Category Archives: knitting

The Soul (or Sole) of the Sock

Part II of the Soulless Socks

So, as previously mentioned, wearing through the soles of a pair of hand knit socks is a pain in the neck.  Pain in the foot, I should say.  And then you pull out your darning egg, and you darn the darned thing.  And then next thing you know, you wear through the darn, or around the edges, and suddenly you have holes again.

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This is a red sock, with a black darn on it, and a hole through which you can see my brown darning egg.

So, fine.  That didn’t work for very long.  My mother snips a thread just at the ankle, at this point, and carefully pulls the foot of the sock away from the leg.  She reknits the foot, from the ankle down, and ends up with some very lovely, but varied, socks.

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Sometimes the feet match each other, although not the legs.

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Sometimes the feet match, but the legs don’t.

I thought about doing this, but what I really wanted to was to replace the heel of the sock.  A huge patch, right on top of the existing sock, so that all the little ends would be hidden, all the sole would covered with new and stronger yarn, and I could keep enjoying the lovely patterns on the top of the sock.  I mean, when I make DNA socks, with RNA ribbons, I don’t really want to throw out the entire foot of the sock, just because the bottom of the sock wore through.  The top is still perfectly fine in most cases.  So I knitted a replacement sock heel, and sewed it on.

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darned sock                                               new heeled sock

The new heel was a little bulky, but it covered the entire darn, and the yarn was extra strong, so I was unlikely to wear through the new heel anytime soon.

Then, the  yarn wore out right next to the new heel.

FINE.  I’ll replace the entire sole of the sock!  I knit a new sole, including a heel turn, and sewed that on!

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darn and hole                                          lovely new sole

Surely that would work?  Strong new yarn, all the holes sealed.  Sure, the sole of the sock was now two or three layers thick, but that just made for a comfy pad to walk on, right?

Until the new sole wore out.

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That would be the black darn from before poking through the hole I wore through the new sole under the heel, exactly where all the other holes were.  If I darned that, I’d be looking at four layers of sock yarn, and that started to get uncomfortable.

And with that, I threw the socks away.  My lovely, hand knit socks with a DNA helix on the top went into the trash.  I just didn’t want to deal with it anymore.  Time to try something else entirely.

(To Be Continued)

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Darn it! – patching holes in knitted things

Part I of the Soulless Socks

So you learned how to knit scarves and that was awesome.  Then you learned about knitting in the round, and hats appeared!  Tall hats, short hats, beanies, big floppy hats, maybe even top hats!  And then you learned about how to knit socks.

Now, readers of this blog might have noticed that I like to knit socks.

Two socks.

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Four socks.

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Red socks.

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Blue socks.

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I knit socks with diamonds,

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socks with stripes,

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socks with DNA patterns,

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socks on the bias,

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socks with flames,

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and multiple variations on each.  I like knitting socks.  They’re small to carry, only take one skein of yarn, and are very useful.  Also, souvenir sock yarn packs small.

Somewhere along the way as you learned to knit socks, you realized perhaps that socks have a very important difference from scarves and hats and even sweaters.  That is, they get a lot more wear.  Like, more wear than anything else you can knit that I can imagine.  They sit between your foot and the floor or your shoe and then you apply PRESSURE.  As a result of this, you might notice that you go through store-bought socks pretty fast.  Going through hand-knit socks that fast is NOT acceptable.

Are you kidding?  I worked hard on those socks!  And I got to wear them for one to two MONTHS before there are HOLES and THIN SPOTS?

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Not fair.  If they were store-bought socks, I would just throw them out.  But there’s no way I am throwing out my HAND KNIT SOCKS that I WORKED on for MONTHS ( or maybe weeks, or maybe years – depends what else I was doing at the time).

Well, darn it.  Now what?

Oh, wait.  Darn it.

No, really.  Darn the socks.

Darning is to patch something.  Often, with socks, one does it by weaving a small patch over the hole, such that the fabric is not further distressed, and the darn instead takes the pressure and wear.  I have a darning egg that my mother gave me to use while darning, but a ladle or even a large soup spoon works perfectly well.

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There’s a good video here which shows how to darn socks.

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And you end up with socks that still keep you warm and have no holes!

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At least, for a little while . . . . . until you wear through the darns . . . .

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or around them . . . .

(To Be Continued)

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The Niecelet, Part II

Last summer, when my ‘niece’ turned one, I decided she needed a new sweater.  I’d made her the Baby Surprise Jacket for her as a newborn, with a matching hat.  A mere four months later, I’d made her a new hat, because the old one didn’t fit anymore.  But she was turning one now, and clearly she needed a new sweater.  I had some nice orange wool on hand, and cast on.

Well, wait a minute.  The niecelet is in California, and I am here.  How do I size this?  Also, wool sweater, and  her birthday is in early July.  She’s not going to want to wear the sweater right away.  Okay, cast on top down and ribs, so the sweater stretches.  I’m crazy, so I cabled a sweater for a baby.  Good, now, arms, maybe there, and close the neck there . . . 

I arrived in California with the sleeves on spare yarn and the body still on the needles.  One afternoon, I snagged the niecelet and made off with her into a corner.  She was smiling and cheerful and into everything and perfectly happy to go off with Aunt Roza.  I put the sweater on her (inside the air conditioned house!) and measured.

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Two more inches on the body of the sweater, and one on the sleeves.  Alright.

I knit up the last little bit and bound off.  She was swimming in the sweater, exactly as planned.  Four months later, I got this picture.

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Only an inch folded up at the cuffs, and the body is long enough.  Hurray!

Update a year later:

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Ain’t she cute?

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The Niecelet, Part I

Once upon a time, my mother and her friend decided to become blood sisters.

It was an interesting decision for me, even though I wasn’t born yet.  The friend is my godmother and bought my prom dress, at which point she became my fairy godmother.  She also bought the fabric for my wedding dress, and I feel like there should have been a third dress, as shining as the stars, if we followed the tales, but I don’t remember that one.

My fairy godmother’s eldest daughter, just two months younger than me, was my best-est friend for years.  When we were very little, she would bite me, or so the story goes, and then I’d cry.  Her mother would ask me: Roza, did she bite you?  And, tears streaming down my face, I’d lie and say no, because I didn’t want her to go into time-out.  I wanted her to stay and play with me.  When we were ten or so, we were each going to run for president, with the other as the vice-president, so we’d be sure to win.  In high school, we’d stay awake way past midnight when our families would visit each other and talk about everything.  Why not?  Our parents were downstairs, playing board games until the middle of the night, so we stayed awake, too.  I was one of her bridesmaids, and we traveled across the country for each other’s college graduations.

Over the years, it turned out that the second daughter was a dear friend as well.  She moved to Boston for a few years, and there were weeks I saw her three or four times.  If two weeks had gone by, and I didn’t see her, it was time to call her up and make plans.  I would knit or spin and she would do cross-stitch, and we’d talk about books for hours.  One year, we hit all twelve of the North Shore Yarn Crawl stores in just two days.  She helped me pack my books and move with only three weeks of warning.

Sometime after college, it became easier to call them both ‘cousin’ when introducing them to people than to try to explain.  Much to our amusement, I’d introduce my ‘cousin’, and people would immediately say that they could see the family resemblance!

Sadly, both now live in California, so visits are rare these days.  The eldest’s daughter, who turns two this summer, knows me mostly from Skype dates rather than in person, and the long midnight talks haven’t happened in a while.  There are some very cool things about being an adult, but babies and work do cut short late nights.

Before my ‘niece’ was born, I decided this baby needed a sweater.  And not just any sweater.  The Baby Surprise Jacket.  And for reasons that have now been lost to time, I decided the yarn to do this in was Sugar n’ Cream.  I picked a nice set of colors, white and green and blue and pink, and cast on.  And it was hideous.  The fabric was way too thick, and this made it stiff, and I couldn’t get it to work, and this was supposed to be for a baby!  Bother.

So, as if I wasn’t already crazy, I decided the way to solve this would be to unspin the yarn, a four-ply, and respin it half as thick.  I really did decide to do this.  I  have no idea why.  The baby wasn’t going to care.  My cousin and her husband would be delighted that I made a thing for their baby, regardless of the details.  And yet, there I was, hunched over my spinning wheel, unspinning and then respinning an entire ball of cotton yarn.

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It was silly, but it did work.  Having finally reach the right thickness of yarn, I cast on.  The Baby Surprise Jacket is a magical and weird piece of knitting, in which you knit misshapen rectangle (very misshapen), fold it up just right, sew two seams, and surprise!  There’s a jacket.

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The rectangle has too many corners, the increases are in unexpected places, and none of it makes sense.

Except, then there’s a baby sweater.

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And, since I had leftover yarn, a matching hat.

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Here’s a picture from the hospital, of the hat.

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Except, the baby is much more interesting.  Isn’t she awesome?!

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But is it Perfect?

Knitting is a dangerous skill.  I don’t just mean the possibility that a knitter will get fed up with people asking what she’s making and commenting that they could never have the patience for knitting (personally, I have neither the patience NOT to knit, nor the patience to explain that yet again to non-knitters), or stabbing himself with the tips of socks needles hard enough to draw blood (ask me how I know this can happen!), and balls of yarn tangling or skittering away under the table.  This can all be dangerous to the knitter and the people around him, but that’s not what I mean.  No, knitting is dangerous because of the ease with which it allows a knitter to exercise her perfectionism.

Hi, my name is Roza, and I am a recovering perfectionist.

*Hi, Roza!* you all chime in.

I wrote about this a fair bit over here, and now and then it gets me into some interesting situations.  Happily, my perfectionism is controlled at this point such that it only really shows up in two places: at work, where I hope my boss and coworkers appreciate it; and in my knitting, where no one but me is affected by it.  Not, mind you, that it doesn’t bother friends when I take a shawl that I spent weeks knitting and pull it out entirely because I don’t like the drape.  But unless it was the wedding shawl I was making for the wedding which is in only two weeks (and I decided to fudge that one rather than rip it out!), their botheration doesn’t stop me frogging things when the object is not entirely perfect.  The sweater I linked to above was reknit entirely once, and redone around the edges about six times.  Himself finally forbade me to do anything further to the sweater for at least a year!

For further entertainment, I also get bored easily.

One day, Himself was grumping about being cold, it was about 0°F that day, I believe, so he had some justification.  He decided that what he really wanted was a nice double-knit scarf, to go with his double-knit hat.  Being unable to knit himself, he naturally turned to his dearly beloved wife and gazed beseechingly upon her.  I groaned and went off to contemplate patterns.

Now, double knit is really dreadfully boring without some pattern to follow.  I googled ‘font patterns chart‘, and showed Himself several different fonts I could use to write a witty phrase.  Cross-stitch has a lot of well-documented fonts, nicely graphed out already.  He picked a font that he liked, but this still left the issue of what to use for a phrase.  I wasn’t too worried about length, because I could always add extra decorations at the end.  But it needed to be something he liked.  Over breakfast one day, I jokingly suggested ‘garrote in training’ . . . . and he loved it.

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Oops.  I might have created a monster.

So off I went.  And then frogged.  And cast on.  And frogged.  And winter ended.  And cast on.  And frogged.  And summer came and went.  And cast on.  And finally I gave up and admitted that while it was in theory possible to make a scarf that was blue on both sides and had black lettering on just one side, I wasn’t going to make that scarf for Himself this time.

Blast it, anyway.

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After casting on and working the G in such a way that I felt like it was actually going to work this time, I looked at the size of the letter and decided that it was too narrow side to side for the height.  So every line of the pattern was worked twice, once over and setting up the colors, and once back duplicating the colors.  it did mean that for every other row, I didn’t have to look at the pattern.

Also, after completing the G a second time (at double thick), I realized that this was going to be long and boring after all.  Even knitting in the phrase wasn’t going to be enough excitement.  Now, you might notice on the sample letters below, a line of black dots.

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No, that’s not a decorative border.

It’s Morse Code.

Three stitches in a row for a dash, one for a dot, three stitches in blue in between letters, seven in between words.

And Himself didn’t realize it was there for at least six weeks.  I refused to tell him what it said, so every once in a while, he’d steal the entire thing and see what I had added since the last time, and translate as much as he could.

Actually, I don’t think I’ll share it here, either.  You’re welcome to try and translate it yourself, or make up your own ideas.

It turns out, knitting a mildly complex pattern during class actually helps me focus, so much of the scarf ended up happening during macroeconomics class.  Now, finally, with winter all but over – I have finished the scarf.

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The back of the scarf, of course, is black with blue letters.

The variegated blue yarn makes lovely ripples down the front of the scarf.

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Yep, I think it’s perfect.

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Thank you letter to Spider Robinson

I’m not in the least surprised, but I am vastly amused by the coincidental timing of learning, via Spider’s website, that I cannot contact Spider directly.  I picked up a book to read this morning while eating breakfast, just grabbed something off the shelf, ended up with By Any Other Name, and opened it up to “True Minds”.  Somewhere in reading the story for the nth time, I decided that perhaps it was time to write the thank you letter I’ve been meaning to write for the past several years, and went off to the website – to discover that ‘Paul’ has become much more effective.  Well, and that I am much lazier than Anne and prefer to say thank you from a distance.

I don’t remember what age I was when my father first gave me Callahan’s Crosstime Saloon.  More than fourteen, less than eighteen, because my mother forbade my father to give me Callahan’s Lady just yet, because I was too young.  Sorry, Mama, I snuck it off Daddy’s shelf and read it anyway.  I do remember that between that, The Rolling Stones by Heinlein, A Saucer of Loneliness by Sturgeon, and Foundation by Asimov (and then the rest of those authors’ books), I was set for sci-fi reading, until freshman year of collage when I discovered Bujold one night and stayed up until 2am to finish the book – but that’s another story . . .

I think I read the Callahan books twice through before I graduated from high school.  My boyfriend at the time, who read very rarely, and never shared books with me, brought back from a trip the same copy of By Any Other Name that I was reading this morning.  I was thrilled, mostly because I hadn’t yet read it.  I read the Stardance trilogy, somehow skipped the Deathkiller books until much later, and kept coming back to Callahan’s and the cautious and careful empathy and the hope.

My junior year of high school, I won a state essay contest by applying the idea of TANSTAAFL to the idea of magic.  Where does the energy come from to make someone fly?  In college, I quoted both The Crazy Years and Time Enough for Love in my senior thesis on sexual education.  I loaned Variable Star to a kid I met on an annual camping trip, never expecting to get it back – and the next year, there he was, book in hand, wanting to talk about it.

Thank you, for being part of my childhood, and continuing to be part of my adulthood.

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The Cold Shoulders

Sweaters are lovely knitted objects, but they take for bloody ever to knit, and are bulky to carry around, and take a LOT of yarn.  Scarves are sweet, and keep your neck warm, but they cover too little.  Some clever people get around the issue of too much/too little with shawls. I will honestly admit, I was not a fan of shawls at first.  They didn’t fit under coats the way I thought they should, they took up more yarn and time than scarves, a lot of people appeared to use them as interchangeable with scarves – so why bother?  And those that didn’t use them like scarves used them as decoration alone in a ‘aren’t I so cool’ way, which is nice, but not what I tend to think about when deciding what I want to make.  I want a thing that is both pretty AND useful.

A friend of mine started wearing her hand-knit scarves around, however, and I started being interested.  Yes, it was pretty, and yes, she wore it for decoration.  But it also looked warm.  And it covered her shoulders.  Her warm shoulders.

The other issue I had with shawls is that if you knit a rectangular one, it doesn’t fit around your shoulders and neck properly – you know, because humans aren’t square.  And if you knit a triangle shawl, it’s better in theory, and then the ends always slip off and the whole thing falls on the ground.  And if you knit a triangle shawl and then use a shawl pin, you’re right back at the doesn’t fit right around the neck/shoulders issue. And my friend’s shawls fit around her neck and shoulders smoothly.

Oh . . . . . .

Faroese shawls are designed with a back gusset which allows the shawl to sit on top of the shoulders, instead of behind them.  I never knew such a thing existed until there it was, and it was awesome!  Well, except that I am a picky knitter and I didn’t like that the back gusset wasn’t the same as the sides.  Hmmmm.

Okay, next I found a pattern which called for taking the usual triangle shawl pattern – two identical sides and a center seam – and doubling it, making a four-panel shawl.  Oooh, that was nice! I no longer remember exactly which pattern I used, but it was something like this one.  And off I went knitting.

The yarn is its own story.  Okay, so Himself went to Northfield Mount Hermon in western Massachusetts for high school, as did his sister, as did his dad.  And it turns out that every May, NMH has a Sacred Concert, during which current students perform with alumni of the school during a concert for the community.  It’s a boarding school, the alumni are really involved in ways that I will never be with my high school!  My sister-in-law isn’t usually in the States at the right time to go and sing, but in 2014, she was going to be around.  And I always jump at a chance to see her, and my FIL was encouraging us to go, and my SIL’s friends were willing to put us up . . . . so off we went.

While I can sing, and haven been in a choir, singing with a bunch of people from a school I didn’t go to didn’t really interest me that much.  I spent Friday night cracking quiet jokes with the campus security guard, and oh! did we have fun.  No laughing too loud, of course, since we were in the back of the rehearsal hall.  Sunday, I went wandering around with the husband of the friend who was putting us up and their three-year old, who was the cutest thing ever, and had a wonderful time.  Ran into a friend of mine, which as fun, considering we were both two hours from home!

Saturday, however . . . Saturday, I took the car and ran away on my own.  I went to the farmers’ market, and bought maple spread, and beads, and a pair of pants from someone I’d run into at the NOFA event the previous summer who remembered me because my mother and I bought t-shirts from her and then let her take a photo of us.  I visited a cousin of my mother’s, with very little warning.  I’d been whining to my mom on Friday night about nothing to do, and she emailed her cousin in the next town over and invited me for breakfast on Saturday.  And I decided that Bellows Falls, VT, was only an hour away, and my uncle had a store there, and I was going to go visit. Call first to find out if he was open?  Why?  If he wasn’t, I’d have no reason to go.  So off I went.

I drove up route 91 for a while and once I’d crossed into VT, I realized I didn’t remember exactly which exit I needed to get to Bellows Falls.  So I got off at the next exit and pulled into a parking lot to check my directions.  All right, still on track, and then I looked up and discovered this:

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I was literally parked in the driveway of a yarn shop, the Green Mountain Spinnery.

What can you do?  I went in.

I bough four skeins of yarn, a bright blue, a grey-ish blue, and two skeins of dark blue.  It’s really hard finding good gradient yarn, so I have taken to making my own gradients.  I had a nice chat with the shop keeper, and wandered off again, delighted with my luck for the day.

As it turned out, my uncle was not at his shop, but I wandered around a bit in Bellows Falls.  I slipped though a door into an old factory that had been re-purposed into artist studios, and at the back of the building, I came across a man making glass birds with his furnace, so I watch him for a while.  It was gorgeous.  And then I went back to NMH.

Somehow, none of my family that night believed me when I said I had just happened across the yarn store.  They all insisted that my yarn sense had been tingling!

So I cast on, stole a lace pattern from somewhere else entirely, I’m not even sure I remember where anymore, and knit a shawl.

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The shape is five-sided, and the fifth side is open for my neck, if I wear it open in the front.  Usually, I drape it over one shoulder, wrap it around my neck, and then lap the other end over that same shoulder again.  Warm neck, not bunched up, warm shoulders . . . .

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It’s lovely.  I wear it all the time, instead of a scarf.  Also, remember I bought one skein each of the bright and mid-blue, and two of the dark?

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Yeah, notice the thickness of the bands of color, as I knit from the neck to the outer edge.  Next time, I might buy three of the dark blue.

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