More Socks, And a Mystery Knit-Along

The knitting obsession continues unabated. I thought it might ease a bit when I finished my sweater, but no, I am still knitting at every free moment.  For the last two weeks, my hands have held knitting needles much more often than they have held harp strings.  And I realized earlier this week that I like knitting nearly as much as I like playing the harp.

I just finished my first socks knit with needles, instead of knit on the sock loom. I used the same Patons Kroy sock yarn that I used with the loomed socks, yet these are much thicker and bulkier for having been knit traditionally.

First Needle-knit Socks
First Needle-knit Socks

This sock pattern creates the heel by knitting a heel flap, which I think is too bulky,  plus it disrupts the stripes. I like the short-row, traditional looking heel created on the sock loom much better. I found instructions for creating this short-row heel using knitting needles, which I’ll try on these babies:

The Latest Socks
The Latest Socks

In this photo the ribbed cuff is finished, and I’ve just started the leg.

I am trying something new to avoid the “second sock syndrome.” Instead of completing the first sock and then starting the second one, I am knitting them simultaneously, but on two separate circular needles. I will finish the ribbing and the start of the leg on sock #2 before continuing to work on the sock in the photo. Though I know the theory of how it’s done, I am not ready to tackle knitting two socks on one circular needle.

My newest and most challenging project is participating in the “mystery knit-along” being coordinated by my LYS (that’s knit-speak for local yarn shop,) The Fibre Studio. I am knitting a lace shawl with yarn from The Unique Sheep. This yarn company specializes in “gradient dyeing” that creates colors that subtly blend from one shade to another. They then work with designers to create shawl patterns that will showcase their beautiful yarns. My colorway is “Deep Waters” and moves through aquas to a deep ocean blue:

Deep Waters
Deep Waters

The shawl pattern is named Watership Down, after the novel, but since this is a “mystery knit-along” I have no idea what it will look like.  Every Friday the next set of instructions, or clues, magically appears in my email. Here’s what my shawl looked like half-way through the first clue:

Watership Down Shawl
Watership Down Shawl

A weaving teacher from long ago told me, “Yarn will teach you how to work with it, if you will let it.” Knitting with yarn that is skinnier than dental floss is a test of my patience and perseverance, but I am slowly learning what this yarn wants from me. I can’t chat, or watch television, or listen to music. I have to slow way down, watch my needles as I loop each stitch, and count the number of stitches in each section before I move on. I have to relax the tension in my hands and fingers with every stitch, and let the yarn slide into place on the right-hand needle.  I have to quiet my monkey-mind chatter and focus on the stitch I am making at each moment. For the yarn and I to work together, there can be no past or future, no thoughts or concerns distracting me from the stitch in front of me.

Last night, when I was too wound up to sleep, I didn’t get the sock project out of my knitting bag. Instead, I reached for the shawl. Concentrating on each stitch quieted my mind. This single-pointed attention eliminated all worries. For the first time, my shawl wasn’t a struggle or a challenge. It was knitting meditation.

The Fibre Studio displays a stack of lace shawls knitted by customers. I’d wondered what the draw was to knitting lace, and why someone would start a new shawl before the one they just completed was off the blocking board. After finding peace in creating patterns of lacy stitches, I think I know.


Sweater Pattern and Yarn Information

I forgot to write pattern information for my sweater in last night’s post, and several people want to know what it is.

This is the “Amiga” sweater from the spring+summer 2011 issue of Knitty. You can download the sweater pattern for free by clicking on this link to the Knitty Pattern Library.

The yarn is “Rick Rack” from Interlacements, in their “Forest Floor” colorway. It is hand-dyed 100% rayon. The yarn requires hand washing or dry cleaning. One 16 oz. skein has 1200 yards. I used slightly less than one skein for my sweater.

My First Sweater

I finished my first sweater, and here it is!



The yarn is 100% rayon “Rickrack” by Interlacements. The yarn knits up beautifully, without any big, blotchy pooling of colors.

I am very pleased with how the sweater turned out. The colors remind me of Ireland. Now I just have to wait for the weather to cool off so I can wear it. Meanwhile, I ordered yarn for the next sweater, a V-neck pullover. I think I am definitely hooked on knitting.

Knitting Sanctuary

Handcrafts belong to an earlier world, the slower pace of preindustrial life where one had the leisure to sink deeply and profoundly into the rhythms of nature within and without and to feel a connection with the earth as a living spiritual entity. We make things by hand to express who we are, our identity as individuals as well as our affiliation to our tribe or our clan. Handcrafts throughout history have often been fashioned with the aid of prayer, one prayer for each bead or each stitch, while keeping good thoughts to enhance the spiritual purpose of the object. . . . The motions of needlework are singularly well suited to the practice of contemplation.

-Susan Gordon Lydon –The Knitting Sūtra: Craft as a Spiritual Practice

I’m back from a knitting retreat with my Wednesday night knitting group. I spent the weekend ensconced on a screened porch under sheltering trees, overlooking a lake, knitting and talking and living outside of normal time.

A weekend with no schedule, no agenda, no list of things to get done, allowed me to hear the approaching whir of tiny wings, allowed me to watch the hummingbirds defend their claims to red plastic flowers as they darted between the feeders. A bald eagle screeched and landed in the tall pine beside the house, and I watched in wonder for a small eternity before he silently beat outstretched wings and glided deeper into the forest. Titmice and chickadees cracked open sunflower seeds one by one. A green lizard sunbathed on the porch railing until warm enough to advertise his prowess by inflating his cantaloupe-colored neck pouches.

The quiet clicking of our knitting needles and our quiet attention to our stitches and to each other created safety, created a place to speak the history of our hearts, created sanctuary. Our deep listening created sacred space, and a place where we all belonged. In our circle, we spoke the horrors we survived, we honored our courage and strength, and we celebrated who we’ve become: incredible, creative women who drink deeply from life; courageous women who share our strength with those who cannot yet find their own; fiercely loving women who decide every day to turn bad to good, and so love this sweet old world and the people in it a little bit more.

And in our sanctuary, every stitch, every word, every breath, was a prayer.

More New Socks

I made myself finish the second of the latest pair of socks before I would start my sweater. (I swore that knitting WILL NOT turn into yet another collection of unfinished projects!)

These are knit on the sock loom in a basketweave pattern out of Lang “Mille Colori” Socks and Lace superwash yarn. I doubt that I will use this brand of sock yarn again. I love the color, but there were so many slubs and very thin places that I am concerned about how the socks will wear.  DSC01381

I named them “Whovian” socks as they remind me of the multicolored knitted scarf that the Tom Baker Dr. Who always wore.


What Would You Do If I Knit Out Of Tune?

Would you screech, put down your knitting needles, and not knit another stitch?  If I knit instead of purled, would you roll your eyes at me? If I miscounted and knit an extra stitch, would you huff under your breath? If I didn’t read the stitch pattern correctly, would you care?

NO, I didn’t think so. Neither do my knitting friends, which is why my Wednesday evening knitting group is the perfect balance for my Wednesday morning ensemble. There is no judgement, no measuring up to how another woman knits. Every new and every ongoing project is oohed-and-ahhed over. Stepping out to try something new – a new technique, or a new pattern – is cheered on. We mutually groan about having to “tink” (knit spelled backwards) and laugh at our mistakes. And the experienced knitters help us newbies figure out whatever new thing we are trying to do, or whatever old thing we have thoroughly screwed up.

The Early Music Consort met yesterday for the first time this semester. It was not an auspicious beginning. My recorder was cold, my fingers were stiff, my ears had not played with another recorder player since the beginning of December, and we were sight-reading new music. So I didn’t blow a high “G” in tune, I played B-flat instead of B-natural, I didn’t count correctly and got ahead of everyone, and my fingers and eyes did not work fast enough to get to a lot of the notes on music I’d not seen before. This was all too much for the normally calm recorder player sitting next to me, who screeched about my tuning, put down her recorder, and stopped playing.

It’s easy for me to become upset and panicked over how badly I am playing when someone is reacting to what I am not doing correctly. But through some measure of grace, I kept calm and carried on. I breathed slowly. My tuning improved and my fingers loosened up. I remembered what my recorder teacher said the previous night about sight-reading: skip the notes you are not going to play and direct your attention to the notes that you are going to play. And the recorder player on my other side pointed out that I could play one of the impossible tunes at the written pitch, so my fingers got all the notes the second time we played it.

This moment of grace, where I could detach both from another’s reaction and from my own too easily triggered panic, crystallized my goal for this semester. I could work on any number of musical skills that need improvement. But what I need most in my playing and in my life is equanimity.

equa·nim·i·ty  – noun \ˌē-kwə-ˈni-mə-tē, ˌe-kwə-\1: steadiness of mind especially under stress <nothing could disturb his equanimity> 2: right disposition : balance <physical equanimity> (Miriam-Webster online dictionary)

My knitting friends make equanimity easy to find and practice. Sitting around the table sipping wine and eating chocolate while we knit and laugh, or laugh and knit, it’s easy to feel calm, to be steady, to have both right disposition and balance. Yarn won’t hurt you.

And neither will an out-of-tune note, a misplaced fingering, a miscounted measure, or a disgruntled fellow recorder player.

Latest Socks

I just finished the latest pair of socks today. They are knit from a luscious variegated washable wool and nylon sock yarn from a German yarn company (Austermann) using a basket weave pattern for the legs. This yarn contains aloe vera and jojoba oil which makes it soft and delightful to work with.


I knit the next pair for a Christmas present. They are now warming Beth’s feet so I can finally post a picture. I used Patons Kroy Socks jacquards yarn, and knit them in plain flat stitch. The jacquard yarn does all the work to make the patterns.


I like the basket weave pattern so much that I already have a new sock on the loom to make another pair.

Weekly Photo Challenge: My 2012 In Pictures

All images © Janet Hince 2012-2013