Fireplace socks

I’ve been spoiled by a couple days of unseasonably warm weather. An unexpected heat wave brought the temperatures up into the mid 60s on Friday, tricking my senses into thinking that Spring is coming. Alas, I should have known that walking outside without a coat was to be short-lived. Old Man Winter has teased me all season long, bringing ridiculous amounts of snow and ice; why should he quit mid-February?

Two days of delightful warmth is deceiving. While we were able to open up a couple windows to air out the house, which had become almost unbearably stuffy, the sudden return to the reality of winter was a shock to the system. 40 degrees feels much colder than it did a month ago, and now I find myself huddled on the couch in my warmest sweater under the thickest blanket I could find. Thank goodness for Fireplace Socks.

Just before Thanksgiving, the furnace at Casa de Insomniac decided that we weren’t worth its efforts and stopped working. Air came out of the vents, but it was as cool as the impending winter. It took almost a month to get the blasted thing fixed; the first guy who came to look at it had no clue what he was doing, said he would order a part, and then we never heard from him again. Fortunately, Hubby’s cousin’s boyfriend is an HVAC specialist. He offered to check out the furnace, and within ten minutes we had heat again. Huzzah!

We were lucky: although it was cold, the season hadn’t truly kicked in yet, so we were fairly comfortable using blankets, cats and space heaters to keep ourselves warm. Space heaters and the fireplace, which does an amazing job heating the living room. Whilst huddling for warmth in front of the flames, I took the opportunity between knitting Christmas presents for my family to whip up a pair of socks for myself. I call them Fireplace Socks, since I knit them by the fireplace, our only source of heat. Get it?

I’d had a couple skeins of Lion Brand Homespun lying in my stash for a few years, and with the funky texture, I never quite knew what to do with it. A simple sock pattern, like the basic chunky sock by Patons, turned out to be perfect for this yarn. I figured that since the main purpose of these socks would be to keep my tootsies warm in my chilly house, it wouldn’t really matter if they turned out badly. Happily for my poor frozen toes, I needn’t have worried.

The yarn itself was a little difficult to knit with at times. Lion Brand calls it a “uniquely textured” yarn; I call it annoying. There is one thin strand of black running through a slowly varying lighter colored, thicker yarn, which curls and backs up on itself. The best way I can describe it is to knitting with cobwebs: it’s not a smooth, silky yarn like I’m used to using, and so the needles would get caught up in it, making it difficult to differentiate the individual stitches.

The good news is that these babies knit up super quickly. Although I didn’t finish the pair for almost two weeks, the actual knitting time was closer to two days per sock. (I took a break in between to start on my brother’s present.) And the finished product, despite the temperamental nature of the yarn, is incredibly soft. They turned out a little big for my feet, but since I’m just using them as lounge socks, that doesn’t really matter. And the color is gorgeous: deep aquamarine melting into taupe, rose and cream, creating subtle unmatched stripes.

Perhaps if I wear them with abandon, Old Man Winter might decide to spite me again and send the temperatures soaring again. We can only hope.

Kaiso

Hi, my name is Megan, and I’m addicted to knitting socks.

Once I completed my first sock (a simple, solitary little thing fit for a Cabbage Patch doll, but complete with a solid gusset and properly turned heel), I was hooked.  Sock knitting fever has gripped me with a fervor I could not have anticipated in my wildest dreams.  I seek out sock yarn, own every size of small double-pointed needles, and can’t pull myself away from the abundance of pattern books in Barnes and Noble.  I think I have a problem.

I completed my first actual complete pair of socks sometime in the beginning of February, after about two months of concentrated knitting that wasn’t nearly as tedious as I expected.

The pattern for these socks comes from a fabulous book that appealed to me on so many levels – Knitted Socks East and West: 30 Designs Inspired by Japanese Stitch Patterns, by Judy Sumner. How do I love this book?  Let me count the ways:

  • The title grabbed me.  I love all things Japanese, and the combination of Japanese patterns with something I knew how to make was impossible to pass up.
  • The photos within are gorgeous!  Light and clean, they would appeal to knitters and non-knitters alike.
  • The patterns are elegantly simple, different and intricate without complication.
  • The patterns use more than just knits and purls, incorporating stitches such as cables, the wrap, the twist/slip stitch, the three-stitch lift, and the pkok.  For someone like me, who was getting bored with knits and purls, but not ready to take on multi-colored or larger projects, these new stitches offered a welcome challenge.
  • That said, while the patterns require a little more brain power to work than just mindlessly knitting in the round, they are short patterns with plenty of repetition, so they are easy to memorize.
  • Most importantly of all, the directions are incredibly clear.  Had I never attempted a sock before, I probably could have used this book to get me started.  The illustrations are simple, and nothing about even the most intricate of patterns is confusing.

I feel that Ms. Sumner does a much better job summing up the design of this sock, Kaiso, than I ever could, so I will use her words to describe the sock:

The lace design and fluid bands of this lace pattern look to me as if they could be moving under water, like seaweed.  The Japanese word for seaweed is kaiso, and varieties of it have been used for centuries in Japanese cooking.

This sock design is a very simple one, using only knits, purls, yarnovers, and decreases to create a lace pattern that is reminiscent of the feather and fan design familiar to many Western knitters.  Here, it has been simplified and modified with garter bands that add a rhythmic feel as they flow up and down.

The most difficult thing for me when knitting socks is getting over the adrenaline of finishing the toe and completing the first in the pair and moving on to the second.  Just when you think you’re finished, the realization that you’re only halfway done sets in, and honestly, it gets kind of depressing.  It’s the same feeling I get when I shave my legs.  If the end result wasn’t something I could actually wear and show off, I probably wouldn’t be as excited about it.  With the success of this sock, I think I may have to work my way through each and every pattern in this book.  Perhaps I’ll make it a goal to knit them all by the end of next summer, a la Julie and Julia.  I could actually do it, if I really try.  Here’s to following through.

Windowpane Scarf

I have a really bad habit of starting a knitting project and leaving it half finished.  Scarves usually feel the brunt of my lack of follow-through.  At least with a hat or a sock I know I can finish quickly, so I am more motivated to complete it. But scarves go on forever, especially if the pattern is small and intricate.  However, I do actually manage to finish something on the rare occasion.  This time around, after months of alternate excitement and near-death boredom, I finished the Windowpane Scarf.

This monolith of a scarf (as modeled by yours truly to the right) is about 12 inches wide and 80 inches long, including the fringe.  I used about a skein and a half of Red Heart Super Saver worsted weight yarn (7 oz./198 g.) in Carrot, and a set of size 8 knitting needles.

The pattern, with a couple small tweaks (because I messed up early on and decided I liked it), is easily memorized, so it was the perfect project to work on while vegging in front of the television.

Of course, credit should be given where credit is due.  This pattern was not my own.  Heavens, no.  It came from here.

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