Knit Two Together: What I Do When I’m Not Knitting (and also, a Book Giveaway)

I learned to knit from the internet. Actually, first I learned to knit from a book. Then I learned to knit well from the internet. The still photos on flat pages hadn’t really shown me how to move my fingers and my hands, and my book-learning led to a very cumbersome, non-fluid, not-very-fun knitting method. Then, in the fall of September 2005, when my twins were 15 months old, I turned to the internet to learn a better way (because toddlerhood is a great time for a mom to pick up a new hobby, yes? no, actually, it was insane that at the very moment my kids were at their busiest, I constantly had my hands full of yarn and needles). I found KnittingHelp, and just sat in front of the computer while my kids slept, watching the videos and imitating the actions, until I finally got it. And then I got obsessed.

From those videos, it was a short hop to the online forums at KnittingHelp, which is where I made my first knitting friends, and where I first discovered knitting blogs. And before long, in January 2006, I started my own knitting blog. In the days before Ravelry, the knitting blogosphere was, for me, a vital way to learn new techniques, to discover new-to-me yarns and patterns, to share encouragement and inspiration, and to connect with other people who were as obsessed with this ancient craft as I was. Many of the blogs I read back then no longer exist, yet the friendships I made through them remain. Through the wonders of technology, I was able to learn a traditional craft. Through that same technology, I was able to create new friendships and connections with people I otherwise would never have met.

At the same time, and through this same technology, I have found deep and life-sustaining connection with a whole other community. As you may or may not know, in my “real life,” I’m a church pastor. This isn’t something I write about on this blog (and I don’t intend for that to change), but just as I found the online knitting community to be an essential (and fun!) part of growing in my craft, I also discovered a supportive online community for clergywomen to be an essential (and fun!) part of growing in my vocation. That community is RevGalBlogPals, which started as a few dozen women bloggers in 2005 and now numbers in the thousands (and includes not just clergywomen but also supportive clergymen and laywomen). Working in a male-dominated field, in a field that is so easily misunderstood by those outside of it, and doing this work while trying to balance its demands with the demands of mothering, it’s been an incredible gift to have a group of women (and supportive men!) who “get it.” A number of the RevGals are also knitters, and they “get” that part of me, too.

For the past decade, as my identity as a knitter has unfolded, I have reflected a lot on what it means to have an avocation that is so important to me, especially when I also have a vocation that is so important to me. Do these two parts of me – knitter and minister – have anything to do with each other? How do these two parts of who I am nourish and nurture each other? And what about my two communities – the craft community and the church-related community – what are there commonalities, and what do I learn from one community that has application in the other? In other words, I spend a lot of time mentally trying to “knit two together.” If you’re a knitter, you’ll know that knitting two together is a way of decreasing your knitting. In my real life, though, I find that knitting two together brings a marvelous increase – of energy, of creativity, of insight, of compassion.

I recently reflected on this in a little piece I wrote for a book that just came out. The piece is entitled, “I Rise Before the Sun,” and the book is called There’s a Woman in the Pulpit: Christian Clergywomen Share Their Hard Days, Holy Moments & the Healing Power of Humor. This book was a collaboration, written by 52 clergywomen representing 15 different denominations, and edited by the Reverend Martha Spong, Director of RevGalBlogPals. And it’s so good, y’all! Every piece is a really nice, tight piece of writing, and Martha did an outstanding job editing it. I’m not surprised she did such a great job pulling it together – she, too, is a knitter, after all. The book is an amazing collaboration of different voices and varying perspectives from all over the English-speaking world. You could call it a mosaic, or you could call it a tapestry, or you could call it gorgeous knitting, made from hand-painted, handspun yarn – every stitch is different, each one shimmering with its own personality and beauty.
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I wanted to tell you about this not because I’m going to shift the focus of this blog from the knitting part of my life to the churchy part of my life – don’t worry! actual knitting content is coming very soon! – but because I thought some of you might be interested to know about it and about my wee part in it. Also, I would love to send a copy of this book to one of you. Actually, I’ve love to send a copy to all of you! But I can’t really afford to do that, unless “all” of you turns out to only be one person (which is entirely possible, given my sad lack of blogging lately). If you would be interested in receiving a copy of this book, please let me know in the comment section! I’ll use a Random Number Generator to select the recipient on Friday, May 8th. I’ll only be entering people who comment on this entry (so if you comment on Facebook, please make sure to comment on the blog too, okay?). And it’s open to everyone of course – knitters, non-knitters, clergy, non-clergy, people of any faith or no faith, friends, acquaintances, strangers, all.

Thank you, dear reader, whether you are knitter, clergy, both, or neither, for being part of an online community that continues to challenge and cheer me. Mwah!

A Wee Knit for a Wee Pup

We got a puppy and he is straight-up adorable.

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This is Louie. (Middle name: CK). He’s a chocolate Havanese, and we’re in love. He’ll be 13 weeks old tomorrow, and he’s already learned how to sit on command, lie down on command, and use the bathroom on his potty. He’s a whip-smart little dude!

Evidence of his intelligence: he’s also a Tigers fan.
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I made him the first dog sweater I’ve ever made:
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I made this for him to wear on St. Patrick’s Day. And yes, we matched (me in my Cape Cod).

I loved this sweet little pattern, which can be made to fit any pup (or cat, or rabbit, for that matter). It’s called the Perfect Fit Dog & Cat Sweater, and it’s free.

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I made this one a bit short (let’s call it a crop top), but you can make it whatever length you want. I have plans to make him one in handspun for fall, once he’s quit growing. I mean, that sounds like a perfectly reasonable thing to do, right?

That Time I Made Not-Socks

For someone who doesn’t really consider herself a sock knitter, I realize I’ve posted a lot about socks lately. Yes, it’s true that I knit six pairs of handspun socks basically in a row, and then I began my plans and swatching for my Crackerjack Socks. But I did interrupt my sock-knitting to make a special wee baby gift.

I was packing for my trip to Nicaragua and wanted some good plane knitting. There was a wee babe in Nicaragua I wanted to give a little gift to, so my need for travel knitting and my desire for baby gift knitting converged. I found a pattern I hadn’t knit before – a Bunny Blanket Buddy – and cast on in the Detroit airport, by the time we’d landed in Managua, I was all done, except the stuffing and the embroidery.

I saved the pattern to my iPad but when I got to the part for making the head, I was a bit confused. Since I was in the air at that point, and had no access to WiFi, I forged ahead with the sense that I wasn’t making it right but with no way to look up any comments anyone else had made about the pattern. Turns out, the pattern is poorly written. If you know what you’re supposed to do, you can make sense of it, but since I was basically flying blind, I just made stuff up as I went along. The head is supposed to be double-knitting (which, surprisingly, I’ve never actually done before), but nowhere in the pattern does it actually say that.

The upshot is, I made the head HUGE, about twice as big as it was supposed to be. And then I had to knit a
back to it so that there was something to stuff. And then I needed to seam it. Basically nothing about the head was as per pattern. Even so, I think it turned out pretty cute:

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Big-headed Bunny Buddy Blanket

I made this with Stonehedge Fiber Mills Shepherd’s Wool Worsted (are you surprised?), leftover from my Crackerjack Scarf.

I have a dark secret about embroidery. It is the number one reason I sew or knit so few stuffies – I get hung up on embroidering the faces! In fact, in my craft closet right now there are two adorable big-footed bunnies I sewed for my boys for Easter presents when they were four years old (i.e., six years ago), that have languished there for lack of a face. It’s a problem. But this time, I got right to it. We landed in Managua on Friday night, I stuffed and sewed up the head as soon as we got there, and on Saturday morning, I embroidered the face.
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The baby did not seem judgmental of my embroidery skills, nor unhappy at the size of the bunny’s head, so I think it all worked out fine.

Now that I know what the pattern means to say, as opposed to what it actually says, I will definitely be making this again!

Crackerjack Socks :: Free Worksheet

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This is not an April fools joke! The free Crackerjack Socks worksheet is available now in my Ravelry store.

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These are toe-up with an afterthought heel and optional calf-shaping. As we go through the season, I’ll be posting updates on my own knitting, including some detailed photos and explanations when I get to the afterthought heel. In the meantime, feel free to ask any questions you might have.

Let the games begin!

Swatching for Crackerjack Socks

I know, I know! Baseball’s Opening Day is next week, and I’ve promised you a worksheet for Crackerjack Socks. It’s coming, I promise! I’m just still tinkering with it a last little bit. But my plan is to make it available in the next couple of days. Because this is one of the busiest weeks of my year professionally, and it makes all kind of sense for me to be putting together a knitting worksheet on top of that, right?

In the meantime, I’ve been swatching:

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Even on my usual size zero needles, these are somehow knitting up a bit loose. The garter ridge indicates where I changed needles from one brand to another (but the same size). My knitting did tighten up a bit once I found my favorite size zero dpns (Darn Pretty brand), but it’s still pretty loose.

I’ve decided to knit two rounds per game. I just like the way that looks. For comparison, here’s how it looks with one round per game:

20150331-123937.jpgMore of a zigzag stripe. So instead, I’m going to do two rounds per game. In other words, more knee socks for me!

And Then I Ran Out of Time

After knitting six pairs of handknit socks in a row, I wasn’t quite ready to stop with the foot accessories. Ever since early last fall, I’d been dreaming of a pair of handspun Mukluks to keep in my office at work. I even spun up some bulky 2-ply yarn to make a pair, but then I decided I wanted to save that yarn for another (yet-to-be-made) project.

So in early February, I pulled out some delicious Hello Yarn fiber:

Fairytale

Fairytale

This is “Fairytale” on Falkland – one of my favorite fibers in a palette a little outside my usual. Spinning it up was a total dream:

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I spun it fat, fast, and lofty, making it into 122 yards (out of 4 ounces) of bulky 2-ply.

I immediately cast on for a pair of Mukluks:

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And then, it was time for me to leave for Nicaragua on a 10-day trip, to help install water filters in a remote rural village. I knew better than to think I would work on a pair of bulky wool slippers while traveling through the countryside. And by the time I got back, earlier this month, I had other things I needed to focus on. So the slippers have been set aside, perhaps till next fall. In fact, I think my sock-making days are on a hiatus now, too, as I turn my attention to more spring-like knits. The handspun sock-knitting gig was a fun run while it lasted!

So Guess What I Made Next…

After completing five pairs of handspun handknit socks in a row (with a brief break to make a baby sweater), what do you suppose I made next?

If you guessed more handspun handknit socks, you’d be correct.

My Old Man’s son had a birthday in February, and it had been awhile since I made him anything (he believes that I now direct all my gift-making energy towards his girlfriend, and he may be right). Around the time I was completing my second pair of socks for myself, I realized that the yarn I had on the wheel at the moment would be perfect for socks for him.

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This is Hello Yarn Targhee in “Bracken and Gorse,” the November 2014 fiber club, which I spun up as 280 yards of light worsted weight 2-ply. I had initially been thinking to weave with it, but my recent handspun sock obsession shifted my thinking.

As soon as I was done with my Munhacke Campfire Socks, I cast on:

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At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I have to marvel again at how quickly worsted-ish socks grow:

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They grow so fast!

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Of course I used David’s Toe-Up Sock Cookbook, this time with no afterthought heel or anything unusual at all, other than throwing in my beloved 3×1 garter rib for the leg. If you want to do ribbing for a sock but want it to be as fast and easy as possible, go with garter rib. Though if you are like me, you will forget that’s what you were doing and accidentally switch to regular rib for the second sock. I did this for two of my last three pairs of garter rib socks.

But this pair, I got just right.

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I will admit that, once I tried them on, I really kind of wanted to keep them for my own self.

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They are so soft and cozy! But since I had just made two pairs for myself already, I managed to give them away as planned.

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The recipient seemed pleased!

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And the fit seemed pretty spot on.

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I am very, very happy with how this pair turned out.

Handspun Bracken and Gorse Socks

Handspun Bracken and Gorse Socks

raveled

After I was done, I still had roughly 90 yards of the yarn left. I briefly experimented with turning into more socks, striped with some Stonehedge Shepherd’s Wool:

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But I wasn’t loving it, and I soon came up with another idea of something I want to save it for. More details on that another day, but – believe it or not – it’s not socks.

More Socks for My Own Self. Or, How I Sat in the Snow in the Dark and Created Something I Love but Failed to Take Any Notes.

Immediately after finishing a pair of handspun knee-high-ish socks for myself, I cast on for another pair, using my handspun Hello Yarn Superwash BFL in Mochi, the first yarn I finished in 2014:

Hello Yarn Superwash BFL, "Mochi"

Hello Yarn Superwash BFL, “Mochi”

I adore those bright, warm colors, which I spun up as another chain-ply (205 yards light worsted, out of 4 ounces). When I originally spun this up, I was thinking mittens, but lately I’ve been all about the socks, so that’s what I went with.

I decided to do the toe on this pair differently:

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Basically, I pretended I was making a wee top-down hat. While I love the figure-eight cast-on I usually use to start a pair of toe-up socks, this cast-on was the simplest, fastest start I’ve ever had. Plus, I love the look of the toes. And the fit is perfect:

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sock toes

Next, I decided to do some arch shaping, to accommodate my high, narrow arch. I’ve done this once before and was very pleased with the results. That was a few years back, but fortunately I made some notes on my Ravelry page that helped me get an idea of what I wanted to do.

arch shaping

arch shaping

Because I’m in love with an afterthought heel, that’s what I did for these socks. I knitted in a line of waste yarn where I wanted the heel to go, and then I just kept knitting a tube. Good grief that’s such an easy and fast way to make a sock. I put some of the brown parts of the yarn aside for the contrast heel, and then just kept knitting my tube.

When I got to where I thought I would need it, I started some calf shaping. And then before I knew it, I was done with the first sock, and I finished off with some brown for the cuff. I cast on for the second sock immediately, and when I was done with both tubes, I went back and added in the heels with the brown yarn.

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I took this project with me on a winter campout with a Boy Scout troop my son is thinking of joining. I’ve got to say, sitting outside in the snow, watching the sun set, and knitting a sock is an experience I’d never had before. And I liked it!

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It was a cold and snowy weekend, and we spent most of the afternoon and evening outside, around a campfire. Knitting a sock with an afterthought heel was basically the perfect project for this, because I was just knitting a simple tube. I continued knitting on into the night, because I didn’t really need to see what I was doing.

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The thing is, I had intended to release this as a free pattern. And sitting outside in the cold, in the snow, in the dark, with the scouts, I totally failed to make notes about what I was doing. And now, more than a month later, I don’t know if I can remember exactly what I did. So at some point, I will need to study the sock and/or make another pair.

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The truth is, I want to tweak the heel just a bit (this is another hat/bullseye heel like in the pair I showed you yesterday). So knitting another pair is probably the way to go anyway.

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In the meantime, I have very happy feet (though I do need to back and close up that little gap at the heel on the right sock). (Also, I know more now about how to prevent that from happening in the first place, so I want to incorporate that knowledge in my next pair.)

sock blocking

sock blocking

I should add that this pair is cat-approved as well.

As with the pair I showed you yesterday, I managed to magically make a mostly matching set of stripes from one sock to the other:

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That comes, I think, from how I spun the yarn. I split it as evenly as I could, straight down the middle, and then spun each half from the same end, and then chain-plied. I ended up with one skein of 101 yards and one skein of 104 yards, as close a matching set as I have ever managed to spin.

Maybe no one but me is interested in making handspun, toe-up, hat-toe, arch-shaped, afterthought heel, hat-heel, knee-high-ish socks. But they are fun to knit and a delight to wear, I assure you!

raveled

Handspun, Handknit Socks for My Own Self. Or, How I Got Through Winter.

I like winter a lot. Even really cold ones, like the one we just had. But that could be because I know the secret to staying warm and cozy. (My husband says my other secret is that I’m never the one who shovels the snow….)

Last month, I showed you the handspun socks I made for my menfolk for Christmas. As I made those socks for my guys in December, I promised myself a little reward if I could get them all done – the next pair of handspun socks would be for me.

So in January, I made good on my promise. For starters, I pulled out one of my loveliest yarns:

spun :: Hello Yarn Finn
This is 240 yards of light worsted chain-plied Hello Yarn Finn in “Winter Storage” (September 2009 Fiber Club), a fiber I loved from the word “go.” When I first received this fiber, I knew I wanted to chain-ply it, but I had only been spinning for a few months at that point, and I didn’t feel very skilled in chain-plying. So I waited until I felt confident I could get it the way I wanted, which turned out to be a few years (I’m slow I guess). And at last, in 2013, I pulled out this fiber and managed to get it exactly the way I had in mind:
spun :: Hello Yarn Finn

I knew from the beginning that this was destined for socks. What I didn’t know was that it was destined to become knee socks. What a happy surprise!

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As usual, I used David’s Toe-Up Sock Cookbook, my go-to for handspun socks. With my worsted gauge and my narrow feet, not only did the socks knit up very quickly, but they turned out a lot taller than I’d anticipated.

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It might be a bit of an overstatement to call them knee socks – they don’t actually go all the way to the knee. But they are pretty long socks, and very cozy, and extremely happy-making.

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I’m still kind of in awe of how well the stripes matched up between the two socks. With handspun, I just assume that fraternal socks will be my default. But look at that matchy!

With this pair of socks, I did an afterthought heel, which is one of my favorite ways to make socks these days. It keeps the stripes of the sock continuous, and it allows me to more easily plan for a contrast heel. This time, I decided to do a heel I’ve never made before – a “hat” heel or “bulls-eye” heel. Basically, I decreased for the heel the same way I would if I were making a brim-up hat. And this might just be my new favorite thing:

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I love the fit, and I love the look.

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Y’all, this was the fastest, most fun pair of socks.

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So here is my secret for a happy winter: handspun, toe-up, afterthought hat heel, knee-high-ish socks. Both the making and the wearing. If you can wear a pair while making more, even better.

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 raveled

Reporting for Duty Today :: Pitchers, Catchers, and Yarn

Today in Ann Arbor, we are under a severe weather alert because of the wind chill. When I woke up this morning, it was 6 degrees below zero, with a windchill of -15. Baby, that’s COLD. Of course you know I am not complaining, because:

  1. I am a knitter. Therefore, I am covered in wool.
  2. I am a knitter. Therefore, I am happy to be “forced” to stay inside and knit.
  3. Spring is officially in sight as of today, because today the Detroit Tigers pitchers and catchers report for spring training. HECK YEAH!

That means this yarn is also reporting for training:

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Hazel Knits Artisan Sock

 

And by training, I mean swatching. I will soon be swatching for my next Crackerjack conceptual knitting project.

My yarn this time is Hazel Knits Artisan Sock, in “Nekkid,” “Nickel,” “Collegiate,” and “Carnelian.” To create this set, I actually bought a Seattle Seahawks-themed kit (this was right after the Super Bowl) – it had all the colors I needed minus the orange, in the smaller quantities I think I’ll need for a pair of socks. Then I bought a full skein of the orange to complete my set. Now I have a sweet small skein of “Hawkeye” (lime green) leftover for some other fun use. It’s been awhile since I’ve knit with Hazel Knits, and I’m really looking forward to it. The yarn has a great feel, and the hand-painted semi-solids are just perfect.

This time around, I’m going to be making… SOCKS. For anyone who has been following my Instagram feed, this should come as no surprise, as I am apparently all about knitting socks lately. It’s funny, I’ve never really considered myself a sock-knitter (though, in truth, I’ve knit my share of socks), but some kind of switch has been flipped in my brain, and all of a sudden, all I want to make it socks. Also, every time I go to Comerica Park to watch the Tigers play, I wish for some Tigers socks, and the souvenir shops have every imaginable thing for sale – except socks. So I’ll just make my own, with stripes keyed to the Tigers wins and losses. I am really excited about this project!

I’ll be putting together a worksheet in advance of Opening Day, for anyone who would like to play along, with your team colors. Spring is coming, y’all!