Tuesday, April 1, 2008

2-at-a-time review! part 1

As an extra bloggy present, I'll post a review I wrote a while back of the new sock book that's sweeping the nation, 2-at-a-time Socks by Melissa Morgan-Oakes. If you're on ravelry, I'd encourage you to go over to the rav group for the book. Melissa herself is live and in person there quite frequently, and as much as I liked her in the book, the real live her is even more awesome.

I'm going to preface my review by saying that, though I don't like every pattern in this book, I am very glad I bought it, and it has a higher ratio of patterns I like to patterns I don't than any other knitting book I've bought yet. I'll start by reviewing each of the patterns individually, and in a later post I'll review some of the things that make this an awesome book, format wise. I'll preface that later post by saying this has my favorite format of any knitting book I've ever seen. I'll explain why later. =]

On to the pattern reviews!
So, first, for a little knitting history. The first socks I ever knitted were knitted this past summer. Not because I had some deep desire to knit socks – knitting socks seemed quite silly to me – but because I’d gone to the lovely ‘local’ yarn store (local to where I was this summer, at least) asking for a nice small project. “Have you tried socks?” “They seem to hard.” “Nonsense!”
With that exchange, I got started. My first sock took probably over 3 months to complete, and my second was finished up in (I think) less than a month. My second (completed) pair of socks was a pair of no purl monkeys, and those I managed to get through in about two weeks.

The patterns: (in the order they are in the book)
Sample Socks
I decided not to knit the sample socks for one simple reason. There is no toddler in my life, and it is likely it will be many years before there is one. That said, I love the write up of the sample sock, and in working on the other socks (or thinking through the other socks) I keep referring back to this. That strikes me as a Good Thing.

Berry Season
I’m not sure if I’ll ever knit berry season. The socks are made out of a thick yarn, but they’re ankle socks – for me, if I want the warmth the thick yarn would give, I’d prefer a little more leg power. I’m also not a big fan of the roll at the top of the brim. That said, I’ll probably use the stitch pattern in some future Franken-sock of my own. These socks are very pretty, and maybe potential GiftSocks, but not for me.

These socks are also not for me. Or, at least, not for me as written. I’ll admit the colors here are not my personal favorites, and I have a hard time trying to think out the pattern in different color combinations. Also, right now, socks don’t warrant the time and effort of color work to me. I like the contrasting toe and heel, and I might like these socks with just a plain stripe where there is now the color worked section, but as written, I’m unlikely to knit the socks. Of course, many other knitters probably enjoy color work, and these socks are for them.

Be Mine
These are the socks that sold me the book, plain and simple, and they’re the first socks from the book I’ve started. The cable pattern is beautiful. I love the way the hearts are somewhat subtle (because they’re cabled hearts, not color work), but the socks themselves look oh so deliciously girly and fun. I have a pair of dansko mary janes that I believe will show off the pattern quite well. That said, it’s slow moving for me on these socks. As many times as I’ve tried to learn to cable without a cable needle, I haven’t managed, so that keeps me having to have an extra needle in hand. The pattern itself (for my size foot) is a 32 row repeat, and not one that I could memorize. This makes these nice audiobook socks, but pretty bad tv socks. Of course, I still think they’re the prettiest things ever, so don’t let my warning scare you off.

I’m not sure if I’ll ever knit these socks or not. I suspect I might someday, but not necessarily soon. I like the striping sequence, and I think this could be a good ‘guy sock’, but I don’t have any guys to make socks for. Personally, if I knit these I suspect I’ll combine the orange and green stripes into one larger stripe for added symmetry and because I like the look better. I also might prefer to have the heel in that orange/green color, instead of in the white the way it currently is. That, or try and have the first rows before the heel in white, and the heel in the burgundy. (If you have the book, that’ll make sense. If not, buy it already!)

Belle Epoque
If Be Mine sold me the book, Belle Epoque is what convinced me my money was well spent. Like Be Mine, these are girly to the extreme. Dainty lace and a delicate cable, combined with an adorable picot edge, make these too cute for words, but they’re definitely ‘serious’ enough that they could be office footwear. I want to do these in black. I suspect a dark color would best set off the lace surrounding the cable, but they look delicious in the green they are shown in. Though I haven’t started knitting these yet, the chart looks much less intimidating and much more intuitive than Be Mine, so I suspect these would be a faster knit. It’s almost all made up of K, P, K2Tog, and Yo! I can do those with my eyes closed! I can’t wait to cast on for these.

These socks, like the sample socks, I will probably not knit until a toddler comes into my life. They look cute and a little complicated, so I can see how they’d get good gift knitting mileage.

Coquette, like Berry Season, is an ankle sock. It reminds me of socks I wore as a child, and it’s honestly difficult for me to imagine an adult wearing these, though I think that’s partly because of the color they were knitted in. They were knitted in a very busy multicolor that, honestly, makes the socks look a little like The Kind of Socks Knitters Who Give Knitting A Bad Image wear. Yes, that’s horribly judgmental of me, and yes, I know there are plenty of cool knitters (Melissa included) who apparently like this kind of yarn. I wish there’d been a secondary picture of these in a solid color. I suspect I might like them more then, and I’ll keep my eye out on Ravelry for a good pair to prove my dislike wrong.

Socks for Aidan
See above (Frolic) re: no kids in my life and see above (Spice) re: not loving color work in socks. Again though, IF I had kids that warranted knitting, and IF I wanted to knit color work, these are cute. Not for me, but cute. I like how the color work is on the folded over cuff. Sock cuffs were very important to me as a kid, and this makes the cuff itself part of the design.

I can’t tell if I like these socks because I like the pattern, because I’m in love with the yarn, or both. Melissa says this pattern works best on hand painted yarns, and I believe her. It gives the socks a little texture to add some visual interest, but I suspect these would be perfect TV socks, train socks, or socializing socks. I look forward to knitting these sometime.

Sugar Maple
With these socks too, my love is part pattern love and part yarn love – coincidentally, this is the same yarn as before…maybe I should get myself rich so I can buy a skein or three. =] These socks scream fall to me, in a very good way. I like the pattern and it’s versatility. Though this looks great in a hand painted yarn, I suspect it’d look equally brilliant in a solid color. It looks a twinge more thought-involved than Twilight, but I’d say these can still qualify as TV socks….just, maybe not House or Lost socks.

H Sock
I might like these socks, but I can’t tell. I have to say, as much as I love Lorna’s Laces, this colorway (or maybe this yarn) did not show off the pattern to its best. The colors are so busy that I have difficulty making out the pattern even in the close up section, and the on-feet picture isn’t much better. I want to see this pattern with different yarn before I fully judge, but right now, I’m not positive I want to make these.

Damnit MMO, why must you make so many beautiful things with cables?! If the name of this pattern hadn’t sold me, the picture would have. I love the way these look. Of course, that said, I’m a little curious what it would be like to wear them – the cables look on the bulkier side, and I don’t usually want thick and bulky socks with shoes that show off how pretty the socks are. I don’t know if I’ll ever knit these, but I’ll sure as hell drool over them.

Emily’s Socks
What with how these are also kiddy socks, you might think you know exactly what I’m going to say – but! Hah hah! These are *also* the socks on the cover. (Well, mostly…) I actually like these much better in the cover shot than in the kiddie version because I think the yarn is better suited to them. In the kiddie version, the yarn’s got some mohair, and that kind of ruins the stitch definition. In fact, when I look at the close-up photo of the stitch pattern, it looks to me like ribbing, not like anything fancy. The cover however is much nicer. On the cover, I can see that this is a fun texture, but not a super busy pattern. I can definitely picture myself knitting these, both with or without the super cute picot edging.

Sailor’s Delight
These just look awesome to me. I love the color, and though these socks have a bit of mohair too, the yarn doesn’t detract from the stitch pattern at all. Of course, that said, I wish that the closeup picture had been on white sock blockers or some other way to make it easier to see exactly how lacey this looks. I definitely plan on making these. These, too, look like potential good TV socks, and they seem like they’ve got a lot of buck for the bite, or whatever the expression is.

Pitter Patter
Nice simple kids sock I don’t think I’ll knit forever.

The Classic Sock
This is basically the two-at-a-time version of my first socks, and I love them. Mine were in Trekking Pro Natura, not XXL, but same difference. I have a special place in my heart for k3p1 ribbing in socks – it looks much nicer to me than k1p1 or k2p2 – it’s a design choice, not just a way to keep the socks on the feet! I like that MMO included a mens large size for these, though I think if I’m ever going to knit something for a guy with large feet, a hat would probably be faster than the massive pair of socks.

Ragg Hiker
If I wanted to make worsted socks, these’d be the socks I’d want to make. They look perfect for going under boots – nice and thick and cozy. I also love love love the yarn choice here. A good pattern to end the book, though not really a pattern exactly. Either way, very nice.

Long time no see

So...um...hi! ::waves::

It's been quite a while, I know. Largely I haven't been updating since I haven't been crafting, but that's not completely true. Since my last post, I finished my monkey socks and my fire fetchings, and I started sewing an apron. Oh, and I finished the first heart on my Be Mine socks. Partly I've been going slowly because I've never really gotten momentum on my Be Mines, but since they were my project spectrum feb/march socks, I didn't feel comfortable starting a new project until they were done. Now, though, now it's april. This means "earth" is officially in swing, and I can start my next pair of socks, which I've admitedly been getting more and more excited about. Even better, I can sew the project bag whose fabric has been sitting stacked next to my computer!

For my earth one-person-KAL with already purchased yarn, I'm going to be knitting the Embossed Leaves socks from the Interweave Favorite Socks book, in Knit Picks Risata in Grass. I think the 'leaves' aspect of Embossed Leaves makes this a good thematic choice, as well as the fact I think I'm just in love with the pattern. I can usually recognize it right away if done in most solid colored yarns, but there are some times when I'll see a pair on flickr or something and think "wow, those socks look awesome! I want to knit those!" Another thing I'm liking about this pattern is that it's all friendly stitches: mostly knits with a few purls, k2togs, ssks and yos thrown in there. As much as I think the Be Mines are maybe the cutest socks in the world, their pattern is too thought intensive for me. These should, hopefully, be a little easier.

If I end up finishing these, or if I end up devoting a lot more time to knitting these months than I previously have, I might work on finishing up my Branching Out, in it's beautiful and thematically appropriate yarn choice. The trouble with the Branching Out is that I don't like the needles it's currently on. It's on some of my grandmother's old aluminum straight needles. They're too long, overly heavy, and they make a sound when knitting that reminds me of nails on a chalkboard. After the major crush I've developed on the Knit Picks long circular sock needles I bought, I've been heavily debating getting a set of their Options, once I've saved up the money. I know there have been some complaints about the cables breaking or the needles coming undone from the cables, but I think I'm willing to risk it. For things like the branching out that I'm currently doing on old-but-annoying straights, I suspect options would be prefereable. As it is, I think I prefer circular to straight simply for the portability factor, and the nice smooth cables of the Options add to that.

As far as my sewing goes, I've been working on a skirt from Sew What Skirts, but it's been frustrating me. I'm looking forward to a nice break with my pattern bag. Though I have a decent amount of fat quarters to choose from (I stocked up when JoAnn's was having a 1 for $1 sale) I ended up chosing two that aren't my favorite pattern or color, but which go very well together. Both are from a fat quarter package I purchased at PurlSoho back in NYC. The outside is an asian inspired brown fabric with orange, pink, yellow, and green flowers and leaves. The lining will be a lime green that matches the green on the outside pretty well. Unfortunately, the only zipper I have that'd work size wise for the project is dark green, and I'm not much in the mood to go out and buy a new one. I'm trying to convince myself it'll look kicky, not tacky.

Oh well, off to work! I'll try and post more pictures once I've started knitting/sewing.