What Can You Learn from Manufactured Socks?

Q.  Does anybody else live with a husband, SO or otherwise adult male who simply can't get the hang of turning his socks (and underwear, and t-shirts) right side out before tossing into the laundry hamper?

(A.  Does a bear crap in the woods?)

I admit my equally adult response to this is, that while I will turn a t-shirt right side out in order to hang it up, I won't turn the socks and undies.  However — putting questions of maturity aside — it turns out that DH's childish habit has led to the discovery that there is something very interesting about commercially-made men's argyle socks.  (Well, OK.  Probably only interesting to knitters, but after all, that's why you're here.)

DH recently bought the argyle socks pictured.  Of course, they ended up in the hamper inside-out.  Not just inside-out, actually — this one was still in a cold, wet ball when it came out of the washer.  When that happens, I will go so far as to pull said sock out of the little wad it's in, so it doesn't end up thumping around in the dryer for an hour and come out still wet.

cheating bastardsSo I'm standing there, looking at the inside of this argyle sock, and it occurs to me that I've never even wondered how they manage to make these socks commercially.  After all, handknitting an argyle sock is a heckuva lot of work.  You're talking intarsia, charts, probably bobbins — and if you do it traditionally, intarsia has to be done back-and-forth, so there's a seam involved as well.

So how do they manage to do all this in a sock factory?


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Fair Isle Just Doesn’t Work for Socks

DH's Fair Isle SocksToday I have an actual FO to share and some "experience", free gratis.  You know what experience is, right?

"Experience is what you get when you didn’t get what you wanted." 

~~ Dan Stanford

Ta-da!  Here is the latest in socks for DH.

I was pretty against the idea of knitting plain navy blue socks — how boring can you get?? — so after looking at some choices, DH decided he wanted this two-color pattern, from a 1979 vintage mens' socks leaflet.vintage sock pattern

At first, I was pretty intrigued by the picture of these socks.  How the heck did they do Fair Isle across just the top of the instep?  Must be some clever, little-known technique, right?

Wrong.  They actually knit the instep and the sole of the socks separately, and seamed them together along the sides of the foot.

I warned DH he wasn't going to get patterning across the top of the foot, unless he wanted those seams as well — he is a smart man and voted for plain foot, no seams.

The navy blue yarn is Paton's, the red yarn is Regia — both yarns were bought on the trip to New Zealand, and the combo was chosen by DH.  Not too bad — actually, more handsome than I initially thought the color combination would be.

Unfortunately, as far as the actual knitting went, it turns out I would have been a lot happier with "boring", I think.  For one, the colorwork slowed me down tremendously.  I "threw" the red yarn and "picked" the navy, and those rounds of "knit 1 MC, 2 CC" nearly drove me bananas, they went so slow.

And it's not even like all that work was worth it.  I should have known better.  I said it myself years ago about a popular Socks that Rock pattern, and I'll say it again (with any luck, maybe I'll pay attention to myself this time) —

Fair Isle is simply a lousy technique to use for socks.

The basic, un-fix-able problem with using Fair Isle for socks is that it simply doesn't have the stretch of regular knitting.  The yarn that is not in use is stranded to the back of the fabric, and prevents it from giving like regular knitted fabric — no matter how loose the stranding is.  (Well, I suppose you could probably strand loosely enough if you took it to an extreme, but then I'm pretty sure your toes would get caught in those floats.)

So on these socks, while the leg is the same diameter as the foot (if the FI is properly done and it doesn't pull the fabric in) — it still doesn't stretch nearly as much as the foot fabric does.  So these socks are a little tricky for DH to pull over his heels.  I fear this may cause him to

(a) not wear them very often — either because they are hard to put on and take off, or because over the course of a day they will get too tight and uncomfortable;


(b) break a strand someday while donning or doffing them — and then it's goodbye, pair of socks.  Even I am probably not going to attempt that repair.

In retrospect, what I should have done was increase enough sts for 1 or maybe 2 additional pattern repeats after finishing the heel, to make the leg a bit bigger than the foot of the sock.  Oh, well.  Live and learn.  And since I'm personally not planning to ever knit another pair of Fair Isle socks again, you can have that little tidbit of now-useless insight for free.  :)

However, maybe I could be persuaded to someday try out that pattern in knits and purls.  Here are the details:  worked over a multiple of 3 sts.  "MS" is "Main Shade"; "C" is "Contrast".

Fair Isle patterncloseup of color pattern

I worked these socks bottom-up, so my pattern is flipped, I suppose, compared to theirs.  But a nice little repeat, easily memorized… just not worth doing in two colors, for socks.

I have to add in this little coincidence:  I was well on my way through this project when I realized the vintage pattern leaflet is from Paton's — and I was actually using Paton's yarn!  Well, the navy yarn, anyway.  Their logo has changed a little bit from 1979 to 2009!  So have sock knitting techniques — I mean, who on earth wants seams down the foot?  But one thing hasn't changed — non-stretchy Fair Isle is STILL a poor choice for socks!

patons leaflet and yarn label

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Champagne, Anyone?

drumroll please…  Et voilà!  I can now unveil pictures of my latest sock design.

While you may have sipped champagne while you knit, I bet you haven’t ever knitted champagne glasses, in a veritable champagne fountain — complete with little bubbles!

The openwork heart on the toe is of course optional, and I can tell you it didn’t bother my feet — but if you have sensitive tootsies, you may opt to move the heart further up on the instep, or leave it out entirely.  Or put in extra ones.  Or put them in different places on each sock…  OK, someone stop me.  This is too cute already.

More notes on the design can be found in this post, but for today I think a picture or two is worth a thousand words.

Kits are available at For Yarn’s Sake in Beaverton.

ETA:  I just added it on Ravelry, too!  so if you’re knitting it, throw me some Ravelry love and add it to your queue!  :)

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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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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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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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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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News Flashes

Well, life has been happening with a vengeance around our house the past few days.  So you’ll have to forgive me for just throwing out a couple of updates here.

First of all, there are a few spots left in the Knitting 911 class this Thursday night at Knitting Bee.  This class is always a lot of fun for me, to watch knitters go from "how did you do that?" to "I can do that!" in a mere two hours.  Call Knitting Bee at 503.439.3316 if you’re interested!

Thursday, 5-21-09     6:00-8:00 pm

"When good stitches go bad"  If your biggest knitting complaint is that you don’t know what to do when it’s screwed up, this is the class for you.  We’ll work with a swatch so there’s "no fear" and we’ll make and fix many common mistakes.  Learn important things about the way knitted fabric "works" that you didn’t know were important!  Class fee: $25

rite of spring lace sock

Secondly, the "Rite of Spring" lace sock pattern, which was the April exclusive to the Fearless Fibers lace club, is now available for everyone to purchase as a Ravelry download!  let’s see if this works…

pink lace socks

I am unsure whether you have to be a Ravelry member to use that button.  (But if you’re not, what the heck are you waiting for?)

I finished my own pair and here’s the proof — yay!

In actual knitting news, I have been working diligently on the Socks from Hell for DH.  Well, I actually ripped out and restarted the Socks from Hell.  (And I had gotten the damned things past the heel — both of ’em!!)

Turns out they were really too tight and the ribbing was really stretched out when DH put them on, and they just looked crappy.  So I started over, and fixed a couple of things, including what I think is a mistake in the pattern stitch — and I’m really a lot more happy with them than I would have ever thought I could be with this project.  So I’ll be discussing those in more detail in my series on sock designing.  Just not today…

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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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“Rite of Spring” Sock (for FF Lace Club)

OK, you got a peek at the toe a couple of weeks ago — now here’s the rest of it!  

rite of spring lace sock

I said you wouldn’t get bored halfway through, now didn’t I?

This is the pattern for the April ’09 shipment from the Fearless Fibers "Whisper of Spring" lace club.  It’s only being sent out to club members as of now, but will be available to non-members in probably a month or so.

The lace patterns on the leg are all interchangeable — so if there’s one that doesn’t thrill you, you can leave it out, knit more of your faves, rearrange them to suit your taste, even make non-matching socks if that’s what does it for you.  You could also make a plain foot if you prefer, and save all the lace for the legs.  Knitter’s choice!

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sneek pink — I mean, peek

OK, so obviously I am a sucker for pink.  And being a redhead, this can be problematic — although I am starting to see more and more hairs that are, shall we say, colorless — so maybe this issue will resolve itself in time.  (My hairdresser refers to them as "platinum highlights", BTW.  Talk about spin!)

So, when my pal Deb over at Fearless Fibers asked me in which light, springlike, pastel-y color I would like to do another sock pattern, for her "Whisper of Lace" spring club, well…  It wasn’t exactly a tough call.  And anyway, green was pretty much taken.

Thus, pretty pink lace socks is what I’ve been hard at work on lately — and once again, I can’t really blog about it thoroughly.  Yet.

Technically, I’ve been working on this sock design for quite a while.  I had the basic idea months ago, but wasn’t able to work it out back then.  (And anyway, that sock was brown, and it simply would not have been as pretty.)  I also had an idea milling around in my head for the better part of a year, for making the stitch pattern conform to the toe of the sock.  And it all just seemed to come together for this one.  It’s been very fun to design, and to knit. 

pink lace sock toe

Here’s a sneek peek of the toe in question:  but remember, this is (almost literally) just the tip of the iceberg.  Let’s just say I don’t think you’ll get bored halfway through.

Now, if you’ve been here before, you probably know I am not a lover of handknit socks for myself.  But I gotta tell you, when I put this sock — singular for the moment! — on my tootsie, I just feel feminine as all get out.  Who knows what a pair will do to me?  These might turn out to be DH’s favorite socks, if you know what I mean, wink wink, nudge nudge.

More data:  my friend Rock Star is definitely not what you’d call a girly girl.  But when she saw this, she said it might even inspire her to make pink socks.

The best part of it is, my feet are a long way from my red hair!

The only problem is I haven’t thought up a great name for them.  I know you haven’t seen the whole thing yet, but if you just happen to have any fabulously clever ideas, please let me know!

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Fixing the Too-Short Socks

You may remember that one of the things I recently finished was a pair of short socks for DH.  Unfortunately, they turned out to be short in multiple places:  one of which was the leg, as intended, and one of which was the foot, which was not.

And you may also recall that Sheryl’s remark opened my eyes to the fact that instead of tearing off the whole heel and lengthening the foot in the direction it was originally knitted, I could simply remove the toe of the sock, and lengthen it from that end, going in that direction.

Yes, you can seamlessly knit stockinette st in either direction, especially if it’s in the round.  But some people *ahem* have to be shown before they will believe, oh ye of little faith who know who you are.  So I took the socks in question to the Friday Group class, and now we have a little dog and pony show photographic documentation of the process to post today.

Actually, by now, this to me is a familiar chore — because one of the many great things about DH is that he wears out his handknit socks at the toe, NOT the heel.  Heels can be a real bear to replace — especially that flap-and-gusset style.

In comparison, toes are EASY to remove and reknit.  And here is the step-by-step explanation of how I do it.

1.  Put your non-dominant hand inside the sock.  Decide where you need to start re-knitting the sock.

If the sock was knit top-down, picking up the toe decreases aren’t that big a deal, and you can actually pick up just about anywhere prior to the point where the hole has appeared, even if it’s halfway up the toe.  I mean, why do more work than you have to?  But if you’re having to use a different color of yarn to repair the toe, you may want to go ahead and redo the whole toe for aesthetic value.

Toe-up socks are a little more difficult.  It’s very tricky to pick up toe increases when you’re really trying to head in the other direction.  So you’re probably better off redoing the whole toe.  Find where the toe shaping is completed — with any luck there is nothing going on there except plain ol’ stockinette in rounds.

In fact, when I knit socks for DH now, if I’m being particularly clever, I’ll throw in a couple of rounds of plain stock after I finish the toe, and before any patterning starts, specifically for the purpose of making it easier on myself to do the toe repairs later on.  You could even do a single round of a different (but coordinating) color, I suppose — kind of like the commercial "gold toe" socks.  I haven’t resorted to that yet, although it strikes me as a great way to practice this.

But supposing that you don’t have any plain rounds after the toe?

You can take a stab at picking up the very last round of the toe, with its attendant increases  — but of course this complicates things a bit.  However, any knitter who has gotten this far can probably figure out some way to deal with the odd loosey-goosey bits once the thing is back on the needles:  pick up some extra sts and then decrease them away on the next round, or something.

Of course, it is possible to pick up pattern sts in this manner, but it’s definitely less straightforward.  I suggest you try this on something nice and plain before you go for, say, cables.

2.  Run some needles through all the sts on this round.

Being able to run a needle through an existing row (or round) of sts is a skill that admittedly takes a bit of practice.  (I’ve had a few years and more than a few knitting mistakes with which to work on it.)  Your biggest challenge is going to be keeping to the same row/round and not jogging up or down off it onto a different row.

One good way to practice this skill — as alluded to above — is to knit yourself a swatch with a single row in a different color, and then practice picking up that row.

Do this from the right side of the fabric, and use a spare needle to pick up the right leg of every loop.  Get yourself some really good lighting and that’s half the battle.  Another excellent tactic is to use needles smaller than the ones used to do the original knitting.

3.  Snip a single st in the round above the one that is now on the needles.  The knitting will probably start to disintegrate.

4.  Use another needle to pick out the round above the one on the needles — starting from that st you just snipped.  Pull on each half-stitch in turn to release the yarn from the sts on the needles.  This tail will get pretty long pretty quickly, and can become a pain to pick out half-stitch by half-stitch.  If you don’t plan on re-using this yarn, you can snip it short every so often.

(Note:  there is no sound on this video.)

5.  When you get all the way around the sock, OMG!!  the old toe will fall off, and you will be left with what we hope are mostly all the sts of one round on the needles, and a tail of used yarn from the unpicking.  At this point, I usually go once around the sock slipping all the sts, to check that they are all members of the same round, and no one got dropped or turned around.  It’s cheap insurance.

6a.  If all you are doing is replacing a worn-out toe, then tink the new round back to the side of the sock where the toe shaping usually begins.  MAKE SURE your new toe lines up with the old heel.  Tie on new yarn and knit a new toe.  Weave in ends.

 6b.  If you need to add length to your sock, do so and then reknit the toe.

Voilà!  and Happy Knitting!

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When the Student Is Ready…

The rest of the old Buddhist saying is, "…then the teacher will appear."

Well, usually I’m the knitting teacher — but in this case, I became the student. 

Last Friday, I was grousing about the short black socks I had knitted for DH while on the trip in New Zealand.  Although I had faithfully copied the original socks, DH confirmed (after a brief trial wearing) that the feet were really too short.  You’re probably familiar with the phenomenon of short socks sliding down the back of your foot and off your heel — and that’s what happened.

For now, I’m blaming the problem on the fact that I can’t hand-knit at the same gauge as the original machine-knit socks.  It’s true for garments that a bulky ski sweater requires more ease than a lightweight cashmere cardigan, and maybe it’s true for bulky socks too, for all I know.

Sadly, my first solution was immediately vetoed, and I will not be allowed to add colorful pom-poms to the back of the socks to solve the problem.

So, I was stewing about the idea of taking off the ribbing, ripping out the heel, adding more foot, and redoing the whole back end of the sock.  That’s a fair amount of sock to reknit — especially since there isn’t all that much to this pair of socks to begin with — and for the record, I’ll repeat that I had already broken two of my six new Knitpicks needles on these stupid socks.  Grumble, grouse, gripe — carp, kvetch, whine.

Then there was this knitting epiphany…

Going back to the Buddhist saying for a moment, I googled it and found this rendition (on what I’m going to describe as an "alternative" blog):

…I like to change the original saying to “When there is a need, Help is available.” Be aware of your need, and be open to help coming from perhaps the least expected source. I believe that when need is expressed – whether in prayer, meditation, a journal, magical diary, etc. – an answer will come.  Be observant, but not restrictive in your expectation of how the response will come.

It may come as a message given by a stranger. It may come in an unexpected way from a friend or relative, or from your employer, the local government, or other source…

Well, let’s just say I didn’t start a magical diary to solve my problem.  But on Friday, I was telling a few of the Friday group regulars about the stupid short socks, and how I was going to have to redo the stupid short socks — and before I gave any pertinent details, one of them said, "Well, it’s just a matter of undoing the toe and adding more to the foot, isn’t it?"

I started to say, "No, no, these were knitted toe…  up…"

Then the skies opened, and the angels sang.

As a matter of fact, she was right!

And Whoo-hoo!  that saves me a ton of work.  You see, you can pick up some stitches and work seamlessly in the opposite direction from the original — IF and only if your knitted fabric consists of complete rows (or rounds) of the same kind of stitch — either all knits or all purls.  So, this little trick is pretty much limited to either garter or stockinette — which is what these socks are.

Let’s see if I can draw how this works:

knit up and downOK, so take a look at the first picture, which shows a red row of five stitches.  There is a purple row, then a blue row, and a green row, all going in the expected direction.

Now look at the second picture — same five red stitches, with four pink stitches worked into the bottoms of them, going the other direction.

Now that you’re convinced this works for the middle of the fabric — the next question is, what about the edges?  Yeah, the edges are always a problem, aren’t they?  What you’ve got, in a purely technical sense, is an extra half a stitch hanging out on either edge.  This is clear from the second picture, with those red partial loops on either edge.

However, that second drawing doesn’t represent a real piece of knitting — it was more to help you understand how the rows hook together.

If you look back at the top picture for a minute, you can see that on the edge where the red row changes to purple, you’ll have an additional full loop there to work a stitch into.  On the other edge is your red yarn tail, and not much else.

If you add a stitch into the red/purple loop, and then work into the remaining four red loops at the bottom of that row — well, now you’re back at five stitches, aren’t you?  Of course, they are offset by a half stitch — in this case, they’ve all moved half a stitch over towards the red/purple loop end.

When you’re working in the round, though, it gets even easier — those extra half-stitches kind of merge together into one full stitch and it works like a charm.

BTW, this difference in the edges and partial stitches is also the reason why you can’t unravel a flat piece of knitting from the bottom up, but you can unravel a tube from either end…

… and I can hardly wait to unravel those stupid socks now!  This is going to be slick!

Thank you, Sheryl!!

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What I Knit This Summer

I’m sure at least one of you is wondering — "Well, fine, lots of sheep, some yarn stores, but did she actually get any knitting done on the trip?"

Well, yes and no.  OK, well, actually, there can only be one accurate answer there, which is YES, I did knit a couple of things on the trip.  However, NO, I did not finish 4 pairs of socks for DH.

I know, I know, color us all surprised.

Well, there were a lot of sheep to look at!  and beautiful scenery just about everywhere, so it wasn’t like I had solid hours of boring car travel to work with.

Also, I developed a cold on New Year’s Day, and after that I did spend a fair amount of car time snoozing in the back of the camper van.  At first, I tried napping on the bench seat, but the roads in New Zealand are — well, DH says there isn’t a straight piece of road in the whole country.  On one particular hairpin curve, I rolled right off the damn bench onto the floor.  Bruised and extremely annoyed, but nothing permanent.  Henceforth, I moved one of the bench cushions onto the floor and napped there.

My final excuse is that it was indeed summer, so we didn’t exactly spend a whole lot of time indoors watching TV.  I mean, it’s hard to knit in a kayak.  And you’re completely out of luck if you drop a needle.

short black soxI did finish one complete pair of socks for DH — which is this short pair here.  It’s probably really only worth calling a half pair of socks, though — not only is the leg practically nonexistent, they are also at a fairly large gauge and thus only 52 sts around. 

They were faithfully modelled on some of his favorite biking socks — but when he puts them on, the foot seems to be a bit on the short side.  He says he’ll have to "try them out" before deciding whether they need to be made longer.  I can hardly wait.

broken knitpicks needles

Especially since I was knitting in fear towards the end — because on this project, I broke not one, but two of my new Knitpicks needles!  I barely had enough needles to knit in the round.

I have high hopes of mending the one on the bottom, because that break is at a pretty steep angle and there’s a lot of surface area for gluing.  Not so the one above it, but I’m giving it a try anyway.  We’ll see what happens. 

2 x 2 rib mitts

I know I publicly vowed to knit only socks for DH on the trip, but while packing at 2:00 a.m. my resolve weakened, and I brought along the goods to make these little 2 x 2 ribbed mitts.  The yarn is Berroco Ultra Alpaca left over from the Nutcracker sweater.  They turned out a trifle on the loosey-goosey big side, but not too bad, really.  It was more of an experimental project than anything, and it was kind of fun to work the 2 x 2 rib pattern into the thumb gusset.  I am easily entertained.


Finally, I did break into some of the new yarn I purchased on the trip (in Dunedin) and started this rather handsome rust-colored pair of DH socks in a simple 4 x 4 basketweave pattern.  The gauge on this pair is a bit more respectable:  64 sts around.basketweave sock

Actually, I think the main excuse reason for why I did so poorly on the sock-knitting goal is that I didn’t have anything actually on the needles when I left, and I was too lazy to try to start anything on the plane(s), so I lost a fair amount of good knitting time right at the start.

Fortunately for all concerned, the basketweave sock was available on the way back to the US, to help me maintain my sanity as I sat in front of the proverbial seat-kicking two-year-old all the way across the Pacific Ocean.

Yes, of course we all slept part of the time — but once they started serving breakfast at some ungodly hour, there was no stopping this kid.  His mother didn’t appear to have any knitting with her, so she amused herself by fawning over him and placating him instead of, say, disciplining him.  I amused myself by playing with pointy sticks and using my imagination… and I got a lot of sock done!

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Yarn, Finally

Well, it had to happen sometime. I had to stumble upon some yarn eventually.

I didn’t expect it to be in the little town of Gore, though. Nor did I expect it to be some lovely handspun.

Just hold your horses — I’ll get to the picture of the yarn in a minute.

We drove from Te Anau to Gore about midday on Tuesday, the 30th.  We saw many, many, MANY sheep on the drive — which turned out to meander through some quite rural areas – i.e. gravel roads. Don took it like a Southern NZ Man, though – more about that particular cultural aspect later.

grazing sheep

Along the way, and stopping for lunch in Gore, we learned several interesting things:

1) They are trying to conserve “red tussocks” in this area. I think it is working.

red tussocks being conserved

2) Gore is apparently the brown trout fishing capital of the WORLD.

trout statue

3) They like big statues of animals in Gore. Here is one of a Romney sheep.

sheep statue

Kind of across the way from the sheep statue, we spotted a sign saying “Local Crafts” store and below it, the magic words: WOOL MART.

Well, to be frank, it wasn’t all that spectacular. I didn’t take a picture, but it was basically one corner of a fairly large shop and contained a little bit of everything: commercial plied wools, a bit of acrylic, some burlier bulky natural-colored hanks of wool, and exactly 2 skeins of some really rather pretty handspun.

hanspun wool & alpaca

This one was wool and alpaca; the other was alpaca and silk. Unfortunately, I can’t show you that second one yet because it is going to be an Xmas present for one of the few regular readers of this blog.

There was a guy in the shop minding the till, and he stolidly refused to even take a step in my direction — I think he was afraid I might ask for some help with the yarn.  He was nice enough to admit it, though, when I teased him about it.

Oh yes, and I finally broke out the Knitpicks needles and started one of the planned socks for Don. This is some black wool/nylon that I bought at Flock and Fiber last year, or maybe the year before – a single 42 ounce skein!! Anyway, it’s a bit heavy for sock weight but that’s OK because DH doesn’t mind thicker socks (or maybe he just knows better than to get picky, considering the scarcity of socks for him). So I brought some along to get the Great NZ Sock Project started – good thing too, because the Wool Mart only had a couple of colors of sock yarn, and one was black and the other was a kind of icky taupe that DH didn’t like.

sock toe

Of course, I managed to make the toe a bit too big. This photo shows a comparison of this toe to the charcoal pair of socks he brought on the trip, which it turns out he feels are a bit too big. At least I’m consistent!

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I Can’t Make This Stuff Up

OK, I believe I now have incontrovertible proof that the socks I am currently making trying to make for DH have some kind of curse upon them.

You may remember all the trials and tribulations that I went through — admittedly, some self-imposed — in getting this pair off the ground.  But, I finally bowed to the pressures of reality, and moved one of said socks onto a set of dpns in order to turn the heel, and cope with the alignment changes in the stitch pattern.

That part, BTW, is working out fine so far.  I haven’t made it all the way through a pattern repeat, but so far it’s been quite easy to redistribute the sts at the halfway point of the pattern.susan bates sock needle set

And one heel is done, and looks pretty good, and DH has proclaimed it to fit.

What could be wrong, you ask?  You won’t believe it.  I didn’t believe it either.

A while back I bought a box set of Susan Bates Silvalume 7" aluminum dpns, because I was getting tired of my bamboo ones curving, bending, and eventually breaking when I used them to do anything that required a little "oomph".  And this pattern has a lot of double increases, not to mention accompanying double decreases — and believe me, K3tog requires a little oomph.

set of 5 green sock needlesI don’t love aluminum needles, but I needed something stronger than bamboo if I wanted them to last longer than one pair of socks. 

This box set has 5 needles in each of four sizes:  000, 00, 0, and 1.  They are multi-colored blue for 000, red for 00, gold for 0, and green for 1.

Now, look a little more closely at the free needle in that picture.

Does it not look as if it is a bit smaller than the other 4 needles?

You bet it does.

More than a bit, in fact.  Try 2 sizes smaller.

Forget needle gauges.  I have calipers.  And the other 4 green needles measure just over 2 mm — which would be correct for US size 1, at 2.25 mm.

The fifth green needle measures under 2 mm, which means it isn’t even a US 0.  In fact, I think it is a US 00.  Doesn’t it look like it matches the red needle?

Don’t you think I am pissed?

I’d watch my back if I were you, Susie B.  Because I now have one extraneous long, thin, green pointy thing on my hands — not to mention only a PARTIAL set of US size 1 sock needles.

BTW, I’ve just checked the Coats & Clark website, and now I am even more ticked off.  Get this:

They don’t have any way to contact them electronically. 

Are you kidding me?  In this day and age?  What kind of company doesn’t even have a customer service email address?

(Answer:  The kind that can screw up a color-coded set of sock needles.)

But I won’t let a little thing like that stop me, nooooooo.  They may not be interested in making it easy for me, the customer — but I’ve gotten through everything else that’s happened with these socks, and so help me, this is one steamed knitter they will be hearing from…

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All Kinds of Stuff

I admit I don’t really have a focus to this post (when do I ever?) but I felt a need to kind of throw an update out there before the big Holiday Weekend.  I have been doing some stuff — really, I have.  And here’s some pictures to prove it.don's latest green socks

First, here’s a pic of the DH’s Socks From Hell that I wrote about last time.  You’ll notice they are still two socks living on one circ — I still haven’t wised up about that part.  Maybe after the heels.  Which is coming up soon.

I did make a fair amount of progress on these bad boys late last week, once I got a new needle to work with.  I’m a little calmer about them now, but still not feeling nearly so guilty.

Next, here’s a pic of the yoke to my top-down raglan sweater that is my entry in the Friday Group Knit-Along.  All split onto different holding needles and ready for the sleeves!  And then we’ll have the Moment of Truth — as in, does my "new" method of calculating raglans really work the way I think it should, or not.  (I don’t call the Friday gals the "guinea pigs" for nothing, you know.)raglan yoke

BTW, you’ll notice it is a plain, solid color.  I am beginning to notice that many of my handknits are plain, solid colors.  It is beginning to get boring.

Lately, Sandi and I have been throwing around the term "kitchen sink" sweater, as in, a garment that contains everything but.  We both have been kind of jonesing to do one.  I may have to throw down a gauntlet and cast on soon.

However — the big fat problem I have with that kind of sweater is the choosing of the yarns.

I tend to, well, let’s say go overboard.  MORE = BETTER in my book.

This can easily lead to a look that is a bit more "granny’s leftovers afghan"  than "fabulous casual chic".  One thing I have learned is that when something looks like it was made by just throwing a bunch of yarns effortlessly together, in actuality it probably was thought out very carefully .

In fact, I have a few bags of yarn sitting in the ol’ stash that contain "combos" of yarns:

  • One is all different green MOHAIRS, which was a rather funny group birthday present from a whole bunch of knitters a couple of years ago.
  • One is all purples and greens, which was based on a color combo that Berroco did called "olives and grapes".  I have hesitated to use it because while I’m a big fan of the olives part, I’m not entirely sure about the grapes.  I really do not wear purple, folks.  Ever.  At all.
  • One is a combo of various blacks in all kinds of fibers and textures.  Not sure what that’s going to be, but I’m pretty sure it will all go together well.
  • And finally, one bag contains an assortment of yarns based on a Prism colorway that was once upon a time called "Brass" but it appears to not be what they are currently calling "Brass".  At least, not all of it.

On the left, what my yarn collection looks like; on the right, what the same colorway looks like in the "Wild Stuff".

bonbon in brasswild stuff in brass

Fabulous, yes, but I have to say I don’t think they are the same colorway…  I mean, parts of it are the same, but definitely not all of it.  For example, there is zero rust in the one on the left — which, metallurgically speaking, is as it should be.  Brass doesn’t rust!

However, I am very attracted to "Wild Stuff" just because it’s so crazy.  I love it when there’s too much so much going on in there!  Which may go a long way to explaining why I have trouble picking out collections of yarn like this.  (MORE = BETTER!!)

Oh, You're So Dramatic

My mother despaired of teaching me good taste from an early age.  I remember her saying many times, about my choice of clothing:  "Oh, you’re so dramatic!"  And she usually had an eye roll to go along with it.

I prefer to think of this kind of style as being enthusiastic, rather than gaudy — but my mother had her own opinions.

So, when I recently did a collage art piece as part of a fundraiser for the Audobon Society, it was not altogether surprising to me that I found myself thinking, "peacocks".  And here’s what I came up with:

Voilà!  le peacock, a là kitchen sink!


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Not Guilty, Your Honor

Oh, boy.  It’s been, like, a week and a half.  What happened to blogging?

Well, I’ll tell you what happened to blogging.  Life happened, that’s what.  That, and as I mentioned recently, knitters wanting knitting lessons have reappeared this fall with a vengeance.  In the past month, my teaching hours each week have been up 50-70% from the previous month.  Yeah, that cuts into the blogging time a tad bit — let alone the knitting time.

Add to that a VIP cat with a urinary tract infection that showed up late last Friday, when our regular vet was out of town, etc etc, blah blah blah, so on and so forth.

OK, now that the excuses are out of the way, the biggest news I have to tell you is:  I’m no longer feeling too guilty about the lack-of-handknit-socks-for-DH situation.

Don’t worry, I’m still going to knit socks all over New Zealand — that is too good a plan to change, I think.  But I have definitely gotten over the guilt.

At the time — was it only two weeks ago? — I was feeling so bad, I actually started him a brand-new pair.  And not only that, I let him pick out the yarn and the stitch pattern.

So first of all, he selects a lovely green Colinette Jitterbug — "Velvet Leaf" — which frankly, I had purchased for myself.

(Yes, I know you know that I don’t really like handknit socks for myself.  And I know you also know that it would be foolish of you to think that means I don’t buy myself sock yarn anyway.)

I tried to get him to choose the Dream In Colors Smooshy, in the taupe-y, grey-ish, manly color I had purchased especially for him — after all, his usual wardrobe color choices are black, grey and blue, with a little brown and some white.  He doesn’t even wear red.

But no, he chooses the lovely, lush, leafy green.  Fine.

Next, we move on to the pile of Barbara Walker stitch dictionaries, and the Japanese stitch dictionaries, and a few other stitch dictionaries — which he flips through maybe two of them.  Aaaaaaand he picks out a funky diamond-shaped ribbing thing.  (Which, to be fair, does look pretty cool.)  But, having offered up a plethora of knitting possibilities to try to assuage my guilt please him, there I am going, "Are you sure?  You haven’t looked at this book yet…"

Can you believe he asked WHY he would need to look at any more stitch dictionaries???

OK, so we turn our backs on the plethora of fascinating knitting possibilities.  Twenty+ years of honing my craft has been reduced to a lousy ten minutes of browsing stitch patterns.  Fine.

I cast on the toes and get motoring up to 72 sts, to fit the pattern stitch multiple.  Oh, and I decide to do both socks at once, for whatever crazy reason — probably just to punish myself some more.  Two socks on two circs.  (No, it’s NOT "magic loop", thankyouverymuch.)

Turns out that 72 sts is, of course, TOO BIG.

So now what?  Well, it’s rip back two partial socks, get them back down to 64 sts apiece, and put ’em back on the two circs.  And then I get the fun of cutting the st pattern down from a multiple of 18 sts to a multiple of 16 sts.  Well, heck, I’m an Excel goddess and a former engineer.  No problem!

But of course, I’m teaching all hours of the day and night.  So I end up taking it to one of my group classes, and doing it with a pencil on graph paper during a lull in the festivities.  Well, still not really a problem.

I have a vague recollection that somewhere along the line in all of this, and it seems like it was probably late at night, I started doing the pattern stitch all the way around the foot, instead of leaving half of it in plain stock.  I think that was back on one of the 72-st versions — lucky for DH mercifully, it’s all starting to blur together a little bit.

OK, so anyway:  now we got 64 sts, and a new pattern stitch chart.  Once again I get going on the feet, and soon it dawns on me that halfway through the first pattern rep, the whole thing shifts over by 3 sts — and back again after the second half.

Well, this wouldn’t be much of a problem either, really — except that I’m doing two socks at once on two circs, remember — and while I won’t go into details, it turns out that moving 3 sts from the front half to the back half, or vice versa, is an incredible pain when there’s a whole freakin’ other sock in the way.

At this point, you’d have thought I’d have put one sock on hold, and switched back to dpns, or something, wouldn’t you?  But no, I’m tough.  I throw a couple of dpns into the project bag to use when the big switcheroo occurs, and I soldier on.

Then the socks sit for about a week while I feverishly work on the yoke of my raglan sweater for the Friday Group Knitalong.  Fresh helping of guilt, anyone?

So yesterday, when I had a couple of hours between appointments, I grabbed the Bag o’ Socks from Hell, thinking that now all the design issues have been worked out, and my sweater yoke is finished, so I could finally get some lovely, peaceful knitting time in.

And when I sat down and pulled out the socks, I was reminded how the last time I worked on them, one of the circs BROKE OFF at the metal base.

Well, I am sitting in a knitting shop.  BUT — this shop doesn’t have bamboo circs in size 1 — only Addi turbos — which I despise.  Sigh.  So much for getting any knitting done.

At some point in all of this, I showed the socks in progress to DH, and he tried them on and said they fit fine and they look cool and, "How come they’re both the same?  Shouldn’t one be a mirror image of the other?"

You’d believe me if I said I haven’t been able to blog because I only just got out on bail, wouldn’t you?

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Knitting on the Other Side of the World

OK, I know both of you were kind of worried about it, but I believe I have figured out an elegant solution to a looming knitting problem:

What on earth do I take along to knit in New Zealand??

See, it’s a three-week trip (not to mention a loooong flight), so I couldn’t possibly go without taking some knitting.

And not only that, we will be renting a camper van (RV), which I believe will be a manual transmission, so DH will be doing the driving.  Which of course means plenty of co-pilot knitting time.  (I figure I’ll spend a fair percentage of that time napping in the back of the RV, of course, but you can’t sleep all the time.  At least, I don’t think so.)

But, taking along a sweater or other big project is not really feasible, either.  And I don’t really like to wear hats, nor socks.  (Besides, it will be summer there!)

What to do?

Well, the other day when I was repairing several of DH’s socks, and messing around with "new" ways of grafting, it occurred to me to count up the number of pairs he actually has.

The tally is embarrassing:

1 – pair his mom made him,

2 – pairs that he’s inherited from me (well, one pair was stolen),

3 – pairs that I have knit for him.

That’s right, the poor man — who is the DH of a woman who’s been knitting for over 20 years, and the son of a woman who’s been knitting for probably 20 years longer, and who loves his hand-knit socks so much he wears them out — owns only a half-dozen pairs of hand-knit socks.  And a third of those weren’t even knit for him, originally.

You’d think he’d feel more put-upon, wouldn’t you?  Or at least he’d make snide comments about my yarn stash, or something.  But no, I believe I must have one of the most patient DH’s in existence, at least where fiber is concerned.  You see, that mom of his trained him early and well about what to expect vis-a-vis yarn and fabric:  time spent in shops, amounts stashed in closets, number of projects, and so on.

So, anyway, you see where this is going, don’t you?  Yup.  I plan to knit socks for DH throughout the trip.

It’s a brilliant plan.  Socks are maybe the quintessential portable project.  I can knit them without referring to a pattern.  I’ll still be able to look around and enjoy the scenery as we drive across New Zealand.  And just think about the wifely credit I will rack up with this loving, selfless endeavor.

And think about the fact that I can make him stop at yarn shops…

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Vine Leaf Socks

Ahhhhhh — finally, I can sit back, relax and blog a little bit.  And it’s great that I can now write about something that’s recently been taking a lot of my time.

If I were to tell anyone else how things have been just "crazy busy" lately in the world of knitting, well, they’d probably just laugh.  I mean, how busy can a knitter be if she has time to make all those tiny little stitches?

But, for those of us for whom it is a business, it can be as crazy as any other job sometimes.  (You should hear about my boss — she’s a complete nut case.)  (Oh yes, I am self-employed.)

First of all, I have been doing a huge amount of teaching in the past couple of weeks.  The teaching side of the knitting biz always seems to fall off in the summer here in Oregon, what with all the daylight, and the nice weather, and the kids out of school and so on and so forth.  Once the kids go back to school, the teaching thing tends to pick up again.  But this fall, you guys came back with a vengeance!!  Not that I’m complaining, mind you, but it has kept me too busy to blog much.  Or even to knit very much.

vine leaf sock back

And when you’re knitting and designing to a deadline, well, that can get a little stressful.

Case in point:  the new sock pattern that I just designed for the November installment of Fearless Fibers‘ mini sock club, run by my pal Deb Kessler.

 Of course, since it’s a sock club pattern, I had to keep this project on the down-low.  And this one didn’t exactly go according to plan, either.

I started with one idea and began to knit it, and let me tell you, it looked very cool.  Then I discovered that it looked a whole lot like the sock Deb had already designed for October.

Well, great minds think alike and all that, but in this instance — not so cool.

Next, I tried another idea, but it just kinda didn’t work out so great.  I won’t go into the gory details…  but let’s just say that they were, um, baggy.  And "Baggy Lace Socks" really doesn’t have a ring to it.

vine leaf sock front

But third time’s a charm, right?

(drum roll, please)

Polar Bear Patterns proudly presents —  "Vine Leaf Socks"! 

Came out pretty nice, eh?  I love the way the central rib "vine" has that nice, graceful wave to it.  And the leaves have just a delicate little touch of lace at the base, and a really cool 3D effect.  Very fun to knit.

Originally, I tried to do something "artistic" with the ribbing at the top, but it just looked like a mistake.  So instead, the ribbing symmetrically frames the tops of the leaves, in a très classy kind of way.

Unfortunately for those who aren’t in the sock club, the pattern isn’t available to the general public yet — but Deb will put it in her online Etsy shop in a month or two.  Don’t worry, I’ll remind you!

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Kitchener, Smitchener

Well, I’m sure both of you have done Kitchener stitch, or grafting, in the usual way:  it involves a tapestry needle, at least one reference book, and some quiet time alone — not to mention gnashing of teeth.

Wanna try another way?

But first, a warning:  for those who openly mock my habit of collecting of old Vogue Knitting magazines, read no further! — because I’d hate for you to get any benefit out of a 24 year old VK article.

This all starts with VK Spring/Summer ’84, and an article written by Elizabeth Zimmerman — wherein she seems to be introducing the idea of doing grafting with a tapestry needle.  She refers to the "classic" method of

"place stitches on two needles, wrong sides together, knit first st on front needle, pull wool through, slip stitch off needle" routine.

and she states that this is how most knitters graft stitches.

Well.  That piqued my interest, frankly.  My knitting career is just a couple of years shy of 24, and thus I’ve only ever seen directions for grafting with a tapestry needle.  Hmmmmm.

So the other evening, I was repairing one of DH’s pathetically few pairs of hand-knit socks by reknitting the toe.  (I am incredibly lucky — he wears out all of his socks at the toe, a marvelously easy thing to fix.  You’d think, somehow, that this might encourage me to knit more of them, but apparently you’d be wrong.)

Anyway, when I was done, I thought I’d give this idea a whirl.

It turned out to be pretty slick, IMHO, and I didn’t have to haul my butt up off the couch to get a tapestry needle, either.  Not that it was all that far away — there’s one that has a permanent home in the drawer of the end table — but it’s the principle of the thing, you know.

And, in thinking about it after the fact, I realized that there just had to be another way to do this without a gadget — because you know those colonial women almost certainly didn’t have Chibi bent-tip needles just lying around, and it would have been damned impossible for the pioneer women to Kitchener with a tapestry needle by firelight, let alone in the covered wagon bouncing along the prairies. 

Well, to be more accurate, they wouldn’t have called it "Kitchener" — because (according to the same article), that name only got attached to it around WWI.  They would have been muttering to themselves about "effing grafting", not "effing Kitchener".  But it’s the same thing.

(Yes, I am aware that most references refer to this as a "new" technique that jolly ol’ Lord Kitchener "introduced".  I refuse to believe that not ONE SINGLE KNITTER figured this out until the 20th century.  And for that matter, I doubt that he knew how to knit, let alone that he invented grafting.  He just had better marketing — also known as the British War Department.)

So anyway, if you’d like to give it a shot as well, here’s what I did:

Break the yarn, leaving a couple of feet to work with — about the same amount as when you graft with a tapestry needle.

Arrange your stitches the same way as for regular ol’ Kitchener — wrong sides together, same number on each needle, working yarn coming out of the right-most st on the back needle.  All set?

OK, now pick up your knitting needle, not your tapestry needle!

Step 1:  Knit the first st on the front needle, and yank on your RH needle to pull the yarn end all the way through the st.  Leave this st on the front needle.

Step 2:  The yarn end is now hanging out to the front of your work.  Take the working yarn under both needle tips, all the way to the back of the work — to the back side of the sts on the back needle — and knit the first st on the back needle.  Again, pull the yarn end completely through the st.  Drop this st off the back needle.

Step 3:  The working yarn is now in between the needles.  Purl the next st on the back needle and pull the yarn through.  Leave this st on the back needle.

Step 4:  Bring the working yarn under both needle tips, all the way around to the front of the work, and purl the first st on the front needle.  Pull the yarn through, and drop this st off the front needle.

Lather, rinse, repeat these 4 steps.

After a while, it becomes a rather simple, pleasant mantra of

"Knit front, knit back, drop —

Purl back, purl front, drop"

Et le voilà!  A perfect little row of grafted stitches.

I’m not saying it’s super-revolutionary, or anything — after all, this is how "most knitters graft stitches", at least a quarter of a century ago.  It’s different from any reference I’ve seen, though.  (And handy.  Personally, I doubt I’ll ever again bother to dig up a tapestry needle at the end of a sock.)

And I offer it up here to the general knitting public because, in 5 years of teaching, I see time and again how different people respond to different ways of doing things — or even just to the use of different words to explain the same concept.

So, I am hopeful that this forgotten method will resonate with someone who struggles with her little yellow Chibi needle at the end of every sock, but stubbornly refuses to try toe-up ones, Patricia.  And if it helps out that one frustrated person, I figure I’ve done my job.

Happy Grafting!

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UFOlympics: the eighth and ninth events

Yes, you may well have been questioning why there is a total of 12 UFO's on my UFOlympic "decathlon" list.  (Actually, there are 13, because I had to add one UFO #0 that I forgot about when making the original list.)  But it's a good thing.

Truthfully, I could probably do at least two decathlons with the stack of UFO projects I've got.  And it was a good thing I had some extra UFO's on hand, because I got pretty well stuck on #5, the Rowan vest.

But even in the real Olympics, they allow "alternates" — so I did, too — and after 4 solid attempts on the rassin' frassin' vest, I stopped work on that and went to town on some other stuff.

regia socksOriginally, I wasn't going to include any socks in the UFOlympic decathlon, but last week I flew to Chicago for my annual family reunion weekend — and I realized, while packing late on Thursday night, that NONE of my original listed UFO's were plane-worthy.  So, it came to pass that the Regia socks were "qualified" and added to the list as UFO #12, and finally got finished.

I did try a couple of things on these socks just for kicks.  One is, I did short row heels, but instead of short-rowing "down" and then back "up", I short rowed "down", and then did it again.  This was because in my exploration of short-row heel techniques, I found that often the "down" part of the heel looked way better than the "up" part.regia sock heels

I had talked about doing this in a previous post, but I had to rip out that attempt because the feet of the socks were too short — so since I re-did the work, I'm re-posting the concept.  I think it worked really well.  Here is a closeup, although the poor little socks are still damp, and thus do not look quite as nice as they might if they were dry.

The other interesting thing I did was to try an attached I-cord bind-off on the tops of the socks.  Since an "attached anything" bind-off is really just a more elaborate version of the nicely stretchy "decrease" bind-off:

** k2tog, replace this st on left needle **, repeat

I was curious as to (1) how an I-cord version would compare in stretchiness to the decrease bind-off and to a standard bind-off, and (2) how it would look.

Well, the results are a bit mixed.  On purpose, mind you.

sock I cord BOFirst of all, on the sock on the far right, I cast on 3 new sts for the I-cord; on the other sock, I only cast on 2 new sts.  I think I prefer the look of the 2-st cord.

Basically, all this one ends up being is

** K1, K2tog, replace these 2 sts on left needle **, repeat

The bad news is, I don't find this to be any more or less stretchy than any other bind-off technique.  So we're still looking for that particular magic bullet.

The other UFO that has been completed is #10, the Malizioso raglan sweater — which needed to be assessed for proper fit, and finished off.  It was decided that it fit well — the cropped sleeves were an OK length — and thus the small amount of remaining yarn would be best used to finish off the sweater body and make it as long as possible.Malizioso sweater

Which I did.  Taaaa-daaaa!

And it looks pretty good, actually — although the fact that it's already 96 101 degrees here today means I'm not going to spend any length of time trying it on and getting a blog-worthy photo, so you'll have to take my word for it.

Malizioso fabric(On the other hand, the sweater is also still damp, so maybe it would feel pretty good.  Hmmmm.)

I still love this yarn, even though I've had to rip this sweater out a couple of times by now, I think.  Good thing I still love it, too, because it wasn't, um, inexpensive.  It's called "Malizioso", and it's by Filatura di Crosa.  I started with a bagful — 10 balls — and I now have about 1 yard left plus my gauge swatch.

Malizioso sweater closeupThe pattern used here is a top-down, V-neck raglan concoction of my own "unvention", as they say.

I thought up this way clever idea for incorporating the neckband and front bands into the sweater as a single entity — then a short while later, I saw the same concept in a book of kids' sweaters.  Oh, well, it's still a good idea.  I did have a little trouble with calculating the proper size for the start of the neckband  — hence the reknitting of the sweater — but in the end, it worked out nicely.

So, how goes the UFOlympics?  With one week to go, here are the official standings:

0.  Brioche st hat:  shop sample for class.

1.  Bear mittens:  one left to finish, of the five I originally set out to do; then it’s time to take ‘em to the zoo.

2.  Bunny slippers:  slippers have been successfully felted; make ears, felt, attach, and add eyes and tails.

3.  Glam rock vest:  top-down vest in a really funky fur & eyelash yarn of somewhat questionable taste.  It’s looking like something Elton John might wear.  Need to decide what to do with it.  (OK, the action item here is probably more like, rip it out and give the yarn away, but I haven’t quite gotten there yet.  Give me time.)

4.  Anny Blatt "Jonelle" tank:  shorten armholes by removing a few rows from the top.

5.  Rowan bulky vest:  another top-down vest, though in much better taste; need to finish knitting and attaching the trim, install a zipper, maybe add a hood.

6.  Silk sari / felted wool bag:  bag is mostly knitted; need to figure out how to finish out the top; add handles, pockets, hardware, lining?

7.  Wrap cardigan:  finish out the sleeves and seed st trim.

8.  Cabled bag:  fish or cut bait; act accordingly.

9.  Modular vest:  fish or cut bait; act accordingly.

10.  V neck raglan:  decide whether it fits, or needs to be ripped out AGAIN; act accordingly.

11.  Ribbed pullover:  add I-cord reinforcement around neckline.

12.  Regia socks:  alternate selection.

Eight items done (or dispositioned)!  Hey, I'm right up there with Michael Phelps!!  (oh, if only that were true…)

Of course, UFO #2, the bunny slippers, is not strictly 100% completed, but it's on the downhill side — I still need to order the appropriate bunny eyes (please vote here if you haven't already!) and assemble the slippers.

But mentally I find I am considering those "done", since the knitting part (and the tricky part) is over.  So that kinda-sorta makes nine items done.  Is that fair?  I guess I'll keep that card in reserve until I am forced to play it.  We'll call it "strategy" rather than "cheating", shall we?

And believe it or not — even if you don't count the bunny slippers as a completed item, I'm right on schedule!  According to the calendar page I marked up way back in the beginning of July, today I'm supposed to start on event #9.

I figure that fixing the ribbed pullover is a shoe-in, and then the wrap cardigan will be the next item to attack.  But there's a lot of seed st trim to do on that, and with only one more week to go, the tension is mounting…

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Sasquatch Report

Hey, we’re back from our trip to [Sasquatch->] over the Memorial Day Weekend.  And it was an interesting weekend.

(BTW, this post really does include something pretty interesting about sock heels too, although that bit’s way at the end.  Just skip down there if you must.)view of stage

Sasquatch is a big 3-day music festival held annually in an outdoor amphitheater in the Columbia River Gorge.  DH has gone a couple of times in recent years, but I have not.

I knew it would be crowded, and the weather would be iffy.  I knew the days would be long:  11:00 a.m. start, midnight finish.  I knew there would be a lot of college-age kids, which equals modern-day hippies, and many of them would be camping overnight at the site — thus, certainly by the second day, some of them would smell.

I was OK with most of that, although admittedly perhaps not exactly thrilled.  But what I didn’t count on was that for a vast majority of the attendees, the main attraction had absolutely nothing to do with the music.  Evidently, instead it was the opportunity to get completely and totally f***ed up in public without having to worry about driving or getting caught by the authorities.

This key point wasn’t lost on the event organizers though:  not only did they not discourage anything (legal or illegal), they actively encouraged it.  For example, they didn’t sell anything smaller than a 24 ounce beer — because that’s where they make their money, of course.  Over two days, I saw no evidence of any officials trying to squelch pot usage.

After seeing all this, I am surprised that they are able to obtain insurance for the event — but evidently they are able to make enough money to pay for insurance, however costly it may be — and then if someone gets hurt, well, presumably that’s the insurance company’s problem.

It’s sad but honest for me to say if it weren’t for the widespread chemical abuse, I’d probably have had a really good time.  Unfortunately, instead, I had an OK time.  For two days, I spent hours sitting on the grass, breathing huge quantities of second hand smoke (cigarette and other) — and occasionally having to watch drunk people feeling each other up.  And, if I wanted to stretch my legs a bit, I could maneuver around people lying in patches of vomit.

DH wasn’t able to forewarn me about all this because the previous times he has gone, the weather has been crappy, and presumably this kept many of the partiers in their tents.  This year, the weather was really pretty nice most of the time we were there.

Also on the plus side, I saw some very interesting clothing and hair, some really unfortunate tattoos, and some creatively ungainly dancing.  So it wasn’t a complete loss.

But the smoke was the worst.  My eyes were burning (literally and figuratively!) — so badly that I had to go out and buy a bottle of Visine just to get through the second day.  When you realize that this was outdoors, in a place known for being quite windy, maybe you’ll get an idea of how much smoke there was.

It’s not like I was expecting a convention of Mormons or anything like that, but I’m pretty sure this is a sea change from my own college days.  My friends and I didn’t smoke — I didn’t know many people who did — and it was a big surprise to me to see just how many college kids are smoking.

There was even someone sponsoring a "Be an Ex" anti-smoking campaign, which tells me it is considered to be a problem by someone other than me — although I admit I did laugh when I saw one of the sound guys standing under their "Be an Ex" marquee, beating up a pack of cigs, trying desperately to get one out.

And sure, we drank in college — and sure, sometimes we threw up — but that was mainly at campus parties, or really cheap bars — and the beers at Sasquatch weren’t exactly cheap.

But when I was in college, and we shelled out the big bucks for a concert ticket — and it was our own money, not our parents’ — and BTW, 2 days of Sasquatch for two is well over $200 — by golly, we went to hear the music.

That said, the top three bands of the weekend for me were

We went to see that last one mainly because I don’t get the name AT ALL, and they turned out to be pretty entertaining.  R.E.M. put on a show which was good enough to stay for in the light-but-still-wet rain and chilly 50 degrees on Saturday night.  And Ozomatli, out of L.A., is just a whole bunch of fun.  I’d probably also say I enjoyed seeing the White Rabbits again, if we had gotten there in time for their show the second day.  The worst band, hands down, was M.I.A. — which IMHO was just a bunch of incredibly loud noise.

But what, you ask, does this have to do with knitting?

Well, knitting is probably what kept me from being arrested for assault.  Fortunately, I had a pair of socks tucked in my backpack to work on, and believe me, I got a lot done.  I only had the toes done at the beginning of the weekend… but look at ’em now!  regia_socks(And I only worked on these at the festival — not on the car ride — the car knitting’s a subject for the next post, I think.)

On Saturday, we’d been staking out our primo viewing spot since 11:00 a.m.  Late in the day, when the premium bands were getting ready to play, a pair of drunk twenty-something girls tried to encroach upon our territory using the strategy of flirting with three middle-aged married men.

Here’s a big hint, girls:  I know you were incredibly drunk and all, but when a married guy’s wife is actually physically present, it’s not a great idea to start making fun of her bright yellow rain jacket to her face, and then try to flirt with her husband.  Not when it’s me, anyway.

So when they started trying to talk to DH across me as though I wasn’t there — as if they could ignore me in my bright yellow jacket, hah! — I pointedly plopped myself down directly between them and DH, turned my back on them, and re-commenced knitting on my pretty stripey socks.

This allowed me to pretend not to listen to them arguing to our friends that they were really nice people, so therefore we shouldn’t mind them trying to take our spot.

Still, I couldn’t help hearing them asking what my name was — and having trouble spelling it — when it’s only four letters and two of them are the SAME —  which pretty much had me gritting my teeth.  But I just kept knitting… and knitting… AND KNITTING…

Fortunately for everyone involved, all three guys were more music fans than stupid drunk chick fans, and eventually the girls figured out that no one was about to give up any of our hard-earned turf to them, so they left.  Phew!  Knitting saves the day, again.

On the second day, I turned the heels and because I was desperate for some kind of mental stimulation to keep me from going bananas, I tried something that turned out kind of interesting.  One of the things I noticed while trying out all those different short row heels is that the first half of most SRH techniques, where you are short-rowing "down", looks a lot better than the second half, where you are short-rowing "up".

So, I thought — why not just do the first half twice?  I mean, basically you are knitting two wedges, like so —   sr heel wedges


and even if you turn one of them upside down, it will add up to the same shape in the end.sr heel wedges flipped


You can’t get away with doing this on a SR toe, of course.  A toe has to fold in half at the narrow part.  But a heel — now, that’s different…REGIA SOCK HEEL ANNOTATED

It works!  and it’s pretty cool, too.  Here is a closeup, with an attempt at drawing in the afore-mentioned wedges…


sr heel on regia sock

…and here is a closeup without any drawing.  This pair was done using the first half only of the double st SR heel technique — but doing it twice.  If you look at the pic above of the full pair, you may be able to pick out the heel "wedges" on the topmost sock, due to the self-striping yarn.  On this sock, with a mostly solid-red heel, you almost cannot see the heel turn at all.  And in a non-self-striping yarn, I think it would be pretty much invisible.  Very slick!

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Roomier Short Row Heels

OK, even I can admit that this short row heel obsession thing may be getting a bit out of hand.

But there’s another little gem of genius here worth sharing, in my efforts to eliminate the inelegant flap-and-gusset-style heel from the face of the earth.

I’ve seen where some people, especially men, prefer the fit of an F’n’G heel, because they find that a short-row heel doesn’t have enough room in it for them.  So here’s an idea from a commercial sock that may be worth trying, if that’s the case for you —

peds heelThis is one of those little "no-show" socks.  The heel caught my eye one day, and after looking at it for a while, I realized what they did.

They started out by short-rowing "down", as we usually do for a standard SR heel.

However, they didn’t go as far "down" as is usual for a hand-knit sock:  they did fewer short rows, so that something like half the heel sts are still live.

This will make for a wider, less pointy, and thus presumably roomier, heel.

But they didn’t stop there.  Because if all you do is simply perform fewer short rows, it will also make for a much more shallow heel.  That’s fine if you’re doing a toe, and you simply don’t want it to be quite so pointy — but not so fine if you’re after a bigger heel.  Kind of cancels out the roominess factor.  Uh-uh.

So what they did to give the heel adequate depth is this:  they started short-rowing back "up", again just like we do — except about 1/3 of the way there, they turned around and started short-rowing BACK DOWN.

And then once again, they turned around and short-rowed all the way back up.  Simple, no?  Elegant, yes?

This should work with any short row method, but I’m jonesin’ to try it out with the double st short row heel (aka the yo-yo or jo-jo heel).  I’v got a pair of two-at-a-time, toe-ups on one circ going, and with the amount of car time I’ve got this weekend, I may get a chance to play with this.

Happy holiday weekend, everyone!  and Happy Knitting!

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The Double-Stitch Short Row Heel – aka the “yo-yo” or “jo-jo” heel

Table of contents for Short Rows & Sock Heels

  1. Short Rows, Deconstructed
  2. The Double-Stitch Short Row Heel – aka the “yo-yo” or “jo-jo” heel
  3. Roomier Short Row Heels
  4. Sasquatch Report

So — a few weeks ago, I wrote about sock heels.  How I don’t really like flap-and-gusset style heels, and how the EZ afterthought heel usually seems too small for me, and how I’d been checking out all kinds of short row heels, in my search for the Best Short Row Heel of All Time.

I did knit an awful lot of sock heels (some of them truly awful).

And then… I found The One.REAL SOCK COMPLETED HEEL

This particular heel style seems to be (1) not very common, and (2) decidedly German in its heritage.  I’ve only found it online a couple of places:  one mention of it on an native Austrian knitter’s blog, and instructions for it on the Lana Grossa site (which seems to be down for the count these days).  In print, so far I’ve found it only in a Regia pamphlet.

This is a shame, I think, because this heel has a lot of positive qualities.  It’s easy to do, once you know what it is you’re supposed to do.  It makes a darned nice heel, IMHO.  It is not prone to gaps, nor does it require weird backwards YO’s, nor does it have odd-looking decreases up the sides.  The whole wrap & turn thing?  Forget it.  And the inside looks practically as nice as the outside.

And, it adds one more thing to EZ’s famous list of “things you can do wrong when you’re learning to knit that turn into a technique later on.”  You know how beginners sometimes take the yarn the wrong way over the top of the needle when they are starting a row?  Guess what?  There’s a use for that.  Trust ingenious German engineering to come up with one.

All that — plus the fact that I can’t quite wrap my head around what exactly is going on with the short row turns — just fascinates me.  I’ll get it figured out someday, but for now, I’m content to just be impressed.

In fact, the only thing I don’t like about this heel is… the name.  Yup, once again, I have a nomenclature problem.

It’s called the Yo-yo heel, or sometimes, and even more incomprehensibly, the Jo-jo heel.  I think both of those sound, well, stupid.  (And there aren’t any “YO’s” in it, anyway.  Let alone whatever a “JO” is, or might be.)

So, following in the great historical tradition of knitters calling things by different names, I have decided to call it the Double-Stitch Short Row Heel.  And here’s how to do it —

Please bear in mind that the light orange example shown in these pictures is knit at a much looser gauge than usually used for socks — mainly because I used my size 9 ebony needles, in order to clearly show what’s going on.  Thus the finished example heel may look kind of loose and hole-y — but at sock gauge, it’s marvelous.  Would I lie to you?  About knitting?

Double-Stitch Short Row Heel — First half

K across all heel sts, turn.

First WS row:

  • Hold yarn to front, slip next st pwise.
  • Take working yarn to back over RH needle; then take working yarn to front between needles, pulling snugly so that the slipped st falls to the back, and the stitch in the row below is pulled up over the RH needle – WS double st made.


  • Keep the working yarn to the left of the slipped st as you bring it over the RH needle, so the st that is pulled up from below IS NOT twisted.
  • P back across rem heel sts, turn.

First RS row:

  • Hold yarn to front, slip next st pwise.
  • Take working yarn to back over RH needle; pull working yarn snugly to back, so the slipped st falls to the back and the stitch in the row below is pulled up over the RH needle – RS double st made.


  • Keep the working yarn to the left of the slipped st as you bring it over the RH needle, so the st that is pulled up from below IS twisted.
  • K heel sts up to, but not including, the double stitch from the previous row.

** Next WS row:  Make WS double st; then P all the normal sts up to, but not including, the double st(s) previously made. Turn.


Next RS row:  Make RS double st; then K all the normal sts up to, but not including, the double st(s) previously made. Turn. **

Continue to repeat last 2 rows (between **), making double sts at beg of each short row, until your heel is divided almost into thirds: 

  • one third double sts on the left,
  • one third plain sts in the middle + 1 extra st,
  • one third double sts on the right, except 1 st short.

You should be about to work a RS row — which will take one more plain st from the middle and turn it into a double st.  Then everything will be nice and tidy.

Last RS row:  Make RS double st; then K all the normal sts across the middle of the heel up to the double sts.

Continue to knit across left side of heel, working the double sts by inserting the RH needle under both forward strands of the double st, and knitting as if for a k2tog. (Be careful to pick up both strands, and only the front strands.)


Continue working around whole sock now, across instep sts.  Knit the double sts on the right side of heel in the same manner.  Work around most of the sock a second time, across the instep sts, and stopping when you are about to work the heel sts again.

Second half of heel

K across 2/3 of the heel sts, turn.

First WS row:  Make WS double st, P back [one third of the heel sts, minus the one you slipped], turn.

For example, on a 36 st heel: 

First, knit across 2/3 of the sts = 24 sts.  Leave 12 sts of the heel unworked on left side.

Turn and use 1 st to make the WS double st, then purl back over

(1/3 of the heel sts – 1)  = (12 sts -1) = 11 sts.

Now 12 sts on the right side of the heel also rem unworked.  Turn.

** Next RS row:  Make RS double st, K to double st of prev row, K the double st, K1, turn.

Next WS row:  Make WS double st, P to double st of prev row, P the double st, P1, turn. **

Continue to repeat last 2 rows (between **), until you have purled the last st of the right side of the heel on your last WS row.

Last RS row:  Make RS double st, K to double st at end of heel, K the double st.  Heel is complete.  Continue working around sock.  One double st will rem at the beg of the heel, which will be worked on the next round.


Nice, eh?

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Kenkyo Socks

OK, once again my lack of recent blogging is due to me having to work on other stuff.  (Lately I’ve really been forced to admit there are only so many hours in a given day, or week.  And some of them are required for sleeping, or else I get even more really cranky.) kenkyo sock But big news today!

The "other stuff" I’ve been working on is a great new Polar Bear Pattern:  "Kenkyo Socks", which was done in conjunction with my pal Deb, who blogs over at fearlessfibers.blogspot.com.

Deb dyes yarns in lovely, scrumptious, and above all, wearable colors.  If you have a husband like mine, who won’t even think about wearing colorful socks — or if you are just tired of what I’ve seen referred to as "clown barf" colorways — take a look over at Deb’s etsy shop:  fearlessfibers.etsy.com.

I once heard Merikke Saarnit refer to these kinds of subtly changing colors as "abrash", so I finally looked it up:

abrash (noun) – any variation or change, typically striation, in the different dyes of an Oriental rug as it ages. 

Well, I’m not sure about that "aging" bit, but she used the word to describe yarns that are not so much different colors, as differing shades of the same or similar colors.  That’s what Deb does, mostly, and quite lovelily, too.  (Yes, that is a word.)

Anyway, she did a series of colorways based on the Seven Deadly Sins, and then another based on Seven Virtues.  The colorway I picked to work with was "Humility".  I did an improved rendition of the hubby’s Japanese twisted rib & cable sock, and as I researched it, I found that the concept of "humility" or "modesty" is very key in Japanese culture.

"Kenkyo" means "modesty" or "being humble", but without the concept of "humiliation".  You don’t put yourself down, but you aren’t supposed to blow your own horn, either.  Kinda like the Midwest, actually, where I grew up.  So you see, it all started coming together!

I’m very pleased with this pattern:  I think it has a lot of good things in it.  It has my new favorite short row heel, about which I promise to blog in detail in the next week or so; it has the Japanese way of doing these cables WITHOUT A CABLE NEEDLE, about which I also plan to blog a bit.

And if you’re wondering why I haven’t included a picture of it already, well — it’s because WordPress doesn’t seem to want to let me insert a picture today.  Obviously, I have at least one more thing to work on.  (OK, I got it fixed!  See picture now included, above.)

So for now, you will have to go see it at Deb’s place; please check it out if you are so inclined:  fearlessfibers.etsy.com.

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Short Rows, Deconstructed

So, while I haven't been blogging much in the past week or so, I really have been busy.

One of the things I've been working on is a sock pattern for my friend Deb, whose blog lives over at www.fearlessfibers.blogspot.com.  She dyes bee-you-tee-full yarn and sells it on Etsy — which if you haven't visited is a very fun place — her shop is at http://fearlessfibers.etsy.com.

kenkyo sneak peekAnyway, her "Humility" colorway is coming up in the shop next month, and she asked me to do a toe-up sock pattern to go with it.  So, I'm doing a (much better) version of DH's Japanese twisted rib socks.  And here's a sneak peek at its lovely subtlety:

Now, I have my favorite sock knitting techniques, just as most independent-thinking knitters do.  I like the Judy Becker cast-on — although I don't relish calling it "magic", because it isn't.  (And for the life of me I don't know why anyone would not wrap the yarn the proper way on both needles in the first place; it's just as easy and no backwards sts to contend with on the first round, so I do it that way.)

And, I like Priscilla Gibson-Roberts' toe increase method of "make 1, YO", which I learned out of "Ethnic Socks & Stockings", primarily because it is extremely easy to keep track of what you are doing — although again, I think it is not well-named, because a "make 1" is usually considered to be a distinct increase method, whereas PGR uses it here to refer to the act of knitting an existing YO tbl.

So far, no problems, except for my personal ones about nomenclature.  I got the sample sock halfway knitted.  Then, I got to the HEEL.

I don't have a favorite sock heel.  I don't really like flap-and-gusset heels much, for some reason — I think I just find them inelegant.  And EZ's Afterthought heel isn't inelegant, but that heel style doesn't seem to fit me all that well.

Which led me into the morass which is SHORT ROW HEELS.

OK, admittedly there are a lot LOT LOT of blog posts out there about short row heels, and here's mine.  So what?  Why should you read this one?  After all, it's incredibly long.

Well, given my peculiar engineering background, and thus my analytical approach to knitting, I expect it is going to be a bit different from most of what's out there.  I also expect it to be exhaustive exhausting thorough, educational, and breathtaking in its clarity.  And there's lots of pictures.

Short rows – in general

Short rows, after all, are not limited to sock heels.  So, generally speaking, the three main methods of closing the gap on short rows include:

  1. wrap & turn — by far the most common
  2. YO method — second most popular
  3. Japanese, or what Montse Stanley calls the "catch" method

Here's the shocker:  actually, all of these methods end up being the same structure.

In all cases, no matter what the heck else you have done, the structure of a piece of knitting wherein one has turned around mid-row looks like this:

(I have tried to differentiate rows here by using several shades of gray).

basic sr structure

The gaps that need to be closed are shown with sadly scrawny little arrows:

short rows w gap

In all three methods of closing that gap, the bit of yarn on each short row that is going to get hooked up with the base row is this bit in red:

short row struct 2

And the stitch in the base row it's going to hook up with is in pink:short row structure 3

Effectively, the pink st in the base row is going to be hauled up a row, to be merged with the red bit in the short row above.

Now, it makes no never mind whether you: 

(a) wrap the st adjacent to the turn, and work the wrap with that st on the next pass;

(b) make a YO, either backwards or normal, to be worked with the adjacent st; or

(c) put a safety pin on the working yarn to mark that bit temporarily, and pick it up later to work it with the adjacent st.

The end result is EXACTLY THE SAME STRUCTURE.  The red bit is the wrap, the YO, or the part you pick up, and it gets worked with the pink st in all three cases.

Of course, that's not to say that they give exactly the same results.  Each of those three options allocates a different amount of yarn to that red bit, which means some are looser and some are tighter.  Without carrying out exhaustive tests, my educated guess is that the YO is the loosest, the wrap is in the middle, and the pick-up-later is the tightest.

Now, there is one more option:  whether the red bit is worked so that it is twisted, or not.  Here's what I mean by twisted:

 short row structure twisted

I'll use the wrap & turn method to illustrate this principle, since it is by far the most common method.

A stitch can be wrapped two ways:  either clockwise (CW) or counter-clockwise (CCW).  The act of wrapping involves moving two things — one is moving the working yarn from one side of the work to the other (and back), and the other is moving the stitch to be wrapped from one needle to the other (and back).  The order of those two things determines whether your wrap is CW or CCW.

That, plus how the wrap is subsequently picked up (i.e. from which side of the work — usually the RS or knit side), determines whether your wrap ends up twisted, or not twisted.

BTW, note that the st that is being wrapped is always slipped purlwise, so it doesn't twist.  I know Cat Bordhi's video on youtube says knitwise, but she also hauls the wrap over the st first and then works the st & the wrap tog tbl, and frankly, all those extra shenanigans aren't really necessary.  If you do things right, and give the knitting a good tug if necessary, the wrap should duck out of sight in the back because that's where it wants to be anyway.

 Here is a table with a lot more info in it than anyone will ever read.  Suggestion:  Skip this if it makes your eyes cross.

 KNITTING st is slipped first, then the yarn is moved (from back to front), the st is moved back to LH needle, the yarn is moved to back, work is turned, purling starts CCW wrap The working yarn does cross over itself in the wrap.  When this wrap is picked up from the knit side of the work, an untwisted wrap will result.
 PURLING st is slipped first, then the yarn is moved (from front to back), the st is moved back to LH needle, the yarn is moved to front, work is turned, knitting starts CW wrap The working yarn does cross over itself in the wrap. When this wrap is picked up from the knit side of the work, an untwisted wrap will result.
 KNITTING yarn is moved first (from back to front), then the st is slipped, yarn is moved to back, st is moved back to LH needle, work is turned, purling starts CW wrap The working yarn does not cross over itself in the wrap.   When this wrap is picked up from the knit side of the work, a twisted wrap will result. 
 PURLING yarn is moved first (from front to back), then the st is slipped, yarn is moved to front, st is moved back to LH needle, work is turned, knitting starts CCW wrap The working yarn does not cross over itself in the wrap. When this wrap is picked up from the knit side of the work, a twisted wrap will result.

The short version is this:  whether knitting or purling, if you MOVE THE YARN FIRST before moving the st, the working yarn does not cross over itself in the wrap; when you pick up the wrap from the knit side of the work, YOUR WRAP WILL END UP TWISTED on the purl side.

If instead you MOVE THE ST FIRST, the working yarn does cross over itself in the wrap; when you pick up the wrap from the knit side, YOUR WRAP WILL END UP UNTWISTED on the purl side.

I lied.  There is yet one more option.  That is whether to slip the first st after the turn, or work it.  Many authorities say to slip the first st after you do the turning around part, in order to minimize the 2-row "step" being created by the partial row.  I don't buy it, and here's why:

In these bizarre interesting drawings, the "swatch" without slipped sts is on the left, and the one with slipped sts is on the right.  In the red final rows, the 2-row steps have green arrows, while 1-row steps have black arrows.

no slip sts after turnwith slip sts after turns

Basically, as far as I can tell without doing any actual knitting, all it does is change where the 2-row step is.  It buys you something the first time you do it on each side, but every susbsequent time it doesn't.  Since you've already moved that end st "down" a row by not working it, the next time you meet it, even though you also move the new end st "down" a row, they are still going to be two rows apart.

So, maybe that doesn't make a heck of a lot of difference — but the other undesirable effect this has is to create a longer float on the WS of the work, behind that slipped st.  Uh-uh.

Short rows – specifically sock heels

OK, so what the heck does all this mean in the world of sock heels?

Well, I went and knit a whole bunch of different ones I found in my library, and online in various blogs and zines.  I'm not kidding:  I have a bag with literally a dozen-and-a-half different short row sock heels in it, with accompanying documentation.  And that's not counting the ones I ripped out.  (I told you I'd been busy.  Think of all the work I've saved you.)

Here is a summary of what I found about the wrap-'n'-turn ones:

Rule #1 – Caveat Emptor.  As with most stuff online, consider the source — but be aware that even a respected source is no guarantee of accuracy or suitability. 

  • Many were very specific about how to do the wraps, and less than specific about how to do the picking up of the wraps. 
  • Most used double wraps, where sts get wrapped twice, once on the way down and again on the way up. 
  • Most used twisted wraps.

Most of the ones I found look pretty good on the left side of the heel (the knit side of the wrap & turn) — but the right sides of the heels had varying degrees of success.  I found some that had twisted wraps on one side of the heel and untwisted wraps on the other side.  I found one in a popular online knitting zine that, when I religiously did exactly what I thought it was saying to do, told me to twist the wrap AND the stitch — on one side only — looked awful.  I found one that had weird decreases, one that only wrapped once, one that appeared to be Japanese-style, but wasn't.  Tried 'em all, but none of these looked very good.

 I don't think continually messing around with the st mounts makes for a neat heel.  Once again I tried PGR's YO / backwards YO thing, and once again I tried the purl encroachment one.  I've tried both of these before and wasn't any happier with them this time around.  Too fiddly, for my time & money, and they still don't look that great. 

 I was in doubt as to whether a twisted wrap vs. an untwisted wrap would make a huge difference, other than I expected the twisted one to be a little tighter and thus neater-looking.  I was wrong on both counts.   Drum roll, please….  the very best looking one, IMHO, is an absolute plain vanilla one which uses double UNTWISTED wraps, and no slipping of the first st after the turn. 

Surprised?  So was I.  I thought for sure that twisted wraps would be tighter and better-looking, but they weren't.  Find this gem in this whole-sock tutorial at http://www.hellchick.net/needles/patterns/toeupsocks.shtml.

Well.  This post is way, way too long as it is, so I'll just have to wait to tell you what ELSE I found…  and what I decided to use on the Japanese sock… yes, now I DO have a favorite sock heel!  I'll tell you all about it soon, I promise.

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I Think I’ll Keep Him

Over the weekend, I had a touch of  "the depression" *.

Specifically, I had the knitting depression.

I didn’t have a single decent current project, the UFOs were one big pile o’ crap, I hated everything in my hotlist **.


If this sounds to you a bit like closet angst (I HAVE NOTHING TO WEAR), you are absolutely right.  It’s exactly the same thing, only at the other end of the house.

For some reason, it never applies to the actual yarn, though.  I never look at my stash and think, "I have nothing to knit."

(It’s more like, "I have way too much to knit."  That becomes a different type of the depression.)

The more obvious reason is that it would take someone completely and utterly deluded with respect to the physical world to be able to stand in front of all that yarn, and think or say that with a straight face.  I have more than my share of issues, I admit, but I do have a relatively firm grasp on physical reality.  OTOH, I can stand right in front of a closet full of clothes, and say with complete sincerity that I have nothing to wear, so maybe I’m full of hooey.

The less obvious reason, I think, is that the yarn in its un-knit state is still full of possibility and promise.  It can be ANYTHING — maybe even PERFECT.

The recent completion of the Nutcracker lulu — though successful — seemed to have left a big void in my knitting world.  Kind of like the usual annual post-Xmas letdown.

So there I was, sitting on the studio couch, sort of sulking.  DH wandered in, in his bare feet.  He did try to help, which was very sweet.  He pointed to various bags of yarn and made some vague suggestions ("Why don’t you knit something with that?").  Just like a man, trying to solve the problem.  Useless.  Sweet, yes, but useless.

I mean no disrespect here, I’m simply stating the truth.  I’ve already explained that he doesn’t understand about stumbling upon old Vogue Knitting mags, so how on earth could he expect to actually solve the problem?  He’d have to say something like, "Why don’t you swatch for that Missoni pullover you’ve always wanted to make?  You know the one.  Or how about that off-the-shoulder Audrey Hepburn-ish one that was in the Then-and-Now from Spring/Summer 1988?"

And then of course he’d have to hit upon just the right one — from dozens, maybe hundreds of potential projects that I intend to knit "someday".

Of course, if he had brought up any of those "someday" projects, I’d probably have just gotten more depressed, or maybe mad.  The true answer is that I don’t KNOW why I don’t ever actually knit these blasted things.  For crying out loud, who waits 20 years to start a project?

I suspect the root of the issue lies in fear of failure, and/or fear of success.  I got all the bases covered.

Seeing that he wasn’t making a dent in my mood by pointing at all the yarn I still haven’t knit, DH then made the strange suggestion that I should knit myself some socks.  He said, and I quote:  "You don’t have very many pairs of socks for yourself."

First of all, he is wrong.  I have more pairs than he does, although you may not want to mention that if you see him.  Second of all, I don’t really dig handknit socks for myself, which he knows.

But then he pulled out a bag of pink MOHAIR and waved it around at me and said, "Socks!  Mohair!  Pink!  What’s not to like?"

I had to laugh at that one.  And I admit, he has a point:  I’d probably love, and maybe even wear, a pair of handknit socks if they were a pretty pale pink.  (Bonus points for MOHAIR, and if I can work in some sequins, so much the better.)

But, I was still a little grumpy, so I pointed at his bare feet and pouted that "well, YOU aren’t wearing any handmade socks."

His answer was that this was because he had a dilemma.  He really wanted to wear handknit socks now, during the day, he explained, but he was also thinking ahead to the evening when he expected to want to wear his felted slippers, and "well, they’re both great, but together they’re just a little too warm."

Awwwwwwwwwww.  Cheered me right up, I tell you.  What a guy!

The end of this little vignette ought to be that I immediately lost my knitting funk and cast on another pair of socks for him — but it isn’t a perfect world, now is it?  Least of all in my studio.

I did, however, resume work on yet another UFO, and actually made some decent headway on it — so there is a happy ending, sort of!

 * the depression:  in memory of my friend Steve in Texas, who had several Hispanic girlfriends, and their command of English varied.  One of them used to say she "had the depression."  For some reason, this one stuck with us, and we used it at work a lot.

 ** hotlist:  part of my project management scheme; it is one of the piles o’ stuff in my studio, consisting of all those patterns that I must-knit-right-now! or intend-to-knit-one-of-these-days, and which I allow to age for a while before casting anything on.  It’s saved me from many a serious mistake, although maybe it has kept me from knitting some great stuff, too.


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Latest & Greatest

Admittedly, I haven’t written much in the past week (heck, I haven’t written anything).  But, I have an excellent excuse reason.  Actually, several reasons…

#1 reason is, I have a bad Continental knitting habit of using my right index finger to help out on each and every stitch.  I don’t actually need to use it — I can knit and purl without moving it at all, if I think about it.  As I say, it’s a bad habit, which means I do it more-or-less unconsciously.  I even demonstrate it to new Continental knitters in my classes as a great example of what not to do.

Unfortunately, it’s not merely a bad habit — it also means I get tendonitis in this finger a couple of times a year.  This time, it came about because I spent a couple of marathon sessions last week working on a UFO with some completely inelastic recycled silk yarn in linen stitch.  Pretty, eh? 

Eventually, it’s going to be a bag, which is why I chose to use linen stitch, for its firmness as well as its ability to blend colors between rows, due to the horizontal bars across every other stitch.  But it also means it’s a bitch to knit, especially for long periods of time.

Originally, this yarn was going to be used for a Knitty bag pattern but I just wasn’t happy with the way it was coming out.  I was thinking about whether I should try something else with it, and I looked on [Ravelry ->], where I saw that not too many other people were thrilled with the FO in the end (not that mine was an FO, by any means).  People said things like the bag was too shallow, and didn’t actually hold things very well.  Which, for me, is the whole idea behind a bag.

Sooooooo, I decided to cut my losses and frog it.

Mind you, this decision did not come easily.  I had gotten all the knitting and seaming done, and had cut out a lining of yummy mulberry-colored shot silk, and had even gotten some seriously heavy-duty interfacing stuff to try to whip that bad boy into shape — but nothing doing.  To use Rock Star’s memorable turn of phrase, it was

"like sewing beads on a turd,"

meaning that no matter what other efforts go into it, it still will be fundamentally flawed.  I don’t give up easily, but this particular battle was definitely lost.  I’m a lot happier with the new project, except for the soreness in the finger.

However, this time around, along with the tendonitis, I seem to have some funny nerve thing going on.  Every time I press against the side of my first knuckle, I feel a tingly twinge up around the second knuckle.  Hmmmmm.  (And you wouldn’t believe how many times a day you press something against the side of your index finger.  I have become acutely aware.)  I’ve given it about a week to see if it subsides, because the usual treatment for the tendonitis is a dose of steroids, which I prefer to avoid if at all possible.  But now it’s time to see the doctor… and maybe to try to break that bad habit.  Is it too late for New Year’s Resolutions?

#2 reason is, I’ve been continuing to work on the Great-Studio-Cleanout-No-Really-I-Mean-It-This-Time.  Remember back at the end of 2007 I was brave enough to show you my pile of UFO’s?  Well.  I have diligently winnowed through just about everything in the damned studio since then, and I am pleased to report that the UFO list is down to only 17 items — which all fit into this nice, narrow, organizer stacker thing.

Well, almost.

I could simply lie to you through the magic of photo-cropping, but yes, I admit the pile of "fixers" is mostly on the top shelf of the dark brown bookcase next door, and there is the duct-taped box full of Manos on the bottom shelf of the same bookcase.

But only because the duct-taped box is too big to fit into the stacker.  And one of the fixers has moved into a bag in the stacker, which means it might get worked on someday soon.

The important thing to remember here is that the stacker only comprises 10,620 cubic inches of space — so that means I’ve reduced my pile of UFO’s by roughly 26%.  OK, not a stunning statistic, but not chicken feed, either.  (And I didn’t subtract the volume of the shelves in the stacker, either, so that 26% estimate is a bit on the low side.) 

I’ve been working hard on the GSCNRIMITT project for a few months now, so I will self-indulgently include a couple more pictures of the almost-completely-cleaned out studio.  Here is the overflowing bookcase, now pretty much contained — and BTW, everything in there except the very top shelf is knitting literature.  The bottom right shelf is all vintage material, which I’m defining as 1974 and previous; the second from the bottom is all "retro" which is 1975 – 1994.  On the bottom left are my binders full of finished project info.  More than one person could ever need, right?  Ha ha ha.

And here is the lovely organized closet, which, before I embarked on this whole project back in December, was a breathtaking shade of sunshine yellow.  

Don’t believe me?  Thankfully, just a few minutes after I started painting, I remembered to take pics to remind myself of just how very, very yellow it was.  Kid you not, the evidence is that the entire room was painted this color at one point.

Finally, in the interest of full & complete disclosure, here is the teeny, tiny little pile of things I still have to sort out.

Oh, yeah, and in that brown paper bag on the right is some new yarn.

And it’s sparkly green metallic eyelash.

Old habits die hard.

#3 reason for not blogging for a week is, I actually got something finished. 

Did I say that the list of UFO’s was down to 17?

Oh (she said ever-so-casually), I really meant 16.  Hooray!

This is an "artistic pair" of Stashbuster Spiral stripe socks — instructions available here at hipknitism.com.  I used the leftovers from DH’s Colinette brown socks, and bought a couple of coordinating colors ("stashbusters", my fanny.  Everyone knows there is absolutely no chance that you will have just the right amounts of leftover or stash yarn in just the right colors for something like this).

Yes, the one sock has a blue toe, a berry heel, and a brown cuff.  The other sock has a brown toe, a blue heel, and a berry cuff.  YES, I did it on purpose.

To those of you who always make fun of my supposed inability to appreciate asymmetry — you know who you are, Sandi — I now can say, phooey.  (But in the nicest way possible.)

And I really don’t intend to wear these in public, if I’m honest.  These are strictly bedtime socks — to go with my blue polar bear flannel pajamas — of which no picture is available. 

Most self-indulgently of all, here is a great photo of ol’ Morgan.  I claim a flimsy tie-in with knitting because he’s lounging on the wool throw that my MIL knit for her son / my DH, lo these many years ago.

It’s one of his favorite places to sit, although he prefers that my legs be stretched out on the sofa so he can kind of loll on them.  (I am referring specifically to the cat, although that’s not to say that DH wouldn’t also be interested.) 

While it’s not really a reason for not writing anything lately, it is Morgan’s one-year anniversary of surviving with kidney failure, and he’s still doing pretty darned great.  Just look at those Gorilla Paws!


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Cold Feet, Warm Heart?

The other night, I complained mentioned to my loving, caring DH how my feet had been freakin’ FREEZING ALL DAY.

DH was kicked back sideways on the chair-and-a-half, with his legs propped up over the arm of the chair and his feet aloft.  He said smugly in a very meaningful manner,

"YOU should wear hand-knit socks more often."

Well, it was obvious just from the smart remark that he had a pair of hand-knit socks on (and that his feet were probably at a quite comfortable temperature, thank you very much).

So, as he waggled his self-satisfied feet in the air to emphasize his point, I looked to see which ones they were.

Of course, he was wearing the black ones he stole appropriated stole from me.

And of course, I gave him exactly the kind of "stink-eye" look that sort of thing deserves.


(And he wonders why he doesn’t get socks all that often…)

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FO: DH’s new green socks

Aaaaaand here they are, in all their glory:


These socks comprise many of my favorite sock-knitting techniques to date.  I prefer techniques that work well and are easy to memorize, so for those of you who want to know the nuts & bolts, here’s a brief recap:

 Tess’ Best Toe-up Socks recipe

Judy’s excellent-(but-not-magical) CO:  20 sts.


(M1, YO) inc to 60 sts.

Textured ribbing patt on instep:  8 reps.  Here’s a chart:

Short row heel:  I’ve tried Priscilla Gibson-Roberts’ version and I’ve tried Knitty’s version, but I still haven’t found what I consider to be a fabulously GREAT one.  I’m working on it.  Anyone have any suggestions?

Textured ribbing patt on cuff:  11 reps.

BO:  P2tog tbl.

More details, including yarn used and where I picked up some of the techniques, are available on the first post.

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OK, it’s high time I wrote something new & exciting.  Hmmm…!

First, let me tell you that the site has gotten just a teensy bit better, with the addition of two new pages:  look up at the top, on the navigation bar, and you’ll see "Site Map" as well as "Knit Links".

The former will give you a listing of what’s available here — sort of like what was on the previous incarnation of tessknits.com.

The latter includes various links to (mostly) knitting-related sites — which allows me to move them out of the sidebar and keep things a bit cleaner up front.

Well, that WAS exciting, wasn’t it?

greensoxWhat else is new?  Well, DH’s new dark green socks are coming along nicely.  That’s one finished sock lying underneath, and one half-way finished on top (heel has been turned).  I tried to get a better view of the stitch pattern this time, although I am not sure I succeeded in that.

The other night, while resting my poor little aching hands in between pattern repeats — you DO all know to take a break when your hands start hurting, right? — I did something rash.

I won’t bore you with the whole calculation, but I figured out that at about 20 minutes per pattern repeat (plus heel & toe), it will take me about 16 hours of knitting time to make this pair of mighty fabulous socks.  Well, 16 hours of my leisure time is not too much to devote to my sweetie, is it now?

Then (this is the rash part) I went further and calculated that in those 16 hours, I would be knitting some 21,800 stitches.

Ye gods!  No wonder my hands hurt.  I reckon I’m at about 15,000 currently.

Here are some nice wrist and hand exercises though, which you can also access from that new "Knitting Links" page.

If you read The Pats’ blog, you’ll see that she hasn’t been knitting so much lately — instead she’s been using my Xmas present.  Very gratifying.

Of course, the best presents are often those that you yourself would like to receive, so naturally, I bought two copies of the book and kept one:   "Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day" by Hertzberg and Francois.  (see the website at www.artisanbreadinfive.com.)

Believe it or not, it works.  And it’s easy.

My father grew up working in his uncle’s bakery in Marshalltown, IA, and worked in the industry all his life — as a teacher, salesman, and executive — and I think I saw him bake a loaf of bread at home exactly once.

In contrast, I have made 2 batches of dough, which equates to 6 loaves so far.  HA! The first batch of dough and the first couple of loaves had some issues, of course, but all have been perfectly edible.  DH has been quite complimentary, and I swear to you that even the cat went nuts and ate several morsels of one of the first loaves.

I plan to perfect my technique over the next few months, and then astound my siblings at our reunion in August with the "easy-to-memorize" recipe given in the book.

I think my dad would have thoroughly enjoyed grousing about what he would have considered the "shortcut" method employed in this book.  He might also have admitted (perhaps a bit grudgingly) that the authors do use some quite proper industry jargon, such as "oven spring" and "proofing", that I grew up hearing.  It was fun to see those terms in print.

And, to go along with The Pats’ latest loaf, here is mine!


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Hubby’s Socks and the Three Toes

Well, on Sunday evening (Sunday the 13th!) I finally cast on another pair of socks for DH.

The yarn is Lana Grossa "Meilenweit 6 fach" in a true solid dark green – his favorite color.  I like doing toe-up socks, so I don’t have to bother too much with a gauge swatch or any math or anything.  I figured I’d just increase until the toe was the right size, eh?

Also, since his astrological sign is Aquarius, I’d been toying with the idea of trying out the "Age of Aquarius" socks from Knitter’s Stash And of course, all you Aquarians will realize this means his birthday is coming up soon.  So, I voiced the possibility that these could be considered "birthday socks".

His response was, "Why can’t they just be Don’s-a-helluva-guy socks?"

I guess this means he wants more than "just" socks for his birthday present.  Given the scarcity of socks for him on the needles, though, I think he is on thin ice.  (It crossed my mind, after that smart-aleck remark, that I could just not knit them, and tell him they are now indeed "birthday socks", to go with his "birthday suit".)

Anyway, I used Judy Becker’s certainly-very-clever-but-not-really-magical cast on, and started working my way up the toe, using my favorite increase method of "make 1, YO", which I learned out of Priscilla Gibson-Roberts "Ethnic Socks & Stockings".

The Aquarius pattern is charted over 17 sts, so when I got up to 52 sts on my toe, I started the chart, doing a k2tog mid-round to get down to 51 sts.  Of course, you probably have already figured out what I, in the pursuit of a multiple of 17, had not:  51 sts on size 1 needles is not a big enough sock for DH.   I, too, realized it fairly soon — but I did a few repeats of the chart anyway, just to see how it looked – would it be worth futzing with the chart to get it to work with a proper-size sock?  No.  To be honest, it looked kind of boring.

I left it on DH’s dresser with a note (he gets up way early) saying I thought it was too small, but for him to try it and see what he thinks. Yup, definitely too small.  And he wasn’t wildly enthusiastic about the pattern, either ("It’s OK").

So, Monday evening I ripped that out (forgot to take a picture first, sorry) — and did some more increasing, this time comparing the toe width to a tracing of the "perfect" size Colinette sock.  I went up to 64 sts and did a couple of rounds.  Hmmm.  DH tried it on again and thought it was pretty good, but I knew better.  Just a smidge too big.

We also had a brief discussion about whether he prefers the instep to be patterned, or plain stockinette.  (Darn.  He prefers pattern.  There goes the "easy plain stockinette foot" idea.)  Finally, I had him look through a few potential st patterns to find something he might like, since the Aquarius pattern was out.  Then he went to bed while I ripped out a couple of rounds, and settled on 60 sts.

sm_greensockI started out on the foot with his first pattern choice, "Granite Rib" from my 365 Knitting Sts a Year calendar (April 20), but it kinda just looked like mush.  So, a bit more ripping back. His second choice was "Textured Ribbing" from the same source (May 5).  And it looks like we have a winner!  The only thing I don’t like about it was that I couldn’t properly center the 6-stitch multiple on the instep.  I consoled myself by figuring I’ll make the other sock a mirror image, at least.  DH will never notice unless I tell him.

I did ~20 rounds or so, and again left it on his dresser with a note asking for his opinion.  I got "It’s Good!  XO" scribbled back, so I guess we’re on our way to living happily ever after…

The End.

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Sock What?

Both my sister and a college friend recently sent me copies of this Wall Street Journal article about knitting.

More specifically, it’s about "Sock Wars", where the idea is that everyone playing the game is an "assassin" and has an assigned  "target".  You are supposed to "assassinate" that person by knitting them a pair of socks, and then you send them to your target before your assassin sends a pair of finished socks to you.

When you receive your finished socks and thus are assassinated, you send your unfinished socks back to your assassin, who then has the job of finishing up knitting the socks for her new target (your original target).  The last assassin alive "wins".

At first, I thought this sounded really cool and hip.  I thought, wow, I never heard of this — I must be an old knitting fogey — am I totally out of the online knitting community loop, or what?

But hang on — this means that a knitter who assassinates her target in a timely, responsible fashion gets a two-fold "reward":  (1) another pair of unfinished socks to knit, and (2) no finished socks for herself.  Surely, I have this wrong, I thought.  That makes no sense at all.  So, being the former engineer that I am, of course I modeled it on a small scale.

Imagine myself, The Pats and Rock Star in a mini-version of the game.  I have The Pats as a target; she has Rock Star; Rock Star has me.

  • The Pats knits fast, but I knit faster.  Plus I don’t have a kid.  So, I will likely assassinate The Pats.  She will then ship me one finished sock, and one unfinished sock.
  • I will finish the second sock of the pair, and assassinate Rock Star, who will then send me two balls of yarn and some needles, because she hasn’t even cast on yet.
  • So then, if I actually wanted a pair of socks out of the deal, I’d have to knit them myself.  Hooray!  Two socks for the work of five!

This goes totally and utterly against my naive, Midwestern sense of how the world is supposed to go:  work hard, be considerate of others, and you will be rewarded.  In this case, the knitter who NEVER ACTUALLY STARTS THE SOCKS will triumph, in that she will receive a pair of handknit socks, and all she has to do then is ship off some yarn and needles as a bizarre sort of "thank-you".

Feel free to consider me jaded and selfish, but no thanks.

I shudder to think of finishing pair after pair of socks, sending them off time and again, only to receive yet ANOTHER unfinished pair in the mail.  (Oh, and BTW, everyone is supposed to use the same pattern, so there’s not even any variety or surprise to break things up — except in yarn choice, I suppose.)

I’d go bananas.  I’m pretty sure I’d quit after 2 or 3 pairs, at the very least.  When yet another unfinished pair arrived, I’d passive-aggressively hide them under something in my studio.  But then I’d feel totally guilty while knitting on anything else, until I would finally dig out the damned socks and finish them.  It would be a curse.  I’d pray for "death".

The part I can’t believe is that this year is apparently the second year the game has been played.  I guess I just don’t get it.  I guess maybe I am an un-hip, old-knitting-fogey. 

 However, that’s not to say the idea is not without its possibilities.  If I can get together a group of knitters who will fall for it, I could get all my UFOs done without lifting a finger… 

 Maybe Sock Wars is fabulous fun for knitters who are bored, and have no idea what to do next.  This is definitely not one of my knitting issues.  Take a look at these:

 Exhibit A)  the Hall of Shame:  my pile of UFO’s.  Each and every one of those bags is a knitting project that was started with high hopes and big plans.  Some of them are class or pattern samples, and can be considered "work" knitting, while others are purely for my own knitting pleasure.  (The Nutcracker sweater is in the silvery bag in the back left corner.) Somewhere under there where you can’t even see it is a duct-tape reinforced box, complete with duct-tape handles, which is full of Manos that was going to be a modular vest.  (And yes, there are at least 3 pairs 4 pairs of socks in there that I can think of right off the bat.  None of them are for Sock Wars, though.) 


About a month and a half ago, I started a concerted effort to clear out the failures from this pile by the end of the year.  My motto was "fish or cut bait":  I would rip out what I was never going to finish, and resolve issues on things that were stalled.  Believe it or not, I actually did a fair amount of that, but the pile is still pretty humungous.  The table is 30" x 40" and it’s heaped about an average of a foot deep.  That’s 14,400 cubic inches of UFO’s.

sm_hutch.jpgExhibit B)  the Stash:  my hutch full of yarn, topped off with more yarn, that for the most part hasn’t even been THOUGHT about, let alone knitted.  (The pink MOHAIR at the top right corner was from the gang for last year’s birthday.  Thanks, guys!)

sm_Fixers.jpgExhibit C)  the Fixers:  the pile of stuff that needs some kind of repair or alteration —

— and that’s not even thinking about the Hotlist, which is my pile of photocopies & printouts of projects for which I have ideas and/or yarn, but haven’t started.

Excuse me, but my sense of guilt tells me that I probably ought to go knit on something.  But not a pair of socks for someone I don’t know.  Besides, my DH would assassinate me first.

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My Don’s Black Socks

Last night, Don said he had a “dangerous” question for me.

“Did you knit me another pair of black socks?” he asked.

I knew right away what had happened.  After all, there are only two pairs of hand-knit black socks in the house.  Yes, it was quickly confirmed that the black heavyweight socks I had made for me (Mission Falls 1824 wool) had ended up in his laundry pile, from there to his sock drawer, and from there onto his feet.

I gave him an exasperated look, because I already knew where this was going. I was pretty sure I had just lost a pair of black socks.

"I told you it was a dangerous question," he continued. “I didn’t recognize them, but I tried them on and they fit pretty well, so I wore them all day," he admitted, in a sort of sad, wistful, I-wish-they-were-my-socks voice.

(At this point, I looked sharply at his feet, because he had just come home from playing inline hockey.  At least he was not so foolish as to wear them for THAT.)

"I hope I didn’t ruin them,” he added, in a show of concern.

OK, I am thinking that last part was a BFL (= Big Fat Lie).

Unfortunately for Don, when it comes to hand-knit-socks-for-hubby, with me it’s a classic case of “the cobbler’s kids don’t have any shoes.”

Don loves his hand-knit socks, and he seems to want a few more pairs. Subtle hints have not worked; outright requests have not worked.  At one point, as I noticed these feeble attempts to communicate how much he yearned for more socks, I had even stated out loud that I would/should ALWAYS have a pair of socks for him in the works.  This hasn’t happened.  Apparently, I prefer knitting VK and Anny Blatt sweaters for me.

And apparently, desperate times call for desperate measures.  Now he must resort to "accidental" stealing.

So we all know that by this point in the conversation, Don has just scored himself another pair of hand-knit socks.  I admit, it was masterfully done.  And as I’ve said, I don’t really dig hand-knit socks for myself anyway.  I sighed, and officially granted him ownership of the black socks.

I wasn’t going to be a complete pushover, though.  I asked him if he would next like to try on the lace knee-highs.  He declined.

Hmmm, maybe I’ll even cast on another pair for him… I wonder how many pairs I can get done before Xmas?

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Why Knit Socks?

Every so often, of course, the subject comes up. Why (the expletive) would anyone HAND-KNIT a pair of socks?

One year, at my family reunion, I presented one of my brothers with a pair of obviously hand-knit socks, in his all-time favorite color – dark purple.

(Where, you ask, did I get dark purple sock yarn? Funny story. I called up Tina of [Blue Moon Fiber Arts->], and asked her if she could custom-dye me some yarn.

I told her I wanted something like “Amethyst,” which was a combination of purple tints — only I wanted it in darker, more manly shades.

She said, “Well, I have a couple of skeins of Amethyst here that I overdyed with eggplant.” I said, “Let me get this straight. I call you up asking for a custom order and YOU’VE ALREADY DONE IT??”)

Anyway, someone in the family asked how many yards of yarn are in a pair of socks. I told them, “A couple hundred.” Aghast, the brother who had been gifted with said socks yelped, “And you knit EVERY INCH OF THAT?”

Well, where else was I going to get him purple socks? I ask you. From what I understand, though, now he won’t wear them as they are “too good.”   [update January ’08:  Brother reports having worn them twice.  With high-tops.  Sigh.]


Fortunately, my husband grew up with a mother who knits, so he has no such reservations.

A few years ago, his mom wanted to knit him a pair of socks, so at my suggestion she made him a pair in the BMFA “Jasper” colorway. I felt this killed two birds with one stone, as these socks would replace a commercial cordovan-colored pair that my husband had worn to death, and that I had not been able to find a replacement for.

He wore his mother’s socks so often that I started to feel threatened (note: I have since had to re-knit both toes, and had to get MIL to send me the leftover yarn to do it with) — so I figured I’d better make him a few pairs myself.

I started with Socks That Rock in charcoal and made a lovely pair in a mock-cable pattern that pretty much put me off knitting socks for him for a while. Not only is charcoal yarn at sock gauge hard to see, but the rows of mock cable rib were rather hard to count. Here is a scan, although don’t say I didn’t warn you that it is hard to see.

Mock cable pattern = work in 2 x 2 rib. Every 4-6 rows, move the rib pattern over by one st so it “stair-steps”.

I’ve made a couple of other pairs for him: a fairly plain pair in heavyweight STR in “Lagoon” — which he must be wearing today, because I can’t find them — and one in Colinette Jitterbug.

This pair was a bear, too, because of the funky Japanese twisted st pattern. Very handsome, I think, but not exactly a piece of cake to knit. The pattern didn’t show up all that well in the variegated yarn to begin with. And most unfortunately, they have become rather fuzzy after many trips through the laundry. 

To be honest, I don’t really dig hand-knit socks that much for myself. I have around 8-10 pairs (two pairs of which were made for me by my MIL – which was a lovely gift, because it seems to be a rare thing for someone to knit anything for a knitter). But I mostly wear them to sleep in. Generally, it seems to me, socks are not really a sassy piece of clothing.

But the other night, Don came home from work and plopped down in the other chair in the office, while I was sitting at the computer. He had the Colinette socks on. Out of nowhere, he announced that these were his very favorite socks and they fit perfectly and they feel great and he loves them.

Ah, yes, THAT’s why I knit socks.

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Hair Apparent

Is it just me, or does it happen to everyone else too?

Without fail, the handknit superwash wool socks come out of my dryer with hairs stuck to them.

At least it’s definitely our hair: my DH has dark curly hair, and I have longish red hair. Both of these end up being fairly obvious when stuck to a sock. (And it’s clean hair! because of course it’s just been through the laundry.)

Interestingly, it seems to be just the handknit wool socks that have this magnetic attraction to other hair. DH has a few pairs of commercially made wool socks that he wears for cycling, and I haven’t noticed the same phenomenon on them.

The attraction also seems to be reserved mainly for human hair. We have two cats and two dogs, of various colors: their hairs also end up stuck to many things, and I am sure a fair amount of animal hair goes into the washer, but it does not seem to particularly stick to the socks. Or maybe I am just so used to seeing animal hair on everything, I fail to notice it.

I have noticed that dog hair seems to have become permanently enmeshed in DH’s felted clog slippers, but that’s understandable because (a) they rarely get washed (neither clogs nor dogs, frankly); and (b) he usually wears them in the family room, where the dogs congregate. So he walks around in a fair amount of dog hair. Easily explained.

Yes, I put my handknit socks IN THE DRYER. Yeah, I do. Knitter’s choice. DH wears all his handknit socks often, and I’m pretty much too lazy to hang them or lay them flat to dry. And, there’s the smell of wet wool to contend with. (Though actually, I happen to kind of like the smell of wet wool, in small doses, at least. Nice clean wool, you understand – not stinky wool.)

Lately I’ve been toying with the idea of whipping up some cleaning rags out of leftover sock yarn on the ol’ knitting machine, and seeing if they pick up hairs during cleaning as well as they do in the laundry. Perhaps I can harness this force for good, not evil!

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