Monday, November 27, 2006

How to make a picot hem

I've decided to use a picot hem for the cuff of the ankle socks I am working currently working on. It's a very pretty, feminine edge that gives a lovely look to an otherwise ordinary pair of girl's socks.

It begins with a provisional cast-on: a temporary cast on using contrasting waste yarn which is eventually removed to reveal live stitches. The method I normally use, a crocheted cast on, does not work well with knitting in the round on double pointed needles because the waste yarn is only easily removed from the opposite direction, so I ended up having to cut out the temporary edge. (just a wee bit stressful, so I DON'T recommend it!!) You'll find instructions for several different provisional cast-ons here. There is also an excellent instructional video here.

Once you've cast on the appropriate number of stitches and divided them evenly on your double points, you'll want to knit several rows. The exact number of rows depends on how long you want your cuff to be. I knit 8 rows.

Next, comes the actual picot row. It is simply: yo, k2tog, repeated across one round.

In this photo, you can see the picot row with the holes made by the yarnovers. Once this round is completed, then knit the same number of rows you knit before the picot round.

Now here's the tricky part. You have to fold the cast-on edge inside the double pointed needles to form a hem. The cuff will naturally want to fold along the picot row which is what will give the cuff its pretty picot trim. I spent about 30 minutes on this next part. I'd recommend maybe pouring yourself a glass of wine and finding a comfortable chair in a quiet part of the house where you won't be disturbed...

Carefully remove the waste yarn to reveal live stitches. I unraveled one needle's worth of stitches at a time and slipped them onto a spare needle. Here in this photo, you can see my waste yarn was tan and my spare needle was blond. Then, holding the spare needle behind your working needle, knit a row, picking up one stitch from your working needle and one from the spare needle and knitting them together as one stitch.

After you've gone an entire round, all the cast on stitches will have been picked up with the working stitches and the cuff will be double thick and folded at the pretty picot edge!!

If you do decide to give this a try on a sock in place of a normal ribbed cuff, reduce the number of stitches cast on. Ribbing has a natural tendency to tighten making it an ideal elastic band. Picot/stockinette does not, and the cuff will be too loose if worked over the same number of stitches. Try casting on 20% less, and increase evenly on the first round after the cuff band to get back to the correct number of stitches.

If my ankle socks turn out nice, and people are interested, we might put together an intermediate sock class for the winter schedule. I promise the pattern won't be this wordy!!

Give it a try,
yours in knitting,

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Chain Selvedge for Garter Stitch

I've spent most of today knitting the hooded baby sweater for a class I'm teaching Wednesday (it wouldn't do to be behind where I asked my students to be!!!) The sweater, really a cardigan, features a garter button band and the designer suggests using a chain selvedge at the edge of the band.

Selvedges are used either to facilitate picking up stitches and seaming, or as a decorative edging. In this case, the chain selvedge for garter stitch gives a very nice, finished edge to the work.

This close-up photo doesn't do it justice. You'll have to trust me when I say it has a very attractive appearance!

To work this edge, at beginning of every row,

with yarn in front, slip 1 stitch as if to purl, bring yarn to the back, continue as directed for your pattern.

This knitting instructions for this are often written as:

wyif, sl 1 pwise, yb, continue in pattern

where wyif=with yarn in front
sl = slip
pwise = purl wise
yb = yarn in back

You can incorporate this into any pattern that calls for garter stitch. This is NOT the chain stitch used for stockinette stitch.

Give it a try!
Yours in knitting,

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving!

I did a bit of knitting today so I could post a picture that actually has to do with our craft! I cast on for Celia's Picot Trimmed Ankle socks. This pair will have the Welsh heel - in honor of Shirani & Martin, and a flat toe.

This is the first year EVER that I have not had a houseful for dinner, so while I am not quite so frenzied in the kitchen (the turkey's in, - it's Plum Glazed this year - the giblet stock is simmering) it is AWFULLY quiet here...

The thing I love about this most American of holidays, is that for one day, all over this country, we sit together to share a meal, literally or figuratively, with family and friends, and to celebrate the same thing: our common American heritage and our thankfulness that the America of our forefathers continues to thrive today with as much promise as existed back in 1620 when a tiny, tired band of hopeful pilgrims first stepped ashore onto Plymouth Rock. (Okay, yes I'm a New Englander...Jamestown was first in 1607!!)

Whether our family arrived on these shores yesterday, or 400 years ago, we all came to America with the same hopes and dreams of what freedom has to offer and what a people, united in the belief that all men and woman are created equal, can accomplish. That we came from all over the world and brought with us our different knitting traditions and skills is just one of the perks for us, the knitting obsessed!! (See, I'm keeping this relevant...)

The poet Emma Lazarus, gives us this:

Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!

The invitation America has always offered to anyone willing to accept it. With so much ugliness in the world today, I think it bears remembering these lines; this invitation; this promise of America. Just one of the many things we can be thankful for today!

So here's the question. Do you know where you can find this very visible poem??

Think about it while you enjoy your turkey dinner. Ponder it while you curl up with your knitting tonight. Let me know if you come up with the answer!

Yours in yarn,

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Supporting our community

Today I took the day off knitting. Does that mean I'm not a knitter with a capital "K"? I don't think so: even the obsessed need to rest their wrists every once in a while!!

I spent a couple hours working on some quickie ink & watercolor washes of my second favorite locally owned Erie business: The Brickhouse coffee shop. It got me thinking about the difference between chains and locally owned shops and why we owe it to our community to support those among us who have the vision, drive, and courage to strike out into the entrepreneurial maelstrom with little more than a dream, what assets they could gather, and an overflowing of passion. It's the kind of passion that you just don't find in chains. It's the American Dream with a capital "D"!!

Locally owned shops bring charm, uniqueness, as well as superb product quality and variety to Erie and their owners greet shoppers with a smile and a sincere offer of friendship. What abounds in Sue & Shirani's yarn store, and Jeff and Rebecca's coffee shop, is what will never be found in A.C. Moore and Starbucks: that sense of place that I'm always going on about here. The sense of personal place and welcome we're always looking for in life - that comfort which grounds us in this crazy world in which we live.

So, next time you find yourself with a free moment or two, go relax in that cocoa colored front room at the Brickhouse with a steaming latte and one of Rebecca's mouth-watering scones. Or get it to go, and sit with the Purl girls and knit for a while. Both will sooth your soul.

Yours in knitting,

Friday, November 17, 2006

Sock Update

The birthday socks were finished about an hour before the birthday party. So...I was happy. The socks were well received. We glossed over the part about how handknit wool
socks are line dry only, with nothing more than a half raised eyebrow.

And I am well into pair number two!! The ankle socks with a Dutch heel and a pointed toe. I'll let you know how those "architectural" features compare :)

Yours in lots and lots of 30 sts/4" yarn,

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

We've been featured in Yarnival!!!!!

About a month ago, I submitted our blog for publication in an online issue of Yarnival!, a blog carnival. It's a sort of blog magazine that gathers together links to blogs having to do with a specific topic. I submitted THIS entry, and we made it into the November issue!! If you follow the link to our entry, you can check out the comments at the bottom to see if we've attracted any new readers from the online world-at-large!

Here's the link to Yarnival! Issue 3.

Yours in knitting,

Sunday, November 12, 2006

...she pauses to consider a title, wondering if readers will balk at yet another sock story...

I am now well into birthday sock #2! There is the small problem of everything else on my todo list: the PTA taxes are due; the treasurer reports for the PTA meeting need to be prepared; 571 envelopes must be stapled onto bookfair reminders; birthday shopping with the kids has to be done; the cake has to be baked; the dog needs a bath and the birds need a wing-clip;there's the ever present laundry; I have 3 knitting classes to prepare for; and, there are still 250 pages left to read in my book-group book. All due on or before my husband's birthday! Still, I am totally committed to getting that sock finished. Okay, I made up the part about the laundry - my husband does most of that (in his spare time when he's not operating on someone's heart.) He also does all our hemming, mending, and God bless him, the sewing on of the girls' pointe shoe ribbons: thereal perk of being married to a cardiac surgeon!

So... I will finish the sock. And you know what else I did in my spare time this weekend? I stopped by Cultured Purl and picked up 3 more balls of sock yarn. Yup, that's right. I'm going to knit each of the children a pair of socks for Christmas. Luckily the girls only wear ankle socks, which is really like knitting only half a sock... You may be wondering if I, who normally avoids sock knitting as if it were the plague, have really lost my mind. But, here's the thing. Working on this sock has opened my eyes to the joys of knitting a small project on fine needles. Putting aside the annoyance of maneuvering tooth picks, there is a real art to the craft of hand knit socks. Such a variety of skills combined in a mere 10,000 stitches. (give or take a couple thousand...) (per sock...)Ribbing, short rows, slip stitch selvedges, picking up stitches, decreasing, grafting. And the engineering behind turning the heel is, well, a beautiful thing.

And did you know that sock knitting is the OLDEST form of this relatively young member of the textile family. English handknitted socks date back to the 1500s. Earlier samples of stockings, some dating back to the third century in Egypt and Europe were once thought to be knitting, but are today identified as the similar but older craft of nalebinding, or "binding on a needle". Still, European knitters have been producing gorgeous, intricate stockings and socks for at least 500 years!!

I did a little research and I learned there are a variety of heel and toe contructions from which to choose when knitting a sock. We can make a Welsh heel, a German heel, a Dutch or horseshoe heel, or stick the classic French round heel. Toes can be round, pointed, flat, wide, or in the form a four-pointed star - all methods that have evolved around the world as different cultures mastered and improved upon the simple, beautiful yet pedestrian workhorse of our wardrobe: the sock.

As I knit my children's socks, I'm going to experiment with various heels and toes. Why don't you stop by Cultured Purl and join me in my pursuit of the Perfect Hand Knit Sock!!

Yours in knitting,

Saturday, November 11, 2006

What a difference a wrap makes!

The ribbing on the left is the Eastern Combined method of purling. The ribbing on the right is the loose first sock. The Eastern combined purl resulted in a beautifully even, pleasantly tight, elastic ribbing. I am so pleased with the result that I think I'll do all my purling this way from now on!!

Of course, I am now faced with the problem of unmatched socks. I'm going to try my best to resist the urge to rip out the first sock and do it again. Maybe my husband won't notice the difference...

Yours in yarn,

Friday, November 10, 2006

Are your purl stitches too loose?

Well, I finished one sock, and I'm into the second. My husband has tried it on and declared it to be warm and cozy. And yes, he will wear my socks around the house...

Neither of us mentioned the obvious loose ribbing. The problem seems to be that I form my purl stitches too loosely. A common problem for a lot of knitters. So, as an experiment, I'm using a variation of the Eastern Combined method of purling for the ribbing on the second sock.

Eastern knitters, those in Asia, Africa, and some Islamic countries, wrap their yarn around the needle in the opposite direction from Western knitters. There are myriad versions of this, two of which we call Eastern Crossed and Eastern Uncrossed.

Wrapping in the opposite direction uses a smidge less yarn and creates a stitch which appears to be more neatly formed. However, the resulting stitch has a left slant versus the normal Western right slant. To avoid a plaited, or twisted stitch, the left slant stitch must be worked through the back loop on the next row.

To adapt this technique to purling in the round (for the ribbing), I enter the twisted purl stitches through the back loops and wrap the yarn clockwise. The knit stitches are not affected.

I'll let you know how it turns out.

Yours in knitting,

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Diana's Socks

Here's a photo (of a photo) of socks Diana knit for her two daughters and a daughter-in-law. Lucky girls!! Diana was at the yarn shop last night, along with Laura and a group of her former students. She told us a funny story about how years ago, when she was living on the West Coast and was just getting started with knitting, she adventurously decided to buy some expensive sock yarn, a variety of needles, and a sock pattern, and she gave it a go. A few disastrous skeins later, as well as a big investment in needles which various yarn shops suggested might solve her problems, and still having met with no sock success, she finally found Laura. Who, as anyone who had taken one of her Cultured Purl classes knows, is an AMAZING sock teacher! Since then, Diana has knit lots and lots of socks including these modeled by her family. Perseverance pays off!

Stop by the shop and sign up for a sock class! Find out why they're so addictive.
Yours in knitting,

Monday, November 06, 2006

Knitting Socks with the T.V. On

My husband's birthday is in 10 days and I'm making him a pair of socks. It's a somewhat odd thing to do for him, because: He hates itchy wool; he finds any amount of bulk in his shoe uncomfortable; and he's
extremely concerned that handknit socks will not stay up. But he admits to being thrilled that I am knitting him a pair, because it means "I'm thinking about him."

What he doesn't really appreciate though, is what a mammoth act of love it is for me to knit him socks. I find the process angst-ridden. It's not the normal sock issues that faze me. The short rows, picking up stitches for the gusset, grafting the toe together- all of that is fine. It's finding needles small enough to get gauge. I'm using 0s and honestly, should really be working with 00s. Aren't they a pain in the butt? First of all, they're the size of toothpicks. They're sharp so they irritate my fingers. Psychologically, it's seems like the bloody things will take forever. And then of course there's the problem of THERE'S STILL ANOTHER ONE TO KNIT...

Anyway, I sat down with my husband last night to watch the Patriots play football, thinking, now here's some quality time I can spend with him and make some REAL progress on these socks. After about 15 minutes, I realized the tension I feel when knitting on 0 needles is NOTHING compared to the stress of being in the same room with a freaked out football fan. There was pacing. There was yelling at the tv. There was SCREAMING obscenities at the players AND the coach who one would think must be the biggest idiot on the planet. I was thinking, haven't they won the majority of Superbowls played this century, all under the direction of this man?? Including the Superbowl my husband and oldest daughter attended? (The one where Paul McCartney performed Hey Jude. See for me, the most moving aspect of that once in a lifetime event wasn't that the Patriots won. It was that Audrey got to see a live performance by a former Beatle....)

Well, I couldn't take the stress of the socks AND my husband's game anxiety, so I retreated to the relative calm of my bedroom. I knit a few rows while watching an episode of Without A Trace, where a woman is driven so crazy by her life that she convinces a priest she needs an exorcism. After that, I read a chapter of my book group book, Mapping the Edge, about a women who is so overwhelmed by her housewife/mother roles that she disappears to Italy for a rest. Isn't escapism great?

Now back to those socks,

Yours in knitting,

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Look at Leo!!!!!!

Shirani emailed these pics of Leo modeling clothes knit by friends of the yarn shop.

Laura, our awesome sock teacher, knit the yellow sweater Leo's wearing in his car seat. Isn't the hood adorable? It's cuter than adorable, but I can't think of the word right now. And the bunny hat is so fun!!! Look at the ears!!!!! How nice of Leo to wear them so well:)

Shirani, he really is the cutest little monkey!!

Stop by the shop and ask Shirani for the patterns. And if you're looking for a quick baby gift, we're starting a hooded baby sweater class Monday night. It's knit in one piece, from the top-down: A cute little cardigan in a range of sizes that beginners will find fun and quick to knit. And if you're an intermediate knitter, we'd love to have you join us too! There are some interesting little quirks about this pattern that make it a good learning project for everyone. Call and sign up, there's still some room in the class!!

Yours in knitting,

Friday, November 03, 2006

Friday Night Knitters

I stopped by "First Friday" at Cultured Purl tonight. (I had the kids in tow, so it was only for a minute) That's the first Friday of every month when, in addition to a cozy fire and good conversation with other knitters, there's food!! And I should also mention that I'm not sure it's actually called "First Friday", but that's the gist of it...

Despite the wintery weather, the ladies were expecting a crowd of traveling knitters from Akron, visiting Erie for the weekend. (True knitters don't let blizzards get in between them and good wool.) They heard about us from Linda, a committed Friday-Night-er, pictured here working on a scarf for the Red Scarf Project. That's a wonderful charity program sponsored by the Orphan Foundation of America. As Linda explained to me tonight, the program is aimed at giving college-bound orphans and foster children scarves for the winter. It's a great way to use up your stash yarn or, if you're in the mood for something new, stop by the shop and Sue & Shirani will help you pick out one of their soft and luscious lovelies. They have lots of scarf patterns to choose from. If you'd like to read more about the project, click here.

Well it's a snowy Friday night, the little urchins are just about tucked in for the night, and I'm going to go settle down with some knitting and my decaf skinny skinny Irish Creme latte (new favorite flavor!) from the Brick House - our favorite Erie Coffee Shop. Yum!!

Yours in yarn,

ps. Okay, I keep meaning to mention this. I find it a hoot that the blogger spell-check always recognizes "knitters" as a mistake and tries to replace it with, and here's the hoot part, "janitor's"...