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Wednesday, March 29, 2006

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Crocheted Scarf & Japanese Knitting

click for bigger pictureThe crocheted scarf is done. Here are the specs:

Garden Scarf by Michelle Ameron from The Happy Hooker.
Cascade 220 [100% wool],
colors: purple (7811), green (2445), mustard yellow (4010)
H/8 (5.0mm)
I have no idea
I made 19 flowers, each about 3.5" in diameter. The pattern said to make 14 4.5" diam flowers, but mine were much smaller so I had to make more.
This was my first crochet project (not counting the ugly dishcloth). I enjoyed making the flowers at first, but then I stopped looking at the directions as much and immediately got into trouble. Since there are two types of flowers that are made differently, I kept losing track of whether I was doing 2 dc or a dc, tr, dc in the petal area. I found that switching to assembly-line style and making all of one type of flower first and then all of the other type, helped it go quicker with less confusion. Then I did the joining parts at the end. And what a drag it was sewing in all those ends. But, I do think that weaving in ends is easier in crochet than knitting. At least you have a thicker fabric in which to hide to the yarn.

click for bigger pictureOh, and I think there's an error in this pattern. I looked in the errata online and it wasn't there though. The written-out directions for the joining round of Flower C are missing two instances of (sc, hdc) that are shown in the chart for the flower. I went with the chart, because it was consistent with the rest of the flower.

This scarf has been adopted by Daughter#1, shown here grudgingly modeling it. She looks a little annoyed, huh? The lighting came out very odd here. I guess the sunlight was only hitting the top part of the wall and made it look like a different color. Weird.

click for bigger picture

Now, I know several of you have been patiently awaiting a report of my trip to WEBS. Sorry I have been so pokey about posting about it, I've just really been dragging lately. Anyway, your wait is over. Here are the details.

On Saturday, I attended a class called Japanese Knitting Techniques, which was taught by Maureen Mason-Jamieson. This was a great class in which I learned about the following:

  • Japanese Short Rows
  • Japanese Three-Needle Bind Off
  • Picking up Stitches for a Cardigan Band (basically details on how to make this neater)
  • Japanese Short Row Buttonholes
  • Tubular Bind Off

Apparently, a lot of Japanese techniques are done to mimic the look of machine knitting, which is interesting considering that machine knitting was originally invented to replicate hand knitting. Of the techniques we covered, the first is definitely the most useful to me personally. The other topics are more for specialized situations. Over the coming days, I think I will post more information about some of these topics, as I ponder them more fully.

The first topic I will discuss will be the Japanese short rows. I have compared the method we learned with some of the 'Japanese' methods I have found online and in books, and it appears that what we learned was similar but slightly different from those methods. In order to understand the differences between these methods better, I have started diagramming them to show the path of the yarn in each case. I intend to diagram every method of making short rows that I can find. (Did I mention that I'm anal?) So far I have found:

  • 2 variations of 'Japanese' short rows
  • 2 variations of yarn-over short rows
  • 2 variations of wrapped short rows
  • and one other weird thing called Knit Encroachment

I have already diagrammed the Japanese methods and the wrapped methods. However, I still need to clean them up so I think I will post them tomorrow (hopefully). Then I will cover the yarn-over methods and the weird thing.

I liked the Japanese Knitting class so much I stayed overnight at my inlaws (who live nearby) and went to Maureen's class the next day called No More Ugly Sweaters. That was a good refresher on basic color theory, plus some interesting tips like using warm colors to draw the eye to areas you want (i.e., don't put a splash of yellow at your hips). I also learned that 'designers' cut out sections of Noro and put them where they want them. This makes me think about how I could be making Lady Eleanor better...but I'm trying not to go there because then I'll obsess about where to put every color and never finish the damn thing.

Oh, by the way, Daughter#1 has just posted some more entries to her blog, Snozberry Knits. Go check it out and give her some encouragement.

P.S. Don't you just love the way Robot Lady says 'crocheted'? Makes me laugh every time. If you don't know what I'm talking about click on the 'read this post to you' link at the top of a recent post (you'll only see this if you're reading the post on the blog, not via Bloglines).


Friday, March 24, 2006

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New, Improved Persnicketiness -- Now With Crochet, Too

Crochet News

OK, here's what I'm sure you were all waiting for with bated breath -- my first crocheted item. It's a lovely dishcloth:

click for bigger picture

Ooooh, aaaah. Look at that nasty pastel-colored kitchen cotton. I don't know how that got in my stash. Not my colors at all. Well, it's used up now, and that's a good thing.

In typical "first finished item" form, this dishcloth is not without several mistakes. I somehow lost a stitch going from single crochet to double crochet, and then I lost another when switching back to single crochet at the end. Oh well, I tried it again and I think I've figured out my mistake. I'm slowly getting the hang of differentiating and counting the crochet stitches, which mostly just look like a bunch of knots to me.

Now that the obligatory ugly dishcloth has been completed, I can move on to bigger and better things. Like this:

click for bigger pictureIt's the Garden Scarf by Michelle Ameron from The Happy Hooker. I'm using Cascade 220 from my stash. Not sure what I'm going to do with this, since I don't wear flowery things, but it looked like fun to make. I'm sure I'll find someone to dump it on.

I like making the flowers, but joining them with the inserting-the-hook-around-the-post thing is a little awkward for me. It took me many, many attempts to even figure out the directions. I think I get it now, although it's kind of lumpier than I would like.

Here's the photo in the book of the scarf. Mine's coming out much smaller, which is fine with me since these flowers are kind of giganto.

I think The Happy Hooker is a great book for learning crochet. Debbie Stoller describes several ways to do various things (hold your yarn, crochet into the chain, etc. - I'm not really up with the crochet lingo yet), all in a very conversational tone with her personal recommendations. I like it. The drawings could maybe be a touch better, but they get the idea across well enough. They are certainly better than the ones in some craptastic old Teach Yourself Crochet book I just found in my bookcase. The Happy Hooker has by far the better instructions -- they are much more complete.

Since I'm now a newbie crocheter, I've started listening to Crochet Cast. There are only 2 episodes so far, but I think it shows a lot of promise. I've also found some interesting crochet links, like Crochet Me, an online magazine which has some interesting patterns and tutorials.

Don't worry, I'm not going to get all crochet on your butt and turn this blog into the Persnickety Crocheter or anything like that. Just bear with my sudden infatuation, will you? You know it probably won't last long. ;)

Knitting News

I'm still working on the Lady E stole. Progress has been slowed (but not halted) by the sudden impulse to learn crochet. I got some great tips from Anne of Knitspot on how to overdye the lavender bits. I think I will finish the stole and live with it for a while before I decide whether to take that drastic step though.

Speaking of Anne, she has contributed an audio essay to The Mosh Knit podcast. It's in the latest episode (#4). Go check it out. Her essay is about the definitition of "subversive knitting" and what it means to her. I needed to listen a couple times to thoroughly absorb all of her points, but I think it's very thought-provoking. It's got me pondering about what subversive knitting really means to me -- hmmmm.

Well, I'm off to a Japanese Knitting Techniques class at WEBS tomorrow. Oops, I just realized I haven't yet done my homework for the class. Might have to do that during the two-hour drive to WEBS. Don't worry, I won't be the one driving ;)


Wednesday, March 22, 2006

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Lose the Lavender

I'm about 6.5 balls into my Lady Eleanor stole and I figured it's about time for another progress shot. So here it is.

This thing seems to be taking forever -- I feel like I'm knitting a blanket, not a stole. I'm still enjoying making it; I'm just itching to finish.

I'm not so sure about the lavender-ish sections of this yarn though (Noro Silk Garden #217). I think they stand out a bit too much. In fact, now that I've said that, it's all I can see when I look at this picture.

If I ever use this colorway again I might snip out those sections of the yarn, because I love the rest of the colors here. I wish I could replace that lavender with a dark green. I'm still pleased with the color overall I guess, just less ecstatically so. Ah, but that feeling never does last long, does it?

In Other News

So, I've been reading for a while now how crochet is the new knitting. Not being a crocheter, I've been all like, "whatever." But today, ummmmmmmmm..., I think I got sucked in.

I was just browsing in my local bookstore, waiting for my daughters to get out of their art class and minding my own business, not anywhere NEAR the craft book section (oh, I had already been there of course), when all of a sudden I saw it. The new book by Debbie Stoller. [I'd mention the name, but I really don't want to think about the Google hits I would get.]

I only opened it out of idle curiosity. I have her Knitter's Handbook and it has some interesting things in it, so I thought I'd give this new book a quick look. I was just flipping through the pages, thinking to myself that I really should learn crochet some day, when I stumbled upon this:

Oh my god, these are the cutest bunny slippers ever! And if that isn't cute enough, here they are in pink.

Needless to say, I bought the book. I just couldn't resist. I am weak.

Daughter#1 now wants to learn to crochet too, so we will be learning together (which could be fun, ... or not, depending on the frustration level). I think we'll start with crocheted cotton dishcloths, because, you know, that old one could stand to be replaced.


Saturday, March 18, 2006

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I am interrupting this knitting blog with a bit of technical information. [Don't groan, you may find this helpful.] I am going to discuss the various ways in which you can subscribe to a blog. This is a topic I promised a couple of people I would discuss, but if you already know all about this, feel free to skip ahead.

Well, it has come to my attention that certain followers of my blog would like an easy way to know when I have posted without having to check the web site all the time. There are many ways to accomplish this. All you need to know is the url of the blog's feed, which is usually displayed somewhere in the blog's sidebar (see here for info about what a feed is).

Online Feed Readers (RSS Aggregators)

If you follow lots of blogs you should definitely check out Bloglines or NewsGator (see my left sidebar for subscription links to these). These are both free web-based software that let you create an account, enter a list of blogs, easily see which ones have been updated, and read the latest posts right at that site.

Bloglines, which is what I use (here's the list of blogs I subscribe to, in case you are interested), scans for updates about every hour, so you will know about new posts fairly quickly. However, if you do use one of these blog-feed readers it's still nice to click on the link to the actual blog now and then so you can read the comments or better yet leave a comment (which is always greatly appreciated).

Start Pages

If you only follow a few blogs, you may not want to bother with that. If you use Yahoo as your start page, I used to recommend that you add the blog feed to that (see Yahoo subscription link in the left sidebar). However, it has come to my attention that Yahoo does not show you the updates in a particularly timely fashion. It seems to take them a full day to see any updates.

If you have Google as your start page, you can add a blog feed to that (see sidebar again). It seems to be updated more frequently.

Email Subscriptions

Another option is to have an email sent to you automatically to let you know that a blog has been updated. I think this is a great option for people who only follow a few blogs. There are several online companies that provide this service for free. I've tried a few and here's what I found out (again, all of these are in the left sidebar for your subscribing pleasure).

After you create a free account with Squeet by specifying your name and email address, you can subscribe to a blog by entering the blog's url or the url of the blog's feed. Squeet will check for updates every 1-6 hrs and send you an email containing the content of the post (with or without pictures, as you specify).

With Squeet, you will get a separate email for every blog that you subscribe to. Also, it will send out an email if an old post has been updated.
RSSFwd is similar to Squeet, in that it sends you a separate email for every blog feed you have subscribed to. However, you do not have to create an account with RSSFwd (so they don't have your name -- if you care about stuff like that). You just enter your email address and the feed url and that's it. The only way to unsubscribe from an email feed with this service is to click on the 'unsubscribe' link at the bottom of the email itself.

RSSFwd seems to generate emails about as frequently as Squeet, possibly faster. However, it does not seem to send emails for updated posts.
Blogmail at Blogarithm.com
After you create a free account with Blogarithm you will get one email a day letting you know which of the blogs you have subscribed to were updated. The email doesn't contain the full text of the posts, just summaries with links back to the full posts at the appropriate blog.

The downside with this is that they only send out 1 email a day, so if the blog gets updated right after the email goes out, you would not be notified until the next day. However, the emails themselves are much smaller -- which would be good if you are still on dial-up or want to get updates for a several blogs in one email. The emails seem to go out in the morning (at least mine do).
This service is similar to Blogarithm (1 email a day), except that FeedBlitz gives the publisher of the feed some control over how the email feed will look (summary vs. full post, etc). Also, if you pay for a 'Turbo' account you can get updates more quickly.

Anyway, I've added all of these email services to my left sidebar for you to try. You just enter your email address and select the service you want and you will be brought to a page where you can specify some other details to complete the subscription process. If are interested, try a few and see which works best for you. You can always unsubscribe if you don't like the service. I haven't gotten any spam yet as a result of using these services, so I think they are safe that way.

Knitting Update

I've decided to finish Daughter#1's Trixi cardigan THIS WEEKEND. Last night I reknit (don't ask) the collar. Tonight I hope to fix the sleeve caps and finish seaming. Then I just need to buy a zipper and sew that in. Want to guess how long that will take?


Thursday, March 16, 2006

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sdrawkcaB gnittinK

Several people have asked about knitting backwards, so I thought I would post this link to some videos at www.knittinghelp.com. Scroll down to the bottom of the page to the Knitting Back section. They have videos for knitting backwards, both English style and Continental style.

I knit mostly English style, and I'm currently using the first method she shows in the video (the wrap method). I think it looks kind of awkward in this video though. With some practice, I think this is a fairly fast method since you just have to flick the fingers of your right hand up to make the wrap. I think the key is to tip the point of the left needle up and towards you when you pull it back through the wrap (so the loop doesn't fall off the point).

I took a little video of myself doing this, but it didn't come out that great. It's a little grainy and my thumb sometimes obscures what is going on. But, my goal was to show that knitting backwards by wrapping with your right hand can be a smooth and fairly fast method. (Sometimes I think English-style knitting gets dumped on too much on the internet. Like anything, I think it has its pros and cons.)

I have a headache from trying to figure out which video format to use, and how to get it into that format. I'm still not really sure this will work. That said, here's the link to the video I made. Let me know if this even works. Be forwarned, it's about 7 MB so expect to wait a while if you have a slow connection.

click to download my video

This was my first visit to the KnittingHelp website, and I think it's a great resource. On the Purling page, she also links to a Finnish video showing a different method of Continental purling (direct link to the 19MB video). This looks very cool. I've never seen this method before and I can't wait to try it out the next time I'm knitting Continental (usually when I do ribbing).

Lady E. Update:

I'm on ball nbr 5 (out of possibly 12?). I'm still loving the way it looks, but the entrelac is just starting to get the teensiest bit boring... But don't worry, I'm going to try really hard to finish this project in a timely manner. Yeah, yeah, and work on the hat too. ;-)


Sunday, March 12, 2006

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Entrelac <> Speed

So, I spent the entire weekend knitting my Lady Eleanor Stole and this is all I have to show for it -- a 21 x 12 inch rectangle. It seems like I should have made more progress, but I guess speed and entrelac really don't go hand in hand.

All of this knitting was done in (or en route to) lovely Woodstock, Vermont, where I spent the weekend at a family gathering. There was much eating of great food, playing of games, and general sitting about and chatting. Oh, and knitting. There was quite a lot of knitting, but that was mostly just me, I guess.

I am really enjoying knitting this stole. Yeah, it's certainly slower than straight knitting, but entrelac is so much fun. I have been continuing to practice my new backward knitting skills on this project and I can report that my speed has greatly increased. I really like this technique now. I love not having to turn the whole project around to knit back and forth on those little 8-stitch-wide sections. Without backward knitting I think this project would probably be a nightmare.

I have used up two balls of yarn and the stole currently measures 12" long. So, I guess that means that the 10 balls I have will give me a total length of about 60" with no fringe. I'm thinking that may not be quite long enough (plus I would like some fringe). I may need another 2 or 3 balls. I guess I should have thought this out before buying, but I was operating in the haze of a yarn swoon. I saw other people's posts that said they used 10 balls, so I bought 10 balls -- not thinking that I would really want more of a wrap, and less of a 'big scarf'. Hopefully there will be more of this dye lot.

Abrupt Change of Topic: I recently read a great roundup (part 1 and part 2) of all the various knitting-related podcasts that are currently out there. It's by Anne of knitspot. Go check it out. It introduced me to a few I'd never heard of.

If you haven't listened to any knitting podcasts yet, I would recommend you try out Cast On first. You don't need an iPod or mp3 player to listen to a podcast, you can just download the audio file and play it on your computer. However, they do tend to be big files, so you may only want to do that if you have a high-speed internet connection.


Thursday, March 09, 2006

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Yeah, I Bought More Yarn. . . Sigh

Look at what my Yarn Enabler, aka Melissa, has procured for me -- Noro Silk Garden in color 217. I just love these colors. And it is softer than I expected, too. But not cheap. No sirree, Bob.

This yarn is going to be used to make the Lady Eleanor Stole from Scarf Style. I've had my eye on this pattern for a while, especially after seeing this one at Fig and Plum. However, it was the gorgeous colors of Aimee's that made me take the plunge. I just can't stop looking at it -- I'm in looooove. So, I'm being a copycat and making it in exactly the same color. [Oh shush, I'll get back to Rogue eventually. Gotta go with the inspiration, right?]

I've also decided to start knitting items for the Dulaan Project. It's an organization that collects items to send to impoverished children & adults in Mongolia, where the temperatures get down to -40ºF at night.

Here's a picture of my first hat to donate to this project. It's just a simple ribbed hat made with two strands of stash yarn.

I started this in desperation the other day when the rest of my family was sitting down to watch Zathura (really enjoyed this movie, by the way). I was in a panic -- frantically searching through my knitting bags (and the various piles of knitting that are distributed throughout my family room) for something easy to work on so I could concentrate on the movie. It was kind of funny actually, I was all like, "Wait, wait. Don't start the movie yet -- I can't find any knitting!"

I am such an addict. I can't just sit when I watch movies any more; I must be knitting. Otherwise I get so restless. My hands need to be busy so my mind can concentrate. This becomes an issue when I visit people who like to turn off all the lights when they watch movies (Hi, Sister#2).

Anyhow, easy hats and scarves make for good "movie knitting", so I'm going to try to keep some of these Dulaan patterns ready to go for movie nights here. I might try this Double-Thick, Super-Warm Dulaan Hat pattern next. It appears to be just a big tube which you fold in half and gather together -- an easy way to get extra warmth without the complexity of double knitting.


Tuesday, March 07, 2006

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Herringbone Cloche Woes

Thanks to those who voted in my Scarf Poll. I'm going to wait a few more days in the hopes that some more people will come out of hiding and participate. Currently "Rip It" is leading by only a few votes.

OK, I promised to give an update as to what was going on with the Herringbone Cloche from Vogue Knitting Hats & Caps Two. To review, this is the pattern that has you knit 3 triangles and seam them together to make the crown of the hat. Then you pick up stitches around the bottom of the crown to knit the brim flat, which you then seam. The stitch pattern used in this hat is herringbone stitch. It can be found in Barbara Walker's first Treasury of Knitting Patterns, where it is called Little Herringbone. It is also the stitch pattern used for the popular My So Called Scarf available at Sheep in the City.

I love this stitch pattern, but after two unsuccessful attempts to make an appropriate-sized triangle, I have given up on the hat-construction method given in the Vogue hat book. I see no way that three triangles of the size given could ever fit a normal human head. Also, I have only found two instances online of someone actually having made this thing, and they both apparently ended in the creation of an ill-fitting hat.

Therefore, I have given up on the book's instructions and and have decided to knit the crown in the round, and then pick up the brim stitches and knit that in the round also. So I searched all over the internet, but I was unable to find directions for how to work herringbone stitch in the round. Not one to be daunted by a challenge, I experimented a bit and I think I have figured it out.

click for bigger pictureI was going to post my instructions here but I am having a hard time explaining them right now. Maybe I will post them later if this hat works out.

I knit this swatch on big needles to test my new herringbone stitch in the round method. The blue yarn shows what would normally be the wrong-side rows. The bottom-most blue row was knit from the right side with my new 'in-the-round' method. The next two blue rows were knit from the wrong side with the original purl-based method. I think they look the same. What do you think?

Well, I have started knitting the crown of the hat with this new method. It is very slow going though, so my progress has not been stellar. I've tried it on and it does fit my head so far. But keep your fingers crossed. I think it will will get tricky when I need to start decreasing.

click for bigger picture

I bet Sister#2 is now regretting that she picked this particular hat pattern. I think I'm regretting having shown it to her...

Oh hey, I came across this Authors on Tour site where you can listen online (or download) podcasts of certain authors speaking about their latest books. I really enjoyed listening to Al Franken and Audrey Niffenegger (I loved her book, The Time Traveler’s Wife). They also have some interesting authors coming up. I'm looking forward to listening to Lemony Snickett. Check it out.


Monday, March 06, 2006

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Drowning in UFO's

[Updated to add: Well, apparently my poll broke the dumb webpollcentral website. OK, maybe it was just a coincidence that I put up the poll and then the whole site went down for several hours. Anyway, it seems to be working again so if you tried to vote earlier and got an error message, try again now.]

I have a very large number of unfinished projects. They are stuffed in bags and boxes and are spilling out of the corners of my house. It has gotten so bad that although I own millions of needles it seems I can never find the size I need because they have been left in some abandoned project somewhere. And it is a huge pain to go digging through bags to try and track down some needles. Whenever I look at these bags of projects it just drags me down. It makes me feel like a quitter (hey, no snide remarks about my Olympic failure -- I heard that).

Anyhow, it was one of my New Year's resolutions to sort through all of these UFO's and finish those that were worth finishing and rip the others. (Don't even ask about my progress on Resolution #1.) Well, I have attempted to start doing this but I frequently become paralyzed with indecision as to whether to continue a project or not. For instance, look at this scarf:

UFO #1:

The Ruffles Scarf from Scarf Style.

I am knitting it with Katia Firenze, in Grey Pearl (grayish blue) and Polished Pewter (silver). I used this yarn because I thought it would give the scarf a subtle sheen, but it is not really very noticeable.

The pattern shows this scarf knit in a single color, but the notes mention the two-color option as an alternative. I chose that option because I thought it would snazz the scarf up a bit. However, I don't think I like the way it's coming out. The scarf tends to clump into groups of two ruffles, which seems to be emphasized by the two colors.

The pictures here don't really show the clumping. I had to yank on the scarf pretty hard to even it out. I probably should have included a clumpy picture to give you a better idea of what it looks like without a lot of fiddling.

I have only completed about 12 inches of the scarf so far. The pattern gives a finished length of 86" so I guess I am less than 1/8th of the way done.

My concerns about this scarf are:
a) it might be ugly, and
b) I'm not sure that I would ever wear it.

So, since I am notoriously awful at decision-making, I would like your assistance in deciding whether I should continue with this scarf or not. Please help me out by voting in the poll below.

All lurkers are encouraged to participate (especially those whose names begin with an 'R'.)

What should I do with this scarf?
Finish it.
Rip it.
You're asking me? Make your own damn decisions, lady.
View Results


Friday, March 03, 2006

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House of Grumpiness

It has been a difficult week here at chez Persnickety. My children have been hit by whatever bad cold and/or respiratory flu has been going around. They are well on the road to recovery now, but who knew two sick nine-year-old girls could be so dramatic in their illness? Yes, I've been a sympathetic mommy, but after 5 days of stereophonic coughing, sniffling, moaning, whining, and arguing I think need a vacation.

On a happier note, I have finished the Bearfoot socks that have been sitting in my UFO pile for almost a year. Here are the specs:

These are just basic stockinette socks, made without a real pattern.
Mountain Colors Bearfoot [60% superwash wool, 25% mohair, 15% nylon],
color: Rosehip
2.5mm Addis
7.75-8sts and 10.5 rows = 1"
I just love the color of this yarn and its softness. It seems a little thicker than other socks yarns I've been using lately, but it's nice because the socks came out thick and warm (maybe that's due to the mohair content?). I'd like to make another pair of socks with this yarn, but maybe with some texture next time.

The only interesting thing on these socks is that I used the Eye of Partridge stitch on the heel flap. This was my first time using it and I think it's a keeper, especially with variegated yarn. It's basically the heel stitch, but with the slipped stitches offset on every right-side row to form more of a checkerboard look (compared with the columns look that you get with the normal heel stitch.)

Here is a chart I created for the Eye of Partridge stitch, in case any of you are unfamiliar with it and want to give it a try. Apparently there are variations of it, but this is what I used.
Eye of Partridge stitch pattern

So now the only unfinished socks I have are my Jaywalkers, and I'm not really motivated to work on those. Maybe I'll start another stranded pair. Hmmm.

And last but not least, I just finished the afghan square I volunteered to make for Christine. She is collecting blue 8"x8" knitted squares to make a blanket for her brother Jef who is battling a recurrent brain tumor. Go on over and help her out if you have some time.

I made this square with some unnamed blue wool from my stash. I used a modified version of the Forbes Forest Scarf pattern.

Oh, and Sister#2, don't worry. I'm still working on your cloche. More about that next time.