Category Archives: fearless knitting

Jogging along

On my last post several of you inquired about how I am dealing with the ‘jogs’ on the striping (jogs = that little row blip that makes it look like the stripe doesn’t line up properly at the beginning and end of the round). And, well, I feel rather sheepish admitting this, but the answer is: I am not dealing with the jogs at all. I am knitting blythely along without any care in the world about the jogs.

The reason is because I am changing colours at the middle of the back of the leg and the middle of the bottom of the foot. This creates a sort of ‘seam’ effect running up the back of the sock, and I work the decreases for the calf shaping on either side of this seam. I rather like the resulting look that it creates on the sock, and when I change colours I try to pull the first and last stitches of the round a little more snug to minimize any loose gaps between different yarns.

What you saw in my previous post was the front of the leg (and really, this makes sense – when was the last time you tried to photograph the back of your own leg?), and so there were no visible jogs/seams at all in that picture. Here is what you would have seen if I’d given you the whole idea:

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You can see there the ‘seam’ line where the colour changes create a bit of a shift on each round, and where the calf shaping begins and ends. The key to making comfortably fitted knee socks is negative ease (2-3 ins at upper calf is good), and to shape the socks to fit the shape of your leg. I am working straight for 4-5 ins or so, then decreasing 2 sts every 4th round until I get to the circumference I need for the ankle, then working even until it’s time to start the heel. As you might imagine, it is well nigh impossible to create a ‘one-size fits all’ knee sock pattern. But really, all you need in order to do this yourself is your leg, a measuring tape, and the known gauge that you are working with.

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As far as how I am handling the colour changes, I am simply carrying up the yarn along the inside of the sock as I go. I could also snip the yarn at each colour change and weave in ends as I go, (and I have done enough fingering-weight fair isle and done enough weaving-in-ends-as-I-go that I would be quite comfortable doing this) but I chose to just carry up each strand a) because I am feeling a bit lazy, and b) because this preserves the yarn in case I realize the size is off and I need to rip it out and start over. I’d rather not get to the end of the leg and realize I need to start over and then be left with a bunch of little short bits of yarn.

It is a lot easier to use this method when you only have 2 or 3 colours to work with, mind you, which is why when I commit to a fair isle project with eleventy-million colours, I do weave in ends as I go. The only trick with carrying yarn up the inside of your work like this is to make sure that you don’t actually pull it tight – this would bunch up the whole works and that’s not the effect you’re looking for.

So there you have it folks, the inner sanctum of striped knee socks. Don’t you just want to make some? How about now? Why aren’t you making your own pair TODAY? Your tape measure and your sock yarn are compelling you. Or you could at least start with a pair of regular socks. I realize the striped knee-highs might be my own personal brand of crazy.

Happy knitting this fine Sunday!

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Filed under fearless knitting, socks

The Reckoning

Dear Elspeth,

I know that you’re probably very busy doing things like your “job” or important things in the “real world” or that you might even have “other knitting” to do besides work on Autumn Rose. Still, I am compelled to point out that I am knitting on Autumn Rose and so far, you are not, and here I was given to understand that were both in on this together. Fair Isle solidarity and all that jazz.

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Now, I feel that I’ve been pretty patient up until now. After zipping through most of the body I gave myself a bit of a break, allowed myself to be distracted by Cat Bordhi, even went off to a conference and did some “real world” stuff of my own.

But I’m back at the Autumn Rose knitting now, and have now reached the point where the sleeves join the body for work in the round, which puts me in the enviable position of knitting rounds which are only ever going to get shorter from here on out. And at great risk to my own knitting karma, I feel the need to point out that I am currently LEAVING YOU IN THE DUST. My wooly, stranded colourwork dust.

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At this point my only recourse is to keep knitting, knowing that at this rate I may well finish before you even start, and either a) take up heavy drinking in order to assuage my guilt, or b) dance around the house clutching my knitting calling “neener neener neener” in my best sing-songy voice. And both of those options are pretty much giving free reign to the knitting goddess to come strike me down with a sweater that doesn’t fit, or cause me to run out of a crucial colour an inch before the end, or plague me with horrible Knitter’s Elbow, or some other such retaliation.

C’mon, Elspeth. Lonely fair-isle knitting is soooo lonely. You know you wanna.

21 Comments

Filed under fair isle, fearless knitting, sweaters

New Pathways

Yesterday I made good use of my current schedule-less schedule to head into Toronto for Cat Bordhi’s class at Lettuce Knit. She is slotted to teach at the Sock Summit and her full-day ‘New Pathways’ class based on her sock architectures book is one of the ones I was anxious to take. So, when Lettuce Knit announced Cat was making an appearance around here this week, I took the opportunity to make sure I’d experience her class – and now I have one less class to try to book myself into at the Sock Summit!

I recall last summer sitting at a knitting night at the Purple Purl and one of the ladies there was struggling with a sock, so I helpfully offered to have a look at the pattern for her. It was Cat’s New Pathways for Sock Knitters book, and I quickly realized that this involved knowledge I did not possess. I became certain that I would need to learn about this some day, and this week, some day arrived.

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Cat is an extremely energetic and patient teacher, and one gets the sense that she is a person who thinks about knitting constantly, creatively, enthusiastically, and is able to respect and appreciate mainstream or traditional methods while simultaneously breezing past them in about five different ways before lunch. This was a big motivation for me in taking her class, because I’ve gotten pretty comfortable in my current sock knitting methods and I would be disappointed to get so comfortable in my ways that knowledge becomes a barrier more than a support. I’m ready to expand my knitting brain a bit further, and I want to knit some of Cat’s awesome socks. And Cat will definitely lay some knowledge on you.

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Her class took us through the basic approaches to the socks in her book, and things like the heel-turning, cast-on methods, and overall theory of sock construction that she relies on. There was more than one moment of “Ohhhhhhhhh” throughout the day, as we practiced on making teeny tiny little socks. Keri was quite taken with hers – SO CUTE, right?

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Each sock demonstrates a key architecture from her book. I completed one during the class, started a second on the bus ride home, and when I got back I cooked dinner as fast as I possibly could (because don’t you hate it when meeting physical needs like hunger gets in the way of your knitting time), so that I could finish the second and then decide on a ‘real’ sock to start in on from the book.

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Much of what Cat does relies on thinking mathematically in a way that frees you. Take these two wee toe-up socks, for example. They may look slightly different, but mathematically they are virtually identical. They are the same size, same gauge, have the same toe, same heel, and have the exact same # of stitches, round for round. The only difference is the location of the increases over the arch of the foot. And would you get this? According to Cat, you can put them anywhere. No really, anywhere. As long as you increase 2 sts every 3 rows, between finishing the toe and starting the heel, you are good to go. It is mind-blowingly true. And her book demonstrates several different different architectures based on this truth.

And so, I have begun a Real Sock after my bit of training yesterday – am trying out the Bartholomew’s Tantalizing Sock first, but I think I could have started with any of them. I am looking forward to seeing it take shape.

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I’m also on cat-sitting duty this week, chez Beatrice, Ramona, and Halley, and wouldn’t you know it Cat’s socks are actually fully cat-approved.

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Now if I can just figure out how knitting these socks will help me write my conference paper I need to do for next week, I’ll be golden. What do you think the chances of that are?

Catch you later as the adventures continue. Keep your knitting close by!

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Filed under cat bordhi, cats, fearless knitting, knitting knowledge, socks

Four months later

Back in January, as I embarked on the busiest and arguably my most stressful semester thus far, I started a pair of Sanquhar gloves. Because naturally, when you have lots of stress, the best response is to add a comparable amount of stress to your knitting. As it happens, I got about 75% through them in January but then set them aside for more portable projects, and they sat long enough by the wayside that I became worried they would enter the eternally despondent land of Unfinished Objects, never again to return to the friendly grove of Works in Progress.

Thankfully, this was not their fate. I picked them up again last week and finished the rest of the second glove, and lo, they are beautiful.

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Pattern: Sanquhar Gloves, instructions by Tata & Tatao, largely composed of a set of charts and a few English translations from Japanese. (You have got to love the modern knitting world wherein a centuries-old traditional Scottish knitted garment is re-interpreted through pattern instructions in Japanese, then re-fashioned into English translation.
Yarn: A Touch of Twist light fingering weight (270yds per 50g), in dark purple and pale teal, purchased at Rhinebeck 2008.
Needles: 2.0mm steel DPNs.

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The pattern actually directs you to use laceweight and 1.5mm needles – and don’t get me wrong I’d still love to try that – but this would have resulted in gloves too small for my own hands, and in any case I was looking for an excuse to use this bit of my Rhinebeck purchases. (I still have 2 balls of the same yarn remaining, in a pale purple and dark red. Hmmm). Overall it worked quite well, though somewhere between January and May I must have had a gauge shift, because the fingers on the 2nd glove turned out slightly bigger than the first. Happily, this is not very noticeable when they are worn, and in general the pair fit, well, like a glove. (Ho ho ho, I kill me).

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This is, to say the least, an adventurous pattern. One of the main challenges is that because the instructions are English translations from Japanese, they are relatively sparse. However, the charts are quite clear, and the Sanquhar knitting format leaves little room for maneuverability, which is good for interpretation – the ‘blocks’ format of the motif are all the same size and as long as you can keep this consistent, and work at a gauge that will produce a glove of the correct size for you, the pattern will work. Although this is my first time knitting colourwork at such a tiny gauge, once you get the hang of it it is easy to develop a sort of rhythm to it, as is often the case with stranded colourwork.

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The only thing I didn’t quite do properly were the finger gussets – I fully admit that I pretty well fudged those. I would like to try another pair of these sometime in order to give it my 100% and do better. But you know? These still kick ass. I’ll take ‘em. The overall result is an incredibly intricate, light yet warm pair of gloves that nobody else on Earth has. I am actually debating whether to put them into regular Winter rotation come November – they are gorgeous and I would love to show them off, but on the other hand I don’t think I would recover if I lost one, or both.

Thankfully I have the summer to ponder that. Onwards, yes? Yes.

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Filed under accessories, fair isle, fearless knitting, finished object: accessories

Just one more row

I can stop any time I want.

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Maybe.

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Filed under fair isle, fearless knitting, sweaters

Now I can be in 2009

It gives me a great deal of reassurance to know that Kelly is still obsessively knitting Christmas gnomes, because I only just finished the last of my Christmas gift-knitting. Le-voila, a finished pair of Cat Mittens, the first FO of 2009 and the second-last thing I cast on in 2008:

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Pattern: Cat Mittens (scroll down)
Yarn: Drops Alpaca in black and pale blue
Needles: 2.75mm Clover bamboo DPNs
Modifications: None.

Notes: The concept itself is brilliant, and it should come as no surprise these are headed towards P, aka Miss Beatrice the Cat’s mummy. You’ve got to be a cat lover to love these, and I think they will be well-receved.

This pattern is extremely well charted, so all you really have to do is cast on the required sts and then follow it along. I think one of the reasons I dragged my heels on finishing this is because of the need to follow the chart, though – it wasn’t something I could just memorize and take with me in my head, and that’s something I’ve gotten used to doing. But it is quite clearly written, and if you’ve gotten the hang of basic stranded colour-work, you should be fine. Just 2 colours needed, and you could probably grab some solid colour sock yarn sitting around and make these up nicely.

My only real concern with this pattern is that there is no explicit gauge measurement listed. The designer does tell you the anticipated mitten circumference for a certain needle size, but a stitch/row gauge would be helpful. After finishing these I found them running on the small side (bad for me but fine for the intended recipient, her hands are smaller), and after perusing Ravelry I found the same thing was true for many others who had done the pattern. So, if I were to do these again I would definitely go up a needle size and use a slightly squishier, floofy sock yarn like Dream in Color or STR. I see many on Ravelry have used Shi Bui Sock which seems about right. Or perhaps even a DK or sport-weight for extra sturdiness. The Drops Alpaca worked all right for this size but I think is ultimately too thin for anything larger, given how fiddly parts of the mitten are.

I’ve got about 22g of each colour left now, so perhaps there will be some alpaca Endpaper Mitts or similar in my future. In any case I’m just glad to have these done so I can move on to something new! I have just been itching to cast on a sweater after doing nothing but mitts and socks and bitty things for the last month and a half.

Finally, on the crazy update – the Sanqhuar gloves are still awesome, and Glove #1 is completely finished. I love it. Finishing it has given me renewed momentum and I have cast on for #2 immediately.

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Bring on the cold. Knitters can take it.

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Filed under accessories, fair isle, fearless knitting, finished object: accessories

I fight crazy with more crazy

So, it’s January, and the first Monday of January, and it’s back to the real world and I am unsurprisingly going back kicking and screaming. The holidays always go by so fast. To add special agony to the lack-of-holidays, I am entering into a semester of the highest teaching load I’ve ever had, and I fully expect to be experiencing moments of full-on whacko.

I think when your brain is going off in a zillion different directions, and you’re looking to your knitting for a distraction, a plain stockinette sock will not do. The knitting needs to be equal to the crazy. I fight life crazy with knitting crazy. In this case, with a stranded colour-work pair of gloves knitted at 12 sts to the inch.

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The pattern is the Sanquhar gloves from here (in the tradition of Scottish Sanquhar knitting, described here), and is more of a collection of charts and basic instructions than a full pattern. Let me tell you, this is the kind of project that rewards skill, intuition, and endurance. I am loving every. single. stitch. Elspeth and I have even been having talk of a Knitalong. Care to join?

It should put things into perspective when I say that my execution of the pattern “only” uses light fingering weight (and not laceweight) and is “only” at a gauge of 12 sts to the inch. As written, these instructions call for a gauge of 14 sts to the inch, but that would be less likely to fit my hand. And because these gloves have been knitted for centuries with the same traditional patterns and the little blocks and motifs within, the easiest way to change the size of these gloves without completely changing the motifs, is to change your gauge and needle size. So at “only” 12 sts to the inch on 2.0 mm needles, these are more likely to fit me than the original instructions.

Also – and I think this is the most hysterical part – even if I wanted to go to a tighter gauge of 13 or 14 sts to the inch, I would need to go down to 1.75 or 1.5mm needles (that’s size 00 or 000 for you ‘Murricans), and (get this) when I went out locally to find such tiny needles in person, they didn’t exist. Not all needle manufacturers make them. (I later went to the internets – said needles are now being sent to me from Elann. I must have them).

The yarn is a very light fingering weight in grabby heathery wool from my Rhinebeck 2008 purchases, procured from the A Touch of Twist booth. I started in on some Daina mittens with it the week I returned, but then discovered that the yarn was too light for those. At 270 yds per 50g, it’s not quite the laceweight that the Sanqhuar pattern asks for, but it’s darned close and a fine substitute at a slightly looser gauge.

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I’m loving them. I sort of want to bite them just to sink my teeth into the knitting because that’s how great it feels to hold this up and look at it and know that I can knit crazy shit like this and it is beautiful. Of course, it is entirely possible that I’ll get to the fingers, make a horrible mistake and have to re-do, but even if I do I think I’ll be OK with that. I had to rip back and re-split for the thumb gusset twice, and I’m still loving this. Today I’m working from home and I keep wanting to slip away from my desk just to look at the glove in progress.

And sometimes, that’s what you need from your knitting.
May your knitting be close by today!

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Filed under accessories, fair isle, fearless knitting

Test of knitter vs. Knitter

Last week when I was in Boston I took with me a plain sock knitting project (stockinette, navy, men’s socks – for my grandfather), but I also brought some yarn and a new pattern to start as a treat. Since I was tired and vaguely stressed for a little while (what with almost losing my wallet, and also having to present and generally Think Thoughts) I went ahead and cast on. It’s a beautiful pattern, contained in Lisa Lloyd’s A Fine Fleece (of which I will soon be posting a glowing review), called ‘Halcyon’. And I’d had this nice turquoise sheepswool stashed and waiting for something with cables, so onwards I went.

The pattern is accurate, the sweater is beautiful. My brain, however, is clearly neither of those things at this particular juncture.

I had to cast on twice to set up the ribbing properly. Then after the ribbing I had to rip back a few rows to re-set the cable panels. Then I mis-crossed 2 cables on one of the small 4-stitch cable columns. (I fixed that on the plane yesterday night, then re-fixed it this morning when I thought it didn’t look right). Then I got to a nice stopping point at the end of the first centre-panel repeat and thought I’d take a nice picture of it for my Ravelry project page and noticed something that was more than just a 4-stitch cable mistake.

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Those 3 cable twists at the top of the pattern repeat in the middle are not supposed to be all neatly matched up like lines in the sand. Rather, as you might be able to see from the wee pic in the book there, they are supposed to be intersecting in a nice interwoven sort of way. I did not have any interweaving. And there was also no freaking way I was pulling back a dozen rows of sweater and re-knitting them unless absolutely necessary. Especially not when I know there are other ways of dealing with this sort of thing.

I isolated the stitches in question, ripped back, and did some surgery.

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It’s much better. The sweater is intact and all cables are go.

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I think I’m going to have a wee drinkie now. And maybe stick to the sock for this evening.

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Filed under cables, disaster, fearless knitting, knitting gone wrong, sweaters

Inexplicable

So yo, my knitting peeps, have I mentioned how ultimately bummed I am that I can’t go to the April 1st launch of the new Yarn Harlot book and get to congregate with more fun knitters? I mean, even with all books and Harlot aside, the Toronto launch last year was so fun and I met so many new knitting friends.

My bummed-out-ness was such that I planned the post-revisions jaunt to NYC as early as possible, to get to see the Harlot there on the evening of April 2nd. And now I am wondering if it is at all possible to turn some of that NYC time into a belated, site-appropriate version of this awesome version of knitterly crazyness.

Now, I’m betting some of these translate pretty easily. Toronto has the TTC, New York has the subway. Toronto has the Skydome, New York has Madison Square Gardens. Both places have doughnut shops and coffee shops and yarn shops. But tell me, what would the New York version of Canadian Tire money be? ;)

I just want to join in on all the Inexplicable Knitter Behaviour, is that too much to ask? I suspect by next week I’ll be cracked enough that walking up to, say, the ticket-counter at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (Rebecca, you’ve been warned), and asking them to hold my sock for a photo, would not seem at all out of the realm of normal.

In tangential Canadian-ish sort of news, last week Canadian comic Sean Majumder was on The Hour, and then Martha found YouTube clips of his ‘Raj Binder’ persona.

Sean, you give me courage to do Inexplicable Things.

Knit on, my friends…I shall return now to the revisions!

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Filed under fearless knitting, knitting in public, knitting tourism

More, please

Korknisse notwithstanding, I had about 2 weeks of project monotony in the end of January and beginning of February. It was good for me, because I produced these:

Garnet Dreams Knee Socks

They might look like regular (albeit pretty) socks, but no. They are very much more than regular socks. These are the things that will help me get through the cold winter long before they get the chance to look pretty with a nice skirt, come springtime. These are keeping the cold draft from flying up my pant leg and chilling me to the core. (Well, that along with a knitted sweater). These are knee-highs. Ta-da! The first finished project from my Rhinebeck 2007 purchases.

Garnet Dreams Knee Socks

Pattern: None. A personalized process which I will discuss below.
Yarn: Socks that Rock Mediumweight, ‘Garnet Dreams’, 2 skeins (used approximately 3/4 of each one)
Needles: 3.0mm DPNs
Notes: These contain elastic thread knitted into the cuff, as is my preference – I think every pair of knee socks I make will continue to have elastic in the cuff, it keeps ‘em sturdy and staying up where you need them. Elastic + leg shaping is my anti-slouch plan.

Someone asked me a little while ago what pattern I was using to make these, and there isn’t one. Anyone can make a pair of knee socks, just like anyone can make a regular pair of socks to fit their own feet. All you need is a gauge swatch, a tape measure, and your leg. There are already places online where you can find detailed instructions for stockinette knee socks (such as here), but the gist of what you need to know is this:

a) measure your leg circumference at the widest point of the calf in inches. Multiply this number by your number of sts/inch (according to your swatch), then subtract 1-2 inches’ worth of stitches (negative ease helps them fit and stay up). This is the # of stitches you will knit at the upper leg. Subtract a dozen or two sts from this number, and that’s how many you’ll use for the ribbing to cast on. (I used 88 sts for the leg, increasing just after the ribbing from a cast-on 76 sts, for this weight – BUT if you are using lighter yarn this may change. It is always better to err on the side of snug than loose, in all measurements with knee highs.)

b) measure your leg length from the top of your heel to the back of your knee, above the widest point of your calf. This is approximately how long your sock needs to be, not counting the inch or so of ribbing at the top cuff. I say “approximately”, because depending on your amount of negative ease, there will likely be some horizontal stretch and you’ll need to add an inch or so to keep the sock at its intended length while it is actually on your leg. (My sock length is 14.5 ins.)

For both the leg and foot, it is better to err on the side of too LONG than too short. If the leg or foot is too short, it will pull down as you wear the sock, and you’ll be constantly tugging them up to keep from falling down.

c) measure your leg circumference at your ankle, multiply by your number of sts/inch, then subtract 1-2 inches for negative ease. This is the number of stitches you want to arrive at for your ankle. If you’ve made stockinette socks before in regular length, you probably already have a good idea what you want this number to be, given the weight of yarn you’ll be using. (I used 56 sts since this is a heavier sock yarn. Usually I use 64 sts.)

There’s one more thing here, and it should be pretty obvious given how those socks are swooshing and pooling the colours in different ways at different points on the leg. There is, of course, shaping. You have to decrease from the number of stitches in (a) to the number of stitches in (c), starting after the widest point of your leg and ending by the time you get to the ankle. My shaping follows the yellow line in the image below, according to the shape of my own leg:

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For me, for this weight of yarn, I would knit evenly in stockinette for about 4 inches after the cuff, then decrease 2 stitches (at the “back” of the leg) every 4 rows 5-6 times, then every 3 rows for the rest of the decreases. If I was using a slightly smaller gauge I would probably do all my decreases every 4 rows. Then, this still leaves me with a few inches of even stockinette to hug my leg around the ankle. Your leg may be different, though – you might want to do your shaping in a way that stops almost directly at the ankle itself, depending on the shape of your leg.

[EDIT]: Oh yeah, and one more thing: try the sock on OFTEN. This is key. It’s better to know that you need to add a bit of extra length or re-start the shaping a bit earlier or work the decreases a bit farther apart before, say, you finish the entire sock. I try mine on 3 or 4 times throughout the whole process. Then just use the 1st sock as a guideline for the 2nd.

After that, the rest involves the same set of decisions you’d make for any other sock – what kind of heel? (I used the flap. Definitely love the sturdy flap heel) What kind of toe? How long to make the foot? How to stave off boredom of knitting more and more stockinette? Ah yes, such a lovely nuanced decision-making opportunity, socks are. All in all, this is the sort of thing that takes a lot more energy to explain than to actually execute. And I fully plan on having more custom-fit knee socks entering into my closet!

Garnet Dreams Knee Socks

More, more, more please.
Stay warm!

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Filed under fearless knitting, finished object: socks, free pattern, knee socks, socks