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Archive for July, 2014

In the last post the 24 toe stitches had been evenly divided into three sections of 8 stitches each. The 8 stitches on the left and the 8 stitches on the right were wrapped and ready for the second part of the short-row toe.

The second half starts with picking up the first wraps then double wrapping the remaining 7 stitches on each side. I love double wrapping for two reasons: 1) It eliminates any holes that might form; 2) it reinforces the toe in the precise area where it will show wear first.

The inside of the sock with  a double wrap.

The inside of the sock with a double wrap.

Another picture of the inside of the sock with stitches double wrapped.

Another picture of the inside of the sock with stitches double wrapped.

I have sensitive feet. Yet the double wrapping does not bother my toe area. In fact, it feels darn good.

So how does the double wrapping go? The same way the first wrapping went.

Knit across to the first wrapped stitch. Pick up the wrap and knit it together with its stitch. Bring yarn forward, slip next stitch to right needle, move yarn back (creating a second wrap), turn work.

Slip first stitch from left to right needle, purl to first wrapped stitch. Pick up wrap and purl together with its stitch. Move yarn to back, slip next stitch to right needle, bring yarn forward (creating a second wrap), turn work.

Slip first stitch from left to right needle, knit to double wrapped stitch. Pick up both wraps and knit them together with their stitch. Wrap the next stitch. Turn work.

Purl to double wrapped stitch. Pick up both wraps and purl them together with their stitch. Wrap the next stitch. Turn work. Repeat until all stitches are worked.

All double wrapped stitches have been worked. Time to undo provisional cast on and pick up sole stitches.

All double wrapped stitches have been worked. Time to undo provisional cast on and pick up sole stitches.

Next, it’s time to undo the crochet chain and pick up the stitches its been holding. Start at the end that has the knot in it. Insert needle tip into stitch and undo chain. Repeat until all stitches

picking up stitches from bottom

Once all the stitches are on the needles I like to place a marker at each side of the toe to delineate the instep stitches from the sole stitches.

This is how easy short-row toes can be. No matter what type of cast on a toe up sock pattern calls for, it is easy to change it to a short-row toe instead.

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Sunday evening at 7 pm. The setting sun filtered through the leaves of the trees creating warm, golden circles on the grass. I settled outside in my chair with my sock knitting in hand, classical music gently floating from my earbuds. Bees were busy in the clover. Birds were in the serenity garden using the bird baths, droplets of water flying into the air catching and reflecting the waning sun. A slow deep breath. A perfect moment sans all stress.

Suddenly we heard crashing through woods and hoof beats up the drive, wild panting. Out of the trees and undergrowth came a deer running full-out with a thoroughly exhausted hound dog chasing her. The Skipper called to the dog, who gave up the chase (hounds usually follow their quarry until they or the quarry fall with exhaustion). She had a collar and tags and was badly overheated. She also had been through streams, mud, brambles and whatnot and carried the debris all over her fur.

Yarn Rascal was abruptly moved inside the house. I got water for our guest. The first bit of business was to cool her down. The Skipper read her tags. Her name was Annie. He called the telephone number on the tag. The owner was on the smaller of the two rivers we live near, kayaking. It was going to take him about 20 minutes to get back to his car and get the gear packed, etc.

Annie was the perfect guest. After two bowls of water, she had cooled enough for us to hose her down and clean her up a bit. After her “bath” we toweled her off and her body temperature was almost back to normal. She was docile, even tempered, and well mannered, so much like my Dakota. It was clear, Annie wanted to be reunited with her owner. Since the road we are on is so hard to find, The Skipper decided to put Annie in the truck and sit at the bottom of our road so he could flag down her owner. About 30 minutes later Annie was reunited with her owner.

Annie’s demeanor and good manners reminded me of my big, beautiful baby girl, Dakota, a Lab. For many years its was the four of us: Dakota, Sport (my bichon baby boy), The Skipper and me. When Annie left, it opened a small tear in the place where I still so miss my baby girl and baby boy. Allowing my tears to fall I reminded myself to be grateful for the time I had with them and to be so grateful for the little one I have now. Yarn Rascal is my rescue baby. Not a doubt in my mind that he rescued me.

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My favorite provisional cast on for toe-up socks is the short-row toe. I favor it because I can change the shape of it from squared-off to more rounded by changing the number of stitches left unworked in the middle. It’s easy to customize to any foot shape.

sock toe fiesta boomerang yarn short-row toe

For this sock I preferred the square shape. Let’s walk through how to make a short-row toe.

It starts with a provisional cast on. Select a waste yarn that is smooth and made of cotton. The waste yarn should also be a different color from the sock yarn and it should be of a similar thickness. With a crochet hook that fits the thickness of the cotton yarn, crochet a chain that is half the number of the total stitches needed for the sock plus an extra 4 chains. The total stitches I needed was 48. I crocheted 24 chains plus 4 extra. I finished off the chain and put a knot in the end to mark it as the end from which I will undo the chain later on.

Crochet has a smooth side and a bumpy side.

smooth side of crochet chain

smooth side of crochet chain

bumpy side of crochet chain

bumpy side of crochet chain

To start my toe, I picked up 24 stitches through the chain bumps on the bumpy side.

picking up stitches through chain bumps of provisional cast on

picking up stitches through chain bumps of provisional cast on

When finished it looks like this.

stitches ready to be purled

The stitches are ready to be purled. Once that is done I am ready to start my short rows.

A toe has three sections: the center and two sides. Usually these three sections have the same number of stitches in them. For my toe, I have 24 stitches which I divide by 3 to find out how many stitches should be in each section. My three sections are made up of 8 stitches each. However, some times the number of stitches in the provisional cast on are not neatly divided. In these cases, remember that both the left and right side of the toe must have the same number of stitches in them. Any extra stitches are added to the center.

Short rows include a technique called wrap and turn. Usually it’s abbreviated as w&t. It’s a very simple step. For RS rows, knit up to the stitch to be wrapped. Leave the stitch to be wrapped on the left needle, bring the yarn to the front, slip the stitch to the right needle, move the yarn to the back, thus wrapping the stitch, turn the work. Slip the wrapped stitch to the right needle and purl across the row to the next stitched to be w&t. Again, leave the stitch to be wrapped on the left needle, move the yarn to the back, slip the stitch to the right needle, bring the yarn to the front wrapping the stitch, turn the work. Slip the wrapped stitch to the right needle and knit across the row to the next stitch to be w&t.

When all the stitches are worked, the second part of the short-row toe begins. I’ll talk about that on Monday.

Have a good weekend.

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My new project is a pair of socks for me.

toe up sock fiesta boomerang yarn

The yarn, Fiesta Boomerang in the Abalone colorway has been in my stash for years, as has the sock pattern. Serpentine is from the book Socks From the Toe Up by Wendy Johnson. I love the book and I love the sock patterns in it.

I prefer toe-up socks because their construction seems more natural to me and fits my knitting style. The socks I finished for The Skipper were the last cuff down socks I intend to make. I find cuff down construction fiddly. I don’t like picking up for the gusset stitches, then decreasing back down. I absolutely despise the toe decreases and the struggle to turn the sock right side out to Kitchener Stitch the toe closed.

Toe up construction is just pure knit. When I’ve reached the length I want on the leg I just cast off.

I prefer short-row toes, which I did here. I’ve just finished increasing for the gusset and am ready to turn the heel, then knit the leg.

In the meanwhile I am waiting for the yarn to arrive from England for my next little girl sweater. I am sure it’s stuck somewhere in the morass called US Customs. If it’s not here by Wednesday, I will have to see about tracking it down and breaking it loose.

Sunday I spent with my sewing machine mending the hole Yarn Rascal chewed in my nice sheets. I am happy with the mend even though it took me longer than I thought it would. But that’s what happens when I pin the mending patch in place not only on the sheet but to my jeans too. I had to unpin, reposition the scrap of fabric, and pin again without catching my jeans. Yarn Rascal was in attendance the whole time. I discovered he likes fabric scraps, spools of thread, and bobbins just drive him over the edge. I think he has crafting in his gene pool. But I just can’t figure out how it got there.

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The Skippers Socks 1

The Skipper’s sock, though unblocked in this picture, are done. As a former literature major, working socks from the cuff down, is like fine ancient Greek Tragedy. First the ship sails out from the shore and it’s all high expectation, acknowledging the pitfalls and vowing to avoid them this time around. So begins the cuff of the sock which is a one by one ribbing.

Then comes the endless days at sea. No land in sight, every day the baking sun followed by endless night. High expectation wears thin and it feels like I will never get beyond the leg of the sock. Add to this a number of rip backs because I somehow got off pattern and it can feel like sailing the same bit of water over and over again.

Skippers Socks 2

Suddenly Scylla and Charybdis loom up on either side and though I vow not to get shipwrecked again only a fool would believe it, Hence I try to thread the rocks on either side without ripping out my keel as I navigate the heel flap, heel turning and picking up gusset stitches.

With four dpns filled with stitches I begin the arduous task of decreasing every other row either side of the foot to return to my cast on number. This is Circe. On the surface everything is alright, I can do this, nothing to worry about, but below deck everything is turning into a swine trough. A missed decrease here, another there, and the foot of the sock begins to look a bit wonky. After a number of rip backs I can almost understand Medea’s level of anger.

Then comes the blessed toe. The seas are calm, the winds are fair and there’s a big rock island straight ahead that I can’t see because of some weird effect that shrouds it and bam! I’ve hit it dead on. Four stitches needed to be decreased each side not two. Rip, rip, rip.

Finally, I am done with all the decreases and am evenly dividing the sock to be Kitchener Stitched closed when I see I have one extra stitch, throwing off the even division. What difference, I reason, can one little stitch make? I see the dock from the deck of the ship. Do I want to take her back out and sail around a little more or do I want to bring this baby in and land her?

Okay, so one stitch does make a difference. But I think I hid it well.

The sock pattern is from Anne Hanson Gridiron. The sock yarn is Lorna’s Laces Shepherd Sock Sheridan colorway.

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Today I was going to have a picture of The Skipper’s finished socks. Alas, life had other plans for me that did not include completing the toe of his sock. The weather has been as humid as a rain forest. Last night the polar vortex air and the rain forest air met and we had gentle rain.

I was working on the sock, luxuriating in the feel of not having a knitting deadline to meet, and reconnecting with knitting as relaxation when the cable tv went out. When the cable goes out it so does the tv, phone, and internet. Bundling, I’ve always felt, is a bad idea for exactly this reason. Lose one, lose all.

I put the knitting down, out of Yarn Rascal’s reach to excavate the cell phone from the bottom of my pocketbook to call the cable company. I didn’t speak to a real person, but the cable company computer said it was a widespread problem and they were “working on it.” I went back to knitting sure in the knowledge that cable would not be back on anytime soon but the socks would be finished.

Yarn Rascal was preparing an imminent strike on the sock and the yarn which I was getting ready to deter when the lights went out. The rain continued to gently fall and Yarn Rascal’s strike, in the dark, was a complete success. I think I can say with certainty that the dog thrives in the dark, it is Yarn Rascal’s milieu. With sock, yarn and needles he was gleefully racing around the living room and not knocking into anything. Meanwhile totally blind in the dark, trying not to accidentally step on Yarn Rascal, I shuffled toward the kitchen. I missed the opening to the kitchen—where the candles and flame throwing lighter reside—and walked into the wall instead. Behind me, the scurrying of little feet on the rug meant Yarn Rascal was unwinding the yarn, though whether it was unwinding from the sock end or the ball end of the yarn I couldn’t tell.

After plowing into the kitchen table, and stepping in Yarn Rascal’s water dish, I managed to unite candle and flame thrower. The small circle of light it created was pitiful. There was no way I could see what Yarn Rascal was doing in the living room. At this point, I was on a countdown to disaster. I could either try to find and untangle Yarn Rascal from the knitting and yarn with this feeble light, or I could call the electric company and speak to it’s computer to learn how long they thought the outage would be. Precious minutes were being lost as I decided. My fancy goldfish, which I’ve had for 12 years now, needs to have moving water. When the water stops moving I have 30 minutes to get it up and running again which is mostly why we bought a generator.

I called the power company and the computer said it was a widespread problem and estimated the lights would be back on “sometime within the next 24 hours.” That meant I had to set up the generator by myself because The Skipper was out. So I headed toward the garage, open flame candle in hand.

When Yarn Rascal saw me walk through the living room with the candle it was the first time he’d ever seen a candle. He assumed it was a stick. He loves sticks. So he launched and relaunched his jumping, leaping and high pitched barking attack he does for sticks while I tried not to drop the candle. He was a dog with springs on his feet. As I tried not to set the place on fire, it suddenly came to me that it might not be a great idea to go into the garage where flammable things are stored and haul around a gas powered generator with an open candle flame as light.

Fighting Yarn Rascal all the way, I traversed the length of the house to search for and retrieve a flash light. The first one I found was knocked from my hands by Yarn Rascal, crashed to the floor and broke. Yarn Rascal was now wound up into a nice froth and thought everything I touched was a potential plaything. The second one I secured had a warning siren on it and a flasher along with a regular flash light. I doused the candle and turned on The Unit. The warning siren and flasher repelled Yarn Rascal like bug repellent repels bugs.

In the end, I got the generator set up and running. There was a hairy moment when I couldn’t remember which plug went where, but I guessed right. My goldfish survived. The sock is alive too, but in need of care. Yarn Rascal managed to rip out quite a bit of knitting which I will fix as soon as I untangle and unwind the ball of yarn from around and underneath the lounger.

If life gets anymore relaxing it just might kill me.

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Many years ago I lived in Italy for a bit. This weekend’s travel into the crochet world reminded me of that daunting first week in an unfamiliar country with language and customs I had yet to learn.

The visual difference between where I had lived and Italy was exciting and terrifying at the same time. Working with crochet was like that. The fabric it produces was exciting to see, the getting there involved a lot of uncertainty with a slight feeling of terror at the end and beginning of each row trying to figure out where to insert the hook, what was the top of the turning chain from the previous row, whether to turn and then chain or chain and then turn. Identifying the correct place to insert the hook to begin the next row was always a moment of doubt. It reminded me of the first time I ventured out into my new Italian environs without my trusty map, wondering if I could get from my new home to point B and then back again without getting hopelessly lost.

The language was exotic too. No matter how long I had studied Italian, being surrounded by it and not having the security of my native English to fall back on if I wasn’t understood, was a different kettle of fish. When people spoke to me, it took me time to process what I thought was being said and more time to construct what I hoped was an answer with all the right words. Communication wasn’t spontaneous and rhythmic. The same was true with my foray into crochet. The letters dc in the crochet pattern gave me nothing but fits as I kept reading it as decrease and not double crochet. Instruction after instruction needed to be read from the beginning more than once for my mind to edit decrease to double crochet. There was talk of chains, not stitches, meshes and loops 5 of which together meant 1″ (2.5) cm. Yes, the gauge of the pattern was not in stitches, nor in chains, but in meshes and loops.

Quanto costa? How much is this? At the time Italy used the Lire. 5,000, 10,000. The figures initially were shocking until I worked the conversion from Lire to dollars in my head. Meshes and loops posed the same difficulty only I had nothing to convert them to to help understand.

I completed the work on the crochet project. Three others were waiting to be done. I had to say I couldn’t work on them. I can’t give over the time it would take to delve into the new land of crochet and survive. A certain sadness accompanied the decision because all the projects were lovely and I knew I wasn’t just closing the door on grading them, I was closing it on ever making them too.

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