Sunday, December 29, 2013

Thinking About Knitting Socks

Progress on my brown socks.  I cast on 64 using size 2 1/4mm needles (US1) for the rib and then switched to 2 mm (US0) for the pattern.  The pattern is 2 rows of K2, P2 and then 2 rows of K.  The "pattern" is named Gravel Grid on the internet, but I am not using the entire sock pattern because I have my own "sock recipe" that I use.  I was constantly forgetting where I was on the pattern so made myself a little check list grid and I check off as I go.  One thing about solid yarn - usually you get more on a ball, so you can see that I will have a fair bit left over which I can use as stripes, heels and toes in another pair of socks.  
Today, I am wondering when I switched to such small needles to make socks - I am slightly annoyed that this pair of socks is taking me so long!  I am using the smallest size, ugh!  If you knit socks - what size needle do you usually use?  I used to knit socks on 2 sizes up ( 2/34mm) and I am going back to that size.

I learned how to knit socks in Canada.  I had some help and also a good book and You Tube to guide me along.  It seemed like my early sock making attempts went much faster - even though they are longer, because I used a slightly bigger needle!  I took a good look at a pair of those early socks today... 
It is the longer blue/gray sock.  I put the way I knit socks now down next to it  First, you can see - my friends in Canada knit their socks a bit longer than I do now!  Now I knit to the length of my knitting needle and then start the heel.  But I love these blue/gray socks and wear them all the time - they are longer and warm!  And despite the slightly larger needle - I still have not worn through the heel.  Some of the older ladies in Canada tsk tsk at me and have shown me how they re-inforce the heels and toes - I need to start doing that!  And my friend's in Canada - when they wear out the bottom of the sock, they just CUT it off and reknit a new foot - reusing that long cuff, which is still perfectly fine!
Pattern?  That blue/gray sock has NO pattern.  My friend showed me how to make it - it is the same sock that her mother has been making for years and years and years.  Her mother also has another pattern that uses 3 colors - frugally using up any left-over yarn and when I go back to Canada this year my friend is going to show me how to make that pattern.  When I first started making socks I did not believe that you don't need a pattern, but now I realize that there really isn't a pattern, just a "recipe" of what works for you.  I like to compare regional patterns.  My friends in Finland don't do a top rib and start decreasing down by the ankle to make a snugger fit - their socks are different than my socks and again - no pattern - just generations of doing what is handed down.
I am going to finish these brown socks and then I am going to start experimenting with my "old" way of making socks.  Come up with the perfect fit, a longer leg for cold weather, slightly snugger at the ankle, use a slightly larger needle so they get done and on my feet (after all, that IS the point, isn't it - nothing better than wearing nice, handknit socks).  Then, I am going to try to stick with that pattern - maybe some day MY socks will be recognized as MY socks, just like there is no mistaking a pair of socks that my friend's mother has knit!
Learning to make socks or want to try?  I recommend Ann Budd's book.  And don't start with a sock with the smallest needle!

 It is raining today so we have stayed in - enjoying the last few days of our Christmas tree, son playing with Lego's, DH listening to music and cooking up a fabulous beef stew and me stewing over my knitting.  We are in relaxation mode.  I knew the bad weather was coming so for the past few days we have been outside a lot - here are a few snapshots to entertain you!  

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Good Health is the Best Present

Summer is my busiest time of year - and then, right in the height of my season this year - my son got sick.  It started out as a cough and he was tired.  Summer cold?  Allergies?  We did the usual run to the pharmacy for cold medicine, but he got worse.  The low point in the middle of the night - long, gasping coughs.  Warm water mixed with honey seemed to help the most, and then we would be through it and the next day - of course during the day, he would seem pretty good.  But he was pale with dark circles under his eyes, so very tired he would bring a stack of magazines to bed to rest and his poor tummy muscles were sore.  Night time seemed to get progressively worse.
There was nothing to be done but to clear my schedule the best I could, print out Google Map directions to Children's Hospital in Boston, put on my brave face (because although I do a great job navigating highways, driving straight into the center of a city is terrifying - but the truth of the matter is having a sick child is even more terrifying) and off we went - a 12 hour trip.
He tells me - bringing him to the hospital was the best present I ever gave him.  You don't realize how precious the ability to breath is - until you can't.  I tell him - it wasn't a present, it was my responsibility as a parent and I am very thankful that the capable doctors were able to prescribe a medicine that made him better after a period of time.  Not everyone is so lucky.  NOTE:  Just because your kid has had shots against whooping cough - doesn't mean that he/she won't get it - whooping cough is making a huge comeback since so many parents are not getting their babies the recommended shots.
And this Christmas season, I stopped and remembered that - especially when I was about to have a melt-down trying to Christmas shop.  Note the "trying" - I actually left the store and went to buy just milk instead (and maybe a yummy chocolate bar).  Is it worth having a melt-down over?  When is enough really enough?  I sent my husband out to get the last gifts - they weren't what I would have purchased (not even anything we had discussed!), but I accepted that and thanked him for saving me from that turmoil (but I confess, first I had the melt-down and then I had to think about it and realize - in the big picture - it really wasn't THAT important - why do we do that - blow everything out of proportion?  I think from now on I will just let him do the shopping and accept it with grace)!  As a family, we have our struggles, but I am so very thankful that we are all healthy and together this Christmas.  
Wishing all of you a Merry Christmas.  May we all have inner peace this year, no matter where we are in this journey of life.  Yes, we all have our trials and tribulations.  For many, the holidays are stressful - I am trying to learn to avoid the stress.  Holidays can be bittersweet too.  I lost my own mother to very painful cancer when I was in my 20's.  Many of my friends are posting on Facebook and blogs on how they really miss lost loved ones or those that are far away.  It is a good time to light a candle, reflect, allow yourself to grieve (because accepting that grief is a part of life is important - we can't be holly jolly ALL the time), and then take a deep breath, focus on that inner peace, pick up the torch and keep marching for our current and future generations... some day they will be lighting a candle in our memory - let us make their memories the best possible.
My mother when she was younger...

And my favorite photo of my mother - how I love to remember her ... happy at the beach!  Even if you hate to have your photo taken, please smile because some day - a photo like this could be a family treasure!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Christmas Lights Downtown

If you click on the first photo - it should make a slide show, enlarging the photos so you can see them better!

Downtown is beautiful this time of year and we often enjoy an early evening - just as it is getting dark - walk down the streets to see the lights.  But it is getting more and more crowded as we approach Christmas.  Saturday night it was so packed that the trams could not even get through the throngs of people and they were ringing and ringing their bells - so we went home and had hot tea and listened to Christmas music and played UNO instead! Photos above from earlier in the month.  See the photo below from Sat. night - yikes!  No place for a kid - he was glued to my hand.
 25,000 lights on this tree!
The ice sculpture:

From Graz.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

On the Needles Friday - Sweater Progress

I am not a speed knitter, but I think I am making pretty good progress on my sweater.  This is the back so far.  Even though I did the swatch, etc. - when I cast on, I accidentally cast on the next size up.  Fortunately, I realized my mistake when I finished the ribbing, so I ripped it out and started again.  I got this far on one skein of Briggs Little yarn.
I work on this sweater when I sit at the table with my son while he does his homework.  It makes homework a more relaxing time - I am right there in case he has a question - but usually he waits until he is all done before asking me to check his work.  Still, it is nice to be close by because this week I could see that he was really struggling with something and once I explained it - the homework was done in short order.
I WISH I had brought my circular needles with me because it is starting to get heavy on the straight needles and it is so long that I have to stop mid row so the stitches don't pop off, but the back is the biggest piece and after I finish that and the bottom of the front - it won't be so awkward. 
And progress on my brown sock - not much, but progress is progress.  I had skipped a pattern repeat and it was driving me crazy enough to unknit several rows to fix my error.  This, of course, meant that I ignored the sock for a bit.  But now it is fixed and progress continues.  Of course, it helps motivate me to keep working on it since I saw a beautiful ball of sock yarn downtown last week.  Besides the fact that I want another pair of hand knit socks to wear.  Most of my socks are hand knit, but I have a few pairs for "emergency" use when the laundry isn't done.  Yuck!  Great motivation to knit a few more pairs of socks for myself. Socks are the perfect bring-along project to music lessons, DRs appointments, etc.

The ice sculpture downtown this year - it is very blocky and not as detailed as usual, but always nice to go and take a look!
Check out Judy's Blog to see what everyone else is knitting these days.  Lots of socks, scarfs, hats, ornaments and other knitted goodness to check out this week!