Planning Knitting Projects

pinkandgreysocksI’m sitting here with slightly aching shoulders from a recent swim, but I’m not going to be talking about that as much here. I’m trying to keep from boring the bajesus out of people who are not interested, so I’ve started a swimming blog – Slow as Christmas.

Today we’re talking about knitting. I’ve bought way too much sock yarn and so I am knitting a lot of socks. I prefer hand-knit wool socks. They’re quite warm, very comfy and just plain have a better fit than commercial sock. I have a wide, short foot. Maybe that has something to do with it.

I have been working mostly on shorter knitting projects recently, and socks are closer to the instant gratification category than my usual sweaters. I also made a scarf for a friend for her birthday, but forgot to take a picture. I’d knitted her a scarf back when I was in high school (I had totally forgotten about doing it!) and she mentioned that she was sorry it had had its day. So when I was visiting over Christmas, I told her to pick out some yarn and I’d knit her another one. I will say that I think the more recent one is of a high quality than my clumsy attempts at a garter stitch scarf when I was in my mid-teens.

So, I’m not doing much in the way of longer-term knitting projects. I do have a sweater on the needles for my son, too, but I think that’s probably not going to be done before he’s not much in need of the really warm sweaters. He moved to Virginia, and while they’re having one heck of a winter there, spring is less than a month away for them! His sweater is going to be a simple one – a yellow raglan in stockingette stitch. He seems to like simple designs and plain blocks of flame colors.

The problem is, I really do need to do some knitting for myself. The newest sweater I have was knit three years ago, and while it’s very nice, it’s the only sweater I own that’s really appropriate to wear to work. I live in a cold climate and need sweaters appropriate to the office.

The classic Norwegian sweater-jacket would certainly be perfectly appropriate for office wear. I’ve fooled around long enough, and really do need to break down and learn steeking. The sweater on the right will be very much the type I am going to make, though it will be a bit more figure-hugging, and being me, I will probably add some weird twist on it when I make it. If you think I might be drawing some inspiration from We Call Them Pirates across the band at the upper chest, you’d be very right! I know, I know, I use that pattern a lot in my knitting. What can I say? I love it. Since I work in IT, professional with a soupçon of quirky is okay dress-wise.

Goodness knows I’ve had that sweater in mind for years. I need to knit it.

And after that, I am going to knit myself an Aran. I’ve also been wanting one for years. Not really great office wear, but I don’t care. I’ve got a great pattern dictionary and will be able to knit in the round as a nice raglan. I’m going to have to design that one for myself, though. Since I am deep-bodied, the usual bulky Aran cables would make me look like a sausage. I think most of the body and sleeves will have a lot of texture work, then an intricate cabled panel down the front with cables down the top of the sleeves.

I did something similar in the sweater I made for my father for Christmas last year. He’s got a round, deep body and too much cable work will create an illusion of more depth than would suit that particular body shape. I was even worried that raglan sleeves would be too much in the shoulders, because he is broad-shouldered, but it actually worked nicely. I don’t worry about the raglan for myself. For all that I am a swimmer, I have narrow shoulders. Anything that brings a slight illusion of greater shoulder breadth can only work to my advantage!

Creation and Re-Creation

Yet another 750 Words.

I have this challenge going with myself in terms of daily practice. I’m trying to write 750 words a day every day for a year. I may or may not wind up doing it, but I figure if I fail, I will still have regularly and consistently practiced my writing more than if I had not set this little goal for myself. So, there’s no real down-side to it.

However, a year is way the heck too much to face. I’m breaking it down month by month, and the site I use to track my words makes it very easy with monthly challenges. Each month you can sign up or not for it. If you do it, you get your name on the Wall of Awesomeness. If you fail, you have your name put on the Wall of Shame.

My name has been on both walls before 🙂

As an additional little spur, when you sign up, you can set a reward and a punishment for it. Mine for this month:

•    If I succeed, I will… treat myself to a new bathing suit

•    If I miss a day or more, I will… swim 4000 yards in one session.

In retrospect the failure one is a little dumb. My next Really Long Swim is probably going to be 4,000 yards whether I succeed in writing every day this month or not. And the reward is also kinda silly. I own one good workout bathing suit and I really should own two — just to switch out between workouts and make them last longer, ya know.

I am very happy with how I spent yesterday evening. I spent about an hour knitting. It was wonderful.

So, all this doing, doing, and doing I’m doing. Goodness me, why is this such a big deal?

I think it is at least in part because I’ve become more keenly aware that I am not immortal. For all that I take pleasure in video games, I’d rather leave behind a sweater and written material than I would hours of playing a video game.

It’s not that I think pleasure doesn’t count or have its place. I do. My general make-up is probably more pleasure seeking than most (You guys do realize I swim because it’s one of the few exercises I find fun, yes?) and I don’t necessarily think it’s a bad thing. But I think that, for me at least, when the pleasure intersects with the productive, it seems like a better way to spend a limited life.

Productive is a funny thing, though. Think of the term “recreation.” You break down that term and it’s re-creation. You’re re-creating something (probably your physical and emotional center) and if you don’t do that, you’re not maintaining your SELF very well.

In thinking about it, I wonder if “fun” is even a good term for when I am actually joyfully in the moment. I find those moments when I am teaching a class, or writing a piece, or when I get a new client as much as when I am knitting a sweater, swimming or sitting on the deck of a cruise ship watching the sun come up.

And except for when I am sitting on my butt staring out over big water (something I do love to do immensely) most of what I’m talking about is less about re-creating than about creating. I’m sure if I were a fictional character, that my fondness for creating and my pleasure in sunrises would be some sort of metaphor the author would use to indicate character traits.

Speaking of doing and creating, I have a busy day today. Need to get all dressed up to see a client, do some shopping, and write some articles for another blog I do. But, of course, I need to get in those seven hundred fifty words, and I’m still about a hundred words short.

Word count, I think, might be great for getting you to sit your butt down and write substantial work, but I also think that trying to hit word count can make you write a fair amount of drivel as well. Then again, the drivel can be edited out, and you can’t edit unwritten words. So writing volume has to count as well. Right?

How do you re-create? Does it involve creating something? Or does re-creation for you require stillness? I expect my frantic need to be doing and making would be the despair of a Zen master!

Knitting and Daily Words

wctpsocksAgain, to write my words.

I am wearing a pair of socks that I knit almost two years ago. And dammit, they’re slipping down my legs because I am losing weight, so they don’t quite fit right any more. This makes me a little sad because they’re some amazing socks. Skulls of my Enemies, they’re called, and based on a pattern called We Call Them Pirates.

Now, of course, the cool thing about being able to knit well is that I can make these socks again any time I care to, no matter how much smaller or larger my body gets. I like that skill, though these socks do take a long time to knit.

I am also thinking I need another sweater. I’m currently working on a pair of socks that I may wind up giving to someone, as they’re really pretty, a sweater for my son, and a scarf for one of my oldest friends.

I had forgotten, but she reminded me this Christmas that she actually had a scarf that I’d knitted for her back in high school. (I didn’t get seriously into knitting until I was in my thirties, but Mom taught me the garter stitch when I was a kid. That scarf has long since gone where good scarves go, so I agreed to make her another one. This will be a much, MUCH better scarf, as I’m a considerably more skilled knitter. I’m taking the idea from the Big Bad Baby Blanket and using a seed stitch border so that the stockingette body doesn’t curl. But, that’s about as fancy as it will get. Much fancier than the garter stitch scarf I made for her when I was in my teens, but a simple knit for me now.

My son’s sweater is going to be a golden yellow raglan knit in the round with hemmed sleeves and bottom. It’s an incredibly simple knit, but it’s his favorite style. He likes simple, I think.

After that, I think I am going to knit something for myself. I think it’s been at least two years since I’ve knit a sweater for myself and my sweater collection is getting a little ragged. I have sweaters I’d knitted for myself in 2007, 2008 and 2009, and I think I’ve about worn them to death. Not that they’re not still good for warmth, but as far as something “nice” I’d wear to work, these have passed their time for that. Also, they were knit with Lion Brand Wool-ease and that just doesn’t hold up to frequent wear (I live in Northern New England and it’s COLD up here) the way that a 100% wool sweater does.

I have a couple of ideas. I’d like an Aran, but standard Arans are a bit bulky for me. I have a round, deep body (always will!) and need something with a bit more drape. I was thinking maybe a finer gauge and sport weight rather than worsted weight yarn should give me about what I want. I’m going to have to dig out my book of cable patterns and see what I can come up with for that. I think I’m going to want smaller and more graceful cables with possibly something more intricate down the center. That actually works pretty well. I knitted a sweater for my father like that for Christmas and it suits him.

But there is also another sweater I’ve wanted for YEARS that I am just going to have to suck it up and make. You know those Norwegian sweaters with the silver clasps and the red neckband? I want to make one, though I freely admit steeking scares the bajesus out of me. But the one I want to make is so outrageously awesome that I am just going to have to suck it up. It’ll be the classic black and white, but it’ll incorporate the We Call Them Pirates skull pattern. I love stuff like that, ’cause it looks all normal, then you blink and realize that the person is wearing something quirky.

In fact, I am wearing a pair of earrings like that right now. They look like sparkly silver earrings, then you blink and realize they’re Mickey Mouse.

So, yeah, lots of knitting plans. The thing is, I have more knitting planned than I have knitting time. I have been screwing around and not getting in good knitting time when I am on my lunch break or am at work. I mean, these 750 word entries don’t write themselves, and I am dedicating a lot of time to swimming.

But the beauty of knitting is how it fills in the little minutes you have to spare, then you come out with this big body of work that seems all impressive, and no-one knows you were just filling in time on the bus, or watching a TV show.

Being Your Own Designer

As is not unusual in our Northern New England winters, I’ve been knitting a great deal. Being as it’s been a somewhat rougher winter, weather-wise, than usual, I’ve been using more than my usual amount of spare time for knitting.

I’ve got a sock and a sweater on the needles at the moment. Why? Well, socks are a portable project. They’re easy to toss in a purse and perfect to keep one distracted in waiting rooms, on buses and to relax on a lunch break. The sweater I am working on is in the bulky stage. I usually knit in the round, so sweater sleeves might be delightfully portable, but when you attach them to the body, any sweater for an adult becomes really bulky. That’s my writin’ chair project.

I’m taking a break from knitting because my hands hurt. Yes, I know, knitting too much, and I’m not sure typing an article is really the way to relieve the problem, but it’s a different motion, right?

After I finish it, though, I’m going back to review some material in Elizabeth Zimmerman’s Knitter’s Almanac
for my project.

When I picked it up, I really got to thinking. I’m a knitter and a reader, so I do have a pretty good knitting library. Stitch dictionaries, books about techniques, books full of patterns… I enjoy them.

But I keep going back to Mrs. Zimmerman’s books.


She taught me how to knit. No, I don’t mean basic techniques. My mother, though not into knitting to the insanity I am, did know how and taught me casting on and the garter stitch when I was a little kid. It wasn’t until several decades later that I wanted to make sweaters and stuff. I experimented with several methods before reading Knitting Without Tears. It was like the heavens opening.

Zimmerman was indeed a very clever knitting designer, but she did something I found even better. She taught the underlying concept behind the patterns, why the garment worked up the way it did, and strongly encouraged her readers to become their own designers and not worry too much about what a pattern said. I loved that.

“I knit all year, day in, day out. It is my passion, and I rarely knit the same thing twice in the same way.” Elizabeth Zimmerman, Elizabeth Zimmerman’s Knitter’s Almanac.

I’m similar. I’ve knit the same sweater twice exactly once – Roll Your Own Braided Yoke Sweater. That’s mostly because Mom and I have the same basic shape, so when I liked how it looked on me, I had to make one in a different color for Mom.

But for the most part, I’m always tweaking and changing and I like knitting that way better. The problem is, of course, that I can’t follow a pattern worth a damn.

The Fanfic Knitter

In a way, I’m a fanfic* knitter. I take things I like from other people’s work and make something new, concentrating on the design elements that make me happy and expanding on them.

By the way, fanfic means “Fan Fiction.” A fan of a series, or television show or whatever will take settings, characters and worldbuilding from an author’s work and expand on it, creating stories of their own. It’s a not too unusual way for people to learn to write stories. Keep that concept in mind. It’ll be important later.

So, I’m working on finishing a sweater I started back last April. It’s a seamless raglan sweater, and the sleeves are done. I cheated and used the process of making the sleeves as a gauge swatch. It worked quite well and I’m pretty comfortable that the body will fit just fine.
The front panel is going to be this lattice diamond pattern framed by a cable called “Riptide Wave” in my favorite stitch dictionary.

I’m slowly making my peace with the idea that I just never going to knit a sweater directly from a pattern. I feel weird about it, as if I don’t truly knit well if I can’t seem to do this. (Yes, I know. I knit just fine.)

It’s not that I never carefully follow a pattern. I’ve knitted a couple of sweaters from The Knitter’s Handy Book of Patterns (a wonderful gift from a friend when I was whining that I couldn’t find a sloper kind of pattern like you have for sewing), and learned seaming sweaters ain’t my thang. I still use it for gloves, hats and mittens.

Then I read Knitting Without Tears and learned that the design canvas I like best for a sweater is one that is knit in the round. One of these days, I’m going to get the courage to steek a sweater to make a cardigan, honest, but that’s scary.
I’ve knit directly from patterns the We Call Them Pirates hats and gloves. That’s where I learned stranded knitting, and where I started to realize I knit like a lot of people write fanfic. Boy, howdy have I done the knitting fanfic on that design with sweaters and stockings. I’m not even done. I have a cardigan mentally planned out using it that is going to be so awesome I bounce up and down in my chair a little whenever I think about doing it.

After I learned stranded knitting, I started to knit from basic templates and add design challenges for fun and to expand my skills. To be very honest, many of my projects have one tiny little element that’s outside my comfort zone, but are mostly things that I’ve done before and feel comfortable with. To me, it seems like a good way to gain skill without driving oneself crazy. But I’m always reading about some design or technique I like, but I almost never knit the pattern. I take the design element I like and use it.

So, essentially, most of my knitting is one form of fanfic or another.

Never Wear Them????

As you know, Bob, I’m a knitter and my favorite things to knit are socks and sweaters. Mostly because then I wear them.

I’m knitting the first thing I’ve knit in a good eight months. A Life-Eating Project seems to have sucked away my mental energy to the point where it was beginning to worry not only me, but my family. I needed to do something at least moderately creative and soothing that would make me feel good without long-term commitment. That meant knitting and it meant a small project.

So, socks…

I’m knitting some basic toe-up socks out of leftover yarn I have around. I have special sock yarn, but this stuff isn’t it. It’s Wool of the Andes Sport that I have left over from various knitting projects. It’s a bit thick, but I live in Northern New England and it’s cold. Thick wool socks are nice.

I took the risk on this yarn when my LYS owner commented that she doesn’t really bother to buy special sock yarn, but knits them out of leftovers from the truly extraordinary Nordic sweaters she knits. They are thick, but about like hiking socks.

Which, after nearly two hundred words, brings me to the main point of this article.

I ran across a sock-knitting block post by a knitter who cannot bring herself to wear socks often. After cost of the materials (she quoted $20 for a pair of socks) and the time put in, she didn’t want to wear them out.

The comments got to talking about how yeah, you can buy a pair of socks at a department store for five bucks, so hand-knit socks are so expensive.

I don’t knit to save money. It’s a hobby, but a not-too-expensive one for me. I spent less than $100 in yarn last year planning to do a mess of knitting for Christmas presents that never panned out, so I still have a larger stash than is usual for me. The socks I’m knitting now are from leftovers from the two sweaters I did knit and used about two balls of yarn, totaling five bucks to buy.

But if I bought those 100% wool socks, I’m still looking at between $8 and $10 for an inexpensive pair of wool socks. L.L. Bean, my preferred winter gear go-to, charges more.

But after I’ve gone to all that trouble, expensive or not, darn right I am going to wear the socks I made. Will they wear out? You bet. Socks do. It’s the nature of the garment. I’m easy on my socks – wearing slippers in the house rather than just the bare socks, and hand-washing the hand-knit ones. But, I’ve been knitting socks for eight years. Of course I’ve had a pair or two wear out.

I wonder why someone would go to the trouble to make them then not use them. What’s more of a waste, keeping them in the sock drawer, or enjoying them after you make them?

The Evolution of Socks

I have been utterly obsessed with knitting knee socks lately. I like to wear skirts, I live where it’s cold, but between long johns and knee socks, I can wear a broomstick skirt and still be plenty warm.

But! I have a problem. Slender, I am not. Shoot. Let’s not put too fine a point on it – I’m plus sized and carry my weight a lot in my legs. Yes, this means that regular knee socks aren’t going to fit my calves all that well.

But! I can knit. Not only can I knit, I am very good at adapting patterns and experimenting. I decided I was going to see what kind of increases worked well to get a sock that fit my calves as well as my itty-bitty feet.

These socks (more properly stockings) were the experiment. I made them from left-over worsted weight yarn I had lying around.

They didn’t stay up. That’s okay. I made sock garters. But even so… I prefer socks that stay up, and maybe aren’t quite as thick.


Deciding I had the general idea down, I used some more expensive fingering weight wool to make the next pair of socks. I like these a lot. They fit great.

They also don’t stay up too well. Again, sock garters. Hey, I did it when I was a Brownie, I can do it now.



For my next attempt, I made some knee socks with sewn-in elastic. These socks aren’t wool, but microfiber.

Sorry. For all that synthetic materials have their place, it isn’t the place for keeping the feet properly and comfortably toasty. Wool is better.

The sewn-in elastic is okay, but not my best preference.

These socks… Now these make me happy on a bunch of different levels.

They stay up, for one thing! I did a serious decrease the top before I started the ribbing, and that worked out really well.

The only thing I don’t like about them is that the heels and the toes are a little loose. They’re knit at a slightly looser gauge than the stranded colorwork pattern. I’ve created a pattern for another pair very similar in design to these using a spider motif (I’m calling them my Anansi Socks. I just need to figure out how to incorporate a web design in the calf increases) and when I do the toes and the heels, I’ll just go down a size on the needles for a tighter toe and heel.

I suppose iterative development has its place even in knitting, huh?

Stocking Test Drive

Okay, so I make these knee socks – mostly as an experiment, and to use up some extra yarn I had. I was just being silly and all and figured I’d be wearing them around the house. They’re made of worsted weight yarn, and are a lot thicker than you usually make socks.

So, I needed to go to the fabric store to get some elastic to make some sock garters. I went wearing these under a skirt.

Holy-moley. These suckers are warm! So much so that I’m going to make another pair out of some more leftover yarn I have. They’re awesome. I mean, we’re talking New England winter here, but a skirt was perfectly comfortable outside.

Now, the question is, do I make goofy stripes, or try for a more serious look?

Knee Socks and Garters

I like to wear skirts, especially broomstick skirt. Yes, I know that it means I’m not fashionable. I don’t owe the world fashionable, but I think I owe me what I like. So, yeah, broomstick skirts.

I also like to wear them in the winter. I live in Northern New England. So, you can start to see a bit of a problem, right?

Now, you can wear long johns under a skirt, and certainly you’re warm. But white long johns peeking out underneath my skirt hem offends my limited fashion sense, and I’m not hipster enough to want to wear colorful leggings under a skirt. Sure, it can look cute. It just doesn’t happen to be my thing.

My solution is knee socks. I knit, so why not, right? They fit over the long johns, and add some extra warmth (ahhh, wool socks).

What they don’t do all that great on the rounded limb is bloody well stay up.

Now, when I was a Brownie and Girl Scout back when dinosaurs roamed the Earth, the official uniform included a knee-length jumper option with knee socks and these little sock garters with a flappy thing that I’m too lazy to look up the appropriate term for. Scottish men in formal kilts wear them. I’m sure some of my costumer readers know this term off the tops of their heads.*

I could also sew the elastic into the sock. I know some knitters knit elastic the last few inches at the top, but didn’t have any thin elastic on hand or a way to get it, so I didn’t try that method.

So now, I am wondering whether to make sock garters or sew an elastic band into the sock. If I sew it into the sock, the sock would have to get lost to lose the garters, but it’s only good for that one sock. If I make garters, I only have to have a pair or two.

I’m probably going to go with garters, just for fun. Maybe even a Maureen Johnson version, but they’d have to be blue instead of green. 😉


* Yes, it would have been quicker to look it up than write what I did. I like to indulge Geek Answer Syndrome when I can. Call it a public service. Ever kind, considerate and thoughtful, that’s me!

The Knit Kit

I indulged in a gadget fetish. I probably shouldn’t, but I did.

This is a Knit Kit – a compact device about the size of my hand that I keep in my back pack (which serves as my office, knitting bag and overnight bag) and holds various little items that you might need for a project, but are easy to lose.

This is the front of the kit, where you can see a stitch counter at the top. To the side is a small, swivel-out thread cutter. It cuts yarn pretty well. On the right is a curved crochet hook with a hook at each end, small or larger, depending on what you need.

There is also a very useful retractable tape measure – always needed when working on any sort of garment. It pulls out to an ample 60″ and retracts with ease.

When you flip the kit over the first thing you see is a needle gauge. I love this, as I am always wearing the markings off of any needles I’m using, so having this most useful of knitting accoutrements takes some guesswork out of my projects.

Opening up the back you’ll find a foldable pair of scissors that are billed as being TSA compliant, two tip protectors, a darning needle and several stitch markers. I love this thing. Truly it is the Swiss Army knife of knitting gadgets and has a welcome home in my bag.

Oh, and for all that it’s totally cliché? I like the pink, too.


No, I wasn’t paid to write this, nor was I given a free one. I just like the gadget.