Monday, November 13, 2017

How Do I Love Thee, Zauberball?


There, now that that is out of the way, I can wax lyrical about one of my favorite yarns: Schoppel Zauberball Crazy. And if Schoppel would now like to send me some yarn love, I won't complain ;)

Zauberball is Euro-style sock yarn, 25% nylon/75% wool, thin (420m/100g), 2 ply and non-merino. It is not soft, but has a high price point all the same. Lots of knitters don't like this yarn because for the price they want soft. If you are into "soft",  this yarn will disappoint.

Thanks to the zero merino content, though, it wears quite well - no felting or pilling. I did, however, have a pair of Zauberball socks that wore through badly after about a year - holes in unexpected places all over the sole - though I suspect it was because my teenaged son was wearing the socks while longboarding - his shoes had holes in the same damn places as the socks!! Pro Tip: do not wear handknit socks when longboarding!

I've found that some of the dyes will fade over repeated laundry cycles, some colourways more than others. Since socks get washed a lot, it helps to be gentle with the detergent you use, if at all possible. I have had one colourway (2100 "domino") - which is starkly black and white - fade and bleed quite quickly, with all the white bits going grey. It seems to me that the bright colourways fade more quickly. But in general they look good for at least a couple of years.

Zauberball is a self-striping yarn with a very long colour change, and every ball is slightly different, so you are not going to be able to easily create identical socks using it. If you are a stickler for matching socks, this yarn isn't going to make you happy. But it's that same quality that makes it most excellent for "fun with colour". This is where this yarn really comes into its glory! Below I show you some of the socks I have knit using it, for your viewing pleasure. I've noted the colourways and patterns on the photos.

It's important to note that to get the look created in these photos, I wind the skein into smaller balls (at least 2 per sock so 4 smaller balls if I do 2AAT) and then use alternating balls for the (horizontal or vertical) stripes, or the wedges. This enhances the contrast between the stripes. The only socks where I didn't do this were the Zarathustra socks below - those display the natural colour rhythm of the skein, the contrast being provided by the plain grey of the Regia.

[pattern: Cook A's Wedge sock, 
Zauberball Crazy colourway 3136 "der lenz ist da"]

[pattern: 2x2 colourwork using 2 ends of the ball, 
garter toes and FishLipsKiss heel,
Zauberball Crazy colourway 1564 "frische fische"]

[pattern: 2x2 ribbing, 6-row stripes from 2 ends of the ball, 
my own afterthought heel; 
Zauberball Crazy colourway 2137 "wurzelsepp"]

[pattern: Cook A's Wedge sock, 
Zauberball Crazy colourway 3136 "blasser schimmer"]

[pattern: Caoua Coffee's Zarathustra socks;
Zauberball Crazy colourway 2312  "piano bar" 
combined with plain grey from Regia]

[pattern: 2x2 sprialling colourwork using 2 ends of the ball, 
my own garter afterthought heel 
Zauberball Crazy colourway 2092  "my sweet side"]

[pattern: 2x2 ribbing, 6-row stripes from 2 ends of the ball, 
my own afterthought heel; 
Zauberball Crazy colourway 1564 "frische fische"]

Have fun, sock knitters!

Monday, November 6, 2017

Remembrance Day

Over the last months, I have been spending some time on a community art project.

I was very inspired by this one, where a group of Australian women started a memorial project for their veterans. Like Canada, Australia (and New Zealand and Britain also) use the poppy as a symbol for their war veterans.

My knitting group got pretty excited by the idea too, so we decided to start a local version, and started shopping the idea around to other knitting groups around the Lower Mainland.

We ran a public wet-felting session so non-knitters could contribute. It was a lot of fun and I think it touched a lot of people. We had men participate and even some children!

We've collected over 600 poppies this year. A group of us spent a weekend zap-strapping them onto a backing for the display. It looks truly amazing.

[the Poppy Project blanket on display]

Our local Royal Westminster Regiment has been very encouraging and their museum has lent us the kit for the display. We made it into our local paper and hopefully with the display looking so fantastic, it will encourage more participation next year!

Friday, October 27, 2017

Intarsia for Socks, v1

I have not done a lot of intarsia knitting in the round - when I do it, it's not very neat - but I have experimented a bit with in on sweaters. The basic trick with intarsia in the round is that it's not actually in the round. It's flat knitting, done back-and-forth to a skngle stitch, the magic "turnaround point" lots of purling involved. To make the knitting round (ie. a tube) you hook the start and end points together by winding the yarn ends around each other. You'll see how in the linked video below.

While I was OK with the result of the one intarsia sweater I designed, I never cracked a book or YouTube to see how anyone else had solved the problem of making a nice turnaround point - with the obvious result that my turnaround point wasn't all that it could be! 

Then recently I came across a few simple intarsia sock patterns on Ravelry, which passed on this super video demonstrating a clever way of doing intarsia in the round. So now of course I've got to try it!!

The simplest intarsia pattern is a single solid stripe up the front of a sock, and if you are new to intarsia in the round that's what I'd recommend. That way, there are only 4 ends to darn in (one in each colour at the start and finish of that stripe). I say this because of course my first try has been more complicated - I got inspired by this pattern and decided to imitate it and also to see if I could do it two-at-a-time! 

Note: because I didn't actually use her pattern, my design is a bit different: the stripes are an odd number of rows high, spaced out by a different number of rows, and I don't follow the "rule of thirds" in placing them...

And yes, I figured it out. And I have about a million ends to deal with! Urk.

So here are some tips.

1. as I said, for first-timers, best is to try a plain sock with a single solid contrasting stripe up the middle of the front (or back) of the sock. It's easiest if the two socks are identical (ie. if you offset that stripe to one side of the sock, you might prefer to have mirror image socks instead, which of course are then not identical - and that takes just a little more thinking to get right).

2. WATCH THAT VIDEO BEFORE DOING ANYTHING. Pay attention to what she calls the "turnaround point" - where her marker is.

3. Start your sock(s) - either top down or toe up. Once you get to the point where the intarsia starts, you will need to arrange you sock(s) so that the turnaround point is the start of round. For 2AAT socks, this means the needles come out of the sock at the turnaround point, see picture below. My marker (if I used one) would be hanging in the air between the front and back needles. Note how the colour blocks (ie. the stripe!) start with the first stitch on the front needle! Because I'm doing 2AAT using magic loop (two circs would be similar), I'm not using a marker. My needles always indicate the turnaround point. But feel free to use one! *** see footnote

[sock positioned so that last stitch on back needle is where I turn around]

3. You might try on a single sock first, with the YouTube video playing in front of you, as you get the idea established in your brain. Then put the sock on a holder and start the second one. Once it's the same length, get both socks on the needles with the turnaround point in the right place, and you can proceed 2AAT. If you are doing a stripe down the front of the sock, both socks will be arranged slightly twisted on your needles - the first stitch of the stripe has to be the first stitch on the front needle for both socks!

[now I've got both socks arranged on the needles for 2AAT. 
Note that the two socks are twisted differently;
these socks are mirror images of each other because the blocks are off to the side]

4. yarn management becomes an issue pretty quickly. For my first try, I had only 2 colours per sock, so I put each smaller ball (for the intarsia stripe) inside its respective sock as soon as I could. Really cuts down on the tangles. If you are doing cuff-down, try pinning a sandwich baggie on the inside of each sock to hold its yarn.

5. I always joint new colours using a slipknot. This allows me to snug the new yarn up nice and tight, and allows for adjustments later. A slipknot also undoes rather easily, so when time comes for weaving in the ends I can unpick it, adjust the tension, and weave in. See the photo below.

[join new yarn using a slipknot for easy adjustment]

6. If your intarsia pattern continues over the instep, when you get to the heels, you will need to reposition your socks on the needle(s), to remove that twist. The start of row needs to be at the side of the sock to make the heels properly. Then, when you're finished the heels, reposition again if your patterns calls for more intarsia. 


*** OK. To be completely honest, you can put your turnaround point anywhere you like on your socks. But you need a ball of yarn for every time you change colour between the start of your row and the turnaround point. So by judiciously positioning your turnaround point to start with a new colour like I demonstrate here, you cut down on the number of balls required by 1. It's a tradeoff between the number of balls of yarn to manage, and repositioning - you can add 1 more ball per sock of the main colour and then can have the turnaround point at the side of each sock, just like usual.