I do love the time right after Christmas when the frenetic pace of preparation and celebration gives way to relaxed lazy days with no deadlines. It's a great time to sit by the tree with a cup of hot spiced cider... and knit!
Now that my Dad has his socks, and my Mom her scarf, I thought I'd give a little wrap-up on the finished objects.
Gentleman's Fancy Socks
from Knitting Vintage Socks, by Nancy Bush
I made these socks in the yarn specified by the pattern, Schaefer Anne, which is a very fine-gauge hand-painted yarn of merino, mohair, and a bit of nylon for durability. It is soft and luscious to knit, with a little loft and a soft halo from the mohair. It's superwash, too, which is nice. This yarn goes a long way. There are 560 yards in the 4-ounce skein. I have well over an ounce left over!
The tag that came on the skein didn't identify a colorway. Looking around a little on the web, I've found that a number of sites (like this one) say that skeins of Anne are one-of-a-kind, impromptu small-batch creations using dyes on hand from making other Schaefer yarns. Several other sites (like this one and this one, for instance) offer named colorways of Anne for sale, so I'm not really sure! In any case, this skein is in subtle, masculine greens, ranging from sages to olives to khakis. The true color is somewhere between these two photos. It has enough variation for interest and depth without distracting from the stitch pattern.
I used size 1 double- pointed bamboo needles (vs. the size 0 needles called for in the pattern). Bamboo needles are not a particular favorite for me. I find them too bendy, and I always feel like they could give way at any moment. It's like knitting with licorice sticks. But I knew this project was going on a vacation with me, and I figured airport security staff and fellow passengers would find the bamboo needles less scary than my trusty steel double-points. So bamboo it was.
I did modify the pattern somewhat. It had some very unusual features, including a "seam stitch" down the center back of the heel, unusually pointed shaping of the toe, and side-to-side grafting. In this book, Nancy Bush seems as much archivist as designer. I, however, was more interested in producing a comfortable, well-fitting sock than in recreating a museum piece, so I eliminated the "seam" and redesigned the toe to a more typical rounded shape.
In the end, I was very happy with the results. The yarn is lovely, the stitch pattern is attractive, stretchy, and accommodating, and the socks fit nicely. Hooray!
Scarf with Striped Border
from Victorian Lace Today, by Jane Sowerby
I made this simple lace scarf in Hand Maiden Sea Silk, a lovely yarn of silk and Sea Cell, a cellulosic fiber made with a smidgen of seaweed. In this case as well, I don't know the colorway. The tag from the skein says only "Hand Dyed in Canada -- one of a kind." This site has good photos of about 40 of its gorgeous colorways; from the picture, it looks like mine might be the Renaissance colorway.
I used size 5 Brittany birch needles. The pattern calls for size 7 needles, but I was looking for a finer texture without such large loops. (On the other hand, in the end, I over-blocked it slightly to open it up. Hmm.) In this project, the Brittany needles had their chance to shine. For most things, I prefer shiny steel or aluminum needles, smooth and fast, but in this case, the wood was perfect for providing a little grip on the slippery silk.
The pattern, which also seems to be referred to by many as "the page 80 scarf," was accurate and reasonably easy. I enjoyed the technique for knitting the borders sideways and the body of the scarf vertically without breaking the yarn. The only modification I made was to add an extra 25 repeats of the two-row pattern in the main body. This was necessary to regain some of the length lost because of the smaller needles. It came out just a little narrower than the width in the original pattern, but pretty close to the original length. It's a wonderful, versatile size that can be worn many different ways, simply knotted in the front as a decorative accent over a blouse, or wrapped around and around and tucked like an ascot.
And the scarf itself? I think it's glorious. After blocking, it has a lovely drape, and the patterned ends, which remind me of fishtails, show beautifully.
I'm absolutely in love with the colors, and the sheen of the silk, and the way they work in this pattern. I'm delighted with the pooling of the colors over the length of the scarf. I look at the striking rose/fuchsia streak against the deep, quiet blues and teals, and I see a slow flow of lava, glowing in the nighttime, turning this way and that to follow the terrain, crusting over a little as it cools, and finally disappearing into the sea in a cloud of frothy spume. I love the way the lava-flow contrasts with the short vertical dashes of color in the borders.
Most important of all, my Mom loves it.