Socks: Letting the Yarn Speak

I love knitting socks. I caught the bug a few years ago, and since then I’ve knit quite a few pairs of them. I’ve also acquired quite a large number of skeins and balls of sock yarn in all sorts of colours and fibres. They are the perfect impulse buy – pretty, soft, and useful because 100 grams will make a pair of socks. The hard part is deciding which pattern to make with which yarn.

Veil of Rosebuds socks 9

A while ago I bought a copy of the The Knitter’s Book of Socks by Clara Parkes. It has a lot of very interesting information about yarn, specifically yarn for making socks. I learned a lot about the properties of different fibres and how to make the best use of them. When I decided to make socks with some yarn containing both wool and silk, I chose a pattern written specifically for yarn with silk in it – Veil of Rosebuds by Anne Hanson. The pattern stitch is really stretchy.

Veil of Rosebuds socks  2

My gauge using the 2.25 mm needles specified in the pattern was tighter than the designer’s, so I decided to make the large size. In retrospect, I realized that I didn’t need to do that. The stretchiness of the lace pattern stitch would have made the medium size fit my size 7.5 foot well. However, even in the large size they fit well enough. I modified the pattern by knitting a heel with flap and gusset, instead of a short row heel.

The yarn is Jawoll Silk by Lang Yarns. It contains 55% wool, 25% nylon, and 20% silk, and is very nice to work with. The ball came with a spool of nylon reinforcing thread that I didn’t use. The unhappy surprise was that the 100 gram weight of the ball included the weight of the reinforcing thread. The yarn itself weighed only 93 grams. That was still enough for me to make a pair of socks, but it could be an issue for people with bigger feet.

For my next pair, I grabbed a ball of self-striping yarn by Schoeller+Stahl called Fortissima Socka Mexiko Color. This time the yarn demanded making a very simple sock – it’s just too busy for much else. I knit this one on 2.25 mm needles, with a cuff of 3×3 ribbing, and a flap heel. Bright and cheery, aren’t they?

Basic sock in Fortissima 1

the details:

First Pattern: Veil of Rosebuds by Anne Hanson, from The Knitter’s Book of Socks by Clara Parkes

Yarn: Jawoll Silk by Lang Yarns (55% wool, 25% nylon, and 20% silk) in colour 130.0098

Needles: 2.5 mm for cuffs, 2.25 mm for the rest.

Sock size: large

Modifications: replaced short-row heel with a heel flap and gusset

Second Pattern: Basic cuff-down socks in stockinette stitch, 66 stitches, with 3×3 ribbing and a heel flap and gusset heel

Yarn: Fortissima Socka Mexiko Color by Schoeller+Stahl (75% wool, 25% nylon) in colour 24 Lilac Brown.

Needles: 2.5 mm for cuffs, 2.25 mm for the rest.

Sock size: medium

Double the Fun

The 2014 Winter Games have come and gone, and once again I participated in the Ravellenic Games on Ravelry. I’ve joined in during previous Olympics, but never finished the projects I chose to work on. This time I decided to focus on learning a new knitting technique – double-knitting. I’ve been wanting to try this for a long time, but just never made the time to do so. I chose two simple patterns, and made two pot holders/trivets out of two colours of worsted-weight cotton yarn.

DK Pot Holders

Double-knitting is a type of colourwork in which both sides of the finished product are right sides, and the two colours are reversed on each side. When knitting, you work in pairs of stitches, and knit with one colour for the side facing you, and purl with the other for the side facing away.

The first pattern I chose was TPHPE, by Heather Zoppetti. It’s a pretty snowflake design. I used some cotton yarn that had been in my stash for a few years.

Snowflake pot holder side 1

Snowflake pot holder side 2

Before starting, I watched some videos on youtube to learn how to work in double-knitting. I found a couple of good ones by Alasdair Post-Quinn, author of the book Extreme Double-Knitting, that he made to go with an article in the Winter 2009 issue of Twist Collective. One is for casting on for double-knitting, and another is for double-knitting. The cast on method is a variation of the long tail cast on that alternates between the two colours of yarn. I started by making a slip knot holding both yarns together, but I didn’t put the slip knot on the needle. Instead, I held it below and next to the needle while casting on the stitches. Once the stitches were cast on I undid the slip knot, so that it was not a part of the cast on edge. Another thing of note was this: although I normally do a long-tail cast on over two needles held together, for this technique I did it over a single needle. This helped the cast on edge remain tidy once the knitting started.

cast on edge

Working in double-knitting was a bit challenging because I knit in the English style (holding the yarns in my right hand), and most of the videos I watched showed knitters working in the Continental style (holding the yarns in the left hand). I found that wrangling the two yarns was tricky. I really found myself wishing that I owned a yarn stranding guide for my right index finger, to keep the two yarns where I wanted them.

Snowflake--progress-c_04

The edges of a double-knit project require a bit of special care in order to keep the two sides firmly together. In this pattern, that was accomplished by starting each row by slipping the first two stitches together knit-wise, and ending the row by purling the last two stitches together. This gave a very nice braided appearance to the side edges. The only downside to this technique was that the sides tended to be pulled a bit shorter than the body of the pot holder. That was mostly fixed by stretching the side edges during blocking .

side edge

To bind off I used a regular knitted bind off, working in the same manner as the double-knitting: knit a stitch with the front-facing colour, bring yarn to front and purl a stitch with the back-facing colour, then pass the first stitch on the right-hand needle over the second stitch (one stitch remains on needle). Bring yarn to back and knit the next stitch, then pass the first stitch over it. This was repeated until one stitch remained on the right-hand needle. Then both yarns are pulled through the loop of the last stitch to finish it off.

bind off edge

I finished this pot holder in a week, so with time remaining in the Olympic schedule I started a second one. The pattern I chose next was Coffee and Tea DK Pot Holders, by Elizabeth Evans.

Coffee Cup pot holder side 1

Coffee Cup pot holder side 2

I used the same cast on and bind off that I used for the first pot holder. For the side edges of this one I didn’t do anything special other than being sure to bring the yarn of the first knit stitch under and around the other yarn so that they were twisted together the same way each time. The side edges have a different appearance because of this – still tidy but without the braided look.

side edge 1

side edge 2

This was a fun technique to learn. I made some mistakes along the way that required tinking back. It took a bit of practice to remember the direction in which to read the chart for each row of knitting, and which chart colour was background and which was foreground for each side. Reading the knitting took some practice, too, because of the dual nature of double-knitting. But after two pot holders I feel confident that I could tackle something bigger and more complex.

The details:

The Snowflake pattern is TPHPE, by Heather Zoppetti

The Coffee cup pattern is Coffee and Tea DK Pot Holders, by Elizabeth Evans

The blue yarn is S.R. Kertzer CoolSpun Cotton Solid in colour 9026 light blue (a worsted weight yarn that is no longer available)

The beige yarn is Bernat Handicrafter Cotton Solids in colour 00085 (a worsted weight yarn)

Amount used:

The snowflake pot holder used about 23 g of each colour of yarn. The finished pot holder weighs 46 g.

The coffee cup pot holder used about 27 g of each colour of yarn. The finished pot holder weighs 53 g.

needles used for both: 4 mm (US 6) straight needles

Fall Flies Shawl

I’m still working on the Crooked Rail Fence quilts, getting them ready for quilting. Right now I’m busy cleaning up the back of the first one, before I sandwich the layers and baste them together. I’m afraid that the slightly rough handling of the strips when I was mixing them up for random piecing has created a lot of loose threads and fraying. There are too many strips of dark and light next to each other to skip this step, so I am carefully trimming away all of those loose bits, while trying not to be too perfectionist about it.

cleaning the back of the quilt

In the meantime, I finished knitting my version of the Summer Flies shawl, from the pattern by Donna Griffin. I’m calling it Fall Flies for the rusty autumn colours of the yarn. I started knitting this on the train to Rhinebeck in October of last year, and worked on it through the following months, setting it aside now and then for some Christmas knitting.  I modified it quite a bit, not only adding more repeats of the patterning, but increasing the depth of each pattern section as I went along. I also used a fingering weight yarn instead of a worsted weight, and a smaller needle to create a more dense fabric.

Here is the finished shawl before blocking.

before blocking

And here it is while blocking. I just love how lace opens up when it’s blocked.

blocking

And here is the finished shawl:

Fall Flies shawl front

I’m very happy with how it turned out.

Fall Flies shawl back

The details:

Pattern: Summer Flies, by Donna Griffin (ravelry link)

Yarn: Gedifra Fashion Trend Sportivo in colour 5721 (no longer being made, but it’s a fingering weight sock yarn with a subtle self-striping variegation)

Needle size: 4.0 mm

Modifications: I added more rows of eyelets and butterflies, and more rows to the openwork section at the bottom.

Finished size: wingspan 109 cm (43”), depth 51 cm (20”)