Recently in Other Peoples' Patterns Category

Ms. Darcy

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I usually have a guideline: I don't wear a new garment out until David and I have done the photoshoot and generated some bloggable images. I've never thought of this as a hard-and-fast rule; more as something that makes me feel better to have done. A sort of coming-of-age ritual for the garment, if you will. I never considered that I "need" to do things in that order...but apparently, I really do, since this jacket has been done for a solid MONTH and we only just got around to taking pictures the day before yesterday.

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I was putting the finishing touches on this jacket (Kim Hargreaves's Darcy design, from the Dark House Collection) as I rushed out the door to drop all of my Family Trunk sweaters at Twisted for my two-week trunk show there. I wasn't really anticipating the degree to which removing all of those sweaters from my wardrobe for a fortnight would leave me with NOTHING TO WEAR, and suffice to say, my Darcy has been in heavy rotation ever since.

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Long story short: I love, love, love this jacket. Love the pattern, love the design, love wearing it. Love the vaguely Edwardian shape, which is especially evident when paired with long skirts and while riding my retro Flying Pigeon. Love how the yarn (Manos del Uruguay) knitted up, with maximal heathering and minimal pooling. Love the seed stitch texture. Love the body and warmth of the finished fabric. Love the matte, dome-shaped black buttons that we ended up finding, and how they reflect the nubby-ness of the fabric itself. Love.

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Regular readers will remember that I wrote a little appreciation of this pattern, and Kim Hargreaves's style in general, a few months back. I continued loving it, although I was adapting the pattern for a larger yarn, so as I progressed I deviated more and more from the written instructions. The sleeve caps, in particular, required a bit of tweaking, but nothing very extreme. I think the end product looks and feels wonderful in a slightly heavier yarn; I'm so cold-blooded that if I'm gonna make an equestrian-looking riding jacket, I want it to keep me warm! And this one does, quite nicely. I also modified the collar instructions, adding about eight more rows to the top of the collar in order to get it to fold over the way I envisioned. I adore the result: I've also worn it with a knotted scarf, cravat-style, which accentuates the Edwardian appeal.

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These photographs, by the way, were taken during an extremely welcome burst of late-Autumn sunlight, at the gorgeous Lone Fir Cemetery, a heritage graveyard near our house, which is also a favorite destination for a scenic meander. In keeping with the Halloweeny season, I think the story for this shoot has something to do with a country schoolmistress who, cycling back from her single-room schoolhouse one fall afternoon, comes upon a mysterious cemetery she has never noticed before...

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I'm sure a litany of spookiness ensues, but at least she's sensibly and attractively attired in a wool jacket and seasonally-appropriate full skirt. :-)

All in all, this was a great project, and I think that giving myself a little brain-break as I put the finishing touches on the Accessories Collection was the right decision. Coming up soon: some stuff about my own designs, and a very special (and somewhat nerve-wracking) sewing project. Stay tuned!

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Moving along with Kim

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Thanks for all the Wednesday-love, everybody! She's being test-knit by a great group of people, and I'm hoping to be able to show you more of the upcoming accessory patterns early next week. In the meantime, though, I thought I'd check in about my progress on Kim Hargreaves's Darcy design:

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As you can see, I'm motoring right along. Shown is the seamed fronts, back, and one sleeve, along with a paltry amount of collar. I modified Hargreaves's instructions a bit on the collar finishing, to compensate for my larger gauge, but I think I'll rip out the bind-off and knit another 5-10 rows so that it will actually fold over in a satisfying way. Right now the right lapel keeps wanting to pop back up, and the top back of the neck isn't folded over at all.

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That's easily enough accomplished, though, and I'm still feeling quite pleased with how the garment as a whole is shaping up. This side view gives a sense of the sweep of the peplum, and of how the whole thing might feel when finished:

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I'm just LOVING the look and texture of the Manos worked up into seed stitch, and the overall hand of the fabric. I love its firmness, and the way it holds its shape so nicely, and I love the heathery distribution of variegation throughout the garment. Between the seams, cushy stitch, and hearty yarn, I'm betting that this jacket will last me a long time.

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I cast on for the second sleeve while chatting with a new yarny friend yesterday, and after that I've only got the collar modification and buttons left to work. I've really enjoyed this little break from designing, but I'm also glad to be nearing the end - I have so many ideas for new things percolating in my head!

Someone Else's Pattern

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David and I were supposed to leave for New Hampshire yesterday, but we are still at home. Why? Well, it turns out that on top of the car accident and the lost day job, the fates also decreed that our building would be broken into twice over the course of two days, and my brand-new bike would be stolen. And also that Mr. Bingley would come down with some kind of stomach ailment and run around throwing up all over the house. So we pushed back our departure in order to get the security and health issues sorted out before flying all the way across the country. (Not to worry, though: unless some other, unforeseen catastrophe hits, we will still be in Boston for the trunk show on the 29th.)

So, not to indulge in a pity party over here, but I am SO EXHAUSTED by everything that's happened over the past two months. Seriously guys, so very, very tired. As in, wake up at 9, then nap from noon to 3 tired. I'm deeply in need of some down time, hours and days in which nothing is expected of me and I am not dealing with crisis upon crisis, planning a huge project, or even being held responsible for dinner. Just...time to relax.

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So I've decided to indulge in a major personal luxury and knit someone else's pattern while I recover and continue working up the accessory patterns that we're releasing in the fall. I hardly ever do this anymore, but when I do I always find it useful. I'm drawn to patterns featuring intriguing techniques or shaping I'd like to dissect (and perhaps transform into something I can use in my own designs!), and following a really well-constructed pattern is always such a good reminder of how to write one myself. In this case, I'm returning to an old, old favorite: this is the back of Kim Hargreaves' lovely Darcy jacket, worked in Manos del Uruguay in a beautiful variegated green, and only a bit modified to accommodate a slightly larger gauge.

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Kim Hargreaves and Eunny Jang are the designers who inspired me to try my hand at putting together knitwear in the first place, and their patterns are still an endless source of inspiration for me. I adore all the shaped short-row peplums in Kim Hargreaves's Heartfelt collection, and I'm excited to finally work through one for myself. In fact, in addition to welcoming the ease of working Someone Else's Pattern, I'm generally excited to be back in Kim Hargreaves's world. I really love the way she writes her patterns; they just gel with my mindset, somehow. In fact, I'm planning to do a few posts on the actual pattern and all the things about it that work for me (and maybe the one or two things that don't). Sort of a play-by-play pattern appreciation and consideration society, and a chance to think about what I look for in a knitting pattern.

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This yarn has an interesting history: it was originally purchased by my mom, in my junior year. Of HIGH SCHOOL. She was planning a sweater for me as a high school graduation present, and was actually about a third of the way through a pretty cabled pullover when life got in the way and the project was stabled. Then she tried to resuscitate the project when I was about to graduate from college, but realized that she didn't have quite enough yarn for the sweater she'd started, and that her gauge had probably shifted in the five years since she stopped knitting, and in any case that the size she had begun knitting to fit my high school body would probably be a bit tight now that my, uh, "assets" have matured. So the sweater pieces were stashed away again, and when I started the Family Trunk Project, she offered it to me instead. Thanks, Mom! I think the seed stitch really shows it off nicely.

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So that's what I'll be working on as I fine-tune and format the rest of the accessory patterns - the third of which will be posted pretty soon. Wish me luck on recouping some serious ENERGY in the coming week, y'all.

Oh cripes!

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It's come to my attention that the technogoblins who run this blog have decided to engage in a bit of comment privateering. The goblins have been telling you, dear readers, that the comments are being held "for moderator approval," then turning around and hiding said comments away from my prying eyes, not in my "pending comments" folder, but deep in the bowels of "spam." I have no idea why the pesky devils have suddenly taken this notion; I never changed the comment settings, or told the blog to require approval for comments. Not only that, but this has apparently been going on for most of this MONTH, and comments held in the Spam folder for longer than 14 days are deleted with no mercy. I went through and approved all the languishing comment-prisoners, but the thought of slightly older ones getting the axe kind of makes me want to cry.

So. I'm not sure how to fix this technical glitch, but please know that if you commented in the last few weeks and didn't see your comment appear, I really want to hear what you have to say, and I in no way intended to bar you from the site. I love you guys! Please don't stop commenting. At least now I'll be checking the spam folder on a regular basis. (And a big thanks to Constance and the Lady for alerting me to this issue in the first place.)

Ahem.

So, let's all take a deep breath and relax with some nice blanket-square photos, shall we?

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It makes sense to relax with photos of blanket squares, since knitting them has become my standard way to unwind for a day or two between projects, when I've done the edging on my last thing but haven't yet cranked up the spreadsheet for my new thing. They're also great for times when I am sick, exhausted, or otherwise unable to cope.

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Like so many knitters, I've got zillion tiny balls of sock yarn leftovers rolling around, and it's soothing to grab a few and have instant mindless knitting. I haven't even been thinking about the eventual blanket that may come of these, so I was surprised the other day to find that I already have thirteen of them.

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So, I'm well on my way, although still nowhere near the finish line. I'm thinking of a final number somewhere around 72, as I dearly love a good-sized blanket, and hate having to yank on it to get it to cover my toes. Sometime in the distant future, I believe I'll be quite warm and cozy.

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Musings, and some socks

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Maxine is progressing beautifully, although more slowly than I might hope due to secret knitting. But I still have yet to share these lacy little socks, another project left over from Australia.

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As you can see, they're ridiculously, optimistically summery. I am wearing stockings underneath them in these shots, not only to show off the lace pattern better, but because oh mama, it has been chilly here. These are pretty much the absolute opposite of what I feel like wearing and working on right now, but that's okay. It's good to have a reminder that Spring will come again.

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To tell the truth, I don't think it's so much the weather as my state of mind that's keeping me holed up in my house, working madly on projects. I've reached a point where I'd really like design to be my "job," which is a scary yet exciting thing to admit. David and I have been brainstorming about ways to make that happen in the long run, and as a first step I've decided to cut a day from my work at my regular job. I'm really looking forward to having the extra time to work on proposals and projects, and hopefully I can start replacing the lost revenue. I think, at this point, it's more of an emotional risk than a financial one, but it still feels a bit nerve-wracking; lots of whatifs, in the words of Shel Silverstein, prancing and partying in my head.

(That's a great poem, by the way. When I'm prey to anxiety, the couplet "Whatif I tear my pants? / Whatif I never learn to dance?" cheers me up every time. I mean, why worry about never learning to dance, when you can just make the decision and teach yourself? You're in control! It's useful to remind myself of that, from time to time. Plus, of course, the image of a person tearing their pants is a classic nugget of hilarity.)

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Notice how I'm using sock photos to disguise the rambling, meta nature of this post? I suppose I have a few things to say about the socks themselves: they're a faithful version of MintyFresh's Zokni pattern, in Sundara's Beach Glass colorway. I have to say, although this yarn is more variegated than most I work with, it was some of the most well-behaved variegation I have ever encountered. Absolutely no pooling, no striping, no undesirable patterns of any kind. Just consistent, pretty heathering throughout. The pattern had good flow as well, and overall these were excellent vacation knitting. Come Spring, I'm sure I'll be stepping out in these socks with joy.

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Vivian

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Normally, for a sweater-sized project, we make a point of going out into the wide world and doing a photo shoot at a (hopefully) well-chosen location. But Vivian? That's not really the way she rolls.

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Vivian is a much more casual garment than the ones I usually make, and she is all about cozying around at home. Everything about her - the zip closure, the hood, the extra-long sleeves, the bulky yarn - evokes a day spent lolling about, reading a novel, sipping a cup of tea. Instant cozy!

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This yarn is something I would never have thought of buying had it not been for a series of events involving a 40%-off coupon with a looming expiration date, a limited color palette, a desire for a sweater's worth of yarn, and a panicky refusal to admit defeat. It's bright purple, for one thing, which is not my favorite color. It's also bulky, a weight I generally find uninspiring. Even its lovely sheen and soft texture were not enough to make up for these two faults, so it sat in my cabinet for a year and a half. I know some of you are laughing, but that's a long time for yarn to sit around unused at my house; until I started designing, I had pretty much no stash at all. So I was feeling a little guilty about this sweater-quantity of unused yarn, and every once in a while I would take it out and try to design something with it...but it was purple. And bulky. And I would put it away.

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But eventually I was glad to have it, because without it I wouldn't have made this pattern, and the pattern turned out to be super-fun. It's so well-designed and cleverly constructed, and the entire time I was knitting it I was thanking my lucky stars that I didn't have to worry about figuring out the sizing on it. Such an integrated, flowing design, where the cables and seed stitch panels form internal shaping in line with a six-row cable pattern in which all the pattern rows align across the entire sweater, was undoubtedly a giant pain in the ass to work out - and gloriously, it was Someone Else's Problem. Thanks, Ysolda!

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The only part where I had to use my brain was the the saddle shoulders. They're designed in a very clever way: the shoulder decreases are worked into the far left and right stitches of the cable that runs up the saddle. This is such a pleasingly elegant solution that I was disappointed when it didn't work with my knitting style: the edges of the cables looked all wonky when I knitted them according to the instructions, and I wanted a clean line. So I ripped back and hid the decreases in the purl stitches next to the cables, instead. This worked beautifully, but threw off the math for the hood. After a couple of attempts to follow the directions while modifying them in my head, I just chucked the whole attempt, looked at Ysolda's hood photos, and did what I needed to in order to make mine look like the pictures. No muss, no fuss!

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I remembered while knitting this sweater that I learned everything I know about knitting from following other peoples' patterns and observing how they construct garments and solve design dilemmas. And I still have so much to learn. This pattern involved a couple of things I've never done before (shaping a hood, for example, and making seamless saddle shoulders), which are sure to prove useful at some point. This project was a surprisingly productive, inspiring thing to knit, and I realized afresh that I should make other peoples' sweater patterns now and again, to keep my bag of tricks expanding and my range of knitting experience diversifying. An excellent realization!

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Mr. Bingley thinks so, too.

Treat

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Yup, y'all guessed it. My Christmas treat is to knit up Ysolda's Vivian pattern for myself. What a nice change of pace it is not to have to worry about all the ins and outs of sizing!

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So far, my plan about Vivian is working out surprisingly well. Yesterday I had a very productive session working on the sizing for Ethel, and I think a few more sessions like it will get the pattern to a point where it's ready to send to test knitters. Before I left for Australia a certain issue had come up with the larger sizes, and has been hanging over my head ever since; yesterday I got it all sorted, which is a great feeling. I still have a way to go, but I'm feeling much more eager and optimistic to work on it now that the Big Confusing Problem is no longer standing in my way.

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I absolutely love the way this sweater is designed. I often compare garment construction to the plot of a novel: I want to keep reading and finish the part I'm on, so I can find out what happens next. If sweater-making is like novel reading, then, the "plot" of the Vivian pattern is best compared to a twisty, turny read, with lots of clever reveals and unexpected connections, but still with a warm-hearted, comforting core of familiar, likable characters. The torso portion in particular is always harboring some new and clever development, and it makes the thing a blast to knit. Both the style (zip-up, hoodie), and the yarn (bulky) are outside of my normal range, but I'm so glad I picked Vivian as my relaxation knit. It doesn't disappoint.

Needless to say, given that I'm hooked and want to find out whodunit, my progress continues at a healthy clip. The torso and a single sleeve are completed, and the sleeve is seamed. (I have a strong aversion to using double-pointed needles larger than a size 3, and I didn't have any circulars appropriate for a Magic Loop sleeve, so I just worked it flat and seamed it. Doing it that way also meant I didn't have to worry about differences in circular versus flat gauge.) I'm really excited to see all the pieces come together in the yoke (the equivalent of Poirot announcing "You're probably wondering why I've gathered you all together..."), so I'll probably be powering through Sleeve Number Two in the next few days.

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Snow days

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Let's recap, shall we? A week ago, I was looking at this:

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Now, I am looking at this:

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That is totally a person in a parka, snow-shoeing down my street. Because it's freaking cold and snowy here! Portlanders just aren't used to this kind of thing. Mr. Bingley doesn't know what to think.

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So. Okay. I'll try not to just post astounded blog entries about the real live snow drifts on our front door, but holy mackerel. Snow. What can I tell you?

In more pertinent news, although you might think that a few days of forced quiet time inside would lead to productivity, in my case you would be wrong. I've been taking stock of the projects ahead, and frankly, there are an overwhelming number of them. So I decided to narrow them down to three for the time being: the sizing for the Ethel sweater, a piece of secret-for-now design work, and a big ol' piece of mindless knitting to work on while I'm puzzling out the first two. Sounds like a good, balanced plan, right? Except, faced with the cozy vibe, the board games, wine/hot chocolate, and silly movies from the '30s, it's hard not to just default to the mindless knitting and forget all about the challenging parts of the equation.

And that's just what I did.

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This project is a huge luxury, and my Christmas present to myself: a whole sweater designed for me by someone else! And, it uses up a big bag of yarn over which I've been fretting for over a year, which failed to inspire any original designs. Those two circumstances together make me feel like I'm easing back into a warm bubble bath every time I work on it. So really, it's no wonder I'm having trouble tearing myself away.

More on the pattern later, although I bet a few of you will be able to figure it out. In the meantime, happy celebrations to those participating, and happy regular-day-except-everything's-closed to everyone else! I'll be spending the holiday in snowy Portland, making purple cables and relaxing in front of my parents' fire.

Vacay knitting

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Despite the unreasonable refusal of Qantas, Australia's national airline, to let knitting needles on the plane even if they are itsy-bitsy, I did get do some mindless, summery knitting while I was on vacation. Knitting which now seems ridiculously inadequate to cope with the weather conditions in Portland.

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These are Kate Blackburn's lovely Rosamond pattern, in a simple, easily-memorizable lace pattern that ends up looking delicately romantic. They're worked in the Lenten Rose colorway of Sundara sock yarn, and alternate between looking lavender or grey, depending on the light. After all, a lady is entitled to change her mind. As is a fella, when it comes to that.

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I finished these on Kangaroo Island, she of the wallabies and koalas of my last post. Which meant that I was knitting along in gorgeous, 70-degree weather, looking at views like this, never anticipating that I would return to frozen landscape of ice and snow. I keep expecting a nefarious lady in a sled to pull up and offer me enchanted Turkish Delight.

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In any case, I was a bit disappointed with these when I first finished them. I don't know why I wasn't prepared, because I've knit a goodly amount of lace before, but they came off the needles unattractively bumpy and frumpy compared to the negligée-inspired idea I had in my head. We can all see where this is going, of course: fast-forward to back in Portland, after a nice bath for these girls and a few days drying on the sock blockers, and I'm much more excited about the results.

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When my mom's cousin Jan was in town, she noticed this pattern in my Ravelry queue and said that it was the kind of thing ladies used to put in their hope chests. I think that sums up the appeal for me. Except I, luckily, get to wear them right away - or would do, if it weren't insanely cold here. I think I'm back to lace-less woolen socks for the time being, but I'm glad to have posted these on the shortest day of the year. Warmth and daylight will be here before I know it, and when they are, lacy Lenten Rose socks will help me greet them.

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Post script: being forbidden from plane knitting wasn't actually so bad. On the way back to the States I read the whole of Peter Carey's amazing My Life as a Fake, which I highly, HIGHLY recommend. Check it out!

Midcentury Socks

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It's been a whirl of activity over here at Family Trunk Headquarters, but as October, and hence Socktoberfest, is HOLY CRAP almost over, I thought I'd show off these little beauties while they're still germane.

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Along with what seems like every other American out there, I am deep in a phase of infatuation with Midcentury design at the moment, so David and I decided to have a little period fun with the photoshoot. The French cuffs on my shirt are a tad distracting, as are the bokeh-infused videocassette tapes visible in some of the shots, but other than that I think these turned out quite well. To establish the proper mood, Time Out was on the record player throughout, and our iPods and laptops were hidden in the other room.

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The stitch pattern and general idea of these socks was suggested by Kate Gagnon's Ode to Eames pattern, but the final products are some of the more heavily modified objects I've made. I more or less stole Kate's stitch pattern and added:

  • A different toe-up cast-on (Magic Toe-Up rather than provisional);
  • a different number of cast-on stitches (72 instead of 64, as I like a firm gauge);
  • the stitch pattern continuing all the way around the foot, rather than becoming stripes on the sole;
  • a different heel, to accommodate the unbroken all-over stitch pattern on the foot and leg (I used Eunny Jang's short-row heel from her Entrelac Socks pattern, which reliably fits great whenever I insert it into a new context);
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  • an increase in needle size about three-quarters of the way up the legs, to give me some wiggle room in the calf department;
  • a slightly different ribbing: p2, k2tbl, which I thought played well into the 1950's milieu.
Whew! Lots of mods; pretty socks.
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One aspect of the original pattern I did keep, and which was new to me, was the round toe construction. In the final toe-related analysis, I'm a bit in two minds about it. It's very roomy, and I do like a round shape at the end of shoes and socks. On the other hand, the increases don't look as neat and tidy as a typical, flatter toe, which is a minus in my book. In any case, it's always fun to try a little something new.

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The yarn, unsurprisingly given my other sock projects, is Sundara Sock Yarn, in the Arabian Nights and Spruce over Sage colorways. I had a ton of yarn left over, and if I weren't in the slow process of converting my sock leftovers to blanket squares (on which more later), I might have pressed on and found a way to make these into knee highs. As it is, they're very soft and warm trouser socks quite suitable for late autumn and early winter, and I'm pleased with them.

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Stay tuned for lots of updates as soon as possible: finished sewing projects, something for Mr. Bingley, the start of a new Family Trunk Project pattern, and (hopefully!), the finish of another.

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