Shopping: Opulent Fibers

My mother came to town today and while she was here she beat the grand opening of Opulent Fibers to pick up some gorgeous silk to spin into the wool she has at home. She loves coming to Portland and all the great stores. This one she had met the owner at Black Sheep Fiber Festival and was so happy to be able to buy from during the non-festival parts of the year.

So if you’re a spinner in Portland, Oregon go check out Opulent Fibers in its industrial chic location in the basement of the Ford Building (corner of NE 11th & Division and the basement is almost right under Foxfire Teas which is also worth checking out!)

The Sock Knitter’s Handbook by Schurch & Parrott

My book arrived!  During my sock conceptualization exercises I did some searches to see if what I was thinking of had been done. I found the Knit Picks review of The Sock Knitter’s Handbook and based on the pictures alone bought it. Now that I have it in my hands I find it chock full of diagrams and tips based on sock concepts rather than full sock patterns.  Exactly what I was looking for. Oh, bind-offs I will try you all.

sock architecture from the Sock Knitters Handbook

Craft Dreams: crochet pattern

Last night I dreamt I was traveling in China/Africa (yes, it was both) with my family. We were in a rural area and I stopped to talk to a woman whose daughter had the cutest little dress on. I was able to establish that it was single needle yarn work (crochet) and she was about to describe how to do it when I decided to take a picture of her. She seemed pleased but my whole family yelled “no!” Turns out there were government people sent to watch us to make sure we didn’t cause trouble. I took the picture and they came in and whisked her and her child away. Later in the dream I saw her and the baby headed back to the village, both ok.

Crochet pattern: scallops with triangles at the base creating the most intriguing ruffle.

Red Crazy Quilt

One of my current active projects is a crazy quilt I’ve been working on for a while now (aka years). It’s about the size of a couch cushion but will be wall mounted when it’s done. The piecing was fairly quick but the creative process of adding all the crazy embroidery is long and slow. I have no plan. I open my embroidery books and choose a stitch and add it where it fits. The big limit is that I want to work predominantly in tones of red.

I think my next move will be filling over the black by the maple leaves with little red seed stitches.

Red Crazy Quilt

Toe Up Sock Blues: from toe to heel

One of the things I’m doing to get through January grey sky blues is to knit some blue socks. I cast on using Judy’s Magic Cast-On which is really amazing once you get it. Judy’s video showing how is here.  Then it was relaxing series of sittings just knitting in the round.

I just started increasing my gusset and did a series of video searches to find comfort in gussets and heels before deciding to go back to the drawing board with help of a book.  (Gusset video, Heel Extension video, and Heel Flap video.)

The one other pair of socks I had done I didn’t remember making a heel extension so I returned to my first toe up sock book: Socks from the Toe Up by Wendy D Johnson. My experience was with a plain gusset heel.

My biggest problem with heels is conceptualizing the shape and how it gets made, even if I’ve done it once before. I finally sat down with a sketch book and drew out the socks I am working on. Below is a scan of that drawing. Note that the sock is not to scale and the toe in particular is a lot shorter than the toe on the socks I’m making. I am currently just started on the gusset. Unsurprisingly a sock is a tube with a bulge in it. Stay constant with the top part of the sock and do tricky things to make the heel. Time to go do my increases so I can get to the tricky things while the concept is fresh.

sketch of toe-up sock structure

Frustrations of Gauge

I sometimes think that the habitual avoidance of gauge swatches is really just a strong desire to avoid finding out we can’t have what we want. I wanted to make myself a very nice bolero out of the homespun yarn my mother gave me. The first gauge swatch said I was knitting too narrow. Instead of 12 stitches making four inches it made two. I kept upping the ante, the needle size, but even at a size 13 needle with holes I could fit fingers through the stitches never became more than three inches wide. Meanwhile the length in rows grew as well, though much slower.

The result? I am forced to admit reality. This yarn will not do for this pattern. Now I either have to change yarn or change patterns. There’s no other answer.

Since the whole idea was to do something beautiful with the homespun I have to begin my quest anew. If it was any other yarn I could look at the label and narrow my search to “fingerling” or “dk” and avoid these little disappointments. The nice part of having done a swatch for gauge though was I now know that I should look for patterns that call for around 20 stitches per four inches.There now, reality didn’t hurt that much did it?

The Smell of Homespun in the Morning

Knitting fulfills two spaces in my creative need cabinet. One is relaxing and the other is challenging. As a result I generally keep (at least) two projects going at once. Either that or I can’t focus for long and am overly willing to drop a project that no longer interests me.  Ah, hobbies.

My relaxing project right now is a plain pair of toe-up socks. They are called toe-up socks because they are knit from the toe up to the cuff instead of in the traditional (European) manner of cuff down to toe. These socks are not lace or patterned in any way. Just knit knit knit in a circle and increase and decrease as needed. Yes, I realize that is a huge simplification of how heels are done.

I finished sewing buttons on my baby surprise jacket last night which had been my challenging project. While it too was knit back and forth with mostly just increases and decreases it still required a lot more counting and conceptualizing.

I had planned to make a cowl next but don’t own the color yarn I want the cowl to be in. I do however own a lot of beautiful homespun that my mother made me. It kicked off a pattern search and I think I’m going to do a two color knit shrug based on Lion Brand’s pattern #60082.

The first step in the new project was to wind the homespun skeins into balls. Since most of my yarn is purchased at Twisted and they are happy to wind yarn for me, I don’t own a yarn winder. I do have a thumb. Two actually, but one is specifically used as the support beam for a hand wound center-pull ball. The how-to for this is on pg 58 of The Knitter’s Life List by Gwen W Steege. To avoid disrupting my husband’s sleep in day just to have him hold a skein while I wound it, I put the open skein around my neck like a lei. The most difficult part turned out to be the kitten (who is 3 yrs old) wanting to help and then going crazy and gnawing on furniture when I wouldn’t let her near the yarn. The smell of homespun wool seems to have the same effect on her that catnip does on my older cat.

Here is a picture of my thumb as a support beam for a hand wound center-pull ball. Getting ready to make a shrug.

Creating a Center Pull Ball of Yarn