CO Monday: Emperor’s New Mitts, March 2012 RSC Socks, and Tute Catkin

Last week I received the latest shipment from the BMFA Rockin’ Sock Club! The March 2012 yarn is to DIE for.  Can’t share photos yet, of course, but I will soon!  I’ve decided to make the sock pattern this month — it’s perfect for the yarn.

I also cast on for my very own Catkin! I’ve loved this pattern for quite some time, and I think it will be stunning in Mad Tosh Light in “French Grey” and “Byzantine.”

IMG_3577

I hope everyone in the knitting world took time to cast on yesterday for Louise Zass-Bangham‘s new design, The Emperor’s New Mitts. I did, and I don’t regret it one little bit! I elected to use the recommended yarn, Rumplestiltskin (100% pure spun gold), Unicorn (100% rainbow), and Jason (golden fun fur).  Of course it took extra care and time to place the 3000 gold beads, but I think you would agree that the results are worth it!

Here is Julian modelling my new mitts — very pretty, no?

0918 J blocks photo

Sock Yarn Review: Socks That Rock

I have knit a lot of socks.  As in, there are 50 pairs of socks on my project page on Ravelry.  That’s not even counting socks that were ornaments.  A lot of these socks were gifts, but I have kept a couple dozen pairs for myself.  I wear pretty much exclusively hand-knit socks, summer and winter.  I put my socks through a LOT — they are worn in hot, sweaty sneakers at outdoor dog agility trials,  in boots on snow-tubing trips, and nearly every day in my favorite pair of black leather shoes.  About the only abuse they don’t get is being worn alone — even indoors, I usually have slippers on my feet. In the beginning, I took sock yarn at it’s word, and I used to machine wash AND dry all my socks with all the rest of the laundry.  Eventually I decided that my socks had a hard enough life already, so now my socks get medium hand-knit treatment: I machine wash them in a separate load on the “hand wash” setting (cold water, intermittent agitation), and I hang them on the banister to dry.

I’ve noticed that some brands hold up better than others, and I’ve decided to share my thoughts with you, dear reader. This post will be the first in a series of sock-yarn reviews. I will address the aspects of sock yarn that are meaningful to me: beyond the initial pleasure of creating the socks, how do the socks wear?  Propensity to felt, pill, fade, or shrink can ruin a beautiful pair of socks, and I’ve had a few brands become card-board stiff over time. Please allow that this is only my personal, unscientific opinion!  All usual disclaimers apply.

The target this week is one of my favorite brands of sock yarn: Blue Moon Fiber Arts Socks That Rock Lightweight and Socks That Rock Mediumweight.  For the last few years, I’ve been a member of the BMFA sock club, which ships yarn and two gorgeous full-color patterns every other month.  I adore their base yarn — a tightly spun, springy fiber — and their dyer creates vibrant, gorgeous colorways.  It is a joy to knit with, whether in plain stockinette, lace, or cables. Here are the seven pairs of socks that I’ve knit over the last few years with STR, along with the date I finished the project:

Cascadia (Feb 2010)

Still soft, mild pilling and felting (toe and heel), mild shrinkage, severe fading.

Then:

9655 Cascadia socks9630 Happy Go Lucky Cascadia

Now:

IMG_3538

Secret Garden (April 2010):

Still soft, mild pilling, moderate felting (toe, heel, sole), mild shrinkage, moderate fading.

Then:

9900 BMFA STR March 2010 socks

Now:

IMG_3531

Firecracker Corners (Jan 2011):

Mostly soft, moderate pilling, moderate felting (toe, heel, sole), no shrinkage, moderate fading.

Then:

1339 firecracker socks

Now:

IMG_3530

Jan 2011 RSC Socks (Jan 2011):

Still soft, mild pilling, moderate felting (toe, heel, sole), no shrinkage, severe fading.

Then:
1939 Jan 2011 STR Social Network

Now:
IMG_3533

Mar 2011 STR (May 2011):

Still soft, mild pilling, mild felting (toe, heel), no shrinkage, mild fading. ALSO — I had to darn a hole in the leg already, and another hole has appeared near the cuff. I think this is a fluke for this particular colorway (possibly even just this skein), as I have never had any trouble with holes/breakage with this yarn before or since.

Then:
2357 Electric Kool-Aid Acid Socks

Now:
IMG_3534

Problem:
IMG_3536IMG_3535

July 2011 STR Socks (Oct 2011):

Still soft, mild pilling, mild felting (toe, heel), no shrinkage, mild fading.

Then:
IMG_2911(rev 1)

Now:
IMG_3537

Shoreward Socks (Jan 2012):

Still soft, no pilling, mild felting (toe, heel), no shrinkage, no fading. (These socks have only been worn a handful of times, and likely will fade and pill at least a little bit.)

Then:
IMG_3291

Now:
IMG_3532

 

Conclusions:

Softness: 5/5

Pilling: 4/5

Felting: 4/5

Shrinking: 4.5/5 (do not wash/dry with regular laundry)

Fading: 3/5 (some colorways fade more than others — red/pink seem particularly vulnerable)

 

 

Average: 4.1/5

I will continue to buy STR yarn. I don’t think it holds up well to regular laundry treatment, despite being “superwash.”  After I switched to gentler laundering, I no longer had a problem with shrinkage.  I expect all my socks to felt a bit at the toes and heel (tennis shoes! summer!), and pilling a bit is also expected.  I have been disappointed with how faded some of the socks became — after all, the gorgeous colorways are a big part of the draw for STR yarn.  I would be hesitant to buy a lot of red/pink yarn from them (although I still love getting it in the sock club!).  I may try a vinegar bath with any future red/pink colorways.

FO Friday: Shoreward Socks

I finished these socks a few weeks ago.  I’ve been wearing them LOTS — so I guess it’s about time I FO-Friday-ed them.  “Shoreward” was one of two patterns from the September shipment of the Rockin’ Sock Club from Blue Moon Fiber Arts.

IMG_3291

Project: Shoreward Socks

Pattern: Shoreward Socks

Designer: Sivia Harding

Available: sometime after September 2012 

Yarn: Socks that Rock Mediumweight in Drop Dead Gorgeous

The pattern doesn’t photograph easily — you’ll have to trust me when I say how pretty the twisted stitches and curved recurves are.  The construction is fairly traditional toe-up style, with a nice heel flap. I love how she makes sure the leg pattern lines up, no matter where you started the gusset etc. The waffle-ish pattern on the instep and leg front make these socks a little heavy/bulky, but also super warm and squishy.  It’s a trade-off I’m willing to make.

IMG_3292

Best of all (from my point of view) is the yarn — the colorway is, as advertised, Drop Dead Gorgeous.  I mean, look at this stuff!

IMG_2894(rev 1)

The first time I saw it, I thought ZOMBIE! 🙂

 

New Pattern Release: Babylon Shawlette

Introducing my latest pattern: the Babylon Shawlette!

IMG_2889(rev 1)

 

 

 

Knit from a single skein of sock yarn, this shawlette started out life destined to be a pair of socks … but the yarn wanted more. In sock form, the colors pooled and flashed in an unacceptably foul manner. No matter what I did, the yarn would not cooperate.

 

IMG_2893(rev 1)

PatternBabylon Shawlette

DesignerRachel Henry (that’s me!)

Available: $6 on Ravelry

Yarn: Blue Moon Fiber Arts Socks That Rock Lightweight (biggie skein)

6209708300_9fe8ce3225_b(rev 1)

Design/Skills Needed: This sinuous shawlette is designed to show off unusual colorways while fighting pooling and flashing with a varying-width edging and tapered ends.  Short rows at the center back curve the shawlette into a shoulder-hugging crescent and add interest to the pattern.  Babylon is worked from tip to tip in one piece — no finishing or picking up stitches! The neck edge has a worked-as-you-go i-cord border for comfort at prevent too much curling.

The trickiest bit of the edging is the yarn-over at the beginning of each wrong-side row.  It’s important to wrap the yarn the same way you would to do a normal stitch–that way, it stays open and creates a pretty loopy edge. The extra effort is worth it: a pretty edge that doesn’t roll and isn’t garter stitch, yay!

IMG_2896(rev 1)

6209710800_14b765ec1c_b(rev 1)

FO Friday: July 2011 STR Socks

IMG_2906-1(rev 1)

I continue to enjoy my Blue Moon Fiber Arts sock club socks.  This yarn is deceptively pretty, with purples and lime greens hidden in the foilage.

IMG_2911(rev 1)

Project: July 2011 STR Socks

Pattern: Fences

Designer: JC Briar

Available: sometime in July 2012

Yarn: BMFA Socks That Rock Lightweight

Pattern was great, quick and easy knit.  I shortened the toe (as I almost always do) to fit my squared-off Dutch feet.

IMG_2909(rev 0)

IMG_2900(rev 1)

Fantasy Queue: Knitty First Fall 2011

A few weeks ago, I was anxiously awaiting the new patterns from Knitty’s First Fall 2011.  Then they came out.  If I sound a little underwhelmed …. well, I am.  I hate to admit it, but this really isn’t my favorite issue of Knitty.  Which is to say, instead of wanting to make nearly ALL of them, only about half call me with their siren song.  I’m used to unremitting “ohhs” and “ahhs” when I page through a new issue of Knitty — this one has a few “hmms” and “uh, what?”  That said, there are many more patterns that I could ever reasonably make, so for this post I answer this question: If I had unlimited time and money, what would I knit, and with what yarn?

Chasing Snakes

Often I’m drawn to complex sock patterns with a whole lot going on. Recently, I learned the folly of my ways … and then up pops this little number. Bold cabling in a non-traditional irregular sinuous pattern zig-zags down the leg, while the rest of the sock takes a background role. If I were being very, very good I would use some of my stashed yarn for new socks … but in my fantasy queue I spring for some Stroll Tonal in “Canopy.”

Double Heelix

Love the unique and interesting spiral heel-first approach on these socks! The pair featured in knitty are striking, but I REALLY love the “flavor 3” variation — especially since it uses Socks That Rock Lightweight in “Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test.” This is the March 2011 sock club colorway, that I’ve already used to make socks and an ipod nano cozy.  I would definitely have to do a Flavor 3 pair for myself — maybe use my sock club coupon to pick up some STR in “Fire on the Mountain” with “Korppi” for the dark background color.

 

Cast On Monday: the all-BMFA edition

Last week, I sat down and took a good hard look at my Transition Point socks (from the May 2011 BMFA Sock Club shipment). I’d finished the leg on the first sock, and had started the heel turn.  I had been trying on the leg obsessively as I worked, because I’d already frogged and restarted twice due to fit issues. So, the leg fit … but it didn’t feel very good the diagonal slipped-stitch lines pulled and tugged, and although I’m not crazy-sensitive, I am bothered by binding clothing. Then there the odd zig-zag pooling, which was disruptive to the pattern … which, if I am honest, I found a bit over-worked.  Too much going on, without enough coherence. Seed stitch on a sock is another question mark — it just isn’t as stretchy and it’s bumpy next to the skin.  I knew every time I wore these socks (which wouldn’t be that often, because of the binding problem), I would have the seed stitch impressed into my feet after I took them off. So, I took a deep breath, pulled out the needles, and sent this project to the Frog Pond for permanent retirement — consider this an un-cast-on annoucement :).

One thing I do love about knitting is that a project may be over and done, but the yarn is still salvageable. I wound the kinky frogged yarn gently around the cake, and set it aside.  Then, yesterday, I realized that I do still love the colors in the skein, especially when they are mixed up together. Then I thought about how much I like all the one-skein sock yarn shawls out there, and then I thought about this great lace edging I’ve been meaning to use for something … so last night I cast on for a new Remily Knits design: a sideways-knit one-skein shawlette for variegated yarn.

In the midst of all this, the July 2011 BMFA Sock Club shipment arrived! I can’t share photos yet (there are no-spoiler rules to preserve the surprise for all club members), but I can say that I love the yarn, and that one of the two patterns REALLY appealing to me.  I cast on some new socks Saturday.