Wednesday, December 8, 2010

My Shit Is All Apart*

Ed. note: There's not a whole lot of knitting content here. I'm writing today more to vent than for content. Feel free to skip ahead.

I've been feeling very discombobulated lately. Last night, I decided to frog what I had knit on the Reindeer hat and re-knit a plain hat on which I can duplicate stitch parts of the chart. It will be different than what I had in progress, much simpler, cleaner and quicker. As I rewound the yarn I thought what I really needed was a project to ground me knitting-wise. Something I enjoy, don't have to make calculations for, don't have to think too hard about. Fortunately for my sanity, I also thought that it would be even more beneficial to complete an existing project. That's when I realized that my shit is all apart.

When I decided, a month ago, to curb my knitting activities due to the pain I was experiencing, I was just beginning a top down raglan sweater. That obviously still lays unfinished and I am not rehabilitated enough to go back to it. Since then, I've started and failed three different projects. Boot Socks that were supposed to be for the outdoor hockey game this Saturday - tried twice to get gauge and failed. The reindeer mittens and now the reindeer hat. The last project I had any success on was this little baby sweater in mid-October. The way my life has been going, that feels like ages ago.

It also doesn't help that the other - decidedly more important - areas of my life are also messing with me. November and December are always a stressful time for me, both because of work and the holidays. Work got more complicated last week when I found out my coordinator, the only other person in my department, is leaving for another job. This stresses me out on multiple levels. Though my workload will double when he leaves at the end of December, business is slower at the beginning of the year. I will, however, have to work more nights (and every weekend) from home as we usually alternate our obligations there. Although we will be filling the position with a new hire, it will take time to train a new person to the point where he/she can help to significantly relieve my workload. (Forgive me for being generic, I try not to talk about work too much.) Beyond all of that, what causes me the most stress is how it impacts our impending arrival at home. I had originally planned to take two weeks vacation when the baby arrives to help my wife as well as bond with the baby and spend as much time with the little one as possible. Hopefully we can hire someone who is a quick learner and get them up to speed in time. While the baby coming feels like a ticking clock in-and-of-itself, this new wrinkle at work makes it feel like I clipped a wire and sped up the countdown.

The baby brings a whole other level of stress with it. I feel like we have nothing done. We do have nothing done. I've managed to paint the walls of the nursery-to-be, but the ceiling and trim still need painting as well as the door and several other areas 'round the house. And don't get me started on furniture, accessories, clothes, etc. I knew when we found out we were pregnant that the timing would be 'challenging' to say the least. Due to the holidays, our social calendar (such as that may be) is booked solid for the remainder of the month. I kept telling myself to get as much done as possible before the holidays because after December, we're only going to have 3 1/2 months before the baby's here. As the due date creeps closer and closer, Samantha is going to be less able to help out. And I've already discovered that my family is not very much help. Maybe I can buckle down on the few days I have off around Christmas and knock out some larger projects.

Today, I took what I hope to be one small step toward getting myself grounded. I bought some yarn. I hear what you're saying, but this wasn't an indulgence purchase. I needed some reinforcement yarn to finish a heel and two cuffs on the orange stripey socks I'm knitting for my wife.

Reinforcement Yarn

When I thought back over my current projects in progress, those socks jumped out at me as being something I enjoyed knitting and could also be finished rather quickly. I'm hoping that finishing these socks, as well as reworking the reindeer hat for Christmas, will get me back into my knitting groove - without re-injuring myself. See, through all the stresses I've had lately, I haven't been able to knit to relieve some of it. And that may be the worst stress of all.

* Henry Rollins, musician, spoken word artist, man about the world, once told a story of a trip to Russia and how phrases get lost in translation. Having entered a room being rather discombobulated himself, a Russian friend remarked to Henry, "your shit is all apart." The phrase lost in translation being, of course, having one's shit together. Beautiful isn't it?

Monday, December 6, 2010

Red Herring, White Elephant

For all the stupid hype, the mittens are ded. Ded and gone. In replacement, we have this.

Reindeer hat

Which, if I finish in time, will be for the white elephant gift exchange with my wife's family. Same base chart, just knit three times over and with acrylic. If I'm giving it away as a joke gift, no sense wasting good wool.

And now as I look at the photo, it will probably end up way too f$cking tall. #%$%^@#&*!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Off and Running

Here's my progress so far on the first mitten. I like the picot edging, but not the fact that it's flipping up so badly. I should've knit it with smaller needles. And maybe I knit one too many rows before picking up the hem. Oh well, can't look back now. I already had to frog about 8 rows at lunch yesterday because I messed up the thumb gusset.

Reindeer Mitten start - front
Reindeer Mitten start - palm

Dealing with all the floats is starting to get a bit tiresome, but I'm hopeful that the pattern will keep things interesting enough that I can push through to finish them on time. I'm not planning to knit at lunch today as my arms started hurting after knitting last night. Though I also did a lot of typing yesterday - stupid work - so hopefully the restful afternoon will help. I also need to remember to ice, and I might try some immersion icing tomorrow.

Finally, I'm a little concerned with stitch definition on these; I'm hoping blocking will help. However, I'm also worried that they will block larger than I need them to be. I forgot about that when making my size calculations. Hopefully I can block them longer instead of wider.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Making Adjustments

Full chart
After casting on at lunch yesterday, I realized the original chart I made was going to be far too large. So, I pared it down by 4 stitches, went down a needle size and now I think they'll be spot on. Shrinking the chart forced me to move in the small snowflakes a bit, but that's ok. I also added a small snowflake at the bottom right and designed the palm chart. I originally had the small flakes on the palm a lot closer, but decided it looked too dense.

Given that my 'gauge' was off when estimating how wide to make these, I'm no longer sure of the length I have charted. I didn't want to delay starting any longer than I needed though, so I'll try to recalculate the length today and adjust on the fly. I figure I can take out the top snowflake and start the decreases at the top sooner if need be.

I cast on again last night and made some nice progress, about halfway up the deers' legs. If I can make that much progress each day, I'll definitely have these done in time. I'll try to get a WIP photo today and post tomorrow.

Finally, here's a Ravelry link to the original fornicating deer chart.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Naughty Reindeer

Naughty Reindeer Chart
I decided to knit some mittens for a Christmas gift. Yeah, I know it's in like 3 1/2 weeks, and yeah, I know my last post was about laying off the knitting, I don't wanna hear it. I've been feeling better lately, these shouldn't take long and it would mean a lot to me if I could finish them on time.

What I do want to hear, is your opinion on the chart. The reindeer I didn't design, but I added all the snowflakes. At first, I had a lot larger version of the largest snowflake and it totally dominated the reindeer. (Get your mind out of the gutter.) I think it looks better the way I have it, but I'd love some second opinions. Are there too many small snowflakes? Not enough? Is it permissible to have four different types of snowflakes on one mitten? Any suggestions for a palm pattern? I'm thinking dead simple there to help speed things up. Voice your opinions, complaints or suggestions in the comments and I thank you in advance.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Sad but necessary

Sad thing the first: No pictures for two blog posts in a row Fixed!

Sad thing the second: Sad for me at least... I'm going to drastically cut back my knitting time for the next month or so. I've been feeling some pain in my left elbow lately and up until now have just tried to help it out with stretching. To start, I'm cutting out all lunchtime knitting - I've been wanting to read some books anyway - and limiting myself to an hour of knitting at night, and stopping immediately if I feel any pain. I'm also going to be more diligent about stretching, warming up and icing my elbow. I dealt with some Achilles pain over the summer and don't want a repeat performance in my arms.

Sad thing the third: I started the raglan sweater I mentioned in my previous post. With my anticipated knitting-down-time, not only is it going to take longer to finish, but I suspect it's what pushed my pain over the edge. I'm using Bartlettyarns Fisherman 2-ply which is a very 'woolly' yarn. What I mean to say is that it's sticky and doesn't slide through the stitches or on the needle all too well. I made some adjustments - smaller tips on the left needle and two circulars to avoid bunching of stitches - but it's not enough to alleviate the stress on my elbow and forearms.

Sad thing the fourth: Again with the diminished knitting time, I'm likely not going to get to knit the warm stuff for the outdoor hockey game I wanted to. At least I have a bunch of fingering weight wool socks and hats and mittens I can wear. I don't need new stuff. I also probably won't get to knit the Christmas item I wanted to, but that was to be a surprise gift anyway. Maybe next year.

ETA: I fixed the no photo problem. Yay, only 3 sad things!

Baby's First Halloween
Baby's First Halloween

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Am I Crazy?

For some strange reason, I feel the itch to knit a sweater. Now, to be completely honest, I've been contemplating sweaters for months now. I have all sorts of aspirations to knit complex Aran cardigans and even have yarn to knit a few. But that's not what I'm talking about this time. I feel the sudden desire for a simple, clean, raglan sweater. No cables, no stitch pattern, just miles of stockinette and some ribbing on the edges; maybe go crazy and turn it into a cardigan with a shawl collar.

Why? I have no idea. With all the knitting I already have planned this month - boot socks and mittens for The Big Chill at The Big House (Go Blue!), a Christmas gift or two, obligatory baby knits - my knitting queue is pretty full. Yet here I stand on Nov. 2 staring down the fact that the only completed sweater I knit for myself took over two months. I don't know if it's the allure of NaKniSweMo, but the sweater beckons nonetheless. The last time I tried deadline knitting a sweater - Ravelympics 2010 - I gave up before I even started. At least, if I do decide to do this as part of NaKniSweMo, I have more time.

Friday, October 29, 2010

FO: Persian Paraphernalia

Persian Paraphernalia

Pattern: Paraphernalia by Taina Anttila
Yarn: Malabrigo Sock in Persia #852
Needle: Knit Picks fixed circular, size 1
Started: October 31, 2009
Finished: May 8, 2010
Mods: Simplified cable pattern after foot
Ravel It!

I'm actually wearing these socks today, so I thought I would finally blog about them. I finished them way back in the spring, but they sat around waiting to be blocked and photographed while I worked on more socks. They finally got their first outing last week.

I started these socks almost a year ago, on Halloween last year. We were driving my brand spanking new Jeep back from Austin, TX. The yarn is Malabrigo Sock which I received in a Puck This! swap from Judy. I love the color. It's a dark yarn with enough variation to keep things interesting. As you can see, there was no pooling, which is a plus in my book.

I can't remember how I discovered the pattern, but I was in love with it as soon as I did. Unfortunately, I had to make some modifications to the cables, as they barely fit over my heel. At first I thought I could just remove the intertwined cable pattern from the gusset area - it stretched really badly - but I ended up having to adjust the pattern all the way up the leg. You can read more about my attempt to fix the gusset here, which actually worked, I just had to rip back after installing another tangled cable after the fix.

Thank you so much to everyone who offered congratulations on my previous post. We're very excited, scared, nervous, happy, etc. I'll be cranking out baby knits as much as possible, but there's quite a bit of work on the house - and other things - still left to do in the remaining 6 months. I may be able to get stuff knit, but I'm not too sure I'll get them blogged. As you know, my consistency is a bit lacking.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Subtlety, I Haz It

I've been knitting things.


Small things.

Baby Sophisticate

For a small thing.

Golden Jacket

And in April, this might will be me...

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Back to Knitting

What have I been knitting on? Think you can guess from a photo? Those of you on Ravelry can easily figure it out by looking at my projects page, but that's cheating.

Jacket progress

Here are a few hints/details:

  • It is knit in garter stitch
  • It is knit with miters (the corners you can see above are made by increasing)
  • It is knit in sock yarn, in this case, Knit Picks Memories that I overdyed with yellow
  • It has a unique construction
  • It is a garment for a baby or small child
  • You could make a larger version simply by using larger needles and thicker yarn
  • I only cast on 3 stitches to start!
Give up? You didn't try very hard! Ok, it is this pattern. How many of you guessed the Baby Surprise Jacket by Elizabeth Zimmermann? Close but no cigar. I've had this pattern in my Rav queue for quite a while and finally decided to try it out. I've been struggling with what to use this particular yarn for (aside from socks) and I think this is perfect. The constant increases change the stitch count every row, which really helps avoid much pooling. I'm almost to the point of starting the sleeves, so things will start to get really interesting. I have a couple more patterns by this designer in my queue, I'm excited to try out other unique constructions.

P.S. Check out another photo of the same project. Amazing what different lighting will do to a photo. The photo at the top of this post was taken mid-morning, this photo was taken late-evening.

Sweater progress

Friday, September 10, 2010

Detroit Lives

I don't often go too far off topic here, but this is an issue that's near and dear to my heart. If you have 30 minutes to spare, won't you check out this documentary on the city of Detroit?

Once the fourth-largest metropolis in America—some have called it the Death of the American Dream. Today, the young people of the Motor City are making it their own DIY paradise where rules are second to passion and creativity. They are creating the new Detroit on their own terms, against real adversity. We put our boots on and went exploring.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Chart Coloring

It's been a while, and I've been knitting some things that I can't show you yet, so I thought I would show you how I've marked up my chart for the scarf I have going.

Scarf chart

Each row on this lace chart is different, so I absolutely have to pay attention. There's no memorizing going on here. A lot of times, every other row in a lace chart will just be all purl stitches. As you can see above, this is not the case with this pattern. So, in order to keep from having to count the number of purls in a row each time, I highlighted large groupings of purl stitches and then labeled a nice key for myself. Now I can quickly look at the chart and see than an orange section is 10 purl stitches without having to count all the little dash marks. It makes the knitting go much faster. One last thing I want to mention, I only highlighted down to 7 purl stitch sequences (there are no 6 purl st runs) because 5 stitches in a row is pretty easy to pick out on its own. Telling the difference between 8 and 10 at a glance, not so much. Plus I only had 5 different color highlighters.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Hummin' Along

We made good progress on the spinning wheel yesterday, and even got it to the point of taking up some test string! In the photo below, you can see the flyer we constructed. It's made out of maple for strength instead of the birch plywood we used for the other parts. The arms are just dowels glued and hammered into holes in the flyer.

After this photo, I bent a piece of brass rod into shape for a delta flyer. Dad drilled some pilot holes and I hammered it home. It looks and works quite a bit like this Majacraft flyer, which was my inspiration. I didn't want to have to thread an orifice hole if I didn't have to.


I realized yesterday that while working with my dad on a project, we move through several "stages".

Stage 1: Data Dump
This is where my dad unloads all the ideas he's had whizzing around in his head since the last time we worked together. I basically sit there and try to sift through what he's describing to see if any of it is actually usable. He often comes up with 3 or 4 different ways to do something. This stage can take up to the first hour of our time together and by the end, I'm itching to get something done.

Stage 2: Get Movin'
We're finally done talking and ready to get down to business. We've decided what tasks we're going to tackle and actually start hauling out equipment, tools and materials.

Stage 2.5
Move everything back into the garage because it's going to rain.

Stage 3: The Lull
At this point, we've gotten a few tasks completed and have usually come across a speed bump in either design or fabrication. Dad wanders off into the bowels of the garage, his mind whirling with possible solutions. I begin to wonder who, in fact, is building this wheel. After a while, I realize that there are other things to work on and try to make myself useful. It's about this time that my Dad returns from his expedition with the initial problem solved.

Stage 4: Dismay
We may have solved a problem in the previous stage, but another setback can quickly lead to stage 4. It's also usually about this time that we start getting tired, likely dehydrated and definitely hungry. I don't want to work on the project any more that day and think we'll never get it done. My brain can't process what needs to be done or how to fix the problem we've encountered. Luckily, this stage mostly affects just me and not my Dad.

Stage 5: Hope
With my Dad pulling me through stage 4, we manage to plow through problems and make some tangible progress. Perhaps even, as happened yesterday, one of us is struck with inspiration that makes things a lot easier. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel and am excited again by the project. Unfortunately, this is also about the time I need to leave or am too tired to keep going.
The inspiration that lifted our (my) spirits at the end of the day yesterday was to affix the treadle to the front side of the wheel instead of going under the wheel and attaching it from the back. [If you're facing the spinning wheel, the drive wheel is mounted on the backside of the upright.] This simplified several things about the design and also helped to balance the drive wheel. We also were able to jury rig a quick treadle assembly and I could see what the finished wheel will look like.

For next time, to help move us through stages more quickly, I think I'll compile a list of what still needs to be done and come up with a plan of attack. Our disorganization is a big hindrance in moving forward with building this wheel. If I at least have an idea of what needs to be done in my head, I can keep my Dad on track too.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Over Engineered

Flyer CAD, originally uploaded by Camping Jason.
I think my Dad may be going a bit nuts about building this spinning wheel. I thought this was supposed to be a joint project. I'll have to get over there soon if I have any hope of building this myself.

That said, it's a pretty sweet design, eh?

Monday, August 2, 2010

Jumping in with Both Feet

I started dabbling with spinning almost two years ago with some roving and a couple drop spindles. It was fun to begin with, but not that comfortable and definitely not fast enough. One of the things I love about knitting is that you can get some results fairly quickly. Even though I started 2 years ago, I have yet to finish spinning any yarn with my drop spindles. Add in the discomfort (read: lack of muscle strength in certain areas of my arms and shoulders) and spinning on a drop spindle was not one of my first choices for a nighttime hobby. It's so much easier to just pick up my current project and knit.

I've been intrigued by spinning wheels and the production you can get from them. Seemingly every other blogger I follow is now spinning and posting photos of their beautiful hand-spun yarn. Last weekend my intrigue finally bowled over and I began researching spinning wheels and whether or not I could obtain one; plus I have $350 burning a hole in my pocket. I quickly found that most wheels are out of my price range currently. The few that I did find in my range (particularly these) planted the seed of what I am about to reveal.

I am building my own spinning wheel.

Spinning wheel base

So far I have the base built, plans drawn up and materials purchased for the wheel, flyer and bobbins, etc. The DIY Tools group on Ravelry has been a huge help in this venture. Quite a few people have made their own wheel and posted photos, suggestions and directions online. I've cobbled ideas from other manufacturer's wheels, DIY models and my own ideas. It's nothing that I'll be putting into mass production, but for an anticipated cost of around $35, it will be good enough for me to use.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

FO: The Most Intricate Socks in the World


Pattern: Ornette by Cookie A.
Yarn: Wollmeise 100% Merino Superwash in Kornblume
Needle: Knit Picks fixed circular, size 1
Started: May 10, 2010
Finished: June 17, 2010
Mods: none
Ravel It!

I started this pair of socks back while the NHL Playoffs were still going on. I almost managed to finish them before they ended. They were a welcome distraction while my team was still in it, and something to keep me busy while I watched the remaining rounds.

I came by this pattern in an unconventional way. In the process of buying the pattern for a swap last summer, I accidentally bought two copies. Now, since it was only a digital copy, I could have just kept a copy for myself. But since I made the mistake I did, I was luckily not faced with that temptation.

Because the sock pattern was so complex, I didn't want to have to frog such intricate work if the cuff wasn't stretchy enough so, I used the twisted German cast on for a nice stretchy cuff. What also helps the leg fit nicely is a cast on of 84 stitches for my size; I normally use 72 sts. Because of all the cabling and the travelling band, the sock really pulls in, which makes the larger cast on number fit properly.

This pattern is definitely not one you can work without paying close attention, although after awhile, it does become easier as you learn to read your knitting to know what to do next. I would say knowing how to work cables without a cable needle is essential to knitting these socks. There are so many (and on every row!) that using an additional needle would really slow things down. Luckily, the cables in the ribbing are only mock cables. I did have trouble with dropped stitches a few times, and let me tell you, you do not want to have to tink these socks if at all possible.

All in all, I loved knitting this pattern. The complexity was great for a distraction and it's a really beautiful design. The yarn really makes the cables pop and was nice to work with. It's not the softest yarn in the world, but the color saturation and structure really make up for it. My only regret is knitting these socks during the summer, because I'll have to wait months to wear them!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Dyeing to Start Knitting

I've had this yarn in my stash for quite a while. I like the base a lot, but this colorway has always presented a problem. With socks, Memories tends to pool in stripes, with two of the colors alternating and the other two alternating. With the S'mores colorway however, the colors that end up alternating are too high contrast to look very good.

I've tried embracing the pooling, tried to make a cowl with all the colors matched up, but it turned out way too big. If you check out projects on Ravelry, you can see some of the ugly pooling. After knitting quite a few pairs of socks in a row, I wanted to change things up a bit. I thought the browns might play well with the Liesel dropping leaves pattern. I swatched the first few rows and the pooling was not going to work out, it was too high contrast to allow the lace pattern to shine. So, I turned to the dye pot.

Overdyed smores

As you can see in the after picture, I've closed the gap between the colors in the yarn, everything is all shades of brown now. I used Wilton's icing dye and I think the pattern will turn out quite nice. I really enjoying knitting this pattern last time; I can't wait to get going on it again.

Friday, July 23, 2010

FO: Upstream Firefighters

Finished upstream firefighters

Pattern: Upstream Master Pattern by Cat Bordhi
Yarn: Knit Picks Felici in Firefighter
Needle: Knit Picks fixed circular, size 1
Started: June 21, 2010
Finished: July 17, 2010
Mods: none
Ravel It!

I haven't blogged a finished knit since *gasp* March! Well, what a way to get back into the swing of things. I started these socks in advance of our summer vacation at the end of June. I only intended to get them started so I wouldn't have to cast on in the car, but I ended up almost to the heel turn before we left! I couldn't help it, the yarn and the pattern - simple stockinette foot with a 3x1 ribbed leg - made it quick work. I finished the first sock two days into our week-long vacation, but I couldn't cast on for the second as I chronicled here. Once we returned home and I gave up on the other sock I had started, it took me a mere 10 days to finish up the pair.

I've knit with Felici before and it worked up as I remember. With the way the color changes stripe so quickly and regularly, the knitting was hard to put down; I always wanted to get to the next color. The other pair of socks I knit with this yarn have held up pretty well, so I'm confident these will as well. If I had to pick one thing I didn't like about the yarn, it would be that the gray sections of yarn were tinged with red. I don't know if that's some of the dye wearing off or just red fibers spreading over the rest of the yarn, but it's not noticeable enough to matter.

This was my first time using Cat Bordhi's Upstream Master Pattern. I have used her Riverbed pattern though, which is the same construction except the increases are on the bottom of the foot. I really liked the idea of knitting a different pattern between the increases than was on the foot. It didn't really turn out to be as striking as I thought it would, but I still like it. The Upstream pattern (and Riverbed too) fits my foot really well, so I'll definitely use it again in the future.

You'll notice in the photo that this pair does not match exactly. I wanted to use as much of the yarn as possible (hence the toe-up pattern) and both skeins of yarn didn't start in the exact same spot in the color sequence. The only 'mod' I made with the stripe sequence was to take out a length of yarn before resuming the leg on the second (right) sock. You can see the very top of the heel flap is black; if I had kept knitting, I would have ended up with about one row of black stitches in the middle of the large field of gray right at the ankle. Since there was no pattern to speak of other than ribbing on the leg, I just knit until I was almost out of yarn before casting off. I ended up with less than a yard left over.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Another new sock

Ms. KWB (my wife) has been bugging me for another pair of socks for awhile now. I had some yarn left over from my Orange Pooled Socks that was not enough for a whole pair for me, but enough to not throw away. I started out with a simple 2x2 ribbed pattern to maximize fit. However, after getting both socks as far as the heel turn, I knew they would only end up as really short anklets at best.

The yarn is somewhat rare, only 1070 stashes of it on Ravelry and only 5 of this particular colorway, so I knew I would need a coordinating color to get a full pair of socks. The orange was going to be way too hard to match, and I thought the gray would make the socks too dark and dingy. I decided to get some white sock yarn to match with it. Let me tell you, white superwash sock yarn is not as easy to obtain as I thought it would/should be! I was hoping Knit Picks' Stroll would come in white because I thought the base would match fairly well. It does come in natural, but I thought that was too close to cream and not white. I finally settled on Lang Jawool. It's a bit thinner than the Handgefaerbt, so I hope blocking will help even things out a bit.


The pattern is just a plain stockinette stripe, but I'm using the helical knitting technique Grumperina brought to life. With only two yarns, keeping things straight is pretty easy, but I think the whole technique is pretty easy once it clicks. I'm not completely thrilled with the look, but Ms. KWB approved it, so I'm plugging away.

P.S. The Felici socks are finished, so now that's two blog posts I owe. I may have to send myself after me to threaten violence if this keeps up.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

I Gave Up

I gave up

I got this far by last night before I gave up. The combination of dark yarn, tiny stitches and lots of mock cables was too much. I'm not sure if I'll frog it yet since the one IS so close to being done. The only alternative I can come up with right now if I did, would be to reknit a very simple ribbed pattern I can do with my eyes closed. The yarn itself is nice and feels like it will be warm in winter. Plus, the color lends itself nicely to wearing with work clothes. So I don't want to just dump it.

Saturday, July 3, 2010


I got back from vacation last night. My wife and I spent a week in northern Michigan, 3 days in the Upper Peninsula and 3 days on Mackinac Island. It was relaxing and very enjoyable. In preparation for our trip, I cast on a new pair of socks. (I finished the fancy blue ones and even took pictures, I know I owe a blog post on that.) I was making really good progress before we even left and was really into knitting the socks; loved the pattern and the yarn.

Knitting in the park

I got enough knitting time on the ride up and the first few days of relaxation that I even finished the first sock! Luckily I brought my needle along and was able to sew the cast off.

Firefighter sock one

Unfortunately, I didn't inspect my yarn carefully enough before packing. I thought double checking the dyelots would be enough, but I guess not. The numbers match, but something definitely went wrong on that second skein. The black dye didn't take!

No match

This really took the wind out of my sails. I was thoroughly enjoying these socks and thought I might even be able to finish the pair by the end of the trip. Frustration aside, I knew if I didn't cast on something else right away, I'd lose my mojo and be left without any knitting for the rest of the trip. So, I cast on with my backup yarn and started a new sock.

9 to 5 socks

Too bad I'm just not feeling it. I'm plugging away, but the love isn't there. I'm not making progress as quickly since the pattern is more complex, and the yarn is pooling in a way that I'm not thrilled with. I don't hate it, which is why I'm still knitting it at this point, but it's not nearly as enjoyable. I would start the other striped sock since I'm home now and have more of that same yarn, but I'd have to take the brown sock off the needles. I know if I do that, I may never pick it back up again.

P.S. I just checked my stash, and of the four other skeins of Felici I have, none of them were messed up. I just happened to grab the ONE SKEIN that was to bring on vacation. Grrrrr.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Almost there

This past weekend we packed up the Jeep and headed west to go camping at Ludington State Park. While I didn't get much knitting in at the actual campsite, I did manage an hour or so at the beach on Sunday and several hours in the car on the way home.

Socks on the Beach

I've only been working on these socks for a little over a month, but it feels like longer. I'm ready to be done, but in a good way. I love all the cables here and the color is awesome. Too bad I won't be able to wear them until the fall.

Knitting on the road

With the knitting time over the weekend and a few hours this week, I'm in position to finish the last toe this evening. If the weather cooperates this weekend, there could be an FO post next week. I also may post a poll to help me select my next sock project. I leave for vacation on June 26 and definitely need some vacation knitting.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Most Intricate Socks In the World

I don't always knit intricate socks, but when I do, I prefer Wollmeise.*

Holy crap these socks are addicting. The pattern is Ornette by Cookie A. and it is the first pattern of hers that I have knit. I know there are tons of Monkeys and Pomatomuses (Pomatomi?) out there, but I couldn't resist the siren call of all those cables.

Sock detail

Contrary to how they look, the pattern is not all that complicated. If you can read a chart (and you'll need to as there are no written instructions to substitute) you can knit these socks. I find myself using the chart for the first cabled section you see on the right, then noting how the rest of the leg repeats and zipping through the end of a round. These definitely aren't the socks to knit when you're highly distracted or without looking, but they're hardly mind melters. I did run into trouble last night when I dropped a stitch several rows down. It was too tedious to tink back, so I had to frog six rows or so and pick everything back up. It totally killed my progress for the night.

Sock start

The yarn is Wollmeise in Kornblume (I finally got my hands on some) and shows off the cable stitching wonderfully. It can be a bit splitty at times and I have to untwist the yarn as I go, but the beautiful saturated color is worth it. The yardage in this skein (575 yards) will come in handy what with all the little cables and having to knit the largest size. I'll need every last inch of it.

Wollmeise - Kornblume

*An homage to these commercials

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Sock Surgery

I've been itching to cast on a new project the past few days, but decided I should stick to my goal of finishing my WIPs first. To that end, I prepped my Paraphernalia Socks for surgery last night.

The pattern design is a series of cables surrounded by ribbing. It starts with a center twist over two ribs, which you can see in the picture just below the lowest needle. After that comes a quite lovely intertwined cable worked over six ribs, which pulls in the fabric quite a bit.

Unfortunately for me, one of the intertwined cables fell right at the top of the gusset and therefore right at the point where my socks get stretched the most. Another hit was that the complex pattern started right before the heel flap. If I simply frogged back to before it began, I'd lose all the heel flap and gusset knitting I'd done.

What you see above is the whole sock frogged back to a few rows after finishing the gussets - I had knit about 2 inches before trying it on - and the main pattern ripped out row by row. Yarn from the individual rows top to bottom is fanned out from left to right. I picked up a tiny crochet hook this afternoon, which will serve as my scalpel during this sock surgery.

My plan to alleviate the tightness in the pattern across my ankle is to reknit the pattern with only the central cable continuing through where the original intertwined pattern was. I'll continue for one full repeat with only the middle cable, which should land far enough past my ankle to make the socks fit better. I'll start out picking up the two columns of ribbing on either side of the pattern, and then work the cable itself row by row. Wish me luck.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Still Life: Felted Balls

Still Life: Felted Balls, originally uploaded by Camping Jason.

The fruits of my labor last night. Yesterday's post was really all about the quote, so here's a bit more detail on my process.

I used water from the tea kettle - very hot! - and only used enough to cover the balls in the bucket. Before, I had used a half full bucket which resulted in lots of splashing. With less water, I felt (ha!) I could get more friction with the plunger.

Before last night's efforts, the group at top left was completely unfelted. They still need lots of work. The group at lower left are almost finished, one more go should do it. The four smug ones at top right are the only ones I've deemed finished. And the sad yellow one all by itself was my first attempt and is too small. By the way, the yellow one just northwest of it is supposed to be the same color. That's what I get for felting washing darks and lights together. Didn't my mother raise me right?

Monday, April 12, 2010

The madness continues

So I felted more of those little spheres I've been knitting tonight, or tried to at least. My setup this evening consisted of two buckets in the bathtub - one hot, one cold - a plunger and rubber gloves. I alternated agitating the knitted spheres with the plunger in the hot and cold water hoping to shock them into submission. I didn't want to dump the wooly water down the tub drain and end up with a clogged tub, so I poured the buckets out into the toilet. I don't know if you've ever poured water into a toilet before, but it basically force flushes the toilet without the bowl refill; it's designed to work that way. What was left was a near empty toilet bowl with some grayish water. I didn't get to do a final flush to clear it out before my wife got home. All of this led to the quote of the night by my wife: "Did you plunge your balls in the toilet?"

Thank you, I'll be here all week, try the veal. Goodnight.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Three little balls of wool are we

I haven't gotten sick of these yet. I think I'm up to 6 plus the first yellow one (which is too small/squishy). I felted the green one by hand and decided to try the others in the washer; no such luck. I put them in a pillow case to keep any fuzz from destroying our washer and they started to felt, but got nowhere near what they need to be. I ran through through two cycles too. I really don't want to have to felt 1,000+ balls by hand.

I'm still trying to hone in on the perfect configuration for these. Using different yarns is definitely going to make things more difficult. In the long run, I'm hoping that slight size differences will balance out the finished project. I have made a few mods to the pattern, increasing directly after cast on and working the final decrease row in smaller needles, to eliminate nipples on my balls. Oh dear.

P.S. I have no idea why my entries show up like crap in the RSS feed. I'll try to fix it, but if anyone has any suggestions...

Friday, April 2, 2010

Here Comes The Sun

And so it begins. This was a test, to see how big my balls are. Turns out my balls will be bigger than Alice's. (Ok, I'll stop now.)

I followed the Oh Balls! pattern as written and ended up with a 2" diameter ball after felting. I used some crappy, fuzzy, acrylic yarn for stuffing and I don't think I used enough. I was wary of the ball shrinking too much, but I probably only lost about 1/2" in size. Next time, I'll have to stuff the balls so they're nice and firm. (Sorry!)

I felted it by hand in the tub, and switching from hot to cold water seemed to produce the fastest results. Everyone knows balls shrink in cold water. (Alright already!) I popped it in the dryer for 20 minutes to suck some more moisture out. It wasn't completely dry, but I didn't want to run a full cycle for just one ball. It did make a rather pleasing sound, tumbling through the dryer, I can only imagine how 50 would sound.

Why do I get the feeling I'm going to have lots of little felted balls all around my house... it'll be like some sick kind of Easter egg hunt.

P.S. Thanks to everyone who commented on my changes post. It's good to know who's reading and that you're so supportive.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Talk about your epic project

Felted Wool Rug, originally uploaded by Camping Jason.

When I saw this post on and the corresponding inspiration I immediately set to work figuring out how long it would take to make one.

For a 6' diameter rug (which incidentally costs approximately $1,394.35 on Hay's website) one would have to knit and felt 2,304 1.5" diameter balls. Some more math: if you knit 1 ball a day, it would take over 6 years to finish. To finish in 1 year, you'd have to knit 6.3 (so 7) balls a day every day. And that doesn't take into account connecting the balls and forming the finished rug.

I suppose if you weren't in a hurry for an spectacularly colorful wool rug, you could poke along and finish it when you finish it. I know I have no place to put such an item in my current house, but I have the vision of my future home with a room off limits to dogs and small children and all my favorite things inside. Could you imagine sitting down on this to spin? Sweet.

ETA: So it didn't occur to me until almost 4 hours later that if I were to undertake this particular project, I would, in fact, be literally knitting with balls. I suppose that means I have to do it, huh? :)

Wednesday, March 31, 2010


I've been thinking more and more about altering the direction of content on my blog. That's not exactly the right word. Enhancing perhaps. I'm interested in much more than knitting. Twitter is helpful, but sometimes I have more to say than will fit in 140 characters. I'm also hoping that will allow me to post more frequently since I'm not that fast at knitting.

Whether changes means a name change or not, I don't know. Can I talk about hockey or music or whatever random crap pops up in my brain on a blog titled Knits With Balls? What I don't want to do is alienate my current readers, such as they may be. I have no idea how many 'regular' readers I have. I suspect not many. Thoughts? Anyone? Bueller?

Thursday, March 25, 2010

FO: Olympic Redwoods

Finished Olympic Redwoods

Pattern: Shur'tugal by Alice Yu
Yarn: Knit Picks Memories in Redwood Forest
Needle: Knit Picks DPNs, size 1
Started: February 12, 2010
Finished: March 14, 2010
Mods: none, just some mistakes
Ravel It!

These socks definitely have some miles on them. And that was before they were worn. I chose this sock pattern as my Ravelympics project, which coincided with the start to my cruise vacation in February. As a result, they traveled with me from Puerto Rico all the way down to St. Lucia in the Caribbean.

I cast on at 9:00 p.m. in a dark car on the way to Chicago to catch a plane to Puerto Rico. Of course, that's when the Olympic opening ceremonies started in Vancouver. It was a painstaking, tedious process, and one I messed up several times. The pattern has a unique cast on that uses a double strand of yarn for one half of a double tail cast on. Except, I thought I was smart since I had started the pattern once before, and didn't read the pattern before casting on. I ended up trying to double up both halves of the cast on and ended up with a really thick cuff. I didn't realize it until I got back home, and by that point I was too far along to turn back. I only managed the cast on and one row of 2x2 ribbing in the car before we arrived in Chicago.

Throughout the cruise itself, I didn't get much knitting done. We were busy all day walking around the different ports of call, and the lounges on the ship where we spent our evenings were too dark. I did manage to sneak in a few rows before bed. I made the most progress sitting in the airport on the way back home. See, our flight out of Puerto Rico wasn't until 3 a.m. We had kicked around San Juan and were tired by the time we got to the airport around 8 p.m. Six hours in an airport makes for prime knitting time.

When we finally got back home, I only had 7 days to finish the pair of socks; I only had a leg done on sock #1. I kept at it until the last few days - I finished the first sock and cast on for the second - before throwing in the towel. The knitting was beginning to feel like work and I didn't want that. I was starting to resent the socks! Once I gave up on the deadline and took a few days off, the socks didn't seem so daunting.

We swapped socksThe other exciting thing about these socks is that I took them with me to see The Yarn Harlot speak. Knitting in the auditorium before, during and after her talk, I was able to make smashing progress on sock #2, enough so that I was able to finish later that night. I like to think that Stephanie holding my sock gave it the extra mojo it needed to zip along.

I've already detailed the first mistake I made with the double cast on mix up. The second was not so much a mistake as it was an oddity. I cast on the second sock correctly. This should have given me more yarn to knit with. As it was, I barely made it on the first sock, having to graft some leftover yarn from the cast on to my working yarn to finish the toe. With sock #2, I ended up several rows short, even after adding some leftovers from the first sock (a yard maybe) and a bit from its own cast on.

If you look closely at the toe of the right sock in the large picture at the top of the post, you can see it doesn't match. I didn't have any yarn that matched exactly, and I sure a shit wasn't about to frog the messed up double cast on from the first sock. I knew I had some of the same yarn in a different colorway (S'mores) that I thought wouldn't stand out too badly. The S'mores colorway had white and light grey in it that would have stood out, so I ended up cutting out the really light parts to only leave the two different browns. If you know to look, you can easily see the difference, but it's at the toe and that's normally buried in my shoe. Plus it gives the socks character, so I don't mind.

The pattern is simple and straightforward, I had it memorized halfway through the first leg. There are only four cable rounds in the pattern repeat and they're simple two stitch cables at that, so the knitting really flies. The pattern is pretty stretchy, I knit the large size (72 sts) and they fit nice and snug. I think this is one sock pattern that I actually may knit again.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

FO: January KAL cloth

January KAL cloth

Pattern: January KAL cloth
Source: Kris Knits
Yarn: Lily Sugar'n Cream Solid - Cornflower (I think)
Needle: Knit Picks fixed circular, size 3
Started: January 7, 2010
Finished: March 3, 2010
Mods: Knit the border in garter stitch instead of seed stitch
Ravel It!

When I saw the idea for a monthly Knit-a-long on Kris' blog, I signed up instantly. I've been following her blogging for quite a while now, and had been itching to knit one of her designs. Since these were going to be free - and I'm a cheapskate - it was a perfect solution.

The catch for this KAL is that it's a mystery. Kris posts 10 lines of the pattern every few days, so we all get to have fun knitting and figuring out what the design will look like. I figured this one out pretty quickly; it helps that they have a theme that relates to the month.

I actually knit the pattern halfway in a different color yarn, some scraps leftover from a grocery bag. When I ran out, I went to the store for more yarn... only I couldn't find a matching dye lot. No matter, just buy more yarn! The first color was a more electric blue, so I think the cornflower works a lot better.

January KAL clothIt took me two months to knit this for several reasons. One, Kris was in the middle of moving and was therefore unable to post pattern updates regularly. Two, I went on vacation mid-February and took a different project to knit. Three, when I knew I needed more yarn, I wanted to wait until the February pattern was posted so I could buy yarn for that at the same time. Finally, after the Ravelympics, I vowed to not knit on a deadline for awhile; so I took my time.

I only made one mod with this pattern, and that was to knit the border in garter stitch instead of seed stitch. My seed stitch in cotton yarn looks like crap, plus all the switching between knit and purl wreaks even more havoc on my wrists. And I just like the way garter stitch looks. Consequently, the side border blends right in with the design itself. I'm not sure if those are supposed to be trees or piles of snow on the sides, but oh well, I like how it looks.

At the end of the year I'll have 12 dishcloths knitted up. I think I'll give some as Christmas gifts. Or maybe gift the whole set to my mom. She'd like that.

P.S. I installed a new comments system, Disqus, that will hopefully allow me to respond better to comments. Won't you test it out for me?

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Happy St. Patrick's Day

St. Patty's Day cloth

Pattern: The St. Patrick's Day Cloth
Source: Kris Knits
Yarn: Lily Sugar'n Cream Solid - Sage Green
Needle: Knit Picks fixed circular, size 3
Started: March 3, 2010
Finished: March 5, 2010
Ravel It!

I knit this dishcloth for Stephanie Pearl-McPhee, the Yarn Harlot. I gave it to her when she spoke in Detroit this past Saturday.

This is actually the second Kris Knits cloth pattern I have knit, I'll post the first one in a day or so. Kris' patterns are very well written and totally easy to follow. This cloth only took me three days to knit, but I could probably knock one out in a couple hours if I needed to. The only thing holding me back was that knitting with cotton puts a lot more stress on my wrists and forearms than wool does; it's simply not stretchy.

St. Patty's Day clothI recycled the yarn from an Everlasting Bag Stopper I had left unfinished since last summer. We've received enough reusable grocery bags lately that I really have no need for a knitted one. Yay for stashbusting! I don't know if it was because the yarn had been previously knitted or because of the color of dye, but the green yarn was relatively soft and easier on my hands with this cloth. I'm knitting another cloth pattern in hot pink (yuck) and the yarn is a lot stiffer. I know red dyes can affect how yarn acts, so maybe that's it.

I really love the four different shamrock designs (five if you knit the smaller cloth) Kris came up with. I tried years ago to design a shamrock pattern for a pair of socks and came up empty. After knitting this pattern, I realize that garter stitch patterns work much better than all reverse stockinette patterns. I'll definitely look to incorporate these shamrocks into a pair of socks for St. Patty's Day next year.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Detroit Day with The Yarn Harlot

Yesterday was Detroit Day, 3/13 a.k.a. 313, the area code of Detroit, MI. What better way to celebrate than with a visit from The Yarn Harlot!

I got downtown around 11:30 and parking was already at a premium. I had to park several blocks away, which normally is no big deal, but it was raining pretty hard. It didn't bother me though. When I got inside the library, you could instantly tell where all the knitters were: milling through the neat little yarn market they had set up. I passed through once but didn't find anything I wanted to buy. Lots of good stuff though!

I settled down in the auditorium downstairs and, with an hour before Stephanie went on, started knitting. I got several nice comments, being one of (I think) only two knitting guys there. To those that asked, the pattern I was knitting is Shur'tugal and the yarn is Knit Picks Memories in Redwood (sadly discontinued).

The Yarn Harlot photographing the crowd

A big cheer went up when Stephanie came on. She took pictures of us with her current sock and we all took pictures of her. She begin by telling us how nervous she was and of course everyone laughed. She talked about writing - what a difficult and nerve wracking process it can be. She told funny stories about harassing editors over her books and the evil corrections they make and how their job is to point out how stupid you are. She told us how society automatically discounts/discredits knitters and knitting, about dropping a 'K-bomb', and how she and Tina struggled to make the convention center they chose for sock camp believe that yes, there actually are that many sock knitters in the world. She read a passage from her book (I didn't catch which one) which, based on her explanation, seemed like the first time she had done so. The passage was on Knitting Self-Esteem and talked about how being good, really good at pulling loops through loops with sticks can quiet that self-doubting voice we all have inside of us. It was a great talk, we all laughed and got mad along with her. And we all ooh-ed and aah-ed when she showed of her Dale of Norway Knitting Olympics sweater. It was BEAUTIFUL.

When she finished, she sat down to sign books and take photos. I waited while everyone else lined up and made excellent progress on my Olympic Redwood Socks. It's easy to do when you sit in an auditorium for three hours surrounded by knitters. I got far enough that I was able to finish them late last night. Hopefully I can get some decent photos and blog them soon.

I knit her a washcloth...

When I got through the line and up to meet Stephanie, I introduced myself and she actually knew who I was! She said, "You're campingjason. Your tweets are funny." I was quite taken aback. She signed my book for me and I gave her the shamrock washcloth I knit for her. She took my picture, so I'm guessing I'll end up on her blog recap of the talk (there I am...). She was also gracious enough to pose for a photo with me, and we held each others socks.

We swapped socks

The biggest takeaway I got from meeting her, besides the fact that she's really, really nice, was that she's get an extremely sharp wit. She asked what pattern I was knitting and I didn't know how to say it (how do you pronounce Shur'tugal?) so I kinda stumbled and I told her I would email it to her. Then she asked what yarn I was knitting with, and before I could answer, she was like "well you're a wealth of knowledge!." Ha ha ha Steph.

Finally, to cap everything off, I stopped by Good Girls Go To Paris Crepes for a Nutella and banana crepe. Delicious. It was a great day and I'm so glad I went. I don't think I'll miss out on any of her talks in the future.

P.S. RoxanneZYG on Ravelry posted this video of the Yarn Harlot talking about the 'Shaky Diet'.

P.P.S. More blog recaps here, here and here.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Done With Deadlines

I'm done with deadline knitting. After a successful January Hat Trick and a failure at the Ravelympics, I'm done. I've had knitting on the brain constantly for two whole months and I'm burned out. I gave up my Ravelympic socks after knitting a cuff and 15 rows on the second sock. I couldn't bear to pick up the needles this past weekend. I'm not off knitting completely or anything, but some small inconsequential projects are in order. I need to catch up on the Kris Knits Dishcloth KAL. I bought yarn today for February (more eye searing pink, why can I not get away from this color?) and some to finish January's cloth. But have no fear, I will not be racing to finish each cloth by the end of each month.

Friday, February 26, 2010

One down...

One down..., originally uploaded by Camping Jason.

Finished sock #1 this afternoon while I watched the US men's hockey team paste Finland 6-0 and move on to the gold medal game. I cast on for the second right away. I ended up with less than a yard of yarn left. I had to join the leftover from my cast on to the end of the skein to finish the last two rows.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Ravelympic progress

Ravelympic progress, originally uploaded by Camping Jason.

This is where I'm at after the first 10 days of competition. I cast on in the dark of a car on the way to Chicago. I didn't knit much on the trip, but got a lot done traveling back home. I knit most of the heel flap today at lunch, and I have to work way late tonight, so I should be able to turn the heel and start the gusset tonight. I've now got 6 days to knit 1 1/2 socks. It's going to be tight to finish on time.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

FO: Pembroke Vest

Pembroke Vest

Pattern: Pembroke Vest
Source: Petite Purls, Issue 1 Summer 2009
Yarn: Stonehedge Fiber Mill Shephard's Wool - Lime
Needle: Knit Picks Options, size 6 & 8
Started: September 16, 2009
Finished: late September 2009
Ravel It!

Although published through an online magazine, this is another Through the Loops design I fell in love with. When I originally bought this yarn, I had no idea what it would become. I just picked it up because it was local, totally soft and a nice color. With nothing on the needles this fall, I came across this adorable little vest in my Ravelry queue and knew I had found the perfect match.

Campfire knittingI started knitting the vest on a trip up north to go camping in September. It was relaxing and gratifying to knit outside by the campfire. Luckily nothing ended up smelling to strongly of smoke.

The pattern is written for several different sizes, I knit the 12 month old size because I figured that was how much yarn I had. I ended up with only a few grams left over. The smaller sizes have a buttoned shoulder for easier dressing of the little ones. Now I just need to find a little one to fit inside!

The yarn is very soft, and not washable, so I don't know how well it will hold up to kiddo wear and tear. I couldn't resist though. It was the perfect pattern to use up a wonderful yarn.