Double, Double Toil and Trouble -Two at a Time Socks

I definitely didn’t win the lottery last night, so I’m on the road again and stashed in the travel gear is a sock project, my ever faithful travel partner…well…as long as the pattern is simple enough.

There’s a set at home that are in the UFO (unfinished object) cabinet that requires 6 pages of cable charts.  Those are NOT good travel partners.  Having neglected knitting virtually all summer I got a wild hair to work up a quick, simple pair based on the Time Traveler Socks (simple toe up – Fleegle heel) , before jumping back into Area 51 – the unfinished object cabinet – to finish a sweater, two tops, multiple shawls, the complicated socks, a blanket, and a few stuffed animals.  Yeah, I know, I might have a problem.  A lot of those projects were left over from when I was teaching on a more regular basis and as the class ended they went on the back burner to finish at a later date as time allowed.  My gut hunch…this winter is actually going to feel like winter with appropriate weather to stay home on cold days and catch all this stuff up.

So….those socks.

I had kidnaped a friend from a car dealership while her car was in for a bunch of regular maintenance and we just played the day by ear until the car was ready to go. Both of us being craft nerds found ourselves in Yarn Junkies in Hoschton, GA. We didn’t plan on going to a yarn shop…it just happened…money was spent, it happens, despite swearing I wouldn’t buy any more for at least a year.   Yarn Junkies is a well stocked shop with a good selection, and on the new arrivals wall, I saw a box with two balls of yarn.  Attention grabbed!  It was Uneek Sock hand-dyed self-striping sock kit by URTH designed to make two matching socks.  I’m lazy when it comes to matching stripes, if the yarn doesn’t do this magic trick on it’s own I’m not bothered with it.  The shop only had two boxes left in two different color ways.  I did notice something immediately though, the sample photo on the boxes does not seem to remotely match actual colors of the yarn.  I picked up sock kit 59 which shows yellow, black, purple, red, grey and maroon striping on both the packaging and the URTH website.  The colors actually in the box were purple, black, mustard, lilac, rust, and green.  My friend, purchased the second kit, and it had very different colors than the indicated photo as well.  From a review standpoint, this would be a huge turnoff if I had ordered yarn offline and received colors so vastly different, but coming straight from a shop and seeing what I was actually purchasing didn’t cause a bother.  The yarn itself is soft enough to be comfortable on one’s feet, but has enough nylon included that it should wear well for quite a while.  The quality of the Uneek lines have improved under the URTH brand name, but I’m still curious about the link between URTH and Feza, but that’s some research for another day.

pCaxb63hRN6uKjaNol96PASince these kits were split into two even balls of yarn, I thought it would be a good time to try knitting two socks at a time using the magic loop technique.  I’ve seen it done a few times, and get the logic, but oddly enough have never tried it, which is a little surprising since I have experienced Second Sock Syndrome on a few patterns.  There’s quite a few videos out there explaining the technique and how to start, this is one of the few times I’m going to let you find a video instructor that works best for you (until I get around to making a video – wink wink).

My friend and I both picked up Size 1, 40″ circular needles and headed off to go cast-on until the car was ready.

So how’s it going?

So far, so good.  Cast-on, and the first two or three rows were a little odd getting started with a toe up pattern. I would imagine this would be an issue with any experienced knitter but one that can be worked through with a little patience and practice.   Let’s be honest, the beginning of a single sock, on either circulars or double pointed needles can be a bit fiddly.  I used Judy’s Magic Cast-On.  I set up sock one, and then tied a very simple knot with the working yarn and the tail to keep sock one from running away while I set up sock two.

Eventually, you’ll fall into a rhythm with managing two separate balls of yarn and having two separate parts going at the same time.  I thought a 40″ cable would be overkill, but it does allow ample room to manage both socks without risk of sliding your project to the very end of the cable loop and loosing that divide between the front half and back half of the sock.

Even the most simple of sock pattern will require just a touch more attention, once you accidentally forget to drop the yarn from the first sock, and knit it into the second sock and realize you’ve begun to knit the crotch of tights instead of separate socks, you probably won’t make that mistake again.  The technique will begin to feel like you’ve done it a thousand times after you get a an inch or so into it.

For the heel in this case, I will have to work one heel completely and then slide over to sock two and complete that heal, I don’t see a logical way to work my favorite heel without having to move unworked stitches around from one side to another on every pass.  I could, it would insure 100% consistency in this case, but personally, I’m not sweating it.  As long as the the foot, and leg are even, I’m happy.

At least there are a few obvious benefits to taking the wee bit more effort to manage two socks at a time.

  • No Second Sock Syndrome! You’ll either have a pair at the end of this process, or you just won’t.  LOL
  • Row counts and measurements will be consistent between both socks, which should eliminate a lot of time measuring or counting between the traditional one at a time process.
  • Did I mention no Second Sock Syndrome?
  • Gauge will be more consistent between the two – there’s been an odd occasion or two that a second sock has been a half to full stitch off on gauge no matter what I do.  Same needles, same yarn, just slightly different.  It’s not greatly impacted fit for me, but it can be frustrating when you can see a slight size difference, especially if you’re gifting a pair.
  • If you make a change in a pattern you can carry it right over to the second sock then – you know – just in case you forget to write it onto your pattern (cough, cough, guilty, cough)
  • And again, no Second Sock Syndrome

If you’ve not given two socks at a time a shot, get experimental on your next pair.  If the magic looping two socks at a time doesn’t work for you, throw one sock on a stitch holder and work one at a time.  No harm done.

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Hand Knitted Socks Demystified

I’m in the middle of teaching a sock class this month, so it’s a good time to bring up socks.

There seem to be two projects that scare the living beejeebus out of knitters; sweaters and socks until they conquer their first ones. It’s understandable, they look a little intimidating at first, never mind the fact there are literally hundreds of thousands of patterns for each out there, and for socks there are at least 12 different types of heel construction and just as many toe shapes. No wonder why even some very experienced knitters won’t go near socks.

Here’s the official pep talk. Can you do a knit stitch? Yes. Can you do a k2tog? Yes. Can you do an SSK? Yes. Then guess what? You can knit socks!

It’s time to suck it up, pick out a ball of sock yarn and needles and get over it. Your feet will thank you!

All socks have the same parts, although there is some variation in construction. There is the cuff; usually made with a few inches of 2×2 ribbing. The leg; the tube portion that travels down the leg to the ankle. The heel; this is where the leg turns 90 degrees to accommodate your heel and ankle. The foot; the tube that goes from ankle to roughly the middle of the ball of your foot. Lastly, there’s the toe; where stitches are decreased to accommodate those odd little nubby bits that are at the end of your foot.

Most socks are constructed one of two ways, you either start at the toe of the sock and work your way up to the cuff (toe up), or the exact opposite direction, cuff to toe (top down). This is another one of those personal preference choices. I use both but prefer toe up. Top down usually comes into play when I’m using specific yarns that have some sort of matching technology. Yes, there are totally sock yarns out there that will help you make matching socks faster if that’s your cup of tea.

Socks can be knitted using circular needles by using the magic loop method, or by using double pointed needles (DPNs). I encourage people to try using both needle types to see what works best for you. Make your first pair using one needle type, then yes, start a second pair using the other. Personally, I dislike magic loop and love double pointed needles, but it’s different for every knitter.

Most needle size recommendations will range from 0 – 2 for typical sock weight patterns. If you decide you love sock knitting, you’ll likely find a needle size that works the best for you and stick with it for most basic sock patterns.

Your yarn choice for your first pair of socks is important! As tempting as it is to pick up a $3-5 ball off the shelf at the local chain craft store, I’m going to beg you not to. Many of these brands are splitty, or have a higher than needed acrylic/nylon/other unnatural fiber content making them slick and harder to knit, not something I would recommend for a first sock. I recommend a high Superwash wool (washer dryer friendly) content 70% or better. I can hear a few people mumbling now. Doesn’t she hate non-natural fibers? For the most part yes, I hate plastics in my yarns but there are exceptions to be made, it’s either a very pretty yarn, or it’s for socks. A bit of nylon, polymide, plastic by any other name, will make your socks more durable. My all time favorite sock yarns are made by Regia, their blends make great wool socks that I wear year round. Other recommendations include, Cascade Heritage and Happy Feet, Zauberball, Berroco Comfort Sock, and any of the Supersocke 4 ply yarns. Color can make a huge difference. Think lighter colors for your first pair, you’ll want to clearly see every stitch.

You have your yarn, picked your needles…moving forward.

Measurements!

Break out that measuring tape, you are about to get up close and personal with your tootsies. The two most important measurements you will need are the width and length of your foot.

For length, you will need to start of the center, back of your heel and pull the tape to the end of your big toe. If you have flat feet that spread forward when you stand, stand on your measuring tape to get this measurement, you might need an extra pair of hands to help line this up.

For width, you will wrap the tape around the widest point at the ball of your foot. Same applies here, if your feet spread quite a bit when standing, stand on your tape and wrap it around.

Some patterns may have you take ankle and calf measurements if they have very long legs, don’t use these patterns for your first time. The point is to learn the basics and then get into the fancier stuff later on.

Now what?

It’s time to cast on!

These are my go-to simple patterns for newbie sock people.

Whirlsie’s Vanilla Socks – top down construction with very clear directions and three size options.

Appalachian Socks aka Purly Bottoms – toe up construction, once again very clear directions and three size options. Plus there’s the added benefit of having the stockinette portion at the bottom of the sock up against the skin of your foot, it makes already comfy socks that much more divine.

There’s also a very simple pattern generator at the Sock Knitter’s Notebook that will spit out simple directions for you. You’ll need a gauge swatch in your yarn with your preferred needles size beforehand.

There you have it, enough basic sock discussion to get you going. Socks are one of my favorite things to knit, after you get a few under your belt, you’ll find they are easy to travel with and with the exception of turning the heel, are easy knits. If you are still a little nervous about striking out on your own, I’ll be offering basic sock classes a bit more often in the new year. If you’re not in my neck of the woods talk to the staff at your Local Yarn Shop, there should be someone to help you get started or can schedule class time for you.

Just remember one thing, they are socks, don’t stress over them

September Classes and Knitalongs

It feels like I just posted a class schedule for August a few days ago. This year has done nothing but move at high-speed!

The less than scientific experiment for alternating weeks for classes has been a success, so I’ll continue offering sessions on alternating weeks allowing class participants to have more time to work on projects between sessions.

In other news, I’m changing up my skill level terms. I’ll admit they’ve been a little vague, so I’ve taken the advice that I learned from an old friend and have reverted to the KISS Principle. Good ole, keep it simple, stupid to the rescue! The new terms are:

Rookie: You picked up needles and yarn recently, know knit and purl, and you’re ready to add more skills to that knitting toolbox.

Apprentice: You’re confident with knit, purl, basic increases/decreases, and have likely begun adventuring into knitting in the round, and have began creating shapes other than long scarf like rectangles.

Virtuoso: You’re confident in your abilities and are looking for challenges, unique projects, and new tricks. There isn’t much out there that you would shy away from trying as long as you were in love with the pattern teasing you on Ravelry.

Genius: You are a knitting master, nothing stops you, not even a bad pattern. You’re looking for a challenge, continuing to master skills, and love projects with very complex construction and stitch work.

All classes will be held at Yarn Rhapsody in Gainesville, GA. Please call 770-536-3130 or drop in to reserve your spot at least 48 hours before classes begin and purchase patterns and materials.

So what’s up for September?

Well first, I can announce that you can still sign up for any nine sessions of Building with Lace knitalong by Michelle “Knit Purl” Hunter for $45, as long as the book is still available for purchase at Yarn Rhapsody. There’s already been one round of books sold, and round two just arrived. Weekday sessions will be offered Wednesdays, 6pm-7pm beginning September 6 and carrying on through Wednesday, October 25th. Weekend sessions will continue on Saturdays, Noon-1pm until October 14th.

Skill level: All skill levels – this is truly a skill building knitalong, the book, associated videos, and the support of the rest of the knitalong participants will get you through if you’re a beginner, and teach you a few more tricks even if you’re a knitting expert.

There are also two more knitalongs featuring Michelle Hunter’s patterns for September.

img_0084-1Hat season starts up towards the end of October in the south, mid-September virtually anywhere else, so it’s time to start WIPing some up. Corkscrew Hat by Michelle Hunter, uses an interesting, yet easy to grasp two color technique that creates an almost braided appearance and unisex design. This pattern is also available in three sizes, baby, child, and adult.

Offering Type: Knitalong
Skill Level: Rookie/Apprentice
Techniques Used: Knitting in the Round, Multiple Colors, Shaping
Price: $30
Dates: 10:30am – 11:30am, Saturdays, Sept. 16, 30, Oct. 14

img_0085Oh wait, glove and mitten season is coming up too! The second of Michelle’s patterns this month is the Reciprocation Fingerless Gloves. These fingerless gloves will keep your hands warm and your fingers free for chilly weather knitting.

Offering Type: Knitalong
Skill Level: Rookie/Apprentice
Techniques Used: German twisted cast on, special design stitches, stitch pickup, thumb gussets
Price: $30
Dates: 10:30am – 11:30am, Saturdays, Sept. 23, Oct. 7, 21

September for me means, cooler weather, hints of gold and red appearing on the landscape, and the fact that we’re just that much closer to HALLOWEEN. It’s time to start working on some spookier projects.

img_0089First up, these Spider Socks are going to be a blast. I’ve already started on my pair, I couldn’t wait! These will look great in a solid, or subtly variegated yarn, you want your handiwork to show through on these.

Offering Type: Class
Skill Level: Apprentice/Virtuoso
Techniques Used: Top down construction, heel flap & gusset construction, mock cables, cable stitches, special design stitches
Price: $60
Dates: 1:30pm – 2:30pm, Saturdays, Sept. 16, 30, Oct. 14

img_0088Counting Crows fits the bill for chilly, late October evenings with a few secrets hidden inside. These are a great challenge for someone wanting to increase their color work skills.

Offering Type: Class
Skill Level: Apprentice/Virtuoso
Techniques Used: Knitting in the round, color work and chart reading, shaping, stitch pickup, thumb gussets and finger construction
Price: $60
Dates: 1:30pm – 2:30pm, Saturdays, Sept. 23, Oct. 7, 21

And now for something completely different….

This particular pattern has been sitting in my queue for months waiting for the right time to bring it out.

img_2345Inspired by the Mesoamerican deity Kukulkan this scarf/shawl is striking. This is certainly one of those projects that will having people asking “where did you get that” and then it’s up to you how you spill the beans about being an accomplished knitter. The unique shape and construction of this project, as well as the use of gradient sets should keep anyone motivated to finish this project before the fall chill really sets in.

Offering Type: Class
Skill Level: Apprentice/Virtuoso
Techniques: Color changes, short rows, stitch pickup, cast on mid-project, shaping
Price: $60
Dates: 3:30pm – 4:30pm, Saturdays, Sept. 23, Oct. 7, 21

And as always, I’m available for private instruction for those wanting to start knitting or need a refresher after a bit of time away from knitting, all you have to do is contact me and work out dates and times.

Knit your bit! Socks, WWI, and the Next Generation of Knitters

Yesterday, (April 8) a couple of fantastic knitters any myself combined forces to participate in an Family Day event at the Northeast Georgia History Center.   The History Center presented Over There: America Enters World War I, to commemorate the Centennial Anniversary of the United States entry into “The Great War” with living history interpretation and hands on activities.

img_0739So what does knitting have to do with WWI?

Quite a lot!  Knitting was more than a hobby during wartime.  It was an act of patriotism!  Thousands if not millions of women and children in Allied countries used their knitting needles as weapons of war.  What were they knitting? Socks.  Lots of socks. Millions of socks, to prevent a horrid condition called trench foot.  Take a moment, and google that, I’ll wait…….okay welcome back, and I’m a little sorry for the images that may be burned into your retinas.  Trench warfare was often wet and muddy, and the boots soldiers wore were not fully waterproof, or leaked like sieves.  Fresh dry socks were needed to keep trench foot at bay.  Knitters not only made socks but sweaters, vests, gloves, balaclavas and scarves, in attempts to keep soldiers warm.

Sock knitting hasn’t changed greatly in 100 years, many of us still use double pointed needles to create them.  More recent methods include knitting them on circular needles.  The patterns needed for soldiers were fairly simple, and had nothing fancy included.  Many of the free, top down patterns with heel flap constructions that you see on Ravelry (knitting heaven for the uninitiated) or how-to knitting sites, are very similar to the patterns used by WWI knitters.  These millions of hand-knit, no frill,  socks were collected by the Red Cross in the US, inspected, fixed by more experienced knitters if necessary, loaded up and sent to the military for issue.

So three brave souls did some research, packed up our socks and goodies from our favorite local yarn store, Yarn Rhapsody, started making historically accurate patterns to work on while at the event, and set up shop at the History Center.

 

I believe the three of us were left amazed by the interest our little tables drew in.  We had set up a bit of yarn on straight needles to show children how to knit a few stitches, the three stations we set up stayed full for the entire event.  One child would finish their row, and the next would sit down, occasionally an adult would make their first attempts.  Some of these children were knitting prodigies from the moment they sat down and learned the mechanics of their first knit stitch.  We had a blast showing the next generation of future knitters that they were capable of learning this craft.  At the end of the day, the three of us packed up, and left exhausted, we had no idea we would be so busy.  I’m hoping to see a few of these children pop up again with needles and yarn in hand.

 

 

Lava and Socks

I don’t know what I had for dinner that kicked the crazy dream portion of my brain into high gear last night but geeeeeeeez. Actually thinking about it a bit more, it’s probably all the pollen I’ve been snorting.  Spring pollen counts in Georgia are legendary, even if I managed to not have seasonal allergy issues, there is no way inhaling that much particulate is good for anyone.

Anyway….
Crazy dream….
This one actually woke me up.
I’m driving home after a couple of errands around town on a hot summer day, and notice while sitting at a red light that it’s getting hotter.  I look over at a drainage ditch and notice lava is streaming through it and down a storm drain.  It doesnt’ even register to me that this is unusual.  I look back up at the red light.  Look back at the lava.  Look back up at the red light and then notice the road ahead is beginning to melt into gelatinous orange and red blob.  Well great, the road to the house is melting.  I’m going to have to take the long way around.  Light turns, and I’m still driving along like nothing is unusual about the road melting.

After making it home, I get into the house, pet the cats, and then sit down on the front porch with a half-done sock, and begin turning the heel while I watch as everything off my little hillside becomes covered with lava.  By the time I finish turning the heel on the sock, my house and a few neighbors are on their own little island, everything beyond that is bright orange and red.  article-0-186BC59400000578-438_964x637

Meanwhile, nothing is wrong, nothing is out of norm, I’m just working on my sock.

It was one of those amazingly vivid dreams, that leaves you sitting on the bed for about 30 minutes wondering what just happened, and if you should just get out of bed and start your day.  Maybe I should get through my workday, and finish the sock I’ve been working on.

 

Save our Soles!

Socks.

Most of us wear them, all of us know what they are.  Depending on the season they keep our feet warm and dry, or cool and dry.  Feet are pretty happy when they are comfy and dry, and with all the abuse they take, they deserve the best.  Right?

A good pair of hand knitted socks is quite possibly one of the best treats for the tootsies.   But why would we knit them when you can easily pick up a pack of six at Wally-World for about the same price as the ball of yarn required to make a single pair? 

COMFORT.  Period. End of conversation.  

Well, not really or this would be the shortest post I’ll ever compose. Comfort is a huge factor though. Hand knit socks are custom made to fit your measurements, this is awesome for folks who find store bought socks too tight or too loose.  After my first pair of socks came off the needles I immediately started knitting another pair and the collection is growing. If I’m wearing store bought socks it’s because the hand knit ones need laundered. 

Quality. Let’s be honest here, socks won’t last forever. You wear them and they take a beating. I can promise that a well made pair of hand knit foot covers will last longer than store bought, and even when they do begin to get a little thin in places they can be fixed with a little darning. 

Style. There are probably hundreds of thousands of sock patterns out there ranging from plain vanilla patterns to complicated cables and lace. Toss in the endless range of yarn choices and the perfect pair of tootsie toasters can be yours. 

Portablility. Socks are quite possibly one of the easiest projects to toss into a bag to keep handy for those situations where you would rather do something besides poke at your smartphone.  

Easy to do. Alright I can see people rolling their eyes here. Socks are actually pretty easy once you get through your first pair. They seem intimidating at first. I knitted for 7 years before attempting my first pair and laughed over the fact it took me so long to try.  Once a newbie knitter has knit, purl, and decreases under their belts, socks are a good project to learn short rows on, opening the door for bigger projects and greater skills later on.  

Seriously, stop being chicken, make socks!