Friday, January 1, 2021

Welcome to 2021

I don’t think I need to point out to anyone that 2020 has been a challenging year. The pandemic’s effects have been felt through every aspect of our lives — job insecurity, a lockdown, inability to visit family, grocery scarcity, trying to manage our own anxieties while supporting our children through theirs ...

Grid of nine most-liked photos from Instagram: 3 pairs of socks, 2 tops, a knit headband, EPP templates, 3 EPP flower blocks, and a stack of sixteen-patch quilt blocks.
The top nine 2020 photos from my Instagram feed.

The change is evident in the projects I worked on this year. The list appears to be much shorter than in past years, but the effort was perhaps greater.

Sewing

  • 8 hand-stitched flower blocks for The Hexagon Project
  • 1 quilted table runner
  • 100 sixteen-patch blocks, each 4.5 inches (about 11.4 cm) unfinished
  • 16 masks


Knitting

  • 2 tops
  • 5 pairs of socks
  • 1 headband
  • 1 table runner


Making those masks took a lot out of me emotionally. I couldn’t disconnect from the reason they needed to be made. I have supplies waiting to make more and have been putting it off for weeks.

Sewing the sixteen-patch blocks offered a soothing mindless repetition. I was able to lose myself in color and contrast and short straight seams for a while each time I pulled out the pre-cut scraps. I’ve been testing layouts, creating larger blocks from four like-colored blocks, but have yet to settle on a plan.

Knitting the socks was similarly a relaxing escape, with three of the five pairs made from scraps that again allowed me to focus on the interplay of color and contrast.

I don’t have any set goals for 2021. With the pandemic still a major consideration, I don’t even want to attempt to guess how this year might progress. My hope is that we’re on the upswing, and I wish you all the best in this new year.

Sunday, December 27, 2020

Books and Knitting

When we receive gift cards for Christmas, we usually don’t use them right away. We’ve just received other gifts and aren’t feeling the need or want to buy anything new, so they tend to sit until the spring.

This spring, we were distracted by the pandemic — so much so that we forgot about our gift cards until we were beginning preparations for this Christmas. Yes, we added to the shipping backlog by ordering belated gifts for ourselves even as we ordered new gifts for others.

Between my gift card shopping and the gifts that were given to me this year, I had four knitting books to read this winter.

A stack of four knitting books with two skeins of sock yarn on top and a small packet of stitch markers to the side.
  • “Socks from the Toe Up” by Wendy D. Johnson is a book of patterns and techniques for knitting socks from the toe up. I knit a lot of socks, but my sock pattern collection is almost entirely top-down. Toe-up offers different design opportunities and challenges, and it is a useful technique when unsure about yarn quantity — there’s no need to guess how long to knit the leg since it can be knit until the yarn runs out.
  • “100 Knits” is a collection of 100 popular patterns from the editors at Interweave. The projects span a wide range of wearables, and there are only a handful that I didn’t want to add to my to-knit list right away.
  • “Selbu Mittens” by Anne Bårdsgård provides an interesting history of Norwegian mitten knitting from the Selbu region, along with 35 patterns and hundreds of charts. I enjoyed learning fine details about requirements for mitten proportions and pattern placement. While the mitten construction is virtually unchanged between patterns, the two-color knitting varies in complexity and all of the patterns call for an Experienced skill level. I think a less experienced knitter could focus first on creating simple one-color mittens, then gradually add in rows of color as their comfort level with the technique grows.
  • “Socks from Around Norway” by Nina Granlund Sæther includes more Norwegian knitting history and patterns. The sock patterns are insprired by traditional designs with a more modern aesthetic. There is a greater variety of skill level suggested for these patterns than in the mitten book, and not all of the socks are knit with multiple colors.

I enjoyed reading all of these books, and I’m looking forward to expending my skills as I try the various patterns. Happily, I also received two skeins of sock yarn and a set of stitch markers for Christmas this year. All are from Miss Babs; the yarns are Putnam in the colorways Dark Andromeda and Believable.

Now, what to make first?

Sunday, November 29, 2020

Chains and Tough Love

How are you all doing out there? Are you staying safe and healthy? Are you coping well — or well enough?

We’re all healthy and safe, but it’s still a struggle. My focus isn’t the same, and neither is my sleep quality. I have just enough mental sharpness to get through my work days, and then I’m done.

I cast on to knit a top in July. It’s a pretty pattern from a new-to-me designer whose patterns I’ve admired for quite a while. I was making decent progress — I made it through the initial lace pattern and the rest is simple stockinette stitch. It should be smooth sailing at this point, but I need to adjust the fit. It’s not a difficult adjustment, but I’ll need to pay close attention to changes I make so they’re the same on the front and the back. And it’s a fine gauge yarn in a dark color. I don’t have it in me to continue right now.

I looked through my seemingly endless supply of kits, trying to find something quick that might jump start my will to make something new. Nothing appealed.

I kept looking at a new skein of sock yarn. As I’ve mentioned before, knitting socks is a comfort for me. I was in high production during our lockdown this spring. Even that wasn’t appealing this time.

I decided to force the issue. I pulled out the yarn, SweetGeorgia Yarns Tough Love Sock in the colorway Shadow. I pulled out my go-to pattern book, Sensational Knitted Socks by Charlene Schurch, and chose Chain Rib.

And then I laughed at my subconscious self. Could I have chosen anything else that sums up my current feelings so well?

Detail of hand knit chain rib socks in progress with a ball of yarn in the background on a dark wood surface.

The yarn is called Tough Love. The dark colorway is called Shadow. The stitch, chain rib, gets its name because it looks like a series of linked chains running up the length of the sock.

But I'm halfway through the first sock and still making progress. Maybe this is what I needed. I’ll try not to let so much time pass before I post again.

I hope you’re able to find what you need to get through these days in the best way possible. Feel free to comment here or on Instagram — I may not be posting, but I’m here.