Friday, May 25, 2007

Hogwarts-sock-swap Hufflepuff socks!

This is the sock I am working on for my pal. Obviously, she is a Hufflepuff, and I chose a few themes for her package - one in the Goblet of Fire, which I think is the book where, because of Cedric, we really see the most of Hufflepuff, and the other is flowers, because Professor Sprout is the Head of House.

I designed this sock around the Tri-Wizard Tournament. The False Flame stitch at the top represents the Dragons. The Blister stitch, which looks like bubbles, represents the challenge in the lake - from the bubbles in Harry's bath, to the bubbles air breathers make underwater, to the Bubblehead Charm Cedric used. The Maze represents the maze. They are all from Barbara Walker (The second book). I am knitting it in Elann's Sock it to Me Collection sock yarn - Elann does not have any right now and I don't now if they are going to carry it in the future, but it is nice, not splitty, 230 yards to 50 grams 75% superwash wool and 25% polyamide. I've also used it for Fair Isle socks.

Technical notes:

I wanted the design to flow better and I tried several ways to get the bubbles to fit into the false flame stitch, obviously without success, although I am sure it can be done. I 'm fairly happy with the way the maze picks up from the bubbles, but I have questioned whether it might not look better with a contrasting purl row in black between each section.

The first two patterns are slip stitch, and had to be worked on a very small needle - 000 - in order to get guage. They are very elastic, and that is much better for a sock than being restricted by the floats in Fair Isle the way I make them. I am certain that people who are more experienced at Fair Isle than I am can control the tension of their floats better, but I still think the slip stitch is more elastic by nature. In these patterns you work one color per row, and the other color is carried up or down by dip stitches or by slipping.

The third pattern is a mosaic pattern. It is much tighter than slip stitch and I had to use a needle two sizes larger, and perhaps should have used one Three sizes larger to perfectly match guage, although it is pretty close. It is also very much less elastic, although still elastic enough for a sock, perhaps in part because I patterned the top,but the bottom is just plain stockinette stripes. I am a little concerned about the line where I am carrying the colors up, on the bottom of the foot, but I am probably being paranoid. I plan to carry this pattern down to the toe shaping. I looked for a mosaic or slip stitch pattern that would look like the cup itself but did not find one. I'm not sure how to design one and I want these socks to be done in one lifetime, so I decided to do without the cup. (Besides which, it was not a happy thing for Cedric, that cup...)

On a symbolic level I am quite happy. On an artistic level I am not quite sure - when it is further along I will be able to judge better. It was a nice stretch trying to design a pattern to go with the book, though. I have ideas for patterns for some of the other books as well, and a great idea for a Slytherin House sock...

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Dumbledore always wanted socks.

You may or may not know that I am quite serious about my fan fiction writing. I was thinking about Dumbledore, and those socks he wanted... Here is the first part of a short story involving Dumbledore's socks.

It looked almost like a wizarding shop. Small, cozy, there was a small round wooden table at the window where two women in shawls were sitting with paper cups of tea, probably, laughing. A table over – there were only the two tables – three woman sat, focusing intently on the work in their hands--socks, he could see, heels about to be turned.

It was not a wizard shop. The spinning wheel which took up the other half of the window, the one to the left of the door, was not spinning of its own accord. If he had a wool shop with a spinning wheel it would spin all the time. The clippings in the window would be from the daily prophet, the knitters in them would be waving to passers by, and he would have the exterior painted a prettier color than medium-old-dirty-beige. “I should have – purple, I think. And pretty china teacups, with roses, and the roses would be blooming and going back to buds while they drank. I do like those heart’s ease in the window box, though.” No one noticed that as he passed them, and put his hand to the door handle, the plants perked up and suddenly looked like the examples in a gardening magazine, thicker, fuller, and greener than they had moments before, the faces on the flowers giving the odd impression of winking.

She had seen this man before – he came in from time to time. He always looked a bit formal, in his narrow lapelled suit and wing tip shoes, his long beard hanging down in front of his tie, if he was wearing one, a flat visored cap perched incongruously on his thick white hair. If Santa lost a great deal of weight… she always thought when she saw him. He’s just a bit old-fashioned, though. To him the forty years ago that he bought that suit must seem like yesterday. Takes his tea with several lumps of sugar, I recall.

He came up to her, as he always did, smiling kindly. “Good morning,” he said. “I hope you are faring well today?” His eyes really did twinkle – she had not seen too many twinkling eyes in her day. I wonder if it’s the way he smiles that does that, or something in his eyes themselves? Well, no matter.

“Well enough, thank you,” she replied, smiling.

“And business, has it been good?” he asked, politely, looking directly at her.

“Fair enough. The first few years are always a bit difficult, but I should be rounding the bend any day now,” she said, surprising herself. The precarious nature of her income and outgo, and the number of nights she had breakfast cereal for dinner, were closely guarded secrets.

“I do think there is a great resurgence coming in knitting. It may be a few years, but I do sense that things will pick up. They move in cycles, you know. Now that is a lovely yarn I did not see last time.” He was nodding his head toward a very forward looking hank of thick and thin yarn, hand dyed in purples and mauves. She smiled at him.

“You have marvelous taste. That’s hand-dyed in Whales. She’s going to go far, that one. Would you like to see it? I always think you really have to touch the yarn to appreciate it.” She was taking the yarn down from the hook behind her as she spoke, and placing it into his hands. “It always seems like magic to me, the way these dyers can blend the colors, and the results! This makes a lovely scarf or hat. It’s quite dear, but you can mix it with another yarn for a sweater and if this is in the yoke it will draw the eye right up to the face.”

“Quite lovely, I agree. Alas, I know of no one to whom I could give such a sweater. But today I am on a mission,” he confided, twinkling at her again. She tilted her head as a sign that she was listening, and he went on. “I have been wanting nice thick socks for many years now, nice thick socks to wear in a drafty old place for the winter. People will insist on giving me books instead. It does occur to me that there is more than one way to get one’s heart desire, however. I would like to knit myself some socks. I have enquired and been told no one does this any longer, and yet I see several ladies knitting them over at your table. I had thought you might succeed where others had failed.”

It was a warm feeling, that vote of confidence, a warm feeling and a vindication. They thought she was crazy, the lot of them, and yet here was this man wanting to knit his own socks, and he never had, and he nearer a hundred than fifty. It was going to be the people no one expected who took it up again – this was just the latest sign. “I have some nice wools here – these are all machine wash, and we’ve got needles and patterns. Did you have a price range in mind?” I’ll give him the yarn if he can’t afford it. Nice old man, and it’ll be worth it just to see him doing it.

“I believe I can manage. Your very clearly posted prices make that clear to me. Do you know that some shops require one to enquire for each price?” He seemed a bit chagrined.

“Yes, I’ve never liked that myself. Embarrassing, and then you feel you have to buy something, even if you can’t afford any of it. Here I’ve got it all laid out, and we have a small selection of bargain yarns in the back for people who need real indestructibility,” she responded.

“Oh, I believe I will be able to repair them. It is just knowing how to knit them myself. My mother did, you know, but I never learned.”

“Well, we will have you speeding along in no time.”


“She sat me down with several young ladies, Fawkes, and showed me how to hold the needles for plain knitting. It’s not like holding a wand, I recalled that, but the temptation was great. I did persist, however, and I have this to show for it. I am trapped between amusement and amazement each time I cast my eyes upon it.”

It was a more or less square bit of wool, about six inches square. Dumbledore regarded it fondly. “Holes here and there where there should not be, Fawkes, and it is not quite square, but it will do for under the teapot. I have discovered my mistakes and shall do better on this next one. We shall have you leave it in Professor Mac Gonagal’s room, and see if she notices…” His eyes were twinkling again.

The surface of the desk was warm from the sun in that corner, and he ran his fingers over it lovingly. It was smooth from years of wear, mellowed with age, very very pleasant to the touch. “I am learning a great deal, Fawkes. Silk, for example, is not necessarily as soft as silk, not in a knitting yarn at least, and cotton, sometimes cotton is. But we will be knitting with wool. Wool with something else mixed in. And we will be using five needles at one time. I will admit I am impressed with myself. One must never stop learning, Fawkes. It keeps the mind alert, active, and in this case, it will keep the feet warm as well. But I shall prepare properly for my lesson.

****Next – Dumbledore enters the Penseive…****

Monday, May 21, 2007

I should have kept my mouth shut....

I should have kept my nouth shut about Feltdemort and my secret plans to provide the boy and me with unfeltable yarn, although really, the deed might already have been done when I wrote that. No, maybe not. Whatever. When I came downstairs this morning laundry was in train, and what did I see?

The last pair of hand knit socks, felted.

I leave you to imagine the carnage.

After which it was time for the trip to Smileys I had already planned, for the acrylic sock yarn I had already decided to buy.

Most people only know Smiley's from the internet yarn sales. I know Smiley's from about 1994 or 95. I know it from back before there were so many places selling discount yarn. I know it from when you could occasionally get a bag of 100% wool knitting yarn for five dollars.

There is a lot to love about Smileys, and none of it has anything to do with the candyshop boutique yarnstores you find all over today. It is a real NY experience. It is on a street under an elevated rail line, with the sun filtered through the tracks. It is a door or two down from a laundromat. The walls are white and the shelves are a mixed bag of wooden cubbies and those wire grid boxes. Oaktag signs hand down on sale days announcing prices. There are no mysterious bins of yarns you are not sure you can afford - everything is marked. The cubbies go up to the ceiling, and the ceiling is high. On sale days there are cardboard boxes in the aisles with additional merchandise. It reminds me of shopping in the garment district 20 years ago.

You can buy afghan yarn in Smileys. You can buy acrylic baby yarn. You get amazing deals on things of which they may only have a few colors - a Paton's yarn was available only in Grey today - at 59 cents a skein. You can also buy yarn that was very expensive to begin with. They have all the novelties that have been popular these past few years, but they also have 100 percent wool worsted weight in a lot of colors. They have a bunch of Reynolds yarns. And they have an amazing clientele.

Of all the places I go, the one where I am most likely to run into someone is Smileys. It happens all the time. A guy from a guild I used to belong to who has been published in Knitters, the wife of the amateur lawyer who helped keep us from getting evicted in from our first apartment, a woman today from my spinning guild which meets a good 60 miles and numerous LYS's away... I forget who all I have run into in there over the years.

Today I met the woman who taught me how to cast on for socks ten or twelve years ago. Raymond, the manager had made the connection for us then - she was in the store and could answer my question. Not only did she remember me, and Socker, and teaching me, but she also recalled exactly how old my son was that one time I saw her, a decade ago. And she had a great tip about gussets I am still trying to absorb.

At Smileys you do not carry your purchases around in your arms, and you do not get a whimpy little produce basket. No, they have LAUNDRY baskets piled up by the door, and it is entirely Kosher, especially on sale days, to need more than one. I have been going there so long the supply of Laundry baskets has been augmented and replaced several times already. While you shop you have random conversations with all sorts of knitters and crocheters, the sort of people who subscribe to Vogue Knitting but also the sort who don't subscribe to anything, who can't figure out how much RHSS they need for an afghan, who are trying their first sweater project, who are....fill in the blank. Very real people, most of them - people who really love knitting, who are not living boutique lives... people of numerous ethnicities and backgrounds, people from all sorts of neighborhoods, and in there, you talk to whoever is buying yarn next to you.

This is the only store where my son has ever been helped by a sales clerk. One helped him buy me skein of yarn as a surprise once. I love the people there.

What was my haul?

Skein after skein of Bernat's Hot Sox in multicolors, one in red, and one in blue. A Wendy 100 percent Acrylic sportweight in a variegated blue and a multi. Patons Canadiana, two or three skeins of mulitcolor (Are we sensing a theme yet?) Wool sock yarn in black and in three balls of Ravenclaw colors, why I cannot tell you when I have 20 balls of blue Kroy in the basement and belong to Gryffindor, ( I was thinking vaguely of swaps) I got six balls of a ribbon yarn to make a sweater I am almost done making in cotton, and a bag, for ten dollars, of rayon and synthetic to make myself a Berrocco top I have been eyeing. (IT is EXACTLY enough, and I am wondering if that means I might run out and whether or not I should run back for another bag.) I also got three balls of EncoreDK, two of which are cream colored, for dying. I have seen on Grace's blog that you can dye Encore, and I am very hopeful that despite its 25 % wool content, the Master of the House will not be able to felt it. I got two sets of dpn's for my spoilee.

For two summer sweaters, two pair of wool socks, four or five pair of thick acrylic socks, at least six but probably many more thin acrylic socks, a dye project and the black I need to make a second pair of Hufflepuff socks just because I designed them and now have to make them, (I already had the yellow in that weight)AND two sets of Doublepoints I paid 80 dollars. To a store I love. Where people I adore work. And they threw in a bunch of free patterns to all their mailing list customers.

I am too tired to take a picture.

Sigh. Very satisfying day.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

I Have Brought My Mother Over to the Dark Side....


As those of you who have known me for a while know, I have a marvelous and hertofore somewhat knitting impaired mother. I do not hold this against her. She is a wiz at about a million things, most of which, quite frankly, I suck at, so if knitting was not her thing: if knitting was something she did one sweater's worth of per grandchild, and that reluctantly, and if crochet followed closely after, well, that was ok.

Over the past - oh, year or so, we have seen some creeping, however. There was a scarf... there were a bunch of yarmulkes crocheted for a friend's grandson's Bar Mitzvah. There were plans to do some yarmulkes for my niece's Bat Mitzvah, as well. This is all acrylic we are talking about here, or cheap acrylic/cotton blend - the sort of financial commitment you are prepared to make when knitting/crocheting is not a huge part of your life.

(And I stop here to say that sometimes RHSS is the very best yarn you could dream of for a particular project and then you knit with it for that reason, and make no apologies. I am hatching a plan currently to get some Bernat Hot Socks for Socker, so I can make some socks Feltdemort can't felt.)

However, the infection was spreading, unbeknownst to us all.

A few weeks ago she told me she was making me a present for my birthday and that I MUST tell her if I did not like it. She told me this several times, in fact, and then arrived the other day for the weekly visit with this in hand...

Ok, for whatever bizarre reason, blogger will not take my photo right now. However, trust me when I say it is a beautiful crocheted shawl made from Lion Suede. Gorgeous colors, a melange of purple, rust, gold and green...and so so soft...It has become my new Woobie. I wore it that day, in fact, and it perfectly finished off my outfit of Linen top and Black slacks with the jazzy vintage handbag from Little Aunt Mary and my cute black flats from Rainbow.

Some people are snotty about all Lion Brand products but they actually have some nice things, including chenilles. I can't stop touching this thing. I have been wearing it around the house for warmth. In between, I just look at it.

I did not, however, expect her to take me seriously when I told her to look in the yarn aisle at ACMoore when she went up to get her paintings framed the other day. She did. I had made inroads. And while she was there, she saw a pattern book from Coats and Clark that she liked, with a very nice crochet cardigan on the front, made in their yarn, Aztec. How do I know this? Because I got the phone call. THE phone call. The phone call every fiber-us daughter of a fiber-free mother waits for. Short form?

"I need to know what weight this yarn is."

Those were not her exact words, but what she wanted to know. She could not find the yarn called for and needed to substitute.

Ah, the joy! The discussion of the style of the jacket - assymetrical opening on a symetrical jacket with a slightly scooped neck and large buttons. Sitting at my screen and calling up the pattern booklet, Yarndex, and the websites of several companies I thought might have suitable yarn. Kvelling over the beauties of a piece that would change its look entirely with a simple change of buttons. Revelling in how much use one would get out of a light jacket that could be outerwear during transitional weather and innerwear during the winter months. And the realization, after pricing it out for her, that my mother felt perfectly fine about spending 40 dollars on the yarn for this.

That, my friends, is no longer a dabbler. My mother is good with her money. 40 dollars represented the jump to hyper-space.

No, it didn't, she told me. "I already did that with your shawl."

I am dying of the bliss.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

For Lily, my pal

I am supposed to be blogging more often, so that Lily, my Hogwarts-sock-swap spoiler can get a better idea of me.

So, here is some random information that was not included on the Hogwarts-sock-swap questionaire that she might find useful. None of this information is to be construed as a request or demand for anything - just random things, except for the chocolate. Chocolate is not random info because it is important in the Potterverse - you really have to know where one stands on Chocolate! (You don't have to send them any - you should just know where they stand...)

1. Dark Chocolate. The Darker the better.

2. Good Snape, not Evil Snape.

3. I have my own theory about the last Horcrux, which I will not reveal in public but might tell you personally if you ask...

4. I have a not-so-secret belief that a new sack, bag, thing-into-which-other-things-can-be-put can save the world. From what, I am not sure, but save it, certainly, and wonder why there are not more sacks in the Potterverse. And why the ones there are are always breaking and getting the owner in trouble...

5. I really actually like the Gryffindor colors. But I also like green. I like snakes, in fact - knew people who kept them as a hobby when I was a kid. I like blue, but I have to wear warm blues, because many blues make me look like the undertaker got called away before he was quite finished...

6. I do not finish everything I start. The smaller the project, the greater the likelihood of getting it done... And I start WAY too many things...

7. I am irked every time someone at Hogwarts talks about studying Ancient Runes. There are runic alphabets, it should take about a day to memorize one, what is Hermione's problem? Obviously they must be teaching either the runes and stuff written with the runes, but what, exactly? TELL US ALREADY. Ok, rant over. It wouldn't bother me so much if I didn't want to take the course...

Anyone here who figures there is something my pal must know about me in order to do justice to my feet is invited to comment...

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Tweakin it Tuesday

Amy asked how long the little tie bag I posted last week took to make. I did not time myself. However, I have kept the question in mind as I have been working on the little Tie bags from Last Minute Fabric Gifts, and while I do not have pictures (You do not want to see the carnage) I have figured some things out.

The picture they show, which is on page 29, shows a plaid fabric, probably a wool or wool blend. It is one of those ties that has a bit of body to begin with . You lop off the end of the tie, sew that bottom shut and attach two bits of tape and half a hook and eye. How long could this take?

There is a little flaw in the pattern, if you want to look at it that way - tiea are interfaced, but, from the ties I am looking at, they are only interfaced in the front. The back of the Tie, which becomes the front of the bag, has therefore got less body, and if you put lumpy things in there the lumps will show. Also, some of the ties are lined, but the lining does not extend down the full 7 or 8 inches of the bag. Therefore you can sort of "lose" a little thing up in between the lining and the bag fabric.

Now all of this is really nit-picking. If you are making these bags to put a handkerchief in, or even an MP3 player, it makes no difference. You aren't going to be putting coins in them because the closure won't keep the coins in. If you are, however, constituted in such a way that you cannot help but "improve" on things you find imperfect, well, then, better a bag pattern than the in-laws, right?

What I have tried:

Interfacing with felt. Too bulky, not recommended.

Interfacing with iron-on - got a little stiff. It also required the fabric being flat, not a tie-end. (See Below)

Lining totally with cotton. - I did not do this with a complete tie. When you cut off that 8 or 9 inches, you have quite a bit of tie left, and so I made a new point on my what-was-left bit, interfaced it, lined it with cotton also cut on the bias, and am now searching around for the two-yards-one-and-one-half-feet of tape I had left from the first bag...(Have I ever mentioned I have trouble keeping track of things?)

I think Either the lining Or the interfacing might work better than both, so next time that is what I am going to do.

I spent a good hour torturing that leftover bit of tie in one way and another before I ended up ready to do the original bit of sewing on the loop and eye and little handle. I had tiny bits of felt and interfacing and oddly cut parts of tie all over my kitchen (Have I ever mentioned that not matter what I do I wreck a High Mass with every single project and it takes Herculean efforts to clean up after myself.? Feltdemort is willing to testify before the Wizengamot on this...)

Conclusion? If you are a normal person, not me, and do the project as described in the book, it is a very quick thing. Quarter of an hour, maybe? Half, if you have trouble finding the thread and needle? If, on the other hand, you try to "fix" it, it will take several times longer. At least for the first one. But they are fun.

I have two more ties I will be torturing. Follow up to follow.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Way-it-was Wednesday

I believe I have mentioned before that I have knit a few socks over the years for Socker. Socker likes color patterns better than texture or solid stockinette, and I try to accomodate when I have time, patience, and thin enough yarn.

These socks were something of an experiment.

I knitted them in slip stitch patterns because I figured they would be thinner and fit under shoes better than stranded knitting. That worked.

I knitted on with triangular patterns and one, I think, with square patterns. That worked.

I used two yarns which were both sparkly and very close in value. That did not work so well. It is very hard, even in good light, in person, with your reading glasses on, to really appreciate the pattern.

Failure? Success? They were never Socker's favorites, but I learned a few things. You decide.

Tweakin'it Tuesday...

Not sure exactly what I am tweaking. The details of how to make this little bag from Last-Mintue Fabric Gifts, maybe. I wrote about it yesterday, and here is a picture. It is about five inches long, to give you a sense of scale.

I am also working on tweaking the pattern for the Pinwheel Sweater at Recall, I said my yarn was lieing. It is. This would make a lovely washcloth, and guess what my mother will be getting along with whatever else for Mama's day thi year? It just happens to be her color, too. If the drape were what we want it for the sweater, it would be less satisfactory to scrub with. Here's hoping the next swatch is washcloth - useless...

Monday, May 7, 2007


How did it get to be a week and a half since my last post? Spring Fever? Whatever. I have been swatching and so forth and, so, forthly...

I swatched the perle cotton Elann had on sale on size zero needles using the butterfly pattern from the camisoles in the summer "02 Interweave Knits. It came out quite nice, but at almost 9 stitches to the inch, instead of 8. I like the fabric, so I would have to adjust the size I suppose. This is the unwashed swatch.

I have also been toying with various other things to make as little prezzies for my spoil-ee. I have made a very preliminary model of a pin to hand stitch markers on. I am NOT satisfied with the design and this is not the pin I would be sending, but you get the general idea, I think. In the long run I think it will actually end up beign something much simpler. However, just so's you can laugh at my design evolution...

I have been considering a little bag like one of the ones I made for the HUGe, the tie bag from "Last minute Fabric Gifts," (Amy QOY is a genius and I should just go buy any book she suggests without worrying my little head over it - I always like the stuff she picks.)I have been looking for an appropriate tie, and finally today I just got a Gryff colored one from the dollar store (Yes, Virginia, in my neighborhood you can buy a tie in the dollar store. This week. It is a small, independently owned dollar store and they have different stuff all the time, so maybe not next week, but this week they had them, and, considering that they only cost a dollar, they really weren't bad. I mean, they were not hideously ugly.) I do not have a finished picture of that, though.

I have gotten nowhere on Wren, swatched a washcloth's worth for the Lara Pinwheel sweater only to discover that my yarn is lying through it's little French teeth about being sportweight and that I will have to mess with the pattern, and bought a brand new pair of flip flops for the knitted shoes on Floofle that Les pointed us to.(IF I can make this pattern work for me, the world will be my oyster. I don't eat oysters, but they might make good, undemanding pets...) and made a sock blocker for one of Squash's sock out of a placemat. Warning, placemats are getting cheaper and nastier, as if that were possible. Just thought I'd let you all know....