Monday, April 18, 2016

Sock knitting with Patons Kroy Socks FX on an antique sock knitting machine

My daughter & I were in JoAnn's the other day, and spotted some sock knitting yarn that I hadn't tried in my antique  Creelman Brothers sock knitting machine. The beast is about 100 years old at this point, and is quite picky about what yarn it likes to work with.

My go-to yarn for socks has been the Serenity sock weight yarn from the Deborah Norville collection. My machine loves it, and it makes lovely soft socks. But I spotted some Patons Kroy Socks FX yarn, and my daughter fell in love with one of the color combinations. We made a deal: she'd buy the yarn, and I'd use it to test in my machine. If it turned out, she'd get the socks. If not, I'd ball up the yarn, and she'd get the yarn to use in her crochet work.

So, off we went. I first noticed that the Patons yarn was thicker than the Serenity stuff. In the same 50 gram size ball, there were only 166 yards, vs. the 230 in the Serenity. I was going to have to be careful. I make the socks from the cuff down, and I was afraid of running out of yarn  before I finished the toe if I did my usual calf high socks. So I decided to change the pattern to come just above the ankle.

Onto the machine it went. I had to put it on and rip it out a couple of times while I tinkered with the settings on the machine. As it was a thicker yarn, I had to loosen up the tension, and add more weight down below. Even so, the yarn jumped off the needles a couple of times when I was just starting to turn the heels and toes. Luckily, I've gotten good at repairing a run, when I catch it early enough.

I followed my pattern for size 10 women's socks, that I had worked out for the Serenity yarn. It turns out, when your yarn is bigger, and when you have a looser tension, the same number of rows in the foot makes for a longer foot. When I was done sewing the toe closed, the sock measured 10 1/2" long in the foot. That is a half inch longer than what I was aiming for. Also? The yarn, which is a wool/nylon mix, was not as nice to the touch as the wool/bamboo/nylon mix I was used to. Hmmmm....

Well, I decided to throw the finished socks into the wash, and see what the water would do to them. I washed them in warm water with a load of regular clothes, and then tossed them in the dryer on medium heat. And hoped for the best.

It totally worked! The socks shrunk and fluffed a bit in the wet finishing process, and ended up just at 10" long in the foot. And, the fluffing made them softer to the touch. My daughter squealed when she saw them, and tried them right on. She oooh and ahhed about how soft and comfortable they were. And we both absolutely love the gorgeous color changes.

The color repeat is long enough that I couldn't do my usual trick of starting each sock in the same spot in the repeat in order to get matching socks. So, when I make socks with this brand of yarn, the socks will be similar, but the color repeats will be in different spots. Michelle didn't care a bit! I think she likes them better that way.

Overall? Two thumbs up. The yarn is a bit trickier to work with on the machine, but those colors are well worth the hassle. If you were using traditional knitting needles, the extra bit of thickness wouldn't be so much of an issue. And, from here on out I'll wash them in cold on a delicate cycle, and lay them flat to dry. That should avoid any more shrinkage.

Now, I need to make myself a pair!!

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Socks and Hiking in the White Tanks

Well, the day has come. My eyes are getting old enough that I gave in, and decided to use a magnifying glass for sewing closed the toes on the socks that I make. It sure makes it easier to see the teeny tiny stitches, so I don't drop any by mistake when I'm doing the finishing work.

I was working on finishing up this pair of socks for one of my Sock-a-Month clients, when my husband got home from work and suggested that we take a bit of time to enjoy a hike in the White Tanks, west of Phoenix. I'm game!

We tried the South Trail tonight, since we hadn't been on it yet. It is a relatively easy mile to where it joins up with another trail, though it is a gradual up hill the whole way. My calves were feeling the work on the way in. We set a timer for 45 minutes, so we would have enough time to get turned around and back to the car before we lost the light.

We don't just do serious hikes though. I'm always on the look out for a good picture. And Eric is a very good sport. "Hey dear! Go force push that saguaro!!" I giggled, he giggled, and an epic shot was born.

We also spotted this little fellow. The lizards are hard to see sometimes, with their perfect camouflage coloration against the rocks. And they usually skitter away before I can get close. This one actually stayed still enough that I could use my telephoto lens from a distance to capture his portrait. "Can she see me? I'm very still. I'm a rock. Don't eat me. Rock."

We did get back to the car, just as we were losing the light. The sunset was beautiful. In just a month, I'm suspecting it will be too hot in the desert for hiking. But for right now, it is wonderful.

And yes, I finished up the socks when I got home, and put the listing up in the Etsy shop. So I'm feeling all accomplished this evening! Good day.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Studio woes

My studio has an owie.

The clothes washer declined to stop filling the other night, while we were all out of the house. We got the surface stuff mopped out, and my fiber equipment is fine, but the laminate flooring in my studio was buckling. Workers came out yesterday to do some demolition to trace how far back the water went under the flooring, and set up fans and dehumidifiers to dry us out. (No mold!!) The equipment will run steady for 3-5 days, and then we'll look at our next step.

Also? I can tell you that the combination of 9 industrial fans and two dehumidifiers is quite loud.

My poor studio....

Monday, March 14, 2016

Pictures: Watson Lake, outside of Prescott, Arizona

Today's outing was a clamber over the boulders that are around Watson Lake, which is just outside of Prescott, Arizona.

My husband Eric and I were taking a date night away, to get some two-time focus.

We stayed in Wickenburg last night, and today drove up over the mountains to Prescott, to get some shots of this neat little lake.

The boulders are grippy enough that you don't slip around as you climb them, and they are low and rounded enough to make an easy adventure. They also look really really cool!

This is also a haven for quite a few different types of birds. I saw egrets, coots, and mallards, right off. I'll need to go back with my binoculars and more time. Also? This pair of Canadian geese decided to pose for me. But I think one of them wanted push the other one out of HIS picture. 

Great day!

Friday, March 11, 2016

Pictures: The desert is in bloom at the White Tank Mountain Regional Park

It is spring here in the Arizona desert, which means I've been spending an evening or so a week out hiking with my sweeties. And where I go, I take my camera with me! Here's a dozen of the keepers from tonight's outing in the White Tank Mountain Regional Park, just west of Phoenix. Most of these are in horizontal/landscape mode, because I collect pictures to add to my screen saver.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

12 shaft twill

Here's a peek at what is on my mechanical dobby loom right now. This is the first time I've ever tried to use all 12 shafts. The most complicated pattern I've done before has been 8 shafts. This was a bit tricky for me to get all warped up, but now that I have it going I love it!!

This is a twill, taken from the weaving pattern on this page: . I am weaving it tromp as writ, which means I treadle it in the same pattern that I threaded it. I'm using 8/2 unmercerized UKI cotton as the warp, and 10/2 mercerized Valley cotton as the weft. I've got enough warp on here for about a dozen hand towels, and I'm having fun making each one a different color. Here's the same thing, but in red, and looking from the back of the loom so you can see all the shafts.

I'm done with the red towel, and almost done with the green. Hmmmmm.... I'm looking at my yarn stash, and trying to decide on what color strikes my fancy for the next one. I think I'm going to end up making the whole rainbow, plus some!

Friday, February 19, 2016

My new studio space

Last year, one of my sweeties moved out of our house. That left room for us to switch some things around, and I moved from my little bedroom sized studio into a living room sized studio. I was really grateful that the rest of the family was willing to let me take up this much space in the house! We lost a portion of our socializing space, though we still have a living room upstairs for sofas and such. But they thought that my art pursuits were important enough to make giving me room to expand a priority. I am well loved indeed.

So, here is what the room looked like while I was getting it set up. On the wall right near the arch way to the rest of the house, I have cubicle shelves for yarn and craft supply storage. I love having all my weaving yarn out where I can see it.

On the other side of the arch way, I put my computer desk and research books. I'm sitting right there typing this blog entry. To my left, I have room to have both of my looms set up and going at the same time! That means I can have one loom warping, and one loom weaving, with different projects in different stages of progress. In my old studio, it was definitely one project at a time. Which meant, that I had to weave off whatever yardage I was doing before I could start anything else. Which meant, that I had one repetitive motion going for long stretches of time. Which meant that I threw my shoulder out of whack with the repetitive motion, and knocked myself out of weaving for a year while I rehabilitated. Now? I plan on mixing up the motions by moving back and forth between different projects. Yay for more space that allows me to go easier on my body!!
Also, the wall behind me as I sit at the computer has yet another work station set up. This spot has my sewing machine, a work bench, and more item storage. It is a great spot for beading and sewing and silk painting and other hand projects. And I can have something out here at the same time that I've got the weaving projects going. Yes, I am loving this.
On the wall next to the loom in the picture above, I had a white board. I took that down, and put up a display of my collection of weaving tools instead. I like how it turned out. The tools themselves are quite beautiful, and make a lovely art instillation.
And, if I need yet another work space, I can unfold my cutting table in front of the yarn cubicle. I've got it set up for silk painting in this picture, but I've used that space for taking product pictures, and for cutting out sewing patterns as well.
So, here is my new space, and part of the reason why I am back at creating new things again. I had totally outgrown my old space, and it was stifling me. This new space though? I stand in the middle of it and just look all around me. My supplies, tools, and books are organized, visible, and easy to get hold of. I have space to work on several items at a time. And you know what? It looks like a real artist's space.

Which kind of makes me feel like a real artist. Sometimes. Sometimes I still feel like just a housewife with a hobby, and I ought to get out and do something real. Don't we all feel like frauds sometimes? Like everyone else must be doing the real stuff, and we're just faking it? But in this beautiful space, sometimes I can get the sense that I can grow up to fit the possibilities here.