crafts · knitting · Uncategorized

Sock Drama Part Trois

Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen
Nobody knows my sorrow

-Louis Armstrong

Need I say more?

Knitting socks and trouble. They go together like peanut butter and jelly, eggs and bacon, turkey and stuffing. You can’t have one without the other.

Well, perhaps you can.

Maybe you have zero sock drama.

Maybe you never tangle up your five needles. Perhaps you never drop any of those tiny stitches. Is it possible you don’t get hung up on turning the heel?

Some people have all the luck. Me? Let’s just say disaster comes calling whenever I pick up my partially-knitted sock. Which might be acceptable (annoying, but acceptable) if I had never knitted socks before. But this is my third pair and, frankly, this is getting embarrassing.

Last night I decided it was time to work on the dreaded heel. I was halfway through the heel flap, and things were looking good. I made short work of the remaining heel flap rows, and then it was time for the much-dreaded picking up of the stitches for the heel gusset.

I worked slowly. I counted carefully. I did a little hocus pocus to somehow find 15 stitches to pick up though there were really only 12 there to work with. I knit my way through those stitches, worked my way around needles two and three, then did a little more hocus pocus to conjure up another 15 stitches for needle four. Just when it all looked like it was going to work out, numerous stitches escaped from needle one.

I picked everything back to needle one, because there was no way I would be able to pick those tiny miscreants back up. I did everything a second time. I counted and counted and worked my way back to where things had gone wrong, and despite my careful counting, I discovered much too late that I had only 14 stitches where 15 needed to be back on…you guessed it…needle one.

Back to picking things out.

The third time was the charm, and it seemed things were finally going my way.

Until something weird happened somewhere between the first row around on the gusset and the fifth row around when I realized I was missing a stitch somewhere.

At this point, I was ready to chuck the sock and the yarn and the needles out the window. But I persevered.

After more tiny stitch picking, I finally found the issue.

Then I went to bed. It was late, and I was in no mood for any more drama.

crafts · knitting · Quilting · Quilts · sewing · Uncategorized

The Never-Ending Scrap Pile

I had planned to post on Saturday after a day of sewing on Friday. Then Saturday rolled around with an Arts Festival where I was playing in a community band concert (and where I narrowly missed being hit in the head by a pigeon egg…more on this later), a trip to the store for over-priced groceries (I thought food costs around here would go down with two kids out of the house this summer) and dog food ($30 more expensive than it used to be), a tasty early dinner (air-fried salmon), a walk around the neighborhood with the dogs (battling deer flies the entire way), and a trip to the tennis courts for a few matches with Hubby (I did not win).

Then there was Sunday with church in the morning, weeds that needed pulling, summer squash and wild blueberries that needed picking, trees that needed felling (not by me…I can barely be trusted with a rotary cutter, let alone a chainsaw), dogs that needed walking, and a Dark Winds season finale that needed watching.

So here I am on a Monday to show you what I was up to with scaps on Friday.

I have oodles of scraps left over from the I Spy quilts I’ve made for just about every baby relative (and there have been A LOT of babies). As I have to fussy cut images from the fabrics, I’ve been left with piles of holey fabric. (The fabric looks a lot like newspapers used to look after my grandma got done cutting out the bits that interested her. In other words, only the boring bits are left.)

I finally pulled out this box of boring bits on Friday and vowed to come up with a quilt that would use them up…or at least make a dent in the pile.

For the blocks above, I cut strips from the fabrics in widths ranging from 3/4″ to 1-1/2.” I sewed these strips together, then cut them down into 2″ chunks. I then sewed those chunks together until I ended up with a 13″ block. I sewed two 13″x2″ blocks together and added a 1-1/4″ border. I plan to make enough blocks for a decent size quilt.

Am I in love with this project? Not really (or at least not yet), but it is mindless sewing I can do while listening to audiobooks with Hubby AND it uses up scraps in a different way than I’ve used them before. After middle daughter declared all of my scrap projects as looking exactly the same, I thought it might be time to shake things up with a new pattern.

I also added about 11 more paper-pieced tiny pineapples to my growing pile on Friday and began blanket stitching my table runner/wall hanging. I attempted to start “turning the heel” on my knitted socks last night, but how was I supposed to concentrate on tiny stitches when Dark Winds was so intriguing?!

An innocent accident or something more sinister?

As for the pigeon egg story…Our community band plays in a pavilion next to a lake in town. When the pavilion was expanded and lights were added, the local pigeons moved in, nesting above the lights. They have created what I disgustingly refer to as the “Excrement Drop Zone” right next to where I sit during the concerts. As we were preparing to play a piece on Saturday, I saw something come flying through the air in my peripheral vision. For a moment, I thought I had narrowly missed being splattered with pigeon poo. Then something hard hit the ground in front of me, and eggy shrapnel scattered all over the place.

The question is, did the pigeon lay that egg on the fly? Did it land in the nest and dislodge the egg accidentally? Or was there something more sinister going on? Did that pigeon not like how I was playing and choose to throw that egg at me? We’ll never know. What I do know is that with it turning into an Alfred Hitchcock-esque scene down by the lake, I might just have to start playing in body armor.

crafts · knitting · Uncategorized

The Danger Zone

Before we get into the yarn and needles business of today’s post, let’s pause for a moment for a brief update on piggies and hay.

Remember these fellows?

If you don’t remember them, I present to you Winston and Basil, the two tiny tyrants who demand their dinner the moment I stand up from the table after eating mine. Their loud chorus of wheeks sends me scurrying to the fridge night after night to prepare a heaping bowl of romaine, carrots, tomatoes, and peppers. Oh, the joys of being a guinea pig grandma who is on duty while their mama is off at college. (Side note: I think they eat more veggies in a day than my son.)

Perhaps you remember that I sewed these two little monsters some adorable new hay bags a few months ago. It quickly became apparent when hay was being pulled out with wild abandon and left in heaping piles on the bottom of the cage that I’d made the holes in the bags much too large. To remedy these hay hijinks, my daughter sewed some inch-wide strips in the middle of the openings. This, she was certain, would keep the boys from getting up to no good.

Clearly, this idea was flawed.

It didn’t take even a week for those greedy gut guys to rip the strips off so the hay spillage could commence again.

Alas, my daughter and I will need to put our heads together. Perhaps between the two of us, we can design a new hay bag that will outsmart our sharp-toothed cavies.

Now, on to the yarn and needles bit, which I’m certain is vastly more boring than cute critters, so I’ll keep this part short.

I have entered the sock DANGER ZONE.

Oh, who am I kidding? Every single change of directions in this sock pattern seems to have found me flirting with danger…or at least mistake after mistake. Now, though, I’m working on the heel flap which comes right before turning the heel.

Wish me luck!

crafts · knitting · Uncategorized

Sock Drama part deux

The sock drama continues.

Yet again we were watching an episode of Grantchester. Yet again I was knitting away at a pair of socks. Yet again I was paying full attention to neither the show nor the mess of needles and yarn in my hands. Yet again I missed part of the plot and made a mistake. And yet again I wondered why I bother knitting socks.

The end result: there was a hole in my sock. It wasn’t a big hole. It was barely noticeable. After a close inspection, I determined it wasn’t a dropped stitch. It was more like something got twisted in a funny way. I decided I could live with that. Who would ever even notice such a tiny hole other than me?

And so I knitted on.

For about six more rounds.

Then the little perfectionistic demon that I usually keep under control reared its ugly little head and insisted I needed to do something. I whined. I complained. (Mostly in my head.) I swore at that demon. (Also in my head.) Then I gave in. I could not allow that hole to remain.

I decided the best course of action would be to work up to the problem stitch, drop it down to the hole, and pick all the stitches back up. While this would be a challenge considering the thinness of the yarn and tinyness of the stitches, it was preferable to picking out six or more rounds of knitting and re-knitting everything.

Apparently, a tiny crochet hook would have been the perfect tool for my stitch picking up. I learned this after the fact. Unfortunately, I don’t own a tiny crochet hook because I don’t crochet. (I tried it once. It made my hands hurt. Don’t do things that make your body hurt. I learned this the hard way with running.)

Strangely, as we began season 3 of Breaking Bad last night, I managed to knit several inches without any mistakes. Could it be that Grantchester is the problem and not me?

crafts · knitting · Uncategorized

The Worst Pattern Ever!

I picked up the pattern for the third time. This was the time, I was certain, that I’d read the pattern properly. This was the time I wouldn’t make a mistake. This was the time I wouldn’t have to rip out stitches, teeny tiny stitches in fingering weight yarn on teeny tiny needles.

I was wrong.

For the third time, I had a five-needle nightmare going on as I worked my way out of multiple rows of mistakes.

Will I ever learn?

Is it just me? Am I unable to comprehend basic directions?

Clearly not, as most projects go smoothly. Clearly, this time and the other three times this has happened, the mistakes I’ve made have been the fault of the Worst Pattern Ever!

But it was free, so I can’t really complain, can I? Besides, you’d think I would have learned a thing or two the first two times I worked my way through the pattern.

There I was, happily knitting around and around, my five needles all behaving and not in a Pick Up Sticks jumble. (Remember that very safe childhood game with its long pointy eye poker-outer sticks?) I had one eye on my knitting and one eye on the episode of Grantchester we were watching, so it took a few rounds of knitting for me to realize that something wasn’t quite right.

I looked at my sock in progress. I looked at the pattern. The pattern said to “Do pattern.” (No “pattern” was given. It was a knitting-free-for-all situation. And when it’s a knitting-free-for-all situation, I choose to knit. I’m not a purl fan.) But above that, someone had written in “Plain knit.” I was just knitting, plain knitting as the hand-scrawled note said to do. I wasn’t “patterning,” as the original pattern stated. I seemed to recall “patterning” on the last pair of socks I’d made. A quick check in my sock drawer at my still pristine homemade socks–2 pairs! Barely worn! They take too long to make for me to actually wear them and wear them out!–showed that I had, indeed, done a K3 P1 pattern in the past.

With a great sigh and a whole lot of swear words running through my head, I headed back downstairs to spend an hour picking those tiny knit stitches out, vowing to add yet another “Don’t be an idiot here” onto the pattern.

I suppose the fact that I’m having to write “Don’t be an idiot here” multiple times might be a sign that the problem could be with me and not with the pattern.

No. Nevermind. I refuse to take any responsibility for these sock debacles.

For this pair of socks, I’m using clearanced Premier Serenity (Serenity? Ha! More like Angry-stitch-ripper vibes!) sock yarn from JoAnn Fabrics. I snagged multiple skeins for $2.97 each! My pattern is a free sock pattern for Five Needle Socks that I got at a local (now closed) knitting store.

crafts · knitting · Uncategorized

Another WIP off the List: Socks

I had hoped to have my Lemon Pepper Lap Quilt finished to share this weekend, but the quilting is taking WAY longer than I had planned. Hubby and I made it through the audiobook A Rule Against Murder by Louise Penny (We’re working our way through the Inspector Gamache series), all 10 hours and 50ish minutes of it while I quilted and he worked, and I’m still not finished with the quilting. I see another entire audiobook in our future before I’ve sewn the last stitch.

Meanwhile, I did knock another unfinished object off my lengthy list. The goal for the year was to finish up three projects (before starting anything new…although where’s the fun in that?), and I’ve now completed two.

Behold…the socks that took at least a year:

Not only did these socks take at least a year for me to finish, but they weren’t even supposed to be one of my projects.

Several years ago…probably at least ten…my daughter and I bought yarn to knit socks. I picked a black and orange and pink and numerous other colors variegated yarn for mine. She picked a blue and brown yarn. After several years (YEARS!) I finally finished my pair.

It took years because I was terrified to do the whole “Turning the heel” bit because our local “Knitting Lady” had passed away and I felt like a YouTube video couldn’t possibly compare to live instruction. Thankfully, YouTube did not fail me, as I haven’t found a replacement Knitting Lady to pick out my mishaps and pick up my dropped stitches. (I can actually pick up my dropped stitches all on my own now.)

Anyway…my daughter moved on to other knitting projects since socks didn’t really interest her, and I became the owner of the blue and brown sock yarn and about 1 inch of the sock that she had completed. Last year I finally picked up the project, unraveled what she’d completed (since we knit at a different tightness), and vowed to make myself another pair of socks. Hours and hours, days and days later, I finally Kitchener Stitched up the toe on the second sock yesterday. I can’t explain why it takes me so long to knit a sock or a pair of socks. It just does.

(I like how this yarn stripes. And, amazingly and through no effort on my part, the stripes on each sock nearly match.)

Now the question is: Do I frame these? Hang them up somewhere? Put them in a safe and bring them out once a year to admire? They’re super comfortable, but after all that work I can’t just wear them and wear them out!

crafts · knitting · Uncategorized

Felted Clogs

At the top of Texas on a very windy day!

It’s been a rough couple of weeks. Following a super fun, two-week Texas adventure where we hiked lots of miles, saw family, and summited Guadalupe Peak (the highest point in Texas at 8,751 feet), we returned home and started battling a “cold.” It’s been approximately 24 days of one symptom after another, and I finally seem to be in the final days of a nagging cough. (Do you ever wonder when sick if you’re ever going to feel fully normal again? I’m at that point right now!) Our daughter, who claims she’s just “built different” by which she means “built better,” luckily had barely a sniffle. No one got tested for anything since we were able to just stay home, so we will forever not know if we caught the “thing.” (Our daughter and son did eventually get tested when they moved back to college.)

It wasn’t until the last week or so that I felt like doing much other than vegging out on the couch watching television or napping. When I noticed that my slippers were sporting some holes in the soles, I decided to get busy making a new pair since that was something I could easily work on while continuing to recuperate.

I really like using the Felt Clog pattern from Fiber Trends for my slippers. I’ve been using this pattern for close to 20 years. I believe this is the same pattern http://www.fibertrends.com/p/ac33e-felt-clogs-pdf-download.

Before felting

The pattern calls for using a double strand of heavy worsted weight yarn. I chose to use a single strand of bulky yarn. I purchased Buttercream Luxe Craft Roving from Hobby Lobby as that is the only local place to purchase 100% wool yarn. (Lest you think I went shopping for yarn whilst sick and potentially infected other townfolk, let me assure you that I purchased this yarn a couple months ago when I realized that I would soon need new slippers. I went nowhere for 3 weeks, finally venturing out to the grocery last night since we were nearing a dire empty fridge situation.)

Still a bit large

Comparing this yarn to one I had purchased at a Joann’s store in a nearby town (sadly our Joann’s closed many years ago) for my last pair of slippers, I believe this brand felted up a lot faster.

The felting process is like magic. It’s amazing to see what can happen to what looks like a big floppy pair of clown shoes in just 10-15 minutes of hot water and agitation in the washing machine. I’m not a fan of trying the slippers on during the felting process. They’re wet and dripping everywhere, a bit soapy, and hot. Plus I don’t like that fuzzy yarn against my bare toes! (I always wear socks with these slippers.) They were still a bit large in the photo, so I put them in for another 3 minutes which made them just right. After forming them to my feet, I placed them in front of the fireplace to dry.

All finished!

Though both slippers are knitted from the same pattern, once you form the wet slippers to your feet, you do end up with a distinct right and left slipper.

These are so cozy. They are great for when you’re just sitting around on the couch at night. I prefer a hard-soled slipper for when I’m walking around the house during the day as these are a bit slippery on hard surfaces. Plus, though I enjoy knitting them, I like for them to not wear out quickly.

A final note: I do not make the extra “bumper” sole that can be added to these slippers.

I hope to get back to quilting soon!

knitting · Uncategorized

A Pretty Impractical Afghan

Many, many years ago when our kids were little (actually before our youngest was even born) I attended a knitting group with my mom. The local hospital hosted the group, titling the class “Knitting for Stress Therapy.” I’m not sure how many people actually attended for stress relief or whether most just saw it as an opportunity to hang out with people who enjoyed doing the same things and as a chance to maybe gossip just a bit. I was, at the young, young age of 23, the youngest person in the group. The oldest attendee, I believe, was a nun who was probably in her 80s or 90s.

The class was hosted by a woman I always refer to as the Knitting Lady as she was probably responsible for teaching at least half the knitters in our town how to knit. She had a shop outside of town where she hosted additional classes on occasion and sold all sorts of supplies, patterns, and gorgeous yarn. She was our go-to person for knitting advice and was always more than willing to rip, rip, rip out entire sections of mistakes. She was also my go-to person whenever I needed a dropped stitch fixed. Sadly, she passed away several years ago. I’ve since had to learn how to do all that ripping and dropped stitch fixing on my own.

As a fun idea for a class one year, the Knitting Lady decided to do a Block of the Month project which would yield an afghan by the end of the year. Each month we would purchase a new pattern and yarn. I think the entire afghan ended up costing well over $100. (Probably $150, which makes me shudder!) Crazy, I know. (Now I buy a couple skeins of that One Pound yarn…whatever brand that is… when it’s on sale and can have an afghan for about 1/4 the price or less.) What was even worse than the $100+ price tag was that the yarn used by the class for the project was gorgeous, hand-dyed 100% WOOL!

Now, do you know what happens to 100% wool if you toss it in a washing machine?

It felts.

Which is probably not a good thing. Because afghans that are actually used for…I don’t know, say, snuggling under to stay warm…rather than just as a chair decoration might actually need to be washed once in a while.

Other than the initial very delicate hand washing (which I did prior to blocking each block), this afghan has never been washed. It has never been used. It hangs out on the back of a rocking chair in our bedroom just looking cute.

I have to say that I love the colors I picked. The Knitting Lady seemed very skeptical when I chose the orange yarn, but as there was some orange in the variegated yarn, I knew the variegated would tie all the solid colors together.

knitting · Uncategorized

Half of a Pair

Finally. I have a sock. My oldest daughter’s response when I sent her a photo of the completed sock was, and I quote, “Ayyy. Only took years.” I have no idea what “ayyy” means. I’m sure it’s some sort of exclamation indicating astonishment at my slowness. But let’s talk about the “years” that it took, shall we?

Several years ago…less than ten, or maybe more??…I took oldest daughter to the yarn shop to purchase sock yarn. I bought some for myself, which I knitted up into a pair of socks in approximately 5 years, and she chose this blue/tan combo.

She began knitting her socks, completed approximately one inch of ribbing, and declared that she was ready to do the heel as she didn’t want high socks. At this point in time I wasn’t even close to ready to start on my heel, and, as we needed to make a trip to see the “knitting lady” for a bit of show-and-tell on how to actually do a heel, my daughter laid her pair aside.

By the time I was ready to learn how to do the heel, our “knitting lady” had passed away and my daughter had lost all interest in finishing her socks. (She had moved on to sweaters and afghans by this point and thought that knitted socks weren’t worth the effort.) Without our “knitting lady,” I had to watch YouTube videos on how to form the heel since our printed directions were slightly lacking in photos and instructions. Finally, I completed my pair.

As I’m not really a blue and brown kind of gal, oldest’s partially completed sock lurked in my knitting basket for several years before I finally picked it up to work on it. As I wasn’t certain exactly where she was in the pattern and since we knit at a different tightness, I picked out her work and began again. After several months, which involved much picking out due to misreading directions, I finally completed this sock. It’s mate is in the early stages and may be completed within this decade. I can’t make any guarantees.

I was recently discussing the cost of homemade socks with my husband. I believe one skein of this particular sock yarn was somewhere between $9 and $18. It’s been so long ago that I can’t remember what I paid. When you add all of the hours spent working on a pair of socks to the cost of materials you end up with a pair of socks that would be too ridiculously expensive to sell.

So why spend all the money and time making them?

They are super comfortable. Many of the socks I buy from the store are too long for my feet. I have some toasty wool socks whose heel lands significantly north of my Achilles tendon when pulled on all the way. They bulge out from under the hem of my pants like a fluffy tumor. Homemade socks can be made to the exact size of your foot. That said, I don’t think I’ll be making all of my socks in the future. At the rate I knit, I’d be barefoot most of the time. I’d also be broke.

knitting · Uncategorized

Knitted Socks and Pureed Peaches

This past weekend was all about peaches. (And hiking and errands and church and movies and knitting. But mostly peaches.) Our peach tree is a sad little thing. It’s lopsided and leans heavily toward the ground once the peaches begin growing. Once upon a time we had its trunk tied to a large aspen in our yard in the hopes that it would eventually end up standing straight. We’ve since given up all hope of this happening.

Our peaches are also sad little things. They have dark specks where bugs have attacked them, and they are generally no larger than ping pong balls. There may have been two in the bunch this year that were a decent size.

While they are sad looking and tiny, there are many of them. This year we picked a grocery sack full. After at least 4 hours of peeling and cutting while listening the Paper Ghosts podcast over two days (resulting in a horribly cramped hand), we ended up with 28 bags of puree to freeze and add to smoothies. While I know that all those little plastic baggies aren’t good for the environment, it was the best option for us this year. In years past I have frozen the puree in ice cube trays and stored the cubes in a large plastic bag. The trouble with ice cubes is that they take up a lot of room. These bags flattened out nicely and fit well in our overstuffed freezer. Last night we enjoyed our first peach smoothie, and it was tasty!

This weekend I also decided to make some progress on my knitted socks. I enjoy the sock knitting process once I get the needles all sorted out after the first few rounds. But when I neared the heel I knew I would need a lot of concentration and a few YouTube videos to get past it as I’d only knit one other pair of socks before and had forgotten how to do the heel. So I set the project aside until I felt ready to tackle that part.

I’m not sure why working on the heel seems so scary and daunting. It’s not really that difficult. After a few tries and bit of picking stitches out when I struggled picking stitches up on the heel, I managed to produce something that looked pretty good.

Below is a photo of the sock in process and one sock of the pair I made a few years ago. I really like the striping yarn. I’m using a five needle sock pattern that I got for free from the woman who taught me how to knit. I believe she may have created the pattern herself as there is no information on it that indicates it was created by someone else. Whenever I get to a tricky spot in a knitting pattern, I always think about this woman and wish she was still around to help me out of a bind. Sadly, she passed away several years ago.