Pink Monkey Knits

Using my opposable thumbs to knit up a storm!

Monday, October 23, 2006

Are We There Yet? 

there yet

I went to a work-related meeting all day Thursday (where Mayor Williams was present for a part of it. He's not only funny looking, but can also be quite funny). This gave me an ample opportunity to make some progress on this sock for Cobra by finishing the leg and turning the heel. Unfortunately, progress on this project is a relative term, as the boy's feet are so darn big. I've made a good start on the foot but still have so far to go. You see how far the tape measure is stretched out there? Well, I have to do another two inches beyond that. That's right, these socks are going to need to go to eleven. Am I there yet?

I got to do some car knitting on the sock yesterday as Cobra and I decided to go out to The Kuntry in Virginia. This was a welcome diversion since Cobra has been really sick for a week and a half, keeping both of us pretty close to home. We had just had our first really chilly night here in DC and figured that, in the higher elevations of the Shenandoah Mountains, the trees would be turning to their glorious autumn shades. Were we ever right!

country scenefall colorbright treesshenandoah

As much as I love seeing this amazing spectacle of nature, I have a difficult time liking fall because I only associate it with the coming winter. Indeed, darkness is fully set in at 7PM these days and the winds are blowing colder air in each day. The thought of the coming cold makes me sigh extra hard each day.

At least, my knitting will be prepared. I washed some sweaters this past weekend and located all of my handmade socks. I also have a few sweater's worth of yarn in the stash, and these new additions to my wardrobe will certainly help me look forward to the colder seasons.

I also have a little something in mind to cuddle up with when the chilly winds blow...

lizard ridge

Remember when I was feeling somewhat unsure about my minisweater made from Kureyon? Before we went on vacation, I decided to rip it out and make a start on a Lizard Ridge afghan. It made great plane knitting, as you only need to occasionally pay attention to the complicated rows. I have enough yarn left for probably 1.5 more blocks. I'm planning for this to be an intermittent project, one for which I'll pick up a few skeins of Kureyon here and there when the yarn bug bites. The growth on this project will largely be dictated by my budget.

Off to continue work on my stockings in the hopes they'll be finished by the end of Socktoberfest. Only a week left!

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Socktoberfest Marches On... 

(Pun not intended)

Socktoberfest has passed the halfway mark and, I'm proud to say, so have my Arch-Shaped stockings!
Finished first Arch-shaped stocking

One More View

I've completed the first in the pair, and honestly I must say that I have mixed feelings. On some level, I feel like they're my knitting masterpiece because they've taken so much time and concentration. I felt so proud last week at SnB where I got many compliments for them. On the other hand, I also visually pick out many flaws, some of which I was able to correct as I went along and some I wasn't. I'm hoping a firm blocking will flatten my tension, smooth my stitches and help the stocking take the right shape. Deep down, I know that I'm being critical of my work, but I guess the flaws stick out to me more than the more positive attributes.

One part that even I can say turned out well was the arch shaping. The directions for this in both the published magazine and the corrections are wrong, but luckily I consulted this knowledgeable lady and she pointed me and my stitches in the right direction. This shaping really make the stocking stand out, and I'm sure I'll show more views of it when I complete the pair.

As my portable project, I also cast on a sock for Cobra.

green sock started

This is Cascade Fixation, which I certainly needed some time to acclimate to. I had to rip out and start over about four times because the sock kept ending up being too big (one of the major advantages to knitting with two circs - you can try on as you go!). Even after I'd achieved the right tension, I wasn't happy with the first pattern I tried with the yarn. The cotton in the yarn gives the stitches a funky, inherent texture which just didn't jive with the two stitch twist. I'm now using this pattern only 56 stitches (for Cobra's big foot!), and the alternating knits and purls show up much better.

I think that one of the better ways one can celebrate this special time of year is by procuring some unique yarn for socks, especially from local artisans. I did just this way back on the first of the month at the Crafty Bastards Craft Festival. This is the only pic I got there, because my camera battery died.

crafty bastards breakdancer

Don't get kicked in the face at the B-boy battle, boyeeee. I met Lolly at the festival and had a great time looking at the creative handmade and refashioned clothing, ogling the sparkly jewelry and cooing over the fun plush animals. Luckily, I found a few really special items to purchase:
Goodies from Crafty Bastards

On the left, we see the really gorgeous yarns I decided to indulge in. On the left is some handspun from Woolarina that I'd seen over the summer and loved. I didn't buy it then but I figured that the fact that it was still there was a sign that it needed to be mine. I'm 99% sure that I'm going to make some EZ Moccasin socks from this skein, inspired by this lovely pair by Adrian.
The skein on the right with the vibrant, rich colors Studio Sock Superwash Merino sock yarn from Neighborhood Fiber Co. All of the colorways are named after neighborhoods here in DC, so of course I knew the one named Mt. Pleasant, my area of residence, would have to be mine. I procured this at the Stitch DC booth and was told that it's a new venture by some former employees of theirs. If you're in the shop or see any of their skeins on the website, buy some!! It's gorgeous!!

I got some other non-yarn goodies, too including a SOAK starter pack, a cute apple pin from Art School Dropout, and a Soul Kiss lip balm from Biggs and Featherbelle, which makes me feel like I'm wearing vanilla frosting on my lips, yum. I've been going to Crafty Bastards since the first year, and each time it just keeps getting bigger and better. I hope this trend continues.

Cobra and I also made it down to a different kind of fair this past weekend: The Green Festival. I found this event to be both inspiring and overwhelming at the same time. Unfortunately, I did not get to see any of the talks but we did take in many of the booths in the exhibition area. There was a lot to see, including people getting tattooed (with soy ink) at the Dr. Bronner's booth, naturally dyed carpets from Nepal, fairly traded knitted garments, and every type of natural food and drink you can imagine (we particularly liked the Pixie Mate). It was nice to see the huge variety of eco-friendlier products available (although not all were great options, since there was an ethanol booth there), I felt that the festival made it seem like one can be a good environmentalist just by buying the right, expensive, biodegradable products. There wasn't much information on incorporating more ecofriendly practices into our lives or news on current eco issues. Overall, we did have a good time, enjoyed the many free samples and like that they had a free bicycle valet service that allowed us to get in with a discount.

Why can't more places have bike valets?

Sunday, October 08, 2006

My Sock History 

What better way to start off Socktoberfest than by looking into my knitting past and answering Lolly's questions about sock history.

  • When did you start making socks? Did you teach yourself or were you taught by a friend or relative? or in a class?
In January, 2005, I traveled to India for about two months. I spent the entire month of January volunteering in a small, rural town in the north of the country up in the Himalayan foothills and traveled around the north for about three weeks afterwards. Funnily enough, the organization that organized my volunteer stint assigned me to teach advanced knitting skills to young women at a local tailoring school. You can read my "unfinished" blog about my trip here.

Here's one of my classes, filled with the young women who became like "didis" (sisters) to me. Check out that view!

In preparing for the trip, I knew I would have to find creative ways to entertain myself during my month volunteering. First off, the area that I elected to stay in was very rural and remote. My living quarters were a few miles out of the main town, so I wasn't really within walking distance to any outside amusements. I also knew that I was the only (!) volunteer at the location during that time and would only have the staff to interact with socially, so I anticipated having much time to myself. In other words, it would be the perfect setting to tackle a complicated knitting project. I lived in the lower building on the left in this picture. Not much around!

I had seen people at my Stitch n' Bitch knitting socks and was so impressed, mostly because they seemed so involved. Because I'm the type of person who likes to start all endeavors feeling prepared and knowledgeable, I scoured the internet for appropriate patterns and asked staff at various yarn stores for yarn and needle recommendations. I was intimidated by the tiny DPNs, so I wanted combos where I could use slightly larger materials. For my first sock, I decided to use this pattern, which was sized to fit my foot and didn't require any additional math, with some Fortissima Socka Colori and size 2 dpns.

I started my first sock on the flight over and, while I found using the DPNs to be a bit awkward at first, I immediately fell into the rhythm of the creation of the tiny stitches. I was hooked from the start! The weather in that part of India in January was pretty cold, but none of the buildings had any heat, so I spent many chilly evenings working on the sock near the heater or bundled up on some floor pillows. I knitted on through some pretty lonely and emotionally difficult times, and felt much accomplishment when I finished my first pair. The bonus was that I could wear them every night and they would help to keep my from shivering too badly in my unheated room.

As a side note, my students were interested in my socks but they did not have circular or double pointed needles there, so they didn't want any instruction in the technique I was using.

  • What was your first pair? How have they "held up" over time?
I mentioned the pattern, yarn and needles above. The gauge on my socks was a little loose, so the first one was a little baggy; I cast on fewer stitches for the second one. They've held up pretty well! A little bit of piling, but that's to be expected. I still wear them, although with the loose gauge they aren't as comfortable in shoes.

  • What would you have done differently?
Although they could have been tighter, I think I was too intimidated by the project at the time to, say, try smaller needles or calculations of my own. They were a great learning experience.
  • What yarns have you particularly enjoyed?
I found the Woolarina merino sportweight I used for these socks (scroll down) to be luscious. I also really enjoyed Koigu and Blue Sky Alpacas Sportweight.
  • Do you like to crochet your socks? or knit them on DPNs, 2 circulars, or using the Magic Loop method?
I started on DPNs, but switched to two circulars with those Woolarina socks and haven't looked back since. I find the DPNs to be more fiddly and annoying than they need to be. I made a half-assed, unsuccessful attempted at Magic Loop once and wasn't too into it, maybe I should try again this month.
  • Which kind of heel do you prefer? (flap? or short-row?)
I've only done short rows once and really felt like I fumbled through them. As a result, they didn't look too great, so I haven't tried them again. I really like the heel flap, mostly because they seemed so custom engineered to the human foot. I also tried an afterthought heel on my alpaca socks and, while it's a clever technique, I don't anticipate using it again.
  • How many pairs have you made?
1 for Cobra, 1 for my dad, 7 for me and the first of another pair on the needles.

As an additional aspect, I want to give a little shout out to manufactured socks for a second. No, they are not made with love, nor are they as warm, comfortable or well-fitting as handmade socks. The designs on them in the past bunch of year, however, have become very clever over the last few years. My mother has done her very best to supply me with a shocking number of socks with monkeys worked into them. Plus, a good friend of my just got back from a year in Japan and brought me these awesome socks from the city of Nara, where there are many free- wandering deer.

nara socks

So, I say that manufactured socks are inferior, yet have their place.

For Socktoberfest, I hope to finish my Arch-Shaped stocking (which may be a challenge, since I just had to rip back a bunch on the first one since it was too big at the arch shaping wasn't right) and hopefully, finish the first of a pair for Cobra. Better get knitting....

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Back into the Swing 

lost lake 3

sun 3

seattle 22

coast 2

We're long back from vacation but it's taken me this long to get my pictures in order to present to you! Truly, we had the most wonderful time in the NW; I really felt so beyond fortunate to be able to see and explore such a strikingly beautiful part of my country. It again reminded what a diversity of scenery, climates and topography we have in America.

Portland and Seattle both endeared themselves to me very strongly. It was almost surreal to walk to the streets and see so many young people around and to see people being creative and having style. The lifestyles in both of these places seemed to be very laid back, comfortable and filled with surprises. It was so fun to say "that's cool, that's cool" as we turned every corner.

I don't have as many pics of Portland because the weather was somewhat rainy when we were there. Seattle was filled with warmth and clear, blue skies. You can see some here.

I'm also happy to report that my dad's surgery went well and, while his healing will not be instant, he is now home. Hooray, cancer free for real!!

I intentionally didn't go into any yarn stores while I was away, although I did get a few thrifted sweaters to play with. I did, however, get some goodies at Crafty Bastards on Sunday. I hope to show you those along with some socktoberfest goodness soon. Glad to be back!