I started the Wild Tide socks with the slip stitch pattern on the new Flexi-Flip needles, and I feel as if I've almost knit enough of the leg to form an opinion of them. Unfortunately, I'm not sure it's a very good opinion...

The start of a knitted sock leg on Flexi-Flip needles,with columns of slipped stitches on a stockinette background

I'm used to knitting my socks with five DPNs, so figuring out how to hold two needles that were basically folding in half was an interesting challenge. The first few changeovers from one needle to the next were really awkward, but I think I'm getting the hang of it. It's kind of like how I *can* knit socks with just four DPNs, but I find five more comfortable. Maybe after I've knit the rest of the sock, they'll feel more at home in my hands.

I like that the needles have one pointier side and one more blunt, but I definitely prefer the pointier side, and that means remembering to turn each one around as it comes free of the stitches and becomes the next working needle. It would be better if the two sides were two different colours, to make it easier to quickly tell which is which.

With my usual sock knitting method, I "rotate" the sock every few rounds by knitting a few extra stitches onto each needle, which helps to minimize any laddering. With the Flexi-Flips, there are only three needles, and the first and last few stitches of each one are so awkward that I can't imagine how one would easily do that.

At least the sock looks nice! There are some definite laddering issues at both sides where the needles don't meet well, but I think they should work their way out in the wash. I'm quite pleased with the stitch pattern and how it's breaking up the spiral pooling a little bit without hiding it completely.

Meanwhile, since I didn't buy anything at MD Sheep and Wool, I felt very little guilt about making a post-festival purchase from Etsy.

Two skeins of sock yarn in rosy-purple and blue-violet with a skein of purple, pink, and blue speckled yarn between them.

I got these two skeins of Malabrigo Sock (top: 120 Lotus; bottom: 863 Zarzamora) at two separate shops about a year apart from each other, thinking (at the times) that sock yarn makes the best souvenirs... but never considering that they might go together.

Then, as knitters are wont to do, I started thinking that maybe they *should* go together. But when I pulled them out of the sock yarn tote and looked at them in the same light, I realized how close in value they were. So what they *really* needed, I concluded, was a skein of speckled yarn that pulled colours from both of them as a go-between. Then I found this Sheeps Clothing Yarn Co. Fable Fingering in Nebula Speckle, and knew that it was Just Right.

No idea *how* they're going to go together just yet (a shawl, perhaps?) but whooo! This is just the most perfect addition, isn't it?

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After some months of ignoring them, I've finished the green stripy socks! I'm so pleased that the stripes line up perfectly from sock to sock. (I mean, I did that on purpose, but I'm still pretty pleased at how well it worked out.) This is about as plain a sock as it gets: twenty rounds of k2, p2 ribbing, followed by an awful lot of stockinette interrupted by a regular ol' flap heel, and a star toe with four points. The yarn is Austermann Step in colourway 96 Forest Green.

A finished pair of greens and light tan striped socks displayed on sock-blockers.

My original intention with these socks had been to try the Flexi-Flip needles with them, but that totally didn't work for reasons... primarily that while everyone else seems to agree that a US size 1 needle is 2.25 mm, Addi's size 1 Flexi-Flips are 2.5 mm. Since then, I've acquired a set in 2.25 mm, and as soon as the green socks were done I cast on for a new sock with this Silkie Socks that Rock in the "Walking on the Wild Tide" colourway, which was from their sock club some years ago. I got this yarn only a few months ago, from someone at our local knitting night. (Thanks!)

Kitting needles with the barest beginning of a pair of socks in shade of pink, blue, green and tan, with the ball of yarn behind.

I'm planning to do something fairly simple again, but with columns of slipped stitches to attempt to break up the pooling a little bit, and an eye of partridge heel for a change. A review on the Flexi-Flips will be forthcoming once I get a little more used to them, too.

This year's Maryland Sheep and Wool was a whole new kind of experience - the plan had been to go with Mom, but Dad and Michael joined us for the day too. Nothing really jumped out at me as something I needed to buy, but I did drop off the fleece that Carrie and I bought some years ago with a processor who said she'll have it back to us by mid-October. The only thing I brought home was this picture of the alpacas:

A brown alpaca appears to be whispering into the ear of a black-and-white alpaca. Both of them have some hay hanging from their mouths.

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After the complete failure in every way of my attempt at tuck lace, I decided to go back to fair isle and make... something. A wrap? a scarf? A very large swatch? Whatever. I picked out some of the coned cotton that Dawn gave me and cast on, and before I knew it, I had 300+ rows of error-free (if a little loose) knitting.

Holding up the right side of a purple and white piece of knitting in front of the machine, which has the work hanging from the needles with the wrong side facing the camera.

It didn't take long for me to decide that this cotton is too heavy to be a good scarf, this piece isn't wide enough to make a comfy wrap, and therefore I should put buttonholes in the second hem and make it into a pillow cover. So I guess I'm going to learn to make buttonholes! Mom has a multi-generational button box, and I bet I can find something quirky and cute to use. The real trick is going to be deciding which ones, I'm sure.

My new machine didn't come with an instruction manual (I knew that before I bought it.) The book's available as a scanned pdf online, but I was getting frustrated at trying to flip back and forth between pages, so I bought a used copy and I can already tell that it will be helpful. I also found a pdf version of a book called "Brother Knitting Techniques," which is currently open to a set of pages with instructions on how to make buttonholes several different ways.

The difference in complexity between the KH230 carriage and the KH940 carriage is pretty significant:

The underside of two knitting machine carriages, one significantly more complex than the other.

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So... I got it into my head that I wanted a newer knitting machine - one of the standard gauge ones with bells, whistles, and electronic innards that can be connected to a computer. By "newer," I don't mean anything like "new," because the model I was looking for was made in the late 80s/early 90s. These nearly 30-year-old machines are still cranking right along. It's pretty amazing to see what some people have done with them: check out img2track and this awe-inspiring star tapestry!

After a good deal of research and looking on eBay and Etsy, I found a Brother KH-940 (well, a KnitKing Compuknit IV, which is exactly the same thing with a different label) for a good price and bought it. Of course, getting something for a good deal often means getting something that needs a little fixing up, and that's pretty much what happened.

When I got the machine, it was covered in fine brown fuzzy bits, and the case took a little damage in shipping, but the electronics tested out just fine. The needles were clean and the sponge bar new (whew) but the centre buttons on the carriage were immobile - which is a pretty common issue, as the grease hardens with age, and that was a fine excuse to go shopping and get some more appropriate cleaners and lubricants than what I had in my garage already. It took me about a week of evenings to get it all cleaned up and knitting smoothly.

A view of the control panel and needlebed of the KH940.

Then, of course, I had to make some swatches. First I tried fair isle, and it was like magic. The carriage holds both yarns at once and automatically knits colour A onto some needles, colour B onto others. There are a bunch of patterns pre-programmed into the machine, so I picked number 40 at semi-random and made up this small swatch using leftover sock yarn.

A navy and white fair isle swatch with a pattern of diagonal lines surrounding vertical bars.

Then I wanted to try two-colour tuck stitch, and quickly found that it's much more of a pain in the neck as the knitter has to manually swap yarns every other row to make this work. Some people invest in a second carriage to make it easier, and I can't say I blame them. Here's pattern 302 in the same sock yarn:

A 1960s mod looking tuck stitch swatch in navy and white.

So third, I decided to try a one-colour tuck lace with some of the coned cotton that I have, and when I accidentally dropped the whole piece off the needles I decided that I liked the pattern well enough to attempt a wrap/shawl sort of thing with it. Whooooboy, this was the cursed piece of knitting. Not that there was anything wrong with the yarn or with the machine; everything was entirely user error.

A pale pink swatch of tuck lace, with vertical "ribs" of dropped stitches surrounding wavy lace columns.

How do I mess thee up? Let me count the ways...

By forgetting a yarnover so that the drop-stitch columns don't unravel into the hem (as seen above, if you look closely)
By forgetting to push in the tuck buttons when beginning the pattern
By forgetting that I turned the machine off, and moving the carriage across the needles anyway
By unraveling the resulting badly-formed row... and then resetting the computer to the wrong row number
By the yarn snapping, when I finally get going again

There is a definite learning curve, here...

A pale pink piece of knitting hangs from the needlebed of a knitting machine... with the yarn snapped, and several needles empty as a result.

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My test swatch came out of the laundry looking just as nice as when it went in, so I applied the cable border to the whole blanket, wove in the ends, and did a small celebratory dance before arranging it on the couch for a photoshoot. It's squishy and warm and I couldn't be happier with it! I used 8.5 of the eleven balls of yarn that I bought, and I'm planning to return the last two to the store rather than make any coordinating accessories.

A red and teal blanket with a cabled edge is artfully arranged on a black leather couch.

On Wednesday I met up with friends for knit night at the bookstore, and someone was just *giving away* yarn and books. With some arm-twisting, she convinced me to take some. I came home with a German stitch dictionary, two balls of Supersocke, and one skein of Silkie Socks that Rock. Now, to decide what to make with them...

Two balls of self-striping pink and black sock yarn.

A skein of "Silkie Socks that Rock" yarn in the "Walking on the Wild Tide" colorway - handpainted, variegated tan, blue, green, brown and shocking pink.

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Picking a colour scheme for an open-concept house is difficult, and even more difficult when one tries to take into account the furniture, rugs, and artwork from previous houses. But things are starting to come together. We've painted underneath the chair rail in the dining room a deep teal, and the living room has always had quite a bit of burgundy. So when we went looking for yarn for our new couch blanket, it was good luck that we found this "Barcelona" yarn by Loops and Threads that shades from burgundy to teal and back again. I looked up the yarn on Ravelry and found this project, which instantly became the inspiration for my own blanket.

A large ball of red and teal "Barcelona" yarn. The brand is Loops and Threads.

I did a test swatch, figured out my gauge, did some math so that my squares would come out to actually be a square twelve inches, and started knitting. The machine makes it go amazingly fast, and before long I had nine squares finished. You can see some of that matching burgundy in the rug - yes, the machine currently *is* set up in the middle of my living room, because why not.

I began to get worried that I wouldn't have enough yarn; each ball was producing four squares, and I was pretty sure that I'd need thirty squares plus a border. I ordered more yarn, making use of the always-available 40% off coupons at the artsy-crafts store, figuring that I could always return any unused yarn once the blanket is done.

Nine blanket squares hanging from a bulky knitting machine.

At five by five squares Michael and I tried it on for size (in other words, snuggled up under it on the couch) but decided that it really did need to be six by five, so I put a final row on. I worked many of the ends in as I went along, and the rest will get worked into the border or woven in later. Here it is, still borderless, spread out on a full-size futon for scale:

A 6x5 blanket in striped squares of red and teal is displayed on a fullsize futon.

The edges of each square, being stockinette, are obnoxiously curly. I wanted to find a border that would look good with the blanket and also minimize that curl as much as possible. So I knit a test piece with two squares and tried at least half a dozen different edges and borders on it, feeling more and more like Goldilocks with each one: "This one is too wavy. This one is too short. This one is too curled up on the wrong side of the work."

I tried a crochet border, which did work to flatten the edges, but decided not to go with it for the picky reason of wanting to do the whole project on the machine. I tried a pie crust border, a worm edging, a spiraling edge, and finally a half-cable border that totally does the trick.

The corner of a blanket square swatch showing a cabled edging.

This test piece will go into the wash with the rest of my laundry to give me an idea of how the whole blanket will feel after being washed. It's supposedly a machine-washable and -dryable acrylic, so I'm pretty confident that it will come out just fine, but better to find out on my test swatch than on the real thing.

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Whooooboy, February really threw me for a loop - a phrase which, now that I've typed it, looks as if it's just a wrong way to assemble a group of words. What does that even mean? In this case, it means that the whole month went wrong. :/ I missed a few days of work to take care of family business and another for a snow day, and spent the rest of the (short) month working late to make up the hours. Now we're into a new month and a new pay period, so I get to have afternoons and evenings again!

I did manage to finish knitting my new red and white hat. I put a lining in, but I'm afraid that I didn't make it tall enough. Unlike the other colourwork hats I've done, this lining was meant to have a full inner hat for extra-extra warmth. Blocking probably won't be enough; I know I'm going to have to rip back and add more length... which is why the hat has just been sitting in my bag, ignored, for the past two weeks.

The lining colour is pretty excellent, though.

A blue lining peeks out from inside a red and white fair isle hat.

Michael and I got the chance to visit my grandma for her birthday, which was a real treat for everyone. She still wears my first real knitting project! It's a basketweave scarf that I made for her birthday in 2005. The thing I remember most about it was how much trouble I had just counting to four, over and over again. I'm just a little better about reading my knitting now. For years, my only picture of the scarf was an in-progress scan, because I didn't have a camera when I made it. Now that I do, I was able to get a proper picture of it. Since it's Red Heart, it looks exactly the same as the day it came off the needles.

A teal and tan scarf with a basketweave texture, artfully arranged on a beige carpet.

I'll make a separate post about my adventures with the knitting machine. I've been working on a new couch-blanket, but there's enough to write about that it deserves a post of its own.

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My friend Dawn (hi Dawn!) had a knitting machine that was taking up too much space in her spare room, and I thought it might be a fun thing to try with my brother and his kids, who learned to knit last year. I handed it off to my brother, who took it home, cleaned it up and got it mostly running smoothly. It needed some parts, which I ordered; the machine came back to my house and Michael and I set it up. The most crucial part was a new sponge bar.

A new sponge bar compared to an old flattened one.

With that installed and one bent needle replaced, we set the machine up on the coffee table and looked through the instruction manual. It's... not very detailed. We had to look up some YouTube videos and other instructions.

The knitting machine on my coffee table, with my laptop behind it. The user manual is displayed on the laptop screen.

It took a few tries with casting on and playing with the tension to get it working well...

The carriage and needle bed.

But with some good ol' Red Heart yarn, we figured it out! (I think.)

The beginning of a swatch on the knitting machine, with the cast-on comb and weight hanging from the bottom.

A tension swatch in dark teal yarn.

There will definitely be more to come.

Closeup of the knitting machine's carriage.

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Not that stranded colourwork is particularly difficult, but I feel like I'm done with the "hard part": I finished the outside of my new hat yesterday, and now it's time to unzip the provisional cast-on and knit the "easy part" otherwise known as the stockinette lining. It's almost a shame to cover this up, isn't it? But if I don't, not only will the hat be too big but it will also be less warm than I want. I have a sportweight yarn in a beautiful blue-green that will make a striking contrast.

Red and white stranded colourwork as seen from the inside. Star/snowflake shapes are on the bottom, and a series of dashes and dots on the top.

My original thought had been to make an overstuffed pompom for the top of the hat, but now that I'm looking at this nifty star formed by the decreases, I'm not so sure. Maybe I'll sew a button to the inside so that it can be detachable. What do you think - pompom, or no?

(I think I might have to try it, just to see how it looks.)

The top of a red and white hat. The stitches and colours form a star shape.

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At this point I really don't need more hats, but I've been having so much fun knitting them that I started a new one anyway. This one will have a snowy theme, and Michael helped me chart it out so I'm doubly excited to knit it.

Burgundy and white balls of yarn, with a circular needle that has the beginnings of a new hat.

Like the other hats, I'm knitting this in Cascade 220 with a 220 Sport lining, but unlike the other hats I've started with a provisional cast-on. It's something I've never done before, but my mom (who, by the way, has test-knit both the Crossing Trails and Hollis Hills hats) suggested it as a way to avoid the annoyance of having the lining curl up into the work while you're trying to knit.

The funny thing about that is that the provisional cast-on is even more in the way, as the chain is fairly loose... oops? Have I done it wrong?

Closeup of the start of a hat, with the provisional cast-on curling around.

I looked up several variations and decided to try the one where you crochet directly onto the needle and go from there, rather than attempt to pick up the stitches from a long chain. Once I had all the stitches I needed on my needle, I chained a few more before cutting the yarn and pulling it through the last chain. That will make it easy to "unzip" when it's time to knit the lining.

My goal is to have this hat knit and the pattern written up for publication before it starts warming up too much. I'd love to wear it on one of our snowboarding trips this winter!

(On that note, I keep seeing these gorgeous - and expensive - Dale of Norway sweaters in the ski shops. I might just have to knit one for myself. And then there are the doubleknit hats, another technique I haven't yet tried... and the cowls... so many ideas, so little time!)

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