Starry Night at the Ritz

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I am more of a process knitter than a product knitter. I want to try every technique all the time, but I don’t necessarily want to keep everything that I make. I just want my hands to stay busy. That’s why it’s a blessing in disguise that I have somehow become surrounded by a whole bunch of pregnant ladies at all times.

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HOWEVER. If anyone tries to ask me for this shawl, they are going to have to pry it out of my cold, dead hands. I am in love with this scrap of fiddly lace-and-beads nonsense, hence all of the goofy faces in these pictures.

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I bought this skein of Dream in Color Starry Silver in Starless Sky (tragically discontinued!) a very long time ago, not having any idea what on earth I would do with it. Sparkly socks are quite tempting, but I figured that this gorgeous stuff should be out on display, not hidden under shoes and pants. Sparkles need to be in the sunlight to achieve their true potential, yes? Yes.

But what shawl pattern could possibly be worth it? Well, when you’re zooming along on Ravelry, looking at shawl patterns, and one pops up that states that it contains 650 individually-placed beads, you get stoked. Glitz at the Ritz is a thing of such complicated, fiddly beauty that I couldn’t resist.

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As soon as I started the first lace pattern, I just knew that this pattern and this yarn was simply a match made in heaven. As for the beads? Toho Japanese glass beads, the clear glass with the silver foil inner lining, size 6/0 E.

I am particularly enamored of the way the large sparkly beads are picked out against the more subtle shimmer of the background yarn. It’s reminiscent of a fiber-optic star curtain, a reference that no one else will probably understand, but that made the lighting designers in the audience get real excited.

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In this particular pattern, the beads are individually placed with a tiny crochet hook onto each stitch right before knitting it, rather than having them strung onto the working yarn. This is really the best way to do it, in my opinion, for many reasons. Not only do you not have to be dealing with stringing a bajillion beads onto your fancy yarn and constantly moving them around and scraping up your delicate mylar threads, but you also get to feel like a mad scientist with your knitting needles in both hands and somehow also a crochet hook the size of a sewing needle balanced precariously within, attempting to not drop the bead or let your stitches drop off the needle (both of which might have happened to me several times).

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I mean, look at that bead action. It’s all worth it, even though when I try to vacuum between the cushions on my couch later, I’m sure I’ll find an awful lot of tiny glass beads that slipped from my grasp. Hopefully the cats didn’t eat any.

The best part of the knitting (although all of it was great, and I sincerely didn’t want it to end) was the bind-off row, hands-down.

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When you’re reading the pattern for that part, it seems insane. As you move along and knit it, you feel like you’re knitting each stitch 5 times over, but you’re really making the most adorable alternating picot bundles with beads placed in the ditches between. It’s utterly unnecessary and ridiculous and yet just a lovely and perfect finish to the whole thing.

As much as knitting it was a joy, pinning it out was even better. My blocking wires took care of the curved top, and as I stretched out each tiny picot edge bundle and pinned it, I just fell in love all over again.

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Dan said, when he saw it all pinned out, that it looked like falcon wings. He’s not wrong.

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Taking pictures of it was a bit of a challenge, due to the fact that the dark blues and purples shift color wildly in different light.

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Sometimes it’s purple.

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Sometimes it’s blue.

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Sometimes it’s lurking in the window, looking all shadowy and fancy.

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No matter what, it’ll make you feel like a goddamn knitting master.

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And a pretty, pretty princess.

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So get out there and get yourself some sparkly sock yarn, some beads, the tiniest crochet hook you’ve ever seen, and some never-ending patience so you can make your own. When you’re spinning around in the park feeling awesome with your new shawl, you’ll be glad you did.

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Chocolate Pie & a Warm Pup – the City Stripes Dog Sweater

In early January, my friend Kelli had a wonderful idea. We decided to chase our winter blues away and celebrate the tiny amount of time I had left before my semester started again by baking chocolate fudge pie.

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This girl right here is just full of good ideas. If it’s any indication of just how good of an idea this was, this is the first real opportunity that I’m having to post about it because of school and work and nonsense, despite the fact that it happened 3 months ago.

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We took the chilly day as an opportunity to learn the finer points of pie crust-making, focusing on proper rolling and fluting technique, which are the fiddliest and best parts, of course.

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Such concentration!

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It was worth it.

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Look at that pie-making pride! Well-deserved, indeed.

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I don’t really have a recipe or anything to share, just wanted to brag a little bit about how freaking delicious that pie was. However, during our pie-making, Kelli and I were bemoaning how cold it was this winter, and we got onto the topic of dog sweaters.

Kelli is the greatest dog lover that I know, and that’s really saying something. She loves all pups, especially her tiny Ellie, and we spent part of the afternoon brainstorming on Ravelry what new sweater I would knit for her in order to keep warm during the rest of the winter.

I have never knit an article of clothing for an animal before, primarily due to two facts. One, I am allergic to dogs and cannot spend much time around them without dissolving into a sneezing, wheezy mess. Two, I own two cats, both of which have a history of handily annihilating any object placed on their person, except for a collar. (And even then, only select collars.)

We settled on Lion Brand’s City Stripes Dog Sweater pattern after falling in love with its stripey, squishy goodness, plus the fact that it has a wide range of sizes and fit modifications built into the pattern.

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I am not normally a huge Lion Brand fan, but Wool-Ease Thick & Quick can be downright delightful when it’s combined with the right pattern.  Kelli told me that she wanted neutrals, blues, and golds, and I think I hit the jackpot.  The colors we went with were Sky Blue (106), Mustard (158), and Barley (124), and when they’re striped up all nice, they remind me of a very fancy private school uniform.

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Wool-Ease is soft and squishy and bouncy, perfect for making those stripes pop. I was quite enamored of the wrong side, as I often am. Knitters know, sometimes the wrong side, the inside, is prettier.

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But the right side, hoo boy, it’s nice, too.

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Plus, Wool-Ease is machine-washable, an essential element when knitting anything that’s going to spend the majority of its worn life just a few inches from the ground.

I pretty much followed the pattern exactly as written for the smallest size (the 18″ chest), due to Ellie being a very tiny pup. I carried all of the colors up the side, which all disappeared conveniently in the seaming.

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The only change that I made was in the binding-off. I used a larger needle just for the bind-off rows on each piece (I’m pretty sure I used a size 17 for this, but, as usual, I neglected to write down this important information). When I bound the stitches with the original size 13 needles, it just seemed like it wasn’t stretchy enough to fit comfortably over the head of a squirming animal. Redoing it with the larger needle size made it nice and stretchy without deforming the overall shape. I decided to try it out on the most unwilling participant I could find, just to be sure.

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Trip tolerated it for a whole 5 seconds before deciding that both it and I needed to be destroyed. I’m pretty sure that that solidified my #1 place on his future hit-list, but he looked so cute I couldn’t resist.

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But how did it go with Ellie?

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Awwwwwww.

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Such a warm and cosy pup.

Now that the weather’s gotten warmer, and it actually feels like spring around here (which feels more like summer to everyone else in the country), I know that Kelli and Ellie don’t need their sweater as much, but I have faith that it’ll last them for a long time to come. As for me, it is very tempting to use the 1/2 skeins I have left of each color to make a kitty sweater, but I think I’ll take the safe option and make a blanket for them to destroy. They’ll love it.

Hot Pink Lindsays, the pinkest socks ever

During the Summer of Socks (parts 1, 2, & 3!) last year, I ordered a variety pack of Knit Picks Hawthorne in order to get a certain specific color that I wanted that wasn’t available individually for some weird reason, and I ended up with a bunch of random colors of sock yarn that I might not have necessarily bought otherwise.

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It’s hard to go wrong with a variety pack of Hawthorne, though, since all of the colors are just super-saturated and gorgeous, and these jewel tones were right up my alley.

But that pink! It’s so pink that I kept saying it “pank” over and over again. This color is called “Rose City,” and it is the pinkest yarn I have ever seen, and I have knit an awful lot of Pussyhats. It’s a glorious thing, but not something that I feel like I’d ever be able to wear, even on my feet. I’m just not that committed to pink.

However, after some of my coworkers at the hospital saw my socks from the Summer of Socks (yes, I will refer to it with its full name every time), I got requests for hand-knitted socks from all kinds of people. When my friend Sabrina said that she wanted some, I knew that this pink would be perfect for her.

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Sabrina is a kick-ass punk-rock pixie-looking awesome nurse that I had the pleasure of working with while our floor was being renovated almost 2 years ago. She’s all black hair and cool tattoos and sassiness, and this pink just called out to me when she expressed an interest in some socks.

I sat down with her and showed her a bunch of sock patterns, and she picked out Lindsay by Cookie A., a masterpiece of garter-stitch short-rowing and gathered stitches.

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Now, I am beyond pleased with the way these came out. They are exactly like I pictured in my mind, and I think that the pink just works amazingly well here.

However…

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…those k4togs are a bitch. If you are a long-time reader of this blog, you know that I have a long-standing hatred of all things nupp, bobble, and popcorn stitch. Knitting 4 stitches together with any sort of legit tension on the yarn is just a goddamn nightmare.

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But, dang it if they don’t look real pretty when they’re done.  I guess it’s worth it when it looks so good.

In order to complete these, I had to thread the needle through all 4 stitches, and then work the needle back and forth over and over again to open up the space inside the stitches before wrapping the yarn. Otherwise, if I tried to pull the working yarn though, everything slipped off the needle in a big mess, and a great deal of swearing would occur.

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As for the other design features, I was so enamored of the short row garter-stitch heels that I took a picture and bragged all over Facebook about them to people who had no idea what I was so jazzed about. Which is pretty much business as usual, to be honest.

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I might be a complete short row heel convert now.

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And the toes! So stretchy and comfy and stylish. The seam ends up landing sort of in the crease where your toes meet your foot, but you really can’t feel anything there. When you’re knitting them, they look a little bulbous and strange, but when they’re done, they stretch and fit perfectly.

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Lastly, these socks are paired symmetrically, which I feel is something that I don’t see nearly enough of in knitwear.

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Each sock has a column of knit stitches that run up the outside edge, and I just find this so aesthetically pleasing. Cookie A. is all about these wonderful details, and that’s probably why I’ve made so many of her socks. (Kai-Mei, Cauchy, Sam, Mingus, Stricken, Pomatomus, and Hedera, to be exact.)

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So pretty and so pank. Sabrina sent me a picture of her wearing them the day after she got them, so I’m happy that crazy hot pink yarn found a good home. There was a nupp-like struggle to overcome, but it was all clearly meant to be. It’s nice when things work out that way.

Summer of Socks, vol. 3 – Barbecue Casual & Pool Socks, the exciting finale

Hooray!

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If you’ve made it all the way here, you’ve done an amazing feat! You’ve read through an unprecedented three-day-long streak of blog posts all about…socks.

Woo!

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In our first installment, we saw socks for my mom and dad. In the second, for my brother and sister-in-law. Now? Well, no Christmas would be complete without a secret surprise gift for my boyfriend, Dan, plus an extra pair of socks for myself (because I couldn’t let everyone have warm feet without me).

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The truth is, this whole project started with this little skein of yarn. This beautiful yarn cake is Satchel from Mrs. Crosby Loves to Play (the most hilariously weirdly named yarn company ever, which also happens to make some truly stunning stuff, please do check them out), in the colorway Rueppell’s Griffon. Dan and I noticed it when we were browsing in McNeedles, a not-so-local LYS that we enjoy, and the staff there told me that the colorway was meant to be a dupe for the Lorna’s Laces colorway named “Zombie BBQ.”

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We were delighted. If you thought that they had to say anything else to get me to buy that skein of sock yarn, you would be mistaken. However, I knew that if I bought it in front of Dan, he would put it together rather quickly that a secret pair of socks was in his future, so I instead headed out to Lacombe, a 40-ish minute drive from here, by myself while he was working in order to buy it later and hid it away, biding my time for the perfect secret sock moment.

That moment came this summer, when Dan went out of town for a few days for his sister’s wedding, and I was already deep into the Summer of Socks. He was only gone for a few days, which meant that I had to knit and block the pair in that short amount of time. At this point, I had already knit 4 pairs of socks in quick succession, so my fingers were up to the task.

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But what pattern would do this glorious yarn justice? Business Casual by Tanis Lavallee was an utter joy to knit. I had no problem flying through it, even though it involved cabling and a bit of fussiness, due to the fact that it is so incredibly well-written and clear. Other sock pattern writers should take notes, because it’s that good.

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Also, those tiny delicate lattice cable crosses kill me. They just look so good.

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That’s it really. I tried to find a more clever way to say it, but that’s all. They just look so good. Especially how they peel off from the ribbing on the cuff.

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I just really like looking at them, guys.

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I wasn’t the only one.

Both socks were knitted up quickly, and I had such a good time with them that I was kind of sad that they were over so fast. However, there was a strict deadline here, so blocking commenced and the socks stayed hidden away and secret for 4 more months while I waited for Christmas.

With the combination of yarn and pattern coming together so perfectly here, I knew that there was only thing that I could call them: Barbecue Casual. When I presented them to Dan, wrapped up inside a very silly elephant mug (he’s a fan of elephants and silly mugs, so double-bonus), he was so happy.  It’s going to be so hard to not steal them.

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For my socks, I used another treasure that I had squirreled away from McNeedles for a while. This is Lorna’s Laces Solemate, which is a very cool blend of superwash merino, nylon, and Outlast, a proprietary blend of microfiber that helps keep your socks from making your feet get too hot. It’s pretty interesting stuff that results in a sort of silky-soft, light sock that stays nice and warm without horrible sweaty toes.

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I got it in the colorway Bayou McNeedles, the special colorway created especially for and only available at McNeedles. It looks like really cheerful school colors to me, or a painting of a calm pool of water with plants and greenery around it. Hence the name, Pool Socks. I know, it’s not super great, but I can’t be expected to be clever all the time.

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Again, I went with the Good, Plain Sock recipe featured in Knitting Rules! by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee, the Yarn Harlot. I just wanted some simple and plain anklets to show off those colors, and I knew that there was high potential for flashing in a space-dyed yarn like this, which could ruin any all over stitch patterns.

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Normally, I am not a fan of flashing, but that big blue zag across the whole thing really did it for me this time. If it’s in the right colors and the right place, flashing can be quite an interesting thing.

And there we have it, the exciting conclusion to….the Suuuuuuummmmmmmer of Sooooooooocks. In reality, it just looked like me knitting something small while listening to my Advanced Assessment class online lectures or watching Midsomer Murders on Netflix…so just like I normally look, with perhaps a bit more urgency. I just hope that everyone enjoys their new socks.

And I hope that all of you have warm feet throughout the winter and into the new year. If not, just let me know. I’ll make you some socks.

Summer of Socks, vol. 2 – Denim Ribs & Embossed Leaves

Yes, ladies and gents, it’s time for another installment of…bum bum buuuuuummmm…

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The Summer of Socks! While we’re in winter! Hooray!

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Just as a recap, as I explained in the last post, I spent the summer knitting socks for my family, and I packaged them up with hot cocoa mix and personalized marshmallows into super cute mugs for them to enjoy on Christmas Eve.

And speaking of super cute mugs, just look at those little kitties. Those things are just so freaking adorable. I couldn’t resist getting them for my brother and sister-in-law, as they are also cat people.

Here we have the next two pairs of socks in the line-up. Denim Ribs

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…and Embossed Leaves.

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Oooooh. Aaaaah.

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My brother Jarrod tends to spend his life in jeans and t-shirts, and when I saw the colorway called the Pearl in Knit Picks Hawthorne, I knew it was something that he would like. I’m not sure where the name “the Pearl” comes from, since all I can think of when I hear that is the incredibly depressing novella by John Steinbeck. Looking at this colorway, with its varying shades of denim-y navy blues and pops of cream and gray, I get the impression of a well-loved, well-worn pair of jeans. Not to mention the synchronicity in the fact that it looks like the denim cousin to the Mt. Tabor colorway, previously featured on my dad’s socks.

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I didn’t want to do anything too fiddly here, due to the fact that the high contrast between the colors would probably obscure any stitchwork. Instead, I wanted something where those long stretches of cream and gray would pop out and spiral around and look awesome, just like they looked in the skein.

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I went with an old stand-by, dependable pattern, the Good, Plain Sock recipe featured in Knitting Rules! by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee, the Yarn Harlot. She is knitting royalty, and if you don’t have a copy of this book, you are seriously missing out. In it, she gives “recipes,” not complete patterns, of socks, hats, scarves, and shawls, and gives you all the tricks and tips you need to write your own patterns for yourself. Plus, she’s funny and snarky in all the right ways. I adore her.

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I have made so many socks with this pattern, and it always comes out great. This one in particular has a 3×3 ribbing throughout the cuff, sort of similar to my Plain Vanilla Taiyo socks. They also have simple slipped-stitch heels and capped toes, just the basic background structure to make the yarn really stand out.

I played a serious game of yarn chicken with these, due to the fact that my brother wears between a size 10-10.5 men’s shoe, and I had only about a foot left of yarn when I was done. Good thing to know that Hawthorne, with its 357 yds., had plenty enough for some giant socks.

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Here we have some of the prettiest yarn I have ever seen. Seriously, look at all of these colors! It’s Knit Picks Hawthorne (again!) in the colorway Alameda, and man, it was so much fun to knit up. I lived for hitting all of the little bright blue spots. (Do other knitters do that? Pick a favorite part of the colorway and get really excited to knit those particular stitches when you see them coming up? Just me? Okay.)

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These beauties were made for my sister-in-law, Kim, who enjoys feminine details, especially if they’re purple, so I figured something lacy and flowery and leafy would be perfect. The pattern here is Embossed Leaves by Mona Schmidt, again from the book Favorite Socks: 25 Timeless Designs from Interweave.

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I’m been wanting to knit this pattern up for a good, long time, mostly because of the ingenious little details that take into account how the leaf pattern interacts with the structure of the sock. There is a stockinette stitch smooth heel with purled “gutters” on the sides that extend from the purled areas between the motifs on the cuff. That sentence seems like nonsense, but trust me, it’s something to be excited about.

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The star toes incorporate purls into the decrease, making it look like the leaves all swirl together at the bottom. And those perfect little spirals at the end of the toes! Mona, you’re a genius.

That’s it for this installment. Stay tuned for the next…and final episode of….the Summer of Sooooooooooooocks (oooooocks oooooocks oooocks ooocks).

Summer of Socks, vol. 1 – Retro Rib & Osean

The wait is over!

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I know that you were all on pins and needles, just frantically wondering what all of my super-secret sock hinting was about. You barely got any sleep, with all of that uncertainty. Your work suffered. Your personal life suffered. It really took a toll that neither of us anticipated. And for that, I am truly sorry.

Oh wait, I forgot! There’s like, maybe 2 people who read this. What a relief. I’m glad to know that thousands of lives have not been ruined over some Christmas socks.

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That’s right! Christmas socks! I spent my summer, in-between working night shift and studying during the day, knitting socks for each member of my family, each one personalized to their likes and dislikes and relative foot sizes, as one would hope. They were then packaged up with hot cocoa and monogram marshmallows into a new mug, all perfect for enjoying on chilly winter nights.

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And dang if they didn’t come out cute.

First up, the socks that I made for my parents, Retro Rib and Osean.  (Those are the sock pattern names, not my parents’ names, just for clarity.)

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My dad is a hard person to knit for. He often loudly declares not having a need for any things at all, at any time at all. He pretends that he thinks that people waste time on hobbies, but secretly loves receiving anything handmade. He’ll insult your present by saying he has no need for it, but then tell you exactly how he’ll use it in the same sentence.

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It’s a bit of a complicated relationship.

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He’s a fan of green things, especially when they’re vaguely camo- or military-esque, so I figured that the Mt. Tabor colorway of Knit Picks Hawthorne would be perfect.

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It’s a lovely tonal mix of greens and grays that has a sort of nice silvery-sheen to it. It’s rustic and homey without being drab.

I chose the pattern Retro Rib by Evelyn A. Clark out of the book Favorite Socks: 25 Timeless Designs from Interweave, which is a wonderful book for anyone who’s an avid sock knitter. It’s got all kinds of gorgeous patterns with a range of complexity levels, plus lots of size options for most of the socks, which is great when your brother and father have really big feet.

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I did make one important pattern modification here, which I think really ties the sock together. The original pattern calls for a regular slip-stitch heel, where every other stitch is slipped on the RS rows, to make a visually-interesting and sturdy fabric on that part of the sock. It’s fairly standard and makes sense usually, but it made absolutely no sense to me here, considering that the sock has a mistake rib pattern that prominently features long columns of twisted stitches.

Instead, I only slipped the stitches that lined up with these columns, continuing that pattern (except for the purling) all the way down to the bottom. I feel like it makes for a much more elegant solution than just slapping any old heel on there. I also remember (keep in mind I made these months ago) that the directions for starting the heel flap didn’t really make the flap centered in a way that made sense to me, so just make sure that you’re keeping a eye out for that, if you’d like to knit a pair yourself. There are errata listed on Interweave’s website, so there might be a fix there already. Do yourself a favor and check, instead of just flying off half-cocked, like I always seem to do.

Anywho, my dad did just as expected when he received these. He said, “What made you think to make these? For me? What am I going to do with these?” and “Oh, these are just too big!” and “Okay, well they fit but they’re not going to fit under my shoes,” and “I guess I can wear these when it’s cold,” and “Oh look, they fit with my slippers! These will be great when it’s chilly outside.” And in a matter of hours, they were suddenly an acceptable gift.

Mission accomplished.

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Making things for my mother is not nearly so much of a challenge. She loves receiving gifts, especially handmade ones, and she’s a very good gift-giver herself. I have knit more things for her than anyone else in my family, except for Dan. She knows how to receive a gift with grace and delight and takes pleasure in taking care of and displaying these objects as they are intended. She also knows that knitted items are meant to be worn, not just looked at, and she uses them faithfully. It’s real cute.

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When I visited my best friend and his wife in San Rafael, CA, this summer, we stopped by a small yarn store/custom fabric dying shop called Dharma Trading Company that appears to have a lively and thriving online business of which I was unaware. I asked the person working there if they had anything local, because I enjoy buying hand-dyed local yarns when I’m travelling, and she showed me Invictus Yarns, an Etsy seller from Sacramento who does absolutely beautiful work. This particular skein is Beyond, which is a really soft and wonderful merino, nylon, and cashmere blend, in the colorway Tranquility. What better way to pamper the feet of someone who really deserves it than with cashmere?

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My mother and I share a love of the color blue and a preference for anklets, so when I saw Osean by Trudy Hertaas while searching on Ravelry, I knew it would be perfect.

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It has a wide lace panel in the center that mimics ocean waves, flanked by rope cables on either side. It was just enough fanciness to show off the blues and greens of the yarn without getting too crazy.

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The whole thing came together so nicely, it was like the yarn and pattern were made for each other. After she opened her gift, she put them on right away and wore them for the whole rest of the night. I hope that she wears them so much that she wears a hole through all that cashmere and I’m forced to make her another pair. That would be great.

Stay tuned for two more installments of…bum bum bum…the Summer of Socks! In the middle of winter. It made more sense a few months ago, I promise.

Hurricane Helix Socks

Hey everybody! Remember when I used to be a blogger?

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Oh hahahaaaa, she’s hilarious. Self-deprecating humor is just the best.

Anyway, grad school has eaten away a large portion of my life this fall, but that doesn’t mean that I haven’t been making things. In fact, a good knitting and/or crochet project has been by my side the entire semester, keeping me sane when the cavalcade of school and work and school and work is ready to bury me.

After the “Summer of Socks” wound down (and no, I still can’t divulge any details about it yet), I had an awful lot of extra odds and ends of sock yarn lying around. For years now, I’ve been using these scraps to make tiny squares for a project that Dan and I dubbed FutureBlanket. When we still thought that we maybe might have kids one day, we thought all those tiny squares might become a baby blanket.

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However, as years have gone by and we realized that we like our family just the way it is, I’ve just been knitting tons of tiny little colorful squares out of leftover sock yarn to make a blanket big enough for us both to share. One day I’ll lay them all out and see just how big it’s gotten. It’ll be the most beautiful, chaotic, colorful thing I’ve ever made, that’s for sure.

Anyway, my adventures in sock yarn this summer left me with more leftovers than I was used to, either due to the fact that I have a penchant for anklets, or maybe because I got some weird giant skeins. I had way too much beautiful stuff left just to relegate it to tiny squares, but probably not enough to make another pair of socks out of any of them.

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Also, although each skein was beautiful in their own right, they really looked weird together. Each one was its own weird mix of blues and greens, but in much different color temperatures and tones. I thought, there’s surely no way these things could look good together, right?

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HOT DAMN.

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You all know of my love for Grumperina, knitter extraordinaire, and I’ve already waxed poetic about her helical knitting sock pattern in my Triple Helix hat pattern. However, I had never yet taken the plunge and made a pair of helical socks of my very own, using her genius sock recipe.

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I’m not sure what took me so long. Maybe I was afraid of short-row heels? No need, not when you have Laura Chau’s amazing short row heel tutorial to guide the way.

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I mean, just look at those stripes. Knitters dream of achieving this type of random goodness. There are random stripe generators and flipping a coin, and all kinds of other methods, but apparently helical knitting with 3 different disparate colorways, plus one really beautiful solid, is the trick. The yarns that I used here are Prism Saki in Woodlands, last seen in my Woodland Gyllis scarf, Invictus Yarns Beyond in Tranquility, Lorna’s Laces Solemate in Bayou McNeedles (both of which are in super secret projects you haven’t seen yet), and Valley Yarns Huntington in Grey.

Well, I guess I can let you see a little sneak peek of those super secret socks, right?

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Really pretty, right? But you’d never, ever imagine they’d look so good together.

I used the Huntington for the tops, heels, and toes, and I think that’s really the trick to getting all of the colors to mesh together, selecting something that’s just contrast-y enough to let all of those blues and whites pop without muddying up the mix.

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The slight bluish cast to the gray really ties the room together, I think.  These beauties have been named Hurricane Helix due to the fact that I finished the majority of the knitting on the night when the entire city of New Orleans went on lockdown, waiting for the ravages of Hurricane Nate, which never really came.

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If you’d like to make your own the same as mine, I cast on 64 stitches for a women’s large size and knitted 12 rows of 2×2 ribbing at the top before getting going on the stripes. I made sure that the gray was the first color in the stripe rotation so that it always ended up at the beginning of needle 4 at the end of each set of 4 stripes, which ensured it was always in the right place to start the heels and toes. This probably makes no sense now, but it will when you’re knitting the socks, I promise.

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I also used a flat toe construction because that’s my preferred style, but short-row or star toes or whatever else you like would work, too.

So grab your ugliest sock yarn scraps, put them all together with a gorgeous dark solid color, and make yourself some helix socks. You’ll be glad you did.

Austin Recap, plus the Good, Good Dice Bags pattern!

First things first, I know that everyone was chomping at the bit to get the pattern for these good, good dice bags, and I did not want to disappoint, so here it is! (At least, I’m hoping that a few people wanted it, right?)

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Click right here for the dice bag pattern in an easily-printable PDF format, and then go here for your very own LOTR-inspired monogram letter to stitch on the front.

I did some extensive reverse-image-searching to find out the designer of this gorgeous Hobbit-y font, and found out that it’s the free font Hobbiton Brushhand designed by Nancy Lorenz, and you can download it right here if you want everything on your computer to look like Bilbo wrote it.

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After the image search, I went ahead and hand charted all of the letters out for you guys for no other reason than that I love you. And that I want you to have such wonderful dice bags.

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Please go knit some and get your duplicate stitch on.

Now, let’s get down to the Austin recap. Last time you joined us here at jingersnaps, we were getting ready to head out to Austin to see the freaking McElroy brothers perform The Adventure Zone and My Brother, My Brother, and Me live.

I know. I had to catch my breath, too.

Bailee and I drove 10 hours from New Orleans, being sure to stop along the way to look at a roadside gas station live tiger.

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Don’t worry, Tony had a lot of toys and space to roam, it seemed. He’s also the source of quite a bit of controversy, as evidenced here. But yes, you’re right, it’s real weird, even for a tiny Louisiana town.

If I broke the whole trip down into timeline-based increments, I think everyone would stop reading right here, so let me just tell you my favorite bits. Austin’s got a lot of really good food, and I’m all kinds of snobby about this stuff.

20170519_220504     20170519_220922Amy’s Ice Creams is a wonderful place. They have quite a surprising photo booth machine that will confuse the crap out of you, but produce some hilarious results.

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Hayley Cakes & Cookies is also a goddamn treasure. They sell cookies on Etsy and ship all over the place!

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I was quite enamored with these chicken and waffles from 24 Diner as well.

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Mother’s Cafe is all vegetarian and fabulous for brunch, especially if you get this ridiculously large slice of chocolate cake to finish. It certainly doesn’t hurt if you meet all kinds of new fandom friends there and they turn out to be the nicest people you’ll ever meet. You guys are awesome.

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Ramen Tatsuya has freaking delicious ramen, plus the funniest bit of bathroom graffiti ever. Bailee made sure to tell me to get in there to see this, and it was definitely worth it.

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Stay classy, Austin.

The other thing that Austin has a lot of is amazing cosplayers.

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The Adventure Zone is a D&D podcast, of course, so we were expecting to see some costumes, of course, but the Austin crowd went big. All of these cosplayer pictures were taken by Bailee, just so you know, because she is much cooler than me and knows better how to talk to equally cool strangers.

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All of those fantastic Taakos and Anguses and Magnuses and Loups…sometimes the only thing we could do was squeal and clap.

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The McElroys themselves also didn’t disappoint. How cute is it that they came out in their character costumes?  And how amazing are our seats?!  Row D!

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The live episode will be out soon, for your listening pleasure. I won’t ruin anything by posting details, but I will tell you that Space Jam is involved.

Another thing Austin has a lot of is McElroy references just out in the real world.

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When we saw these in Toy Joy, we knew we were amongst our people.

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As if things couldn’t get any better, there was a special surprise opening show on the second night by Sawbones! If you’ve never heard it, Sawbones is a medical history podcast that reveals all of the horrible things that “medical professionals” used to do to their patients before anyone had any idea what medicine or science really was, and it’s fantastic. My little nursing heart loves it, and seeing Sydnee and Justin onstage together for this show, talking about gonorrhea, made me so, so happy. That episode’s already out now, so do go listen.

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Bailee got her King Rancho on for the MBMBaM show, and people loved it. We had to run in the rain with giant umbrellas to keep that spider webbing semi-safe, but it was worth it to watch everyone’s faces light up when they saw her.

This live show is already also out, as well, and I just can’t bring myself to listen to it yet because hearing it live the first time made me laugh so much my face hurt. I just don’t understand how three people can be so damn funny in front of so many adoring fans. It’s so, so good, you guys. Go listen.

After the show, we got wrangled into an excessively nonsensical line in order to take pictures and do the fastest meet-and-greet ever. The boys declared that they loved Bailee’s costume (actually Griffin said it was “fresh,” but I could never say that word for real and not sound like an insane person).

Then…

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In my defense, the flash that they yelled at us to put on was super bright, and my face is just horrible. But look at their happy faces!  Griffin is holding his bag!  When I put the dice bags in front of them, Travis and Griffin were just the nicest people ever. Griffin said that he saw them on Twitter, and when I told Travis that I was also the person who made the Candlenights stockings for their kids, I got the warmest response possible (jovial arm punching and quite possibly the best manly handshake in history) when an angry theatre employee is yelling at you to move out of the way. What good guys.

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On our way home, we took Griffin’s advice and stopped at Mrs. Johnson’s Bakery to get some delicious donuts. Listen to the episode, and you’ll find it impossible to resist going there, too, I promise.

What a good trip surrounded by good food, good silliness, and such good, good people. We’ll be back soon, Austin, especially if the McElroys are involved. Keep the donuts warm for us.

A Vest for Dan

My boyfriend Dan is extremely picky? discerning when it comes to knitwear.

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It can make making things for him somewhat challenging, but after being together for 10 years, you learn how to make things work. He has very strong opinions about vests in particular. They have to have buttons. They have to be all one color. They have to have a stitch pattern, but it can’t be cables or anything too too fancy. They have to look good with blue button-down shirts.

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They have to be BB-8 approved.

Okay, maybe I made that last one up.

Point is, there are a lot of rules. And how do we get around this, being the incredibly patient knitter that we are? We make Dan pick out every single aspect of the project. We sit together for two hours on Ravelry, going through every single listed knit vest pattern for men, until it is narrowed down to only one.

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The winner? A Vest for Charles by Kathleen Dames, from The Best of Jane Austen Knits. This one ticks every box up there: buttons, all one color, an unobtrusive but lovely brocade-inspired stitch pattern…perfection for the picky man.

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The yarn? Well, this is the first time in my life that I have ever done this, but this project is knit in exactly the same yarn and colorway as pictured in the original pattern, Brooklyn Tweed Shelter in the color Truffle Hunt. (Click the link to buy some from Loop! They were super fast and super friendly! Highly recommended.) I gave Dan several suggestions as to other worsted weight yarns and tweedy options, but he had his heart set on the exact one in the picture.

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And you know what? He couldn’t have been more right. Truffle Hunt is a gorgeous color, somewhere between gray and brown (as you can probably tell from the fact that it looks like a completely different color in almost every single picture), with tiny flecks of teal green, dark blue, gold, brown, and white interspersed throughout. And because Shelter is what’s called a “woolen-spun” yarn, it’s very soft, light, and airy, while somehow also providing amazing stitch definition and warmth.

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I mean, look at all that double-diamond action. I’m definitely going to invest in some more when it’s time to make a sweater for me.

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Jane Austen Knits is a really fun book for those who are into regency-influenced fashion, so I felt like I needed to get a picture of Dan enjoying a bit of Persuasion. Fitting, as it’s the character Charles Musgrove for which the pattern is named.

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As for the pattern, although it’s absolutely perfect for my slender, just made-for-an-ascot-looking counterpart, it has its ups and downs. The charts are easy-to-follow, but more complex than they appear at first glance. Keep your stitch markers going (even though it’ll seem ridiculous at first) and take plenty of notes as to where you start and stop for each section of pattern when you get to dividing up for the sleeves. You’ll thank me later.

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Keep close track of your buttonhole rows, because they don’t line up with the stitch pattern at all, even though in the finished project, they look like they do.

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Speaking of buttonholes, this is actually one of the things that I thought was really marvelous about this pattern. While you’re knitting, you knit in buttonholes on either side of the chest closure at the same time, resulting in doubled matching buttonholes all the way up. This is for two reasons: one, so that the vest can be unisex and you can choose for yourself which side to sew the buttons onto; and two, so that when you are ready to sew, you know exactly where that button is to be placed, down to the exact stitch.

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It’s not super easy to see, but the post on that button is going to land directly into the yarnover, which matches exactly with the other side. I know that all knitters have had that moment where, no matter how well you measure and mark out your buttons and pin out everything perfectly, the buttons never, ever look exactly evenly spaced. I’m so happy to know that there’s a solution to that problem.

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The buttons? Dan picked those out, too. Well, more like he was guided into choosing them by the amazing staff at Promenade Fine Fabrics on St. Charles Ave. here in New Orleans. If you go to their website, the fantastic man who helped us is the owner, Herbert Halpern, the distinguished-looking gentleman on the left in the photo at the bottom right corner. He came right over to us, picked up the vest, steered us away from the wooden buttons, and found the absolute perfect match. Dill 1942 Full Metal, style 6486, if you’re wondering.

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They’re just exactly the right mix of modest and military. And just like the yarn, they change color depending on the light. I ended up using 13 buttons instead of the 11 called for in the pattern, because even though I made the 36″ chest circumference size, Dan’s torso is really long in proportion to the rest of him. The result? A super-flattering slim fit that makes him look taller. And even though I made the vest that much longer, I still somehow ended up with an extra skein of yarn left over. Maybe a hat to match? Or an ascot?

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Last, but not least, Dan got to pick out our photo shoot location. Grow Dat Youth Farm is one of our favorite places in the city.

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They teach kids all about sustainable agriculture and sell their food through farm stands and CSA boxes throughout the year. We finally became CSA share members this year, after debating for some time, and we’ve been having a lot of fun so far preparing the seasonal vegetables that they provide.

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I am all about those purple carrots now.

So, if your boyfriend wants to show off his brand-new sweater vest by running around in a field of greens that you’re probably going to eat later, you let him.

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Knitting Updates, but not the ones you’re looking for, probably. (Comfort for Critters Blanket and Spectacular Single Skein Scarf)

I’m going to show you some lovely pictures of yarn and gorgeous new needles to distract you from the fact that I don’t have any Hamilton hat updates yet.

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I KNOW.

(Yarn is Malabrigo Rios and needles are the new Knit Picks Majestic set, by the by, but we’ll get back to that in a second.)

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First things first, I made a very loopy and squishy blanket for Comfort for Critters, a charity that works to provide comfort blankets for animals in shelters waiting to be adopted, all over the US. They not only help to make and distribute blankets, but they also provide free yarn for people willing to volunteer and make pet blankets, which is just awesome. I have the feeling that when I am a little old lady, I’ll still be sitting around and knitting as long as I can, making little blankets for Comfort for Critters and Project Linus, since everyone else around me will be completely sick of handknit socks by then.

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I knitted this up out of some mystery acrylic bouclé that my friend Rebecca gave to me an eternity ago. My cats bee-lined for it every single time that they illegally invaded my office and yarn stash, so I figured it would make a really great comfortable blanket, perfect for kneading.

This squishy wonder is headed off to Friends Underwriting Rescues, the only Louisiana-based shelter affiliated with Comfort for Critters, which surprised me, frankly. We need more of these types of things.

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Second thing second, I made this gloriously textured single-row scarf for Dan’s mom, and it’s on its way to her in New Hampshire today, just in time for it to be waaaay too warm for her to wear it. I got the new Knit Picks Majestic interchangeable set as a special present for myself this Christmas, and this was the first project that I broke them out for.

People…these needles are so smooth and silky that it kind of makes me mad. The joins are nearly seamless. The cables are bouncy and flexible. The perfect glossy finish makes everything slide so nicely. I was angry that I waited so long to buy any of these interchangeable sets and really was upset when the scarf was finished because I wanted to keep going forever.

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Also, pairing these dark purple needles up with dark purple yarn? Dumb. But fun.

We all know that I am a big fan of Malabrigo Rios (see it knitted up into my Stone Molly hat), and this color Purpuras is an almost identical match for the Cascade Pacific Chunky that I used to make mukluks for Dan’s mom a few years ago. She’s a big purple fan, and you can’t get much more purple than this.

(My medical/nursing brain has a little bit of a problem with the name of the color, being that in medical-speak purpura describes the purple/red spots made when you bleed under your skin, but I’m imagining that in Spanish this isn’t the immediate association, right?)

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The pattern is the extremely clever Spectacular Single Skein Scarf by Jo Haward. I’m not normally a fan of single-row projects, but this one for some reason shows off the color variation so beautifully. It almost functions like a slip stitch, breaking up each row without obliterating the ombré effect. If you stretched it out when blocking, you’d see that it’s a net-mesh-lace thing in the execution.

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Collapsed on itself, it’s a really plush and squishy texture, inexplicably tilting in the same direction on both sides.

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I’m also a big fan of the slip stitch borders that make everything so tidy and wonderful.

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This is probably the most true-to-color picture, because dark purple is a problematic color to photograph. I have an extra skein left over, since this only took one skein of Rios to make a decently long scarf, and I’m seriously considering making a second one just for myself. It’s that good.

Hopefully by the time I collect my thoughts enough for a New York round-up, I’ll have some sort of update on the Hamilton hats, especially since Mr. Miranda is leaving the show soon.  Let’s all hope that they got them and that they aren’t sitting in the trash right now.  Fingers crossed.