Archive for the “handspun” Category

Back in May, I started a pair of toe-up socks using some chain-plied merino yarn that I'd spun up about five years ago. I had eight ounces but I wasn't sure how far it would go, so I wound it into two cakes and started knitting. As the sock grew up my leg, it looked like I'd be able to make knee-highs - and since the yarn was on the thicker side, that seemed like a really good idea. These were gonna be some warm socks.

I worked in calf increases through a series of trying on the sock, measuring, adding more stitches, and taking careful notes so that I could duplicate it for the second sock.

Despite some inconsistency in my spinning (I do feel like I've gotten better since then!) and some nervousness towards the end of the second sock when I was playing yarn chicken (I won!) I am super pleased with the way these came out.

A striped pair of handspun, handknit knee socks with calf shaping.

So now I've got a pair of fraternal twin stripy socks with Cat Bordhi's Sweet Tomato heel (which I learned from this YouTube video). Here's their project page on Ravelry, with some notes that may or may not be useful to you if you're curious about the calf increases.

And then, of course, I had the fun of trying to take pictures of my own legs and feet from an angle that showed off the socks but didn't look super awkward! Eventually I accomplished it after discovering that my phone's camera will take a picture if I shout "cheese" at it. It should be easier next time, as I got a remote control for the camera as a winterholiday gift!

I also got a lighting kit with those inside-out umbrellas for properly illuminating my subjects, and I'm hoping to get the chance to try that out soon. It's been so dreary and gray, I've had trouble getting good photos - but this should solve that problem nicely.

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These two socks have been stuck at the heels for a few weeks already, and they were holding me up. I like to turn heels when I'm by myself and can keep track of where I am in the process, or inevitably something goes wrong and I have to rip back. I decided that I'd just buckle down and get them both back to the point where I can work on them and hold a conversation at the same time.

The second of the handspun knee socks had some adjustments from the first one so that it will fit better. Fortunately, I'd left comprehensive notes for myself so that I'd know what to do. On this sock, the third wedge of the Sweet Tomato Heel ends with 16 stitches unworked in the centre, rather than eight, and I can tell that this will be a better fit already. I finished the heel and the inch or so of stockinette that comes after it, and got started on the ribbing for the leg. It will be another six inches of knitting before I have to think about increasing for the calf.

These are way too tall for my sock blockers and the ribbing on the leg really makes them look funny when they're lying flat on the table! Once the second sock is finished, I'll get proper photos of them on my feet/legs to show off the heel and leg shaping.

One and a half knee socks in burgundy stripes, and half a ball of yarn.

I also made it past the heel and gusset decreases on the first of my Twisted Stitch Trilogy socks, which is still unnamed, so I've just been calling it Twisted ONE. This will be my next published sock pattern! I'm really happy with everything about them - the yarn, the colour, the texture, the feel and fit. I'll cast on for Twisted TWO with the yarn I bought at Mom's LYS just as soon as this pair is off the needles!

One and a half amber socks, and half a ball of sock yarn, displayed on blue sock blockers.

Right now the handknits are sharing space in a dresser drawer with the storebought socks, but they're all starting to feel a little squished in there. Not that I have a sock addiction problem or anything, but... pretty soon I'm going to need to give the handknits their own drawer.

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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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Drumroll, please.

And now, on center stage, the Knitting Pirate is pleased to present, in their debut appearance... HANDSPUN SOCKS!

410 yards of two-ply yarn, spun from 4.4 ounces of BFL from FreckleFaceFibers on Etsy, became this pair of toe-up, short-row-heel, socks for myself! I started them in the end of July, 2009, when Janis and I challenged each other not to just spin yarn, but to actually knit with it, too. We both decided on socks. I decided to go with toe-up, because I didn't know how far the yarn would go, but I knew I wanted to get as much out of it as I could. I used Wendy's Generic Toe-Up Sock Pattern, substituting a figure-eight toe.

One of the neat things about toe-up socks is that there's really no need for a gauge swatch; you can just use the toe as a swatch. The yarn seemed thinner than most commercial sock yarns I've knit with, so I decided to use size 0 needles. I started with my usual sixteen-loop toe, knit until I thought it fit my foot, realized that it was too large, and horrified my audience by nonchalantly ripping it out and starting over. "But you've knit so much already!" they said. "Isn't it frustrating to have to begin again?" I explained that I'd rather lose an hour or so of knitting, than put in the time it takes to knit the entire pair and end up with socks that don't fit. It's possible that my horrified audience didn't entirely understand.

(Lesson learned: When using a toe-up toe as a swatch, work the increases only to the point where the toe fits over your first four toes. You can leave the pinky out, it's okay. She won't mind, because in the end the socks will fit much, much more snugly around your foot.)

The socks do fit perfectly, thank goodness. They are a little tight to get on, but once I have them in place they fit me like, well, like socks. No bagging around the ankles, no sagging around the legs, and no extra material around the foot. I hope they wear as well as they fit!

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My mom had surgery this week, and I wasn't able to be there the day of it - so I went to visit her as soon as she got home and was up for visitors. She seems to be doing pretty well, all things considered. We sat and chatted while I worked on the Handspun Sock, and she showed me a gorgeous scarf that her friend knit for her as a long-distance hug. Not just any friend, but her friend from college who taught her to knit in the first place, without whom I wouldn't be knitting now! It's made up of a bunch of different yarns from her stash, in a bunch of different colourways, which blend together beautifully to make something which is very much Mom's style.

I don't have a picture of the scarf, but I do have this picture of the nieceling wearing the Bunny Sweater that Mom knit for her! The bunny is still missing a pompom tail, but that's all right. And now that Mom's done knitting the kid-size sweater, she's thinking of knitting one for herself. Does anyone have any suggestions for a structured cardigan or coat that might work? Something suitable for office-wear?

Then Mom totally made my day by asking for a pair of socks to wear with blue jeans, although in the past she's said that she wasn't interested in them as she tends to wear very thin nylon socks. But the gloves I made her, and the scarf from her friend, are working to change her mind. Not to mention Pirate-Husband, who chimed in to say that he'd been skeptical about handknit socks until he got a pair, and now he is all about the socks. I would be thrilled to make socks for my mom! I just need a few measurements, I told her, and then I will surprise her with when she gets the finished pair. This is going to be fun! Hey Mom, do you want plain socks? Stripey socks? Socks with a fancy stitch pattern?

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On Tuesday night, I stayed up too late in order to turn the heel on my second handspun sock. I may have had some difficulty counting, though I hate to admit it. A short-row heel is not hard to do, so I don't know why I was having such trouble. With thirty-six stitches, I just needed to work back and forth, wrapping the next-to-last stitch as the rows got shorter, until there were twelve wrapped on each side and twelve unwrapped in the middle. So back and forth I went, keeping a mental count: One, one. Two, two. Three, three... until I got up to Eight, Seven. How did that happen? I tinked back until everything matched and tried again, and got it right the second time.

The reason for wanting the heel turned Tuesday is that on Wednesday, I was finally able to rejoin my old crowd, the Reston Stitch 'n Bitch, for their third anniversary celebration. We had about 40 knitters (and crocheters, and embroiderers) there and it was a wonderful time! I can't say that I got too much knitting done, but at least it was all stockinette and I don't have to worry too much about messing that up. We meet at Cosi, which was as warm and welcoming as I remembered. Our group takes up the entire back of the restaurant! Towards the end of the evening, our organizer Marie organized cheesecake for everyone.

I think I am going to have to make more of an effort to get back there on some Wednesdays. Maybe not every week, since I do have to stay late at work in order to get to Reston at the right time... but some weeks. Yeah. I miss everyone. It was awesome to go back.

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On Sunday, I brought the second of the handspun socks to a community meeting. The meeting was a nightmare, which allowed me to crank away on the sock until I was afraid that I'd actually knit too far up the foot, and I had to put it away. At that point I actually started to participate in the meeting, which may have been a mistake - I can see now why so many people in my neighborhood just don't get involved!

Back at home, I measured and was happy to conclude that the foot was still about an inch short. I worked on it while watching the Vikings/Saints game, and then on Monday evening I settled in to knit the short-row heel. Well, I got about eight or ten rows in and something went wrong. I couldn't tell what - perhaps I forgot to wrap one of the stitches, or maybe I forgot how to count as I knit. Either way, I was tired so I decided not to stress over it; I put it down and went to bed. I'll fix it up this evening.

On the spinning front, this lovely fiber from LakeHouse Loft was my birthday present to myself. It's six ounces of Corriedale in randomly-patterned colors, and I'm not yet sure how I'm going to spin it. I could do a three-ply sock yarn, or a slightly heavier weight for a matching hat and fleep-top set. Most of my queue is hats and socks, with the occasional scarf or dishcloth in there as well. What can I say - I like socks!

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Cascade Heritage SockThese socks are cranking right along, and I am absolutely loving the yarn. Fortunately I have another skein in a different colorway for myself! As I expected, there was a little pooling around the gusset, but for the most part the colors are distributing evenly. It is much more vivid in direct sunlight, which is a neat trick of the dye job. Indoors, the colors are quite subtle. (You can ignore the safety pin; that was just a place-marker.)

Handspun BFL SockI have been thinking of the handspun socks as the "Perfectly Imperfect Socks." There is something incredible about knitting with yarn that I spun myself - about being able to spin yarn that's good enough to knit with - about watching the colors come together and knowing that there will never be another pair of socks like these. They're mine, from beginning to end, and I am wonderfully proud of them. And of myself.

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Fortunately, only three stitches had slid from the needles of the handspun sock, and hadn't dropped down very far at all. I was able to rescue them in just a few minutes (doesn't everyone keep a small crochet hook in their purse?) and resumed knitting with no progress lost. The yarn seems to be slightly thinner in this section and I'm hoping it's not too thin for the sock.

The truth is, I think I will love these more if they are slightly imperfect. As a perfectionist, I've always been a hoarder of arts and craft supplies, and now of yarn - because as long as it's still unused, it has great potential. If I use it up, it might not come out as well as I imagine it in my head. These socks are an attempt to conquer that terrible attitude. I was hesitant to spin the fiber into yarn because I didn't want to mess it up, and then I was delaying knitting the yarn into socks because I didn't want to mess it up. But I have one sock done and another on the way, and they're coming out all right if not perfectly... and they are mine, my very first handspun socks, and no matter what they're like when they're done I will adore them.

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Every time I put my sock in progress into my purse, I think "I sure hope none of the stitches slide off the needles." They almost never do... but when I took the toe of my handspun sock out of my bag, I noticed a suspiciously ramen-like section of yarn. Yep, sure enough. some of the stitches had slid free and dropped down a few rows. Phooey!

In lieu of fixing it, I worked on the Cascade Heritage sock. I'm done with the leg and about to start the heel flap, but I've run into math troubles. I'd thought to continue the k3, p1 ribbing down the heel, but this is a 68 stitch sock - so there are seventeen groups of four stitches - so how many of them would I use to make a symmetrical heel flap? If I want to frame the instep with purl stitches, that would mean doing the ribbed heel flap over 35 stitches rather than 34. And then what are the heel turn numbers?

The internet has the solution: apparently 70 stitch socks, with 35 stitch heel flaps, are not uncommon! I checked a few different patterns and picked the numbers which looked best to me. Here's hoping it works out well. If it doesn't, it wouldn't be the first time I've un-knit a heel flap!

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