Sunday, August 20, 2006


Look look LOOK! My first pair of socks! I did it! I finished them!

Pattern:Jaywalkers, from Magknits. (A name that makes no sense to me, I realise: in German, I don't think there's a word for jaywalking, because it is so taboo; in Ireland, by contrast, ignoring all lights and zebra crossings is so common that, again, it is just known as "crossing the road." I know I'm home when all the police jaywalk.)

Yarn: Regia 4-fädig Nation Color sock yarn, in colour 5399, 75% wool 25% polyamide

Needles: 2mm Addi metal double-pointed needles

Time sucked: A week. I knitted like a woman possessed. My fingers are falling off of me.

Whoa. It's not true, folks: socks are NOT easy. Particularly not for a reading knitter like me. You see, confession: I'm not a perfectionist knitter. I admire Eunny Jang's utter devotion to detail and process no end, but alas, I have to read while I knit. Or watch a film. Or talk. I can't be counting and watching all the time, my head would fall off with the boredom. So the socks are full of mistakes and wobbles, and many of them were not just learner mistakes, they were avoidable, but was I going to frog? On TINY needles? Hell no.

But look! Look at the gorgeous colourdiness of them! I particularly love their anarchic non-matchiness, and the teeny tiny tip of purple on the toe of one sock. So very cute.

Here are the heels, which caused me no end of grief. Not the turning so much as the picking up stitches: I tried two methods, one the one I knew already, which leaves a slight seam, and one a fancier method picking up slipped stitches, and neither was much fun and both caused sweating and misery and ugh, and there are still little holes in the corners of the gussets, which I'm not sure how best to avoid.

Yes, I do have a birthmark. And weak ankles, to boot.

Neelia is right: handmade socks feel completely different. It's almost as though they were tailored, not knitted: a perfect, stiff fit, tight to pull on and bulky to wear. I do like them, but do I have the bug? Not yet, I think. My hands are damned SORE. But I am kind of bursting with pride, I do have to admit.

Monday, August 14, 2006

I came, I saw... I jaywalked

Ow. Typing hurts. And whose fault is it? Mine, mine alone, of course. It was all supposed to be so innocent: I went down to Fadeninsel to get a set of double-pointed needles, or a Nadelspiel, as they are charmingly called in German. This time, I remembered to get youse a photo, even.

Look at all the bargain yarns and handknits in the windows!

I went in and asked for the needles. Already, I had become sucked in to the cultish world of socks, because I asked for 2mm; the internet says that it prefers a firm pair of socks, and I aim to do this right. And then, I saw the most fabulous, tacky, chain-store-coloured stripey sock yarn on very very cheap offer. And I fell, and tumbled.

I never really understood sock knitting, you see. I knit because it's a fun distraction, and because I like being able to knit gorgeous or silly stuff that I couldn't buy in the shops. Socks, you can buy anywhere. Plus, in the summer I wear sandals and in the winter I wear boots, and I don't have much opportunity for showing off fabulous lacey short-rowey goodness.

More, I am more than a little scared of the cultish devotion that sweeps sock knitters online. Knitty tells you, "Add a little zing to YOUR socks!", assuming that you knock out a pair a month at the very least; bloggers the web over state their hatred of toe-down, their devotion to short-row heels, their passion for Lorna's Laces (all very well if you live in the States), their hunger for new techniques, and good grief, they are just SOCKS. But the Regia Color yarn was so bright and cheery, and so very artificial and un-artisan, that I just had to try...

Jaywalker! And look! I turned the bloody heel! I TURNED it! It may or may not have involved tears, flinging the sock across the room, feverishly googling for instructions, aching fingers and passionate hatred, but... well, I must be hooked, because that's about 12 hours work, more or less solid. On 2mm needles, what's more. That sock isn't just firm, you could stir your coffee with it. I may be a heretic and go for 2.5mm needles next time, because my hands are about to fall off, and perhaps I don't mind having a slightly softer sock after all. That's just the kind of rebel I am.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

hooray! MORE YARN!

Because that's just what I need, man. Yesterday, I met up with the lovely Neelia for the first time ever, for a high-powered fast-paced raid on Fadeninsel, the best yarn shop I have ever seen in Europe. Neelia was nearly overcome at the lusciousness of the yarns on display, but did recover a little when she realised the high acrylic content of most German designer yarns... I still haven't got a photo of Fadeninsel to show you, but I must do. It's a cute little shop in a funky, very Turkish neighbourhood, a shop run by sharp-eyed women who anticipate your needs before you've thought of them. Yesterday, the woman in charge was kind enough to speak (flawless) English to Neelia and switch to German when talking with me, which is an attention I liked. Usually, service personnel and many other Germans I encounter here either have no English at all, or are so pleased at the chance to practice their English on a native speaker that they don't let me speak German. But not in Fadeninsel!

I shall not report the extravagances of the lovely Neelia, but look what I got:

Sock yarn! I've never made socks before, but now may well be the time. The yarn on the left is going to be made into leafy embossed socks, because it's all autumnal and all, and the yarn on the right - bought on sale! - is going to be my learner pair. Neelia suggests Jaywalker for the pattern, but I'm not sure yet.

I also got the new Rebecca magazine:

and got inspired by this photo. I have all this báinín aran yarn sitting around in Ireland, and have never been convinced as to what to do with it. I always think of báinín jumpers as being similar to Celtic armband tattoos and Sinéad O'Connor, part of the Oirish cultural revival of the early nineties, and more than a bit embarassing now. But a funky waist-nipped aran, with a scoop neck instead of the one pictured, might be just the trick. Hmmm. I have two weeks to decide.

Talking of decisions:

My lovely girlfriend brought me back this Fleece Artist yarn from the most amazing yarn store I have ever seen, in Toronto. I am so lucky. It is just luscious: slubby and rich-coloured and hand-painted and thoroughly, thoroughly North American. I so want to do it justice: there's 750 grammes of it, more than enough for a garment, but which garment? I've never seen patterns for anything this thick, and I don't want to make something that looks like a cropped sleeping bag. Any suggestions very, very welcome.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

hippy heatwave cami!

Whoops. Life caught up with me, and yes, not so much blogging happened. Which doesn't mean that I wasn't knitting, I was, it just wasn't very... bloggable. I have been futzing around on that silly baby dress for a month, and I still amn't at all motivated to finish it off. I really should.

But! I have been doing something that is much, much more exciting, viz: designing my own top! Sort of. Kind of. It's influenced by a) that monster box of cotton I scored off eBay b) Soleil c) the Prosperous Plum Tank. Also by a heatwave we had in Berlin, hence I am tentatively calling it the Hippy Heatwave Cami. The idea was a top with the curvy shaping of Soleil, but in a reasonably modest lace. And then I got mad and decided that two-tone contrasting laces was the way to go (this is the hippy bit.) A dull day at work produced the following, cough, kinda design:

No. I cannot draw. But I can get kinda obsessive about knitting once I get an idea in my head, and even in the 38 degree heat I kicked off:

And this is where I am now:

Of course, it is now no longer a heatwave, and an airy cotton vest suddenly seems much less appealing. But it might still be wearable as a going-out top, right?

I am particularly proud of my lace decreases in pattern:

Look! Up until the last couple, you wouldn't even notice those sections, right? The laces are Fern Leaf and Beech Leaf from the Knitter's Bible, a tribute, if you will.

I'm somewhat less happy about the sizing, though. It seems very, very small. Cotton lace DOES stretch something amazing, though, right? Even Soleil feels very baggy afte a few wears, and that's only stocking stitch, so lace should be even more accommodating? Ack. I thought I planned OK from my gauge swatch, but am now getting cold feet. Not so much that I would stop knitting it, of course.