I don’t know if I’ve ever gone from buying something to finishing it as quickly as this – the silk that I bought at MDSW, not even two months ago, is spun and plied.

I decided to chain-ply it, and as a result it’s slightly thicker than I’d originally intended. Here’s a closeup with a strand of commercial fingering-weight yarn for comparison:

When I skeined it off, it measured 112 yards – not bad for just two ounces of fibre! I hope it isn’t too thick for what I’d intended, which is a lining for my next pair of Fleeps (flip-top mittens, since someone asked). It’s not yet time to knit those, so this will get tucked away in the stash until I’m ready to knit it up.

And… that is all the spinning I had planned prior to the Tour de Fleece beginning in a few weeks! I’m excited to try making a cabled yarn for the first time. I know I’m going to have to spin the singles really fine to come out with a cabled sock yarn – just how fine that is will have to be determined by sampling, but I’m guessing it’s going to be close to “frog hair”. Considering that the project will probably take longer than the three weeks of the Tour, I might even take the time to make a sample card with my singles (low-twist), the overtwisted two-ply yarn, and the averaged-out twist of the two strands of two-ply cabled together, both before and after washing.

(This was supposed to be somehow less ambitious than last year’s project?!)

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Last weekend Michael and I went to a Knit in Public event at a local winery, where we met up with friends, drank wine, and worked on our respective socks. This weekend I had the opportunity to go with my mom to her LYS, Laughing Sheep! We spent a while looking through this glorious stack of yarns, as well as all the other cubbies and shelves.

Mom goes to a weekly knitting group at the shop, and some of the local folks were there yesterday. It was nice to meet her group and show them what I’ve been working on, and I know she enjoyed showing *me* off to them! They’re getting ready to do a knitalong for this amazing shawl, Butterfly/Papillon. I might have to borrow the pattern from her after she knits it… isn’t this just beautiful?

This tonal turquoise yarn (Classic Elite Yuri, in colourway 5046) came home with me and is destined to be a part of the Twisted Stitches Sock Trilogy, which is still nameless. I’m a few pattern repeats into the second sock of the first pair, and really happy with the way it’s coming out. It’s been going quickly, so it shouldn’t be long before I get to start this new yarn for the second design! (Hopefully I didn’t jinx it by saying so…)

P.S. Apparently turquoise is a very difficult colour for a camera. My phone wouldn’t accurately capture it so I got out the point-and-shoot, which also had troubles. The yarn showed up as far more blue than it actually is, and I had to do a lot of fiddling with the settings to get a good representation of the colour. Any advice on this subject is definitely welcome!

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I’m working on a new sock design!

Blue-painted toenails peek out of a partially knitted amber sock.

This is “Tess’ Designer Yarns Super Socks & Baby” in a tonal amber that I bought at MDSW some years ago, and am pleased to finally be knitting with. I like how it’s working up; the stitch definition is good for this mini-cable pattern, and the yarn is soft and feels good running through my fingers.

(No, the patterning doesn’t go all the way to the toes. That’s just how far I’d gotten on the leg portion of the sock when I stopped to take the picture.)

I’d love to find a mannequin foot that’s just my size, to better display and photograph the pattern samples. Unfortunately, all the womens’ mannequin feet are shorter than mine, and all the mens’ mannequin feet are wider. I’m sure a custom foot would be unthinkably expensive… so now I’m wondering how difficult it would be to make one. I could make a mold of my foot with duct tape, fill it with expanding foam for stability, and wrap it in pretty fabric – but it might be difficult to slide a sock on over that. And plain duct tape would be pretty ugly. Any ideas?

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Once I got past the heel of the handspun sock, I realized that with my inconsistent gauge (because the yarn isn’t entirely consistent) it might not be a bad idea to work the leg in ribbing. I decided on a 4×2 rib and worked my way up. When I reached my usual stopping point for socks, there was still a lot of yarn left in the ball – which is just half of the total yarn I spun up – and so I decided to make these knee socks! They’re so thick and cushy, I’ll only be able to wear them in the winter anyway… so why not keep my whole calf warm?

But knee socks require increases to fit around one’s calf. I measured the sock, my leg, the gauge I was getting, and then I looked at examples of ribbing increases to see different ways it could be done. The center of the back of the sock was on one of the purl gutters, so I increased in the gutter, one new purl stitch every other round. When I had four purls in a row, I changed to adding one new knit stitch every other round. Before long, I had a whole new rib.

Four rounds later, I did it again but the other way – since the center of the back was now a knit column, rather than a purl gutter, I started adding knit stitches first. When I had eight in a row, I added the new purl gutter in the middle of them.

A ribbed sock stretched over a hand, showing increases in the ribbing.

I think one more rib will be just right to fit my calf, but I’ll keep trying it on as I go to make sure! After that I’ll just need to figure out if I want to change to 2×2 ribbing for the cuff or do something else. Decisions, decisions…

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Eight (oops) years ago, I bought eight ounces of soft Corriedale roving with silk carded into it, thinking that I would make an airy tweedy yarn. Then I realized that I didn’t know the first thing about how to spin woolen, and I didn’t want to “ruin” the fibre by spinning yarn that wasn’t what I wanted. But now I *do* (sort of) know what I’m doing, and so here’s almost 300 yards of soft, tweedy, two-ply yarn that is destined to become a new pair of Fleeps.

The bits of silk were a fun spinning challenge; I had to draft more carefully, and sometimes stop treadling and draft them out separately, to keep them from making big blurps in the finished yarn. It was worth the effort, for sure. The yarn is fairly even and I think it will knit up well.

From afar, the yarn looks like a heathered gray… but up close, it’s easy to see the pink, yellow, blue, and purple pieces. I’m really very happy with how this has turned out! It will probably floof up a little more once it’s washed, and then I’ll probably give it some good thwacks against the side of the tub to full it a bit before knitting.

I’d like my next Fleeps to be extra-warm, so I’m spinning this silk that I bought in May to use as a mitten lining. Switching between a quick magical long-draw for the Corriedale and a slow short forward draw for the silk was an interesting mental shift to make! The plan is to chain-ply it at a tight twist, and hopefully that will keep it from shedding too much against my fingers.

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Woohoo! Finished socks!

A pair of rainbow striped socks, with dark blue cuffs, toes, and heels.

These socks were knit toe-up with Kroy Socks in the “Blue Striped Ragg” colourway, and the contrast cuffs/heels/toes are knit in Premier Serenity in navy blue. I… was kind of displeased with both yarns, actually. The Kroy was all right, but every other colourway of Kroy socks I’ve knit has been thick and squishy on US 2 (3 mm) needles, and this was just thinner than a standard sock yarn. It was fine, just not what I was looking for. The Serenity, on the other hand, was thin and slippery and splitty and I don’t like it at all. Hrmph.

That said, I’m pretty pleased with the finished socks. I had to do some duplicate stitch reinforcing around the corners of the heels, but the extra short rows in these heels make them fit better than the other afterthought heels I’ve done before. And I *love* the stripes! I do wish I’d thought of knitting the first round of the cuff to prevent those little purl blips, but they’re kinda cute so I guess it’s okay.

So… what’s next? I’m still working on the handspun sock, but that’s not great at traveling because the yarn-cake collapses when I put it in my bag. I need a sock that I can carry around with me, and a pattern that’s interesting, memorizable, and doesn’t take too much concentration to knit. Maybe I’ll pull out the stitch dictionaries and put something together!

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As I made progress on the handspun sock, I started to think (as you do) about heels. What kind of heel would I use? Would it be deep enough? A typical short-row heel would definitely not fit, unless I did some increases first. So I did some research and decided to try the Banded Expanded Heel technique, which is a modification of Cat Bordhi’s Sweet Tomato Heel. I measured my foot, checked my gauge, did some maths, and knit the heel…

No. (I didn’t even take any pictures.) It’s not that the heel was poorly designed; it’s actually great. It’s that my calculations were off in pretty much every way. I’d started too late, so the foot of the sock was too big. And I’d increased to too many stitches, so it was also baggy. I ripped back to just after my initial increases and did some more research.

Eventually I decided to try the straight-up Sweet Tomato Heel without modifications. I don’t have the book with all the sock patterns, but Cat was kind enough to upload a detailed tutorial video for just the heel itself, which I was able to follow well enough to knit the heel without wondering if I was doing it right. (I was.)

It’s difficult to try on a sock at this point but I did wriggle it onto my foot, and it seems to fit just right. It’s *impossible* to take a photo of a half-knit sock with DPNs sticking out everywhere while it’s on your own foot, so I slid it onto one of the blockers for a photo op.

A half-knit toe-up sock on a blocker, with half a ball of yarn next to it.

So far I like the Sweet Tomato Heel *way* better than the standard short-row sock heel, and I definitely want to use it in more socks! I’m going to have to try it with regular sock yarn to see if it still needs the pre-heel increases, at least. One thing I *really* like about the Sweet Tomato Heel is that I’d feel comfortable just knitting it from memory, which is a lot of points in its favour for whatever sock-in-progress is traveling around with me.

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It’s taken a concentrated effort, but over the weekend I finally finished the combospin that I started for last year’s Tour de France. It’s all spun up, plied, and skeined off – The Woolee Winder on the Sonata makes plying so much faster and easier! I ended up with roughly 700 yards of three-ply yarn from two pounds of a variety of fibre. I’m sure it will poof up and lose some yardage once it’s washed, which I’ll do later today.

Several multi-coloured skeins of handspun yarn

Now the question is, what to do with it? My original plan was to spin for a sweater, but I don’t think I have enough yardage to make that work. Probably I should have gone for a two-ply rather than three, if I wanted sweater yardage. And, if I’m being honest, I’m not 100% thrilled with the overall colour. I put the yellow in for a pop, thinking it would be too dull without it… but it’s too much contrast, too much of a barber-pole effect.

Maybe I’ll like it better once it’s knit up? I’m considering making some treadle covers for the spinning wheels. I often spin barefoot, and wouldn’t that be nice and soft and squishy!

Meanwhile, I started knitting toe-up socks from a different handspun yarn, this chain-plied merino that I spun a few years ago. First I tried knitting on US 2 (2.75mm) needles, which gave me a fabric that was slightly too loose. Then I switched to US 1 (2.25 mm), and I’m getting a very firm and stiff sock… but that’s okay, these will be hiking/boot socks. And since the yarn isn’t superwash, I expect it to get softer and stretchier with wear and time.

The beginning of a toe-up sock using handspun yarn, with random stripes of burgundies and blues

Because they’re so firm, though, I’m trying a new kind of heel. I started working increases about an inch and a half before where the heel should start to make a small gusset, and then more increases will get worked into the short-row heel wedges. This should be interesting at the very least, and if it doesn’t fit right… well, maybe this yarn wasn’t meant to be socks after all. I have 500 yards or so of it, so there are lots of possibilities.

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Last weekend I went to Maryland Sheep and Wool with my mom! It was a really fun day and I’m glad we made it work out so we could go together. She got a skein of sock yarn in a rich brown, and I got two ounces of this tussah sliver from Little Barn. My plan is to spin it fairly fine and then use it as a lining for my next pair of Fleeps to make them warmer and more wind-blocking.

Tussah silk fiber in teal blue, gray, and a little gold

There were so many pretty yarns and fibres there, as usual, and I was tempted to buy some things that I eventually decided to put back. We took quite some time digging through one of the bargain bins and found a bag of sock yarn we liked, but… it was nine 50g balls. That’s 4.5 pair of identical socks? Mehhh. I don’t want two pair of socks from the same yarn, even if it’s nice colours.

I also ooh’d and ahh’d over several braids of fibre, but… I have enough as it is. The merino/silk Ashland Bay was tempting as usual, but I think I can get a better price for it online – and if I’m going to do that, I’d better do it soon, as it’s been discontinued (sniffle, wah) and won’t be available for much longer. (So now, of course, I’m looking at dyed top on Etsy, as if refraining from buying things I don’t need at MDSW gives me license to buy things I don’t need once I get home again?)

Meanwhile, I’ve finished the majority of the rainbow striped socks! Here they are, with the ends woven in, and the waste yarn indicating where the heel will be knit in. I’m using the instructions from this blog post at Knit Better Socks, and trying the trick of a few short rows to get a little more room in the heel.

Two rainbow-striped socks, with scrap yarn where the heel will be added

Here I’ve tried on the sock with a partially knit heel to make sure that it’s in the right place (it is) and you can see the little half-moon of short rows in the corner. The solid dark blue yarn is Serenity Sock and honestly I’m not quite happy with it; it’s a little thin and a little splitty. Ah well – if the heel wears through, I can pick it out and add another! That’s a definite plus to the afterthought heel method.

A partially-knit heel on a stripy sock, modeled on a foot

Michael indicated an interest in seeing the process of getting from waste yarn to actual heel, so I’ll be saving the second sock to finish the next time he’s visiting. He’s up to the heel flap of his own second sock, and I’m curious whether he’ll want to start another pair after he finishes his first.

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I’ve knit four pair of socks (pics: one | two | three | four) with Patons Kroy before, and I really like that the yarn is slightly thicker than the usual sock yarn I get. It makes thick cushy socks that still don’t feel like they take up too much space in my shoes. As with all the other Kroy socks I’ve made, I started this new pair on US 2 (2.75mm) needles and… it was way too loose. Floppy fabric doesn’t make good socks at all!

The beginning of a toe-up sock.

What? What is going on! A little internet research affirmed my suspicion that the ragg shades really are a little thinner, more like a standard sock yarn. (Hrmph.) So I ripped out the start of the toe that I had, and began again on US 1 (2.25mm) needles, this time with a navy yarn for the toe. That feels like a much better fabric, for sure, and I like the contrasting colour in the toe better too.

A half-knit toe-up sock with a navy toe and rainbow stripes.

The sock starts with a figure eight cast-on with fourteen loops, and I increased on every other round until I had 64 stitches total. It’s now about two inches shorter than my foot, so at this point I’ll put in waste yarn across half the stitches and then go on knitting the leg of the sock. Later, I’ll pull out the waste yarn and pick up those live stitches to knit an afterthought heel. (Or is it a “forethought” heel, since I’m planning exactly where it will be?)

This blogpost has some interesting details about the construction of afterthought heels, as well as some hints about improving the fit. Since there’s no gusset in this kind of sock, it can sometimes be a little too tight over the ankle. I’m going to try the short-row suggestion and see how well it works for my own foot.

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