Friday, July 29, 2011

Halcyon Days

Halcyon -- n.  1. A kingfisher, esp. one of the genus Halcyon.  2. A fabled bird, identified with the kingfisher, believed to be able to calm the wind and waves while it nested on the sea during the winter solstice.   -- adj.  1. Calm and peaceful; tranquil.
     . . . . from The American Heritage College Dictionary

I was finishing up my Halcyon Socks
 as we drove by Mt. Shasta yesterday.
"Our current use of halcyon days tends to be nostalgic and recalling of the seemingly endless sunny days of youth." 
     . . . . from Wikipedia

The combination of colors and texture in these Halcyon Socks reminds me of all the summer vacations we have taken in Central Oregon with views of the Cascade mountains under blue skies.  So it was perfect that I was finishing them up as we drove home from dropping the boy off at camp in Oregon, and now I am writing this post as we get ready to pick him back up and go camp out in the high desert surrounding the Deschutes River, where hopefully we will be experiencing some more halcyon days before summer ends.

The Candy Skein "Blueberry Cobbler" colorway may be named after a treat, but it might as well have been made for the Halcyon pattern because the blues and browns are a perfect match for the Kingfisher birds with which the Halcyon legend is associated:

It's just knitting, but it makes me happy to find a great match between pattern and yarn, and finish up a project that I will associate with pleasant memories.

Pattern:  Halcyon Socks by Wendy D. Johnson
Source:  free PDF  from Wendy Knits 
Materials:  1 skein Candy Skein Yummy Fingering Superwash Sock in "Blueberry cobbler", and US 1 needles.
Modifications:  I cast on half of the total stitches with a provisional cast on before knitting a short-row toe.  This method, from Priscilla's Dream Socks, is my favorite for knitting seamless toe-up socks.  

I'm getting this post written just in time to link up with FO Friday at Tami's Amis because I wanted to show Tami, of Candy Skein, my finished socks.  Thank you, Tami, for custom-dyeing the awesome yarn for me!

Friday, July 22, 2011

FO Friday: Stash yarn + free pattern = Simple Pleasures

   Before I tell you about my latest FO, I just have to share an incident that happened in my kitchen earlier this week.  A few nights ago, my son was doing the dinner dishes and my husband was getting ready for bed.  Left to my own devices, I sat down to peruse Ravelry and read knitting blogs.

Here is the conversation I overheard between my guys when my DH came back into the room:

DH:  What's she looking at?
DS:  What do you think she's looking at?
DH:  (upon seeing pics of knit items on the computer screen)  Oh.
DS:  I swear, she's obsessed with knitting!
DH:  It's not so much that she's obsessed, it's that she's (pause). . . . Well, no, you're right.  She's obsessed.
DS:  It's an illness!

The conversation reminded me of the Never Not Knitting theme song that my friend (and fellow knitter) Jeanne introduced me to.  It cracked me up, and I'm sure you can all relate:

So, perhaps I am taking this knitting, blogging, and Ravelry addiction a little too far?
Nah.  There are worse things to be addicted to.

The good news is that while getting my Ravelry fix that night, I found this free pattern that is not only a good stash buster, but also makes a simple and comfy winter hat:

Pattern:  Simple Pleasures Hat from Purl Soho
Source:  free pattern from The Purl Bee  (Ravelry link here)
Materials:  I used Pigeonroof Studios Siren Two Sock in "Gilded Oak", some leftover Rowan Kidsilk Haze, and US 7 & 8 needles.
Modifications:  The hat is designed to be slouchy.  I wanted mine to be a little more snug so I went down 1 size from the recommended needles, and knit the crown of the hat a little shorter.  I only used about half a skein of each of the yarns, and my hat is still very roomy.

Even though it is too warm to wear right now, it was a great small knitting project for summertime.  I will probably do some stash diving to come up with at least one more color combination.  Finding the pattern was worth getting teased about my addiction to browsing knitting websites!

Click here to see what other fiber junkies have obsessed over this week.  Have a good weekend!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

WIPW: 2011 Sock Plan Mid-Year Round Up

I started the year with an ambitious Bucket List, including a goal of knitting 12 pairs of socks in 2011.  It's now past the middle of the year and I've only just completed my 4th pair of socks.  (Okay, it's actually 3 and a half pairs, but I think that half counts!)   I'm not exactly keeping up with my goal.  But I am going to keep at it with a little help from my enablers friends.

The original idea behind the sock yarn plan, a la Yarn Harlot, is to focus on using yarn from the stash.  Somehow, it's not exactly working out that way for me .  Sock yarn seems to find it's way into my stash faster than I can knit it . . . not that I'm complaining!

1)   I recently purchased this beautiful yarn from Tami of Candy Skein.
Blueberry Cobbler sock yarn
I fell in love with her "Blueberry Cobbler" colorway.  She didn't have it in the fingering weight I wanted, so she took the trouble of custom dyeing it for me.  Even with the custom dyeing, the skein arrived in the mail quite promptly.  She provided great customer service and lovely yarn, don't you think?  This skein is already on it's way to becoming a pair of Halcyon Socks.

2)  At Stitches West, I picked up yarn for Susan Luni's Burning Stripes socks.  I'm even more excited about trying this pattern after knitting her Daylong Socks.  Especially because it will mean learning something new:  a "boomerang heel".  I'm not even sure what that it is but it sounds fun.
Mini Mochi

3)  I bought this skein in the colorway "Burnside Bridge" from the Portland, Oregon based hand-dyer Abstract Fibers.  I want to make something for my sister, who lives in Portland and drives over the Burnside Bridge on a regular basis.  Hmm, I wonder if she would prefer socks or a shawlette?  I have been looking for an excuse to make another pair of Monkey socks ever since Cookie A republished the pattern with more size options.
Abstract Fibers SuperSock in "Burnside Bridge"

4) Last year my friend Angie gave me this pretty skein that came all the way from Artist's Palette Yarns in Worcestershire, England.  She gifted me with a copy of the Carolina pattern as well, and I think the yarn and pattern are a great match.
Sweet Feet

5)  For the second year in a row, my knitting group (and Stitches West partners-in-crime) all purchased the same sock yarn for a sock KAL.  We ogled and fondled the yarn at the Miss Babs yarn booth for quite awhile before agreeing on some Windsor Sock Yarn.  I had almost decided to knit Cookie A's Marlene socks, but then I saw her new pattern Asymmetrical Cables.  I'm still undecided.  Opinions anyone?
Windsor Sock in "Clematis"
That's it for the next 5 pairs.  If I can get that far, I also have a few more patterns in my queue I would like to knit with my own hand dyed yarn.  Now, if only I could knit as fast as Yarn Harlot!

I'm off to view some other WIPs at Tami's Amis.  Hope to see you there!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Cabling Backwards

On my project page, I even explain how I got a finished
look on the toe by bringing the cable to a point.
As promised on my last FO Friday post,  I have written up my notes on how I modified the Daylong Sock pattern to include the cables.  In order to explain thoroughly both the placement of the cables to mirror the design, as well as how to cable backwards, it turned into quite a long-winded post.  These are notes you would need only if you decided to use my modifications to knit the Daylong Socks, so instead of boring you silly here on my blog, I have written up the notes on my Daylong Socks Ravelry page.  I do encourage you to try it!  Cabling backwards sounds more complicated than it is.  You are really just manipulating the purl and knit stitches in the opposite order.  Maybe you will even want to knit the princess-soled Daylong Socks with your own modifications!

I hope you all are having a lovely weekend!

Friday, July 15, 2011

FO Friday: Daylong Socks #2, with cables!

Fresh off the needles:
Heidi's socks with more flowers
from my dye garden, Dahlias this time.

Pattern:  Daylong Socks by Susan Luni (Ravelry link here, Susan's blog here.)
Source:  When I posted my first pair of Daylong Socks, Susan was still revising the pattern.  Now, it is available for purchase, and she has published a toe-up version as well!
Materials:  1 skein of Sun Valley Fibers MCN Fingering in "Pansy" (The "C" in "MCN" stands for cashmere, and this is incredibly soft sock yarn!),  US 1 needles.  
Modifications:  I added a cable to the k2, p2 ribbed pattern.  For symmetry, I placed the cables a few stitches away from the outside edge of each foot, and reversed the cable on the second sock. 

I wanted to make these socks special as a birthday gift for my friend Heidi who doesn't wear a lot of knit items.  She lives and works in a warm climate as an aquarist, and her daily routine includes caring for a large shark tank.  So when I went searching through my stitch dictionaries looking for that added touch, I was happy to find this simple, but pretty cable called "Riptide Wave".  I thought it would be perfect for her socks.  

Don't you think the "Riptide Wave" cable is
perfect for someone who works with sharks?

After I decided to knit these socks for Heidi, it took me months to actually get started on them.  But once I cast on I took them everywhere with me, in order to finish them up quickly.  I knit them at the bowling alley, at the batting cages, during a family movie marathon revisiting the Star Wars series, and while listening to an audio book that Heidi herself recommended to me:  "A Clash of Kings" by George R. R. Martin.   All in all, I think there is some seriously good mojo knit into these socks!

I got up early to finish the socks in time for FO Friday.  I promised I would explain how I continued working the cable backwards after turning the Daylong Socks inside out to knit the "princess soles".  But. now that I've gotten this far in the post, the chickens are squawking for their breakfast, and I need to work in the garden before it gets too hot outside.  I will come back later to write a post about how to cable backwards for anyone who is interested in doing something similar.  It's not as hard as you think!  

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Daylong Socks #2 - with added excitement!

Finally, I'm working on some socks for my friend Heidi.  When I first decided to knit these, I had trouble finding a pattern I wanted to use.  Which is kind of crazy, considering I just wanted something basic, and there are over 13,500 sock patterns to choose from on Ravelry alone!  Usually, my favorite pattern to fall back on for gift socks is Priscilla's Dream Socks, because it is so adaptable.  But this time I wanted something with a little more detail, but still not too fancy.  For one thing, through knitting patterns such as Cookie A's Monkey socks, and Grumperina's Jaywalkers, I've learned that socks with some ribbing or cables on the foot usually have a little more elasticity than plain stockinette socks, and therefore a better fit.  But I couldn't decide if Heidi would want socks with such an elaborate pattern either.

Now, here we are in July, her birthday month, and I've come up with what I hope will be a lovely compromise:
Heidi's socks with Hollyhock blossoms from my dye garden.

I am using the Daylong Socks pattern as a guide to end up with princess soles, but I added a cable for a little more visual interest.  The added excitement came as I turned the heel, and remembered that the Daylong Socks "princess sole" is made by turning them inside out and reversing the direction of the knitting.  Which meant I needed to continue the cable backwards!  Thankfully, it wasn't too difficult to do just that.  I hope to finish by Friday when I can tell you all you ever wanted to know about backwards cabling.

Do you have a WIP to share?  Join in the WIP Wednesday link party at Tami's Amis.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Knitting in Paradise Part 3

Back to familiar grounds:
We ended our trip by spending a few nights in a rental house near the beautiful Waimea Bay on the Kona side of the Big Island. We had stayed there before, so after our other adventures the familiarity made it feel a bit like home.   We were able to settle in and we were all looking forward to the activities we remembered from our previous visit.

Our boy remembered the house's resident geckos, and we hadn't even unpacked the car before he found one of his old friends:

They mostly eat insects, but they like fruit too!

I was happy to be back at this beach for both the sheer physical beauty of the place . . .

. . . as well as for the snorkeling.  Just for fun, we picked up one of those cheap underwater cameras.  The pictures didn't come out very well but it was fun to try.

Can you see the octopus?  This one hung out with us for awhile.

After seeing all the turtles on the beaches,
it was exciting to swim along with this one.

Best of all was having fun as a family!

At times the guys couldn't decide between fishing or snorkeling so they did both at the same time!
You might think it's easier to catch the fish
when you can see them, but it's not!

And I was able to get back to some serious knitting, all the while appreciating my yarn colors even more in the beautiful surroundings:
My Daylong Socks matched the flowers blooming
on a tree in the back yard of the rental house.

We almost didn't want to return, but of course it was still good to get back home.  Thanks to Angie and her family, the cats, the chickens, the sheep, and the vegetable garden were in great shape when we got back.  Thank you Angie!

As for the knitting, my last 2 FOs (my Daylong Socks, and my Cedar Leaf Shawl) will always remind me of the trip.

What about you?
Are you getting to do a little travel knitting this summer?
Do your knitting projects remind you of the places you've been, and of whatever else you were doing during the time you were knitting them?

Friday, July 8, 2011

Knitting in Paradise Part 2

Trouble in Paradise:
After 2 nights, we left the Hilton Waikoloa in favor of a camping adventure.  We headed South, toward the black sand beach park listed on our camping permit.  As we drove, clouds gathered and the sky darkened.  We needed to pick up food along the way, and the fickle weather gods chose that moment to let loose.   We got soaked loading up our groceries, but determined, we continued on our way.

Fortunately, as we reached our destination, the rain petered out. Unfortunately, we arrived to find that the facilities were completely run down, and both the designated camping areas and day use areas were full of people who looked like they had been there for awhile.   At this point, it was getting dark, and we were a few hours drive from any other viable options, so we decided to make the best of it.

We risked taking the rental car down an unpaved road to find a sandy, flat spot big enough for the tent.  I set up the camp stove, while the guys unpacked the tent.  It wasn't long before I heard my husband say, "Um, I don't think we are going to be able to set up the tent.  It's broken."  Our boy then informed me that he had actually noticed that it was broken back at home, but my husband packed it up, as is, anyway.  At this point, my mood was as dark as the thunderclouds, but I really couldn't say anything, as I was the one who said we didn't need a Hawaii travel guidebook when my husband wanted to buy one.  And, believe me, a guidebook listing some other camping or lodging options would have really come in handy about then.  Besides, bitching about it wasn't going to make the tent stand up!

After much finagling, we did get the broken tent pole to hold, but by that time the wind was so strong the tent wouldn't stay in place anyway.  After even more finagling, we settled on the solution of putting a suitcase down in each corner of the tent to weight it down, and threw the rain fly over the jerry rigged tent.  We sheltered the camp stove from the wind in order to cook some ramen noodles, and crawled into bed with the thought of figuring out where else we could go in the morning.

Then in the morning, we felt like we were still in paradise after all.  In the morning sun, this is where we found ourselves:

And these were our views:

All in all, not a bad spot to knit with some Kona coffee and instant oatmeal:

The wind continued, and the surf was too rough for snorkeling, but we entertained ourselves for a couple of days by taking walks, and fishing:

 . . . exploring tide pools:

. . . and watching the sea turtles come up to rest on the beach:

 . . . and return to the water again:

By the third day, the wind still hadn't let up.  We felt we had made the most of it, and we found ourselves spending time in the car just to have a break from the gusty wind and salt spray:

Backgammon and Yahtzee are good fun and all, but we were in Hawaii!  We decided to move on.  As we drove away we got a final giggle out of our circumstances when my son piped up from the back seat that the chapter he was currently reading in his Dave Barry book was titled something like, "Camping:  The American Pastime Which Promotes the Hotel Industry"!  On that note we drove back to the Kona side of the island and supported the hotel industry for one more night.

To be continued . . .

FO Friday: Cedar Leaf Shawlette

Pattern:  Cedar Leaf Shawlette by Alana Dakos
Source:  Never Not Knitting pattern store
Materials:  I held 2 yarns together to knit this:  A Verb for Keeping Warm Creating: Superwash Sock in "Kerala", and The Sanguine Gryphon Gaia Lace in "Cobblestone Mazes", and used both US 4 and US 5 needles.
Modifications:  The first time I knit this, the garter stitch edging rolled.  I think the shawlette is still attractive when worn even with the rolling, but given the opportunity to knit it a second time, I decided to try to solve the issue.  I worked the cast on row and garter stitch edging on US 5 needles, added one row of seed stitch, then went down to US 4 needles for the stockinette body and leafy border.  Ultimately, even though I got it to the point where the fabric doesn't roll when I lay it down,  the scarf still naturally rolls when worn, which is okay!

Next time I wouldn't bother with the modifications.
If you are one of those people who has seen this pattern and liked it, but just haven't gotten around to knitting it, I encourage you to give it a try.  If you do, I wouldn't be surprised if you end up knitting more than one shawlette!  It is a great pattern for a number of reasons:
  • Alana Dakos has created a well written pattern, including clear instructions for knitting short rows.
  • It is a fun and addictive knit, with enough detail to keep you interested, but not so much that you couldn't knit while keeping an eye on Dexter, or the residents of Downton Abbey.
  • Versatility! - The pattern is versatile in terms of yarn possibilites, and the shawlette is a versatile accessory.  Check out the cute pictures of the pattern author demonstrating just that.
I promised the next installment of Knitting in Paradise for this FO Friday #42 at Tami's Amis, but I decided that this project deserves its own FO post for those of you who are here just for the knitting.  If you are interested in further vacation adventures and misadventures you can continue reading here.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Knitting in Paradise - part 1

I've been home from vacation for a week and a half now, but I just finished another project that I was knitting on the trip.  Here is a sneak peek:

As always, I was overly ambitious as I packed more yarn than I could possibly knit into my carry on bag.  But now that another project which travelled with me to Hawaii and back is being blocked, I decided it is high time I wrote about our adventures.

Getting there:
If you have a busy household, you know how it is getting ready for a trip . . . by the time you are ready to go, you really need that vacation if you didn't already!  Knowing we would soon be in Hawaii gave me motivation to get through the preparation:  errands, garden prep, animal care, housecleaning, laundry, packing, etc.  No matter that I tried to be super-organized ahead of time, somehow we still finished up the last details with only a few hours to sleep before leaving for the airport at 2am.  So when we boarded our non-stop flight to the Big Island around 7am, I was way too keyed up to sleep, and I pulled out my knitting with a big sigh of relief.

You may remember the Cedar Leaf Shawlette I decided to rip out and re-knit?  I was right to save it for the trip:  it was perfect airplane knitting.  A few hours, and several rows later, the Alaska Airlines' attendants helped us ease into our vacation by handing out free Mai Tai cocktails and macadamia nuts.

Did I care that it was only 10am Hawaii time?  Not one stitch!

The first 2 nights:
We were already in deep chill mode by the time we pulled our rental car up to the Hilton Waikoloa.  As we admired the luxurious setting (we are generally more of a camping type of family), we giggled to ourselves over the irony of our visit.  Twenty years prior, when we were still poor college students, we did some backpacking in Hawaii and spent an afternoon walking around the hotel grounds.  At the time we couldn't afford to stay there.  We just wanted to see the dolphins and other wildlife, as well as the incredible collection of art on the "museum walkway".  That day, long ago, while standing agog in the grand lobby, we overheard a hotel guest complaining to the concierge that he wasn't interested in any of the island attractions she was suggesting, as he had "already seen them all from the helicopter"!  It was a lesson in not taking things for granted that we try to keep in mind to this day.

Later, we spent the first afternoon having swimming races and otherwise lazing at the pool.  Later still, we enjoyed a Szechuan dinner prepared with fresh seafood and local vegetables.  Knowing that for most of the trip we would be cooking for ourselves, I especially enjoyed the wonderful meals at the hotel that were had with no prep or cleanup done by yours truly!  We walked off dinner by exploring the 1 1/2 miles of pathways extending over the 62 acres of hotel grounds.  I knew I would be the first one up, so I walked the pathways with an eye to selecting a spot to sit and knit while my guys were still fast asleep.  There were so many choices that I went to bed undecided, but happy.

I popped out of bed early the next morning, still on California time, and went in search of coffee with my knitting bag in tow.  I decided to head in a direction we hadn't covered the night before and happened upon the Best Knitting Spot Ever.  It was easy to spot, thanks to the helpful hotel planning committee who had placed a giant sign saying "KNIT HERE!"

No, not really!  But they did place these sheep statues right by some lovely chaise lounges arranged to take advantage of an ocean view:

See how the sheep are helpfully pointing at the Best Knitting Spot ever?

They didn't have to tell me twice!

Hmm, I really should have had that pedicure before the trip, as similar views were what I saw whenever I remembered to take a picture of my knitting:

As you can see, I managed to put the addictive Cedar Leaf Shawlette aside in favor of test knitting the Daylong Socks I told you about in my last post, and they were great vacation knitting too.  And I managed to put all knitting aside long enough to enjoy the other activities.  During the rest of our hotel stay, we continued to enjoy the snorkeling . . .

. . .  swimming with Hawaiian green sea turtles,

. . . keeping an eye out for eels,

. . . and admiring a multitude of tropical fish.  We even briefly spotted a shy eagle ray.  If I lived in Hawaii it would be hard to get much knitting done, as snorkeling would definitely would provide my yarn and needles with serious competition for my free time, and the two don't mix all that well!

Despite the fact that salt water and sand don't mix well with wool yarn, I did keep sneaking in some knitting time, and I'm happy how my Cedar Leaf Shawlette turned out the second time around.  When it's done blocking I'll get some FO photos and show it off along with a second installment of "Knitting in Paradise".

Meanwhile, I am overjoyed that I got in a post in time to link up with WIP Wednesday!  Go take a look, Tami has been up to some amazing projects lately!  Happy summer knitting everyone!

Friday, July 1, 2011

FO Friday: Daylong Socks

My latest project gave me an opportunity to take my first adventure in test knitting, all while creating a new favorite pair of socks:

Pattern:  Daylong Socks by Susan Luni  (Susan's blog is here, her Ravelry design page is here.)
Source:  The pattern will be available on Ravelry soon.
Materials:  1 skein of A Verb for Keeping Warm Creating Superwash Sock yarn in "Persimmon" (I used almost every last yard of a 385 yd. skein to knit the largest size.) and US 1 and US 2 circular needles
Modifications:  I got pattern gauge on US 1s, but started the cuff on US 2s for a bit of calf shaping.

I've been enjoying the 3 Sleeves to the Wind blog for some time, so I knew that Susan had been working on a new design for socks with princess soles.  "Princess soles" are soles made by purling across the bottom of the foot so that the smooth stockinette side of the knitting will be worn on the inside for extra comfort.  This idea of creating hand knit socks with princess soles is not necessarily new, but Susan's ingenious idea was to create a pattern that resulted in princess soles without doing all of the purling normally required!  Knowing all of this made me look forward to buying a copy of Susan's new pattern.
Then, just as I was trying to decide which knitting projects to take along on vacation, I read in this post that she was almost done with the pattern and was looking for someone to test knit.  It seemed like kismet!  I contacted Susan and she was able to get the pattern to me in time for me to work on the socks during my recent family vacation in Hawaii.

This weekend I will share some more about the wonderful time we had relaxing, snorkeling, fishing (and knitting!) in Hawaii, but for now I wanted to share my love for this new pattern . . .

I love how the ribbing continues on down through the toe decreases:

The socks would work well in a solid color too, but I especially love the interplay of variegated color and texture:

Best of all, I loved knitting these socks to learn a new technique.  Now that I have knit a pair of "Daylong Socks" I know how to adapt this technique for creating princess soles, without the purling, to other sock patterns.  So of course I'll be casting on for another pair soon.

To ogle more finished objects, be sure to visit FO Friday #41!