The Ravelry 2018 Challenge

And the decision has been made…

I have officially signed up for the Ravelry 2018 Challenge. I’m still not quite sure how I feel about it. But I picked a modest number of 20 knitting projects to finish this year for now. We’ll see how it goes. I may add a few more if it goes well.

I have seven projects queued up, four of which are started, including the cardigan I was talking about a couple weeks ago, two shawls, (both the same pattern but completely different yarns) and a pair of Legolas socks for my son. Two of those are Knit-alongs. I know that I want to try my hand at doing some Scandinavian mittens this year and there are a couple of beautiful cowls I am deciding between. There are two sock patterns that I want to make for myself that I’ve had in my library for over a year that I’d love to actually make. I plan to participate in Tour-de-Sock this summer and that should give me another half a dozen projects or so.

If I do complete 20 projects, that’s a little over 2-1/2 weeks per project over 52 weeks. That should be doable, even with my full schedule. It’s funny how my first thought was that I really ought to do more. Good grief! I think I’ll stick with 20. LOL

Here are photos of my started projects as they sit today. Darn! See, now I have to finish them! Oh NO! LOL 😀 I’m feeling the whole, Love-Hate thing starting already.

Reyna

The shawls are both Reyna. I’m doing one with fingering weight Malabrigo Sock yarn. The other is with Comfort Wolle Gala yarn on 8mm needles; it’s a knit-along. Same pattern but completely different outcome. I’m excited to see them both finished.
Find the pattern here

 

Legolas

The socks are Legolas from Fellowship of the Socks.
Find the pattern here

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Chance of Showers

The cardigan is Chance of Showers; it’s my other knit-along. I modified it to have a long fitted sleeve with a longer lace panel than the pattern offers. The sleeves are done and I’m ready to start the body of the sweater now.
Find the pattern here

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So how about you? Are you up to the Ravelry 2018 Challenge? Do you want to join me?

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No More Painfully Tight Cuffs!

Ribbed cuffs are nice and stretchy. They snug up around your shins or your wrists and give a perfect fit. Unfortunately, that lovely stretch can be undermined by the type of cast on you use. If you are new to making socks, mittens, leg warmers or gauntlets and you are finding that the cast on of your cuffs tend to bind on the leg or arm, I have a couple easy tips for you. I am assuming that you are knitting “cuff down”.

Because socks, mittens and related garments have a relatively small circumference,

it makes a big difference how you cast them on.

The traditional long tail cast on tends to give a strong stable foundation for your knitting. For many things this is excellent. On larger garments like toques (hats or beanies) or on sweaters there are usually enough stitches that using this method works well. It stabilizes the edge and helps to keep it from stretching out. Putting the garment on and off is not an issue for the most part, because the size of the opening is not restrictive.

We want our socks and mittens to fit snugly around our legs and arms. I don’t know about you, but slouchy socks drive me bananas, and loose mittens fall off me. We usually incorporate a folded cuff or a ribbed cuff that allows the foot or hand to easily fit through, while still allowing it to hug the wrist or shin. That long tail cast on, (and other traditional cast ons) with its lovely sturdy structure works against the need to maximize the stretch of the ribbing.

The Twisted German Cast On puts an extra twist into each stitch you cast on. It takes a wee bit of practice until you get used to it. I found that I had to refer to a video for the first three or four projects I used it on before I could remember it consistently.

Be aware that just using the Twisted German may not be enough.

If you are knitting for someone who has large calves or feet, forearms or hands this may still bind. There is one extra step that I suggest. When you cast on, take the time to either cast on over two needles of the size you’ll be using for your main project, or use a needle that is double the girth of the size you’ll use for the main project. When I say your main project, here’s what I mean. Often, patterns recommend using a smaller gauge needle to knit ribbing. This insures that the ribbing will have a nice “grab-ability” (also called negative ease) and will keep from stretching out. Then, once the ribbing is knit, the pattern will have you switch to a larger needle for the project. So what I’m recommending is that you use a needle that is double the larger size to cast on your Twisted German. Then switch to your ribbing size needle to knit.

When you first start you may think, “What? Judy, you are completely loopy! this is a loosey goosey mess!” Trust me on this. It’s only for the cast on. The person who normally struggles to squeeze their foot past the cast on; or gets nasty lines pressed into their calf from a rigid cast on will thank you.

If the recipient of your knitted masterpiece has average calves and forearms, then use double the ribbing needles’ size rather than double the project needles’ size.

The only thing about doing this method that you’ll want to be aware of is that when you start knitting the first row of ribbing, it’s really important that you knit those stitches as you normally would. Keep the tension nice and firm (without being overly tight). Focus on the right hand needle for the first row you knit and take time to keep the knitting very even and consistent. You may find a tendency to want to compensate for the looseness of the cast on by knitting that first row either tighter or looser than you normally would. Resist the urge. Once you get a few rows into the ribbing you will notice that the edge will tend to look a bit wobbly. That’s okay. Once the recipient wears them, that will give a nice soft edge that will allow their hands or feet to easily pass through, and won’t dig into their body. The ribbing will do the job of holding up the sock or keeping the mitten in place.

Here is a video that I really like that demonstrates the Twisted German Cast On:

 

Happy knitting!

Sock Surgery

Normally, hand knitted socks last a very long time. That having been said, some people are harder on their socks than others.

Toes and heels can wear out.

Sometimes you catch them on something and it’s just sharp enough that you end up with a hole. But you don’t have to throw them out. If you catch it right away it’s a quick fix… but if you leave it then you may need to do some sock surgery.

My step-son was home for the summer and a week before he was scheduled to head back to University, I noticed that he was wearing a pair of socks I knit him but there were big holes in them. After making a mental note to buy him a pedicure tool kit for Christmas, I pulled out my leftover yarns to find what I needed to perform surgery on his socks. As I repaired them I took photos and thought I would share with you what I did. I only took photos of one pair, though.

I did a toe replacement and a leg portion replacement on them.

There are other ways to do these repairs. I could have darned them. I am not crazy about how the darned portion of a sock feels on my foot. I could have done a spot reconstruction. That’s fiddly and I wasn’t feeling like I had patience enough to do that. I don’t do it often enough to not have to really think about it. I wasn’t interested in making my head hurt over it. I figured it would be more pleasant to use the method that I am going to show you today.

On the leg of the sock:

I picked up all the stitches around the entire sock above and below the damage. Always pick up the right leg of the knit stitch as you go. Because it’s the leg, it didn’t really matter where I started my row.

 

I counted the number of rows that would be removed in the process and wrote that information down so I wouldn’t forget.

I cut away the damaged fabric in between, making sure that I didn’t cut too close to the stitches on the needles.

 

Next I unraveled the unwanted yarn to expose the live stitches on my needles. As I did this I was able to see a couple spots where I accidentally grabbed a stitch from a row above or below. So I really took my time on unraveling the last row so I wouldn’t accidentally drop stitches. I had an extra dpn on hand so I could make sure that the stitches were all picked up correctly as I went.

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I used a Russian Join (see below) to join my ball of yarn.

I knitted one less row than what I needed and then lined up the needles with each other and joined the two pieces using Kitchener Stitch. (This created the last row.)

The Russian Join:

Thread one yarn end onto a needle that is fine enough for your yarn (see the photo). I like using a sharp needle for this but you may prefer something blunt. Lay the yarn you want to join it to across your working yarn. Thread the needle between the plies of the yarn that the needle is threaded on just past where you laid the other yarn across. You should be creating a loop around the other yarn.  It doesn’t have to be perfect.

 

Pull the needle through so the loop snugs up around your other piece of yarn. You’ll need to decide whether you’ve gone through enough that it will hold once it is knitted into the work. Adjust accordingly and then clip off the excess yarn. Be careful that you are cutting off the tail and NOT the working yarn! That would be annoying.

Thread the other piece of yarn you are joining onto the needle. Thread it through itself  just past where the other join was made: like you did with the first end.

Trim the excess yarn. You just completed a Russian Join. Congratulations!

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On the toe of the Sock:

I picked up the stitches all around the sock just below where the damage was.

I counted the rows and made a note of the decrease pattern. (If you followed a pattern, you could pull out the pattern to check how the toe was decreased; I made this sock up without using a pattern.) I wrote the information down so I wouldn’t forget.

When you pick up the stitches on the toe, be sure that you look carefully at where the decreases are done. Make sure that the first stitch you pick up is the beginning of the row. This way you can do your decreases the way you normally would when originally knitting a sock. If you pick up from the wrong spot it could create a wobble in the force… I mean a wobble in your sock. You don’t want that. You would feel it when you wear them.

I trimmed away the damaged portion of the toe and frogged away the extra rows beyond the needle. Take your time with this step.

I re-knitted the toe to match the other sock. (It looks a little bit crooked because I didn’t take the time to block it.)

toe repair 07

I didn’t take photos of the other socks I repaired. I replaced the toes on them. I couldn’t find the leftover yarn from this pair, so I chose leftover yarn in  a solid colour that matched them.

Because of that, I replaced both toes so they would match.

The only thing I did differently was that I put both socks onto two circular needles so that I could knit them in tandem. The nice thing about this was that I was able to do the same step on each sock and didn’t have to worry about matching a toe that was already done.

Oh and another thing.

The pair that I don’t have photos of was made up in Diamond Select Footsie yarn. When I first did them up they felt just a little bit coarse. Since then my step-son has washed them and dried them relentlessly in the washer and drier many, many, many and many more times. They didn’t shrink. They did not pill but they got ever so slightly fuzzy. Best of all, they became super soft and cuddly.  🙂

That was new information to me.

It makes me a lot more excited about promoting that particular yarn. Those socks are now like loving mama hugs for his feet. How cool is that?

Well I hope that this information is useful and easy to understand.

Happy Knitting!

Fair Isle Explorations

It’s been a week of knitting exploration for me. I mentioned two weeks ago that I signed up for my first ever sock knitting competition. Although the competition officially starts on July 15th, the bonus “warm-up” pattern was released upon signing up. It was a stranded colour-work pattern. Something I had not done before.

Since signing up I was motivated to complete the two pairs of socks that I had on needles. I finished them both and then proceeded to take on the warm-up pattern.

Here is a photo of the completed “Gimli” socks that I showed you two weeks ago.

I loved making these socks. The pattern was challenging; even more challenging because I chose to knit them in black yarn. I swear that black yarn truly sucks all the light from the room like Albus Dumbledore’s “deluminator”. If you don’t have excellent light your chances of messing up increase exponentially. Of course, the sense of accomplishment is fantastic completing something so challenging. These were a gift for my son and have since been sent off to him.

The other pair that I finished was Hermione’s Everyday Socks. If I do this pattern again, I will cast it on 8 stitches smaller than the size I usually do. There is not a lot of stretch in the pattern and they ended up bigger than I expected. They feel a bit like slipper socks on me. They were easy to do and I love the heel on them.

The warm-up bonus pattern for the sock competition is a secret to all but those participating in the Tour-de-Sock competition.

Because of this, I will not give the name or show any photographs of the sock or links to the pattern until after the competition completes in September.

I was excited to get the chance to do some colour-work without the pressure of competition. The last time I attempted colour-work was about 27 years ago so I thought I would do some research before I got started.

I’m so grateful for YouTube!

I found the following videos very helpful. The first link is to a playlist of videos about Fair Isle Knitting. It was definitely worth taking the time to watch numerous videos to take in the tips and get an overview of what to watch out for.

 

 

I learned a lot making this pair of socks.

Normally I like to knit socks two at a time (2aat). Because this was a new technique to me, I thought I would work one sock at a time to minimize any confusion. In future I will definitely knit them 2aat.

Adjusting the tension on the colour-work is a bit tricky. The floats (strands of yarn that span more than one stitch on the wrong side of the work) need to be kept loose enough and at an even tension so that they don’t make the sock too tight or inconsistent. On the first sock, because this technique was new to me, my tension was quite controlled (snug). It was loose enough that the fit was good and I managed to keep it even by tugging my row every 15 stitches or so to make sure it wasn’t too tight. The contrasting stitches didn’t show up quite as well with this snugger tension though.

The pattern recommended changing to larger needles for the colour-work section and I didn’t listen. So I guessed at loosening the tension and it shows in the second sock. By the time I did the second one I was much more relaxed and when I loosened my tension for those sections, I actually loosened it more than on the first. The contrasting stitches show up really nicely on the second one but the sock ended up a bit larger. I would definitely knit 2aat and change the needle size for the Fair Isle portions on future patterns that use this technique.

All that said, I’m very happy with how they turned out.

Fair Isle knitting (stranded colour-work) can be done holding the yarns in a few different ways. You can hold your main colour with whichever hand is normally your dominant knitting hand (left for continental and right for English) and the contrasting colour in your non-dominant knitting hand. You can also hold both yarns in your left as a continental knitter. I thought I would push myself to develop my muscle memory for English style knitting. I normally knit continental style and working one yarn in Continental and one in English style was definitely something to get used to. I did find that by the end of the first sock it was going fairly smoothly. Once I got kind of comfortable with it, the knitting actually went quicker than I expected.

It was definitely important to keep track of my rows. At each section of the pattern I drew two rows of little boxes to represent the number of rounds needed. I checked off the boxes as I completed each round. This way when I got to the second sock there was no confusion about how many rounds were in each section.

I am excited to try another project with a Fair Isle design so that I can fine tune these new skills. Perhaps I need to design a Fair Isle inspired hair band? Hmmm there’s a thought.