Knitting all the time

I think that being a knitter is similar to being an artist, or a scientist, or a chef, in that as you go about the day, you don’t really ever stop being what you are, yet it’s not the only thing that defines your existence. As I ride the ferry, I always notice the knit items people are wearing, examining their construction, the fit, the lace or cable pattern, and in the same way that I look at paintings as if I had a brush in my hand, I wonder how I would make this thing, what I might change about it, and so on.

But mentally knitting, obviously, isn’t the same thing as physically taking needles and yarn and producing something, which is why I’m so delighted to have stolen moments here and there to make progress on a bunch of projects, old and new.

First, look what’s off the needles and awaiting blocking…

This is my Upstairs shawl/wrap/scarf, with which I am utterly enamored. I will go on (and on) about this project in its own FO post, but I will say that the thought of blocking it and having raggedly, pointy, stretched-out edges broke me down, and I bought blocking wires. I look forward to seeing how they work out.

I stayed with my family in New Jersey through Hurricane Irene, and the several days we were without power gave me quite a head of steam on a project I haven’t mentioned before.

This is a summery laceweight shrug knit in seafoam stitch, and even though it will probably be a while (like, the next three seasons) before I get to wear it, I’m pretty enthused with what I think it will become.

I pretty much always have socks on the go (I will do a whole sock catch-up soon), but these had been abandoned a while ago in my knitting basket. I can’t really remember why, save for the tedium of working with bamboo needles, but once I started them back up again, I whipped through a heel and have been moving up the leg.

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I love this snowflake lace pattern, and I keep thinking about where else I might like to use it (probably a cardigan or shrug?) since it is that perfect blend of organic and geometric, deceptively simple, and really quite lovely when stretched and worn (saving that for the FO post, again, soon).

Now I didn’t knit this, but this is a spectacular alpaca hat my parents picked up for me during their vacation to Peru in August.

I am so smitten with its colors, style, and decadent, soft warmth that I’m actually willing the weather to get colder so I can wear it outside of my apartment. My father bought my mother an insanely gorgeous alpaca cardigan, which I have to remember to photograph the next time I visit.

Mmmm, alpaca….

And saving perhaps the best for last, I have finally started a new sweater for my mother, which is technically her Christmas gift from ohh… 2008? This is not her gift this year, but rather something I’m going to try to get done soon because I feel bad promising people knits and not following through (I’ve done this with both parents and my brother, so yeah, bad habit of mine).

You may recognize it as the Cable-Down Raglan, a pattern I’ve admired for a long, long while. And yes, I have the yarn (and now the skills) to make one for myself too.

I had started a different cabled sweater for my mom years ago, but the more FO photos I’ve seen on Ravelry, the less I think that sweater will be particularly flattering for her, and it would make us both feel terrible to spend all this time knitting some elaborate cabled sweater that she never wears it because it looks bad. I admitted that this hesitation was most of why I’d stalled out on her super-belated Christmas gift, and she was relieved that I didn’t plug ahead on a feckless project. When I showed her the Cable-Down Raglan and photos of women with similar shapes and how wonderful they looked in it, she became enthusiastic and encouraged me to go forward with this one instead.

True to form, she picked out another heathered purple yarn, and I must say, I’m pretty pleased with the way it’s coming along. I really hope she likes it!

So these are but a few of the projects keeping my hands busy lately. I often think that if I focused on just one project at a time, I could whip out the FOs left and right, and this may be a strategy I can employ once I get some of the long-hibernating WIPs out of my basket and off my needles. But in the meantime, we’re coming into autumn, or Knitter’s Paradise, and I’m happy to have my hands full of wool again.

FO – Fancy Merino Socks

That Nancy Bush, man. She can really design a pair of socks.

Nancy Bush is one of the only designers for whom I will happily knit socks from the top-down, and I’m really happy when I do.

Pattern: Fancy Silk Sock for a Child of 5 or 6 Years by Nancy Bush, from the book Knitting Vintage Socks; my project is here on Ravelry
Size: US women’s 9
Yarn: Knit Picks Stroll 4-ply fingering weight, in Glacial, 75% Merino wool / 25% nylon; I used 71.9 grams, which was approximately 332.6 yards/ 304.2 meters
Needles: Knit Picks size 1.5 (2.5 mm) nickel-plated DPNs, set of 5
Modifications: added one lace repeat to lengthen the leg, otherwise knit as written

Started: January 2, 2010
Finished: February 17, 2010

I’ve wanted to knit these socks for a while, and the January Sock Knitters Anonymous challenge featuring Nancy Bush as a designer provided the perfect opportunity. While knitting, I wondered why I enjoy Nancy Bush patterns so very much, and I think it’s the utter clarity of design, which is carried through in the directions. Every stitch is accounted for, with patterns that are logical and intuitive, with clever transitions and connections among motifs, as well as ways for keeping track of progress that aren’t tedious, such as counting the selvedge chains on the heel flap.

A lot of the sock patterns I’ve seen are essentially some stitch pattern plugged into a basic sock formula, which is what makes them so easy to convert to toe-up. I like that Nancy (yeah, we’re going to be on a first-name basis now) really thought through ways to incorporate the vintage shapes into an overall harmonious flow of stitchery that results in not just a sock, but really a bit of artistry.

And yet, these delicate little tulip shapes blooming up the leg, as well as the dancing lace between them, are incredibly easy and fast to work, which of course I have to love. This portion of the design could have been worked upside-down, but I don’t think it would have the same dimensionality and rhythm.

I’m completely in love with the yarn. It is creamy and squishy and soft, yet strong and durable, making for a lovely sock that feels great on the feet, but holds up to wearing with shoes. I have great love for Knit Picks, and this yarn is one of the ones I’d most highly recommend.

Oh, and the color. It’s this agonizingly beautiful minty bluish greenish color, very accurately named for its similarity to glacial ice (which I will be seeing a lot of on my upcoming trip to Iceland). It also conjures a particularly delightful chapter in the D.H. Lawrence book Women in Love called “Crème de Menthe,” along with general mint green frostings and creamy, decadent things. It may be weird to associate this color with romance and indulgence, but I picture it somehow with cushy white spa robes and crisp white sheets, gentleness and tenderness and all kinds of mushy things.

My only misgiving of sorts, with these socks, is that the lace cuff at the top is a little tight, which prevented me from lengthening the leg as much as I wanted to. I’d read recommendations to work it with a larger needle, and I meant to, then forgot at the last minute and went at it with the 1.5 size. I figured I should be alright since I’d already gone up a half size from the recommended size 1’s, but this is a common issue for me with top-down socks. I can probably fix the cuff with some aggressive blocking (though weirdly, I can’t find my sock blockers anywhere!). Still, these are long enough that they don’t bother me, and their loveliness makes up for anything else for me.

Previous Entries on this Project:
For the Love of Nancy Bush

For the love of Nancy Bush

I purchased my copy of Nancy Bush’s Knitting Vintage Socks quite some time ago, and it wasn’t until this past September that I knit my first project from it.

When I saw that the January Sockdown for the Sock Knitters Anonymous group on Ravelry had Nancy Bush as the featured designer, I couldn’t resist starting two new pairs.

The first is the Child’s Sock in Miranda Pattern, which I am working toe-up over 64 stitches. This is my portable, train and subway type knitting, since the pattern is effortless to memorize and easy to pick up at any point and work a few rows.

In starting the second pair, I surprised even myself, as I was following the instructions and knitting them from the top down. They are the Fancy Silk Sock for a Child of 5 or 6 Years, though I am calling them my Fancy Merino Socks. I probably could have knit these toe-up, but I love the lacy cuff and the way the heel shaping forms a geometric counterpoint to the delicate lace pattern. I guess Nancy Bush really is that good.

FO – Yellow Evening Stockings

It feels like so long ago that I photographed these, and even longer since I finished them, but I’m happy to finally present one of my favorite FOs yet, yellow knee socks:

Pattern: Evening Stockings for a Young Lady (Ravelry link) by Nancy Bush, from the book Knitting Vintage Socks
Size: lady’s US size 9 with 9-inch foot circumference and 9.5-inch foot length
Yarn: Knit Picks Palette 4-ply fingering weight, color 6240 Semolina, 100% wool; I used 2.14 skeins, which was 107 grams/3.76 oz or 494.3 yards/452 meters.
Needles: Knit Picks 6″ nickel-plated double-pointed needles, set of 5 size 1.5 (2.50 mm)
Modifications: Added 10 lace repeats after calf decreases to lengthen leg; used toe from Hedera instead of star toe in pattern

Started: September 1, 2009
Finished: September 27, 2009

These were my first knee socks, and I actually followed the pattern, despite my general reluctance (should I call it extreme aversion?) to knitting socks from the top-down. That Nancy Bush, man. She can write a pattern!

Usually when I knit socks, I take the lace or stitch pattern and plug it into my preferred method of toe-up sock knitting. I was really tempted to do that with these socks as well, but when I started reading all of the calf-shaping instructions, I realized that these were a totally different game, and if I wanted socks that would fit, I should do them the way Nancy wrote them. I’m so glad I did!

The calf shaping is wonderful. It was written to transition smoothly within the lace pattern, so there was no tricky math or problematic recalculation of where in the lace to work increases or decreases. The lace pattern itself was wonderfully intuitive, and I memorized it in the first repeat. Because it was so easy and logical, these socks literally flew by, and I loved every minute of them.

I was iffy about the star toe in the pattern, since I was definitely planning to wear these socks with shoes and I wanted something that would lay as flat as possible. I opted for the toe from the Hedera pattern, which was one of the only top-down toes I’d done before, but which I noted fit my toes very comfortably and worked unobtrusively in shoes.

And I have to admit that while I wasn’t a fan of working the heel and gusset (the pattern was very clear, easy to follow etc – it’s just a personal thing), it looks pretty lovely and it fits very comfortably into my shoes. Shockingly, these socks actually stay up while I walk too, which is a major bonus for any knee socks.

I knit these socks as part of the September Sock Knitters Anonymous Sockdown challenge, where one of the options was knitting yellow socks. I was surprised at how many people started out hating on yellow, since I adore it. I had been dreaming about yellow lace knee socks for a while (perhaps I have a bit of Malvolio in me), so I found this a perfect occasion.

The yarn was a pleasure, as I expected. While not as soft as some of the pricier sock yarns I’ve used, I found Palette to be a really good yarn for this project. The socks didn’t stretch out with wearing, they didn’t felt or pill at all, and they seemed comfortable and durable, yet soft. For the price, I don’t think you can find a better value in fingering-weight wool, and I genuinely adore its color.

If it’s not overly obvious, I love these socks and I’m thrilled with this project. I wore these to work and my labmates were all coveting them like crazy, asking where they could buy a similar pair. I love having something so unique and so specifically suited to my personality, which I enjoy wearing as much as I enjoyed making them!

A Touch of Yellow

As much as I don’t want to acknowledge that summer will ever end, I’ve become increasingly aware of the chill in the air. In my memory, summer stretches through September and well up to my birthday (November 1), but in reality, I know that fall is coming sooner than I think.

I put aside my plan to make the Upstairs Wrap for this October wedding. I still plan to make it, since I absolutely adore the way it’s coming out, but I think it will be too airy, light, and summery for a proper fall wrap.

Instead I’ve started a pair of wool knee socks, in a delightful warm yellow (Knit Picks Palette, in Semolina). I really don’t like knitting socks from the top down, but I’m glad I’m following the pattern as written on these.

I guess they are my way of stretching a bit of summer into the fall.