Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Seven weeks, seven pairs of socks...

Hello! Sorry it's been so long since I've been around. First the Holidays hit- we celebrate Hannukah & Christmas, and Oshougatsu (Japanese New Year) so it was really busy. I hope to catch the blog up on the holiday crafting in time... And then, seven weeks ago I had surgery- a total reconstruction of my lower back (L4-S1)- and I've spent the time since surgery in recovery. My initial recovery went very fast & very well, (for a middle-aged chick who turned 53 in the middle of it all... :) but now I'm in a slump & looking around for amusement. So, I thought I'd finally update the blog & get some of what I've been working on into the blogosphere.

Before I went into the hospital I thought about what I'd like to do during recovery. I designed two adult Surprise Jackets, based on Elizabeth Zimmermann's pattern (which I purchased from Halcyon) and found the wool I'd need to make them (just laying around the house, you know :). I also thought that small projects would be a good idea, so I purchased both of cookie a's sock books and stocked-up on sock wool (knitpicks was having a kit sale, so that helped a lot :). I also cast-on a pair of socks for Brendan, since he needed an extra pair & I figured having them already worked for an inch or two would give me incentive. I've gotten to the point where plain sock knitting is pretty boring, hence the cookie a books (very intricate patterns), so making socks for Brendan, even though they may be from fair-isle striped yarn, & he really needs them, can be a chore. Plus his socks are BIG. He's only 2 sizes away from my husband Charlie's feet (Charlie is 6'2") and I can only just get Brendan's socks from 100g of sock wool any more (adding to the excitement, let me tell you).

OK, so I went to the hospital & 5 days later came out with a new back. I also came home with a walker, a commode seat with arms for our downstairs toilet, and the inability to walk up stairs (completely unexpected). Charlie, bless him, was able to deal with this ably (with just one day's notice!) and set up the only extra bed we had in the living room. This extra bed happened to be a Victorian monster & you can see the cosy fit in our small living room :)

It all worked out very well, though, & a week later I was doing stairs, & the bed came down, & we got our first floor back. I was very glad for the projects planned and started ahead of time. It takes some time for anaesthetic to wear off, and add to that the pain medicine (which I only used for about 9 days- yay!) and what you get is a googly me. My hands were also pretty swollen from the IV's (one in each hand, plus numerous pokes from failed attempts) so about all I could handle, literally, was sock knitting. Brendan's socks became rather a blessing- bland knitting just when I needed it :)

Another unexpected twist that affected my knitting life was the addition of an "afo" (ankle-foot orthotic) at my 4-week check-up. My right foot had "dropped" from some pre-existing nerve issues combined with the stress on the nerves from the surgery, so they recommended a brace to support it while the nerve recovers. The orthotic guy told me I'd want to wear knee socks with the afo, which is a plastic thingy that slips into my shoe, runs up the back of my leg, & then fastens with velcro right under the knee. He was right- it feels really clammy without a sock between me & the top of the thing. But I had only 2 pairs of knee socks when I arrived home from that appointment... My initial response was to start wearing mis-matched socks, since this eked out my knee sock supply. I also found that tights or leg warmers (thanks, Momo!) under regular socks help with this.

mis-matched me
I then looked for some knee sock patterns &, since I wanted to knit them quickly from sport-weight wool, ordered some more yarn. Knitpicks has a sport-weight sock wool in their Felici line, so I went with that. I also ordered some solid-coloured sport-weight wool, only to discover that this wool was heavier in weight (less yards per grams) & not appropriate for the pattern I'd put together for my socks. Of my existing knee socks, 1 pair were made from a Nancy Bush pattern (from her Folk Socks book, not unreservedly recommended as she is rather a ditz- I've met her- and I find there are errors & other monstrosities in her patterns that editors miss). As for the other pair, I looked high & low for the pattern, remembering them as Elizabeth Zimmermann's sheepfold socks. I finally found them in Meg Swansen's Knitting, a book I'd rather forgotten I had. I think I now have all my Elizabeths & Megs in one place, thanks to that little search! At any rate, looking at the charts for the socks (& blanching), I decided to make a short-cut, for the sake of quickly-knit knee socks. I will confess that, at some point in this process, it occurred to me that most people go out & buy knee socks... Anyway, one thing I dislike about knee sock patterns is the point that, if you decrease in the back, forms when you decrease from the upper leg to the ankle.
Brendan's sock at top, plus new knee socks

 Meg's socks elegantly deal with this by decreasing on the sides, by making the sheepfold smaller each pattern repeat. What I did was lift the rate of decrease from her pattern, then put a double-decrease at this rate on either side of a cable running down the sides of the socks. Whew! I kept track of my decreases & cable pattern repeats using a nifty little app on my iphone called Stitch Minder. I was able to knit a pair of knee socks in 4 days, with minimal messing up, thanks to that app.
My version of Kai Mei, with Momo's leg warmers buffering the afo zone :)

In and around making knee socks, I've managed to make 4 other pairs of socks, 3 from cookie a and one, my second pair of crocheted socks, that I will feature in a future blog post. My first foray into cookie a was from her book Knit. Sock. Love. I really liked (& still do) the look of the Pointelle socks, partly because they're so beautiful & partly because they're knitted mirror-image for each foot. The charts weren't too hard to read, but, as always when dealing with charts, I ran into an impediment. I am left-handed & must reverse all shaping in order to get the lace to come out right. I usually just read charts from left to right, but that was difficult with these charts, as they're slanted & not numbered on the left & tiny. So I just read from right to left, reversed all the shaping, & it all turned out just fine.
Pointelle is the pink sock...

Her right sock was my left, & vice-versa, but what the heck, & I love the socks. Encouraged by this, I decided to take-on the Kai Mei socks from sock innovation. I decided to use the new sock yarn from Knitpicks, Chroma fingering, in Pool Party. (I actually started the Wedge sock from K.S.L but they didn't really turn me on, so I ripped.) I love how the lace pattern starts in the arch & moves over the foot so gracefully. Unfortunately, when I got to the lace, I ran into a big snag. The pattern, as charted, just didn't work :( No way could I get her instructions to make the pretty-heart-shaped lace- maybe a lefty issue. No idea. So, I went looking for another lace pattern to plug in & came up with one that was narrower, requiring more ribs between it & the rest of the sock.

It's not nearly as nice as the original lace, since it kind of gets lost in the general ribbiness of the pattern, plus the Chroma is a bit fuzzy, as it turns out, for lace, so it obscures things as well. But I survived & learned along the way.

The next cookie project was much nicer, cookie's Monkey socks from K.S.L. I could read the chart from the left & it was easy to memorise, & I really enjoyed making them.

What next? I have a gorgeous ball of red sock wool waiting for a willing pattern... I have also taken on some other recovery-time knitting projects, to be detailed in a future post. My sock population is certainly benefitting from my recovery  :) I have doubled the number of knee socks I own, & hopefully, within a month or so, I'll no longer be wearing mis-matched socks at all. I'll keep you posted! 

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