Sunday, February 15, 2009

Undulating headache!

I've been trying to start a new pair of office socks all week, and it hasn't been easy. I decided to get started on another pair of gift socks. When my mom was here over the holidays, I had her shop my sock yarn stash and identify a few things she liked. I also had her look through my sock pattern books and tell me which patterns spoke to her. I figured that since I knit her socks for Christmas 2005 and Christmas 2007, I'd better get ready for Christmas 2009.

Yarnwise, she picked Shibui Sock in a semisolid colorway called "Dragonfly" and Cherry Tree Hill in a Loopy Ewe Sock Club exclusive colorway that I think is a remake of Life's a Beach. I wanted to keep the CTH for myself, because I have a bit of history with this yarn.

Years ago, when Simply Socks Yarn Company opened, I eagerly cruised the owner's slide show of favorite sock yarns. She has updated it since then and the yarn I responded to is no longer there, but she had a gorgeous picture of some light turquoise blue and sea green handpainted yarn that I loved. I ordered it. When it came, it bore NO resemblance to the photo. It was so different that I assumed I made a mistake when ordering. I had an almost nonexistent sock yarn stash back then, and I didn't dislike the new yarn, so I didn't contact the owner about a possible mistake. Months later, Allison wrote a blog post about how Cherry Tree Hill changed their base yarn and the dyes were taking really differently. She specifically wrote about the Life's a Beach colorway and how they had readjusted their dye recipe to get a handpaint closer to the original, and she had the "new" Life's a Beach in stock. I thought about ordering it a second time, but didn't.

Fast forward. I made lots of socks using my tried-and-true Classic Crew Socks pattern from the Earth Guild in Asheville, NC, and eventually became ready to try something new. Charlene Schurch had just released Sensational Knitted Socks, and I had a copy. I decide to try a toe-up sock and to use this Life's a Beach yarn. Then Kristina had a baby. I planned to go to Boston to meet Katie and help out for a few days. I took this toe-up sock with me. I tried to get it cast on before the trip, but I had a terrible time with the provisional crochet cast-on. I probably did it 9 times. I started the sock but hated how the crazy yarn colors competed with the pattern. I only got this far before abandoning it. Later, I frogged it, soaked the yarn to get out the kinks, and rewound it into a yarn cake. It still sits in my sock yarn cabinet waiting for its next chance.

Fast forward again. I re-up in The Loopy Ewe Sock Club for Year Two because Sheri promises semi-solid colorways, and I'm tired of fighting with crazy handpaints. One month a hank of yarn shows up from Cherry Tree Hill, and it looks an awful lot like I remember the original Life's a Beach looking. I decide that this is life's way of tossing me a beach ball, and I am meant to make my peace with this yarn once and for all. I haven't cast on yet, but it seems like this yarn should be socks for me, not my mom. I'm also not sure I'd call it "semi-solid," but whatever. In Carol Sulcoski's new classification, I'd call it a "muted multi" - but we didn't have that language then.

Enough about the yarn. Suffice it to say that I chose to knit Mom's Christmas 2009 socks out of the Shibui Dragonfly because Life's a Beach and I still have unfinished business. Now to the pattern. Mom expressed interested in (links are to Ravelry):
  1. Conwy (Nancy Bush Knitting on the Road p. 22)
  2. Baby Cable Rib (Charlene Schurch Sensational Knitted Socks p. 33)
  3. Diagonal Cross-Rib Socks (Favorite Socks p. 77)
  4. Undulating Rib Socks (Favorite Socks p. 93)

I decided that #4 looked the most interesting to me. I knew immediately that I would have to modify the pattern, though, because Ann Budd (the designer) says she got 9 stitches per inch on a US 3 needle (3.25 mm) with a Fortissima Colori yarn. Ummm, that's a really fine gauge with a really fat needle. She must knit really tightly. I knit a gauge tube with the Shibui and had to fight a little bit to use my normal US 0 (2.0 mm) needles. I moved up to 2.25 mm needles and the yarn seemed happy (I also tried 2.5 mm and it was not happy). I got about 7 st/in. So I used the trusty old Classic Crew Socks pattern formula to figure out the cast-on number with my gauge and my mom's ankle measurement. It said I should cast on 56 stitches.

56!?! That seems LOW, even after I take into account that I usually cast on a lot (68-72, even 75 once). The undulating rib stitch pattern is divisible by 6, so I compromised and cast on 60 with a 2.25 needle. I also did some Ravelry reading and decided to use different techniques for the double increase and double decrease called for in the pattern. I knit a few inches and tried it on myself - I think it will work. (My mom's ankle measurement is very close to mine, so I can use myself for fittings.)

Are you still with me? If you are, I commend you. You must be a sock nut or else just have a lot of time on your hands. I did all that and started the sock. It took me a week to get this sock going. But do you see what I see? *&$#ing pooling!!! with a semi-solid yarn, which I thought was not supposed to do this!!!

Oh, well. I guess it just goes to show that a handpaint is a handpaint, even if it's painted all in the same tone. This is going to have that barberpole stripe going down it if I continue as I have begun. If the sock was for me, I would turn back and do something else. I suppose I should knit a bit more and ask my mom if she likes it.



  1. Still with you! Great story on the kolorway kapers. Crazy-making.

    I hope your mom appreciates all the thought that's gone into this. I don't think of barber-poling as pooling. At least it's a pattern. Having two different colors on each side of the sock -- now THAT's pooling. And, it's happened to me before. Personally, I think what you've got going on looks pretty cool. But it is crazy-making when the yarn distracts from th pattern. Maybe switch to a total solid?

    Keep in mind this advice comes from someone with a poor track record of matching sock yarn to pattern.

    And do you usually cast on around 70 stitches for a sock? Is that on size 2? Because I knit socks for me with 72 stitches cast on size 1 needles -- and I have Fred Flintstone feet.

  2. I guess I'm a sock nut. I didn't see the pooling you mentioned...and there's nothing wrong with a barber shop stripe. AND...once Christmas 2009 rolls around your mom will not remember the yarn she picked out so keep that Beach yarn for yourself!

  3. Ok, I am tired. I think I need a nap after reading that blog post. The drama of it all.

    I'm with Kris, keep the Beach to yourself and just keep knittin'.

  4. Do update, honey...whatever did you decide to do with the sock? Inquiring readers want to know...