Hey look! A sock!

I mostly knit socks one at a time.  I’m perfectly aware of all of the two-at-a-time methods and occasionally will use one of them, but for the most part, I just prefer double pointed needles.  Second sock syndrom hits me every so often, but in general it’s not something I suffer from too badly.  Well folks, I’m suffering.

Meet Pomatomous.  My single pomatomous.

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This sock is a beast on many levels.  As you can see, the sock has a very long leg.  The pattern is a 24-row repeat and it’s repeated 3 times before you start the heel.  Thats 72 pattern rows plus the twisted rib cuff before you ever even start the heel.  Added to that, because the pattern is predominately twisted rib, it is less stretchy than most.  This means that you have to cast on 72 stitches to make the sock fit.  Each round is 8 stitches bigger than a standard sock-weight sock.  Finally, the chart has to be followed line by line.  Even after following it five times though, I couldn’t come close to memorizing it.  Look, it’s pretty complex!
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I will make the second sock my on the go project for the upcoming semester.  The one that I keep in my backpack and work on when I’m on the bus to Clinic, on my lunch break at work, and in spare moments between class.  Hopefully I will have a finished pair by the end of the semester without having to use any of my primo couch/netflix knitting time on these suckers.  That time is for lovely projects that fill me with joy.  See yesterday’s post.

Darn Socks

Sometimes, if there are tasks I don’t want to do, I justify not doing them by telling myself that it will take absolutely forever and I just can’t waste all that time at the moment.  I use this with doing the laundry, vacuuming, cooking for myself, and other tasks that aren’t my favorite.

As it turns out, it does not take hours upon hours to vacuum my 600 square foot apartment.  It takes about 15 minutes… at most.  And yet, every time I look at the floor and think “I should vacuum” my next thought is something like “but I have to do X in two hours so clearly there’s no time to vacuum right now.”  When I finally suck it up and do the vacuuming I’m amazed that this time it went so quickly.

I also do this with mending.  I will spend hours and hours at the sewing machine making something happily.  However, if whatever it is later gets a hole that will take seconds to sew up, it can sit in the pile for months before I steel myself to the arduous one minute task.  This is why it took me over a year to darn my socks.  A pair of socks I knit many years ago was wearing thin.  As you can see, there were patches on the heel and balls of the feet that were so thin that one more wearing would result in holes.

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Thin spot on the heel
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Thin spot on the ball of the foot
I’m ashamed to admit that I let these socks sit for about 2.5 years needing darning without doing anything about it.  I told myself it would take forever to fix.  That it would be hard.  That it would be boring.  That it wouldn’t work.  That the socks wouldn’t be as comfortable afterward.  Excuses excuses excuses.  Then came this Christmas when my mom picked a random assortment of things from my Knit Picks wish list (interesting the things non-knitters choose, very random) one of which was a darning egg.
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Today, I decided to suck it up and devote as much time as it took to fixing my socks.  I found the yarn I had originally used for the socks (why yes I did keep the leftover yarn for more than three years, why do you ask?)  Then I got a tapestry needle and used some of the extra yarn to reinforce the weak stitches by tracing over them with the new yarn.
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The darning egg slips inside the sock and gives you something to pull the fabric tight over so that you can see the stitches and trace them more easily.  Between the two socks, there were five weak spots that needed fixing.  It took me about 90 minutes to do the darning from beginning to end.  Not quite the all day task I’d been building it up in my head to be.
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As you can see, the socks (which have been washed many many times) are slightly faded compared to the new yarn, but I’m not too worried about the balls of my feet and the backs of my heels being beautiful.  I am very excited to increased my winter wool sock collection by a whole pair of socks for less than two hours of work.  Since these socks have been out of my wardrobe for over two years it feels like I have a brand new pair.  Hopefully the next time I wear out a pair of socks I will remember how quick and easy the fix is and fix them right away, but if my vacuuming habits are any indication I may not have permanently learned my lesson…

My Grandma

My Grandma is a difficult woman.  I try to be patient with her and remember that she’s a product of a very different time and a very different upbringing.  My Grandma wants to tell everyone what everyone else’s problem is and exactly the path they should take to fix it.  Needless to say, my Grandma’s 1940s Catholic ideals are slightly different from my own… At the same time, she’s my Grandma and I love her and I feel like I should do nice things for her.  A few weeks ago, my Grandma called me asking for some wool house socks.  These are the result:

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These are the faceted rib socks by Charlene Schurch and Beth Parrott from the Little Box of Socks.  I love those little cards, they’re so easy to pop in my purse and carry around.  The pattern creates a very dense fabric.  Even though these are made with standard sock-weight yarn, I don’t think they would fit in any ordinary pair of shoes because they are so thick.  All the better since they are meant to be house socks.  Also, the pattern takes a lot of stitches because it doesn’t have a lot of stretch so it eats yarn.  I had 380 yards and, as you can see, I had to result to “complementary” yarn for the toes.

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The main color yarn is Pico Accuardi Dyeworks La Libera in colorway Hyperspanner (I don’t know how long that link will be good for, I think the company is closing down, which is too bad because it’s pretty good yarn).  The yarn is slightly thick in some places but it has a nice tight ply and a good sproing.

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The toes are some Knit Picks Special Buy Sport Wool in colorway Amethyst Heather  that I ordered long ago and haven’t found a use for yet.  It’s yarn that was over-spun so they sold it for $1 per ball.  I ordred a bunch of it, but haven’t really used it until now.  It’s very tightly spun and feels dense the way that hand spun yarn often does.  Even though it’s sport weight, I don’t notice much of a difference between the toe and the rest of the sock.

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Grandma won’t like them.  She finds fault with everything.  The color will be wrong, or the fit, or the pattern… something.  Of course, if I didn’t make them, then I’d be un-loving and mean to an 85-year-old woman and I’d never hear the end of that earlier.  So, I’m just going to package them up, send them off with a nice card, then refuse to take any calls from Grandma for at least a month… You know, like an adult.

Fancy Socks

Ever since May, For Yarns Sake, my closest LYS, has been doing monthly knit-a-longs.  I started the May project–don’t ask–but skipped the June one.  When I heard what the July project was going to be, I just had to join again.  Per my suggestion (I don’t know if they chose because of my suggestion, but I’m pretty sure I brought the pattern to the attention of the people who did the choosing) they/we are knitting Lissajous Socks by Cookie A.
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These beauties come in both a knee-high and standard sock length.  I’m of course doing the knee-high (look at the pretty!)  I’m enjoying working on these, though they are a bit slow-going.  There’s more stitches around than a standard sock because of the calf shaping and there are 4 charts to follow at once.  It’s a good thing I’m enjoying these, because as you can see, I’ve got a ways to go…

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Why do my legs suddenly seem so much longer than usual?

I’m just over half-way through the first big chart, and I’m looking forward to the “ease” of focusing on just the cables and calf shaping for a while.

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I had a small accident in which I continued to rib even though the directions clearly (maybe not that clearly) tell you to stop ribbing after 18 rows.  I was on row 33 when I realized this.  I did no rip back.  Instead, I knit to each wrong purl column and dropped the stitches down individually for 15 rows, then picked them back up the right way.  This fix-it crochet hook was extremely helpful, and made the whole process way more painless than it could have been. Look at the delicate cables.

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Sorry my pictures are ass.  They were taken inside by me.  If these were finished, I’d have no trouble running around outside taking a billion pictures of my socks and thumbing my nose at anyone who thinks it’s weird to take sock pictures.  However, even I draw the line at running around outside with a thin stip of sock halfway up my leg holding the attached ball of yarn in one hand, the camera in the other, and hitching up my skirt to try to get a picture that shows off my twisted stitches.  For me, that’s more of an indoor activity.  Expect better pictures when/if I get these done.


The yarn I’m using is Spud and Chloe Fine.  I’m still forming an opinion about it, sometimes I love it, sometimes I’m not so sure.  I’ll give a full report after I have more than 2 inches knit with it…  I want to be sure I really give it a fair chance.

I do have one question about the pattern though…. Why the *^&$ does it make you cast on, then do make-ones in the first &(*^%$# row, then, in the next row, make you use the make-ones to do &^%#@!) twisted-stitch cables?  Hmmm?  That I’d like to know.  Why not just cast on all the stitches rather than increase on the first row?  If there is a logical practical reason I may be able to accept the maddening torture that was the first two rows of this pattern.  If there is no good reason, then the only logical conclusion is that Cookie A is a mean diabolical hateful woman who secretly plots to drive sock knitters insane.  My progress on my Pomatomous would seem to suggest the latter.

Spring Socks

Well, it seems I’ve fallen in to a non-blogging rut again.  I would like to be posting at least once a week, but I find it so hard to do posts about WIPs.  I like to show off FOs, it feels like an accomplishment, like a giant strike through on my to-do list.  Posting about WIPs feels like a reminder of the fact that there are things unfinished, that my life is actually cluttered and (sometimes) overwhelmingly unmanageable.  I feel like if I only show the FOs, it will at least give the impression that I have everything together all the time.  That’s why I didn’t post until I could show you these:

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These socks were started so that I would have something to knit at the Sock Hour at my LYS.  Since they’re kind enough to host the knitting event, I try to work on projects from yarn from their store or at least projects in yarn they carry (it’s not hard, I have a lot of yarn from them, they have awesome selection.)  I started them back in May, and if you’re in Portland, you know what our May was like this year–grey, rainy, cold, not at all like what May should be like.  When I was trying to decide what yarn to cast on with, this green practically jumped into my hand.  It was such an appealing color against the ugly weather that was showing no sign of letting up.

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The yarn is from a local indie dyer StitchJones.  This yarn is her Titanium Sock yarn.  I think it will live up to it’s name.  It’s very tightly spun and feels like it will be very durable.  The color is called “Tempest in a Dyepot” and it varies from a light bright spring green to a deep olive-forest green.  I was unbelievably pleased that the color didn’t pool in any obvious or terrible way.  Perfect variegation is extremely rare, but this is a wonderful example of how awesome hand-painted yarns can end up looking.

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Ryan is an excellent sock photographer don’t you think?  I told him taking good sock pictures is just one of the many reasons I love him.  His patience for my knitting photo shoots is incredibly endearing.

The pattern is from the book Knitting Socks With Hand Painted Yarns which I’ve owned for a long time but never got around to making anything from until now.   The premise of the book is patterns that make hand painted yarns stand out without overpowering the stitches and obscuring all the hard knitting work. I think these socks speak for the effectiveness of the book.  The pattern I used is called Zigzag Anklets.

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The socks are actually most just a plain stockinette sock.  The construction is interesting.  They are knit top-down.  First you cast on and knit the simple zig-zag lace pattern and some 1×1 ribbing.  Then you turn the sock inside out and continue in stockinette for the rest of the way.  This means that the zig-zag lace is right-side-out when it folded down.  I love the retro bobby-sock look of these, though I doubt you’d find any bobby-socks in acid green (until now.)

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There are only a few things I would change about this pattern.  First, it tells you to knit the body of the sock on US 2 needles.  I did, and I got the right gauge, but they are a bit loose for me–not loose fitting, I mean the gauge feels loose.  I think I would cast on a few more stitches and knit them on US 1s instead.  I tend to like a tight gauge for my socks though, I think some of my socks can stand on their own.  I feel like it makes them more long-wearing, not sure if that’s really true.  I’ve only had one pair of socks wear through, and they were knit on US 1.5s so who knows…  The other thing is strangely picky but since I’m griping about 1/4 millimeter differences in needle size, it seems fitting.  The decreases on the gusset go “the wrong way.”  I like a k2tog on the right and an SSK on the left.  This pattern reverses them.  I followed the pattern as written, “just to see” and I don’t like it.  It’s not as graceful.  It does make the gusset line less noticeable though, so maybe that’s what the designer was going for.

I’ve already cast on my next pair of socks (they are a doozy) and maybe I will even show them to you before they are finished.

More socks

I feel like recently all I’ve been showing you are finished socks.  I know there have been other projects, but I’m usually so slow to finish a pair of socks that three pairs done so close together has me feeling like I’m cranking them out.  (Disregard the fact that all three pairs were on the needles between six months and two years.)  Here is the latest pair.

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These are my first pair of socks from Yarnia yarn.  This is one of the house blends that is very popular named Boylston.  (If the online shop is out of stock you can always call or email them and ask them to make you up another cone of Boylston.  If they have the ingredients they’ll be happy to whip you up a cone.)  This yarn is 50% Bamboo, 27% Merino, and 23% alpaca.  This picture really shows the depth of color.

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The yarn is composed of four strands: one navy bamboo, one navy merino, one bright blue merino, and one heathered gray alpaca.  I think the color is perfect for manly things, which is nice because sometimes it can be hard to find “manly” yarn.  Of course, this didn’t stop me from making these socks for me.

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I have found that Yarnia yarn sometimes has a weird quirk to it.  As you knit, sometimes one or more of the strands will get “loose” like you have more of those strands than the other, so you have to slide the excess down as you knit so that you’re working with a length of yarn where all the strands are the same tension.  If you’ve worked with Yarnia yarn before you might know what I’m talking about.  It’s a minor annoyance and slows knitting a bit.  In the few instances where it’s become completely unmanageable I just cut the yarn, trim the strands with excess down, join, and continue on.

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The pattern is just a simply 64-stitch sock.  I followed the Yarn Harlot sock recipe the first time I made these, but now I just knit from memory.  The only thing I have to look up each time is how many stitches to knit/purl across for the first two rows of the heel turn.  I just grab any of my many sock books off the shelf and flip through till I find a sock with a heel flap worked over 32 stitches and use the numbers there.  Some day I’ll memorize that too and then I’ll be able to make socks completely from memory.  I think that’s cool.

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This yarn is a bit heavier than a traditional fingering weight, not quite a sport, but close.  At 64 stitches on size 1.5 needles it made a very dense fabric.  These would be perfect hiking socks and a great for walking around the house when it’s not quite cold enough for slippers but you still want something on your feet.  I won’t be wearing these for a while it seems though.  It’s finally spiked up into the 80s here in Portland and I’ve been able to bust out the sandals.  The warm weather is totally worth having to put off wearing my new socks for a few months.

MMmmmmm

This is the evening I have planned:

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The food is homemade crockpot stew and a glass of a yummy Moscato (I like girly wine, I know, not as classy as a Pino Grigio but sweet and yummy and mellow.)

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My recipe for crockpot stew:

Ingredients

  • potatoes–as many as looks good, I usually get about 4 big ones
  • celery–one bunch
  • carrots–I buy a bag of baby carrots then add until it looks right and save the rest to munch on
  • pre-chopped stew meat–about a pound.  (I stock the grocery store for it to go on sale then freeze it so I can use it as I like.)
  • flour–about two handfuls
  • broth–48 oz (I use broth for all the liquid, if you’re worried about sodium you can do half broth, half water) chicken or beef, whatever is on sale

Directions

  • chop potatoes, throw them in crockpot
  • sprinkle handful of flour over potatoes
  • toss stew meat in
  • sprinkle with handful of flour
  • chop carrots and celery, throw them in the crock pot
  • add broth
  • set crockpot to low and leave it alone for a day (I usually do overnight to the next day’s dinner time)
  • eat stew
  • hide leftover stew from 6’10” brother who loves stew and will eat it all if given half a chance

It’s actually even better if you have the patience to take the stew out of the crockpot and throw it in the fridge for another overnight so it can thicken and the flavors can get all combined.  I can never wait.

As for the knitting, its a plain 64-stitch sock from the top down with a heel flap.  This is my favorite method of making socks.  I know all the benefits of toe-up socks and the short-row heel, but top-down are so darned charming.  I love everything about them.  I don’t much like ribbing, so it’s good to get it out of the way when the project is fresh.  I have enough stamina to make the leg as long as I want it.  With toe-up socks, I find I make shorter legs because I want the project to be over (and I skimp on the ribbing.)  Heel flaps are fun.  You get to go back and forth for a while rather than round and round.  Plus, if you do a slip stitch heel it’s more durable than the short-row heel because it’s double thick.  Heel flaps fit high arches better than short-row heels.  I have high arches.  Kitchner really isn’t that bad.  There, I said it.

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The yarn is Boylston, one of the Yarnia house blends I picked up when I was working there.  It’s 50% Bamboo, 27% Merino, 23% Alpaca.  It’s comprised of one strand navy bamboo, one strand navy merino, one strand bright blue merino, and one strand gray heathered alpaca.  It’s definitely on the thick side for a fingering weight, my socks will be very thick–good for hiking or as “outside” socks to go over smaller socks in the winter.

Worth the wait

The last FO that resulted from my stress-filled finals studying are these beautiful socks.

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These socks are made from the amazingly simple Air Raid pattern by Emily B. Miller.  It’s a free download on Ravelry.  The pattern is well written and easy to follow.  It’s got a chart and written instructions for the lace so you can work from whichever you’re more comfortable with.  I found that after the first half of the first repeat I had the pattern memorized and didn’t need to look at the chart any more.

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As you can see these are definitely “fraternal” socks.  I thought I had the colors lined up (the pattern is worked from the top down) but I clearly did not.  The yarn comes in 50g balls so I used two.  I knit both from the outside of the ball, so it looks to me like at the mill one ball got wound with the colors going one direction, and the other in the opposite direction.

The yarn is Crystal Palace Yarns Mini Mochi in the creatively named colorway 101.  The colors really are as vibrant as they look in those photos.  I got the yarn an a 9″ Addi Turbo for Christmas/my birthday 2009 and cast on immediately.  Yes, that means these socks were on the needles for just under a year and a half.  I don’t know what it is that keeps me from finishing projects.  I just get distracted by the next new thing, then get distracted from that by the next new thing until finally I look on Ravelry and realize “holy crap, these socks have been on the needles for more than a year” and I suck it up and finish them.

I love knitting socks on the 9″ circs.  I have small hands, so the the short needle tip doesn’t bother me and I find that I can go round and round and round without thinking or stopping to move stitches or pick up a different needle.

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This is the best I could come up with when Ryan said “pose like a model”…  A life of glamor I do not have.

Over all I’m completely in love with these socks.  The yarn is single ply so I’m a bit worried about how it will hold up over the long term, but it has a healthy nylon content so I’m hopeful.  The yarn was a bit think-n-thin as most single plys are, but nothing too terrible.  The colors are gorgeous and they are super soft.  Also, Portland is still mostly below 70 degrees so wearing them is still an option.  Wool socks after it hits 70 degrees loose much of their appeal, but below 70, bring on the wooly goodness.

2 years, 5 months, 11 days

Did you ever read the Wayside School books as a kid?  They were some of my favorite books when I was in the 3rd grade.  One of the stories features a girl who draws pictures really fast, faster than everyone in the class.  Sadly, a girl who drew slower always got more praise, even though she produced fewer pictures.  Complaining to the teacher about never getting praised, the teacher explained to her that when you take your time to produce something, it usually turns out better than something that’s been dashed-off with little thought–this is why master painters sometimes devote years of their life to a single work.  Leaving to go home for the day, the girl said she would draw a picture of a cat.  The teacher said he’d be glad to see it the next day.  The girl replied that this would be her masterpiece and she wouldn’t even be finished with one whisker.

Upon finishing a pair of socks that have been on the needles for… 2 years, 5 months, 11 days quite a while… That old story popped into my head.  I had taken… 2 years, 5 months, 11 days much longer than average… to knit a project that a normal person could finish in a few weeks (and a fast knitter could finish in under a week.)  I certainly wouldn’t call them a knitting masterpiece, but they’re not bad.

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The pattern is Small Capitals by Charlene Schurch from the Sensational Knitted Socks book.  The book is great.  It’s basically a recipe book.  It shows you about 100 different swatches.  You pick the one you want.  Then the book gives you instructions for a bunch of different gauges/sizes so you can use pretty much any weight of yarn and come up with the right size.

Here is a close up of the pattern.  It’s a 12 stitch 8 row repeat and I was never really able to memorize the pattern (which may have been why these were left unworked for so long… I had to have the pattern with me at all times.)

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(You can also see from the picture that the heel is a little baggy… That’s a product of the 12 stitch repeat, not as easy to size because you can’t just take out a repeat or two like you can with a 4 or 6 stitch repeat.)  The yarn I used is Noro Kureyon Sock.  The yarn is everything that the worsted Kureyon is–bold colors, knots that lead to colors in a completely different part in the color repeat, vegetable matter, and a very scratchy rustic feel.

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Normally I would never pair a color changing yarn with a texture/lace pattern but the very long color repeats of the Noro allow the pattern to show up anyway.  I love the way these socks look.  To me they look like scales.  Even though the yarn is scratchy rustic they are nice and warm (we still haven’t crawled out of the 50s here in Portland) and my feet really aren’t that sensitive to the yarn.  I’m glad I knit these socks, I think they look great, but I will never knit this pattern again.  Ever.

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(Yes, that is a dress with pockets.  Most awesome article of clothing ever.  I want an entire wardrobe of them.)

Backpack project

I like to keep a very simple project in my backpack all the time.  That way if I have a weird half hour block of time that’s not really good for working, I can pull it out and get some knitting done.  (Or if I’m really stressed, I can blow off steam knitting in lieu of studying, which strangely enough does reduce the stress.)  These backpack projects take a long time to complete because they only get a little work done on them at a time, they usually only get worked on on school days, and I don’t have spare time every school day.  My last backpack project was Ryan’s blue beanie and it took about a month and a half to finish.  Here is my new backpack project:

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Please ignore the chipped toenail polish, it has not been sandal weather and so I have not been vigilant.  It’s a plain sock in a Yarnia house blend called Boylston.  This is an extremely popular house blend.  It’s one strand of navy bamboo (50%), one strand of navy merino and one strand of bright blue merino (27%), and one strand of gray alpaca (23%).  As you can see it makes a great dark heathered blue and is a color that could totally be used to make man things.  (I usually tag plain socks with the Yarn Harlot’s Sock Recipe pattern, even though I don’t really “follow” it, I just make a sock.  Cast on a number of stitches that seems reasonable, knit some ribbing, knit until I think the leg is long enough, flap heel, gusset, knit until 2″ before toes, shape toes.  Since this is basically what the Yarn Harlot pattern is, I tag it for convenience.)

I have several requirements for backpack projects.
1) It must be small enough to fit in the front pouch of my backpack.
2) It must not require me to look at a pattern, read a chart, or count rows/stitches.
3) It must be a pattern I can knit without looking; this includes garter stitch, stockinette stitch, ribbing,   and things like seed/moss stitch which are basically just ribbing so long as you know where to start.
4) There can’t be any shaping, and I should not have to pay attention to what row I’m on.

Given these criteria some projects can go from being backpack projects to not at various stages.  A project may start out small enough to be a backpack project then grow too big.  Ryan’s blanket was once a backpack project, now it takes up my whole living room floor.  A project may have a pattern or shaping only a certain times.  This project was in my backpack for the whole leg, but had to come out until the heel and gusset were finished because that involved counting rows and paying attention to decrease placement.  Now they’ll stay in the backpack until it’s time to shape the toe.  Do you have a take-everywhere project?