some energy. Sometimes, it's almost like the pre-pertussis days!
This process hasn't been easy, but I'm getting somewhere. Now if only I could gracefully fix the other hundred and twenty things this life-stage is throwing at me, I'd be freakin' Oprah Winfrey. Mixed with the Dalai Lama. Plus a bit of Meryl Streep thrown in.

I sense it's going to be a while.

Friday, November 1, 2013

In Which I Make It Pretty Clear That You Shouldn't Believe Me...

Look, I know I said I wasn't going to buy any more bras this season. Thing is, Panache came out with a new bra based on the very popular Jasmine. And it's beige.

Would it not be short-sighted to ignore this fact when one reads good review after good review and then finds it online for a reasonable price, no shipping fee??

Here's what it looks like:

Panache Envy Photo from Claire's great guest post on Already Pretty...
And now for the long story:


This bra is based on the Jasmine and the Andorra - two very popular Panache bras which are known for being extremely fit-friendly, especially for women with full-on-top breasts. The upper cup is made of very stretchy lace and the construction is 4-piece with vertical seams and a side-sling for more projection and support.

I've never tried the Andorra because I find it ugly. The Jasmine is much less ugly (and less full coverage, even though it too is touted as a full cup bra). I feel it's a bit too open in the upper cup (which is where my breasts could use a bit of containment from movement) even though it does fit well.

The Envy is considered to be a full-cup bra too - and I suspect it's less full seeming than the Andorra but more full seeming than the Jasmine. I'd categorize it as a full-balconette. It's not low, but it's got the curved upper cup shape of a balconette and it would be fine under most v-necks.


This bra fits large in the cup and true to size in the back so I suggest you consider going down a cup size when you try it - esp. if you are more balanced in bust shape that FOT or if you are between sizes. I ordered my regular size and it fits in the back but is probably too big on all but the puffiest of days. I'm not going to return it. Too much trouble and I'm not nuts about a bunch of features (read on) but it won't be in regular rotation.

It's rather comfortable. I'll give it that. And even though it's very fussy-looking with the lace and florid centre gore - far too fussy for me - it's fairly invisible under a shirt. Probably not a white t shirt though.

One of the more disappointing features, from my perspective, is the shape. It does not - despite the side sling - push one's boobs as front and centre as I prefer. Cleo, this thing ain't. Nor Empreinte. But I've come to realize that I can't really buy anything anymore, other than Empreinte, because everything else pales excessively. The centre gore of the Envy is wider in this bra than in either of those 2 brands (and wider than that of the Jasmine, it seems). The extra width is predominantly at the base of the gore. If I took a vertical seam at the base of the gore, subtracting half an inch or so of fabric, it would realign the bra such that my breasts would come closer together and lift slightly.

I think this is its nod to the Andorra (the gore of which totally put me off from the get-go) but which may actually be helpful for women with breasts of a certain shape.

I do not feel that it provides much lift - it's kind of like the Fantasie Helena in that way and inasmuch as it seems to widen breasts - even as it's quite supportive from the base of the bra and from the wires. Alas, the top gives relatively little support (in light of the stretchy lace to accommodate FOT shapes) so the overall supportiveness is compromised, IMO. 

If you are a narrow, small(ish) person with narrow breast roots, I don't think this bra is optimal. The wires are fairly wide (though not a deal-breaker) and the whole bra just seems to be catering to width, not depth, even as the cups are quite deep and large for size. One other thing to note: The wires are very strong, so if you struggle with flimsy wires, this bra really has that element covered.

How it Looks

Sorry, but this doesn't get my vote. The jaquard fabric makes it difficult to match effectively with non-brand, beige undies. The gore, which widens towards its base, is ugly and it seems to revel in it. The lace competes with the jaqard pattern in a way that doesn't seem eclectic so much as mismatched.

The splayed shape (which I suspect has something to do with the shape of my breasts in conjunction with the shape of the bra) is not so attractive. Partly this could be a preference thing, but when I wear Cleo and Empreinte bras my breasts are a) very supported from all sides b) lifted and c) pushed forward - not together since the gore is tacking.

Having said all of this, here's what I think the Envy has going for it:
  • The price is right. I got mine on eBay for 50 bucks, no shipping. That's a good price for a bra made well which, if it suits your taste and fits your chest, could be in regular rotation in your wardrobe.
  • It's a neutral, and there are too few seamed beige bras out there, IMO.
  • The wires are very strong.
  • It will work very well for women with different sized breasts and FOT shape. Even on the small side, the soft and stretchy lace is not likely to wrinkle unless the discrepancy is more than a cup size.
  • It goes up to a UK J cup.
  • It's a continuation line, so if you like it, it'll be there for you.
  • You can find it reasonably easy in boutiques and online. Butterfly Collection carries it (shipping is free) as do vendors on eBay.
And so that you can get a balanced perspective, Bras I Hate and Love does a very good, very positive review of this style.

So, what do you think? Have you tried this bra? Do you agree with my assessment? Intriguingly, while writing, I had just decided to return this bra when my husband swooped into the recycling by the front door and threw the tag in the bin. The wet-from-rain, gross bin. So I guess this bra is mine...

PS: I'm really not buying any more bras.