Tour-de-Sock: We’re half way there!

Tour-de-sock is well underway. Stage three of six is about to close and mark the half way point of this sock knitting competition. As I have mentioned before, this competition is a fundraiser for Doctors Without Borders. It’s a great opportunity to knit some gorgeous patterns that you might not have otherwise knit. And for me the part I love is that each round usually gives you something new to learn.

As was the case last year, we started the tour with a warm up sock. This year’s warm up sock was Miriam by Eeva Kesäkuu.

Miriam

 

I personally love to knit stranded colourwork. This pattern was a treat. The unusual heel and gusset made it interesting to knit… in a good way. At first when I saw how the sock looked, I questioned whether the fit was going to be any good. But when I put them on, I was pleasantly surprised. They hug my feet beautifully. I used OnLine Supersocke Graffiti yarn with Cascade Heritage Sock yarn for these. Here are mine:

 

Next on the Tour we knit Adrienne Fong’s Plan A socks.

Fong’s Plan A Socks

I don’t usually bother to knit a test swatch for gauge when I knit socks, since most socks knit up great with any old sock yarn. This pattern recommends a “light fingering” yarn. Note to self: yes, there is a difference between fingering and light fingering. I used Admiral Cat yarn for this one. I wanted a bright and happy yarn to knit. If I had really paid attention, I would have knit the ribbing as I did and then switched to finer needles for the leg. Mine came out quite large and slouchy. They fit around my feet well, so after I submitted my completed sock, I frogged them back by two pattern repeats, reknit the toes and “Ta dah!” they fit me now. These were a fun and relatively quick knit. I enjoyed them very much. Here are mine:

 

 

Stage two was a gorgeous cabled pattern called Odensjön by Suzanne Sjögren.

Odensjön

 

Having learned my lesson about light fingering yarn in stage one, I chose my yarn carefully for this round. I used CoBaSi Hikoo, a light fingering yarn that I wrote about a few weeks ago. First of all, I’m in love with this yarn. The results are just so pretty… what can I say? I’m hooked. This pattern was a perfect blend of interest and memorize-ability of the pattern repeat. It still took some focus, don’t get me wrong. The resulting sock is impressive without it feeling like I gave birth to it. (Hey, if you knit enough different sock patterns, you’ll stumble on one that will make you understand what I mean!) I enjoyed this pattern enough that I can see myself knitting it again and again. That’s saying something. After all, there are enough gorgeous sock patterns out there that I could knit a different pair every week, never knit one twice and yet never run out of new patterns for the rest of my life! Here are my completed ones:

And then there was Stage Three! I talked about these last week. Heidi Nick’s Bicycle Race.

Bicycle Race

These ones felt like they took me forever to knit. However in all fairness, my work  schedule really did get in the way of my knitting time for these. That having been said, I was able to work on all of the previous socks and still be social or pick them up and put them down mid round without it being a problem. Knitting these ones demands your full attention. They are absolutely stunning. I think as finished socks go, these may be my very favourite socks I’ve ever knitted (other than the Bintje knee socks I gave my daughter). I absolutely love them. I won’t knit a second pair of them, but I will wear them with pride and delight for as long as I can. Here are mine:

 

And now, I find myself anticipating the next pattern drop. I love not knowing what we will be doing until the stage officially begins. Three more stages to go… On the forums there can be a lot of chatter in anticipation of each new round. Photo hints are given, yet they really don’t tell you anything until you see the pattern itself. It can be fun to read people’s guesses about what we might be doing next. I don’t get too caught up in that, because it’s too easy to get worked up over what technique might come up that I know nothing about. I would rather just take it as it comes and figure out what I need to when I need to. I’m excited to see what will be next!

Are you excited to knit some socks yet?

Happy Knitting!

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So Many Yarns; So Little Time

Between the stages of the Tour-de-sock competition I have been working on designing cardigans for Toddlers using chunky weight yarn and employing the contiguous method of shoulder and sleeve construction developed by Australian Susie Meyer. This method results in a set-in sleeve appearance without having to knit components separately and sew them together. It is knit in one piece from the top down.

As I said, I’m working on this between the stages of Tour-de-sock. We are on stage 3 right now and the pattern is a Heidi Nick design called “Bicycle Race”. It is a beaded and cabled work of art. I love the care that Heidi puts into her patterns.

She colour codes all the different cable stitches.

The charts look beautiful and once you get over how many charts there are, you will share my gratitude for those colourful symbols. These just take time. I’m enjoying them very much. There is no rushing them because there are no repeats that you can mindlessly knit. Every round of the sock is a new adventure. I am loving them. I won’t have quite as much in-between time for working on the cardigans this round. But that’s okay because I will have a completed pair of “Bicycle Race” socks to show for it.

Last year we knitted Heidi’s Accio socks.

 

Here are mine:

 

I encourage you to check out Heidi’s stunning designs here!

 

As a busy grandmother, I want very much to be able to knit up gifts for the wee ones in the family without it taking so much time that it turns from joy to stress. There are many cardigan patterns out there for fingering and DK weight yarns for little ones. They are wonderful but they just take that little bit too much time to complete on a busy schedule when you have a big family.

I decided that I wanted to knit top down, all-in-one cardigans; but I really didn’t want to do raglan or saddle shoulders.

I really prefer the look of a set-in sleeve. I searched through the contiguous patterns and couldn’t find one for chunky yarn. So I figured, I guess it’s on me to create the pattern. I’m working on the size 3 (toddler) right now; next will be size 4. It will be a while before I publish this because I really want to have four sizes done and tested before I put it out there. There is definitely a sweet spot to getting the proportions just right on this type of design. The process? Knit, note, frog, repeat. I think I finally have it where I want it after frogging the whole thing somewhere around 7 or 8 times.

I have used three different yarns so far.

I have one cardigan on which I still have to frog the button band, open up the bound off hem and extend the garter stitch border before re-knitting the button band. (It was determined to roll on the back of the sweater; that’s unacceptable to me.) It will need the sleeves knit after that and it will be finished. I made that one out of Diamond’s “Soft” yarn in the yummy peach colour. I made another one out of Diamond Tradition Chunky, but frogged it completely. It came out a little too dense. I can’t imagine any toddler being happy with how it felt at the gauge I used. I’m not sure if I’ll reknit in that yarn. If I do, I’ll have to go up a needle size to keep it from being too dense. I have one started in Sirdar Caboodle now. It has colourful tufts of fibres speckled all over it. I’m finding that they show up better on the purl side of the stockinette, so I’m going to finish it “inside out” to take advantage of how delightful those speckles are. That one has my grandson’s name on it! He’s going to love it. I have a couple more yarns in the store that I really want to see this sweater in.

I still hope to do a test knit in a boucle yarn, as well as in Estelle Chunky. Mondial Flower and Lady are on my list as well. What is cool about Flower is that the ball comes with a crocheted flower that could be used to embellish the cardigan when it’s done. It’s a natural gradient and knits up as soft as a cloud; Lady comes with a colour coordinated pom-pom that screams out to make a matching toque. It is also gradient, but it has a denser texture than the others. The colour is more saturated than Flower. I’m excited to see how they turn out. I’m not ready to post photos of these little cardigans just yet.

So many yarns; so little time!

Sometimes I wish I could have two parallel timelines; one for work and one for knitting. And that somehow, I could knit as many hours as I work and still get everything done… Ahhhhh, but then I’d probably just be double as tired at the end of the day(s). As a fan of science fiction, this would be where we would say,

“Be careful what you wish for.”

 

 

Knitting with Beads

During Tour-de-Sock, you can pretty much be guaranteed that there will be a stage that involves a pattern with beads. Have you noticed, perhaps while scrolling through Pinterest or Instagram, the many exquisite shawls, tops and socks that incorporate beads in their design? If you have never used beads in your knitting, fear not! It doesn’t have to be scary.

There are a few things to take into consideration when choosing beads for a project.

The size of the beads

Beads come in different gauges. They will have numbers on them. The numbers represent how many beads fit in one inch. A #6 bead means that when you line them all up next to each other, 6 beads will measure one inch. Pretty simple, right? Typically sock patterns will call or either #6 or #8 beads. Anything bigger than these and not only will they flop around on the yarn (not that this would matter too much because they’ll be held in place by the work), distort the pattern, or just look silly. Any smaller and you’ll be researching magic spells to get the beads onto the yarn.

The colour of the beads

When choosing beads for your knitting project, keep a few thoughts in mind.

How much do you want the beads to stand out? Do you want them to just give a hint of sparkle? Do you want them to make a statement? Do they have a specific role in the design? For instance, are you knitting a lace pattern that uses the beads to give the appearance of little flowers or berries?

Choosing beads that are too close to the colour and sheen of the yarn can end up feeling like a big old waste of time. I like subtle changes in texture too, but there comes a point when it’s so subtle that you’ll ask yourself why you even bothered. Tips? If you really want a subtle look that’s fine. Make sure that there is something about the beads that will make it worth the effort. Perhaps get silver lined beads in the colour of the yarn so they will catch the light and just give a little sparkle when you move. Or, take a black and white photo of the yarn and the beads together. This way, you can tell whether they are different tones of the same colour family. It’s better if they are different from each other in gray scale.

Going crazy: There is no reason other than personal taste, to hold back in your colour choices. Do you love it? If you do, you’ll wear it.

Application techniques

Crochet hook

This is my preferred method. You use a teenie, tiny crochet hook (less than 1mm). You place the bead on the crochet hook (when it’s time to incorporate it into a stitch) and use the crochet hook to pull the stitch through the hole of the bead. You then place the stitch back on the knitting needle and carry on. Sometimes, you will knit the stitch after you have applied the bead, sometimes you’ll just slip the stitch. Either way, the pattern will tell you what’s next. The down side of this method is that you do need to have your beads in a little dish (like what they use for soy sauce in Sushi restaurants works well). So the potential of spilling them is always there.

Floss

Many people like to use Superfloss to attach their beads to their knitting. With this method, you don’t have to have a small container open with beads that could potentially spill. If you’re traveling this is definitely preferable over using a crochet hook. This video demonstrates both the crochet hook and the floss methods of adding beads to knitting.

Prestringing

Prestringing the beads on your working yarn is another option.  I bet you can already imagine the downsides to this method. I mean, what if your project requires 2000 beads? Don’t laugh.

There are projects that require that many beads.

That’s a lot to prestring. Clearly you will want to be very careful not to tangle up your strand. Also, you will be pulling your working yarn through all those beads until they are used up. And hey, if you need multiple skeins of yarn for your project (say a sock weight cardigan), you will want to decide how many of the beads to prestring so you aren’t restringing them for every change of skein. As you can see by the video, the bead sits differently on the work with this method. So if this is the look that you want, this is the method to use.

 

But, what if you encounter a knot?

 

Here are links to some beaded projects on Ravelry:

Beaded knitting projects are a wonderful thing! If you haven’t done it before, I encourage you to give it a go. It is easier than you might think and the people who receive your beaded knitting projects will think you have super powers!

Happy Knitting!

On Competition: A Double Edged Sword

Participating in this event has me thinking a lot about the nature of competition.

Tour-de-Sock is well underway. Stage Two officially began on Wednesday at 10:00 am my local time. I completed my stage two socks in the wee hours of the morning today. Participating in this event has me thinking a lot about the nature of competition. I have always had a healthy dose of competitive spirit. Sometimes — a lot of times — that’s a really good thing. It can be an excellent motivator. Sometimes it can be a bit of a double edged sword; sometimes it can be downright destructive.

As a kid growing up in a German immigrant family, the expectation for excellence was a visceral thing. The desire and need to impress my parents and teachers was all consuming. Not measuring up was simply not an option. The trouble was that I never actually knew what I was trying to measure up to. So I learned to shake hands with my two best friends: Perfectionism and Competitiveness. Only what I didn’t realize was that they were actually, what is that word… frienemies?

As a card-carrying over-achiever, I pushed myself beyond anything sensible.

As a card-carrying over-achiever, I pushed myself beyond anything sensible. The drive to be best was encouraged without moderation. But it’s an empty quest. That set the stage for my whole life. Am I good at doing stuff? You bet! I’m very good at what I do. And there came a point in my life when I began to realize that this competitive drive was more than just a good “work ethic”. It became clear that it was a set up; it was a form of programming that kept me believing that no matter what, I would never be enough. I’d never be fast enough, thorough enough, efficient enough, skilled enough… or any number of other fill-in-the-blank enoughs too numerous to mention. Having that message running through your neuro-pathways in a never ending loop self deprecation. YUCK!

Many years ago I read a book called The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruis. One of the “agreements” that he speaks of is to always do your best. And it’s how he defines “best” that really helped me to re-frame this perfectionist subroutine in my psyche. Your best, is whatever your best is in that moment in time. For instance, if I had a great sleep and my perfect breakfast and I’m feeling fantastic, my best will be sparkly and impressive. However, if I have the flu, my best won’t compare very well.

When my kids were small, I wrestled with just how much I should encourage competition. A lot of the time, I’d simply avoid dealing with it because I simply didn’t know what constituted a healthy level.

Over the years of being an evolving work-in-progress

Over the years of being an evolving work-in-progress, I have come to understand that healthy competition is a great way to motivate growth and skill development. And IMHO, the best form of competition is when I deliberately compete with myself. I want to see how much I can improve my performance over the last time I checked it against a known benchmark. It’s with this attitude that I approach Tour-de-sock.

Each person competing has their own goal as to what they hope to get out of the TDS experience. I don’t know what all the other people’s goals are. Some, clearly want to be the fastest and take that first place spot. Some just want to knit socks and experience some camaraderie while they do. Others want to support the charity, Doctors Without Borders. Some want to use each stage of the competition to challenge their personal skill level, and in that perhaps learn some new techniques.

I am part of a team

I am part of a team; our team is pretty laid back and I like it that way. There is no expectation that we should all be super-knitters. The expectation is that we will each allow the TDS experience to be a good one: one that fills whatever it is we would like it to fill. So if that means that one of us would like to connect with other knitters who like to knit socks and don’t care whether they finish any of the socks within the cut-off period, that’s perfect. I want to be a team member who appreciates their presence for exactly what it is. This year, I want to push myself to see what I’m capable of (within reason). But I certainly don’t expect anyone else to share my specific goal. I just want us all to be able to feel the joy that knitting brings us.

A Zippered Lining Pocket

Today I thought I’d do a photo tutorial on how to install a zippered pocket into the lining of a bag. This assumes that you are making the bag from scratch, not attaching it after the fact. I won’t be showing the bag construction here.

Start with the lining fabric that you have cut out to fit your bag. I have cut it out so that the bottom edge is folded rather than seamed. I’m using a satiny lining fabric so I serged around the edge to keep it from fraying. Some people don’t bother doing this step to the lining because it will end up enclosed inside the bag where you won’t have access to it. In my experience,

anything you can do to strengthen the edges of the lining fabric will prevent it blowing out on you later on.

It’s up to you. I personally hate the feeling of the frayed edges as I’m working… it reminds me of getting caught in a spider web.

  • Measure down 2″ down from the top edge and identified the centre of the width of the lining.
  • Mark where the ends of the zipper extend to.
  • Using a Frixion pen (heat sensitive; so you can use an iron to make the marks disappear when you don’t need them any more) marka line where the zipper needs to sit.
  • Attach iron on interfacing on the wrong side of the fabric to reinforce the area where the zipper will be attached. (Some people don’t bother, but it does make everything nice and stable.)

Because I’ve used the Frixion pen, I have to remark it after pressing. I don’t mind, but you could just measure, align the interfacing and iron it in place without using the pen to mark it.

Step 4
Step 4

Refer to the photo (step 4) for this next bit.

  • Mark the placement of the zipper
  • Measure 1/4″ all around to show the seam allowance.

The end of the opening should be just barely past the top and bottom stops of the zipper. This way you won’t have to worry about those metal bits being in the way when you stitch it in place later on.

  • Draw a line to indicate end of opening (just barely past the top and bottom stops of the zipper).
  • Draw lines from the corners to the centre cutting line. You want this triangle to be big enough so that you have something to fold under and stitch.
  • Stay stitch along this line, then
  • Cut it open as shown in the photograph (step 6, top right image below).

For the stay stitching, you can use a fairly long stitch.

  • Align the zipper in the opening. Use the end triangles as your guide for the placement of the zipper. (see step 7 and 8, bottom left and adjacent image above) They should tuck under and sit just on either end of the zipper.
  • Pin this in place and then use that placement so you can pin the edges to the zipper tape along the top and bottom as shown in step 9 (bottom right above).
  • Stitch the zipper in place as shown in step 10 (below).
step 10
Step 10
  • Cut your pocket fabric to the width of the zipper tape and double the depth you want plus about 3/4″.
  • Serge the edges if you choose.
  • Pin the zipper to the bottom edge of the opening and stitch just along that edge as in step 12 (right image above).

You may have to move the zipper slider out of the way as you go. At this point, you can top stitch this portion of the zipper. It will be easiest to do this now. Do NOT top stitch around the ends yet.

  • Pin the zipper to the top edge of the opening and stitch in place.
  • Now, carefully stitch those little triangles at the ends of the zipper. Be careful that they are laying flat and not folded over the other seam lines.
  • Top stitch these ends. You will be stitching through all the layers of fabric at this point. Once they are stitched, top stitch the top edge of the zipper through all the layers.
  • Sew the side seams of the pocket closed. Step 16 and 17 (below) show this. I prefer to do two rows of stitching as these pockets tend to take a fair bit of abuse in my world. 🙂

Your lining now has a zippered pocket and is ready to be stitched into your bag.

You can use this technique to put a zippered pocket on the outside of the main bag as well, before attaching the lining and bag together.

step 18-turned

When you are ready to attach the lining to the bag, be sure to leave the better part of one side seam open on your lining fabric.

Once you have the opening of the bag attached to the lining, turn the whole thing right side out and then neatly stitch the side seam of the lining closed.

Happy Sewing!

 

 

 

CoBaSi and Alecia Beth

A couple years ago, a friend introduced me to a wool-free sock yarn called CoBaSi (HiKoo).

The name represents three main fibres in it:

  • Cotton;
  • Bamboo
  • and Silk.

At the time, I looked it up, hoping to bring it into my shop but until recently couldn’t find a Canadian distributor for it. I have since brought in the full colour line of this beautiful and interesting yarn.

CoBaSi is put up in 50g skeins, (201m) which to me is ideal. With a gorgeous array of solid colours (and coordinating multis) you can purchase it for stranded colour-work without buying loads more mileage than you need. Most sock yarns are in 100g skeins so you can end up with a lot of leftovers when doing colour-work.

It’s wool-free. The fibre content is

  • 55% Cotton,
  • 16% Bamboo,
  • 8% Silk and
  • 21% stretchy Nylon

All those folks that can’t or won’t wear wool have another option with this yarn. It comes in

  • sock weight,
  • DK and
  • Worsted as well.

(At this time, I only brought in the sock weight.)

From the moment it arrived in my shop I was chomping at the bit to knit something with it. My original thought was to have it arrive in time for the beginning of Tour-de-Sock (July 7th). I thought I would use it for a round of the Tour. I might still do that. However, it arrived in plenty of time before the beginning of the competition.

An overwhelming case of “Startitis” had me casting on a summer cardigan last Saturday evening.

My impression? I am in love with this yarn. It has a great twist to it and it knits very smoothly. I am finding that I’m actually knitting faster with it than I usually do. Very rarely do I split the yarn as I go. I am enjoying it so much that I can hardly wait to finish up the “must do” things in my life just to get back to my project… even when I’m feeling very tired. The more I knit it, the more I want to knit. As a result, I have made a lot quicker progress than I expected. When I set it aside at the end of the night yesterday, I was ready to separate the sleeves stitches from the body stitches already. For me, to be that far in less than a week is bordering on the magical and miraculous!

cobasi yarn sweater
Here is a photo of my progress on the Alecia Beth cardigan.

The colours are vibrant and the stitch definition is excellent. I have not washed it, but it is rated as machine washable.  I have knitted with a blend of cotton, bamboo and linen and that yarn (Nako Fiore) stood up to washer and dryer beautifully. After all the work in a cardigan made of fingering weight yarn, the jury is out as to whether I will risk the dryer on this project.

I want to do a shout-out to Polish designer, Justyna Lorkowska.

The design in and of itself is stunning. But just because someone is a wonderful designer doesn’t mean they can write a good pattern. Pattern writing is an art form completely separate from the design process. This is a beautifully written, thoughtfully laid out pattern. She has tables in each section with anticipated stitch counts between each set of markers. This allows you to see at a glance (no matter what size you are knitting) what you need to know so you can move along. She gives an overview of each section before giving row by row instructions. So you can go into each section anticipating what you need to pay attention to… rather than figuring it out after you’ve frogged a section in frustration. I’m excited to make more of her designs.

If you want to buy her patterns, you can find them here:

stores/justyna-lorkowska-designs

The first pattern for Tour-de-Sock drops on Saturday morning, so I will have the cardigan on hold while I’m knitting the competition socks. I’ll likely work on it as a “tweener” project. I’m so excited to wear it, I can hardly wait to finish it.

When you happen to find a pattern that is a pleasure to follow, of a design that you adore and you add in a fantastic yarn, you get BLISS!

Happy knitting!

 

And the Tour Begins

It’s that time again. “What time?” you ask. “Canada Day?” Well, yeah, that too. But that wasn’t what I meant.

It is time for TOUR DE SOCK!

(Judy’s doing a happy dance à la Kermit the Frog, complete with sound effects). I had so much fun with the tour last year that I signed up once again as a member of Team Sock Minions. We have a new local knitter on our team as well this year. (If you don’t know about the Tour, I did a write up about it around this time last year. Here’s a link to get you there: )

I diligently finished up some projects to get them off my needles before the competition begins. Although, I admit that I left a few for “tweeners”. And I started another knit-along with my daughters. It’s just a Whoopsie shawl though; super easy. My warm up socks, Miriam by Eeva Kesäkuu, have been knit, photographed and shared. Here they are:

Now I’m just planning out my work load in the store so that when the first competition pattern drops at 10 a.m. on July 7th, I will be ready to rock and roll!

The specifications have been released and I’m on the hunt for an exciting yarn to start the competition with.

The specs for the first sock say we should go crazy with colour. I’ve pulled a few different yarns I would like to choose from. Here’s a photo of the ones I like. I will probably wait until the pattern drops before I actually choose, even if it means I have to wind the yarn before I can start.

20180628_162324

I have recently met a few travelers who came looking for yarn for TDS in my shop.

I even printed out the TDS shopping list for one. She wanted to be sure she would be ready no matter where she would be traveling or what pattern they gave us. It’s been fun meeting other competitors in person. What a great way to make new friends!

What with the long weekend (Canada Day, as mentioned above), the store will be closed an extra day.

That will give me a chance to get ahead on my sewing for my customers and open up a little knitting time.

Hey, I have my priorities, okay? I can do that and still attend the Canada Day parade… and make sure I get a nice big hamburger and a refreshing beverage in my belly too. And bacon…. there will be bacon… possibly during the fireworks. It will be RADIANT!

Happy knitting!