Hermione’s Everyday Socks

What Are You Knitting?

This week, I finished my Hermione’s Everyday Socks and I love them!  Here’s the Ravelry link to my project.Herminone's Everyday Socks done Hermione's Everyday Socks @Not completely certain why they are so washed out in the pictures – crappy camera phone, I’m sure.  I love this yarn, Nooch Fiber Midtown Sock in Leda and the Swan.  It is so super squishy and soft and is such a lovely sourvenir of when I was in NYC.

Nooch Fiber Midtown Sock in Leda and the Swan colourway

Nooch Fiber Midtown Sock in Leda and the Swan colourway

I was nervous about the strong variegation in the yarn but this pattern, Herminone’s Everyday Socks by Erica Lueda, a free Rav download- yay! – has been perfect with this yarn.  The sock fits really well and I particularly love the toe shaping on this project.  Sometimes the toes look kinda pointy and a little odd, although they always look fine on the foot, but this toe looked like a proper toe without pointy weirdness.  Would absolutely recommend as an easy, travel-worthy, pattern that works particularly well with heavily variegated yarn.  Will absolutely make this again.

And can I take a moment here to thank all the amazing pattern designers who are kind enough to produce amazing patterns, like this one, and make them available for free online? I just love the Ravelry community and especially love that there are so many generous people willing to share their talents with the rest of us.  One day I hope to be able to contribute more in my own way.

On to the next project.  Have started my next pair of socks already using Cephalapod Yarns’ Skinny Bugga! in Vampire Squid colourway.  Love that name, Cephalapod Yarns in Vampire Squid.  Is it wrong to buy a yarn because of its name?  Wouldn’t have quite the same … je ne sais quoi… if it were called Grey and Red #3.  Fabulous marketing, guys!

Cephalapod Yarns Skinny Bugga! in Vampire Squid colourway.

Cephalapod Yarns Skinny Bugga! in Vampire Squid colourway.

vampire squid ball

Vampire Squid in the ball

Anyway, it is simply the most luxurious sock yarn to knit with, smooth and soft and easy to work.  Perfect.  But now I am sad as, while researching this post and wanting to post a link to their site, I’ve just realised that Cephalapod Yarns closed down late last year.  I had no idea!  I wonder what happened…?  Will have to pay more attention and particularly enjoy this make now that Cephalapod is no more and I won’t be able to get more of this divine yarn 😦

Am using a new-to-me pattern called Harvest Dew by Rose Hiver.  The wonderful, generous, folk on Raverly recommended it as being particularly awesome when using, again, heavily variegated yarn as the slipped stitch helps to break up the flashing.  I think these socks are going to be amazing.

Rose Hiver's Harvest Dew.  Fabulous!

Rose Hiver’s Harvest Dew. Fabulous!

So much fun to have a new project!  Are you knitting socks, too?  What are you working on?

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What to Do with Heavily Variegated Yarn?

What are You Knitting?

I bought this fabulous hand-dyed yarn when I was in New York for my birthday back in June.  Quite the lovely souvenir.  I had researched yarn stores before I’d gone and had been led towards Knitty City in the Upper West Side (208 W 79th).  I love their tagline: Delicious Yarn Without the Calories.  It is the most fabulous store!  Small (of course, it is NYC after all) but jammed to the rafters with the most divine yarn everywhere.  I particularly took a shine to this fabulous colourway from Nooch Fiber.

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Leda and the Swan, Nooch Fiber in the skein

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And wound into a ball. Looks so different, right? It is at this stage I start to get nervous about how it will knit up.

Squishy, Superwash Merino with Nylon.  Fabulous!  I especially love that the designers hand dye their yarn in their tiny New York apartment kitchen sink – truly, a unique New York City souvenir for sure!  The other part of their story is that they are inspired by the amazing art found all over the city.  In this case, this colourway is entitled ‘Leda and The Swan’ (Cy Twombly) as the colours are inspired by those used in the painting of the same name.  It is housed in the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) and looks like this:

Leda and the Swan by Cy Twombly, MoMA, New York

Leda and the Swan by Cy Twombly, MoMA, New York

There was also an amazing colourway called ‘Starry Night’ (Vincent Van Gogh).  It won’t surprise you to hear that it had the most amazing shades of deep blue, indigo and and yellow.  Just gorgeous!

Now, what to make?  Well, with just one skein of sock yarn, socks were the obvious answer but I was nervous about the strong variegation and wasn’t certain how it would knit up.  I truly have absolutely no vision and can’t imagine at all from a sample what it might look like as a finished piece. Ugh!  Something with texture but not too much.  I knew a lace pattern would likely get lost in the striation and yet plain knitting is just so tedious.  I needed a nice balance.  Nothing I had on hand was really suitable.

A little research on Ravelry (such an amazing site) revealed all sorts of options but this pattern, Hermione’s Everyday Socks, came highly recommended and seemed to fit the bill.  And so far so good!  I do feel the colours are a little jarring together and closer to Clown Barf than I would normally be comfortable with but I find it grows on you after a while and now I kinda like it.  A parent at swimming commented that the colours reminded him of a flashback to the 70s.  I don’t know whether to be complemented or insulted.

The colours are more vibrant in reality, closer to those shown in the first pic with the yarn still wound in the skein. They looked kinda washed out here.

The colours are more vibrant in reality, closer to those shown in the first pic with the yarn still wound in the skein. They looked kinda washed out here.

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Close up of stitch definition. Still blurry though – sorry.

What do you think of the colours, too much? Do you have favourite patterns you love that are great for breaking up flashing or Clown Barf-y yarn?

A Laundry Do-Over – Using White Vinegar in the Wash

UPDATE: You might remember this old hand knitted blanket I found squashed in a plastic case all the way in the back of a closet.  It had been knitted by my husband’s grandmother about 30 years ago and I don’t think it had seen the light of day since then.  It was really quite dirty and uncared for but with a little cleaning it had been resurrected.  Or so I thought.

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Hubby’s Grandmother’s blanket freshly washed after a 30 year absence. Looks good but smells … ugh!

I’d used a fab product called Eucalan on it and, you know, the Eucalan was great for softening and cleaning the blanket but it came out of the washer with a very over-powering floral fragrance.  It didn’t smell of the Eucalan which has a light eucalyptus scent.  It smelled of flowery, chemically, dryer sheets and those floral airfresh refills and … I dunno what else.  It was too much.  Really.  To the point of being awful, actually, and I couldn’t stand to have it near us much less try to snuggle under it 😦  In our home we don’t use air fresheners, dryer sheets, Febreeze-type products.  I feel that clean doesn’t smell of anything and if there is some ‘freshener’ wafting in the air it is likely be trying to hide some nasty, odiferous, yuckiness lurking underneath.  Now, I know some folk just love those fresheners and that’s just peachy but I.Don’t.Like.It!  Hubby said that the blanket always smelled like that and that he was completely taken back to when he was a little boy when I brought the blanket out and he smelled it again.  Huh.  Maybe the years in the plastic had super charged the smell?  Well, either way, it couldn’t smell like that and stay in my house.  Bleck.

So I washed it again but this time I added some plain white vinegar to the wash cycle.  White vinegar is a great product to use in the laundry.  When added to the final rinse cycle white vinegar will act as a natural fabric softener and will help combat lint and remove static cling.  When added to the wash water is will strip out any leftover manufacturing chemicals from new clothes, particularly important when washing new baby clothes.  Vinegar will also bleach out stains and freshen up whites and can be used to clean the machine itself of any soap scum and grime.  Amazing right? WikiHow has some nice instructions on the quantities to use here.

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Just regular white vinegar from the grocery store. Easy.

So I wondered if it might work to remove the overpowering fragrance of the blanket.  I added a good slosh to the wash cycle, threw the blanket in and crossed my fingers.  And you know, it worked!  The smell was definitely much reduced…. but …. still more noticeable than I’d like.  Gah!!  What to do?  I was running out of non-toxic ideas.

I knew that the sun can really help strip offensive odours and stains from things like cloth diapers and I wondered if it might help me with my current dilemma. I laid the still damp blanket outside in the sunniest part of the garden for a few hours to see what would happen.  Eureka!  Success!  When I brought it inside the remaining smell was all but gone and the blanket was soft and squishy and cosy again.

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Like a phoenix from the ashes the blanket has been resurrected – huzzah!

Here it is all folded and lovely and ready to be turned in to the roof of a fort, or the base of a battleship, or just to snuggle under by the fire on cold winter nights.  Love it!  Yay!

Reviving Old Woolies

A Lesson in Laundry

I was rummaging through the back of a cupboard the other day and I came across a plastic case with an old, hand knitted, blanket inside.  It turns out that my husband’s grandmother had made it for him when he was a little boy and somehow it ended up hidden in the back of the closet.  I’d never seen it before and figured it would be nasty having been uncared for for so long but when I took it out it was actually quite nice.  There were some very dirty patches and a musty smell from the plastic so it definitely needed a wash but from all the ends that were woven in I could see that it had been pieced together and that much care and attention had gone it to creating it.  Hmmm…. I wondered if I could resurrect it?  My husband, being the practical man that he is, was quick to want to toss it out logically stating that it hadn’t been looked at much less used in over 30 years and would be one less thing to clutter up our house.  Hmmm ….  It might be nice for the boys to snuggle under while they’re watching TV, or to make a cubbyhouse out of ….  I couldn’t quite tell what the yarn was, seemed like it might have some acrylic in it. I wondered how it would fare if I put it on a gentle cycle?  Hmmm…. I decided that that would be the test.  If it survived the washing machine then it could stay.

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Hand knitted blanket back from the dead.

I spot treated the stains and dirt marks, chucked the whole thing in the washer and crossed my fingers.  Despite its terrible treatment it survived!  Grandma really knew how to make a blanket.  It didn’t felt and the dirty marks had all disappeared.  Success!  Except that it came out, kinda, stiff.  And not nice to snuggle under.  Kinda yucky really.  (sad face)

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Super Hero Eucalan, here to save your woolies!

Grrrr.  OK, one last try.  This time I washed it in the machine on a Rinse, Spin only cycle with Eucalan.  Have you tried this stuff before?  It is amazing.  It is a non-toxic, biodegradable, lanolin based product that makes the world of difference to knitted items turning stiff, scratchy, nastiness into soft, squishy goodness.  Just a teaspoon full in either a big bucket of water for hand washing or added to the softener dispenser in your machine magics your items back to life.  The website says it can be used for a range of applications although I’ve only ever tried hand knitted or crocheted items.  It is great for blocking some beautiful hand knit you have just finished.  Will have to keep it in mind next time a laundry emergency arises.

In Flanders Fields the Poppies Blow

5000 Poppies

So, after hearing about the Socks for Centenary project I came across another fabulous community initiative to mark the 100 ANZAC commemoration, 5000 Poppies.

From the Victorian Government’s ANZAC Centenary website:

From its association with poppies flowering in the spring of 1915 on the battlefields of Belgium, France and Gallipoli, the poppy has become a symbol of both great loss in war and hope for those left behind.

As part of the 2015 Anzac commemorations, the 5000 Poppies project group will be ‘planting’ a field of more than 5,000 poppies in Federation Square, Melbourne, as a stunning visual tribute to Australian service men and women for more than a century of service in all wars, conflicts and peacekeeping operations.

Poppies at the Shrine of Remembrance MelbourneThe group is inviting all crafters to participate in this meaningful and heartfelt project. Contributors can make one or more poppies, which can be crocheted, knitted, felted or sewn from any materials.

Contributors are asked to provide their own materials, but there is no entry fee and no limit to the amount of poppies that can be submitted. Patterns, information and inspiration can be found at the blog 5000poppies.wordpress.com.

Such a fun idea, right?  And easy.  And so many options, crocheted poppies, knitted poppies, felt poppies.  There is definitely something for everybody here in this project and plenty of pattern choices listed on the project’s website here.  As of this writing I understand the project organisers have received close to 100,000 poppies (!!) so well over what was their initial goal.  The problem now is to raise enough funds to be able to display all the poppies on Federation Square as originally planned.  It turns out that a 100,000 poppy installation is much more costly than a 5,000 poppy installation(who knew?).  The space required is approximately 1200 square metres, nearly 13,000 square feet or 1/3 acre for those who still count in old money.  That’s about the size of our entire house plus the land it sits on!  HUGE!  Then there’s transport and storage costs, rigging and equipment hire, strict OH&S guidelines governing public art installations that must be complied with, along with public liability insurance.  I can see how the costs have added up.  The organisers have launched a crowdfunding campaign on POZIBLE to raise the $50,000 (!!!) needed for the project’s installation but they are well short of their goal.  Please consider contributing to the cost of this amazing art piece.

5000 Poppies Poppy

So, of course, I had to crochet up a little poppy of my own to send in as part of my contribution and in memory of my Great Grandfather who fought in the trenches in France and Belgium.  I remember at his funeral the other men of our family who had served in the armed forces all wearing crepe paper poppies on their lapels.  At the conclusion of the service they all removed their red lapel poppies and laid them on the casket. A solemn and poignant moment for even this, self-involved and clueless, teen.  Red poppies not only remind me (and so many others) of the sacrifice so many young men and women have made and continue to make to preserve our freedoms but remind me of my Great Grandpop.  

Tower of London Poppies

The idea reminds me of this extraordinary poppy art installation completed at the Tower of London in 2014.  The final poppy was planted in the moat of the Tower of London at 11am on Armistice Day. The installation is entitled ‘Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red’ and is comprised of 888,246 ceramic poppies, each representing a British or Commonwealth military fatality during the First World War.  Ah.May.Zing.

Knitting for 100 years

Socks for Centenary

ANZAC Day is a big freakin’ deal in Australia.  And this year is particularly significant as 25 April 2015 marks the 100th anniversary of the Australian and New Zealand forces’ landing at Gallipoli.

For those who are rusty on Australian WWI history and who would appreciate a quick primer the Australian War Memorial does a good job explaining it all here.

File:Australian_9th_and_10th_battalions_Egypt_December_1914 from the Australian War memorial

These are the ANZACs.  But why’d they take a kangaroo to Egypt?

So, a few days ago a feed came across my Facebook page linked me to a page outlining the importance of providing warm socks to the soldiers during the Great War (wha?? So random, right?  Stay with me).  You see clean, dry, warm socks were incredibly important to the diggers.  Trench Foot was a real and horrifying medical condition brought on by the damp, unsanitary and cold conditions in which the soldiers found themselves.  You could literally die from all the crud you were standing in day and night!  The details are too gory to describe here but Wikipedia is happy to tell you (and show you) all about trench foot.  Ugh.  Awful.  But trench foot could be prevented by regularly switching out wet socks for dry – but there were just never enough to go around.

So the Red Cross put out the call for those left at home to knit socks for the troops.  Women (mainly, although some men and boys too) from all over the country took up their needles and hopped to it.  Schools, churches, womens’ guilds, boy scout and girl guide troops all came together to provide some comfort to Australian troops by knitting and sending them socks.  More than 1 million pairs of socks were knitting during the war.  1 Million!!  Incredible!

Love this acrostic poem.  Can’t find the citation though, sorry.

As a tribute during the centennial, the City of Sydney has organised Socks for Centenary (terrible name, btw) and is asking people to knit a pair of socks, following the official Red Cross pattern from 1914, and send them in to be a part of an ANZAC Day art installation in Surry Hills library.  Once the exhibit ends all the socks will be donated to the Weyside Chapel in Kings Cross.

Cudgewa, Victoria, October 25 1916, photographer unknown. State Library of NSW

Women knitting for the war effort.  Fancy new camera she has there on the right.

Fabulous concept.  Awesome!  But why am I telling you all this?  Because this has all really moved me.  You see, my Great Grandfather, Pvt Edgar Gibbons, fought in WWI.  I remember him fondly for his gentle nature and cheeky sense of humour but I was a young teen when he passed away and I didn’t get a chance to ask him about his war memories.  Fortunately, his war records are available online though through the National Archives (isn’t that amazing?) and reading them gave me a whole new appreciation for the sacrifices so many made to fight for King and Country.

Family lore has it that he was gassed in the trenches and evacuated to hospital in London.  There he met and fell in love with his Scottish nurse, married her, and brought her back to Australia (told you he was cheeky!). She was my Great Grandmother and I still use her shortbread recipe that was handed from her, to my Grandmother, and down to me.My Great Grandpop was just 18 when he enlisted, having lied about his age to sign up, and he served in the 5th Australian Light Trench Mortar Battery in France and Belgium between 1916-1919.  When I think of the deplorable conditions and read of his many illnesses and injuries I wonder how anyone could ever survive such a hellacious experience, much less someone I actually knew and loved.  No wonder handmade socks with kind letters of encouragement pushed into the toe were so welcomed and valued by a digger.  I like to think that maybe someone might have knitted some new, warm, socks and sent them to him to help ease some of his discomfort.  To be so young, so far from home, and in such a horrible situation.  Heartbreaking.

Now for the knitting.  As part of the Socks for Centenary project the original 1914 ‘The Grey Sock’ pattern has been digitalised by the Mitchell Library and made publicly available – here.

I figured I’d give it a go.  I have to say it isn’t the clearest set of instructions to follow.  Some of the terminology has changed and clearly it is written for those who use DPNs and not magic loop, as I do, but I got the gist.  I bought a skein of grey 8ply wool and dove in.  Here’s a progress shot:

Just finished turning the heel. Now for the foot.

Clearly NOT historically accurate since I’m using non-period magic loop technique and circular needle, fancy stitch holder AND all the computer, modem, and router cords are clearly visible in the background, but still it is coming along nicely.  And I have to say it really is so warm and soft and snuggly.  Very comforting for a young soldier on the Western Front I would think.

Anyone else like to try knitting WWI era socks from an original pattern?  Truly, it’s not that scary! If you would like to have a go all the instructions can be found here at the Socks for Centenary webpage.  Once your beautiful socks are finished just complete the participation form found here and then send them on to any of the City of Sydney public libraries to be displayed in honour of someone you love or loved who served to protect our freedoms.  Deadline for submission is 27 March 2015.

If you live somewhere other than Sydney you can just post them in to one of the Sydney libraries along with the participation form.  That’s what I’m going to do.

Surry Hills Library
405 Crown Street
Surry Hills, NSW 2010
Australia

Don’t forget to leave a comment and tell me all about it!

Lest We Forget.