The lovely Dawlish

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Oh man, do I love Rachel Coopey’s designs. I know I’ve said it before (probably every time I’ve knit one of her patterns, actually) but it’s true. Her designs are creative, interesting (but not super difficult) to knit, and, best of all, fantastic to wear.

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When I bought her first book, Coop Knits Socks, two years ago, Dawlish was one of the patterns I wanted to knit right away. Why it has taken me two years, I don’t know, but I’m so glad I finally got around to it. Actually, speaking of getting around to it, this yarn is one of the first skeins I ever bought without a specific purpose in mind. I remember choosing it, and how expensive and special it felt compared to the other yarn I used up to that point. I have been kind of hoarding it ever since, because even though indie-dyed sock yarns (from this very company, even!) have become a staple of my knitting, there’s something about the early skeins that feels extra-special. Combining it with a long-desired pattern was the perfect match, and I’m happy to say that neither one disappointed.

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Dawlish is a quintessential Rachel Coopey pattern. The design across the two socks is mirrored, which means you’re not quite knitting the exact same sock twice in a row. Also, the charts are each a 40-row, 15-stitch repeat, so within the same sock you’re not actually knitting the same repeats over and over again, though there’s enough repetition that it does become intuitive. The pattern is nice and stretch, which isn’t always the case with travelling cables, but there’s lots of ribbing integrated throughout the pattern to ensure a good fit.

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Details
Pattern: Dawlish by Rachel Coopey
Yarn: Indigodragonfly Merino Sock in Tiny Bloodsucking Dancer
Needles: 2.5mm
Notes: I swapped out the heel in the pattern for an eye-of-partridge heel. Other than that, I knit exactly as written! Ravelled here.

I have plans to knit both Calamint and Brighton this year, and I am itching to buy her new book as well. Maybe one more pattern from the first book and then I’ll treat myself.

Thoughts on socks

10

Everywhere I look these days (it seems) I run into another article about Marie Kondo and her book/philosophy The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. I’m xnot sure I agree with all of her ideas (though maybe I’m just too intimidated to really try them), but I do love how everyone who writes about her talks about her feelings about socks.

For example, Oliver Burkeman writes in The Guardian: “Kondo thinks you should treat your socks like tiny people, and that when they’re in your sock drawer, they’re “essentially on holiday”.” (The illustration with that story is fantastic.) I also love this bit from Janet Potter’s review in The Millions: “Kondo’s a little hard to pin down. She’s simultaneously a hard-line pragmatist and a far-out child of the moon. For every no-nonsense truth she lays down — “storage experts are hoarders” — she comes out with an impassioned plea to stop balling up your socks — ‘This should be a time for them to rest. Do you really think they get any rest like that?’”

Both of these (and all the other things I’ve read about this book) do actually make me want to change the way I store my socks, if not specifically because I think they (the socks) have feelings, but because I have feelings about my socks. I have favourites. I have different memories and associations attached to different pairs, based on where/when I knit them or where the wool is from. I am genuinely sad when a pair wears out, and I take pains to prolong their lives — whether by knitting them at tight gauge, hand-washing them, or keeping a good rotation so that the wear is spread around. (Or, all of the above, actually.)

Okay, writing that down makes me feel a little strange, but still. If you knit socks you probably understand. And really, that last point is the impetus to keep knitting socks after you already have enough (however you define that). I really like Tanis’s method of keeping some pairs in reserve, but I know myself well enough to know that I don’t have the willpower. I love the feeling of a fresh-off-the-needles pair of socks, and it’s fun to add something new to the rotation, which also helps soften the blow when you realize that formerly favourite pairs are being reached for less and less, as their wear begins to assert itself. (These socks, in particular, were favourites, knit at a time when I had very few pairs of hand-knit socks which meant they were worn constantly, and now have been worn almost to pieces. I really ought to replace them.)

I have actually been thinking a lot about socks in the last little while — ever since Karen asked what knit people couldn’t live without. I’ve been wearing my sweaters like crazy, but the real star(s) of my hand-knit wardrobe are my socks. I have notoriously cold feet (I just tend to run cold everywhere really), but I have noticed a huge difference these last few winters. I’ve always worn wool socks, but there’s a big difference in warmth and quality between the ones I knit myself and the ones I used to buy. For the first time, maybe ever, my feet are reliably warm, and I have no doubt that it’s because the socks I wear now are better quality.

This post was actually supposed to be about Dawlish, which I finished the other night, but it seems to have gotten entirely away from me, so I’ll talk about Dawlish next time. It’s almost funny how much there is to say about something as basic as socks, but then I guess they’re a garment that everyone wears and people often have surprisingly strong feelings about. Where do you stand in the sock camp? Has knitting your own socks changed how you feel about them? (Confession: I used to be a sock hater. So yes, you could say I’ve changed my tune.)

Sweater weather

9

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Based on the colours alone, I’d say this yarn was inspired by fall. But honestly, for me true sweater weather doesn’t fully assert itself until mid-winter — by late January, the worsted weight sweaters that earlier seemed more like jackets than cardigans are in regular rotation and another lighter needs at least one heavy-ish layer underneath it. (The temperature went up to -4 last week, and I got all excited and wore just a T-shirt under my Grace cardigan. When I got to work, I realized my  mistake and ended up wearing my emergency wool sweater over top. Turns out sweater weather is as much an indoor thing as outdoor).

Anyway. I can happily say that despite the very, very cold weather, my feet have been nice and warm thanks to my supply of wool socks. Given my feelings about sweater weather, then, it should come as no surprise that I decided to ignore the seasonal colours and knit these up in the dead of winter.

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Although these were on my needles for a while, don’t read that as a lack of enthusiasm on my part. (I actually finished these a while ago and, really, I was just enthusiastic about an actual sweater.) When these were my actual focus, the knitting flew. I find that to often be the case with striped socks, but still. I actually added a bit of length to the legs of these socks, both because I wanted to minimize my leftovers and because it’s really cold out and a little extra protection from the draught is a good thing.

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These are just my basic 68-stitch, top-down, tight-gauge (9 sts = 1 inch) socks, with 2×2 ribbing at the top and a slip-stitch heel. It’s a formula I use a lot, but in the last six months or so I’ve nailed down the fit of the foot to pretty much perfection, resulting in socks that fit so well I forget I’m wearing them (even at the end of a long day of walking there’s no sagging or movement).

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What really makes these socks worth such a (now) lengthy post, though, is the yarn, Nomadic Yarns Twisty Sock. These stripes are so evenly dyed, with such nice blending between the colours, that with not a lot of effort on my part I ended up with a perfectly matched pair. I have another decidedly Christmasy skein of this yarn in my stash, but now that these are off the needles and seem to be wearing well, I think ordering a few more is a good investment. Goodness knows that, with winters like this starting to feel like the norm, more socks won’t go to waste.

Super-cozy Bedford

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Thrilled. To. Pieces.

Thrilled. To. Pieces.

At last! I feel like it took almost as long to get photos of this sweater as it did to knit it! That’s an exaggeration, but the knitting really did feel like it was flying. Plus, I didn’t want to wear it until we’d taken photos (just in case), so Bedford sat finished and folded for a week before I finally got to wear it (and yes, I’ve been wearing it a fair bit since then).

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This is the big, cozy sweater of my mid-winter dreams. I knit this with the intent to have something slightly oversized (for layering) and that is exactly what I got (I was aiming for 3-4 inches of positive ease and got 6, which I’m okay with). It is perhaps not the most figure flattering sweater, but the stretchy texture of the all-over stitch pattern means that it isn’t shapeless or too tent/sack-like, which is what holds me back from knitting other oversized sweaters like Benton and Boxy, which I admire from afar. Bedford, for me, fits that perfect middle-ground usually reserved for a favourite sweatshirt: oversized without looking too big, with the bonus of being a sweater I can happily wear out of the house.

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Speaking of which, when we shot these photos it was -4C (about 25F) and snowing, and I wasn’t really cold. Obviously I left my scarf and mittens (these ones) on, but otherwise I was okay. I expected to be shivering and asking L to hurry up, but Bedford is surprisingly warm! It is a worsted-weight sweater, but I’d say it’s warmer than my Woodstove Season cardigan, which is knit at a similar gauge and in a similar wool. All that texture really pays off warmth-wise without making it way too hot to wear indoors (so far I’ve worn Bedford around my apartment, out to a restaurant, to an art gallery, and to work, and nowhere have I been uncomfortably warm).

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Construction-wise, I pretty much followed the pattern exactly. Knitting the sleeves inside out (which is to say, in stockinette rather than in reverse stockinette) worked out just fine — I just turned them right side out when it was time to join them to the body and there were no issues. I actually really like the look of the reverse-stockinette sleeves, so I might try this again on another sweater, just for fun. I also added fake-seams along the raglan lines. In the pattern, there are two stockinette stitches along the raglan lines, so I added a purl stitch in there (k1, p1, k1), which I then closed up exactly the way Karen describes in her tutorial. This is a heavy sweater, so I’m glad to have a bit of reinforcement along the lines where a lot of the weight hangs.

I had to change a few things in the raglan shaping/neckline to get the decreases to line up with my row gauge. I don’t remember exactly what I did, but I do know that I worked the raglans for 6 inches before binding off the initial neckline stitches (if I’d stuck to the pattern, this would have had quite a scoop neck). I also tried a new method for binding off the neckline stitches and I’m really happy with the result (my scarf kind of covers it up, but you can see the neckline in the photo in this post). It made for a very smooth bind-off, which in turn made it very easy to pick up the stitches for the ribbing. I will absolutely use this method going forward.

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Details
Pattern: Bedford by Michelle Wang
Yarn: Madelinetosh Vintage in Tart (from my stash! Woo!)
Notes: Besides what I’ve already mentioned, I added a few inches to both the body and sleeves. I also knit the sleeve ribbing on a smaller needle, in an attempt to avoid baggy cuffs. I didn’t totally succeed, but it turns out that reverse-stockinette is the perfect folding fabric. That is, usually I just push up my sleeves, but it turns out that if I fold these back the purl bumps grip each other quite nicely, so fitted cuffs aren’t such an issue. If I were knit this again (you never know), I would knit the bottom ribbing on a smaller needle too, just to give it a little more structure. Anyway, you see notes and whatnot on Ravelry, here.

I am itching to cast on another sweater, but haven’t yet found the perfect yarn for Epistrophy (I have some swatching to do), so I’ve decided to stick to small projects for the rest of February. I’m trucking along on my Dawlish socks, and I wound some yarn for new mittens, and I could use a new cowl. Basically, before I commit myself to another big project, want to get a revel in finishing some things first. That’s a kind of balance, right?

Baubles

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Remember when I said I wanted to make a bunch of Christmas tree decorations this year, well in advance of actually needing them? Well, I got my act together and I’m doing it! I knit the first one after finishing Bedford, and let me tell you that it is deeply satisfying to finish a small a pretty thing in one sitting after a finishing something that took a month (something that is still awaiting photos — they’re coming, I promise!).

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I used the basic Balls Up! template and the subbed in the chart of tincanknits’ Clayoquot cardigan. The yarn is all leftovers except the white, which is a Tosh Unicorn Tail purchased for this very project (at only 30g, I’m hoping I won’t have any leftovers, though this ornament didn’t use up much). I’m looking forward to playing with different colours and patterns, and using up some of my many, many leftovers. I don’t save everything, but often I finish a pair of socks and there’s 10g or so of the yarn left over, which seems like too much to throw away (and what if I need it for darning!?), so this will be a good way to work through some of that.

I don’t plan to blog every one of these, but I’m going to keep them all as one project on Ravelry, so you can keep up with them here, if you’re so inclined. This one was so quick (just an hour and a half, including fiddling with the chart), so I suspect they’ll become my go-to palate cleanser between biggish projects. Are you intrigued enough to make some along with me?

Buckled down

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Three days ago, I finished Bedford. Less than one month after casting on (though, thanks to a stupid error on my part that required me to rip out three inches, I missed finishing in January. Oh well). I don’t remember the last time I happily worked on a project with that kind of single-minded attention. No deadlines, no pressure, just happy knitting and the knowledge that, at the end, I’d have a cozy sweater. The cold, I suppose, is a powerful motivator. Anyway, it’s done, and I’m not going to say any more about it right now, since I’m still waiting for the chance to get proper photos, at which point it will get its own post.

 

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Okay, not quite true. I will also say this: I think one of the things I liked best about knitting Bedford was that I never felt guilty when I knit on something else. Guilt isn’t a feeling I tend to associate with my knitting, but sometimes when I’m beavering away* on a big project, I feel like it’s all I should be working on, which makes choosing to knit a few rounds on a pair of socks seem like a cop-out. I don’t know why that happens — unrealistic deadline setting, maybe? For Bedford I just wanted it done sometime in January/February, which turned out to be perfect — but it does, can sometimes deter me from casting on a big project (maybe I’m past that now!).

Almost an exact match so far!

Almost an exact match so far!

Anyway, I did sneak in a few rows (and afternoons) with my fun striped socks-of-the-moment, which means they’re pretty close to finished too! Just a few more inches and they’ll be off the needles and on my feet! I can’t wait, to be honest, the colours are fun and there’s just nothing like a fresh pair of socks. I’m particularly thrilled with this yarn (Nomadic Yarns) and am considering ordering a couple more balls (Mantel and Poolside, I’m looking at you…) — once I’ve knit through a little more of my stash, of course.

*This is a hilarious Canadian expression that basically means putting your head down and work hard at a specific task. 

Red Alert

5

Bedford is flying off my needles. Flying. Three weeks ago, all I had was a swatch, and now I have a body (up to the armscye) and I’m three inches shy of two full arms. It’s moving so fast that, last week when I sat down to blog about it and then got interrupted (sorry about that), I needed new photos before I could blog again because I finished an entire arm between then and when I thought I’d have time to blog again on the weekend (which also didn’t happen…. How can this sweater be moving so quickly when I have had so little time to knit? I don’t know what’s going on over here.)

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Anyway, suffice to say that I’m quite enjoying knitting Bedford, and thanks to the cold weather I’m feeling very motivated to get it finished. So far my mods have been pretty simple. I added 1.5 inches to the length (and I suspect to get another inch or so through blocking/wearing).

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I’m also knitting the sleeves inside out. They’re meant to be reverse stockinette, but my gauge is much more consistent when I knit (I don’t tend to have loose purl stitches, but the motion tires my hands out faster, which can lead to looser stitches here and there). So, I decided to knit them in stockinette in then just flip them right-side-out when it comes time to join them to the body. I knit the ribbing opposite to how it’s written to make up for it, and since I’ve been alternating skeins every two rows, I’ve had my extra yarn hanging on the outside of the knitting (it’s weird at first, but you get used to it). The fabric is kind of folded right now, but that should block right out. Before I actually join everything together, have I neglected to think of something here? When I looked through the project pages it seemed not one else knit the sleeves this way, which may mean they just stuck to the pattern or may mean there’s a good reason not to, I’m not sure. But, I figured that some people knit sleeves in the round when the pattern says to knit them flat, and some people prefer to pick up stitches and knit sleeves top down instead of seaming, so there’s precedent for changing things up.

The other mod I’m considering has to do with the raglan lines (though not the decrease rate, which will be a game-time decision I think). As I’ve been knitting this I’ve been worrying a little about the weight. The sweater was designed for Loft, which is an airier yarn than the Tosh Vintage I’m using. I’m happy for the sweater to grow a little, but I don’t want the shoulders and neck to end up misshapen as a result. There are seams at the underarms, and the neck ribbing is picked up, but I want t reinforce the raglans too. I was planning to use single crochet on the inside (which I did on my Woodstove Season cardigan), but then Karen Templer posted about adding seams to a seamless sweater and I’m wondering if maybe that’s a better bet. It would be easy enough to add a purl stitch to the centre of the raglan lines, to be seamed away later, and it certainly sounds sturdy.

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I’m not quite there yet, so I have time to think about it. Have you ever had to add structure to an otherwise seamless sweater? What’s your favourite method?

*The title of this post is because I get the sense there is going to be a lot of red in 2015. Between the baby sweater, this sweater, Halligarth (which I plan to reacquaint myself with soon), and at least one pair of socks I have planned, it seems I have red on the brain. There are worse colours to be obsessed with though, right?

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