Wednesday, February 25, 2009

A Stroke of Luck

First of all, thank you so much, everybody, for the nice comments about the handspun vest! It's great fun to chew things over with others who understand what it's like getting through the little challenges and hurdles of a knitting project to a happy outcome. :)

And, as for spinning, well, I'm with you, Amy. It's still hard to believe you can really go from what's basically a wad of animal hair to something pleasing to wear. It makes me feel like a pioneer woman, who could scratch sustenance from the land and fashion clothing from raw materials, instead of from a shopping mall. Maybe one of these days I should try my hand at building a sod hut. Oh, I don't mean to make light, of course, of the hardships that people went through in settling the Plains of the western United States. It's just that making things by hand gives an interesting feeling of self-sufficiency that's sometimes hard to come by in modern life.

The handspun vest, fun as it was, was actually just a temporary diversion from the real knitting business at hand. I'm still at work on Christmas I.O.U. knitting projects. The sweater for my trim-athletic-dad is coming along steadily.

But the socks for my good- humored brother have hit a snag. It seems I have yet to learn that it takes more yarn to knit socks for a tall-ish fellow than for an average-sized woman. You'd think that might be obvious, but it's not. Apparently.

In my defense, when I first ran into this life-lesson, last Christmas, it was with Blue Moon Fiber Arts' Socks That Rock Lightweight yarn. That yarn's virtues are its creative colorways, and firm bouncy texture, rather than exceptional yardage. A skein of Socks That Rock packs 360 yards. It's an ample amount for socks for me, but I wasn't entirely surprised at running short before completing a pair for my good-humored brother, who is indeed a tall-ish sort of fellow. So after some hand-wringing and whatever-shall-I-do-ing, I ended up ordering another colorway and knitting a contrasting toe.

This time was different. This time, I was using Zitron's Trekking XXL, a yarn of bountiful yardage. At almost 100 yards more, 459 yards in a 100 gram skein, surely it gave me a great safety margin. And I may have been unduly influenced by the many posts on Claudia's blog on socks knitted for her husband from Trekking XXL. That gave me a nice comfortable feeling. Of course, if I'd paid closer attention, I might have noticed that she says she's a loose knitter and only uses 64 stitches. I, on the other hand, am not and don't.

I knitted along, quite enjoying the soft hand of the Trekking yarn and its subtle color shifts, until I noticed that I seemed to be using up yarn faster than I ought to before the first sock was finished. I grew nervous. I began weighing what was left in the skein as I went along, calculating how many knitted rows I was getting per gram. The skein dwindled to 53 grams. I had to concede the awful truth. My illusions fell to the floor. Clunk. This skein was not going to finish two socks.

Oh, for heaven's sake. Not again. Recently, I'd watched with pity as, in the same local shop where I'd bought the yarn, a customer pleaded for an extra skein of Trekking XXL to finish a not-quite-done pair of socks. The owner was sympathetic but afraid she might not be able to order that color any more. Thank goodness that wasn't going to happen to me, thought I.

Ha! Now here I was, in much the same pickle. I'd bought the yarn months ago, and I needed more. Maybe if I was lucky, there would still be a skein left at the shop. If it was a different dye lot, I could always work it in so it wouldn't be obvious. I ran back to paw through the shelf. It wasn't there. It seemed even to have disappeared from the shop's order book. Gulp. Was it discontinued? Now I was not sure I could get any more of my colorway at all, let alone in the same dye lot.

I looked on-line at Webs. There, promisingly, it was still listed, though shown as back-ordered. I watched like a hawk, checking daily. As the days wore on, I grew a little despondent. Would it ever come in again? Or was it really gone? I tried to resign myself to looking at compatible yarn options for a contrasting toe.

That contrasting toe idea was a good dodge the first time, but if every pair made for my good-humored brother has a contrasting toe without the corresponding heel and cuff accents, it begins to look suspiciously like a sisterly lack of planning. Which, of course, it is. I had to try to find it.

A chance mention by the Yarn Harlot reminded me of the Simply Socks Yarn Company, run by Allison, where I'd browsed happily before. I rushed there, and -- Eureka! -- it showed my colorway in stock! Two days later, I held a second skein in my grateful hands. Thankfully, it looked like the dye lot was going to be a pretty good match.

On a whim, I checked the labels. What? It wasn't just a pretty good match, it was the very one. Good old dye lot 8230 itself.

Can you believe it? Months later, bought from a site based a thousand miles away from the shop of my earlier purchase, and it was the same dye lot.


Really lucky.

Now, to do my penance. I shall write it out 100 times:
1. I must plan ahead and buy more yarn when making men's socks.
2. I must plan ahead and buy more yarn when making men's socks.
3. I must...

This could take a while!


Anonymous said...

If you merely chant it while you knit, it still counts.

Anonymous said...

I think I have that very same yarn. I'll make socks for my 8.5 shoe size son instead of my 10.5's!

Anonymous said...

I had much the same experience before Christmas - how wonderful it is to find the same dye lot just as you have given up all hope - maybe I need to get out more....

cathy said...

Puff, what a comfort that is -- I'm almost done chanting it now... :)

Robin, since women's sizes are smaller than men's, I think you'll be OK for either one. I really like the feel of the Trekking; it will make one of you a very nice pair of socks!

Christina, well, we just have to take our thrills wherever we find them, don't we? :)