Quest for Sock Yarn

Many years ago (30 to be exact) there was a movie called Quest for Fire, in which cave-dwelling humans found that they had lost their fire (which was their ability to keep warm, have cooked food, etc), and sent 3 men on a quest to find some other group of humans that would give them fire or from whom they could capture it.  It was a great quest — and it ends with good things for the tribe and fire.

I have only a little quest – I want to spin sock yarn.  I’m pretty good at spinning not sock yarn.  So, with some great BFL wool, naturally dyed by Kristine of A Verb for Keeping Warm, my quest begins again.  Here’s a photo of three sample spins, and the swatches that they produced:


The original not-sock yarn was worsted-aran weight.  My next attempt (#1) at a more sock-like yarn looks great, but it is a DK weight yarn at 5.5 stitches per inch. I tried spinning woolen again – just does not work – but would be great for a sweater!  So noted.

My second attempt (#2) was to spin worsted, but to spin the singles hard, and ply lighter (I did navajo plying because I was lazy).  It turned out a nice dense yarn, but kind of thick at 6 stitches per inch.

The third attempt (#3) was to spin worsted, concentrating on drafting well, and spinning the singles less, and plying hard.  Bingo!  I have a lovely yarn at 7 stitches per inch, and a nice feel.

So, I’ve split the rest of the bump into 3 lengths, and will be spinning them and hopefully end up with my first bit of sock yarn.  You hear me spinning Goddesses, this is gonna be sock yarn!

Oh, and I finished a cowl from the not-sock-yarn, and hopefully by next week, I’ll have a pattern to share!

Simple Cowl1f


Review: Inspinknity Blocking Wires

Long ago before the internets, when knitting was something you learned through books and actual person-to-person learning (back in the 1980s), I took a sweater design class from Leslye Solomon at a lovely sewing store called G Street Fabrics near Washington, DC, which is where I also learned how to sew a fully lined and tailored blazer.  At that class, I bought myself her video on sweater finishing (VHS, but still a good video), and some blocking wires.

I still have some of those wires – the straight nonflexible ones are pretty cool – about 36 inches long.  Somewhere in my many moves, I lost the smaller flexible ones, which was a bummer.  But the wires I have are still in great shape after all this time, and I use them all the time – they are smooth, well-finished, non-rusting.  They are, however, a bummer to store and move.  The only box I could put them in when I’ve moved is in the wardrobe boxes for hanging clothes. and at my place they are stored in a corner of a closet with newsprint surrounding them so they don’t wander off.

Inspinknity Premium Blocking Wires

Recently, I heard on The Knit Wits podcast about a new set of blocking wires  – they’re called Inspinknity Premium Blocking Wires.  And they are the perfect addition to my blocking tools. They have two great qualities for my blocking needs:

  • They have memory – so that you can use them to block a curved edge, but they will return to straight once they are released from pinning – See this example of a wire in its straight natural shape, and another pinned to a curve.

Victoria adapted 1f

  • They will be easy store in the large zip-loc bag that they come in on a shelf.
  • inspinknity blocking wires

You get a number of different lengths of wires for different uses – the smallest ones are great for the small curved edges of a sleeve, neckline or armhole, the medium and long ones work for the sides of a cardigan.  The package I bought would require you to combine wires to block a large shawl, but there is another set you can buy with extra-long wires for such projects. As of this writing, the wires are only available through the Etsy store.

A couple of things to know about these wires.  They are smaller in gauge than my stiffer wires, and so they are very pointy.  They come with plastic guards, but you’ll probably want to take those off to put the wires into the knitting -but I recommend you put them right back on after you put the knitting through – you could easily poke something and break skin without them.  I wouldn’t want to store them without the guards, and those little things will be easy to go missing.  I wish there’d been a small packet of extras in a tiny zip-loc included in the package, because I know I will eventually lose some.  Because the wires are thinner, you will need to use several T-pins even for straight line items if you want to stretch block the item — not a big deal, but you will probably want to have more than is included in this set – a minor thing, but something that is good to know.

Simple Cowl1d

These have made a great addition to my blocking tools – I will be trying them out on a lace shawl soon, and will be able to report on that, but already, I am pleased with this purchase!


Back to the World

This week has had a couple of milestones.  I had the other scary brain imaging thing, and that fortunately doesn’t show anything acutely wrong, although I will take said images to neurologist who wants to see them.  I am still getting itchiness and headaches, but they are lessened with medication.

Yesterday I went back to teaching my water aerobics class, and kidded them that they are now in better shape than I am.  It went well, but with a meeting at my mom’s assisted living place, and carrying in a new bed frame for her, I might have overdone things a little – was exhausted in the afternoon, although fine by the evening and ok today.

That means I am really back in the world, with all the pluses and minuses.  Among the minuses I discovered as I got well is that my apartment was a wreck.  Give it a few months, and I might have been a candidate for Hoarders, the minister’s edition.  On the plus side, I had bought a voucher through Living Social for housecleaning, so I scheduled them to come (and paid for a couple of more hours – because I want my kitchen fully clean), and now I have to straighten things up and toss/organize a ton of stuff so the cleaners can clean.  The kitties are a bit nonplussed by the removal of things on the floor, on tables (like, there’s a dining table there?), recyclables to the bins downstairs, and all manner of crud/crap getting out of there.  Still have a ways to go, but I can now look around not feel anxious.

Which is a good thing, because I am embarrassingly behind on some of my professional life, not like I didn’t have a reason, but still.   I feel like the header of every post, tweet, email, and phone conversation should start with “I apologize.” Today I started and/or completed a few things that had been nagging at me for weeks, and even dealt with a bride-from-hell who just has to twist the knife into me one more time to see if she can draw some blood.   Brides are for the most part lovely, so I’m just sucking it up, as we all have to do in our jobs.

One good thing on the horizon is that I get to go to Princeton for work the 2nd week of October.  I’m going to take the weekend after for me – either get together with a friend, or simply relax in the Fall colors.  I’d love to go to the Rhinebeck Festival, but I have a couple of things to work out. It appears that this is far enough away that I’d need to rent a car even to catch a bus trip to it, and then  find a hotel room, but I may lurk on the Ravelry forum to see if there’s a bed open somewhere within 50 miles.  When would I ever get there otherwise?

Knitting-wise, I am working on finishing up a wool cardigan for my Mom the one week it is in the 90’s here.  Timing is bad for that – but it’s looking pretty good. Here’s the body:

Victoria adapted 1d

Sleeves will get blocked (I’ll try out my new inSpinknity blocking wires and report), and then I can assemble at leisure. I’m thinking I’ll give it to her in November when things get cool around here.


Handy Tools

One of the best things I have ever done for my knitting is to ramp up my “hand” tools.  No, I’m not talking about needles, or hooks, I’m talking about using your hands to help you measure your knitting. Seriously, think about it.  You always have your hands with you, you never need to dig in your bag for them (well, ok, if you have a prosthetic hand you would).  Hands, they are right there, attached to your arms.  So “handy.”  And I’ve not seen this in any recent knitting book, except for the Yarn Harlot in terms of measuring hats for length(she’s like that, always a couple of steps ahead of me).  But I don’t even use them the way she does (I think).

Ok, so how do I use them in my knitting?  I use them as a rough measurement tool for my knitting.  Personally, I use two basic measurements most of the time, but I suppose that you could take this farther.

Thumb Measurement

Take your thumb, and measure how long the top digit is.  Mine is about 1 inch.  Use this for ribbing and the like.  Seriously, whether your ribbing is exactly 2 inches, or 2 1/4 inches hardly ever matters.  Trust me on that one.  And kill me for assuring you of this and you decide to use it the one time it doesn’t.  But do not use it for gauge.  Gauge measurement needs to be precise like baking measurements – you can’t be off on that flour fat sugar soda thing.

Hand Span Measurement

My other basic hand measurement is the hand span.  Open up your hand big and wide, stretching out your fingers, and see how long that is. Like this (note:  this is not my hand):


Mine is about 8-ish inches, which makes it really good for figuring how long a sock is – from the toe  or at the end of the toe, the length of the foot.  When I get to two hand-spans on the body length of a sweater, it is time to start figuring out where I am and when I’m going to start the shaping. A single hand span is a little longer than a length of an armscythe on a sweater (for me), and the width of a neckline on a sweater (also for me).  See how useful this can be?

Using Hands and Thumbs

When I get close to the neighborhood of the needed measurement, then I pull out the actual measuring tape (see the ribbing exception above), but I can almost assure you that using your hand will cut down about 80 percent of the time that you need the dang tape measure.  Which means an 50 percent reduction, at least, in the number of times

  • you will leave it in a place that you can not remember (because you’ll put it back in the right place more often the less you use it), or
  • the cat or the dog has decided it is a really cool toy to tear apart or hide in a mysterious place, or
  • some other member of your household found they needed one, took it, and now they can’t remember where it is,

and there might be just a freak out on the part of the knitter who has reached a crucial point in the knitting and now cannot move on. This sad state has been known to cause marital and maternal friction in the extreme.

See, we started with hands, and now I am saving your marriage, your pets, or your child’s life. You’re welcome.

Does anybody else do this?  How do you use your hands as measuring tools? Please leave a comment!


Even Better

I noted that I am over the fact that my woolen-spun 3 ply is not sock yarn:


When I showed this yarn with some swatching on it to my spinning fiberista friend Judy on Saturday, the conversation went like this:

“What is it?”

“That’s just some stitches I made up.”

“No, the fiber.”

“Oh, it’s 100% BFL from Miss Babs.”

“No, it isn’t. Look at the shine and the fuzz. There’s some silk in it”

You gotta love a friend who can spot silk content in a yarn by the fuzz.

The funny thing about this? That’s what the label said when I bought it, but Miss Babs was convinced that my bump, along with some others, had gotten mislabled, so she charged me less for the 100% wool, and crossed out the silk part.  And I spun it, the whole time thinking there was no silk in it, and that it would be sock yarn.

After ripping out my first swatchings, I created this stitch pattern (probably has a name in some stitch dictionary, I haven’t checked) which is looking pretty good in this yarn:

Simple Cowl

I’m sure the silk is making all the difference!


Adapt, Part 2

In my last post, I talked about adapting a sweater pattern and substituting stitch patterns, so that you don’t have to completely design a whole sweater, which I am also doing.  In this post, I am re-grouping from a spinning failure surprise.

You see, the intent was to spin some sock yarn, but things didn’t quite turn out as planned.  Instead, I have some bouncy and quite beautiful 3-ply worsted-ish yarn  in the lovely Blackwater colorway out of BFL from Miss Babs.  Now that I’m over the disappointment of this being not-sock-yarn, I can see how beautiful it is:


Now, the fact that recently I acquired five 2 oz other bumps of beautiful naturally-dyed BFL (dyed by A Verb for Keeping Warm) from an LYS closeout sale has definitely helped in the “move-on, nothing to see here” phase.  I can work on making some sock yarn out of it. Really. I’m sure I can. (I hope I can?)

The plan for the not-sock-yarn is a cowl, and I plan to totally wing it.  It’ll probably be knit in the flat to take advantage of the subtle color variations in the yarn, and will use some texture, and probably have some button closure.  Other than that, really, this is just a large swatch, so it’ll be some fun in-between knitting for the sweater design and sweater adaptation. My guess is that it will be a Christmas present, unless I love it too much.

The kitties had excitement this last week, because a package from my swap partner for the kitty-toy swap came.  Packaging can be as fun as the actual stuff, you know!

even packaging is fun



Because there’s already one original sweater design underway in the house, when I decided to knit my mom a sweater, it came to me that I didn’t have to start from scratch, maybe I could adapt an existing pattern, and save my brain (and time).

In looking for a suitable pattern, I decided to look for a cardigan, preferably with a shawl collar.   Generally, when I come across patterns on Ravelry (or other places, and hit the lovely “ravel it” button on my Firefox browser), I’ll save them as a favorite, adding tags like “cardigan cable sweater Mom” and then later I can check all the cardigans, or the ones labeled Mom to find suitable things.  In this case, I think I just searched the amazing Ravelry database for cardigans and came across the free Knitty pattern Victoria – by the lovely Lori Versaci.  This is a basic slouchy kind of sweater – a moss stitch (no biggie if you’re a continental knitter -I’m just saying), but I really love the collar on this sweater, and my mom loves a shawl collar.

I checked out the projects on Ravelry (one search tip – look at the “helpful” ones – check out that great new tutorial on Ravelry main page if you don’t know how to do that), and found someone else who’d designed her own cable stitch pattern that she’d put into the schematic of the Victoria sweater.  She mentioned that the schematic (the measurements of the sweater) were good enough to make it easy to adapt, and checking it myself, I realized she was right.  There’s no body shaping, and Lori tells you where to start the band and collar shaping too.

The next step was to figure out what stitch pattern to use for the sweater.   My mom is 89 and more traditional, and small and round, so I wanted some interesting pattern on the front of the sweater, but something basic on the rest.   In searching my pattern books and stitch dictionaries, I found one in Barbara Walker’s A Treasury of Knitting Patterns – the  Triple Gull Stitch on p. 248.  But I wanted a bigger panel, and having just knit the Yarn Over Cable socks by Charlene Schurch (from Sensational Knitted Socks), I decided to do a mirrored-version of that cable pattern on each side, and add in a small bit of garter rib.  I liked how it came out:

Victoria adapted swatch1a

Once the stitch pattern for the cable insert was determined, I created a chart for the pattern (it’s pretty simple, other than the Triple Gull Stitch) with some Intwined Studio software, but I could have gotten away with out it.  But what about the rest of the body? and the sleeves?

Then I realized that doing a 5×1 garter rib over the whole body would add a nice vertical line and complement the cable pattern, and would be able to come out of the 1×1 ribbing with a lovely line.  With a bit of swatching, I got gauge (meaning that all the stitch counts were going to be the same as in the pattern – much easier!) and was able to cast on.  Now I did add stitches when I switched from the ribbing to into the cable pattern insert (swatching is your friend here) but from now on I can pretty much just follow the measurements of the pattern, making the adjustments in length.  I’m not sure I’ll do the rib pattern for the sleeves, those might end up with plain stockinette, that’s a later decision.

Victoria adapted 1b

Whew, it sounds like a lot of work doesn’t it?  But in fact, not as much as figuring out a whole design (I respect how much work designers put in), and because Lori is talented, and others have knit the pattern, I know her measurements will work.  It’s a good way to dip your toe into designing for knitting, because someone else has done some of the heavy lifting, and your sweater looks like an original – which it mostly is.

On the health front, I’m happy to report that I am feeling stronger, and went to another doctor to get some meds for the pesky lingering effects from the chicken pox – and may get another picture of my head (not the kind of “head shot” that I can share with y’all) to be sure that what I’m experiencing is really from the chicken pox.  We shall see.


Two in One

There might have been a squeal as the mail boxed opened today. You see, there was a package:

from another country!
I had been expecting it. Inside was this:
and opening the tissue, some yarn therapy:
OMG. Wollmeise, in the flesh. Two kinds of bases in just one package. Swoon. Thud.

You have to love a colorway that’s called Chim Chim Chimney.  Furthermore, each skein is 150 grams, which acknowledges the existence of large feet, and the fact that people use sock yarn for all kinds of projects.

The world got a little brighter today, all the way from Germany.  Thank you, Liesel!!!

What’s been on my needles? Well, I’ve been knitting some caps for Socks for Soldiers (very boring), but I’m also knitting a new cardigan of my own design. It’s got texture, a knitted hem, and I’ve plotted some pockets and detail too. Another great yarn, Madelinetosh vintage:

Green thing

Some other yarn hopped into my online shopping cart a few weeks ago – Ella Rae’s Extrafine Heathers on sale from WEBS – which I’m using for a cardigan for Mom this fall. Not much to report, other than swatching is happening.

On the health front, I can report that my energy is better, although I have continuing headaches and nausea.  Finally went to the ER (Alison of spindyeknit will be happy to hear this).  Thankfully, no obvious brain injury, instead that along with some other continuing symptoms are likely issues relating to chicken pox virus (but usually happen with shingles – no rash, though). Hey, it’s another two-in-one deal!

So, I’ve got some extra antiviral meds which apparently can help, so I’ll be doing that.  We shall see over the weekend!