Double, Double Toil and Trouble -Two at a Time Socks

I definitely didn’t win the lottery last night, so I’m on the road again and stashed in the travel gear is a sock project, my ever faithful travel partner…well…as long as the pattern is simple enough.

There’s a set at home that are in the UFO (unfinished object) cabinet that requires 6 pages of cable charts.  Those are NOT good travel partners.  Having neglected knitting virtually all summer I got a wild hair to work up a quick, simple pair based on the Time Traveler Socks (simple toe up – Fleegle heel) , before jumping back into Area 51 – the unfinished object cabinet – to finish a sweater, two tops, multiple shawls, the complicated socks, a blanket, and a few stuffed animals.  Yeah, I know, I might have a problem.  A lot of those projects were left over from when I was teaching on a more regular basis and as the class ended they went on the back burner to finish at a later date as time allowed.  My gut hunch…this winter is actually going to feel like winter with appropriate weather to stay home on cold days and catch all this stuff up.

So….those socks.

I had kidnaped a friend from a car dealership while her car was in for a bunch of regular maintenance and we just played the day by ear until the car was ready to go. Both of us being craft nerds found ourselves in Yarn Junkies in Hoschton, GA. We didn’t plan on going to a yarn shop…it just happened…money was spent, it happens, despite swearing I wouldn’t buy any more for at least a year.   Yarn Junkies is a well stocked shop with a good selection, and on the new arrivals wall, I saw a box with two balls of yarn.  Attention grabbed!  It was Uneek Sock hand-dyed self-striping sock kit by URTH designed to make two matching socks.  I’m lazy when it comes to matching stripes, if the yarn doesn’t do this magic trick on it’s own I’m not bothered with it.  The shop only had two boxes left in two different color ways.  I did notice something immediately though, the sample photo on the boxes does not seem to remotely match actual colors of the yarn.  I picked up sock kit 59 which shows yellow, black, purple, red, grey and maroon striping on both the packaging and the URTH website.  The colors actually in the box were purple, black, mustard, lilac, rust, and green.  My friend, purchased the second kit, and it had very different colors than the indicated photo as well.  From a review standpoint, this would be a huge turnoff if I had ordered yarn offline and received colors so vastly different, but coming straight from a shop and seeing what I was actually purchasing didn’t cause a bother.  The yarn itself is soft enough to be comfortable on one’s feet, but has enough nylon included that it should wear well for quite a while.  The quality of the Uneek lines have improved under the URTH brand name, but I’m still curious about the link between URTH and Feza, but that’s some research for another day.

pCaxb63hRN6uKjaNol96PASince these kits were split into two even balls of yarn, I thought it would be a good time to try knitting two socks at a time using the magic loop technique.  I’ve seen it done a few times, and get the logic, but oddly enough have never tried it, which is a little surprising since I have experienced Second Sock Syndrome on a few patterns.  There’s quite a few videos out there explaining the technique and how to start, this is one of the few times I’m going to let you find a video instructor that works best for you (until I get around to making a video – wink wink).

My friend and I both picked up Size 1, 40″ circular needles and headed off to go cast-on until the car was ready.

So how’s it going?

So far, so good.  Cast-on, and the first two or three rows were a little odd getting started with a toe up pattern. I would imagine this would be an issue with any experienced knitter but one that can be worked through with a little patience and practice.   Let’s be honest, the beginning of a single sock, on either circulars or double pointed needles can be a bit fiddly.  I used Judy’s Magic Cast-On.  I set up sock one, and then tied a very simple knot with the working yarn and the tail to keep sock one from running away while I set up sock two.

Eventually, you’ll fall into a rhythm with managing two separate balls of yarn and having two separate parts going at the same time.  I thought a 40″ cable would be overkill, but it does allow ample room to manage both socks without risk of sliding your project to the very end of the cable loop and loosing that divide between the front half and back half of the sock.

Even the most simple of sock pattern will require just a touch more attention, once you accidentally forget to drop the yarn from the first sock, and knit it into the second sock and realize you’ve begun to knit the crotch of tights instead of separate socks, you probably won’t make that mistake again.  The technique will begin to feel like you’ve done it a thousand times after you get a an inch or so into it.

For the heel in this case, I will have to work one heel completely and then slide over to sock two and complete that heal, I don’t see a logical way to work my favorite heel without having to move unworked stitches around from one side to another on every pass.  I could, it would insure 100% consistency in this case, but personally, I’m not sweating it.  As long as the the foot, and leg are even, I’m happy.

At least there are a few obvious benefits to taking the wee bit more effort to manage two socks at a time.

  • No Second Sock Syndrome! You’ll either have a pair at the end of this process, or you just won’t.  LOL
  • Row counts and measurements will be consistent between both socks, which should eliminate a lot of time measuring or counting between the traditional one at a time process.
  • Did I mention no Second Sock Syndrome?
  • Gauge will be more consistent between the two – there’s been an odd occasion or two that a second sock has been a half to full stitch off on gauge no matter what I do.  Same needles, same yarn, just slightly different.  It’s not greatly impacted fit for me, but it can be frustrating when you can see a slight size difference, especially if you’re gifting a pair.
  • If you make a change in a pattern you can carry it right over to the second sock then – you know – just in case you forget to write it onto your pattern (cough, cough, guilty, cough)
  • And again, no Second Sock Syndrome

If you’ve not given two socks at a time a shot, get experimental on your next pair.  If the magic looping two socks at a time doesn’t work for you, throw one sock on a stitch holder and work one at a time.  No harm done.

.

Unapologetically Busy

When was the last time I wrote anything?
May?
I’m just a little behind on updates and my knitting.

I haven’t finished anything significant in a little while.

No, I’ve not fallen out of love with knitting, life has been a little busy lately.  It happens to even the most dedicated of knit junkies.  There’s a few unfinished projects laying around and there’s a sweater to knit for a good friend of mine that I would like to finish before the coldest part of winter arrives in Georgia.  So deadlines….

What’s been going on?

Well there’s always work shenanigans.  It’s been a very busy summer.

Then there’s the big change.  I moved.  This wasn’t entirely planned but when the opportunity to purchase a home that had a mortgage that could fit my budget, fit my needs, and had also been recently remodeled, I jumped on it.  I moved into the new place in early August and still have a room full of boxes to unpack.  Most of my knitting goodies are behind the wall of boxes on purpose, if there were easily accessible, those last boxes may never get unpacked.

That’s part of the plans for my weekend though, unpacking, and organizing it into a functional space.

There it is, it’s short, but it’s an update.  Things will settle down before long, and things will get back to normal.

Travel Season is Here. What Are You Taking With You?

Long car rides and flights, days on the beach, evenings on campsites, summer vacation season is days away.  What are you taking with you to work on?

If you’ve never taken a project on the road, give it a shot on your next trip!

So what makes a good travel project?

I’ve traveled with everything from socks to sweaters, it really depends on the type of trip, but I’ve found that there are few guidelines to making travel crafting pleasurable.

  • Think small. I know summer seems like a the wrong time of year to be thinking about hats, socks and scarves, but these are great small projects to bring along.  They take up just a little space and in most cases don’t require more than yarn, needles/hook, and maybe a pair of scissors.
  • Think simple.  If your project requires multiple charts or a novel of directions, it can get fidgety when confined to a small work space like a plane or car.  There are plenty of one page projects or one page, easy to remember charts out there to pick from.
  • Think color.  One color is your friend!  Trying to manage multiple colors can be light fighting an octopus when you’re on the move.

Here are a few ideas for projects to throw into a project bag and carry along on your next adventure….

Lataa can be made with a single skein of sock yarn and has a small repeating chart.

The Vortex Shawl can get a little large but is still manageable on the road. Once you’ve completed a few repeats of the pattern, it’ll stick with you until it’s done.

These Poseidon Socks pack a lot of punch without a lot of fiddling around.

Coraline in Wine Country has an easy to memorize pattern and it’s a crochet piece so it’ll move along fast.

Vanilla Latte Socks are a quick work up, and would work with virtually any colorway.

With a linen based yarn the Clapotis Cowl would be a great summer piece for those chilly office spaces you’ll have to return to after your vacation.

There it is…just a handful ideas to pack up and take with you on the road this summer.  Give it a try! Want to share your favorite travel projects? Post them up in the comments.

Yarn Snobbery: Justified?

Yarn-Snob-Pin-IvoryIf I’ve learned anything hanging out with knitting types is that there are varying levels of yarn snobbery.

I’ve met them before: the true, honest-to-god-, in the wild, classic yarn snob.  These are the people who only knit 100% natural fibers, usually with the highest price tag, and shrivel at the notion of touching any man-made fiber.   I’ve actually had a classic yarn snob say to me with a straight face that they were allergic to acrylic yarns and meant it. I’m not saying that an acrylic allergy is impossible but the gut hunch in this situation was this person felt the need to justify their fiber extravagance with a statement that many wouldn’t go out of the way to question.

There’s another classification of yarn snob; the acrylic snob.  Yes, they actually exist, and usually stand aghast in a local yarn store when they see the price of high-end yarns.  These folks love their yarn work, but they can’t justify the cost of pricier yarns for a myriad of reasons.

Both sides of the snobbery fence can make beautiful knitted or crocheted projects out of their materials of choice; and often stand in judgement on one side of the fence or the other.  The classic snobs are seen as pretentous the acrylic snobs are accused of beign cheap. Is it really worth it to park firmly in one camp or the other?

That answer is NAH!

I’ll admit that I’ve railed against certain brands of mass-produced commercial yarns (cough cough Red Heart cough cough) but even it has its purpose in the crafting world.  Most beginning knitters and crocheters begin with these types of yarns.  I fall into that category, dozens of projects were hooked in my childhood and teenage years.  Honestly, chain craft store yarn was really the only thing available to me for a very long time, and I really didn’t know any better.  I learned to knit in my 20s on the same yarns, and then I eventually wandered into local yarn shop and my knitwork began to change dramatically, and went through a few solid years of classic yarn snobbery.  It was lacework that forced me down the classic snob path, and I still won’t use a anything but a natural fiber for the thinnest of yarns, personally, I think it’s a risk to do fine lace work and then not have it block out correctly because of a too high man-made fiber content.

Being a classic yarn snob is expensive as hell though, and I evolved into a yarn connoisseur by necessity and a great deal of crafters fall into the connoisseur category.

Connoisseurs have learned the pros and cons to different fiber types and blends of those types.  An 100% acrylic yarn can’t be traditionally blocked and may not be the best for a garment, but an acrylic yarn with a 20-30% natural fiber content will block beautifully most of the time instead of dropping $150+ for higher end natural yarns for a sweater.  We’ve learned that there are some projects that an inexpensive acrylic yarn can really be the best choice, especially for items that could really end up taking a beating like toys and some afghans.  We’ve learned that the super squishy soft cashmere and wool blend would be gorgeous for that baby sweater for a friend but know that it would realistically be a burden on a new parent to have to hand wash it so it’ll end up worn once and put in a drawer, so we find a soft, washer and dryer friendly yarn instead. We all know that one craft-worthy friend that simply can’t wear animal fiber due to allergy or lifestyle choices, blends of cottons, bamboo, viscose, or other materials are acquired. Knowing fiber types and how they function and are made go a long way, and is absolutely worth taking the time to learn, and help others learn that walking down the middle path of yarn acquisition isn’t a bad idea.

While introducing crafty types to different yarns and manufacturing processes – they learn how to make an educated decision for their individual project needs.  But, what one ultimately chooses is entirely personal choice. Yep, totally personal choice.  Curling your nose and someone’s choice of yarn isn’t polite.

I personally prefer animal fiber or mostly animal fiber blends for myself.  I will admit that this preference isn’t the most budget friendly at times, but it helps if you have a talent for catching a good sale here and there.  If you take a good look at my horde though, you’ll find a pretty fair split between high-end animal fibers, and animal fiber and man-made fiber blends.  There’s even a fair amount of acrylics for oddball needs here and there.  It’s a balanced horde, and one I’ve sworn to work from for quite a while (well, unless someone asks me to knit them something specific as a commissioned project).

 

All in all, to each their own, it all really boils down to we’re making stuff for ourselves, and for others, and are having a great time doing it.

May Craftalong Schedule

At last, scheduled events are popping up again for Coffee and Wool, after taking a hiatus to get things reset and do my best to be helpful with the closure of Yarn Rhapsody.  It’s going to feel strange not walking into the shop on Saturdays like I have nearly every one for the past year.

With that tremendous change, of course a lot of how I manage events has changed as well. There’s a page with the new policies, procedures, and definitions for classes and craftalongs just for reference. You can read that here.  If over a couple of months I feel the new class and craftalong layout isn’t working, I’ll readjust back to shorter sessions, with more meetings.

I’ve included links to sign up in advance for an event. After you’ve registered for the event I will contact you with advance payment options.

So now on to the good stuff…
What’s on the calendar?

Sweater Knitalong

Sweaters seem to intimidate rookie and apprentice knitters, so let’s get rid of the intimidation factor and dive right in with tiny ones.  Baby and child sweaters are knitted just like adult sized ones, they just have less time and financial commitment.  There are two patterns to choose from, both require worsted weight yarns, so they are quick knit ups.  Don’t have a child around to give it to? That’s fine, the Atlanta Knitting Guild has a long running project were they make sweaters for stuffed animals given to children by police officers.  We can make arrangements to get your sweater onto one of those stuffed critters if you would like.

Dates: May 19th and June 2nd
Time: 12:30pm – 2:30pm
Location: Downtown Drafts – 115 Bradford St NE, Gainesville, GA 30501
Price: $40
Registration Link

coffeebeanSweater Option 1
Sizes: 3 months (6 months, 12 months)
Yarn Needs: Worsted Weight – 280-410 yards
Needle Sizes: Size 7 and 8 – circular with 24-36″ cables,  and DPNs in 7 and 8s if you do not want to magic loop the sleeves
Other Dodads: Scrap Yarn or Stitch Holders, Stitch Markers, and Buttons (these can be found and attached later)
Skill Level: A Strong Rookie to Apprentice
Link to Pattern and Further Info: Little Coffee Bean Cardigan

Back toSweater Option 2 
Sizes: Newborn to 3 months
Yarn Needs: Worsted Weight – 250-350 yards
Needle Sizes: 5 and 7 – straights or circular with 24-36″ cables, and DPNs in 5 and 7 if you do not want to magic loop the sleeves
Other Dodads: Scrap Yarn or Stitch Holders, Stitch Markers, and Buttons (these can be found and attached level.
Skill Level: A Strong Rookie to Apprentice
Link to Pattern and Further Info: Back to Basics Baby Cardigan

Sock Knitalong

Let’s get another intimidating project out of the way.  Socks are not as complicated as one would think.  There’s a choice of a toe up or top down pattern for this knitalong.

Dates: May 26th and June 9th
Time: 12:30pm – 2:30pm
Location: Downtown Drafts – 115 Bradford St NE, Gainesville, GA 30501
Price: $40
Registration Link

4909577039_153d473788_zOption 1: Toe Up
Sizes:
Adult and adjustable
Yarn Needs:
A skein of fingering weight yarn – 400 yards is more than enough to accommodate most women’s sizes, a 2nd skein may be needed for men’s socks beyond a size 10
Needle Sizes: 
1-2, to accommodate gauge, either DPNs or circular with at least 24″ for magic loop
Other Dodads:
 Stitch Markers
Skill Level:
A Strong Rookie to Apprentice
Link to Pattern and Further Info: Appalachian Socks

Vanilla SocksOption 2: Top Down
Sizes: Adult and adjustable
Yarn Needs: A skein of fingering weight yarn – 400 yards is more than enough to accommodate most women’s sizes, a 2nd skein may be needed for men’s socks beyond a size 10.
Needles Sizes: 1-2, to accommodate gauge, either DPNs or circular with at least 24″ for magic loop
Other Dodads: Stitch Markers
Skill Level: A Strong Rookie to Apprentice
Link to Pattern and Further Info: Whirlsie’s Vanilla Socks

A Shire Shawl

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis is a fun pattern with some great construction techniques that would be great knit up for Apprentice and Virtuoso skill levels.

Dates: May 19th and June 2nd
Time: 3:00pm – 5:00pm
Location: Downtown Drafts – 115 Bradford St NE, Gainesville, GA 30501
Price: $40
Registration Link

Sizes: One size fits all – pattern is adjustable
Yarn Needs: DK – 437 – 656 yards – or more depending on how wide you would like to go
Needle Sizes: The size recommended on your chosen yarn
Other Dodads: Stitch Markers
Skill Level: Apprentice or Virtuoso
Link to Pattern and Further Info: A Shire Shawl

Bring Your Own Project Sessions

These are great sessions for those projects that you have something you may be a little nervous about a section, or feel like you might need a helping hand here and there.  There also good for those times you just need to get out of the house and want an excuse to bring your knitting!

Dates: May 26th or June 9th
Time: 3:00pm – 5:00pm
Location: Downtown Drafts – 115 Bradford St NE, Gainesville, GA 30501
Price: $20
Registration Link

If you have any questions or concerns do not hesitate to reach out to me at the new number for Coffee and Wool 762-441- 1330, by email at coffeeandwoolblog@gmail.com or through the facebook page located here.

 

Avocados and Wool?

img_0411

Freshly Picked Hass Avocados

I have family that left Georgia and moved to Southern California and began rehabilitating and building up an existing avocado grove roughly 5 years ago. Within the past two years they’ve begun to incorporate coffee into the groves too. Coffee is a post for another day, most of the coffee is still in its infancy in the grand scheme of things and such a rarity in this region it deserves special attention.  Trust me here, Southern California as a coffee region is fascinating…but today…avocados.

 

Like all agricultural adventures there’s a lot more to it than sticking it in the ground and waiting for harvest. Avocados seem to be a special brand of pain in the ass. They aren’t ideally suited for the region. They require quite a lot of water, human intervention to keep from being sun burnt, protection from high winds, and extremes in temperature. California seems to be the epitome of where avocados, citrus, berries, and other amazing food crops shouldn’t be growing, but mankind has found a way and there is an enormous amount of produce that comes out of that state. The family works this magic and keeps these trees alive and producing.  I’ve heard the worry in my Aunt’s voice when winter days are predicted to be colder than they should be, and summer days scorching new growth. I’ve been in the grove myself hours after a driving rain and hurricane force winds to help cut away snapped branches heavy with fruit and seen pounds of it on the ground, now destroyed. Let’s add to it that this farm is also organic which is its own set of special rules and care  Every tree requires maintenance, and problems that may pop up need to be discovered and handled early before they affect greater portions of a tree or God forbid other trees.  On top of that, young trees may take 5 or more years before they start producing fruit.  Farming on a commercial-scale is by no means easy, especially when it’s on a small family ran farm.  A lot of man hours by only a tiny handful people keep the show going.

img_0407

Avocado Blossom

There’s a reason I don’t flinch much at the pricing when I see quality avocados.

 

I got the opportunity to pick for the first time this weekend.  The farm had an order for 600 pounds due for pickup Saturday morning, so I got the crash course in picking, sorting, and boxing.

There’s a lot to take away from this experience. First thing, I really need to mail an old pair of hiking boots to the farm for my future grove adventures when I drop in. This farm like many others in the region are on hillsides, some so steep pickers need climbing gear for safety reasons. Thankfully, the family farm is no where that steep, but these trees require mulching and it’s not hard to slip navigating around trees. The slip on, virtually no tread, shoes I brought with me just didn’t cut it, but the job needed done, so a baby stepped down the hillside and around the trees.

img_0403

The Damned Picking Basket

Picking ain’t easy. Low hanging fruit is plucked pretty quickly but you have to find it first.  I easily missed a few at knee height that my Aunt swooped in and harvested. The avocados themselves do not vary much in color from the leaves around them, I’m also somewhat convinced they have mini-invisibility cloaks they toss on when they sense their impending doom. Getting higher in the branches takes a bit more skill. Picking baskets are put on poles and you’re expected to maneuver this thing through the branches, position the fruit between some prongs, give a tug and hope to hell you don’t drop the damn thing. If the fruit hits the ground it’s toast, and not hipster toast, it can’t be sold.  Unless I wanted to eat all my dropped avocados as punishment (after a third avocado in a row, they lose their novelty) this skill had to be learned quickly.  I fought for five minutes to get my first basket picked avocado.  I was informed that cussing at avocados stuck in the tree is the first sign that my mind is going.  If that’s true, I’m in trouble.

 

8B14DEBC-8867-42A0-A977-2BF5C0B9B4D5

675 Pounds of Potential Guacamole

Bucket after bucket is filled and loaded on the farm utility vehicle to be transported back up the hill to the sorting space.  Walking into this space, there are mountains of boxes pre-made and ready to be filled in 25 pound increments.  Being on an organic farm, and following FDA guidelines, hands get washed, everything gets properly wiped down, and then the sorting begins.  Every single avocado gets weighed and sorted into a box based on its size.  Avocados are a little sneaky, and it’s ill-advised to sort them by eye.  It was surprising to see how many times I would think one these things would be a medium would actually be considered a large.  I’m using small, medium, and large loosely here.  These boxes are filled with sizes based on how many fruits should be in a 25 pound box. Oh and guess what?  If you drop it inside, it’s a dead avocado…again.  Sorting goes pretty quickly when you get into a rhythm, after a box is filled, weighed, and if need be adjusted by pound or so, it’s dated, labeled, and stacked on the pile for pickup.  Then shortly thereafter, because avocados begin ripening pretty quickly once picked, they are purchased, loaded onto the truck and on the way to the local restaurants this particular client owns.

 

That’s avocados in a nutshell.  Well, that’s more like avocados over simplified, and as I’ve said before, if it is an option in your area, shop small, shop local.  Local farmers depend on us too!

Keeping the Community Together: Crafters Unite!

91fc3c7db372acc3944a9bb98e9237d4I helped out at Yarn Rhapsody on the first day of close out sales.  The shop was busy, and I would like to thank everyone that came in to support Claudia as she works through the closing process.  A great deal of yarn left yesterday but there is a great deal of amazing yarn left.  The shop reopens Tuesday at noon.  Hint, not so subtle, hint.  Really, it all has to go!

I spoke to quite a few people yesterday and heard it voiced several times; where are we going to knit and crochet now?  There was always an open and available table at the shop for people to come in and work on projects.  Unfortunately,  when the shop goes, that table goes too.  There where a lot of good times and discussions at that table.

I’m going to do the best I can to keep ,and if possible build, the crafting community that started at Yarn Rhapsody alive, but it’s not an easy task.  It’s something we, the collective we, the lonely knitters/crocheters we, have to fight to keep. Let’s be honest, we’ve lost the yarn shop, the folks I spoke with yesterday just  realized how much we’ve taken things for granted and that sense of community can easily crumble with the shop closure.

A very active hunt for class locations began last night for what I hope mid-May class dates.  I had been putting out feelers, but didn’t want to hunt too hard until the shop had officially announced its closing.  I’m looking for quiet, well-lit locations that can host no more than 10 people at a time for 4-5 hours two Saturdays a  month.  If you are in the Hall County area and have a public location (or contacts at these locations) that can fit this bill, please give me a shout.

Knitalong/crochetalong locations have been solidified and once schedules are confirmed a few of these events will be ready to roll again early May.  The shorter times, and less structured nature of these events made finding host locations a lot easier.  Just keep an eye out on this blog and the facebook page for those announcements.

Now, for the stuff that doesn’t require a fee to attend…

There is a yarn craft group in it’s infancy that meets on the second Sunday of every month (except this month – long story) from 1:00pm to 3:00pm.  That would be Woolly Wonders, it is wide open to any fiber crafter, and changes locations every month for a little interest and to keep from stressing out one location.  It’s not a huge group now, but it’s growing bit by bit.  The next meeting is May 6th (not the second Sunday but the first – no one wants to compete with Mother’s Day) at Downtown Drafts on the Gainesville Square.  The June event will be announced once a location is decided on.

There is another crafting group in the works…more details on that later.  Summer tends to be a little busy at work, and before this group gets announced I would like to have a co-organizer confirmed for the times I can’t be there.

World Wide Knit in Public Day is Saturday, June 9th this year.  I’ve reached out to the city of Gainesville to see if an event can be hosted on the square, like Yarn Rhapsody had set up last year. There was a pretty good turn-out.  If the city approves this request, I would like a little help from the locals to organize prizes for a raffle.  This introvert isn’t great at approaching local businesses for sponsorship or prizes.  If this city does not approve the request for the square that day, a backup location is being worked up.

All in all, there will be places and events that us crafty types can get together and work on our common interests together.  Update: Claudia has announced that she’ll still be an active contributor to the crafting community by offering themed knitalongs, finishing services and get help sessions.

If you see an yarn themed event or group meet up, or are interested in starting one of your own, give me a shout with the details. I’ll help spread the word.