April 10, 2008

On a day like today...

It is a yucky, cold and rainy day. Just look at this.

What you can't see in the picture is how the rain is half slush, or how it's pouring down in buckets. Sideways. The wind is banging the porch door, the sleet is clattering on the windows, it's blarg. I was going to go to the bead store today and look for some gray pearl beads for Rah's shawl, maybe pick up some locally handmade lamp-glass beads and experiment with hemp cord jewelry (Check out this dude, he's brilliant, and I can buy his stuff just by strolling a few blocks!) but I am NOT going out in this crap.

Yeah, I know, I knit all this snuzzly warm merino stuff, and then I shy away from a little sleet. I'm a delicate fucking flower. Shaddap.

Besides, nobody is on form today. Even the notorious Team Rocket has declared naptime:

Pardon the blur. I didn't want to disturb them with the flash. They spend most of their time smacking each other senseless and bouncing off the walls, so I figure they've got like, three months of sleep to catch up on. I was tempted to go back to bed myself, but instead I brewed up a pot of the elixir of life

and put on some soothing music

and got started on my mom's socks. Socks are always relaxing. Well, they are once you know how to do them. My first sock was kind of a nail-biter, but trust me, you get comfy with it quick. In retrospect, I'm surprised it took me so long to dive into the Wide World of Footwear. It's that whole heel-turning thing that turned me off. All the resources I found said flap heels are easier, so I tried and tried, but they never made any sense to me. Picking up stitches, decreasing, blarg! But whenever I did short rows, I got holes, and lost count halfway and went backwards and eurgh. Then I found this sock worksheet at Knitty and my life was changed forever. Wrapping the turns makes all the difference; it prevents those big nasty holes, and it means I can freaking FIND my turns when I want to know where I am. I don't double-wrap them, though. I might try that if I'm knitting with dental floss on toothpicks, but on the soft squishy yarn I like, the small holes kinda fill themselves in, and double-wraps are too clunky.

So yeah, I'm a toe-up, short-row-heel zealot. I see flap heels and I think, "Oh honey. You're trying, and I respect that, but you're just not fabulous." I think this even when I see the Yarn Harlot's amazing sock skills. She's a goddess, but... flaps! And decrease toes! They are robot toes! Short rows are the One True Way!

Ahem. Scuse me. I get a little... excited sometimes. I'm all right now.

So. Mom's socks. This is where I get to use that Moss stuff I spun a while back. It is 100% merino. It's not superwash. My mom won't mind hand-washing her socks. She's the kind of lady who wears wool tweed slacks with a silk blouse just to lounge on the couch and read mystery novels. How she produced a delinquent like me, no one really knows.

Anyway, delinquent though I am, I do swatch. I always swatch. This is not so much because I'm emotional about gauge -- I don't count quarter-stitches, for instance, not even for a big sweater -- but because knitting is a really tactile, organic thing for me, and I need to know how the yarn feels. I need to feel it running between my fingers, feel how the needles interact with it, how the fabric feels and drapes, before I know how I want to knit with it.

I started with #2 (2.75mm) needles and did a few rows:

Sorry about the blurry. You probably can't see what I'm talking about, but the stitches are kinda crammed together. It would certainly suffice, and you do generally want a denser fabric for socks; if I were using hard-wearing wool and making winter boot socks, I'd go with this. But I want these socks to feel like utter luxury. A cloud of refinement. Socks you can best appreciate with a cup of tea, a plate of madelines, and a new mystery novel. So I switch to size 3 (3.25mm) needles.

That loosened things up a lot. Can you see how the yarn looks thicker in the new section? With a soft wool yarn, particularly handspun, it pays to give the stitches a little elbow room. The fibers will puff just a tiny bit, giving you a softer, warmer, more drapey fabric.

Also, conveniently, it gave me a gauge of precisely 6 stitches to the inch, which makes my math easy. You know what else makes the math easy? Discovering that if you type an equation into Google (such as the 6*9.5*.9 that will give me the number of stitches around my dear mum's foot), it will give you the answer as your search result. Handy!

And that's about the limit of my coherence for today. The internet is just chock full of sock tutorials, but I can ramble about my own habits later if you like. For now, I'm going to get myself another cup of Liquid Coherence and knit round and round in circles for a while. Aaaah, rainy days.


Robin said...

I have to admit, I always admired those who could knit. My mother possesses a particular skill with the art, one that she could never pass on to her impatient daughter. However, sitting here reading your LJ on a rainy day of my own, wearing my fantastic ArmSocks of Awesome, I can't help but think that maybe I should pick up the needles again and give it one more try.


Or just buy more stuff from you. June...In June I will have a job. With a job, I will have money. I intend to spend that money on things that make life TRULY worthwhile. Things like hats and socks and sweaters. Yes...it will be a glorious day.

That, and I can post-pone my re-entry to the knitting world a little longer. I'm still a VERY impatient daughter, after all.

mosrael said...

The task of knitting socks seems less intimidating now. I might pick up some double-pointed needles with my next paycheck :) I didn't know there were multiple methods for knitting the heel, but I guess I'll go through them all at some point.

Your merino wool looks lovely - what types of knitwear do you use it for? I don't have much experience with actual sheepwool. >.>

slob said...

*sheepish* I, uh, knit the heel flap. You're right when you say it's hellish, hellish work, and that the toe decreases look robotic like. Not to mention having to kitchener stitch at the end, gah. I never really understood how people could say that knitting socks was so soothing and relaxing - I'm always dropping stitches and going insane, especially when there's a gap in the fabric and I just know it's because I didn't pick up a stitch at the right spot. *stabs sock*

I think I'm'a try your way from now on. It seems MUCH less stressful. And Moss looks really pretty all swatched out! Your mom = luckiest mom evar.

Jesse said...

So glad you like the armsocks! I love to think of people wearing and enjoying them. I'll be happy to knit you more anytime. If you're thinking of taking another stab at knitting though (ha ha I pun), I could try doing tutorials or advice posts about stuff you find tricky. Ask and I shall endeavor to answer.

Merino is a very soft wool, so you use it for stuff you'll be wearing next to the skin. It's especially nice for socks and gloves (or arm warmers). It's not as durable as thicker, heavier wool, though, so I wouldn't use it for, say, a rug, or a fisherman's jersey that'll be worn for actual fishing. I did make Seebs a sweater-jacket out of it, but he wears it for typing. :D

Yay, another convert to the Toe Up Short Row Heel Crusade! Yeah, totally give it a try. It's not mindless, exactly, but it's sure a lot more relaxing than flap heels.