Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Versailles Bookmark

Books make great gifts, but I like to personalize them a bit by including a handmade bookmark. Here's one I recently finished.

There are many very nice bookmark patterns already on the net, but I haven't yet found one that has lace patterning on both sides, so I thought I'd put this up here. It's a quick and easy way to introduce yourself to this type of knitting.
I apologize for the crappy pictures. I had to use the flash to get something without shadows, and the colour red continues to confound my cheap little Radio Shack camera.
This bookmark is knit length-ways and is self-fringing. The pattern kind of looks like leaves and kind of looks like rectangles, depending on your mood, I guess.

(Edit December 28, 2011:  Blogger has apparently decided that all my nicely numbered rows should actually appear as bullet points instead.  Blech.  There's a properly formatted copy of this pattern available for free on Ravelry.  I would recommend you download that instead.)

Versailles Bookmark (Versailles Pattern is from Barbara Walker's Second Treasury.)
Materials: I used Opera No. 20 Crochet Cotton and 1.75 mm needles. You can use whatever you want as long as the solid parts look kinda solid and the holes look kinda holey.
Using a provisional cast-on (this one works wonderfully!), cast on 68 stitches.
Set up row: K 7, place marker, K 54, place marker, K 7.

  1. (RS) K 4, P 1 TBL, K 2, knit across to second marker, K 2, P 1 TBL, K 4.
  2. (WS) K 4, K1 TBL, K2, knit across to second marker, K2, K1 TBL, K4.
Repeat R1, R2, then R1 - 6 rows in total, including the set-up row.
The outermost seven stitches on each end are border stitches and the portion between the markers will be knit in pattern. The format is four garter stitches, 1 reverse stockingnette twisted on every row, two garter stitches, marker, pattern, marker, 2 garter stitches, 1 reverse stockingette twisted on every row, four garter stitches. The reverse twisted stockinette stitches are important -- don't forget them.
The lace pattern is irregular. Don't bother trying to put markers between the repeats, because it won't work. When you reach the second marker, sometimes you'll be able to do a full repeat, but sometimes you'll have extra stitches left over or not enough for a full repeat. Just end before the second marker with the stitches indicated after the word "end".
There are a lot of P2tog-TBLs in here. I hate those. Instead, I used "Purl 1 and slip it back to the left needle, lift the second stitch on the left needle over the stitch just purled and off the needle, slip the stitch back to the right needle." If you wish, you can do that too, and I won't tell anyone.
Keeping the border in pattern, knit the lace between the markers.
  1. (WS) Purl.
  2. K2 * YO, SSK, K8 * end K2
  3. K2 *YO, P2tog, P5, P2tog-TBL, YO, P1 * end K2
  4. K4 * YO, SSK, K3, K2tog, YO, K3 *
  5. K2, P2 * YO, P2tog, P1, P2tog-TBL, YO, P5 * end P3, K2
  6. K6 * YO, Sl1-K2tog-PSSO, YO, K7 * end K5
  7. K2 * P3, P2tog-TBL, YO * end K2
  8. K3 * YO, SSK, K3 * end K1
  9. K2, P1 * P2tog-TBL, YO, P3 * end P2, K2
  10. K5 * YO, SSK, K3 * end K2
  11. K1 * P2tog-TBL, YO, P3 * end P1, K2
  12. K2 * YO, SSK, K3 * end K2
  13. Same as Row 3
  14. Same as Row 4
  15. Same as Row 5
  16. Same as Row 6
  17. K2, P1 * P3, YO, P2tog * end K1
  18. K5 * K2tog, YO, K3 * end K2
  19. K2, P1 *YO, P2tog, P3 * end P2, K2
  20. K3 * K2tog, YO, K3 * end K1
  21. K2 * P3, YO, P2tog * end K2
  22. K1 * K2tog, YO, K3 * end K3
  23. Same as Row 3
  24. Same as Row 4
  25. Same as Row 5
  26. Same as Row 6
  27. Purl.
Starting with a RS row, knit six rows of garter stitch as at the beginning, keeping the border stitches in pattern.
Binding off, RS facing: K 4, P1-TBL, K1, * replace the last two stitches onto the left needle and knit them together through back loop, K1 * repeat until you reach the second reverse twisted stockingnette, P1-TBL, replace the last two stitches onto the left needle and knit them together through back loop. Cut the yarn, leaving a tail long enough to weave in. You are left with four stitches on the right needle and four on the left. Pull the needles out and just let those stitches hang there for the moment. Take the tail that you just cut and weave it in on the wrong side through the column of twisted stockinette. Pick up the stitches from the provisional cast-on and bind off in a similar fashion. (Depending on which cast-on you used and how you picked the stitches up, you could be on either the wrong side or the right side. Just be sure to twist the stitches that need twisting and not binding off the four outermost garter stitches on each end.)
Finishing: Unravel the four garter stitches on each end up to the twisted stitch. The twisted stitch will not unravel. Snip the far end of the loops so that each loop becomes two strands of fringe. Wet block, stretching it out so the pattern shows well and the ends and sides are straight. Smooth out the kinks in the fringe so it is straight. When dry, unpin and trim the fringe ends evenly.
That's it. If you knit this, I'd love to see a picture.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Boston and Back

Yup, I went to Massachusetts, and didn't even have to leave home -- my "souvenirs" from the Knitter's Virtual Vacation Swap arrived!

Angela somehow knew exactly what I would have picked out to bring back home with me! Coffee, tea, Yankee candles, a beaded snowflake, tour book and baked beans (baked in Canada, I might say! LOL) And she made that very cool bookmark with the Red Socks! She also made the stitch markers which unfortunately you can see very well in that picture, but they have sea-themed dangleys on them -- sweet! And of course she sent yarn.

Cape Cod, of course! Thank you so much, Angela -- everything was perfect! My mini-vacation was certainly a welcome break.

Of course, once I got back to real life, I was still faced with my Dugly-Uck socks. I was trying to keep the coloured stripe pattern flowing through the gusset while maintaining the stitch pattern, and I think I succeeded.

The problem was that once I switched the foot over to stockinette, the striped wonked out on me. There were several ways I could have done it, but I decided it would be easiest to just put the pattern stitch on the front of the leg and foot and keep the back and the sole plain. It worked!

Unfortunately, I think the reduced patterning doesn't really do justice to the stitch pattern. There isn't quite as much variation as I had when the pattern went around the entire sock. Look here for an excellent example of what this stitch pattern can do for you.
By using only three Cable Twist repeats, I was able to keep the stripes from zigzagging. There are "gentle bumps" caused by the slipped stitches, but it's still a stripe.

On one sock, the stripe got a bit wider just before the heel. I lay the blame for that squarely on the horror movie I was watching as I was knitting it.

I still think this is a weird colourway. To be fair, in the pattern that came with it, they suggested that if you didn't want stripes, you could alternate ends of yarn. I was only able to find one picture of finished socks using that technique. I think it's nicer than the stripes, but I'm too lazy for it. (To the extent that I reknit these socks what? three times? LOL!)

The Socks that Rock yarn certainly feels nice as you knit it, and it makes a thick fabric that should be soft and warm. I had to wash these before I took pictures because the yarn was re-knit so often that it looked a little uneven. They were taking forever to dry, given our recent patch of humidity. I checked the label and Blue Moon recommended the dryer. In they went, and out they came, looking great. Bonus!

I was able to play with the band heel a bit more. I originally thought that you couldn't really alter the sizing of it, but you can if you treat it more like a short-row heel than a heel flap. In other words, you can't just make a longer heel flap, but you can use more than half the stitches for the flap, which has the same result. I ended up using half of the stitches plus 4 extras, which gave me four extra rows in the heel flap. The fit is perfect on my high instep, and there is no gusset wonkiness.

Other things I learned while knitting these socks:
  1. Knitting with yarn that doesn't particularly appeal to you can lead to Second Sock Syndrome. I really had to force myself, often unsuccessfully, to work on the second one.
  2. Repeatedly telling yourself "It will grow on you" doesn't necessarily mean it will.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Skinning the Cat

I'm surprised that so many of you jumped at the chance to win some Dugly-Uck yarn. Most of you picked up on the point that I missed as I was planning my sock -- when I changed over the foot to stockinette, the yarn usage per round changed sufficiently that the colour patterning changed.

Thanks to the good old Random Number Generator, Caren in N.H. gets herself a hank of ugly yarn to play with. I picked out this one:

It's from the Posh Yarn sock club and didn't come with a label, but it's supposed to be a cashmere blend of some sort. I hope the colours suit Caren more than they do me. Congratulations, Caren!

It seems that the desire for ugly yarn is so strong that some of you missed my asking that entries be emailed rather than commented. In your honours, I have decided to award another prize - a very special one - to another winner specifically from you. I went through the sock stash and picked out The Ugliest Yarn I could find. But then, because I'm a nice guy, I decided to lessen the blow by giving the winner a choice. Erica, pick one of the two pictured below, and it's yours! To protect the guilty, I'm not going to tell you what these yarns are - it'll be a surprise.

Amazingly enough, that was kind of hard to do. As I was photographing them, I couldn't help but wonder how they'd knit up. It's a sickness, and I got it bad.

So, skinning the cat, more than one way, etc. One way to get rid of Dugly-Uck yarn is to give it away, and another is to keep slogging at the one on the needles. I ripped back to the heel flap and knit the foot with slip stitches but no twists or ribs. (Thanks for the suggestion, Helen and Maaike!) Unfortunately, it wasn't enough to even out the pooling, and it changed the fit enough that it felt a bit tight. It looked basically the same as last time, only more annoying. RIP!

Enter Plan B. (Or is that C or D ... I've forgotten already.)

I was able to get this ....

... which I actually kind of like. Hmm. Unfortunately, that doesn't fit either. I'd have to go down about eight stitches, and then I'd lose the marbling. But I've thought of something else, so RIP! again and on to Plan C (or D or E or whatever it is.)

I must say that I'm having fun with this, and considering that this yarn has been knit and ripped several times, the STR is holding up quite well. I'm impressed so far. Well, except for the dog poop on the waterslide aspect of it. (Lovely analogy, Kristen -- thank you!)

Sunday, August 05, 2007

The Band Heel -- generically

ETA Aug. 26/07:
1. You can adjust the fit of this heel similarly to a short row heel. Just use more than half the stitches for the flap, and the length of the flap automatically gets longer.
2. A few people have asked me how this heel would work toe up. Simple answer: I don't know, because I don't usually go in that direction. If you figure it out, let me know. :-)

The Band Heel has a flap but no gusset. By doing some shaping inside the heel flap, once you've picked up your stitches you end up at the same stitch count you were at originally -- no decrease rounds required. This is good for those occasions when you're trying to match up a colour pattern and don't want the wonkiness that can occur while decreasing a gusset. It's called a Band Heel because you end up with a nice, little band at the back and bottom of your heel.

A few notes first:

  • Step 1 is simple math. Do not fear the math. If push comes to shove, use the calculator on your computer, or ask your kids to help you.

  • The heel is designed so that you end up with 8 stitches left after the turn, and the flap rows require a specific count in order to restore this to your original count. Do not modify the number of flap rows in Step 2 or it will not work.

  • The patterns I've seen all call for Step 2 to be done in stockinette. I imagine, though, you could very easily carry a pattern through these rows. I would be a little leery, however, about heel stitch or Eye of Partridge because slip stitches have a condensed row gauge and may throw off the fit and stretch required for this heel. Feel free to experiment.

  • I have modified Step 3 in two ways. The other patterns I've seen use SSK, and I've used SKP because when I did it with SSK, I got a jagged line instead of a smooth line. Your mileage may vary. As well, other patterns called for an inch worth of stitches between the decreases, and I changed it to 6 in order to match the decreases in Step 4. This gives a nice continuous shaping line.

  • If you want to continue a colour progression smoothly, take note of where your yarn is in the colourway when you first turn and purl back. Then, when you are ready to once again knit the instep stitches, pull out a loop of yarn until you find that place again. Once you've knit a bit and are sure you're happy with it, snip the loop, tuck the ends inside and weave them in.

  • Many people pick up and immediately decrease an extra stitch in the gusset corners to avoid holes. I can't imagine that this would drastically affect your colour progression, so if you want to do that, go ahead. However, to be completely pure with your stitch count, you can instead wrap the outermost stitch on either side of your instep when you first divide out your heel stitches and then knit the wraps in when you recommence the instep. This eliminates the hole, places any potential wonkiness on the heel flap, and is more in keeping with the spirit of this heel. (I do that for all my heels, and it works a charm.)

  • When I picked up stitches along the flap the way I usually do, I got very big holes, likely caused because I did not have the benefit of the condensed row gauge from a slipped stitch heel flap. Picking up stitches the pretty way solved this problem.

  • Enough with the notes; on with the heel.

The Band Heel, in four easy steps.

Step 1: The math.

C = Circumference stitches
H = Heel stitches (C/2)
F = Flap rows (H-16)/2
S = Side stitches (H-10)/2
T = Turning point (H-8)/2 + 2
P = Pick-ups (H-8)/2

Step 2: The flap.

R1: Sl 1, K to end
R2: Sl 1, P to end

Repeat these two rows a total of F times.

Step 3: Shaping the flap.

R1: Sl 1, K S-1, K2tog, K 6, SKP, K S
R2: Sl 1, P to end
R3: Sl 1, K S-2, K2tog, K 6, SKP, K S-1
R4: Sl 1, P to end
R5: Sl 1, K S-3, K2tog, K 6, SPK, K S-2
R6: Sl 1, P to end
R7: Sl 1, K S-4, K2tog, K 6, SKP, K S-3
R8: Sl 1, P to end

(Double check: Count the remaining stitches. It should be H-8.)

Step 4: The turn.

R1: Sl 1, K T, SSK, turn.
R2: Sl 1, P 6, P2tog, turn.
R3: Sl 1, K 6, SSK, turn.

Repeat R2 and R3 until 8 stitches remain.

Sl 1, K to end.

Pick up P stitches along side of flap (one in each slipped stitch). Knit across instep, and pick up P stitches along other side of flap. Knit 4.

You are now back at the beginning of your round, with a total of C stitches.

If you knit this heel, I'd be delighted to hear your feedback.

A Virgin No Longer

Putting my money where my mouth is, I have embarked upon my quest to make a decent pair of socks from a yarn that doesn't particularly appeal to me.

The Yarn:

I have finally decided to try the Socks that Rock. It's the Rainforest Jasper colourway, light weight, the first selection from last year's sock club. It looks so innocent, this little hank of yarn, but it has earned my designation of a Dugly-Uck for two reasons.

First: I was disappointed when I received this because, despite STR's well-known reputation for flashing and pooling, my first exposure to it is a striping yarn. Even the Queen of the Cool Pool (see here and here) had troubles with this one -- scroll down on that second page to see what I mean. When you accept it for what it is, though, it does stripe quite nicely -- see here. Fine, no fun pooling action; stripes it shall be, and the very best stripes I can make.

Second: The more grievous problem, at least to my eyes, is with the colours. In the hank, they look quite nice, but when knit up , they seem to me to collect into the Very Unfortunate Combination of what appears to be Hospital Wall Green and Diarrhea Brown. I would note all of the selections from last year's club have made their way into Blue Moon's regular rotation -- except this one.

Trying to look on the positive side, though, the colours are not solid. There is a good variation and depth to both the greenish and the brownish. I decided to try to play that up a bit.

The Cuff:

One good way to highlight individual colour spots in a variegated yarn is with slipped stitches. They elongate and draw attention to themselves. The very clever Cable Twist sock pattern from Hello Yarn also lays them on a diagonal, which I think further enhances their effect. This pattern has been on my list of things to do for quite a while, so I was delighted to give it a try.

I think the pattern does a great job of adding little blips of individual colour without obscuring the stripes, while adding a bit of textural interest. I've changed it from a 7-stitch repeat to an 8-stitch repeat to fit my stitch count.

Note: I love working this pattern. It's easy and effective. You know how some people have knit 10 Pomatomus or 12 Monkeys? That's how much I like this pattern. You're likely to see a lot more of it here.

The Heel:

When I want to preserve a particular colour patterning, I generally do a short-row heel because once it's done you're back at your original stitch count and the patterning should continue. However, to fit my foot, I have to do it over two-thirds of the stitches, which leaves only one-third plain on the instep. When I want to maximize an instep pattern, I do a flap and gusset so I can have half of the stitches on the front worked in pattern. The problem with that is that the gusset will distort the colour runs in the yarn and you tend to get something weird going on. I resolved to find a way to get the best of both worlds.

The answer: The band heel. Several patterns on the net use this heel, and Nancy Bush describes one in Folk Socks, I believe. However, it has always seemed a little complicated and cumbersome. I spent a fair bit of time digging through the instructions and simplifying them, and have come up with something that I think works with all stitch counts. (More about that in another post.)

Its big advantage, though, is that you work a flap, shape it, turn the heel, pick up some stitches along the sides of the flap and Presto! you're back at your original stitch count with NO gusset. Any colour weirdness is only on the flap, which is fine by me. It turns out that it fits my foot wonderfully, and you do end up with this cute little band on your heel.

Very cool, indeed.

The Screeching Halt:

I'm back at my original stitch count and, after adjusting my yarn so it resumes at the proper place, both my colour pattern and stitch pattern should continue uninterrupted.


... my nice, neat stripes have gone wonky. Crap! I neglected to take into account one Very Important Element.

Here's a test to see if anyone has actually read this far without falling asleep. Do you know where I went wrong? If so, send me an email (address in the side bar) with your answer. I'll put all the correct answers in a hat, draw a name and send the winner a prize. What will the prize be? HA! I'll dig through my stash and send you some guaranteed Dugly-Uck yarn to play with. I dare you to enter!

This calls for drastic action!

Oh, and my thoughts about losing my STR virginity? I am surprised at how thick the fabric is. The yarn certainly feels nice while you're using it, and the socks should end up soft and cushy. Their durability can only be determined after a thorough road test. I'm still confused, though, as to how the light weight and the medium weight can knit up into the same gauge, at least according to the Blue Moon site. I guess I'll have to dig out some ugly medium weight to play with too.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007


I'd like to once again thank my very generous readers for their extremely kind comments about my socks over the last year or so. Several people have commented about how I *always* find such nice colours to knit, etc. I think you're really saying that our tastes coincide, and it's nice to be able to share with people who have similar likes. However, I assure you that I do not *always* find nice stuff. This was brought home to me the other evening when it cooled off a bit and I dug around in the sock yarn stash, looking for something to knit. As I was doing so, it occurred to me that while I do have some nice yarns, there are others that I keep passing over.

You know how sometimes you buy a yarn in a YS and you get it home and wonder what the heck you were thinking? I have some of those.

You know how sometimes you join a sock club and some of the colours they send just don't quite do it for you? I have some of those.

You know how sometimes you buy a yarn off the 'net, but when you get it the colours don't quite match what you thought you saw on your monitor? I have some of those too.

The first time it happened, I thought to myself, "Well, it's just an Ugly Duckling waiting for inspiration." The second time, "Aw, the Ugly Duckling has a nest mate -- that's nice; it won't be lonely." Eventually, the cute aspect of it wore off entirely and, in Criminy Jickets fashion, the Ugly Ducks began to be called Dugly-Ucks. Doesn't sound quite so cute. I'd be digging in the stash and, "Crap, there's that Damn Ugly Yuck again."

That's not a very charitable attitude, I know. I also fully realize that my Dugly-Uck could very well be someone else's favourite colours in the whole wide world, and that's a good thing. However, it also occurs to me that I could be using that yarn as a challenge to either try to make it into something I like, or, conversely, or perhaps perversely, to celebrate its Dugly-Uck-iness and make some blatantly Dugly-Uck socks.

In the cool of that evening, I cast on six new socks. I'm under no pressure to finish them by a certain time, and they'll be there when I feel like knitting on them. Some of them I quite like, and others, well, they're Dugly-Ucks. I'm not sure what I'll do with them yet, but I will do them, just because I felt guilty that they were being left behind.

I can't be the only knitter with a few skeletons in the stash closet. Anyone else have Dugly-Ucks? Want to take up the challenge and knit some Dugly-Uck socks? I think it would be interesting to see how different knitters handle something that takes a bit more inspiration than usual. It could be a great way to try out a new technique without "sacrificing" something you really like. I'd love to see other people's Dugly-Ucks and what they do with them. Brace yourselves, because eventually you're going to see mine.
(Disclaimer: This post is not intended to slam yarn companies, dyers or sock clubs. I definitely believe in, "Different strokes for different folks." )