Sunday, December 29, 2013

Everything Old Becomes New Again: Infinity Scarf, aka E. Z.'s Moebius Ring

Recently, my daughter asked me to knit her an "infinity scarf." I was delighted since she rarely wants hand knits from me, but I wasn't sure what she meant. I asked her to show it to me, and when she brought up an image on her computer, I recognized it instantly as Elizabeth Zimmerman's Moebius Ring from her beloved book Knitting Around. This book has been a favorite of mine for a long time, and I have often admired the Moebius Ring. I was thrilled that she wanted one. Since she wanted black garter stitch, and I had some black Berrocco Ultra Alpaca left over from another FO, I casted on immediately. Here it is:

I enjoyed knitting mindless garter stitch more than I imagined I would. It made for a great carry-around project. I also invested in some Addi Turbos for the first time; boy did those needles fly! I loved that. I still like my Clover Bamboo needles for some projects and my Lantern Moon Ebony dpns for larger gauge socks, but the Addi Turbos sure have their place in my heart now, too.

I wanted to especially thank the Techknitter from the Techknitting blog. for saving me when it came to this project since I forgot to begin my garter-stitch rows with a slip stitch even though I have known to do that for years. Somehow it slipped my mind, making the edge look very uneven. However, when reading the Techknitter's blog, I saw a post about adding a crochet slip-stitch edging to garter stitch, so I did so on this scarf. It worked like a charm and was a fun way to end the project since I enjoy crochet so much. I highly recommend it: Here is a photo of how the edge looks:

The technique of adding a slip-stitch crochet edge is very simple, especially if you know how to crochet. I found it to be a pleasant was to end my work on this project.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Knitting is about Learning From Mistakes

Even after 20 years of knitting, I am still making mistakes and learning from them. Making mistakes can be frustrating since it usually means re-knitting, but I am constantly amazed by how much I learn from these mistakes and the way it makes me understand the knitting process so much better than I would if I was just blindly following pattern instructions.

Remember how I mentioned in my previous post that I was unhappy with the look of the knit 2 together stretchy bind-off I was using for the first time on my son's socks? Well, guess what -- I was not executing it properly! I over thought the instructions, as I often do, and instead of simply knitting stitches and then knitting them together through the back as instructed, I thought I had to follow the rib pattern and knit some stitches while purling the others. Fortunately, when I began to bind off the second sock, I forgot to over think it and simply followed the instructions. I noticed how it was looking nice and wondered why it was different from the first sock. That is when I realized my bone-headed move the first time around. So, you guessed it, I ripped out the bind-off on the first sock and re-knit. I am so happy with the result. The photos below illustrate the differences:

Here is a picture of both socks with nice and neat bind-offs after having properly executed the knit 2 together stretchier bind-off:

And the finished object photo of the day:

I am happy with the finished result (and so is my son), but just for fun, I think I will try another stretchy bind-off on my daughter's socks when I finish them; it is called Jenny's Surprisingly Stretchy Bind-Off.  I learned about it when searching You-Tube videos for Cat Bordhi tutorials (they are instructional and entertaining); Cat has a great one demonstrating Jenny's bind-off technique and seems very enthusiastic about it while demonstrating it.

Please let me know in the comments which bind-off technique you use when knitting socks from the toe-up.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Great Short-Row Heels!

Like most of you, I am sure, I have been furiously knitting away on some holiday presents. One of these is a pair of really warm wool socks for my son who will be attending a football game soon. I am anticipating it being really cold, and his feet have grown considerably since I last knitted him a pair of socks. I have been making socks for over 20 years. They were the second knitted item I learned to make, and I love knitting them. They make for a great carry-around project for a busy mother on the go with teens like me.

I originally learned to make the traditional gusset heel, knitting from the top down, and was very happy doing so for many years. However, about five years ago, I learned Priscilla Gibson-Roberts short-row heel technique from her book Simple Socks: Plain and Fancy. She uses a type of yarn-over where you bring the yarn forward before yarning over when forming a knit stitch and where you bring it back before purling. Later, you decrease the yarn-overs, making sure to adjust the stitch mount when doing so, after the heel expansion is complete. The book is excellent and explains everything in great step-by-step detail. It took me a little bit of effort at first to understand exactly what she was explaining, but once I got it, I loved the result. Now I use this heel every time I knit a sock. The great thing is that the same exact short-row method can be used to form the toe when knitting toe-up socks. As a result, I have since converted to toe-up sock knitting! Lastly, her book not only describes this excellent method of knitting socks but also includes a detailed explanation of measuring feet for sock knitting and methods to turn a simple sock into a fancier sock.

Here are some pictures of two socks I have in progress using this method. The first one is the one for my son, which is a heavier sock, knit in DK weight yarn (Paton's Classic Wool, Dk, Superwash). Notice in the second photo how tidy the short-row heel on this sock looks. No holes!

The only detail I added to the sock is the three by one rib.  The next pair is one I have been working on for my daughter. Hers got put on on the back burner since she won't be going to the game. Hers are made from a lighter weight sock yarn (Fortissima Colori Socka Color in Disco) using the Hermione's Everyday Socks free pattern on Ravelry.

You can really see how nice and tidy the heel increases look on the second photo above. I also like the way the stripes form at the heel around the increases. Lastly, the advantage I see to this type of heel construction over gussets is how easy they are to make once you get the hang of them. When I used to make gussets, I felt like I had to do them in a quiet corner so that I could focus on picking up the stitches well in order to avoid holes. They took concentration and weren't something I was likely to do on the road or sitting in a gym watching basketball/volleyball. However, the PGR short-row heels are easy as pie and take only a little concentration once you get the hang of them. The trick to really knowing how to do them without reading her instructions is to understand why she is doing what she is doing for each step. Once I understood this, it became intuitive.

As for the toe-up construction, I have mixed feelings. I have made this type of sock top-down and toe-up. When I made them top-down, I use the toe decrease method I always used for my gusset socks with a grafted close to the toe. I like this method a lot, and I don't mind the look of the toe or the way it feels as some people do. (I don't use PGR's method of closing the toe when knitting from the top-down since I don't think I would like the way it would feel under my foot.)  As for toe-up construction, the advantages are that I don't have to cast on as many stitches since I use a crochet provisional cast-on that I learned from, you guessed it, wendyknits, or one I recently learned,  Judy's Magic Cast-on (You-Tube Instruction for Judy's Magic Cast-on).

When using either of the provisional cast-on methods above, you only have to cast on half the number of stitches you would cast on for a top-down sock. You also don't need to worry about joining the round and possibly twisting your stitches. If you decide to use Judy's Magic Cast-on, though, I highly recommend using at least one circular needle along with your other needle (it can be a dpn) until you get the first couple of rows knitted. It really helps to be able to utilize the cable part of the needle to make it easier to enter the stitches at first. Judy Becker shows this on the video link above. Overall, I really like starting at the toe since it provides some interest right way and allows me to have the wearer try on the sock in progress.

The downside that I have noticed when knitting toe-up socks is the problem of how to bind-off the top. I normally use PGR's method in Simple Socks; I like the look of it. However, on my son's socks, I was worried about using her method since I had the three-by-one rib and her explanation made it sound like that might not work so well. I tried another "miraculous elastic bind off" that seemed to work well and stays on his leg well; however, I am not completely happy with the way it looks. See for yourself and let me know what you think.

For comparison, here is an older sock where I used PGR's bind off technique. I like the way it looks better, but notice it is a two-by-tow rib, not a three-by-one.

Well that is enough about socks! I need to stop writing about them and get back to knitting them so that they will make it under the Christmas tree and on a boy's feet!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Recent Finished Objects

Lately, my knitting obsession has taken hold again after a knitting slump of sorts. I have always knit regularly, but in the last few years my progress was slow and nights would go by where I would just feel too tired to do much of anything. I missed my knitting, but I couldn't manage to do more than an hour or so a week, spread out over the entire week. This was mainly because of a job change and the active lives of two teenaged children. Luckily, I am out of the knitting slump and have been inspired to put the finishing touches on three sweaters that had been hibernating. Here they are -- all finished within the last month or so:

Must-Have Cardigan

This is a great pattern, and you can see on Ravelry how many knitters have loved making it. Mine is just one of many! This is a good Aran sweater to begin with if you haven't tried one before. New knitters should be able to learn how to manage multiple cable panels fairly easily since none of these cable panels are challenging. Since the cable crossings fall on rows that are multiples of one another, the pattern provides an interesting yet smooth-going knitting experience. I used the cabling without a cable needle method, which I learned from wendyknits years ago, as I do on almost all of my cable projects.  For more details, check out my Ravelry Project page under the Ravelry username, suzknittyspinner.


This is one of Lisa Lloyd's fabulous designs from a favorite knitting book of mine, A Fine Fleece. I highly recommend this book if you are interested in knitting Aran sweaters, spinning yarn, or even if you are just looking for beautiful sweaters and garments of all types. I had the pleasure of working as a test-knitter for Lisa years ago when she wrote this book. She is a wonderful designer and writes excellent patterns. If you check out the book, be sure to look at the sweaters I test-knitted: Espresso (pink), Harriet (black), St. Patrick (natural), and Gaelic Mist (purple). I also knitted one of the Road Not Taken scarves. 

I am so pleased with Ravensong since it is beautiful, fits well, and is the kind of garment you can wear to work, out for an evening, or even with a pair of jeans. For more details, check out Ravelry (suzknittyspinner's project page).

Trinity Vest

Another great design by Lisa Lloyd from A Fine Fleece. I have read about knitters who are dedicated to knitting their way through the whole book, and I am on my way to doing so. Lisa has such a great eye for combining stitch patterns that one might not think about, yet they look awesome together. This is just one such example with the combination of another traditional Aran stitch, trinity stitch (sometimes called blackberry stitch) and braided cables. I especially liked her use of three braided cables on the back of the vest to compliment the trinity stitch motif. When I wore this vest to work, I received so many compliments. It is a great piece to add to any wardrobe, and it was easy to knit. I encourage you to try this vest if you are new to cable knitting and would like to make something that will knit up quickly and fairly easily. Another bonus to the design is that it does not require much finishing work (except picking up for the button bands and neck, which might be challenging for a new knitter but is something that one should learn how to do since it opens up so many possibilities).

That is it for show and tell, everyone. This might be the most show and tell I will do for a while, but let's hope my knitting progress speeds up again this year. I am currently finishing up some socks for my son, an infinity scarf for my daughter, and another pair of socks for her, too. I will show those off soon, but then I look forward to beginning two more Lisa Lloyd designs that should be a lot of fun to discuss.

Have any of you knitted a Lisa Lloyd design or another cabled sweater? If so, please share your experiences in the comments.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Why I Started This Blog

I have been thinking about beginning my own blog for years now. I remember discovering knitting blogs back in the days when they first began. I read every blog I could find at that time with WendyKnits being my favorite (and I still love it). Even then, I considered starting my own, but the lack of easy technology at the time made me hesitate, not to mention my busy work and home life. Lately, something has been telling me, "now is the time -- don't hold back," so here I am.

My brief stitching story:
I have been a knitter for over 20 years, having begun my passion for fiber arts as a crocheter.

Like many of us, I began crocheting as a young girl at the knees of my great grandmother. She was an extraordinary crocheter, who produced dozens of afghans, table clothes, and dollies. Unfortunately, I gave up crocheting soon after learning, but luckily, I came back to it in my 20's. The little, unloved scrap of tan crochet she used to teach me sat in a corner of my childhood bedroom closet and called to me often on visits home. I finally took it back up, learned everything I could to make my own afghans, and then learned knitting a few years later.

Knitting is my first love now and has been for many years. I still crochet occasionally, but most nights (and even during moments of the day when I can sneak in a few stitches here and there), I can be seen sitting on my comfy couch knitting with one of those glorious afghans covering my lap.

A few years back I learned to spin, too, and have gotten proficient at spinning a worsted weight yarn on my Ashford Double Drive Traveller. Some day when I have more time, I would like to learn and practice this awesome craft more, but right now, my busy working life as a community college professor and my personal life as a mother of two wonderful teens doesn't leave much time for anything else but portable knitting and a bit of exercise.

Why the title of the blog?
I can hardly remember a time when stitch patterns did not fascinate me. Some people love color more than anything; others, like me, love stitch definition above all else. My very first knitted object was a scarf form my husband, and I chose to knit it in seed stitch (with black yarn). Seeing those little bumps of yarn develop before my eyes just fascinated me. It still does. I progressed naturally from seed stitch to knitting a textured sweater with a repeated pattern of triangles, made from a combination of knits and purls, and some mock cables, made with twisted stitches, to my passion for cabling. Knitting Aran sweaters is my true love. I have made several over the years, and I will share them here along with their stories as time progresses. Of course, I will talk about other subjects besides Aran and textured knitting on this blog, but I would guess that many of the posts will naturally relate to that subject matter since it interests me so much. 

So have you guessed what the name of the blog means yet? The honeycomb stitches refer to one of the most recognizable Aran stitch patterns, often found in the center panel of an Irish Fisherman sweater. 

Image taken from

According to the legend (some doubt its veracity) of Aran knitting, each of the stitch patterns have different meanings. The honeycomb stitch is said to represent hard work and its reward (The Aran Sweater). This stitch appeals to me for several reasons:

  • Appearance: It is well defined and intricate-looking, yet easy to knit
  • Meaning: I consider myself to be a hard-worker in all things I do: teaching, knitting, crocheting,   spinning, exercising, and most importantly, mothering.
  • Gender: This stitch looks great on garments worn by both men and women
The honeycomb stitch pattern is just one of many Aran patterns I love. As time goes on, I will introduce you to more of them and consider what it is that makes each one special. For now, here is the central motif from the first sweater I knitted containing the honeycomb stitch -- made for my son when he was a wee one:

Classic Aran by Jade Starmore from The Children's Collection
Lastly, peppermint tea is a favorite drink of mine, especially in the evenings when I want to unwind from a hectic day. It calms me, settles my stomach, and serves as the perfect accompaniment to an evening of knitting and spending quality time with my family. You could say that knitting honeycomb stitches (Aran knitting) and sipping peppermint tea are two my “favorite things.”