Archive for the ‘FOs’ Category

Anatomy of Sock Design Part I: Getting to the Cast-On

I am so glad to hear that many of you intend to enter some socks in my wee little contest this spring! I cannot wait to see your designs! I encourage everyone to give it a go. Lately, I have received many emails from knitters interested in entering, but intimidated by the design process, the prospect of judging, and the field of competitors. I will do my best to allay these concerns. Although it is a competition, I hope it is clear that the spirit of the contest is most certainly positive and supportive. My only interest is to encourage exciting new work. Who cares if you are not an established designer? You have ideas about socks, don’t you? Sock design should not be intimidating to anyone who has ever knitted a sock: after all, socks are basically two tubes joined by a heel and capped with a toe. The heel and toe are the only challenges of basic sock construction! If you choose to, you can design a completely new way of knitting socks; my point is simply that you needn’t do this to enter and be competitive.

There, are you convinced you can do this? I hope so. Since I am working on my own pattern for the contest – a thanks-for-entering pattern for all participants – I thought it might be worthwhile to document how I go about designing a sock. I am by no means an expert at this, but I’ll certainly share how I work best. I will divide this up into three separate posts: getting to the cast-on, heels & toes, and writing the pattern. Let’s start with the first segment: planning out a design well enough to cast on.

Anatomy of Sock Design

Part I: Getting to the Cast-On

Who?

First, I start with my audience. Who will knit this sock? People who designed socks for my contest – in other words, this will not likely be anyone’s first knitted sock. Therefore, the pattern should be challenging enough for somewhat experienced sock knitters, but not so complicated and difficult as to be intimidating. The design must be fun to knit, otherwise I will lose interest in finishing the sample and you will not get a sock pattern. So far, my criteria are 1) not easy; 2) not super hard; 3) fun to knit; and I’m going to add 4) pretty.

What?

Next, I think about what I want for the main body of the sock. Texture? Lace? Cables? Twisted stitches? Slipped stitches? Color work? If I am to enjoy the knitting, lace, twisted stitches, and slipped stitches are out. Although I like how those styles look, I find them rather fiddly to work. Since tedious knitting will not bring back my sock mojo, they’re out. Cables are out too, as I just finished a large cabled pullover and my wrists need a break. More about the sweater later – we’re talking socks here, remember? Focus! Between texture and color work, I’ll choose color any day.

Plus, I just found the most amazing stitch dictionary in the history of time: Latviesu Cimdu Raksti: Ornaments in Latvian Gloves and Mittens by Irma Lesina. I found a reference to it Lizbeth Upitis’ Latvian Mitten book and decided to look it up. If you can find a copy, it’s worth the hunt. It took my university’s library 8 weeks to get a copy by interlibrary loan – there weren’t many books printed and few remain in circulation today. Written in Latvian, the book contains only mitten and glove plates with traditional designs from Latvia’s four districts of Kurzeme, Latgale, Zumgale, and Vidzeme. I intended to photocopy some stitch patterns I liked, but the book was far too fragile to do this. Instead, I set up my tripod and photographed them. I may have photographed the entire book.***

This particular stitch pattern stood out in my mind: the splotches look like microbes! I’m really tempted to call these socks Culture Socks (bonus play on “culture shock”), but the ladies at my knitting group seem to think that would be rather a turn off.I know they’re right, but wouldn’t it be more fun to think of them as microbes instead of jigsaw puzzle pieces or a houndstooth pattern?? I like microbes. I think I’m going to run with this idea.

Now that I have a stitch pattern, I need to decide how to use it on the sock. That’s easy for me because I want to use it all over. Using two colors for the entire sock requires about as much additional skill as I’d like. After all, if you don’t do it regularly, knitting with two colors can be rather cumbersome. On the other hand, this small stitch pattern is quite easily memorized and will not tie the knitter to a chart. I hope to strike a good balance between complicated and fun to knit.

For several years now, I have made a rather conscious effort to never knit anything twice (excepting a design of my own that needs further testing). I do this for two reasons: 1) I like to learn something from every project to improve my skills; and 2) there are so many patterns I want to knit that I haven’t time to dawdle on any particular one. Because this is how I like to knit, I try to include in my patterns a technique or an idea that may be new to some knitters. For this sock pattern, I will use a corrugated rib cuff, an unusual heel, and some nontraditional striping down to the toe.

How?

Now that I have a plan for the cuff (i.e corrugated ribbing) and a plan for the sock body (i.e. microbe stitch pattern), I’m ready to consider gauge and size. This is where I fly by the seat of my pants a little. Although I am a religious swatcher and swatch washer, I will not swatch for a measly sock. I refuse. Luckily, as long as I don’t care about my sock height (and I don’t), it isn’t entirely necessary. Let me explain. I generally know that I can make a gauge of 7-8 spi with most sock yarns on US 1.5 needles, my preferred sock needles. At its widest point, my calf circumference measures 13.5″ and my ankle circumference measures 8″. If I cast on for an 80-stitch sock and work from the cuff down, the cuff will likely fit somewhere between those two points. If my stranded gauge turns out to be 10 spi, it will be a shorter sock. If my stranded gauge is 8 spi, it will be taller.

Now I have a plan for my 80-stitch sock, beginning with corrugated ribbing and continuing on with the stranded pattern. But wait! Where are my US 1.5 needles? Stewing in an unfinished sock, of course. Unfinished since August 2008, in fact.

Hi, I'm a 10-month-old unfinished sock. Would someone please knit my sole so I could be with my mate? Thanks.

These long unfinished Fascine Braid Socks were the unwitting casualties of my lost interest in sock knitting. The pattern is wonderful, well written, and really pretty. Sadly, I chose the wrong yarn to go with the pattern so Tiennie’s lovely textured pattern can hardly be seen. Since this contest is all about getting me back into knitting socks, I decided to finish this pair, rather than buy a new needle. You may laugh, but I’m not the only one finishing up these nagging projects - MaritzaNovaCarolyn, and Val have all recently finished long languising single socks. It’s a good thing.

A year and a half later,

Alright, now I can begin.

Is this a start on my sock?

I admit that I tried two other color combinations before settling on this one. So far, I like this one a lot. I’m using Louet Gems Fingering Wt in Fern and Teal. Now that I know my gauge from the leg of my sock, I can figure out the decreases I need to do to get down to the ankle.

Culture Socks

I have absolutely no plan yet for the heel, foot, or toe. The good news is that I don’t need one for another couple of days. Knitted progress on my sock has been slow this week because we sold our house and will be moving 600 miles away in less than six weeks (right around the time this contest closes, actually). It should be fun!

Stay tuned for Part II: Heels & Toes.

***I assume this is completely illegal, but what am I supposed to do when I can’t buy a copy of a rare, out-of-print text? I would pay $$$ for this book if it were available!

AccessoryFest 2010: Ladybug Picnic Mittens

Ladybug Picnic Mittens

These mittens take their name from the Sesame Street counting sketch about a ladybug picnic. You know you know it. Don’t remember it? Click the link. I dare you. Here, I’ll share it again. You’ll be singing that goofy song for the rest of the day.

(You’re welcome.)

Oh, come on, it’s not so annoying, is it? I think it’s kind of cute! Elizabeth Mitchell does a wonderful rendition of it on one of her children’s albums.

Ladybug Picnic Mittens

Once I got the idea to knit some ladybugs, it bounced around in my head just as relentlessly as that silly song will in yours. I swatched them on a white background on the way to Washington, D. C. a few weeks ago, but the dark floats really showed through. Unfortunately, I did not have any other appropriate yarn with me so the idea had to kick around my head for a few more days before I could actually do anything about it!

Ladybug Picnic Mittens

I made this pair of mittens for JulieFrick, who claims to be incapable of stranded knitting. I don’t believe it. Have you seen her knitting? It is categorically not the work of the knitting skill-challenged. Nevertheless, I thought the lady needed a pair of stranded mitts because I know she’s never going to make herself any!!

Ladybug Picnic Mittens

Pattern: Ladybug Picnic Mittens (Ravelry link)

Yarn: Brown Sheep Nature Spun Sport in Limestone, Red Fox, and Pepper

Needles: US 0 (2.0 mm) and US 1 (2.5 mm)

I tried so hard to get this pattern to come out with only twelve ladybugs – like in the song – but in order to maintain uniform tension, the adult sizes required fifteen ladybugs. I made sure that the child-size mitten, the XS, only has twelve. After all, why call them Ladybug Picnic Mittens if there were not twelve ladybugs? That’s the entire point of the song! The mittens feature a picot cuff and red and black braid at the cuff, a peasant thumb, and a rounded top. The ladybugs are knitted into the mitten; however, the bugs’ spots and feet are duplicate stitched on afterwards.

Ladybug Picnic Mittens

I am especially pleased with the palm side. I did not really want to put ladybugs on the inside, but I needed a way to carry the yarn across. I love this effect. I might see about using the stitch pattern in other designs.

Ladybug Picnic Mittens

Now that the Fricknits family is outfitted with stranded knitwear, they can start shoveling out from under all that snow!

AccessoryFest 2010: Helping Hands Mittens

1960s Wool Plaid Mittens

These started as a stashbuster but at the urging of several friends, I wrote up the pattern to contribute to the Help for Haiti effort on Ravelry. I will donate all proceeds of the mitten sales to Haitian relief efforts for as long as the pattern is available. To be honest, I feel conflicted about urging people to buy things because portions of pattern sales will go to charity. If the cause is compelling, we should not be goaded into supporting it with cheap or free items. Perhaps I sound cynical; I do not mean to be. All I’m saying is that the best way for any of us to help in the earthquake relief and rebuilding efforts in Haiti is to give directly to reputable aid organizations doing good work. Buy my mitten pattern if you like the mittens, but if you really want to help, bypass me and give directly to aid organizations now. And, perhaps more importantly, give again in March. And in July. And in September. And in 2011 and 2012.

And of course, enjoy the mittens!

This pattern is available as a Ravelry download for $6.00. For the lifetime of the pattern, all proceeds will be donated monthly to Partners in Health’s Stand With Haiti campaign.

1960s Wool Plaid Mittens

Difficulty

Intermediate

Skills used

Reading a chart, knitting in the round, knitting with two colors, increasing, decreasing, picking up stitches.

Sizes

S (M, L)

Model shown in size S.

Finished measurements

Circumference: 7.25 (8.5, 9.75)”
Length: 8.5 (9.5, 10.5)”
Thumb top length: 2 (2.5, 3)”

Gauge

26 stitches and 28 rounds = 4″ in stranded stitch pattern on US 6 (4 mm) needles

1960s Wool Plaid Mittens

Yarn

Berroco Ultra Alpaca [50% alpaca, 50% wool; 215 yd (197 m); 100 g skein]; color: #6289 Charcoal Mix (MC), #6201 Winter White (CC1), #6234 Cardinal (CC2), #6294 Turquoise Mix (CC3), 1 skein each.

Needles

US 6 (4 mm) circular needle, 32″ long or 1 set US 6 (4 mm) DPNs

Notions

Stitch markers
Waste yarn
Tapestry needle

1960s Wool Plaid Mittens

AccesoryFest 2010: The Hat Edition

I did say that I’ve been busy knitting, did I not? Let’s start with a major stashbust of winter accessories. I love knitting hats. That much is abundantly clear, is it not? I rarely make hats for members of my household because we have so many already. However, Beatrix outgrew her hat from last year so of course, she needed a new one.

A hat for Beatrix

I whipped up a child size Min Ulla because I wanted to have made all four versions of the hat by the end of the winter. This is Version C.

Inside lining, Min Ulla Hat

I love the 8-point star decrease, don’t you? I would use it in every hat if I could.

Min Ulla Hat, Version C

Mr. Frick, of Fricknits fame, received Version B of Min Ulla. When visiting the crafty Frick household a few weeks ago, I learned that Mr. Frick needed a warmer hat for his commute.

for Mr. Frick

What an excellent excuse to make another one of these!

for Mr. Frick

Better yet, the hat arrived in the DC Metro area with two feet of snow for the true Nordic experience! I hope it comes in handy during the great snowmageddon of 2010.

Pattern: Min Ulla Hat, Versions C and B (Ravelry link)
Yarn: Berroco Ultra Alpaca in Cardinal and Winter White for Beatrix, Turquoise Mix and Winter White for Mr. Frick
Needles: US 6 (4 mm)

Kirsten Kapur published her Wood Hollow hat and mitten pattern just days before a dear friend lamented her inability to find a decent winter cap. I promised mittens too, but they will need to wait until spring because I’m back in the throes of deadline knitting until then.

Wood Hollow Hat

Pattern: Wood Hollow Hat (Ravelry link)
Yarn: Harrisville Designs New England Highland in Midnight Blue
Needles: US 6 (4 mm)

Finally, I dropped some unexciting, stashbusting hats in the mail to add to Liz’s campaign for kids in Nepal.

And that was just hats! Just wait until I tell you about the mittens! I will have two new mitten patterns for you this week. I will publish them as soon as I’ve made the final revisions to my drafts and cleaned up the tutorial photos.

Stay tuned!

Hedge Fence Pullover

Center cable, Hedge Fence Pullover

For as long as I can remember, I have been searching for the perfect cabled pullover. Sometimes, I wonder if this is the real reason I learned to knit. I have very strong opinions about aran-style sweaters. As far as I am concerned, they must

1.) feature symmetrically placed cables;

2.) be heavily cabled, but not be so overwrought so as to include bobbles or a waffle stitch cable;

3.) include some kind of set-in sleeve (no matter how traditional the drop shoulder, I find it sloppy and droopy looking)

4.) not include a mock turtleneck;

5.) not be knit with 10″ of ease;

6.) not make me look 30 lbs heavier.

Is that so much to ask of a sweater? Off the top of my head, Lucy Sweetland’s Lillian and a bobble-less version of Kim Hargreaves’ Demi are the only ones I can think of that come close  - both are in my queue to knit! I have yet to make a sweater that satisfies all of these criteria, but I think this new pattern comes close to meeting my standards.

Front view, Hedge Fence Pullover

Aaron owns and wears more sweaters than anyone I know (knitters included). Unfortunately, it is difficult to find a store-bought sweater to properly fit a very tall, thin man with monkey arms. If something fits in the chest, the arms and body are 4″ too short. If the arms and body are long enough, the body is impossibly wide. Consequently, most of his sweaters are ill-fitting and gigantic. He has been asking for a cabled pullover for years and indeed, I have always wanted to make him something that actually fits. However, I could not find the right pattern. More importantly, I doubted whether he would actually wear what I made him. After all, he has been wearing too-big clothes all his life. Once, when I convinced him to try on a 40″ shirt, he reacted like a cat with tape on its paws. “It’s so tight, I don’t think I could concentrate,” he protested, as he squirmed around in 7″ of positive ease. Sometimes, I wonder if he thinks my clothes fit like spandex. I refused to knit him a sweater as ill-fitting as anything he could buy. But after years of listening to him talk about wanting a handmade cable sweater, last summer, I decided it was time to give it a go. I took some cable patterns from stitch dictionaries and put them together until I found a combination I liked.

Side view, Hedge Fence Pullover

I measured his favorite sweater and found it to have a 46″ chest, 13″ larger than his 33″ chest measurement. We split the difference, and I planned a 39″ size. With still 6″ of ease, I had to aggressively decrease at the armholes to achieve a fitted shoulder width. We are both delighted with the result. I know this pullover will enter Aaron’s winter sweater rotation. And if it doesn’t, there’s always divorce.

Hedge Fence Pullover

Pattern: Hedge Fence Pullover

Yarn: Ram Wools Selkirk (which is really Briggs & Little Regal, don’t ask me why there are two different names for the same yarn) in Brown Heather, 7 skeins

Needles: US 7 (4.5 mm)

I am happy to offer the unisex pattern in 12 sizes: 31 (33, 35, 37, 39, 41, 43, 46, 49, 51, 53, 55)”. The garment takes its name from Hedge Fence Shoal, a shallow sandbar on the far west side of Nantucket Sound, just northeast of Martha’s Vineyard. I have been contemplating a series of fisherman-style sweaters and I decided to go with a naming scheme based on the waters I sailed so much as a child.

The pattern is available as a Ravelry download for $8.50.

The body and sleeves of the garment are knit in the round to the armholes, after which point the knitting is done back and forth. The only seaming required is the sewing in of the sleeve cap. The shoulders are joined by a three-needle bind-off, the underarm stitches are grafted together, and stitches are picked up around the neck for the neckline ribbing. The pattern comes with text instructions, a set of body charts for each size, and a set of sleeve charts for each size. None of the cable instructions are written out – they are all charted. In addition, I have included several pages of notes on how to modify the pattern to achieve the best fit for your body while maintaining the integrity of the center cable panel. Fortunately, the side cables are small enough to allow for quite a lot of flexibility in terms of sizing. The only real challenge in modifying the pattern is to ensure the center cable still flows cleanly into the ribbing at the bottom edge and neckline.

Hedge Fence Pullover

More information about the pattern and a detailed schematic can be found on the Hedge Fence Pullover page or on the Ravelry pattern page.

More photos of the finished garment here.