New Pattern Release: Two-Tone Mobius Cowl

I just published my newest pattern, Two-Tone Mobius Cowl, over on!

If TK001_MobiusCowl_2TK001_MobiusCowl_1you're thinking, "yeah, but that mobius cast-on is SO confusing and difficult" — guess what?  I've fixed that problem.  If you’ve been frustrated by the “popular” version of the mobius cast-on, try mine instead. Knit two rows, perform three simple steps (shown with photos), and you’re off and knitting!

I also have an upcoming class at Nitro Knitters on Tuesday, 7/21/2015, if you want to learn this straight from the source.

You'll need something called "ravel cord" (which I will provide in class), but any strong, smooth string that can be pulled through your stitches will do.  Slippery nylon or rayon is best, but knitters have successfully used crochet cotton, fishing line, and even dental floss as substitutes!

This pattern is so flexible, you could knit it a dozen times between now and the holidays, and never get bored.  Use any pairing of light-to-medium weight yarns that contrast in color, texture, gauge, or all three.  Since a mobius is knit from the center outwards, using a gradient yarn, or several yarn changes, creates beautiful symmetry with very little effort.

What are you waiting for?  Go get your twist on!


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Snow Daze

Well.  Here we are on our third day of being more-or-less housebound in the PDX area, due to roughly a foot of snowfall.  (I know, a foot of snow doesn't stop most of the country in its tracks, but it is a rarity for us.)  DH is going stir-crazy, although the Olympics have helped a bit with the boredom factor.

Speaking of the Olympics — holy crap, what was Ralph Lauren thinking with those opening ceremony sweaters?  The wool for those things was sourced from right here in Oregon, and I used to be proud of that fact.  If I were more cynical, I'd think that RL and Co. were mocking the fuddy-duddy image that handknitting still has for a lot of uninformed people.  Comparisons are being made to team Andorra's sweaters but really.  Andorra's sweaters are extremely stylish, classy, black-and-white Fair Isle with a modern pop of orange, and probably a helluva lot of work too.  I don't know for sure if they were hand-knit, but they are definitely at a much smaller gauge.

Anyway, between the snow and the Olympics, I suspect a lot of local knitters got a lot of knitting done this weekend.  YAY!  Am I among them?  Well, no.  I did get an initial swatch made for an upcoming design project, but that is about the extent of my knitting.

IMG_4004On the other hand, I did handle a lot of yarn, so maybe that counts for something?

What with getting back into teaching shortly, I've been doing some sorting through boxes of old samples and class material, as well as going through my knitted wardrobe with a critical eye and armed with a box of "Dry Cleaners Secret" sheets (which I had a hard time finding, and now appear to be branded with the Woolite label.  Same stuff though).  I pulled everything off my sweater shelf and dumped it on the table in the studio — which made a pretty impressive pile, actually — and got to work.

The amount of time I have spent this weekend with a fabric shaver in my hand is not to be believed, BUT several of my older sweaters now look astonishingly new again.  I was particularly stunned by how clean and colorful the colorwork on my Lopi sweater looks now, with 13 years of fuzziness shaved off the surface.


The fun part was finding out that I have over thirty hand-knitted garments!  Not counting scarves, hats, socks and so on.  I counted 35 garments total on my sweater shelf, and only three of them were not personally hand-knit by me.  One, a mohair blend sweater that was a graduation gift from my sister; two, a little vintage evening-type shell made, as far as I can tell, out of pure angora; and three, a supremely fuzzy mohair pullover that I bought at a consignment shop, definitely hand-knit by somebody, possibly out of Mohair Lungo.  (And, I keep saying that one day I am going to copy that sweater, because I wear the crap out of it.  So to whoever lovingly knit it and then gave it up — I for one appreciate it.)

I've been making sure they are all clean, the smooth ones have the pills and extra fuzz shaved off, and the mohair ones are fluffed up with the mohair brush.  I've been fixing a few little annoyances, too, like tightening up the buttonholes on one of the cardigans.  A few have been relegated to the "frog" pile and one or two need some more in-depth fixes.  But slowly the sweater shelf is being filled back up again — with garments that I know like old friends, almost every stitch made by me.  It's a good feeling.???????????????????????????????

On the other hand, last week I bought yarn for not one but TWO tank top projects, and those have me excited too — because knitting teachers have to look ahead, and despite the snow outside, tank top weather will be here before you know it.  One of the tanks is definitely going to be a class sample:  an easy intro to sweater design, with a few variations to keep things interesting, but not so much of the m-word (MATH) and no sleeves to worry about.  (Of course, if you are into sleeves, you could think about making a cute little shrug to go over your tank.)

The other is a tank I'm knitting in some yummy Shibui Staccato just for myself, although I already plan to change it — I think I am going to ditch the chunky-looking ribbing at the top in favor of something a bit more delicate.  It looks like I am in good company there, as a lot of other Ravelry knitters appear to have doubled the main yarn to do the ribbed section.  If it goes well, it could turn into a class project or a knitalong too.

As the saying goes, "Make new friends, but keep the old!"

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New Sock Club Design

I’ve said it before, but — it’s so hard to write on your knitting blog, when you can’t blog about what it is you are knitting.Champagne Sock

But now I can reveal that soon,  the next installment in the sock club by “For Yarn’s Sake” will be released, with this month’s design by yours truly!  The theme is “Champagne & Roses” and you will have a whole month to get your socks done in time for Valentine’s Day.

This sock design is interesting in a couple of ways:  I used a st pattern from a Japanese resource as the main motif, and it is kind of wide, so the sizing is done a bit differently than the usual “add another pattern repeat” method.  There are a couple of purl sts that run all the way through the pattern, and to get a larger sock, you just change “P1” to “P2” in a few places.  I’m kind of pleased with that strategy.

Another thing is that while the overall pattern is heavily textured and in fact looks rather complicated — the hardest thing in it is a 6-st cable, with one of the knit sts worked tbl, and a couple of purl sts.  (And if you know me, you will know that cable only shows up a few times in the pattern repeat.  Meaning, like, twice in 24 rounds.  Making 6-st cables all over a sock sounds like way too much work to me.)

Finally, the sts and techniques used are not difficult, but aren’t your same ol’, same ol’ either.  There is a technique used which I have called “make bubble” (NOT “BOBBLE”) which you see in the blurry little sneak-preview sample of ribbing up there.  It is no harder than binding off and doing a YO, but I bet it’s something you haven’t done before!

There are also a couple of crossed sts here and there, which can be done with a cable needle – but there is also a funky Japanese way to do them without a cable needle, and without trying to hold on to teeny little sts with your fingers, either.  I plan to put up some how-to videos for that after the sock design is officially released, so watch this space!

And don’t worry that I’ve spilled all the beans – this sock design will still have a little surprise waiting for you when it is fully unveiled!

The yarn is String Theory’s “Caper Sock” and again, if you know me, you know that I don’t often ooh-and-aah about yarn, seeing as how I have so freakin’ much of it.  But this yarn was surprisingly pleasant to work with and has a very good “smoosh” factor, which I like in a sock yarn.  Stringy sock yarns don’t have much place in my life, and this stuff is anything but.  Plus, it is in a sophisticated, slightly variegated pink, so that’s a plus in my book right there!

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Wonder of Wonders

OK, short version (because I want to get back to knitting) — but I can't resist sharing this, either.

Friend in New Zealand has found out her breast cancer has come back.  Sucks incredibly.  Is going through chemo, and asked if I would knit her some hats.

Gave her my Ravelry password (don't rat me out) and told her to browse away and find something she liked.

She chose three, one of which was the "Shroom" hat from Knitty.  Fine and good, except that it's summer in New Zealand, and she wants it in a lighter weight yarn.

Bought Malabrigo from the LYS, very soft and in a pretty blue-green (as requested).

Now.  Gauge.

To put in context:  it's about 1:00 a.m. at this point, and I have to get on a plane in about 9 hours and I still need to sleep some and finish packing and medicate the cat and shower and a few other things.

Looked at pattern and saw "gauge = 10 sts per 4 inches."  That works out to 2.5 sts per inch.

Looked at yarn label and saw "needle size 7-9, gauge = 5 sts per inch."

Can it possibly be?   Can I choose size 6 needles, which should give a loose knitter like me a gauge of half what the pattern calls for, and simply double the number of stitches in the pattern?  Can that POSSIBLY work???




Sometimes, you win one.

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Fun with M***c Balls

pink magic yarn ballOK, so you know I don't like to use the "m" word when it comes to knitting, because KNITTING is not actually MAGIC.

But a few weeks ago, in my "what-I-want-to-knit-this-year" list, I mentioned a yarn-usage technique that is often known as the "magic ball".  Because this isn't actually a knitting technique so much as it is a clever way to use yarn, I decided I can more-or-less live with the "m" word in this case.

So last night, DH went to a Winterhawks game with a buddy, and I sat down with a basket o' yarn and got started on my very own mmmph ball.  And OOOOOH, lookit!  pink and sparkly and MOHAIR!  That's about 500 yards of fun right there.

Talk about a stash-busting technique!  I used something like 14 or 15 different yarns — including 4 different pink MOHAIRs — in all kinds of gauges and all shades of pink and coral — from a hair-thin carry-along in shiny raspberry, to a pale pink Deco ribbon.  (With the thinner yarns, I chose anywhere from 2 to 4 held together.)  Tie a simple overhand knot, pull out about 5 yards' worth of yarn, snip with the scissors and choose another yarn.  It doesn't take long to end up with a rather large loose pile on the floor!

I skeined mine on a niddy-noddy just to take the picture, but that was extra work — if you do this right next to your ball winder, you could just wind it straight from the pile.

magic yarn ball wound and knitted

My MB is monochromatic, which is usually a fail-safe way to go with something like this.  Since most of us have a favorite color, and probably have a lot of leftovers in and around that favorite color, that's a painless and low-cost way to try this out.  Another option would be to choose a variegated yarn as a starting point, and then choose yarns to go with it.

One important thing seemed to be to include a lot of texture — imagine this in mostly smooth wools, and it just won't have the same kind of impact.  Of course, I was basically trying to emulate Prism Yarn's "Wild Stuff" (and I think I succeeded!) — but if you're less of a floofy person, you could try to emulate their "Neat Stuff" instead.


But what to do with a magic ball once you have one?  Well, the pattern section of the Prism website has a lot of inspiration to look at.  A simple bias-knit garter st scarf, or something in feather and fan would also look fabulous.

You could also make your MB to a lighter gauge than I did, and use it held together with a single companion yarn throughout to tone it down a bit, if that's the effect you're going for.

I'm going to try making a little directionally-knitted shrug with it, from this article by Iris Schreir, via the Vogue Knitting website.  Between these pictures and the schematic in the article, I already have an inkling that it's going to turn out to have "sleeves" that are far more batwing than these photos appear (notice how the model's arms are pressed down in both pics? I'm pretty sure there's extra fabric stuffed in under there) but what the hey.  It looks like it will be interesting to knit, and I think it will show off my pink floofy handiwork pretty well!

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Possibly the Laziest Smartest. Short-Row Heel. Ever.

DH_sockHey, the Olympics are over and I did get something finished on my 2010 Knitting Wish List — well, one sock, anyway.

But it's a doozy of a sock.  This picture may not look like much, but trust me on this.  (Plus, there are better pictures further down.)

First of all, though, I must explain that DH seems to have grown to prefer a tight-fitting sock.  His socks have gotten longer and skinnier over the past couple of years, to the point where I frankly think they look kinda weird.  But each successive pair — or in this case, sock, singular — he proclaims to be "the best-fitting one yet", so who am I to quibble?

stitch chart broad spiral ribThe stitch pattern for this sock was taken from good ol' Barbara Walker (although I admit at this point, I can't remember if I adapted it a bit, and I'm too lazy to go check).  Here's my chart, anyway — it seems to indicate an 8-st repeat, but I only did 2 purl sts in between each rib instead of 4, to get a 6-st repeat.  So I guess I did adapt it!

The fun part here is the "K2tog, K first st again, drop both sts".  You do exactly that, and you get a crossed st effect WITHOUT a cable needle, and WITHOUT having to hand-manipulate teeny little dark brown sts.

What you end up with is a lovely ribbed mock cable with a lot of yummy texture that is super-easy to execute, AND it only has 4 rounds, and two of them are plain rounds.  Now that's my kind of stitch pattern.

stitch texture detailDoesn't that look handsome?

I had a little trouble keeping track of which of the two twist rounds I was on, until I started looking not at the stitches on my needle, but at a couple of rows' worth of the overall pattern.  Then it became crystal-clear whether I needed to cross the first two sts, or the middle two sts.  Piece of cake after that.

But… the best part is the HEEL.

OK, so as previously stated, DH likes his socks skinny and tight.  But what that means is, when you get to the heel, there are fewer sts than one might usually have and thus — if you do a short-row heel like I do — the heel is going to be proportionally smaller.  And tighter.  Possibly too tight across the front of the foot to wear.  This is not ideal.

So, what to do?

Add more sts, of course!

There is no rule that says you can't increase a few sts on the heel side just before you go into your short row heel, and then decrease them away again after the heel is finished.  Simple, no?  Clever, yes?

annotated heelHowever, in this case, I took that idea one step further, and started a little gusset about an inch before the short-row heel, increasing maybe 3 or 4 sts on either side of the heel.

Then I did my short-row heel over my larger number of sts, using my fave techniques:  the double-stitch method for the short-row turns; and doing the first half twice, so that you're always short-rowing down, instead of short-rowing down and then back up — I like this trick a lot because 1) you only have to remember how to do one thing, 2) it gives the identical heel shape as the short-rowing-up-and-down method, and 3) it looks better.  What's not to like?

Then I decreased that cute little gusset away while doing about an inch of plain stockinette on the back of the leg.  If you take a look at commercial socks, you'll see they often do this.  Some say it improves the fit; I say it made the knitting easier.  And because a picture is worth a thousand words, I tried to draw these things in, but I added a few words as well, which are:  "inc gusset", "dec gusset", "heel wedge 1" and "heel wedge 2", in case you can't read my mousewriting.

heel closeup

A thing of beauty, is it not?

Now I just have to figure out the numbers for what I did on this sock, so I can make a second one…

(BTW, I also incorporated the heel trick in the pattern for the socks I just finished for the upcoming March installment of the For Yarns' Sake Sock Club, but you'll have to wait a bit to see those babies.  Can't let that cat out of the bag yet!)

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Luna Tee finished!

OK, OK, I admit that in the last post on this subject, I didn't spell out every little detail about exactly how I was going to finish this bad boy off…  but then there would be no suspense left for the big surprise ending.luna tee finished

Good old "Feather & Fan" to the rescue!

F & F is an old, old Shetland stitch pattern that is sometimes called "Old Shale".  If I were prone to using words such as "magical" to describe knitting techniques, I might use it here — because this stitch does in fact look good just about any way you do it, with the added bonuses of being easy to execute and easy to memorize, while looking much more complex than it is.

I'll call it "genius" instead of "magic".  Those Shetland knitters knew a thing or two, you betcha.

Feather and Fan, or Old Shale stitch

Working flat, over a multiple of 18 sts:

Row 1: K
Row 2: P
Row 3: ** K2tog 3x; [YO, K1] 6x; K2tog 3x **
Row 4: K

When worked in the round, you would convert Row 2 to knit and Row 4 to purl.  (Or, do as I did and don't convert anything — because the 2 rows sort of cancel each other out, and you'll still end up with one purl ridge on the RS per pattern repeat.)

Variation:  for a smooth stockinette look, you may purl Row 4 too — but beware, this is the row that makes the fabric lie flat.  I have also seen instructions for a variation that has Row 4 as a knit row on one repeat, and a purl row on the next.  This has the effect of spacing the purl ridges out farther, but I'm not sure if that would be enough to keep the fabric from curling.

multiple of X sts # of k2tog # of [YO, K1] extra YO?
24 4 8 no
23 4 7 yes
18 3 6 no
17 3 5 yes
12 2 4 no
11 2 3 yes

The classic version is worked over 18 sts, but it can be used with a few different st multiples — for some you need to include an extra YO at the end of the [YO, K1] sequence.  This table here gives you a handy-dandy summary of one "size" up and one "size" down.  The greater the number of incs and decs, the greater the scallop effect.

Even just a single classic repeat's worth — 18 sts (with perhaps a couple of edge sts on either side) — makes a nice-looking scarf.

F & F also lends itself well to stripes — simply change color with every pattern repeat — which makes it useful for using up bits and pieces.  You often saw it used this way years ago, in big ol' multicolor afghans and that sort of thing.

OK, you might be thinking of unnaturally colored acrylic nightmares, but guess what — Feather and Fan is the secret behind Colinette's classic "Absolutely Fabulous" afghans.  See how yummy this stitch can look when it's done properly?

close up of F&F fabricBut on this tee, I did something even a little bit different than just stripes.  The extremely clever bit here is that the pattern is a 4-row repeat, and I rotated three different yarns — so that each time through the pattern, the yarns used for the purl round and the pattern round are different.closeup of hem

I did a final 1-1/2 repeats in the shiny "Luna" ribbon at the bottom, so it would look like the whole thing was planned, and I bound off on a purl round so the ridge would be part of the bind-off.

I know, I know — in the picture up top there are still ends to weave in — but those are done now, and the sweater awaits wearing to my Garden Home class on Wednesday.  I was just so excited to get this done and have it look this good, I couldn't wait to take the picture!

Finishing this particular UFO has been extra-gratifying:  I really thought this project was doomed, and I was so disappointed about that because the top half was coming out so nicely, and I really REALLY didn't want to rip it all out.

I also thought my own view of the thing was going to be forever tainted:  and I know you know exactly what I mean.  You know how it is, when something comes out OK, and everyone else thinks it's fine, but for you — it's doomed to be, "Yeah, yeah, it looks fine now, but it was SUPPOSED to look like…"

Now I think the FO is probably even better than what I had originally planned.  How often does THAT happen?  I keep telling you, when I finish off all my UFO's, there's gonna be an apocalypse.  Maybe this is just the first sign…

… at least I'll have something fabulous to wear for it!

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Workin’ on the UFO’s: “Luna” Tee

A few posts back, Luna teeI mentioned that I seem to have developed not so much a New Year's Resolution, as an End-Of-Year Resolution:  to finish up the last few remaining UFO's in my knitting pile.  And so, I've been battling with this one.

This is a tee in 2 x 2 ribbing, worked top-down in one piece, using the good old Barbara Walker method for set-in sleeves (which can be found in the classic Knitting From the Top).  I started this a few weeks before my most recent birthday, as a sort of rebellion against the large round number I was rapidly approaching.

The yarn is an oldie from Blue Moon, called "Luna", which they don't make any more.  And of course, therein lies the Problem…

…as I was once told that a single skein (430 yards) could make a smallish tank top kind of thing, because it knits up at a fairly biggish gauge.

Well, it probably can be made to go that far, if one is not so stupid as to decide to use ribbing instead of stockinette.

The single most efficient way to cover an area with yarn is stockinette st.  Garter takes more yarn because it is a bulkier fabric.  Crochet takes even more yarn because it is even more bulky.  If in doubt, stockinette is always the way to go.

So what did I do?  Oh yes, I selected 2 x 2 ribbing.

And what do you think happened?

Of course I found that when I knit to the very very end of the skein, the tee was maybe just about down to my waist. Not good.

I pulled it back a bit from there, and finished off the rather scoop-y neckline with three rounds of single crochet and a round of reverse single crochet, as I had planned — and tried it on again, just to verify that with the neckline pulled in to its final position, it was — well, even shorter.

I just like to make sure about these things, you know.

I briefly considered turning it into a TOAD, but decided to persevere because I really do like the way the thing fits so far, and the neckline and sleeves came out pretty close to what I was envisioning.

So — the Problem now becomes to find another yarn to incorporate into the bottom half of the tee.

I did a little shopping.

The yarn that Blue Moon called "Luna" is the same stuff that Crystal Palace calls "Party".  Unfortunately, none of the colors I found in "Party" looked very good with this.  (You'd have thought plain white would do the trick, but no.  The "white" in the Luna is not really white.  Either that, or Crystal Palace has found a way to make neon white.)

I found a bamboo yarn that looked very promising:  all the same colors, and it even had a slight sheen to it.  I brought it home, and started knitting.  And I found out that all on its own, it looked downright dingy next to the extremely shiny Luna.  Ick.

Here again I considered giving up, but here again I persevered.  (After all, now I had another $20 into it, didn't I?)

So I gathered many balls of yarn from hither and yon, and started swatching.  I was not thrilled with the idea of a complete change of scenery — what I was aiming for was something that blended with the original fabric as much as possible.  Here's what I tried:

full swatch

swatch 1 bamboo yarn

1.  The new bamboo yarn.


swatch 2 mohair

2.  A lightweight MOHAIR that I think I bought at Flock & Fiber once upon a time.  (No label, sorry.)


swatch 3 leftover "au naturel"swatch 4 wool/mohair blend from Deb

3.  Very ancient leftover Patons "Au Naturel" — looks kind of blue here but isn't really.  In reality it's cement colored. 

4.  A ball of nameless wool-MOHAIR blend that my pal Deb gave me for swatching.


swatch 5 bamboo + mohairswatch 6 with bubblegum mohair

5.  The first two yarns (bamboo + lightweight MOHAIR) held together.

6.  The bamboo + a bubblegum pink bulky MOHAIR.


swatchswatch 8

7.  The "Au Naturel" + lightweight MOHAIR, first single, then doubled.

8.  "Au Naturel" + lightweight MOHAIR + bubblegum MOHAIR.

(What can I say?  by this time I was getting desperate.  MORE MOHAIR WILL FIX IT!  I'M CERTAIN OF IT!)


OK, OK, things are getting a little out of hand here — not to mention very very bulky.  Let's try another approach…

swatch 9swatch 10

9.  One row of Luna, one row of the lightweight mohair.  Not bad… but still a bit on the dark side.

10.  One row of Luna, one row of lightweight mohair, one row of bamboo.

swatch with tee


By George, I think I've got it!  You can hardly see the last two combos when the swatch is placed on the tee.

Some of the others aren't so bad either — although the wrong-ness of the bubblegum pink MOHAIR is pretty darned apparent.

Now, I am not so foolish as to think the switch will be completely unnoticeable — but I am hopeful that it will not look quite as unplanned as it really is.  That will be our little secret, right?

I expect to rip back the bodice to just under the bustline (where the green marker is clipped), and then start in with the three-yarn combination fabric for the rest of the body.

I've got a couple-three hours of car knitting time coming up on Turkey Day, so I'm hopeful this is where I can knock another one off the UFO list — wish me luck!  And a safe and enjoyable holiday weekend to all!

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Sock Design 101: Part 6

Hey, we made it!  This is the final post in the toe-up sock design series.  And since it is the final one, naturally we are going to talk about binding off.

The biggest problem with binding off a toe-up sock is how to keep the bind-off from being too tight.  The BO edge has to be able to stretch a lot to pull on comfortably, and NOT BREAK under the stress.  Seriously important, that "not breaking" part.  If your bind-off is too tight, it will eventually break under repeated stress.

However, if your BO is too tight, it may not undergo all that many stress cycles — because you (or your giftee) might not even wear the damned socks if the BO edge cuts into your leg.

A third consideration is that we don’t want it to be too loose, either, but this is pretty low on the totem pole as far as I’m concerned.  A loose BO edge might look a little "flappy" when the socks are not being worn, but I will gladly give that up for socks that are both wearable and durable.

And as usual in knitting, there are a few different techniques around to keep your bind-off loose.  Here are a few choices:

Strategy #1:  making the BO sts bigger

Bind off with a larger size needle:  kind of self-explanatory.  The stitches created during the final round will be bigger, thus will be able to stretch further.

Suspended bind-off:  for people who habitually bind off too tightly, and are (like me) too lazy to go get a larger needle.  Instead of dropping the bound-off st off the tip of the left needle after you have pulled it over, leave it there while you go behind it and work the next st, and drop it off when you drop the newly worked st.  Kind of crazy the first time you try it, but it does work!  Anne Hanson of Knitspot says she uses this one.

Strategy #2:  changing the structure of the BO

K2tog or decrease bind-off:  K2tog, place new st back on left needle, repeat.  Easy-peasy, but gives a bit of a different look to the edge.  Can be done as K2tog tbl to make it look more like the usual bind-off.

A variation of this is, instead of working two sts together for every BO stitch — work 2 sts tog for, say, every other BO stitch.  I.e. K1, ** K1, do regular BO; place loop on RH needle back on LH needle; K2tog (tbl probably will look more consistent here) **.  Repeat between ** to end.smribbo.jpg

Ribbing bind-off:  A variation on the above.  I’m not sure where I picked up this little gem. In my notes it says it’s for 1 x 1 ribbing, but I’ve successfully used it on other rib patterns too, such as this 2 x 2 rib.

** Look at 2nd st on LH needle. If it is a knit, k2tog; if it is a purl, p2tog. Slip the new st back to LH needle without twisting.** Repeat between ** until all sts are cast off.

It would be interesting to combine the two above and see how it looks if you alternate K2tog tbl and P2tog tbl.  However, P2tog tbl is not for the faint of heart.

Yet another version:  can be found at lotsofyarn.  The first two described on this blog actually involve working into sts a couple of times each on the BO round.  I haven’t tried these out physically, but trying to "knit" them mentally gives me the suspicion that they either (a) end up being exactly the same, or a very similar, structure to some of the others, for a lot more work, or (b) have the odd effect of adding a plain knit round between any ribbing and the BO sts, which I am not certain is going to buy you a whole lot of stretch… but, I’ve been wrong before!

Attached I-cord BO:  I did actually try this on a pair of socks, to see if having the lateral I-cord would work as a stretchier edge.  Unfortunately, it didn’t, really, but it does give another different "look".

EZ’s sewn BO:  Not one of my faves.  There are several good posts about this one out there already, so I’m not going to reinvent the wheel.  Take a look at this one on WeebleKnits — it’s right at the top of the page (and there’s a rather interesting-looking one after it, too, which I’m going to have to try out).

Strategy #3:  adding extra sts to the BO

Adding YO’s (= chains), or M1’s:  There are a lot of ways to achieve this one, including a couple of the ones described at Weebleknits.  The version marked "Peggy’s" is, structurally, a variation on this idea.  For crochet-phobes, one simple way to make a "chain" between regular stitches is by placing the loop on the right needle back on the left needle and knitting it again.

My own version, which I haven’t seen anywhere else, is this:  Every time I have a knit st in my ribbing, I do a KFB instead, and pause in between the "knit front" part and the "knit back" part to bind off.  It goes like this — we’ll pretend we’re doing K2, P2 rib in this example.

Begin with a plain ol’ KFB:  Knit into the front of the first knit st, leaving old st on left needle.  Knit into back of same st on left needle, and drop old st off.  You have two loops on the right needle, so bind off one of them.

** Begin another KFB:  Knit into the front of the next knit st, again leaving old st on left needle.  However, you already have two loops on the right needle now, so interrupt your KFB for a moment and bind off one of them.  Now go back and finish off your KFB:  Knit into back of same st on left needle, and drop old st off.  Two loops on the right needle yet again, so bind off one of them.

Perform regular BO on purl sts:  Purl one st, BO one st.  Purl another st, BO another st.

Begin another KFB:  Knit into the front of the next knit st, again leaving old st on left needle.  You again have two loops on the right needle, so again interrupt your KFB and bind off.  Finish off your KFB:  Knit into back of same st on left needle, and drop old st off.  Two loops on the right needle yet again, so bind off one of them. **

Repeat between ** until all sts are bound off.

Works great, looks good, what more could you want?

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Sock Design 101: Part 5

Before we finish off the sock design series, we have to talk about ribbing.

Ribbing is actually a fairly important design consideration.  Ribbing at the top edge is what keeps a sock up if it is made of a less-stretchy stitch pattern, such as plain stockinette.  And no one is going to wear a pair of socks that keeps falling down all the time.

Ribbing consists of knits and purls in the same row or round, and this combining of both types of stitches results in the fabric having a natural tendency to draw in or compress.  A handy thing to have when you want that fabric to gently grip one’s calf, and not fall sadly to the ankles.

Of course, many a sock leg is knitted in ribbing all the way.  But if this is not the case with your socks, it is up to you the designer how much ribbing you might want at the top edge, and in what stitch pattern.  I’ve never experimented to see what might be the minimum required amount of ribbing to keep a sock up, but I usually figure on at least an inch of ribbing.  Remember the "can’t get something for nothing" rule, and that the ribbing will have to stretch width-wise to go around the leg, and thus will shrink in length.  So even if it looks like you have a long section of ribbing whilst your sock is on the needles, it will not be as long a stretch (get it?) when worn.

If you are using a ribbed stitch pattern already, it may have enough "oomph" to grip the leg and stay up, without adding more ribbing at the top.  Be aware, though, that just because you may have knits and purls in your stitch pattern, doesn’t mean you have functional "ribbing".  The wider your rib, the less compression and elasticity it will have.  The basketweave is technically a 4 x 4 rib, but it doesn’t really have much going for it in terms of elasticity and the fabric hardly pulls in at all when compared to the stockinette portion at the heel.

Depending on which expert you consult, either 1 x 1 or 2 x 2 rib is considered the most "stretchy", and after those two options, the more knits or purls you have clustered together, things just go downhill from there (especially your socks).  But before you jump right in with "K2, P2", consider how your ribbing is going to blend with your stitch pattern.

The basketweave socks had this going on:


I didn’t like the idea of 1 x 1 rib on top of that because it wouldn’t be centered.  I would have:

  • KpKp KpKp KpKp KpKp KpKp KpKp KpKp KpKp
  • KpKp KpKp KpKp KpKp KpKp KpKp KpKp KpKp
  • KpKp KpKp KpKp KpKp KpKp KpKp KpKp KpKp
  • KpKp KpKp KpKp KpKp KpKp KpKp KpKp KpKp
  • KpKp KpKp KpKp KpKp KpKp KpKp KpKp KpKp
  • KpKp KpKp KpKp KpKp KpKp KpKp KpKp KpKp

Which may not be horrible, but I didn’t like it.  If I did 2 x 2 rib, starting with 2 knits, it would be a little better, I suppose:

  • KKpp KKpp KKpp KKpp KKpp KKpp KKpp KKpp
  • KKpp KKpp KKpp KKpp KKpp KKpp KKpp KKpp
  • KKpp KKpp KKpp KKpp KKpp KKpp KKpp KKpp
  • KKpp KKpp KKpp KKpp KKpp KKpp KKpp KKpp
  • KKpp KKpp KKpp KKpp KKpp KKpp KKpp KKpp
  • KKpp KKpp KKpp KKpp KKpp KKpp KKpp KKpp
  • KKpp KKpp KKpp KKpp KKpp KKpp KKpp KKpp

Again, not horrible, but actually this looks more lopsided than the 1 x 1.  What about starting with a single K before going into P2, K2?:

  • KppK KppK KppK KppK KppK KppK KppK KppK
  • KppK KppK KppK KppK KppK KppK KppK KppK
  • KppK KppK KppK KppK KppK KppK KppK KppK
  • KppK KppK KppK KppK KppK KppK KppK KppK
  • KppK KppK KppK KppK KppK KppK KppK KppK
  • KppK KppK KppK KppK KppK KppK KppK KppK

Much better — at least it is centered – but I didn’t like the way that the purl ribs would grow out of the purl sections just fine, but the knit ribs would never be growing out of a knit section.  (Or vice versa, if you start with a single P.)

So the oddball thing that I actually did was this:

  • pKKp KppK pKKp KppK pKKp KppK pKKp KppK
  • pKKp KppK pKKp KppK pKKp KppK pKKp KppK
  • pKKp KppK pKKp KppK pKKp KppK pKKp KppK
  • pKKp KppK pKKp KppK pKKp KppK pKKp KppK
  • pKKp KppK pKKp KppK pKKp KppK pKKp KppK
  • pKKp KppK pKKp KppK pKKp KppK pKKp KppK
  • pKKp KppK pKKp KppK pKKp KppK pKKp KppK

See how I now have a 2-K rib coming out of the knit blocks, and a 2-P rib coming out of the purl blocks?  I doubt anyone else would notice on the socks themselves, but it kept me happy and entertained.

basketweave socks

Also notice how this 1×1 / 2×2 hybrid pulls in the basketweave fabric substantially.  Now that’s what you want from your sock ribbing.

The marketers would call this a "design feature".

And last but not least – next time, we’ll talk about binding off!

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Sock Design 101: Part 4

OK, I admit I got a little off track, and sort of forgot I had this sock design series going.  Apologies to both of you who have been sitting on the edge of your computer chairs, waiting breathlessly for the next post in the series.

What do you mean, you weren’t?

Oh, of course.  You were knitting.  Silly me.

So when we left off, the toe-up basketweave sock design was at the stage of working our way up the foot.  We discussed how to set up the stitch pattern, and went over some of the issues you may run into when choosing other stitch patterns.

And now we’re almost ready to do the heel. 

Well, I have to admit something else.  I’ve never done a flap-n-gusset style heel from the toe up.  I figured out a while ago that I don’t like ’em when done top-down, and I tested out a whole bunch of short row heels and found or invented a couple of techniques that I really like, and have never looked back.  That said, F’n’G toe-up heels do exist.  Feel free to make one.  Your choice, although I’m not going to be a lot of help.

But, in any style of heel that I am aware of, the standard is that the heel is worked over one half of the total sock stitches.

The short-row heel is started when the sock foot is just long enough to meet the right-angle bend of the ankle.  (I have no idea when the F’n’G heel starts, except that I believe it’s further down the foot, so you have to start it sooner.)  You the designer have to figure out when your sock foot is long enough, although I can suggest that you not stretch the foot of the sock to within an inch of its little life in order to get it there.

I can also suggest that you probably ought to try the sock on the wearer’s foot, rather than going by a measurement of said foot.  The reason is, socks are usually made to fit snugly around the foot.  This means that the knitting has to stretch sideways somewhat when the sock is worn.  And that means the length of the sock foot gets a wee bit shorter, because unfortunately, in this world you can’t get something for nothing:  if the knitting stretches sideways, it’s gotta shrink lengthwise.

Of course, if you have already made some socks that fit the grateful wearer, you can take measurements off of those.

But whoa there, Nellie!

One rather important thing to remember is:  on exactly which round of your pattern stitch are you leaving off on the instep?  In a simple pattern such as this basketweave, it’s usually not a big problem to go back and figure it out by looking at the knitting.  In other cases, it’s not always so simple.

I often include a place in my published sock patterns for knitters to write down what was the last round of the pattern stitch on the instep.  Not only does this keep you on track after the heel, it also makes it much easier to make that second matching sock.

OK, now we are ready to do the heel.

A common complaint about the short row heel is that it is not roomy enough, which causes the sock to be tight at the ankle.  I have a couple of ideas to get around that problem.

One is, to do some increasing on the sole stitches just before you start the heel.  You’ll have to do some experimenting, probably — but if you were to throw in a few make 1’s on that half of the sock just before you start the heel, it will definitely give you a bigger heel pocket.

You probably want to write down just how many that was, because you probably want to decrease back down to the original number of sts after you finish the heel. 

And if you find what works for you, you’ll probably want to turn that into a percentage and memorize it – i.e. "increase 10% of the number of heels sts" as opposed to "increase 3 heel sts" because as we all know, sts vary in size.  Or possibly, "increase heel from 3.5 inches to 3.75 inches" could work, too.

Once you know how much you want to increase, you could also be a bit more organized about it, and borrow an idea from the F’n’G style heel (did I say that?  OK, I know a little more about the toe-up F’n’G style heel than I let on).

Specifically, start a tiny little gusset on either side of your heel sts — again, this will need to happen a few rounds prior to the start of your actual heel — to get you a few more stitches on which to perform your short rows.

It works like this: on the heel stitches only, K2, make 1, work to last 2 sts, make 1, K2.  Alternate this with a plain round, and soon you’ll have a tidy little pair of gussets, and plenty of stitches to do your short rows on.

To decrease back down after the completion of the heel, you’ll need to keep the heel sts in plain stock for a few rounds (see below for more on this nifty notion) and again on the heel stitches only, K2, SSK, work to last 4 sts, K2tog, K2.  Another cute little pair o’ gussets, in reverse.  I bet it looks adorable.

If you don’t like that idea, or you already started on your short-row heel, a completely different option is to add a width-wise heel gusset.  (NO, not flap-and-gusset!)  Take a look at this idea, which will also give you a more roomy heel pocket.  At least one knitter was brave enough to try it.  And it didn’t ruin her socks!

So anyway, you’ve got your heel done, and we’re about to start up the leg of the sock.  Fortunately for us, we know exactly which round of the pattern stitch to start with because we wrote it down, right?  And this part’s easy — because we did all the hard part of setting things up on the instep — so we jump right in and start doing the pattern stitch all the way around the sock leg now.

Hmmm.  But what if your heel came at a point in the stitch pattern that isn’t an aesthetically pleasing place to start the stitch pattern on the back of the sock?

For example: on DH’s socks, suppose the heel turn was done at Round 3 of the basketweave pattern.

I would do my heel, and then I’d start off with Round 4 all the way around, and thus I’d have this one little lonely round of (K4, P4) before I switched on Round 5 to (P4, K4).

That might not look so great.  In fact, it might look like a mistake, now mightn’t it?

Or what if you are doing a stitch pattern with increases on one round that are compensated for by decs on another round?  Not so uncommon as you might think.

Simplest thing to do here is to keep the sole/heel stitches in stockinette until you get to a point in the pattern stitch that is amenable to starting on the back of the sock.  There’s no law that says your pattern stitch on the back half of the leg must start IMMEDIATELY upon the completion of the heel.

In fact, back in the day — when sock knitting was usually top-down, and often just a ribbed leg and a plain stockinette foot — I read a suggestion to include an inch or so of plain stockinette between the leg ribbing and the heel flap for a better fit.  IIRC, the suggestion was that commercial socks are made this way, and a small sample (N=2) of my commercial socks seems to indicate this is true — although the amount of plain stock varies quite a bit.  If you are patterning your instep already, of course you don’t want to have an inch of stock in there, but you sure as heck can have some on the back side.

So:  do some plain stock if necessary on the back, while continuing the pattern stitch on the instep/front from where you left off.  And then start motoring up the leg…

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More recent FO’s

Here's some eye candy for ya:  a few FO's!

Sari Silk bag:  this was knit from some recycled-sari silk yarn, although at this point I'm not sure exactly which manufacturer.  This major FO accomplishment started life as "Unbiased", a bag pattern from Knitty, Fall 2004.

Unfortunately, mine was biased.  When I sewed the pieces together, they did not hang very well.  Discouraged, I took a look at the pattern on Ravelry (a few years later, to be sure) and found that not a lot of people were thrilled with the functionality of the finished product.  That was enough for me — frog city.  If a bag doesn't really hold things very well, not much use, then, is it?

sari silk bag with felted bottominside of sari silk bag

Eventually, I cooked this one up myself.  I can't say I recommend it to anyone else, though, because it was kind of a bear to knit.  But here's how I did it:

  • 2 strands Cascade 220 held together, about 120 g; size 13 needles.

  • CO 40 sts, work in garter st 24 rows.  Pick up and knit 12 sts along short side, 40 sts along CO edge, 12 sts along other short side.

  • K 18 rounds (stockinette st).

  • Next round – cut one strand of yarn.  **K1, YO** around.

  • Next round – K2tog all the way around while binding off at the same time.

Weave a strand of non-felting yarn through the eyelet holes and tie securely.  Felt piece.

When dry, remove the non-felting yarn, and pick up and knit in the eyelet holes with silk yarn.  Adjust number of sts after first round if necessary to get silk section the same width as felted section.  Work in linen st forever, until bag is as tall as desired.  Bind off.

Unfortunately, even though the bag was made of non-stretchy silk yarn in unyielding linen stitch (which is why it was SO DARNED FUN to knit) — it turned out that when anything was put in the bag, the knitted section stretched anyway, and the sides became kind of concave.  What to do?  Add a fabric lining.  And glue that sucker directly to the knitting, to keep it from sagging out of shape.

I cut up an old shirt of my husband's and hemmed it with fusible web, because at this point I just didn't care any more.  I was pretty well just finishing it to finish the damned thing.  I fused the lining into a tube of the appropriate diameter, fused adhesive to the lining, and stuffed the lining inside to be fused to the knitting.

The final hurdle was this:  how to keep the knitting stretched to just the proper width while doing the fusing?

Answer:  I turned the whole thing inside out, and stuffed a pillow inside the bag.  Sheer genius, if I say it myself.  Having the cotton lining on the OUTSIDE while fusing kept the knitting from being stretched out too far by the pillow, and the pillow made an excellent surface upon which to wield the iron.

Finally, the straps are repurposed belt loop material I bought at SCRAP.  I glued those on, too.  Lazy, I guess.

To my own surprise, I use it often, and I've gotten a number of compliments on it!

completed Flame Rib socks

Believe it or not, I did get these bad boys finished, too.  I proudly present DH's Flame Rib Socks.

There is a heckuva lot of history on these, which started out as a guilt project and turned into the Socks from Hell.

You will notice, I trust, that they are now 100% mirror images of each other.

I do think I found an error in the stitch pattern, though.

May Barbara Walker forgive me, I am convinced there are a couple of rows missing off the top of this chart.  Fourth Treasury (the green one), page 188.

There are 18 rows in the first half of the chart, and only 14 in the second half.  Yet the first half and second half are mirror images of each other, except for that rather significant difference.

I believe that additional rows 34 and 36 should be included as mirror images of rows 16 and 18.  And that's the way I knitted these socks.

What?  There's more?   Oh, yes.

I don't think I managed to post this FO here, although it has been on display over at the Knitting Bee as a class sample for a couple of months now.  This is a version of EZ's famous Ribwarmer vest, restyled.

Restyled ribwarmer, frontrestyled ribwarmer, back view

In case anyone wonders, I put some real work into redesigning this vest — and anyone who's been here a while knows I don't use the term "design" lightly.

EZ's original directions are about two paragraphs long, and while I applaud her cleverness and the originality of the basic concept — the "style" factor just isn't there for me in some of the boxier designs.  I particularly disliked the very squared-off armholes on the original — so I fixed 'em, along with a few other things.

The class material covers seven pages, and contains several improvements on the original.  A couple of them were gleaned from other sources, and some of them are my own — including a schematic, step-by-step knitting instructions (including wrapped double short rows in garter stitch) and MULTIPLE SIZES.

This came out so nicely, I'm working on finishing up a seed stitch version in Manos, too.  However, that one is still in the stack, so that's it for the FO's!

If anyone else is keeping score:  the old UFO pile is down to THREE.  Yup, only THREE.  Will wonders never cease?

I did fall off the "no new projects until the UFO's are cleared out" wagon, and added a couple of new projects in the past few weeks — so in the stack I have two new projects, three old UFO's, and two projects that are "holding" (one is waiting for yarn).  Not bad!

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Sock Design 101: Part 3

Oh, hi. You got that basketweave sock done all the way to the heel then?  Not quite?  OK, good, we’ll "pick up" where we left off.  (ha, ha, little knitting humor there.  Very little.)

Last time we went through the exercise of setting up the basketweave pattern st so that it was centered on the instep of the sock.  And we have a few more things to think about:  I promised to discuss some other situations that might arise, and what to do about them.

BTW:  it is probably worth mentioning here in big bold letters that instructions for knitting stitches are not always written in stitch dictionaries in such a way that they are symmetrical!!  That’s because the most basic instructions are going to give you only one pattern repeat, and for symmetry, you also need to know over how many stitches the pattern will be worked.  Sometimes this is specified; mostly it is not.

For example, there’s this "4 x 4 basketweave".  That short phrase really tells you all you need to know to create the pattern st — but nothing about the symmetry.  To include that, I would have to start off saying something like:  "4 x 4 basketweave pattern, worked over a multiple of 8 sts plus 4:  (K4, P4), end K4."

And anyway, even if your st pattern does say "over a multiple of X sts plus Y" — if it’s not already charted, it’s always a good idea to work it out for yourself on paper before you commit your whole sock.

That said, what are some of the other bugaboos that can happen?  Well, there are a few.

Potential Problem 1:

Your chosen st pattern doesn’t fit evenly into the total number of sts for your sock leg.

This one is kind of a big problem.  A couple of things you can do:  one is to choose another st pattern.

Another option is to slightly alter the number of sts in your sock — that is, you may be able to just increase or decrease a few sts before you go into your pattern rounds, to accommodate your pattern st.

For example, if you plan on having a 60-st sock and your chosen st pattern fits into 62 sts, you can increase 1 st on the instep before you start the pattern rounds.  There’s no law that says your instep can’t be 31 sts while your sole remains at 30 sts — until you get past the heel, at which point it becomes the back half of the leg and also goes to 31 sts.

Yet another option is to alter the st pattern to fit the number of sts you have.  This is not as crazy as it may sound:  I’ll bet it wouldn’t be beyond you to alter the 4 x 4 basketweave to be 3 x 3, or 5 x 5, or 6 x 6.  Many st patterns are pretty symmetrical and amenable to being adjusted.  Try it out with something simple, and try it on paper first.vine leaf socks by Tess Mattos

Watch out for edge stitches:  when using a st dictionary to select your sock pattern st, make sure that you are not counting extra edge sts that are included for knitting back-and-forth.

On the other hand, extra edge sts may be just what you need to eke a st pattern out to a larger number of sts, especially if you are trying to use a fairly large cable panel or something like that.  You may be able to extend the design by, for example, adding extra ribbing sts on either side.  (If I were trying to make this Vine Leaf sock bigger, for example, that’s what I would do.  It’s not obvious in this picture nor in the one below, but there is a 2 x 2 rib down each side of the sock.  I could add more of that if I needed it.)

Potential Problem 2:

Your chosen st pattern has an odd number of sts in it — but the number of sts on your instep is an even number.

In terms of symmetry, this means your chosen st pattern is symmetrical about a single central st, instead of being symmetrical between sts.

This gets solved similarly to one of the solutions for #1:  add an extra st to the instep before you start the pattern rounds, and when you get there, do the same on the leg.  I used this trick technique on the toe of the "Rite of Spring" sock.

Potential Problem #3:

Your chosen pattern st has important stuff going on at the edges of the instep that doesn’t fit into the number of sts you have available.

This one also occurred on the "Rite of Spring" sock toe.  As the pattern grows wider along with the toe, I had to leave out some double decreases and YOs at the edges, to keep the st counts where I wanted them.

If you have balanced increases and decreases in your pattern st, make sure they stay balanced while you are working on just the instep — don’t cut off things on the edges that are needed to keep the st count stable.  (Once you are working in the round, it shouldn’t be a problem if your st pattern fits properly into your total number of sts.)

Potential Problem #4:

Your chosen st pattern isn’t symmetrical at all, but is instead a one-way pattern.

vine leaf socks by Tess MattosAgain, we have a couple of choices here.  One is to simply make two identical socks and pretend that you meant to make them that way.

Here is a perfect example:  the Vine Leaf Sock pattern, which as you can see has a main pattern motif that does not fold neatly in half.

(You can also see that this pattern is now available for purchase as a Ravelry download.  And, I have it on good authority that you need NOT be a member of Ravelry to purchase and download these patterns.  Thanks for testing it out, Linda!)

Now, in this case, making both socks exactly the same might not have been that noticeable — but hey, we’re professionals here, or at least the person writing this post is.  And the preferred method is to make the second sock a complete mirror image of the first sock.

Flame Rib Socks by Tess Mattos"Flipping" a knitting chart is not always as hard as you might think.  I did this both on the Vine Leaf socks, and on the remake of DH’s Socks from Hell — you may remember, though not as vividly as I do, when he tried them on and the first thing out of his mouth was, "why aren’t they mirror images of each other?" which nearly got him killed.

Well, I’ve fixed that this time around.

In both of these cases, the chart divides pretty neatly in half:  first half swerves one way, second half swerves the other way.  For a mirror image, simply start the second sock using the second half of the chart.  Simple, no?



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Sock Design 101: Part 2

(This is the second in a series of posts discussing the process of designing DH’s basketweave socks.)

We left off Part 1 with a completed toe, and have discovered that in order to have a sock foot that is about 7" circumference, we have ended up with 64 sts total for the foot of the sock.

Part 2 starts with the patterning of the foot.  But wait!  One more little detail.

I don’t always remember to do this, and I actually don’t think I did it on these particular socks — but if you have a tendency to wear out the toes, as my DH does, it will make it a lot easier to remove and replace the toe later if you throw in a couple of rounds of plain stockinette here.  No increases, no pattern, just a round or two of plain ol’ knit all sts.  Cheap insurance.

Step 3 is to set up the pattern for the instep, which is the technical term for "the part of the sock that’s on the top of your foot."  This can be the make-or-break part of the whole thing, because as you can see from the finished socks, the flow of the pattern for the entire sock is going to be established right here.

The sole sts — which traditionally means half of the total number of sts — are going to stay in plain stockinette.  Therefore, we have 32 sts for the sole that are going to remain in plain stock, and 32 other sts over which to work our st pattern.

As mentioned before, the st pattern I was planning to use was a 4 x 4 basketweave.  With a repeating pattern of (4 knits, 4 purls), that means a full pattern repeat is 8 sts, and 8 rows.  Here is a graphical version, with a single repeat picked out in red:


Obviously, that 8-st multiple divides quite nicely into the 32 sts I have available — but actually, what’s even more important is that it divides nicely into the 64 sts total that will be on the leg of the sock, where I will want the pattern to flow smoothly all around, with no hiccups.  This is a fairly important rule of standard sock design:  Having the pattern fit nicely on the leg of the sock trumps just about any juggling that you might have to do on the instep.

But this time, there’s no need to finagle with either number of sts.  Whoo-hoo!  We’re off to the races, right?

Well, not quite.  It might be tempting to just start right in with [K4, P4] over the instep and then K all the way across the sole.  Easy, but not aesthetic:  if I do that, the st pattern will not be centered over the 32 instep sts.  What I will have on the instep after the first round is this — if you imagine working 32 sts, starting over on the right with knitting 4 sts:


Notice this is not laterally symmetrical – the left half is not a mirror image of the right half.  The double red line that represents the middle of my 32 sts has knits on one side and purls on the other.  The whole thing has knits at the beginning, and purls at the end.  That is not what we want, my friends.

(Notice also that I only need to use the first round to set it up, because the whole basketweave pattern is symmetrical about the same line.  Subsequent rounds will either be the same as this one, or will be flipped so that K’s turn into P’s and vice versa.  But the symmetry will stay the same.)

I’m sure there are proper names for some of the concepts here, but I don’t know them.  What I do know is, it all has to do with the number of sts in your st pattern, and the number of repeats involved.

For example:  if I had 36 sts on the instep of my sock, I could start off with K4 just fine.  I would then have:


which is laterally symmetrical.  There are two knits on either side of the double red line, and knits on either end of the whole thing.

What’s the difference?  The double red line that denotes the center of my 36 sts now falls in the middle of a knit block, which also happens to be the middle of my pattern stitch!

The centering process goes like this:  First, find the center of your stitch pattern — the place where you can "fold it in half" to make a mirror image — i.e. the point about which it has lateral symmetry.  Then, line that point up with the center of your instep sts by counting out from the center, in order to figure out where in the sequence to start your pattern st.

In this case, the center of the st pattern is in the middle of the 4 knit sts.  As long as I have half my instep sts on either side of that line, I will have lateral symmetry.

Since I already have my st pattern written out, all I have to do is count 16 sts to the left and to the right to get my 32 instep sts, and voilà!

It’s often quickest and easiest to work this out on paper:  exactly like what I did here, writing out K’s and P’s (or whatever) until you can pinpoint the center of the st pattern.  (You can use a spreadsheet too, and copy and paste, if you prefer.)  Write out more repeats than you need for the number of sts that you have — mark the center of the pattern — and then it’s a simple matter to count sts and "chop off" the extras on either end.

Using the same example, then, I might end up with something like this:


where I have now crossed off 2 extra sts on either end, and we can see that if I want my 4 x 4 basketweave to be centered over 32 sts, I’ll have to start off with a K2 and then go into my P4.

Hey, that wasn’t so bad, was it?  Makes a lot of sense when you look at it graphically, right?

But if I were to write it out, my sock "pattern" looks like this for the foot:

  • Rounds 1 – 4:  K2, ** P4, K4 ** 3 times, P4, K34.  (that’s the 2 K’s on the end of the instep, plus the 32 sts on the sole.)
  • Rounds 5 – 8:  P2, ** K4, P4 ** 3 times, K4, P2, K32.
  • Repeat these 8 rounds for pattern.

You can see that all that sensible graphical stuff doesn’t translate all that well into words.  Even worse, if I were to try to write it out for two different sizes — say, my DH’s 64-st sock, and another, larger, 72-st sock — using the 36-st example as my model for the second size — I end up with THIS:

  • Rounds 1 – 4:  K (2,4) ** P4, K4 ** 3 times, P4, K(34, 40).
  • Rounds 5 – 8:  P (2,4) ** K4, P4 ** 3 times, K4, P(2,4), K(32,36).
  • Repeat these 8 rounds for pattern.

And again, the whole visual aspect of what I did above is completely lost in the translation.

Essentially this idea of "centering" is a fairly simple concept, once you "get it". But it’s really kind of hard to write it out as a step-by-step explanation.  Imagine how complicated and wordy this post would be if I didn’t have those little visuals!

OK, that part of the sock should keep you busy knitting for a while.  I did about 10 pattern repeats, or 80 rounds, to get to the heel on DH’s socks.  Of course, your DH’s feet may be different.

(I know I shouldn’t do this, but I can’t help it:  80 rounds x 64 sts per round = 5,120 sts.  AAAH!  And that’s only half of one sock, not even counting the toe sts!)

In Part 3, I’ll digress a little bit from this particular sock, and discuss some of the other situations that can arise when trying to center stitch patterns on socks.

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Sock Design 101: Part 1

Oh, happy day!  DH has another pair of handknit socks, and I have one less UFO.  (Believe it or not, I’m down to just SIX UFO’s.  My advice is to keep an eye out for plagues of locusts.)

DH's basketweave socks

I started these socks on the trip to New Zealand, with yarn I bought there:  Naturally Haven, a 100% NZ merino wool 4-ply, from Naturally Hand Knit Yarns, out of Auckland.  The yarn was nice to work with — it has a soft hand and a little "plushiness" to it.  I used US size 0 needles to end up with a gauge of 9 sts per inch, and got a really nice sock fabric that DH says may be his favorite pair yet (although I think he is smart enough now to say that about every new pair).

The label recommends US size 1-3 needles to get 7 sts per inch — which adds another data point to bear out my hypothesis that yarn companies’ suggested gauges these days are generally too loose for my taste.

Of course, I didn’t bring my set of Barbara Walker stitch dictionaries along to New Zealand, so this pair is done in a simple 4 x 4 allover basketweave pattern.

  • ** 4 knits, 4 purls **  and repeat around for 4 rounds.
  • Switch to ** 4 purls, 4 knits ** — putting blocks of purls above blocks of knits, and vice versa — and repeat for another 4 rounds.
  • Repeat these two sets of blocks for as long as you can stand it.

More than one knitter has asked me if I’m going to write this up as a Polar Bear pattern.  I hadn’t planned on it, since the whole thing seems pretty simple to me and I’m sure there are more than a few patterns for similar socks out there already.  (In fact, there are at least a few thousand.  Just for fun, I googled it — and found "about 8,190 results for men basket weave sock knit pattern.")

Then I thought, well, it might be worth it to dissect the process of "designing" this sock as a couple of blog posts.

I put that word "design" in quotes there, because I really hesitate to use the word to describe what I did with these socks.

I know there are a lot of people who use the word rather freely, as in, "I knit this scarf from a pattern, but I changed the color, so that means I designed it myself."

But there is not so much in the knitting world that is really new or innovative — which are a couple of qualities that I personally think are required for something to be your own "design".  Just because you changed the gauge or used a different yarn does not a designer make, IMHO.

I remember a knitter a few years ago showing me a pair of socks that were knit by, let’s say her great-grandmother, because I can’t remember exactly — for someone who was in WWII (or maybe even WWI).  Those socks were also a simple allover basketweave pattern — although if memory serves, I think the gauge on those was so tiny it was like a 7 x 7 basketweave to get about the same size squares.  Yikes.

To me, the fact that someone else knitted what amounts to the same pair of socks, decades before I was even born, says pretty clearly that this pair isn’t exactly what you would call a "designer original".  Well, not unless you were trying to sell style instead of substance, anyway — or your knitting ego really needs a boost.

At the outside, one could say perhaps mine were "inspired" by that pair — which does sound better than "more-or-less a copy of".

So whether you want to call it "design" — or simply some smarts, some expertise and some math — here’s how the process went.

Step 1 was to know a few things about what I wanted to end up with.

  • *  I knew from experience that DH prefers socks that are about 7" or 7.25" around.
  • *  I knew that this yarn was going to require probably the smallest needle size I had with me, to get a nice firm sock fabric that will wear well.
  • *  I wanted something that looked a little more interesting than plain stockinette, since the yarn is very plain — but not too complicated to execute, either, so I could easily keep track of it, and would not have to do too many acrobatics around the heel to accommodate the stitch pattern.
  • *  Of course, it had to be something DH would like — fortunately, he prefers fairly basic socks in what I think of as "manly" patterns — mainly simple geometrics.

So from these considerations come the basics:  finished size = 7" or so circumference; needles = smallest I’ve got on hand; and stitch pattern = a basic basketweave.

Step 2 was to know how to knit a sock.  And preferably, to know several ways of knitting socks, so I can choose the method best suited to my biggest constraints:  in this case, materials and circumstances.

My material constraint was that I had exactly two balls of yarn, from a country that was going to be a very long way away in the event that I ran out.  So, I chose to knit these socks toe-up rather than top-down — which is also a good trick for utilizing handspun efficiently, or indeed any time you are unsure about your yarn quantity.  (I ended up using all but about a yard or two of the yarn.  Nicely done, if I say it myself.)

My circumstances were that I didn’t have much internet access, and my knitting library was a long ways away, so I’d better choose a method that I could easily do from memory.  I had the foresight to print off a copy of Judy Becker’s toe-up cast-on before I left — which is the only part of a toe-up sock that I can’t always do independently — so I did have that resource available.  Also I didn’t want to do a lot of note-taking in order to be able to reproduce the second sock.  In other words, now was not the time to be trying to learn something new!  Experimentation has its essential place in designing, but here the goal is not so much a "design" as a pair of socks.

So from all this, we can choose our method:  toe-up sock with all my standard favorite techniques.

A bonus here is that this choice eliminates any swatching for gauge, since I can just start the toe out with oh, say, 10 sts per side (20 sts total) and increase until the toe is big enough, and that will determine how many sts I’ll have on the main body of the sock.  When I have that info, I’ll figure out the details of the stitch pattern.

The basketweave st pattern that I have tentatively selected should present no problems in terms of the multiple — although it’s worth mentioning that at this point in the sock, I haven’t really specified the st pattern, other than figuring it’s going to be a basketweave.  I am thinking it will be a standard 4 x 4, and as long as my number of sts ends up being a multiple of 8, that will work out fine — but it could still end up being a 5 x 5, or a 3 x 3 basketweave, if that better suits the number of sts on the sock.

But that’s a little ways off yet.  Right now, we have enough to get started on the toe, and work our way up to the total number of sts for the foot.  Remember our goal is a 7" or slightly larger sock, so we continue the toe increases until we have a little tube that is about 3.5" across.  This happens at 64 sts total.

BTW, notice that gauge hasn’t actually entered into this at all yet?  In fact, I never measured the gauge on these socks until today, when I started writing about them.  It’s right at 9 sts per inch, of course — 64 sts divided by 9 sts per inch gets us that 7" worth of sock.  But I didn’t need to know that to knit them!  HA!  This is perhaps the biggest reason I prefer to knit toe-up socks.

And somewhere in here we confirm that the needle size selection is indeed giving us a nice, firm sock fabric.  This check is not so much a positive identification — it’s more of a NOT thinking, "This fabric is kind of loosey-goosey for a sock."

OK, so where are we?

Suitable fabric?  Check.

Fits the foot?  Check.

Multiple of 8 sts?  How nice and convenient!  Sometimes you catch a break.

An excellent start, then.  More to come!

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