Friday, November 30, 2012

Getting in the Spirit

I haven't been at my home for Christmas in a long time, and though I'm very sad to be missing out on my family's Christmas, I am finding it very exciting to get ready for Christmas at home.  I'm doing all the things I never do because I won't be here to enjoy them, and best of all, my new hubby and I are working on building our own traditions.  CodeNinja usually puts up a tree and all that, so he has some things already, and I brought some ornaments and things back from my visit to my parents.  But, there are a lot of things we don't have because we are so used to going back to our respective parental abodes for Christmas.  Some things we brought with us, but some things it just seemed wrong to take from home.  So, our childhood stockings will be hanging on our parents' mantles as usual, and I am making some for us.

It took me a while to decide on The Great Christmas Stocking Plan, but there was plenty to do in the meantime.  I decorated our mantle, we put up a Christmas tree (a real one) and decorated it with lights.  Of course, accessorizing is everything, so we did some shopping for various accoutrements that we needed.

We got a tree skirt.


And an angel.


And two stocking hangers engraved with our names.  Mine is a snowflake and CodeNinja's is a Christmas tree.  Isn't it all lovely?


I am totally going to sneak an extra set of colored lights on the top, because for some reason the top appears to have many more white lights than the lower half.

By the time we were thus fully equipped, I had consulted Ravelry, pondered stocking patterns, and deliberated (with the help of friends) over yarn selection.  I settled on Berrocco Comfort in white, green, and red.  CodeNinja's stocking will be red with green cuff, heels, and toes, and mine will be the reverse, and the white is to be used as an accent color on both. 

I looked at a bazillion stocking patterns, but none of them were right for me.  I have an intense dislike for colorwork (not the look, but the act of knitting it) and most of the other stockings that were cabled or otherwise textured, didn't seem to really lay/hang nicely due to the changing - tension isn't the word I'm looking for.  Sucking in in places?  Cables, ribbing, textured areas, all tend to kind of make the stocking either wider or narrower in places.  Yes, it could probably be blocked out, but I don't really want to spend a ton of time reblocking the stockings every year and what have you.

So I decided to wing it.  I'm using a plain vanilla sock pattern as my base, and I'll just knit a really big sock. I decided on a seed stitch "cuff" with about 4 rows in white, then as many in green as I felt looked good, and then four more rows of white, and then I would start the stockinette stitch in red.   So, having settled on a nice worsted weight yarn, (and acquiring appropriate needles, which OF COURSE, despite the size of my needle collection, I did not have) I got started on CodeNinja's stocking. 

I learned a few things during this process.
--The number of stitches I should cast on to reach all the way around my 16" circular is 80.
--Seed stitch does not work properly unless you have an odd number of stitches.  Increase by 1 to solve.  Make a mental note to cast on 81 for the second stocking.
--Color changes in seed stitch are not particularly neat.  See the sort of checkered row?


Some people might not be bothered by this.  Some might even like it.  Me?  It made me crazy.  I was fretting about it on Ravelry when it hit me.  I could do a Latvian braid there!  That would totally make a nicer transition.

I didn't really want to rip out what I had until I was sure that I would like the braid better (I was some distance further on the stocking than shown in this picture before I could admit to myself that I didn't like the color change), so I cast on for my stocking, figuring I would work the braid on it, and then if it worked out better, I would rip back the first one, and if not, I could stop and just carry on with what I was doing before.

I did the braid and, except for one mishap where I realized halfway through the second row of braid that I had miscrossed something in the first row, right at front and center where it would really show, so I had to back up and do it over again, it was lovely.


Then I kept merrily knitting along and...


There's the checkered row again.  Curses.  It's much more livable in this form, in my opinion, as it blends into the braid.  I tried to think of a way I could redo the second row so as not to get that, but I came up empty.  I could twist the strands but not purl with the white, but that seemed fraught with peril to me.

Tension was also a bit of an issue when working the braid, because I didn't want to make the braid so tight that it constricted the stocking, nor did I want it to be so loose that it didn't look good, so there was much anxiety over that.  Ultimately, though, I think the braid is really pretty and I'm going to go with this plan.  So, my pattern for the leg will be:

4 rows of seed stitch, white
1 latvian braid, green & white for his, red & white for me
Seed stitch, green for him, red for me, until I get tired of it or it looks like I have enough.
1 latvian braid in the other direction, green & white for his, red & white for me
4 rows of seed stitch, white
1 latvian braid in the direction of the first, red & white for his, green & white for me
Stockinette stitch leg until I think it's big enough.  Contrast color heel.  Foot until I'm happy with it.  Contrast color toe.

All of which has to be done in time to hang up on Christmas eve.  I can totally do that, right?

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

How does this happen?

I usually try to be good about knitting commitments, so that I don't make too many.  But here I am, overcommitted again.  I always count on Christmas vacation to dig myself out of the inevitable overcommitments of this time of year, but that's not happening this year.  I had a pre-Thanksgiving vacation instead.  I took several projects along with me.

1.  Galadriel's Mirror
This longtime WIP was only one chart away from being done and I just really wanted to finish it, but just as I got to the end...tragedy.
I ran out of yarn.  This rarely happens to me - I'm a tight knitter and I rarely adjust needle size from the pattern requirements (unless it's something that has to fit, like a sweater) so generally speaking, I use less yarn than a pattern calls for, and I had 3 skeins of Handmaiden Silk Twist, which has more yardage than the pattern calls for.  To top it all off, I made a mistake early on that meant my clustered stitches were only wrapped twice instead of three times.  So I really don't get how this happened.  But it did.  When I realized I was running low, I started strategizing for what I could do about it.  The pattern elements come down to a point in the last couple rows of the chart, so omitting them would have been problematic (and driven me absolutely batty forever).  The bind off called for was a crochet bind off that I knew I didn't have enough yardage for.  So, instead I did a stretchy lace bind off while working the last row of the chart.  As you can see, I came close.  So close.  But it wasn't enough.

I haven't decided what to do about this yet.  I poked around on Rav but not many people seem to have used this yarn - the only person who had completed a project did so in 2008, which is kind of a long time to keep and be able to locate your leftover yarn.  At the moment, I'm leaning toward just biting the bullet, ordering another skein, picking out my bind off (nooooooooo) and finishing the darn thing the way it was supposed to be finished.  With something this large, that is this much work...I really don't feel like it's worth it to cheat at the end.  I'm already going to have trouble overcoming my bitterness that of the 3 skeins I ordered, the first one I used was clearly a different dye lot than the other two.  I have managed to convince myself that since the change occurs right at the pattern transition, people will think I did it on purpose, and that the line between the two will not look so hard once it is blocked (the pattern texture will break it up some), but there is only so much justification I can manage on a single project. 

2.  Orphan Socks
As I think I mentioned previously, some members of my church are going on a mission trip to the Czech republic and have asked for knitted or crocheted items to donate to the orphanages they will be visiting.  I have been knitting some socks out of KnitPicks Felici self-striping yarn.  I have finished 2 pair of little girl socks.


(Look how neatly the color transition worked out on the heels of that pair.  It makes me so gleeful.  Pretend I did it on purpose.)

I'm now working on a 3rd, larger pair, in less girly colors, for boys or older girls, and I have enough yarn for a fourth pair.  These have to be finished before the mission team leaves, shortly after Christmas.

3.  Zephyr Cove
I don't know what is with my knitting mojo on this project.  I don't think I am a particularly speedy knitter, though I knit so much that I sometimes give the illusion of speed.  But everyone else seemed to race through the first part of this shawl and get to the stripe section so quickly, I wondered if I was doing something wrong.  But, I finally made it to the stripes.


I had to fudge a little bit.  The pattern tells you to repeat 4 rows a certain number of times - I am terrible at keeping count this way, so I very very much appreciated that the pattern informed you that when this was complete, you should have a certain number of stitches and have completed a certain number of picots along the edge of the shawl.  Well, when I approached the right number of stitches, I realized was at the wrong place in the 4 rows I was supposed to be repeating (wrong relative to the number of stitches I was supposed to have at that point, I mean - the next two rows were supposed to add 2 stitches and I only needed 1 to reach the correct number), and I was short 2 edge picots.  I improvised by leaving out one of the increases in the next two rows, which left me 1 picot short but with the correct number of stitches, so I figured that was good enough. 

Unfortunately, I find 2 color shawls to be a bit less portable.  It didn't help either my timing or my temper that my main color yarn ball thew up all its insides and I had to re-wind it from the outside edge.  So, while I have done a few stripes...I've only done a few.

I took another pair of socks with me (patterned, not plain) but didn't really get a chance to work on those.  They are gifts, but not for Christmas, so they are set aside for now.

I do have a fair amount of Christmas related knitting to do, for my own home and for other people.  First up on the list is Christmas stockings for my new hubbie and I.  This will our first Christmas as our own little family, and we are relatively unprepared.  I have had the same Christmas stocking since I was born, so I take these things very seriously, but I didn't feel right taking my family stocking away from my parents, nor asking David to take his from his - we will always have a place in our families for Christmas.  So, we decided the best thing to do was for us to get our own, and if I can make them, I will.  Yarn selection is my first problem - I want something enjoyable work with and to touch when you take it down off the mantle, but that will wear well and last for years.  And, of course, it has to come in good Christmasy colors.  It would also be nice if it didn't break the bank.

I looked at a number of Christmas stocking patterns, but I hate colorwork, and many of the textured patterns I looked at just didn't look all that I think I am just going to wing it and make, basically, a really big sock with a foldover cuff of some kind - maybe seed stitch. 

I also have a couple of Christmas presents to finish up, and one that I haven't even started yet, a Poinsettia tam and cuffs.  I got Shalimar Breathless for the cuffs and Kid Seta lux for the lining.


Kid Seta is a bit heavier weight than called for, but there is usually some wiggle room with these brushed yarns, so I'm hoping I can make it work.  If I have enough yarn and time left over, I plan to make a scarf out of the remaining Kid Seta.

I still want to work on Firebird and Zephyr Cove - it's so much fun knitting with everyone on the forums in Romi's ravelry group and I hate to fall too far behind...but I really don't know how I can manage that much!!