Thursday, September 27, 2012

Why yes, I have been knitting socks.

I haven't been wanting to blog about my sock projects for a while because I thought that they were way too similar to each other to be interesting. After all, a sock is just a sock and there are only so many ways to knit one, right? That type of thinking is misguided. A sock is so much more than just a sock. It is a place to master techniques, a place to have fun, and a place to relax. I am working on a total of three socks right now: one for my mom, one for my old roommate Laura, and one for myself. Each of these socks are different and they each have their own challenges.

The socks that I have been knitting on for my mom are one of my oldest WIPs. We went to a different yarn store about a year ago and I told her that if she got a skein of sock yarn, then I would make her a pair of socks of her choosing. That year for Christmas she had gotten me Cookie A's Knit*Sock*Love pattern book and fell in love with the Wedge socks. I cast-on and discovered that the way the pattern went had a lot of short-rows to get the effect. I've done short-rows before and these were in garter stitch! That meant that I didn't even have to worry about picking up the wrap-and-turns because they would just blend in with the fabric. For some reason, I always mess up on these rows. I just passed the garter stitch short-row heel on the first sock.

Last year before we graduated, I told Laura that if she ever wanted to get me fiber or yarn to make her a pair of socks out of, then I would make her a pair. I got a text a couple of months after we graduated to ask if that offer was still open and I told her yes. She sent me the sock yarn she wanted her socks out of and a bonus skein of sock yarn and a 4 oz braid of fiber for me to play with. I decided to get working on her socks right away. That way when I got frustrated with mom's socks, I could just pick up hers and happily knit on them for a while. The pattern choice was up to me and I had a strong itch to make Cookie A's Monkey socks again. I especially wanted to do the No-Purl variation. I also decided to sub in a short-row heel for the socks to make them look more like store bought socks and hopefully fit similar since I don't know how high her arch is. (Seriously, take a look at your regular socks next time. They use short-rows to shape the heel) I also put in a stockinette stitch foot because it was something I had never done before and I believe she would be the type of person to appreciate a plain foot.

The last socks are very special to me. When my family and I went camping right after I graduated, we found a store that I got some fiber to spin up into yarn. After some debate, I decided to go ahead and make socks out of that yarn even though I don't think I have enough of the yarn. To solve this problem I found a single skein of sock yarn in my stash and used it for a contrasting cuff, heel, and toe. I also wanted to do an afterthought heel on these socks just because I could. It turns out that the contrasting yarn is almost a perfect match for the yarn that I spun. The sock I finished feels a little tight on my foot, but I think that is because I used a different sock needles than I am used to. I will love these socks anyway because I took them from fiber to yarn to finished object. I just need to knit the second sock so my other foot won't me cold!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

King Cotton

Natural Brown Colored Cotton on Tahkli
Last year, I spent my Christmas money on a Learn to Spin Cotton kit from Cotton Clouds. I kept reading about how cotton wasn't easy for a beginner and how spinning cotton was hard because it was so short. I wanted to prove them wrong and show them that if I could spin cotton, then anybody could.

What I didn't want to admit was that I was having a hard time spinning cotton. My yarn was really, really thin. Instead of drifting apart, my singles would snap at the thin spots. When I put less twist in, the singles would drift apart. I was having a hard time with fiber management so I was having a difficult time plying the singles together to make thicker yarn. It was tough and eventually I gave up and went back to spinning the nice, shiny wool I had. I got to where I was spinning nice wool yarns and I was even getting down to a nice fingering weight yarn that I could make socks out of. I was satisfied with that, but I kept browsing my I SPIN COTTON! group on Ravelry. Everybody there was growing and spinning their own cotton and I wanted in on the fun.

Cotton Yarn Spun in 2011
I looked back at my cotton that I spun. Most of the cotton I spun from cotton sliver, green cotton sliver, brown cotton sliver, a pima cotton boll, and some pima cotton lint. I spun that all on my little tahkli. Only half of the cotton skeins I have are boiled, but they are all soft to the touch and I am proud that I have spun them.

But I think if I try again, I can do much better. I found the rest of my brown cotton sliver and I am spinning that on my tahkli. I now use a white ceramic bowl to spin on so I don't scratch the surface of any table and get a nice fast spin. I have found that I am getting a slightly more consistent yarn. My fingers are slowly learning how to spin cotton and they are picking it up quicker. I just have to ignore the feeling that I am going to lose control of the yarn at any time. And I keep dropping my spindle from time to time.

The cotton growing season is practically over up here in northeast PA, but I have some seeds that I am saving for next March. The seeds were still germinating this summer, but the squirrels and rabbits kept eating my seedlings. I have eight seeds left that I am hoping to grow. If I can just get one boll to grow on one plant, then I can get a new batch of cotton seeds to try again.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

My Stash Blanket

After I posted my last blog post, I realized that I never made a post about finishing my big stash blanket. I mentioned getting close to finishing it, but I didn't talk about it on my blog. I just talked about it everywhere else.

I first started my stash blanket on August 1, 2008. I had just graduated from high school and I was waiting to hear back from colleges. None of the schools had gotten back to me, but I was forever hopeful that I would hear from them any day. I just found the Mason-Dixon Knitting book and fell in love with the log cabin blanket. I decided to start knitting it so I would have a new blanket to use in college. A few weeks later, I got an acceptance letter from Sweet Briar College. My parents were proud even though they didn't like the idea of me going to an out-of-state school. I packed up everything I thought I needed and some extra yarn to put in my blanket.

I just finished the big brown strip when my dad pulled into the college campus. I knit on the purple stripe during the orientation week. During my first semester of college, I knit on the blanket almost exclusively. I made a few friends and went on a shopping trip with a girl named Jessica when I ran out of the pastel yarn. She wanted to learn how to knit and I needed some more yarn. She loved my blanket and I taught her how to make one of her own. Her roommate Alison thought the blanket was neat and told us about how her grandmother had taught her to knit. To this day, she knits back backwards when she is knitting flat. I never figured out how to do that. I expanded our little social group to Laura and she told me that she didn't knit, but she crocheted. She loved watching me knit so much and missed it so much that I gave her the rest of my purple ball of yarn and she crocheted one long chain out of it.

It was during my second semester of college when Jessica had to say goodbye to her life at Sweet Briar. Alison became my roommate because the roommate I was assigned never showed up and I wanted somebody else in my room. I had just got done knitting on the second pink and purple variegated section and I had my needles and blanket on my bed. Laura sat down and accidentally broke one of my needles. I had to wait to start knitting it again.

The blanket was stashed away in the corner after I wove in all the ends I could and I forgot about it until my second year of school. My boyfriend bought me a new pair of needles for Christmas and reminded me about my blanket. It was during the spring semester of my second year that the blanket got too big for me to carry around. I had gotten used to putting it in my large pink tote bag and taking it to my work study in the Academic Technology Department. As long as the student workers dropped everything we were doing to help a patron, our boss didn't care if we did homework, read, or distracted ourselves with other things. I got known for knitting.

My blanket grew into my Junior year and I was beginning to wonder if I would ever get it done. I went through a period of time where I was too busy to knit because I was reading so much for my classes. Halfway through the fall semester, I taught myself to read and knit at the same time. My rows were getting too long and it was taking me a half an hour to finish one garter ridge. So instead of dividing my time between homework and knitting, I could do it at the same time. Then my cable broke and I didn't have a spare. Alison broke her leg when she fell off of a horse. She eventually had to say goodbye to her Sweet Briar life and I suddenly found myself alone in my room once again. I threw myself into my schoolwork and other knitting projects.

I replaced my cables before I went back for my senior year. I was taking less classes and the classes I was taking felt easier. I felt like I was slacking off when I was knitting. I was determined to finish my blanket before graduating, but instead of knitting on my blanket (and using my new Kindle to read my books on-which made knitting and reading easier) I was knitting on a scarf for my boyfriend and I was knitting on socks. I also moved into a room with Laura, and a girl named Schwee. We ended up having movie nights with another girl named Emily who lived down the hall. That was when I really brought out my blanket again and started knitting on it.

During my final semester, it felt like all the seniors were swamped. Because of my Academic Technology job, I got to help Schwee set up all of her equipment for her senior project presentation and I got to support her. Emily and I discovered a common interest in gaming and our tastes in manga. Laura and I had fights every so often, but we always overcame them and grew even closer together. My boyfriend even proposed and let the engagement stay secret from everyone at my school so I could play the ring game. And I successfully crafted my senior portfolio for my English degree. Through all of this, I managed to get to the last two stripes before graduation.

I finished my blanket on August 28, 2012. A little more than four years after I started it. I finished it while watching Star Trek: the Next Generation in the afternoons after spending my days job searching. Whenever I look at it, I think of all the good times I had at school and I feel grateful that I have memories knitted into that blanket of my time there. I also love cuddling up with my blanket and I even take it over to my fiance's house when I spend the night because it is warmer than his blankets and it can cover both of us.

The only trouble is that I started this blanket to use up most of the yarn in my stash and I have more yarn that what I started with. That just means that I have to knit another blanket, right?

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Spinning Frenzy

I have been quiet lately because all of my projects have been at a relative stand-still since I finished my blanket. I just haven't been wanting to do anything. I recently discovered that not only do I have allergies, but I am apparently allergic to dogs, cats, the native plants in the North East US, both types of dust mites, and I have a new and growing allergy to peanuts. Things have been a little rough around here while we try to figure out how to control my allergies.

Luckily, I am not sensitive to wool or lanolin which means I have been spinning my heart out. I finished spinning all of my Buckleberry fiber and I am on the second day of plying. I did decide to stay with my original idea to n-ply and the yarn is coming out lovely. It is just about the perfect weight to be a three-ply sock yarn. The only trouble is that I seem to want to fit all of my singles onto one spindle. At first it was going quite well until I finished up today's spinning session. A few hours later and my left arm is really starting to hurt. I am taking a break from it for now to see if the pain persists. If it does, I have stressed my muscles past their breaking point and my spindle is really too heavy to fit the rest on. I have dreams of a nice fat skein, but I might have to break it into two skeins.

My birthday is coming up in a couple of months and one of the things I don't have for spinning is a yarn scale. KnitPicks has a very nice yarn scale that I would really love to have. All I know is that my mom is planning something and she knows that I need a yarn scale, swift, wool hand carders, and cotton hand carders. I need to be patient and see if I get lucky. She is my mom and I will love anything that she surprises me with, but I am very curious to what she is planning. If I do get a yarn scale and I still have the yarn not knitted up, I will have to weigh it and see how much of that fiber was left. I have this feeling that I managed to spin more than 4 oz.