Sunday, 30 May 2010

The Sock Trick

Here we are at last - the sock trick, or, how to avoid holes!

This is for a sock using the standard heel flap construction, worked from the top down. And I'm going to apologise in advance for my photographic technique, or rather my lack thereof.

Here I am partway through picking up stitches along the first side of the heel flap. I have worked slip stitch edges - essential for this method - and I am picking up both loops of the slipped stitches.

Like that. The worked stitches happen to be in blue, the double loop of the stitch I'm working on is in red/yellow/black.

Now, if you look at that column of slipped stitches going down the side of the heel flap, you'll see that it runs into a column of stitches in the fabric of the sock.

When you get to the bottom of the heel flap, and you've picked up all the slipped stitches, you want to pick up one more stitch so that there won't be a hole.

And this is the key.

You pick up the next stitch in the column.

That one. I've put a dpn through it so that you can see which one I mean. Both sides of the stitch get picked up, exactly as you did for the slipped stitches.

It is the first one below the joining thread, at the base of the heel flap. Can you see that thread, going across from the base of the heel flap, over to the needle where the instep stitches are waiting? The stitch just below that thread is the one you want.

So, pick up the two loops of that stitch, and knit through them together. This gives you one extra stitch on your right hand needle.

Work across the instep stitches as usual, and then you have to deal with the corner at the other side of the heel flap.

Once again, look at the chain of slipped stitches down the side of the heel flap. They continue into a column of stitches in the sock fabric - this column -

I'm just pointing with the dpn here. You can see the the column to the right of that goes into the instep stitches, which have been worked in blue. The stitch you are after here is the first one in the column I'm pointing at, just below the thread that goes across between the instep stitches and the heel flap.

This stitch is the one. I've put a dpn through it, to make it easier to work - this gets knitted, exactly like the slipped stitches along the side of the heel flap.

Don't worry about losing the extra stitches on the next row or anything like that - just decrease them away as part of the usual gusset decreases. You've just got an extra stitch each side in the gusset, that's all.

And that's it! Knit on, as they say.......

Friday, 28 May 2010

Meet Jess

Here she is - we visited again this afternoon.

She is exactly six weeks old today - don't you think the little tan eyebrows are just adorable? She has touches of tan on her paws, her ears and her nose as well.

She is definitely the smallest of the litter, and so pretty it is just unbelievable. She very much likes being held and stroked, and was completely relaxed in my hands - she actually fell asleep whilst my husband was holding her.

Here are the rest of the litter, who were all very interested in my husband's trouser hems, for some unknown reason.

And here is Jess - definitely smaller than the others.

Two more weeks and we can take her home!

And yes, that's a handknit cardigan in the first two pictures. Of course.

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Pretty thing

I have finally finished Citron.

The knitting was all done with last week, and the blocking - such as it was - was done over the weekend. Just a quick blast with the steam iron along the garter stitch border, really, and a little bit of steam along the ruffle as well. I didn't want to flatten out any of the ruching.

And, you know, it really is a pretty thing.

Pattern, of course, is here - free, from Knitty - the yarn was a single skein of Malabrigo Lace in Lettuce - and the needle size was as suggested in the pattern, 4mm. The only modification was a very slight one, an additional two rows in the final ruffle. I could have added another two rows - there would have been enough yarn - but I didn't bother. Thirteen rows is fine.

I like this. My first experience with Malabrigo and I now know why everyone goes into superlatives when describing how soft it is - so I'll spare you that, and just say that it really is every bit as soft as you've heard.

How much I like it, you may judge from the fact that I intend to make another one, this time in Tuareg Blue. The pattern, the yarn, and the needle are all together in a ziplock bag, ready to go on the boat in a few weeks time.

And speaking of the boat, we escaped again for a few days. The weather over the last week or so has been just lovely, warm and sunny - exceptionally warm for this time of year. I hope this means we are going to have a good summer, but I know better than to try and make any predictions. Wishful thinking is still allowed, though. I missed all the good weather last year, due to being in hospital during the hottest bit, and recuperating during all the rest of it. This year I intend to make the most of it.

Anyway, boat.

We went in the other direction this time. We went up through Semington, and moored in Seend, partway up the flight of locks there, by the pub.

This was taken early in the morning, which is why it is deserted. It certainly wasn't deserted the previous evening. Really an excellent pub with some very good cider, and I hear the food is good there, too.

Also, flotillas of little ducks everywhere, it seemed....

We had some difficulty with these little ones as they all went into the lock when the gates were opened. Locks are not good places for baby ducks to be, and mama duck had to spend some time coaxing them all out again. We waited, and were entertained.

It doesn't do to be in a hurry, on the waterways.

Knitting has continued. My hands seem to be getting more accustomed to working with cotton, and Pomander is now up past the armhole shaping on the back.

My row gauge is out, unfortunately, by about 10%. I think I shall still have enough yarn, but that can be a real difficulty in this situation. Fortunately I ordered plenty. (McA direct, this time, another good place to find clearance yarns online.) I am sorry to see this yarn go - Cotton Jeans, by the way - as it really does make a lovely fabric, soft and drapy and dense, with lovely subtle variations in the colour, which is Tussore 373.

And I must must must get on with the socks! I have finished the first sock completely, and am partway down the leg of the second sock. When I get to the heel, I want to take some pictures of my new and wonderful idea. I could try to just explain it, but I know of old that this usually doesn't work too well.

So, must knit faster.

Except - I brought my wheel downstairs this morning. And I am now going to sit in the garden with a nice cup of coffee at my side, and spin instead.

I'll get to the sock later though, I promise.

Monday, 17 May 2010


  • Puppies were absolutely adorable. They were about as big as guinea pigs last week, not yet four weeks old then. So sweet! Little squeaking noises, and crawling about. They couldn't quite stand up yet, although they were trying. Ours is the smallest of the litter, she is a very light blue roan with little tan eyebrows. She has a black spot right on the top of her head, and a couple more on her back. Her name is going to be Jessie, probably Jess most of the time - and there she is, right in the middle.
  • Blurry pictures, because we forgot to turn on the flash, and puppies are wriggly. And also extremely cuddly.

  • Knitting. Not a lot of that, actually. My green Citron is nearly finished, though. I'm on the final ruffle, and wondering if I can squeeze a couple more rows out of this skein of Malabrigo Lace. The pattern says 11 rows after the ruffle increases, then cast off. I'm thinking that maybe I can manage 13 rows. There will be much weighing of yarn, together with arithmetic. Should be ok, I think.
  • Pomander is slow, slow, slow..... My hands have not toughened up yet. Currently I am just past the top of the side vents, partway through the second band of stocking stitch. Told you it was slow.
  • I have thought of a new and truly excellent way of avoiding holes at the top of a sock gusset. In fact I can't think why it didn't occur to me ages ago. It is one of those things that is totally obvious once you've thought of it. I tried it out on the travelling sock - the one for me in Trekking XXL 100 that I haven't photographed yet - and it is perfect. Perfect! Really! And so easy and non-fiddly!

  • Not the best yarn, because of the black flecky section right where I was picking up stitches, but you can see what I mean, I hope. I shall have to hurry and finish the first sock, so that I can get on to the second sock and take some pictures to show you what I did.

Wednesday, 12 May 2010


Finally, here it is.

Pattern from Kim Hargreaves, in her book Heartfelt: The Dark House Collection. I used 8 balls of Felted Tweed in Carbon 159, and made size 38".

The only changes from the pattern were the omission of the knitted belt - not my sort of thing really - although there would have been enough yarn for it, and the join at the middle of the neckband at the back. The pattern says to cast off both ends and seam - I worked a Russian graft with the live stitches, and I am really pleased with the result. I did a little 'how to' on this a while back - time for an update on that sometime, I think - but that is basically how I did it.

Just one thing to note - it is a good idea to work this join on the wrong side of the fabric. It really is very unobtrusive indeed, considering that the join is on double moss stitch.

I've started Pomander.

This pattern is from Martin Storey, in the RYC book Summer Delights. The yarn is of course Cotton Jeans, and I'm working on 4.5mm needles. It is hurting my hands as cotton always does, despite the fact that it is so soft in the ball and in the finished fabric. So I am only picking it up each time for a little while, and hoping that I'll toughen up soon.

Loving the colour, though, and the textured stitch adds a bit of interest to the knitting.

At the moment we are quite busy getting the boat ready for the journey to the Guildford Festival Boat Gathering - we've definitely decided to go, this year, and we'll be leaving in mid-June. Puppy will come too, of course!

We are allowing two weeks to get there, which should be plenty of time. I'm trying to make sure that the larder cupboard is well stocked with a good assortment of tinned and longlife food, besides the usual dry goods such as rice and non-wheat pasta - plus puppy food too. We do have a fridge, and we make full use of that as well, but it is a good idea to minimise shopping en route as much as possible and that means a bit of forward thinking and menu planning.

What else - this afternoon we are going to visit the puppies for the first time! -so the camera battery is charging. They are not yet four weeks old but apparently are growing well, and the mother is just beginning to push them away, so the breeder is starting to wean them.

There are two girl puppies - one is blue roan, and the other is blue roan with some touches of tan - and we can choose which one we would like.

We've decided that the name is probably going to be Jess - or Jessie. Although that may yet change!

Saturday, 8 May 2010

Weekend thoughts

I didn't get anywhere near achieving everything on that list, of course. It should have been titled, things to do soon. Hindsight is a wonderful thing but it seems that I never learn, with particular regard to lists.

Although I have, this afternoon, finished Dusk. All that I now need to do there is press the long seams at each side - I am glad I have that sleeve roll, it is indispensible for occasions like this! - and then I can photograph it tomorrow, if it doesn't rain.

Next onto the needles will be Pomander. I have decided that the Silk Cotton Fisherman can wait a while. I did, however, have a completely brilliant idea the other day about an alternative project. You know how sometimes you wake up in the morning with a thought in your head? - well, it happens to me, anyway. The thought in question was that I knew precisely what the next project was to be, and it was going to be an absolute joy to work on, the perfect project, etc, etc.

Can I remember what it was? Can I heck, as they say.

Most annoying. I must go and have a good look through my Ravelry queue, which has replaced my memory to a large extent when it comes to knitting plans. It will come back to me, I know it will. And in the meantime, I shall cast on for Pomander.

From the comments -

Sel and Poivre - yes, it was a good day, although I didn't get all that much done! And it is indeed very motivating to have a specific pattern for the swatch to be worked. I think if more designers did this, then we'd all swatch a lot more.

Linda - yes, I'm looking forward to the sling arriving, it looks like an incredibly sensible idea. There is even a place to clip the lead, it says. And a pocket.

Cate - it seems that we do indeed have things in common besides knitting. My issue is with pelvic pain, too. Under control at the moment, thank goodness - although there are still days which are less than good. And cockers as well! So sorry to hear that you lost yours. I know how hard it was when we lost Lucy just before Christmas. I do agree, they are lovely little dogs, affectionate and loyal, happy to go for long rambling walks, but equally happy with a quick turn around the block if you can't manage more than that.

Right now I am going to carry on with this year's wardrobe turnout.

Each spring we do this - every single item comes out of the wardrobe, every single item is tried on and assessed. If it fits, and is flattering, and will continue to be worn, it goes back in the wardrobe again. Otherwise it goes either to eBay, or to charity. I do try, very hard, to keep to a minimum the number of garments which I just can't bear to part with, even though they no longer fit. There is a pile of such things lurking at the back of one of the top shelves, even so.

This turnout includes handknits.

I am ruthless in this - I have to be, because I do knit a lot, after all. The process of knitting is sheer entertainment as far as I am concerned, I love doing it - but in addition to that, the result needs to be both used and useful or it becomes just a 'thing' that takes up space and serves no function. I am reminded of William Morris' famous words - 'Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.' If a shawl, for instance, never gets worn, and you don't want to hang it on the wall to enjoy the colours and the fabric in that way, then it has to go.....

Selling handknits on eBay is fraught with problems, it seems to me. There is the dreaded issue of copyright, after all, which seems to say that one should not sell any garment that isn't one's own design. Maybe I am worrying about this unnecessarily, I don't know. But my cast-off handknits usually end up in charity shops.

So far, we seem to have shed quite a lot of 'stuff', and this is quite cathartic. I heard something on television the other day about possessions and desires being a burden, and leading to suffering - and, do you know, I think I can understand that....

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Things to do today

  • Finish Dusk.
This is so nearly done. All the pieces are complete, and I have joined the shoulders (mattress stitch) and the back neckband (Russian grafting). And while I think of it, thereby hangs a tale, as they say.

I have not used Russian grafting before, but I shall definitely be using it again. Ordinary grafting - Kitchener stitch - whether you work it with a tapestry needle or as three-needle grafting, never quite looks right with anything other than stocking stitch or garter stitch. Any sort of stitch pattern, and the graft shows. This is, of course, because of the half stitch difference between rows of stitches facing in opposite directions.

Russian grafting still shows. But it is not pretending to be something that it isn't, if you follow me. It is not pretending to be anything other then a join, and in this it resembles a three-needle cast-off. However, it is absolutely flat, as with Kitchener stitch. And I feel that it combines the best of both methods. For a fabric with any sort of stitch pattern, it is now my joining method of choice.

The join is right in the middle. Flat, you see.

And the finish?

Again, the join is right in the middle. Yes, you can see it. But you are always going to be able to see a join in a double moss stitch fabric.

I think this is really very good indeed. Unobtrusive, quick to work, no tension problems - completely impossible for there ever to be any tension problems actually, it will always be perfect in this respect - and completely flat.

But I must block it, and attach the sleeves, and work the long seam at each side.

  • Wash dog toys and dog bedding.
After we had to say goodbye to Lucy, we put all her things up in the garage loft. We couldn't cope with seeing them. But with the arrival of our new puppy in five weeks or so, I find myself wanting to start getting things ready. So all the bedding will be washed and hung in the sunshine to dry, as will any toys that we think can be passed on to the puppy. The crate and the bed will be cleaned as well, as will the toybox. (Yes, Lucy had a toybox. Yes, we are daft.)

  • Plant out the tomatoes and the salad greens.
They have been in and out of the conservatory for a bit now, hardening off. They seem entirely happy to be outside, although we have had a couple of chilly nights recently I think we are hopefully past any late frosts.

Not so elsewhere in the country, of course - but the weather is famously mild here in the West Country. And we do have a roll of polyfleece in the garage, just in case.

The runner beans are coming up nicely, by the way, although only five out of the ten planted are showing. This gives rise to some thought. This is the first time we've planted runner beans, so we don't really know what to expect. Are we really seeing only 50% germination? Or is something eating them?
  • Go for a walk.
I really am feeling stronger, and there is a real urge to be out of doors and moving. I can't see myself running again - lets not be unrealistic here - but walking, yes. A bit more every day. It feels so good to be getting my life back again.

I won't be walking with the puppy for a while, of course. She will be just 8 weeks old when we pick her up, and she won't be going outside the house and garden - and the boat, of course - until the vet says it is ok. And even then, no long walks until she is grown.

However I am not so keen on limiting my own exercise, which is important to me. Fortunately, I do have a solution. We are getting a puppy sling, which is much like a baby sling.

Like that. Common sense, really. I can walk with little one until she's had enough, and then pick her up and put her in the sling. And then I can walk some more.

  • Knit some more on Citron.

This is turning out to be a real pleasure. The yarn - Malabrigo Lace - is new to me, and it is just lovely, in so many ways. And the colour is beautiful too.

The rows are long in the ruffled sections - I currently have 348 stitches on the needle. And I am enjoying every single one of them.

  • Decide what to knit next, when Dusk is finished.
Bit of a dilemma here. Something cotton-based, for sure. Pomander, in dark navy blue RYC Cotton Jeans? Or Marianne Isager's Fisherman sweater, from her book Classic Knits, in RYC Silk Cotton?

This last is rather nice. A simple 5x5 ribbing, with a twilled edging worked in a slipstich pattern.

Ideally suited to the crisp handle and soft sheen of Silk Cotton, if you ask me. Ms Isager works it up with three yarns held together, a combination of cotton, linen, and viscose, producing a fabric with 4.5spi.

Silk Cotton works nicely too. I know this, because I have swatched. Yes, I am serious here. (And I have just noticed that my swatch is the wrong way up. But you get my drift.)

And isn't this a brilliant idea? I don't mean the swatching, although that is a good thought, and very necessary here. I mean that for every pattern in this book, the designer gives specific instructions for a swatch that incorporates the pattern stitches that will be used - and, get this - gives an actual size picture of a swatch.

So all you have to do is work your swatch, block it, and compare with the picture.

Brilliant, if you ask me. Also, rather fun.