Archive for the ‘socks’ Category
Hey! Are you still there? Well, so am I. Do you still knit? What do you know? Me too! My first year of medical school took me away from this space too much; I hope things will be different this next year. Nevertheless, would you believe I knitted 12 sweaters, 5 pairs of socks, 4 pairs of mittens, 2 hats, 3 lace stoles, and a blanket since we last spoke? I just haven’t had much time to post about them. All in time, of course.
I thought my first post back should reflect how I’ve spent my time lately, so I’d like to share a sock pattern I worked up while studying.
In addition to playing around with a new naming scheme, I’ve had the pleasure to collaborate with two fabulous designers on a collection coming out this fall. Amy Herzog and Kirsten Kapur, and I have joined forces as the BHK Cooperative. Our first project, the Charles Collection, will be appearing in a few weeks. Inspired by and set in the knitterly city of Boston, the collection features flattering sweaters and accessories in classic styles, all photographed by the talented Caro Sheridan. Here is a little preview!
While most people spend the first few weeks of January thinking about diet- and exercise-related resolutions for the new year, we knitters have all resolved to buy less yarn and to knit only from our stashes. Am I right? You did, didn’t you? Of course, like all resolutions, these intentions will be abandoned by March 1; however, while we dig around in and rediscover our lovely stashes, I thought I would put together a quick tutorial on how to use up every last bit of sock yarn, for the stashbusting inclined.
I love to knit from my stash, and not because it’s a great haul. I do not own many highly coveted yarns; rather, my stash is full of prickly, workhorse, go-to yarns like Berroco Ultra Alpaca, Brown Sheep Nature Spun Sport, and Harrisville Designs New England Shetland. In the last five years, I have all but eliminated sock yarn from my stash. Why? Because I got over knitting socks a few years ago. Plus, since I never fell for shawls, I didn’t really need stashed fingering-weight yarn. I may knit a pair of socks here and there, but when the urge strikes, I buy yarn. There’s no sense in me keeping it around when stash space is at a premium. In fact, just this fall, I knitted my way down to the very last bits and bobs of the bunch. Allow me to show you how you can do the same, if your stashbusting hearts so desire.
This tutorial will have you knitting a basic, single-pattern, top-down sock with a traditional heel flap, square heel, and wedge (triangle) toe knitted in a contrasting color. Tinker with the math, knit them differently, and make them your own if my way of knitting socks drives you to drink. My calculations slightly overestimate the yarn requirement for the heel turn and the toe – let’s say that’s to leave some extra for darning later, shall we?
This endeavor will require a kitchen scale, a calculator, a pencil & paper, and some math. The math will not be hard, and I promise to hold your hand all the way through, but you will need to crunch some numbers.
First, you need to know how many yards it generally takes to make you a pair of socks on your favorite tiny needles with your favorite sock yarn. I believe the average woman needs about 400 yards on US 1-2 needles, but it ranges between 325 and 550 yards, so plan accordingly.
Next, you’ll need to know how many stitches you will have in one round. This is a roundabout way of getting your gauge. I neither know my sock gauge nor the size of my ankle, but I know I make 60-stitch socks on US 1.5 with most fingering weight yarns. You may make 54-stitch ones or 72-stitch ones, but know your number ahead of time. You should have a strong sense of this from your previous sock-knitting experiences. If not, go practice by knitting yourself a couple of pairs of socks because this is not a beginner pattern – ripping socks is such a drag because you’ve sunk so many stitches into them.
I use Excel for every last bit of knitting planning; feel free use my stash busting sock pattern template to follow along. I put my formulas into the spreadsheet, so if you’re careful and only replace my data with yours, you might not have to do any work!
Collect your scraps. They should be of similar weight and fiber content. How do you know how many yards you have of each? First, determine how many yards and grams were in a full skein. If you no longer have a label, look up the information on Ravelry.
Weigh your samples. How many grams do you have of each?
Do you have enough yards for a sock? Do you need to throw in more scraps? Build a pile of leftovers until you reach the yardage required to make your socks. Keep track of the total number of yards you have, as this information will help determine the striping pattern.
Contrast Cuffs, Heels, & Toes
I often have far more of one color than any of the others, so using it for the trimmings is efficient. This basic pattern assumes you will knit the cuffs, heels, and toes of your socks in a contrasting color. We will be slightly underestimating the yardage needed for the heel, but don’t worry, we’ll overestimate at the toe by a little bit more. Finally, I’m assuming that your gauge is somewhere between 7 and 9 stitches per inch, so let’s end this toe with 16 stitches, shall we? That should give us about an inch of width at the tip.
How many rounds of cuff will you knit?
How many rows will you knit for the heel flap?
How many rounds will you knit for the toe? Use the following formula to calculate toe rounds:
Now, you will need to determine how much of your contrast yarn will go into the cuff, heel, and toe.
Tired of Math? Start Knitting!
I’m not kidding, we need to find out how many yards are required to knit a round so we can finish up these calculations. Take care to note your starting weight of contrast yarn, then pick up your needles. Cast on for your desired number of stitches and knit your desired number of rounds for the sock cuff. Weigh the yarn again to see how many grams you used in the cuff.
Now, you have all the information you need to identify precisely how many yards of contrast color needed for the cuff, heel, and toe:
Double the contrast yardage to account for having to knit two socks, and subtract this from your total yardage to identify how much you have left. This is an important step in determining how to stripe the remains:
The Striping Pattern
Collect all of the scraps you intend to use in the body and leg of the foot. Prepare a table like this by dividing the yardage of each scrap sample by the total yards remaining in your scrap pool, multiply by 100%:
This will tell you the proportion of each yarn needed to knit the body. For my sample socks, I need about 5% Gems, 65% Koigu, 20% Socks that Rock, and 10% Neighborhood Fiber Co. I rounded! How dare I? I made you do all that math, only to fudge my own numbers! Recall that my scraps add up to more yards than I need to make myself a pair of socks; this is the advantage of starting with slightly more than I need: I’ll be OK rounding up or down a little. Where does that leave us? In 25 rounds, I would have 1 round Gems, 16 rounds Koigu, 5 rounds Socks that Rock, and 3 rounds Neighborhood Fiber Co. How you order them is entirely up to you!
Try not to let your striping repeat get too large. I used 25 rounds, which is about as long as I feel comfortable going. In other words, don’t knit the first 5% of the body in blue, then the next 65% in green, etc. This risks running out of particular colors of yarn at the gusset. While you may knit 5% of the body rounds in blue, keep in mind that not all rounds will be the same size; those of the gusset will be larger.
I love to knit from my stash, and not just from any part of it: I love knitting from the littlest bits and bobs kicking around in the corners. The partial skeins, the lone discontinued yarns and colors. Better yet, I love using up all those scraps to produce a piece for which I might have easily bought yarn, not just one which provides good way to use up old yarn. You could say I can get a bit obsessive about making sure my stashbusters can stand on their own merits. Remember the Ultimate Stashbuster Vest?
Ah, yes, that was a fun one! Although I would love nothing more than to dive into an all-consuming fair isle garment right now, I’ll save that for winter break. Until then, I’m happily knitting along, striping my way through life. Inspired by these lovely socks, I’m calling this pair “Never Enough Chocolate” because they remind me of Neapolitan ice cream, which always seemed to me to have far too much vanilla and strawberry. I had lots of pink and white yarn going into this, but not much brown. To completely use up three colors required some weighing and a lovely little bit of algebra (of which the striping pattern is the result), but it worked! I have absolutely nothing left.
Next, as I mentioned this summer, I needed a good baby sweater for my new (and first!) niece, Amelia. What better than to knit up a Budgie, since O wears his – the one grumperina sent him – all the time? He wears his Budgie with the balaclava osloann sent him in part for warmth, and in part so general public will know he is loved by knitterly peoples. Can you tell?
I had to change the striping pattern on Amelia’s Budgie because I had unequal amounts of yarn, and I substituted buttons for the zipper because Amelia will outgrow this long before she identifies buttons as potential food. Otherwise, as always, I did everything grumperina told me to do, and it’s perfect! Of course! Several years ago, Maritza and I joked about having, “What Would grumperina Do?” t-shirts made. It is a question that runs through my mind when I’m unsure about a project. The answer, of course, is to rip. Always. I wonder from how many hours of unhappy knitting she’s saved me???
Finally, in the last bit of striping, I slowly eked out another pair of socks, combining leftovers from my Mill Creek Cowl together with Drunken Bee Sock scraps. I thought this color pairing would be rather unsightly, but they look much nicer than I had expected; I like this mix a lot!
With these two pairs of socks, I scraped the bottom of the barrel of my sock yarn stash. All that remains is a Koigu partial and a darning’s worth in other colors. I once had sock yarn enough for 21 pairs, and now I have nothing but a lot of finished socks! What a great feeling!
I’m a bit behind here, so expect to see something soon about some of my newest works in Interweave Knits Holiday and Winter, as well as Twist Collective Winter. In the meantime, here is a preview of a new design I’m just finishing up:
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
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.
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.
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.
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 – Maritza, Nova, Carolyn, and Val have all recently finished long languising single socks. It’s a good thing.
Alright, now I can begin.
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.
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!
I know what you’re thinking, right? Didn’t you just see a pair just like this a few weeks back? Knee socks? Really? In August? Who knits knee socks in July and August? Well, I do. And I am not alone: Christy and Joyousknits both finished this same pattern in July and Sarah started on a pair too.
These were the fastest socks I have ever knit: the pair took only five and a half days! Sadly, their rapid production says little about my speed a lot about the hours I spent glued to my books! As a bonus, I can cross off another Knitting Vintage Socks pattern: seven down, only 17 to go!
Yarn: Opal Uni in #1415
Needles: US 1.5
I did not alter the pattern at all and I found it to fit perfectly. I most certainly will use this stitch pattern again; it was fast and easy to memorize, involved little purling and produced a firm and not too stretchy fabric. I doubt I will even need to run elastic through the cuffs to keep these socks up but only wear will tell. And isn’t the texture of this stitch pattern wonderful?
The calf shaping briefly appeared to be too high but the socks fit remarkably well. I imagine the aggressive calf shaping placed higher up the leg contributes to keeping these socks up.
I cannot speak highly enough of this sock pattern. Leave it to Nancy Bush to use a terribly simple stitch pattern to create a snug, well shaped and attractive sock. While not too exciting to knit, this is ideal if you need a good, mindless, on the go sock pattern.
While I have more finished products waiting to be blogged, I thought I would leave you with a preview of some current work. I’m a bit disappointed that I have blogged only finished objects this summer. When I read knit blogs, I almost prefer reading works in progress posts over finished object posts, if only because I learn more from them. In the spirit of blogging WIPs as well as FOs, here are a few of the ongoing projects I have right now:
Aaron’s Aran is almost to the armhole divide but progress slowed to a halt when I had to rip a few inches. My love for this project has waned a bit purely because I loathe the Addi Lace needles I bought for it. I suppose some people must like brass needles but all I smell is metal: my hands, my yarn and my needles all reek of that awful, metallic smell. Ugh! I still love the sweater so I will finish it this fall but I will never buy another brass needle as long as I live.
I cast on for a tweedy yoked baby sweater to use up some New England Harrisville yarn I bought to swatch Aaron’s Aran. I will likely need to buy more yarn – so much for a stash buster project, right?
The dullest knitting project Katharine Hepburn Cardigan progresses slowly, in large part because of the painfully boring stitch pattern. The back is done and blocked but I only have half of one front done.
A collection of irregular squares (pieced with scrap fabrics) for a quilt. This is a gift so I likely will not blog much about it until I finish.
Next time, there will be some more sewing FOs and a visit by Jennie!