Christmas Knitting 2015

I honestly meant to update well before now, but while my intentions were good…my followup was crap.

The knitting content has been almost non-existent on the blog for a while, so I will offer up an apology for anyone looking for knitting and finding everything else. My knitting has had a tendency to go in fits and starts the past couple of years. First it was a full-out sock obsession that went into overload, after which I took some time off from serious knitting. I really did burn myself out. The past two years, I’ve recovered in just enough time to get the Christmas Knitting over and done with before sinking back into well-earned break that turned into extended sabbaticals.

So I’m going to try and do better this year. Maybe space out the Christmas knitting so that it’s not all being hurriedly done at once.

Excuses aren’t knitting, however, so here we go!

ONline Supersocke 4-fach Neptun Color
ONline Supersocke 4-fach Neptun Color

These were the first socks completed, sometime in June. I was experimenting with tighter gauge and had knit them on 2mm needles. They fit my foot, but they were somewhat too snug — so they are a perfect fit for my mother-in-law, Sheila. The tighter gauge will ensure that they will last a long time and stay nice and cozy.

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Socks for my own Mum! These, too, were at a slightly tighter gauge, but for a bigger foot. They were knit from the toe-up using a Fleegle Heel. I couldn’t tell you what the yarn is, but it felt like it was possibly a Zitron/Trekking product from the feel of the yarn. The colour, however, doesn’t seem to be part of that line. Ah well…it was still a good knit 🙂

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Knit Picks Palette in Almond & Garnet Heather plus leftover Trekking/Cascade sock yarn for lining

Mittens for Dad! I had made mittens for everyone *but* him last year, and I really wanted to make sure that he had warm hands for this year. They were started last year on boxing day, and I managed to get one mitten finished before putting them aside. Picked ’em up again at the end of November, finished the second mitten, then moved on to the liners. The liners look pretty similar for both mittens, with the greet at the finger tips. I had two small balls of very similarly coloured Trekking (if not two dyelots of the same colourway), which I used for the liner closer to the openings. The fingertips are some leftover Cascade sock yarn. Dad assures me that the thumbs are the right length, and since my only worry was that I’d knit the thumbs too short, I guess we can call these a success!

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Kroy Gentry Grey and possibly Bernat Baby CoOrdinates Ombres in Funny Print

A set of mittens for my co-worker Lila, who loves Tolkein and the Peter Jackson version of Middle Earth. She caught sight of these over my shoulder one day when I was glancing at Ravelry, and mentioned how she’d love a pair. She has knitters in her family, but getting them to make anything for her is a trial. These are my birthday/Christmas gift to her. The background is Kroy and the design is actually an acrylic baby yarn that was chosen mainly for the glittery bling that magic doors require. The wool in the Kroy will keep her plenty warm, methinks.

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Socks for my father-in-law, Don – aka “why do I keep losing the ball bands?”
The yarn is possibly ONline Supersocke 100 Forest Color, but I can’t be 100% certain as…well…I lost the ball band. Probably when I cleaned up my office earlier this fall. Oops. Again, stripey goodness. It keeps me amused.

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Last, but certainly not least, a scarf for my sister-in-law, who can be rather difficult to shop for. She apparently loves the scarf, however, and I’m not surprised…it’s 2 skeins of Malabrigo Mecha in the Lotus colourway. 100% Merino goodness! I used the 1-row scarf pattern, and it worked beautifully with the way the yarn was dyed.

Next time, I’ll try to show a couple of the other projects I’ve been working on but haven’t had time to post quite yet!

Spooky September Challenge: Campfire stories? Nah!

Spooky September Challenge

Today’s Spooky September Challenge was supposed to be my favourite campfire story, but anyone who knows me well enough is aware that I don’t camp.  I haven’t been camping for about fifteen years now, and that last time was supposed to teach me about all the awesome things I’ve missed out on, not being a camper. It was cold and rained almost the entire trip. Seriously. We had to go back into town to get a tarp because nobody brought one. Not my best weekend – only salvaged by good company.

Continue reading “Spooky September Challenge: Campfire stories? Nah!”

Lots of socks

January didn’t shape up as I expected.  I did knit quite a bit…just not on the things I had intended.  Somehow, though, you can either roll with it, or allow yourself to be steamrolled.

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I didn’t feel well over the first half of the month, which put a bit of a crimp in things. I didn’t really have much ability to concentrate, so I stuck to socks.

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I made a valiant stab at getting a pair of mittens done, but I lost confidence after having some difficulty with the liner. I’ve been making liners using fingering weight yarn. Kroy is a bit heavier than that. It caused a lot of bulkiness and extra stitches that I had to try and account for. It took about two nights to get the liner to a point I was happy with it. I’m also realizing that the thumb hole on the outer mitten was knit a couple of rows too high. It makes the mitten a little too tight across the thumb, and there’s no way I can easily repair it unless I want to rip back the liner so I can get into the mitten so I can start picking it apart at the fingertips and thumb, re-knit the mitten….I’d be better off just re-knitting the mitten from start to finish.

So….mitten drama.  I put the mittens aside and worked on…

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Socks!
I started these on Christmas Eve while during a family party. I cast them off on January 24th. We were “social” during the second half of the month, so the only thing I could work on was something portable and dead-simple….like socks. They aren’t the ugliest pair of self-striping socks I’ve worked on, but they’re close. They never seem to look like they’ll be bad when you see them in a ball under store lighting…it’s only once the sock starts to take shape that you realize you’ve had the equivalent of a yarny Rick Roll.

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I guess I figured correctly that these will make excellent Hallowe’en socks — they’re bound to scare anyone who looks upon ’em.

I have another pair of socks on the needles. More about those as we go through February.

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No spinning for January. As mentioned, being sick and then being out of the house isn’t conducive to spinning. The two nights I was setting aside for spinning wound up being taken up by laundry and fixing the mitten mentioned above.  February, however, will have spinning! I just have to decide which fiber to start working on, as I have some pretty wonderful bags of fluff to choose from.

Socks! Pair #1 is done.

My knitting output has slowed down a bit in the past month.  I’m blaming it on three things…finally having some time to relax, catching a cold, and video gaming.

The first one is easy…the big Yule rush is over, so I can take my time. No hurry, right?

The second and third?  Well, when I catch a cold, I don’t necessarily want to be sneezing into my knitting. I’m making handknits, not plague blankets. Last thing I need to do is to spread my winter cold to some poor, unsuspecting person who just happened to receive an item from my knitting basket. It just happened this year that I caught some tummy bug that manifested on the night of Christmas Day – and then just as I was recovering from that, I caught yet another cold that knocked me flat on my arse.

That said, there has been some knitting.

I’m not sure I should count these, however.  I’ve been casually working on these off & on for about a year.  Maybe more (yes, maybe more).  How is that possible?  You don’t totally fall in love with the yarn.

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Why does indoor lighting always have to have that weird yellow cast?

Yarn is Regia, I think. I can’t find the ball band, it’s been so long. I know this particular colourway was floating around a couple of different Calgary yarn shops. A quick check on Ravelry tells me that I made an almost identical pair a few years ago as a birthday present for my Mum.  Go figure. I seem to recall that I bought two balls of the yarn with the intention of making knee socks.  I think I attempted it, realized that there is no way I have the patience to knit knee socks, and used half the yarn on a pair of socks for Mum. This is the other half.  Sock is the standard vanilla sock – cuff down, 7″ leg, with a heel flap. I think they may be just big enough to fit me (and anyone with my foot size), and somehow I managed to get the stripes to line up.  Huzzah!

I realized sometime at the end of 2014 that if I just dug up a few old Unfinished Objects from wherever they were stashed, I’d have a pair of socks or a pair of mittens or some other finished project. This is one of those pairs that never was accounted for as being “cast on” as they were just a pair of vanilla socks. Nothing special about them, right? You can whip out a pair in a week or two, so why bother accounting for them. Just stuff ’em in your purse and go, because you can knit on them *anywhere* (except you never do, because something snazzier always seems to come along).

Anyhow, they’re first off the needles for 2015.  Better late than never!

Big feet!

It started out so innocently.  I thought I would knit my Mum a pair of socks for Yule.  Keep her feet toasty warm.  Then, when my proficiency with knitting socks became apparent, the hints started dropping.  I now knit a minimum of four pairs of socks per Yule.  One for each of our parents.  I put a pair of socks in a decorative tin with their name on it. The deal is that if they want socks next year, the tin comes back to me. Without fail, the tin comes back. The request is fulfilled. I have some family members with very happy feet.

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The first socks, of course, were seen on Tuesday. These were my Mum-in-Law’s socks, and as mentioned, the Husbeast picked out the colours.  What you didn’t see on Tuesday were everyone else’s socks. These weren’t even the first ones finished.

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These are Mum’s socks.  Unfortunately, I didn’t record them in Ravelry because at the time my thinking ran along the lines of “Oh hey.  Stripey socks.  Plain stockinette blue-purple stripey socks.  Why would I need to record these?  They’ll be quick to knock out.”

Uh huh.  That was sometime around January or February after a marathon sock-knitting session, and — I hate to admit this — I was all socked out.  Seriously. I think I knit one sock, then tucked them away with the intention of coming back to them…eventually. This past year has probably been the first year I did NOT knit at least one or two pairs of socks per month.

Then I saw them peeking out of a knitting basket I keep near the couch in our rec room, and thought to myself that I must have been crazy to put them aside…that if I just finished off the foot, I would have a full pair of socks.  And how could I ever have gotten bored of knitting socks when there were these beauties to play with?  They’re stripey! And Blue! And Purple!  They’re Blurple!

And yes, they were finished in one afternoon.  And I had my sock-knitting happiness back. Which was great because I only had Five Months Left Til Yule and How Am I Ever Going To Finish Knitting All The Things?!?

Yep.  Mini freak out 5 months from Yule.  This is why I’m going back to starting in January, folks.  Less stress.

Then I knit the pink and grey socks.  By now I’m on a roll, and adding Mittens to the mix.

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A previous year’s example of manly colours for manly men.

I have a hard time finding yarn I like for the men. Robin, when I knit him socks, makes it easy for me.  He has absolutely no problem wearing whatever I throw at him, whatever colours are involved.  Hot pink?  Bring it on.  His favourite scarf is his Noro Two-Row, and it has liberal splashes of pink. He claims to be more than the colours he wears, and I love that about him.

Our fathers are a little more traditional and conservative in their dress, and while my Dad’s Colour Analysis pegs him as a Spring, he is unlikely to request a pair of salmon-coloured socks anytime soon (do not laugh. My Mum was a freelance Colour consultant in the 80’s and I still drive her nuts by being a Summer who insists on wearing black as my favoured neutral),

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You can’t get more manly than this. It has a car on the ball band!

I went to the yarn store and found…very little in the way of colours that I hadn’t already knit for the men in my life.  Seriously, you can only use the same Coffee Brown or Dark Blue Trekking colourways before the guys start to realize that their socks all look the same.  And then I found some guy-type self-stripers from Regia.  Racing Colours!  I was impressed enough that I included the ball band.

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These ones went to Robin’s Dad, who – I noticed – wore hand-knit socks to both the Christmas Eve *and* Christmas Day festivities. He even pointed out that he had nice warm feet.  So now his feet will be even warmer.

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Dad was just a touch more difficult.  I had the perfect yarn (Cascade Heritage), but it was already on the needles for another project.  Which had stagnated more than a year previously.  Off the needles it came, back into a ball it went, and a nice, cushy pair of stockinette socks were quickly knit up.  If his reaction was any indication, I made the right decision.  The yarn found the place it needed to be.

If it seems I’m knitting a lot of plain old vanilla stockinette socks…that’s because I am. I like the methodical straightforwardness of stockinette socks. It also means I can’t forget where I am in a chart and have to rip out half a pattern.  I’m also very in love with self-striping yarns right now. I have stocked up on a few fun stripers that I hope to dig into very shortly.  And hopefully I can get my hands on some of the swanky self-stripers from some of the more Independant Dyers that seem to be cropping up. While I like the dependability of the commercial dyers, there’s just something fun about colouring outside the lines on occasion.

Now, there were a couple of things I didn’t get finished for Yule.  There are two pairs of mittens outstanding.  I have linings finished, now it’s just a matter of getting the outer mittens done!

The things I wanted to show off but didn’t…

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m horrible at self-editing and not posting current projects as they wind up becoming gifts for family and friends and I never want to either get hopes up or ruin a surprise.  I’m hoping to stop that practice come the New Year, as I’m going to try spacing my knits out throughout the year.  My yarny goals for 2015 are as follows:
– 1 pair of socks per month
– 1 pair of mittens per month. Possibly lined
– 1 4oz package of fiber spun & plied per month.

That gives me a pair of socks to take with me wherever I go (#projectsockdrawer), a pair of mittens to go nuts on the stranding (#projectmittenbasket), and a bit of an excuse to delve into the fiber stash (#fiberpalooza).  I’m hoping that by the end of the year I’ll have a few more handspun items knit, and a topped up sock drawer and mitten basket.  I like the idea of a mitten basket. Some days you want more variety than the same old mittens you’ve been wearing out for 3 years. (The Hashtags are mine, btw…inspired/purloined by other knitters’ projects, but mine nonetheless)

The family will just have to guess which knits are for them!

Maybe there will be some other items throughout the year, like the long-awaited Bigger on the Inside shawl that I’ve spun the yarn for — I just need the time to devote to knitting lace.

So now, after all the wall of text, I should probably break it up with a little eye candy.  Today’s choice is a lovely pair of socks that went t my Mother-in-Law, Sheila.

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Robin and I were taking a poke through one of Calgary’s many fine yarn stores (quite possibly Pudding yarn) when we spied this really lovely skein of pink-and-grey Lorna’s Laces Shepherd Sock Multi,  I loved it, but didn’t think I could justify the expense, when Robin mentioned that it would make some lovely socks for his Mum.

Bear in mind, when I think of Sheila, I think in terms of vibrant Autumn colours. Forest greens, bright and burnt oranges of falling leaves….it offsets her strawberry blonde quite nicely.  Apparently, though, she has a secret liking for lighter colours that her son is aware of, so we bought the skein, took it home, and I cast on a pair of Hermione’s Everyday Socks with it.

I wish I could remember the colourway, but the ball band has gotten lost in Crafting Central down in the basement.  Eventually I will find it and add it to the Ravelry entry for this sock.

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Sheila also scored a pair of Fiddlehead mittens I’d been working on for myself as a heavy-wool / extreme-cold-weather project. I really do need a pair of deep-winter mittens for scraping the car’s windshield on those days when it’s -20 or colder, but even as I was knitting these, I didn’t feel totally in tune with them for myself. They were telling me they were going to belong elsewhere.  I think they will keep her nice and toasty.  As it was, my Dad was eyeing them up.  Good thing his hands are Inhumanly Large and require Custom Fitting, otherwise she might have lost them to him!

Ramping up for Yule

First things first!  Let’s get the pattern-wise info up & over with so we can get on to the real rambling! 😉

Every year I participate in a Ravelry group called “Super Sock Scarefest”. It starts in September and rolls right on through to October 31st. The goal is to complete as many of the sock designs released to the group within that time period, and to photograph them in the scariest way possible. Sock designs are inspired by some of the great B-movies of all time. The past two years, I’ve shared patterns with the group. The first pattern, “Baskervilles“, is available for free on Ravelry.  The second, “Graboids“, is now available for $6.

Graboids
Graboids in Koigu and Lorna’s Laces

For a limited time (the end of the month), I have extended my offer for Movember to include Graboids.  Sure, you could give me 6 bucks — or you could donate a buck or three to Movember and get Graboids AND Magnum for free with your donation. Just sayin’.

As it stands right now, I’ve made about $46 in donations to myself, and one donation to my team (which was a happy surprise for all of us).  While my team really does appreciate the donation, I don’t know if it triggers the coupon code message. If you want the code, please donate to me personally. You can donate anonymously, but I do like to see who is contributing (and it helps me in case you have problems downloading the pattern(s)).

As always, I’m thankful for everyone who participates and donates. 🙂

Inspira Cowl
I made myself an Inspira cowl. They’re addictive.

I know, I was hoping to write more this month, but I’m right in the middle of knitting for Yule, and I’m never too sure what I should post and what I shouldn’t.  I’m going to be honest and say that I sometimes grumble and mutter over some projects more than others, and I’d hate to have someone think that their gift wasn’t made with all the love and affection that I can muster.  I would be sad to think that someone felt their gift was inferior or substandard, even though I obviously liked it enough to continue knitting on it.

I admit it…I’m a grumbler. Life would be so boring if it were sunshine and bunnies all the time.  Sometimes you need an ill-tempered cat to come along and hiss and swipe at things to remind you that things aren’t always easy all the time.

I’m also a worrier.  I don’t want anyone to compare materials and think that someone else’s gift was more special or precious than theirs because I used a store-bought yarn vs a handspun yarn.  Let’s be honest, my handspun is fun for me to make….but it’s not necessarily the same as some store-bought yarns. I choose yarns mainly for their properties, not the sentimentality.

Noro
I didn’t make this yarn myself and I love it. Madly.

Actually, working with Handspun can cause more problems than it solves. I’m actually knitting a project using my Handspun and I’m worried I won’t have enough yarn to complete it. See?  Definite drawbacks. Here’s hoping that doesn’t happen, because I’m really enjoying working with it!

When did knitting socks become a challenge?

Anyone who knows me knows that I knit a lot of socks. Often I will mix up techniques just to keep things fresh and interesting. Very few people know that my kryptonite is often the dreaded Short Row Heel.

I don’t know why I have trouble with Short Rows. I find them awfully fussy, and I often find that for some reason my stitches tend to warp and stretch. One designer will suggest knitting your wraps with your stitches in one manner, and others will suggest forgetting about the wraps altogether. I find that if I knit too tight, I get holes. If I knit too loosely, I get holes and gaps. If I try to find just the right tension, I’m apparently knitting things together in the wrong manner. It’s frustrating enough that on the Watching You socks that I just finished, I knit the same heel five times.

Yes, you read me right. Five times.

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By the time I finally managed to get that heel looking relatively nice (the holes and gaps weren’t too noticeable or gappy or sloppy), I had practically checked out of the pattern. It was starting to drive me crazy, and when one is just starting her Yule knitting for the year, crazy in September is not where you want to be. Because I didn’t want to lose the heel mojo, I quickly cast on for the second sock. That was sometime in the morning last Saturday. We took a bike ride that evening, and I finished the sock the next evening around 7pm. I think that’s the fastest I’ve ever knit a fine-gauge 64-stitch sock.

My bugaboos with this pattern?
– the pattern was based off a knit-two, purl-two rib. I just slogged through a pair of socks in this rib, and at 72-sts around for those socks, I was kinda ribbed out (if you know what I mean). K2P2 ribbing was just not something that I was excited to devote another week or two to doing.
– I previously described the lace pattern as a “free form Jazz Odyssey“. This was somewhat accurate, as the directions were essentially to just plunk the eyelets down anywhere you pleased within the ribbing, possibly about 10 to 20 rows apart.  While I will admit that this has an interesting effect, it also felt like I was stopping and starting with the “damned ribbing”, so it was a bit like a speed bump along the way. Of course, I started looking forward to the lace bits as a change from the “damned ribbing”, so perhaps the good outweighs the bad.
– the heel. How many ways can I mutter, swear and curse at a heel technique? Don’t get me started. The Husbeast was honestly afraid I would devolve into a rabid beast, foaming at the mouth at the thought of short row heels. Seriously, he had to stop me from launching into a rant about short row heels to one of our closest non-knitting friends who politely asked if I enjoyed the sock I was knitting. The fact that I was ripping the heel out for the second or third time might have had something to do with it.
– I knit the second sock so fast that I irritated my tensioning finger. Mild rope burn from soft yarn. You’d think it couldn’t happen, but you’d be wrong.

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Don’t get me wrong, despite all this, I don’t think it’s a bad pattern. If I wasn’t trying to adhere to the spirit of the Scarefest, I probably would have modified the shit out of the pattern to suit my own self-centered whims, and as a result probably wouldn’t be seeing the awesome way that the yarn is actually working with the pattern! I love the way the colourway turned out on these socks. The ribbing, as much as I might complain about it, actually makes the yarn look better. Also, the designer built a gusset into the heel. I rarely, if ever, see a gusseted short-row heel, so this is a little bit of awesome.

I don’t know if this will go into the pool for Christmas socks. They may wind up going in my own sock drawer. I’m really not sure anyone in the family would want a pair of socks that has seen more foul language than a sailor on shore leave or an IKEA installation (thanks, Dad! And here you thought that expanding my vocabulary in that direction was a bad idea! I call it catharsis…).

And no, Mum. These socks are too small for you. If you want more yellow socks, you’ll have to wait 😉

Funnily enough, while I did pick up Robin’s sweater to knit after completing these, it wasn’t deliberately as a palate-cleanser. It seems to have worked just as well, though. There’s a new Scarefest sock just released today, and I’m actually looking forward to knitting it.  Hooray, sweater!

WIP Wednesday: Knitting on…the sweater?!

You’d think there would be a ton of socks featured this week, what with the Scarefest having released two official patterns and two bonus patterns, but I’m going to disappoint you. While I wish I had the time and inclination to knit a pair of fine-gauge socks per week, I just don’t have that capability – at least, not at this time. So I’m going to plink away at Scarefest as the time allows me, and not stress about it.

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In the meantime, here’s a sock! No, seriously, this is the vanilla sock that is suspiciously man-sized and being knit in colours a man might like. I’m hopeful that it will fit, because it looks oddly huge to me, but that might just be because it’s not done and stretched fully on the blocker. It’s grown quite a bit since the last time it was featured, but it’s still taking some time. I went on a knitting binge last weekend (you’ll see the results of that on Friday), and as a result, the finger that tensions my yarn is a little sore from very mild friction burns. As a result, the roughness of Trekking XXL can be a bit of an irritant.

Also on the needles….sleeves!

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I had meant to go back to knitting on Robin’s sweater once the weather started getting cool enough to do so, and so this week I dug out the sleeves. I was a little concerned with my gauge, until I checked all the needle sizes I was using. Then I remembered that the way I usually tension my yarn is a little uncomfortable with Cascade 220, and that I had deliberately used a looser tension.  Problem solved! I was wondering how I’d been getting stitch gauge without buying another 2 or 3 pairs of needles in a larger size!
I had originally started both sleeves, two-at-a-time on one circular needle. I very quickly remembered how much I hate knitting TAAT. The difference in size is what has happened over the past day that they’ve been separated onto different needles. I’m placing markers after every increase row so that I can keep track of them a little easier. It should help when I get to the second sleeve – I’ll be able to compare the two and adjust where necessary. That will hopefully help with the fit. 🙂

I also did a wee tiny bit of spinning, but not enough to photograph. Hopefully I’ll have a bit more time to get back to that this weekend. I have a fibre club shipment coming soon!

FO Friday: Warmth for Wednesday

For lace socks, these are sure going to be warm. I find that Paton’s Kroy is really great for warm socks, and while the nature of lace is to be full of holes, I can’t see that stopping the Kroy from doing it’s job. It’s like the Buttered Cat Paradox.

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So here they are: Wednesday socks. They were a fairly quick knit, all things considered, and probably would have gone even quicker if I’d actually been using the sport weight that the pattern called for. I will likely revisit this pattern at a later date, as it is very pretty and easy to remember without the pattern.

Now it’s on to the bright socks of doom! Hopefully will have another FO soon 😀