(flower of the day, squash)
before i get to today’s story, i just want to go back and comment of friday’s post about math and beauty, and how it affects me as a designer. the discussion that this topic opened up was astounding . . . the comments are, as a group, the most lengthy and excited ones i think i’ve had on one topic. (FO posts not included).
i think the reason that knitting and design appeal to the latent mathematician in all of us is our need to access feelings of wonder and satisfaction in our work. there is nothing like the moment when, after building for a while with the simple components of knit, decrease, and yo (and a little faith), the beautiful truth of lace (or cables, or stranding) is revealed.
our wonder (and the faith) is further confirmed when we subject the piece to blocking, and the laws of physics cause the fabric to open, thus multiplying the beauty-effect with only the addition of tension, properly placed.
add to all that the satisfaction of knowing that it all spawns from our own hands, and hey, you can’t beat the feeling. as all of us spend more and more of our work time not really producing anything concrete, we hunger for some tangible validation of our investment of energy and precious time.
with knitting, you get that back. the fact that is is intellectually stimulating, whether conscious or not, gives our brains a reason to keep going back for more, increasing what we know, becoming better at it. it’s good for our self-esteem, it’s good for our inner Euclid.
i love the color combinations in this butterfly so much that i wanted to put it in a jar and keep it. but i didn’t. instead, i ran in the house and got the camera and bumbled my way back outside—it was waiting.
so, the other day, i was a little stunned when i wrote that i had only one project on the needles and it was a sock. i ran around the house and checked, and sure enough, aside from a few UFOs that are sort-of in semi-deep storage, that was the only one. so that night i got right down to business and cast on a few socks.
but today, i have only a long illustrated story about not knitting socks. yet.
maybe it’s that i have a couple more irons in the fire than i should, or maybe it’s that i’m spending the better percentage of my concentration on work and One Pattern in Particular, but for the last two weeks, i have been in a nearly-constant struggle with a sock design.
the yarn is both gorgeous, and a real challenge. i showed it to you a few weeks ago, and said i needed to design a sock for the yarn4socks sock club. i’m really excited to be working with meg from twisted yarns, who sent me sample skeins about a month ago; they are all the same colors, but the repeat of the striping is different on each one
so we have a fairly strong autumn palette, with striping, and lots of choices as to the graduation of color. hmmm.
i had a couple of ideas right off the bat, and of course, lots of people by now expect something lacy, so one thing to explore would be lace. but i also hoped to maybe find something not lacy, just for a change . . .
i immediately started looking at every horizontal stitch pattern i could find (and you know how many of those there are . . .). ideally, i would have liked a horizontal lace motif to make rings around the sock that worked with the color repeat. ha! that has not come to pass, though i’m still looking.
so i settled for ANY lace pattern that would work with the color repeat, AND be fun (a big priority).
the fun part is tricky. i really can’t stand knitting socks that feel arduous, or have too many crossovers, or where the stitch count means you have to break up motifs between needles. i just can’t deal with doing all that on the itty-bitty needles (sweaters and shawls are completely different, having just one needle). i am a lazy sock knitter, in other words, and that narrows the field of usable stitch pattens quite a bit. which is good because i have enough trouble making stitch pattern decisions as it is.
but i still want wow-factor. i still WANT the socks to look like they are way complicated and i slaved over them for weeks. who wouldn’t? (you’ll never create true sock appreciators in your cotérie unless you dazzle them with the goods and make them think they should earn the privilege of having them).
i did try a couple of non-lace patterns, and i’m still considering one rib i like (but not this one). the one i like is very subtle and works up into a beautiful ombré when i do the rows back and forth in the swatch. but when i put it on the DPNs, something went terribly wrong and it looked awful. i’m going to revisit it.
so i finally narrowed the lace choices down to two stitch patterns. mostly that means that i tried about 27 different ones, and only these two are appealing to me. my first choice is this
heh. notice anything odd about it? uh, yeah, it slants just a tad. and because i’m a masochist and i’m not feeling behind enough already (that is, i’m not lying awake at night over the sock YET), i’m going to try something. i’m wondering if using a slanting design will work ok after all—it might even make the sock hug the foot and ankle better, seeing as lace patterns sometimes don’t (if you’ve tried this already and it was an utter failure, it would be ok to let me know).
at any rate, i have a backup pattern picked out too. this one slants just a wee bit, but i can fix it.
in both these patterns i like the way the yarn shades as it progresses through the leaf motif. since this is an autumn club kit, i wanted something that says “fall”. i also like the way the colors fall over the leaves, like they are dripping down.
oh yeah, and then there was the decision about which needle size to use. this yarn is a tad hefty, which made me want to use a 2, but i am leery of using 2s for socks. so i tested both the 1 and the 2
wow, that’s a big difference. maybe we’ll go with the 1 so i can squeeze more motifs in. firmer is better after all . . .
so you’d think i’d be all set now that i have a stitch and some needles picked out, right? oh, no.
remember i still have to decide which color repeat will work best.
my instincts will always go with the longest repeat (shut UP debbie), but i felt i had to be fair, so i did some more swatching. at this point, i am employing every single set of #1 needles i can lay my hands on, because, you know i don’t want to eliminate any swatches til i’m sure (hint: i am never sure, even when i’m done).
so i cast on with the lonGER and did a toe. i have to work toe-up with this sock because the motif runs one way.
hmmm—looks like my usual toe construction isn’t quite right for yarns with long color repeats (a problem i usually avoid by working top down . . .)
(seriously, can you believe this?? you think this is really my subconscious telling me to take a break? or is a grand universal truth—make something nice like the bee shawl with practically no problems, and you will pay later in ways you never dreamed of).
ok, i need a better toe (again, shut UP debbie (she knows what i mean))
and THEN maybe i can get on with this sock.
so i heard my friend julie’s voice (which is odd, because we only email; we don’t talk . . .) saying how much she likes the magic cast on (and look, there’s a sock toe right on her blog today). now julie’s really ace, and i am not in the mood for fooling around with a damn toe, so i go right to the computer to look it up and print it out.
then when i finally sat down to watch TV this morning at around 2am, i tried it out. i have never liked techniques for starting at the tippety toe—it’s really hard to work it with my oversized hands and then, it makes a toe that tends to be too short and a little puckery along the sides for me (just my opinion about how it works with my foot; no need to defend it, i still respect all techniques without prejudice).
but wow. THIS i like well enough.
i mean, i wouldn’t switch from top-down socks just to do it, but for this situation, where the yarn demands even distribution all around, it’s nearly perfect.
ok, so yay. after about ninety-leven tries, i’m on my way. but maybe i should do two of them, just to pit them fairly against each other? (besides, i wanted to try that magic cast-on again).
so that’s what i did i started two socks, one with the lonGER and one with the longEST color repeats. i’ll try that ribbed sock with the shortest repeat, just for fun on the side.
usually (really and truly, i mean this) i do NOT have this much trouble with just a sock. i mean sock designs usually spring out of my head pretty much intact—i see yarn, and i see a pattern, i see a marriage, and then i just go with it. it rarely doesn’t work for me. this was very unusual, and i hope that’s the end of this sock being difficult.
because if it isn’t, i will just have to show it the sock i’m making out of this
more woolen rabbit yarn—mmmm. and it’s working up like a dream, of course. i can’t show it to you yet . . . i want to, real bad, but i’m thinking of using it for a submission come september, so, i’m going to wait.
tomorrow there are garden pictures.