6-ply, 2,5mm

I didn’t consider myself a sock knitter.  I thought about myself as a sweater knitter.  I love hand-knit sweaters, they are great when the chilling season arrives, and I especially like the look of cables.

I might have considered myself an occasional knitter of socks. I knit them because I love having warm feet, and handknit wool socks are incredible comfortable. But just thinking about heels and about the fact that one has to knit twice the same thing made me have SSS in advance.

Then I discovered 6-ply sock yarn. Thicker than the usual 4-ply, it does logically knit up with fewer stitches, and so you’re done quicker. The socks knit from it hold up better their form than the socks I knit from the thinner yarn. The fabric is slightly thicker, but still comfortable for me to wear in my shoes. With a simple slip stitch pattern the heel gets quite chunky, a fact I like.

Then my father died. In the evening, after having finished the paperwork and other difficult tasks, I went to bed and before falling asleep, knit on a pair of very simple socks, in a muted colour, with bamboo needles, 2,5mm. I remember very well the slow rhythm I had fallen in, just working on some stitches, while having an inifinite melancholic mindset and reflecting on tasks and long forgotten memories.

 

Right now, I find myself in a very stressful time. At the moment, there are a lot of important decisions to make; decisions that depend to some extend on other people. As there is a big lack of communication from the other side, we’re reduced to waiting and guessing. In a very logic move, the universe continues to throw lemons at us and we have both of our cars have problems at the same time. An urgent need to knit some socks begins to shake me, and I give in for another comfy pair, in my favourite colours please.

As I work on the tiny stitches, I realise to what extend I like to create first a toe, than a foot, then increase for the gusset, turn the heel invented just for me by me, decrease for the leg, knit a good length of leg, do some 1/1 rib and then finish off with a great bind-off found on the Internet and tweaked a bit to accomodate my way of knitting. Each time I knit with 6-ply, I take notes and change some parts of the formula, as I’m looking for the perfect recipe for mindless sock knitting.

 

Each time the stress is overwhelming, I take the socks up and very quickly the soothing build up of neat little stitches works its magic. And now, that they are finished and I wear them and look at those beloved socks, I realise something very unexpected:

I’m a sock knitter.

An Ode to Toilet Paper

My father died on February 24.

He had been admitted to hospital with breathing problems on Monday 13. His girlfriend waited for news, and when he hadn’t phoned her on Tuesday, she contacted the hospital on Wednesday morning. They told her that he couldn’t call her back because he had been put in an artificial coma. Breathing had become so difficult that they had to put him on artificial respiration.

Being at 1300km from where my father lives, I passed the next few days on the telephone, explaining more than once to an ever changing hospital crew that no, I couldn’t just come over to get the news personally, and even if they didn’t want to divulge information by phone, they just had to, because I’m his daughter.

I finally decided to get on a plane to see him, in case it would be the last time. I just jetted from February 19 to 21 to Germany, spoke to doctors, the nursing staff… and my father. He wasn’t concious, I’m not very gifted for speaking to someone I might never see again, but I was there, holding his hand and talking about some random things I wanted to be meaningful.

When I got back, phoning and waiting resumed, until I got the message that he died on the 24th.

On the 24th, in the evening, I was playing cards with my husband and children. At one moment, I felt cold. But it was not the goosebumps cold. It was like something was sucking all the warmth from my bones, something was drawn from me. I went upstairs to get a long comfy indoor coat, whose zipper I closed like you close the zipper of one of those plastic bags for the deceased. It was the moment my father had died.

His death fell just on the beginning of winter holidays in France, so my husband took the children to the mountain and I returned to Germany to organise the funeral and get all the paperwork done.

I’m the only child, and my parents have divorced a long time ago, but they lived not far away from one another. I stayed at my mother’s, she helped me emptying the appartment, and organised a coffee and cake after the funeral.

My father had no connection with church, so he didn’t want a mass or someone speaking at his grave. I had him incinerated, and a few persons came to his funeral. My family, and some neighbours. He didn’t want anyone, but I considered that those close enough to us to ask personnally when the moment of his last journey had come, should be able to attend. As I did not want to let him go without any words, it was me who spoke at his grave. I can positively say that this was one of the most difficult moments of my life, but also one where there was the simple evidence that it had to be done. I owed him this last good-bye.

Emptying his appartment was very challenging. I felt as if I violated his privacy. Luckily, he was a well organised man, just with a tick to have many things in multiple versions. Tenth of pairs of scissors, forty pairs of shoes, eight umbrellas, fifteen belts, twenty vests…

Taking each of these things away, was like reaffirming with each gesture that he wouldn’t come back, he didn’t need it anymore, he wouldn’t drink from that glass, he wouldn’t read that book, he didn’t need this pillow any more. The more common the object was, the more the feeling was overwhelming. When I came to the bathroom to put away his brush, soaps and towels, I had to reach for the toilet paper, which was stocked high on a cupboard. He had put it there, tall enough to do it easily, and he hadn’t had the slightest idea that he would never again reach for it, such a daily gesture, such a private moment, such an unimportant one, now an impossible one. It’s these unimportant objects, trivial pieces of life, which made all the grief crush heavily on me. Because most of the time, our life is made of small unimportant moments, strung on our chain of life.

I spent a lot of time sitting on the ground, alone, thinking of my children’s laughter when my father made them pop balloons on his cactus collection, playing games with them and remembered the great meals my father’s girlfriend prepared for us. This appartment is where I grew up, too, from 2 to 13 I lived there. I don’t have any nostalgy about that time, it is as if after the divorce the appartment was stripped of its meaning of home for me.

As the weather turned round to accomodate my mood, I sat there, in an almost empty living room, a thunderstorm dooming outside, and I tried to feel my father’s presence in between all these memories. I did feel his death, I didn’t find him there with me. So I weeped for some time, and resumed my tasks.

Stashbuster

I joined a stashbuster group on Ravelry. For some reasons (for which I’ll write an entire post apart) I had to go through a lot of organising. I hate deadlines, and at the same time I’m best when I’m working towards them. I’ve chosen different fibre tasks to finish:

  • Finish Tartan

The beautiful fabric from my last post waits to be sewn into a tunic.

  • Finish Red Fruit Juice

I’d spun some lovely yarn with Spunky Eclectic and Shunklies fibres (needs a post on its own).  I’ve chosen a simple Raglan top-down for it and am more than half-way done.

  • Finish Through The Loops Mystery Socks 2012

I’m hardly any further than shown in the photo:

  • Finish my snuggly winter sweater I started two years ago and miss every time it’s cold, because I think it will be the perfect garment to be cozied up in on a frosty day:

  • Start and finish Wingspan, because this seems really fun.
  • Finish spinning my first Hunger Games fibre, “How I See Katniss” (needs blog post)
  • Knit mittens from the Spunky Ronaldsay
  • Spin Spunky Instanbul Sunset, South African Fine (I love this fibre!)
  • Spin BeeMiceElf March 2010 club, “Around The Mulberry” (blog post to follow)
  • Finish the first 2012 Spunky Weaving Club
  • Start and finish another Spunky Weaving Club, substituting one club fibre with Spunky handspun
  • Finish knitting “Natural
  • Finish knitting “Houndsteeth gritting” (post needed)
  • Finish Twi-Delight (needs some words)

I already finished two pair of socks which really needed just some stitching, and I hope that the motivation will be flowing a bit longer than just for a couple of days. The official stashdown ends May 4th…

 

Tartan

I got beautiful yarn from the variegated merino:

I think the last photo looks as if it had been photoshopped to play a supporting role in “The Artist“, but it is nothing elso than the yarn in all its glory (and a colour photo of grey yarn :-) )

Given the yardage and the number of colour skeins, I decided to go for a tartan design. Now, I think tartan is one of those beauties which look often quite simple, but contain a number of well thought principles to get a pleasant overall effect.

I looked up some pages of tartan designs. I decided early on to put an off-centre grid in a big grey square, and the pink yarn gave the most contrast, plus it was the yarn I had the least yardage off, so it only could be used as an accent. I then thought that I wanted another rather large stripe to counterbalance all the grey, so the blue and violet had to be combined to get enough width, hugged by the two different oranges.

The resulting fabric was quite open, perfect for felting. I love the result and will use the fabric in combination with an old skirt I don’t wear any longer to sew a tunic.

 

 

Variegated Merino

The North Ronaldsay is plied and skeined; I’ll do one big soak session when I’ll have some more yarn ready. I subscribed to three clubs this year: two fibre clubs, one from Spunky Eclectic and one from FatCatKnits, and the Spunky Weaving Club. While waiting for the january arrivals, I’ll spin the november Mixed Blessings club: variegated grey merino, 5 oz undyed and 5 oz in beautiful bright colours of pink, violet, blue and orange.

There is a strange story connected to this fibre. The day it arrived in the mailbox, my son had a rather bizarre experience with one of his friends. This friend said some very unexpected things. It all worked out well in the end; I discussed with his parents and it was more a case of copying stupidly some mean children rather than being mean himself. It made me nevertheless live some tense moments; so when the package arrived, I just took the fibre, tore it apart and started spinning a big, fat, unorganized single while muttering about incomprehension and strange things. The yarn then got rudely n-plied and skeined away to be used or not. That was therapeutic spinning! The merino’s softness comforted me a lot, and the bright colours eased the dark thoughts.

Luckily this episode did not claim the whole 10 oz, so I can happily work on the rest now. I pulled the different colours apart and will spin them separately. I started with the pink one (that’s what I got the least of). I wanted to try a real 3-ply; so I span the whole fibre, weighed it, and (tried) to get three equal centre pull balls. Somewhere on the road my digital balance lost its balance, and there was quite a lot left over of one ball. So the pink is 3-ply and n-ply…

Will turn to the predrafted blue now!

North Ronaldsay II

Early this morning I could not find any more sleep, so I got up and n-plied yesterday’s single. My Joy spinning wheel has a built in Lazy Kate, which I used for my bobbin. Not a good idea with this yarn. As the single is fed at an angle, there is much abrasion and difficulty to get it from the bobbin. This puts much strain on the fibre, and the first meters, where I still had spun at ratio 8, did not survive this treatment and were torn apart systematically. I finished by putting them aside.

The resulting 3-ply is a little bit overspun, but this will be set after a good bath, I think. The yarn is not extremely soft, but it passed the neck-test nevertheless.

Then I started to spin the second batch. After drafting, I began at ratio 11, but the single had difficulties to take the fibre in; I had to help a lot. As I had heard of wool having a “sense”, as there are scales, and they open in one direction and close in the other, I finished by spinning from the other end. And, indeed, in went more smoothly.

Family life resumes now, as I have to pick up my daughter from her flute lesson.

North Ronaldsay

I’d like to spin the fibre of a lot of different sheep breeds. There is a whole vocabulary of specifications to take account of and to get some sense from: staple length, crimp, micron count, guard hair, down hair, andsoonandwhatnotelse.

As in the beginning, I still like to not let too much theory influence my way of spinning, so I just get the wheel out, try to remember what worked and what went terribly wrong the previous times and start. There is a certain pertinence in making errors and then finding a way to avoid them. When there is such a wide field of possibilities, too much choice can kill the choice…

Today’s fibre is North Ronaldsay. I purchased it from Spunky Eclectic, a source for a variety of fibres. Additionally, I re-subscribed to her fibre club after a hiatus of about two years. I like the broad panel of wool I discovered this way. South African Fine is one of those happing findings.

When opening the ball of North Ronaldsay roving, the fibre seemed somehow flat, without bounce. I got 2 oz and began spinning right away.

To start, I predrafted to become acquainted with my new precious. Then I set my wheel on ratio 8, but very soon changed to ratio 11. Woolen spun, drafted occasionally when the fibre did not take enough in by itself.

Drafting:

One oz spun up:

It is amazing how much space this woolen spun roving takes up. With 1 oz my bobbin is 2/3 full, as for top prepared fibres this nearly equals the volume for 2 oz. The fibre, a natural colour, is slightly crimp, rather soft. Even the long guard hairs do not feel harsh.

The singles will be n-plied, I’d like to make some fingerless mittens from them.

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