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I Knit Around

Monday, October 24, 2005

Socktoberfest: Don't Blink, You'll Miss It; and, Homebrew Knitting

Too late! While you all weren't looking this weekend, I actually completed my Socktoberfest 2005 socks!

Okay, to be fair, I don't normally post on weekends, so you couldn't have seen this happening if you'd wanted to. I still find the speed with which these came together to be amazing, though.

Socktoberfest 2005: Sock Experiment 5 (SE5) Final Report Card

SE5: Socktoberfest Completed!
Baby Cable Rib Socks from Sensational Knitted Socks

Yarn: Lion Brand Micro-Spun, 2 skeins of Lavender (1 per sock), and scraps of Fuchsia.
Gauge: 7 st/in on size 4 needles

As I've reported before, this pattern is a breeze to work with. Follow the instructions as written, and you won't have annoying holes along the picked-up stitches for the gusset, or at the heel turn (and you don't even have to wrap stitches!).

My first attempt at SE5 was done with size 2 dp needles, and while it produced a recognizable sock, I had trouble getting it to fit. After successfully knitting a pair with size 4 circulars, my conclusion is that the fabric I achieved with size 2's was too stiff. It wasn't elastic enough to conform well to the foot, and I wound up with some areas bagging while others were binding. Not good.

You may have noticed I said "size 4 circulars". A little before I got to the heel of the first sock with my size 4 dps, I was getting frustrated handling the needles. I forget what brand I've got, but their size 4's are several inches longer than their size 2's, and distinctly heavier. I had several instances of a needle dropping out of the piece altogether.

I knew I had one 40" size 4 circular, so I dug it out and decided it was time to try the so-called "magic loop" method. Truthfully, there's not much "magic" to it - it's merely the only logical way to manage extra cable if you try to knit a circular piece with less circumference than the length of your circular needle. I'd knit with the "magic loop" method decades ago, it's just that no one had thought to publish a book describing it. It would make as much sense to declare the Fifth DP needle to be the "Magic Needle" when you write about how much better 5 dps are than 4.

In the case of knitting with a magic loop on a single sock, I didn't like it. Manipulating the loop around the piece as I worked was quite annoying - at least as annoying as the dps had gotten to be. Something had to change.

Checking the budget carefully, I decided I could squeak out just enough money to get a second size 4 circular needle, and switch to the 2-circs method. Okay, now this was a technique that I feel deserves the term "magic"! Suddenly, my sock knitting was something I could carry in the car without having to worry about losing the needles. I could try the sock on as I worked without having to move anything to scrap yarn. And my knitting went much, much faster, because I was working half a sock at a time in a straight run before having to change needles, not a quarter of a sock before having to re-adjust all 4 dp needles so they wouldn't fall out when I moved to the next one.

Loving the 2-circ method. I'm spoiled now, and that's a problem - the rest of my sock yarn really needs to be worked on size 2's, and I won't have the budget for 2 sets of size 2 circulars for a while. I may have to suffer along on my dps instead. *sigh*

As to the socks themselves: I really like how the Micro-spun worked out on size 4 needles. It's dense enough to have some body, but loose enough to be soft and to conform to the foot. The pattern from Sensational Knitted Socks was spot-on, except I think I may have extended the foot a skootch longer than I should. I had to modify the toe shaping to decrease more rapidly at the end. Knitting one less repeat of the baby cable rib pattern would have made a huge difference there.

I've tried them on, and they fit well, but the second sock is a little looser than the first. I think I must have been more comfortable with the pattern and process, and knit more quickly, which tends to loosen up my tension. It also explains why with the first sock, I had a few yards extra lavendar yarn, and with the second sock, I came up two rows short. At least I had the leftover from the first. In total, I wound up with only about 2 yards of lavendar yarn left between the two skeins, if even that much.

The fit is a soft, cushy feel - less like a sock, really, and more like a slipper. I suspect I'll be keeping these as house socks to wear on cold days. They certainly feel warm and cozy - exactly what you want for keeping the tootsies comfy in the winter. I think if I do any more Micro-Spun socks, I'll do so with the same intent - house socks, not walking around in shoes socks.

All in all, though, I consider these a success. I learned a lot, tried both a new knitting technique and a new yarn, and wound up with a highly wearable pair of socks for myself.

Hip-hip-hooray for Socktoberfest 2005!

Knitting Around In Homebrew Heaven

At least, that's what it seems that local homebrewers think about Jasper's Home Brew, 4 Temple St., Nashua. Jeff, the owner, has developed a fantastic rapport with his customers, and his extensive knowledge and wide stock of equipment, ingredrients, and supplies make Jasper's Home Brew & Winemaking Supply a destination for homebrewers throughout southern New Hampshire.

Gryphon and I first discovered Jasper's when Gryphon took up brewing his own beer at a previous apartment we lived in - one with a full basement in which shelves of beer bottles and brewing equipment could be easily stored. As we relax further into life without a retail store of our own to operate, he's considering figuring out how he can take it up again in our current, more limited living quarters.

It wasn't for Gryphon that we visited Jasper's this past Saturday, though - it was for supplies for my beadwork! A recent project at the Craft Goddesses' circle was making bottle-cap charm bracelets. I enjoyed it enough that I wanted a supply of new bottle caps to work with. So, off to Jasper's we trotted.

Of course, while we were there I had to look for a Knitting Around opportunity. We asked Jeff what he thought might be the most interesting thing he had, and he pointed out these brand new oak barrels for aging wine that stood next to the counter.

Knitting Around at Jasper's Homebrew
Folkcat Knitting Around on SE5 with New Oak Barrels at Jasper's Homebrew, Nashua, NH
I grew up in Syracuse, NY - a mere hop, skip and jump away from the Finger Lakes Region where all the great New York State wines get made. I've been on many, many winery tours, and I know what a difference aging your wine in an oak barrel can make. But I've never seen small ones like this available for the home winemaking market before. (Not that I'm much in touch with the home winemaking market. My experience is based on casual contact in places like Jasper's while buying beer brewing supplies with Gryphon.)

If you don't want to make your libations for yourself, Jasper's also offers a selection of ready-made wines and beers, many from micro-breweries or small vinyards. And for the snacky accompaniments to your beverages, he's got an interesting line of unusual hot sauces as well.

Ewe'll Love It

After we finished at Jasper's, I realized we were just around the corner from a yarn shop I've never visited before: Ewe'll Love It, 100 Main St., Suite 4, Nashua.

I had heard from some knitting friends that it was hard to find the shop, and even with that warning, it was true. The main entrance on the front of the building appears to open directly into a gift shop at the street-front, with no clue as to the presence of the yarn shop except for the sign hanging on the corner of the building.

Be Bold, however, and enter that door anyway. It turns out that the inside is almost like a mini-mall - something that the property owners haven't made clear, as the exterior of the building shows no listing of the shops and businesses inside. Walk down the hallway past the gift shop, and to the back of the building, and there you'll find Ewe'll Love It.

I had no money for yarn purchases that day, so I had to just look, but look I did. The place is large and well-stocked. I was amazed at the sheer variety of fibers and types of yarns on display. There are large selections of books and patterns as well.

My only quibble was that the lighting was, to my taste, a little dim in some of the corners of the space. It might have helped if the day had been sunny, as there is a 2-story lofted section of the shop with large windows in the upper level. But on the Saturday we visited, it was a gray, rainy day. The shortcomings in the lighting are obviously a result of how the property owner equipped the space, however, and the owners of the yarn shop are doing their best to provide additional lighting in the form of floor lamps in various locations. Having experience as a retail shop owner myself, I'm aware of how difficult it can be to overcome how your landlord chooses to handle the property.

The overall effect is that you've walked into a fiber artist's combination living room and studio. There are cozy arm chairs tucked in some corners, decorative floor lamps help to light reading/knitting nooks, and there are walls and shelves of colorful yarn everywhere. The bookshelf full of pattern sheets in binders is conveniently located next to a reading table with chairs.

The shop is very welcoming, and I can imagine that those who have found Ewe'll Love It and have shopped there, well....that they do love it.

I had heard rumors from some knitting acquaintances that they felt Ewe'll Love It was expensive, but I have to say that I didn't find that to be the case. The yarns I saw were priced comparably to what I've seen at other shops, and frankly, they had greater variety in colors, brands, and styles of yarn than most of the shops I've seen in the area.

I couldn't shop that day, or I've have come home with a bagful of yarn, I'm sure. I can say for certain that I'll be going back to Ewe'll Love It, though.

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