Category Archives: socks

As if they could keep the knitters inside anyway

I am having one of those weeks where even though it doesn’t seem like I am doing anything terribly hectic, the knitting is slow to progress. I put in some knitting time every day, but still, it’s one of those weeks.

Transit Knitting FTW

Some days, if I didn’t have a transit project with me, I don’t think I’d knit at all. That morning bus ride is always good for a few rounds on the sock if nothing else. Thanks, sock knitting, for being so portable. (Aside: I think there may be a transit-cabled-aran-knitter inside me screaming to get out. Watch this space for further bulletins as events occur.)

Where’s the last place you knitted, that wasn’t inside your own house? Tell me your stories, knitters. It’s Thursday.

Happy knitting, wherever you do it today.

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Such a charade

So, a while back (well, OK, December), I got a lovely and generous gift from Tanis. She’s started to break out into variegated colourways and asked me if I’d like to try out one of these new sock skeins. I got it in the mail while in the middle of gift-sock knitting before Christmas and had to hold myself back from casting on right away, it was so darned pretty looking.

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I’ve been knitting it during stints of transit-knitting into a pair of Charades (Ravelry pattern link – can’t find the original web link, has it gone the way of the wind?). Last winter I knitted myself a pair of Charades with some nice colourful yarn, and then I washed them in the wash as I do with all my socks, and the darned things shrunk on me.

Well, not this time, SUCKERS. These socks will not shrink, I am determined. Also, this ‘Rhythm’ colourway is turning out sort of dressy looking, which helps me in the “get more grown-up-looking hand knit socks” quest. Still, she’s got plenty of crazy fun multi-colours in there, so maybe I’ll have to branch out.

So much yarn, so little time.

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Nothing like a little comparison

You know, the odd thing about being so used to the academic calendar is that after a while, grading lots of papers starts to feel a little bit festive. Like Egg Nog. (Except, you know, not).

And the interesting thing about reading through stacks of papers is that it starts to make the otherwise boring, navy, stockinette 80-sts-on-2.5mm-needles gift socks start to look really, really fun.

Dec11-Socks

There may be hope for the gift knitting after all.

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14 Karat

Here they are, folks, my latest sock pattern here at Knitting to Stay Sane and, if I may say, some darned pretty ones at that. I’ve had these done up for a few months now and it gives me great pleasure to finally set them out into the world to seek their fortune be knitted by other people.

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If you’re a sock knitter, or even a person who just hangs out in yarn shops a lot (or maybe stalks a lot of yarn online…not that I’d know about that)…you eventually start to develop an appreciation for sock yarns. Now that I’ve started to make knitting a part of my tourism plan when I visit other cities or as a reason to travel in the first place (Rhinebeck, anyone?) I’ve also started to develop a fondness for sock yarns because they are so easy to collect and bring home with you. This is very much the genesis of the 14 Karat socks.

Last year I came home with a skein of ‘Amethyst’ Flock Sock yarn from Holiday Yarns (formerly VanCalcar Acres). Jennifer dyes some awesome yarn over there. I brought home my lone skein of Amethyst and stared at it all winter. And then at some point something in my brain started turning over the depth of the semi-solid colour, and the whole amethyst thing, and I started thinking about how to make that into a whole sock – something with the same elegance and delicacy of gemstones, but not without some symmetry and a few hard edges, just like gems and jewelry tend to have. After a few attempts, the socks you see here were born. The second pair came easily with a ‘Garnet’ skein of Tanis Fiber Arts fingering weight, and Voila! 14-Karat style.

The pattern is currently available through my Ravelry store only, at a cost of $5.00, but I will be sure to notify you as a print copy sales location becomes available.

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This pattern combines a variety of stitch patterns in one – I have a fondnes for twisted stitches, it’s true, but there is also just the tiniest hint of lace and cables. The socks have a lot of long lines which elongate the leg and foot for a very fitted and elegant look. Elements of this pattern are extended into the heel and toe. The instructions do indicate cables through cable needle use, but if you are familiar with cabling-without-a-cable-needle technique you will be able to make use of that here quite well.

Because the instructions rely on a single main chart (repeated over the front and back of the leg), the number of stitches remains consistent for all sizes, achieving sizing instead through changing gauge. I used 2.5 mm needles (gauge of 8.5 sts/inch) for the smaller, ‘Amethyst’ sample, which is shown on a foot/ankle circumference of 8 ins around. The ‘Garnet’, medium sample, is shown on my own feet which have a 9 ins circumference and used a 2.75mm needle (8 sts/inch). Pattern instructions include gauge indications to identify based on your own preferences.

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I have written the pattern from the cuff down or ‘top down’ as is my preference, however skilled toe-up knitters will be able to modify this without too much difficulty provided you maintain the integrity of the pattern through the heel and toe. The heel and toe extend elements of the main chart. Additionally, I have indicated instructions for both Magic Loop and DPN (double-pointed knitters). As for myself, I bridge fairly easily now between Magic Loop and DPNs, and enjoy using these in combination on sock patterns that use symmetrical stitch patterns like this. When I worked these I actually used the Magic Loop technique through the heel and then switched back to DPNs for the foot. Suit yourself, dear knitter!

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So I think once you’ve finished your own pair of 14 Karat socks and feel the elegance and decadence befitting a sock knitter of your expertise, you should end the festivities with champagne, yes? I mean, once you’ve indulged yourself this far…(and I do mean yourself…save the gift knitting for the second pair, my friends ;) )

I’ll also give a shout-out to my friend Patricia, who received and modelled the smaller ‘Amethyst’ pair and dressed to match for the photo shoot. Those are her sparkly-toed shoes in the cover photo, and doesn’t she look dapper? I could only aspire to such elegance.

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As always happy knitting – and go out and get yerself some sock yarn!

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Forward motion

One of the most gratifying and reaffirming experiences a knitting designer can have is to have a design accepted for publication. It means that someone else has looked at my work and said, “Yes, this is good work. Other people will want to make this.” I had this feeling a couple of months ago, when I had a sock pattern accepted for publication in Knotions, for the Winter 2009 issue. Right about now was when I had expected to be able to tell you all about it, when the Winter 2009 would be previewed and then announced soon after. As it happens…this will not come to be.

As it happens, the Fall 2009 issue was the last for Knotions – Jodi made the announcement on Saturday, and it was very much the right decision for her. Magazines, even online magazines, cannot simply fall out of the sky and materialize out of thin air, and I know Jodi’s decision to discontinue Knotions must have been weighed very very deeply and carefully. There is an emotional and energetic cost to doing our knitting work, and this needs to be made sustainable just as much as the material costs do. I have nothing but empathy for her and I know she’ll be able to move forward with her knitting life in new and exciting ways.

As for me, I am left with the question of what to do with my little sock pattern. I know that if it had been published, I would have received compensation for it. On the other hand, if it had been published, it would also have been available to knitters for free. I could also hang onto it for a bit longer and try to submit it for consideration somewhere else.

14Karat-1

I have had it in the works for several months and most of all I want it to be out in the world where other people can knit it. After a bit of my own debate, I have decided that I will move forward with the pattern as a sale item. If I believe my work has value, and if I believe my efforts over the weeks and months of developing the pattern were also valuable and worthwhile, then I have to believe it is worthwhile to ask for material value in return. (And heck, many of you may look at the pattern and say, “pfft, that’s ugly. I don’t want to make that.” And then you’ve just saved yourself a couple of bucks!)

It’s a hard choice to make and I hope that this one will also be good. The other designers who would have had patterns in the same issue will have to make the same choice for themselves, and they may well choose differently – and that is fine, too.

So, I present to you here a first glimpse at 14 Karat, my latest sock design. Full details and download information will follow soon and I’ll be very excited to finally tell you all about it. I think the socks are awful purty, and am just so glad to put them out into the world for all to see.

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Socks on Sunday

Thank you all so much for your comments on my last post. It is wonderful to hear from so many people who want to get into the world of sock knitting – after all, sock knitting has pretty much transformed my own knitting life! With the help of a random number generator, I am pleased to announce the winner of the copy of the Big Book of Socks is….Kathleen! An email has been sent to her and the book will be headed her way.

Speaking of sock yarn, I’m pondering which of my stashed Lorna’s Laces to pull out for my next transit-knitting pair of Jaywalkers. Clearly when I said my next pair was not going to be anywhere in the purple or red or green area, I was on the crack. It’s so hard to choose…

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This is how it starts, folks. One day you’re innocently knitting your first pair of socks, and then suddenly you have to start sub-categorizing your yarn stash not just according to yarn weight, but different brands of yarn weight.

Not that you’ll hear me complaining, of course.

It’s gearing up for Thanksgiving time around these parts, or certainly around my house. Technically Canada celebrates Thanksgiving tomorrow but like many our family feasts on the Sunday. If you’re in the ‘top half’ of North America, Happy Thanksgiving! And a happy weekend to all, nonetheless.

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Book Review: The Big Book of Socks

When you’re a knitter, there is just a whole darned lot to love about fall. I love that I can break out all my hoarded socks and sweaters that have been waiting to come out again ever since May, I love that wool feels cozy in my hands again…and I love that there are new knitting books on the shelves coming my way for review. I’m pleased again to be keeping up with a bit of blog book reviews. The fine folks at Random House Canada are good enough to continue sending a few titles my way, and I thank them for it!

Today, I have a few review comments on The Big Book of Socks, by Kathleen Taylor:

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If you’re a knit-blogger, or a knitter who is a blog-reader or Ravelry user, chances are you are familiar with socks in some fashion. Socks are the little black dress of the knitting world – good for all knitting occasions. Either you’ve knitted them yourself, or you’ve at least been exposed to them enough that you’ve probably started to think about knitting your first pair. You probably don’t need me to tell you why socks are awesome to knit and to wear.

It’s also true that there is no shortage of sock knitting books out there in print, so it can be difficult to tell one apart from the other. It took me a bit of time to consider The Big Book of Socks for where it fits in, because at first glance it may seem a bit simplistic in light of other sock efforts – Ravelry and the blogosphere abound with sock patterns of intricate complexity, some that seem to push the boundaries of knitting. These things, however, are not what The Big Book of Socks is trying to accomplish.

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I think where this book fits in is for the knitter who has not tried sock knitting before, and needs a gentle and progressive introduction to it, or for the knitter who wants to knit socks as gifts for family members or friends, but needs some variety in basic options. There is a very brief introduction to the world of sock knitting in general, with some short notes paid to the differences between a few techniques, and then six different kinds of socks: Basic, Striped, Textured and Cabled, Lace, Colorwork, and ‘Just for Fun’. Essentially, this book takes you through a mini workshop whereby you gradually apply slightly more adventurous techniques to the whole sock concept. Most patterns are sized from wee child on up to male adult.

This starts out with, surprisingly, tube socks. It’s been a long darned time since I saw anyone recommend knitting tube socks (essentially, tubes with toes but no heels), but Kathleen Taylor makes the point that these can be ideal for small children whose feet grow quickly. I imagine they might also be a gentle step up for new sock knitters who are just getting used to the whole in-the-round thing first, and the heel second.

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Never fear, though, for this book does in fact progress to heel flaps and short row heels. (Generally the patterns are written for cuff-down knitting). As the chapters progress, the socks become slightly more adventurous and introduce the knitter to new techniques – lace, cables, bobbles, beads, stranded colourwork, all of these are included in turn. I quite like these simple lace socks, above, and there are even one or two pairs with bobbles on them that I would make as a fun pair. You know I’m a fan of colourwork, and I admit I was quite taken with the two-colour mosaic socks, below.

The yarns included in the samples will also be familiar to most people who look through the book – they include well-known American labels such as Knit Picks, Patons, Blue Moon, Berroco, and a few others. This also makes me think the book was produced with accessibility in mind, since these kinds of recognizeable labels can be pretty easy to locate.

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So, I think that while a lot of experienced knitters will probably glance at this book and then put it back on the shelf, it may be just right for others. Do you know a knitter who hasn’t yet embarked on his/her sock knitting adventure? Or are you that knitter? If so, you just might be an ideal recipient for this book.

I’m happy to pass on my copy to a sock knitter or would-be sock knitter out there. If you’d like to put your name into the ring, please comment below and tell me why you enjoy/would enjoy sock knitting. The more sock knitters, the merrier!

[ETA]: I should have included a deadline! I’ll accept comments to this post through Saturday midnight, and will draw a winning name some time on Sunday. Thank you to everyone who has left a comment so far! It is lovely to read them.

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Ask the Internet

First off, it has dawned on me that I may be heading back into a teal/blue colour jag, as witnessed by both my spinning and the knitting that is about to go back on the needles. I’m going to try to head this off at the pass and cast on something that is not teal, but since I know Chante always manages to catch me on these things, with her steel-trap powers of colour jag observation, I thought I’d better fess up right up front. If you’re anti-teal (though why would you be? it’s so bright yet soothing…) I promise I”ll try not to make it a habit for too long.

Second, I have some show and tell and a question. Back in July when I was in Toronto one week, I met up with Kim and we perused Romni Wools while they were having their summer sale. The summer sale is not to be trifled with. All their yarn goes on 20% off, and the store is huge. If you haven’t trained beforehand, you could really hurt yourself.

I managed to exercise some self-restraint, but even for a person who “wasn’t going to buy anything” (because at this point I was “trying not to buy much before Sock Summit” hahahahahhah), even coming away with a few skeins is a lot. BUT, one of said skeins popped back up in my memory this week and I pulled it out to get ready for the weekend. I’ve got a little bit of car-knitting time in view, and no current sock project in the travel bag, so this seemed like a good bet.

Sept11-FleeceArtistMerinoMohair

This is a skein of Fleece Artist merino sock yarn, put together with matching yardage of a matching colour of kid mohair/nylon. The idea (I think) is for you knit the two strands together, and since the mohair/nylon is quite sturdy as well as being as soft as kittens, you get a very colourful, soft, decadent, but practical pair of socks. Sign me up. I remember back in May when I was taking Cat Bordhi’s class at Lettuce Knit, the store had just gotten some of this in stock and Cat saw it, saw that it was regularly priced at only $20, and said something like “buy them all right now before they realize what a great deal this is!”

So anyhoo, fast forward to now, when I’m ready to break this kit out and do some soothing stockinette sock knitting with it, and I wind up the merino half and after struggling to find the ends of the mohair/nylon I manage to wind that up too despite the fact that it resembles a matted bundle of cobwebs…

Sept11-Allwoundup

…and that is when I remember that I have managed to never once in my life knit with a brushed mohair/nylon blend like this. Not once.

So my question for you, dear knitting internets, is if you were about to go knit with this stuff and want to save yourself as much agony as possible in the face of clingy grabby mohair….Would you pull that ball from the centre, or the outside?

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A time and place for tedium

The thing about the Jaywalker socks, and why they work so well for me, is partly because I have managed to happen upon a combination of pattern, needle size, and yarn that produces really great socks for my feet. I love that they fit so well and that I can wear them when I want socks that look just a little bit dressier than normal, and that they’re sturdy enough to wear week after week. Me and the Lorna’s Laces and the Jaywalkers, we are friends.

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However, the other reason that I have managed to keep on knitting this pattern eight times now (the 1st pair didn’t fit, the 2nd pair was in a different yarn, and the last 6 pairs, well, you know how the rest of that story ends), is that they have managed to be really great travel knitting. I have started to get into the habit of casting on a pair before I leave on a trip, and that becomes my dedicated knitting in buses, subways, airport waiting rooms, airplanes, cafes, and pretty much where ever I feel like pulling them out. The same repetitive 2-row repeat that felt tedious and boring and unbearable when I started with the pattern suddenly becomes a lot more manageable – dare I say it even enjoyable – when I’m struggling for patience in various forms of transit or periods of waiting largely beyond my control.

Then, of course, what inevitably happens is that I finish the first sock on my trip, start the second one, and when I’m at home again the second sock which should really only take a week or so of knitting ends up taking a month, and I start to despair of ever having another sock knitting project in my handbag, ever.

And then I get over myself and just finish it already. This pair – in two beautiful skeins of ‘Mixed Berries’ Lorna’s Laces Shepherd Sock – came off the needles on Friday and then I took all weekend to getting around to sewing up the toes. (Have I mentioned that me and kitchener stitch are not friends?)

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One interesting fallout from knitting the same sock over and over again is that I care a lot less when I make mistakes. On pair #1 or #2, a glaring error like this in the middle of the sock probably would have driven me nuts. By pair #8, I just keep on knitting. It becomes a unique “design element”, making this pair in some way different from all those that have come before and those that are yet to come. Totally cool with it.

Sept7-JaywalkersLeftovers

I’m not sure which colourway I’ll pick next – probably around the time I leave for Rhinebeck in October – but judging from this little collection of leftovers, I’d say I’ll probably try to steer away from the pinks and blues and try something a bit different. So many colourways to choose from, so little time.

At least until the next pair.

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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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