Sunday, February 21, 2010

A Treat for Your Feet ~ Vintage Socks!

Sock knitting mojo has returned! Do you believe in love at first sight? The minute I saw these socks I was in love. Vintage style? check. Knee highs? Check. Glitz and Glam? Check. This was the sock pattern I had been waiting for. Don't tell Steve.

I'll get to the socks in a minute. First, a little down time for all of us. It's been a tough start to 2010 for so many. When going through tough times it is more important than ever to take care of yourself so that you are better able to weather the storm with good grace.

For me 2010 has been difficult because I lost Mr Puffy and I'm having to work especially long hours. I miss that Mr Puffy always knew when it was time for a break. He would periodically insist that I get up from the computer and go for a walk or play. He brought fun into my life, and I miss him. We shared so much together, even bath time. Mr Puffy was a great one for bathing. He loved to sit by the tub keeping me company or on occasion having his own spa treatments.

It's not the same without him. But I do carry on. Since I have some new socks, I thought what a great time for a home pedicure! I really ought to do this more often. It's so relaxing. I turn on soothing music (usually a Sarah Brightman CD) and soak my feet for about 10 minutes in bath salts. I then give them a good rub a dub dub and apply various lotions and potions and I'm done. I don't make a big production of it. Keep it simple is my motto. You will agree, I am nothing if not a practical woman!

In the picture above you'll notice one of my hand knit washcloths. I love how soft these have become with time. You can find a post on knitting washcloths here. Knitting touches virtually every aspect of my life and brings comfort to me in countless ways. But I digress. Back to pedicures. After a nice soak your toes are ready for a cheerful polish. Nothing says "cheerful" quite like the color "Making Whoopie" (Lippmann Collection). At least, it always makes me smile.

Now that you've pampered your feet it's nice to finish up with some cozy socks! These socks are based on a vintage pattern originally published in Weldon's Practical Needlework, Volume 15 England, 1900. Nancy Bush (well known for her vintage sock designs) reworked this pattern to change it from an over the knee style to a traditional knee high. If you are concerned about keeping your handknit socks up (knee highs in particular) follow the advice of Murielle of Murielle Knitwear (link to her Etsy shop). She has recently launched a knitting blog "Murielle Handmade Knitwear." Murielle has generously shared some of her designer Tips and Tricks here on this blog over the years and before you knit knee high socks you should read her article, Keep Your Socks On! The Many Uses of Lycra.

Particulars: Evening Stockings by Nancy Bush; Piecework Magazine; US 1 Double pointed needles; 3 skeins Glimmer (black) by The Alpaca Yarn Company (97% baby alpaca/3% polyester). Modifications: None. However, if I were to knit these socks again I would not make the heel flap so long. I would probably reduce it by 4 or 5 rows. Further, if you are not an experienced sock knitter you probably should pick a light colored yarn for this project. I found that the dark colored yarn combined with the flecks of gold thread made it difficult to see the stitch definition for this lace pattern, which might be frustrating for a new sock knitter. The pattern was designed for the colorway "White House" and that is probably a better choice if you have any doubt.

Until next time, be well and love well. No matter how busy your life is, find 15 minutes to relax and give yourself a pedicure. We all need down time and you will feel better for it.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Winter Wool Skirt

It seems somehow disloyal to move on after loosing someone held so dear as Mr Puffy was to me. But moving on is something we all must do because life is a gift and meant to be lived and enjoyed. Before doing so, thank you all for your concern, sympathy, and understanding. It was nice to hear from some of you whom I've not heard from before and, after reading a comment by Marie Luisa from Portugal (sorry no profile link available) it occurred to me that I should clarify Mr Puffy's role here on the blog. As Marie correctly observed, Mr Puffy did many things but he did not knit. That's right. Instead, I would describe Mr Puffy's role as that of a design consultant and knitwear model. He had great fashion sense and no one looked as cute in a hat. His presence, insight, and modeling will always be missed.

But I am a knitter and she who knits must knit on. I'm wearing my new winter wool skirt, Carmine, designed by Dutch Knitting Design. I'm pretty happy with it. Ya right. It's hard to curb my enthusiasm for this rockin little skirt. I have wanted a simple tasteful wool skirt simply 4ever. Something I can throw on and look casually look put together for afternoon tea or strolling about a museum. How often do I do either of these things? Never. Who cares? I am ready to accept any invitations.

This skirt has great texture which is hard to show in the pictures. The design has triangles running the length which gives it a visual interest that I'm afraid do not show up well. A couple of the following picture do show the design, if you look really closely.

Whenever you knit a skirt in wool you need to be concerned about sagging. If you chose, as I did, to use a pure wool then I think you should look for a yarn with a tight twist and plied ~ something with a bounce and good memory. Your LYS owner is a good source for suggestions. And, because you want your new skirt to fit you perfectly, I'm sharing my Perfect Fit Knitting tip!

Knitting Tip: Getting a Perfect Fit

When you invest the time and money into knitting a skirt (or anything for that matter) you want to make sure that it will fit you. And getting the perfect fit is all about gauge. Here's my Perfect Fit Knitting Tip: Do not follow the conventional wisdom and knit your gauge swatch using stockinette as patterns generally instruct. Instead, make your gauge swatch using a full repeat of the knit design used in the actual pattern. In this case, it would be to knit a full repeat of a triangle. Then wash and block your gauge swatch before measuring. When wool is washed it can have a dramatic impact on your swatch. By following these steps you will have a more accurate gauge from which to base your knitting. I never consider a project truly completed until it is fully washed, blocked, and lightly ironed.

Carmine skirt by Marleen van der Vorst who blogs as Dutch Knitting Design; 5 skeins Zara (extra fine superwash merino wool) by Filatura Di Crosa (a division of Tahki - Stacy Charles, Inc.); US 6 circular needles; size XS; my only modification was to reduce the waist band to 6 rounds instead of 10. Tip: BO stitches firmly to reduce the tendency of BO edge to expand. This will give you a "neater" finished look. However, to allow the necessary "give" for the waist band to slip over your hips, you will need to very loosely whip stitch the waist band edge in place.

Valentine's Day Fun:

Growing up I thought Valentine's Day was just for lovers and that's just not true! It's a whimsical and fun day and can be celebrated by everyone with a heart (that includes you) and zest for living! This easy peasy wine charm took me all of an hour to knit ~ and is just one of zillion quick and easy crafting ideas for Valentine Day. I'm also tempted to crochet some of Knitter Gal's bright, happy "Me Mine" Coasters (you can see them here).

Particulars: Heart-Shaped Ornament by Ann Budd in Piecework Magazine (Nov/Dec 2009)/; US 2 double pointed needles; red scrap yarn

Until next time, be well, love well, and have fun preparing for Valentine's Day!