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Can one really be a knitter and never have knit a sock? The rational answer is absolutely. But if practicing the Art of Masochistic Knitting the answer is of course not. Socks pose special little dilemmas that other projects don’t. For instance, the toe.

I have made two drawers full of socks over the years: one for The Skipper and one for me. Except for 2 pairs, all were worked toe-up. My basic go-to toe is the short-row. I’ve never had a problem with it until lately. The short-rows and wraps on the last three pairs of socks were creating holes. I changed the type of short-row from wrap to yarn over and it seemed to work…more or less. The holes were not there but the inside of the sock lacked the reinforcement to make it wear longer before toes started peeking through. Also, the yarn over short rows worked well for my small size, but on Skipper size socks it was less effective.

Last night after I completed the Back of Feelin’ Groovy, I decided to use the notorious sock yarn I had left over from my Train to Maine hat and cast on a pair of socks for The Skipper. The yarn is Dream In Color Smooshy in the Peacock Shadow colorway. The colorway gave me a bit of a problem when knitting the hat. While it didn’t stain my hands, it stained the needles. After completing the hat, I decided to see how much the yarn bled. I put it in a bath and lo and behold no bleeding. I squeezed and prodded the yarn in the water and still no bleeding. I laid it on a white towel, working the majority of the water out of the yarn by gently stomping on it and no bleeding. Not even a hint of blue transferred to the towel. I let it dry, hanging from a nail in the ceiling of the cellar, well away from Yarn Rascal who was way too attentive to the washing and stomping process.

It wasn’t long after I cast on my usual provisional short-row cast on that I realized I needed a different starter. I possess enough written material on socks both from the toe-up and cuff down that it could be considered encyclopedic. If it’s been written about I either have the book or the article tucked away in a folder. Within the tomes of this written wisdom are a myriad of ways in which to cast on for a toe-up sock. Here is the beauty of when knitting crosses over from being a relaxing, enjoyable pastime to the Art of Masochistic Knitting. In all that material I could not find the specific cast on I was picturing in my head. I had stumbled across it on the internet months ago and I didn’t bookmark or print it out.

In my quest to be a more flexible individual, I talked myself into abandoning the cast on I wanted and instead give a try to those that were at hand. Surely one would work.

Fast forward a few hours–two to be precise. The blue of the yarn was starting to stain the needles and this time my hands. At one point, I inadvertently made a Cat’s Cradle from four double-double pointed needles and the yarn. Hardly the look one wants when trying to knit the toe of a sock. Blessedly, when I glanced at the clock I realized that it was bedtime and I could put the whole mess away. Which I did, making sure everything was secured in Rubber Maid bin with locking top to prevent Yarn Rascal from gaining the yarn during the night. The Cat’s Cradle thing really, really interested him. He desperately wanted the yarn and needles.

I went upstairs to bed, determined not to think about the cast on for the sock. But before I changed into my PJs I had the computer turned on and was scouring every knitting internet site I know looking for the one I had in mind. In the meanwhile, Yarn Rascal could be heard downstairs trying to break into the bin with the needles and yarn.

The moment I finally found the cast on the computer started making popping sounds from one of it USB ports while Yarn Rascal simultaneously squealed with delight. He had breached the bin. I dashed downstairs saving him and the yarn from certain disaster by bringing him to the bedroom and closing the door. He was informed that he was in lockdown for the rest of the night. When I went back to the computer it was still popping only worse. I prayed that it would just work for a few more moments while I sent the cast on info wirelessly to the printer. That’s when the printer sent back its wireless message that it was out of ink. Printing failed. I closed my eyes, took a deep breath and realized I was at the pinnacle of the Art of Masochistic Knitting.

The Back of the Feelin’ Groovy baby sweater is almost done. It became the Back when I reached the armholes and still had not settled the debate in my head as to the type of neckline.
A large part of me still wants to go with the mandarin collar, even though the question has been raised as to whether a collar that stands up on the neck would be itchy. Of all the reasons against using this type collar that one never crossed my mind because if I am knitting a baby item I am using the softest yarn available.

I have a very sensitive neck when it comes to fabric touching it. So sensitive in fact that I have spent my life carefully cutting off the tags they put on clothes because they bother me. Yet I have never had an issue draping a knitted shawl or scarf around my neck because I use the softest yarn out there. When I am designing baby clothes I use yarns that are soft and gentle. Some are specifically made for baby clothes such as Sublime’s Baby Cashmere Merino Silk, or the Debbie Bliss line of baby yarns. If I am not using specific baby yarn I look for one that is made up of alpaca, merino, cashmere, silk, any combination that is soft enough not to irritate little necks. The yarn I’m using for Feelin’ Groovy is made of alpaca. I love the drape, the way it knits, the way it looks when it gets worn, and I love its softness. I could wear it around my neck all day.

One of the serious drawbacks in designing this sweater with a mandarin collar is it limits the size range. Babies from newborn to 6 months have no necks. So sizes 3 months, 6 months and even 9 months are out. While a 9 month old does show neck development, it is not enough to comfortably wear a mandarin collar. Thus I limited the sizes to 12 months, 18 months, and 2 years. I am toying with the idea of adding a 4 year old size, but I am not sure yet.

Altering the neckline to a collar that lays flat would give me the 3 month to 2 year range I like to design for. I have made a number of sketches with alternative necklines and while a flat rounded neck would look nice, it throws off the placket I had planned. Frankly, without the placket and its buttons the design just isn’t the same. It loses the child-like, innocent, playful feelings I want to convey. I like my designs to convey some emotions and I specifically put colors, shapes, and fabric together to achieve those things.

I still have time to worry over the collar. I’ll be starting the Front tomorrow. By the time I hit the start of the armhole I hope to have put the issue to rest.

Running around the internet this morning and this caught my eye.

barbie

Yes, Barbie. Only this time the toy company is releasing more realistic versions of the icon. But what truly got my attention was not the announcement that the doll may have a more realistic figure, but the dress the red haired doll second from the right is wearing. Recognize those colors?

feelin groovy colors

The colors look great on a red head. Who’d have thought?

I spent the weekend thinking about and working on the baby sweater Feelin’ Groovy. One of the changes I made was to rearrange the colors. A color is affected by the other colors around it, as evidenced in the picture below.

feelin groovy colors

Placing the lime green and hot pink next to each other sapped the life out of each color. Separating them with the dark turquoise gave them back their zip. This is the new edging / hem for the sweater. The knitting is a combination of slip stitch and stranding. I like the way each color is now distinct and vibrant. The checkered combination will go on the cuffs and around the neckline.

I am rethinking and redrawing the neckline, not sure which I will go with yet. First I need to get the duplicate stitch motif I plan to use charted and positioned on the body of the sweater to get a better idea of what will look best.

Because this sweater is influenced by the 1960s I did some research on which motif represented the 60s. I looked at fashion, design, and posters from the era. Three shapes seemed to most define the time: a flower, the peace symbol, and a dove sitting on the neck of a guitar. The latter was widely used in posters for Woodstock.

I immediately threw out knitting techniques such as stranding or intarsia for creating the motif opting for duplicate stitch instead. After much consideration, I decided on a flower as the representation of the era.

For now, the body of the sweater is being knit in Stockinette Stitch. My next decision is whether to use the yarn in duplicate stitch or use DMC Cotton Thread in a nice glossy color for the flowers.

Today is Yarn Rascal’s third birthday and I want to wish him a happy birthday. Later today the yarn vault will be wide open and he can play among the yarns for a little while under my watchful eye.

The snow has arrived. And as always, from my big mouth to the ears of powers-that-be, we are getting a lot more than expected. So much for the storm hugging the New York City area. I haven’t had time to dig out the car and take it for a test drive as I’ve been busy shoveling for Yarn Rascal. He gets very excited when it snows so this is like an extra birthday present for him. He goes out as a dog and comes back in as a large snowball with four little legs.

Work has begun on the Feeling’ Groovy baby sweater. Not actual knitting, but a review of the numbers and the selection of technique for the color work. Reading about facings and deciding whether they will be knitted on or sewn on using grosgrain ribbon is today’s goal. I don’t like the idea of the ribbon in the neck area for a number of reasons, but mostly because it will lack the stretch the area needs. The facing must be decided before I start to knit.

Once again, I’d like to say Happy Birthday Little One. I couldn’t do this cancer thing without you, my little angel.

Baby Sweater Redux

At some point tomorrow we’re suppose to get snow. About 3 to 6″ (8 to 15 cm) with the bulk of the storm staying east of us. If we get 6″ (15) cm it will be a good time to test out the new car and see how it handles both in plowed and unplowed snow. My last one went in anything. It particularly did well in deep unplowed snow. We’ll see what the talking car does in a pittance of snow.

On the knitting front, the Rock Island Shawl has been a bad boy. As of today it is being put in a time out so it can think over its atrocities. I only have 24 rows of lace to knit over a little less than 300 stitches and it can’t seem to get its act together.

Instead I will work on the second version of Ming Blue which I now call Feelin’ Groovy.

girl's smock 001

This is how it looked before I took the scissors to it. Since then I rethought and will rework the color work borders. Colors are affected by the colors next to them. The lime green immediately next to the pink muddied the vibrancy of the pink color. Inserting a turquoise stitch between the two gives them back their individual vibrancy.

The patch pockets are gone. When was the last time anyone saw a baby walking around with its hands in its pockets? The knitted on facings at cuffs, hem and neck is also jettisoned. If a facing is needed it will be a satin trim.

The Nehru / mandarin collar is staying, though I may tweak the numbers. The sleeves will be reworked to make them tapered rather than lantern in shape.

I am undecided about the button placket and whether I should do away with it, substituting frog closures instead. Or keep it and just rework a different pattern placket. I am also undecided about the pattern for the body of the sweater. Do I keep it as is or make it simple st st? This is particularly thorny because the silhouette calls for steady decreases on each side from hem to chest. Since it seems a number of knitters do not understand how to decrease while keeping in pattern, I’d have to write it  out for them. This makes the pattern much longer than what it needs to be. There must be a compromise here that I haven’t figured out yet.

 

The art of masochistic knitting starts with selecting the right pattern, needles and yarn.

What is the “right” pattern? The right pattern contains predominately lace that is created on both wrong side and right side rows and therefore does not provide any rest rows of purl or knit. Decreases with slants that are inherent to the look of the pattern, yarn overs that are distant from their balancing decreases and central double decreases that must specifically occur in specified spots repeatedly in order to ensure proper shaping make up the “right” pattern. You know you are practicing the art of masochistic knitting when the possibilities of an errant stitch are many: failure to use the correct slanted decrease or missing the decrease altogether, omitting yarn overs due to confusion, adding yarn overs due to confusion, losing the specific spot for the central double decrease when the stitch marker either A) falls from the needle, or B) just doesn’t match where you think you are in the chart.

Speaking about charts. The “right” pattern will contain a chart that is so small you need reading glasses and a magnifying glass to see one square. The chart, though tiny, covers an entire page. You are truly practicing the art of masochistic knitting when you have no idea how to use your copier to enlarge the chart and therefore must work from the teeny-tiny version.

The “right” pattern will also call for working an intricate lace pattern over no less than 300-500 stitches in one consecutive go-round. If the pattern requires continuous working of 500 to over 1,000 stitches you are into the Fine Art of Masochistic Knitting, and that’s a whole other category.

The “right” needles are the next tool in the art box. Any needles that have a super fine, slick, metal surface are the “right” needles. To test whether they are slippery enough, cast on 30 stitches and knit one row. Then hold the needle with the tip pointed downward. If all the stitches slip from the needle faster than a seal on ice slips into the sea, you have the “right” needles.

Next is the “right” yarn. It must be lace weight or finer. Gossamer is ideal. Thin and wispy, a yarn that won’t tolerate any ripping back is key. This increases the pressure to get the knitting right the first time. Pressure is as important to masochistic knitting as air is to human beings. If you can only knit at night, choose a dark, dark yarn. It will be harder to see and along with the ethereal quality of the yarn reading your stitches will be impossible.

Remember, in masochistic knitting where you think you are in the chart and where you truly are will not coincide. The number of stitches you need on your needles to complete the pattern will not be the number of stitches you actually have on your needles. But don’t fret. It is too dark, the yarn too thin, the needles too slippery, the number of stitches too many to make an exact count of what is really on the needles.

Happy Masochistic Knitting.

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