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Make Socks Your Favorite

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Everyone has their favorite comfort knitting.  Something that you can pick up any time you want, take a few stitches, and know that it will relax you, fulfill the tactile desire for fiber, and be waiting for you whenever you are ready to pick it up again, with no knit shaming involved (Where you been, huh? How come you cast on something new? Don’t you love me anymore?).  For some people this might be a hat, for others socks, or shawls.  There are even “sweater people”, believe it or not.  Me, I’m a blanket person.  Don’t ask me why.  Maybe it’s because they are practical, one-size-fits-all, and typically mindless.  But seriously.  How many blankets does one household really need?!  I’ve made two for my son (who adores them but doesn’t use them) and have at least 2-3 more in progress. I bet you quilters feel my pain.

Time for a new favorite.

Did you now that April is Sock Knitting Month at Interweave? That got me thinking.  A good look at my stash would make you think I am planning on outfitting a small army of oompa loompas with self-striping socks someday in the future, with a few cabled ones thrown in for good measure. I thoroughly enjoy knitting socks, yet rarely do I sit down to do so. Somehow the gauge issue, rationing of yarn (if top down) and measuring gets me all kerbobbled and I think, “maybe another day.” Not comforting or relaxing at all.  But why shouldn’t it be?  Why should I knit fancy cabled laced and tasseled confections when I could knit plain vanilla and be (probably) just as happy?  Damn, I actually love vanilla! I could certainly use socks more frequently than another blanket. I’ve wanted to try knitting an afterthought heel for a while now, so I’m going to start with this pattern and see where it takes me. If I like it enough, who says I have to ever knit anything else?  I could just knit vanilla socks with afterthought heels until I run out of stash or my fingers fall off.  I don’t care if other sock knitters will think I’m lame.  Right? Right. That’s what I’m gonna keep telling myself.

Just like this clip from one of my all time favorite movies (Elf), I’m going to make socks my new favorite!

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Jogless Near Seattle

I love love love stripes!! Always have, even before they became a thing. And as soon as I made my first striped project in the round, I learned to knit jogless stripes. In fact, I’ve never knit anything striped without working jogless stripes. Yikes. The whole idea makes me break out in an itchy scratchy rash. Why? Why?! Why would anyone knit stripes with jogs? Especially if you can avoid it so easily? Ugh. My eyes bleed just imagining the epic fail. But even I, who am no stranger to knitting jogless stripes, just got schooled by a simple cowl (with a little help from Interweave Knits).

This is the method I have always used for knitting jogless stripes: knitting one round with the new color and then at the start of the second round, picking up the old color from the stitch below and knitting it together with the new color, creating an elongated stitch. This works fine for pretty much most things I’ve ever knit. However, while knitting my Duotone (above) which is knit at a loose-ish gauge on slightly larger needles to accentuate the drape of the yarn, I felt dissatisfied with my trusty technique. Not enough to really do anything about it (I’m kinda lazy that way) just vaguely critical of the way the stitches were lining up before and after each color change.

Then one evening, while waiting for my son to quit goofing around while taking care of business in his bathroom (seriously, the kid can make an epic journey out of potty time or toothbrushing; he’s the consummate dawdler) I picked up an old back issue of Interweave Knits and started thumbing through it. This is often the only way I can keep my head from exploding when he’s in there singing away, oblivious to the ginormous mommy volcano building pressure outside. And whaddya know, there’s a whole article about new ways to knit jogless stripes in the round (Interweave Knits, Volume 14, Number 2, Summer 2009. “Beyond The Basics, New Methods for Jogless Stripes in the Round”. Techknitter. Pg 28-30). I fully admit it. I skimmed. I didn’t really want to know why, just how. Bad Knittymuggins!! But it was enough to get me on my way, and now I know where to find it again when I finally decide I want to know why it works that way. Just kidding. You know I’ll never come back and read it when I could totally be knitting.

Anyway, I settled on a combination of my usual method above for the thin stripes, and the Stationary Slip-Stitch method for jogless stripes from the article for the wider stripes. It looked better and I was pleased with the change. And then I finished the cowl and the funny bit at the end of my graft was bugging me so I rearranged the cowl a little to make that annoying nubbin disappear inside the cowl. And guess what else ended up “hidden” inside the cowl at that point? The stupid jogless stripes I’d agonized over the whole time I was knitting. And do you know who is now the biggest dumba$$ in the universe? Yeah. That would be me.

But at least my neck will be cozy.

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If You Can’t Knit ‘Em, Swatch ‘Em

I have always viewed swatching as a necessary, but unpleasant task; the boring opening act you have to suffer through before you get to the main attraction, the one you spent all that money on and have been dreaming about for months.  But I think I may have – wait for it – become a bit of a fan.  Yes, a swatchy groupie.

It all started with a fever. And not the kind of fever that just needs more cowbell. We’re talking, the kind that single-handedly immobilized the 2000 jigowatt energy of a 5 year old boy. When Knittymunchkin only wants to curl up in your lap and have you sing The Beatles’ “Blackbird” to him over and over, you know something’s up. The fact that he is sitting still for more than 5 seconds is worry enough. I didn’t realize the gravity of the situation until exactly one week later when I woke up with my head throbbing, a fever, and every single muscle in my body spasmodic with pain. Yes, even though we were both vaccinated, we had the flu. I mean the real deal.  After 2 weeks of sickness and self-imposed quarantine, a doctor’s appointment that resulted in no less than 4 prescriptions between the two of us, way way way too much tv (pretty sure Knittymunchkin’s brain will never recover — BAD MAMA!), I think we are finally on the upswing.

But back to the swatching. Over the years I have come to realize something about myself. I used to think that I just couldn’t sit still for long. Not short attention span issues, and not hyperactivity, just an inability to sit for longer than 5 minutes doing what I perceive to be “nothing”. No wonder I can never relax!! But over the last year or two I have started to think of this quirk more in terms of an intense dislike of idle hands. As long as my hands are busy, I am content to sit still and do “nothing”. While attending to a sick Knittymunchkin and during my own recuperation I have eased my idle hands syndrome with knitting. But, unable to concentrate on a complicated pattern I needed something simple. I worked on my Duotone a lot (in fact it’s just waiting to be grafted and it will be finished) but I wanted something even simpler. Something requiring no counting and no real concentration, just needles, yarn and busy hands. Behold the beauty (yes, I said beauty) of the swatch. Mindless knitting, incredible portability, and the added benefit of actually being useful! I’m hooked.

Swatching……. I never thought I’d say this, but I think I love you!

 

P.S. I’m kinda loving this new theme too.  It was about time for a change!

 

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Happy Valentine’s Day!

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 Happy Valentine’s Day bloggy peeps!

Of course it wouldn’t be a true holiday if I didn’t create some kind of fiendishly stressful deadline for myself by deciding I needed to make a gift for everyone in Knittymunchkin’s preschool class.  And never mind how, in the spirit of love and kindness, Knittymunchkin asked me to include everyone’s siblings as well.  How could I possibly shy away from showing him how much fun giving can be just ’cause I’d rather be doing something much more glamorous than crocheting 25 heart pockets out of dishcloth cotton?  Just kidding.  You know I totally love doing it. Why else would I suddenly be wondering what the hell I’m going to do with myself when he goes to kindergarten and I can’t possibly expect to actually make gifts for each kid for each and every holiday.  Heaven forbid I find an actual household chore to accomplish with my free time!

We filled these little heart pockets with a mini bag of m&m’s and a paper valentine that Knittymunchkin had picked out a couple weeks earlier.  Leave it to my son to eschew the Spiderman, Ninja Turtles, and even Phineas & Ferb valentines in favor of cute puppies and kitties.  But that’s Knittymunchkin for ya.  I actually think it’s pretty sweet.  And many of the parents thanked us after the school party for including the siblings in our gifting.  I don’t know about Knittymunchkin, but I felt pretty warm and fuzzy spreading the love around this Valentine’s Day.

Hope you and everyone you love is having a wonderful day today too!!

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Fresh Beginnings

IMG_1741My garden doesn’t look like this (yet). But this explosion of spring-y goodness seems to be popping up like little floral treasure chests wherever I look around town. I’m so ready for it – the colors, the cheery flower faces peeping at me, a warm welcome back to my garden and the rich smell of wet soil being turned over.  Good thing  Loopy Academy (presented by The Loopy Ewe) is back in session with a bunch of new beginnings to look forward to! I’m ready to start my second semester as a freshman  and I think I have the perfect pattern picked out for the striping project challenge.  I’m planning on knitting a Duotone Cowl and though I’d originally intended to use Malabrigo Silky Merino for this project, I’m treating myself to a new (to me) luxurious yarn: Mrs. Crosby Carpet Bag. I chose Creme Fraiche and Golden Butter for my contrasting colorways and the thought of them together brings a smile to my face, just like the sweet little Tete A Tete daffodils in the picture above.  I can’t wait for both to arrive at my house!

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I’ve Got Magic Balls

Hey, get your mind out of the gutter! I was here first.

What is it about the word “balls” that sends me into giggles like a silly little third grader? We use that word as knitters. Alot. You would think I’d be over it, but every once in a while it just gets me in the giggle trigger.

Have you heard of these yet? I’ve been seeing them around in the blogosphere and noticing knitalongs for projects utilizing them, as well as people selling them on etsy. As someone who finds themselves physically incapable of disposing of even the smallest shred of yarn, magic balls are incredibly appealing. Here’s a way to use up all those little wooly bits that are really too small to make much out of, yet have a way of sitting around indefinitely staring you in the face and reminding you you have WAY too much yarn.

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For an embarrassingly long time now (we’re talking years here, people!) I’ve had an afghan in my care that I received from a college friend. Her grandmother (I think) had knit it and it had been passed down to her now teenage daughter. They’d noticed it was starting to show some wear and asked me if I could repair/fix it for them. They weren’t sure if it was knitted (turns out it was) or crocheted and since I was the only person they knew who did either, they asked for my help. I was honored of course, but being the Queen of Procrastination that I am, I kept putting it aside. Early this year I decided it was high time I fixed it and sent it back. There are just too many of these unfinished things dragging me down and stressing me out with guilt. Anticipating a long extended repair effort, I was surprised and sheepish to discover that it took me only about an hour to fix the few small spots that needed work. Oy. But one of the things I’d hoped to do when I first received the blanket was to try to decipher the pattern so that if, in the future, one of the panels (it’s knitted in panels which are then crocheted togetther) disintegrated, I’d be able to replace it for them. Now that the repair job had gone so quickly, I felt obligated to put just a little extra time in to try to accomplish this. These are dear college friends, in case you haven’t figured it out :) The blanket owner is the daughter of my college boyfriend and my college roommate. How’s that for sounding awkward? Totally isn’t though. I even went to Maryland for their wedding many years ago!

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Enter magic balls. I wanted to try my hand at making one, and I needed yarn to experiment with for my reverse engineered blanket project, so it just seemed like it was meant to be. I used these instructions to make my first magic ball and spent a couple days working out the pattern for the blanket panel. After lots of trial and error, I came to realize that any knitwear designing dreams I might have harbored have absolutely no chance of realization since it’s obvious I’m not cut out for it. Two days to figure out a simple lace pattern? Yeah, no talent here. But yet, part of me is proud to say that I actually did it! And I’m happy with the results, so I see a blanket made of magic balls and this reverse engineered pattern in my near(ish) future.

The first strip is completed and it looks like this:

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All the blue shades remind me of mimeographs from when I was a kid (yes, I’m dating myself with that comment!) so that’s what I’m calling my nascent blanket. Can’t wait to make my next magic ball and next blanket strip! The yarn is already picked out and just waiting for me to get my yarn needle and winder out.

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Queen of Den-iPad

Something has come between us, my knitting and me. He’s adorable and hilarious, this interloper, but he is also demanding and ferocious and hard to deny. Thanks to a chance Christmas encounter with a cousin’s new Nintendo DS, Knittymunchin is now full blown obsessed with the electronic wonders of my iPad. Trouble is – my iPad has become indispensable to my knitting.  All my counters are there, without which I have no idea where I am on any given project (and you know how many of those there are!); not to mention the patterns I use in pdf form (who needs print these days?!) and swift access to Ravelry.  It’s a foregone conclusion that knitting has all but stalled here.

We’ve worked through all sorts of “solutions” to the problem. The clearest, most effective alternative has been to just leave the iPad off & have neither of us use it.  R. Darling thinks this is ridiculous and says that I am the adult and should therefore have unlimited access, while preventing use by the kiddo.  Ha.  Try telling that to a 5 year old! Especially one that will wheedle and cajole and persist until you consider giving in just to shut him up for two seconds. The current plan includes no iPad at all on school days and 30 tokens (1 token = 1 minute) allotted at the start of each day with potential to lose tokens for misbehavior or gain more tokens for good behavior.  We are on day 2 of this plan and so far it seems to be working, though we are still experiencing minor tantrums when the timer goes off and pleas of “I just want to do one more thing!”

Still, I feel denied. It seems like a necessary sacrifice at this point to keep a lid on the development of a tiny zombie in my living room staring at a video screen.  But I want my iPad. And I want my knitting.  Who sounds like a 5 year old now? So I’m kicking it old school. Magazine in hand, manual counter, and notepad, I do what I can.  I just started #24 Lacy Wrap from a 2011 issue of Knit Simple for R. Darling’s Grandma. It seems fitting that the stash yarn I’m using is from 2008, way before my iPad entered the scene.

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I suppose I shouldn’t be too critical.  The momentary video game obsession has allowed me to write this post after all…..