Knitting

JUNE 29 – Sock

Socks have been a very contentious issue for me in the past. Most knitters adore hand-knit socks. They maintain a constant and varied collection of socks, and regularly knit them for other people. I, however, have spent most of my knitting career not being fond of hand-knit socks. For a long time I found them too hot, too bulky, and too uncomfortable.

But then a couple things happened.

First of all, I quit my job, which allows me to go without shoes most of the time (we are strictly a shoes-off-at-the-door kind of family). More specifically, it allowed me to go without dress shoes, which are not really suited to the squishyness of hand-knit socks. Additionally, this gives me the chance, if my feet get too warm, to simply take off my socks. For some reason, that’s frowned upon in the workplace.

Second, Michael and I bought a house. Before we did so, we were living in a 3rd story apartment, which meant that even in the dead of winter it was too warm in our living space. When you don’t pay for heat and you’re neighbors all use that opportunity to keep their thermostats in the 70s, all that heat comes up from the other floors. You don’t really need wool socks to keep you warm, then. The house, on the other hand, can be absolutely frigid in the colder months. I need wool socks to keep my poor toes from freezing off!

Lastly, I found that in knitting, you can make things fit the way you want them to. Most people, I think, knit their socks pretty loose. I, on the other hand, like a tight sock. I don’t want to feel a lot of wiggle room when I step. But because I was knitting how most patterns were written, I made my socks too loose. I finally knit a pair of socks the way that I thought I’d like – aka pretty tight – and I like the fit so much better.

Now I just have to get through the next few months of heat so that I can actually wear wool socks again.

Knitting

JUNE 28 – Llama

Llamas are one of those animals that’s highly associated with fiber arts, much like sheep and alpaca, and yet I have never seen llama wool for sale. Maybe it simply goes by breed specific names (like cashmere, which, much to my surprise, comes from goats), but that’s not the case to my knowledge.

What’s strange to me is that I own yarn that has yak wool in it, but not a single bit of llama. Alpaca, yes. Many different breeds of sheep wool. You’d think that, given the prevalence of llamas in the community, I’d have come across some kind of llama-wool mix if I’ve come across yak.

Even a quick google search of “llama yarn” brings up shopping options that aren’t for llama wool at all, but alpaca! Now I know that these two animals are very similar, and even I still have a lot of trouble telling them apart when they’re not directly next to one another. I know that Alpacas are much smaller in just about every way, including smaller ears and shorter noses. But send me a picture of one or the other and I’ll waffle over it for ages, trying to figure out which it is. In general, if it’s pop culture I generally assume any depiction of one of these creatures is a llama – it’s much more popular in general culture. While in the knitting world, I assume Alpaca. They’re wool is fairly coveted, and they’re much more commonly raised around where I live.

That being said, I do know that their wool is completely different from one another. They are not interchangeable in the knitting community!

It’s not impossible to find llama yarn, of course, and one of these days I may have to go out of my way to work with it!

Knitting

JUNE 27 – Weight

My how this word changes in meaning when I use it for knitting rather than as a general word!

Last month this was on my list of May, Myself, and I words, and the post was, honestly, kind of depressing. Very personal as well. That will not be the case with this month!

Yarn weights are somewhat of a recent discovery for me. Well, recent in the grand scheme of my knitting career. It’s been about 3 years since I started getting the hang of this aspect of knitting, and I’m so pleased with how far I’ve come. From not having the slightest clue what “worsted” meant (I thought it was a type of wool), to being able to tell the weight of a yarn pretty much on sight!

Of course, I still struggle with the difference between sport and DK, and don’t get me started on aran vs. worsted, but I think that’s pretty common among even experienced knitters.

Recently I was explaining the differences between the yarn weights to Michael (I’m very proud of how quickly he caught on!) and I also finally realized at least one reason why sometimes fingering weight yarn is referred to as sock yarn, even if it’s a wool blend not really suited to socks (like those with no nylon or other strengthening fiber). Can somebody say ply? I always assumed it was something to do with the weight, again, but while trying to explain the difference between single ply and multi-ply yarn, I found myself struggling to find the commonly used word for multi-ply, only to realize that must be what sock yarn is!

I just love how knitting is a constant learning experience.

Knitting

JUNE 22-26 – Mitten, Silk, Purl, Stockinette, Slipper

Mitten

I’ve never made an actual pair of mittens, but I’ve made a couple pairs of fingerless mitts. In fact, one of the first project that I made when I was first getting back into knitting were a pair of Doctor Who themed mitts with “POLICE BOX” written across the top of the hand. I made two pairs of these – one for a friend, and one for myself.

The pair for myself I actually sized down, which in retrospect is incredibly impressive. I was, for all intent and purposes a new knitter at that point. I’d only just relearned how to knit after messing up my technique for years, and that was one of my first dpn projects. Not only that, but it was colorwork! How I figured out how to decrease the amount of stitches in just the right places so that the pattern stayed true to its design I’ll never know, but being able to do that when I was a relative newbie is part of what has inspired me to attempt pattern making now. If I could manage that way back then, I can certainly manage pattern writing now, with all my experience.

I do have yarn in my stash that is earmarked for a pair of mittens. It’s a kit for some stripey mitts, and it’s been sitting in my stash for about two years now. But I will definitely get to it eventually!

Silk

Silk is one of those fibers that I’m just not sure about. I mean yes, it’s super strong and soft, but it has the price tag to go along with those benefits. And honestly, whenever I’ve felt up a bit of silk yarn, it hasn’t given me the cozy vibes that are so integral to my knitting enjoyment. I’ve also heard that it can be a little difficult to work with, because it’s quite slippery.

Now, cashmere, that’s a luxury fiber I can get behind. It’s so soft and smooth, and it makes any project feel like the expensive piece that it is.

Of course, I’ve never actually worked with silk yarn. Maybe if I actually put it on my needles I’d feel differently, but it doesn’t have the wide availability of a lot of other wool blends. I see tons of merino-cashmere blends when I go to fiber festivals and yarn stores, but silk is harder to come by.

I also think that silk has a fairly specific use. I’m not about to make socks or mittens out of silk and while I’m sure it’s very possible, I’m not going to make a sweater either. A silk shawl does sound pretty lovely, though.

Purl

I would consider purling to be the knitting equivalent to a frenemy. It’s essential to most patterns and makes for some truly gorgeous pieces, but I don’t love it. Not like I love a knit stitch.

Again, this could be my inexperience talking. I’ve been knitting for years, but it’s nothing compared to the decades of many Knitters. And my preference for knit stitch colors my pattern choices, so I don’t get as much practice with purling as I would if I were less biased. So one day I may purl just as quickly and easily as I knit, but I’m certainly not there yet.

It was actually thanks to purling that I realized, many years ago now, that I needed to reteach myself to knit. For years and years all I’d done was knit stitch, making scarf after scarf. Only when I tried to do a purl stitch and found that it was impossible for me to move the yarn to the front did I realize how oddly I was holding my needles.

I’m still not 100% certain that I purl in the most efficient way. Ideally, I would simply slip the working yarn back and forth seamlessly, but the way I do it now I fully release the yarn and pick it back up. It’s nearly seamless, but not quite. This is probably why I dislike it so much, honestly. It’s also why it makes my index finger hurt when I purl – too much contact with the stitches on the needle. But it’s just so hard to teach an old dog new tricks.

Stockinette

Considering how much purling stockinette stitch can sometimes entail, I imagine that you already have an idea of how I feel about it. That’s right, it’s another love-hate relationship.

Stockinette in the round is a dream, of course. Just knitting. Round and round and round you go. Like I said before, I don’t get bored of endless knit stitches, so easily my favorite part of my latest sweater – the No Frills sweater I spoke about in a previous post – was doing the body after having finished the raglan increases. Well, it was my favorite until I made it too short and had to pull it out and redo part of the body, of course. And now I might have to do that again…

Ugh, no, I won’t think about it.

Stockinette in straight knitting, though – much less fun. I’ve done it on a shawl or two and in a few stripes of a baby blanket. It’s not as tedious as say, seed stitch, but it’s certainly no picnic, especially when your stitch count is in the hundreds. I’ll fly through the knitting row, then look sadly at my project when I realize that I’ve forgotten to enjoy the smoothness of the knit stitches before having to move on to the clunkiness of the purl stitches.

I should clarify, I don’t hate purling. I’m sure it certainly seems like I do based on this post! I love what you can do with a purl stitch. It makes for some truly gorgeous knitted items, and it’s obviously essential for any knitter. It’s because it’s so essential that it makes it so easy for me to come up with things to complain about. But truly, I’m not about to make a book full of patterns that require absolutely no purling or anything…

That would be crazy.

Slippers

This one is a very, very easy word for me. Seriously, I’m kind of the slipper queen. Not because I’ve knit a lot of different designs or anything – I’ve found a slipper pattern that I like and I’m sticking to it. But I’ve knit dozens of slippers in this pattern.

The pattern I’m referring to is the Simple House Slippers by Simone A. And the reason that I’ve knit this pattern so many times is because of a tradition in my family.

My great grandmother, my mom’s grandma, used to make Christmas packages for every single member of her family, from grandchildren to great grandchildren to cousins. In the packages she’d include something useful, like a kitchen utensils or pair of work gloves, some homemade apple butter, and a pair of crocheted slipper.

Now, I did try making a crocheted pair of slippers like she would have, and it’s not excessively difficult, but I’m just more of a knitter. I like my needles over my hooks. So I found the Simple House Slippers pattern and I started making slippers for my family.

I’m not nearly as ambitious as my great grandmother. I did make slippers for all my aunts and uncles 2 years ago, but it was a LOT of work. Now I stick to my immediate family, including my soon-to-be in-laws. That’s still 9 pairs of slippers, mind (including myself and Taylor and her husband, because she’s essentially a sister to me). It’s still quite a bit of work, but everyone seems to love them so much that I don’t mind.

Knitting

JUNE 21 – Stitch

There are so many stitch patterns in knitting, it’s unfathomable. You’ve got your basics, of course – stockinette and garter. But after that the variations are immense, and people are still coming up with new ones! You’ve got everything from ribbing to brioche to my latest obsession, royal quilting stitch.

Lately I’ve been particularly aware of stitch patterns, as I’ve been trying to come up with new pattern ideas. Looking up stitch dictionaries has become a new hobby of mine, apparently. Whether I’m checking them out from the library or just goggling them, I’ve been trying desperately to expand my repertoire.

Researching stitch patterns is extremely interesting, especially when you have an idea in mind of what you want, but aren’t sure how to execute it. For example, the socks I recently designed were inspired by the Carlin Brothers, a pair of YouTubers with pretty enthusiastic personalities. I needed to find a pattern that were simple enough for a basic pair of socks, but also represented each of their personalities. That kind of vague notion – representing someone’s personality – makes the stitch pattern search pretty difficult.

In the end, I’m very happy with what I came up with. Now, though, I have an even harder task. Finding lace stitch patterns that fit my own personality, along with the theme of our wedding. I’m heading over to the library today to try and check out a couple stitch dictionaries. Wish me luck!