Not so Functional Friday

My posts have been everywhere this week, what with Christmas coming up and all, it was bound to happen at some point. I really haven’t gotten a good amount of time to play with the ChiaoGoo interchangeables yet, so I am going to hold onto that review. Between now and the new year, I am not going to be posting the regular segments, but just writing about holiday madness in general. I like the holidays and love it when the authors of blogs take the time to be festive!

Paul and Ethan Christmas

I am going to admit it right now… I haven’t started Christmas shopping. It’s a terrible horrible thing, I know. I am planning on braving the malls on this Saturday with Marianne. She is down visiting her parents and was brave enough to meet me… at the mall… five days before Christmas. Brave soul indeed.

Puppy with a Hat

I am not usually so unorganized, I’ve usually got something planned for what I am going to get everyone, I’ve got it wrapped etc. Not this year. This year I am using avoidance tactics and just not thinking about it. My plan is to wander aimlessly in the mall and wait till something jumps out at me. Fair warning to all my friends and family, just hope you don’t get something that literally jumped out at me. Muahahhaa.
I am starting to feel the need to make a list, but only check it once. This year has been a very long year, and I almost feel like I am not capable of feeling stress anymore. My body just doesn’t process it, I end up staring at the wall with a glazed look on my face and have vague thoughts about how agreeable jello is.

Caught Red Pawed

To really show how bad it is, Paul and I didn’t put up a tree this year or get advent calendars! Put the Christmas decorations up for Thanksvember, so I would put that one in the win column! We also have Christmas lights up on the house blinking away madly.
I really wanted to send out Christmas cards this year, but we are just getting our Thank –you cards out from the wedding. I am really close to being done my side. Paul’s mom wants to write her side in Vietnamese and send photos, so I am getting help with that side of the family. The only ones I have left to write are for the wedding party. I want to take my time writing those so I can appreciate them properly. After writing so many Thank-you cards, I don’t know if I could handle Christmas cards anyway. For this year, we can say the Thank you cards are the Christmas cards, I am writing Merry Christmas in most of them anyway.
This past weekend, my parents were down and my mom brought me a few more cards. Two of them were from some family friends in the UK, since they couldn’t fly out for the wedding, I am going to send them some photos.
I hope every one is having good holidays so far and haven’t really started freaking out yet… Christmas is in 6 days!

Another Wedding!

I would like to dedicate this post to our friends Sara and Piotr Jankowski!!

Sara and Piotr

They were married on December 13th of this year and I am taking this post to wish them CONGRATULATIONS!!!

Sara Wedding

One of the best photobomb’s of life happened at this wedding. I wished to share it!

Best Photobomb of 2014

Finishitus

I feel like I am really on a roll with finishing things lately. I finished Sara’s wedding mittens for last week and this week I’ve finished the socks for Paul’s co-worker and a hat for my piano teacher. I know these are relatively small things so it shouldn’t take me a long time, but I think knitting small things here and there is good for the soul. It’s an excellent feeling to finish several things in a row, I am currently drunk with my own finishing powers right now.

Stripes Socks 3

The socks for Paul’s co-worker were nothing too special. The same old sock pattern I have used a hundred times. There were no surprises there, but I did get it all knitted. I noticed that the yarn was not exactly the same as the first ball I used either. The lengths of the colours were slightly different. Nothing that would be really noticeable, but there is a little top of purple at the toe of the first sock and not at the tow of the second one. It’s on the bottom of the foot so no one is likely to see it; it’s a good thing they’re not my socks because simply knowing it was there would drive me mad.

Stripes Socks 2

Last year, my piano teacher bought a scarf with a really unique colour to it. Almost like a cross between cream and tan? I am not really sure how to describe it, aside from that. It was orange and red as well, but she wanted something that would match this creamy tan colour. I told her that I would knit up a hat if she picked out the yarn. Last year this didn’t end up happening, everyone is busy and there was a lot of pre-Christmas bad weather last year.

Piano Hat

This year she managed to get me the wool. It was the Monday before this past one, so I had until the next Monday to make it if I wanted to get it to her before the Christmas break. I was thinking I probably wouldn’t get it done, but I made really good progress on Paul’s co-workers socks and found a pattern pretty easily.
The pattern I found is a free on Ravelry, which I really liked. It is simple but comfy. I ended up making it a little shorter than the pattern called for because I thought the 14 inches it wanted was going to be a little excessive.
It turned out really well; I think I might make another one for myself. I might have been a little in love with the yarn as well. It was a wool and alpaca blend, super soft, but with the elasticity and memory of wool. Really good stuff.
I am still working on Shauna’s mittens and a pair of socks I have kicking around here somewhere. I am really going to try to finish some more of my UFO’s before starting something new. I think this is one of the few times where I don’t have anything lined up immediately in the queue. It would be a really good thing to go on a finishing spree.

Technical Tuesday: Challenges

Today I am going to talk about something that is a little more of a softer science when it comes to knitting; design choices. I have RARELY made a garment to the exact specifications of the pattern. There is always something small we change, be it the length, putting in waist shaping or we could just use a pattern chart from that pattern and knit a whole other sweater. Regardless if these choices are big or small, they need to be made and it can be really hard to make them.

Sweater Bad 1

When I was first learning to knit, I didn’t have any kind of mentor. My mother and grandmother did not knit, none of my friends were into knitting, I was really quite alone. I had met a couple yarn store owners, but I generally felt that they were condescending and didn’t have time for anyone so new to knitting; almost like I was not worth the time. I continued to knit, but not buy yarn at those specific stores.
The point I am getting to is, I knit a lot of things; I also ripped a lot of things out because they were not going the way I wanted or didn’t look like I had imagined them. I made mistakes, I made A LOT of mistakes. Sometimes it was heart breaking or serendipity found me, but I learned SO MUCH from these mistakes. That is why I continue to write the Monday Mishaps segment. It’s easy to get stuck in your comfort zone and not try new things, so writing the Monday Mishaps keeps me honest.

Sweater Bad 2

By now, I have taught quite a few of my friends to knit and some of them take more risks than others, but they all learn from their mistakes. I usually tell them about some catastrophic failure of my own so they don’t feel too bad.
But now to give you something useful! If you are knitting a pattern and you really don’t know how it is going to turn out, use Ravelry! On the pattern page, there is a tab at the top that says ‘Projects’. This is where you can look at this particular pattern when knit by another person. If they used different yarn and really liked it… or not. There are a thousand different things you can do with pattern and on Ravelry someone might have tried it. You can see how things turned out and sometimes, if you get a very diligent Raveler, they may have taken notes about the changes they have made.

Projects

I use this a lot when I am looking to substitute a yarn and I am not sure how it is going to work out. If you find someone who has made a change, but it doesn’t say what they ended up doing. Personal message them, usually everyone is extremely friendly on Ravelry and they’re more flattered than anything when you admire their handy work.

Monday Mishaps: … or not

All right guys, I will be honest. There really haven’t been all that many mishaps this week! It has been a week of finishing things and getting ready for Christmas. I have recently picked up a couple things that I had been working on and set down. I noticed one piece where I had mixed up the SSK and the K2TOG. During my Japanese Lace class at Vogue Knitting Live Chicago 2014 the teacher gave us a little tip that has saved me a lot of time.
When you are following a chart the symbol for SSK or K2TOG looks something like this.

Left

The box with a diagonal line through it can be a little confusing, which way is SSK and which way is K2TOG.

SSK K2TOG

The key is to point the needle in the direction the line within the box is slanted.

T2TOG

K2TOG

SSK

SSK

I know this was a little more of a Technical Tuesday than a Monday Mishaps, but I haven’t really messed anything up too badly this week. I’ll try my best for next week.

Functional Friday: All on their Own

I was going to write this post about the first set of ChiaoGoo interchangeables, but I thought I would break them up a bit with a yarn review in the middle! The yarn I found while searching for materials for the most recent pair of socks really surprised me. I remember buying Four Seasons Gründl: Hot Socks Diamond on a whim because I had nothing to knit while at Paul’s parents’ house. I blogged about it here.

Sock Heel SS

This yarn was advertised to create socks with stripes. It’s not that I doubted they would knit up with stripes, but I guess I didn’t have high hopes about how good they would look. I expected them to knit into stripes of all different sizes and look kind of unorganized.
They turned out so well! The stripes might be kind of random, but they go together as a whole. The stripes that are all right beside one another are complementing rather than random. Now that I have them almost done, I am having a hard time parting with them.

Stock SS

The yarn itself was surprisingly soft, I don’t remember exactly what I paid for it, but I know it would not have been much. Since the label is not English I couldn’t decipher the composition, but with the wonders of Ravelry, I was able to pin down English instructions. The yarn is 75% wool and 25% nylon, which is about average, so I am not really sure what makes it so soft. It was really a pleasure to work with. My only issue is, each ball of yarn is 50g and 230 yards (210 meters). This means you only get one sock per ball. On one hand I could see why they would have one sock per ball. You want the socks to be matching so you would need the same colour progression throughout the ball. However, I got two balls from the same dye lot and they did not start at the same colour. I had to wind the yarn up till I reached the purple I started with. If I have to do that anyway, I would prefer just having to buy one ball and being done with it. I am actually very surprised I didn’t manage to lose the second ball.

Bottom of the Foot SS

Aside from this, I really REALLY liked the socks that this yarn produced and I would definitely buy it again. I am something of a yarn magpie, so I usually try lots of different things when I am out and about, but I liked this yarn so much I would definitely buy it again.

Tis the Season to Abandon Reason 2014

Just after I graduated from University I had a hard time finding a job, in order to pay my bills (mostly student loans) I started working in retail. For the most part, working at the mall was not too bad. I loved meeting people, talking with them and helping them solve their problems. Christmas is, of course, the busiest time of the year and I worked in the children section of a relatively large store in the mall. There were all kinds of people looking for a variety of things and I did my best to help them out. For the most part, people were grateful and courteous, BUT there were always those few who were already bent out of shape. Usually, by being calm and knowledgeable you can hammer out their shopping needs and get them on their way, but some are determined you are personally out to get them.

It was around this time I made the list of Christmas Time Retail Shopping Faux Pas. Things, as a customer, you should remember while shopping.

Photos by Sara and Piotr Jankowski

Photos by Sara and Piotr Jankowski

Christmas Shopping Etiquette Tip #12
Final sale means you cannot return or exchange at all. This would be why it’s called a FINAL sale.

I can understand the need for a deal as much as anyone, especially with Christmas just around the corner, but I am a firm believer that you are taking your chances when you purchase something that is final sale. Especially if there is a huge red stamp on the bottom of the receipt that says final sale, and the table you got it from has final sale on it, and the tag says…. Final sale

Christmas Shopping Etiquette Tip #11
If you speak in one word sentences, you cannot be mad when people do not understand you.

This happened to me multiple times. Someone would walk up arch an eyebrow and say “sizes?” or “sale?” or “shoes?” I am sure there are stores out there organized in a way where this technique would work, but not many. The sale one was easier since there is generally a sale section, but the others, I just needed more information. Chances are, the sales associate could help you find what you are looking for if you said “size four?” or “girls shoes?” That is just one more word, not too bad.

Christmas Shopping Etiquette Tip #10
Do not interrupt a sales associate when they are helping another customer. Your problem is not more important…

Stores get pretty hectic the closer it is to Christmas, but manners still apply. I cannot count the number of times I have been helping someone and another person strides up and completely interrupts by demanding I find them something… and NOW. Yes a sales associate can deal with two people at once, but there is no reason to make other customers uncomfortable.

Christmas Shopping Etiquette Tip #9
The week before Christmas, lines for the checkout are to be expected…

Lines, lines, lines everyone complains about them and hates standing in them. We are all human and doing the best we can. If you don’t want to stand in the line, Christmas shop in July, not December 24th.

Christmas Shopping Etiquette Tip #8
It is generally considered bad form to ask a sales associate a question and then immediately ask a different person the same question.

When I worked retail I was there 6 days a week and I knew my stuff. I knew what sizes we had in the back and how they fit. Many MANY times, someone asked me a question and, after I answered, turned around and immediately asked someone else. *Sigh* at least do further away so I can’t hear you.

Christmas Shopping Etiquette Tip #7
Traffic laws still apply in mall parking lots in the month of December.

This one is self explanatory… parking lots are zoos this time of year

XMAS4

Photos by Sara and Piotr Jankowski

Christmas Shopping Etiquette Tip #6
You know it’s a sale when the mannequins in the window are naked.

If the store doesn’t have enough product to merchandize, the deals are on

Christmas Shopping Etiquette Tip #5
Expressing displeasure about the return and exchange policy is best done to someone who could do something about it…

This was somewhat special to the store I worked in. They had a horrible exchange policy and I agreed with most customers. However, reaming me out about it, is not going to change anything. I usually agreed with them and directed them to the comments section of the website. I think a lot of people thought this was a trick because they all gave me funny looks…

Christmas Shopping Etiquette Tip #4
Ignoring the sales person you just called to assist you, by conversing in another language with your shopping partner, is not helping them to help you.

This was a personal pet peeve of mine. A customer would call me over then converse with their partner in another language without asking me anything. If it were English, I could listen to what they were saying and come up with gift ideas or get them sizes. Since I don’t understand the language they were speaking I had to stand there with a polite expression on my face until they decided to let me in on the conversation.

Christmas Shopping Etiquette Tip #3
When you walk up to the cash register this means you are DONE SHOPPING. This would not be the opportune time to ask for sizes or decide to buy something other than what you brought to the counter…

While working on the checkout line, a lot of people would wander away while I was scanning their items. Which meant when I was done, I would need to get their attention and call them back over to pay for their items making the wait for others even longer.

Christmas Shopping Etiquette Tip #2
The big size, at the bottom of my neatly folded pile, looks the same as the small size… except bigger.

This kind of goes without saying, but society in general would be shocked at the amount of people who just rip the biggest size from the bottom of the pile. Of course, this completely unfolds the rest of the pile. I also realize sales associates are paid to re-fold the clothes, but just because a janitor is paid to clean, doesn’t mean I make a mess on purpose so they have to earn their pay.

Christmas Shopping Etiquette Tip #1
Being mean to store employees does not make them want to serve you better

I always found it funny when customers shouted and threatened to NEVER return to the store. I was paid minimum wage and that is not enough to deal with your drama, I hoped they didn’t come back. I could understand this with a cell phone company or another entity, but with a clothing store…
However, this one kind of works both ways. I have had an encounter or two where the sales associate I dealt with was abrupt and unpleasant. This puts a damper on my mood and causes me to be less cheerful with them. I usually make an effort to be a happy customer. If a store doesn’t have my size, or their return policy doesn’t suit me, it isn’t the employee’s fault; they just work there. They’re human, with families and problems of their own; just like everyone else. It is really easy to forget these facts when you’re in the moment. Enthusiasm is infectious and tis the season to spread joy and happiness.

Photos by Sara and Piotr Jankowski

Photos by Sara and Piotr Jankowski

As everyone is Christmas shopping this holiday season, remember that we are all human beings and imperfect in our own ways. If you like challenges, find a sales associate who is miserable and gives you poor service, and try to make them laugh. It will be more fulfilling than complaining to their manager or breaking them down further. Your generosity will also be paid forward to the next customer they deal with.

Finished Objects!!

I was very busy this past weekend and managed to finish Sara’s wedding mittens!! As you may have read on Monday, there was a bit of rockiness with the blocking, but it was downhill from there. I also started a pair of socks that are going to be a Christmas gift for the gift exchange in Paul’s department.

Mittens Fiddlehead Wedding

I’ll go over Sara’s mitts first since we are all more emotionally invested in these then anyone could ever possibly know. Well… I am at least!! They turned out really REALLY well! The pattered worked out perfectly, I didn’t leave any pattern mistakes in the mittens. I dropped down and fixed all the ones I managed to make. The denseness of the fabric makes them super cushy and really thick. They are going to be super warm! I feel very satisfied that the bride will not freeze to death. Well… at least there will be no frost bitten fingers.

New Socks

The pair of socks I’ve started is for one of Paul’s co-workers. When they decided to do the gift exchange and Paul realized he was going to have to pick up something, we decided I could whip up a pair of socks. I bought a few mugs that say “All you need is warm socks and hot tea” a while ago, so we are going to put the socks, a couple tea bags, and maybe some chocolate in the mug and wrap it up nicely. I am not counting this as Christmas knitting because if I don’t get it done on time, I could always replace it with something else.

New Sock Stripes

I wasn’t really sure what yarn to use for these socks because I don’t know the woman they are for that well. I got Paul to sneakily check out what size her feet are and I thought about what yarn I would use. I ended up finding some yarn I bought a long time ago for some busy knitting at Paul’s parents place. I had started some socks, but my gauge is totally different than what it is now, so I ripped the old socks out and started them anew. I really like this yarn, it forms stripes all on it’s own and they look really interesting. They’re a whole bunch of different colours so there is no fear that she won’t like the colours. They’re going along really quickly.
Since I’ve finished Sara’s mittens I’ve been really motivated to finish some of the UFO’s around here that I have had sitting around forever. Maybe that will be my theme of 2015… finish what you start. I find once I put something down for a long period of time, my gauge is quite different. I need to knit things all in one go.

Technical Tuesday: Turning a Heel

My obsession with socks continues to bleed though into my blog posts, I am sorry for all the non-sock knitters. There are quite a few different ways to go about making socks, and a lot of people are intimidated by them, but they are without a doubt the least intimidating and HIGHLY portable knitting I have. I am constantly knitting socks because they take next to no mental bandwidth. I have knit so many that I have a vanilla pattern memorized. I’ve also taken a few liberties with it so it isn’t quite as confusing as it is worded.
Turning a heel is always something that confuses a lot of first time sock knitters. I always go from the cuff down because I haven’t perfected my toe up mental pattern. So help me, I have that heel turn down to a science. Turning a heel is making a series of decreases so that the flat heel flap curves around your round heel. If you don’t turn the heel, you would have pointy edges along the corner of your sock heel. No one wants pointy heels; it’s just weird.
Normally the heel turn is written something like:

K 19 sts, ssk, k1. Turn.
Sl1, p7, p2tog, p1. Turn.
Sl1, k8, ssk, k1, Turn.
Continue in this pattern until all stitches have been worked.

Which isn’t bad if you’re following the pattern carefully and taking it one row at a time, but it looks scary and confusing. I usually take a mental step back at this point and try to look at the bigger picture. What does the pattern require?
First of all it wants you to knit across 19 stitches of the 32 you have on the needle because you need to make this decrease past the mid point on the sock or else you would get a weird triangular shaped heel.
What I have ended up doing is looking at it from the other way around. This technique will work if you have adjusted the pattern for bigger socks or added stitches in anyway.

Knit across your row until there are 13 stitches left on the needle, SSK, K1 then turn.

Knit Side Ten

Now you are going to have to get to the other side of the midline of the heel. You want the space between your first decreases to be equal or else your heel will be off centre (which is a problem I had A LOT). Instead of doing all kinds of complicated math you simply:

S1, then purl across your row until there are there are 13 stitches left on the needle, P2TOG, P1 and turn

Purl Side Ten

Now you have made your first decreases, the rest is cake. You don’t even need to count at this point because the first decreases will tell you where you need to make the decreases. There will be a small gap between two stitches; since you don’t want holes in your heel, you knit or purl those two together and K/P one after that so you can slip it when you turn your work.

The Hole

I find this easy to remember and it works for any size sock you care to name. If you happen to be doing a sock with really huge yarn and having 13 stitches left on each side doesn’t work then just leave 7 or 5, whatever number works for the yarn you are using.
The last thing I want to note is about the number left on each side; 13 might seem kind of arbitrary, but after you have done your decrease and K/P1 there are ten stitches left. I never forget it because it is simply ten stitches, plus three for decreasing.
I hope this helps out some peeps with their sock heels. I’ve done it so many times it is completely mindless. When I get toe up socks completely figured out I will probably begin posting about how wonderful they are as well! Any great two up patterns are always appreciated!

Monday Mishaps: Mitten Block

Working on Sara’s mittens has been cake for the most part. I’ve done this pattern before so I am familiar with it. There are no little surprises or ‘at the same time’ clauses to look out for. Yet what I failed to realize is how different the Cascade 220 is from Tanis Fiber Arts Yellow Label yarn.

Fiddlehead Mittens Colourwork

TFA Yellow label completely relaxes when you block it. It becomes super soft and almost melts into the shape you want it to be. Cascade 220 does not. Right away when I started knitting the mittens, they felt very dense; this is a good thing, it means they will wear longer and be warmer. The less open spaces between the stitches means the less cold air will get in.
My plan was to knit both the outside mittens and block them together, then pick up the stitches to knit the lining. I was not going to block the lining because when I did that with my own mittens, the lining expanded and it was slightly too big to fit inside the mitten shell. As a result there is a wrinkle on the inside of the mitten in the lining. In order to accommodate this my plan of blocking the shell and not the lining emerged.

Inside out Fiddle Head Mitts

Everything went good for the blocking itself. I wetted the mittens down and they didn’t relax near as much as the TFA yarn ones did, but they relaxed a little bit nonetheless. One mitten was perfect on it’s own, I didn’t need to pin it at all. The other one was not quite the same size. I needed to pin it down in order for the wool to get the memory of being the same size as the first mitten.
I got a blanket and a towel, because I usually pin things like that, and went to go find my pins. This turned out to be easier said then done. My pins are usually upstairs in the smallest of our three bedrooms, that is my room where I stores tones of yarn fabric etc. We had been putting all the wedding things in it from immediately post-wedding and just nipping in to grab something quick when we needed it. There was literally no room to walk within the space. After about 45 minutes of fruitless searching I messaged my neighbour who has just gotten into quilting. I know that requires copious amounts of pinning etc. As it turns out, the pin-gremlins had visited her house too, they were missing. I went back up into the craft room and tried to find something that I could substitute for pins. I found some of the needles I had from VKL Chicago 2013, they look like really long pins. However they were for needle felting and were not substantial enough to hold the mitten in place.
While standing in the middle of the room and looking around in a vague sense, I spied a handful of the pins on my shelf. I scooped them up and went to pin this mitten!

Fiddlehead Mitts Shell

As it turns out, the mitten was too thick to pin, I bent three pins attempting it and the other ones just slid out as soon as I was finished. I just sat and looked at the mitten helplessly for a few minutes, then attempted to get my mind together and think of a solution. I had sock blockers, but the bend for the ankle would make the mittens dry funny and I was having none of that. I was also not willing to bend the sock blockers out of shape. They were just made of wire though, so I could probably make my own if I could find some wire that would work. While my neighbour couldn’t find her pins, she definitely had a wire coat hanger.
I managed to bend it into the right shape and slide the mitten over top. It worked out perfectly! It only took me two hours to get it right. I really should have known better and not spend that amount of time on finding the actual pins and just thought of another idea. Everything worked out and now I have a wire hanger bit to block mittens on!