Monday, August 29, 2011

Challenged - A Yarn Saga

Yes, I did have to ask....

Last year for my birthday, my lovely DD#1 sent me sock blanks and a dye kit so that I could experiment with creating my own personal color of sock yarn.  It sat untouched quite a while for a plethora of reasons. 

A little bit ago, the moderators announced the lineup for the challenges for the next season of SKA (Sock Knitter’s Anonymous Ravelry group). Each month’s challenge is centered on a technique and a specific designer or couple of designers. Every other month there is also a mystery sock challenge.   The September challenge is to knit socks all in one solid color. The mystery sock must be knit in the color of the month.  That color is Chartreuse (or “C” as it is affectionately referred to on SKA).  As defined and shown in the swatch in this picture, it is a clear, light green with a yellowish tinge.  

SKA September Challenge Rules

Now I don’t have anything against any colors.  However, I’ve never considered green to be one of my favorites, and since retiring from the Army, I personally prefer not to wear it at all; in any shade, but especially this one. So basically, I avoid buying green yarn for wearable projects unless it is for a planned gift.

Before I headed out to Sock Summit I took a picture of my stash so I could be clearheaded amidst the yarn fumes and try to choose colors that I didn’t already have large quantities of in my stash.  (Basically I succeeded in that mission) There was no “C”.  This challenge was announced after I got back from Portland, and right after I put myself on a yarn buying fast. When I saw that the challenge was going to be for a solid color Chartreuse yarn I may have felt a little queasy (you might even say that I turned the Sept challenge color).  I do have a couple of skeins that are green, but definitely not solid, and definitely not that shade.  

Now, according to the SKA rules, finding the specific color yarn is part of the challenge.  So I thunk on that a little.  It is a fact that I really, really don’t need to buy any more sock yarn and also it may be that my credit card is still in post-summit quarantine, so I needed to figure out how to meet this challenge with what was on hand.

That is when I remembered about the sock blanks.  There were two in the kit.  I only needed one for the dying project that I eventually have planned.  (One blank makes a pair of socks).  Several people mentioned that they were going to attempt to dye their own yarn rather than violate personal yarn diets.  It seemed like a good idea for me as well.  I did not have any “C” dye in the kit or the subsequent dye colors I bought for aforementioned PLANNED project.  So having experimented with it once before with decent results, I just thought to myself, “self, we can try Kool-Aid” so on the next trip to the grocery store, I picked up a couple of packets of lemon-lime drink mix.  I dug out my kool aid dying directions and went about dying the yarn blank with a mix of the lime drink mix and rooibous tea.  Here’s what I learned from this challenge:

  1. The colors I chose will yield chartreuse when properly mixed – I did not properly mix.
  2. If the sock blank is all scrunched up when you pour on the dye, you will get variegated not solid or semi-solid patterning.
  3. Sock blanks are hard to dye.  (note to self: figure out how to spread this sucker out and handpaint dye onto yarn for next adventure in dying)
  4. I might be able to salvage this experiment by over-dying, but I think I’m done.
  5. It was still kind of fun anyway.
 Here’s what I ended up with:

In progress
Not bad for stepping up and doing something a little challenging.  Not really the result I had in mind, but something I think I can work with.  Too variegated and not “C” enough.  I’m going to go ahead and knit the Mystery sock for the challenge of doing a mystery sock; even if I don’t qualify for the official SKA challenge. (You’ll have to check back in September for the results) The process has been fun and I suspect the finished socks will end up being a gift somewhere down the line.  Oh well.

Happy Knitting,


Monday, August 15, 2011

A Sock Knitting Fable

There once was a sock knitting Nana who was valiantly trying to keep up her sock knitting obsession through challenges and peer pressure.  A most important date was looming close on the calendar.  A Major League event of sock knitting known as the Sock Summit was soon to arrive.  She had just finished up a lovely pair of Pirate socks and was working on a nice pair of stranded socks called Zirkel.  She also had recently cast on one last pair for July; a pair of cabled anklet socks that she hoped to get knit in time to wear during the Summit. 

The week of the Summit arrived and she was busy packing and getting everything in order before leaving. Now it was the day before leaving for summit, her packing was mostly finished and it was time to pack her knitting.   She carefully reviewed her class assignments to make sure she packed the right yarn and needles and was surveying her WIPs to decide which projects deserved to be her travel knitting during the Summit.  The cabled anklets were a definite go since she was more than halfway through the second sock.  A shawl in progress made the short list.  She knew that she would be able to finish the anklets during her airport and plane time, so a second project in the carry on would be a must.  She hesitated about whether to cast on another pair of socks, since she probably would start something at the Summit.  She pulled out the Zirkel socks; she had been slowly making progress and was well past the gusset on the second sock.  The pattern wasn’t a great one for knitting while distracted, but she was close enough to the final repeat that she thought it might be okay to bring them along.  Then she noticed something about sock #1… something awful, something disappointing.  There was a mistake in the second to last repeat on the foot, an obvious mistake; the kind of mistake that makes you look at what you knitted and almost want to cry.  She had to make a decision.  She could let the mistake go (it was on the foot after all), carry on with sock #2 and have the pair completed by the end of Sock Summit, or she could frog back to the mistake and re-knit the foot of the first sock correctly and then carry on with sock #2… this process might be too much for travel knitting.  There was barely any time left to consider the options.  So poor little Zirkel sock was banished to the naughty knitting corner and left at home.

Nana took a picture of the naughty sock and brought it to Sock Summit. 
Naughty sad Zirkel sock

While there, she consulted many knitters about what to do.  There were a few in each camp.  Some heartily embraced the philosophy that if the mistake doesn’t matter to you, it shouldn’t matter to anyone else.  Besides, it was on the foot, which would be in a shoe, and therefore, would technically not be seen.  Others sympathized with the knitter and felt her pain and understood the need to knit things properly … especially when the pattern was so, so pretty, no matter where the mistake was located.  Ultimately she packed empty needles and an extra skein of sock yarn & pattern in the event a new cast on was called for.  She also brought along the shawl.

She had a lovely time at the Sock Summit and learned many new and inspiring things (not to mention acquiring many new and lovely things).  She hadn’t forgotten about the naughty sock, but was glad for a few days to think about its fate.  After all, only she could make the “right” decision about what to do.  The anklets were finished on the airplane before arriving at the Summit and worn with pride during the event.  They fetched many lovely compliments.  The shawl grew a couple pattern repeats, and the extra skein ended up being cast on to test knit a larger size of an in-the- works pattern.  All in all, wise choices abounded.

The knitter arrived home, tired but inspired.  She looked about and realized that while she was away, August had arrived.  There were August socks to be knit!  A bag was pulled for the August personal sock club; a yarn was selected (by the designer!) for the August Mystery sock knit along… casting on was immanent. She had a pair of socks that she started during class, but they had bugs to be worked out and charts to be written. She felt the pull of the shiny new patterns waiting to be cast on, but, then she spied the sad and lonely Zirkel sock; the one that had the mistake, just sitting by itself off in the naughty corner. 

She knew what needed to be done. 

She checked sock #2 to see where she had left off in the pattern (no sense making another mistake!) then set it aside for a moment.   She picked up sock #1 and gave it a pat, then carefully, unpicked the grafting (which was un-characteristically finished), she frogged.  Unraveling a stranded project takes great care and patience.  She was gentle and understanding of the occasional tangle.  She picked up the stitches and lovingly worked sock #1 to match where sock #2 and then spent the evening knitting the two socks in tandem to the beginning of the toe shaping… they were lovely and oh so ready to be finished.  The next morning she worked the toes and then gave the finished socks a well deserved soak.  
Happy Finished Zirkel Socks

The moral of the story is, when you love the knitting, mistakes can be forgiven with a little patience and a lot of care. (plus you could end up with some really pretty socks)

Happy Knitting,


Friday, August 5, 2011

Sock Knitting and Beyond

Sock Summit was amazing.  I’m not sure I can adequately contain all of the wonderfulness that happened in one post, but I’ll do my best to hit some of my personal highlights.

Day 1:
-Meeting knitters (from Norman OK) at the DFW airport lounge while waiting for flight to Portland, arriving in Portland. 
- Finishing my anklets on the flight to Portland (empty needles!)
- Taking the Max from the airport to the convention center and seeing the Sock Summit sign. 
- Registering for Sock Summit and then meeting knitters from Iowa as soon as I arrived.   - Meeting my roommate Christine (aka mapleweave) and festering over with excitement.

Day 2:
-         Franklin in a kilt
-         Advanced Top down Sock Design: Going off the Grid with Cookie A.  (fantastic - had an “aha” moment so big my light bulb needed it’s own marquee
-         Lunch with the Cat Knits group from Ravelry, we went to the farmers market at Lloyds square and I had some excellent homemade chicken soup and really good whole grain bread
-         My initial foray into the market, I got some nice yarn and Franklin enabled me into buying an antique knitting gauge
-         Opening reception, what can I say except a great end to a good long day?
Day 3:
-         Taking the Max to Voodoo donuts (bacon maple bar) for a little early morning sugar rush, a quick dash to Stumptown coffee for some complimentary coffee and we were good for the rest of the morning.
-         Tina’s lecture on color and dyeing yarn
-         Lunch at Burgerville with a great throng and in close proximity to Cookie A and Janel Laidman’s group
-         Running into Jeny Staiman (“the” Jeny) at Starbucks and discovering Jeny’s Surprising Sweet Demeanor
-     Janel Laidman's fabulous stranded knitting class & making a cute mini-sock
-         Dinner with Lisa (aka: meanestmommy) my Des Moines connection
-         The 80s sock hop, at which I may have danced a little

Day 4: 
-         Knitting Like Crazy meetup with Jen, one of the nicest designer/knitters I know and architect of August current Mystery Sock Knit-along
-         A quick tour of the market to locate the mysterious “tardis” yarn for someone I love, and um, I might have bought a pair of shoes (red maryjane clogs, squee)
-         Sock Yarn stories with the delightful Clara Parks
-         Solo Adventure downtown to the Saturday Market, Powell’s books and Pioneer Square, I ate some delicious gyros salad, saw lots of books (bought one) and soaked up the Portland atmosphere
-         A little event I like to call “dancing with yarn
-         Dinner with a random group of knitters from Boston, NY and Seattle (because you don’t need to eat alone when knitters are near)
-         The Happy Knits After party (and winning a cool door prize), meeting Kristine from AVFKW, her partner Adrienne and her really cool Mom
-         Desert at the food carts (cinnamon and sugar crepe, yum!)
Day 5:
-         Fleece to Foot challenge
-         Lunch at Burgerville with Cookie A and a few other knitters
-         A final tour of the market for last minute shopping
-         A final good bye and Big Thank YOU to Stephanie, Tina and ST2 for a lovely event
-         Dinner with the “coming alone” group (including the fellow Iowegans I met on day 1) at Noodles and Co, followed by Mio Gelato for yummy dessert  
-         Suitcase tetris to make sure all of my goodies made it home

In general I would have to say, that it was a good experience, I got to meet and talk to so many different knitters, both “famous” and regular and I felt completely in my element.  I hope that if you ever aspire to go to sock summit, that you start planning now, so I can see you there in 2013!

There are too many pictures to choose from, so I made up a slide show, enjoy: 

Happy Knitting