Recently in Handspun Socks Category

Baby Socks that Hop


20081026_SockHopBabySocks.jpgIf there is any project that works up faster than baby socks, I have yet to find it.  Even with the little smattering of two-color knitting and the picot cuff and a little extra finishing it's not too hard to knock out one of these little socks in a distracted evening of television watching.  These socks are made of Sock Hop (handspun sock yarn from Crown Mountain Farm) and Shelridge Farm Ultra Touch -- leftovers from other sock projects.  The socks were knit toe-up starting with a magic cast-on.  They have a short row heel and a picot edging at the top. Aside from the fact that they are rather smaller than the socks I normally knit, they are otherwise pretty much the same general pattern as I use for my "standard sock". 

What's more fun, though, than knitting them, is watching the baby be excited about them.  Z had been watching me work on the first one, and both John and I told her that the socks were for her.  When I finished binding off the first one, I handed it to her and she walked all over the room, playing with her toys, refusing to put the sock down.  Normally it's a fight to get her into socks, but this afternoon, when I showed her the socks we were going to put on, she smiled and made it easy for me. 

20081026_BabySocksFromSide.jpgThis is my first mobile baby sock photo shoot.  It was too cold this afternoon to go outdoors with bare legs, so I let her run around her room and did my best with my new camera. 

20081026_BabySocksFromBack.jpgI think I was mostly just lucky that I got good pictures of the socks from both the back and the side (from the back you can see that I avoided the whole "jogging" issue in the colorwork.  I figured just placing the start at the back of the sock would be sufficient for a pair of little socks.

Z is getting better at listening to me when I ask her to look at me when I am taking pictures.  Actually, she's just exploding with words lately, and it's clear that her comprehension of both Polish and English is just blooming.  Every day brings more new things.  Not to mention the inevitable toddler use of "No!" and "Mine!"*.  It is very clear that she thinks of these socks as "mine".

20081026_HappyAboutSocks.jpgClearly I have another recipient of hand knit socks who really appreciates my efforts. 

*She's applying that "mine" word to a lot of things.  Tonight, I went up to John to give him a hug.  She walked up to us, grabbed his leg, looked at me and said "mine" and then tried to push me away.  Clearly we're going to be having words about who found Daddy first...

Wishing for Summer

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:

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.

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


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.

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.

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.

A Pair of Sloopy Socks

'Sloopy' Socks Brighten Up Chicago Saturday Afternoon

So here they are! My first pair of socks from my own handspun sock yarn. I know that by now almost everyone knows the origin of the fiber and the yarn, but for the sake of a complete record for my archive, I will mention that I spun this 2-ply sock yarn from some "Hang on Sloopy" hand-dyed superwash merino roving that I purchased from Crown Mountain Farms. The socks were knit up on US Size 1 (2.25 mm) bamboo double pointed needles. The gauge is about 7 st/inch and I cast on 56 stitches for these socks. These are pretty straight forward socks -- with so much striping, I figured I'd let the yarn speak for itself -- K2P2 ribbing at the top, straight stockinette in the leg (to 7" total) and instep, a short row heel and my standard 4 point decrease toe. Both heel and toe were decreased down to 10 stitches. For me, the fit is just about perfect.

Sloopy Sock Striping Sequence

The striping, as you can see, is beautiful and completely irregular. I must admit a preference for the wider stripes in the sock on the left, and it's clear that the first half of this skein was a bit darker than the second half. This has to do with how the roving is dyed. At the time, I didn't realize that Teyani essentially divides each roving into thirds, with each third getting progressively darker and having less white areas. This skein contained the lighter third and part of the mid-dark third -- I think it's relatively easy to see how and where those darker colors played out.

I've spent all day wearing my first pair of handspun handknit socks. They're the kind of socks that warm my heart and my feet. For me, there's not much better than watching my handspun yarn become part of the garment I wanted it to become.

Finished Boyfriend

A Bowl of Finished "Boyfriend"

Once I've got all my singles prepared, it's hard to keep me from wanting to sit down and ply them up. This was particularly true with this batch of superwash merino in "My Boyfriend's Back" from Crown Mountain Farms. I really wanted to make John a special pair of socks, and I really wanted the yarn to be ready by Christmas. So I fired up my wheel on the 23rd of December and armed with a bunch of podcasts, I plied up all 8 ounces. I could tell as I was plying that this yarn was going to be perfect for John. It had nice long stretches of color and there weren't too many bright patches or patches that might inadvertantly be misconstrued as pink. Most of it was dark and a bit moody and what I thought was just perfect for a pair of socks for John.

"Boyfriend" 2 ply Before Finishing
"Boyfriend" 2 Ply After Finishing

These before and after finishing shots are to help visualize how much a yarn can change from right after you finish plying it, to after it has a nice bath and a chance to dry. While in the top photo the yarn has been stretched over the niddy noddy a little bit, it still has that flat quality to it, even when you take it off the niddy. After a warm water bath with a bit of Eucalan, the yarn really comes to life. It poofs and contracts and gets some of the loft that you expect from a merino yarn. I let my yarn hang to dry, but I don't weight it at all. After finishing, it is also twist neutral (i.e. balanced).

One thing that did occur when I gave this yarn a bath was that I had a lot of red dye exhaust. Even after several rinses in cold water, I never got the water to run clear or even close to clear. I know that red dyes have a tendency to do this, and, as the wise Claudia has said on her blog, this is just the price we have to pay sometimes for beautiful vivid reds. However, I emailed Teyani to find out what she knew and to let her know about my experience. Of course, Teyani recommends sticking with a cool water bath, but she also told me that what's in your water may have an impact on color bleeding. Apparently, with her water, which is not city treated water and has no chlorine or fluoride added, she sees a little dye exhaust, but after a rinse it's pretty much stable. However, with customers that live in places with treated water, they often see what I saw when the dyes used were vivid reds or blues. Interesting, eh? So if you're an urban spinner of hand-dyed rovings, you may want to consider cooler finishing baths when working with intense colors, and you probably need to expect that you'll always get a bit of bleeding from the yarn, so you really want to make sure you wash whatever you make with the final yarn with like colors.

At any rate, I'm extremely happy with the finished product and it received an additional endorsement from the man who will be the recipient of the socks. Now all I need to do is finish up a few of my other projects so I can cast on for his Christmas socks! (Good thing I made sure that there was an XBOX360 under the tree for him as his big Christmas present, eh?)

P.S. to Rachel... "grist" is essentially a measurement of the number of yards of yarn per unit weight. In the US this is often measured as yards per pound and can be used like "wraps per inch" as a general means of comparing yarns or determining if one yarn can be easily substituted for another.

Boyfriend Bobbins


First off, my dad would like to say how much he enjoyed reading all the comments about his rocking chair. I think it pretty much made his day. I know they made mine. And the chair has a long and cherished life ahead of it. And there will be a few more stories to tell about it when the time is right.

In the meantime, I have more spinning to show for some of my blogging break.

Two Bobbins of "Boyfriend"

This is the entire 8 ounces of Crown Mountain Farms Superwash Merino in "My Boyfriend's Back". I divided it in half and then spun each half onto a bobbin. I love these capacious WW bobbins -- 4 ounces of single on each and still plenty of room for more! So nice for spinning up something for a big project. From what I can tell, the singles are pretty close to what I spun when I spun up the "Hang on Sloopy" so I'm anticipating similar grist yarn and yardage after I do the plying.

As with the Sloopy, this stuff was beautifully dyed and really a treat to spin. The colorway was inspired by a request I made for a more man-friendly dark red yarn. Teyani did a lovely job using several depths of shade of what I think is one red dye so that there are areas that are almost black. These dark areas really help to set off the brigher red areas, but at the same time, tone everything down and give it a more masculine quality. John took one look at these bobbins, nodded, and said "if it keeps looking like that, I could probably wear it".

Definitely an edorsement to go to the next stage with.

P.S. If you want to see what Boyfriend looks like when it's been plied and knit into socks, you can check out this recent post on Teyani's blog. Clearly John has good things to look forward to!

The First Bobbin of "Boyfriend"

The First Bobbin of "Boyfriend" Sees the Light of Late Afternoon

Right now I'm finding it a bit difficult to come up with interesting things to post about given that I am in the early-to-middle phases of a number of projects. The bobbin above is the first 4 ounces of Crown Mountain Farms superwash merino top in "My Boyfriend's Back". If you remember the last time I talked about this sock-yarn-in-progress the picture had a lot more light colors in it. I've officially moved into the darker regions of the yarn which is very red-black. When I last talked about this yarn, I mentioned that for this batch of rovin and my batch of "Sloopy" it seemed like part of the batch had a lot more undyed regions in it than the other part. Teyani left an interesting comment on the post which I think bears repeating for anyone who is interesting understanding why the superwash merino is dyed the way it is, and how Teyani and her Sock Hop spinners create the Sock Hop yarn.

Yes, the white is indeed intentional - for the purpose of making the barberpole yarn. What we do is to split the hank into three sections prior to spinning - light, medium and dark, and then randomly spin from each section, so that the lightest part is spread throughout. makes for some deep striping.

In this case, I just split the batch in half -- the first half contained the lighter third and part of the medium third. The second half (which I have just started) will contain the second half of the medium third and the dark third. It's my hope that this approach will keep my final product a bit darker and thus will keep the resulting socks on the more "manly" side of the spectrum.

As with every other time I've talked about this fiber, I am still very much enjoying spinning it. And apparently I am not the only one. If you want to see the final results of another one of the Crown Mountain colorways (one that I have in my stash and can't wait to spin) Wendy has spun up a skein of two-ply "Do You Believe in Magic". Gorgeous stuff!

Orange Rainbow

A Rainbow of Orange

This sock is the perfect color therapy for a very grey sort of freezing rain sort of day in Chicago. I love looking at it and drinking in all the orange. It reminds me of orange juice and orange popsicles and orange sherbert and sunny days and tiger lillies and clementine oranges. Clearly the second sock needs to be cast on soon. I will have no problem passing the time on the airline flight I have to go on soon.

After finishing this sock, I weighed it: about 40 g. I weighed the ball. A bit over 60 g left. So I got to thinking about what I was going to do with the remaining 20 g. Not really quite enough for gloves. Certainly not enough for another pair of socks.

And now that I have seen Wendy's wonderful knee sock, which reminded me of Cara's foray into Sock Hop knee socks, I know exactly what that last 20 grams is going to become -- the heel, toes and possibly cuffs for knee socks that I am going to make out of my lovely Say a Little Prayer Sock Hop Sock Yarn.

I know I started a pair with a lacy motif, but I seem to have drifted very far away from them, which suggests to me that the effort level has overwhelmed the fun of knitting the sock. So I think I'm going to rip out what I've started and cast on for a toe up sock (a first for me!) that will have orange heels and toes to go with the happy greenness of Say a Little Prayer. I just love how the greens and oranges of these yarns go together... it reminds me of a fruit salad with cantaulope and musk melon or that orange and lime sherbert that I always wanted when I was a kid. Colors of summer to keep legs warm in the winter!

Knitted Sunshine


It's pretty much been the epitome of cold, grey and dreary here in Chicago for the past week or so. We've had cold weather mixed with rain or cold weather mixed with grey clouds that, were it just a touch colder, I would swear were snow clouds. If you've ever lived in a place that gets snow, you'll know that the clouds just get this sort of look about them when they plan to drop snow. And the clouds I see lately, they have that look.

Good thing I've made my own sunshine.

Knitted Sunshine in a Sock

Here's the beginning of the first Sloopy sock. It's a soft, dense fabric, and the striping is what I'd hoped it would be -- wide and well defined. I've got half an inch or so before I turn the heel. I can't wait to have happy orange feet!

My Boyfriend's Back


Don't tell John, but I've been hanging out with my Boyfriend quite a bit lately.

Crown Mountain Farms Superwash Merino in "My Boyfriend's Back"

I'm a little over halfway through my first bobbin of "My Boyfriend's Back", another batch of superwash roving from Crown Mountain Farms. This picture is not entirely representative of the roving, because the bit I had just spun had a lot of white areas in it. I don't know if Teyani does this intentionally, but in both batches I have spun so far, half of the roving has a good deal more open white area than the other half. For stripey sock yarn, this is an excellent thing, because those white areas help to set up a lot of nice contrasty stripes.

What makes me most happy is that while this area has lighter red areas, it really doesn't veer into the land of pink. It maintains a sort of stately and sedate deep red color (I know, I know, the photo reads pink, but that is because the color defiition is a bit poor in this flash picture).. So far, this color has been mostly acceptable to the male for whom the yarn is being spun. Because he has bigger feet than I do, I decided that rather than spinning it up in 4 ounce batches, I would divide the roving in half and spin it all up as one batch (I mean one batch made up of two plys, not one single ply) so as to have one solid continuous yarn. I still have a lot of spinning to go, but I am already at that place where I can't wait to ply and see what shows up!

Big thanks to everyone who left supportive words for me yesterday. I am working on the socks, and the more I knit, the happier I get with what I see. My Sloopy yarn is like knitting with sunshine, and the fabric is firm but soft, so I think I will have a good and durable sock. Good therapy for the grey rainy weather we are getting in Chicago right now.



Why was it so hard for me to go from this:

Handspun Sock Yarn

to this?

Handspun Sock Yarn in Center Pull Ball

When I finished up John's simple grey socks, I knew I wanted to tackle some socks for myself. That seems fair, after all, a pair for him, a pair for me. I know, I have a couple of other pairs on the needles that are more complicated. But these are not projects that can easily be worked on in the car, in front of the TV, at KIP or while wandering around the Home Depot waiting for John to select just the right part for the gas regulation system that supports the beer taps in the basement.* I really do like to have one pair going that is just simple stockinette in-the-round.

But what yarn to use? I have so many good ones waiting to be tried out, including my handspun Hang on Sloopy. But every time I would go into my fiber room to think about putting it on my swift and making that center pull ball, I would pick up the skein, squeeze it, and get this angstful feeling. I'd put it back down and the cycle would start all over again. It took a good many repeats of this cycle before I actually overcame my anxiety and put the skein (on the right in the first picture) on the swift.

As I write, I am still not sure why. I have knit with my handspun before, and the feeling of moving it into a form I could knit from was exciting rather than filled with trepidation. The only thing I can think of is that I consider this to be the best yarn I have ever spun. It is balanced and even, both in twist and in ply. It has a delightful color, and in the second skein (the one that became the ball) I know it will have pleasantly long stripes. And I am about to turn it into socks. Something that will be loved, but will ultimately wear out. I am committing my best spinning effort to date, a milestone yarn, to an imperminant garment. And not even a complicated garment, but just a simple pair of stockinette socks.

One thing I've come to learn about knitting with my own handspun is that I feel a much stronger committment to this yarn than to the yarn I buy at a store. It has become very important to me to turn my handspun yarns into garments that are well made and meaningful. And as I started to cast on for my simple socks, I realized that sometimes the perfect way to highlight striping is simple stockinette. And who could possibly appreciate a slipping into a pair of my handknit handspun happy orange socks on a cold Chicago morning more than I could? So while the garment may not be permanent, the memories and good feelings of having something from my own hands will be.

And what better excuse could I have for learning how to darn socks?

*Yes, you heard me correctly, beer taps in the basement. My home brewing husband has taken his hobby to new levels, and now the Den of Great Manliness includes not only popcorn and hot dog poppers and an impressive home theatre, but taps for 5 brews. All of which he has filled with a home brew right now. Who would have thought that his birthday present in June would lead to 25 gallons of decent homebrewed beer in my basement?