Challenge Accepted

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I know I promised you last week that I would write about the best roast chicken ever (and it’s coming, I promise!), but I need to show you what I just finished making. Check out that sock! Isn’t it cool looking? It might seem crazy to be knitting thick, warm socks so close to summer, and knowing that I generally hate wearing socks and avoid buying them until the moment I absolutely need them probably won’t make me seem any less insane. But these sock were born out of necessity, you see. I knit them because I needed to learn how to do something before I try something else.

It began last weekend when I was at a conference in Hamilton, Ontario. The conference organizers had arranged for us to see Hamilton’s Art Crawl,  a free monthly event where numerous galleries and shops on James St North stay open extra late so that people can check out the truly vibrant art scene that has been quietly growing for several years without the usual institutional or corporate support that tends to ruin local, independent communities. It was here that I discovered the wonderful and amazing  Handknit Yarn Studio, Hamilton’s lone and brand new local yarn shop. Yarn from the LYS, as knitters call them, is usually far out of my price range, so I was expecting to have a quick poke around and leave empty handed. Then, I spotted the Lopi.

ImageLopi is a type of yarn from Iceland that is famed for its warmth and its extreme delicateness. According to Cirilia Rose, lopi pulls apart like cotton candy if you’re rough with it, so it’s something that needs to be handled with care while knitting. I’d also heard that it can be expensive, being an import from Iceland, so I definitely didn’t expect to be bringing any home with me. Anyway, as I was admiring the beautiful range of colours stocked by the shop, I spotted the price: a mere $4.50 per skein. Totally in my price range! And, with that, I brought home 4 skeins in two colours, enough to make a pair of warm mittens and maybe even a hat as well.

Because this yarn is so delicate, and because I wanted to try using both colours in one garment, I realized that I would need to start practicing a technique that’s been scaring the crap out of me for as long as I’ve been knitting: stranded colourwork. (Okay, I haven’t been knitting all that long, but you get the point) Colour stranding is exactly what it sounds like (knitting with two or more strands of colour at once) and I was convinced that it was going to be really hard to do. So I decided to start small, with an easy stitch pattern on a project I could easily start over if I messed up badly (full finished project to be revealed in another post).

Fair Isle pattern

Turn out, colour stranding is SUPER EASY!  Emboldened by my success, I decided to start a pair of socks using a pattern I’d long admired but could never see myself having enough skill to do well. And, well, the sock you see above is the final product!

So far, I’ve finished the left sock and I’ve cast on for the right one. These socks are really time consuming to make, and I can’t seem to knit anything without including a mistake or two (the mistakes aren’t obvious, though, so I’m not going to point them out). I probably should have continued my colourwork experiment with a less complex pattern, but I’m the type of person who likes to throw myself into a challenge head first. In this case, my recklessness has definitely paid off. After I finish the second sock, I’m pretty confident that I’ll be able to turn that Lopi into something warm and beautiful without ripping it to shreds.

To all you experienced knitters out there: have you ever knit with lopi before? Are there any tips or tricks for handling this yarn that you might be willing to share?