Spring Socks

One of the goals I’ve set for this year is knitting a pair of socks each month, usually as part of the Sock Knitters Anonymous challenges on Ravelry. I’ve also decided they would be part of the #FreeSocks2020 project, where the socks are knit with yarn I already have in my stash, from patterns available for free.

These are my Cuarzo Rosa socks, and between the pretty lace pattern and delicate pink heather color, they feel just perfect for spring. I cast these on for the April-May SKA challenge theme of “under-appreciated patterns,” where a design must have fewer than 15 projects on Ravelry to qualify. I am stunned that I was only the seventh person to cast on for this incredibly beautiful and enjoyable design.

Inspired by the lacy clusters of rose quartz crystals as they are found in nature, the pattern grows into rhythmic organic shapes that are nowhere near as difficult to knit as they may look. I always love that quality in lace.

I’m having a great time watching these socks develop and look forward to having a finished pair soon!

FO: Varsity Kermit Sweater!!!

Way, way back in 2011 I sketched out the plan for this sweater and finally today, on Kermit the Frog’s 65th birthday, it is finally finished. Yaaayyyyy!!!

Pattern: Self-Designed Seamless V-Neck Cardigan, using the Incredible Custom-Fit Raglan Sweater Worksheet by Pamela Costello (Project page on Ravelry)
Size: Made to custom measurements
Yarn: Red Heart Sport Solid, DK weight, 100% acrylic, in Limeade and Paddy Green

Started: October 26, 2011
Finished: May 9, 2020

The idea for this sweater had been percolating for much longer, at least as far back as 2007 when I bought this yarn for a different cardigan and laughed that the color was so bright it looked like Kermit the Frog. It should be noted here that I absolutely love Kermit the Frog. As I type this I have a Kermit mouse pad, Kermit is the screen background on my phone, I have a Kermit keychain, more than a few Kermit t-shirts, dolls, water bottles, and so on. He is one of my favorite characters of all-time and never fails to make me smile.

One day riding the ferry home from school, I was thinking about this sweater quantity of bright green yarn and saw a high school student wearing a varsity jacket. I started thinking about the history of varsity sweaters, Googled a bit about the meaning of the stripes, and by the time I reached Staten Island I had sketched out a little V-neck cardigan to declare my varsity-level Kermit love.

I found an iron-on Kermit patch and ordered it right away, then worked out the measurements from the custom-fit raglan worksheet linked above. I found a nicely coordinating darker green for the ribbing and stripes, and I decided that even though varsity sweaters customarily had stripes on only one sleeve, I would indulge myself in a bit of symmetry so both sleeves would match. Knitting the sweater was straightforward and fast, but then I hit a roadblock with the patch. As the yarn was 100% acrylic (chosen for economy, my super sensitive skin, and easy care) I was leery about ironing the patch on, as it would melt the acrylic along with the adhesive.

I sat with this problem for close to a decade, then finally came up with an incredibly obvious solution. I first ironed the patch onto a piece of quilting cotton, then made a sort of sandwich of this layer, the sweater, and a second piece of cotton for a backing.

I trimmed the fabric close to the patch and pinned it where I wanted it above my heart on the sweater.

I turned the edges under and appliquéd the fabric as close to the patch as I could get it, pulling the edges in and slightly under the patch as I worked my way around.

It came out quite clean, and I’m delighted with how securely and neatly it sits on the sweater without pulling or causing it to sag.

I hemmed the inner piece of cotton and tacked it at the corners, to catch all the thread ends and knots and to further stabilize the patch. I had a good laugh, as my brother joined me during this part and recognized the Kermit collar points and silhouette from this back side, asking, “Are you sewing a Kermit onto that sweater??”

It feels lovely to be so understood.

The buttons are a cheery red plastic value pack that I found on eBay back in 2012. I like the contrast and extra little zip they give. At the time I was preoccupied with button bands gapping, so I made these nice and wide, then placed the buttons so closely together that it is nigh on impossible for them to gap at all. Having all these big, bright goofy buttons works with the aesthetic, and I am even more charmed than I expected to be by the whole effect.

Overall I’m thrilled with this project and so glad I took my time in making the decisions I did to get exactly the silly idea I had in my head to become a reality. One of the things I love most about knitting is that you can make anything you imagine, in any size or color you like, with whatever details you want, and you will end up with a one-of-a-kind handmade creation. I am also delighted with the success in making a sweater custom to my measurements so that the sleeves have the right roominess I was looking for, the V-neck hits in just the right spot on my bust, and everything is the right length and fit for a truly comfortable, just-my-size, just-my-style, and just-my-level-of-ridiculous cardigan.

Or as Kermit would put it…

Previous Entries with this Project:
Varsity Kermit Sweater

Social media, catching up, and knitting in quarantine

“It’s been a while since I updated my knitting blog,” I thought sheepishly, firing up a browser with a bit of trepidation… “It’s probably been like six months or more…”

Last post date August 21, 2018.

2018? 2018! Oh jeez, I’m sorry.

I did not mean to disappear when I set up my Knitting Instagram to share projects. It happened to fall at the same time as a whole bunch of personal turmoil (career stuff, illness, moving, starting a program to retrain for a new career etc. etc.) and until recently, I was spending the majority of my free time on a long train commute in and out of Manhattan, which is great for knitting but has not proven optimal for knit-blogging.

Knitting and knit-blogging are really two different animals, and I think there is great value in exploring projects and concepts more comprehensively. When I am searching for a tutorial or more information about a pattern, I pretty much never search Instagram or go through needle-in-a-haystack Ravelry searches; it’s more often 10-year-old blog posts that give the qualities of thought and reflection or specific, detailed information I want. On a personal level, I also feel there is tremendous joy in writing and reading about crafts and the places they hold in our lives. I don’t tend to go very in-depth on Instagram or interact as much as I mean to, so I would like all of that to change.

So what have I been up to?

Since my last post here I’ve:

  • knit 16 pairs of socks
  • designed, knit, and gifted (on time!) a cabled baby sweater for my cousin’s son
  • learned how to use my sewing machine (kind of) to sew a linen caftan that I dye-painted for a costumed art party (will miracles never cease?!)
  • packed up all my stash and in-process projects, save a handful, and put them into my storage locker while I’m living with family and going to school
  • knit three sweaters for myself
  • knit two yoga mat bags, one for each of my parents, which they absolutely love
  • knit my first colorwork mittens and socks
  • participated in the Fiberuary Challenge, posting on Instagram in response to prompts for every day of this past February
  • started knitting my first blanket (more on that below)
  • hand-sewed and embroidered three Mask Strap Ear Guards for my physical therapist father and two of his colleagues
  • started learning brioche

While I mull over the best way to catch up here (I will probably introduce a series of Flashback FO posts), I also want to talk about knitting in quarantine.

Prior to the covid-19 pandemic, I was already using knitting as a form of meditation, self-care, anxiety-release, and way to occupy my hands while I’m chatting, watching television, reading, or commuting. I always have at least one or two projects on the go (hence the large number of socks I’ve knit this year, as they are the most portable projects) and turn to them whenever I have a free moment. A lot of the knitters I follow on Instagram took on larger or more complicated projects for their “Quarantine Cast-Ons,” to make the most of their stay-at-home orders.

As I live with and know quite a number of high-risk individuals – and was just coming off two surgeries myself in late January – I took the infection risk from this pandemic very seriously. Like, I put a mask with an N-95 filter on my Christmas wish list and wore it every day in the city from when my classes resumed in early February onwards. As my brother and father are both essential healthcare workers, we have all been taking enormous precautions to stay safe and limit everyone’s risk of exposure, so I am happy to stay at home, adjust to my classes moving online, and knit through every worry.

One of my other Christmas gifts was the Hue Shift Afghan kit, a gorgeous blanket with a clever pattern that pairs each of ten colors in a rainbow spectrum with every other color in a plaid-like stripey grid gradient made with mitered squares.

I am absolutely enamored with the process and how neatly the squares fold in on themselves. It is also a whole lot of easy garter stitch, which is deeply soothing, meditative, and comforting when I am lacking the intellectual or emotional bandwidth to process anything else. I’ve found myself working on this blanket through countless Zoom lectures, conversations with my biomed tech brother reporting back from endless days setting up ventilators and all the equipment in northern New Jersey hospital systems, governor’s press briefings, fundraising specials, and all the distractions to take our minds off all the rest. (On that note, we just caught up on Killing Eve, and it is great fun).

Beyond all the practical and knitterly reasons why this is a great quarantine project, I am also touched by the idea of the rainbow as a promise of better things to come after hardship. As I knit my rainbow blanket, I keep imagining ways we can come together and make a better society, how we are unified in this moment and can use it to open our eyes to inequities, distorted and broken systems, and our inherently better natures. I am focusing this blanket in love, hope, and idealism, and I hope it will continue to carry that feeling for me whenever I use it after this time.

So, how have you been? What have you all been making?

FO: Scrolls Socks

Amazingly, I finished another pair of socks this month! And it only took me ten years or so to get here…



The last time we talked about these socks was back in July 2008 (yikes), when I had cast them on for a lace socks challenge. I made a silly mistake in the pattern that would have meant I had to rip back three or four rows to fix it, and I was still a new enough knitter that such a task was entirely too daunting, so I did what any sensible person would do: put them in the bottom of my knitting basket for 10 years and pretended they didn’t exist.



Pattern: Scrolls Socks by Charlene Schurch, from her book More Sensational Knitted Socks. (Project page on Ravelry)
Size: Women’s size 9.5 (US)
Yarn: Knit Picks Essential (now called Stroll), fingering weight, 75% superwash Merino wool / 25% nylon in Coral
Needles: Size 1 (2.25 mm) DPNs (from the Susan Bates 7″ sock set)
Modifications: None, as the pattern creates custom socks

Started: July 14, 2008 (no, that’s not a typo)
Finished: August 19, 2018



Every August, the Sock Knitters Anonymous group on Ravelry has a community KAL to finish in-progress WIPs, and I finally worked up the motivation to pick these socks back up again. Gosh, they just danced off the needles this time.



I was glad to revisit Charlene Schurch’s brilliant book, which I had initially purchased primarily for this pattern. This time I read the note about how despite being a fairly open 8-stitch repeat, scroll lace knit in the round has a tendency to be less stretchy than one might expect because of the way the pattern falls on a bias. Therefore, I followed the recommendation to increase from 64 stitches on the foot to 72 on the leg, resulting in a perfectly-fitting sock.



It was around the time when I started these socks that I discovered my favorite elements in sock-knitting, starting toe-up with a figure-8 cast-on and working a short-row heel.



As with my Catnip Socks, I worked several rows in stockinette stitch (half a repeat) on the back needles after turning the heel. I used these rows to absorb the 8 stitches I increased for the leg, and I think it all worked out quite nicely.



The scroll lace pattern is so intuitive I had it memorized by the first repeat, and it was great fun to work. I love when lace is so high-impact from such simple combinations of yarn-overs and decreases. It makes me feel terribly clever as a knitter. The saturated coral-orange color and lovely feel of the yarn made this project a pleasure through and through.



If I had known what a joy it would be to make these socks, I probably wouldn’t have waited ten years to finish them! But I’m delighted to get to wear them now and looking forward to the next pair.

 

Previous Entries with this Project:
2008 Knits in Review
Keeping Busy

 

FO: Catnip Socks

Toward the end of July, I cast on a new pair of socks on a whim, thinking it would be fun to participate in a Sockdown knitalong in a beloved Ravelry group for the first time in… oh, ten years or so… and this weekend I finished my Catnip Socks!



Pattern: Catnip Socks by Wendy D. Johnson. (Project page on Ravelry)
Size: Women’s size 9.5 (US)
Yarn: Knit Picks Stroll Tonal, fingering weight, 75% superwash Merino wool / 25% nylon in color #26755 Cucumber
Needles: Size 0 (2.0 mm) DPNs (Knit Picks 6″ nickel-plated)
Modifications: Changed to a short-row heel with additional stockinette rows before beginning lace of leg; worked pattern over 70 stitches

Started: July 26, 2018
Finished: August 10, 2018



I’m just delighted with the way these socks came out. Something about the soft cool color, delicate lace, and fine gauge thanks to size 0 needles makes these basically perfect.


I was attracted to this pattern for the toe-up lace, which flowed neatly and was easy to memorize. I started with a figure-8 cast-on over 8 stitches and increased to 70 so the pattern would be continuous around the leg.



I worked my favorite short-row heel by decreasing to 13 stitches (11 on each side), then I continued in stockinette for 1 pattern repeat (8 rows) to give a bit more depth to the heel before beginning the lace for the leg.



I was somewhat irrationally nervous I would run out of yarn, despite the super generous 462-yard put-up. I had no reason to worry, as I still had quite a bit of yarn left after working my typical length legs and plenty of ribbing.



I truly enjoyed working with this yarn, which was soft but strong and so subtly variegated that the color shifts were nearly imperceptible at times, building to a beautiful semisolid. I’m glad I have other colorways of this yarn in my stash, as I can’t wait to work with it again.



Everything about this project was a dream, and it reminded me of why I love lace, sock-knitting, and lace sock-knitting so very much. Not suprisingly, I’ve already got another pair of lace socks on the needles.

Previous Entries with this Project:
Summer Knitting