Monday, August 22, 2011

To-do list

Holy cow! No posts since February? I don't know how my loyal readers have managed without me.

My children start school again in a couple of days, and I have been making a mental list of all the things I plan to accomplish once I have my days free:

  • Clean the whole house
  • Go through all the closets & send mountains of things to Goodwill and Freecycle
  • Paint the woodwork in our bathroom
  • Finish George's Bayeaux Tapestry sheet
  • Make Charlotte another nightgown
  • Weave a couple of dozen scarves
  • Make sock monsters
  • Overhaul our financial accounts
  • Make another set of Viking clothes for each of us
  • Knit that gray cabled sweater
  • Knit Charlotte's ballet wrap
  • Spin, spin, spin
  • Knit a dozen pairs of socks on the CSM
  • Sort my photos
..... and that's just my plans for the first week.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

A day to myself

So yesterday, when I had the house to myself for a day, I decided that what I wanted most to do was to card. I haven't done any carding since before Christmas. That means I can't do any spinning, because the one bobbin on my CPW is half full of the carding project I was working on back in December, and I don't have any more to spin and don't want to wind off the singles and spin something else on it. And I can't spin on the Lendrum because the CPW is in the living room and the sock machine and its associated boxes of tools and yarn are in the family room and swap packages have taken over the dining room and if I pull the Lendrum out and unfold it the whole family might rise as one and say **ENOUGH!!**

So like I said, I wanted to card.

First I had to get to the wool room.

You can see the box of soap-making supplies that has been sitting in front of the door since we made bath bombs for Christmas presents in early December. Through the open door you can see why the soap box hasn't gotten back to its proper spot.

The only reason I've come in here is to throw things into various piles. These are the boxes I pulled out last weekend -- you can see I just shoved them back through the door. Lots of other things have ended up on my carding work table.

So I spent a while sorting and organizing and putting things back in their places. Not too much, though, because I could spend forever in there, and what I really wanted was to card. And I did:

Here's a shot where you can actually see the floor:

It's still crowded, and I've got lots of pink left to process, but I have the space to do it again.

After a lunch break, I made the mate to this knee sock, the one on the right:

I like almost everything about it except the toe. The toe is too big and twists funny so that I am walking on the short row joins and the excess fabric. The sock on the left is a commercial sock; I want to make toes that fit like those ones. The second sock, which I have not yet tried on, has a stubbier toe that I hope will fit better.

Why have I not tried it on yet? Well, after the sock knitting, Me Time was over, and today has been a Not Me Day from the get go. I've helped Charlotte make a teddy bear from a kit she got for Christmas, I've mended holes in t-shirts, sewed badges onto tae kwon do uniforms, made pizza, ferried kids, ridden bikes to the park, watched a family movie, made dinner, read books (separately) to both kids at bedtime, etc., etc., but I haven't tried on a sock. Maybe tomorrow.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

More socks

I have been spending as much time as I can manage with the autoknitter. The basic operation is not too difficult, although I still have the occasional surprise non-knitting needle (pesky), dropped stitch (peskier) or totally jammed ribber (disastrous). But the real challenge, surprisingly, has been making a sock that fits my foot and that has a dense enough fabric to suit me. I like a nice firm sock fabric and a tight fitting sock; I think both of those make a sock last much longer. And getting the fabric I want from the autoknitter has been more difficult than I expected.

I've made a second pair of socks for myself, using the same yarn as the first, but in a different color. These were knit toe-up, which meant I could make the legs as long as the skein held out. In this case that's almost knee length -- not really high enough to stay up for sure, but warmer than the first pair.

This pair has a ribbed foot -- you can see how much narrower it is than the first, unribbed pair. I like the feeling of it quite a bit and it certainly does hug my high arches. The leg doesn't look much longer than the first pair's, although it's actually an additional 40 rows. Here's another view:

That's more like it. Here you can also see that the foot is longer -- oops. It sure didn't need to be, but I lost count of rows and then made the second sock to match rather than start over.

Both pairs of socks have been through the washer and drier a couple of times. The yarn has softened up and gotten kind of fuzzy but they haven't shrunk much at all. I know that's how they are designed but I would like it if they'd get a little smaller. Perhaps I need to investigate non-superwash yarns.

I've made a few non-sock items -- legwarmers for Charlotte out of thicker yarn, which my ribber didn't much care for, and wristwarmers for Charlotte out of sock yarn (these started out as my first experiments with the ribber). I don't intend to do much more, though, until I've got the sock fabric worked out. I'm just past the toe of a pair made out of Kroy, which I'm hoping will make a denser fabric as it is a thicker yarn. I couldn't face putting in the ribber needles this late at night, though, which is why I'm blogging instead of knitting.

My 30 slot dial arrived from New Zealand and turned out to be completely useless. The metal had swelled -- a known issue with the low-grade pot metal from which they are made -- and the slots are now too small to hold a needle. The seller is going to replace it but I am so disappointed; I was really looking forward to being able to do 1:1 rib. Why? Because it doesn't unravel, so you don't have to do anything to finish the edge. I'll be able to in time, I guess, but not for another few weeks while the crummy dial wends its way back to NZ and then a good one makes the return journey to me. I hope the 80 slot cylinder is in better shape! I'm counting on that to make a nice dense fabric out of regular sock yarns.

The children have been out of school for the past two days and my husband is working from home, all due to the storm that swept through here Monday night/Tuesday morning. They'll all be here tomorrow, too; the university has specifically told people like my husband that they are not allowed to come in even if they are perfectly comfortable driving on icy roads. "Work from home," he was told, which is easier said than done when you are Fun Dad and the kids are home, too.

When I imagine snow days they involve lots of yarn, a fire in the fireplace, and general cozy hanging out. In real life there are a lot more loads of laundry and washing of dishes. I still hope that tomorrow I can make those Kroy socks.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

My first CSM socks!

Here they are -- the first actual socks I've made on the sock machine. Before these I made a bunch of plain tubes, about a hundred heels, and several ribbed tubes -- all pulled back and reknit over and over.

My, it's hard to take pictures of your own feet. I did want to show the height of the leg on these socks. They come up to mid calf, which is 100 rows of ribbing. I kind of wish I had gone whole hog and made knee socks, but I wasn't sure about the tension. Tension is the bugbear here -- it's hard to know what tension you're getting while the work is on the machine, because there's between 5 & 10 pounds of weight hanging from the bottom of the sock at all times which as you might guess affects stitch size. So you knit, take your tube off the machine & let it relax, then measure & assess & so forth. Really you should wash it, because that's when it really reveals its true nature. But I'm still at such a basic level that I'm skipping those niceties.

So these are okay socks -- acceptable but not fabulous. The tension in the feet is looser than I like, about 7.5 stitches per inch when I would really rather have 8.5 or even 9. I don't think I can get this particular cylinder to knit tighter, so I'm going to throw the socks in the dryer and see if they'll shrink up just a bit.

Also they slouch down a little, which is just what you'd expect for a ribbing that hits at mid-calf. I do wish I'd had the courage of my convictions and had made them with about 150 rows of ribbing. Doing the same thing for another 50 rows is no big deal -- it's changing from one thing to another (say, ribbing to stockinette) that takes time.

Clearly I'm going to buy my sock yarns in batches of 150 g, not 100 g. This is yarn that came along with the machine, and I had 4 skeins (this used two). I suppose I could cut off the leg at the ankle and knit up from there ... or just wear them and move on to the next. Because if I started fiddling with these, I'd have to make the stripe pattern match, and I just don't want to do that.

One CSM knitter said she tends to knit socks in groups of three -- she knits one, figures out what she should have done differently, knits the second that way, then rips out the first and reknits it to match. Others find a favorite yarn or two and work with them over and over again, because they are so predictable.

The surprise with my machine was discovering that the cylinder - ribber combination was not a standard one. Usually your ribber has half as many needle slots as the cylinder, so you can half half the stitches knitting on the cylinder and half purling on the ribber. You can do other combinations as well, such as 2x2 or 1x3 (or 4 or 5), but the 2:1 ratio is pretty standard.

But my machine came with a 60 needle cylinder and a 40 slot ribber. It also came with notes from the previous two owners showing that these are what the (nameless) restorer supplied in the first place. I wonder why? I was fortunate to be able to locate a 30 slot ribber dial for this brand of machine and it is on the way to my house. It's coming from New Zealand, though, so I don't know how long that will take.

Then a couple of days ago I found an 80 slot cylinder on ebay. This would match up with my 40 slot ribber, so I was quite interested. The seller was clearly parting out a machine and had four different cylinders for sale -- it was surprising to see the variation in the selling price between the four. I think I was very lucky since I won the auction for $26 + $24 shipping -- that seems exorbitant but it's coming from Canada. At any rate, $50 seems like a good price for a cylinder; a newly manufactured one that will fit this machine is $235. (Have you noted all the conditional words I'm using -- "I think" "seems like a good price" etc.? I won't really know if this is a good deal until it arrives and I can assess its condition. But $50 seems like a reasonable gamble to me.)

My current project on the machine is a pair of legwarmers for Charlotte to wear over her ballet tights. I am using a sport weight craft store acrylic and I guess am following the 3-for-a-pair model -- I made one to figure out how long to make it and where to set the tension, and have made the second which I think is a keeper. I hope to do the third today, but not if I don't get off the computer!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Another new toy!

Look what's in my living room:

Two darling kittens! Oh, and also a circular sock machine ....

Pardon me while I go make another dozen practice heels. I think I've made one perfect one so far, and only one that sort of exploded and fell completely off the machine. The rest have been somewhere in the middle.