Friday, December 28, 2007

End of the Year Sale, and more on Noro Sock Yarn

Just a reminder to those of you who don't already know (and you should) about the annual end-of-the-year sale at Kiwi. It continues until the 31st, and sale prices are 25% off of everything in the store, with yarns on the sales table now 50% off. This is a great time to stock up on those necessities that you keep thinking about, the yarn you have been wanting to treat yourself to and just haven't yet, or to get great bang for your buck with the Holiday gift certificates. Stop in before the end of the year to take advantage of the sale.

Well, As you can see by the photo above, I have finished the first sock of my pair with the new Noro Kureyon sock yarn, and finished the ribbing for the second sock. I've had great fun working with this yarn, I always say that Noro yarns are like reading a great book: you think to yourself, I really need to stop and go - do laundry, wash dishes, go to bed, go to work - your choice. But you can't put it down, you just have to see what is coming up next. The pattern I have used is called Annetrelac Socks, and it comes from the Interweave Knits Holiday 2007. In this pattern, the entrelac is worked only on the upper part of the sock, with the lower sock worked in stockinette. The color variations have worked perfectly together for the entrelac effect, though next time I plan to try the entrelac sock pattern from the book Socks, Socks Socks by XRX Publishers. That pattern is a toe-up with entrelac patterning all the way up the sock. I'm curious to see which effect I like better.

A few bits of info that I can give you now that I have been working with this yarn for a few days - like all Noro yarns, because they are hand-spun, there are variations in the thickness of the yarn from time to time. In general it is on the finer side of sock yarns that I have used, and I find that the occasional thicker blips just give this yarn texture and interest. Use a smaller needle and knit firmly for a durable fabric with this yarn. Also, there is a lot of spin in the Noro sock yarn, so any time that you get any slack in your yarn it will twist back on itself. Because I always wind yarn into a ball before starting to knit with it, I was able to mitigate the effect by winding the ball counter to the twist, but I think that if you were to knit straight from the skein it could be fussy on occasion. I mention these characteristics of the yarn not because I feel they are faults - they are not. But to give you some info on how to work with this unique yarn. I've seen three other pairs of socks in progress with this yarn, and they are all beautiful, the colors just lend themselves to all manner of stitch patterns.

A note about winding skeins into balls before knitting. I do realize that not all of you are the fanatics that I am, with a ball winder and swift set up permanently in your dining room. Take a few minutes before you leave Kiwi, and if the ball-winder table isn't busy, wind up a few of your skeins to get yourself started. Why do I do this? Because I want to learn about the yarn before I start knitting with it. How tight is the twist? How rough or soft is the yarn? Are there any knots in the yarn that I have to be aware of beforehand? What is the 'hand' of the yarn? Is there vegetable matter in it? A little? Lots? An entire field? Is it going to shed? These are great things to know and take into account before you begin working with the yarn, and many times the information can make your process easier as you work.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Noro Sock Yarn

Noro Sock Yarn
Are they not three of the most beautiful words in the English language? I mean to ask you, what's not to like in that equation? Yarn? I love yarn! Socks? Me likes knitting socks! Noro? Pfff! Don't be silly, of course we love Noro!

This wonderful yarn hit the shop last Thursday, and first thing Friday morning I was in there laying my hands on a few skeins. Since making a couple pair of socks lately for Christmas gifts, I have fallen in love with sock-knitting all over again. My first project when getting back to knitting was a pair of socks. I remember sitting on the bed at my sister's house that night with a ball of yarn, a set of dpns, and a book on knitting open in my lap so that I could figure out what the heck to do with all that stuff. At the moment I have 1.5 projects to knit, or design and knit for upcoming January classes, and as soon as those are off my plate in the next week I am diving into a pair of socks with this wonderful new yarn. Lynn had a sock on the needles that same day.already

The Kureyon sock yarn has a total of approximately 450 yards of yarn to it's 100 gram balls, so there is plenty in one skein to make a pair of socks. The fiber content is 70% wool, 30% nylon which should wear well and give lots of spring to the fiber. It is a handwashable yarn - socks like these are worth a swish in the sink.

The other day, someone on one of the knitting lists was asking which element other knitters find first - the pattern or the yarn - (several people answered simply, 'Yes!') and my answer was: whichever one I see first. If I see a yarn that I love, I'll buy it, even if I don't know yet what it will grow up to be. If I see a pattern that I love, I'll start with that, and then find the yarn that works for it.

In this case it was definitely a yarn-first deal, I knew I would have no problems finding a pattern that works for the type of long color changes that Noro yarns are known for. Then last night, flipping again through the Interweave Knits Holiday 2007 issue, I saw the Annetrelac Socks, and knew that this would be the first thing I try with this yarn. I love my Lady Eleanor that I made with Noro Silk Garden in entrelac, and I can picture that Noro Kureyon sock yarn would be perfect for this type of pattern. The KnittingZone also has a downloadable entrelac sock pattern called Basket Case Socks that would probably work wonderfully for a sock yarn such as this.

I can see myself altering either of those patterns to get my ideal, but at any rate, these are going to make some gorgeous socks, and would be equally as wonderful for wrist warmers - good last-minute Holiday gifts!

As a last note - a reminder that Old Pueblo Knitters, our local knitting guild, is having it's December meeting tomorrow, Thursday that 20th, at 9:30 a.m. at St. Philip's Church at River and Campbell. There will be a Holiday gift exchange - something small - a potluck (Desi asks that we not all bring deserts!) and a baby shower for Tia. Guests are always welcome, and hopefully I'll see you there!

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Holiday Knitting, Part Two

Well, I am finally looking at the end of my 'planned' gift knitting. Today I will finish my sister's second sock, run it through the washer and dryer, and wrap those puppies and get them all ready for the mail tomorrow - ten days past my hoped-for mailing date, but not shabby, nonetheless.

If you are still knitting franticly away, or stuck for some ideas of what to knit, here are a few quick ideas for you with free patterns...

The Winter Issue of Knitty is out, and while they always have some really great free patterns, the focus in this issue seems to concentrate on one-skein or other quick projects. If you want a lace project that is fast and also very elegant and feminine, there is a LOT of buzz on the lists about the Ice Queen, a lace smoke ring or cowl done with beads - very beautiful. Speaking as someone whose list of favorite things would have to start with lace-knitting and beads, this is definitely on my to-do list.

The Tudora is a quick neck-warmer worked with cables and a single button, really pretty and practical. Halcyon is a lovely lace scarf with a edge detail of ribbon threaded through eyelets. I have been looking for an excuse to buy more of that gorgeous Louisa Harding Sari Ribbon at Kiwi, and I think this is it. I love lace scarves as they are quick gratification for the lace itch, and their light weight means that you can wear them all day without feeling too heavy or wrapped up. I get tons of compliments anytime I wear one, and I think this one needs to be added to my collection.

And Oh My Gosh you have to take a look at Square Cake, a really beautiful small bag done with my two favorite elements (say them with me, now), lace and beads! In two different sizes, small and smaller, this would also be a quick and delicious gift to make.

In the 'more involved, but just as gorgeous' category would certainly be Aoife, a bolero jacket accented with Celtic-style cabling. I can already picture it for myself with a rich color - perhaps a deep garnet, with the cables done in a contrast color such as a black yarn with a bit of sheen (maybe I can figure out how to throw some beads into those cables!).

This issue also includes their usual selection of great sock patterns, something I think Knitty is well-known for, and I am already mentally queuing up the Chevrolace Socks and Azure.

But the pattern from this issue that I find the most intriguing would have to be Jeanie, a stole that combines cables and dropped stitches in a way that I haven't seen before. Each element separately, yes, but not in combination like this. Very interesting texture!

It seems as though everyone on the two main knitting lists on Yahoo is knitting at least one (many are knitting several) Fidget. What the heck is a Fidget, you ask? A Fidget is a short, thick, very warm scarf that buttons at the neck, or as my husband called it, a neck-warmer. The pattern is free on the One Sheep Hill website, and I can testify here that it is a quick and easy knit. I made one Friday at the same time as teaching Knit Doctor and giving a private lesson. They only require about 100 yards of chunky yarn, size US 9 needles, and four buttons. Can't get much simpler than that.

And if you have a little spare time for gift knitting - and even if you don't... Our own Desi's husband is a sergeant with TPD, and every year the department does a Holiday party for the kids in our city that fall through the cracks of other charities here in town. We have had a collection box at Kiwi for the last couple of weeks that has been filling up with knitted hats and scarves (that is where my Fidget is going tomorrow). Can you take some time out of your day and knit up a quick hat or scarf to make some child's Holiday warmer and brighter? Don't have the time? Maybe bring by an unwrapped gift for a child. The deadline is nearly upon us, this Wednesday, the 12th, and shame on me for not mentioning it here earlier. My husband and I have had a really, really hard year financially with one blow after another, but we have a roof over our heads, food on our table, and warm clothes to wear - in other words, we have it a lot better than too many people out there. Let's share and make the world just that little bit better.