Friday, February 29, 2008



Some people called it the Tree of Heaven. No matter where its seed fell, it made a tree which struggled to reach the sky.
-- Betty Smith, A Tree Grows In Brooklyn

These socks are named for Francie Nolan, the main character in my favorite book, A Tree Grows In Brooklyn. Like the book, and like Francie, the socks are full of unexpected beauty and character. There are stories hidden in their folds, interesting shapes to be found in their bark, and new ideas to be found in their branches.

Smooshy Sock Preview

These socks were designed with an adventurous knitter in mind. While the leg of the socks is easier to execute than it might appear at first glance, the foot of the socks involves shaping that is probably new to most sock knitters. This shaping results in interesting curves in new places, a foot-hugging contour that surpasses the comfortable clinging power of most traditional ribbed socks, and a new way to shape a toe. The socks may take a bit more concentration than you’re used to, particularly once you get to the foot, but once you find the rhythm of these socks everything should fall into place.

(photo used with the permission of Natalie)

These socks were knit with Dream In Color Smooshy, at 8 stitches per inch, on U.S. size 1 (2.25 mm) DPNs. You can use any sock yarn you like, preferably in a solid or nearly-solid color. This sock is very stretchy, and will fit a wide range of foot sizes. You can easily customize the fit of the leg and foot by changing needle sizes, to make the circumference a bit wider or a bit narrower. Because the entire sock is based on 2x2 ribbing, the sizing range is generously large. There are instructions in the pattern for customizing the length of the leg and foot of the sock.

Because these socks are a bit different than your average socks, those of you who have knit socks before will have an easier time with this pattern. There is no one skill in these socks that is difficult, but they may take more concentration than your average sock pattern until you get into their unique rhythm. Those of you who can read your knitting (see the difference between knit and purl stitches) will have an easier time with this pattern, although I try to give as much instruction as is reasonably possible. I found them really fun to knit, because I was doing things I'd never quite done before, and it was exciting to see how it would all turn out in the end! There is a lot of new stuff in these socks, and if you like new stuff in your knitting, I think you'll really enjoy knitting this pattern.

The Francie pattern is available for sale right now, as a PDF download. I am using Ravelry's new pattern delivery system, which means that pattern delivery is automatic -- no more waiting for me to email you anything! You do not need to be a member of Ravelry to use the system, although if you are, you have the option to add the PDF directly to the library in your notebook, which is very convenient. The cost of this pattern is $6.50, and you can click the button below to purchase it:

Here is a direct link to the Ravelry page for the pattern.
(Please keep in mind that if you use an e-check, the pattern will not be delivered until the check clears. I believe this can take up to 10 days. I do keep an eye on my Paypal account on a daily basis, to make sure that everyone who has paid by e-check gets their patterns as soon as possible after the check clears, because I know that it is difficult to wait!)

Let me know if you have any problems with payment or with receiving your copy of the pattern. And of course, please contact me if you have any difficulties with the pattern. It has been test knitted by the wonderful and talented Natalie, and proof-read and tweaked until my eyes bled, so I hope it is free of errors. If I (or anyone else) find major errors, I will update the PDF and send new copies to those who have already purchased it. I am quite proud of this pattern, and want to make sure that it brings as much joy to others as it has to me.


Oh, and the contest winner! I was a bit embarrassed when the very first person to guess figured out the origin of the pattern name. I thought it must have been much too easy, but was relieved when most of the rest of the contest participants didn't have a clue. Congrats to Dove for being the first person to not only enter the contest, but to enter with the correct answer. Boy are you fast! Please send me an email at the email address in the sidebar, and I will send you a copy of the pattern. Thank you to everyone else who entered. Your guesses really entertained me.


Oh, and here's the legal mumbo jumbo from the end of the pattern. There has been a lot of discussion on Ravelry lately about this sort of stuff, and I have come to the conclusion that it is best to put this information here, as well as in the PDF. The short story is that use the pattern however you want for personal use. The long story is:

This pattern was created and written by Rebekkah Kerner. It is intended for personal use, meaning that you may make as many pairs of socks from this pattern as you like for yourself, or to give away as gifts. This pattern is not to be distributed, for free or for money, in any format, without the permission of Rebekkah Kerner. Items created from this pattern are not to be sold or used for commercial gain without the permission of Rebekkah Kerner. If you are interested in working out an agreement to distribute this pattern or to sell socks made from this pattern, please contact Rebekkah using the contact information on the title page of the pattern.

Smooshy sock - 3/4 view

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Monday, February 25, 2008

glowing ginger (and a little contest!)

Ginger pile

Falklands wool, hand dyed by Hello Yarn, in the Ginger colorway. This yarn is 92 grams, 255 yards, and 14 wpi. The colors are more beautiful than I can capture with a camera. If I had a choice, everything I knit would contain at least one of the shades in this yarn. The dye job is amazing. Here's another view:

Ginger skein

I spun the yarn using the fractal method, which I guess was discussed in a recent issue of a spinning magazine, which I do not own. But I heard enough people discussing it on Ravelry that I got the basic idea. You split your roving in half lengthwise (or fail to split it evenly in half, as I did), and spin one bobbin straight from half of the roving. For the other bobbin, you split the second half of your roving into thinner strips, so the color repeats end up being shorter once it is spun up. When you ply the singles together, you are combining one very long repeat of the colors in the roving with a series of shorter repeats of the same sequence, resulting in a somewhat subdued entropy of color combinations. I'm not sure that I'll really feel the full effect of the technique until the yarn is knit up, but what I think it means for me now is that there are places where the colors of the plies contrast, and places where they match, and that I find that very pretty.

You can see a couple of close-up photos here and here. I think it's hard to see in my photos, but in the yarn I can see exactly where Adrian got the name Ginger for the colorway. Especially since I cooked with ginger root this weekend. (mmm... samosas!) There are parts of the yarn that are a glowing light coppery/golden brown color, almost exactly the same shade as the outside of ginger root. I think those were my favorite parts.

This was my first time working with Falklands wool, and I really enjoyed it. It was a bit tough to draft, after having just worked with merino, but extremely easy to spin. It has a solid softness to it. It reminds me a bit of Cascade Eco Wool. I'm not sure I'd say that the final yarn feels like Eco Wool, but just that both Eco Wool and my Falklands roving have that same sort of softness that doesn't feel delicate or too fine, but which has a kind of backbone to it, if that makes sense.

Thanks to my uneven splitting of the roving, I have 25 grams leftover. (Yes, I realize that I should have used the thicker piece for the first ply, just stripping off a thin section to use for the second ply, evening out the weights. I was not thinking at all...) I've balled that up, and will keep it for plying up in case I need a bit extra yarn for whatever project I choose. I'm thinking a hat of some sort, because this yarn deserves to get shown off, and a head is a good place to show things off!

As for the contest... the sock pattern is almost done! What was holding me back was lack of a name. I couldn't do the final formatting until I had a title page (because I'm stubborn), and I couldn't have a title page until I had a name (because I'm stubborn). I finally thought of the perfect name for the socks. Here's a little reminder of what the socks look like:

My creation

Their name is Francie. This is one of those things that may be completely obvious, or so obscure that nobody will get it. I honestly don't know which.

I have decided to set Friday, February 29 as the publishing date for this pattern. Leap day for a sock pattern = perfection! (Plus, setting a solid goal for myself, in public, will get me to finish that formatting.) The first person to guess why these socks are named Francie will receive a free copy of the pattern. (Or a free copy of one of my hat patterns, if you aren't into socks.) Please don't use Google to try to find the answer -- you either know it somewhere in the deep recesses of your mind, or you don't. You can guess by leaving a comment or emailing me at the address in the sidebar.

If nobody guesses before the pattern is published, I suppose I'll choose my favorite wrong answer. Or maybe choose a random number. I have no idea. I'm betting someone will get it, though!

Good luck, and see you on Friday.

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Tuesday, February 19, 2008

If nothing else, it will look cute on your head.

The first issue of WeaveZine is out!

A few months ago, Syne told me about starting up this new fiber arts magazine. Not being a weaver, I felt bad that there wasn't any way for me to contribute. Then we realized that I could contribute by helping combine knitting and weaving. We devised the basic project idea, and then I immediately got the cold sweats when I realized that I have very little lace design experience, and struggled a bit with the ins and outs of the one and only lace edging I'd done before.

Needless to say, I was as nervous as I was excited, at first. I mean, Syne is a superstar. I'm fairly certain that all of the Chuck Norris facts apply to her as well, with the bonus that she knows a lot more about weaving and knitting than Chuck ever could aspire to. So I looked through a bunch of edging patterns, to get my bearings. I didn't want to copy or emulate anything, but just get a better feel for my options in terms of construction and attachment to a piece of fabric.

I ended up going with plain and simple, with a design that looked nice with (I think) the woven fabric Syne whipped up. (And if you've never handled handwoven fabric, you don't know what you're missing. It definitely has magic in it, just like handspun yarn does.) Here's the result of our combined efforts:



The pattern for the weaving and the knitting can be found here. We used a 20/2 silk yarn, but if you don't have access to that, just think laceweight. If you aren't lucky enough to have access to hand woven fabric, you can still attach the edging from something store-bought.

If delicate white lacy Antimacassars don't interest you, how about some incredibly bright handspun?

handspun merino rainbow

85 grams, 443 yards, 22 wpi
2 ply, singles spun at a 15.5:1 ratio

Believe it or not, that's a bit underplied. I've learned that I naturally treadle a bit fast, so I probably added a bit more twist to the singles than would have been ideal. I'd hoped to be able to overply a bit, because I've heard that's good for sock yarn, but I wonder if slightly overspun and underplied (but still tightly plied) works well, too.

This yarn is not exactly what I planned to make with the roving. I had 7 somewhat equal amounts of merino roving in rainbow colors, totalling 100 grams. I wanted each single to have 3 rainbow repeats in it, with the second single slightly staggered (by ripping off a bit of red roving from the beginning and saving it for the very end), so my 2 ply yarn would have 3 rainbow repeats in it, with a bit of barberpoling at the color transitions. Have you noticed that that's no even close to what I got? What I did spin is the result of my second bobbin being slightly thicker than my first bobbin, completely throwing everything off. And I like it. It's a bit more frantic than I would have chosen, but was a great learning experience, and will make some truly funky socks. The yarn also ended up a bit thinner than I hoped, but I'm keeping my fingers crossed that I'll be able to get a decent sock fabric on size 0 needles. If only I spun that first bobbin slightly thicker! It would have solved both my problems!

And of course I have a bunch of that first bobbin remaining. I'm not sure what to do with it, so maybe I'll wind it off into a ball until I decide. I just ordered a Spinner's Control Card, which I hope will help me stay more on track in the future.

The pattern writing is almost done (just need to do a few dozen more read throughs...), and I have another gorgeous spinning project on the wheel. More to come soon!

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Thursday, February 14, 2008

spun gold

The first batch of handspun made with my wheel:

Handspun Gold

Handspun Gold

Blue Faced Leicester (dyed by Spunky Eclectic)
spun worsted style, double drive, 15.5:1 ratio, on a Schacht Matchless
about 15 wraps per inch (sportweight)
3 ply, 96 grams, 332 yards

Take a look at it all twisted up into a skein:

Handspun Gold

Handspun Gold

There's also a second, much smaller skein. This was my first time making a 3 ply yarn, my first time using a lazy kate, and most importantly, my first time plying on a wheel. My inexperience caused it to be an unnecessarily messy process, which meant that the yarn didn't wind as tightly as it should have onto the bobbin. This, of course, meant that the bobbin was "full" before it should have been. But I improved when I plied the second, tiny skein of what was left over, which is what's important.

For the spinners who may be interested, the plying technique I found worked for me (at least for now) was to hold each singles separate as it came from the kate, going between adjacent fingers, controlling the twist with my right hand. I'd let twist build up in a length (maybe 8" or so at a time), then let that feed onto the bobbin. I ran into problems when I fed it on too quickly, without enough takeup tension, causing the yarn to jump off the hooks, change hooks, and/or just wind on without enough tension, causing my fluffy (and ugly) bobbin syndrome. I improved upon the technique later by increasing the uptake and feeding onto the bobbin a bit more slowly. I also ended up running the whole skein through the wheel again, because the first half of it was slightly under-plied.

My first skein was an amazing learning experience. I was definitely playing it by ear a lot. I have tons to learn about my wheel, and I plan to pick up a copy of Alden Amos' book this weekend, to help out. I know that he's very opinionated, and that he points and laughs at me for being a simpleton and using double treadles. (For the record, I'm very pleased with my decision to wait for a double treadle wheel. Using two feet helps me keep an even rhythm -- especially when I'm going slowly.) I also know (because I browsed through the book yesterday) that the book is full of an amazing amount of knowledge, all of which I want to cram into my head as soon as possible.

I've already begun on my next spinning project. I don't have pretty bobbin photos yet, but I can give you a taste:

rainbow baggies

I bought a collection of 7 rainbow colors of merino top (totalling 100 grams) from Fibrespace. It's split up into 6 baggies so I can spin a 2 ply yarn with 3 rainbow repeats along the length. The first baggie is almost done, despite an embarrassing incident involving a retail establishment and the discovery of about a gram of indigo merino stuck to my long skirt. (I salvaged most of it. And don't think too many people saw me in that state...)

On a completely different note, I thought that some of you might be interested that pattern sales through Ravelry are almost completely in place. The advantages of buying my patterns through Ravelry, as opposed to just clicking on the Paypal links here, are that you get an automatic delivery of the PDF (you don't have to wait for me to email it), and that a portion of the pattern sales go to support Ravelry. (Right now I think it's 5% of sales for people selling under $100 a month, and a set fee schedule for sellers who sell more than that.) I don't know that the system is 100% glitch free yet, but it did seem to work nicely for a couple of test buys yesterday.

Right now I think you have to be a Ravelry member (aren't you all!) to use the system, but I'm pretty sure that the service will be available for non-members soon, too. I'll update the links on the blog pattern pages soon, but for now, if you're interested, here are the Ravelry pattern pages for the 1989 hat and Smoke Signals. I hope this doesn't sound like a sales pitch. I'm sure that most or all of you who are interested in those patterns have bought them already. But I'm very pleased that I have a new (and improved!) way to sell the patterns to any future customers.

All of this is very exciting for me, and I'm sure for other designers on Ravelry, too. It's wonderful to have an auto-delivery service provided by an organization I trust and support. Perhaps more exciting for you guys is that I have a new sock pattern very close to ready for sale. The test knitter has finished the first sock (and the second one is identical), and I just have to tweak the pattern a bit and slap it all together. The optimist in me says that it will be ready by the end of the weekend, but I don't want to promise anything. Curious about what it will be? You've seen one photo. Take a look at more here. (I still haven't decided on a name for them.)

Oh yeah. I've been knitting, too. A few rows, anyway. But nothing much to say about that, so I'll show you some more gold. Here are the singles that turned into my yarn:

yellow bobbin 1 closer

I hope your days are filled with as much sunshine as that yarn brings me.

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Friday, February 08, 2008


Orchid Lace Mitts

Orchid Lace Mitts (the short version), designed by Anne Hanson (Ravelry link). I knit them using my handspun BFL.

Orchid Lace Mitts modeled

It's a fun and well written pattern, and I have to say that it was really a pleasure to just sit down and follow a pattern word for word, and not even have the urge to think about changing a thing.

Orchid Lace Mitts detail

I was pleasantly surprised by the striping in the yarn. I made no effort while spinning or plying it to get the colors to do anything in particular. I think this is kind of like the new knitter who doesn't knit a gauge swatch, but ends up with a perfectly fitting sweater anyway. It won't necessarily happen again, but I'll take what I can get!

I made the mitts for the friend who sent me the roving, when I was a wee baby spinner. It's been hard not to blog about them, and even harder to not tell her about them, but she just got the package, so I'm finally in the clear.

And speaking of receiving special packages, look at what I made this morning:

And it begins.

The only word for it is glee. Even though I'm mostly going by trial and error right now (I have a lifetime to learn the technical ins and outs of the machine), wheel spinning feels incredibly natural, and is just about all I've wanted to do since I sat down in front of it for the first time last night.

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