Starry Night at the Ritz

20180429_162156

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.

20180429_162025

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.

20180214_191040

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.

20180219_124905

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.

20180221_204132

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).

20180426_154555

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.

20180426_155002

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.

20180419_120315

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

20180419_120407

20180419_120435

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.

20180426_154904

Sometimes it’s purple.

20180426_154914

Sometimes it’s blue.

20180426_154736

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

20180429_161208

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

20180429_162954

And a pretty, pretty princess.

20180429_162445

20180429_162625

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.

Advertisements

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

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

20171218_135045

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

20171218_140824

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

20170709_110443

…and Embossed Leaves.

20170725_102447

Oooooh. Aaaaah.

20170709_110500

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.

20170709_110430

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.

20170709_110626

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.

20170709_110519

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.

20170725_102752

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.)

20170725_102502

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.

20170725_102515

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.

20170725_102812

20170725_102544

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).

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.

20160319_115023

20160316_182657

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.)

20160701_092013

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.

20160701_091959

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.

20160319_143228

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.

20160701_092854

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?)

20160616_092301

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.

20160616_092351

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

20160616_092341

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

20160616_092407

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.

Kai-Mei (or…Dark Purple Socks Are Impossible to Photograph)

2014-07-17 067

I have had a skein of Mountain Colors Bearfoot in Mountain Twilight sitting around in my stash for at least 6 years now.

i 014

It is, quite possibly, the most beautiful sock yarn in the entire world, and I was hoarding it for years simply because there were no patterns that justified its use. It’s a superwash wool, mohair, and nylon blend that you would swear had silk in it due to how soft and slippery and smooth it is. The color is the absolute darkest blues and purples imaginable, with little bits of magenta and gold streaks. You can understand why I wanted to wait. Instead, I would just occasionally take it out of its drawer and pat it admiringly, and then put it away with a bit of a sigh.

Recently, I attempted to make Cookie A.‘s Kai-Mei socks with Noro Taiyo, and the result was…a mess. The yarn was simply not right in any way, shape, or form for the delicate goings-on of Kai-Mei.

Mountain Colors, though? Perfection.

2014-07-17 035

Kai-Mei is a joy to knit, especially if you are a big sock-knitting nerd, like me. It has a wonderful little lace flower-heart-type motif that is not only asymmetrically placed, but also runs across the top of the sock diagonally due to a lovely bit of increasing and decreasing engineering ingenuity.

2014-07-17 047

I know that it doesn’t sound like much in words, but a whole bunch of knitters just thought that sounded totally awesome.

2014-07-17 051

This type of gusset decreasing results in a relatively normal-looking ribbed sock on one side…

2014-07-17 052

…and totally bad-ass diagonal lace on the other.

2014-07-17 048

Here’s Cookie A., stating it much more succinctly and poetically:

Shifting the gusset decreases to one side of the lace panel causes it to angle across the top of the foot, demonstrating that the path taken need not be traditional.

How do you not immediately mark that with a post-it with an exclamation mark on it and pledge your most precious skein of sock yarn to it? You are just compelled.

2014-07-17 050

This pattern is not without its tricky bits, though. Firstly, there is a whole lot of 3×3 ribbing that you have to get yourself through before you get to the exciting part.

2014-07-17 037

2014-07-17 038

The heels are fairly standard as well, and you are so excited to do this diagonal lace thing that you just fly through it.

2014-07-17 262

And while you are knitting that awesome diagonal lace, you run up against a configuration like this. You have one needle with the standard amount of stitches, one with only a few that are consistently dwindling away, and one with a whole boatload that are getting difficult to navigate. If you’re doing the right sock, add in a stitch marker there, just to make things more interesting. It becomes like a weird little balancing act, trying to knit all of the stitches properly and follow the pattern while also avoiding dropping all of the stitches accidentally off of the tiny needle (which may have happened once when I decided to slide my stitches to the end of the needle with a little too much gusto) and piercing yourself in the hand with all of that extra needle that is sticking out at all sorts of odd angles. It’s very porcupine-y.

Why not just rearrange stitches, you ask? Well, the spaces between your needles are acting as your stitch markers, letting you know when you transition between thematic elements, so unless you want to add in several more stitch markers (you don’t), you suck it up and carry on to your triumphant end.

2014-07-17 040

One of the more entertaining parts of this process was blocking the socks once they were finished. As already established, this yarn is super dark. So dark that it looks like a different color in every single picture, I know. (The most accurate ones are probably the first one up top, and the one of the skein by itself. Everything else is a mishmash of electric blue and magenta.) It takes a lot of dye to make sock yarn that saturated.

2014-07-17 267

Meaning that my sink, which is already kind of a strange shade of pink, was looking pretty festive after the socks came out. Funnily enough, even though they left behind hot pink water, there was not a single mark on the towel that they were left on to dry. Must have some kind of magic, those Mountain Colors people.

2014-07-17 075

These socks, after their brief photoshoot and moment in the spotlight, are being sent along to a lady who really loves her purple, and I do not think she will be disappointed.

2014-07-17 041

I feel similarly after knitting these socks as I do after every knitting project that I would call “challenging” or one that introduces me to a new technique or construction method. I get so excited to knit them that I fly through them and sacrifice important things like vacuuming my house regularly in order to complete them. And then after that…I’m a little sad. I wish that I had gone a little bit slower and let them last a little longer, much like when reading the last chapter of a great book, you simultaneously need to know what happens next, but also are painfully aware that the end is coming.

Maybe that just means that I need to knit another pair.