Recently in Socks Category

Busy Hands, New Socks

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My current job finds me planted in front of my speaker phone or my computer for teleconferences and webinars.  I am easily distracted by my email, my iPad and other things, and to help me pay attention better when I am not sharing the experience with a real person, I have taken to keeping a project in my office that takes little brain activity so I can keep my hands busy and focus on what I am listening to.  This strategy does turn out to work well for me, as long as the project is not complicated.  Somehow keeping my hands out of trouble allows my brain to pay attention better to what I'm listening to.

Here's the first project I've finished:

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Nothing magical -- just a pair of socks in some hard-wearing Regia (Ringel 5072) that I have always loved and have had buried in my sock yarn archive since the dawn of my sock knitting adventures..  This is my very standard toe up pattern with a short row heel and K2P2 ribbing.  The only difference between this and my standard socks is that I knit until the ball ran out, so these socks are longer (mid calf) and I had to shape the sock and ribbing to expand towards the top for my calf.   You can't tell easily from the photo, but these socks are actually identical -- or at least as identical as you can get with this yarn.  

The next project is a pair of fingerless mitts in BMFA Silkie since I am always freezing cold in my office.

Winter Socks

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Yarn: Austerman Step 01
Pattern: My Standard Toe Up Short Row Heel Socks
Needles: US 1


Simple socks are about all you'll find on my needles right now.  They can be easily knit while I watch John play Skyrim or while I am participating in a conference call or webinar where I am not a significant participant, but need something for my hands to do to keep me from checking my email and not paying attention all together.  I started these socks some time ago... maybe in early 2011 when it was chilly out.  Even though this yarn is a commercially dyed self-striping yarn, I'm excited about it:  it's Austerman Step, the yarn that was impregnated with jojoba oil and is supposed to be moisturizing for your feet.

After Z was born, my skin when from just being sensitive to a full blown eczema*.  With help from a good dermatologist and a lot of Zyrtec it's under control, but the dry Chicago winter weather is still hard on my skin, so I'm always looking for ways to make it feel better.  I've never figured out whether I'm wool sensitive or not, but since most wools do amp up the itchiness factor, I've been weeding most of them out of my life in favor of the softer merinos, silk and cotton.  Those fibers (except for merino) aren't common in sock yarn so I'm looking forward to seeing if this one keeps the irritation down but still gives me warm winter feet.

*I don't get rashes so much as I feel like I want to itch the top layer of skin off.    And I love the irony of being an immunologist with an overactive immune system...

Socks in Progress

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Right now, the work - life balance equation is shifted firmly in the direction of work.  The dedicated crafting time has been a few minutes here and a few minutes there, so most of my projects have been simple.  Socks have been the dominant form of simplicity.  My standard pattern, sized for either myself or Ms. Z.  

Her socks have seen more knitting time, smaller socks come together so much quicker, making it feel like there's more payoff knitting for her.  And what's not to love about a little person telling me how much she likes the yarn, or taking off one of her socks so that we can try the newest sock in progress on?

The sock on the far left is made out of Patons Stretch an elastic cotton blend that I thought would be good for spring socks.  I hope to make these as knee socks.  I am considering over the knee socks as well, but worry they might not stay up well enough.  We shall see.

The sock in the top center is made out of Lorna's Laces in a wonderful bright bubble gum color.  Since they will be solid, I wanted to add some pattern or texture.  I'm thinking about something with a simple eyelet motif, but haven't found something that I like and that suits Z. 

The big sock is for me in Austerman Step -- one of the yarns that came out multiple years back that came infused with jojoba oil. My dry skin has been a real sore spot for me this winter, so I thought these socks might help. It's not bad stuff to knit with. 

I've got a sock for John that didn't make it into the picture, mostly because it has little cables, which, while simple, are still beyond my focusing skills.  They're in a lovely almost solid forest green Trekking yarn.  The husband has been putting holes through the soles of all his socks (the very first pair I made for him out of Opal just succumbed...) lately, so I'm going to be knitting a lot of replacements for his drawer... no more wimpy soft merino for him!

Skewed

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Pattern: Skew (Knitty, Winter 2009)
Yarn: A Zauberball... Not sure of colorway
Needles: AddiTurbo, 2.25 mm


Every now and again I get the bug to try out a new sock construction.  That bug gets stronger when I see a lot of folks trying it out and vouching for it's interestingness.  And so it was with these socks.  This pattern has a huge following (over 1800 pairs of socks in Ravely!) of enthusiastic knitters.

This pattern is well written and clearly there is no way not to be impressed with the effort and engineering that went into designing them.  I never, in a million years, would have come up with these socks on my own. The angle of the stockinette does neat things for many many yarns.   I really really wanted to like these socks. But you know what? Even when I finished this pair of socks, all I was left with was a "meh". 

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Why? 

First off, bad yarn choice for the pattern.  This pattern clearly does better with yarns that feature regular narrower stripes of color, at least to my eye.  The wide stripes don't show off the angled stockinette very well, and really do nothing to demonstrate the cool thing you did at the heel.  So after all the complicated sock knitting gymnastics, you can't really even look at this pair and really see it in a way that stands out.

Secondly... well, it's all about me and why/how I knit socks.  I used to knit them for the challenge, I used to be in search of my perfect sock construction.  The perfect heel, the perfect toe, the perfect direction for knitting, the perfect cast on, the perfect cast off -- the perfect elements that made knitting socks a smooth, streamlined relaxed experience for me.  The right combination of process I enjoyed and fast production.  And I've found those things... my ideal sock is a toe up sock that uses a magic cast on, features a short row heel, and is bound off using a lovely stretchy bind-off published by Grumperina.  I know it so well I can incorporate patterns without thinking, can knit in the dark or while watching a movie, know exactly what needles, what size, etc.  There's no Kitchenering, and when I'm done with the sock, I weave in two ends and try it on.

Which is a long winded way of saying that while these socks were interesting, I had to pay too much attention to them.  I had to carry the instructions around with me, I had to go back at the end to seal up a hole (which is an expected thing).  They weren't something I could enjoy on autopilot.  I think it took me so long to get the second one done because I just didn't want to have to focus that much on a sock. 

This pattern does get a big thumbs up for cool construction described in a very accessible way.   But if you tackle it, be sure to browse through Ravelry and make sure that the yarn you picked for it gives you a look that you really like.

Making Progress: Finished Francie Socks

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20101129_FrancieFinished.jpg
Pattern: Francie from Bowerbird Knits
Yarn: Dream in Color Smooshy, Some Summer Sky

I won't dwell too long on how long this pair of socks has been lingering with the first sock completed and the second sock awaiting arrival.  I finished the first one in October, 2008.  Cast on for the second right away.  I think I got thrown off track when a number of my 100% merino socks started to show wear so quickly after their first outings and I got discouraged about finishing this pair because it didn't seem like they would last long enough to be worth the effort.  I still have reservations, but I'll be making an effort to be gentle with this pair.

20101129_FranciePatternDeta.jpgMy tardiness might also have had to do with the fact that the socks were both top down and flap heel -- both of which feel a bit alien to me and so take extra effort to push through.  The finished product is lovely, though.  The pattern is meant to evoke tree bark and organic lines, and the Dream in Color Smooshy was the kind of yarn you just don't want to stop knitting with.

20101129_FrancieSole.jpgThe Francie pattern also features very unique instep shaping.  The socks are very dramatic looking from the bottom and make you want to take them out walking on a sandy beach just so that you can see what kind of imprint they would leave. 

The fit on the socks is nice and snug -- just what you would expect from a sock that is fundamentally K2P2 rib.  If you were looking for an interesting gift sock and had somewhat indeterminate measurements, these socks would fill the bill (a note: they are a little homely when not worn because of the ribbing pulling in).  The pattern is well written and provides both written instructions and charts that are easy to follow.  The author suggests that it is for the adventurous, but I'd suggest it really just requires careful reading and following of instructions.

Another mark ticked off my knitting to do/get finished list!  Always a bonus when it means new warms socks in my drawer as the weather gets colder.

Skew Sock the First

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So, the individual Skew socks are sort of funny and un-sock looking on their own.  Rather, I should say, they lack the straight on look of a standard sock.  And flipped over, the heel looks like the funny little protruberance on the back.

20100321_SkewSockWorn.jpgThey definitely need to be worn in order to be appreciated. 

P.S. While browsing about at the Loopy Ewe over the weekend I came across the right sized Hiya Hiya circular needles, as well as the Addi Turbos for lace.  One of each was ordered so that I could try magic looping with a nicer cable.    Oh, and there might have been some Wollmeise and bits and bobs from Namaste that just fell into my cart as well.  I'm looking forward to testing out a batch of trendy goodies soon...

Skew Socks Start

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One Zauberball, one long circular needle and a toe up sock pattern with interesting construction (don't even ask me to knit socks from the top down... I just won't do it any more).

I'm using the Skew pattern from the most recent Knitty.  The yarn was selected because I wanted some wide swaths of color on an angle.  Now that I've gotten started, I think some of my Vesper yarn might have been an even better choice -- but since I didn't know what to expect from the fit of this pattern, I wasn't willing to invest any of my lovely Vesper in the first experiment. 

It's been a long time since I've knit socks using the Magic Loop method on one needle.  I think I might have to consider it again -- but not until I find a needle with a softer cable.  This AddiTurbo is from the "inflexible cable" era  and is making me just a little crazy.  I had forgotten how nice Magic Looping was for being able to try on a sock as you go.  Just shift those stitches onto the cable and it's much easier than on double points.

Gift Socks

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Pattern: Basic Toe Up Socks a la Me
Yarn: Trekking XXL, Colorway 110
Needles: 2.25 mm DP


A basic pair of socks.  Even though my basic sock pattern is the same every time, doesn't involve complicated construction or stitchwork, doesn't involve anything fancy at all, completing, it doesn't make the act of completing a project feel any less satisfying.  In fact, I love that I can knit my basic pattern almost on autopilot with only the occasional need to grab a tape measure. 

I am a bit of a selfish sock knitter.  Most of the socks I knit are for me.  These socks are not only not for me, they're also not for a family member.  I just got the sudden urge to knit these guys for someone I know and value who has never really had the benefit of a pair of wool socks before, let alone hand knit wool socks (never fear, she is the kind of person who values hand work).  They were mostly knit while watching John play Mass Effect or just watching TV (they got a little work in DC, too).  I didn't really have a time line for them.  I just knit on them when I felt like it.  And with all the other things I was working on, I felt like knitting something simple a lot.

On Thursday they will head off to their new home, with hopefully just enough chill left to the spring that their owner to be will get a chance to enjoy them.

Sock Order

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On Saturday night, John and I watched our three nieces while my brother- and sister-in-law went out to celebrate their anniversary.  Their three children are 6, 4 and 1 -- a nice range and a good complement to Z, who fits right in between the youngest and the middle child.  I was expecting chaos, but, instead, we had a very nice evening watching movies, eating popcorn and talking about knitting.

Yes, you heard me correctly, talking about knitting.  Well, at least the 6 year old and I did.

While the kids watched a movie, I sat down on the couch to finish off the second one of Z's socks.  Surprisingly the 6 year old (Ms. O) sat down on the couch next to me.  I say surprisingly, because given the chance, all of these kids love to be with John.  But she was clearly intrigued by what I was working on.

O: Ciocia Theresa, what are you working on?

Me: I'm knitting a sock.

O: Who's it for?

Me: Z.

O: Did she ask you for it?

Me: Yes, she did.

There was a pause in the action while she watched some of the movie and ate some popcorn.

O: Ciocia Theresa, is this yarn?

Me: Yes, it is.  It's sock yarn.

O: How does it do that? 
(referring to the color patterning)

Me:  Well it's colored in a particular way.  As you use knit with it, it turns into stripes.

O: How does knitting work?

Me:
(Having one of those "oh wow" moments, but trying not to sound too excited, lest I scare her off). Well, you kind of go round and a round in a circle pulling loops through other loops.  And eventually it makes a fabric.

There's some more discussion about yarn and knitting and the fairy wings that I made her (that she loves).  Another pause.  Clearly some thinking is going on about what to say next.

O: I like this yarn, Ciocia Theresa.  Do you make socks for other people?

Me: Yes.  I make them for Uncle John and me.

O: If I asked you for socks, would you make me some?

Me:
(Chuckling) Yes.

O:  Ciocia Theresa, would you make me a pair of socks?

Me:  You bet.


After that, when she got bored with the movie, we headed to where my stash was and I let her pick out some yarn (some Opal I have with blue and pink and white stripes -- she's a girly girl) and we talked about what she wanted: short socks that you could fold down into a cuff.   We measured her feet  and I took notes so that I could  work out the dimensions.  About 10 minutes later, and in roughly 15 minutes intervals afterwards... 

O: Ciocia, when are you going to start my socks?

This cracked me up, but made me happy.  Her feet are barely bigger than Z's so it will take no time at all to make a nice pair of ribbed socks.  Even though she was clearly thinking she was being sneaky about getting something, it's hard not to be happy when a child has enjoyed one hand knit gift and actively wants another one. 

I think this Christmas might be the one where Ms. O gets an introductory knitting kit.  And some socks.

If anyone has any good suggestions about books for young knitters, I'd be obliged.  She's just learning to read, so it needs to be simple, with good illustrations.



JaWoll Socks

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Pattern: My Own Standard Simple Socks
Yarn: Lang JaWoll Color, Color 82.0067
Needles: U.S. 0, 2.0 mm


The JaWoll socks, they are finished.  Clearly these socks are fraternal twins.    Little I could have done would have diverted them from that path. 

20091011_JaWollSockHeel.jpgThese socks follow my standard, toe up (square toe), short row heel, ribbed top.  The heels are possibly the only sort of matchy things between the two socks. 

20091011_JaWollSocksFront.jpgThis yarn was interesting, because even though the color intervals didn't seem to change throughout the skeins, the heathering did.  At the beginning of each skein, the yellow and reds had a purple thread that was very dominant, causing a very marled look (see the right sock).  But towards the end of the skein, the yellow and red and blues lost the marling and were more clear colors (note the toe of the left sock, which I started with the last part of the first skein).

20091011_JaWollSockTop.jpgGiven that, it amused me no end that when I got to the bind off, the socks were almost an exact match -- and this picture is a pretty accurate read of the brightness of the colors -- these socks are not shrinking violets.  I think I shall enjoy wearing them when I need a little extra confidence boost -- a reminder to keep my outlook and attitude bright even when the my personal or actual weather is a little gloomy.

20091011_JaWollSocksSide.jpgIn addition to this rather elaborate photo shoot, the socks also got their first wearing and passed with flying colors.  They did a great job of keeping my feet warm while we took a certain small person out to the Chicagoland version of a pumpkin patch (which is to say, fun, but not very authentic) in 40 degree weather.  I'm hoping that the fact that they were knit on 2.0 mm needles means that they will wear well -- even though they were knit on small needles, they don't have that stiff-as-a-board feeling that many socks I have made on zeros do before washing. 

With these socks finished, new TV knitting will have to be identified.  I've decided that the heir apparent to that position will be the second sleeve of Z's Zebra Striper sweater since all the ribbing in my second Francie sock isn't conducive to actually paying attention to what's on screen.  And with the cold weather already here, my baby girl definitely needs a new sweater soon!

A Sock and a Toe and a Bit to Go

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At Kitchen Sink Dyeworks on Friday she had a contest for a free skein of yarn.  All you had to do was leave a note in the comments telling her what color combinations made you think of autumn. This was my entry:

I like the rich purples, reds and oranges of that mark the end of fall leaves -- like nature's final hurrah before going dormant for awhile... at least in the midwest.
And this is all true -- when I knit my Charlotte's Web Shawl the color theme was very similar (this post shows the original Koigu colors off) -- my goal was for the colors to be evocative of a walk in the fall woods. 

So when I picked up this sock to work on it this weekend, I had a small epiphany.  The reason I always felt myself drawn to this yarn was because it pretty much fits my ideal fall color spectrum -- albeit it a rather oversaturated way. 

I finished the first sock and used the remainder of the first skein to cast on for the second -- it's amazing to me how easy it is for me to defeat second sock syndrome simply by doing my socks toe up.  The magic cast on takes no time at all and then suddenly I have a toe and I'm on my way.  I don't have to remember how to do a twisted German cast on, nor do I have to think about dealing with a flap heel and gusset. 

This project remains in my basket by the couch where I settle in for TV watching, so I am anticipating a new pair of fall socks soon!

Jawoll!

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This yarn, Lang Jawoll, was a lovely gift I received when I hosted the Audrey knit-a-long.   Since then, I've pulled it out several times, because I love the reds an purples and yellows and the regularity of the colors in the skein made me think that there might be some interesting patterning in the sock.  But, one thing always led to another: I acquired more yarn, I became fascinated with handpaints, I got focused away from sock projects.  So this yarn sat and sat.  It was my "back up" yarn when I went to Kauai.  Of course, I didn't finish the main project I brought, so, once again, this yarn almost went back into my sock yarn stash.

But before I put it back, I gave it a long hard look, and realized that I just had to know what this yarn was going to turn into.  And so I decided that it would be my next couch sock project.  No special details, just my standard old toe up sock with a short row heel.

20090804_JaWollSockToe.jpgI'm not sure exactly what I expected this yarn to do, but it definitely has different character in the sock than it does in the skein.  So far, it looks like that yellow and purple band is going to wind it's way around the sock, alternating with the reddish band. 

Not the self-patterning yarn I was expecting, but the colors blend well.  I don't have a pair of bright red socks, so this will be a good addition to my sock drawer, not to mention that this yarn is 75% wool and 25% nylon, so it should be durable as well as bright!

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First off, Ms. Z and I would like to say thank you for your birthday thoughts and compliments.  She has been asking for socks, so it is likely she will be modelling for me again sometime soon!

The reason she has been asking for socks, is the socks you see in the picture above.  Every time I pulled these out to work on while we were in Kauai, she would say "Mama is knitting socks!" John or I would ask her if she liked them "Yeahyeahyeah" she would say.  She was very interested in all the colors, I think. 

These socks are pretty much identical twins of each other except for a few things so minor you wouldn't notice unless I told you.  Interestingly enough, I did not do any measuring for the second sock -- I just started elements like the heel at the same place in the color progression as I had in the first one.  It's a testimony to the quality of the dyeing in this yarn that the 4 repeats that I used of each color for the first sock were pretty much exactly the same length as the 4 repeats in the second. 

This yarn is also a true pleasure to knit with.  It has a lovely soft hand and is generally not very splitty.  Of all the sock clubs I would consider joining, I think this one would be highest on my list.  I already have a second Wee Skein kit and a couple other skeins of Vesper waiting in the wings to be enjoyed -- though I think I might try to do something with a chevron sort of thing going on in my next pair to mix it up a bit.


20090730_WeeSkeinSocks2.jpgThese socks aren't quite knee-socks -- they come up to about mid-calf.  I wear a US women's size 8 shoe (my foot is about 9-3/4" long), so for me this is excellent yardage as well as a demonstration of why knitting toe-up socks can be a good way to maximize your yarn.  I had only a few inches left after binding off the second sock.  Repairs may be hard, but, given the striping, they would have been hard no matter what, so I just decided to use it all up and enjoy some stripey goodness.

I did some minimal shaping to accommodate my calf.  In the last two color strip segments I increased from 64 stitches around to 80 and the ribbing is pretty snug at the top, so they should stay up pretty well when they get their first real wearing.   

Vesper on the Beach

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My Vesper Wee Skein socks are coming along nicely.  This photo was taken using my fast 50 lens on Ke'e Beach (the western most beach on Kauai that is easy to get to -- also the beach I took the sunset pictures at) about an hour before sunset. I'm rather pleased with both the composition.  The sunlight was gorgeous and I actually did get to knit a few rows at the beach (though generally I find knitting at salt water beaches hard because of the minerals and humidity in the air) which watching Z splash around in the water.  Ke'e Beach was where Z really started to get her water mojo on and started to go into the water on her own, just because she wanted to. 

As you can tell from the first, completed socks, these socks are taller than my normal variety.  I decided that I was going to use up 4 repeats of each colorway on each sock (there are 8 total repeats of each colorway in each wee skein) so these socks come up over my calves a little bit.  Not quite knee socks.  I suspect if you wanted  knee socks, all you would need would be the remnants from another skein of Vesper and you'd probably be pretty close.  I had to do a little shaping as I got up to the calf area, I added two stitches to either side of the back every other stripe for a few stripes and then did every stripe for a bit and then left it once I'd gone up to 72 stitches (so I added about an inch to the circumference).  The ribbing was done using that last full color progression for the last color.

The second sock is now just past the heel -- not finished in Kauai, as I had hoped, but there were just too many other things to enjoy so I didn't feel too bad about that. 
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Yipes! Stripes!

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I have developed a "thing" for Knitterly Things -- which is to say that I am really enjoying knitting up these socks with one of Julia Vesper's "Wee Skein Sock Kits" (you can find more about the exact colorways here in this post.) These kits are fun because you get 4 color ways of her self-striping yarn, each with exactly eight repeats that you can divide up over a pair of socks however you want.  With this one, I started at the toe and knit two repeats of the first yarn, two of the second and so on until I started over again just past the heel.  Since I am determined to use 4 repeats in each sock, I am going to have something closer to knee socks than regular socks for me, but what could be more fun than stripey kneesocks?

The hand of this yarn is quite lovely, and, as you can see from the picture the colors are quite vivid.  As I knit along, I can't help but be impressed by the fact that someone actually dyed this yarn into so many precise stripes.  I imagine the measuring and other prep work that must have to be done.  This yarn is the sort of yarn where you can feel the creative effort of the dyer talk to you a little bit.  As I knit along (this sock makes for great TV knitting) I can't help but feel a lot of positive energy. 

I'm looking forward to wearing these socks -- and I know that I will wear them even if I finish them in hottest August, simply because of the stripey goodness.  I'm already thinking that I might need another pair of these... perhaps with only single repeat intervals, or with a pattern that biases the fabric back and forth a little bit.

Anyone out there made some stripey Monkeys?

Last Socks of the Winter

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I always know when spring is really here, because it's usually right about the time that I get motivated to finish up a pair of socks, lingering from the winter.  And even though socks are easy to knit and I like to knit few things as much as I like to knit socks, it also usually marks a time when I stop thinking about wooly foot gear for a while in favor of warmer weather projects. 

20080505_SchaeferAnnSocks.jpgThe pattern for these socks is just my basic toe-up sock.  Wedge toe, short row heel, ribbed cuff.  Nothing special.  What will make these socks memorable for me is the dreadful pooling of the second sock (the one on the blocker).  It's literally half light blue on one side, half dark blue on the other.  While the first sock striped in a more or less appealing way.  Schaefer Anne sock yarn will go into my books as strange stuff, indeed. 

And in truth, I will probably never buy Anne again for knitting socks.  This yarn is splitty, splitty, splitty and needs to be knit on tiny tiny needles in order to make what I think will be a marginally durable fabric.  It would probably be better used in some garment of a simple lace persuasion, meant to be worn for less trying service than socks.  Hopefully it will surprise me -- I've had more than my fair share of bad estimations of sock yarns, and I'd be happy to have this pair be with me for much time to come.

20080505_SockModel.jpgA certain little someone grabbed the sock right after I shot the first picture.  And, for the first time ever, when I asked her to hold a knitted item while I took her picture, she did so!  Isn't she a lovely sock model? (I know, she looks a little tired... it was the end of a long day for her).  Perhaps the leftovers will have to become socks for her.  I never get tired of her saying "Mommy made it! Mommy made it!" or asking to wear her handknit garments.   


Just a Sock

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And only a sock.  I could never get this yarn to pool correctly when I was trying to use it for a particular pooling scarf pattern (featured in IK several years back), but it seems to pool just fine when engaged in becoming a sock. 

I knit the calf until I got tired of knitting it and then tacked the ribbing on the top.  Pretty standard stuff from my camp.  But I guess that is part of what makes it satisfying.  Simple and long since committed to memory I don't have to push myself when knitting from my standard pattern, I can just enjoy watching the yarn tell it's story.

A number of other projects continue on in the background: the alpaca Rivolo scarf (I've kept to my one repeat per day and I think I'm about 2/3 of the way done), the Baby Surprise Jacket and the Zebra Striper Sweater (I'm actually close to the armhole area now!) and the O w l s sweater.  I've also warped my loom and started working on a very basic evenweave strip of fabric (I am not really sure what it will be... table runner? scarf? conversation piece?) so that I can focus on figuring out some of the basics (I've also invested in a couple of books, but I must wait for Amazon to get them to me).  I've scheduled some vacation for Friday and Monday and I'm hoping that the long weekend will help me gain a little more traction with all of my projects and still leave me with time for my Wii Fit, which I am enjoying a great deal, even though i was clearly not cut out to do anything that requires much balance!

Schaefer Socks

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I am making slow progress on several projects right now: the Rivolo Scarf, the Zebra Striper Sweater, my Silkie Socks, the Three-Ply Targhee Blanket squares.  And I even repaired the hole in John's second Mudslide sock.  As I was working on the first of my Silkie socks I had a moment of clarity where I realized that while I like all my complicated projects, I really just wanted something simple to knit.  Something I could knit on autopilot.  Something that I could get started on after going shopping in my stash.  Something unequivocally for me. 

For the answer to the first item, the best possibility seemed to be socks.  Just a pair of simple stockinette socks using my standard toe-up pattern.  For the yarn, I decided that I wanted to knit a pair of socks from yarn that was not 100% merino in composition so that I could (hopefully) count on many years of care-free wear.  Originally I was thinking of the skein of Austermann Step that I have in my stash, but then I discovered the ball of Schaefer Anne (in a colorway whose name I do not remember and could not identify from looking at the Schaefer website) that I had purchased to try out a pooling scarf pattern in a long ago IK -- only to discover that the way this particular skein was dyed was not conducive to getting it to pool the way the pattern was supposed to.  The yarn was already wound into a ball, ready to go.  And since Anne is a wool, mohair, nylon blend, I figured it would definitely create both durable and warm socks.

20090125_SchaeferSockToe.jpgI started out this project on US Size 1 needles (2.25 mm) but the yarn was just too fine and the fabric seemed a bit to open, so I ripped it off those needles and cast on to size 0's  (2.0 mm).  It's been a long time size I've had a set of 0's in my hands, but they were the right needles for this yarn -- in fact, I bet I could have kit on 00's and also gotten acceptable fabric.  What I found interesting was that the final number of stitches after I increased was 64 -- which is what I usually get on larger needles -- so I'm getting a gauge of about 8 stitches/inch.

I can't say that I adore the pooling behavior of this yarn, but it also doesn't bother me a great deal either. The colors are very evocative of peacock feathers.  It has a high sheen (due to the mohair I am sure) and the sock fabric is soft and light weight.   About the only real complaint I have is that the stuff is prone to splitting -- especially on 2.0 mm needles with sharp tips (these are also Darn Pretty Needles  --  when I purchased them, I took advantage of the special pricing they had for a full set of sock sized needles).  But this is also not too suprising given the yarn's component fibers.

20090125_SchaeferSockVertic.jpgThis has turned out to be exactly the project I needed.  Simple, colorful, quick and stashbusting.  A nice reminder that sometimes a project doesn't have to be complicated to be good for the soul.

Socks that Grawk, Ready for Action

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By Sunday afternoon, with the last of the good light, I had made reasonable progress on John's socks.

20090120_SocksthatGrawk1.jpgPerilously close, as the saying goes, but no actual cigar.  I knit the second sock using my newly acquired Darn Pretty needles from Grafton Fibers.  I found out about these needles via Claudia
and must say that I wish I'd been paying attention earlier because buying these needles is not only great for my knitting experience (they are beautiful, have a lovely finish and come in a 5" needle size) but also great for my sense of supporting small craftsmen and women.   They definitely deserve a better picture and I will endeavor to do that with the next sock project that I can photograph in good light!

But even in the waning light, I persevered and before the end of Sunday, John did, in fact, have a new pair of socks.

20090120_SocksthatGrawk2.jpgBecause I wanted to add a little extra oomph to these socks, and to keep myself from getting bored knitting the second sock, I had the cable on the second sock twist in the opposite direction.   I also used the heel of the second sock to try my hand at Japanese short rows. I think the assessment that these make for a neater, less gapped short row is probably true, but since my current reflexes are already hardwired to the PGR method, it slowed me down because I had to think about the process more carefully.   The results were good enough to make me want to try it again some time soon.

20090120_SocksthatGrawk3.jpg  These last pictures were all taken in the light of my office with the help of my 50 mm f/1.8 lens.  It's pretty good for eking out the last bit of light and helping you create good pictures of still objects.  The colors in these socks reflect light better than the black, so the green and purple show up much more prominently than they would if you were actually holding the socks in your hand.  If they were really this vibrant, man rejection would have been certain.

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But, in fact, they were happily accepted and modeled by the man, who is looking forward to having a new pair of heavyweight STR socks while I repair his Mudslides. 

Fortunately, I have a fair amount of Grawk left over, so should holes appear sooner than expected, repairs will be able to be made.  I'm hoping John will be a little gentler on these, since the patterning would make them somewhat more difficult to repair. 

I didn't quite meet my challenge of getting him a new pair of socks by Thursday, but I definitely finished them in a week, and there's still plenty of cold weather left in the forecast

Socks that Grawk

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20090112_SnowyDay.jpgOn Saturday, about halfway through the afternoon, we already had about 6" of snow accumulation and the clouds above Chicago showed no sign of slowing down.  Going out to do anything in weather like this didn't have a lot of appeal, so we had a long, grey day to spend at home.  A good day to get caught up on house chores, like laundry, which resulted in the discovery of this:

20090112_SadSocks.jpgSad, sad socks my friends.  The sock on the right is the mate of the sock I repaired for John not too long ago (good thing I still have some Mudslide yarn left).  The sock on the left is one of the socks made out of my handspun "Hang on Sloopy".  Both earned a big sigh.  The second Mudslide sock I expected to have to repair sooner rather than later (the trip through the washer and dryer just must have been too much agitation for those weak fibers) but the handspun sock had had no obvious signs of such imminent hole-age.  I was contemplating which to take on first when John reminded me that part of the reason his socks get so much "love" is that he just doesn't have enough thick hand knit socks -- and that weather predictions for Thursday suggest that the temperatures might not break 0 F.

20090112_STRHGrawk.jpgThis left me to think about knitting priorities.  And whether I could give myself a little challenge to heat up what is likely to be a week of cold snowy weather.  I am always looking for man-friendly yarn to stash.  The good people at Blue Moon Fiber Arts have a nice line of colorways called the Raven Clan, which are essentially black yarns "enhanced" with colors as part of a color study.  What's really nice about these yarns is that they have beautiful color undertones to appeal to the knitter, but these undertones are subtle enough to appeal to the color-conservative male in my house.  This full-skein picture of the yarn gives you a good idea of how the color reads when you see it from a distance.

20090112_STRHGrawkMacro.jpgWhile this macro shot shows off the nice purple and olive undertones that show up when you look close or get the yarn into brighter light.  As man-friendly yarn goes, I think it's really stunning.  And the fact that it is Heavyweight STR meant that it would meet John's need to have another pair of warm thick socks for winter commuting.  The name of the colorway, by the way, is "Grawk"... so, naturally, I came up with a name for the project before I even really knew what they were going to be: "Socks that Grawk".

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I like starting new sock projects with a very specific person with very specific wants.  For John, these wants include: 1 ) dark or subtly colored yarn and 2) simple unobtrusive patterns.  He really liked the last pair of socks that I made with the X and O cables up the side, so I thought for this pair I would stick with the cable theme, since that went so well.  But for this pair, I decided that I wanted a little more all over patterning, so I got out an old Harmony stitch dictionary and found a lovely, simple cable pattern that created a wide ribbing that I thought would be perfect.  With the cable stitch selected (and charted), the starting notes entered in my knitting journal (all the project I design myself get recorded here for further reference), some new podcasts loaded up on my iPhone and my lovely yarn converted to center pull ball, I sat near the best light in the house (admittedly not very good) and used the rest of Z's nap time to get the socks started.

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By Sunday afternoon (before naptime) this is what I had accomplished -- and I was very happy with both the cable stitch pattern (made so much easier by being able to cable without a cable needle) and the way it worked with the dark yarn.  It knit up so quickly (I worked on a few other knitting projects on Saturday besides this one) that I decided it might be time to issue myself a little challenge: to knit John a new pair of socks in time for that wicked cold weather on Thursday.  By the end of naptime on Sunday, I had turned the heel and knit a pattern repeat past the heel, so I'm optimistic that John could have a new pair of socks by the end of the week.

20081223_SilkieSockStart.jpgWell, clearly this sock isn't going to get hung anywhere for a little while, but since it is Christmas Eve I thought a quote from 'Twas the Night Before Christmas would be appropriate. 

This sock-in-progress is of my own design (it's a simple stitch pattern from Barbara Walker that I am too lazy to look up right now) using Blue Moon Fiber Arts Socks that Rock Silkie in "Walk on the Wild Tide.  I chose a stranded pattern intentionally.  Wool/silk blend sock yarns tend not to have the elasticity of straight out wool yarns, and, thus, tend towards slouchiness as the socks stretch with wearing.  Stranded patterns have less give than non-stranded ones and thus tend to discourage some of the slouching.    I like my yarns to have good posture!

20081223_SilkieSockStitch.jpgI was hoping that this particular pattern would break up some of the color banding a bit more, and that the stranding would show up a bit more strongly over the background.  It doesn't accomplish it as well as I would like, but it does make for a pretty, simple texture.  And the pattern stitch is incredibly simple, so it's easy to memorize and the knitting moves at a pretty rapid pace since every other row is straight stockinette.

With Christmas fast approaching and my family soon to be arriving, I bid everyone who drops by to chat with me a very happy holiday season, if you celebrate, or a pleasant bit of peace and happiness if you don't.  Much warmth and joy to you all.  

So Many Socks

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Today is not so much of a retrospective as an accounting.  The pictures were taken on a sunnier day, before the snow started to fall. All my socks were clean (except for one notable pair) and it seemed like a good time to get the class together for a group shot.  My orange striped socks missed the photoshoot, but the other 20 pairs that I have knit for myself made it in.  I have knit 21 pairs of socks for myself since I started blogging.  21 pairs of socks in something like 5 years* -- just around 4 pairs for myself every year.

20081216_VerticalSocks.jpgBut that's not really the whole story.  I've knit 2 pairs of socks for my dad, 2 pairs of socks for my mom, another 3 pairs for an aunt, my brother and his wife and 1 pair for a good friend from grad school.  So that brings the total up to 29. 

And even that isn't all.  I've made 7 pairs for Ms. Z and at least 9 pairs for John.  So my sum total sock production in the past 5 years is at least 45 pairs of socks.

That's a lotta socks.

20081216_AngledSocks.jpgI've knit toe up and top down, short row and Dutch and afterthought heels, star toes and square.  Patterned and straight stockinette.  Single color and two color.  Designed my own, worked from patterns. Ribbed and garter and picot cuffs.  On two circs, one circ and double points. 

I've knit socks from wool, I've knit socks from cotton/wool blends, I've knit socks from wool/silk blends and wool/mohair blends.  I've knit socks from Opal, Regia, Meilenweit, Socks that Rock, Tess Designer Yarns, Shelridge Farms Ultratouch, Lorna's Laces, my hand spun, SKnitches, Oxford Kitchen Yarns, Trekking, Sock Hop, Cascade Fixation, Koigu, Greenwood Fiberworks, Moutain Colors Bearfoot, Curious Yarns, Dream in Color and probably some more that I'm not remembering.

In short, I feel like I'm pretty experienced when it comes to socks.  I've learned alot about yarn and what works and what doesn't. And I thought, today, that I would share some of my favorite yarns and their applications:

Best Wearing 
Without a doubt, the best wearing yarns I've encountered, tested by many steps of man feet and my own, have been Regia and Opal yarns.  They aren't the softest yarns, but they are The yarns that require the least care and can take the most abuse and still look good.  One of my earliest pairs of socks was pair of Opal socks for John.  They've been "loved" a great deal in 5 years and still have a good many years of wear in them.  If you want a pair of socks that's going to wear like iron Regia and Opal are almost guaranteed to come through.   And there's no lack of great colorways for either of them either.

Softest Merino
This one is certainly open to interpretation, but the softest, most foot inviting socks that I have are made from Blue Moon Fiber Arts Socks that Rock.  In both color and texture these socks are really sock therapy.  Koigu and Dream In Color would come in a close second.  But the softness comes with a price: the only socks I've had to repair for wear are my STR and Koigu socks.  Soft as it is, merino doesn't hold up as well to repeated washings and wearings, so it's good to keep some of the yarn in reserve for repair work if you are at all hard on your socks. 

Elasticized Yarns
Elasticized yarns abound these days.  I don't think they will ever qualify as my favorites, but they sure make great yarns for socks for small people with growing feet.  Knit One, Crochet Too's Soxx Appeal is my favorite of the ones I've tried.  It's a wool blend instead of a cotton blend, so warmer in the winter for little feet.

Luxury Blends
I haven't tried quite as many of these as I would like to have!  One thing to keep in mind with most luxury blend yarns: silk/wool, mohair/wool, cashmere/wool, alpaca/wool is that the luxury fiber doesn't have the same give and elasticity as the wool it's been blended with.  This means that these yarns may not have the same level of memory or of stretchiness as a 100% wool yarn.  This means that the socks from these yarns are going to tend to be a bit more slouchy, so you may need to adjust your patterns accordingly to accomodate the loosening that will occur with wearing.  So far I've been pleasantly surprised by the wear characteristics of Regia Silk (enough so that I am considering making John a pair out of the stuff) and my husband loves the extra warmth he gets from his Bearfoot socks. 

If you asked me, I would be hard pressed to pick an absolute favorite.  Each application I knit socks for have some yarns that work better and make the sock knitting and wearing experience more enjoyable.  If I had to pick a "desert island" yarn (which would be strange because socks would not seem applicable to that milieu) it would probably be STR -- the three different weights provide stylistic variety and there are both solid and wonderful wild colorways.  But I know I'd be trying to figure out how to sneak some other of my favorites into my suitcase.

* I have included some sock swap socks because even though those pairs are with someone else, I received an equally nice pair in trade.

When Darning isn't Enough

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You know your husband loves his socks when he wears them a lot and he doesn't notice that they have suffered an incredible trauma.  Of course, you also know you are a crazy sock knitter, when you find yourself looking at your husband's socks at the dinner table, thinking that one of his socks looks different from the other and then asking him to show you the bottom of his feet and finally demanding that he remove his sock immediately while you consider repair options.

20081116_SockRepair1.jpgThis is the toe of one of John's "Mudslide" socks.  These socks are made of STR Heavyweight, and when it gets cold, John reaches for these socks first (at least that is what he tells me... but he is a wise man and he has learned to flatter his sock knitter every now and again if he wants new socks),  I spent a while evaluating that hole and decided it was just too far gone for simple darning.  More drastic measures would have to be taken to repair this pair of over loved foot warmers.

The first thing I did was determine the region over which the weak yarn was located.  Around the edges of the hole, there was significant wear, so I decided I would make sure that my replacement job repaired as much damage as possible.  After I identified what I wanted to keep and what I wanted to go, I put a set of needles in the first row of stitches that I wanted to keep below the hole.

20081116_SockRepair2.jpgThen I repeated the process above the hole and worn area.  If you pick up the right hand side of the "V" in the knit stitch, you'll get the stitches seated correctly on the needles.

Since there was already a hole, I didn't worry about snipping yarn, I just unravelled from the hole down to the bottom needles and up to the top needles.

20081116_SockRepair3.jpgThis left the toe on the top needles and the rest of the sock topped by the needles that had been below the hole.   I joined some yarn I had remaining from the project (this is the reason that it is always good to keep a little yarn in reserve if you can) and knit back the rows that I had taken out.  When I got to the point where I needed to join the toe, I grafted the toe onto the rest of the sock using Kitchener Stitch.  What you see here is the sock just before I started grafting.

20081116_SockRepair4.jpgI didn't photograph the grafting part (if you'd like grafting instructions there are good instructions in both Montse Stanley's Knitter's Handbook and the Vogue Knitting book as well as the Knitter's Companion) but this picture shows the result of my labor.  The only really obvious sign of the repair work is that the new yarn is a bit more vivid than the old yarn, which is not surprising given that these socks have been through the wash quite a few times.

20081116_SockRepair5.jpgThe color (and pooling) differences are a bit more obvious when you see the whole sock.  Fortunately, since the repair is in the toe, and it wasn't too obvious, it won't be noticeable to the "sock police" who apparently inspect men's socks for their uniform drabness and conformity to a very limited set of colors, textures and styles.   And because of that, it was happily accepted back into John's sock drawer, along with its mate.  The mate will likely need a similar repair in the future (hopefully I have enough left over yarn for that when it happens) but for now they can be pressed back into foot warming service as Chicago proceeds to welcome the arrival of winter.

I know some folks don't bother with sock repair, and normally I'm in that category, but in this case, it was definitely easier to repair than to knit a whole new pair of socks.  And it always makes me happy to see John smile when he knows I've done something special for him to help him hold onto something in his warddrobe that he really likes.

The First Francie

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My knitting basket is filled with socks these days. 

20081019_Francie#1.jpg This is the first of a pair of Francie socks (pattern by Bowerbird Knits) that I am knitting in Dream in Color Smooshy in the colorway "Some Summer Sky".  The entire sock is worked in a pattern that riffs and rolls off of K2 P2 ribbing, normally my least favorite way to knit socks (I am lazy and K2 P2 takes more attention than most pattern stitches for me).  The pattern is not hard, and the final result, at least for the leg of the sock, reminds me of tree bark.  I haven't really had the chance to dive in to Cat Bordhi's current sock innovation book, but I think the instep looks similar to some of the design structures that she talks about.

What made this sock remarkable for me is that it is probably he first top down, flap heel sock I've worked since before I had the baby.  I've gotten so comfortable with my toe-up, short row heel socks that it seemed a little bizarre to start a sock top down.  Completing this pair (I still need to cast on for the second sock -- it's not a second sock syndrome victim, I just have a few other things that take priority at the moment) isn't likely to get me to change my ways, but I did enjoy testing out a new sock construction.

So far, the Smooshy is absolutely delightful to knit with and I can see why it's hand, the lovely subtle coloration and the generous yardage in the skein help give it such a large fan base.  I suspect this will not be my last sock project with Smooshy.  


I've been busy with my swift and ball winder lately.  In the past two weeks I've gotten prepped for 4 new projects.

20081009_NewProjectYarn.jpgThis rather motley collection of yarns starts on the left with the Dream in Color Smooshy that I am using for my Francie socks, Blue Sky Alpacas Dyed Cotton that will become a Hemlock Ring Blanket, Blue Moon Socks that Rock Heavyweight (color: Thraven) destined for man-sockliness, and Dale of Norway Baby Ull that is kicking off the beginning of the Zebra Striper sweater and will be joined by a whole host of other Baby Ull colors.

All the yarns but the STR have moved past the contemplative phase of the project into the active phase.  This afternoon's nap was dedicated to starting the Hemlock Ring Blanket.

20081009_HemlockBlanketStar.jpgThe bright sunlight that I took this picture in washed out the color quite a bit.  The actual colorway is called "Periwinkle".  It's a bit more blue and lacks the purple tones that I normally associate with periwinkle (based on growing up with that 64 box of Crayola Crayons), but it's still a fine color for a baby blanket for a new baby boy.  This very special baby will be making his entrance in the southern US, so a wool blanket, while more up my alley given the array of lovely superwash merinos that there are to work with now, didn't seem very practical.  I opted for this Aran weight cotton because it's held up fairly well in the little jacket that I made for Z, and because, as cotton yarns go, this is really several cuts above anything else I've knit with and reminds me much more of silk than of cotton. 

What helps to creat that lovely hand is relatively low twist, making this a somewhat impractical fiber for a baby.  But since this baby will be the child of a very important person in my life, I have decided that I am allowed a touch of impracticality and indulgent luxury. 

I haven't gotten very far yet, but at this point this blanket lives up to its positive reviews.  It's definitely the sort of project that makes you want to do row after row, just so you can see how the pattern is going to evolve into a blanket.  And if it continues to speed a long as it did this afternoon, I could definitely imagine putting this into my "go to" pattern collection for blankets for new small people.


Simple Cotton Socks Finally Finished

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Nothing like a 4 hour car ride to lull a toddler to sleep and to help Mama get some knitting finished up.  These socks are nothing complicated, but it's always nice to add a new pair of hand knit socks to the sock drawer.  I like to think that every pair I knit helps to increase the lifespan of every other pair in the drawer since I have more pairs to choose from. 

20080929_SimpleCottonSocksS.jpgIt's interesting to note that I am getting to the point where the handknit socks are beginning to outnumber the commercial socks in my drawer.  Except when it comes to cotton socks.  I really just haven't found enough cotton-based yarns that I like to knit with.  The cotton wool blends (I've tried some Meilenweit and Sockotta and Blue Moon yarn of this nature) end up being a little too stiff for pleasurable knitting and the cotton elastic ones tend to make me a little crazy when it comes to keeping them tensioned and preventing laddering.  The cotton elastic blends also seem like many of them are a bit thicker than standard sock yarn, making wearing them with lighter weight shoes a bit harder.   

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This yarn from Greenwood Fiberworks comes just about as close as I've found to a yarn that I would knit with again.  If I had a wool sensitivity, you can bet your bottom dollar that I'd have a huge stash of the stuff.  It's thinner that the standard cotton-elastic blends (Cascade Fixation, Elann Esprit) and I always think it's a plus to be able to buy from a small dyer instead of a large corporation.  But, truth be told, while it's a lovely yarn that is well dyed and I very much like how it has a little bit of the self-striping action going on, I just don't think cotton yarns are going to end up being "my thing" when it comes to knitting socks. 

Now that these are complete (after more than a year) it's time for me to figure out what will be my next pair of simple stockinette socks.  With winter fast approaching, it may be time to make another pair for my public transportation-taking husband -- a man for whom the temperature of his feet really does determine his overall comfort level.  I've been accumulating a little stash of man-friendly STR for the occasion.  And even when it's almost solid or a very dark colorway, it's hard to complain about knitting with STR.  Especially when it's already met with man-foot approval for cold Chicago winters. 

Reverse Fern Stitch Socks

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Hooray for long weekends.  We snuck in one more trip to enjoy a late summer Michigan weekend and I poured all my free time into finishing the second of my Reverse Fern Stitch socks.  A few commenters asked after the name of this stitch pattern in my last post about these socks.  You can find it in Barbara Walker's Third Treasury of Charted Knitting Designs(truly, if there is one set of essential books in my knitting library it is Barbara Walker's stitch dictionaries) -- the Reverse Fern Stitch. 

20080908_StretchedAndNot.jpgThis stitch has a very different look before blocking.  The texture has much more depth if you don't block it out.  I didn't do any blocking because I like to preserve any natural stretchiness I can get in sock fabric, but I thought the difference was interesting and might be food for thought if you were interested in using it in a non-sock garment.

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This pattern is also quite serviceable and interesting when you reverse it.

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If you want to make socks using this pattern, it's not hard to do.  The pattern is 12 x 20 stitch repeat, and I have 6 repeats around (a total of 72 stitches) and 7 repeats in length with a 1.5" 3 x 3 ribbed cuff.  I worked the project on 2.25 mm DP needles (Knit Picks Harmony DPs, which I love!) and created a fabric that is perfect for my foot and leg.  Once you get to where you are knitting the full 6 pattern repeats in the round, you do have to do a few little fiddly things to make the pattern work out, but it's pretty easy (and can be achieved by simply shifting stitches around on your needles) as long as you remember to do it.

As I mentioned in my previous post about the socks, the yarn is Oxford Kitchen Yarns sock yarn in the Marmalade colorway, which makes for a very lovely "Welcome Autumn" socks.  And after completing my socks, (I have a woman's US Size 8 or so foot) I appear to have plenty of yarn left over -- enough, I think for maybe a pair for Ms. Baby, so I think the skein is quite generous even for man feet or larger women's feet.  One comment I will make about the yarn is that it is quite twisty and I found some parts to have a higher level of twist than others.  In no case did it make for any real problems when kniting, but occasionally it got in the way.  Also, this yarn has a lot of lovely natural imperfections in it.  None of them are dramatic, but they all give the yarn a bit more texture and depth.  Again, not a show stopper in the least, but something to keep in mind if you must have a sock yarn that is completely smooth.  Over all I quite like the yarn and thought it was perfect for these socks.  I do believe the label says it prefers hand washing.  I may have to knit a tiny swatch to see if that is really the case.  Realistically, if a sock yarn is hand wash only, the socks in question will get unfortunately little wear in my house.

20080908_ReverseFernStitchP.jpgAs luck would have it, the weather in Chicago got quite fall-like on Monday and these socks got their very first outing rather quickly.  In spite of the lacy little holes, they did quite well keeping my feet happy today.  Neither too warm nor too cold.  So they turned out perfect for their intended use.

A Marmalade Sock

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I think one of my favorite things about knitting socks is that I can do anything I want with them.  I have a template in my head now, and I don't have to sweat the details of "what gauge?" or "what needles?" or even "what toe?" and "what heel?"  I know when I start out how those things are going to roll: toe up (no need to really worry about gauge), usually on 2.25 mm needles, short row heel.  With the basics on autopilot, I can focus on other things, namely, what yarn and what stitch pattern I want to use.

I've been lucky to have a long running yarn trade with Emma.  It was Emma, in fact, who helped to give me a big push in the sock knitting direction by sending me my first sock yarn and providing me with a bit of on line knitterly encouragement.  Emma's recent boxes have focused on sock yarn dyed in the UK and I've loved everything that she's sent along.  Unfortunately, I had knit with almost none of it.  Not because I couldn't think of anything to do with it, but because I was worried that what I would do with it wouldn't do it justice. Recently, however, I was able to remind myself that sheep aren't, in fact, going extinct and that even if I just knit plain stockinette in the round socks, I would still be giving myself (or someone else) something quite enjoyable to wear, which is all the justice any skein of sock yarn should really need.

Lately I've been thumbing through my stitch pattern books looking at textures.  I think most textures are a challenge for me because 1) they involve purl stitches and 2) they often don't go well with hand-dyed or self striping yarn.  Don't get me wrong, I am perfectly capable of making a respectable purl stitch, but I find they slow me down when making socks so I often avoid them except for the ribbing at the cuff. But I'm trying to work at being a bit more of a process rather than strictly product knitter these days, and so I decided that this time I would pick one of the more complicated looking stitch patterns that I had my eyes on.

Of course, I decided that the pattern I picked was really incompatible with most of my hand-dyed yarn.I was going to need something reasonably light in color and mostly the same color in order for the texture to show itself off.  My feeling about pattern is that there is no point knitting it into a garment if the yarn obscures it.  And thus, it was, that the perfect yarn for the pattern I wanted to try was a skein of Oxford Kitchen Yarns sock yarn in the most lovely orangey fall "marmalade" colorway.  According to the label this yarn is 100% British Blue Faced Leicester, which adds to the interest for me, because I haven't ever made socks out of BFL before.

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I'm afraid this photo doesn't entirely do justice to the subtle and lovely variations in this yarn.  It has a more heathery effect up close and in person.  I quite like how it carries the texture and shows off the pattern while not getting lost to the pattern stitch.


20080901_MarmaladeSockPatte.jpgA little higher resolution on the pattern stitch so you can see all those fussy purl stitches more clearly.  The purl stitches do slow the process down a bit, but the result is well worth it for me as they help to create not only texture but also depth.

The first sock is finished and I've cast on for the second.  I'll talk a bit more about the experience of knitting with the yarn and the pattern details when the second sock is complete.



These Socks Were Meant for Walking

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In late May I made a deal with myself:  if I could get rid of the extra baby weight I was carrying by September, I could keep the cute clothing in my closet that I had loved so much before I got pregnant with Ms. Z.  Otherwise, I needed to deal with reality and accept that I needed to send it on its way in order to make room for clothes that fit me.  May was the month when Z decided that she was no longer really interested in nursing and, thus, I lost all the excuses I had for not embarking on a project to lose the 15 lbs that had been lingering since Z was born. 

In June I jumped back onto the Weight Watchers bandwagon (the online version, no meetings required) to help me get focused on eating healthier and being more aware of portion sizes.  One of the other elements that the WW plan encourages (if only so you can give yourself an extra treat or two during the day) is adding some exercise into your daily routine.  At first I ignored that part of the plan, but as June turned into July and I wasn't making quite the progress I wanted to (I am impatient in all things) I decided that I would start working something simple into my day.  I updated my podcasts, got them loaded on my iPhone and spent half an hour at lunch to walk laps around my building while listening to NPR Science Friday (which seemed appropriate, given where I work). 

Most knitters would not have taken as long as I did to realize that I could extend this exercise and education event into something that also gave me more knitting time.  But finally it did occur to me that I could combine my walks with a simple knitting project.  Now, not only would I look forward to my walks as a break from the frigid temperatures in my building and a chance to catch up on some interesting science that wasn't a part of my regular reading, but I could also look forward to making progress towards adding more socks into my fall wardrobe.

The socks I chose have, like the Kusha Kusha scarf and the Stained Glass scarf, been lingering in my project basket.  No good reason, really.  I like the yarn (a nice blend of cotton and elastic hand-dyed by Greenwood Fiberworks), the socks are simple.  I guess I just got a little bored and the colors (it's the Rocket Pop colorway) aren't really my ideal colors so when Z was born, I focused on things that really inspired me since my crafting time was sparse.  But for walking and knitting, simple is a must, so these socks became a perfect project.  And, lo and behold, after not too long, I had completed the first member of the pair.

And while I won't be all the way to my final target weight exactly by September, I'm happy with what I've done so far (there's nothing like being able to get into some of my pre-maternity jeans to keep me motivated and it's a thrill to watch some of my tinier tops actually fit again) so I'm pretty sure that I will, ultimately reach my goal.  And between my sock project and my podcasts and the clothing options, I definitely have lots of good things to help me keep motivated and moving in the right direction.

Thank you to everyone who left positive comments about John's Stained Glass Scarf.  In spite of being time consuming, I do think it's lovely, and getting some positive feedback has motivated me to put it in my knitting bag when we head off to SW Michigan tomorrow for a little vacation and to take in the Michigan Fiber Festival. MFF is one of those small festivals that really draws a number of very nice vendors, and, if the weather is nice, is a lovely place to spend the afternoon.  I'll be there on Saturday trying to convince Ms Z that sheep are cool and John that a girl can never have to much hand-dyed wool and looking for the perfect fall sweater idea. 

Just a Little Stash Enhancement

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We had a good adventure into Michigan for the Michigan Fiber Festival on Saturday. Zosia slept all the way there (and most of the way back), Mom got to do a little shopping, Dad got to catch a short nap, and Grandma and Grandpa got some high quality baby time. In fact, I didn't have the baby much at all except to nurse her. Zosia spent a lot of time in her Baby Bjorn with one of her grandparents while we strolled through the festival.

Which gave me the chance to take a look at the goods to be had. I was pretty reserved this festival. Really, I don't need any more yarn right now (at least not until I finish something I'm already working on) and I really don't need much fiber at the moment either. But I always get drawn into Tracy Bunkers booth. I guess last time I saw her, I must not have been spinning, because I didn't remember the spinning fiber. So I made up for that with a few spinning stash additions.

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The Michigan Fiber Festival Haul

Both of the bits of fiber I got are dyed in her Limeola colorway. The bundle on the left is a Silk/Merino/Alpaca blend and the roving on the right is superwash merino. I think both are destined to be two ply yarns. The Silk/Merino/Alpaca I'm going to attempt to get into the lace/sport weight range, the superwash merino is going to be, you guessed it, sock yarn. The whole green thing is out of my usual range of color selections -- perhaps my eye is being influenced by someone I know who has a passion for greens in this range?

Speaking of Alpaca, alpaca seems to be the new black these days. Almost every booth I went into seemed to have a good deal of alpaca or alpaca blend fibers and yarns. Alpaca is not generally my thing, as fiber goes, (not enough elasticity for me, and I find it to be a little hairy) so while I admired a lot of things, not very much ended up in my shopping basket.

Two other things that I was happy to find were Addi Turbo lace needles and Cat Bordi's new sock book. I always like to see creative new approaches to sock knitting and New Pathways for Sock Knitters looks like the kind of book that helps get the creative juices flowing. I've only been able to go through it at a cursory level, but her illustrations are lovely, and there are a number of sock projects I can see myself tackling. And I love how she demonstrates most of the sock designs and techniques on small sized socks -- given the new addition to my world, I think it would be kind of fun to try out a new technique and add to Ms. Z's wardrobe at the same time.

And speaking of Ms. Z... I didn't get too many pictures of her because she was busy entertaining her grandparents (and doing a lot of sleeping). But I did get one picture that I really loved.

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Z and Grandpa

Of course, you can't tell in this picture, but my Dad and Z are sitting on top of my parents' Gold Wing Trike (a Gold Wing where the rear axle has two wheels instead of just one) -- so Z has now officially been on her first motorcycle!

Summer Socks

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Now that I've finished the Sprung socks, it's time to cast on for another pair. But summer does not combine with an overheated pregnant woman to make her want to be working on a wooly socks. So I went to my sock yarn stash to see what else might present itself. And I found some handpainted cotton-elastic yarn that I had almost forgotten about, but was absolutely perfect for my current mission.

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Greenwood Fiberworks Hand Painted Cotton Stretch Yarn

The yarn is Greenwood Fiberworks hand painted cotton/lycra yarn. It's a cotton yarn with a fine thread of lycra to give it elasticity -- a bit like a smaller gauge version of Cascade Fixation. It's completely machine washable (I'm not so good with the whole hand-washing socks thing) and a skein is sufficient to make a pair of women's socks.

Because I really didn't want to deal with knitting a gauge swatch, I just cast on onto 2.25 mm needles for a toe up sock and figured I'd see where my usual 64 stitch circumference got me. As it turns out, it looks like it should be just fine -- especially when combined with the exceptional stretchiness of the yarn. Knitting with this yarn is an okay experience. If you don't like stretch yarns, you probably won't like this stuff either, but they don't bother me too much. So far, the yarn is easy on my hands and the fabric feels soft and springy to the touch, so I think it will make for fine and comfortable socks. I have hopes, perhaps, of finishing them in time so that they can come with me and help me lounge around in the hospital after the Z is delivered. But that may be a bit optimistic, given my current rate of knitting!

A Sock Has Sprung

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Sprung Sock and Daffodil

After much hemming and hawing I finally settled on a K4P2 ribbing for the top of my Curious Yarns "Sprung" sock. It seemed to be the right combination of simplicity and compatibility with the leg pattern. And it fits pretty well, too.

I'm pleased with the overall look of the sock. I think the pattern stitch is well matched to the delicate colors and the open/airy pattern makes for the right weight and warmth for a spring and summer sock. A number of folks asked for more information about the pattern. The whole sock is really quite simple. When I complete the second sock, I'll put the outline together and make it available to everyone and anyone who wants to try it out for themselves.

Sock Top Texture

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Springy or Not? An Interesting Texture for a Sock Top

A while back I got the chance to go to a Japanese bookstore with Bonne Marie. This was my first voyage into such an arena, and I found it very intriguing, even though the bookstore was a mere fraction of its normal size due to renovations. I didn't buy much except a book labelled "Knitting Patterns Book 300" (ISBN 4-529-041727) and it's been a great source of inspiration. Some pattern stitches are relatively common or are just variations on a common theme. Others are new to me, somewhat bizarre or both. Given my love of stripey sock yarn, I was hoping to find some that would bias in interesting ways, and there are definitely a few that fit that bill that I will try when I am workin on something that I can focus on. The stitch that I ended up with for this sock has a six stitch and 6 row repeat, making it a pretty easy pattern to commit to memory and work up on the leg of a sock (if you have the book, it is pattern #134). It has, to me anyway, an interesting combination of eyelets and angles. It actually reminds me of little trees -- which seems rather appropriate for a spring colored sock.

Now I just need to decide what type of ribbing to put on the top of it to finish it off. 1x1? 2x2? It probably doesn't matter, but since the pattern is rather loose and open, I'd like to have something with a little pull and traction to make sure the sock stays up when I put it on.

Curiously Springy Socks

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Toe Up Sock Started with Curious Yarns "Sprung"

Don't let the sunshine fool you, all the warm weather has left Chicago. We were hovering right around 40F for most of the day. But the sunshine made it a lovely day to take some pictures. I started this pair of socks not too long ago because I just needed a burst of springy color in my life. What could be better than this soft yellow and green yarn from Curious Yarns (they have a website, but it doesn't seem to be functioning right now) in the colorway "Sprung"?

There's not much exciting to say yet about this sock -- there will be more when I get farther along on the cuff, but I just think the color variations in this sock are both subtle and beautiful and even a bit mood lifting.

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Subtleties in Sprung

Just enough variation so you can see it, but subtle enough so that from a distance it blends together a little bit and just gives you the impression of spring grass and daffodils. The subtlety surprised me, because in the skein the greens and yellows seemed so distinct.

Since the striping/pooling/repeating color pattern were so subdued, I decided that I could probably do something more interesting with the top. The red yarn is a lifeline so that I could play and rip out as needed. Which I did several times before coming across a eyelet and textured stitch that I liked and seemed to keep with the spring theme. These socks aren't entirely mindless knitting (I might need to start another pair in straight stockinette for that) but the pattern stitch isn't that difficult, either. I figure if I can't knit myself sweaters for a while, I'm most definitely going to work on filling up my sock drawer!

Regia Silk Socks Finished

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Completed Regia Silk 190 Socks

No baby stuff today, because I suspect these socks will be much too large for her, at least for the next 15 or so years. But here they are, my completed pair of socks from Regia Silk, in colorway 190.

These socks are my standard operation: ribbed cuff, short row heel, wedge toe. I did start them toe up so that I could maximize the yarn. But other than that, there's no innovation. They are just a simple pair of striped socks.

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A Little Sun for the Silk Socks

As far as the yarn is concerned, this yarn definitely felt nice to the touch and moved fairly smoothly over my wood needles. My biggest complaint with it is that it tends to be a bit splitty, and the pointy tips of the double points I was using often would slip between plies if I wasn't paying attention. But this is relatively minor, and certainly not a reason to avoid treating yourself to a little silk for your feet.

On the wear test angle (I wore them for most of the day after I took the pictures, but without shoes, because I didn't really leave the house), they looked fine after a day of light wear. However, one thing I did notice, perhaps because they are longer in the leg than my standard socks, is that they tend to want to slouch just a bit, compared to regular Regia wool/nylon sock yarn. I suspect this may be because of the silk content. Silk is not elastic and there's about the same amount of nylon as in regular Regia sock yarn. So non-elastic fibers make up about 45% of the total fiber content of the yarn. So if you're going to use this yarn, keep that in mind. This yarn might be better for patterns like slipped stitch patterns where the structure of the fabric helps to keep the shape of the garment. Or you might want to use a few less stitches around than you normally use, knowing that this stuff definitely will stretch a bit.

I'm hoping tomorrow it will be cold enough for me to give them a proper "with shoes" wear test, and so I can get a sense about how warm they really are.

Now I better get back to my quilt... I still have a whole bunch of 9 patches that need my attention!

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Regia Silk Color Sock, Colorway 190

Seems like there's always a sock going on where I am concerned. I started this one the day before my father-in-law's visitation because my husband knew it would help keep me on balance during all the emotional events. As it turns out, very little knitting was done, but it made me feel good to know it was in my bag. And it made me feel even better that John didn't mind me having something along that I found peaceful.

This sock doesn't deviate much from my normal pattern except that it is a toe up sock. Most of the time when I use Regia, I end up with a bunch left over. This time I decided that I would start toe up and work until I had used most of the yarn since it would be a shame to waste much of the Regia Silk. I am definitely beginning to see the allure of knitting toe up. I was able to use most of the skein and the only thing that I had to search to find was a stretchy bind-off for the ribbing - instructions for that bind off (which is very simple) can be found here in one of Grumperina's always thoughtful posts.

By stitching toe up, I ended up with a sock that was 11" tall from heel to cuff. Other than that, it's my standard Regia sock: 64 stitches around, short row heel, wedge toe. I guess now I should cast on the second one... there's a part of me though, that is thinking it's time to work on something else with a little more designing involved. But I also want to finish these up so that I can take them out for a wear-test. I'm hoping Regia Silk might turn out to be one of those yarns that is warmer in the winter due to its silk content without having too much extra thickness.

The Many Moods of the Mudslide Socks

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Right now, as I type this, it is 1 degree farenheit in Chicago. Send in the polar bears and the penguins it is officially cold here. So it's a good thing that I finished up John's newest pair of socks.

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Mudslide Socks at Attention
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Mudslide Socks at Ease
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Mudslide Socks in Retreat

General specs:
Yarn: Blue Moon Fiber Arts, Socks that Rock Heavyweight in Mudslide'
Needles: US Size 3.0 (3.25 mm) Chiaogoo* Needles
Gauge: 6 stitches/inch

These socks were knit toe up so that I could make the most out of the yarn.. I did my "standard" wedge toe, a short row heel and the rest was pretty much straight up stockinette. These socks are taller than most of the socks I've made for John -- 12" from base of the heel to top of the cuff, and are meant to fit a man's size 10.5 (somewhat narrow) foot I did a conventional bind-off, but in order to make sure the tops weren't too tight, I bound off on US 7 (4.5 mm needles) after 2.5" of K2P2 ribbing. I had about 31g (1 ounce) left over of the 200g (7 ounces) I started with, so I think it's clear that one skein of this sock can make a respectable pair of socks for most men. All told, these socks took less than a week to make. Practically instant gratification from a knitting perspective.

John is happy with these socks. The stripey-ness is just about at the edge of his tolerance for striping/pooling but he likes the browns and he really likes how thick, warm, and soft the socks are. In fact, I received the coveted, You could make me another pair of sock out of this yarn. statement that makes everything worthwhile. John tells me that because of their weight and warmth, these socks are only good for late fall, winter and early spring. They will definitely be ideal for his Monday morning commute downtown.

What's next for John? Either another pair of thick socks or a double knit headband... I haven't quite decided what would be best suited to the weather and my mood.

* BTW these needles are destined to be some of my new favorite sock knitting needles. They are a wooden needle (I'm not entirely sure what they are made out of -- it's a light wood) and they have a smooth, but not too smooth surface that really has the right amount of grip for keeping the stitches on the needles but not so much grip that the stitches don't slide well. Also, the size of the needle is laser etched into the needle. Most double points, by the time I've knit a pair of socks, the sizing information has worn off. But for these, after this pair of socks, the numbering is still completely clear. Even better, these needles are completely cheap! I found them at the Fold and I think they are less than $5/set. And they come in those very handy 6" lengths!

Baby, It's Cold Outside!

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Man Sized Sock in STR Heavy, "Mudslide"

Okay. It is now officially cold here in Chicago. Really cold. Like it was 7 degrees this morning when we got up. My husband is a public transportation commuter and his trip downtown on the bus leads to some outdoor walking to his building. So some of my personal knitting and spinning has been put on hold while I work on providing him with some extra barriers against the cold. In other words, it was time to make this man some boot socks.

The nice thing about boot socks is that you get to use nice big yarn. In this case, I'm using Blue Moon Fiber Arts Socks that Rock, Heavyweight. STR Heavy knits up at about 6 stitches/inch on size 3 needles and it makes for a pretty quick pair of socks. I completed this sock in three days -- it would have been two if I had started on Saturday instead of Sunday. And it's actually taller than I normally make socks for John. Once again, my attempt to help keep him warm on his commute.

John is still a touch suspicious about the striping in the colorway, but he likes the feel of the yarn and the thickness of the fabric. And in the end, warm feet win out over somewhat dodgy color options for him.

What I am particularly pleased about with STR Heavy is that I can easily get a pair of good sized socks for John out of one skein. I was a little worried about this, so I actually split the skein in half before I started and then knit toe up. This sock is 12" from bottom of heel to top of cuff and the foot fits a standard men's size 10-1/2*. What this means, is that if John likes this pair of socks, then there will likely be more in his future, since I know one skein will yield a respectable pair of warm socks.

So now it's time to cast on for sock number two. With a KIP tonight, I should be able to make good progress on getting John a new pair of socks for his trip to work on Monday.

*Well, perhaps not entirely standard. John has very narrow feet for a guy. I was surprised to take a measurement and be reminded of the fact that the ball of his foot is pretty much the same circumference as mine. But even if I had been knitting for my dad or my brother, I would have gotten a very respectable sized sock. I had enough yarn left over to knit another inch or two I think.

Wishing for Summer

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Summer Sherbert Knee Socks Wait for the Sun

Woohee! The knee socks, they are done!

The specs: The "body" of these socks were knit with Sock Hop handspun sock yarn from Crown Mountain Farms in the colorway "Say a Little Prayer". The heels, toes and cuffs were knit with my own hand spun, made from Crown Mountain Farms hand dyed superwash merino in the colorway "Hang on Sloopy". Gauge for both yarns is 7 stitches/inch on US Size 1/2.25 mm needles, and the socks are 56 stitches in circumference increased up to 80 stitches at the widest dimension.

The process: The socks were made toe up using a "standard" wedge toe which was started using a provisional cast-on technique. the instep was done in straight stockinette, followed by a shortrow heel. The sock leg is embellished on both sides using the "Ears of Grass" motif from Barbara Walker's Second Treasury of Knitting patterns, which was knit in conjunction with the increasing required for the calf shaping. The sock was completed with a cuff of K2 P2 ribbing and bound off with the standard cast-off method on larger needles.

The knitter: The knitter is happy. The knitter wore her socks to work today, and even though no one but the knitter knew about them, they added a little bit of sunshine to her day. The knitter did observe that they might be just a tad looser than is perfect, but they still pretty much stay up on their own. After a day of wear at work the stitches and yarn look good.

A few small details:

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Increasing and Decreasing Detail on the Top of the Socks

The increases and decreases are visible on these socks, but I sort of like the pattern they create.

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Ears of Grass Pattern Stitch Detail

I think this is a great sock stitch pattern, and some time in the future might have to make a sock where the pattern extends all the way around (it's an easy pattern and doesn't really slow the knitting down too much). I charted it in Excel with a knitting symbol font (the instructions are just written out in the BW book) and would be happy to share it with anyone who would like to have it.

Since a number of folks expressed interest in knee socks, I though I'd spend the rest of the week doing an impromptu toe up knee sock tutorial to share what I learned and to help anyone else out there who "needs" a pair of winter knee socks get a running start at it. Stay tuned tomorrow for a discussion of toes and heels.

Summer Sherbert Knee Socks

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In spite of my Red Scarf committment, I have to be honest and admit right now that when it comes to new projects it's really all about me. You would have thought that after I finished my pair of Sloopy Socks that I'd have gotten right onto making John's pair of handspun socks. No, I got side tracked from that after taking the time to discuss pattern stitches with him. And when I started to think about pattern stitches, I realized that I wouldn't have a simple sock project that could run around town with me. So I decided that it was time to start another pair of socks for me -- after seeing a few pairs of knee socks show up in the knitting blogosphere, I knew I wanted a pair for me, too.

Mine started when I placed my handspun Sloopy (orange) sock yarn next to the Say A Little Prayer (lime green) Sock Hop (also handspun) sock yarn. It reminded me of those orange and green sherbert mixtures that used to show up in the summer time when I was a kid. Wouldn't it be fun, I thought, to have green socks with orange heels, toes and cuffs. Cheerful and summery, I figured, the perfect remedy for Chicago winter. Can you believe that I've never knit a sock with a contrasting heel and toe?

As if contrasting colors in a sock weren't radical enough, I also decided that I wanted to make the most out of my Sock Hop -- what better then, than knitting from the toe up? I'd been resisting toe up sock knitting because while I like short-row heels, I don't really dig short row toes. But after some small amount of digging, I discovered what most of you have known for a long time: it's possible to start a toe up sock from a provisional cast on and then knit in the round with increases so that I could have the 4 point increase/decrease toe that I like best.

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The First Knee Sock

When I cast on, my intention was to keep everything very simple and just knit in plain stockinette. But right around the time I turned the heel, I got to thinking that it would be fun to play with a pattern or motif to see how the striping played off against it. Given that the striping in the Sock Hop yarn is pretty dominant, I figured that the pattern would need to be simple. And to keep the knitting more or less simple, I decided that I would keep the motif at the sides of the sock. So I pulled out my Barbara Walker Second Treasury (of all of her 4 pattern stitch books, I have to say, this is the one that I keep going back to) and found the "Ears of Grass" stitch -- I loved the simple eyelets and gentle curves. And as a panel of 15 stitches, it was almost perfect as a motif for these socks, given the 56 stitch circumference I had started with.

I did a test swatch to make sure that I liked how it would turn out. After deciding that I loved it, I continued on with the sock. This sock took me a little less than 5 days to bring to life. To say that I love it would be an understatement. I was a bit worried that the pattern detail when combined with two color socks might be a little overwhelming, but I think the final result is well balanced.

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The Motif Causes a Subtle Wave

This detail shot shows you what I love about this pattern motif -- you get a subtle biasing that creates a little wave in the striping. Nothing too extreme, just a gentle undulation. It also shows that the pattern motif doesn't get lost in the striping. Something else that also makes me very happy. After all, why go to the trouble of knitting eyelets if you're not going to see them?

Although this sock is 16.5" from cuff to the bottom of the heel I still have a little bit of the Sock Hop yarn left. Not sure if I could have gotten the heel, toe and cuff from it, but it probably would have been close.

So now I'm chomping at the bit to get the second sock started. But I've told myself that I can start or finish nothing else before my Red Scarf is ready to send on it's way.

Boot Sock Yarn

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A couple of weeks back I posted about the need to find some yarn that would be good for boot socks for a man who gets cold feet on his daily downtown commute. I got a lot of great responses and I used some of those suggestions to make some initial purchases to help me get started.

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Boot Sock Yarn: Regia 6-Ply Marokko Color, Socks that Rock Heavyweight, and Regia Silk

1. Regia 6-Ply Marokko Color, Colorway #5497. This yarn is advertised as a DK weight yarn. Like most Regia yarns its 75% superwash wool and 25% nylon. After doing a recent survey of my handknitted socks, I can, indeed, say that Regia wears like iron and that even my Regia socks that are several years old look great, and I received a number of suggestions about looking into their 6 ply yarns. This yarn is a marled yarn that will have white, beige and blue stripes. When I found it, I didn't think John would want anything to do with it because of the stripes. But he actually liked it and picked this colorway over a more subdued one. I purchased this yarn from Carodan Farm

2. Blue Moon Fiber Arts Socks that Rock Heavyweight, Colorway "Mudslide". This yarn has about half the yardage per unit of weight (i.e. it's heavier weight) than the Regia so warmth and thickness shouldn't be an issue. The color has also been determined to be man-acceptable. I haven't told him yet that it's likely to pool and create some striping... I'm hoping that the "all brown" thing will win out. This yarn is 100% merino superwash, but it's a tightly plied three ply, and my experience with other Blue Moon Products suggests that it will have good durability. I purchased this yarn from Toni Neil at the Fold -- she has a very nice selection of STR heavyweight colors right now.

3. Regia Silk Color, Colorway 190. Clearly this yarn is not for John. However, given that it has 20% silk content, I figured it was possible that I might get the warmth of a boot sock from a thinner sock due to silk's superior insulating properties. However, I've heard rumors that this yarn doesn't wash well, so I wanted to try it out in a pair for myself before using it for John. One excellent thing about this yarn? It comes in solid colors. So if I like the socks I knit for me, there's a good option for John as well. This yarn is also from Carodan Farm.

Since there were some other very good suggestions for boot sock yarn in the comments to the post where I asked for suggestions, if you're looking for some similar yarn options, here's the link to the post. Given all the interesting comments, I'm sure that if you're looking for the same thing you can probably find some useful information to help you on your way.

Grey Socks for Winter's Grey Days

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Trekking 102 Socks on the Feets of the Recipient

The grey weather and descent into chilly temperatures we had this weekend went pretty well with the completion of the socks on John's feet. My sweetie now has another pair of grey socks in his collection. He's quite happy with them, and after we did our photo shoot on Sunday morning, they pretty much stayed on his feet the rest of the day. He might not like a lot of color, but he does like his hand knit socks. Almost as soon as it gets cold, he starts wearing his handknit wool socks and he'll pick them over anything else in his drawer.

Well, except for yesterday when we were at Costco and he purchased some boot socks. He gave me a sheepish look as he put them in the cart. I have to get these because I don't have any really thick socks that I can wear in my boots in the winter, he said. I forgave him because he definitely is correct on this account. He doesn't have any good thick boot socks.

So now I need some yarn recommendations. John is definitely not a handwash wool sock kind of guy. I need something that is superwash at the very least, a bit of nylon in the best case, and has some subdued colorways that a Chicago boot wearing guy in the winter will give his seal of approval to. My first thought is Socks that Rock Heavyweight (and I know where to find a good supply of that) in a semi-solid color. I have also heard/seen the Opal DK weight, but it doesn't (or at least didn't when I last checked) come in colorways that John will wear. Clearly I could also consider spinning some, but that means that he might not see these socks for a year or two. Any other suggestions for goot boot weight sock yarn?

The Grey Socks Continue

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Very Fraternal Grey Striped Socks

Election nights are always good for knitting. For once, I enjoyed watching the election results, too. I apologize to anyone who might not share my opinion, but I am totally excited by the fact that a woman will likely be Speaker of the House. There are only a very few offices of government left where women have not had the chance to make a mark. I do hope that in my lifetime we will see a "Madam President".

Politics aside, John's socks progress. I am a bit concerned that they may be so fraternal as to have rejection potential. I've also made one small change in the second sock. The first sock was a bit loose in the foot. Not so loose as to require ripping, but loose enough that I thought it wouldn't hurt to take a few stitches out on the second one. So for the first sock, I did 76 stitches all the way from top to bottom. For the second sock, I did 76 stitches on the top and have decreased to 72 stitches on the foot. John has rather narrow feet, and I don't want the socks to be too baggy -- even if he did tell me that it wouldn't be so bad because then he could wear this pair over another pair, one of his favorite things to do in the winter.

I suspect a couple more nights will bring this pair to completion, and then it will be time to let him pick again. Although I may rig the election process and make the selection process for him.

Shades of Grey

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A Stripey Grey Sock Takes Shape

Ironically, on the first day since arriving back from my vacation that we have seen the sun, I am taking a picture of my latest sock project, and the only knitting I worked on at all in Hawaii. Yep, it's a grey striped sock. It is just slightly more interesting than your standard grey striped sock, as it is a Trekking XXL colorway (Colorway 102 for those of you in need of grey sock yarn options) that does not seem to be repeating itself in terms of the stripe pattern. But it is still a grey striped sock. It makes for particularly good TV knitting, being both stockinette in the round and having a color pattern almost too boring to even bother looking at.

I'll give you one guess as to who will be wearing this sock when the pair is complete.

If knitting up a man's 3rd pair of grey socks isn't true love, I don't know what is...

Experiment in Texture and Stripes

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Well, y'all knew it would be impossible for me not to start another pair of socks. It was more a question of "which yarn?" and "what pattern?" than anything else. Corrine and Karen and ks all suggested that they would like to see some of my Sock Hop yarn on the needles. And as I got to thinking about it, it did seem like a good idea.

But that left me with a decision to make about a pattern. Sock Hop (which you can find at Crown Mountain Farms website) is a 100% superwash merino handspun sock yarn. It has lovely marled stripes that result from the barberpoling that happens when the yarn is plied. Whatever I decided to do had to be compatible with stripes. And this yarn is handspun. Somehow, it didn't seem right just to knit my standard sock with handspun -- even if it wasn't my handspun. So I pulled out my Barbara Walker pattern books and began to survey them for patterns which create a bias in one direction or the other that might create an interesting effect with the striping.

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Sock Hop Yarn in "Say A Little Prayer"

With the help of some lovely afternoon sun and a good latte I found a pattern that I liked, that I thought fit the scale of a sock. It combines alternating bias directions with a little bit of lace. Something I like because sometimes the techniques used to create the bias lead to a stiff fabric, and socks, in my book, aren't meant to be too stiff. I selected the Traveling Vine pattern from the first Treasury, converted it to chart form and knit a big ol' swatch out of Cascade 220 just to make sure that I'd interpreted the pattern instructions correctly. Then it was time to cast on my Sock Hop. So far I've completed the cuff and 1 full pattern interval. I'm hoping the texture will become more apparent when I've gotten farther, but I can already see the nice biasing effect in the stripes. The first repeat got me almost exactly an inch, so I've got at least 5 more of these to go.

I know that those of you hoping I would knit with my Sock Hop yarn were probably hoping that I would knit with my lovely orange "Hang on Sloopy". I guess I am not yet ready to experiment with that yarn yet. Since I love it so much, I'd like to play with a few of these biasing patterns to see if I can find just the perfect thing. I will say that I do like knitting with the Sock Hop yarn I bought a great deal. It is soft and smooth and has a nice cushiony feel. It is not spun completely consistently throughout, and there is no mistaking it for millspun yarn. But I think that is part of the charm of it. Not only does the color change, but there are subtle changes in texture as well. It adds an extra dimension to the yarn. And I find this particular colorway very soothing. Like a memory of spring. A nice thing to have in my hands as the leaves fall from the trees and I am confronted with the fact that cold weather will soon be here.

Crazy Lace Agate Socks

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One of the nice things about having a "work from home" day is that I can do this:

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Working Hard from Home

Yep, I can put on my just completed new pair of socks and snap a picture with my feet up on my own desk. Lest you worry that I am on my way towards slacker-hood, this interlude didn't last long because I had plenty of other things to do. Aside from taking a break to make myself a latte, working from home isn't that much different than working at work, except that I don't have to dress up quite as much and there are fewer distractions so that I can do some programming.

These socks are just about as simple as they get. The yarn is Blue Moon Fiber Arts Socks that Rock, medium weight in "Crazy Lace Agate" (you can find out some encyclopaedic information about the stone here and some good pictures of the stones here -- I like the symbolism of the stone, which, apparently is a symbol of the love of good and it helps to banish fear, which I like to think are also qualities that handknit socks can embody). I cast on 52 stitches and made a picot edge (which I rather like, but may be too lazy to make on every sock) for the cuff. I switched from size 0 needles to size 2 needles on the row in the picot where the K2Tog YO is done. Then I knit about 7 inches down the leg, put in a short row heel using half the stitches and worked my way down to the toe. A pretty standard sock for me, and they knit up in no time because of the diameter of the yarn. I could really get to like this medium weight STR.

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Fraternal Twins

Not surprisingly, these guys are fraternal. The sock tops are at least fairly close in terms of the general striping pattern, but something changed a little bit on the instep of the second sock. No matter, they still make me happy. They kept my feet nice and warm on Friday and they had no problems staying up all day long. I had a lot of yarn left over. I could easily have added an extra inch to the top of each sock or to the instep. So I suspect one skein would be enough to cover moderate-sized man feet if simple stockinette was used.

Now I have this great moment of indecision where I am not quite sure what socks to do next. Maybe my handspun Sloopy? Maybe another pair for John? So many options!

Sneak Peeks

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A More Significant Swatch

A lovely evening with wine well matched to dinner courses leaves me a bit tipsy and not so good at the writing (who would ever think that a vegetarian restaurant could be so luscious and upscale? If you come to Chicago and enjoy your vegetables, Green Zebra is a must. Definitely try their tasting menu). But I thought I would show you an idea that I think is progressing well.

Socks and Blockers

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Almost Socks and Sheepy Blockers

How progresses the socks? Slowly but surely. I haven't had a lot of long car trips lately, so my socks are languishing a bit. But with a trip to Kauai coming up soon, I'm anticipating a lot of travel time to be filled with knitting. Not just on the flight there, but as we drive around the island. I'm getting mighty darn good at knitting without looking at what I am knitting when it comes to kntting socks in the round. A good part of the top of the second sock was knit in the dark on the way back from Michigan. I thought I was going to get two fairly evenly striped socks out of this skein, but as I work my way down the foot of the second sock, I see the stripes beginning to widen. Ah well, STR is nothing if not unpredictable. I have no doubt that I will enjoy them no matter how the striping works out.

The nifty thing here is the sock blockers. I ordered a set of these from Chappy's Fiber Arts and Crafts on Ebay. I found out about them from Wendy. Wendy always finds the best stuff and she started talking about these sock blockers just about the time that I started being interested in having a better way to show off my hand knit socks. These took a little while to get to me (I suspect that they are made after the order is placed), but I think they were worth the wait. This pair is meant to block a woman's medium sized sock, but I suspect that I will eventually be investing in the smaller and larger size as well.

Test Socks

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Simple Socks with Picot Cuff in Socks that Rock Crazy Lace Agate

These socks are for me. I know I said I wouldn't start any more socks for myself until I finished the socks for the people in my family, but, I decided that it was a lot easier to try out a new technique and determine gauge on a simple sock than on the more complicated sock I was planning for my aunt. Besides, I needed a plain stockinette sock that could travel with me in my purse for those moments when I needed to keep my hands busy.

First off, I love this colorway. The sock yarn is Blue Moon Socks that Rock (medium weight) in a color way called "Crazy Lace Agate". It's an incredible collection of blues, greys, oranges and yellows. The striping that occured was not really planned. It's just what works out with this particular skein when you cast on 52 stitches and knit in the round. For the record, I'm getting abotu 6.75 stitches and 10 rows to the inch on US size 2 needles (2.75 mm). So these socks are also a pretty fast knit.

What's the new technique? How about that picot edge? Pretty nifty, eh? Like most good ideas, I stole this one from another blogger whose sock instincts I respect a great deal. I'd never tried it before because I thought it would be hard and/or fussy. And, in truth, this edging is a bit more fussy than my usual twisted German cast-on. But the polished look it creates is more than worth it. If you want a description of how a picot edge is done, you can click here. I did mine slightly differently (I used a provisional cast on to start with, and after "turning the edge" I picked out the provisional cast on, transferred the stitches to a second set of double pointed needles, and then knit one stitch from each needle as I went around the circle).

Not only is all the extra effort worth it, but this experiment proved to me that it was going to be the perfect sock top for my aunt's socks, which are also now very much in progress and which I am very happy with. Sometimes I just can't start a new design unless I know exactly what elements I want to put together. For my aunt's socks, I knew exactly what I wanted for the body of the sock, but couldn't come up with the right top. Now that I have the top, the first of my aunt's socks is well on it's way to completion.

On a completely different note, I've finally gone and gotten myself involved in a swap! I have to be completely honest, I am not very good at swaps that involve creating something. My schedule is unpredictable, and I would hate to let someone else down because I couldn't get something knitted on time. But this swap is really perfect. The Spinning Roving Swap has two categories. The Rebel Rover category (the one I signed up for) involves swapping at least 4 ounces of roving and a pattern that can be worked in handspun yarn. If you don't spin yet (but want to) the second category is just for you: Virgin Spindlers will be trading a couple ounces of roving, a drop spindle and a pattern. I think they are taking sign ups until midnight tomorrow night (September 1st) so there is still time to get in on the action if you are so inclined. ! A big thanks to Christina and CJ for putting this project together. We're supposed to get our swap partners early next week. I'd have a blast picking out fiber for someone who reads my blog!

5 Down, 1 To Go

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We had a lovely weekend in Michigan. And there will be Michigan Fiber Festival pictures coming soon -- from a very unique perspective. But first, a pair of finished socks.

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Regia Linien Socks Contemplate A Splash at Long Lake

I finished my brother's socks this morning while giving a sock making lesson to my mom -- her first sock outing with double pointed needles, and she took to them much better than I did the first time I tried them out. They are a bit loose in the toe (my dad and John modelled them for me so I could check fit) but both my Dad and John didn't seem all that bothered by it. So they will be on their way to Houston soon and if they are a bit too loose, I'll have my brother bring them back for Christmas and I'll custom fit them then. Since they are a very simple and straightforward pair of socks, and it's getting late here in Chicago, I think I'll leave the discussion at that.

So now I've got all but one pair of socks for my Family Sock Challenge complete. My aunt's are next. And working on Joe's socks first was exactly the right thing to do. Giving myself some extra time to think, I now know exactly how my "Feline Feet" socks are going to be from a design perspective, and I got a chance to figure out a gauge I like using Blue Moon Fiber Arts Socks that Rock, medium weight in addition to testing out a new-to-me cuff technique. So more interesting socks will be on their way, soon.

Actually, it was a very good weekend for design ideas as well. Once I get my aunt's socks finished, I have another idea that I am just burning to try.

Speaking of a little burning... John and I got to see the tail end of a lovely sunset over Lake Michigan at Warren Dunes State Park on Sunday evening..

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Perfect End to the Day

It was the perfect ending to a lovely day that involved doing nothing in particular except being with my family and getting some knitting done.

Top of the week to everyone!

Sock Story

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Sometimes looking at a sock is like looking at the rings in a tree: you can see what's been going on in the past over the period of time the sock was being knitted. Case in point: the first of two socks for my brother as part of my Family Sock Challenge.


A Week in the Life of a Sock

Amazing how much stuff gets caught up in one size 11 man-sized sock.

What stories do your socks have to tell? I'd love to see other people's sock-life diagrams!

For the record, the sock was knit top down using Regia Linien Color # 5281, on US size 1 needles, at approximately 8 stitches/inch. There's an inch and a half of K2P2 ribbing at the top,5 and a half inches of straight stockinetted, a short-row heel a la Patricia Priscilla Gibson-Roberts, and a 4 point toe after 9" of straight knitting. It took darned near all the yarn in the skein. It's a simple sock, but given that it's recipient is male, I think that is a good thing.

Dance by the Light of the Moon

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Broadripples in the Moonlight

Project: Broadripple Socks
Yarn: 2 Balls of Elann Esprit in French Navy
Needles: US Size 3 Inox Circulars
Completion Time : 2 Years 3 Months

Clearly I took my sweet time on this project. But this afternoon, in the excellent company of Julie and her daughter Maddie in a lovely sunlit breakfast nook, I finished my Broadripple socks. In celebration of this event and the break in the oppressive heat (it was warmer in Houston today than it is here, which is as it should be), after over 2 years from when I first cast on, I took the socks out on my balcony for a little dance under the waxing Giibbous moon.

Elann Esprit seems to be an almost exact carbon copy of Cascade Fixation (the yarn recommended in the pattern). It's a cotton yarn with just enough elastic in it to give it a good deal of stretch. Pretty much perfect for summer sock knitting. Two balls is just about enough for a pair of socks for a woman with size 8 feet. Any bigger and I'd want a third ball handy, just in case. I've been wandering around in the house this evening wearing the socks so that I could get a reasonable impression of how they feel to wear. They do seem to stay up nicely (courtesy of the elastic, I'm sure) and so far I find them quite soft and comfortable.

With more cool weather ahead tomorrow, I think I'll be able to commit to wearing long pants and shoes that require socks, so they'll get the full workover. But I suspect that they will come through just fine. I'm also curious to see how this yarn does going through the wash.

The Broadripple pattern is a nice easy pattern, a good introduction to some lacy elements in socks. If you don't like the Dutch heel, or 4-point decrease toe, it would be trivial to substitute in any heel or toe that you preferred.

This is the last pair of socks I get to make for myself during my Family Sock Challenge (no it has not been forgotten, but it has been sadly neglected during all the other things going on this summer). Next stop? A straight stockinette pair for my brother in some relatively manly Regia which I've liked since I purchased it off Ebay, but that has been marinading in my stash for a while.

P.S. The Happy Dance drawing will happen this weekend. I'm going to put everyone's name in a pot and let the guy with the healing eye pick the winner. Results on Monday!

Thinking Out Loud

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Sock Swatch

Just a little scribbling in yarn as I try to work out another sock that is banging around somewhere in my head and wants to make it someone's feet.

Sock Energy

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The First Broadripple Sock in French Navy

Oops! Where did I go yesterday? Actually, I had a post idea and everything. But then I had one glass of homebrew beer and got seriously sleepy. I headed off to bed without even remembering my poor blog.

I did accomplish something today: I finished my first Broadripple sock in Elann Esprit "French Navy" (if you want a pair of socks at a bargain price, this stuff is for you -- $2.75 a ball and one ball makes a standard sized woman's sock... $5.50 and a little time and you've got yourself a pair of socks). I really don't mind knitting with the stuff. I know some out there are not fond of the stretchy quality of the yarn, but I didn't find that it posed a whole lot of problems for me. This is probably a good thing, since I went crazy a few summers back and bought a bunch of the stuff! I'm looking forward to getting the second sock cast on and then thinking about what to do with the rest of my Esprit stash... after all, summer is the time for cotton socks. And the elasticity of these socks guarantees that they won't be saggy socks.

This sock was also the sock that went with me to surgery on Monday morning and that made the trip with me to John's second follow-up appointment (yes, of course, I was trying the thing on for foot length when John's name got called). I started the toe decreases at his appointment and finished it up when we got home. We got more positive news at this appointment. John still is under "house arrest" for the time being (at least until next Tuesday when he has his third follow up appointment), but the doctor told us that the retina has, in fact, re-attached. Now John needs to keep that air bubble working on holding the retina in place while he continues to heal. It made me laugh... after his appointment John asks the doctor er, can I have a beer while I'm recovering? and the doctor smiles and says you can definitely have more than one. John may not be able to roam around yet, but he can drink beer and surf Ebay -- a man has to have his priorities.

Waiting

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The title of this post is relevant to at least two things. The first being how long my Broadripple Socks have been started but remained unfinished. The second being what I will be doing tomorrow morning at 6:30 AM.

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Broadripple Sock #1: Started Circa Spring 2004

I had the first 6" of the cuff of this sock started quite some time ago, during my "socks on 2 circs" era. Originally, the socks were for John (hence the solid somewhat manly color) but then I realized that there was a bit too much lacy-ness for John's tastes and they became socks for me instead. They were probably the first socks I ever worked in that had more texture than a K2P2 ribbing at the top. I'm not so sure why I stalled out so quickly on these. At the time, perhaps, the patterning seemed a little hard to keep track of. It does not seem that way now. On a trip last weekend to Madison to pick up a refridgerator that could store two 5 gallon kegs and to see an old friend I finished the leg and turned the heel and started working down the instep. It took me a while to get back into the socks on 2 circs rhythm (I actually thought about switching the project onto double points, but I didn't have any US size 3 DPs in my collection and I didn't have time to go out and buy any before the trip), but once I did it was smooth sailing.

Which brings me to the second reference for waiting. This morning, at an impossibly early time, I will be sitting in the waiting room of the surgical eye clinic at Illinois Masonic Hospital waiting for John to undergo a procedure to fix and to prevent the further progression of the early stages of a detatched retina. I know, it's not life threatening, the surgery is outpatient, and everything should go just fine. But this is my soulmate and his vision. It may not be life threatening, but it is not trivial, either. We found out on Thursday and the surgery was scheduled for 4 days later. He has been quite calm over the weekend (as is his way, the Tao of John is a patient and accepting one), but I must admit to being both worried and fearful. It's a little bit invasive, this procedure. And John's never had to go through any surgery before. I think you begin to understand the feelings you have for another person when, immediately after you hear that they have to go through something unpleasant, you know that if you could trade with them, you would in a heartbeat. In less than a heartbeat.

So the sock and I will be in the waiting room early on a Monday morning, sending the best possible vibes we can with every new stitch. Very much looking forward to taking him home and helping him heal and get better. It may sound a little silly, but I've made him promise to wear a pair of the socks that I have made for him. If I can't be there with him, at least a little of the magic and love that come from a pair of handknit socks will be there to keep him warm and make him feel more comfortable.

Update: We're home and everything went okay. Apparently he needed a little more cryo/laser work than they thought he would need originally, but now the surgical part is over and the harder part begins: spending the next 1-3 weeks with his head more or less in one position to keep the gas bubble they put in his eye in one place where it can hold the retina where it is supposed to be. So we're not out of the woods quite yet, but we're hoping the healing will go well and he won't need any more invasive procedures in the future. Thank you for everyone's good thoughts. John thanks you all, too. He did wear one of the pairs of socks I knit him (the Trekking XXL pair) but he was so distracted that he actually put on both socks inside out. No matter, the good knitting magick, I think, works no matter what side of the garment faces out. I'll keep y'all posted on how he's doing. Right now he's got a big patch over his left eye (no pictures on this one) and is buried in a big nest of pillows to help him stay in the position he needs to.

Finished Mermaid Socks

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Finished Mermaid Socks in Regia 5047

At long last, 2 years after they were started, the Mermaid Socks are finally finished. I still am not sure why I stalled out after the first sock. The pattern is quite easy to work and it's kind of fun to watch the ribs swirl around under your fingers while you knit. The narrowness of these socks is deceptive -- the ribbing stretches a good deal to accomodate my size 8 feet.

I did the simplest version of the Mermaid Socks from Lucy Neatby's Cool Socks, Warm Feet (the link is to her website instead of Amazon because Amazon only seems to be selling outrageously priced used copies). I chose the simple wavy cuff instead of the more elaborate garter stitch cuff. The pattern is easy to follow (but you do have to pay attention to the toe shaping instructions) and would lend itself to almost any self-striping sock yarn. In this case, I am using Regia Mini Ringel 5047 which is just a carnival of bright color. These socks will definitely be brightening up my sock drawer.

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Bad Picture of FInished Mermaid Socks Being Worn

This was the bad picture I was able to snap of the socks while I was wearing them -- it was literally the last picture I took before my battery died on my camera. Not the greatest picture, but I think it at least shows how the ribbing widens out -- and, how almost by accident, these socks turned out almost identical instead of fraternal. If I'd been really clever, I would have modified the pattern for the second sock so that the ribbing slanted in the opposite direction. Perhaps, someday, if I make another pair.

This is my first finished pair for me during the Family Sock Challenge. Now I have to figure out what pair of socks I am going to tackle next.

Finished Tigers

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Opal Rainforest Tiger Socks

Et Voila! Finished Opal Rainforest Tiger socks. This is just a modification of my "standard sock" pattern to create some extra calf shaping. Other than that, it has a standard Dutch heel and 4-pt decrease toe. The "special detail" in this sock is that whenever two black stitches overlapped, I purled the stitch instead of knit it, giving the sock a raised texture on the outside when a black stripe is formed. Because of all the shaping, this resulted in some stripes on the calves that I think do look very tiger stripe-ish. No attempt was made to make these socks identical, and, honestly, I'm not sure that there's a real obvious repeat region in this yarn.

These socks are my fifth pair of finished socks for my Family Sock Challenge (John got 2 pairs, my sister-in-law got a pair and my dad got a pair). How about that? Only two more pairs left to go. But I'll be finishing those Mermaid socks for myself before tackling any new pairs.

Happy Father's Day to everyone out there who is a great dad or has a great dad (like I do!). We're heading off to Ann Arbor to spend the weekend with my folks. I wish a good weekend to everyone else out there, too!

I see all this delightful lace knitting going on when I read other people's blogs. I feel like I should be inspired to knit lace. After all, lace is lightweight and compatible with summer knitting needs (as long as one is not knitting with Kidsilk Haze). But right now, there's no lace on my WIP list, and I've decided that it's time to keep marching the number of unfinished projects down a little bit. One of those truly long lingering projects has been my Mermaid socks (design by Lucy Neatby in Cool Socks, Warm Feet). I started the first sock at the time that I went to the 2004 MS&W. I decided to start the second sock at this years MS&W. Because I wasn't paying attention, I made a mistake in the transition between the cuff and the body of the sock. So, annoyed with myself, I stuffed the sock back into it's project bag (what would I do with out Ziplocs eh?) and didn't pull it back out until Saturday when I headed out to the Worldwide Knit in Public Day festivities (want to see some of what was going on there? Check out Bonne Marie's excellent coverage as well as Lynette's photos from the day. I forgot to bring my camera...)

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Mermaid Sock Number 2 Begins

I did make an attempt to get them to be identical, but, if you've ever worked with this particular brand of Regia yarn, you know, like I don, that it's relatively challenging. So I settled for "mostly identical". I've never been all that hung up on the need for identical socks, so the slight difference won't bother me all that much -- especially with the riot of color that is going on in the sock.

I'd forgotten how easy this pattern is for the neat effect it gives you. Almost mindless, except that I can't do a k2tog without looking at my knitting.

Since I'm very close to finishing my mom's socks (just the toe decreases remain now) these socks will likely make the jouney with me to Ann Arbor this weekend along with my cross stitch dragon and my wheel. This is one of two pairs of socks I get to make for myself as part of my Family Sock Challenge (I'm allowed to finish the two pairs that are lingering in my WIP list). Once I finish Mom's socks, I'll be 2/3 of the way through, so I think I can give myself a little sock reward.

P.S. To My Fellow Sock Challengers: I'm sorry I missed our update over the weekend, I was distracted by a bunch of things. This weekend I'll be in Ann Arbor, so no update this coming weekend, either. I promise that we'll have another update the following weekend. After that I should both be in town for a while and have my head better together, so the postings should get more regular.

I Really Do Still Knit

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This weekend I participated in the Chicago branch of the World Wide Knit In Public Day. Bonne Marie, Julie and I all headed down town to Millenium Park to show off our colors. While I like to knit in public, I find that I can't take on much that's very complicated. Thus, socks are almost always my knit in public travelling companions.

I'm still working hard to achieve my goal of socks for everyone in my immediate family this year. After getting kind of stalled out on my Mom's Tiger socks for a while, I got back to them in earnest last week and over the weekend. Yesterday I got that heel flap taken care of and today I finished the gusset decreases. One nice thing about mom: she doesn't have very long feet, so by getting this far I am definitely over halfway done with the second sock. I think that means I have a good chance of gifting mom with the socks this weekend when I see her.

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A Tiger and A Half

These socks are definitely fraternal. Maybe there's a repeat in this sock yarn, but because of the changing diameter of the calf of the sock and the general feeling of randomness, I decided that these socks would be best off as fraternal. After all, no two tigers are exactly alike, so I figure it can work for socks, too.

These socks have also been a good source of stress relief for me this weekend. Or at least another place to focus my brain instead of worrying about something that I have almost no control over. Working on them helps me refocus on my mom, a wise woman who has reminded me many times in my life that no matter how difficult somethings may become, that the sun will always rise again tomorrow.

Shapely Tiger Sock

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A Shapely Tiger Sock and Some Stork Scissors

You might be thinking, right about now, what happened to all the socks?

And, in fact, I've been thinking something along those lines, too. What's up with my current sock project?

Well, over Mother's Day weekend I took my all but Kitchenered Opal Rainforest Tiger sock to be tested out on one or Mom's feet. Surprise of all surprises, math does work the way you expect it to sometimes, and the shapely Tiger sock fit exactly the way it was supposed to fit. So I grafted the toe and brought this sock to completion. I think it's about time I cast on for the second one now, don't you? Especially with a long weekend by a little lake in Michigan coming up.

The second sock I was going to work on was the second sock in a pair for me, the Mermaid socks from Lucy Neatby's Cool Socks, Warm Feet (which, by the way, was also the inspiration for the Tiger sock as well). I've had one sock complete for almost two years now, and it seemed like high time to get the second one taken care of. I did get it cast on before I left for Maryland, even worked on it on the plane home from Baltimore. Only to discover that I made a mistake in the stitch pattern and need to rip back to the cuff. Lots of tinking in my future with that one. But it may head with me to Michigan as well.

And, apropos of nothing, I just had to put my little Gingher Stork Embroidery Scissors in the picture. I've always wanted a pair of those little Ginghers, and the sale at Joann.com combined with my renewed cross-stitch efforts, was just thing I needed to convince myself that I could have a little treat. I chose these for their exceptionally pointy tips, which I hope will be handy for some of the openwork techniques I want to try. If you think steeking is scary, you should try snipping the threads in a piece of linen fabric that you have pain-stakingly put about a million multicolored stitches into over 5 years. It requires some very fine tipped little scissors to make sure you only snip the threads you're supposed to. Watch out experimental test linen! Here I come!

Socks for Mom

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Elizabeth wondered yesterday where the socks were.

Heh. Well, the socks are sitting on the same desk with Liberty and the random bits of crochet that I'm playing with.

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Opal Rainforest Tiger Socks Begin

These socks are for my Mom. They are an interesting challenge for me because mom has both shapely calves and bit of arthritis in her feet that make the ball a bit wider than you might expect for a size 7 shoe size. I had to get a few more measurements to make sure that things would be more accomodating in certain places. The ribbing started with 112 stitches and by the time I had reached the top of the ankle I had tapered the sock to 72 stitches. I opted for a Dutch heel for this sock because I wanted a little deeper heel for mom than I usually get with a short-row heel (and I don't like less sproingy sock yarns for short-row heels... the little gaps are too obvious for me). I'm in the process of doing the decreases after shaping the heel and picking up stitches. I'm going to decrease down to 68 stitches, which I hope will give a nice snug, but not too snug fit.

Given all the shaping, and the way the yarn is colored, I decided to stay away from any complicated stitch patterns. Instead, I decided to do something simple to add a little oomph to the socks: whenever two dark stitches meet, I purl the dark stitch instead of knit it. This means that the dark stripes have a raised relief character compared to the rest of the sock and I think it makes a neat impression with tiger striped socks.

I'm almost done with the decreases, so it should be pretty smooth sailing down to the toe from here on out.

34 Pairs of Socks!

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It has been a busy week for the Sock Challengers. Here's the updated list:

Annie
Socks for son Luke finished!

Carole
Socks for Daughter Hannah finished!

Started on Socks for Stepdaughter Jessica

Caryn

Heatherly
Socks for Baby finished!

Janine
Socks for Husband Finished!
Socks for Husband Started.

Janna
Socks for Mom Finished!
Socks for Sister Started

Jess
Finished socks for Grandmother!

Julie

Socks for Grandmother Finished!
Socks for Aunt Finished!

Kristi
Socks for Hubby Finished
Socks for Dad Finished
Jaywalker Socks for Sister-in-Law Finished
Second Pair of Socks For Hubby Started

Lisa

Socks for BIL Finished!

Socks for Husband Finished

Lora
Opal Dreamcatcher Socks for Mom finished!
Jaywalkers for Sister started.

Maggie

Maud
Regia Silk Socks for Her Son Finished
Socks for Older Daughter Finished!
Socks for Husband Finished!

Michelle H-K

Michelle K
Blue Socks for Daughter Kathryn finshed!
Jacquard Socks for Daughter Lindsey finished!
Green socks for Son Ian Finished!

Green socks for Son Justin Finished!

Started Pink Socks for Daughter Rachael

Hedgemom Nancy
Socks for Husband Almost Finished
Trekking XXL Socks for Mom Started

Just Knitting Around Nancy

Natalie
Socks for Mom Finished
Socks for Daughter Finished
Socks for Daughter to Be Finished
Socks for Mother in Law Finished

Polly
Twin Jaywalkers for her Twin Boys finished!
Socks for Husband Finished
Jaywalker Socks for Husband Started

Tish
3rd daughter finished!

Traci

Wendy DG
Opal Socks Finished for Sock Partner Molly
Sockotta Socks Finished for Sister-in-Law Mollie

Not only did 8 new pairs of socks make it to the finish line, but there is a great diversity of socks for you to take a look at. Check out the two new pairs that Julie completed (see the links under her name) to see the Opal Ladybug sock yarn in action. Maud finished two beautiful textured pairs of socks for her family (once again, go click on the links under her name to see the results). Carole finished a lovely pair of socks in Opal Flamingo for her daughter (just click on the link under her name to see), and Michelle K finished green socks for both of her sons.

This week, even I'm getting into the sock finishing act!

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Finished UMich Socks Basking in the Sun

I got these socks wrapped up Sunday night. Perfect timing for giving them to my dad when he and my mom came back from Hawaii by way of Chicago

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Happy Dad Feet!

Nothing too special about these socks from a technique perspective. I cast on 72 stitches on US Size 1 DP needles then did about an inch and a half of K2P2 ribbing. The rest of the sock is simple stockinette, with a short-row heel and my standard toe. What makes these socks special is the Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock in the UMich colorway. I didn't make Dad sing "Hail to the Victors" for me... but these socks are another small victory in my Sock Challenge progress nonetheless!

Hail to One Victor

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I'm incredibly late getting to the Family Sock Challenge update this week -- and there's been a lot of activity and I haven't had time this week to update my lists completely. So I'm going to hold off until Monday.

I will, however, not end the week without posting a sock project that I am working on -- socks and spinning are about all I've gotten to this week.

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The First of Two Victors: One Sock in Lorna's Laces UMich

This sock is partly to blame for my not being able to get up-to-date on Sock Challenge goings on. I actually knit a short row toe, thought it was just about the most dreadful (not in a good way this time) thing I'd knit in a long time and ripped it out and finished the sock with my regular toe. I'm not sure why the heel looks more or less okay while the toe looked so awful, but it did. I gave it a while to sit while I thought about it, but the more I looked at it, the uglier it got. I was so proud of myself that I didn't get at all distraught about ripping out 36 stitches worth of grafting the toe to the bottom of the sock.

I'm beginning to think that short row heels and toes work best when your sock fabric density is quite tight or you're working with a yarn that's squooshy and likes to fill in the gaps. I'm knitting these socks on US 1's and I could probably go down a needle size and still get a nice result. Also, while I think Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock is soft and foot-friendly, I don't consider it to be all that thick and squooshy. Of course, it could also just be something about my technique with those yarn over wraps or how tight I pull my yarn or some wierd artifact of the fact that I knit continental style.

Normally, I wouldn't draw attention to a ball of yarn (although I do want to mention that immediately after sewing in the ends of the first sock I cast on for the second one), but tonight I did a little experiment with the one you see here. You see, I've been reading Alden Amos Big Book of Handspinning">Big Book of Handspinning (something I'll be reviewing soon) and he talks about making a center pull ball twice when winding a ball from swift to ball winder. The first time you wind the ball, the natural resistance of the swift means that you get a very tight compressed ball on your ball winder. If you take that center thread after you've made the first ball and re-wind a second time you get a much looser ball that's easier to knit with (because the fiber isn't compressed so tightly) and is a little more yarn friendly since the yarn is under a lot less tension (which is generally a good idea... it's better for yarn to be as relaxed as it can when you're storing it , which is why I don't take my yarn out of the skein configuration until I know I'm going to use it). The ball in the picture was subjected to the double winding procedure. And, the advice is good advice. I have a nice loose center pull ball, which allows the yarn to flow more easily as I work on the second sock.

Down-Scaled Dragon

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Thank goodness for better weather in Chicago this weekend! As a result, I got some really nice pictures of the first finished "down-scaled" dragon scale sock. While I might be willing to suffer for my handknits, my male sock model isn't willing to head outdoors when it's cold.

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Down-Scaled Dragon Sock in Socks that Rock

This is the completed sock. It, like the previous dragon scale sock, has a short-row heel and a grafted toe. The leg of the sock is about 6" tall, and has a garter stitch cuff. The cuff helps to stabilize the top (otherwise they would probably roll too much for a guy) and to keep the opening stretchier. I think this picture with the sock being worn really shows off the pattern the way it is supposed to be (the picture of the heel below is even better) -- the bars aren't nearly as prominent when the sock is stretched across an actual foot. The sock is a bit less snug than I had intended for it to be, but, as it turns out, it fits John exactly the way he wants it to, and he commented that the textured pattern gave it a more airy feeling that thought it would. So you don't need to worry that wearing this sock is going to be like wearing scale mail.

Just about the only bad part about this sock is the amount of yarn it takes. For a US 10.5 man's sock, I'm definitely going to need more yarn than is in the one skein of Socks that Rock (I got out my scale, did some weighing and did some math and got the result that I expected by didn't really want). This pattern does eat up some yarn. Good thing that there's another skein waiting for me at the Fold for me to pick up this weekend. Hopefully there will be enough left over after I finish up John's sock for me to get another pair of unpatterned socks for myself...

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Down-Scaled Dragon Toe

I was a bit worried about how the toe was going to turn out, but after seeing it on a real foot, I'm happy with the results. The smaller scale pattern made it a lot easier to carry more of the pattern farther down the toe.

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Down-Scaled Dragon Heel

This is probably my favorite picture. This heel detail just makes get a happy little smile every time I see it. And, according to my sock model, it is not a problem for those of a manly persuasion. It almost makes me want to go out and buy a pair of Birkenstocks. Almost.

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Up-Scaled and Down-Scaled Dragon Socks Together

Not exactly a matched pair, but I hope this pictures demonstrates the differences in the looks of the socks.

I'm working on writing up the pattern now. It will include both sizes and all the charts you need for the toes and the heels. Patterns always take me longer than I think they will -- I forget how long it takes to make sure that all the instructions make sense. And I like to add information as to how the pattern can be customized to meet different sizes and needs. But it will be coming soon. I promise.

Green Dragon Heels

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I just have too many projects that I want to work on right now. I'm trying to rotate through all of them, but most of my time is being divided between the Pearl Buck Swing Jacket and John's green Dragon Scale socks. I've shifted most of my energies today to the sock since I would like to start putting a pattern together. Right now, I think I'm about 2 pattern repeats before I start decreasing for the toe. So I'm making okay progress and still have a fighting chance of getting a good first pattern draft over the weekend.

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Working on the Instep

The soon to be owner of this sock has been an excellent sport about the design process, too. Every couple of repeats I make him try it on so I can see if it fits correctly or needs to have the shaping modified. So far, it's working out well for a man's size 10.5. And I am also fairly pleased about how the short-row heel came out (the side with the knit wraps is neater than the side with the purl wraps, but it's definitely better than most of my earlier attempts) and now that they look nice, I'm finding that I like the process of making short row heels better.

Speaking of heels, here's the detail on the heel of this sock:

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Green Dragon Scale Heel Detail

Like the sock with the larger scales, I carry the center scale pattern down into the main part of the heel. This is something that you could always omit if you didn't like the detailing, but I think it gives the sock a little extra oomph but, at the same time, isn't too fussy for a guy sock.

Sock Collection

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I've been contemplating socks a lot lately. And doing laundry.

What do the two have to do with each other? Not much, other than the fact that while I was folding said laundry I realized that I had just washed and dried most of my sock collection and since it was all arrayed in front of me, it seemed like a good time for a picture.

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Tales from My Sock Drawer: A Story in Muted Colors

Something about taking pictures really brings things into focus that I hadn't noticed before. In this case, I had been under the impression that my sock collection was brightly colored. But as I looked this picture over, I realized that my socks might be multi-colored, but there's not a whole lot of bright vibrant color. Apparently, I knit bright colored socks, but those are the socks I knit for swaps or to give away. How strange. And I had never noticed it before. But this collection is stunningly void of anything like a vibrant red, orange or yellow. It's as if I went to the colorwheel and consciously selected cool colors. And as I looked around my room and in my closet, I discovered that this type of color collecting also extends into my wardrobe (although I do have a couple of red turtleneck sweaters, they're definitely outnumbered by the grey, black and brown garments). If I didn't know I was a Midwesterner before, it became painfully clear on Tuesday morning. Either that, or my quest for guy-friendly sock yarn has seriously damaged my perception of what "brightly colored" means.

Now the clothes, well, I can live with that. Orange and yellow next to my skin are just not a good thing. Cool colors and colors with blue undertones go best with my skin. But socks are not meant to be worn next to the face and should give me the freedom to go wild with some bright happy colors. And, of course, when I looked into my sock yarn stash, the whole bright color thing doesn't get better. Not surprisingly, the only bright vibrant colored sock yarns are ones that have been given to me by other people (the orange and purple and yellow striped Opal socks were part of one of my trades with Emma!). Clearly, when it comes to socks, I need to follow the Apple mantra and apply a little "Think Different".

As a girl who believes that there is no such thing as too much sock yarn, I'm always looking for something new and interesting when it comes to socks -- and I've got a lot of time to look as I work away on my Family Sock Challene socks .With that in mind, I'd love to know about everyone's favorite bright colored sock yarn. What companies produce your favorite colorways? What colorways make you think of happy summer afternoons or bright spring mornings? What sock yarn makes you happy when you just look at it -- even if it hasn't yet become socks?

Dragon Details

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I'm touched that so many of you enjoyed my short departure into creative writing. Sunday morning something grabbed a hold of me and I needed to do more than just show a picture of a completed sock. I think it was all the comments on my previous post about dragons and all the different ways dragons have been described and used in both human mythology and fantasy fiction. I'm enjoying my journey with these socks so much, I guess I just needed to create some of my own dragon mythology.

Unfortunately, that small picture doesn't show off a lot of the details in these socks. So I thought I would wrap up the "first completed sock" post with some detail images of the sock design. Y'all know how much I love using the macro mode on my camera!

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The Back of the Sock

I'm pleased with the back of the sock. Instead of opting for a plain heel, I extended the central scale pattern down by another half interval to complete the scale. I think that little detail makes the sock a nice option for sandal wearing, and shouldn't put too much extra bulk at the heel or cause problems in a shoe.

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Short Row Heel

This is probably my first truly successful stockinette short row heel ever. Priscilla Gibson Roberts definitely knows her stuff when it comes to short row heels. If you haven't looked through a copy of her book, Simple Socks: Plain and Fancy, I'd highly recommend it. It's a great companion to Lucy Neatby's Cool Socks, Warm Feet. I love love love the way this heel fits into the sock. Don't get me wrong, I loves me a nice Dutch heel, but for these socks, the short row heel is what is meant to be, and it's almost impossible to carry the motif down the heel without making a short row heel.

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Detail of the Dragon Toe from the Side

The toe came out even better from the side than I could have predicted. Cool thing about it? I was basically just winging it and taking advantage of the decreases that were already built into the pattern.

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Dragon Toe from the Top

I'm pretty pleased with the way this looks from the top down, as well. I thought about trying to curve those center decrease lines in towards the toe point, but didn't because I thought it would make the side scales look really odd. You can't see it, but this was also one of my nicer grafting efforts as well.

Of course, I did try the sock on, and I'm also pretty happy with the fit. It's just a little tight for me (but still comfortable) so I don't think it will be too loose for my sister-in-law (I just know her shoe size because my brother wanted to me to keep it as a surprise for her).

I've gotten the second sock started, and I've completed two intervals -- I'm going more slowly with the second sock because the cotton is taking a little bit of a toll on my hands. I'm using the second sock to go back over my notes to see if I can put together a decent pattern.

There definitely will be a pattern. I don't know yet whether I will give it away or sell it. That will probably depend on whether I do additional sizes. Just to accomodate a wide variety of foot lengths, I need to come up with an additional toe design (otherwise, it's going to be hard to get the length of the sock right for people without size 8 feet). I'd also really like to scale the design up for someone of manly proportions. That will mean working out everything with a different gauge, a different pattern interval and making sure I have good things for the heels and toes. Doing that and getting all instructions into usable form takes a lot of work.

Once I get toward the end of the project, I'll definitely post the scale pattern itself -- I was just riffing off of Barbara Walker and the Knitter did promise the Dragon that she would share that scale pattern with the rest of the world.

Happy Valentine's Day!

The Memory of Dragons

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Once upon a time, on a planet not so different from ours, Dragons walked the earth. The Dragons, being long lived and intelligent, watched the other creatures that shared the land with them. They reveled in rainbows and the natural magick in the world, hoarded the occasional treasure, took flight on sun rays and moon beams when the time was right. Mostly, they stayed out of sight, content to be observers and not the observed. Occasionaly, other creatures would catch glimpses of them, through trees in the forest, through the mist over a lake, or amongst snow flurries in the mountains. Only rarely would a Dragon be seen in its entirety. But since magick flowed through all the creatures of this world, all knew of the existence of dragons. And in times of trouble, a champion would often be sent to seek them out and to call upon their wisdom. A wise and virtuous champion would be able to find them, even though they were hidden. And the Dragons would share their advice and insight.

As time passed, however, the creatures that the Dragons shared the land with began to move away from the ways of magick. Many of them talked of the "technology" that could help them with their work and their troubles in the world. Fewer and fewer would seek out the Dragons for their advice. Fewer and fewer believed that Dragons and other magickal creatures even existed. Most of those that did, saw them as a dangerous threat, to be hunted and exterminated. The Dragons, wise beings that they were, realized that the Age of Magick was coming to an end, and with it, the Age of Dragons as well. For them, it was time to take flight and move on to another place that could value them for what they were rather than seeing them as something to be feared.

And so a call went out to all the remaining Dragons in the land. They would meet in the last place where magick still held sway and they would call upon these magicks to transport them to a place where they could spread their wings in peace.

As it happened, not so far from this place lived the Knitter. The Knitter, who knew that two sticks and some string could be used to create a garment, still believed in the special magick of the creative event. Understood and reveled in the intangible but very real energy that was present in every item made with her hands. She strived to create balance between technology and this special magick, knowing that both were important in the world.

One day, the appointed day for departure for the Dragons who had gathered, the Knitter happened upon the place. Some would later say that she was a wise and virtuous champion for magick drawn to the site, others would say that it was a lucky hunt for a missing knitting needle that took her to that place. Regardless, She was struck by the majesty of what she saw as the Dragons began to take wing, but saddend greatly as she realized that they were leaving forever. Unafraid, she called to a ruby-red Dragon who had yet to launch into the journey.

"Dragon, it is sad that the majesty of your kind will no longer be known by this world. Please, give me something that those of us who still believe in magick might remember you by."

The Dragon paused and sighed. "If you truly believed in magick, you would not need me to give you something as a memory, you would be able to create it yourself."

The Knitter stared up at the Dragon, and as she did so, she began to notice the beautiful pattern formed by the Dragon's scales. She reached out and touched the leg of the dragon, so that her fingers would understand the texture. "Dragon, you are right, to remember your magick, I will create a memory of your kind, I will knit the texture of your scales into a garment."

The Dragon looked pleased. And the Knitter continued: "But I have not brought my tools with me and I can not be sure I will render the pattern without a guide. Will you remain until I have been able to create a memory of Dragons?"

The Dragon thought for a bit, looking pensive as the Dragon folk all took wing. "I will give you one day, Knitter. You must return tomorrow at this time. It is all the time I can spare for you to work your magick."

The Knitter raced back to her home, the memory of Dragon scales in the front of her mind. She sat down with her needles and knit frantically, creating the only kind of garment that she knew she could complete in a day. Just before the Dragon's deadline, she completed her task. She ran back to the ruby-red Dragon and presented her work:

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What the Knitter Showed the Dragon

And the Dragon looked pleased. "You have knit well, " said the Dragon, "and I can feel the magic in what you have knit. And because you have made the attempt, and done so well, I will add a little of my own magick." And with that statement, the Dragon exhaled a breath of cool magick fire across the sock and over the Knitter. "Now, whenever you you knit my scales into a garment, you will knit an extra magick into it. The wearer of the garment will gain confidence and wisdom and strength -- the true spirit of Dragon kind -- magnified by the true magick of caring that can only come from a handmade garment. And the knitter will never suffer from Second Sock Syndrome. Share this pattern with others such as you who remember the old magick. Thus will Dragons be remembered in this place."

And with those words, the Dragon launched into the air after the rest of the Dragonkind, leaving the Knitter holding her single sock, and a mission to share the memory of Dragons. After watching the Dragon disappear into the sky, she went home and immediately cast on for the second sock.

Clearly, since that time, there have been many knitters creating the memory of Dragons. You can find some of their efforts in these links:

Marnie McLean's Wyvern Socks

Annemarie Pearson's Dragon Scale Gauntlets

Jennifer Sander's Dragon Scale Hat

P.S to those admiring my blocking board: it's called a Space Board and I think it can be ordered from both Knit Picks and Patternworks. And it is a most wonderful and magickal thing!

Sock Challenge

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Before I went to the ER over the holidays I put on a pair of my handknit socks. It was actually the pair that I made out of the Opal Rodeo that I had received from Emma as part of one of our yarn trades. It wasn't really one of those moments when I should have been concerned about what socks I was wearing, but still, something compelled me to fish them out of my suitcase and put them on. Clearly, they were just socks, and they couldn't fix the problem I was experiencing, but they made me feel a little bit better. Even with a whole lot of other unfamiliar things around me I still had something of my own with me. And my feet stayed warm. Which was a good thing given that it was December and hospitals aren't overheated places.

Surprisingly, the socks also got noticed by one of the doctors who did help make my condition better. She stopped and asked me about them, loved the bright colors. Thought it was wonderful that I had made them. And then, to make sure that they didn't get messed up while she did her job, she helped me get them off and put them in a safe place (she gave me a pair of warm, but not as attractive, hospital socks). I would have liked to keep them on, but by that time, they had served their most important purpose -- they had helped to create a bond between me and the doctor who was helping me. So not only had they kept me warm, but the had helped me become more comfortable in an equally important way as well.

I was in the ER for quite some time that night... from about 8 at night until about 4 in the morning. And my family, (John, my parents and my brother and his wife) was there the whole time as well. When you have that much time in the hostpital and you're not sedated and not in extreme discomfort, you have a lot of time to think about things. You can focus on the event at hand, or you can try to divert yourself onto things that make you happier. Fortunately for me, my brain decided to focus on socks. More specifically, how my socks had made my medical adventure a little bit better and how wouldn't people in need of medical assistance be much happier if they all had a pair of handknit socks to keep them company.

Now, I know myself well enough to know that I cannot knit enough socks to make everyone with a medical emergency feel better. But it did seem reasonable that I could make socks for everyone who had come with me to try to help me feel better during my medical emergency. I don't wish a trip to the ER on anyone in my family, but should they have to go, I'd like them to know that someone loved them enough to knit them a pair of socks (if you haven't read the short essay on knitting socks in the Yarn Harlot: the Secret Life of a Knitter, then you most certainly should, it really gets at the heart of what making socks for people really means). Maybe they'll even remember to put the socks on, and their socks will help them through the experience just like mine did.

Up until this point, I've mostly stayed on the sidelines through all the sock-a-longs that have been booming through the knitting internet. But I am going to start my own personal little sock knitting challenge. You can feel free to participate, or not, as you wish. This year, I am going to knit a pair of socks for everyone in my immediate family: John, my mom, my dad, my brother, my sister-in-law and my aunt. Six pairs of new socks are going to enter the world and do their best to fulfill the most important thing a handknit sock can possibly do: make someone feel warm and happy and loved.

But it wouldn't be a challenge if there weren't a few rules, would it? So here are the rules that I've decided that it's reasonable to live with.

1) I have to finish all 6 pairs between January 1, 2006 and December 31, 2006
2) I am not allowed to start any new socks for myself until the family socks are complete. However, I am allowed to finish any unfinished pairs that are in my current project list (this would be the Mermaid Socks and the Broadripple socks).
3) John's recently finished Trekking socks count as his pair, but I can start another pair for him any time I feel like it. Because if one pair of socks is good, then two more more pairs of socks must be just that much better. And he's definitely family.
4) I am allowed to buy more sock yarn for family member socks, but I have to knit with it, I can't just keep stashing it...unless I plan to make more socks for that family member.
5) MS&W is an exception to the buying more sock yarn rule.

Should you wish to participate in my challenge, you don't have to abide by all of my rules. These are rules that I'm setting up to help me meet my goals. Your goals may be different, thus you may need different rules or none at all.

Now that I've finished John's socks, the next pair in my family sock challenge is going to be for my wonderful sister-in-law, Libby (who, if you saw her, you might think was my actual sister). She's going off to LA in April (and will be there until June) to do some pretty intense teacher training so that she can become a certified Bikram Yoga instructor. I want to put together a "good luck package" for her that includes the socks.

Because she's in Houston and will be doing her training in LA (i.e. warm places) I've picked up some Blue Moon Fiber Arts "Sock Candy" yarn in the Cherries Jubilee colorway. This yarn is 96% cotton, 4% elite and has some reasonable stretch to it -- it reminds me a little bit of a sock weight Calmer -- I'm hoping that the sock will thus be warm weather compatible and will keep it's shape. While I'm waiting for my bro to come up with her shoe size, I'm looking around to try to find a good pattern. I know, in my knitting heart, that I really should rib these socks all the way down, but I also know that I really hate ribbing socks, and that too much ribbing could stall this project before it gets off the ground. Depending on her shoe size, I'm actually considering taking on another pair of Jaywalkers. As I think the colors would be lovely, and those Jaywalkers seem to resist slouchy-ness.

In order to help me keep track of what's done, I'm adding a new "Family Sock Challenge" to my side bar so that my results will be visible. If you decide you want to play along, let me know. If enough folks do, I'll set up a little something to help keep track of whose participating.

Socks and Cookies

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When your husband gets you a spinning wheel for your birthday and even lets you get it a few weeks early because you just can't wait to get your hands on it, it seems only reasonable to try to make sure that he gets a new pair of socks by the time your birthday actually does roll around. Especially if those socks have been on the needles since January 1 of last year! Over the weekend, I had a very single minded devotion to accomplishing this goal. In fact, I couldn't even get myself to spin all that much, because every time I sat down to do it, I remembered those socks and how much I wanted them to be done. And then, once I got past a certain point, the thrill of socky victory well before my brithday spurred me on.

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Trekking XXL 90 Socks Warming Man Feet

John, who looks like he is about to plie, and who jokingly apologizes for not shaving his legs before our photoshoot came home this evening not only to a finished pair of socks, but also a fresh batch of peanut butter and chocolate chip cookies. (Did you know they made peanut butter and chocolate chips? I didn't until today. They're fab and they went over very well with my cookie monster). Not sure what inspired me to make the cookies, but right after I had sewn in the last end, I just had this incredible urge to bake. It doesn't happen that often so I try not to squelch the cookie muse when she tries to inspire. Both the socks and the cookies got a warm reception.

Sock statistics:

Yarn: Trekking XXL in Colorway 90
Needles: Size 0 Bamboo Double Points (!)
Pattern: Lucy Neatby's Crenellated Toe Up Socks (without the crenellation).

I don't know what possesses me to take on man-sized socks (76 stitches around) on size 0 needles, yet, inevitably I almost always do. Although it almost always takes me forever to make a pair of socks for John, when I look at the socks I have made for him in the past and look at how well they are holding up even under almost constant winter wear, I'm reminded of why it is worth it.

I didn't make too many diversions from the basic pattern (except removing the picot edged top, which would not have been perceived as manly) and John commented while we were doing the heel fitting that this was probably the best fitting sock I had made him. Unfortunately, it's also becoming a pattern I really don't enjoy using very much because I just can't get into toe-up socks and because, Lucy Neatby's assurances to the contrary, her method for putting in the afterthought heel does not lead to gap-less heel gussets. This is the second pair of socks I've made this way, and no matter what I've tried, including picking up extra stitches in the gap I end up with a little gap that I have to sew closed at the end. I have to say, that I also prefer doing Dawn Brocco's star (i.e. 6 pointed decrease) afterthought heel much better as well. I think it creates a better heel shape (if you want to see how it looks, you can click here) and you don't have any pesky grafting to do after you're done (I don't mind grafting, I just find it a little fiddly to do for the heel of a sock, especially when the heel shaping is not particularly heel shaped).

So far, this is just about the only heel in the Cool Socks Warm Feet book that I've tried that I've decided I don't like. But the pattern overall, can make a cute sock. It's hard to expect one book to cover every possible heel option available, and, clearly, it's trivial to choose a different method to complete an afterthought heel.

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One Complete Sock Basking in Natural Light

I realized that I have never taken a natural light picture of this yarn, and that it really does deserve one. I think this is an absolutely gorgeous colorway and one that works out particularly well for the manly types. If your manly type doesn't insist on solid colored socks and you're tired of knitting in grey, black and navy blue, this is definitely a nice sock yarn to add to your collection.

This was my first time knitting with Trekking XXL. Overall, it wasn't a bad experience, but I did find the yarn to be a bit on the splitty side, and this occasionaly made for some frustration, especially when I was trying to do decreases. But it's not so bad that you can't do most of your knitting by feel. And since it's the multi-plys that are used to create the variagation in color, it's an easy thing to forgive.

As an aside, I just washed my Socks that Rock socks for the first time and was completely blown away by how soft they were when they came out of the dryer! I thought they were soft before, but it increased by an order of magnitude after the washing/drying process. They did loosen up a good deal, too, but I didn't lose any stitch definition and the yarn didn't fuzz or get that halo-ed quality to it either. So washing this yarn just makes a great yarn get even better!

Confetti Jaywalkers

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Believe it or not, it wasn't all about spinning wheels here over the weekend. I actually hunkered down a bit and finished the second of my Jaywalker socks. And, because I work hard to get the best color rendering possible, I actually sat outside on our upstairs balcony in 35 degree weather to get a natural light photo.

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Jaywalker Socks in "Confetti" from Tess' Designer Yarns

I won't go into too many details about these socks. Lord knows, most of you have probably made a pair yourselves if the popularity of the Jaywalker KAL (hosted by Cara at January One is any indication. I will say that I am happy with the way my socks came out and that I found the pattern easy enough and close enough to my "standard" sock pattern that I will probably consider making these socks again someday. Not only that, but I had a goodly amount of yarn left over, as evidenced by the photo below:

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Leftover Confetti

That's actually about 3/4 of an ounce if my scale is to be believed! I'm not sure if that is enough to have made the larger size, but I found that I was good to go with the smaller size for my feet. For, indeed, these socks are a present to me -- probably the last pair of socks I am going to make for myself for a while as I embark on the great "Let Them Wear Handknit Socks!" campaign for my family for the coming year.

And you'll all be proud! As soon as I finished with these socks, I went and found my husband's lonely Trekking XXL sock and the yarn and cast on for the second one of that pair. I gave him a choice on our way home from the Fold. I could either finish up the pair I had started or I could get started right away on a new pair for him out of the Beryl Socks that Rock. Practical guy that he is, he requested that I finish the pair in progress. So back I go to the Trekking socks. After all, a guy who buys me a spinning wheel for my birthday really deserves to have me finish another pair of socks for him.

P.S. I am fascinated by the results of the poll from yesterday. If you haven't checked it out yet, please do! I am also jealous of whomever out there has one of those Golding spinning wheels. I'm hoping to try one of those out while at MS&W this year. And for those of you who checked the "other" box, I'd love to know what other wheels are out there that I missed! Other than that, I'll try to sum up the resuls on Friday!

More About Socks

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So I've been thinking about socks. In particular, I've been thinking about what kinds of socks I want to make for my family. So I've been looking through my stash and browsing about the Internet a bit looking to see what I have that I think will fit with the special people in my life.

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From Left to Right: Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock in "UMich", One Lonely Trekking XXL 90 Sock Without A Heel, and Opal Rainforest in "Tiger"

John, is the first recipient I'm going to tackle. Really, I'm not completely playing fair here, as my goal for him is simply to finish the pair of Trekking XXL 90 socks that I started for him a long time ago. But he's also getting a special scarf this winter, too, so I decided that I could probably get my own personal family sock festival started with something that was already on its way. For anyone looking for interesting but manly sock yarn, I can highly recommend this Trekking colorway. John actually picked it himself out of my yarn stash! Maybe we're beginning to make progress on the whol colored sock issue! (As an aside...John's been asking for a pair of heavier weight socks for winter. Does anyone know of a good yarn in DK to Worsted weight that is suitable for socks? By suitable for socks I mean that it must be machine washable, dryer tolerant, and relatively durable. This means that it needs to have some superwash qualities and probably a little nylon. And, of course, since it's for the husband, it can't be very out there...)

For my mom and dad, I decided to think about the things they liked and liked to do to see if I could come up with sock yarn inspiration. Lucky for me, I'm one of those people who has no problem justifying a sock yarn purchase on the basis of "I think would really like this yarn. I'll get it now in the hopes that sometime in the next 10 years I will actually have time to knit these socks for them". Hence the yarn that I found in my stash for my dad. My dad likes a lot of things... woodworking, his John Deere tractor (I do have some yellow and green Koigu to go along with this theme some day), birds, photography, orchids and University of Michigan football. Some of my favorite memories with my dad involve sitting down on Saturday with him to watch a game. Patient man that he was, he never seemed to mind too much when I asked for the 4th time what a holding penalty was (okay, well, he did mind just a little bit if it was a tense point in the game) or what he thought of Bo Shembechler's coaching that day. This is also a man who has adopted two pets recently. The cat is named "Bob" the dog is named "Ufer" after Bob Ufer, the long-time Michigan football radio announcer. He's also a guy who's not afraid to wear brightly colored socks. Thus, his socks are going to be out of that nifty Lorna's Laces Shepherd sock in the "UMich" colorway. I figure I can't go wrong with a pair of Amazin' Blue socks when the next game day rolls around in the fall.

My mom was a little more challenging. I have a lot of nice Koigu, some lovely Mountain Colors Bearfoot, a bunch of brightly colored Regia and a fair amount of other self-patterning sock yarn that I really like. But for no reason that I could put my finger on, I just couldn't find something in my stash that I really felt called out for my mom. So I started browsing sites looking at sock yarn, hoping for inspiration. Of course, I had to make a stop at the PT Yarns site to take a look at the current Opal offerings (PT Yarns is the US distributor for Opal. I've always regretted not being able to find any of their tiger striped yarn before they discontinued it, since I thought it would be perfect for my cat-loving mother. So you can only imagine my happiness when I discovered the Opal Rainforest collection and found the "Tiger" colorway.

Even better, I found the yarn for sale online at Carodan Farms and they got it to me lickety-split! Definitely a store I'll be ordering from again in the future. And is it just me, or has Opal gotten to be softer and a little thicker in the last year or so?

At any rate, I'm totally excited about getting started with these yarns -- it's going to be really difficult to decide which pair to work on first -- after I finish my Jaywalkers and John's Trekkings. And it definitely gives me motivation to get my current sock projects finished!

In Between

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It seems that I am at a mid-way point with almost all my projects right now. Perhaps I am dividing my time too much. This weekend I worked on the Backyard Leaves scarf for mom (I've only got four repeats left on the second half of the scarf, so it's beginning to feel like the home stretch), my Morehouse Merino Melody's Shawl (an immense quantity of circular stockinette knitting with lace weight yarn), spun about a bobbin's worth of the silk wool blend from my mom, and finished up one of my Jaywalker socks.

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A Single Jaywalker Awaits a Mate

It did take some effort, but I actually got the next sock cast on. All things considered, this is not such a bad pattern. Not to difficult to make it feel like hard work, not just solid stockinette, either. And I think the pattern works well for this yarn.

I know, this is not earth-shatteringly exciting knitting content. Not sure why my knitting life is mostly filled with simple things right now. In some respects, I think it's mostly for practical reasons. Given that it's winter here in Chicago, the handiest items for keeping warm are socks and scarves. These are also the garments that I think are easiest to gift and also know that the recipient will probably be happy using. That, and, while I've liked what I've seen in the recent knitting magazines and books, I really just haven't had a sweater reach out and grab me and demand to be knitted lately. So socks and scarves it is for a bit. I'm looking forward to the scarf I'm going to knit for my aunt -- it's been a while since I've really designed anything and it will be good to work out the creative side of my brain.

One thing that is helping me through all this knitting is a new discovery (for me, at least, clearly many of you already know about it) that I learned of through Marie Irshad's KnitCast podcast. I just love being able to download podcasts via iTunes, because I really enjoy listening to something while I am working on a piece that needs a fair amount of attention. Marie's podcast is great fun, and it was also my introduction to Brenda Dayne's Cast On podcast. I spent the weekend listening through her back recordings. Most of her podcasts are about an hour long and you get a little music, a fair bit of knitting info (not technique, really, more news and discussion of knitting culture) and a little bit about Brenda herself. And I like that. Just like I enjoy getting to know people through their blogs, I find that I also enjoy getting to know people through their podcasts -- in addition to hearing nifty thngs about the knitting world. Brenda and Marie make the perfect complement to getting another pattern interval done on whatever project you're working on.

As If Two Pairs of Socks Wasn't Enough

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Tess Designer Yarns Sock Yarn Meets Jaywalker Pattern

I guess I've just got a sock thing going in right now, because about 15 minutes after I finished up the Socks that Rock I cast on for Grumperina's Jaywalker sock pattern using a hank of Tess Designer Yarns Sock Yarn in the "Confetti" colorway that I bought from MS&W in May (I am just so proud of myself for using all this yarn out of my stash lately! I feel like a very virtuous knitter these days!).

When I started this pattern, I wasn't sure that I would actually keep going with it. Not because it is a bad pattern -- it's not. So far as I'm concerned it's well written and easy to follow. But the fact that it has an actual pattern/texture to it meant that there was a 50/50 chance that I would get a couple of inches in, get annoyed that it wasn't mindless enough and rip it out and go back to my straight stockinette mindless sock pattern. So far, the sock pattern is as advertised -- simple enough for anyone but interesting enough to keep a non-patterning sock yarn engaging. This picture was taken this morning, and this evening I added an inch or two more while watching TV. Given how far I've gotten in a few short knitting sessions, I think it's likely that I will not develop pattern apathy for this sock and might actually finish the pair.

Believe it or not, it would mark the first pair of patterned socks in my sock drawer knit by me -- if I actually get to the point where I have a pair. Which I give good odds since I love this yarn and it would break my heart never to see it become a nice pair of socks.

And right now, socks are about all I have the brain power to knit... seems like I always get a cold right before Christmas. It used to happen to me when I was in college every year after final exams and it is one of those holiday traditions, that, unfortunately, have continued on for almost 20 years... (wow...can it really be almost 20 years since I started college... I have just, officially, made myself feel old). I'm into the last phase -- where I am coughing like someone with end stage antibiotic-resistant tuberculosis so hopefully the end is near and I'll get to enjoy the actual holidays -- and work on some patterns that require some brainpower.

Two Socks that Really Do Rock

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A Pair of Tiger Eye Socks that Rock

Inspired by having that lovely new pair of socks from Jan, I figured it was about time that I got my own current sock project finished up. Saturday evening I finished my delightfully fraternal Tiger Eye Socks that Rock Socks (the pattern for these socks is Lucy Neatby's basic sock pattern from Cool Socks, Warm Feet). I wore them all day Sunday and these socks are soft, warm and fabulous. Very likely destined to be some of my favorites. They held their shape and didn't slip around on my feet.

Were I to knit with this yarn again (and I might if I can find one that is muted enough in color to be "man friendly" -- the husband loved how thick these socks were) I would probably use a size 1.5 needle rather than a size 1 to give them just a bit more flexibility -- and to stretch my yarn just a little bit farther. I did have a little bit left but probably couldn't have gotten a man-sized pair out of the two skeins I had knitting at this density.

Little by little I'm filling up my sock drawer with handknit socks. I'd love to think that there might be a day when that would be all I would find in there!

Swap Socks

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Lovely Happy Swap Socks

Aren't they lovely? These arrived for me on Friday evening from Jan as part of a little swap I participate in. This is the first pair of socks I've ever had made from Online yarn and I think they are lovely. Clearly Jan knows what my favorite colors are! They got their first try out on Saturday and are just wondeful to wear. Believe it or not, I've never knit myself a pair of socks that is ribbed all the way from the top to the toe. I may have to try doing it myself in the future, since these socks do a very nice job of conforming to the shape of my foot without being too tight.

I just love socks! I have lots of sweaters and scarves, but the knitted things I wear the most are definitely socks. And there's almost nothing better than special pair of socks knit for you by someone else. A big thanks to Jan for giving me a nice warm happy feeling on Friday evening that will return every time I pull these lovely socks out of my sock drawer to wear!

Baskets that Rock

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A Little Basket Full of Socks that Rock

There's more basket adoration today. This delightfully tiny basket is just perfect for a special sock project. The wonderful liner zips at the top and has a handy little pocket inside to hold a few little notions that you might need while working on a sock -- tape measure, extra double point from a set of 5, a small crochet hook. It's just about the sweetest thing. Well, I guess it could be sweeter if I had actually bought it for someone else to put a sock project in. But when it comes to this kind of stuff, I just can't resist adding a little sweetness to my own life.

Currently in the basket are my Tiger Eye Socks that Rock socks. Very fraternal these socks will be (in fact, this is one of those pairs that if I hadn't actually seen the two original skeins, I might have though that I was knittng with two different yarns -- the second skein had a lot more white in it than the first one). No matter, I will enjoy them. They are delightfully soft and it's been a while since I've added a new pair of socks to my collection. And winter is here in full force now in Chicago -- a girl needs all the warm socks she can get. And now that I've turned the heel and am working on the instep decreases, it feels like I'm on the road home with these. So soon, not only will the socks rock, but my feet will as well!

Happy Finished Mini Ringel Socks

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Identical Mini Ringel Socks

Nothing like a little finished project action -- even if the photo lighting late at night in my bedroom isn't so great. These socks turned out a great deal more identical than I expected them to. About the only bit of difference is at the very toe where there's just one round more of the dark red on one sock than the other. Quite a satisfying resul!

Now I just have to find that second skein of Tiger Eye Socks that Rock and get moving again on the second sock in that pair. It's getting cold here in Chicago and a girl can never have too many soft and wonderful and colorful pairs of socks in her dresser drawer or on her feet!

Another Weekend, Another Sock

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The First Mini-Ringel Sock Emerges

There you go -- the best proof that I had made good headway on this sock before the weekend started is that it was complete by 8 PM on Sunday night! Not only that, but in an attempt to stay focused, I even got the second of the pair cast on. Civ IV got a reasonable portion of my time this weekend (would have gotten more, but I'm experiencing a bit of bugginess and now figure I may have to wait until the first patch to play all the way through a game without crashing -- nonetheless, what I can play is quite good!), but the sock got a fair amount of attention, too. It even went with us on Saturday night to check out an awesome rib place -- Fat Willy's. It's no problem to wait an hour for a table when you've got a sock to work on -- and it provided a little amusement for the friendly waitstaff and other waiting patrons. Did the food turn out to be worth the wait? Most definitely.

When I first introduced this sock, AmyP asked what the color number information for this was. The sock yarn I am using is Regia Mini Ringel Color, Color # 5217 -- also known as "rio". If you want to take a look at the whole collection of Mini Ringels, you can click here. (That said, I've never ordered from the site, they just had nice pictures -- I'm not trying to endorse this online shop for your purchases -- if you've ordered from them successfully, let me know. I'm easily lured in by the phrase "free shipping").

Happy Hallowe'en Y'all!

Sock Startitis

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Regia Mini Ringel Sock

I guess socks are like potato chips -- you can't eat/knit just one. At least for me these days. I seem to have a lot of lovely fall colored sock yarn and a somewhat chilly house. When combined with my personal difficulties with working two of exactly the same socks in a row, this means another pair of socks is going to come into the world. Even on US
1's, these are going to go fast. Almost 3 inches of sock top and I only spent a few hours on it this evening.

The colors make me think of fall leaves and mulled wine. Pumpkinsand the rich colors of Christmas ornaments. Bright but comforting and happy.

What is the Sound of One Sock Rocking?

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This has got to be a personal best for me. I started this sock last Thursday morning and I had all but the toe grafting finished Sunday night.

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This is the Sound of One Sock Rocking

I guess I must like this sock yarn (Blue Moon Socks that Rock in Tiger's Eye), because I clearly didn't put this sock down very often over the weekend. I started with the Twisted German Cast On*, knit in 2 inches of K2P2 ribbing and then knit 5-3/4" straight stockinette before turning the heel. I used Lucy Neatby's dutch heel (from her Simply Splended pattern in Cool Socks, Warm Feet), which is a nice variation on the heel because the slipped stitches are on the inside, leaving a stockinette look heel. It's also a bit longer heel than I ususally do, but the outcome was still good. I knit 7" or so of instep before the toe decreases. Here I reverted back to my usual toe. And I still had a little bit of yarn left over.

I was going to cast on the second one tonight, and then realized I have a few other things that need to take precedence right now. Once those are done, I'll be right back to this. Can you believe that my husband actually told me that he might wear this sock... that he could see how it could go with a nice orange shirt? Clearly my plot to convert him to the brighter colored sock side is working.


* A couple of people pointed out that if my stitch mounts on this cast on turned out twisted, I am probably doing something not quite right. This could very well be true, but, you know, it works for me and gives me a result I'm happy with. I appreciate the heads' up, but I probably won't change my ways... I'd have to re-wire some basic finger motions and that's never something I do well. But for anyone else trying it, you probably should ignore my advice, other than to realize that it is a great cast on for socks!

Socks that Begin to Rock

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I seem to have developed a mild case of startitis in the past week. Maybe it's just the cool weather in Chicago and watching the leaves fall from the trees and knowing that the real chill will be coming soon. I just can't help myself. I had to start another pair of socks for my winder wardrobe. Do you remember this yarn
? I've been petting it on a regular basis since I got it well over a year ago. I finally got tired of petting and decided that it was time to skein it up and move those socks from yarn stash to my sock drawer.

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Blue Moon Fiber Arts "Socks that Rock" in Tiger Eye

This picture marks the sum total of my sock-ly accomplishments yesterday. I'm knitting these socks on size 1 needles, and I'm getting 8 stitches/inch in the stockinette portion of the sock. This yarn is a nice, thick, soft merino yarn, so I chose to go down one needle size from where I might have been tempted to start to help maximize durability, even though it means that the overall fabric is a little denser. For this sock, I'm going back to my old sock knitting ways -- 64 stitches cast on using the Twisted German Cast On, followed by 2 inches of K2P2 ribbing and then 6" of leg, a Dutch heel, and straight ol' stockinette down to the toe. Since the pattern the yarn makes is so lovely, I don't think it requires any special knitting to dress it up.

And just a little pointer for those of you who haven't experimented with the Twisted German Cast On -- my recommendation is that you do the first round of stitches after the cast-on in all knit stitches. The "twisted" part refers to the fact that the stitches end up twisted on the needle after you cast them on. It's a real pain to deal with purl stitches on that first row, and you can't tell the difference anyway, so you can save yourself a little pain and suffering just by knitting that first row all the way around.

Happy fall socks to everyone!

P.S link to Twisted German Cast On is fixed now.

Hale-sockala

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I've been waiting to use that terrible pun my entire vacation. In fact, I finished my Opal Rodeo socks just in time to go up to the top of Haleakala (where it gets quite chilly, since it is over 10,000 ft elevation) and then left them in our bungalow. How sad. At least I brought the pair I was working on for John, so I had something to knit on on our way down the mou ntain (it was dark and there wasn't much to see). It was going to be my only shot of actual knitted garment in the wilds of Maui, complete with bad pun. Instead, you get the bad pun and the table on my back porch. And a picture or two of Haleakala later in the week.

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Hale-sockalas

They did get worn before the shoot (on the airplane ride home... now that I make my own socks, I can't get on an airplane without wearing a pair of nice wool socks... airplanes are always so chilly) but they're not too much the worse for wear. They are based on the Timberline Toes socks from Lucy Neatby's Cool Socks Warm Feet (you should feel sorry for this poor book -- I've taken it with me everywhere and have not been gentle with it -- that just tells you how wonderful a sock knitting reference it is). They have a tubular cast-on top and garter stitch short-row heels. The toes are just in garter stitch. They are identical twins except for the heels, which are different because I just started from the opposite end of the ball from the main yarn and didn't want to waste any yarn -- the pattern repeat is pretty long in these socks and I wanted to make sure that the main body of the socks matched. So fraternal heels it was.

So I did better on this trip than I thought I would. On pair of socks finished and the first of a second pair almost finished. I did just a little bit of knitting on my handspun scarf, and none on the other lace scarf... just too much brain activity required for lace knitting. And Maui is one of those places where you don't want to miss the scenery while you're knitting on something complicated.

This sock did make me realize one thing. I love trying new things with socks, but I also don't have the patience for sock knitting that I can't do from memory. I have a feeling it's going to be back to my old standard twisted German cast-on, dutch or afterthought heel and regular stockinette toe from here on out...

Tubular Sock

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Opal Rodeo 1153 Sock

Socks are really the ultimate in comfort knitting for me, especially when I am working with self-patterning sock yarn and all I have to do is knit in the round without worrying too much about anything complicated. Emma sent me this lovely sock yarn and it's bright happy colors have been calling my name since they arrived on my doorstep(it's Opal Rodeo 1153, you can see the other Rodeo colors here, if you're interested). I know I already have a couple of other sock projects started, but those socks are either not for me or have some pattern that I have to pay attention to. So I decided to go back to my old favorite top-down sock orientation.

Where I got a little "wild and crazy" was to not only do these top down socks on double pointed needles (a first chez Keyboard Biologist), but also to try a new cast-on: a tubular cast-on followed by K1P1 ribbing.

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The Tubular Top Up Close

I have to say, that I like this cast on quite a lot. It's a lovely stretchy edge and quite neat and polished looking. As with so many my diversions from my standard sock, I got a lot of help doing this from Lucy Neatby's Cool Socks Warm Feet. I know that I talk about this book a lot, but it really is a good book. If I could only own one sock book, this one would definitely be my choice.

This little sock project is going to be getting onto the airplane with me when I take a vacation to San Diego next week. I'm thinking a lace scarf project might also need to come along. Anybody got any recommendations for good places for a knitter to go in the San Diego area? I've heard good things about Knitting La Jolla...

Got Stripes?

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The stripes are just bustin' out all over on this blog and in my knitting basket where the man of the house is concerned. Not only did he select stripey (non-grey) yarn for a sweater, he made a pretty radical selection for his next pair of socks.

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Trekking XXL (Color 90) Sock Toe

Many of you may know that I hunt far and wide to find John the widest selection of grey and black sock yarn anywhere on the planet to select from. Since socks are the one knitted item that I am almost guaranteed to get appreciation for, I want to make sure that he never lacks for good choices in his favorite colorways. On my last trip to ThreadBear Fiber Arts I got a little wild and crazy and picked out the yarn you see in the picture above. Brown, orange and green stripes. But I figured if he didn't like it, I liked the stuff and it wouldn't go to waste.

So after I finished John's last pair of socks, I got all the manly sock yarn out of my stash and laid it out in front of him. And out of that pile of grey and black John selected the one skein that I thought he would be the most skeptical of: the Trekking with the brown orange and green stripes.

Since I enjoyed knitting Mariko's sock swap socks in Lucy Neatby's Bosnian toe-up sock pattern so much, I decided that I would use the same pattern for John's next pair of socks, minus the crenelated edges (something tells me that they wouldn't go over well on a manly sock). I haven't gotten as far as I would have liked on them (I have just finished the increase that gets me to 72 stitches around -- they're on size 0's and I'm getting somewhere in the neighborhood of 9 stitches/inch), I do like the striping pattern that I am seeing. I've asked John about forty-two times whether or not he will actually wear the stripes, and not only does he put up with my over-concern, he actually maintains that he likes the stripes and will definitely wear the socks.

I now have this secret hope that he might actually consider wearing them at the same time as he is wearing Fitzgerald.

I know, I know -- that's probably way too much to ask. And there is no doubt that such an event would likely cause the earth to start spinning in the opposite direction on it's axis. But a girl's gotta have dreams!

Spectacular Socks

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Beautiful Swap Socks from Stephanie

Are these not beautiful? These gorgeous socks come from Stephanie in Belgium as a result of a sock swap I took part in. I'm in love! I don't know how she knew that I was dying to get my hands on some of this yarn (I've seen other color variants around the knitting blog ring, but no one seemed to remember where they got it from), but she certainly picked the perfect colorway. (In real life they don't come across as quite so green...they have a more rich autumnal color quality). They fit incredibly well and are nice against the skin. In fact, I haven't taken them off since the photo shoot. It was just a little bit of luck that they would show up on one of the coldest days we've had so far this winter.

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Extra Goodies for Christmas

She also packed a few extra goodies into the package for me. A lovely black/brown marl sock yarn which will make a very sophisticated pair of socks and a very cool magazine with all sorts of great holiday craft ideas. I'm definitely going to have to dust off my French-English dictionary for this one.

Thank you, Stephanie for the wonderful socks and for making my day a little brighter!

Crenellated Socks Completed

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Happy Dancin' Socks

Fortunately, my trip back to Chicago was less eventful than our trip to Houston. Even so, I was able to achieve the one goal I set for myself for the trip: completion of the crenellated stripey socks. I am not sure whether these socks count as identical or fraternal. I thought they were going to be pretty close to identical until I got to the top of the sock. The measurements are all the same, but there must have been enough variation in the yarn (or my tension) to shift the colors a bit. Nonetheless, I still think they are pretty adorable.

These socks were made out of Steinbach Wolle Strapaz Ringel Color (on clearance at KnitPicks right now) in colorway #4 (no longer available from KnitPicks...I checked). They are worked at 8 stitches/inch on size 0 needles. The fabric is pretty dense, but it should loosen a bit when washed, and the density will provide better durability. The pattern is Lucy Neatby's Crenellated Sock pattern from her Cool Socks, Warm Feet book. This pattern is a toe-up pattern, which was a perfect fit with this yarn, since I just barely had enough to do this pair of socks with two skeins of yarn.

This was also my first full pair of socks knit on double points, and I gotta say, in fact, I am surprised to find myself saying, that I think I like my little double points better than I like either knitting in the round on either one or two needles. I haven't been able to quite put my finger on why. Perhaps it is because the project is more portable without one or more big circular needles flopping around? Maybe it's the nice warm feel of the bamboo instead of metal. It could be that I don't have to deal with sliding loops over the circular needle joins. I'm really not sure.

What I do know is that the first set of needles I grabbed when getting ready to start my husband's next pair of socks was that set of warped little size 0 double points. It must be love.

Cruel to my Tools

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My flight to Houston and the subsequent drive to Corpus Christi proved to be quite an adventure. Take one airplane and one rental car, mix liberally with bad weather, et voila! an adventure guaranteed to help you get more knitting done than you really wanted to.

We left Chicago at 11:45 -- about half an hour later than we were supposed to because of bad weather in Houston, where the plane was coming from. Continental did an admirable job of getting things turned around and getting us off the ground quickly, so we were still supposed to arrive close to our original arrival time, around 2:30 pm.

Around 2, the pilot came on the microphone to tell us that because of bad weather in Houston, we would be a little delayed getting on the ground because there were a bunch of planes queued up waiting to get on the ground. Next announcement, some planes had tried coming in, but there was bad wind shear, the planes hadn't been able to land. Then the weather deteriorated even further and they shut Houston down to all landings. No problem, we had fuel to circle for a while. And circle we did, until about 3:45, at which point the airport still wasn't open and we now needed more fuel. We were diverted to Baton Rouge where we sat until almost 5 pm. Once again, we had clearance to land at Houston. Once again, there were delays due to other planes, followed by wind shear delays. By the time we got on the ground, it was 6:30pm -- we'd been on one 737 for almost 7 hours -- and we still had a three and a half hour drive through terrible rainy conditions befor we got to our final destination.

Is it any wonder that my poor double pointed sock needles looked like this by the end of the trip?

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Poor Bent Double Points

Actually, I probably can't blame this plane ride for the curvature in my needles. I had no idea bamboo was so easy to shape! I guess this is more evidence that I am something of a tight knitter.

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Crenellated Sock Number 1

All that time in the air meant that I actually got the first of two Crenellated Socks a la Lucy Neatby done (including weaving in all the ends) right as we were landing in Baton Rouge. I followed her pattern almost exactly: Bosnian toe, Turkish heel, garter stitch cuff with picot cast off edge. I finished this sock with just a couple of yards of yarn to spare. Good thing the ultimate recipient doesn't have very big feet!

I'm so smitten with that little picot edging, that I just have to post a close up. How cute is this?

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Crenellated Sock Top

I like the toe and the cuff on this sock a great deal -- the garter stitch gives it a little extra stretchiness just where it needs to be. I modified her heel instructions -- I didn't want to graft, so I just decreased down to 6 stitches and whipped the yarn through them all to close the hole.

And I'm feeling quite proud of myself. I've already got the toe for it's (hopefully) identical twin underway and am starting on the trip up the instep. Hopefully I can keep that forward momentum going for the rest of my vacation and my trip home.

Happy Thanksgiving to Everyone Celebrating the Holiday!

About Time

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John's Third Pair of Socks

I'm rather pleased with how productive I was this weekend. Not only did I finish up Butterfly (thank you to everyone who left me nice comments -- after wearing her for a whole day at work, I just have to report that I am still in love, and definitely encourage anyone out there who likes her to add your own copy to your wardrobe) but I also got everything but the heel of John's second Pin Strip sock completed as well. Tonight, while listening to the news I got the heel taken care of and they were ready for him when he got home from work. I'm afraid black and grey striped socks don't model very well.

I was a little worried that he might not like them because they are mostly fraternal. But we had a discussion of hand-dyed yarn on Sunday, and that seemed to help the acceptance process -- that and the fact that they are nice and soft and warm at a time when the weather is getting a little colder here in Chicago. I'm not sure why, but it gives me such great satisfaction to see John try on his socks. Hopefully these will wear as well as the Opal and Bearfoot socks that I made him last year.

My goal is to make it so that John has a pair of socks for every day of the week. This is his third pair, so I've got 4 more to go! I brought out all my "manly" sock yarn (I think I've found almost every grey sock yarn on the market!) and let him pick out what he wanted next. I got a pleasant surprise when he picked this skein:

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Trekking XXL, Color 90

This may not seem like a big deal, but the presence of orange, green and brown all in the same sock yarn (that might actually stripe) is a radical departure for John. It also, by some magical co-incidence, was the skein I was hoping he would pick since I am very curious as to how it will knit up.

I am not quite sure what pattern I am going to use for John's next pair of socks. I'm thinking of going back to a sock with a Dutch heel, since that seemed to fit his foot better than the afterthought heel does (which is not to say that the afterthought doesn't fit well, just that it doesn't seem as snug on his heel as the Dutch heel on the pair of Opal socks). I'm also going back down to a tighter gauge. The fabric of these new socks seems just a bit too slack for me, and I am worried that they won't hold up as well as they could -- a real concern, because if he wears them like he wears his other two pair, they'll get worn at least once a week for some time to come.

Socks Soar on 4 Double Pointed Needles

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If there's one thing you've heard me whine about probably more than anything else on this blog it is my utter aversion to knitting in the round on double pointed needles. My first ever attempt at sock knitting involved double points. It wasn't a very successful experience (ladders, ladders everywhere) and after discovering first socks on two circs I decided that I would probably never purchase a set of double points again in my life. More than that, I decided that I would say disparaging things about double pointed needles at every possible future opportunity.

Ahem.

Never diss an innocent tool, Ladies and Gentlemen, unless you actually know how to use the tool.

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Toe Up Sock on 4 Double Points

Here to present you with my current serving of humble pie, is the toe of a new sock project. My problem with double points seems to come primarily from one thing: I wasn't using enough of them.

You see, my first sock project was worked on three needles. This one is worked on four. I know the picture isn't close-up for you to see, but there is no laddering going on here, my friends. None whatsoever.

What prompted me to go back in search of my inner double pointed sock knitter? Lucy Neatby. The quest for a beautiful short-row heel. And the nagging feeling that perhaps I had left an important tool out of my sock knitting arsenal. But mostly it was Lucy Neatby.

If you like socks, and you love to read about technique, then Cool Socks, Warm Feet really should already be in your library. I constantly find myself being drawn back to it. And not just for the patterns, but also for her excellent explanations of the hows an whys of sock knitting. The book is geared towards making nifty socks in self-patterning sock yarn, but most of what she describes can be applied to any pair socks. But all her instructions are geared to those who are happiest with double points.

And I am terribly lazy when it comes to converting pattern instructions.

So when this lovely tutti-fruiti neopolitan sock yarn arrived from Knit Picks recently, the first thing I did was pick up the book and look at all the patterns. I wanted to try something new, but not something too hard that required a lot of attention. The Crenellated Toe Up Socks seemed like a good option: I've never made toe up socks before and the picot edging on the cuff combined with the Bosnian toe and a Turkish (Afterthought) heel seemed like the right combination. I picked up a set of size 0's and got to work.

And while I won't admit to being completely in love (it's still early yet, and I haven't quite mastered the process of maneuvering 4 needles and the yarn), I will admit that double pointed needles are acceptable sock knitting tools. Watch out world bamboo stocks...

Mismatched Socks

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Yes, you probably thought that I was going to show off my trip to ThreadBear and the goodies I brought back. Truth be told, I thought I was going to be doing that, too. But I had a sudden burst of inspiration to finish off two socks that were only in need of toes. Or, rather, I needed a couple of projects that could be worked on in the dark while I followed John's Doom 3 progress. Thus, I polished off my Mermaid sock (I love the way she set up the toe decreases to maintain the pattern) and I ripped back and shortened the toe on John's Pinstripe Socks.

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An Unlikely Pair of Socks

John's sock now fits perfectly (I ripped back so that there was 6.5" of tube past the heel start and then did standard decreases until I got to 16 stitches at the toe instead of my usual 12). And I really think I should get bonus knitting points doing Kitchener stitch in the almost dark with black yarn.

But I couldn't sign off tonight having only talked about two mismatched, unmated socks. I just have to show a picture of something that came home with me from Michigan:

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Sheepy Magazine/Book Rack

When I saw this at my parent's house I just couldn't stop smiling. When Mom told me that she and Dad had found it while travelling through Michigan and just had to bring it home for me, my smile got even larger. How could I not love this sheep, complete with bell, that would be just perfect for holding a project or books and magazines next to my favorite reading chair? (You can't tell from the picture, but there's a nice open box between his fuzzy sides.) It's really just too wonderful!

I don't have room for a sheep in my backyard -- but now I have one in my house!

P.S. To everyone who asked me about the pattern I used for the Phil Ruban top. It's a pattern from the Phildar Ete 2003 book. I have no idea if the book is available anymore...

Clowns and Mermaids

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Mermaid Sock In Progress

Please try not to pay too much attention to my blindingly white skin or my lack of a recent pedicure. The only good way to show off the short-row heel was to put the sock on.

Lately, I;ve been taking a little knitting project to work. If the weather is nice, I take my yogurt and my iPod and go sit outside in the sunshine for lunch and nibble and knit. Today my Mermaid sock (from Lucy Neatby's recent book) went to work with me and I set up the short row shaping. Between lunch, KIP and a bit of Doom 3 observation, I managed to finish the heel. On double points, no less.

I've tried short-row heels before on 2 circular needles and haven't been impressed with the results. The double points did work better for this purpose, and might actually convince me to try them for a whole sock project. Lucy Neatby is right, 4 double points in the round is definitely better than three. Or, it could just be that a garter stitch heel is easier for me to tension correctly than a stockinette heel.

Were I to start from scratch, I would probably do the next size larger, but I suspect some loosening will occur when this superwash yarn hits the washer.

Now I am on the home stretch for the project. Or at least for the first sock. And I can't say enough nice things about this book, Cool Socks, Warm Feet. Some people have complained that she is overly-detailed and too focused on DP needles, but I think the detail level is great and her construction tips are very useful -- and it's not really all that hard to convert instructions to use 1 or 2 circs. You do have to read ahead and do a little bit more thinking than normal to get the most out of this book, but it is an excellent sock knitting reference.

Stripes and Reservations

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A Little Loose Around the Edges

Had a lovely night at the KIP tonight. It was a small but happy group at Letizia's. And it gave me the chance to finish up most of John's first Pin Stripe Sock.

Here's the first of the PinStripe socks. Evidence of both the thrill of victory and agony of de-feet. This sock fits well in the leg and foot portion, but I got the toe a little long (probably should have only knit 7 inches instead of 7-1/2" before starting the toe decreases) and the heel is probably a little baggy, too (U did a 6 point decrease and probably should have gone to 50% of the original stitches + 6 instead of 50% of the stitches before starting the decrease on every row component).

I haven't decided whether I will rip or not. After all, it is just a sock. I can make the second one a little bit shorter and with a slightly different shaping to the heel. Given the patterning in the yarn, these things won't make too much difference.

Of course, I say that now because I am a little bit tired of this grey and black sock. I suspect that my knitting "conscience" will get the better of me and I I will make the second one, be unable to live with the first one, and rip out the toe and the heel on the first one.

But you never know.

What will the weekend bring? I'm not quite sure yet, but it may be time to get back to the Phil Ruban Tank Top or my microfiber ribbon tank. I might even start something new...

Back, But Just Barely

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Lorna's Laces Pinstripe Sock

I've been on 6 different planes in the last 7 days. That's a lot more airplanes per day than I usually average. I don't hate to travel, I actually find it pretty exciting, but I do find that the process takes a lot out of me. Business travelling is a high energy process for me -- making sure I get where I need to go on time, accomplishing my mission and getting home without leaving anything important behind. After all the focused energy and the excitement of the trip, when I finally do get home, I often get a little bit of the "after party blues" going. My normal routine looks, well, routine.

That's kind of where I am now. Even after a day of being back in town, I still have this blah feeling swirling around me. It's compounded a little bit by the feeling like I managed to find a little cold virus somewhere en route to home. So I hope I'll be forgiven for not having much exciting to show.

In fact, the only thing I have to show for all that airplane time is about 6 inches of the sock I am working on for John. You'd have thought with all that flight time I would have had time to knit something spectacular, but I had to spend a lot of it preparing for things and getting caught up on some reading.

There's nothing fancy about this sock. It's knit at about 8-9 stitches/inch using Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock in the Pinstripe colorway. It's going to have an afterthought heel. Shepherd sock knits up nicely and has a nice smooth feel to it. I think I might have to consider some socks for myself out of it in the future. The best part for me, though, is that even though it has an odd bit of pooling, I've gotten the thumbs up from the boy that this sock will be accepted into his wardrobe eventually. Apparently manly coloration and wifely dedication to sock knitting have overcome his aversion to unusual pattterns.

(Actually, John's made me feel quite good about the socks I've knit for him. The grey striped Opal socks are in constant rotation since his building is a little too well air conditioned. And let me just say that Opal wears like iron. For as much as he wears those socks, you'd expect to see some wear and tear, but after a nice dunk in the washer, they look almost brand new. )

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Can A Girl Ever Have Enough Stripey Socks?

I worked on the second sock of this pair during most of my trip to San Francisco (I'll talk more about my trip to the west coast tomorrow, when I can take some better daylight pictures of the goodies I brought back -- we got in after midnight last night and I had an 8:30 phone conference this morning). Almost everywhere I went someone told me "those colors are so neat". Indeed, I am quite taken with the colors as well, even though none of these colors are really in my normal clothing color palette.

Recently I bought a book that I absolutely love -- colorWorks: the crafter's guide to color by Deb Menz (published by Interweave Press). I bought the book because I've been trying to understand more about color and about putting colors together. I like this book for several reasons. One, Deb Menz has a very pleasant, encouraging style that makes you want to get out there and play with color. Two, there are samples of color work in a variety of different craft media so that in addition to color, you can also see how reflectivity and texture affect the overall composition. Three, the explanations are informative and interesting without being pedantic. I'm trying to absorb and think about things as I proceed, so I am slowly but surely working my way through the book, but what I've learned so far has definitely helped me appreciate why the colors in these socks have so much appeal.

To explain, you first need to see a color wheel (I like this link because it allows you to play with tinting and shading as well as just showing you what goes where. For a more conventional picture with some additional discussion about color theory, click here). Color wheels are based on the principle that there are three primary colors (red, blue and yellow) and that all other colors are composed of blends of those three. Thus, if you thing of the color weel as a clock, blue might be at 12, yellow at 4 and red at 8. All the shades between blue and red, for instance, are blends of the two colors, with the spectrum being more red near the red "pole" and more blue near the blue "pole".

There are a variety of ways to come up with harmonious color combinations, and most of them are dependent on where colors are located relative to each other on the color wheel, (the depth of color also plays a role -- and colors arranged by color depth are referred to as "keys"). Color sets that go together are called "harmonies". Complementary colors sit opposite each other on the wheel. None of these colors are quite opposites. However, there is a something called a "split complementary harmony" which is a harmony that includes colors from three hue families. In this case, the orange, purply blue and blue, form such a harmony (in this case, the lighter blue falls in the blue role, but the shade of the blue has been modified by tinting the blue with white).

But what about the green? So far, I haven't been able to find a good explanation for why that green seems to work so well. Perhaps it is because, with the blue and orange, it is three quarters of a square tetrad harmony? (two pairs of opposites such that each color is equi-distant from the next) I am not sure. It is something that I will have to continue to explore as I read her book and as I go off and experiment with color on my own.

Deb Menz advocates playing with color and using these theories as jumping off points for exploration. The book comes with a color wheel and a set of cards to help isolate the colors from the different harmonies as wheel as a group of cards that explore tint and shading. The book provides the tools to test the theories and encourages the reader to experiment and get comfortable with thinking about color and the different components that make a color what it is. Which adds to the feeling that color is an interactive, not just spectator, sport.

Watch out future sweaters...

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One Is the Lonliest Number When It Comes to Socks

This really is the last knitting picture that I will be posting for a while (at least this week). It's the first of a pair of socks in Meilenweit Cotton Fantasy, colorway number 807. I started this sock while on the way to Maryland a few weeks back. It had been sitting on my desk for a while waiting for the toe to be sewn up and the afterthought heel to be added. Over the weekend I got that little project taken care of, so now it's time to get the second sock cast on and started.

Even though I would almost never like any of these colors in isolation, when you put them together, I find them quite appealing as a whole. I'm sure there's a color wheel discussion that I could bring to bear here, but it's late, so I'll postpone that discussion until another time, perhaps when I finish the second sock.

I did make some more progress on my project tonight. I now have one database that can almost be subsetted properly by category, which means that I can almost sort needles by the type of needle they are... i.e. straight, circular, or double pointed. Are there any other types of needles that I am leaving out of the basic category set?

These Socks are Made for Shopping

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Meilenweit Cotton MultiJacquard #405 Socks with Afterthought Heel

Yesterday was a very good day. One of those days that makes me tell John "I think we need to go out for a celebratory Margarita or two at Frontera Grill" -- for those of you who are still searching for the perfect margarita, you need go no further. It's the Blue Agave Margarita at Frontera. Shaken, not stirred, thank you.

As you might guess this held up my progress on finishing the secon MultiJacquard sock. But, at 11 pm, fortified by two margaritas, some awesome ceviche and some incredible desserts (yes, Frontera is one of my favorite places in the whole of Chicago to eat) I started on the heel. After all, I'm leaving for a major fiber experience, and a girl's just got to have a pair of new socks.

I'll spare you too much summary (mostly because I am still not completely packed yet and my plane leaves at noon) and say 1) Great Yarn -- I love it and will definitely work with it again/order more. 2) Afterthought heels with a 6 point decrease ROCK! This is the nicest fitting heel that I've encountered. 3) Next time I will use 10% fewer stitches (i.e. instead of casting on 64 I will cast on 56).

Armed with my new socks, I am totally psyched for a fibery adventure with a great group of people. What could be better than spending a weekend with Bonne Marie, Carolyn, Leigh, Claudia and Silvia?

The hardest part is figuring out how big an extra bag I need to bring to haul back my treasures.

Mermaid Socks

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The good thing about finishing last week's homework early and having my midterm next week is that I get to spend most of my time working on my knitting for a little while. I'm very psyched about having started this little project:

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The Start of the Mermaid Socks in Regia 5047

This is the first of two Mermaid socks from Lucy Neatby's "Cool Socks, Warm Feet" book -- a sock knitting book that focuses on doing creative and interesting things with self-patterning sock yarn.

I have to start off this post by being honest and telling you, that while I am a total sock fan, I am not a total knitting socks on double pointed needles fan. I do like this book, but I while I admired the patterns (and find her advice to be absolutely excellent), when I realized I'd have to translate everything from DP language to 2 circs language, I put it on the backburner for a while.

When I finished the first of the Cotton Jacquard socks, I decided it would be okay if I cast on for another, more interesting sock project. Initially, I thought it would be fun to start a beaded sock kit that I have. Then I decided that beaded knitting is not very portable, and for a little while I need my socks to be portable. Then I got to looking through Lucy Neatby's book again. All of her patterns have interesting heels and toes, so it was a chance to learn something new and do something a little more challenging. Since I had the perfect yarn for the Mermaid Socks sitting in my stash, I cast on and got started.

If you want an upclose look at a very neat sock pattern click here. The pattern is worked in garter stitch for the cuff and stockinette for the rest of the sock. The cuff was a little tiresome, but the body of the sock moves pretty quickly.

So far I haven't had to do a lot of DP to 2 Circ translation... but the heel is coming. It's a shortrow garter stitch heel, so I'm going to have to pay close attention to the instructions. This heel is very similar to an afterthought in that she starts a new piece of yarn for the heel, but the rest is going to be brand new for me.

This book has a lot of neat heel and toe and cuff variations. I have a feeling I'll be coming back to it more and more as I try new things with socks. Even if you're not a sock experimentalist, this book has great pointers and hints to help make your sock construction better, and to help custom craft socks for special feel. This book is well written and fun -- it almost makes me want to go out and buy a whole bunch of double pointed needles...

Palm Thoughts and Afterthoughts

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Wow! I had no idea there were so many good ideas out there for programs. I'm going to have to think hard about what the best course of action is. I'll only have about a month to work on it, so at least for my class I need to keep it in the "compact and achievable" range. Right now, I am leaning towards something that would help keep track of needles and projects, because this is a constant problem for me. But I think I am going to have to spend some time talking to the instructors about what is reasonable to think I can accomplish. I have a habit of biting off more than I can chew sometimes...

I'll definitely be posting here as I progress, though.

It was definitely a good weekend for me. My programming homework didn't turn out to be too terrible this week and I got it finished Friday night, which meant I had most of the weekend to play around with my needles. Sock maniac that I am these days, I finished up the first of my Meilenweit Cotton Multi Jacquard socks.

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Sock with Afterthought Heel in Meilenweit Cotton Multi Jacquard #405

I just have to sing the praises of this sock yarn! I absolutely adore the stuff. It's a 45% cotton, 42% wool, 13% poly blend. It doesn't have a lot of elasticity as you knit with it, but it makes a wonderful soft fabric with a reasonable amount of elasticity when it is knit up. I also like the fact that it has a very cool to the touch feel. Will there be more of this stuff in my future? You betcha! In fact, I've already put in a little order with my favorite enablers for Meilenweit Cotton Fantasy.

In addition to a new favorite cotton blend sock yarn, I also now have a new favorite sock heel. Take a look at this:

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Afterthought Heel with 6 Point Decreases

Instead of decreasing in the same way as I normally decrease for the toes, I followind Dawn Brocco's instructions for a 6 decrease point heel. It makes for a much more heel-shaped heel and there is no Kitchenering at the end.

You start things off just the way you would for a standard afterthought heel, by picking up stitches on either side of your waste-yarn marked area. Then you knit the first round, picking up as many stitches as you think necessary in the gap area. Then you count stitches and divide by 6. The only difficult part is deciding whether you are going to increase or decrease on the next round so that you can get to a number evenly divisible by 6. I increased to 72 stitches and then followed her instructions to set up a decrease at six evenly spaced points along the heel.

The result is a heel that really fit the outline of my heel. I was so excited about it I asked my husband to try the socks on, too, and they were perfect for him, as well (our feet aren't so different, and I like my socks loose, so this isn't as strange as it sounds) -- in fact, if the socks hadn't had so many colors in them, I think he would have decided that he wasn't going to give this one back!

Needless to say, I cast on the second one almost immediately after finishing the heel on Saturday morning. I'm about 3" done on the cuff of the second sock. I would have gotten a little farther along, except that I decided that I needed to start yet another pair of socks, which I'll show off when I get them a little farther along.

Not sure why I am so out of control with the sock thing right now. I have a number of big projects that I really want to work on. I think it might be due to the fact that I don't have a lot of time to knit right now, and I can see progress on a sock even when I am only knitting in short bursts, whereas with my Onde pullover 30 minutes of knitting hardly seems to get me anywhere. That, and my socks are portable enough to go to class with me. Heh. I wonder if my professor will be surprised when I tell her I want to do a knitting application for the Palm...

Somebody Sock Me

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I'm just squeaking it out for a Monday post. Last night I was knee deep in pointers and memory allocation for my programming class, and after a wonderful weekend with my parents, I just didn't have time to blog about my knitting exploits.

When I get on a roll with something these days, it seems like I just can't stop. Over the weekend I finished up my Opal Southwestern socks in 3705.

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Opal 3705 Socks with Afterthought Heel

These socks provided me with an adventure in afterthought heels. I do think that this heel style is rapidly going to become my heel of choice. When I don't have to remember heel turning information it's pretty easy to sit in class or on the train and just crank through the project.

Recently, Melissa (of Loose Ends) also tried out the afterthought heel. She was a good deal more scientific about it and got beautiful results. Her post is definitely a worthwhile read.

Probably the only thing I would do differently for these socks is that I would knit about 1-2" less from the heel waste yarn to the end of the toe. I'm going to measure a pair of socks with a standard Dutch heel to get the exact measurement I need to worry about for myself. These socks came out a tad too long in the toes to be considered an absolute success, but not too long to make me motivated enough to rip the toes back and repeat. It might not look like it, but I almost couldn't get thes socks on. I knit these socks very tightly knowing that the fabric would loosen up when washed. So the little bit of extra in the toes helps give them a more comfortable fit overall (at least for me).

But, of course, I couldn't finish one pair of socks without starting another...

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Meilenweit Cotton Multi-Jacquard 405

I really like this yarn. Not so much to knit with, but the feel of it after it is knit up. This Meilenweit Cotton Multi-Jacquard is a blend of 45% cotton, 42% wool and 12% polyamide. I'm pretty taken with the color, too. I think this yarn is going to make for great summer socks. I'm doing my "standard" sock -- cast on 64 stitches, K2P2 rib for an inch and a half and then knit in the round until the heel, pick a heel, knit to the toe. Nothing fancy. But I did decide to try something new with these socks -- sock knitting on one big circular needle.

I really didn't think I would like the one needle, thing, but it's actually turning out to be very easy and very convenient -- and I don't have a second needle flopping around, so I think it will be great for when I go to my programming class tomorrow night!

A Pair of Socks

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No, I didn't finish a second sock, but I do have two socks in progress. That's part of my solution for solving the "Second Sock Syndrome" problem. I'll knit one sock from a pair, switch to another first sock, and then go back to the second sock from the first pair. One of my dirty little secrets is that I don't actually mind the seemingly endless stockinette involved in knitting socks on size 0 needles. Going around and around is soothing, and I can knit while paying attention to something else. Like, say, a programming class.

Yes, I am a bad, bad disrespectful student.

I used to feel guilty about playing with my PDA in class or doing something like knitting. Then I remembered that I am the one paying to be in the class, and decided that as long as I am not hindering others from learning, then quiet activities are not completely reprehenisble (I understand that those of you who teach for a living might feel differently). And I have never really learned how to take notes when it comes to programming classes. It's mostly about listening and asking questions. I could listen, answer questions and ask reasonably good questions while working on my sock. In fact, I felt like I focused a little better because my hands were busy. Not sure how that works, but it does.

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Opal Southwestern Socks

After a little more TV watching tonight, I am now past where I have inserted the yarn for the afterthought heel. So now I am getting very excited about adding another pair of socks to my collection. Wish me luck getting this one finished over the weekend.

The other sock project in progress is a pair for John using the Esprit cotton elastic yarn from Elann (just like Cascade Fixation only a bit cheaper). I'm using Rob's very excellent (and easy to memorize) Broadripple sock pattern in the color "French Navy", a man-approved color.

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Start of Broadripple in French Navy

I've just started, but I think this sock should really fly. Size 3 needles feel like knitting with tree trunks compared the size 0s. John surprised me by not being disturbed by the waves and eyelets, so we both win, since he gets another pair of socks in a solid color and I get to do something interesting. I suspect this will be the first of several pairs of Broadripple socks since I have quite the nice little stash of Esprit

Bearfoot in the Park

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Finished Man Socks in Mountain Colors Bearfoot, Midnight Sapphire

Look what I finished tonight. Actually, about 15 minutes ago. I had a lot more yarn left over than I thought I would. I have another skein of manly Bearfoot. I think I will probably add an inch onto the cuff on the next pair. This cuff is only 6", and I know John would have liked them to be a little longer.

But static sock pictures are no fun, so John was kind enough not only to model them, put to put his feet up on my desk so that I could get them under the Ott light. Natural light bulbs are an incredible thing. It's not completely like getting a real outdoor shot, but without it, there would be no color visible in these socks besides black.

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Sock Model Shot: Still Not Sure About Short Rows

I'm still not sure about the short rows. You can see from the sock on his left foot that I didn't resolve my little gapping problem. Also, the heels also seem a little shallow for John's heel. I might try this technique for a pair for myself, but I think I'll probably go back to a Dutch or afterthought heel for John's next pair.

Although I think he would have preferred a longer cuff (he kept asking me if I could just knit up from the ribbing), I consider them a success over all. Even from his perspective. How do I know? After I took the picture, he wouldn't give them back. Looks like it will be a while before I get to fix that gap...

P.S. The KIP is tonight! Come and meet up with us at Letizia's on Division.

A Finished Bearfoot Man Sock

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One Down...

Even though I haven't had a lot of knitting time this week, I did have a chance to finish John's sock over the weekend. I would have shown it off earlier, but I wanted a real daylight shot that showed off the colors in the yarn better. I think this picture gives a much better demonstration of what this yarn really looks like. Dark enough to be man acceptable, handpainted enough to be knitter acceptable.

In spite of the success of the afterthought heel that I tried on my Opal sock, I decided that I would try out Priscilla Gibson-Roberts short row heel on this sock. It was an interesting thing to watch come together, and over all I thought her instructions were very good. But I am still trying to decide whether I like it or not.

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The Dream Sock Heel

To be fair, what I am actually trying to decide if I like is that corner area where it is always difficult to keep a hole from showing. I wasn't really successful with this sock (it would be easy to see if John was modeling it, and you can probably see how big and loose the stitches in that area look). Fortunately, it's also pretty easy to do a little inside work on the sock to shore that area up.

If anyone out there has done this heel before, I'd be curious to know how you get those areas tightened up. This was one of the first times I was thinking that it probably would have worked out better with double points than with my two circulars.

I didn't follow PG-R's toe -- I just did my usual simple toe. By the time I got to it, I just didn't have the energy to think through the short rowing process.

And of course, this sock did get a try on. John liked it a great deal, but gave me the sad face again and told me he thought it looked lonely -- and that it was getting warmer. So I've got the second one cast on now, in the hopes I can finish it before Spring has really Sprung into Summer.

More Man Socks

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I'm really surprised by the nice response I got to my little "afterthought" demonstration. I'm looking forward to hearing about other experiments with this heel type. It really is a nice, easy heel -- very suitable for a first time sock experience.

A number of sharp eyed people noticed that I had some yarn in the background of one of the pictures that I didn't introduce properly. (It's Calmer for Audrey and All Seasons Cotton for Rogue...). There was also some yarn that didn't make it into the picture. It showed up Thursday last week and I was just dying to swatch it up.

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Muench Bergamo in Phlox for Salt Peanuts

This is 17 skeins of Muench Bergamo it the "Phlox" color, ordered from Elann to use for "Salt Peanuts" a gorgeous little cardigan designed by Veronik Avery in the current edition (Spring 2004) of Interweave Knits. Isn't it a lovely purply color? Not too dark, not too light, I figured it would be a perfect color for the cardigan since it would show off the lace but still be something that I could wear in non-spring months. Its a very neat yarn... a 100% wool tape with subtle subtle color variagations. If you want a close up of this yarn, you can click here.

I was fondling this yarn with the intention of swatching when my husband looked over at me and asked "What are you doing?"

"Er, well, getting ready to swatch for a sweater..." I pick up the IK and open it to the page with the sweater and show him, "This sweater."

He gets a sad sort of look on his face. "You're going to knit another sweater for you? I thought you were going to knit me another pair of socks..."

Normally, John doesn't ask for too much. The last couple of pairs of socks have been more "if you knit them I might wear them" so I haven't really jumped to make him more (he's not unappreciative, just not that enthusiastic). Also, he's what I would call "color challenged" when it comes to socks. He likes dark, solid colors. The grey stripes in his last pair were pretty radical and he's been resisting all my attempts to convince him to try out some really nifty Koigu. A while back though, Rob sent me some Mountain Colors Bearfoot and promised me that it would be "solid color man sock acceptable". I was skeptical, but figured that if John didn't like it, I could find some worthy recipient who would.

I put the ball of Bergamo I was fondling back into the bag and sealed the tape. How can I resist a man who has actually asked for socks? "Ok, but what color?" I ask, and go to retrieve all the potentially man-friendly sock yarn that I have in my stash. What did he pick? This:

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Mountain Colors Bearfoot in Midnight Sapphire

"Are you sure?" I asked, having visions of an unloved pair of socks sitting in a drawer"There's different colors in that skein...

"I'm sure."

"You're not going to not like them when they're finished... I don't want to make you something you won't wear..."

"I'll wear them."

"Promise?

"Promise."

Of course, after I cast on and got the cuff and a few rows knitted, I checked again -- I figured he could still back out if he didn't like them. I still got the thumbs up. That'll teach me to ever doubt Rob's convictions about man-friendly sock yarn! So now that Mahjong is done, these socks have become my "relax after work knitting". Here's where I am so far...

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The Start of a Man-Friendly Sock
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I'm using Priscilla Gibson-Roberts "Dream Socks" pattern from an old IK -- it was one of the free goodies made available to subscribers of IK this month. I've never done a shortrow heel before and I want to try it out... however, the yardage in Bearfoot skeins is a little skimpy for your average guy so I may decide to opt for an afterthought heel just in case...

The picture above makes the color look very subtle and very man-friendly. If you want to get a better idea of what it really looks like, click here. It's still not wild and bright, but it's defintitely doesn't count as a black sock.

Afterthoughts

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Well I finally got the first of my Opal Southwestern socks in Color 3705 finished today. This sock is notable for being my first go at afterthought heels.

What is an afterthought heel? Well, basically it's a heel that you construct after you've completed the rest of the sock. To do it, you knit your sock as you normally would (it doesn't matter whether you do toe-up or cuff down -- for my sock I knit cuff-down). When you get to where you would normally make a heel, you just knit a row of scrap yarn and then continue knitting your tube -- either down to the toe or up to the cuff. It's a nice way to proceed if you're like me and don't really like to pick up stitches after making the heel flap.

It also has another distinct advantage -- it's very easy to take out and repair a worn out heel since it is separate from the main body of the sock.

So here's the process as I navigated it (with lots of help from the Socknitters Tips and Tricks and Dawn Brocco's discussion of the topic)

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Removing the Waste Stitches

Before trimming away the waste yarn, I picked up the 32 stitches on either side of the waste yarn. I like to do my socks on 2 circs, so what you see is the cables for my circular needles on either side of my soon-to-be opening. You don't need to do two rows of stitches with the waste yarn, but I found it pretty handy here, since it meant that I could cut yarn at the opening rather than carefully unlacing it. Sort of like steeking my sock. (And yes, I do know that I picked up one set of stitches backward... but that's easy enough to correct later).

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Ready to Get Started

Here's the opening all ready to go. Want to see how the sock fits on my foot? One thing that was a little different about knitting this sock was figuring out how long to knit the foot. Normally I measure from the back of the heel and knit to the length of my foot minus two inches. Without a heel to measure from, I used the same measurement.

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Testing Before Heel Addition

It felt like I had a little room in the toe at this point, but overall my guestimating wasn't too bad.

Once you join the yarn, you knit across the first half of the stitches until you get to the area between the two needles. I picked up three stitches here because it felt right, then knit across the second needle and picked up three more stitches. I think how many stitches you pick up depends on the yarn you are using and your particular preference. Three turned out to work just fine for me.

After that, I proceeded to work the heel just as if I was decreasing for the toe -- K1, SSK, Knit to Last 3 stitches, K2Tog, K1, repeat for the stitches on the second circular needle. Then I knit one row straight without decreasing. I repeated these two row intervals until I had 13 stitches left on each needle. (There are other ways to do this -- I just opted for the simplest way this time -- I'll probably get more daring in the future).

Before I Kitchenered it all together, I figured I should try it on to see how the fit was.

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Testing out the Afterthought Heel

I was surprised to find that this rate of decrease and shaping worked out pretty well for my heel (obviously the proof will be in the wearing, though). If you'd like to see how it lookw up close, click here. Pretty neat, eh?

All that was left for me to do then was to Kitchener the stitches together and give it one final try.

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Afterthought Sock Heel Victory

With the heel completely sealed, it was easier for me to judge the length issue for the foot. Probably for the next one I need to subtract 2-1/4 to 2-1/2 inches from the total length instead of 2, but in the great scheme of things, it really doesn't make all that much difference for me.

So, I have to say that this experiment was a successful one. I'll probably do my second sock the same way -- once I convince myself that I want to cast back onto those itty-bitty size 0 needles.

Top of the Week to You!

Of Socks and Swatches

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Opal 3705 meets Rowan All Seasons Cotton

Poor sock! I have been working slowly on it for what seems like forever. I took it with me to Columbus and knit a whopping four or five rounds. I do like working with Opal, though. You can check out the German manufacturer's site here to see what's current. PT Yarn distributes Opal in the US and you can check out their site for all the wonderful colors and patterns that you can currently buy state side. The colorway I am using here is 3705, and it's part of the Southwestern collection. I'm way into the chocolate browns and purples in these socks.

I'm trying something new with this pair -- an afterthought heel. Carolyn brought them up at our last KIP, and it seemed like a good idea since I am always wearing through toes and heels in my socks and this technique is supposed to make it a lot easier to replace them when they wear out. I'm working from some information I found at the SockKnitters site. I'm working my socks top down instead of toe-up, but I don't think it matters so much for the construction of this heel. The dark black yarn in my sock is where I'll be putting in the heel. I knit the black yarn across the back of the sock and then purled back so that I could keep knitting on with the main yarn without breaking it off.

Also featured in the above photo is my second swatch for Rogue in Rowan All Seasons Cotton. On 5.0 mm needles (US 8) I get the right row gauge (6 stitches/inch) but too few stitches per inch on my stitch gauge (4 stitches/inch). On 4.5 mm (US 7) needles I get the right stitch gauge (4.5 stitches/inch) but too many rows for the row gauge (6.5 rows/inch instead of 6). I tried doing a gauge swatch in the round on 4.5 mm and and it was much tighter than required (in both dimensions), so now I have to try another one on the 5.0 mm needles and hope for the best. I like the ASC a great deal -- it knit's up like a dream and is so soft -- so I am going to make this work. Fortunately, this pattern isn't an all over cable thing, and I have plenty of yarn (2 bags!) so if need be, I can modify it to accomodate the All Seasons.

I think though, that this is a sign -- my 5.0 mm AddiTurbo is currently working on my Dad's sweater. Maybe the knitting goddesses are telling me that I need to finish that sweater before Rogue will work out. So watch out Lo Tech, here I come!

Friends Get Friends to Knit Socks

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While I learned many many crafty things from my mom, my knitting teacher is a dear friend that I met while in graduate school. Judy started in the MD/PhD program when I started on my PhD and we did our doctoral research in the same lab. She defended her doctorate the day after I defended mine and we both saw each other through the process of going from being engaged to being unengaged. Yep, Judy and I have been through a lot together.

It was between unengagements (mine happened first and hers almost exactly a year later) that Judy taught me to knit. She and her fiance really helped make my transition to singleness bearable. Some of our nights just involved sitting around and watching TV -- and Judy knitting. Eventually I just had to know how to do it. And the rest is history. After I got into it, she generously gifted me with a small collection of Alice Starmore books... Aran Knitting, In the Hebrides and Stillwater all have a very special place in my shelves.

Judy was a great person to learn to knit from. First of all, she was very patient. She taught me continental style but I never mastered it while she lived close by. I was a continental thrower which was not terribly efficient -- but Judy told me there was no right way to do it, knowing that eventually I'd probably want to take it to the next level. Secondly, she loved complex sweater projects. I don't think I've ever seen her knit a project that didn't have multiple colors or lots of texture. It never occured to me starting out that I could knit a simple stockinette sweater. Finally, she's fearless about knitting and encouraged me not to limit myself by what other people told me I could accomplish. She steered me away from big bulky yarns. My second ever sweater was Alice Starmore's Grapevine. And, yes, it isn't perfect (I had a very loose definitition of gauge at that time) but it's still one of the most major accomplishments in my collection.

Below is a picture of Judy (a swing dancing, synchronized skating, research pediatric rheumatologist!) wearing a sweater that is probably one of my all time favorites. I don't know the name of this Kaffe Fassett masterpiece, but it's even more stunning in person than in the photo.

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Judy and a Fabulous Fassett Sweater

Pretty nifty, eh?

Judy came to visit Chicago in the fall for a conference and she and I spent part of the afternoon just hanging out with yarn. It was then that I learned something... Judy, knitter of fabulous sweaters, had heretofore never knit a scarf or a pair of socks.

Well. I just couldn't stand for that. So I let her go stash diving into to my stash and she came out with a lovely ball of Kitty (a ladder yarn like EROS) and knit her first shiny garter stitch scarf. I'm such a bad influence.

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Bearfoot Pheasants for Judy

Not too long ago I finished the pair of socks that I decided would be Judy's birthday present (her birthday is in October...I'm so not on time). This was my first pair of socks in Bearfoot Pheasant. I gotta say, this yarn is a real treat to work with. It's soft and shimmery and makes a beautiful fabric. Special warm socks for a special friend.

But you know, I can't just give a knitter a pair of socks... I've got to convert her over to the darkside... I've got to find a way to get her to knit socks, too. After all, it was just about this time last year when the sock bug bit me, aided and abetted by Julie and Emma. So when Judy gets her socks... she's going to get a little bit of a sock starter kit, too!

I have some of my own ideas about the physical contents of such a kit, but I was also hoping to provide some good web sock resources, too! I have a few of my favorite places (see my Links page), but would love to know about other good places to go...

Friends and Socks

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One Bearfoot Pheasant Sock

It was a lovely weekend for me. Weather wasn't so lovely (lots and lots of rain) but at least it was warm. The best part of the weekend was Saturday. The friend who taught me how to knit was in town. This year, for her birthday, I decided to put my knitting skills in gear and knit her a pair of socks. They weren't completed for her visit, but I did get to make sure that the first one was shaped correctly. She seemed pretty excited about having her first pair of handknit socks, so, of course, I got psyched to at least finish the first one.I completed the sock late Saturday night and cast the next one on this morning. I'm betting that her October birthday present will make it to her by Christmas. Much better than my usual record.

What was really fun was letting her do a little stash diving in my stash. Judy, mistress of the worlds most complicated Fair Isle and Intarsia sweaters had never knit herself a simple scarf! So I loaned her a pair of my straight needles and gave her some Kitty railroad yarn in jewel blues, greens and pinks. It was fun to share something with the person who got me into the whole knitting experience. Casting on a second time, dealing with dropped stitches, she knows these things are part of knitting. It's a lot of fun to knit with someone who's not afraid of mistakes. And by the time she gets back to Cincinnati I'm betting she's going to have a brand new very pretty scarf.

Meanwhile, I'm pretty smitten with the Bearfoot. It's a little more expensive than your average sock yarn, but it's a soft and wonderful yarn. If you know someone special who needs a pair of socks, this is the stuff to do them in.

I was busy with a few other things this weekend, and made a firm resolution to get back to Mom's sweater. Amazing how an impending visit can get me inspired about a project.

Pheasant Feet and Patridge Eyes

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Nifty Stripes

I was a little bit project promiscuous over the weekend. I flitted from the sweater, to a scarf, to these socks, thought about a headband for my husband, browsed some of my knitting books, and then came back to the sweater. When I needed some thinking time for the sweater, the sock popped back in my hand.

Normally I wouldn't bother putting up pictures of the front and back of a sock, but I thought the way these were striping was pretty neat. I was expecting some pooling from this yarn, but I didn't expect the lovely stripes that gently spiraled down the sock. Anyone else have this experience with the Mountain Colors Bearfoot? I'm knitting about 7.5 stitches/inch and have 64 sitches around.

Because I was doing the same 'ol same 'ol with the body of the sock, I wanted to try something new with the heel flap: the eye of partridge stitch. I found help with this online at Mare's site. I did the second variation exactly as Mare described with the two knit stitches at the end. The resulting fabric can be seen in the left-hand picture. Nifty, eh? I think it's a little more showy looking than the standard stitch.

The someday owner of these socks will be in Chicago this weekend, so now I have a little more motivation to get finished. I'd at least like to get one sock done so I can be sure my measurements are good.

I think I've decided to rip on the BullsEye. I like the suggestion of repeating it on smaller needles. I think that will probably do the trick. Not looking forward to ripping out that mohair. I wish now I'd put in a lifeline at the base, just in case. Ah well. I can still do it after the fact -- it'll just take me a little longer.

Croc Socks Almost Rock

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Just a Little Croc'ing

Cue up "Crocodile Rock". Friday night saw the completion of my Crocs. Here they are in their finished glory. They're fraternal, but its not something you notice too much given the randomness of the pattern.

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Reptile Feet

The only place these socks Croc'd in was the inch or so after the heel gusset. I suspect if I'd done the socks a little wider or a little narrower I'd have seen Croc'ing all the way. I cast on 64 stitches and got about 8 stitches/inch and was using US 1s.

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Croc'd A Little

Here's a close up of the area that Croc'd. I thought about trying some more of this yarn, but there's a lot of sock yarn out there and life's too short to knit too many pairs of socks that don't leave me excited. I've got enough left for a child-sized pair of socks so maybe someday I'll go back and try again.

On Saturday I got together with Julie. I got to see her new Lily bag up close. Both the one on her website and another that will be revealed later. It's a lovely pattern.

I did a lot of swatching while we were together. The results will be revealed as the week progresses, but since the Crocs were finished, the first thing I tried out was the Mountain Colors Bearfoot yarn I bought last weekend. Here's a better shot of the skein. The colorway is "Pheasant".

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Mountain Colors Bearfoot Pheasant

My folks have the occasional pheasant wandering through their backyard. This yarn is a little darker than in the picture, and very evocative of the bird and its colors. Bearfoot is a superwash wool, mohair, nylong blend and is just about the softest sock yarn that has ever run through my fingers. These socks are for the dear friend who taught me how to knit. She's a pediatrician and a dancer and a researcher and a knitter (amongst other things) and spends a lot of time on her feet. I figured soft warm socks would work out as a nice birthday gift. Of course, she won't get them until Christmas... but she understands that it's hard to put deadlines on knitting projects.

While I was sitting their swatching and watching Julie work on her second Lily, I started to think about a felted design that I've had floating around in my brain and on paper for a while. Initially I'd wanted to do it for Knitty, but then I decided that I'd have more fun doing the project and documenting it on my blog. I had the yarn skeined up. I had my pattern mostly written out and I'd figured out how I was going to deal with a few design elements.

Why haven't I knitted it then? Not sure. Lately I don't feel like I can be monogamous with any one project. There's so much that I want to do and try that it's distracting me from accomplishing much. That's an ongoing theme in my life: an embarrassment of riches that leads to an inability to progress. Just ask my PhD advisor...

So when I got home from being inspired by Julie, I wandered into my stash room. Of course, all my unfinished projects had something to say... Mom's sweater looked at me forlornly, Dad's Lo Tech begged for some acknowledgement, the little cabled sock that I started for John reminded me that it's only cold for a little while, and half a dozen skeins that haven't even been cast on reminded me how neglected they were feeling. And then there were these two skeins:

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Charcoal and Grey Beginnings

These two skeins represented my own creativity and somehow, at that moment, it seemed pretty terrible that I was shoving my own ideas aside for other peoples. Why was I afraid of bringing my idea into being?

I don't have an answer for that question, but combined with watching Julie's Lily, it got me motivated. This week I am going to work on my own design. Here's the start of the project I'm calling "Chicago":

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Invisible Cast On

I know.. not much to see yet. This is just the invisible cast on for the bottom. More and better to come.

Not Croc'd Socks

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It's a slow knitting week for me. I forgot to show my Croc sock completion from the weekend, so here it is now.

Apparently Croc'ing is very stitch number dependent. Around the toe and heel the yarn Croc'd, everywhere else, nada. At least the second sock is turning out the same way. Some recent posts on the OpalChatters list suggest that where you start in the ball has something to do with Croc'ing or not Croc'ing. I tend to believe it has more to do with gauge and number of stitches around. Could be both. Which end of the skein you start from is also believed to have an effect. Some knitters get a Croc'd sock and an un-Croc'd sock from the same skein.

I just wish they'd Croc'd because they would have been more interesting to knit. But once they're both knit up, I'll enjoy them either way. And I've got more Opal to play with. Should my next socks be Brasil? Or Southwest? Or that fabulous Bearfoot? Hmm...

I got two lovely books in the mail today: The Twisted Sisters Sock Workbook and Viking Patterns for Knitting, both from KnitPicks, both on sale. I'm looking forward to actually reading the Lavold book since there is so much interesting information in it.

My first copy of Interweave Knits showed up in the mail today, too. I'm intrigued by the Priscilla Gibson-Roberts Eastern European Footlets and the article on making gloves. Unusually enough for me, I do not like the Cable-Chic sweater in Silk Garden at all (I'm a Silk Garden junkie) -- I think it would look terrible except on the skinniest of people and at least in the pictures, that colorway is not very attractive. But that's just my opinion. Certainly I would have left out this sweater in preference to Annie Modesitt's lovely Morris Fern cardigan. It's not something I could wear colorwise but I still think it's gorgeous and wearable.

Not Croc'd

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Where's the Croc?

No progress made on the Holographic Sweater tonight. Got home later than normal from work (for good reasons -- we're prepping a completed genome for customer delivery) and then John and I went on our regular Wednesday date -- the best ribs in Chicagoland from a place called Merle's in Evanston. But it's a little bit of a car ride from central Chicago to Evanston, so I go a chance to work a little on my next pair of socks in Opal Croc 10.

So far I am a little disappointed. My socks aren't croc'ing. To see what they are supposed to look like, click here. To see what I think they are going to look like, click here and scroll about midway down. I'm doing my socks on 2.25 mm (US 1), and it looks like I am getting about 8 stitches/inch. Any looser seems like it would be too loose for comfort and wear. Ah well, they were just for me anyway. Strange stuff, Opal. Since 2 out of the 3 skeins of patterning Opal I've knit with have had some little oddities, I think I will be reserving Opal for knitting socks for myself. Regia seems a little more trustworthy for gift knitting purposes. I must say that this Croc yarn is a lot softer than the other two skeins I knit with, so I'm looking forward to wearing them.

But there was more than one skein of Opal in my life today. Guess what came in the mail for me?

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Yummy Yummy Yarn from Karine

This is 500 meters (200 g) of Opal Batikgarn in stunning colorway 3, accompanied by some very fab Regia Mini Ringel in color 5217 from Karine in Norway. The Opal is a little richer looking in person, the reds are a little less raspberry and more deep fuschia. It's a hand dyed superwash and I think it's destiny will be something that I can wear close to my skin. Maybe a hat and a scarf and mitts? It seems like it's a little heavier than fingering weight. Is that sport weight? I can never remember these things.

This was part of a trade via my trading blog (which I will be updating soon, I promise!). I sent her this Kureyon which she's planning on turning into a Booga Bag. I acquired all the skeins randomly, and never thought about combining into one project, but looking at them now, I think they go together quite well -- that rusty stripe is actually present in all three skeins. I'm looking forward to seeing how Karine combines them.

I'll be on hiatus tomorrow... John and I have to make a trek up to northern Michigan to say a final goodbye to one of my aunts who lost her battle with chronic heart disease and our travel schedule isn't going to permit me time to get a Friday post up. It'll be good to see some of my cousins who I haven't seen in a long time, but I have to admit I'm feeling a little guilty about becoming a weddings and funerals family member. Then we're going to drive back to Ann Arbor with my parents. Mom's going to help me get Culdesac finished up and a little trip to Knit A Round is planned. Lots of driving so I'll be taking the Croc socks my new stripey Regia and some of my unfinished scarves.

Have a great Halloween everyone!

Regia Multi Effekt 5375 Socks

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New Socks for Yours Truly

It's that time of the year again... when the fall leaves are almost gone and a keyboard biologist's thoughts turn to warm snuggly socks. I got on a rampage with the second sock of this pair. I started Friday morning on my way to visit my masters thesis advisor and finished by mid-Sunday afternoon. Self-patterning sock yarn just keeps my fingers moving! Today I got to wear two of my knitted creations to work. My new vest and socks!

I like the MultiEffekt. I am not sure it falls into the "masculine" category that KnitPicks claims (my hubster would have nothing to do with this yarn no matter how many times I told him it was masculine). I've got another pair of skeins in a blue/green/orange colorway that will probably see the needles in the not too distant future. I have a feeling that this winter I will accumulate quite a collection of handknit socks.

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Happy Feet in My Knittng Room

I've gotten so that I can't walk out the door without knowing I've got a sock project stuck in my bag. They're portable, and I don't have to think too hard about them. No sooner did I finish up the socks for John and I this weekend than I cast on new pairs for both of us. John's next pair is in olive green Mission Falls 1824 wool, my next pair is going to be some Opal Croc Socks (colorway 10). John's next pair is a radical departure for me: socks on double pointed needles! So far I seem to be doing much better on 4 DPs rather than 3. Of course, it could also be that I am just more comfortable with DPs now.

Since John's new socks are going to be solid, I decided to dress them up with a little simple cabling. If I like the result, I'll share the pattern.

Ever since Michelle pointed it out on her blog, I've been casting on my socks with the Twisted German Cast-On. If you're a tight knitter like me, this helps loosen up the cuffs so that you can actually get a foot into your sock. I like it a lot, but I always have to look at the pictures to get started.

With the exception of John's current pair of socks, I also do all my socks on 2 circs. If you want an excellent free introduction to this technique, you should definitely check out the CyberSocks Class by Sheron Goldin hosted by SockKnitters. It's focus is doing two socks at the same time, but it's pretty easy to figure out how to do one sock at a time from the instructions as well. I do my socks one at a time because it's too clunky for me to be carrying around two skeins of yarn or to knit from both ends of a skein. This excellent web class covers everything from casting on to Kitchenering the toes.

What's coming next from the sweater bin... well, that Holographic Sweater is calling my name...

P.S. To everyone who left me a nice comment yesterday -- thankyouthankyouthankyou! Nothing could make for a better day than to be wearing a new vest and to be reading such nice words in my inbox!

Opal 140 Man Socks

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Stripey Opal 140 Man socks

How about it? My first pair of mostly identical socks. Because these are for the pickiest (but most wonderful) husband, those stripes had to match pretty well. After all he's a software engineer -- and we all know what stylin' guys they are. (Actually, he has a new job where his title is "applications architect". Apparently this requires better dressing because now he wears khakis and other nice pants and button down shirts where before he got away with T-shirts and jeans. But a computer guy, by any other name is still a computer guy. First thing he does when he gets home is get's rid of the "marketing guy clothes".)

I finished them up while hanging out with Carolyn, Heidi and Elisabeth (I hope I am remembering your name correctly! It was great to meet you, I am just lousy with names!) at Letizia's. I was pretty impressed with Carolyn as she was carrying this huge (and I mean huge) cone of wool to work on her wonderful wintery ribby cardie (scroll down... it's the lovely dark green sweater in the middle of the page). I can almost handle knitting and decreasing and talking at the same time.

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Happy Man Feet

And here's the victory shot: John wearing his socks. He stayed up late so that I could Kitchener the toes and take a pic to post. And a big thanks again to Emma -- she gave me the yarn not too long after I first started my blog and inspired me to become a wild and crazy sock knitting woman. An excellent choice in colorway. I'm hoping it will be a step in a more colorful direction.

A Few More Boxes

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Back of Shadow Boxes Cardigan  Side View of Shadow Boxes Cardigan

Wednesdays are not a high productivity knitting night for me -- but I did get half of the next color interval done. Ever since my husband and I started dating, Wednesday has been our date night. In the past 6 or so years, I think I can count on one hand the number of times that we haven't spent the evening on a date. Tonight we went to Frontera Grill for margaritas and a little new job celebration for John. If you want a good margarita, Frontera is one of the best places to go. It's also one of my happy places.

I also got a little work done on my travelling project today. It was just nice enough outside so that I could sit on the grass and soak up the fall sunshine. This picture was actually taken yesterday, I've now turned the heal and am doing the ankle decreases.

Regia MultiEffekt Sock

The yarn is Regia Multi Effekt, 5375. I purchased it from KnitPicks a while back when Knitters Review posted the 10% off coupon and I just couldn't resist fall sock yarn. Supposedly this sock yarn is "masculine". But when I tried it out on my resident male, I got a raised eyebrown. Good thing I didn't buy it for him. So I guess the folks at KnitPicks need to think again. (BTW, when did KnitPicks drop the free shipping on orders over $30?)

Here's a closeup that gives a little closer look at the colors and patterning.

Regia MultiEffekt 5375 Swatch

It's such a pleasure to knit with Regia. I love how soft it is right out of the skein, and I am always intrigued by the patterning. Maybe another sock will be born this weekend!

Man Socks

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Manly Grey Striped Socks
Oooh! Grey Stripes

Here's the last of my weekend accomplishments: one of a pair of socks for John. Socks are my travelling projects and my "need a break at lunch time" projects. This sock has been worked on while on airplanes, in cars, and at the picnic tables outside my office. I hadn't paid much attention to it in a while because it was warm outside and John gave me a funny look when I suggested trying on wool socks in the summer. Then it started to get cooler, and he went and pulled out the blue Mission Falls 1824 socks I knit him last winter. So I figured it was time to get this pair finished.

When I knit for John, whatever item I am working on gets the prefix "man", i.e. "man" socks or "man" sweater or "man" scarf. This prefix is an abbreviation for "some very large item that is likely to be knit in a boring color and with some really boring simple stitch pattern that he could have bought at the store, but I wanted to make him something so I acquiesed to his desires". I always try to remember that something that he is going to wear is not about me, but there has to be some balance, somewhere, between what I would like to knit and he would like to wear. Little by little, he's getting a more adventurous, and I'm getting better at trying to find things that are interesting for me but not too disturbing for him.

This sock is knit in Opal 140 and was a lovely gift from Emma a long time ago. At first I didn't think it would pattern at all. Then it started to stripe. This made me ecstatic (at least in reference to the prospect of knitting two grey man socks on size 0 needles), but I got some very suspicious looks from the recipient.

John: I don't know, Treese, I might not wear that.
Me (casting suspicious look in his direction, knitting slows): Don't tell me these are too radical for you..
John: Well, they're striped. If they were all grey, it wouldn't be a problem.
Me (sighing in frustration, already knowing the answer, knitting stops): What's the problem with stripes?
John: Too much pattern.
Me (resigned, knitting starts again slowly): Too much pattern? Grey stripes are too much patterning? Okay. Whatever. If you decide you don't like them, I'll just give them to my dad.
John: Well, I didn't say that I wouldn't wear them, just that I wasn't sure...

This is a pretty good synopsis of every conversation John and I have ever had about something that might be knit for him. (It's not too far off from the conversations we have when I try to buy clothes for him, either). Fortunately for me, he's a patient, sensible guy who knows his woman just wants him to have warm, happy feet -- aided by her crafty efforts.

Still, he was skeptical about these socks until they got washed and loosened up and softened up a little bit. I do have to say that Opal really can't be judged until you wash it. It's a lot rougher in the skein than after a wash. I'm definitely glad I did this pair on the size 0's. It's a pain from the size perspective, but the nice dense fabric makes it worthwhile.

I'll be casting on the second one soon if Pebbles lets me out of her grasp.

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