Tuesday, February 28, 2006

My gold medal!

After being immersed in the Olympics for two solid weeks (not counting a few weeks of anticipation/preparation), I miss them...........

Here are some things I learned:

1) Figure 8 cast on. I knew this as "invisible cast on" around one needle and one strand of waste yarn, but didn't know it around two needles. I like this way of starting sock toes! One thing I did that was different from all the different figure-8-toe-starts I read was that I did NOT evenly space the first round of increases. I couldn't see what the point of that was, so I started my increases at the sides, where I meant to continue.

2) Use a waste yarn for afterthought heel insertion. On my first pair, I had to cut the yarn to make the heel. I was telling someone that I had a hard time as I didn't want to cut the yarn, and she said "so use waste yarn when you get to the place where the heel should go!" Um. Right! Thank you, Diana! :-) I did that with the new sock (started last Friday), and it was an excellent idea. I haven't put the heel in yet, but I won't have to cut anything to do it.....

3) Take note of the size of the repeat in your yarn, when using a yarn with a regular color pattern. Dealing with those big stripes was more trouble than dealing with a yarn that doesn't have such a big repeat. I wanted the heel to follow the stripe pattern, so I had to cut the yarn and start the heel from the appropriate stripe. (My Olympic socks have LOTS of woven ends from all the stopping/starting I did.......) Someone suggested to me that I could have gotten a skein of, say, plain blue, and could have just done the heels in that. I did think of that, actually, but when I looked at the yarn at home, the blue in the plain blue was totally different from the blue in the Olympic socks. Sigh. I bought that blue yarn at the same time I bought the Olympic sock yarn (which, you may recall, was orange and chartreuse in my memory), so maybe the plain blue changed colors in the bag, too....................... I am perfectly happy with the rings of Olympic colors in my socks, but I note that they did not follow along in sequence without thought (and added work) in the heels.

4) Ripping part of your ribbing is not to be undertaken as lightly as other ripping. I never mind pulling the needles out of my work, as I don't think it's that big a deal to put them back in. Well, if I did more stitch pattern work (read: "*any* stitch pattern work".....) I wouldn't be so cavalier. On sock2, when I was deciding how much ribbing to do, I did 4 stripes. I decided I liked 3 better, so I blithely pulled the needles and ripped. Picking up ribbing is a MUCH bigger pita than picking up stockinette. Obvious, if you stop to think, but I hadn't stopped or thought. Do-able, but nasty. Just saying.

5) Having decided definitively that the time it takes Does Not Matter (repeat after me: "This is not my livelihood!") has made it easier for me to go forward and try something that may need to be ripped. This is a Very Good Thing as it leads to more action and less dithering/procrastinating. I see this lesson helping me make faster progress in most parts of my creative life......

Here is something I already knew:

When you want people to NOT look at something (uneven stitches? increases facing the wrong way? whatever...), give 'em something else to look at. A yarn that is interesting in its own right will draw attention away from less-than-perfect knitting. This yarn has white twisted around the base colors, and also lets the base colors vary (darker/lighter).

I like multi-colored yarns, anyway, and this is a good reason to use them in addition to their intrisic appeal. :-)

How many of you are looking at the dog hair, rather than at the yarn at all? See what I mean? A bit of bamboozlement will direct the attention away from what you want them to NOT look at. I'm reminded of something Miss Piggy said: "If you don't want them to look at your new haircut, stick a big piece of spinach to your front tooth." :-)

Here's a bit of eye candy to leave you with. I found this metal box at my favorite thrift store. It protects my bamboo needles from getting broken when not in use, and is plenty big enough to carry a small project like socks.

Friday, February 24, 2006

This way to the podium.....

Done! Done, done, done!!!!!!! My first socks! Thank you, Stephanie, without you I would still be without a single handmade sock. Here I am with a pair, a whole pair, and only because of you.

Woohoo! :-)

Here they are, uninhabited, you can see what I mean about them looking strange.....
And also what I mean about the dogboy inserting himself. :-)

Here are the increases, which make sense when the sock is actually in use.

Done, done, DONE!!!!! Ends woven in, really, truly DONE. :-)

Yahoooo. :-)

Yarn: Sockotta
Pattern: none. Toe-up, afterthought heel, all plain knitting except for the ribbing at the top so that it won't curl.

Did I mention that they are DONE?????? :-)

Thursday, February 23, 2006

I finished a sock!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Last night I decided -- *enough* dithering, just DO *SOMETHING*. So I cast off sock2 in the third stripe of ribbing. I wanted the casting off to *not* include any of the green/white, so I needed to have enough of one of the main colors left to finish the casting off). I like the way it looks. :-)

And then I picked out the casting-off of sock1, and knit another stripe. It is all ready for casting off, and I would have done that last night but the DH wanted to go to sleep. What about MY needs, I ask you? What about my Olympic Dream????? Of course I could have gone into the other room, but I was so comfy, there in bed.......

What with all the dithering, casting-off, unpicking, I did not manage to take any pictures. Tomorrow I do not have to go to work, so I will get pics for sure.

Casting off in the third stripe makes the ribbing over an inch tall. With two stripes, it was about 3/4 inch. I like this much better.

I tried them both on, multiple times, and they do fit, even if they look weird when empty.

So my goal of wearing them seems doable. :-)

And this morning I got out both the navy and the black plain sock yarns, and I think I'm going with the black for toes/heels/top-ribbing on the tube-that-would-be-socks.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Another day with no pics. And also no olympic knitting. I'm still exactly where I was -- not knowing how many stripes of ribbing I can have.

So instead of worrying over that, last night, I finished off the last little bit of the skein for that long tube-to-be-socks. I LOVE that yarn; don't know who made it. I love every color in it....... Maybe tonight I'll make a toe on the end of it. If I get home while it's still light enought to see if I should use the black, or the navy plain sock yarn I have. I was thinking the navy, but under halogen light, I'm not so sure. I need to see it in daylight........

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

I have been knitting apace, but have not been taking pics of socks. I'm trying to use up as much of the yarn as possible, given two of them, and the color repeat..... So I have two socks with 11 stockinette stripes above the stripe with the heel in it, one of which has two more stripes of ribbing and has been cast off, and the other has three stripes of ribbing and is not cast off.

Yesterday was one of those difficult dithering days. Who'd think that casting off could be such a struggle........ I read about different elastic cast-offs, and tried several on a swatch. My swatch yarn started looking pretty tired -- this yarn is not spun all that tightly, and doesn't really like being dragged back and forth (and back and forth and back and forth) through itself.... Which would be why I didn't consider using any sewn methods.....

I finally forced myself to do SOMETHING rather than dither (or worse, yet -- set it down and do something different!), and cast off, knitting the knit stitches and purling the purls, comme ils se present as EZ described it (though I bet she spelled it correctly!).

I used a bigger needle to do the casting off, and I believe it is elastic enough. (One size bigger, I think -- the socks are on 0s, and I *think* the extra I used for the casting off is a 1.)

Naturally I now think I should have knit at least one more stripe before I cast off. I was concerned about having enough yarn for both socks, and I needed to start up the ankle of the other sock with blue.......... (Note to self: learn a heel technique that can be done toe-up without cutting the yarn, so you can just GO until the sock weighs half as much as the original yarn!)

So I erred on the side of caution, and when I'd done the two ribbed stripes on sock1 (with blue coming up next!), I cast off, cut the yarn, and knit sock2 up through the 11 stripes of plain knitting, and then started to rib. I decided that 3 stripes of ribbing look better than 2, and am not sure if I could do *4* stripes of ribbing on both socks with the remaining yarn.

Last night I just didn't trust my brain to correctly discern if I could do yet another stripe before casting off sock2 AND leave enough yarn to knit two more stripes on sock1............


They look really strange to me. I increased as I went up the calf, so that they would't have to stretch to accomodate my calf. I'm used to uninhabited socks looking like tubes, so for them to increase looks ... odd. I do believe they fit, though........... (having tried them on 'leventy million times.....)

I will confess to fears that I will hate them. I've never worn handmade socks before, and these are not the softest yarn...... I can imagine myself lovingly packing them away in a drawer, rather than *wearing* them and finding out I hate them. That, however, would not be in keeping with the courage of an Olympic contender, so I expect I'll manage to force myself to actually *wear* them.........

Sunday, February 19, 2006

you need this tool

I have one sock almost done!!!!!!!! It just needs to be cast off. I need to go read about cast-off techniques, so I can find an elastic one..... The other sock is up to a couple inches above the ankle. Barring catastrophe, I think I'm going to make it! :-)

You need this tool. :-) It is a scale. I got it in an office supply store (it was intended for postage, I think). I have used it for postage more often than anything else -- you can see if your letter has enough postage.... It is also good for weighing chemicals for dyeing your wool (that's why I bought it), and it will let you know if you have used half of your ball of yarn on the current sock.....

You clip the item you want to weigh, hold the whole works up by the circular loop, and read where the needle-thingy ends up when it quits rocking. It has grams on the other side. I think I paid about $5. Easily portable in your knitting supplies, and requires no batteries. :-)

Thursday, February 16, 2006

And now for something entirely different -- here's something you can do that is very portable, and allows for a LOT of knitting with no thinking. As you see, I have knit almost a full ball of sock yarn into a long tube. I'll go ahead and knit it right down to the last bit, and then I'll knit a toe onto the end (with different yarn; I have some plain dark navy that should work fine). Then I'll take the tube apart in its very middle. The place where I take it apart will be the top of one sock and the toe of the other. Knit the second toe, put heels in them, top 'em off, hey presto, another pair of socks.

This method, of course, leaves all the nasty thinking bits for the end (which would be why they are still a tube, rather than finished socks....), but I enjoyed all the stress-free mindless knitting on several different trips, last fall. Bamboo needles, project carried around in a plastic Chinese take-out box (rather than the very cool metal Whitman's sampler box I usually use to protect my needles when not in use), and airport xrays are no problem. I'm thinking I'll pick up these socks and finish 'em once my Olympic socks are done.

You all probably figured out what that odd object is at the right bottom corner of the previous pic. It's the leading end of my Corgi boy, who has to be right where Mom is, preferably participating in whatever activity is planned.

I'm here, really I am, and still knitting..... Here are the socks. You can see that the second one is ready for its heel. But I figure I can go farther up before I stop to put the heel in, if I want. I'm thinking I'll stop and install the heel soon. Then I'll have both ankles to do.......

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Too much writing yesterday and not enough knitting! I added a few more stripes to sock2. And today I had to work -- nothing like working to put a crimp in your knitting time!

I will try to put up a pic tonight, that will show yesterday's and today's progress on sock2 (I did do some knitting at lunch time, and will have time tonight, I expect).

I had a weird experience with this yarn. I bought it before Christmas, and didn't really have a plan for it, so it stayed in the bag.

I bought it well before the idea for the Knitting Olympics was published.

The weirdness was that I completely forgot what it looked like. I remembered that the little speckled places were green and white, but I completely forgot what the other colors were. I thought there was orange..... Maybe some hot pink. Turquoise.

I was very disappointed to get it out of the bag and see the blue and red.... Primary colors???? WHERE did that come from????? What happened to the ORANGE????? :-) Who bought this, anyway, and how did it get into my house????

Now the colors are growing on me -- for this project, the Olympic colors are so appropriate, and there are even little white "snowflakes" in the green..... :-)

And now for something else weird -- the waitress at lunch offered to buy them. She asked me if I ever sold them, and I said "no." Then she asked if I would ever *consider* selling them. !! I said they were my first socks, and I was not selling them. We didn't get into how if I were selling them they'd be $150 or something......

Sell my Olympic socks? Not. Even if they weren't my first socks. But it's flattering that she liked them that much. Even after I told her the yarn was doing all the (color change) work.............

Monday, February 13, 2006

Citius, Altius, Fortius

Citius, Altius, Fortius -- one of the things about challenging yourself to do something hard is that you learn things about yourself, and maybe are able to make some self improvements. :-)

I knew that my major challenges for my olympic knitting project would not be strictly about knitting. I am an experienced and capable knitter, so the actual *knitting* would not be an issue. My challenges are different.

Last year at this time I had a lot of pain in the base of my right thumb, where the tendons attach. Not just achey or stingy, but OW, OW, OW, THAT REALLY HURTS! when I did innocuous things like reaching for a bar of soap when in the shower. So knitting, a lot, over the course of two weeks is something that I need to be careful about. I think the pain finally went away because I got a list of stretches from a physical therapist, and have been doing the stretches ever since. Any time I feel a twinge, I stretch out my hands.................... So that is one challenge for me -- to be able to participate without injury.

The other challenge, and the more serious one, is mental.

It amuses me, in this olympic context, that so much of sport is mental -- I guess the lesson is that a lot of human endeavor is mental.......... Maybe what we are attempting is not as different from what is happening in Torino as I had been thinking...........

Anyway, I have times with almost every project where I run into some sort of conundrum (how and where to make the heel, say), and at those times, I put the project down and walk away.

This is not an entirely bad thing. I do continue to think about it, and I do problem-solve while I'm thinking-about-but-not-working-on-the-project. The problem is when I can't solve the problem without trying something(s!) that may have to be undone. I'm very likely to NOT do that.

Then I am very likely to get distracted by the next interesting idea, and the put-aside project(s!) can get very dusty indeed.

Another aspect of the mental-barriers-to-completion-of-projects is the Perfection Issue. Nearly every project diverges, at some point, from my original vision for it, and not all of them are happy divergences. Things just don't work the way I thought they would, or don't look the way I thought they would..... Sometimes it's a problem that needs to be solved, and sometimes That's Just The Way It Is. And that's another time when I tend to put it down and walk away.

(Digression -- in my work life, I don't have any trouble with "good enough." If the program *works*, I don't care if it's elegant and beautiful. When I go in to fix a bug, I do NOT rewrite an otherwise-working routine to reflect the current "best practice". In my artistic life, on the other hand, I am very bothered by things not being Just So. Who knows. A foolish consistency, etc, etc. :-) End of digression.)


One of my self-improvement projects is working on remembering that:

there is no "best way to do it" but rather many perfectly fine ways

the "time taken" issue is ENTIRELY AND UTTERLY beside the point and I'm working hard on putting it outside the picture -- this is not my livelihood; it *totally* Does Not Matter how long it takes..........

a sock with "the wrong increase" (left-facing where I meant to have a right-facing one) will function as well as a "perfect sock", and will probably get done, where the one with the "wrong increase" several inches back that awaits ripping and re-knitting probably won't ever get done. I said to someone who was pointing out to me the mistakes in a sock she was wearing -- "It looks like a FINISHED SOCK to me! That's more than I can say about any sock I've ever begun........."

more is more. When I was beginning to do collage with images cut out of magazines, I also cut out words and phrases. As it turns out, I do not like to have words in my work (though I like them fine in the work of others!), but one sentence I cut out really reverberates for me: What I lack in talent, I make up in volume. FAR better to make a lot of work than to put aside imperfect work and leave it to languish (maybe forever.......................)

In this environment, I am thrilled to proclaim that ----- not only did I finish the heel on sock1, but I did the toe of sock2 yesterday!!!!!!!!!!!

During the afternoon and evening, the heel wasn't going quite as I thought it should, and there was much mumbling and grumbling about how this whole project was stupid and I didn't like HAVING to work on it when I didn't FEEL like it. You can imagine. But I sat myself down and MADE myself work on it, and -- finished it. And then, as I had had to cut the yarn at the ankle of sock1 to do the heel, I decided to do the toe of sock2 and get right past that aggravation. (It actually went ok -- practice does make things easier.)

So -- in the olympic spirit of facing challenges, and working even when (no, *especially* when!) you don't feel like it!, and improving both your current performance and your ability to perform well in the future -- I am succeeding!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Thank you, Stephanie, for inviting us to join you on this Olympic Journey!

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Thank you, Canada!

Thank you for Stephanie, who invited us to enjoy the Olympics in a new and personal way, and thank you for broadcasting the Olympics in realtime. Those of us lucky enough to live near Canada could watch the opening ceremonies as they happened, and could begin our projects as we watched, as it really happened. Excellent. I enjoyed knowing that thousands of knitters all over the world picked up their needles and began, just as I held my needles and began....

Results of Day 2: heel time. My goal for today is to start and finish the heel on sock 1. On my practice sock, there were holes in the corners of the heel (afterthought heel). So I went back to Elizabeth Zimmermann, and noted that I had forgotten the "knit three rows *then* make a toe" part. I do think I will pick up two extra stitches in each corner in addition to the straight rows before the decreases..............

I like the "straight knitting" days better than the toe/heel days.....

This pic was taken with daylight, and yesterday's with halogen. The color is truer in this one....... Not a surprise.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

I'm giving my hands a rest from knitting. I'm almost ready to make the heel on sock 1. Team DPN needed a button, so I did that. Now I'll see if I can get all my team buttons into the sidebar......

Here are the results of Day 1....

Here I was, yesterday afternoon, ready to go......

I am going to be very sad when I have to give up my stable of bright reading glasses.

Friday, February 10, 2006

So, ok, working on my Olympic socks.

So far, I have finished one toe, decided it was too small (I'm knitting a bit tighter than my sample, which, I think, is a good thing, but.......), ripped it, started over, got the stitch count messed up, started over *again*, and now I have 40 stitches. I need 62, and am increasing 4 every other round..............

Pics tomorrow.

The yarn is blue, yellow, red stripes, with a row of green/white stitches at each change of primary col0r. Almost all the colors of the Olympic flag, and rings of color, and everything. I don't love it, but it seems so ... appropriate. :-)

I have made some buttons for Team Michigan for the Knitting Olympics. It's a MITTEN, we had to have appropriate buttons........... Please steal at will.