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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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Cascade Heritage sock yarn in "Teal Mix" My first socks of the year are knit from last year’s souvenir yarn from Utah, Cascade Heritage Paints in the “Teal Mix” colourway. I used my own pattern, the Cakewalk Socks, which are available for free on Ravelry.

I’m sure I knew what I meant when I wrote the pattern, and lots of people have knit the socks without asking about the stitch counts, but I thought it could use a little bit of clarification (and a new picture) so I rewrote some sections to make them easier to understand, and published the update to Ravelry this morning.

Apparently my tension wasn’t exactly the same from one sock to the other, so the spirals came out a little bit differently on each sock – but how cool is it that the heels and toes match almost exactly! I wasn’t trying to make that happen; it was just a happy coincidence.

These were a fun pair to knit, and not just because it was my own pattern. A good portion of them were knit on an airplane to and from vacation in Colorado; some of them were knit whilst chatting with friends, and the last section of the foot was knit as winter gave way to spring. That’s one of the best parts of souvenir socks – remembering where I bought the yarn, and then knitting memories into every stitch.

A pair of ribbed socks in a variegated teal colourway.

And now, onto the next sock… even though I have other projects that are already started, and I should probably focus on those for a bit as well. But none of them are good traveling projects like this one is going to be! So there.

A ball of rainbow-striped yarn sits above a pair of knitting needles. The end of the yarn is wrapped around the needles in a figure-eight cast-on.

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There I was, at the National Museum of American History (one of my all-time faves) and there it was… THE SWEATER. Well, one of many sweaters, anyway – but it’s The Sweater that was donated to the museum. It’s been rotated out of display for a while, but there it was…

Mr. Rogers’s sweater.

Mr. Rogers's red cardigan sweater with cables on either side of the zipper

I took some more pictures, of course, because one doesn’t get to see such an iconic piece of knitting very often. Here’s a closer view of the collar and zipper. I couldn’t tell what the zipper was made of, but the Smithsonian’s website says that it’s metal. The collar looks as if it’s folded over to make two layers:

closer view of Mr. Rogers's sweater's collar and zipper pull

The cuffs are turned up just slightly:

very zoomed in picture of Mr. Rogers's sweater sleeve and cuff

This sweater has set-in sleeves with a cable down the side, though some of the others he wore on the show had raglan sleeves with ribbing. Some of them had pockets, too, unlike this one.

side view of Mr. Rogers's red cardigan

Some things I noticed and found interesting: First, it was a bigger gauge than I was expecting, and the zipper pull is relatively large. I wonder if that’s for ease of grabbing while on camera! The cables turn the same way on both sides of the sweater, which really surprised me… and one of them seems to have a slight mis-cable in it, which just goes to show that nobody’s knitting is perfect. Even Mr. Rogers’s mom’s knitting.

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When I bought the Sonata, I decided that a Woolee Winder was too expensive, and invested instead in a bunch of bobbins. Later, I got the jumbo flyer and bobbins as well, and that (I told myself) was that. But then the Schacht-Reeves came with a WW, and I fell in love.

If you’re not familiar with spinning or Woolee Winders, here’s the deal: when you spin, the yarn you make winds onto a bobbin. Usually, you control where exactly on the bobbin the yarn goes by threading it around a hook, and when one portion of the bobbin starts to get full, you move the yarn to a new hook. Some flyers have sliding hooks, but you still have to manually move them. The Woolee Winder, on the other hand, has a gear-driven assembly that automatically moves up and down the bobbin as you spin, so you never have to stop and change/move hooks. You can fit more yarn on a bobbin when it’s winding on evenly, and not having to pause all the time is nice, too. Here are the two Sonata flyers for a comparison:

A standard Kromski flyer and bobbin on the left, Woolee Winder flyer and bobbin on the right.

Yep, that happened! I saw that someone on Ravelry was selling a slightly used Woolee Winder, in the right colour, with six bobbins included, for the right price… and I jumped on the deal with a minimum of wembling over it.

A Kromski Sonata spinning wheel in walnut finish, in 3/4 view from above, with a Woolee Winder flyer and bobbin visible.

Plying is going to be a lot less annoying now. (I know, some people like plying. I am not one of those people.) The Woolee Winder bobbins may not hold quite as much as the jumbo ones, but I think it’ll be worth it to have the faster speeds and more even winding-on.

The Woolee Winder bobbins are just about the same outside diameter as the regular Kromski bobbins, but the shaft is narrower and they’re about half an inch taller on the inside, so a lot more yarn fits onto them. Here’s a comparison picture with a Kromski jumbo bobbin on the left, the standard bobbin in the center, and the new Woolee Winder bobbin on the right. (Yes, sometimes I tape my leaders to the bobbins to keep them from sliding. Don’t judge me.)

three different bobbins for the Sonata

Now I just have to finish last year’s Tour de Fleece project… I’ve made some progress since my last post, but not nearly enough!

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The wheel has been sitting in a corner of the living room for months, looking at me. And so has the pile of fibre that was supposed to have been last summer’s combo spin for the Tour de Fleece. I got derailed, and it’s taken me this long to get back into it.

Tonight I set the wheel up, oiled it, and got back into the saddle. The impetus? It’s a month until Maryland Sheep and Wool, and if I don’t finish what I’ve already started, I won’t be buying much, if anything at all.

No new pics tonight because it’s dark and gloomy here, but here’s last summer’s collection of the two pounds of fibre that are going into this spin. The first two skeins are done, but I have a lot to work through in the next month!

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Over the weekend I sewed the lining into the hat (which wasn’t nearly as tricky as I was expecting). I used the instructions on Techknitter’s blog post, which also explains why one would want to sew a facing down rather than knit it in. The only difference is that I didn’t split the stitch I was sewing onto, because I want the stitches and floats to be able to move and shift around when the hat is blocked.

A stranded colourwork hat is inside out, with a facing partially sewn in. A darning needle is halfway into the next stitch to be tacked down.

And then, yeah, I took out the top of the hat and re-knit it. There were some really loose stitches that I couldn’t tighten up well enough, I wasn’t 100% happy with one of the decreases being white instead of black, and I wanted a smoother decrease overall. It was worth the time it took to do, and I’m glad I didn’t spend a lot of time waffling over whether I should or shouldn’t.

The hat took a nice warm bath in some Eucalan right now, and I’m excited to see what it looks like once it’s blocked and dry! (Also: the soap dispenser in my bathroom is one my dad made. He’s getting really good at this pottery thing. I haven’t asked him, but I bet he’d be happy to take orders for yarn bowls…)

A stranded colourwork hat floats in a bathroom sink full of water topped with bubbles.

Edited to add: it’s drying now! Is it impolite of me to say that I think it looks amazing?

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In an effort to get this hat finished while it’s still cold enough to wear it this year, I finished knitting it earlier this week… and then spent far too long angling the camera, myself, and the bathroom mirror to get a good picture of it. It’s still unblocked here; the lining isn’t sewn down yet, and I’ve left the lifeline in for insurance, because I’m not 100% sure that the way I worked the decreases will block out smoothly.

This weekend I plan to do all the finishing work and get some good photos, and then I can write up the pattern for publication! I’m pretty excited about releasing my first pattern of 2018, and hopefully I’ll have the time to design and knit and write some more before the year is out. I’d like to get back to my purple cabled socks next. After that, who knows?

There’s also been some progress on the second of my green Cakewalk socks – it’s about halfway through the leg now. I’ve been knitting while watching YouTube videos (watercolour tutorials, interestingly enough) because I can’t knit and watch TV or movies very well. At least, not if I want to keep track of the plot, characters, and dialogue!

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