Socktober: Week 4

Things have been picking up in the sewing department of the store and I had to think about how to approach this week of sock knitting in a way that didn’t pull the rug out from under me. After looking through my bin of leftover sock yarn it occurred to me that this would be a great time to use up a bunch of those leftovers. There wasn’t enough of anything to make full sized socks, but ankle socks… yeah. I figured I could do that. So needless to say, I spent my week playing yarn chicken.

Yarn Chicken! I assume most everyone knows what this is. If you don’t, then let me clarify.

It references the game of chicken that is played in cars. Understand that I do not in any way recommend playing this game with a car. The idea is that two drivers drive their cars toward each other as if to have a head on collision. The first one to turn away loses. If you are into 80’s movies, think Footloose, where they played it with tractors. So that’s the reference. Clearly, when you have some yarn and you think it’s enough for your project but you aren’t sure… you begin a round of Yarn Chicken. (Epecially when the yarn is discontinued and you can’t get any more.) You get within sight of the end and you watch each meter of yarn disappear into your project and you pray that you’ll get to the last stitch before you run out. That was my week!

I still had one chart from the previous week that I wanted to work up. I started the week by finishing that. The big take away from that project was that it’s exceedingly helpful to make sure that in the very first round that you have purl stitches, to immediately reform those stitches, especially when you have a round or two after the hung hem before the pattern begins. It’s so tricky to figure out which stitch to start your purls in. This is especially true if you wait until you’ve done over 15 rounds. Putting a stitch marker into it is all good and fine, but the stitch marker tends to get in the way. So I would definitely encourage that. Also, I found that reforming the purl stitches in a simple column is best done every eight to ten rounds. If you leave it longer, you run the risk of dropping stitches in the process. This way, it’s pretty efficient. Keep the cable to 2×2 at the most and if you want them side by side, definitely put a column or two of purls in between. This will prevent needle breakage.

Back to the leftovers.

I weighed out all my leftover balls of sock yarn. Well, not all of them, but many of them. I had one that I thought should be enough and I figured I would start with that. It weighed about 40g. I got to the toe on the second sock and ran out. I figured, “hey, it’s just socks!” and I found some other yarn that matched and finished the toe with that. It’ll still fulfill its function.

A number of the other balls had only in the neighbourhood of 30g. I gauged that by starting the cuff in a contrasting colour, if I also contrasted the heels and toes, I might just squeak by with some of the smaller balls. Even doing that, it was really close! There were literally only meters of yarn left after finishing a couple of the pairs. Then I stumbled on a ball that had been hiding from me. It was 46g so I thought I would take a chance. I managed to complete both socks. There was literally nothing left; I had exactly enough. I actually was so excited I got up and did a little happy dance!

It was interesting that the ankle socks with contrasting yarns took me longer to knit than a full sized pair in a single colour. I suppose it makes sense. You do have to take time to switch out each time you change the colour. The plain coloured ones went fairly quickly, which was nice. I really didn’t have a lot of spare time this week.

I’m very curious to play around with lace techniques.

When you knit lace by hand, you switch up whether you “knit two together” or do a “slip, slip, knit” before and after your “yarn-overs”. This affects the directions of the lines that are created in the fabric as you knit. I’m curious to play around with how to do this to get the same affects using the knitting machine. I suspect that when you double up stitches on one needle to create your yarn-over, that you might have to lift the stitch off the target needle before you place the other stitch that empties the adjacent needle. Hmmmm… I wish I would have the time to explore this fully in the coming week. With all the sewing jobs that have come in, I am going to have to be careful that I don’t burn myself out on this. So, maybe next Socktober.

I still have a lot of leftover yarn. What with Halloween coming up, I was thinking that maybe what I could do is make what I lovingly call “Frankensocks”. What I would be inclined to do, is weigh out my leftovers, divide each ball in two equal smaller balls and then use up any yarns that look relatively good together. They might turn out to be monstrous, but it could be really fun. I also would love to be able to use up more of my leftover sock yarn. There’s a lot of it. Yeah, I think that’s what I’ll do. If I take the time to sort out the yarn all at once it should be manageable. Lace techniques are going to have to wait… sadly.

Happy Socking!

Socktober: Week 3

Cables on the circular sock knitting machine… ACK!

My mission this week was to explore cables and twists. Sound fiddly? Holy Moley, no kidding! There was just no realistic way to get seven pairs of cabled socks done. But I did manage four.

I thought I would start simply. A single 2×2 cable up the center back of each sock. I just wanted to dip my toes in the pond. After all, no need to turn my brain inside out, right? I did all the cables in the same direction and it went well enough that it gave me some courage to try something else.

Next I tried some symmetrical rows of traveling stitches. I started with two side by side at center front and moved them outward. Because I wasn’t really sure what to look for, I honestly didn’t even know how to take notes for this. I finished up the first sock, did my best to peek at it to see if there were glaring mistakes and moved on to the second. There were a few twists that I had done in the wrong direction, but since this was all about learning, I left them. I thought I was doing the second sock the same as the first but I wasn’t. There was less space between the rows on the second sock.

What I found with the traveling stitches (twists) was that using two hook-tools was easiest. The stitch that travels has to be placed first. So if the traveling stitch goes to the right, you place that stitch from the left to the right first and then cross the one from the right over it to the left. It’s a little confusing since you look at some of the stitches from the inside and some from the outside. It’s in the round… yeah, it kinda made my head hurt. With one hook, I took the stitch off the target needle first, then with the second hook, I moved the other stitch directly onto the target needle before crossing that first one onto its respective needle.

What I learned from that second pair of socks is that you really want to work from a chart. Even if you think it’s simple, by the time you place the stitches, it’s inevitable that you’ll get lost. I use a program called Envisioknit to draft charts. It’s a fantastic program and it’s so much easier and cleaner than mapping things out on graph paper. I thought I’d play around with some ideas and then try them out just to see what happened. I’d done a lot of cabling by hand, but never on the machine. If you need to make purl stitches to create definition, you have to reform those stitches manually. I did that on the first pair after I had the cables done to the top of the heel. I then placed a stitch marker into the first stitch I was purling from. That way, I couldn’t accidentally unravel it all the way. I then unraveled one column at a time and immediately (using my latch tool, though you could use a cylinder needle) reknit them as purl stitches. They then (of course) look like knit stitches on the inside of the sock.

I made up some charts and figured I’d dive in.

I had some Wollmeise Twin yarn leftover from a pair of socks I had made by hand and I figured if I just made the leg short I should be able to get two socks out of that ball. I was so excited that I had the cuff done before I thought about gauge. That was dumb. Especially knowing that this yarn tends to be thicker than other sock yarns. I got to the toe and realized that this sock would fit a Sasquatch. I walked away in disgust; I knew better; I was just being lazy. (Gauge testing is actually important.) In that chart, I had a whole bunch of twists all around the leg and down the center of the foot. I was honestly just curious how well it would show up without any purl stitches. It gave a subtle lacy effect.

When you have vertical columns of purl stitches to add in to your pattern, it’s really easy to drop those stitches down and reform them once the leg is done. A caution though, if you are doing traveling stitches that weave in and out of purl sections, you must do them as you go. That in itself is tricky. Your chart is your friend! You seriously don’t want to have to unravel and relatch this stuff! OMG! NO!

It is extremely tedious to do intricate cable patterns on the machine; it requires unimaginable focus; it’s still quicker than knitting it by hand. It’s a very different experience than hand knitting cables. It takes some practice to get accustomed to what you need to look for as you go. Because you are looking at the knit side of the stitches at the front of the machine and the purl stitches at the back of the machine, you do need to take the time to double check that you have moved those stitches correctly. Once you have prepped all those cables, they have to be knitted still. The temptation is to count that prepping round as done. All you did was place the stitches where they need to be to receive the yarn for that cable round to knit. Having a chart with row numbers on it is essential. You can’t see the finished fabric until you knit a zillion rounds of waste yarn or remove it from the CSM. There is no checking it. Keep an eye on the row counter to be sure you are on track. This has a significant learning curve, but it’s very satisfying to see the results. I found it mentally exhausting. I trust that with practice (and without any deadlines looming) it will get easier.

Happy Knitting!

Socktober: Week 2

During my second week of Socktober I focused on changing colours on toes and heels in the most efficient, yet structurally sound way. There are so many subtle things to think about. Funny how things that are normally completely automatic fall out of your head when you change things up.

The first major thing I changed was to replace my original yarn guide. I am now using one with slots rather than holes. That came with its own learning curve. If you aren’t careful during transitions, the yarn can pop out and suddenly your work just dropped off half a dozen needles! All in all it’s a lot easier once you get used to it.

The first contrasting heels and toes, I joined the new yarn immediately at the colour change.

That meant I had tails for both, on either side of the heel. That might seem like a no-brainer, but I was concerned about the stability of those joins that take a lot of stress. I didn’t want to create a failure point, or a hot spot against the ankle either. I tried to imagine a way that I could incorporate enough stitches with both colours of yarn to allow me to simply cut off the yarn I’m done with and feel confident that everything will be solid.

I ended up adding the heel colour to the base colour carrying the two together from the 9:00 position to the 6:00 position, lifting my rear needles to prepare for the heel and then continued with both yarns to the 3:00 position. I allowed about 4 inches of the new colour and cut the base colour once I got to the 3:00 position. I start my heel at 3:00. I lift the first target needle and then crank back. When I got back to 9:00, I added the tail to the working yarn and knit them together. I built my heel and on my last pass of the heel from the 9:00 position, I reintroduced the base colour and knitted it along to the end of the heel. I cut the heel yarn. I made sure the base colour was threaded through the yarn assembly (not in the heel spring). I incorporated the base colour tail into as many stitches as possible on the next round.

I started the toe in the same way, incorporating the second colour from the 9:00 position, pausing at 6:00 to lift the rear needles and continuing on to the 3:00 position. Obviously once the toe was finished I worked several rounds of waste yarn to prep for the next sock.

When working on a heel or toe on a sock machine, you alternate cranking forward and back as you build the short rows. The back half of your needles are in the non-working position as you focus just on the working needles at the front. As you deal with all the little things like lifting or wrapping needles, cranking, adjusting the fork weights and keeping the yarn moving smoothly through the assembly, it’s easy to go into a sort of auto-pilot. The more you do it, the more automatic it becomes. Unfortunately, as soon as you add one new thing, auto-pilot is no longer your friend.

At one point, I discovered I had a broken needle.

I picked up the resulting dropped stitches and replaced the needle. Without taking a moment to check, I started cranking and quickly realized that I had cranked in the wrong direction. My working thread was wrapped around the back needles. UGH! I tinked it back and recovered. In the next round I realized that I had broken another needle in trying to get that all sorted. I fixed those dropped stitches, switched out the second broken needle and carried on.

When I wound the dark green yarn onto a cone, it wound very tight. I probably should have rewound it looser a second time, but I was too lazy. No excuses; I did notice ahead of time. Between that yarn having a bit of tooth and grabbing onto itself and getting caught underneath the “ball” on the cone, I ended up with that heel knitting much tighter than I actually wanted it to. This led to one of the broken needles I mentioned. Because the orange yarn I used for a subsequent pair was the same yarn as the green, I took the time to wind it twice. It moved through the assembly much more smoothly.

I ended up giving up on the ravel cord thing for this week. I tried to use ravel cord directly on my cast on bonnet as the separation to the first sock. Unfortunately, I ended up with two or three stitches from my cast on bonnet being knitted into the first sock. I sacrificed the bonnet in the process. I made a new bright orange one though. I’ll go into the details another day.

When I Kitchener the toes closed, I typically will put a stitch marker through the two final stitches at the end of the row. By the time you get there, what with the waste yarn underneath, it can be really tough to see. It’s really easy to miss one stitch. It’s a pain to have to recover that after you have woven your ends in. It was a good reminder why skipping this step is just a bad idea.

Because I was using several different yarns this week I was also reminded of the importance of actually thinking about the colour, weight and texture of the waste yarn. Doing the Kitcheners was challenging!

I feel really good about what I learned and accomplished this week. I have made a lot of socks on my machine since I got it last January. I built up a solid routine that minimizes my mistakes. This week offered a very clear view of how easily a routine can be upset by new parameters. It take focus to try new things.

I wish you happy explorations!

The Switch was Flipped

We were in the thick of a heatwave with chokingly thick wildfire smoke, and Mother Nature flipped a switch. The most welcomed rains have cooled things down and cleared the air. It’s been about a week of easier breathing; I’m so grateful. I left the window open and woke up in the middle of the night freezing cold. I got up and pulled out the feather duvet to throw over our summertime collection of sheets and crawled back into bed. When DH got up, the weather report predicted a high of 15 degrees Celsius for the day. Brrrrr! (Of course, wait 5 minutes and that can change.) After all that hot weather, it truly feels like fall today.

And fall means it’s time for warm and cozy things like sweaters and wooly socks and knitting and crochet! Hurray! (Judy does a happy dance!)

When I first started selling yarn almost seven years ago, I had no idea what would sell or how much to buy. I also had no idea how often new colourways of sock yarn are released each year. In my naivete, I not only reordered sock yarns but I reordered full bags of sock yarns. (This is one of the few types of yarns they allow you to purchase half bags of. There’s a reason for that.) As the new yarns come and go, these overstocked yarns patiently wait for their turn to become socks.

Especially with self patterning sock yarn, it’s challenging to imagine how the yarn will knit up.

Some labels offer a small photo of the knitted colourway, which is wonderful. But many don’t. Often people struggle with the decision to purchase a yarn because unless there are samples knit up, it can be nearly impossible to visualize what the socks will look like once they’re done. Of course, for some people, that’s half the fun. Knitting up samples is time consuming, especially hand knitting socks to keep up with all the constantly changing sock yarns. I love hand knitting socks, but not for samples that will hang in the store.

Last winter I purchased an Erlbacher Gearhart circular sock knitting machine. Yes, it’s a knitting machine and yes it definitely speeds up the process of knitting socks. You still have to manually make the socks with the machine, but it means that selling hand made socks is within the realm of reason. It still takes time and you’ll never get rich doing it. But for me, it means that knitting sock samples doesn’t consume all my evenings and that some of those sock yarns that I ordered way too much of (and that get overlooked by folks shopping for yarn) can become socks for those who don’t knit… or don’t knit socks… or want to give socks as gifts without the time commitment to knit them.

I pulled one line of sock yarn that has long since been discontinued and started making it into socks earlier in the summer. They look fantastic. It’s exciting to know that I’ll be able to offer ready to wear socks for sale. The first of these are officially on display. My fingers are crossed that people will want to buy them. With the summer heat and all the wildfire smoke we had in the air, I had lost my enthusiasm for working on these socks. But today, I’m feeling all fired up to get back at them. I have a number of yarns in mind to knit up. My fabulous graphics gal designed labels that I can easily print up on cardstock for when they’re ready and I’m chomping at the bit.

So far, as of today, I have been knitting up a line of cotton blend yarns.

I brought them in as an alternative for folks who don’t like (or can’t wear) wool. I want to finish up the rest of this particular “family” of yarns before I move on to the wool blends that I want to knit up.

The second half of August and most of September are usually fairly quiet for me. The flower garden is well established and the seasonal rains are doing the watering for us. The sewing department is usually quiet until the frost hits. I hope to take advantage of this shoulder season to put together a nice inventory of ready to wear hand made socks to sell in the store. Hopefully they will be well received. I don’t see myself doing custom socks at this time, since this is something I’m doing in between all my other work and I’m not charging enough to justify the extra work involved in customizing them. Perhaps once I have sizes well established I might consider it, but I’m definitely not there yet. We’ll see; never say never.

In the meantime, I’ll keep plugging away. With new sock yarns already on their way, and more to arrive in October, I need to make some room on the shelves. We certainly have a lot of variety of sock yarns on hand to choose from and that isn’t likely to change (since sock knitting is my happy place).

I’ve had some people ask whether I will start up Social Saturdays Stitching Circle again. I am taking a wait-and-see approach to this. What with the Delta variant moving through our province I want to be sure that we are not putting anyone at risk. For now, I just don’t feel comfortable starting it back up. When the time comes, I’ll definitely put the word out though.

Happy Crafting!

Review: ChiaoGoo part 1 plus Distraction in Katia Camel Sock Yarn

I have been hearing lovely things about ChiaoGoo premium stainless steel knitting needles for some time now. My rep knows I’m a sock knitter and he has been encouraging me to test out the wee sock needles for over a year now. A few weeks ago, I had someone ask me about 40cm circular needles in fine gauges. Since Knitter’s Pride Dreamz (the main brand I carry) don’t come in those sizes, it leaves a gap; that sent me hunting. Today’s blog is part one based on the results from that search and a review of what I found.

ChiaoGoo makes those in-between needles that fill the gap that I just mentioned. So I figured I would order in the wee sock needles to try, as well as the sizes of 40cm circs to fill in the fine gauges that are not available in Dreamz. I figured I would test them out to see how I like them. I’m still in the process of testing the 40cm ones and I’ll fill you in on them in my next blog.

Today I want to talk about the sock circulars.

These needles are surgical stainless steel circulars. They have a smooth, satin-sheen finish and memory-free, multi-strand, steel cable cord coated with red nylon allowing yarn to slide right over the cord with ease. (…mostly a quote from ChiaoGoo)

I have a sock knitting customer in particular who brought in her Dreamz sock needles (the wee circs) to show me that she is actually wearing grooves into them. She knits a LOT of socks. I was astounded; I haven’t worn any of mine down so it surprised me to see this. I brought her in some Knitter’s Pride Nova Platina in the same style and she wore off the silver finish. That’s been floating in the back of my mind for a while. When I was looking at these ChiaoGoo needles it occurred to me that they may just fit the bill for her. Surgical Stainless Steel ought to be enough to stand up to this avid knitter. If she is wearing out wood needles, chances are other folks are as well. I haven’t called her to say these are in yet since they only just arrived. So I don’t have feedback from her yet.

Today is about my impressions of ChiaoGoo 23cm sock circs.

I cast on “Distraction” by Michelle Leanne Martin using Camel Sock yarn by Katia. The cast on was just what I would expect on this style of needle. It’s always a little awkward. No surprises there. They are very smooth. When I’m doing a complicated pattern with cables, twists and traveling stitches, I like to knit the socks one at a time on a wee circular. (Especially if they have a different chart for the front and back of the sock.) It’s just less confusing.

I truly have only good things to say about this needle. I used the 2.5mm. The cord is supple and moves nicely. The stitches never caught on the junction between needle and cord. I was anticipating that the stitches might slide a little too easily on the metal needle, but that was not the case. I did find the cord a little grabby on the yarn and maybe that’s why I didn’t find them to be as slippery as I expected. I was doing a lot of traveling stitches and I like a nice sharp tip when I’m doing this type of knitting. These were perfect for that. The length of the needle tip was what I expected for a product of this type. It was an absolute joy. I completed the sock on that needle and cast on the second one. Obviously, stainless steel needles don’t have the same warmth that wood needles have. I’ll continue using my Dreamz and I’m definitely adding this little beauty to my tool box!

Whenever I do complex geometric socks, this will be my new go-to.

Distraction is a well written pattern. It’s available on Ravelry as a free download. It is straightforward and easy to follow. As with any pattern of this complexity, I was grateful for my KnitCompanion App which allowed me to slide my vertical marker along as I worked the foundation rounds until the pattern began to emerge. Of course since I was knitting in the evening, that didn’t stop me from missing the cables in the ribbing on the first sock. Oops… I realized my error when I started the second sock. There’s no way I’m going back to change it. I figure: do like the Amish quilters who leave a mistake in their hand stitched quilts since after all, “Only God is perfect”. 🙂 I’m enjoying this project enough that I was inspired to check out Michelle’s other patterns. She’s got a lot to offer and I encourage any sock knitters to check her out.

Katia Socks – Camel is a blend of 55% wool, 25% polyamide and 20% camel. It comes in 100g balls with a gauge of 42 rows by 30 stitches in a 10cm square. It comes in a range of neutrals including grays, browns and blue. I chose gray (colour 74) for this project. I brought this yarn in because these are all the classy basic neutrals that you could want for men’s hand knit socks in one line of yarn. Katia yarns have never disappointed me and this yarn is no exception. It’s smooth, easy to knit and strong. The stitch definition is excellent and it gave me the result I expect from a high quality sock yarn. I love the resulting fabric. It has depth and personality despite being a neutral. And it’s soft. It feels so good. Full marks on this yarn!

A big thumbs up to this entire project. The needles: 2.5mm x 23cm Chiao Goo premium stainless steel circulars. The pattern: Distraction by Michelle Leanne Martin. The yarn: Katia Socks – Camel by Fil Katia of Spain.

I hope I have inspired you to try something new. See you again in 2 weeks. 🙂

Happy Knitting!

Sock Madness!

Yes, Sock Madness!

This annual sock knitting competition is for those with skills and a competitive spirit.

Early in February I was knitting with a good friend. She was knitting a pair of socks designed to use up leftovers of 13 different yarns. Turns out they are the Sock Madness warm-up round socks. I have lots of leftovers I’d love to use up, but competing in Sock Madness… that I wasn’t sure about.

“Sock Madness is an international sock hand knitting competition based loosely on the basketball competition known as March Madness. There are 7 rounds of patterns. The first pattern is reasonably straightforward and as the rounds progress the socks become increasingly more complex in design. Every registered competitor who completes a pair of socks in round 1 will be placed on a team with approximately 40 players per team. It is announced ahead of each round how many will proceed to the next pattern/round. By the 7th pattern there will be one member from each team left to battle it out.”


(quoted from Sock Madness Forever on Ravelry)

Sock Madness is definitely cool. If you haven’t heard of it, I encourage you to do a quick search on Ravelry; you’ll see what I mean. I’ve been intrigued by the interesting patterns they do in this competition for a few years now. I’m curious about the many advanced knitting techniques included in the patterns. Each year I think that if not for the time crunch, it would be a great opportunity to learn some techniques that I’m unfamiliar with.

Now don’t get me wrong, I have a healthy amount of competitive spirit. I just can’t see having enough free time at this time of year to justify being on a competitive knitting team. I know that I’d put way too much pressure on myself and I’d pay a steep price for it. So when my friend suggested I sign up as a cheerleader, I thought, “this could be the perfect opportunity”. You have to make a reasonable effort to complete the round one socks. (One fully completed sock, or two socks done to beyond the heel assures you a spot.) Then you are granted access to the patterns for all the socks and you can knit them at your leisure without the imposed time limit. Registration happens through the month of February and the competition begins at the beginning of March.

I signed up! Since then, I have been toodling my way through the warm up socks. I have completed one sock and I’m less than a quarter of the way into the second sock. I’m very happy with the way they are turning out. Of course, I have two other pairs of socks in progress as well that I put on the back burner, but I’ll get to them all eventually. I figure I should be able to manage the expectations to qualify as a cheerleader.

I’m enjoying the warm up socks. It was so much fun choosing my 13 colours of leftover yarn. I love the way that the pattern gradually incorporates each new yarn. With all those different yarns, I had a mass of “tails” to weave in when I finished the first sock though. I sat there, staring at it for some time, deciding what to do. I imagined what a big job it would be to weave those ends in on two completed socks and that motivated me. I took the time and got them all neatly incorporated before starting the second sock. (I even have photographic evidence! LOL) That way, I’ll only have one sock to fiddle with when completed. It was definitely satisfying to complete that little operation! I ended up with a very pretty sock out of the deal!

Working on this pattern got me thinking. In a way, knitting up a pattern like this is reminiscent of making a memento quilt. Each yarn has a story behind it the same way that each fabric of a scrap quilt does. I like that. I knit a lot of socks. There are certain people that I specifically make a lot of socks for. I was thinking that it would be really interesting to knit a pair of memory socks using leftovers from socks that I made in the past for that same person. I think that’s a really nice idea. With that many colours, I should be able to arrange them in a sequence that will make sense and look good, even if (at first glance) I might not think they should go together. It makes me think about handling my leftover yarns a little differently. It also has me thinking about other projects that I could do using up leftovers. I’m feeling downright inspired!

I’m excitedly anticipating the first round of Sock Madness. I honestly never thought I’d be participating in this event. Who knows, maybe I’ll surprise myself and discover that it’s more do-able than I imagined… Maybe next year I’ll want to compete? I guess you just never know… and I guess you should never say never!

Happy Knitting!

Read the Instructions?

I can’t blame it on dyslexia. Nope. I will be completely honest. I just didn’t read the instructions. It’s interesting what happens with a pattern when you don’t read the instruction. Um, well… sometimes the outcome can be, uh shall we say, unfortunate? Sometimes, the results can be cool and surprising.

Confession time! I have had the Nutkin sock pattern sitting in my library on Ravelry for at least a year. With all the times I looked at it you’d think that I’d have noticed what the pattern truly looks like. It’s interesting how perceptions come into play when we see things. You look, you get an impression of something. You decide whether it appeals to you or not and then you carry on, satisfied with your decision. …all based on a glance.

I had a terrible case of “startitis” that lasted me over 2 weeks before I succumbed to its siren call. On Saturday, I gave in. I pulled out my Estelle Sock Twins yarn and my sock needles and realized I left my tablet at home. Yeah, home is upstairs above the shop. It isn’t a 10 minute drive across town on bad roads or anything interesting like that. I was just too lazy to go upstairs and grab my tablet. So I pulled out my phone and logged into Ravelry. I knew I wanted to make Nutkin socks. End of story.

The screen on my phone is so tiny. That’s my excuse! It’s very much an excuse. The reality is that I really didn’t read the instructions.

So, I glance quickly at the pattern and see what appears to be a toe-up sock. (Who knows at this point whether it even was.) I see a chart and I think, “Hmmmm I thought this was a symmetrical pattern.” I still only saw one chart. I’m thinking, “Oh, I guess I just have to mirror this chart for the second side.” I know, right? Who thinks silly thoughts like that, anyway?

I have my toes knit for both socks so I can knit them two at a time. After running two month-long toe up sock knitting classes in a row, I have my stitch counts in my head for vanilla socks and I have my 56 stitches per sock neatly divided on my circular needle. Good Lord, Judy. How many pairs of socks have you knit? This pattern is gonna tighten up those stitches, just evict the dust bunnies from your brain and think for one second, girl!

But no. Dust bunnies were alive and well in my brain on Saturday morning. Yup.

So rather than increasing to a reasonable 60 stitches to accommodate that little bit of “suckage” from the pattern. I just went on my merry way, adapted the pattern for 56 stitches and gloried in my pretty gradient yarn and the lovely symmetrical pattern that was emerging happily off my needles.

I remained blissfully ignorant until I finished the heel. At this point, it was Sunday evening. I had my tablet this time and on the tablet, the photo is large enough that you can actually see the pattern. Oops. Yeah. Well, reading the pattern would have eliminated this faux pas. I realized there was a wee patterned line dividing the toe from the beginning of the pattern, first off. Oh well, both socks are the same, that’s okay. And then I realized that I was not supposed to mirror the chart. And really, what crazy universe would I have had to be in to have a pattern with a chart and be told in the pattern, “oh, yeah I was too lazy to make a mirror image of the chart for in the pattern so you go ahead and just mirror it in your mind.” It would just never happen. (I’m laughing at myself.)

Don’t get me wrong, the socks look fantastic. They are just a teeny bit too small for me, but you know what, my daughter’s feet are just a teeny bit smaller than mine and she has already claimed these socks with her own personal patriotic flag of sock ownership. So it’s all good.

Whether the socks are complete by the deadline for this blog or not, I’ll include photos of my progress. I’ll be honest, I was so disgusted with myself and my laziness in reading the pattern that I had to set the socks aside for a night or two. And there is no way I’m frogging a perfectly good pair of socks just because I (cough cough) modified the pattern.

Once these socks are complete, I’m determined to make the Nutkin pattern properly, for real, and to fit me. In the meantime these ones look very pretty and will make my daughter happy.

The Estelle Sock Twins yarn I’m using is lovely. It’s quite soft. The gradient colourway makes it fun to knit. I found myself pushing to do another round, another round, another round, because I was anticipating the change to the colour. I’m curious to see how tall of a sock I’ll be able to get out of the two matched cakes of sock yarn. I am determined to knit to the end of the balls just to see. I am fairly certain that even with the patterned knitting they should give me a decent knee sock.

Next, I think I’ll knit up a pair of Nutkin inspired knee socks for myself out of Lang Jawoll Sock Twin yarn. The hardest part will be choosing the colour… well, no it won’t. I’m a sucker for yellow sock yarn. It will be the yellow one. Yup. Maybe I’ll even read the instructions for those ones.

Maybe…

Happy Knitting!

And the Tour is Done!

Tour de Sock is all done for 2018. What a whirlwind of sock knitting! I thought I’d sum my 2018 Tour experience today. It’s been a lot of fun, a bit of frustration and a whole lot of learning.

Warm up: Miriam by Eeva Kesäkuu

We started it off with a warm up sock called Miriam. This stranded colourwork sock was a really fun knit. It had an unusual heel construction that made it just a little different and interesting. The combination of the colourwork with the style of heel was cool. It was important to carefully follow the instructions so the stripes were correct. I was concerned that the fit might be a little strange when I first did them. However, they fit beautifully.

 

Stage 1: Plan A by Adrienne Fong

Oh my, these were such a delightful knit! I have generally always used 2.5mm needles to knit socks. This pattern called for light fingering and I used fingering weight on 2.5’s; they came out huge. I ended up submitting my photos for the stage and then frogging them back to take out as much as necessary to make them fit. I reknit the toes and “Ta Dah!” they fit. I’m actually knitting another pair (on 2.25mm needles this time) and they are perfectly to gauge. I love this pattern. On my second pair I left out the twisted cast on. I found it just a little binding. Other than that, I think this might be my new go-to for a while. (Sorry, “Hermione’s Everyday Socks“; you’re in second place…. even though I still love you.)

 

Stage 2: Odensjön by Suzanne Sjögren

These cabled socks were an absolute joy to knit. The pattern was complex enough to be interesting, yet simple enough that you could memorize it and just sit back and watch the pattern unfold. I knit these in CoBaSi yarn. It was my first experience with this yarn and it was the perfect combination. I’ll be looking for more patterns from this designer.

 

Stage 3: Bicycle Race by Heidi Nick

Wowzers! Heidi Nick sock patterns are intricate works of art. Her charts are gorgeous and in full colour. You cannot let your attention flag on any of her patterns. Heidi’s trademark interweaving traveling stitches make for a stimulating project. They are so worth the effort. I made these with CoBaSi yarn as well. I adore them. If you are looking for a challenge, I encourage you to check out her designs on Ravelry.

 

Stage 4: Arctic Blizzard by Katrine Birkenwasser

The challenge continued with stranded colourwork socks. They are stunning! The random snowflakes mean that you can’t really predict or memorize any part of the pattern. It took tremendous focus and determination to complete these. They took me almost to the deadline to finish these. They are beautiful. It’s an unusual choice to use a short-row heel on a stranded colourwork sock. I actually changed to a larger needle for 10 rows above the heel to make it just a little easier to put them on.

Stage 5: Flibbertigibbet by Lisa K. Ross

I have to say that the predictability of the chart on this round was a huge relief after the previous two stages. I thoroughly enjoyed knitting these socks. I plan to these again to give as gifts this Christmas. I love the combination of lace and cables. I see butterflies in this pattern. I hadn’t heard of this designer before, but I’ll be looking for more of her work. There is enough to sink your teeth into without it being too much.

 

Stage 6: Sidetracked by Kirsten Hall

Oh my! Kirsten Hall is so innovative. I love her creativity. This pattern is so very “out of the box”. These look like a ribbon wrapping around your foot. They are so interesting. The toe is done as a round toe. Once you wrap your brain around the chevron it’s easy and fun to knit. I did one spiral too many and then misread the heel instructions. I ended up with a ginormous heel. I kept going. I was away without internet access so I missed some pattern updates. Let’s just say, my sock didn’t turn out well. With work getting busier, I was feeling a bit burnt out. I was so disappointed, I set it aside and decided not to try meet the deadline. I still plan to complete this pattern. It really is very cool. I think I’ll knit sock 2 (which mirrors sock 1) first. Now that I know what to watch out for, I should be able to have success with that. Once I finish that, I’ll frog sock 1 back to the end of the fourth spiral and reknit the heel properly and finish them. I want to get them done before the end of this year. I am absolutely determined to finish them though. They look like they would be uncomfortable but they are actually very cozy and the “braids” don’t feel bumpy under your foot. Last year I got the cuffs of the final stage done and then threw in the towel completely. I may not have met the deadline to get points on Stage 6, but I will definitely complete it this year. I am not going to put a photo of mine up at this time because I am not happy with how it looks at all.

What a wonderful challenge the tour has been this year. It was so worth the effort. I learned so much and I have 6 completed pairs of socks (and am on my way to having a 7th pair) to show for it. My hat is off to the organizers, the moderators, the designers and all the folks that knit in this competition. Without all of them, I wouldn’t have had this fantastic experience. What a fun way to support Doctors without Borders! I’m excited to do it all again next year!

…I’ll be honest, last night I started a doll sweater, not socks.

Happy knitting!

Needles: Old, New, and Different

The final stage of Tour-de-sock features a very unusual sock pattern by Kirsten Hall called Sidetracked. I am determined to complete this round, despite my flagging motivation. I have tried a number of different needle combinations hoping to stumble on the ideal combination. I’ve tried some old, some new and some very different.

To put it into perspective, here’s a picture of this round’s socks.

 

The pattern dropped last Saturday at 4:00 am, my local time. I was printing off the pattern and had my first sock underway by 4:20. We planned a trip to visit grandchildren for the long weekend. I was determined to get as much done as possible before we hit the road around 11:00 am. I was grateful that the construction, although strange, was actually pretty fun.

I had the sock on a 60cm circular needle to start and worked the 12 active stitches with a DPN. It was awkward. I ended up with one circular and 4 DPN’s at one point. It was a very strong reminder of why I really prefer not to knit with DPN’s. It’s so easy to drop stitches off them. You don’t want to drop stitches on this pattern! By 4pm, I was feeling pretty done. With one sock barely half way done, I set the project aside and watched the scenery go by until we arrived.

I really struggled to determine how far to knit before beginning the heel and I have to say that I should have stopped a full wrap earlier than I did… which I couldn’t have known until after the heel was complete. By then, there was absolutely no way I was frogging anything. I’d be lying if I said it didn’t take the wind out of my sails. They’ll take longer to finish but they’ll fit my very tall son when they are done.

 

I came home to a big pile of work. I’ve been plugging away in the evenings. I still haven’t finished the first one. I’m ready to begin the cuff, so I’m on the home stretch and the second sock will go easier since I’ll know what to expect. I have until Thursday at 10:00 am to finish.

So yesterday, I was feeling pretty desperate to come up with some way to infuse some fun back into this project. I had a shipment of needles come in and in that order were 25cm circular needles. My supplier was a bit short on numbers and there was one lonely 2.25mm needle among them. That’s the size I’m using for these socks. I’ve had customers tell me that these teenie tiny circulars are God’s gift to sock knitters. (I wasn’t convinced.) What with all the new stock, I had to rearrange the wall in the store to accommodate all the new stuff. In the process I stumbled on the sets of curved DPN’s I had all but forgot I brought in. I figured I’d try these out too.

I pulled out the Neko curved DPN’s. I was immediately disappointed. They are plastic. Sigh. So bendy! I am not crazy about bendy needles. I took a deep breath. I was determined to give them a fair shake despite my initial feeling. I looked at my Sidetracked sock-to-be: didn’t even pick it up. My daughter had requested a pair of socks out of some Lana Grossa Scandic yarn and I had that ball handy. I figured I’d cast one on to try the bendy needles out. These needles look like someone took their DPN’s and tried to bend them to 90 degrees. They are definitely different.

I began my Twisted German cast on, over two of the three needles; I usually cast on over two needles. It was awkward, although in all fairness, it takes getting used to something that is this unusual. By the time I had 15 or 20 stitches cast on, it got easier. It was challenging to get started on these. I found that no matter what I did I kept jabbing myself in the palms of my hands with one end or another. I’ve been knitting long enough to know that the first few rounds are always a bit of a pain and then it’s fine after that. So I continued. My yarn kept getting caught on one of the ends. I really don’t like bendy needles and found that the flexibility of these really irritated me. I assume that the point of these needles is to be an improvement on DPN’s. I’m not convinced. But bear in mind that I abandoned DPN’s for sock knitting a long time ago in favour of circulars. I got about 4 rounds of twisted rib knitted and I had to set it aside. I tried having the tips of the passive needle above the active needle, then below; I tried flipping it toward the back. I don’t know. I didn’t see any videos with continental knitting on curved DPN’s. Perhaps that’s the issue. I will pick it up again after the Tour is finished and see if they’ll grow on me. For now, the jury is out on these.

20180907_085945

I then picked up the Knitter’s Pride Dreamz 25cm circular and transfered my Sidetracked sock onto it. The sock fits nicely. The needle tips are short. I thought they’d put up resistance as I’d knit with them because the cord is so short, but honestly I didn’t notice once I started to knit. This needle is a huge improvement over what I was doing. Heavens! What a relief. I like a longer needle tip so I can use my pinkies to anchor my movements against the needles. These tips are too small to do that without scootching my fingers close together. That will take a bit of getting used to. But you know,  I was quite surprised, but I really do like these… a lot. The only downside is that they’re too small to try the sock on, unless you were to use two of them.

Happy Knitting!

Tour-de-Sock: We’re half way there!

Tour-de-sock is well underway. Stage three of six is about to close and mark the half way point of this sock knitting competition. As I have mentioned before, this competition is a fundraiser for Doctors Without Borders. It’s a great opportunity to knit some gorgeous patterns that you might not have otherwise knit. And for me the part I love is that each round usually gives you something new to learn.

As was the case last year, we started the tour with a warm up sock. This year’s warm up sock was Miriam by Eeva Kesäkuu.

Miriam

 

I personally love to knit stranded colourwork. This pattern was a treat. The unusual heel and gusset made it interesting to knit… in a good way. At first when I saw how the sock looked, I questioned whether the fit was going to be any good. But when I put them on, I was pleasantly surprised. They hug my feet beautifully. I used OnLine Supersocke Graffiti yarn with Cascade Heritage Sock yarn for these. Here are mine:

 

Next on the Tour we knit Adrienne Fong’s Plan A socks.

Fong’s Plan A Socks

I don’t usually bother to knit a test swatch for gauge when I knit socks, since most socks knit up great with any old sock yarn. This pattern recommends a “light fingering” yarn. Note to self: yes, there is a difference between fingering and light fingering. I used Admiral Cat yarn for this one. I wanted a bright and happy yarn to knit. If I had really paid attention, I would have knit the ribbing as I did and then switched to finer needles for the leg. Mine came out quite large and slouchy. They fit around my feet well, so after I submitted my completed sock, I frogged them back by two pattern repeats, reknit the toes and “Ta dah!” they fit me now. These were a fun and relatively quick knit. I enjoyed them very much. Here are mine:

 

 

Stage two was a gorgeous cabled pattern called Odensjön by Suzanne Sjögren.

Odensjön

 

Having learned my lesson about light fingering yarn in stage one, I chose my yarn carefully for this round. I used CoBaSi Hikoo, a light fingering yarn that I wrote about a few weeks ago. First of all, I’m in love with this yarn. The results are just so pretty… what can I say? I’m hooked. This pattern was a perfect blend of interest and memorize-ability of the pattern repeat. It still took some focus, don’t get me wrong. The resulting sock is impressive without it feeling like I gave birth to it. (Hey, if you knit enough different sock patterns, you’ll stumble on one that will make you understand what I mean!) I enjoyed this pattern enough that I can see myself knitting it again and again. That’s saying something. After all, there are enough gorgeous sock patterns out there that I could knit a different pair every week, never knit one twice and yet never run out of new patterns for the rest of my life! Here are my completed ones:

And then there was Stage Three! I talked about these last week. Heidi Nick’s Bicycle Race.

Bicycle Race

These ones felt like they took me forever to knit. However in all fairness, my work  schedule really did get in the way of my knitting time for these. That having been said, I was able to work on all of the previous socks and still be social or pick them up and put them down mid round without it being a problem. Knitting these ones demands your full attention. They are absolutely stunning. I think as finished socks go, these may be my very favourite socks I’ve ever knitted (other than the Bintje knee socks I gave my daughter). I absolutely love them. I won’t knit a second pair of them, but I will wear them with pride and delight for as long as I can. Here are mine:

 

And now, I find myself anticipating the next pattern drop. I love not knowing what we will be doing until the stage officially begins. Three more stages to go… On the forums there can be a lot of chatter in anticipation of each new round. Photo hints are given, yet they really don’t tell you anything until you see the pattern itself. It can be fun to read people’s guesses about what we might be doing next. I don’t get too caught up in that, because it’s too easy to get worked up over what technique might come up that I know nothing about. I would rather just take it as it comes and figure out what I need to when I need to. I’m excited to see what will be next!

Are you excited to knit some socks yet?

Happy Knitting!