Recently in Man Socks Category

And Then There Were Walnut Socks

The gambling paid off.  There are now socks:

20100223_WalnutSocks.jpgThe Specs:
Garter Rib Socks,
Man's US Size 11
Knit on US size 1 Needles
Sophie's Toes Cashmere Blend in "Walnut"

I had vanishingly little yarn left over, which actually makes me pretty happy because I always feel like I've done a good job when I maximize yarn usage in a sock project.  John has found them to be quite satisfactory... since he's worn them three days in a row.  I'll take that as an endorsement.  And the wear on them doesn't look to bad, either, which makes me feel good about this yarn and definitely increases the likelihood that there will be more of this yarn (Sophie's Toes Cashmere Blend) in his future.

I like this pattern stitch so much, I'm almost tempted to turn the Sophie's Toes that I got for myself into the same thing. 

But the best thing about these socks?  The model:

20100223_WalnutSockModel.jpgThis is what I got when I said "hold Daddy's socks while I take your picture".  Not the best picture of the socks but a pretty good picture of the kid.  She's now beginning to understand what I want when I give her knitwear and ask her to hold it while I take a picture.  And she was very excited afterward when it was time to give Daddy the socks.

P.S.  Thank you to everyone who commented on my quilt top.  Y'all made my day and just added to the warm fuzzy happy feeling I have from getting that completed.  Fear not that this will be the last showing of the quilt on the blog.  When the quilting is done and the weather is better and better pictures are possible, all will be provided.  

Sock Gambling

Enough yarn?  Keep your fingers crossed.  I really hate ripping and  re-knitting ribbing.

Walnut Socks

A post on a Wednesday.  Amazing, eh? 

With the start of John's foray into Mass Effect 2, I've decided to start another pair of socks for him.  These are in garter rib (which is a delightfully easy pattern to knit with given the satisfying results it provides) using the cashmere blend Sophie's Toes that I purchased a little while back.  The colorway is "Walnut".  I have never liked knitting with brown yarn so much!  Isn't the variation beautiful?  And I'm having a hard time seeing much in the way of noticeable pooling.    While I have a nice little cache of Emily's yarn in my stash, this is the first project I've started on with it.  This cashmere blend also contains nylon in addition to the merino content -- soft and tough.  Perfect stuff for the husband man, and pretty nice for the knitter as well!

(A few minor details for posterity... socks are knit on US size 1 needles and are 64 stitches around).

Socks that Grawk, Ready for Action

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.

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


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".

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.

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.

20081120_GetAJobSocksInActi.jpgWhen a knitter's husband loses his job at a particularly bad time for both the year and the economic cycle, what does the knitter think she needs to do to make sure he finds another one?

She starts a pair of socks for him, of course!

I know, I know, the world does not make decisions based on whether John has a new pair of socks, but to give myself something more positive to think about, I convinced myself that if John had a lovely new pair of socks to start a new job with, certainly the job would come.  Of course, they couldn't be just any pair of socks, there had to be some more challenging element about them to reflect both the challenge John faced looking for a job, and the supportive sentiments that I had for him.  At the same time, being man socks, they had to conform to John's standards for socks as well, so the design couldn't be too complicated, and the yarn couldn't be too out there.  The yarn also needed to be thick enough to keep John's feet warm during his downtown winter commute.

20081120_GetAJobSocksShapin.jpgThe yarn was the easy part!  It's Blue Moon Fiber Arts, Socks that Rock Heavyweight in "Thraven" -- just about as perfect a yarn as you could ask for as far as this project and John and the knitter are concerned.  The yarn is thick and warm, the colorway is subtle but still lovely and engaging. 

20081120_GetAJobSocksRelief.jpgFor the pattern, I decided to stay simple.  It's a toe-up stockinette sock until it gets past the heel, and then on each side of the sock there's an X and O cable -- my way of sending hugs and kisses along with him to work in a subtle way, since the element isn't very visible from the front or back of the sock.  To account for the extra stitches taken up by the cabling and to shape the sock better to John's calf, there are also two increase rows, one at the start of the pattern and one at the midway point (STR Heavyweight is pretty bulky for a sock yarn so it doesn't take many extra stitches to give you reasonable increases in circumference).  The cuff is about 2" of K2 P2 ribbing, placed so as to make the top of the cable look a little as if it is extending into the ribbing.

20081120_GetAJobSocksCuff.jpgThe socks have actually been finished for a little while now, but I decided I couldn't do a reveal until John actually accepted an offer. Yesterday that happy moment finally came (we found out he was going to get an offer for one of the jobs he was really interested last week, but it took almost a week for all the details to get nailed down) so the socks get to make their appearance.

I wouldn't let him wear the socks until the offer was almost certain. In typical, very sweet John fashion, he played along and once he got "permission" to put the socks on, they have been on ever since.   I think it's fair to say that he doesn't mind the cables, and he finds the coloration of the socks subtle enough not to be worried about the prying eyes of the sock police. 

20081120_GetAJobSocksStealt.jpgSo he's happy that he has a warm pair of socks that actually go with dress pants and I'm happy because there's a special little detail that I know is there, even if no one else does.  Definitely a successful pair of socks -- in more ways than one!

I love you, babe! I know you're going to rock the new job! I'm so excited for you!

When Darning isn't Enough

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.

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.

The Many Moods of the Mudslide Socks


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.

Mudslide Socks at Attention
Mudslide Socks at Ease
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!


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