Adventures in Sock Knitting
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Taking time to knit


I’ve really been enjoying my knitting time in the evenings, partially because I’ve been pairing it with yummy beverages and snacks.

The other night after cooking a fairly elaborate dinner and washing a whole bunch of dishes, I ventured out in the rain to Trader Joe’s where it is rumored that they sell vegan marshmallows. That rumor is true! Back at home I made some peppermint hot chocolate with the recently procured marshmallows and settled in for some colorwork knitting.

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On that same shopping trip I picked up some crumpets – the official snack of the Indie Gift-A-Long. I’m not sure why that is, but the chat thread is full of people talking about crumpets. So the next evening I made myself crumpets with lemon curd and my favorite coconut black tea in preparation for starting a mini Cloudhopper hat for Clara (so I can get that Viola hat back that she took at Thanksgiving!)

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I could get used to this evening knitting and snack time.

Washing Handknits


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When you’re a sock knitter, you wash your handknits quite a bit! At my house I like to call this “sock laundry”.

If you’re mostly knitting scarves, they probably don’t require frequent washing, but after I’ve been walking around all day in a pair of handknit socks, I think they could probably use a wash. I’m going to discuss a few options here for washing your handknits.

Washing Methods

Option 1: Handwashing

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Handwashing is my preferred option, especially when I only have a few things to wash. It’s probably the most gentle way to wash your handknits, and the ONLY way I would recommend washing wool items that are not superwash.

Fill the sink with lukewarm water and a bit of wool wash – be sure to use a wash designed for wool, and not regular laundry detergent. Submerge your knitted item and gently swish it around a bit. Most wool washes will give instructions, in my experience most tell you to soak for 10-15 minutes.

Another advantage of using wool wash rather than laundry detergent is that many of them are “no rinse”. I did rinse my socks a bit just to get the suds off, but not much.

Squeeze some of the water out, but be careful not to twist or wring your knitted item, which can stretch it out. For socks I usually just press them against the bowl of the sink. For something larger or more delicate I would lie it flat on a towel, carefully roll it up, and then press or step on the towel to absorb most of the water.

Option 2: Front-loading washer with “wool” or “handwash” option / Wonder Washer

If your handknit is made with superwash wool or another fiber that doesn’t felt, this may be an option. I find it especially handy when I have a large item or a large number of items to wash.

Before I had a front loading washer with a wool cycle, I bought a Wonder Washer to do my sock laundry. This little gadget is basically like a big blender with a plastic agitator instead of a blade. The motor turns it, swishing the items around in the water, but not with nearly as much force as a traditional top loading washing machine. One disadvantage is that there is no spin cycle, so you’ll still have to squeeze the water out as you did above when handwashing.

Newer HE washers will often have a wool or handwash cycle. I’ve used the wool cycle to wash superwash items several times.¬†Once I even got brave and washed a cowl that wasn’t superwash, and with no harm to the cowl. At least in my washer it appears to be almost as gentle as handwashing – the washer basically just flops the wet items around. This option has the advantage of spinning the water out, which makes drying quicker and easier.

Option 3: Machine Wash

Personally, I don’t recommend washing your handknits in a top-loading washer, or on the normal wash cycle of a front loader. But, for some more sturdy yarns, that may be ok. I admit that I have washed some of my socks knit in Opal, Regia and Trekking in a top-loading washer with wool wash on the gentlest cycle and with cold water, and it was fine. That said, I don’t think it’s the best idea for long-term wear on the fabric.

I would NOT recommend:

  1. machine washing yarn that isn’t very sturdy
  2. washing handknits in mixed loads with other clothes
  3. using regular laundry detergent
  4. washing large or long items (like sweaters or scarves) in the washer – they may be stretched out by the center agitator

Other Info

Wool Wash

There are many commercially available washing products designed especially for wool. For the purpose of this post I used Allure fine fiber & fabric wash from Bijou Basin, which I received for free in exchange for my review.

I handwashed two pairs of socks using the Allure wash and had good results. It even came with separate instructions for use with HE washers, which was very helpful. I tried it out in the washer on several pairs of socks as well as a sweater knit in sock yarn, and got great results.

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This particular wash comes in a couple different scents as well as a fragrance free variety. I found the scented ones pleasant and not too strong.

Drying

Once you’ve washed your handknits, it’s time to dry them. Whatever you do, don’t throw them in the dryer!

I am well aware that many of the handknit socks I have given as gifts are thrown in the washer with regular laundry & detergent, and sometimes even in the dryer. I try to pretend that I don’t know that.

Large items like sweaters and tops or long items like scarves should be dried flat on a drying rack, or a towel on a flat surface. For lace items, you may want to pin out the lace to re-block it.

Since socks are small and not heavy, I will sometimes dry mine hanging over the bars on my drying rack or on a towel rack in the bathroom.

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Now your clean handknit is ready to wear!

In which I finish some hated socks


For the past few weeks, I’ve been working furiously on these socks, and declaring that I hate them to anyone who will listen.

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You see, a while back my LYS coworker Neal and I devised a trade. She would knit me the Damask Mittens from Fall 2013 Jane Austen Knits, and I would knit her the Wendel socks. The mittens were handed over ages ago, but I just hated knitting the socks.

Damask Mittens

But, you see, the mittens were not without annoyance. Although modeled by an adult, they were sized for a child. The gauge was ridiculous. And Neal adjusted the pattern and knit them for me. But try as I might to knit the Wendel socks, they fell into a category of knitting that I really don’t like. For a while I considered asking her to pick a different pattern, but after she knit those mittens I figured that wasn’t really fair. Lately I started taking the socks as my “travel knitting” to force myself to work on them.

I’ve said it before, but I basically knit two types of projects.

1. Easy projects
2. Hard projects that look really impressive

This pattern fell somewhere in the middle – fiddly and certainly not easy, but not all that impressive. Every stitch was a purl, a twisted knit, or a decrease. (OK, the bottom of the foot is plain stockinette.)

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And then when I got to the toe, it all got confusing. The instructions weren’t very clear, and the designer used the term “knit” to mean “work in pattern”, which results in about 1/3 of the finished projects on Ravelry having a plain knit toe. But I figured it out (and then later figured out that there is a note about it in the Ravelry pattern notes). But seriously, update your pattern PDF, dude!

In any case, they’re done. Finally.

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della Q Guest Post


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I have a guest post today on the della Q blog about how to choose yarn for a project. Check it out!

Emergency Knitting Technician


The other day it dawned on me…

I am an EKT. You know, like an EMT, but for knitting.

First there’s a call “Help me! I have a knitting emergency!”

Then I fire up my yarnbulance – WEEEE ooooo WEEEE ooooo WEEEE – and I arrive at the scene.

You’ve been meaning to finish this Christmas stocking for your child for the past 7 years but you only have half a snowman and messed up the heel?

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No problem!

Something happened during the bind off and you dropped a bunch of stitches?

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Here you go, ready to bind off again!

Oh, you say your unicorn has a cold neck?

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I can help you with that too!

I’m just happy I can provide this kind of service to the knitters (and some non-knitters) of Seattle.

Stitchjones Design Challenge Post 2: Styling Brights


When Cory, Noriko and I discussed a post on how we style brights, I didn’t really know what I was going to say. See, I don’t really wear brights.

In fact, when shopping recently with a friend, I’ve discovered that my fashion sense is pretty conservative. I don’t like prints, bright colors, or embellishments. I’m just boring. One exception would be blue, for which I like pretty much any shade.

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But, with the help of my fellow designers, I realized that I actually *do* have my own way of styling brights: Little pops of bright color with mostly grey or black.

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I’m also ok with bright accessories, like the laces on my super cute Sambas.

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And I wear bright colors for safety – like when I wear my neon yellow hat and carry my neon yellow clipboard to lead evacuations at work.

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Stylish, no?

Taking these things into consideration, it makes perfect sense that my neon is blue and that I’m designing socks. Using my favorite color and keeping my design to a small accessory will allow me to wear it even if I’m not very comfortable with bright colors in general.

You can read Cory’s post here.

You can read Noriko’s post here.

Where the FOs Go Part 1: Clara’s Hat


When my niece was born, I brought her a cute hat that I made, but it was sized for a 1 year old.

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At the time she was far too tiny to wear it.

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But in the past nearly 14 months, she’s grown quite a bit.

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Today it’s snowing where she lives, so she got to wear the hat outside.

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It’s definitely nice to see knitting gifts getting used, especially since my sister is obsessed with taking pictures of this little cutie!

Eek! It’s been a while.


I ran out of WIP Wednesdays right around the time that everything else in my life started getting crazy. I started a new job, I found out that I would be moving…

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But the real problem was that I didn’t know what to write about. I have a lot of top secret knitting going on currently, and I’m a little stumped trying to figure out what I can tell all of you about. I have a couple things up my sleeve for the near future, but I thought it would be a good idea to just ask.

So, what do you want to read about? Do you have questions for me? Requests?

Let me know and I’ll try to write what you want to see.

P.S. That knitting above? That’s my current project at Bad Woman Yarn, the LYS where I work. I’ve been knitting it for far too long, and each week I think maybe the next week I’ll finish it. I think it’s really getting close now! (Grrr… laceweight.)

Stitch and Pitch


Last night I went to Seattle Stitch and Pitch with my friend Sara of Illuminate Crochet. We met beforehand for some delicious dinner at Uwajimaya, and walked over to the stadium where we went to see all of the lovely yarn booths.

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I met my friend Mitzi of Fiber Fetish Designs, along with our friend Christine at the Quintessential Knits booth. They helpfully posed in front of this beautiful rainbow shawl while holding my favorite color of yarn.

Then I headed over to the Apple Yarns booth and found this lovely local sock yarn from Cedar House Yarns:

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With Sara’s help I decided to buy the skein on the top right of the picture – not my usual color, but a beautiful berry/purple. The lighting was sadly not so great for this photo.

After watching some of the game from our great seats (the tickets were from a friend and not in the Stitch & Pitch area), we headed back up to say hi to some knitting friends. There I finally got out my knitting and did the obligatory stitching.

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It was a really fun night and I had a great time seeing so many friends and so much lovely yarn!

A perfectionist learning new things


I am a perfectionist.

Sometimes people say things to me like “Wow, you’re good at everything!”

This is, of course, not true. There are plenty of things that I’m not good at, drawing for one, I just don’t do them in front of other people. I don’t like not being good at something, so I avoid it.

This can be particularly problematic when I’m learning something new. For most things, it is very difficult to be perfect at them while learning, yet it’s really painful for me to be bad at something. I remember at the age of 5 or 6 when I was learning to play piano and got really mad because I had to play a “stupid” song, CBA. (It was literally composed only of the notes C, B, and A and had 13 notes total.) Somehow in my mind I was going to begin with complex Bach concertos like I had heard my mom and grandmother play. I still can’t play piano, but I remember the CBA song to this day.

So when a friend offered to help me learn to quilt, I warned her. I told her about how I considered taking a class from a now defunct local quilt shop, but decided not to because their sample had corners that didn’t line up. I tried to warn her, but I don’t know that anything really could have prepared her for the reality.

First, we started cutting out the pieces.

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This soon became a problem because the fabrics I chose were large jungle animal prints and I really didn’t want any animals to be decapitated. Also, some of the fabrics were printed slightly off-grain, and I was freaking out about the lines being straight. After 4 hours of cutting out just the large blocks, I’m pretty sure my poor friend wanted to kill me.

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We started sewing, and she had to witness my worries about whether being off by a width of literally 2 threads was going to ruin the quilt. (It won’t.)

Part of the problem here is that I don’t have a frame of reference for what matters in quilting like I do in knitting. When a customer comes into the LYS where I work for help picking up a dropped stitch, they are often worried about the wonky tension that results. I can tell them not to worry – it will come out in the blocking. If they don’t believe me, I can even help them tug at the stitches with a darning needle to even them out then and there. With quilting I have no idea.

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Luckily my friend is very patient! After my finicky and slow sewing, and a lot of help, I finally finished my very first quilt top.

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Upon completing I looked at it and said “Well, I think it’s pretty good for a first quilt.” According to my friend, it’s actually good for a quilt in general. I’m still confident that my next one will be better.