Friday, January 27, 2012

On family

I'm an aunt again! Sometimes I forget that I'm a tía at all, because CP's entire family lives on another continent. I've met my nephews, brother-in-law and sister-in-law exactly one time, so thinking of them as family still seems a little odd. And since we never see them, no one ever calls me Tía Kristen (which, by the way, doesn't exactly roll off the tongue). But, with the newest addition to their brood making her appearance yesterday, I was reminded that I am, in fact, an aunt, and should be knitting accordingly.

The good news is, we will be visiting Peru next month, and my mother-in-law is going to meet us there, so if I finish a baby sweater in time, I can give it to her to pass along.  Which of these seems like I might be able to finish it in two weeks?

I'll be knitting a 6 month size, since that's about when the weather will turn cold in Santiago. I'm thinking Baby Sophisticate looks simplest, but is it too boring? And more importantly, do I have yarn for any of these sweaters? I guess I'll have to answer that question myself.

(As a side note, I fully understand that children born in Spanish-speaking countries will, obviously, speak Spanish. It is just as normal, run-of-the-mill, everyday as the fact that I was born in the U.S. and therefore speak English. But as someone who learned Spanish as a foreign language, part of me still finds it astounding when small children speak it--like they're little linguistics geniuses tottering around speaking in tongues.)

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

On learning

I'm sure I was just as bad at knitting when I first started, though it seems impossible that anyone could be this bad at anything.

The fiber is corriedale, which looked lovely in the bag, lovely sitting my lap, and lovely allllllll the way up until I actually started spinning it, at which point I realized it looked like I was spinning my own hair.

My homework it to keep trying to make my bag of fiber look like yarn, and then next week, we tackle plying, which I'm assured will really improve the look of this mess. I sure hope so.

(I would also like to note for the record that when I got to Fibre Space, I only purchased supplies for the class. No other yarn. No books. No patterns. No gadgets or tools. How strong am I?)

(What? Madelinetosh Magnolia Society Yarn Club? I have no idea what you're talking about . . .)

Friday, January 20, 2012

Friday's Muse

When I was 15, I fell in love.

With the Beatles.

Was this because I liked a boy who was obsessed with the Beatles? Possibly. But the boy came and went, and the Beatles stayed.

(Well, stayed in my heart, anyway; they'd broken up long before I was born, and poor John left us when I was just 2 months old.)

I got to see Sir Paul McCartney in concert a couple of years ago, it was the highlight of my day, week, summer, possibly year.

There's just something about Sir Paul.


This photo has been making the rounds on Pinterest, and who's surprised? A young, scruffy Sir Paul, rocking a seriously inspiring fair isle sweater--how can you not swoon?

I will not rest until I own this sweater.

(This photo may have prompted me to pin a series of photos of Sir Paul wearing fair isle sweater vests. He's a knitter's dreamboat.)

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

On sock yarn (warning: many pictures, possibly too many)

Come for the sweaters, stay for the socks.

I think this sums up my and many other knitters' experience with knitting. You start because you imagine yourself parading around town in a new handknit sweater every week, and before you know it, you're looking at a basket full of dismembered cardigan bits wondering where you went wrong. The sweater wardrobe is an illusion.

Socks, on the other hand, are doable. You probably never imagined yourself knitting them, and now find yourself with drawers full of sock yarn. Socks you can finish. Socks don't fill your lap with heaps of wool in July. Socks don't care if you've gained 10 pounds. Socks are the new sweaters.

Sock yarns get a lot of attention because they're pretty, colorful, and versatile. What's not apparent from a session of snorgling the sock yarn is how well the yarn will wear which, at the end of the day, is kind of the important thing. So today, we're going to take a look at a few different yarns and see how they've fared over the last year or so.


Up to bat: The Sanguine Gryphon Skinny Bugga!; Sundara Sock Yarn; Cherry Tree Hill Supersock Select; Madelintosh Tosh Sock; and Koigu Painter's Palette Premium Merino (KPPPM)

A note on care: I have a front loading washing machine, which they say won't felt wool (haha!), and all of these sock yarns are superwash, so I generally wear each pair a few times, then wash them in the machine on the gentle cycle, and hang them on a drying rack. They never go in the dryer.

(And I know I shouldn't, but I do wear my socks with shoes, which roughs them up.)

Let's start with Skinny Bugga! (80% merino, 10% cashmere, 10% nylon)



I finished these socks in January 2011.



Color has faded a bit, and there's a lot of shedding/pilling on the heel and sole. I've already taken a sweater stone to this pair once earlier this year.

I finished this pair in July:


And they've met a similar fate; color is still bright, but a fair bit of shedding.


That said, Skinny Bugga! has 10% cashmere, so it's a trade off--softer socks = more shedding. The faded color is a little disappointing, but keeping them out of the washing machine might help. A sweater stone will help get rid of the fuzz, but remember, you're basically shaving off fiber, which will ultimately weaken the fabric, and probably result in holes in the long run.
I don't know what the future holds for The Verdant Gryphon and Cephalopod Yarns, the two companies born of the ashes of the Sanguine Gryphon (I believe the story is they will still be selling separate colorways of the Bugga! and Skinny Bugga! bases). Just make a note that you might want to make Bugga! and Skinny Bugga! socks your house-only socks.

Let's see, what's next? How about Madelinetosh Tosh Sock? (100% merino)



These socks were finished in June (gosh, I really miss my basil).



A bit of fading, particularly on the sole, but overall, they've held up well. Let's take a closer look:


Just a hint of fuzz on the heels.

I'm quite pleased with these socks--the yarn isn't as soft as some sock yarns, but it's quite sturdy. Note to self: buy more Tosh Sock.

Let's look at another pair of summer socks, made in Cherry Tree Hill Supersock Select (100% merino).



Finished in May.



Unfortunately these aren't easy to photograph--they're the Skew socks, so they don't have the same shape as a standard sock. What we're interested in is the yarn, though, and it's held up pretty darn well. Not much fading (though the colorway was more muted to begin with) and very little wear, just some light fuzz on the heel again:


So, another sturdy yarn. The Tosh Sock is softer than this one, though, and seems to wear about as well.

And my last pair of summer socks, knit in Sundara Sock Yarn (100% merino).
(The yellow; the green is leftover Bugga!)



Finished in July.



Not bad! Minimal fading, few signs of wear, even close up:


(I will note that I've probably worn this pair the least, so that may factor in.)

The Sundara sock yarn appears to be wearing well, but it's thinner than I prefer for sock yarn, and the yardage is low compared to others (370yds/skein).

And now, we're going to look at my oldest pair of socks, knit in Koigu Painter's Palette Premium Merino (100% merino).


IMG_2228 (2)

Finished in February 2010.



I'm ready to go out on a limb here and say this is nothing short of amazing. I wear these socks all the time. I'm wearing them right now. For nearly a year, they were the only handknit socks I owned. They should, by all rights, be falling apart by now.

They've faded a bit. I think they may have shrunk a little too. But heels, soles and toes are all in great shape:


KPPPM isn't ultra soft, and it comes in 175yd skeins, so you have to buy 2 or 3 for a pair of socks, but it gets a thumbs up from me as far as wear. I haven't bought any since I made these socks, but I think I might have to invest in some for everyday wear socks.

Another non-resolution, more-of-a-general-goal-type-deal I have for 2012 is to do more with the blog than ramble about my knitting. I've been busy thinking up ideas for making my blog more useful for knitters (without making it a carbon copy of other knitting blogs) and today's sock yarn review was the first in what I hope will be an ongoing series of topical posts. What do you think?

Thursday, January 12, 2012

On theory

I always enjoy browsing other bloggers' WIP Wednesday posts, but I never wanted to jump directly onto that bandwagon. I was more interested in an adjacent bandwagon--something just a bit different. Of course, when you're showing off half-finished knitwear, there's not a whole lot you can do to stand out. Blobs of knitting look like blobs of knitting. So that leaves me with little more than a name change. But I will soldier on nonetheless.

Introducing . . . .

Theoretical Thursdays!

As in, theoretically, the following blobs of knitting will someday actually be something.


This project has been on the needles since the dawn of time. Or so it seems. This is a Trellis baby sweater. When the month started, I had a finished body and one sleeve, but had little motivation to knit the second sleeve because I'd already had to knit the first sleeve twice (which I blame on the myriad possible interpretations of the phrase "as established"). But the baby the sweater is intended for made his debut last week, so I bravely pushed forward, and now have a 2nd sleeve and have started in on the collar.

A quick note on this one: the seed stitch pattern is shown as "k1, p1," but for the sleeves, you need to start with a purl stitch, or the cuff won't transition into the cable section correctly.


This one is a new project, and another from Knitty: the Achilles Heal socks, which have a unique construction--the leg and foot of the sock are completed first, then you go back and do the heel and gusset. This, theoretically, enables you to replace this section in its entirety if it wears out before the rest of your sock. My sock currently has a gaping hole in the middle for this reason. It's certainly an interesting idea, but I don't know if it's worth all of the extra fiddling and futzing (moving stitches to waste yarn, provisional cast-ons, etc.). Time will tell.


And last, but certainly not least, the Wildflower Cardigan! So far, so good--my only concern is that curling on the bottom edge, which I sincerely hope will block out.

In other news, I've decided to start playing on Twitter. You can follow me at @mediaperuana. Will I have anything interesting to say? I sure hope so.

Friday, January 6, 2012

On measurements

I don't think it would be inaccurate to assume that most of my readers are female, and based on that assumption, to further deduce that we've all experienced the horror that is trying to buy clothes that fit. It may even be the reason that some of us learned to knit in the first place.

The sizing system used for women's clothes in the U.S. (and possibly elsewhere, but I'll talk about what I know) is based on meaningless numbers. Like 4. What is 4? 4 has absolutely no meaning. There are no standards. Each manufacturer can slap a "4" label on whatever size pants they feel like. And every year, 4 seems to get just a little bit bigger around the world.

In the last 2 years, I've gained about 10 pounds. This is not an absurd amount of weight, and it doesn't make me morbidly obese, but logic leads me to believe I should be buying a larger pants size, or, at the very least, that my usual pants size should be feeling a bit snugger.

It's not.

I don't know if manufacturers are trying to boost my self-esteem, or if they just think I'm really bad at math.

One of the articles of clothing we hear women complaining about more than any other is jeans. But I thought I had nipped this problem in the bud a few years ago when I discovered Lucky Brand jeans. They come in a variety of cuts and styles, 4 lengths, and most importantly, are sold by waist size. 2 = 26", 4=27", and so on. It's right there on the label. (They are a little pricey, but at least twice a year Lucky has sales that will chop about $40 off the price tag.)

Waist size is great. It is not meaningless. 27 inches is 27 inches. It is a measurement. There are standards. If something is labeled 27 inches, I can measure and verify that it is, in fact, 27 inches.

Or so I thought. For the last 3 years, I have been living firm in the belief that 27 inches has a universal significance. (Even if you use the obviously superior metric system, 27 inches still has a significance, it just may not mean anything to you personally. And really, it shouldn't, because the metric system is practically perfect in every way, and I don't know why we don't use. But that's a different post for another time.)

This belief came crashing down around me on Christmas Day.

Every year for Christmas, my sister and I buy each other a pair of Lucky Brand jeans. Because, of course, there's no need to try the jeans on--if you have a 27" waist, you buy 27" pants, done.

Ha ha.

Here we have, on top, my oldest pair of Lucky Brand jeans, purchased approximately 3 years ago, maybe 4. And beneath them, the pair of jeans I bought my sister for Christmas, which are enormous on her, and huge on me.

Both pairs of jeans are labeled 27". And what's more absurd is that the top pair are low rise, which means you might expect the waist to be larger since they're meant to fall closer to the hips, while the bottom pair are "easy rider," which are meant to fall at the waist.

Now, given the different cuts Lucky Brand sells, all of their jeans are clearly not going to fit the exact same way, that's expected. But I whipped out my handy tape measurer and discovered that the waist on the bottom pair of jeans is nearly 32"! Thirty. Two. Inches.

And, to add insult to injury, the jeans my sister bought me, also 27", fit perfectly. So not only has Lucky Brand fallen prey to the universal plot to make women feel better about themselves by slapping meaningless numbers on their jeans, 27" is now not even a standard measurement within the brand!

I feel lost, adrift in an ocean of ill-fitting clothing. I had bucked the system. I had found jeans that I knew would fit correctly. It was all mine. For a brief shining moment.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Prospero año y felicidad

A new year. Despite the fact that I despise January, I do like the sound of a new year. It holds so much promise. Anything can happen. I could climb Mt. Everest! I'm pretty sure I won't, but in January, I hate to count anything out.

As a knitter, I look forward to a whole year of projects: clothes for me, new designs, birthday and Christmas gifts. Maybe this year is the year I can KNIT ALL THE THINGS.

(If you're not reading Hyperbole and a Half, you should be. Start here. I'm 97% sure Allie sucked this story right out of my brain while I slept. And don't miss The Year Kenny Loggins Ruined Christmas.)

A few days after Christmas, I wound up bunches of yarn for new projects:

(I even have this photo as my iPad wallpaper now--all that yarn holds so much promise.)

And look, swatches!


So, what will I be knitting in 2012? For starters, I thought joining the 12 Socks in 2012 group on Ravelry would be a fantastic idea. Some knitters are signing themselves up for one sock per month, but I'm going full tilt, giving myself the ludicrous challenge of knitting 12 pair. And they're all for me!

Bwah ha ha ha!

And you all know I haven't been able to stop obsessing over the Wildflower Cardigan since I got my copy of Coastal Knits. I finally settled on Madelinetosh Tosh Sport for the sweater--same great colors, but about 2/3 the cost of Pashmina.

Not without its troubles, though. The gauge Alana calls for is 7st/in on sz 5 needles--how she's achieving this astounding feat, I have no idea. I'm pretty sure it defies the laws of physics. I started on 5s, then moved down to 4s, and still couldn't best 6.5st/in. At this gauge, the fabric was already losing its drape, so moving down the 3s wasn't an option. I briefly considered switching to sock yarn, but ultimately decided to knit the smallest size at the larger gauge. Math, though not generally my friend, assures me that the resulting sweater will be 34-35". I sincerely hope math isn't lying to me.

Beyond that, rather than challenge myself with a specific number of projects in varying categories, I'm going to focus on 2 primary goals for 2012:
  • Knit from stash
  • Learn to spin
I'm not crazy enough to think I won't buy any yarn, but I have quite a collection as it is. (I may have also wiggled around this stipulation a smidge by signing up for Tanis Fiber Arts' Year in Color during the final days of 2011. Oops.) But I will make a concerted effort to stop giving The Loopy Ewe, KnitPicks and WEBS half my paycheck.

And I'm ready to make use of my drop spindle. I really, truly, don't have a clue what I'm doing, but at one point, the same was true about knitting, so I have high hopes!

What are your New Year's knitolutions?