The path to sock enlightenment is not proving an easy one. My first pair – years in the making – shrunk in the wash.. Oops! I put them in the ordinary wash at 40 degrees, and I can’t even get them on my feet anymore (now I know what Cinderella’s ugly sisters felt like if they were trying on her socks rather than her glass slipper!) Maybe I’ll use them as dusters..
I wanted to make another pair quickly before I forgot the process, so I went to good ol’ Ravelry and found this freebie pattern: http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/rye-4 As the design calls for worsted yarn and chunkier needles than the first sock pattern I attempted, they worked up more quickly. The only hiccup was grafting the toe – this time I tried the proper Kitchener stitch instead of the crocheted graft I used before. The only thing I would change if I made these socks again would be to use a different sized needle for the cuff: the pattern called for 2.25mm needles compared to 2.75 for the rest of the sock, but I reckon I would either use the same size as the main body, or 2.5mm if I went smaller for the cuff, as I thought 2.25mm was a teeny bit on the tight side..
Cuff down socks: Seersucker stitch and Rye Pattern
I then decided I wanted to try a toe up sock pattern, and went for a basic pattern from the book Socks From The Toe Up by Wendy D Johnson. But I made a couple of idiotic decisions. To begin with, the pattern specified 2mm needles – eek! Titchy takes too long! And the yarn I chose was not great for the ripping back which is inevitable when learning new techniques (i.e. Turkish cast on, fleegle heel and I was rusty on M1 increases). The yarn in question was Debbie Bliss Rialto Luxury Sock. It has a haze, and this tends to catch on itself when ripping back, especially as 2mm needles create small stitches which knot up easily. Eventually I reached the leg of the first sock and managed to accidentally break the yarn (even though I was doing plain stocking stitch at that point, my brain sometimes rebels at repetitiveness, and I did something wrong, so had to unravel..) At which point I got so exasperated, I lost the will to continue, and decided that pattern in this yarn on those needles was too much trouble! So I went large again. Far more sensible to learn on chunkier yarn and thicker needles. The pattern was another freeby from Ravelry http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/toe-up-worsted-socks and it went a lot more smoothly.
Toe up socks
By then I had thought of a title for this blog post I wanted to write so I knew I wanted to make another pair of cuff down socks. I thought I’d have a go a go at designing my own sock. I’d seen several stitch patterns I liked and I opted for the Seersucker stitch, which was written for flat knitting but was easy enough to convert to circular knitting. I had to look up what a seersucker was – sounds like some sort of leech to me! But it actually means “a lightweight fabric with a crimped or puckered surface”. In green yarn, it brings to mind dragon scales..
The final test is how comfy they are in my gardening boots and, of course, if I can wash them without shrinking them. Dusters anyone..?
That floral motif from the Isla cloche which I wrote about a couple of posts ago… Y’know, I liked it so much that when I was asked by my cousin to make her a phone cosy for Xmas, I decided to whittle out the motif from the hat pattern and incorporate it accordingly. I’m only writing about it now, over a month later, because we finally met to exchange gifts on Friday. My cuz does sometimes read this blog and, of course, I didn’t want to ruin the surprise. She beamed with delight when she ripped open the wrapping paper.
I used the leftover yarn (Malabrigo Rios) from the Isla cloche I made for a friend, and I chose a moss stitch for the base of the cosy to represent the crumb structure of a good soil that the flower might be growing in. The reverse side of the cosy is in plain knit stitch. I decided against an envelope flap and button like on my phone sock. Instead I opted for ribbing using a smaller needle, and thought the result was much better.
In return, cuz gave me a stitch dictionary for knitting in the round. Just right for plotting designs for socks. I’ve got several ideas brewing and don’t know which one to go for first, like a kid in a sweetshop. (I usually went for rhubarb and custard in the end. Wonder what that suggests about my sock knitting future..)
Magicians pull rabbits from their hats. Me, I pull yarn. I don’t have a yarn bowl you see, and to stop my ball of wool from from rolling around the floor gathering bits that I’ve yet to hoover up, it occurred to me that my cap could be a decent substitute. And in this, if nothing else, I was astute! I tried using a bowl from the kitchen, but glass is slippery and the yarn would jump out onto the floor if I was too exuberant in my pulling technique. The cap is more effective as the fabric grips the yarn slightly, and the sides of the hat also collapse in a bit, helping keep the yarn in situ.
Yarn bowls are marvellous inventions though – the slit in the side of the basin manages the yarn so that it doesn’t ever bounce out. I gifted one to a friend, and tried it out before I wrapped it, and realised just how ingenious the yarn bowl is. Another friend has a neighbour who is a talented ceramicist and the next time I see her, I will suggest she make some and sell them at our local yarn store. I would certainly buy one, as I like her work. Meanwhile, I will continue using my hat.
There is a poem I like by Robert Frost in which he addresses an orchard, saying:
“How often already you’ve had to be told,
Keep cold, young orchard. Good-by and keep cold.
Dread fifty above more than fifty below.”
Well, the same can’t be said for us gardeners! Earlier in the autumn I heard various reports that this is going to be a gelid winter, so I figured I’d better make me a hat for work, as I lost the plastic-fleece one I had before. And having read that plastic-fleece is bad for the environment¹ (even though it’s a creative way of recycling), I decided against getting another one like it.
My first attempt was the Twisted Toque designed by Helen Sharp in the book 60 Quick Knits (20 hats, 20 scarves, 20 mittens in Cascade 220) which I didn’t end up liking when I finished it. It made me look like Compo from Last of the Summer Wine! I made a hat for a friend as a Christmas gift which I liked so much I nearly kept it.. but then I decided to make one for myself, in Purpuras rather than Jupiter. I didn’t want to write about it until after Christmas, incase the friend in question saw the post and knew what I was giving her. The pattern is Tanis Gray’s Isla Cloche available free from tanisknits.com. I added a few extra rows to make the hats slouchier. All three hats were made using Malabrigo Rios.
Apart from a brief frosty spell in November, it’s been too mild for a woolly hat so far this winter. Needless to say, when Jack Frost was about (and “after our fingers and toes”) I hadn’t finished my hat! Still, there’s a couple of months left before spring, time enough for the snow that fell in the Sahara to migrate to London!
¹ I first read about this in the following post:
I’ve written previously about the faff of DPNs, and how this drove me to pick up the hook to fulfil my desire to make socks. Having sported the pair I crocheted a couple of times, I’m not convinced they wear comfortably. The structure of crochet stitches is more bumpy than knitted stitches and though I’ve read methods to lessen this, I’ve returned to attempts to knit socks. And I’m pleased to report I’ve had success…
More importantly, I don’t need thick-soled hobbit feet to don them with a smile.
It’s taken me a while to get to this point. I got as far as decreasing for the toe on one sock, and put it down as I was quite busy and felt I shouldn’t rush it. I didn’t pick it up again for ages and by then had forgotten how I did things. So in the interest of making socks that match, I ripped back to the beginning… and lost my way again somehow. So my sock yarn looked like this for a time..
My successful attempt happened after the decision to work two socks simultaneously – or as synchronously as possible with DPNs. This meant knitting part of one sock, stopping, then knitting the same part of the second sock before continuing. In this way, the process of each section remained fresh in my mind and I was more likely to match tension etc. Things went quite smoothly… but I misread the heel flap instructions: on each row, I did sl1 K1 (or P1) across, rather than alternate a row of sl1 K1 with a row of purl across. It made the heel shorter and tighter than it should’ve been, but I only noticed when I reached the toe of the second sock. Well of course there was no way I was going back and re-doing the heels! Grafting the toe was a bit of a problem too. It didn’t help that I was venturing this late in the evening (never a good time to try something new!) and I ended up crocheting a graft rather than use Kitchener stitch. It worked okay, but each graft had an ‘ear’ on the left hand side.
Despite the heel mishap, this first completed pair of knitted socks has proved comfy – definitely more so than those I hooked up. I’ve now got a long list of socks I want to make. I’m close to completing a top down pair in aran, and I think I will try a toe-up pair next…
Now, I know I said I was having a ‘hook hiatus’ but a few things have come up recently to bring my mind back to crochet, if not hands and wool yet. One is an article commission which regrettably hasn’t come together in time due to problems with images, but hopefully will go ahead this time next year when all that is sorted out..
The others were spotted on a trip to the Midlands to visit a friend for an all too brief couple of days. We tootled over to Stratford Upon Avon and couldn’t resist the lure of a secondhand bookshop where I spied a publication that I knew I’d regret not getting. Of course I bought it! Quite a rare find, I think.
The other was a piece of filet crochet in the Mission Church (or the ‘Tin Church’ as it was also known) at the Avoncroft Museum of Historic Buildings – where historic buildings retire when in danger of being pulled down! It’s worth a visit if you’re ever in Worcestershire. The tin church originally stood in Bringsty Common, Herefordshire, and was moved to the museum in 1995. I’m not sure if the crochet was also original – the information stated that the church had been maintained well after it had closed: the interior of the church was complete and that the font, lectern, pulpit, pews and vestments were rescued before dismantling, but the organ had to be restored.
It just goes to show… crochet pops up even when you’re not looking for it (or trying to ignore it!)
I’ve never been a big fan of Fair Isle and other stranded knitting. For some reason, the ‘floats’ on the reverse side put me off. But I really enjoy Kate Davies’ blog and have been inspired by some of her designs to give the technique a go.
Yesterday, I took part in Juju Vail’s Fair Isle workshop at Loop down here in London. It was an all day event and by 5pm, my mind was spinning like a whirligig beetle. We covered a lot, so there is much to practise in order to fix processes in my muscle memory. To start with, there was magic loop knitting, then continental knitting, then the Fair Isle method, and to round it all off, a look at steeking. Phew! I have to say, I’m not very fond of this magic loop malarkey. It seems very faffy, and all that extra length of cable doesn’t half get itself in the way. Annoying! But I’m not giving up on it just yet, and the Fair Isle itself was not as tricky as you might think.
I’m glad I attended a workshop – any problems or “eek!” moments are dealt with before too much frustration sets in. We all know how much this can hinder progress and motivation! For instance, someone in the class said she tried to teach herself magic loop, but the ‘ladder’ that appeared when switching back and forth between needles put her off. Juju assured us this was a temporary problem which would sort itself out as the piece of work grows, and blocking would help even this all out (unlike with dpns? I didn’t think to ask this..)
If you’re new to stranded knitting and live in London – or not too much further afield (like America! One woman on the workshop was from “the left side” of the States, and was in the UK for as much holiday crafting as she could squeeze in) – I recommend a workshop with Juju. She’s dynamic, patient, encouraging and positive.. as all good teachers are!
As for those Fair Isle patterns by Kate Davies that I’ve idly had my eye on for a while.. I’m that little bit closer to being able to make one. But there is a queue. Isn’t there always?!
First attempts at magic loop, continental and Fair Isle knitting