Progress Is Slow

January 30, 2014

My apologies for not posting last week.

This past week, I had hoped to make good progress on my socks as well as on the doll dresses. I began to make good progress on my doll dress, then two things happened, I found the dark pink yarn I had planned to use, and I got sick. I’m not good at being sick when I realize it, I’m even worse when I haven’t realized it yet. So, as I’m looking at my friends, feeling sorry that they’re sick, but glad its not me…I’m forgetting to sign checks and take photos before I unravel the yarn, among other things.

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Back to the projects, I knit up three small pieces of the dress with a pale pink I had purchased over the weekend. The dress is is a total of six pieces, the skirt being the largest. When I found the original pink I planned to use, I drug James into the choice and he confirmed, the original pink went with the navy blue color better. So, I ripped out the second bodice back I’d been working on, grateful I had not picked up stitches and started the skirt. However, I now had to re-knit all three bodice pieces and still pick up the skirt and knit the sleeves. I had pre-school two days this week, and you don’t get much time to knit in there, except on break. Knitting needles and preschoolers just don’t mix unless you are storytelling or demonstrating, carefully.

Alas, I also didn’t get much time in the third grade classes I was in. They’re more self-sufficient, but they still need the hands-on care. In addition, I had middle school on Friday, which went well for a change. Each class managed to stay quiet, even the class that announced they were the bad class. Most of the classes utilized me for editing their stories which they were writing. It was rewarding, and fascinating reading, seeing what methods of overcoming obstacles they employed in their stories, as well as the myriad of ways they plotted their characters deaths. I like J.D. Robb’s “In Death” series, so I found their murder stories quite interesting, most of them good. I did have the prep period, in which I knit part of my sock, as well as during one of the hours that thought their work was done instead of editing or reviewing it one more time, which I greatly encouraged that day.It was a fun day, and I think I did make an inch and a half progress on my sock. The foot part looked nearly half done when I left that day, which puts me at three-quarters done.

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I planned to make more progress on the sock this weekend, but I began feeling sick Saturday morning and found this was different from my normal colds/flu bugs, but vicious in its own right. I had headaches and a bloody nose, and missed any planned activities. Then I wore myself out by shoveling my driveway. When I finally got energy later that night, I drove to the store for chicken soup and ended up making homemade chicken soup. I had bursts of energy and utilized them, but still sounded like crap the rest of the weekend. As I said, I’m not good at being sick, so I’ll stop complaining here. Nothing else got done this weekend, except ironing quilt pieces which will be cut another day.

In the meantime, I’ve made a little more progress on the bodice back of the dress, but I’m only almost half way through the first piece and almost can’t wait until I pick up and knit the skirt. I think its because it means I’m getting done. As for the sock, I’ll get back to it soon, since I’m finally starting to feel better.
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I will return to the socks I’ve been discussing in a week or two. Let me share a story. I like to write. In my spare time, while I was employed steadily, I wrote stories about characters for my nieces, Jessica and Elizabeth.. I named the characters Sunny and Moonbeam and made them to look like my nieces. They have had some fun adventures in these stories, including meeting dragons I have sewn for my nieces. The dragons are Stella, the Brave, and Capice, the Understanding. In one of these stories, it seems I promised to make my nieces doll clothes for Sunny and Moonbeam. I must tread carefully here, as I may have promised them sewn doll clothes.

So, what is sewing doing in a knitting blog? No more than it has to be. I like to sew from time to time. I have discovered I do not care for sewing doll clothes. All those short, small seams drive me half crazy. But it couldn’t be too bad to knit Sunny and Moonbeam a dress, could it? So, I googled free knit doll dress patterns, or some such order of those words. I found some pretty patterns, and I printed a few off. I don’t think I’ve printed off the one my boyfriend thought was too old-ladyish. If I did, I’m saving it for after the prettier dresses. But it was a pretty dress. 

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Alas, I settled on a pretty looking dress with a cowl neckline, then I began to unravel a doll blanket I’d knitted on the Knifty Knitter ™ Loom years ago, that I have not used since my nieces were moved to Florida. I chose a purple and gray combination because I think its pretty, and my youngest niece likes purple. I hope the color combos aren’t too old-ladyish, but second and third graders seemed to like it when I was knitting in class, so I think I’m okay.

I read the pattern after I printed it off. It wasn’t written traditionally, but it was in steps. I figured I could work with it. The bodice front was a little confusing, but worked out in the end. The bodice back, well the first one I knit went well. I did what it said and it worked out. The second one, with checking, was confusing, and written exactly the same as the first except that the cast off stitches happen one row lower on a purl row instead of a knit row. Apparently, this is supposed to give you the sides. I’m not sure if it did or not. I still don’t know which one I knit first or second or which was supposed to be left or right. I got confused, and had to rework this twice, before I simply laid it against the bodice with its counterpart and knit to match.  If this was not being done due to a promise I was reminded of, I would not have continued with this pattern.

I would either have tried another, or given up and hand-sewed the doll clothes. I still may hand-sew some doll clothes, but I wish to finish some other projects first. Once the bodice pieces were finished and joined, I began to pick up stitches to add the skirt on. I realized at this point, that the pattern designer must prefer flat needles. When I’m making a round piece, I much prefer double-pointed needles. I adjusted the pattern for such, making it easier as I just had to knit, and slip in ribs at even intervals and remember where to increase. I used tally marks to track my rows, as is my habit.

The skirt went easier than the bodice for certain, but it is a larger piece. I began with 52 stitches, and increased in 13 stitch increments to 91 stitches during the last few rows. Even for only six rows, 91 stitches, with a 2 purl rib or not, can feel like it takes forever. But it did get finished.

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I then went on to knit the sleeves and cowl later, which I will address in next week’s blog and then will return to the foot of the sock I am knitting. I hope to be at the toe or finished with it soon so I may begin the second sock.

For me, while turning the heel requires the most concentration, I actually have the toughest time with the gussets, or the set up for them. You’ve seen the heel flap is pretty easy, if you are not making mistakes. Turning the heel simply requires a bit of concentration. I have been known to set socks aside for a week or so until I could have a private block of time to finish turning the heel. But once the heel is turned, you start picking up stitches that you will, in effect be decreasing in order to obtain your original number of stitches over the next dozen or two rows. 024

So, why pick them up in the first place? Good question…Because you need them so the sock will fit. If you’ve ever read Ramona Quimby, Age 8 (I believe), there is a scene where she gets impatient with her mother for not sewing her elephant pants and decides to do it herself. She draws out the shape, cuts two, and sews them together, only to have wasted the fabric because she didn’t make allowance for the elephants hind quarters. Well, if you don’t make allowances for the shape of your foot, your socks will become something else, or wasted yarn. They could possibly become wasted hours if you do go back to make allowances for the shape of your foot or something else entirely if you get tired of picking up stitches along the selvage edge of the heel flap. Selvage edge meaning the slipped stitch along the edge of the heel flap.  005
I knit the first set of selvage edge stitches onto the needle, then I continued with row 1 of the pattern, wondering why row 1, when I left off with row 16 and had been working from 16 to 1 as I knit. I knit along the pattern and then picked up the second edge of selvage stitches and knit the first eleven stitches of the heel flap. I then placed my marker and moved on to round two. Round two began decreasing stitches slowly and said to continue on in pattern for the top of the foot stitches. I did, and knit row 16 of the pattern again. So, now I have an odd repeat of row 16, row 1, row 16, row 1. I could rip this out and begin with row 16 again, but I really dislike setting up the gusset stitches, and I hope this pattern variation will not be too noticeable.
However, what I realized as I am formed the gusset, is that it seems I have knit the pattern upside down as it was presented upside down the entire time I was knitting the leg of the sock. The good news is I’m not knitting tea pots or anything directional into the pattern. I’ve also knit with variegated yarn that has some spots of high contrast, though the colors are muted. Leave it to me. This yarn is not optimal for seeing the actual pattern. Some day, I will likely have to buy a solid color sock yarn and work this pattern again, a little closer to the correct way of doing so. For now, enjoy laughing with me as I make mistakes and attempt to repeat the mistakes that bear repeating on the second sock. 001

It’s Christmas morning, I live alone with a very active kitten. My significant other, who laughs at my mistakes (usually with me), works tonight and is sleeping through the day. We exchanged gifts yesterday, and I have to finish the dishes from baking. So, what’s a girl to do-especially if she’s avoiding the dishes for another hour? Or should I say, what should I do between pulling kitten out of the tree and retrieving the sledding snowman ornament she favors this morning…I continue on, working the heel flap correctly. See the previous blog for the heel flap mistakes.
I finished the heel flap quickly as I had three more rows to it, and forty stitches in in a slip 1, purl 1 pattern knit up pretty quick. I read the heel turn. I get a cup of coffee and I read it again. If only I treated the rest of the pattern this way all the time. (Oh dear, what would I blog about then?) Having done these before, I know that when knitting half the battle is doing what the pattern says. In fact, most of the battle is trusting the pattern and following it.

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I get a little picky about heel turns, and after the first one or two, I have decided the preferable way to knit them is alone, quietly, and privately. If I would have thought about it, I might have dropped the kitten off at the dear boyfriend’s while I knit this. But then something would inevitably happen. I think it’s called Murphy’s law. Though my biggest battle was with keeping the kitten out of the tree while trying to keep track of my rows and turns. Since the heel turn is comprised of bunches of short rows, and turned often, I like to have as few interruptions as possible. It helps to pay attention to what you are doing. I find it preferable to trying to figure out where I was and in which direction I was going when I got up. That never seems to work out as well as I hope it will.

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So, when you get to your heel flap, set your work down and take five. Go to the bathroom. Get a cup of coffee or whatever your beverage of choice is, hide the phone or turn it right off. Lock the animals outside or in another room, and if you have kids, ship them off somewhere for an hour or two. You’ll be thankful you did. Otherwise, make sure they’re sound asleep and you have some energy left. Then, and only then, should you sit down to knit the heel turn.

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It’s not hard, but it is tougher to pick up where you left off if you are interrupted. It’s hard to tally just where you are at in the pattern.  While some can just pick it up and say, Oh, I was purling until the gap and had five stitches left, there is that chance that you were knitting and had just knit after the gap…If I don’t want to remove almost twenty rows in the heel flap due to misreading wyf and wyb, I certainly don’t want to have to re-knit any of a heel flap. Thus, I prefer to be alone, with the company of the radio, and sometimes, the kitten. Hopefully, I won’t find any more mistakes when I review the heel flap. It looks good though.