Thursday, November 26, 2015


Last year, I got an email from a man named Jason looking for three Christmas stockings to match his childhood stocking.  Looking for that email now, I see he actually sent it on Christmas Day!  I hadn't noticed that before!

I've written before about how I like copying pre-existing items or pictures, but usually it's not supposed to be an identical replication.  Often it's the shape, or the colour, or the texture, or a combination.  Rarely do I do something that is an identical copy.

Or, as identical as can be, given the difference in time between the original and the inquiry!

There's been very few inquiries since I've started my business, that I've turned down.  I'm up for almost anything.  He included a picture of his stocking, and I knew I would have no problem copying the pattern and knitting it.  However, he lived about an hour away and I also worried about how closely these had to match.  I explained that yarns change over time, that colours come and go, that while I could do my best to hunt down yarns, I might not be able to match exactly.  Well, I basically knew I could not match exactly, LOL, but how close was "close enough"?  He wanted them high quality, lasting, and functional.

I started off by saying I'd contact a knitter in his town--a former blogger who's skill and attention to detail I felt would match mine.  I asked her if she knew of anyone--I knew she wouldn't want to do it, but she was involved in a knitting group.  She had no leads.

Jason offered to bring the stocking to me as he frequents a large motorcycle shop in town.  Cool! We arranged a day and time.  And then I realized  I was going on a field trip with my youngest.  He left it in my mailbox for me.

I'm a sentimental lady.  I feel very honoured when someone chooses me to make something for them, especially something significant.  Being trusted--on nothing more than my  website being found on the internet--with this stocking felt scary and incredible.  What if I lost it?  I don't lose things.  What if the dog ate it?  He hasn't eaten anything in a few years.  What if I can't meet the deadline?  Happened only once.  What if I just can't do it?  Hasn't happened yet!

I spent some time Googling and discovered that this was a 1952 Knit-O-Graph pattern.  Oh, look at that...there's one available at now!  When I was looking in April, there was a modern reproduction of the pattern that one knitter figured out and was selling.  Well, if she could figure it out, so could I :)  And then he asked for a fourth stocking!  Well, for something like this, you can't just multiple the yarn cost for one by 4...some of the yarns I used very little of for all four, so as you do more, each one is actually a bit cheaper in the materials department.

The yarn search....the stocking had a gauge of 6st and ...I forget the rows now per inch.  This meant a likely a sportweight yarn, though not very common, so my guess was that it was most likely knit in Patons "Astra" or perhaps a Mary Maxim yarn (as a kit).  "Astra" has been around forever.  It still is around!  So that's what I checked first.  Red, blue, yellow and pink were no problem.  The white and the green though...All I could find in Astra for white was a bright white, and an "Aran" white which was very creamy.  I needed a softer white.  The stocking may have originally been bright white, but while in great shape, was not bright white now.  I settled on using two strands of Loops & Threads "Woolike" in Ivory.  The texture was a bit different, but it was the best choice.

Green.  Wow.  Who would have thought.  I Googled.  I visited yarn stores.  I bought yarn and returned yarn.  I checked yarn out inside the house, and outside in the daylight.
 Finally, I had had enough and needed to get started--green was in the first inch, so I couldn't delay any longer.  I found Red Heart "Soft" in Dark Leaf, which is an Aran weight.  It was a little shiny, and I had passed up other yarns that were close because they were too thick, but I decided to bite the bullet and commit to pulling out one strand of the yarn!  Crazy!  I would gently pull out one strand while re-winding into a ball.  If it got tangled or broke, or I got bored, LOL, I end the ball and do another.  I needed small balls anyway for the intarsia work.

I got started.  I had a hard time figuring out the cast on.  I searched my books, and tried a few things.  Felt I had found the right technique....then forgot exactly what I did!  So, the tops are not all identical!

Charting...I thought that would be pretty easy.  Count the stitches.  Count across, count down.  But sometimes it wouldn't line up.  A stitch would be six rows down, but the stitch next to it seemed to be 5 rows down, but when I worked across to draw the row, they lined up.  I don't know!  It was probably from the carrying of the yarn on the backside, made the stitches not always line up.

Some of the names are longer than "Jason" so I had to decide what to do.  Keep the same number of rows in the white banner?  Then the words had to be squished a little.  Keep the spacing but have a bigger white section?  That was voted out.  So I adjusted the spacing between the words, trying to make it all even so it gave the same visual look.  While I hadn't intended the above sample to be a swatch, it was probably a good thing.  It ended up a bit small and there were a few things I was unhappy with.
 Due to the size of my chart paper, I worked each, one at a time, till the banners were done.  I was paranoid I would spell something wrong.  It's easy to just glaze over when you look at something so often.  I did find an error in one that involved ripping back a few rows, and for some reason, Blake's gave me a hard time.  It was the last one I worked on and you would have thought I had it memorized by then.  No!

Then I worked on each until the top of Santa's head.  I wasn't happy with the original pink colour, so I paused until I found a better one.  Again, I ended up pulling out a strand of the 4ply worsted to make a DK yarn.

Then I charted the next section, and worked on it.  And so on.  I found as I got further along, that the green balls that had been re-wound with my ball winder a few times seemed to be a bit tighter and a closer match than the original balls I used in the name banners.  Wish I had thought to wind those a few times!
I decided to block them before starting the heels, because I wanted to seam them before the heels and I felt the blocking would be easier while they were able to be pinned out in one layer.  I started with Blake, using pins and blocking wires to get the horizontal lines nice and straight.  Then, I went to town with my steam iron and a pressing cloth.

Ummmm.  Yeah.  WTF.  That curve exactly matches the curve of my iron!  And, when I unpinned it, there were indents from the blocking wire!  OMG.  It was late at night and I nearly cried.  Instead, I soaked it with some water and went to bed.

In the morning, it was dry, but the mark was still there.  Ever wonder why some yarns say not to iron?  I wasn't ironing it, but must of lost focus.  In real life, it didn't show up as well as in the picture, but I knew the stockings would get a lot of up close attention and this was just not acceptable to me!  I knew I would have to do surgery!

The stockings are knit flat, due to the intarsia.  I didn't like the seam on the original stocking, and I really (as a knitter) didn't like how the seam continued through the heel.  I concluded the heels were done as after-thought heels, and at the proper place, put the stitches onto waste yarn.  Well...when I came back to knit the heels while seaming up the legs, I found that because I hadn't broken the red yarn and started a new yarn...I had a strand of red yarn going from one side of the heel across to the other side (inside).  hard to explain, but essentially, from front to back so that the two sides of the stocking could not be pulled apart.  Fine if these were to be decorative, but not fine for stuffing with presents!  But I am a knitting McGuyver and came up with a decent the last stocking LOL.   THe first three involved knots.  I knit the heels and toes in the round.

It took a couple attempts to get the heel to look right, and I'm so glad I didn't say "Good Enough" after the third attempt!  I wasn't happy with them once done... the toes were cupping, and the heels were a little small and not laying right.  So, I ripped the first one out and tried larger needles.  Bingo.  So I ripped the other ones out and re-did them.  I also got to fix the problem from the above paragraph a bit better, though of course it meant more work.

It's amazing how long it actually takes to knit a heel and a toe.  Times four.  LOL.

In  an early email, Jason mentioned that he wanted to make sure the insides were well done, so fingers didn't get caught.  This is a sign of a good knitter, not leaving long "floats".   I think I did a great job!

But...Blake's stocking!  Time for the fix.  I did not take pictures, because it was pretty darn scary.  I CUT the stocking through the first row of red beneath the white banner and placed the stitches on my needle.  I was hoping I could just reknit the red portion and that would get rid of enough of the damage that it looked okay.  No, that wasn't enough, so I went into the green section.  I hoped I could just stick with the top green part--I couldn't find the chart so I was just trying to work from one of the other stockings and things weren't lining up right!  And it still hadn't gone far enough.  So, I started on the part with the red hat, saying I would only go so far as the white pom pom--I was not getting into another colour.  Then I realized the grafting row (the row created by sewing the top I was now knitting with the existing stocking) would create a row of stitches too.  And things weren't lining up!  I ripped back rows, and ripped the stocking out further, to the top of the pom pom.  Finally, I tried to graft the two pieces.

It was not going smoothly.  Started from the side with the green, but then things didn't line up by the time I got to the hat.  Tried from the other side, which was all red being sewn to red, and it was off by a stitch where they join, which is fine.  It just wasn't working through the front section.  Finally, I had to say "Good Enough".  A good knitter knows when "Good Enough" really is good enough, and when it's being used as an excuse to not try harder.  I consider myself a good knitter :) I don't seem to have a picture of the repaired area.  Oops.

I couldn't figure out how I wanted to photograph them.  We have a fireplace with a nice mantle, but the thought of clearing the mantel off depressed me.  And there are no hooks (not even for our own stockings!) so I would have to get some 3M Command hooks.  I asked in a photo group that I belong to on FB if anyone had a fireplace set up in their studio (most were doing Christmas photo sessions), that I could hang the stockings on and get a picture.  One person posted a picture of how she used her staircase--which I had forgotten was what I did last year.  But, again, I didn't want to get all the Christmas stuff out to really set up the photo.

 I realized though that our outside towel rack (for our hot tub towels) had five hooks!  And would be quick to clean off the shelf (though I managed to just cut it out of the photos).

 But the weather!!!  It was going from bright sun, to rain, to very overcast.  All within minutes.  I didnt' have much time left and couldn't put it off any longer, so I braved the wind and got clicking.

 I felt the pictures were a bit too stark, and wanted to add some snow to soften it up and invoke a more Christmasy feeling.  My daughter said it was odd because it now looked like you were looking in through the window, and the snow shouldn't be inside the house!  But the snow is between you and the window :)  I don't usually over-edit my photos, but thought this was fun, and a learning experience too!

Once done, I experienced "post project letdown".  You spend so long working on a project.  You have highs and lows, times you think it'll never end.  And then poof! Suddenly, they are done, photographed, and out the door!  Gone!  They were like my babies!  My family knew them all!  LOL.  Jason came to pick them up and even though I know I had done a great job, it was still a little nerve-wracking! But he seemed really pleased!  Even my husband said they looked good!

The stockings weighed in at 306gr.  As I was weaving in all the ends on these, and a couple other projects, I saved the snipped ends in a big pile, just to see how much yarn gets wasted.  By the time I weighed the pile (including some long pieces from the small balls), it was 126gr!  I wish I had been doing that all year!

Yarn In: 3975gr
Yarn Out: 306gr + 126gr + 6152gr = 6584gr
Balance:  2609gr more used UP than brought in
Costs:  $ 204.82 /330 days = $0.62/day

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