The 776-Weekend Lace-Edged Pillowcases

Lest you think that the Scotland Silk Felt Scarf was the oldest unfinished (unstarted, even) project in the depths of my yarn stash, today we’re talking about something even more ridiculous.

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As I was going through my yarn stash, I found this plastic drawstring bag with plain white pillowcases in it, plus some mystery knitting all rolled up in the bottom. When I opened it up, I suddenly had a moment of revelation that I had somehow opened up a portal to the past.

Way back in October 2005, when I had only been knitting for real (rather than just making travesties that didn’t fit any humans) for about a year, I bought this lovely book, Weekend Knitting.

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It’s full of good projects for beginners, but not boring enough that you wouldn’t return to it later in your knitting career. I saw this pattern, Lace-Edged Pillowcases by Alissa Baptista and figured that it was something I could definitely do that would increase my lace confidence, plus I needed something pretty for my first apartment in Colorado after fleeing New Orleans due to Hurricane Katrina. I bought up a few balls of Omega Sinfonia Mercerized Cotton (available at certain big box craft stores) and a pair of size 3 needles (as I wasn’t yet a crazy needle-hoarder as I am now) and got started right away.

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This was before Ravelry existed, so I even posted a little entry about it in my Stitch ‘n Bitch project journal. How cute was I?

I got all the way to the end of the knitting portion for both inserts, put my stitches on holders, bought some blank white pillowcases…and then promptly forgot about it for 15 years. When I found it again during this stupid, stupid year, it coordinated perfectly with Dan and I messing around with guest room stuff in our house, as well as with me finally taking the time to go through all of my grandmother’s amazing old sewing and quilting stuff in order to add it all to our new craft room. What better time than a continuing nightmare hellscape of pandemic + hurricanes to do a whole boatload of hand-sewing?

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Before I could do that, I had to block the lace panels, as they had been rolled up and crumpled for so long, and mercerized cotton loves to look as angry as possible unless you treat it nicely. The panels got a soak in some wool wash and then threaded onto some blocking wires.

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I stretched them out to the absolute limit, just to make sure that all of those lovely lace eyelets opened up fully and the fabric was more drapey, rather than stiff, another potential hazard of mercerized cotton.

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This is the “love braid” lace option from the pattern, by the way, as the other was much more boring.

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The original pattern just recommends cutting your pillowcase edge off and then putting in the lace panel, but with the length of the ones that I had, simply inserting the lace would have resulted in the lace just getting folded under the pillow on the bed and not really getting seen. That seemed very silly, so I cut a 3″ panel out instead (after washing and ironing the cases, of course), keeping the pillowcase roughly the same length after finishing.

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The pattern stated to fold over a 1/4″ hem, but I am super inept at hand-sewing and did 1/2″ instead so that I wasn’t aiming for such a tiny target with my giant sausage fingers. Also, if raw edges still existing after sewing bother you, please close your eyes for a little while because I just couldn’t be bothered to care.

But please still keep reading. Somehow.

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I did my running stitch to hem the sides about 1/8″ from the edge so that I had a straight line to aim for when stitching the knitting on, since it needed to line up straight and not have any fabric showing through the holes.

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This means that you only have just 1 tiny edge stitch to work with on either side when you get sewing. I’m sure that people who sew a lot are wondering why that is such a big deal, but sewing of all kinds (except when it involves yarn) feels like such an unnatural action to me that every challenge feels so, so very big.

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After the panels are pinned in place, lined up with the seam of the pillowcase, you have to unwind the excess knitting to get it to line up properly.

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Such a fun mess.

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Then, when the panel is the correct size to line up with the cast-on edge, you bind it off and sew them together.

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The lace will not line up properly, but you are just going to have to let that shit go. It’s been 15 years already.

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Then, the sewing!

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I had no idea of the proper way to do this, but it seemed like the easiest way to make sure that the stitches were relatively invisible, but visible enough for my hesitant self to see what I was doing, was to whipstitch the panels in place.

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This took seventy-billion years, so I needed some hand-stitching motivation in the form of a several-day Bernadette Banner deep dive. I am by no means a historical fashion wearer (or remotely good at sewing, as we can all see), but I find her videos completely fascinating and wonderful company for all types of project making. Do go check her out.

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After all of that stitching was done, I pressed the seams down on the inside and then pressed the whole thing from the outside, just to make sure there were no residual fabric wrinkles, since there is no way to make the fabrics match up perfectly.

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And then I danced around, whooping and fist-pumping because I finally finished my “weekend knitting” project.

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Although it took me approximately 776 weekends instead.

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I mean, look at those tiny stitches. Can you blame me?

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I am beyond happy with how these came out. Our guests, if we ever have any again in the post-plague times, will lay their heads on these lovelies, and I will be so stoked.

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Here’s a hint of the next post to come. Peg board and a mysterious sewing machine? Oooooooh.

Sockpocalypse Summer, part 9 – Earthbound

It’s our second-to-last installment of the Sockpocalypse, and here’s a very special pair of socks for a very special friend.

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I’ve talked at length before about how you have to be prepared to get out the big guns for a fellow knitter. You don’t make them something that they could have made for themselves. You push yourself.

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Amanda was one of my very first knitting friends. She was a customer at the yarn shop in Colorado where I used to work, and after helping her with a few projects, she started coming to my weekly project class, where customers all got together to work on big projects and get ongoing help from yours truly. Not like she really needed my help, of course. I think we were all just excited to form a new group of crafty people, far from the watchful eye of the horrible owner of the store. She is super fun, a wonderful listener, endlessly kind and accepting, and always game for some first-rate silliness.

After I left the store, the group still got together every week, alternately at a cool witchy community center and an ice cream parlor, knitting and chatting about our lives. When I got really sick, Amanda kept the group together until my mandated bedrest was over. Over 10 years later, we continue to share our lives, knitting projects, silly pictures of our dinner, and Monty Python quotes, and I am so happy she is part of my life.

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So, when Amanda chose this beautiful skein of chocolately browns for her Sockpocalypse socks, I knew I had to make her something special. (Knit Picks Tonal in Nature Walk, and yes, of course, it’s discontinued! Why wouldn’t it be!) Together, we decided on Earthbound, a very clever bit of toe-up socking.

Only one problem. I’ve never made toe-up socks before. I am a cuff-down, DPN, one at a time sock girl. I was excited, but terrified to really fuck it all up royally.

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Luckily, Knitty provides links to both of the special techniques needed for this project. Firstly? Judy’s Magic Cast-On, a perfectly seamless cast-on for the perfect toes. I seriously danced around on the couch the first time I completed it, however I kept a vise grip on those needles because I was terrified that the whole thing would fall apart if I
accidentally looked at it wrong.

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Having a perfect seamless toe was particularly important here, since the patterning goes all the way down to the tip of the toe. Not something you see very often, but something that made me inordinately excited.

Secondly? Jeny’s Surprisingly Stretchy Bind-Off!

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One of my initial trepidations in making toe-up socks in the first place was the fact that I tend to bind-off really tightly. I have to intentionally size-up my needles on bind-offs all the time to make sure that I don’t ruin projects all in the last row. I was worried that my bind-off would make it so that the socks wouldn’t even fit on a foot.

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This stretchy bind-off is a freaking revelation. You basically add yarnovers into the stitches as you bind off, but it never makes it weird or loose or wavy. It stretches out with the established ribbing and lays perfectly flat. It’s definitely part of my knitting toolbox now.

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It really makes all of those twisted stitches look so damn good.

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And speaking of twisted stitches? There are so goddamn many of them.

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Twisted stitches in the heel. Twisted stitches in the ribbing. Twisted stitches hidden in the lace that make all of the increases nearly invisible.

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Twisted stitches spread out over three separate charts to make this gorgeous front lace panel, just as fiddly and persnickety as I like it.

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Admittedly, I was a little skeptical even after putting in all that work because, when the sock comes off the needles, it looks…deflated and boxy and sad. But block those babies and put them on a foot, and they become something really special, which is the only thing acceptable for a project for Amanda.

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Coming soon? The very last Sockpocalypse Summer installment. I know, I don’t know what I’m going to do with myself either.

Sockpocalypse Summer, part 8 – Raspberry Latte Lace

I just confessed to my friend Kelli, for whom these socks were made, that I had a really hard time bringing them to the post office today.

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Not just because I was rushing to make it there before the torrential rain started (hurricane season in New Orleans, you guys), although that was a factor.

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No, they were just too goddamn beautiful, and I didn’t want to give them away. I had to overcome my natural sock-based selfishness to put those socks in the mail because I wanted them to be miiiiiiiiine.

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(Maybe I just need to make another pair?)

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I did my duty and sent them off because Kelli is one of the greatest people ever put on this earth, and if anyone deserves something this lovely, it’s certainly her. If you’re an avid reader of this blog (hello to all three of you!), you know that I adore her to the point of making her a baby blanket and a sweater for her tiny dog. If that’s not true friend-love, I don’t know what is.

She chose this beautiful skein of Mountain Colors Crazyfoot in Wild Raspberry (again, tragically discontinued because it was just too beautiful to live) for her custom socks, and as I was winding it, I couldn’t get over just how much color was packed into the colorway.

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In addition to the shifting reds and magentas that lend it its namesake, there are royal and navy blues, purpley grays, olive green, brown, and flashes of orange. And even though it has all of that riotous color, it still manages to not overshadow the lace somehow.

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Speaking of lace, the pattern is Latte Lace Socks by Diane Mulholland, a very clever little knit.

There are so many details I enjoy here. First, the socks have a front and back panel, rather than a circular multi-paneled repeat. The front, seen above, has a sort of fishtail/leaf vibe going on, with some purl sections to make it seem a bit like undulating waves.

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The back panel repeats the mock-cable braids from the front panel, with mirror-imaged pairs and lots of negative space.

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Second, the flow from ribbing to pattern is really delightful. Lots of patterns, both sock and sweater-related, will have ribbed cuffs in order to keep tension to keep the garment in place, but then just go into the pattern itself with no rhyme or reason. Through one row of tiny one-stitch cables, the panels grow out of the ribbing organically, rather than abruptly.

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Third, I’m a real sucker for heel detailing. Those same braids from the back panel continue down the edges of the heel panel, extending the lace while also keeping the main heel section in slip-stitch for added strength.

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It extends the length of the cuff of the sock in a really pleasing way, making for some elegant long lines. Plus, I’m just really tickled by how the purl bumps on the edge add another little architectural detail.

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And last, not certainly not least, the tiny detail that extends the front panel patterning into a tiny point at the beginning of the toe section, rather than a blunt squared-off ending? *chef’s kiss*

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It really ties the room together.

However, a word of warning to anyone who might want to follow along and make a pair for themselves: this pattern is not for a beginner sock knitter. You definitely need to be comfortable with your top-down sock anatomy to even begin to decipher what is going on with this one. Not that the instructions themselves are not clearly written or that the charts aren’t excellent, but it’s really lacking in the little touches that make patterns easy-to-read. There are some spacing issues and a lot of cramped text. There are no indicators that help you follow along, like notes about how many stitches you should have at the end of certain pattern sections (which can be invaluable when you’re new at socks) or where exactly you are in relation to the sock itself when starting a new pattern round or placing markers. I would have been seriously lost if I hadn’t been the seasoned, embittered, maker of countless socks you see before you.

But, when you’ve boned up on the skills, go for it. Just don’t say I didn’t warn you when you won’t want to give them away.

Next time, my first foray into toe-up socks! Made for the only person that I’d ever dare venture into that new undiscovered territory for! Stay tuned!

Sockpocalypse Summer, part 6 – Yarn Chicken Pomatomus

We are just now over the hill of our Sockpocalypse Summer (confused? Here are parts 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5), and my fingers are getting tired as well as my brains. And it’s all the fault of this gorgeous pair of socks.

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I mean, beautiful, right?

When my knitting friend Leslie from Colorado requested this particular skein of Knit Picks Hawthorne in Irvington (not discontinued for once, but on back order…foreshaaaaaaadowing…), I knew I had to pull out the big guns. When you knit things for other knitters, you better make sure you got game. Otherwise, why wouldn’t they just make it for themselves?

Seriously, this is a real concern.

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I knew that Cookie A. would save me by providing a pattern with lots of wonderful fiddly bits, and I was right. Enter Cookie A.’s infamous-in-the-knitting-world (and should be famous in the real world) Pomatomus Socks. When these socks hit the scene, people lost their minds. There are over 5000 pairs of Pomatomus socks on Ravelry, even though Ravelry wasn’t developed for another two years after its publication in 2005.

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At the yarn shop where I worked for several years, I helped people pick out hundreds of skeins of sock yarn for this very sock pattern, plus the multitude of variations that other knitters have created over the years, like hats, fingerless gloves, and shawls with that instantly recognizable twisted stitch fish scale lace.

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I even knit a pair myself, for my friend Tillie, back in 2009. It’s got a boatload of twisted stitches, patterning every single row, and non-rectangular charts with mysterious stitch-shifting to get the pattern to line up correctly.

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It has this brilliant heel section where the scales morph into the heel and continue the all-over pattern without disrupting the construction somehow. It’s a Cookie A. nightmare-dreamscape of knitting, and I absolutely love it. It’s definitely the kind of big swing that one experienced knitter takes for another.

However, this time, things took an unexpected turn.

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As soon as I had finished the first sock, I knew something was off. The amount that I had left over definitely didn’t feel right. I took it to my scale to see if I could figure it out.

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Standard sock yarn skeins come in 50g and 100g weights. This first sock, made to accommodate Leslie’s perfectly normal size US 9 feet, weighed in at 51g. Meaning that I only had 49g left to make the second one. No matter, I thought. Maybe there’s a tiny extra bit in this skein, just to make me happy.

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The bit of cuff that I had knit, plus the remainder of the ball also came to 51g, BUT that was including the 3 sock needles currently in use. I knew that this was a losing battle. (However, I did feel pretty chuffed that I could tell the 2g difference completely with my special knitting-based mind powers.)

Now, yarn chicken is a game that I have played before many times. When it works out perfectly, and you have only a tiny bit of yarn left but the project is complete, it is the greatest feeling in the world. When you lose…you just feel like a crazy person.

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The entire second half of the second sock I felt like I was knitting through molasses, my fingers slowly prodding through those twisted stitches just in case knitting slower might make the yarn last longer. I just kept praying that it didn’t end in a weird spot, right in the middle of those glorious fish scales. Luckily, this is what I had left over when I got to the toe shaping.

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However, it didn’t last very long. A few minutes later, the yarn was all gone, and I still had 18 rounds left to go.

I looked online to see if Knit Picks still had the Irvington colorway, but it was listed as on back order until July, meaning that there was no way on Earth I’d be able to get the same colorway or any yarn at all until August. I checked on Ravelry to see if anyone was willing to sell or trade a skein with me, but there was nothing available. I had to admit defeat and that I had lost this terrible round of yarn chicken and resign myself to the fact that these were not going to be the perfect Pomatomus socks that I had planned.

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Fortunately, I keep all of my sock yarn odds and ends, so I had plenty of options to give to Leslie as to the yarn that would finish off this second toe.

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Leslie chose this beautiful bit of yarn, which some of you may remember as the stunningly beautiful Pagewood Farms Denali from my Drachenschwingen socks a few years ago.

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I have to admit, the gold, purple, and blue tones in the yarn really do look lovely in there.

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So, even though I played yarn chicken and lost, I still managed to make something unique and so-very knitterly for a fellow knitter. She can wear these with pride, showing off those fish scales…

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…while always having a special secret toe hidden inside her shoes that no one else has to know about.

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It doesn’t get any better than that.

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Sockpocalypse Summer, part 4 – Shadow Braid Socks

For today’s Sockpocalypse update, we have a whole lot of purple.

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Ooooooooooh.

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My friend Kirsten from high school, the personification of a ray of sunshine, chose this gorgeous skein for her own during this Sockpocalypse Summer experiment, and I couldn’t have been happier to make it into something lovely for her.

The yarn is Knit Picks Hawthorne Fingering Kettle Dye in Goddess. (And, miracle of miracles, it isn’t discontinued! You can actually buy it! Go get your hands on some of this goddess goodness.) It has multiple shades of royal purple, fuchsia, and lavender, giving the whole thing this wonderful depth without so much variation that you can’t get some stitch patterns in there.

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Also, as we already know, dark purple socks are impossible to photograph perfectly, so these socks look like a bajillion different colors in these pictures. The picture of the skein by itself is the truest to life, if you are a stickler about these things.

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In fact, this yarn was so dark and difficult to see when I was working with it, that Dan had to rig up a little extra lighting for me so that I could tell what the hell I was doing. I needed an overhead floor lamp, plus my usual over-the-shoulder lamp, plus I had to use some lighter bamboo and rosewood needles because I couldn’t see anything with my fancy-pants green variegated ones.

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The pattern is Cookie A.‘s Angee socks from her fantastic book, Sock Innovation. They are a perfect distillation of the Cookie A. sock playbook. If you are an adventurous knitter, you’ll know exactly what I mean. First of all, the pattern itself looks like cables, right?

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Nope! It’s actually a cleverly-disguised lace panel pattern, with the texture coming from strategically-placed decreases. I made these while having a resurgence of watching numerous favorite detective shows like Sherlock, Endeavour, and Monk (I guess I’ve got a thing for prickly detectives…), so the Shadow Braid name for these seemed appropriate. They look like they are full of depth and shadow, but it’s all an illusion. (ooooooooo…imagine I just waved my hands around like a magician when I said that.)

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Secondly, there’s an odd number of repeats of this lace panel, five to be exact, which is definitely not typical. Most sock patterns with a panel-type structure either have three, four, six, or eight repeats spread out over the cuff of the sock. This makes it so that you can use only 3 or 4 double-pointed needles in the process and not have to worry about trying to use stitch markers to keep track on such teeny tiny needles. (Not that I haven’t had to do that before for a Cookie A. pattern, but she’s definitely not the norm.) Instead, for this pattern, we have to figure out how to keep track of five repeats, so…five needles it is! It felt like reaching into a bag of porcupines every time I had to start a needle, but it did make this fun little pentagram shape for summoning friendly sock-loving spirits.

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And thirdly, in true Cookie A. fashion, there were three different charts to keep track of as the pattern transitioned from cuff to heel to instep, and that stuff just pleases me to no end. The fiddilier, the better. Cookie A. sees every single stitch pattern through to the end with these really pleasing and harmonious designs, and making them, although mentally-taxing at times, is truly a delight.

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Plus, this week I had some really cute nail polish going on, and I couldn’t stop ogling it next to that purple. I felt like a mermaid.

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See? Cute!

One note about the Hawthorne, just in case you jump on that Kettle Dyed Goddess train with me. These kettle dye variants often feel very…crunchy when you first wind them up and knit with them. I’m not sure why it happens so often with kettle-dyed and tonal variant yarns, but I imagine it has something to do with the dyeing process. They tend to have a lot of residual dye sitting on the surface, which leads to that crunchy and plasticky feeling, and will also tend to stain your fingertips and nails if you work with the yarn for extended periods of time. However, with this particular brand, when you block the yarn, that extra dye washes out easily, leaving the rinse water bright pink but the yarn now very soft with a light brushed halo around the strand, not sacrificing the base color you fell in love with. But, if you combined this yarn with something lighter, like with stripes, you definitely run the risk of bleeding and staining occurring, so just keep that in mind.

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I sent these off today to Kirsten in Florida, sending all my love with them. It was hard to part with their jewel-tone loveliness, but I hope she’ll love them just as much as I do. We all need a little bit of extra love right now.

Sockpocalypse Summer, part 2 – Go with the Flow Socks

Today, I sent off a lovely pair of lacy socks to a really lovely friend.

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Let’s talk about Bonnie. You may remember her from this adorable baby blanket and elephant combo that I made her a few years ago, when she was expecting her first baby.

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Bonnie is just the sweetest person out there, and I am so grateful that we have managed to stay in touch after nursing school. She is compassionate and kind and encouraging, an amazing nurse, and honestly one of the highlights of my day is seeing her adorable family pictures. You can imagine how delighted I was to see her name pop up on my Facebook post requesting this beautiful yarn. (Confused? Read all about the Sockpocalypse origins here.)

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Bonnie picked this gorgeous skein of Knit Picks Stroll Tonal in Foraged, which is also crazily discontinued! Am I ever going to knit with a yarn that people can actually attain ever again?!

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It’s a really subtle mix of grays, with both light and dark shades of both cool and warm values. It’s really hard to catch on camera, but you get the idea.

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Bonnie requested something lacy, and this pattern delivered. The pattern is Go With the Flow Socks by Evelyn A. Clark, also from the fantastic Interweave Favorite Socks book. Evelyn just makes a great sock, you know.

It features a very open, lacy stitch pattern with pleasing vertical lines, especially when you make the tops really long and slouchable. I’m especially enamored of that little border lace panel at the top with the doubled yarnover pickup. It’s good stuff.

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Now, since I made Bonnie that original blanket, she had two babies, and her feet underwent some…changes. I was up for the challenge that size 12 feet presented me. Bring it.

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I’m happy to say that knitting this pattern with no changes other than sizing up the needles (up to a US size 3, if you’re curious), combined with the natural stretchiness of the lace pattern, makes this sock a comfortable fit for a lady with feet on the larger side. I’m pretty sure we got up to a US women’s size 12 foot with room for comfort. However, my feet are much shorter than that and my cedar sock blockers were made for me, so I can only estimate with my measuring tape. Just wanted to include the detail so that you guys (all 5 of you who read this and know what I’m talking about) know that the sizing-up trick works without creating a loose or floppy fabric. You can actually barely tell at all, which is great, plus you’ll have more than enough yarn with the extra-large Knit Picks Tonal skein. I like having this new tool in my sock-knitting arsenal.

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These socks got sent off today, with a substantial portion of my love as well, to grace this feet of a truly wonderful, warm, welcoming human that I am so glad to have in my life. Put your feet up, my dearest Bonnie. You deserve it.

Sockpocalypse Summer, part 1 – Waving Lace Socks

When I was finished my Stacy Pullover, I felt like I needed another project right away. I needed to keep busy. So, into the stash I went.

And when I did, I turned up 10 skeins of sock yarn just sitting there and begging for my attention. Two of these were special ones that I had picked out just for me, but the other 8 were sort of a mish-mash of free stuff and presents and parts of multi-packs that I bought to get a specific color. Gorgeous stuff, but not things that I desperately needed to have on my particular feet.

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Here they are! Pretty, right?

So, I got to thinking, I may not need 10 new pairs of socks, but surely I know 8 people who need some handknit sock love in their lives right now, right? So I posted that picture above on Facebook and told my friends that the first 8 people to pick their favorite skein would get a new pair of handknit socks from me, custom-made to their size and style preferences. I figured that some people, mostly knitting friends would be into it, and that the replies would trickle out over the afternoon and evening.

It only took 35 minutes.

Eight lovely people, scattered out all over the country and from a million different times in my life, all so deserving of sock love, jumped right on the bandwagon. Hell yeah. That’s all of my summer knitting ready to go! Stash-busting and spreading love through the glory of handknit socks all summer long.

So, of course, to start, I had to make a pair for myself. Just to get the sock mojo flowing.

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Ugh. So pretty.

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This yarn was one of those special purchases just for me because this colorway of Knit Picks Stroll Handpainted was just calling out to me and forced me to buy it. It’s called Coffee Shop, and it now appears to be discontinued for some insane reason (seriously, can we stop getting rid of all of the beautiful colors, commercial yarn makers?). This makes zero sense to me.

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I mean, look at that! Shades of brown and gray and then these gorgeous pops of sky blue and purple!? What kind of monster discontinues this color?

Any knitter can tell you that part of the true joy of knitting with variegated yarns is awaiting the moment that the color that you have arbitrarily chosen as the “best” one comes up, even if it’s only for like 2 stitches. It makes you stupid happy for no goddamn reason. And this yarn had 2 (two!) of those showstoppers. So good.

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The pattern is Waving Lace Socks by Evelyn A. Clark, part of the amazing Interweave Favorite Socks book. The stitch pattern is super simple, just decreases and yarnovers, but it makes this undulating wave that looks rich and complex.

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So, now that I’ve got my own feet covered, stay tuned for the next sock pair in our Sockpocalypse. That is a really hard word to type, and spell check refuses to help me with my stupid pun. Here’s hoping I don’t fuck it up a billion times before this is over.

Catch-Up Time: Night Sky Saurey

For our next catch-up post, we have a real labor of love.

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Not that it was a difficult thing to make at all, but it was a project infused with love from the start.

You remember my lovely friend Kelli?

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Of course, you do! She is a glorious ray of sunshine in my life, and when she told me that she and her husband Taylor were having a baby, I immediately got to work finding the perfect baby blanket pattern for her. After finishing up a happy dance around the kitchen, of course.

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Kelli is a very stylish lady. She effortlessly surrounds herself with handpicked items that suit her perfectly, without ever looking too very. She taught herself calligraphy, and it is always a treat getting hand-addressed letters and cards from her in the mail. She loves the handmade and the one-of-a-kind, making her the ideal person to grace with a truly loving handknit project.

I’m pretty sure it was only a few days (maybe even the next day?) when I starting prying her for details about her perfect baby blanket. Cables? Stripes? Intarsia?

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Lace? Bingo. Introducing our Night Sky Saurey.

Kelli and Taylor weren’t going to find out the gender of the baby ahead of time, and she had already decided on a “night sky” theme for the nursery, so something lacy and reminiscent of the starry, inky night sky was just perfect.

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She picked out the pattern herself, from a curated selection from me, and specified that she wanted it in navy blue.

The pattern? Saurey from Berroco, made in Berroco Modern Cotton. The color Goddard was just the perfect shade, somewhere between navy and royal blue, to evoke those sleepy nighttime nursery vibes.

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Now, I am apparently not the only person who thought that it was just perfect, because it was on back-order from every single online store I could find, for at least 2 months. However, patience won the day, and I ended up with 3 skeins of this beautiful stuff with 2 months to spare to knit the thing.

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And let’s talk about this yarn for a second. Kelli specifically wanted cotton, something that would be able to be washed and beat up a little bit and not get too hot, because regardless of the season, we do live in Louisiana where the weather is trying to murder us at all times. Modern Cotton is a pima cotton and modal blend, meaning that it’s super soft and pliable, not hard and unforgiving like a lot of other cotton yarns, but still very resilient.

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It’s got great stitch definition, even when knit up a little bit loosely, like is required for this pattern. It’s also got a wee bit of a sheen, and when combined with the lace yarnovers and the tiny spaces between the stitches, it makes it look like it’s shimmering when it moves.

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I mean, could there have been a more perfect blanket for a night sky theme? Or a friend more deserving? I don’t think so.

Only two more installments of catch-up posts! More baby stuff, plus something I’ve never done before! Exciting!

Mary Blanket Squared

Well, it’s been a bit. I have no excuses other than clinicals eating my life this past semester. Everyday is a little bit closer to my degree, and now that I’ve actually physically started my doctoral project, the simultaneous feelings of being-close-to-being-done and still-having-so-much-work-to-do are doing my head in a bit. How do we fix that?

We knit baby blankets!

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And this one, my friends, was really something special.

My friend and co-worker Mary is just a lovely person. You might remember her from nearly two years ago when I knit her a stripey chevron baby blanket for her first baby, and now she’s gone and decided to bring another wonderful person into the world. How very like her.

Mary, in addition to being a fantastic nurse, is also a wonderful visual artist. You can check out (and buy!) some of her art here: Art by MLeon. Her visual language is really striking, particularly if you are a person from New Orleans, and I have been lusting after one of her abstract swamp paintings for a long while.

I figured, after taking a little trip through Ravelry‘s baby blanket pattern section with Mary (and speaking of Ravelry, hell yeah Ravelry, you go Ravelry, good for you Ravelry), that I’d take her preferences into account, but add in a few little extras so that she knew how much I admire her talent and style.

Her oyster paintings really caught my eye, with their swathes of pearls and greys, along with metallic accents. So did this particular colorway of Knit Picks Stroll Tonal in Pearlescent. And the handful of beads that I had left over from my exciting venture into beaded shawls. A plan was starting to come together.

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The pattern is Baby Blanket Squared by Jennifer Donze, and it really shows off all of that lovely subtle variegation. From far away, it just looks like varying shades of gray, but up close…

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…you’ve got hints of blue, purple, and cream mixed in, just like an opalescent oyster shell.

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The beads are Toho Japanese glass beads, the clear glass with the silver foil inner lining, size 6/0 E, and you won’t even need a full container. The original pattern doesn’t include the beading, so let me tell you what I did, in case you want to fancy it up with me.

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For each beaded stitch, you take a tiny crochet hook and thread the bead onto the stitch that you are about to knit, just right on top of it, and then place it back on your left-hand needle and knit it normally. Starting with the border chart, I put beads on every corner stitch on the pattern rows (the odd-numbered rows).

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Then, with row 26 (the last row of the pattern chart, where you’re just working plain stitches around), I placed beads on every stitch that had previously been a double-decrease on the row below, to mark the tiny clusters. This makes that last row take approximately a thousand years, but something about those tiny little bits of sparkle make me happy.

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Then, on the bind-off row, I beaded the corner stitches one last time before binding them off, just to make sure the sparkles went all the way to the end. This is optional, of course, because then you’ve got to block it really aggressively to make sure all those little beads lay totally flat.

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Because this is a pattern where every other row makes the blanket grow larger, you will get extremely irritated with it and shove it back in the bag after every few rows, just because you feel like you’re not getting anywhere. My last few rows and the bind-off alone took 1.5-2 hours each, since at that point you have over 600 stitches of sock-weight yarn on your needles. It’s hard not to go a bit stir crazy.

But when you’re finally done and you get to admire all of that hard work?

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It’s so worth it.

That Stroll sock yarn is such good stuff, it’ll have you thinking crazy thoughts like, “Hmmm, maybe I’d like a whole sweater out of this.”

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I mean, can you blame me? It’s just got such a lovely drape and squish. It would probably take 10 skeins to make something that would fit me, and approximately a bajillion years to finish it, but damn if it doesn’t sound appealing right now, in the hazy fog of finishing a project.

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I can only hope that Mary loves her blanket just as much as I do, and that it becomes something special to her, just like she is to me.

Warm Feet = Love

A few years ago, my best friend since high school, Jonathan, and his lovely wonderful wife, Rebecca, moved from New Orleans out to beautiful San Rafael, CA.

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I miss them all the time.

Ever since visiting them in the middle of summer last year, I am also concerned about the state of their feet. The entire San Francisco area is ridiculously cold at night, no matter what time of year, and I knew that this had to be remedied with some precious handknit socks, post-haste.

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I happened to have a gorgeous skein of Mrs. Crosby Loves to Play Satchel hanging around, an impulse purchase made during a huge sale at my favorite LYS, McNeedles. This weirdly-named yarn is one of my all-time favorite sock yarns, supersoft with gorgeous color saturation and a lovely single-ply twist that manages to still yield some great stitch definition with a soft fuzzy halo around it. This colorway, Peacock, is just absolutely stunning, and Jonathan and I felt like it was perfect for Rebecca.

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The pattern is the Cookie A. classic, Monkey. I’ve been wanting to make these since the first time I saw them in Knitty, 12 years ago, and I finally got to add them to my Cookie A. oeuvre.

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Seriously, I have made a lot of Cookie A. socks. Look through the archives, if you don’t believe me, because it’s just now the end of the semester of my second year of grad school, and I just can’t muster up the energy to look them all up and link them here for you. But trust me, there’s a bunch.

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There’s nothing overly twee or clever about these, just a really good, classic sock pattern, with a little bit of lace and mock-cables to keep things interesting.

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They are so incredibly soft and plush. The perfect thing to keep this wonderful woman’s toes warm this winter.

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The only thing that I might change, if I were to make these socks in the future, is to try them with a yarn that’s maybe more tightly-spun or smoother, because even though the halo of Satchel is glorious, it does obscure the more subtle bits of the patterning. I’d love to see what it might look like in something more defined.

As for Jonathan…well, it would just be really mean to make beautiful, warm socks for his wife and not make him anything at all. Too rude to even think of.

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How freaking cool is it that I somehow have pictures of both of these people that coordinate somehow with their new socks? Uncanny. (You’d almost think that I did it on purpose, but I didn’t. I swear. I’m just good at picking out sock yarns, I think.  We all have our talents.)

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I’ve had this skein of Berroco Sox in my stash for years, just waiting for the perfect opportunity to use it. You don’t just jump into a self-striping sock without having the perfect pattern and perfect person to use it for. This colorway, the tragically-discontinued Lancaster, was an utter joy.

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I mean, that’s a lot of pictures of the same thing over and over, but I don’t know how else to reveal those little flecks of soft browns, purples, pinks, and grays throughout the whole thing. The pattern is my old stand-by, perfect for showcasing crazy stripes and colorfades, the Good, Plain Sock Recipe by the Yarn Harlot.

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Just a standard 3×3 rib pattern to show off all those tweedy stripes. Such good stuff. It’s hard to not feel like an aspiring Ivy League professor trudging through the fall leaves while you’re wearing these.

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These beauties got packed up and sent on their way to California, where they are doing their important job of keeping the toes warm of the people that I love.

That’s what true love is, right? Keeping your loved ones warm, any way you can, even from across the country? I think so.