Stopping by the sock machine on a snowy morning

I took a break from sock production in mid-December and I’m just getting back to it now. Last month I took the machine apart, cleaned out all the gunk, oily yarn bits and lint bunnies, and put it back together.

I’ve done this many times, so I wasn’t really worried that I couldn’t get it working again. But, this morning did not go so smoothly. I got the machine threaded with waste yarn and started cranking. And got this.

Many dropped stitches

Everything had been running smoothly, before cleaning, and now the ribber needles were dropping stitches like mad. Once in a while one will go bad and need to be replaced, usually when the latch gets bent. But not five or six all at the same time. Not from the batch I’ve been using regularly for months, if not years.

Ribber needle

I remembered that I hadn’t re-oiled the machine since the cleaning. So I applied oil to the ribber plate so the needles would move smoothly and cranked some more. More holes, more dropped stitches.

I replaced needles, I oiled some more, things improved slightly. I decided to out in some leftover sock yarn and see how the machine liked it. Not so much.

More ladders 😦

So I swapped needles and cranked some more. There was a slight improvement so I put the waste yarn back in to get ready to knit a real sock. Cranked and more drops. By this time I’m swearing and really annoyed. This is a VERY well-behaved machine. I know it’s foibles and generally speaking we get along well. It had to be something I did when I took it apart and reassembled. I had to think back years ago to when I first got the machine and my friend Elsie helped me get it working.

The needles aren’t picking up the yarn consistently. What controls that? Well, the yarn guide. If the yarn isn’t positioned correctly with respect to the needle heads, which only move up/down or in/out, then they can’t catch the yarn to knit it. It was knitting, mostly, but missing often enough that maybe the yarn was in the wrong place. So, I took a look at the yarn guide which I have to remove in order to disassemble the machine. Sure enough, when I put the machine back together I had not gotten the yarn guide seated low enough. It should look like this

A stitch on every needle is the goal

Once I got the guide seated correctly I put in some more leftover sock yarn to see how it would knit.

No dropped stitches!!!!!

Yay! Success! No more swearing! Now it was time to knit a sock for real. I got going and knit the cuff and the sock leg with no issues. It was time to turn the heel. I’ve done this maneuver hundreds of times, and I almost don’t need to think about it. My hands just do the right thing. Well, apparently taking 6 weeks off from using the machine meant a loss of muscle memory. I did things in the wrong order and instead of knitting just on the front stitches to make the sock, I knit around onto the back stitches.

This is one of those unrecoverable errors, at least if you are making ribbed socks. The ribber needles got disengaged at the wrong time so when I knit around to start the heel, they dropped their stitches.

Drat!

With the ribber plate in place on top of the machine, there’s no way to reach in and ladder those stitches back up. I could do it at the end when the sock was off the machine, but frankly, a do-over seemed more prudent. So, I snipped the sock yarn, tied the waste yarn back on, got the stitches and needles back where they belonged.

On the off chance that the sock yarn itself was somehow cursed (it has a weird backstory) I decided to try a sock in a different yarn. Happily, it worked and after I’ve knit the second sock I’ll go back to the lovely speckled blue yarn.

One sock, no unintended holes

I really, strongly considered taking a time-out and doing something else. I’m glad I persevered because clearly this was a problem that wasn’t going to sort itself out, and delaying would only ruin another day in the studio.

Summer camp with a detour

I sat down this morning to write about my new toy. I purchased a Schacht Zoom Loom to play with.

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I’ve got tons of yarn leftover from socks and thought it would be fun to use it with this loom.

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Getting the hang of it

I’ve got a little corner in my new studio with a view of the pond and the trees that surround it. I’ve been spending a bit of time there the last few mornings, weaving squares and listening to the birds call. I feel a bit like a kid at summer camp. Doing crafts and making something that may or may not be useful when I get it home.

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A finished square ready to pop off the loom

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Fun with color in a 4″ square 

I have no expectations of these squares. No project in mind that they’ll become. I’m just playing. Spending a little quiet time in the morning before I get started with my day.


I took all my photos before sitting down to write, launched my photo browser and nothing was there! 30 or more minutes later I’d checked settings on phone and laptop, consulted tech support forums and stomped around the kitchen muttering under my breath. [Note to self, the latter doesn’t really fix any problems.] Still, no photos.

So on the advice of my expert technical consultant I restarted the computer. A few minutes later the new photos (and a whole lot more I didn’t realize were missing) started trickling in. My blog post is saved. My sanity is saved. I can stop being mad at my devices. I love technology, except when I don’t. It’s pretty amazing what we can do with these powerful computers we carry around in our back pockets. And when it doesn’t work right I just feel helpless and dependent.

Now it is time to put the computer aside and do some work. I’m weaving scarves. On a loom made of wood and metal. Moving parts that I understand how to use and to fix when they get cranky. No computer assist, no wires. Just feet on the treadles, hands on the beater and my imagination to dream up something to make.

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Tencel scarf in luxurious shades of rust, yellow and maroon

When I’m not stomping around the house muttering at technology I make lovely scarves and socks. I play with color and let my imagination run wild. Looking for something low-tech to brighten your day? Check out my Etsy shop and see what speaks to you.

 

Welcome to my Etsy Shop

What do you do on a Thanksgiving morning while waiting for the turkey to roast? In my case, open an Etsy shop.

This was a move I’d been contemplating and researching, but had thought to defer it until early next year when life was a bit slower. The Square store had worked adequately as a storefront to which I could point customers, but didn’t have any marketing reach outside of what I could do myself. I have no illusions that being on Etsy will suddenly result in tons of orders. I think those magical discovery days are over given the vast number of sellers there. But getting my work in front of browsing shoppers and into the Etsy search results surely wouldn’t hurt.

But I had some time to kill so, armed with my trust iPad, I set out to see how much I could accomplish. The configuration went swimmingly. Nobody owned my store name yet so I snapped it up and set up the bits and pieces: description, location, bank account (for the sales revenue deposits) and most important: scarves!. By the time the turkey was ready I had a store with two listings.

I spent the next few days taking pictures, adding stock, and getting the store ready for a soft launch. The final step was to point heronponddesigns.com/shop to Etsy and start marketing. I’ve had a good response to my instagram feed and my shop already has some likes and favorite items.

So, pour a cup of your favorite hot beverage, get cozy on the couch and come browse the store for socks and scarves at heronponddesigns.etsy.com. I still do custom orders, so if you don’t see what you want, don’t hesitate to ask.

Sheep Fest is coming

Just a quick reminder that Vermont Sheep and Wool Festival is this weekend. We’ll be at the Tunbridge Fairgrounds on Saturday 10-5 and Sunday 10-4.

I’ve got lots to do to get ready for the show. I’m trying out some new display options in my booth to see if they’ll work well for the big show I’m doing in November. They still need some assembly before set-up on Friday.

There’s merchandise to tag and marketing photos to post in social media outlets.

I’ve got to repack my show bins from the outdoor show contents to the indoor show contents.

I’m bringing a couple of spinning wheels to sell (if I can get them into the car) so I’ve got some signs to make. [If you are interested in a Merlin Tree Hitchhiker or a Canadian tilt-tension production wheel, give me a shout.]

And while I’m doing all of that I’ll be weaving, knitting and dreaming about seeing sheep and alpacas. Yarn, yarn and more yarn. Maybe I’ll be tempted and buy some.

I’m in the pavilion (the big main building.) Hope to see you there!

Coincidence

As I work away here in my studio I try to remember to snap pictures of my work as it progresses. I don’t just want to show you finished scarves and socks, I’d like to give you a glimpse behind the scenes to see how it all comes together.

A few days ago I was making socks and snapped this picture of winding the sock yarn onto a cone. [The yarn feeds best into the sock machine if I knit off a cone.]

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Hand-dyed merino wool, cashmere & nylon sock yarn

The next day I was working on my August newsletter (click to subscribe) and used this picture:

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Detail of a huck scarf: hand-dyed alpaca silk & tencel

Later on I finished the socks.

And that’s when I realized I was playing with the same color yarn. But what a difference the medium makes. First you have the slight difference in the color. This is due to a couple of factors. The yarns, alpaca/silk vs merino/cashmere/nylon ,will take the dye differently. And they were probably not dyed in the same batch. Even commercially dyed yarns can have some variations and these were done in small batches by hand.

Then we have weaving vs knitting. The arrangement of the threads is completely different and thus the colors will clump or disperse as they are affected by the length of the scarf or the number of stitches around the sock.

So here you have it: coordinating, compatible and yet quite different scarf and socks.

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Cozied up with my knitting

Here in the northern hemisphere where June means summer weather you wouldn’t think it would be the time to get cozy in a comfy chair and hunker down with knitting. And that 90 degree day last week, not so much. But then we had a spate of chilly. 40s at night, cooler in the daytime. A storm came through and dropped much-needed rain. We’re clawing our way back to warm and I can’t wait.

But the cooler weather makes an excellent backdrop for achieving progress on my knitting queue. I’ve been working on little slipper socks for a client.

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Knit up and ready to be washed & blocked

I have one more pair to finish and then I’ll move on to a scarf project. I did the gauge swatch earlier in the week so it could be blocked and have time to dry for accurate measuring.

I recently finished a project for myself. I’ve been working through my stash of yarns turning “this is pretty yarn” into “this is a pretty thing that could be worn.”

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The “And So Are You” wrap

The yarn is a blend of Suri Alpaca and Merino and really soft. That chilly day when the rain came through I had it wrapped around my shoulders and it was just the thing to keep me from turning the heat back on.

It is so satisfying to turn a “ball of string” into something beautiful and useful. Whether knitting or weaving the transformation is just magical.

Parade of socks

I’ve been doing a lot of this this week:

Grafting the sock toe
Grafting the sock toe

Socks come off of the sock machine with waste yarn in between.

Waste yarn holding the sock toe stitches
Waste yarn holding the sock toe stitches

I remove the yarn, loading the stitches onto two needles and then graft the toe closed. This makes a seamless toe sock which is really comfortable to wear.

That pile of colorful new yarn that I showed last week is to replace what I’ve used to make these:

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Alaska in Merino and nylon

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Mardi Gras in Merino and nylon

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Rainbow of pastels in merino and tencel

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Blue, teal and purple in merino and nylon

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Purples! in Merino and tencel

Hand dyed yarn from Ellen’s 1/2 Pint Farm in so many luscious colors. Custom knit socks available for order. I can’t guarantee holiday delivery at this point but I think they’re worth the wait!