Friday, which is one of my two days off right now, saw me up early and heading over to Esparto and the West Valley Alpaca Ranch for a CSM gathering (aka, Circular Sock Knitting Machine). There were only four of us, including our lovely hostess Pat, who has been raising alpacas for over fifteen years, and spins, weaves and knits as well. Pat turned over her shop/classroom/studio to us for a fun-filled day.
This photo shows Pat's CSM set-up, very efficient, with her machine clamped to a customized stool, complete with lamp, mounted row counter, basket to hold supplies, and tool holders recycled from syringe cases leftover from vaccinating alpacas, and loom in the background.
We were a far-flung group, drawn together by our desire to become adept at using these antique gadgets. Shelly, who begged Pat for some training and got us all together, came from Stockton, about an hour away. She has a brand-new reproduction of the Auto Knitter, which she got a month ago and is eager to put to use making socks. These spiffy new devices are being produced in New Zealand, and she was still needing to fine-tune it with advice from Pat after the long trip to get here.
Paula, who hails from Long Beach, was also unpacking a new-to-her machine, reconditioned by the famous Barry Travis (well, at least he is famous in the narrow circle of CSM users, who have to rely on the Internet to find and communicate with each other, there being few books and even less in the way of classes, covering this subject. Paula also teaches music for a living and has an equally strong passion for the tango.
Deb (or Docter Deb, as we discovered) is a veterinarian from nearby Winters who no longer practices, but teaches weaving and spinning. She found a machine at a fair a few years back, and much like me, just hadn't found the time to fully internalize the process and get a pair of socks from her machine. She did have a lovely pair of pale lavender lacy socks she had just finished knitting from her handspun blend of wool and angora... I wish I would have gotten a picture!
You do get to admire Deb's first heel, produced along with her swatch of gauge and tension measurements (note the little colored flecks - those are row markers as she changed the tension dial; it is important to know what range a potential yarn will do best in before knitting your sock). Since Deb lived the closest, she started on her 'real' sock in the late afternoon and was hard at work when I left.
My progress was frustrating; the yarn I had obtained from the veteran CSMer who sold me my machine was splitting, giving my little needles lots of trouble and generally slowing my progress. I did make a nice tube swatch from some DK weight yarn Pat had me try, establishing that my machine really did crank properly.
I captured him shooting a photo of Pat demonstrating a salient point about the use of our machines to Paula.
Pat's ranch is close to two hours from my home, so I had to call it a day even though I wasn't done. I was thinking about what to do with all that cone yarn I had, you know, the yarn that was giving me so much trouble all day...
I have made a commitment to succeed, so this morning I set my equipment up on the kitchen table, which will have to do until DH can convert a stool for me to use as a stand.
I slowly worked my way through the mock rib start, the hem that followed (which finishes up the top edge) and then the leg... now I am taking a rest for my eyes before trying to take on the short-row heel. I could actually be close to finishing my first-ever CSM sock.
Cross your fingers!