Monday, June 30, 2008

Cheapest Skein Winder

I am cheap. This is not to say that I don't occasionally splurge, or understand the value of quality things. There are those things which it is sometimes necessary to spend more if you want to get more, like bras, running shoes or coffee. But, if I can figure out a way to do something for a bargain, I am thrilled.

Lately, I've been wanting a skein winder. I have a swift, but it's set up in the basement and hard to use without someone else to watch the kids. And, I've really been wanting two skein winders, to help split up the sock blank yarn from last week. If you don't remember, I wrapped the yarn around two plastic toy bin lids to create skeins. However, these small skeins wouldn't turn on my swift when I tried to wind them into a center pull ball. Plus, I considered over dying some of these skeins in different sections, and these skeins were too short for that, too.

My solution:
Ikea toy bin

That's the toy bin that the lid came from. But, when wrapping the yarn around the outside, it makes a much bigger skein (almost exactly 4' in circumference). The bins are on wheels, so it was easy to just sit there and spin the bin around, letting the yarn wind. It's not as fancy as an electric one, but this one runs about $5 at ikea. The best news is, if you don't have toys in yours (like I do) you can always use it to store yarn.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Blankity Blank Blank Blank

Count 'em. Four blanks. That's how many sock blanks I had in my stash last week (they were a gift from my craft-enabling mom). I threw one in a pot of water to soak on Wednesday
morning, figuring I would give it a shot when the kids took their nap. The baby's nap didn't occur until that afternoon, so Brenna and I were ready for some fun when he finally did fall asleep. I pulled the blank out of the water and we got to dying...

All four blanks found some dye that afternoon and, better yet, we had serious fun for several hours. She is quite the artist!

I knew I didn't want to knit socks straight from the blanks, because I wasn't totally sold on how they looked. So, I skeined them to see how they compared to yarn I had dyed in a hank...

(plastic toy bin lids courtesy of Ikea). As you can see, the dye didn't seem to penetrate through as well as on the hanks. Even the red one, a colorway I've called Cracked Clay, which soaked the longest is still fairly spotty. (More pictures can be seen here, under the sock blanks).

I'm reserving judgment until I see how they look knitted up (which I've already started). But, even if I have to overdye them all black (which I doubt), it'll be totally worth it to have had so much fun painting yarn with my girl.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Pattern: Faux Flap Heel

Faux Flap

I like the flexibility of knitting from the toe-up. I like to be able to use all of my yarn, and not worry about running out before the toe. I like to try on my socks as I go. But, I don't care for short row heels and I don't like picking up sts. And I like the traditional looking heel flap and gusset, especially for doing contrasting color heels and toes. I often do them two at a time, so when one ball of yarn runs out, that's the end!

So... this is the sock pattern that let's me have my toe up and an easy heel! If you have any comments, suggestions, or even try it, please let me know what you think! This pattern is still in beta - I have used it many times, but would like to know what others think.

Note: The last place in the pattern is for those who have already found a comfortable number of stitches that fit their foot and would like to use that number for this pattern.

40 (52, 64, X)
Fingering weight yarn
2 circular needles, US 3 (2, 1)

Toe: Cast on 4 sts on each needles using the figure 8 method. (Many good online tutorials - here's one).
Row 1 (both needles): Knit around
Row 2 (both needles): Kfb of the first sts, knit to the last 2 sts, kfb of the 2nd to last st, k the last st
Repeat row 2 until there are 10 (13, 16, X/4) sts per needle.
Switch to alternating rows 1 & 2 until there are 20 (26, 32, X/2) sts on each needle.

Foot: Work in the round until ~2" before the end of the heel.

Shape Gusset:
Needle 1: kfb (place marker between these two sts), knit to two sts before the end, kfb of the 2nd to last st, pm, k the last st
Needle 2: knit across

Repeat the above row until the sts are arranged thus on Needle 1: 10 (13, 16, X/4) sts, marker, 20 (26, 32, X/2), marker, 10 (13, 16, X/4) sts
Notes: After the first row, all the increased sts stay on the outside of the markers, so there should always be 20 (26, 32, X/2) sts between the markers.

Shape Heel (short rows):
Note: If you want to add in a contrasting heel, join contrasting color at this step. You can leave the main color attached.
Short row 1: K to 1st marker, sl marker, k to 2 sts before marker. Wrap and turn.
Short row 2: P to 2 sts before marker. Wrap and turn.
Short row 3: K to the st just before the last wrapped st. Wrap and turn.
Short row 4: P to the st just before the last wrapped st. Wrap and turn.
Repeat short rows 3 and 4 until only four sts remain unwrapped in the middle.

Faux Flap:
Work all wraps as you come to them.
Flap row 1: Knit to one st before marker, move marker to this position (This st becomes the first gusset consuming st). Ssk. Turn.
Flap row 2: Sl st p wise, sl marker. Purl to one st before next marker and move marker to this position (this st is the other gusset consuming st). P2tog. Turn.
Flap row 3: Sl st p wise, sl marker, [k1, sl wyb] to 2nd marker, sl marker, ssk. Turn.
Flap row 4: Sl st p wise. sl marker, purl to 2nd marker, sk marker, p2tog. Turn.

Repeat flap rows 3 and 4 until only one st remains on the outside of the marker. Each needle should now have 20 (26, 32) sts once again.
Note: The heel is done. If you had a contrasting color, you can stop now and pick your main color back up.
At this point, you can add in a number of options:
Option 1: Continue on in stockinette until the sock is as long as you want, toss 2"/5 cm of k2, p2 rib on the top and call it good.
Option 2: k2, p2 until you are done.
Option 3: Broken Rib. My personal favorite for handpainted yarns, because the little purls make the color look like jewels.
Row 1: [k3, p1]
Row 2: [k2, p1, k1]
Repeat rows 1 & 2 until you are done.
Option 4+: Anything you want, really. I toss in patterns from Knitty, IK, Knitting on the road, any stitch dictionary, etc.

Casting off:
This is important. I always bind off too tightly, until I started using EZ's sewn bind off, which I learned here. It requires a darning needle, instead of just the knitting needles. The nice thing about that is that, when you're done, the end of your yarn is already on a needle and weaving in the end is just a few sts away!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

No more yarn for me!

I love planning. I love making lists. I love making lists of what I plan to do. Here it goes...

I may buy no more yarn until I finish the following:
1. Winter gloves for me. I love knitting stuff like this in the summer. It reminds me that it will get cool again.

2&3. Winter hats for both kids. Maybe another December Lights tam for Sweet Pea, because she loved the one I made for her grammie.

4. Winter earband for me, preferably to match my Latvian Mitts. I don't really wear hats, due to all my hair, so this will have to do.

5. Plain vanilla mittens for the kids.

6. Warm mittens for me, when fingering weight gloves just won't cut it. I'm dying to try some full Latvian Mittens, as per Lizbeth Upitis, but no buying definitely means no buying books. So... those will have to wait, too.

7. My graduation sweater. This one is tricky, as I'm trying to reinvent a way to turn cables with short rows. But, it should still be easier than my dissertation.

Until then, what am I working on? Hand dyed socks! My first attempt at using acid dyes came out wonderfully. I call it waterlillies and it's knitting up into some wonderfully cushy, comfy socks with a broken rib top.

For the bottom, I've used my own toe-up pattern. I've made several pairs with the pattern, and I love it. The heel is gusseted, with a faux heel flap and doesn't involve picking up any sts. I'm thinking about publishing it for free on ravelry. but I'm not sure if anyone would actually use it.

More details here.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Stalking St. Brigid

As soon as I saw this pattern, I knew I had to knit it. Not just knit it, but knit it and wear it over and over and over again. What does that mean? Say it with me... Modifications!

After looking endlessly at every Brigid entered into ravelry, reading through the forums and going through my own closet, here are a few of my planned modifications.

1. Cardigan. This is a big one, and I'm still considering how best to arrange the cables.

1b. Closure for cardigan. Zipper? Hook and eye? Button band?

2. Set in sleeves

3. Waist shaping

4. No fringe

5. Something with the collar. Keep the torque?

6. DK/sport weight merino

Sunday, June 15, 2008

For the Boys

Reasons why Will is sleeping in while I play Little People with our son at 8 on Sunday morning:

1. It's Father's day, a holiday that I finally get the chance to celebrate with someone.

2. He has never said 'you know, you could just buy a bag of socks at Target for less than half the price of that Koigu.'

3. He has never once actually said anything about the fact that I occasionally miss a navigational direction in the car due to a tricky lace pattern.

4. He takes the kids to the toy store, by himself, every Thursday so that I can go 'knit some friends' (which is what my daughter calls our weekly knit night).

5. He actually wears his hand knit sweater.

6. He took a new job halfway across the country so that I could stay home with our kids while they're babies.

7. He gets indignant at badly made Jane Austen movies.

8. He is currently suffering from poison ivy from trimming the hedges in our yard.

8a. His suggested solution to the poison problem was, when we move, to buy cashmere goats. (To eat the ivy and produce fiber). I kid you not. His idea, unprompted.

Monday, June 9, 2008

This weekend, we packed our kids, more than sufficient snacks and toys into our bitty car and headed for Lancaster, PA. We had maps and plans and priorities and then had fun on our mostly improvised adventure. We did succeed in seeing our two top priorities - the central Market and a yarn store.

First, the central market. A market has been in place in downtown Lancaster since about 1730, and we had a blast looking through it. It was much, much bigger than our local farmers market and had all sort of great looking veggies and food. The heat, however, was nearly unbearable. We managed to see the whole thing, but left after buying a few Christmas presents and getting some lunch. Downtown Lancaster was also quite cute, reminding me of downtown Boulder and the Pearl Street mall, in places.

Next was the yarn store, Labadie Looms. As I'm not a weaver, I wasn't quite sure what to expect, but they were great. The people were super friendly, they had knitting, spinning and weaving things. They had some nice, local hand painted yarns that tempted me, but I managed to get out with... More roving! More on that in a moment. Brenna also had a great time looking at spinning wheels, and decided that we need to get one. I agree whole heartedly.

Today, we broke out the spindles. I didn't immediately jump into the new Labadie Looms roving, but used the empty spindle on some beautiful purple, blue and black roving from Sitka. It's beautiful. Gorgeous. Pictures to come. And you know what? I can spin! It looks vaguely like yarn, not lumpy twine.