Forty-Seven Handknit Socks

I have 47 handknit socks currently drying on a rack in my basement.

Just for a moment, let’s overlook the sheer number of handknit socks in my house. In addition to the 47 (socks, not pairs of socks, just to be clear) drying, there are currently 2 freshly dirty ones to wash up, one on each of my feet, and who knows how many currently residing in my cedar chest still clean. So yeah, let’s set the fact of the sock largesse aside for a moment and consider this:

I have forty-seven socks currently drying.

Not 46. Not 48.

47 

Something is not quite right with this picture.

After counting them last night and then re-counting them, I just kind of tilted my head, confused, and then I started chuckling a bit to myself. The 48th sock is here somewhere, of that I’m sure. I just don’t know exactly where right now. There’s a metaphor for my life in there somewhere — everything is good, the holiday is going to be great, I just happen to be temporarily one sock short.

I especially feel “a sock short” at the moment as I’m coming down with a cold or fighting a low-level one or something and my head is a little foggy. But I’m persevering nonetheless, as we do this time of year.

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I’m forging into sock number two of Mr Knitting Sarah’s Christmas socks. I’m feeling confidant enough in finishing on time, in fact, that I spent the better part of last night plying…

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This is pretty much as full as this bobbin can get. In fact, the wheel did a bit of disagreeing with me as we got toward the end, so the last bits are a little unevenly plied. It’s not perfect, but perfect enough that washing and setting it should even things out well enough. For those curious, this is Granite from Three Waters Farm on a 60/40 Polwarth + Silk base and it’s one of the prettiest neutrals I’ve had the pleasure to spin.

For good measure, I pulled this off the wheel straight away and got the next plying project started…

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This is also from Three Waters Farm, called Moving in Circles and this is a Merino/Superwash Merino/Tussah Silk blend — the colorway link will take you to a 60/40 Polwarth + Silk blend. It is pretty breathtaking and it’s definitely going to be hard to step away from.

On a very happy, holiday-y note, I did receive a couple treats in the mail yesterday. I’ve been on the fence about Fringe Supply Co bags for a very long time. I know they’re very nice, but they are pricey and I’ve just never been able to justify the purchase. Over the weekend I noted that Firefly Fibers — my once-upon another lifetime LYS — was offering them at a 10% discount, so I jumped.

Yesterday I received my black Porter Bin…

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I imagine using this to hold prepped fiber for upcoming projects. I have an extra special plan for this, but the second part of it is still en route. Updates to come when part two arrives, of course.

I also got one of the new Waxed Canvas Plaid Field Bags

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I love waxed canvas — it’s so practical for my lifestyle, just like the size and design of the bag, and these colors are just me.

It also just so happens that once I finished Mr. Knitting Sarah’s socks, even though I have other WIPs to attend to, I’m hoping to cast on this…

img_9146A gift from a good friend, this was also the last knitalong from Firefly Fibers. I’m too late to participate, but I’m excited to work on it nonetheless. I have a laundry list of projects that I want to get to in the new year, but this one — because it’s a gift and such a pretty blue tweed — it just feels like pure luxury.

And this lady, with 47 handknit socks drying — not 46 or 48 — could use a little something that is just a treat, pure and simple.

Can You Keep a Secret?

So, I haven’t had a chance to post this week. There are a couple reasons. The reasons are top secret.

Can you keep a secret?

Yes? Oh, good.

First, this week we welcomed a new addition to our family.

snakeIt took a year of convincing, but my husband finally talked me into agreeing to get our son a snake. Our boy is crazy for snakes. This little guy is an Apricot Pueblan Milksnake — a mimic of the venomous Coral Snake and thus infinitely cool — and he is currently residing in the basement while he adjusts to our house. He will move upstairs permanently on Christmas morning. He doesn’t really do much except sun himself when we aren’t around and then hide when we show up. He is shockingly fast when he wants to be. Shockingly. I don’t blame him — I would hide lickedy-split, too, if I were a foot long and about as wide as a dime and in a new place with weird noises and giant, unpredictable humans and a giant dog running around. Thank goodness for his hidey-rock.

So, yes, please don’t mention it around my son. He’s going to be SO surprised. It’s going to be amazing.

I have also been knitting and spinning a fair bit. I wrapped up knitting on three hats. Whew-hoo!

The first is for my husband. He came with me to my LYS, Firefly Fibers, and decided he’d like a new hat. It took a long time & a fair bit of help from Alisa to find a pattern that didn’t “look like a doily” and yarn that wasn’t “too sparkly” or ” too shiny.” Alisa was very patient. I was beside myself. This is par for the course. In the end we finally settled on Churchmouse Yarns & Teas’ Ribbed Watch Cap & Beanie in Dream in Color Smooshy in the Black Pearl colorway.

black_pearl_whole_hat_medium2My husband was paranoid it would be too small, so I added an inch to the main body. Of course, now it is too long, but we learned that the brim can be double folded and it still looks great (and is warmer on the ears – perfect!). Now knitting friends, let me just say this pattern takes almost 10″ of 1×1 ribbing in fingering weight yarn. That’s A LOT of ribbing.

black_pearl_close_up_medium2One more photo in honor of the mother of all ribbed projects. I love this hat. Oh my goodness was it a lot of work. I’m so glad I’m done with it.

While I was working on this hat a couple weeks ago, my family & I were at the zoo where is poured rain, had violent thunderstorms, & about an hour’s worth of tornado warnings (I now know what the basement of the primate house is like…). By the end I was soaked and cold, so my husband sent me on an assignment at Cream City Yarn to pick up yarn to make hats for his two assistants at work. I opted for Quince & Co Lark to make a couple of Churchmouse Yarns & Teas’s new Boyfriend Watch Cap.

20131206-120711.jpgOne in Peacoat.

20131206-120733.jpgAnd one in Marsh.

This is seriously my new favorite quick hat. Super easy and the pattern switches about mid-way through from ribbing to stockinette, so just when I start to get a little bored, it changes. Perfection. Speaking of perfection, this was my first time working with Quince & Co’s Lark and it is everything I’ve come to expect from Quince & Co. It is an absolute treat to work with — a true wool and yet soft and bouncy. It is an amazing pairing with the Boyfriend Watch Cap, too. If I had more time on my hands (and the need for 49hats), I would knit one up in every single color of Lark.

Having finished these beauties, I moved right on to a pair of socks for my husband.

20131206-104742.jpgRegia is the workhorse of sock yarns — I love it. In sport weight, these fly by. This photo is already outdated — I’m currently working on the foot.

On the wheel, I finally finished up the plying on two skeins of gradient yarns from Fiber Optics — they, too, are destined to be gifts.

20131206-104706.jpgThis is Bitter Lime to Rose.

20131206-104723.jpgI ‘m pleased. Period.

20131206-121658.jpgAnd this is Chocolate to Aqua.

20131206-121708.jpgThis one spun up just a smidge differently  — a bit springier — as I tried a different ratio than the Bitter Lime to Rose. I am really happy with the results of both.

This was my first time using Fiber Optics fiber and the end results of these merino/silk blends are beautiful. I will say that there were a few more slubs in the spinning than I am used to, but nothing unmanageable. Both skeins are 3-ply fingering weight yarns, the Bitter Lime to Rose coming in around 475yards and the Chocolate to Aqua at about 500yards. Now I just need to get them in the bath and drying so they are ready for Christmas morning!

Aside from the handmaking, I’ve been having a load of fun handpicking gifts for my crafty friends. And… I have been lucky enough to have been treated a few goodies for myself as well. I’ll save those for tomorrow though. For now, there is Christmas music to listen to, knitting to be knit, gifts to wrap, and a snake to try to sneak a peek of.

At the Market

I spent my college years and the first few years after living in the Wisconsin state capitol of Madison. It is a pretty special, diverse town as it is home to both the very large university (over 40,000 students attend) and the state government. While the city has certainly grown & changed since I moved away, some things remain the same. One of the most special attributes of the city is that it excels at hosting events that – despite the city’s growing size – have a small town feel. No where is this more evident than the Saturday morning Farmers’ Market where the selection ranges from locally grown greens, flowers, plants, meats, bakery goods, coffee, to even some artisan crafts like jewelry, cleverly screen printed garments, & pottery. Locally grown & made is the rule — and Madisonians crowd the square to get their piece of the goodness. To give you an idea of how popular the Farmers’ Market is, the vendor waitlist is over five years long just to get a booth!

In any case, in college I went every Saturday, bought my bread & cheese & seasonal greens and I was set for the week. Today, the 45minute drive from my house to the Capitol Square means the stars don’t align often for my family & I to make it there, but yesterday my husband had the day off and we arranged to meet friends there. It was as wonderful as ever & reminded me that there is no where on this planet like Madison. With our budget and family of four (8year-old boys can eat a lot!), the market is no longer really a viable option to do our weekly shopping, but we did pick up a few items to augment our groceries – fresh locally grown green onions, artisan cheese & sourdough bread, some all-natural granola, and the kids each chose a big cookie for the ride home. As usual, I snapped some pictures to share with you.

20130519-063701.jpgFirst, we made a stop at the Overture Center for the Arts. It is a lovely place where my husband and I have attended the opera & varying art exhibitions. Today, we perused the art a bit as we arrived to town early. I can’t help but laugh that my daughter, ladies & gentlemen, posed in front of the word ‘center.’ She certainly is the center of… well, of a lot of things.

20130519-063723.jpgWe then made our way to the square and our beautiful capitol building. Note the shimmering gold sculpture on top — it is one of my favourites in the area. Obviously you can’t see the details in this photo but suffice to say her hand is raised to symbolize the state motto “Forward” while in the other hand she holds a globe & eagle. Atop her head she wears a helmet topped with a badger (badger = state totem). As I have gotten older I identify more and more with her — hands full and wildlife (read: children) getting the best of me, but moving forward anyways — so seeing this statue is a treat I never take for granted.

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There are never a shortage of flowers and bouquets – these little roses were my favorite. I wish you could smell them – they were divine!

20130519-063753.jpgWell, if they’re delicious I suppose I can’t just walk past, right?

20130519-063712.jpgMy kids searched for the queen bee at one of the honey stands. We each enjoyed a little dose of honey, too. Yum!

20130519-063903.jpgAnd check this out! I got to use my Capitol Square Market Bag! This is a design I whipped up for Firefly Fibers a year or so ago and have taught as a class there multiple times. In fact, I was just in the classroom last week Thursday with a lovely group of knitters for the first of two classes to create this lovely bag. It is made using 375 yards of DK-weight yarn — I used Cascade Yarns Ultra Pima, but a couple students this time around are using Rowan Creative Focus Linen and it has certainly got me thinking about making another. The linen has a more rustic, beachy feel to me — and we all know how much I like that ‘beachy’ feel!

This bag is made in one piece and requires sewing only one seam. The idea was fewer seams equal fewer opportunities for the bag to fail under the stress of heavy weight. When it comes to the things I knit & design, it is really important that they are strong and hold up well to the challenges of their intended use. I have to say that I have packed a l o t of weight into my market bag and it has proved incredibly strong. And the seam? Kitchener stitch is a workhorse, that’s all I have to say.

Should you wish to make one yourself, you can purchase the pattern on Ravelry here. It is a pretty fun (and functional!) knit & they make fabulous gifts. Should you decide to cast-on, first of all thank you and have fun! Also, let me offer a couple tips for you that have come up over the past year:

  1. The Cascade Yarns Ultra Pima will stretch quite a bit, so you may wish to shorten the strap if you don’t intend to wear it across your body.
  2. In the same manner, you may wish to shorten up the openwork a bit as it, too, stretches. Personally, I like the big size — I can fit a lot in it!
  3. One of the pattern’s Ravelry knitters (Rav ID: noliegirl) had a great idea — join the second skein of yarn in the garter band at the bottom of the bag. If you don’t, you will end up having to join in the openwork section. Frankly, it never crossed my mind in the design process, but I think this idea is brilliant!
  4. When you join skeins, use a square knot. The Ultra Pima is pretty slippery and since it is cotton it requires a bit more of a substantial knot. Alisa from Firefly Fibers wrote a great photo tutorial on the shop blog for how to make this super strong knot.

Because of the design elements & styling, the process of getting this design from my needles to paper was pretty involved. I am so very thankful I had of Alisa to bounce ideas off of, as well as her keen eye & tech editing and layout skills in the collaboration. I am also thankful for the input we’ve had from students who have knit the pattern as well as that from our Ravelry knitters. Every idea and every comment is so appreciated — it enriches the pattern and makes the knit even more enjoyable for future knitters.

After a lovely couple hours at the Farmers’ Market, we made our way home — there was a lawn to be mowed, laundry to be done, and a Moose to be fawned over. As I put our booty away & hung up my market bag, it was a little bittersweet knowing that I probably wouldn’t make it back to the ever lovely Dane County Farmers’ Market in Madison anytime soon. My little town has recently revitalized our own green market though and moved it to a newly built river walk area. I think it may be time to check that out — I know I have a Market Bag that is up to the challenge.20130519-063805.jpg

A Time for Change

About two and a half years ago Alisa at Firefly Fibers asked me to teach knitting at her shop. As the story goes, I think I laughed and said no. Within a couple weeks though we were sitting down to coffee discussing class ideas with great enthusiasm. I have been in the classroom almost weekly since. It has been an amazing two and half years in which I learned a lot — about knitting, about teaching, about yarn, about people, and about friendship. Outside of my family, there is little I love as much as helping students learn new techniques & conquer knitting challenges. I find it so very rewarding to keep this craft alive by sharing my own enthusiasm and expertise. Anyone who knows me, knows the former is abundant in spades at all times.  The absolute best is helping fellow knitters find their own love of this craft that is such an integral part of my life. Whether they love making dishcloths or scarves, lacework or sweaters, socks or hats; I just adore the pride & accomplishment in a student knitters’ eyes when they have made the craft their own.

I am the kind of person who when I commit to something or someone, they get all of me. It is not really in me to do anything part-way or with anything less than all my energy & passion — and all that energy & passion is not insubstantial. Teaching knitting has been no different — I put my all into handouts, samples, & presentation. I have been fortunate in the tremendous support given me by Firefly Fibers as I mastered the craft of teaching, trying new classes & learning different techniques. I would not be the knitter — or the person — I am today without this experience.

Like teaching, I have great devotion to my friends and family. Over the past year I have faced many changes within my family; illness, job changes, my youngest child entering school just to name a few. Because of my tremendous loyalty to & very good friendship with Alisa, the owner of Firefly Fibers,  I have spent the last 9months trimming my teaching schedule to accommodate changes at home. I could have just walked away, but Alisa has been unbelievably accommodating & kind at every turn, making changes to my teaching schedule when necessary & offering moral support every step of the way. She did it for the good of her business, but also because we have a very strong friendship, one I think we both hold very dear. I stayed for the love of teaching & because I knew my departure would be hard for her in many ways.

We have reached a turning point, however, my dear knitting friends. At of the end of my current contract at the end of June, I will no longer be teaching at Firefly Fibers. There is one very simple reason for this change: I need to be home with my family. My first job is that of homemaker. Despite the flexibility afforded me by Alisa which has made my tenure as knitting instructor possible, I have reached the point at which my family needs me at home full-time again. So, home is where I must be.

I will not deny that I have some very mixed feelings about this change. I love teaching & have so enjoyed working with all of my students. To each of you who has been in the classroom with me, I offer a very heartfelt thank you. It has been incredible. I am excited, though, to be there for my family with the flexibility to be exactly where they need me to be when they need me to be there. I know I am so very fortunate that this is an option and that I have the unwavering support & understanding of my family, Alisa & her husband Mike, and all my friends at Firefly Fibers in this choice.

Some things that will not change will be that my remaining classes will have all my energy & passion in their preparation & execution. I will continue to share ideas with Alisa (it is hard for knitting friends to not do this and when you suffer from as much enthusiasm as I have, it may actually be impossible) and I will still lend a hand with sample knitting at Firefly Fibers from time to time.  I will continue to blog regularly & write about all my adventures in knitting & spinning. I will also keep my Knitting Sarah Facebook Page & Twitter account live so you can easily keep track of my knitting shananigans. Locals will still catch me shopping at my local yarn shop. And Alisa & I will still enjoy the occasional afternoon or evening knitting together when schedules allow.

You know what they say, when one door closes, another opens. I am pretty sure whatever the next chapter holds for me, it will be big and bright. I have no doubt that Firefly Fibers will thrive, too. Thank you again to Alisa & Mike at Firefly Fibers and everyone who has taken classes with me over the last two and a half years. It has been a delight!

As always, Happy Knitting!

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The Winding Road.

Transitioning from finishing one project to starting a new one can be a very straight road or a winding one. Sometimes I know exactly what I want to do next — often I spend the last quarter of a project planning my next. As I was finishing up my last, all I could think about was starting my Sixareen Cape. As I knit along on it, it is everything I hoped & I am in love with my palette. I would work on it all day and all night long if I could.  It is just that good. Look at it — I just love it and can’t wait to wear it.

20130321-085617.jpgAs you can see though, it’s going to be a while before I am wearing this lovely cape. It became apparent around the second day of working on it that despite my enthusiasm I needed to be practical. I am recovering from being sick & need to be getting a decent night’s sleep to really get back to 100%. This week is also all about planning and preparing for the kids’ spring break next week, so I am running lots of errands and devoting extra time to getting organized. We will also be visiting with family over the break, so stranded colorwork where I have 6 colors to carry around with me — well, it just is not practical or realistic that I can enjoyably work on it. It isn’t exactly portable or something I can do on auto-pilot, or at least not something I want to do on auto-pilot. I am savoring this one, remember?! Coming to terms with the reality of my situation, I needed to shop for some appropriate projects for next week… and fast.

As is true of most knitters, I always have some plans, a reserve of projects I want to start. Instead of test-driving what was on my to-knit list right away, I immediately veered off the itinerary a bit because… well, because why not? I saw this skein of my handspun from last year & decided it was time to do something with it.

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I absolutely fell in love with Rondelay by Jennifer Dassau — it was just beautiful in this yarn & one of the most FUN scarf/shawlette patterns I have worked on. Seriously, if you have a skein of Malabrigo Sock sitting about you really need to knit this. Not kidding at all. In any case, sadly after literally weighing it out, I figured that I would be about 50yards short to complete this project. A little heartbroken, I re-wound the skein and started pondering.

While I pondered, I cast-on Windward by Heidi Kirrmaier.

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We can all thank Alisa from Firefly Fibers for that inpsiration. I had seen the Yarn Harlot’s post about it, but hadn’t really looked too hard at the pattern until Alisa brought it to my attention. She had plans for a different yarn, but as I browsed the yarn ideas on Ravelry and saw the Zauberball examples I instantly wanted to use my stashed Zauberball for it. For the moment let’s ignore the fact that completing this project will require another ball of Zauberball which I may or may not be able to get in the correct dye lot… or colorway. I am convinced I can figure that out later (please do not follow this fool-hardy example, I beg you!). In any case, it is a really fun pattern & it will serve as the knitting I bring with me to class this week for any down-time I may have. It doesn’t look like much now, but I have high hopes.

While casting this on, my thoughts drifted to one of my favourite cowls — my Honey Cowl. I had done some very basic improvising on the pattern to accommodate the yarn I was using last time & it just so happens the the yardage & weight are almost identical to my handspun.

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And thus another Honey Cowl was born. This will be perfect knitting for any car & visiting time I may have over the next week. The yarn is a silk/wool blend and I think it is just going to be spectacular. I am betting my daughter will try to steal it as soon as it is off the needles.

And then, because I was on a roll with the swatching and the test driving, I swatched some linen for a project I am hoping to have knit up in time for summer (if it ever comes — we awoke to single digits Fahrenheit this morning… again… bitter? who me? but i digress).20130321-085541.jpgThis is what’s left of my swatch — I know this last little swatching probably seems like overkill even for me, but this project will be another good simple knit for car & family time. In my defense, this is just a back up to the other simple knitting I have. On the off chance I finish the Honey Cowl and/or Windward early, I will be all set. You know, for the 1000yard week I am planning. Shush. I am not ridiculous. I just suffer from an excess of enthusiasm.

Of course in the mean time I will be wrapping up the first of my March Merry KAL balls. I will be sure to post up a couple sneak peaks on our Ravelry thread.

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If this isn’t a long and winding road to new projects, I am not sure what is. All part of the joy of knitting though, right?! Browsing. Dreaming. Taking the long way. All that good stuff. Yes, sometimes the winding road is the way to go. You find so many good things along the way!

Happy Knitting!

Results: Quaker Ridge Shawlette

At long last, I present to you the results of my Quaker Ridge Shawlette poll & the finished project!

To remind everyone, I asked for help on deciding how to finish up my Quaker Ridge Shawlette: Ruffle or No Ruffle?  You spoke up & I listened.

The final tally was:

35% voted for the Ruffle             65% voted for No Ruffle

edge close-upHere is a snapshot of the finished edge. I went with the ruffle-less edge and the beaded bind-off. I love the beads Alisa from Firefly Fibers picked for this yarn.

close up spiral qrsAnd I love this colorway (Madelinetosh Pashmina in Cove). It is reminds me of a coastal pond.

on back

I lost the light for a moment taking this pic & my camera and tripod setup gave me a smidge of grief, but I wanted to give you an idea of the size. I did an extra two repeats of the main pattern to add length since I skipped the ruffle. I probably could have added at least one more with the remaining yarn, but as you can see it is pretty good sized. I am glad I stopped when I did.

qrs on tableIsn’t it pretty (and kind of huge — it takes up my whole kitchen table!)?

close-up

Let me just say that I have had so much fun working on this project. I knew I would love the finished shawl, but I was a little unsure how wild I’d be for the process on this one. Now that I have finished I can say that in all honesty it was one of the most fun knits I have worked on in a while. Interesting, but not hard by any means, it held my attention without consuming it. Perfect for TV watching or chatting with friends as you click away.

As always, Susan B Anderson did a great job of being thorough & clear in her pattern writing and delivered yet again with a classic, simple knit that becomes an instant ‘must wear.’ I’m so happy I finally got around to knitting this beautiful shawl!

Thank you to all who voted in the poll — I absolutely love my Quaker Ridge Shawlette!

For details on my projects, click here for my Ravelry project page.