November 27, 2005

MIX IT UP A LITTLE

XmasStocking 001.jpg
Yesterday my girls had their annual holiday portrait taken. In the last few years, we've added some of the pets to the portrait -- last year and the year before, the horses; the year before that, the dog; the year before that, the new kitten. This year was Stormy's turn. When we got home from the photography studio, we discovered that Scott had put up the Christmas tree. So the girls and cat posed one more time, and I took this photo. Can you tell they love to get their picture taken?

Also anticipating Christmas is a woman I met last week, a woman who described herself as an "intermediate knitter." She wanted to knit Christmas stockings -- specifically, to knit them and felt them -- for herself and the new man in her life. (My recollection is that she'd never knit socks before.) I liked this idea of doing something new and memorable, something this personal, for their first Christmas together.

So I've been mulling over this project. The design needed to be simple, in keeping not only with her knitting skills, but also with the amount of time available to knit between now and Christmas Eve. But even as the design is simple, it should still be interesting. Simple-but-interesting said to me stripes (and eliminated Fair Isle or intarsia), with some felted embellishment added.

Here's what I've come up with so far:

XmasStocking 003.jpg
I'm using Jamieson's Soft Shetland and Jamieson's Shetland Heather Aran. (Different names, same Shetland worsted weight wool.) The main color is Pine and the accent colors are Purple Heather and Pippin. You see that little loop of spare, Pine-colored yarn to the right of the stocking? That's the 3' 10" of yarn that I had left over from the one single skein of Pine that I used in knitting this sock.

I started this stocking on Wednesday, and finished off the toe just this morning, so I've met that criterion that the design be quick to knit. (The project might have come together even more quickly, if only I had remembered to pack my Purple Heather yarn with me for the drive to my sister's house on Thanksgiving. I'd counted on getting quite a bit of knitting done that day, but sabotaged myself by leaving the Purple Heather at home on the coffee table.)

I know that I've read from time to time on the knitting lists about people who designed something "on the needles" -- they just cast on and made it up as they went along. Whenever I read one of these messages, I always thought, "Oh, I could never do that." Well, guess what? Here I am, doing just that. No gauge swatch, no sketch, just casting on and knitting away. I've knitted enough socks that I could knit the leg, work the heel flap, and turn the heel, all without needing to refer to any resource. And I knew that a Purple Heather heel would look cool on a green sock.

The toe, however, required more experimentation. Initially I'd thought I'd knit a Purple Heather toe, to match the heel. And just in case Santa wants to put a lump of coal, or an orange, or even an autographed Mariners baseball into the toe of the stocking, a round toe would be better than a flat one. (Now, I've never gotten a lump of coal, but one year Santa did put in my stocking a baseball autographed by Lou Pinella, manager of the Mariners at that time. But, thinking back on this year's season and last year's, perhaps getting a Mariners baseball in your stocking nowadays is worse than getting a lump of coal.)

I remembered that the new Nancy Bush book describes 6 different types of toe construction, so I pulled out Knitting Vintage Socks for reference. And there I found directions for the "French toe," which was both rounded and most amenable to the number of stitches I had on my needles.

I tried a Purple Heather toe last evening. My family's reaction:

Allegra: You should use the light green. Mix it up a little.

Scott: The sock is getting kind of dark.

I felt some resistance to knitting a purple heel and a light green toe. Usually heels and toes match, don't they? I had to look through the book Socks, Socks, Socks and reassure myself that this sort of thing has been done before. Then I ripped out the purple toe and knitted a light green one.

In the process of knitting the light green one, I realized what was obvious all along -- that the number of rows needed to completely decrease the toe would work into the existing pattern of stripes. That then would give me a set of three stripes on the foot, which is cuter (and more visually balanced) than a set of two stripes and a contrasting toe.

So I ripped out the light green toe and re-knitted the toe using the stripe sequence. I was holding my breath because I had, at that point, only 3-4 yards of Pine left, and I was unsure whether that would be enough to complete the toe. But, fortunately, I can breathe again.

At the moment, the sock measures 8 inches wide at the leg, and 20 inches long from cuff to tip of the toe. Next steps: To finish up the knitted poinsettia that I'll use to embellish the stocking. Then, to felt the stocking.

And, finally, my plan is to make this pattern available at the Two Swans site.

What to do with a 3' 10" string of leftover yarn? Use it as a cat attractant:

XmasStocking 008.jpg

Posted by Karen at November 27, 2005 03:54 PM
Comments

Karen, that looks wonderful, and it sounds as if you've had so much fun doing it. I'm sure your friend will appreciate all the effort on her behalf. :-)

Posted by: Sam at November 27, 2005 07:14 PM

I'm looking forward to seeing the pattern on your site and maybe even knitting one before Christmas this year. Nice photo of your daughters and Stormy. Stormy could be Mia's twin.

Posted by: Jewel at November 27, 2005 07:16 PM

My goodness, what adorable daughters you have!

Posted by: DD#1 at November 27, 2005 08:00 PM

Yep, those girls are pretty cute, all right. I am still in shock that you have your tree up, already. Man, I am so not ready for Christmas decorating! The Christmas stocking looks fabulous.

Posted by: Anne at November 28, 2005 01:18 PM

Yes, such lovely daughters -- and so smart, and so well behaved, too. Ditto for Storm-ers.

The tree is up, but no ornaments on it, yet. :o)

Posted by: Karen at November 28, 2005 02:11 PM

cute sock and gorgeous daughters :-)

Posted by: vanessa at November 28, 2005 05:54 PM

The girls look wonderful - any tips DDs? Can't wait for the felted stocking pattern. (Lights but not tree yet here)

Posted by: Angela at November 29, 2005 11:47 AM

My nieces look adorable! Also loved the pics of you in your cowgirl outfit and Scott petting an armadillo in San Antonio (I'm catching up on blog-reading and emails today). Amazing knitting projects, too. See you on Dec. 23rd.
P.S.: Wreath up on fireplace, Rudolph lit in front yard, but no tree.

Posted by: Barb at December 2, 2005 01:10 PM