Boring old fart that I am, I went to bed at 10 pm. I figured the New Year would probably get here without me, and I was right. I'd had a beer with lunch and didn't feel like drinking in the evening, so I'm hangover-free, although we won't discuss what the Ethiopian leftovers did to me.
Apparently, one of the visiting cats, Sir Barfsalot, had a swingin' New Year's Eve, as I came downstairs this morning to find evidence of an epic hurl on the braided rug. Lewis, my yellow Lab, was showing a little too much interest in the rug, so I flung it down the basement stairs till Sir B's owner gets up to deal with it. Now, if that little story didn't enhance your hangover, nothing will.
On a less gruesome note, as soon as I posted my last entry, I of course found the sock pattern I was looking for (NL-7, Nancy Lindberg's Knit to Fit Ankle or Calf Socks). It was in one of those piles that seems to accumulate when you say to yourself I don't have time to file that now; I'll just set it here till later, and "later" has a way of slithering further into the future. In the meantime, other items get pre-filed on top of it, until one day you realize that Hoarders is going to come film your house unless something is done, pronto.
Once I found the pattern I quickly turned the heel of the sock and got about 10 rounds into the gusset, my least favorite part of the sock. I like the rhythm of the classic sl1, K1 heel flap, and I like to see the heel cup take shape. I don't mind picking up for the gusset, since I do a K3 border on either side of the heel flap which is easy to pick up in. But for some reason the gusset decreases seem to take longer than traveling to Jupiter via pontoon.
To round out this miscellany, a yarn review, a needle review, and a call for opinions:
Yarn Review: Mini Raggi by Jarbo Garn
This is self-striping sock yarn made in Sweden. The label is in Swedish. It's 75% new wool and 25% poly, and the gauge on the label is 28 sts/10 cm. The recommended needle size on the label is 2.5mm, but as with any project, make a gauge swatch with your preferred needles. I am using US #0.
The care instructions on the label show that Mini Raggi is machine washable in cold water, but should not be put in the dryer.
The retail price was quite reasonable. I think I paid $12.50 for the 100-gram ball at Borealis Yarns in St. Paul, MN [Borealis has now gone out of business]. The colorways are bright and fun. I bought one ball in reds, burgundies, and cream, and another in bright orange, yellow, green, cream, light blue, red, and tan. There were several other colorways, one of which incorporated bright yellow, pink and black, among other colors.
Mini Raggi knits up in thin-to-medium-thick rings of color without any fair-isle or other effects. The red- and-cream socks, which I knit last year, are satisfyingly dense and comfortable to wear. I don't know how they will hold up long-term, since I haven't worn them very many times yet.
My main criticism of this yarn is that it is not spun super-tightly, and it splits if you have to rework it. It didn't help that I was using sharp, pointy dpns which tend to split the yarn more than a more rounded-tipped needle. In a couple of places where I had to pick up a dropped stitch or tink several stitches, I had to work and rework to get each full stitch back on the needle without splitting. Then the yarn tended to stretch out and create loose stitches once it had been manipulated several times.
I give this yarn a guarded thumbs-up, with the recommendation that rounded, rather than super-pointy needles be used.
Needle Review: Knitter's Pride Nova dpns
I bought the Knitter's Pride Nova dpn sock set from Borealis Yarns in St. Paul, MN [Borealis has now gone out of business]. The set includes US sizes 0, 1, 1.5, 2, 2.5 and 3. The 6" needles are hollow brass tubes with nickel-plating. The tips are sharp.
The price was very reasonable, under $35 as I recall.
I chose metal needles because I like to knit fast. I'm an experienced dpn-knitter, and I don't have to worry much about stitches sliding off my needles, especially because I knit socks very tight at a gauge of 9 - 10 sts/in. The 6" length is ideal for me; the needles hold the 72-80 stitches I normally cast on for socks easily, but aren't so long that they get in the way.
What I like about these needles:
- They allow fast knitting.
- They hold a lot of stitches easily.
- They fit my big hands.
- The tips are sharp, which can be helpful if working cabled or lace projects.
- The metal is inflexible, and won't easily bend. No worry of breakage.
What I don't like about these needles:
- They are more likely to slip out of the work than wood needles, though with my tight knitting this isn't a big problem.
- The tips are sharp, which is a detriment when working with splitty yarn (see review of Mini Raggi, above).
- The metal is inflexible, which leads to quicker hand, wrist, shoulder, and neck fatigue than working with wood needles or two circulars.
In summary, I like the needles and they are a good value, but I will be careful not to knit continuously with them to avoid overuse injuries. I don't recommend them for novice dpn-users because of their relative slipperiness, and I don't recommend them (or other inflexible needles) for people with hand or wrist problems. They work best with tightly-spun yarns, or on projects where detail work is needed, such as cables, lace, or intricate stitch patterns.
Finally, a question
What are your favorite needles (and method) to knit socks with, and why? Are you a dpn enthusiast, a two-circulars person, or a Magic Loop fiend?
Just to start the conversation, my all-time favorite method is two circulars using Addi Turbos, but I like to mix things up with dpns too. Magic Loop is my least favorite, partly because I feel the needle torques irritatingly (at least the way I knit) and unless a needle with a very relaxed, floppy cable is used, I feel like I'm always fighting the needle. This limits me to using a Bryson plastic circular, which is the only needle with a loose enough cable I've been able to find.
What about you?