Summer Plans

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I’ve officially completed my sixteenth year of teaching and it was a great year. My students worked hard and we created a fantastic community I hope will last in the years to come. We learned, we laughed, and then we cried when it was time to say goodbye. This sort of bond doesn’t happen every year, so I am particularly grateful when it does happen.

Teaching can be a demanding profession, but all that hard work pays off when students walk out of my classroom a little wiser and a little more confident than when they entered nine months before. Having summers off is pretty awesome, too.

So, what should I do with two months all to myself?? The possibilities are endless, especially since I’m starting to feel a bit more free than I have in the last few years. After dealing with so much loss (family, friends, and furkids have all passed away in the last three years), I’ve admittedly not been myself. However, it finally feels like some of those heavy clouds are starting to clear. I can feel bits and pieces of myself falling back into place. And its exciting.

My list of things I want to do is already likely to fill up more time than I have, but I like having options when I wake up in the morning:

  1. Start trail running, again. Years ago, I was a trail runner and I loved it. I gave it up due to time constraints, but now I think its time to bring it back into my life. The physical activity and time with nature did a world of good for me.

2. Start cooking, again. For some reason, I stopped cooking healthy meals and making salads. I’m going to pull those old recipe cards out and get away from those processed boxed meals.

3. Knit. Like there was ever any doubt this would be on the agenda! This summer I’m looking to learn some new techniques and add more socks to my already stuffed sock drawer.

4. Write. Also a no-brainer item for the agenda. I’m hoping to continue my haiku practice, but also to jump back into the query process for my novel. I haven’t given up on that yet and I have all summer to send out query packages to the agents on my list.

5. Read. I have a stack of “to read” books I can’t wait to dive into this summer. I’m already halfway through my Goodreads Challenge goal, but I want to be at least 5 books ahead of schedule before the new school year starts.

6. Learn something new. I’m still deciding what I’m going to learn – I’ve kicked around everything from languages to a new craft. We’ll see where the muse takes me!

7. Binge on Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime. I have several shows/movies I want to watch and catch up on including, Grimm, Portlandia, The Blacklist, Bob’s Burgers, About Time, Theory of Everything, The End of the Tour, and so many others!

8. Work. Yep, teachers can’t help but do some work over the summer. I’m teaching a new class (AP World History) in the fall, so I’m going to try and get a jump on the planning process. It’s a class I’ve always wanted to teach, so I’m looking forward to outlining the basic structure.

9. Spend time with family, furkids, and friends. As my circle continues to get smaller, more free time means more time with those I care about the most. I’m just going to hold onto them a little tighter and make sure they know how much I love them.

10. Clean out the house. It’s time to purge the shed and closets of the stuff we no longer use or need. I cleared out the built up junk in my classroom last week, so I’m already in the mindset of getting rid of clutter.

This list should probably have the word “relax” somewhere in there, but I’ve never been one for long periods of sleep or sitting still. Why start now?

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c.b.w. 2016

Fourth Try Socks

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In the knitting world, we call a project “frogged” when an unfixable mistake has occurred or the pattern has stumped the knitter. Sometimes patterns are written poorly, have errors, or are simply beyond the skill level of the knitter. Regardless of the reasons why, it’s alway annoying to label a project as frogged.

The first pair of Horizontal Rib Socks I made turned out perfect. The texture of the rib played nicely with the self-striping yarn and it was the first pair of socks I made that fit my foot without being a touch too snug, (this is a huge victory for newly minted sock knitters!). I added a star to the pattern to designate it as a favorite.

The second pair Horizontal Rib Socks did not go well. Despite using the same yarn (in a different color), my second attempt ended with the first sock being full inch too short and incredibly tight around the foot. I ended up ripping it apart and rewinding the yarn.

The third pair of Horizontal Rib Socks also did not go well. This time the sock ended up far too large and had no elasticity. Frogged again. I almost erased the favorite pattern star.

That was two years ago.

I don’t like losing to a sock pattern. Especially a pattern I’ve conquered before. This is the only reason why I decided to make a fourth attempt on this wretched pattern! I pulled out some Paton’s Kroy sock yarn and loaded up my sock loom for what I hoped would be a sweet victory.

It turns out the fourth try is the charm! This time around, I realized part of the problem was in the foot section of the pattern – instead of two repeats in the stitch pattern, I had to do three to fit the length of my foot. Never underestimate the power of trying on the sock while it’s still on the loom to see whether more length is needed.

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Horizontal Rib Socks in Paton’s Kroy Sock, Bramble Stripes

One thing I’ve learned from this process is that patterns, no matter how well-written, are not set in stone. There is always room for adjustments to achieve a better end result. You just have to be brave enough to look away from the pattern and trust your own skills.

 

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c.b.w. 2016

Tsunami Socks

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While in Portland, Oregon last summer I bought some beautiful hand-spun, hand-dyed sock yarn. I spent more than I should have, but when it comes to finding gorgeous sock yarn in a place I love I’ll pay just about anything to take it home!

Two beautiful skeins from The Yarns of Rhichard Devrieze (Peppino in Class Act) sat in my stash (wrapped in tissue paper) waiting for the perfect sock pattern to come along. I found it six months later in a great little book called Knitted Socks East and West by Judy Sumner. This fantastic collection of Japanese inspired stitch patterns included a pair of socks inspired by tsunami waves and islands. The second I saw them I knew my fancy yarn had met its match.

My Tsunami Socks are my new favorite pair! I love the subtle shades of blue and coral – a perfect combination for the idea of “waves” rolling around “islands.”

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Tsunami Socks

Overall, the pattern for these socks was incredibly easy to follow. I’m usually not a fan of chart only patterns, but the charts in this pattern are large enough to read without difficulty and the instructions are very clear. Just be careful reading the instep chart. The red repeat line is hard to see.

I’d recommend this pattern for knitters with a little experience who might  be ready for a challenge. The “wave” in the leg of these socks is completed with a four-stitch cable, which can be daunting for knitters who have never worked with a cable needle. Still, it’s a good first project as the cable only occurs once in 12 rounds. Be brave and give it a whirl!

My current project is a cute easy-knit tank top. Stay tuned!

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c.b.w. 2016

Caretta Caretta Socks

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After a long season of Christmas knitting, it was great to get back into the groove of knitting socks. Even though my sock drawer is already stuffed with 30 pairs of knitted socks (I wish I was exaggerating, but I’m not ), I had double pointed needles in one hand and a two hanks of sock yarn in the other before the Christmas tree came down.

I was looking for a little bit of a challenge this time around, so I selected a pattern from Socktopus by Alice Yu. The patterns in this book are incredibly beautiful, but also on the more difficult side. I wouldn’t recommend it for beginners despite the fact that the patterns are meticulous and clearly written. Some of the stitches and techniques require a little courage and experience!

After looking through all the patterns, I settled on Caretta Caretta Socks. I love knitting lace designs and I liked how this particular lace pattern was a bit thicker than most. The only adjustment I made was eliminating the beadwork. As pretty as the beads are in the pattern, I’m not a fan of beads on socks.

For the yarn, I went with an old favorite: Plymouth Yarn Happy Feet in gorgeous shades of purple, blue, and green with flecks of gold. I love how soft this yarn is, but I have noticed the gauge is a bit larger than stated on the tag (I tend to knit right on gauge and no matter what I do, this yarn always goes bigger!). I scaled my needles down a full size to compensate.

My socks turned out great! The variegated colors worked really well with a thicker lace pattern.

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Caretta Caretta Socks in Plymouth Yarn Happy Feet

One of my favorite features of this pattern is the 3×1 ribbed heel flap. It matches the cuff and integrates fully into the lace pattern as if its an extension. It’s a nice touch that gives these socks and elegant flow.

My Caretta Caretta socks are now sitting at the top of my sock drawer and I love them. Meanwhile, I’m already knitting another pair of socks. This time I’m following a pattern inspired by Japanese knitting techniques and stitches. And the yarn is divine – I bough it in Portland and it’s proving to be phenomenal. Stay tuned!

Happy Knitting!

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c.b.w. 2016

Fixing Those Darn Holes in Knitted Socks

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One of the reasons I love knitting socks is the fact that they rarely get holes. Back in the days of store-bought socks, I was dealing with holes every few months, which meant I had to keeping buying more socks.

Hand knit socks are much more sturdy and can take a beating if they are well cared for. I knit my first pair of socks 3½ years ago and they are still good as new even though I wear them all the time. The same goes for just about every pair of socks I’ve made since.

However, no pair of socks is immune to wearing thin or eventually forming that dreaded hole. Four pairs of my hand-knit socks recently developed either a full-blown hole or thinning spots. Sadly, two of those pairs are among my favorites!

It was easy enough to figure out why these four pair wore through so much faster than the others. Since making them I’ve learned how important yarn/fiber choice and sizing is when it comes to socks. If socks are made with the wrong fiber they will not hold up to regular wear and tear. Even worsted weight yarn can wear down quickly if the fiber content isn’t ideal. For example, wool blends tend to hold up better than 100% wool.

If socks are too small or too big, the same is true. A sock that’s too small is stretched to it’s limit which puts more stress on fibers that are already fighting a battle against shoes, floors, and constant movement. A sock that’s too big is sliding around all over the place pulling fibers at odd angles. All the more reason to check gauge and know your foot measurements!

To fix my socks, I relied on a how-to article I found in Sockupied, Ed. by Anne Merrow. It lays out the classic method of darning with easy-to-follow written directions and diagrams. This method works on socks with full-blown holes and threadbare areas all the same. However, it’s a lot easier to execute over threadbare areas, so try to catch those holes before they break open.

Darning takes just three steps:

  1. Straight-stitch a frame around the damaged area. Anchor stitches at least three rows out from the damage.
  2. Weave horizontal threads through each row of existing stitches and pull snugly (but not too tightly over open areas).
  3. Weave a vertical thread through each row of existing stitches and the established horizontal thread.

When in doubt, follow the diagram:

Light green = Step 1
Dark green = Step 2
Yellow = Step 3

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A few hours of work repaired my beloved socks.

Round 1: Repairing a Wide Open Hole

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Ahhh! That’s a bad hole!

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Not bad for my first try!

Round 2: Repairing A Threadbare Area (with a learning curve)

It’s ideal to have matching yarn, but when I made my first few pairs of socks, I didn’t think to keep the extra yarn. Two pairs had to be repaired with starkly different yarn which highlights my sometimes horrible stitching! Still, the damage is fixed! Both sock pairs are back in action, but this one shows the repair best:

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Yikes! A bald spot!

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Fixed (with a bad toupee). Note to self: Always save extra yarn.

Round 3: Repairing A Threadbare Area (Now I’ve got it!)

Matching yarn makes all the difference. Not only is it the right weight and color, but it fills in the gaps much more efficiently. The repair in this pair of socks is virtually invisible. It also helps that my stitching improved greatly since Round 1. When learning to fix your own socks, save your favorite pair for last. By then, you’ll know what you’re doing and your favorite socks will once again be perfect!

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You should have seen my face when I discovered this almost hole.

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Perfect camouflage! My favorite socks are ready to wear, again.

Happy Darning!

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c.b.w. 2016