Knitting by Blind Faith


A Year of Joy
Wednesday, October 29, 2008, 10:05 pm
Filed under: Life,Reflections,Special Moments,Treasures

One year ago today, I was paired with my new best friend, Joy. Though Joy is not her name, I refer to her this way because joy sums up in one word the blessings she has brought into my life. I can remember as clearly as if it were yesterday the journey that led up to this day: the sudden and very painful loss of my first guide after a brief illness, my reacquaintance with the white cane after nine years of trusting a dog to guide me safely around obstacles and in traffic (a skill, I was pleasantly surprised to learn, that you don’t forget, just like riding a bicycle), the emptiness of not having the pull of the harness against the fingers of my left hand, and my husband’s gentle reminders as I directed him with a series of forwards, lefts, rights, and hopp hopps, without realizing what I was doing, that he was not a dog. (I’m a little embarrassed about that one.) He would laugh and pretend to be distracted by a scent, just to make me laugh, too.

Shortly before I left for training in the Northeast, I discovered that we had a local yarn store and bought lots of yarn to take with me, packed in a suitcase all its own. I knew I would need knitting to calm my nerves, and wanted to start an afghan, which is still in progress. That trip to the LYS was the beginning of many treasured friendships, which Joy was directly responsible for, even though I didn’t know her yet. If I wasn’t going away, I may not have gone in there to buy yarn and would not have met such awesome knitters, whose friendship is central in my life.

I will never forget the day I met Joy. She seemed so young and inexperienced to me. She was happy, excited, strong willed and all over the place, very different from my docile compliant baby. She was confused by the sudden changes in her life. She wanted her trainer, and not me. I felt sorry for her. I’m a pushover, and knew she would be a challenge, because she would need structure, and I tend to give in easily.

Yet, I saw immediately that she was sensitive and eager to please. Although she did not know me, she obeyed my requests, eager to please both me and her trainer. She took the transition in stride and was playful and kind, always wanting to climb in my lap, lick my face, and nibble my nose and hands. She shared her toys with me, and often tried to feed me her bone. (She still does that, actually.)

On our first walk, I was warned that she was keyed up and would probably move pretty fast. She did, but even though she didn’t understand that I was her responsibility at this point, and even though we felt foreign to each other, she still showed a sense of duty and of pride in her education.

The weeks in training flew by. I didn’t have much time to knit (well, not by a knitter’s standards). If I wasn’t working with her, I was grooming her, doing obedience, playing with her (we had lots and lots of playtime), or attending lectures. I think it was a week and a half before I had the brilliant idea of cramming my knitting into my coat pocket to take on those daily trips to town. My instructor started to ask me how “his pants” were doing and when they would be finished.

Before I knew it, it was time to go home.

Last night, the weather was chilly, with clear skies and temperatures in the 50s. It was much like the weather conditions during our very first walk. As we walked in the crisp night air (such a rare treat in Florida, especially this time of year when we are experiencing record breaking cold), the chill invigorated Joy, and she fairly ran down the sidewalk, much as she had that first day on that first walk. “There goes Speedy Gonzalez,” my neighbor said, as we passed him and his dog in a blur. The two of us were one.

With her tail out behind her and her pull on the harness urging me to move faster (apparently, four miles an hour wasn’t fast enough), I reflected on how far we have come. She expertly navigated the narrow wheelchair ramps that I had to teach her a year ago were meant to accommodate both of us, and not just her. (This often meant that she had to walk partly on the curb, so that I could have even footing.) She thrilled at the prospect of passing barking dogs, rather than stopping to check them out. She guided me safely among low-hanging branches and kept a watchful eye on the traffic.

More than my guide, Joy is my best friend. After we came back home and had a good, hearty play, I sat on the patio with my afghan, which I have dubbed Joy’s blanket. My girl now, and always at my side, Joy contentedly chewed on her bone while I knit and enjoyed the smells the fresh night air brought to her nose.

Afghan with diamond panels made up of knits and purls; seed stitch border.

Afghan with diamond panels made up of knits and purls; seed stitch border.

It is a common belief in knitting that if you don’t pick up a project in six months, you may as well give up hope of ever finishing it. Joy’s blanket often goes untouched for months at a time, but I’m glad it’s there. It is my comfort knitting, and holds all my treasured memories of my best friend, and all the people I have met, and friendships renewed, because of her.

As I write this, she lies sleeping by my side on the floor. The minute I rise, she will jump up, eager to fulfill whatever I might request of her. She is on call, 24/7, and she never complains.

To my best friend and loyal companion, here’s to many more years of joy.



How to Knit Two Toe-Up Socks on the Magic Loop
Sunday, October 19, 2008, 6:00 pm
Filed under: Knitting,Patterns Tips and Tutorials

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of attending a friend’s baby shower. Judah and Lindy were also there. Judah presented the mom to be with a beautiful hand knit rolled brim hat. I knit her baby socks, miniatures of the pair I made for myself last week. Unfortunately, the camera ate the pictures we took before giving them away. :(

I knit the baby socks at the same time. The phenomenon still hasn’t grown on me. It feels incredibly fiddly and slow. On the other hand, it’s nice not having to count rounds, except within the pattern repeats, and having them both finished at the same time is a plus. So, the jury is still out on this one. This probably won’t be the last pair I knit at the same time.

Although I’m not in love with knitting two socks at the same time, I know a lot of knitters are curious to try it. There are a number of excellent tutorials out there, including Silver’s Sock Class and Elizabeth Allen’s top-down version. I will add my basic toe-up tutorial to the list.

This tutorial assumes you are fairly comfortable knitting socks, and that you know how to knit using the Magic Loop technique. If not, check out some of these tutorials:

KnittingHelp.com’s Magic Loop Video
How to Knit Small Circumferences w/ One Long Circular Needle
Knit Picks Magic Loop Tutorial

To start, place the ball of yarn for sock B on your left and the ball of yarn for sock A on your right. Keeping the balls of yarn far apart will make it easier to spot tangles quickly. I also have a method for keeping my strands of yarn from twisting around each other, which I will discuss later in the Tips section.

Make a slip not in each strand of yarn near the tail. You do not need a long tail to cast on.

Using the Turkish cast-on, cast on sock B as follows:

1. Hold the tips of the needles, one on top of the other, in your left hand. The tips of the needles should be parallel and pointing to the right.

2. Slide the slip knot for sock B over the bottom needle tip and onto the cable. Pull out the bottom needle tip to the right, so that the top needle tip is lying parallel to the cable.

3. To cast on, take the yarn in your right hand and wrap it under the cable and over the needle from back to front. When the yarn is hanging in front of the needle and the cable, one wrap is complete. Remember to hold the yarn tail out of the way by bracing it against the cable with the fingers of your left hand as you cast on. Continue to cast on until you have the desired number of stitches on the needle. Each wrap counts for two stitches. If you wanted to start with 16 stitches, you would wrap the yarn around the cable and the needle 8 times.

4. Once you have the desired number of wraps, bring the yarn under the cable and behind the work. Anchor the cast-on by weaving the working yarn through the fingers of your left hand and holding it in place up where the fingers meet the palm of the hand. This will keep it out of the way while you cast on and begin to knit sock A.

5. Slip the slip knot you made with the yarn for sock A over the bottom needle tip and onto the cable. Then, cast on for sock A as you cast on for sock B above, bringing the yarn under the cable and behind the work after the final wrap. You now have two sets of loops wrapped around the needle and the cable.

You will now begin to knit the socks:

1. Slide the stitches for sock A and sock B onto the tip of the top needle. This is Needle 1. Continue to hold the working yarn for sock B out of the way with your left hand, and begin to knit sock A’s stitches in the usual way. If you are a Continental knitter who normally weaves your working yarn through the fingers of your left hand, keep sock A’s yarn close to your fingertips as you knit the first half of sock A.

2. Once you complete the first half of sock A, drop the yarn and knit the first half of sock B with its working yarn.

3. Turn your work, and slide the unworked stitches for sock B and sock A onto the tip of the needle. Continue knitting the second half of sock B. Before you begin, you will slide the slip knot off the needle and undo it. Bring the tail to the right of, and then behind, the working yarn and anchor it in place with your left hand as you begin to knit the second half of the round. Otherwise, you will lose the first stitch.

4. Once you have completed sock B, drop its working yarn and pick up the working yarn for sock A. Pull out the slip knot and complete the round as you did with sock B.

5. Turn your work to begin the next round, starting with sock A. Work the toe in stockinette stitch by alternating one increase round followed by a plain knit round. On increase rounds, you will increase four stitches per sock, one at the beginning of the first half of each sock, one at the end of the first half of each sock, one at the beginning of the second half of each sock, and one at the end of the second half of each sock. I always make increases one stitch in from the edge. I prefer to use an M1R on the right edge and an m1L on the left edge (as the socks face you), but you can also use a KFB (knit in the front and the back of the same stitch) or your favorite increase.

6. Continue shaping the toe until it is as wide as you want it, being careful not to knit the tail into your work. Eventually, the toe will form a pocket as you knit, and the needles will cease to be top and bottom and will become front and back.

7. Keep the sole stitches in stockinette and use your favorite pattern on the instep. I make Needle 1 my sole stitches and Needle 2 my instep stitches.

8. Knit until the foot measures about 2 inches less than the desired length, then knit your favorite short row heel. I prefer Priscilla Wild’s short row technique.

9. If necessary, pick up an extra stitch between the sole and the instep on each side of the sock to close up any holes. Decrease this stitch on the next round with a K2tog on the left side of the sole (as it faces you) and an SSK on the right side of the sole (as it faces you).

10. Continue to keep the back of the leg in stockinette stitch until it reaches the ankle, or however long you want. It’s your sock, after all. Then, incorporate the instep pattern into the back of the leg.

11. Knit the leg and the cuff as long as desired, then bind off using EZ’s sewn bindoff. Kristin has a great tutorial for doing this on two socks at once.

12. Weave in ends.

Tips

1. To keep your yarn from tangling as you knit, do the following:

1. Knit the first half of sock A. Bring sock A’s working yarn around the loop in the cable that was formed when you began to knit with the righthand needle and drop it in front of the work.

2. Pick up the working yarn for sock B and knit the first half of sock B.

3. Keeping sock B’s working yarn on top, rotate your work COUNTERCLOCKWISE and continue knitting the second half of sock B.

4. Bring sock B’s working yarn around the lefthand loop in the cable and lay it from back to front over the tip of the righthand needle. Then, drop the yarn and let it hang in front of the work. This will keep the yarn from being wrapped around the cable, which would cause an accidental yarn over.

5. Sock A’s working yarn should now be hanging behind the work, ready to knit. Knit the second half of sock A.

6. Keeping sock A’s working yarn on top, rotate your work CLOCKWISE and begin the next round by knitting the first half of sock A.

Repeat the above steps as you knit, and your yarn should stay untangled.

2. You may find it helpful to put a marker on sock A to quickly distinguish it from sock B and also mark the beginning of the round.

3. As you knit, keep the socks close together and keep part of the sock in waiting on the needle shaft, if possible. This will help prevent the sock in waiting from sliding to the end of the cable as you knit. I also hold the socks close together by bracing them with my fingertips.

4. Prevent ladders and antiladders by giving the yarn a gentle tug after you insert the needle into the first stitch of the sock. Pull the yarn snug, but not tight, then knit the first stitch as usual and at your normal tension.

Good luck, and happy knitting!



I Am Tickled Pink!
Tuesday, October 14, 2008, 5:00 am
Filed under: Knitting,Patterns Tips and Tutorials

My first toe-up socks are finished!

Picture of socks with my feet apart.

Picture of socks with my feet apart.

Picture of socks with my feet together.

Picture of socks with my feet together.

And here is a close-up of my first short row heels.

Socks side by side with a close-up of the heels.

Socks side by side with a close-up of the heels.

To knit the short row heels, I used Priscilla Wild’s short row technique, as documented in Charisa Martin Cairn’s Lifestyle Socks.

Here is my pattern, with thanks to Two Circs Girl for her pattern stitch idea. Note: I am writing this from the perspective of the Magic Loop:

Cast on 16 stitches(8 wraps) using the Turkish cast-on. When I did this using Magic Loop, I wrapped the yarn around the top needle and the bottom cable (as opposed to holding the tips of the needles parallel). This made the stitches a bit tighter and eliminated a potential gap between the two sets of stitches when I knit the first round.

Once you complete the cast-on by knitting the wraps, increase as follows:

Round 1: On Needle 1, K1, M1R (with your right needle, lift the strand that runs between the stitch you just knit and the next stitch on the left needle. Place it on the left needle by inserting the left needle from back to front. Knit this new stitch as usual, which will cause it to twist.), K to last stitch, M1L (lift the strand of yarn that runs between the stitch you just knit and the remaining stitch on the left needle. Place it on the left needle from front to back, and knit this new stitch through the back loop, which will cause it to twist.), K1. Repeat for Needle two.

Round 2: Knit.

Repeat these two rounds until the toe fits over your big toe through your ring toe, with just a little wiggle room, ending with round 2. (The total number of stitches should be divisible by eight.) Then begin the foot:

Round 1: Needle 1: Knit. Needle 2: * K1, P1 across.
Rounds 2 and 3: Knit all stitches.

Repeat rounds 1-3 until the foot meets the leg, or just shy thereof, ending with round 3. Then, knit your favorite short row heel on Needle 1. Leave half the number of stitches you started with on the toe live, then begin closing the gaps. (If you started with 16 total stitches–8 wraps–you would knit until there were 8 live stitches in the middle, then begin closing the gaps.) If you use the short row heel referred to above, you can avoid holes and extra decreases between the sole and the instep by doing the following:

When one stitch remains unworked at each end, and you are on a right-side (knit) row, knit to the gap, and close the gap by knitting the two stitches together as usual. Then, pick up a stitch and resume knitting in the round, continuing with round 1 of pattern stitch. At the beginning of the next round, pick up the strand between the last stitch on Needle 2 and the first stitch on Needle 1. This is a long strand, so twist it when you knit it (I did an M1R). Close the final gap in your short row heel with a K2tog and continue knitting as established, knitting all stitches on Needle 1 in stockinette and keeping Needle 2 in pattern.

When the leg reaches the ankle bone, or when desired, begin knitting the entire leg in pattern. Repeat rounds 1-3 on both needles until the leg is the desired length, ending with round 3.

Cuff: *k2, p2 across. Make cuff as long as dessired.

To avoid gaps in ribbing: as you transition between knit and purl stitches, insert the needle into the next stitch, and give the yarn a gentle tug. When you bring the yarn between the needles to transition, you use 1/3 more yarn than usual when you make a stitch, and taking up the slack will help keep your stitches looking even. However, since you are taking up extra slack, you may be tempted to knit or purl your stitches too tightly. Remember: be gentle with your yarn, and be careful to knit/purl the stitches at your usual tension.

Finishing:

Bind off using EZ’s sewn bind-off:

1. Break yarn, leaving a tail at least three times the circumference of the sock.

2. Thread a thin darning needle with this tail.

3. As if you were beginning a new round, insert the darning needle through first two stitches as if to purl. Pull yarn snug, BUT NOT TIGHT. Leave these stitches on the knitting needle.

4. Insert needle through first stitch, again, as if to knit and slip it off the knitting needle. Pull yarn snug, BUT NOT TIGHT.

Repeat steps three and four all the way around. When you get to the last stitch, insert the needle as if to purl through this stitch and the first stitch you bound off as if to purl. Then, insert the needle through the last stitch again as if to knit, pulling the yarn snug with each pass.

Remember not to pull the yarn too tight, or your bind-off will not be stretchy. I strongly recommend that you take my advice and not learn this the hard way (which is pretty much the way I learn everything)! :)

Weave in ends, wash your socks according to manufacturer’s instructions, and you’re all done!