Thursday, February 11, 2010

Another Year!

I can't believe I let another year slip by. I'm still here, just not cranking. My sock machines still number four and the same half completed sock still dangles from my NZAK. However, my sock machines and I have moved into the now complete studio, that garage-turned-studio I talked about a year ago.

The sock machine corner with (Top, L to R) Legare 400, NZAK, Gearhart; (Bottom) Auto Knitter:

I have not cranked a sock in TWO YEARS! Will I remember how? At least I have all my notes, books, machines and tools together in one place. I hope it will be like riding a bike and all I have to do is just get back on it.

In gathering sock machine things from all over the house I found more sock yarn than even I could imagine, so many tools, books, newsletters, needles, carts "helpers" (things I bought over the years to help me knit socks on sock machines) and pleasant surprises.

The best surprise of all was the tote bag of completed socks waiting for toes to be Kitchenered. I transferred them to a basket to set by my chair for the right moment.

Today the best I could do was take pictures of the machines in their new place. I can't get back to cranking before next month. There is still some organizing to do, some hand knit projects and some weaving to get done before I fire up a CSM again. I leave you with close-ups of my circular sock machine family.

CSM #1 - Auto Knitter: 60/30

CSM #2 - Legare 400: 54/27 and 72/36

CSM #3 - Gearhart: 60/30, 72/36, 100/50:

CSM #4 - NZA: 60/30, 72/36, 60/30 compound

Which one is best? The one that is cranking out perfect socks at the moment. My favorite? The Legare 400 (CSM# 2 purchased on eBay, tweaked by Barry). It is a heavy workhorse that lets nothing stop it from making the perfect sock.
The Sock Lady

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The Sock Lady Lives

It's been a year! Yes, I'm still alive. My sock machines still number four. My NZAK stands with last attempted sock half completed, still swinging from the cylinder.

It's been there a looooong time, the sock that is. I just moved the machine to the light this morning to take the picture. The other three are a little forward and to the right of it. The four machines reside in the room previously called "living" and then "studio" and now . . . I don't know what to call it. "Junk" would be good except the stuff is not junk to me. Maybe "junque," but never "junk." Actually the room and the foot of the L shape of it, which is (or would be) the dining area, are filled with boxes of the flotsam and jetsam of my many hobbies, construction debris and my play doll collection along with all the furniture of a living room and dining room. Are you getting the picture?

I am in the midst of an ongoing two-year-long house renovation/redecoration. Space is so tight I cannot set up a chair to sit at my sock machine. It all began with the kitchen renovation that began while I was in Frederick, MD, at the 2007 CSMSA Conference. Much of the old kitchen ended up in my supposed-to-be studio. The studio never recovered. I did order the NZAK during the confusion and had just barely enough space to set it up and play with it a few weeks before real life intruded (a long and sad story) and I dropped from the charts.

Right now I am waiting for the garage to be converted to my new "studio." I have visions of a beautiful new room with a big bow or picture window where the garage door is now and two walls of shelves from floor to ceiling and pocket doors leading into the foyer of the house--pocket doors so that wall can be utilized as well. Any day now the work will begin. In the meantime my hobbies other than hand knitting stand or lay in wait for space to be provided.
I missed the MD Sheep and Wool Festival in 2008 and a few MARS meets. I did go to Stitches East 2008 though. I'm trying to get back into the fray, take inventory of my sock yarn stash, put some socks or something in my Etsy shop. The Sock Lady is back.

The Sock Lady

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Now You See Them . . .

. . . Soon you won't.

I'm working with my 80/40 setup on the NZAK. The yarns are Opal (denim) and Soxx (dark red). I'm getting 9 rounds to the inch. The second Opal sock had issues. I remove all the needles when making a heel on a ribbed sock. Something went haywire when I finished the heel and added back the instep needles. I put the instep needles in the wrong slots. What was I thinking?!!! I tried to salvage the sock. I really did. It went from bad to worse and I finally threw in the towel and cranked the whole mess off to start over.

The Soxx sock has size issues. For some reason the foot came out much longer than I planned. I've been procrastinating trying to decide whether to duplicate it and have a gigantic pair or rewind and start all over. I'd just like to get a pair of ribbed socks in the size I'm aiming for from the 80/40 setup before moving on. Starting over seems to be the thing to do because I made a slight adjustment to the NZAK forgetting that I had another red sock to make.
The pigtail came off my NZAK. That's the little coiled wire on the yarn carrier that the yarn is fed through. I jerry-rigged, in McGiver fashion, a bit of copper wire to hold the yarn down and guide it through the carrier. That's what I've been using. That is, until last Friday. In preparation for attending a MARS meeting, I finally cold welded (JB Weld) the pigtail back on so I could take my NZAK out in public in factory condition. As it turned out I couldn't attend the meeting (Real life got in the way.) and now my machine is just a hair different than when I made the first red sock. I will not even try getting a second sock to match. It has been my sock machine knitting experience that the least change on any machine makes a difference that I don't want to deal with.

I have not gotten my NZAK cranking out socks to my satisfaction. I have not been able to devote the time I need to jump over the learning curve I suppose. Using the 60/30 setup I made a few pairs of socks for myself that I was very happy with using KnitPicks Essential. I finally have some black socks! But not without some pain and suffering! It took a while to get used to the needle lifter (which I haven't even used yet) being there. It gets in my way. But at least I now know when that happens. I have a hard time with the heels. Once past the decreases, that first wrap starting the increases on each side is a doozie!

I was hoping to be an expert on the 60/30 compound by now. I have little socks to make! I've gotta get with it!!! Oh well, tomorrow is also a day.

The Sock Lady

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Kitchener Stitch

Kitch-en-er v. To weave two knit pieces together.

You won't find that in a regular dictionary. I just made it up.

For what it's worth and from what I understand, the Kitchener Stitch, used to weave the toe of knitted socks together, was invented (probably unvented) by "distinguished if controversial inventor Horatio Herbert, First Earl Kitchener of Khartoum, a British military hero who developed the stitch for home knitters making socks for soldiers in WWI."* Be that as it may, here we are many years later still trying to get it right.

*From an article by Norma Bogan, circa 1986

I first learned to Kitchener (I use the word as a verb any time I want. So sue me!) when I learned to knit socks by hand. Once I got the knack of it and the rhythm and mantra down pat (knit off, purl on, purl off, knit on) it was no problem. On hand knit socks I was weaving 16 stitches together at the most. That's a far cry from the 54 stitches to be woven together from my lowest number cylinder sock machine sock.

My first sock machine was a 60 cylinder and I watched a Norma Bogan tape showing in real time how she Kitchenered the toe together using the raw stitches fresh from the scrap yarn, zip, zip, zip! You've got to be kidding, I thought. I found many references suggesting many ways to accomplish this feat from ironing the stitches so they set up hard and firm to Norma's way. I chose to pick up the stitches from the waste yarn using knitting needles. Once each half was on a needle, go into my Kitchener rhythm and mantra from handknitting and hope nothing on TV distracted me and close up my 60-stitch toes. Even my 72 stitch toes! I got good at it. TV or conversation no longer distracted me, much.

Then last July, Mary showed me how to Kitchener the toes together still on the waste yarn, without needles and from the purl side. I had seen some hint of this miracle, one that does the same thing from the knit side. I even printed out some pictures. I looked so easy. I could not do it. Well, actually I didn't try. I just looked at the pictures and read the explanations. Why mess up a good thing? I was already closing toes quite nicely using needles, thank you very much. But when Mary said it's really easy from the purl side and I knew it would not mess up my Kitchener rhythm and mantra for handknitting for all time, and Mary was right there, so I thought I'd give it a go.

She was right! It is really easy from the purl side. No more first picking up on needles for me. After a few months of not closing any toes I had a refresher in October. I took pictures of Mary's hands this time. It was that first stitch that threw me.

Still can't Kitchener? I have some great reference material for you! This latest video on YouTube, teaches Kitchenering from the knit side and is very easy to follow.

You can do it!

The Sock Lady

Sunday, December 30, 2007

The NZAK and I

My New Zealand Auto Knitter (NZAK) with 80/40, 60/30 and 60/30 compound arrived over a month ago. It's the Mean Green Machine of 2007. We have been becoming acquainted. We have smoothed our differences and I have made socks, BLACK socks! on the 60/30 set up. And they are perfect socks at that! They might look gray because of the flash, but they are inky black just like I've been wanting. The yarn is KnitPicks Essential and knitted up perfectly at nine rounds to the inch. They are soft and comfortable and just the thing for my winter Crocs. Yes, "winter Crocs." They are called Troika. Check them out if you are a Croc fan.

I'm taking another look at my sock yarn stash. It is beyond belief! There is enough to knit socks forever and ever amen. I have some great sock yarn from the usual suspects (Lorna's Laces, Regia, Opal, Trekking XXL) and then I have some from some great indie dyers on Etsy and eBay. The sources are wide and varied thanks to the Internet. My latest acquisition is Noro Kureyon Sock Yarn, color number S40. I've read varying reviews about it and have not formed an opinion of my own yet. I've only gazed at it and fondled it so far. Yes, it does feel a bit scratchy, but that's how Kureyon is. The reviews from other CSMers have me hesitating to foul up a machine with it. It seems it's a bear to wind into a cone on the electric cone winder. I might have to save the Kureyon for handknitting.

So the NZAK came. It was packaged to perfection. I worked up a sweat just unpacking it.

Then I attempted to put the stand together. I had a heck of a time getting the legs (well, one of them) at the right angle to screw together. Once that was accomplished I attached the machine and started to crank. It was set up with the 60/30 compound and a long cranking of sock yarn coming off it. It purred like a kitten. When I was sure it was working well, I cranked off that waste sock and set the machine up to make my own small sock. That was when the fun began. The fun lasted for a few weeks with many days not having enough hours for me to get an NZAK fix in. Suffice it to say that after far too many tries and failures I switched to the 60/30 regular cylinder and ribber. Some more fun happened as I tried to get my tensions and stitch lengths at a point that made me happy. It finally happened this past week and thus the black socks.

Am I the only one growing tired all the stripety socks? I have loads of colors, handpaints, faux Fair Isle, variegateds and the like. I'm pining for plain socks, solid colors, even striated would be nice. I love the Lorna's Laces almost solids. I've bought many indie dyers' takes on solids and some of the usual suspects' tweeds and ragg looks. Please tell me I'm not the only one tiring of the stripes. However, I still can't resist another jungle, rain forest or whatever Opal comes out with next. And of course I had to have some Kaffe Fassett for Regia.

So far I've made seven socks on the NZAK which actually equal only two pairs. I know the math doesn't add up. With the black sock I made a sock twice before I got the right feel to the fabric. The first two times it was too loosey goosey. The third sock had perfect fabric and the NZAK fairly hummed as I cranked it out. It was such a breeze I was cranking round number 86 in the foot when my brain caught up with what I was doing. The foot needed only 65 rounds. I was supposed to stop and do the toe at 65 rounds! Ripping and rehanging were taking more time than just rewinding and starting all over so that is what I did and produced the two perfect black socks you saw above. Thus it took five socks to make that pair. The mahogany pair made next took only two socks. See, I got better. The color is better in this picture.

The NZAK and I have had our differences and will have more in the future I'm sure because one day I will go back to the compound. Right now I am knitting up all the Essential before I switch to another yarn and possibly the 80/40 set up and have to adjust the tensions. I'm loving it right now because it's doing my bidding.

For those of you relatively new to the CSM game I cannot stress enough how much fun this is when everything works according to plan. I also want you to know without a doubt that things might not always work according to plan and there is a learning curve. For some the curve is steeper than for others. There are many varying factors: machine, yarn, even humidity and level floor. Let's not forget operator and expertise with knitting machines. And let's not forget the machines have their idiosyncrasies. As for my NZAK and I, we are fine and making socks in Philadelphia.

The Sock Lady

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

People from MARS Meet

Hey! It's been a long time. This blog has been terribly neglected. That is not to say I have been neglecting my sock machines, well not all of them. I can't believe I allowed four months to slip by without a word.

In October the MidAtlantic Region Sockknitters (MARS) met at the charming farmhouse of Gregory Wollon in Havre de Grace, MD. It was quite a turnout. There were the usual suspects, a newbie or two and a guest or two. The weather was perfect for cranking out on the porch or inside in one of the many sitting rooms, nooks and crannies.

I took no machine with me. I was in a schmoozing and yarn shopping mood and knew that packing, unloading, toting and setting up a machine would be more trouble than it was worth. Furthermore, I expected to play on somebody's NZAK while there, and I did. Shirley, the Crazy Slipcover Lady, who is also aprilsosa, my favorite yarn pusher, had her new NZAK and I got a chance to set it up and crank a round or two. Mine was on its way, but hadn't arrived in time for the meet. Below is a picture of Shirley kneeling at the NZAK as Gregory sets it up.

As always the eats were great, the Beardies adorable, and the sheep, well, they were sheep. It was a great day and I went home invigorated by sock machine talk with old and new friends.

I'll leave you with a picture of a couple of Beardies napping in their crates . . . until I woke them up.

The Sock Lady

Saturday, August 4, 2007

CSMSA Conference 2007 Impressions

It's always a great feeling to come away from an event remembering the people who made it so much fun. I have a lot a pictures, but realize I failed to get some I wish I had. I met "the guys" at this conference. There was "Mark, the Man" who is the maker of the Elias and the Elijah. That Elijah has my name written on it. It's blue, my favorite color, and left handed. Perfect for a lefty like me. I never got a picture of him or his machines. Drats!

I did get pictures of Larry. Boy, did I get pictures of Larry! See how photogenic he is:

Larry in Sheep to Socks contest finishing a toe and . . .
Larry the WINNER!
And heeere's Eric!
Check out his shoes.

Yes, they are real wooden shoes . . . from Holland . . . MI . . . but authentic none the less.

The other guys, Pete, Roger, etc., I had met in Laconia, NH and Barry is my machine guru whom I see at least quarterly. Even so, I wish I had gotten pictures of them at the conference. Maybe next year.

The machines! Oh, the machines. There were the usual suspects--AutoKnitter, Gerheart, Harmony and Legare. Then there were the NZAKs! Many NZAKs, including the blue contest prize and the bronze beauty.

Beautiful Blue

Gorgeous and Gleaming!

And a pretty note on which to end today's blog entry.

The Sock Lady