Tag Archives: socks

Spring socks in fall

There’s no denying that winter is on its way here.  Fortunately, the first frost has been late, and I was able to scatter crocus bulbs around in our front and back gardens, late last month.  This is our first fall in a house and it’s been exciting for us to go through all the rituals of the seasons in our first real family home.

I’ve never planted bulbs before, but there’s something about this fall ritual that feels wildly optimistic.  As the leaves tumble around you, and the garden falls into its long, slow, autumn decay, you are already thinking of spring, picturing these brave little stems poking through the last of the winter snow.  I was so inspired by the thought of these brave little purple flowers, that I cast on Wendy Johnson’s crocus socks from Toe-up Socks for Everybody to take my mind of the grey November weather.

My crocus socks in Cascade Heritage Silks

My crocus socks in Cascade Heritage Silks

I knit them in a very spring-y green Cascade Yarns Heritage Silk.  I’m not usually a fan of colours this solid, but the pattern and yarn were a perfect fit.  The silky yarn is a slippery pleasure to knit, I just hope they stand up to frequent wear. The yarn can allegedly be machine washed and tumble dried, but our hand knit socks get washed in Soak and line dried.

The lace pattern here got a little tedious, it was the first pattern I’ve ever knit where I couldn’t memorize the chart, but I think the end result was worth it. The lace is beautiful and intricate, and like most lace patterns, it’s not difficult; the chart simply has the be tackled line by line.

I’ll be approaching the grey weather in the same way, day by day, until those crocuses come up.



My favourite knitting books

Now that we’ve got a little more space, my knitting books and patterns have a space all of their own.  While the paper patterns need some love (they’re currently just shoved haphazardly into a binder), I love seeing my books organized and accessible.  Which got me thinking about my favourite knitting books.  Not all books are created equal, there are some I regret buying, and others whose cracked spines bear witness to how much I love them (and how useful they are).  So here’s a round-up of my favourite titles (so far!)

My knitting reference shelf

My knitting reference shelf

Mitered mittens in Noro Taiyo 11

Mitered mittens in Noro Taiyo 11

Favourite classic: Elizabeth Zimmerman’s Knitter’s Almanac.  There is a reason that Zimmerman’s name is synonymous with knitting for many people.  This book is full of fantastic patterns (mitered mittens and baby sweater on two needles are two of my all time favourite patterns!). But what seperated the Almanac from her other titles is that it’s a great read on its own.  Zimmerman shares her thoughts and life as a knitter. Her directions are by her own admission “pithy,” but for me that just highlights the history of knitting as something shared (often orally) through families and amongst a community.  A must read for any enthusiastic knitters.

Favourite sock books: I’m going to cheat here and name two Wendy Johnson’s Socks From the  Toe-Up and Cookie A’s knit.sock.love. Socks From the

Gusset heel toe up socks (from Wendy Johnson's book)

Gusset heel toe up socks (from Wendy Johnson’s book)

Toe-Up was one of the first books I bought. It is a fantastic beginners book – she explains every necessary technique clearly and concisely, and there are enough variations to keep any knitter busy for years. I still return to this book when I want something to knit in the car or while travelling (the type of project you can knit without consulting the pattern very frequently.)  I have knit nine of the 23 patterns in this book, several of them many times, and I keep coming back.

Monkey socks from knit.sock.love (pattern also available free on knitty)

Monkey socks from knit.sock.love (pattern also available free on knitty)

When I started to outgrow Toe-Up, I began looking around for a more challenging toe-up book, since by that point I was convinced that toe-up was the only way to do it.  When the owner of my LYS suggested knit.sock.love, I was skeptical, since all the patterns are cuffdown. However, one look at this beautiful book changed my mind.  Gorgeous enough to be a coffee table book, knit.sock.love is a book that inspires ardent admiration.  There are regular knit-alongs for this book on ravelry, and a surprising number of people have conquered all 19 patterns, including the cabled knee highs (there are 2!) and intricate diagonals.  I see knitting through this book in the way that many view reading all of War & Peace (which I have done!) or running the Boston Marathon (which my knees will never agree to!). It’s a big project requiring patience, perserverance and time (hopefully one day I’ll have enough of all three).  I have made my way through HederaWedgeMonkey, and Mona, and they are so beautiful; it’s no surprise that so many people love this book.

My youngest niece and her Project Linus blankie

My niece and her Project Linus blankie

Favourite beginner book: Betty Christiansen’s Knitting for Peace. This was actually my first knitting book, and it’s one I highly reccommend for beginners ready to branch out from their first hats, scarves and mitts.  The book contains great, simple projects for blankets, shawls, hats, toys, sweaters and socks.  The basic patterns don’t require special or expensive yarn to look good, so it’s also great if you’re still at the stage where you’re reluctant to drop significant money on yarn, or your hometown doesn’t offer more than the selection at Michael’s and Wal-Mart.  It’s full of information on how to use your knitting to make the world a better place. Inspirational, simple, useful.

Narragansett sweater by Thea Coleman. I can’t wait to make this!

Favourite imaginary book: Thea Coleman’s Baby Cocktails.  Ok, this one doesn’t exist (yet?), but it should, my ravelry queue is filled with her patterns, and Vodka Lemonade is on my needles now.  Her directions are clear, concise and accurate.  Each design shows a clear attention to how they will fit on a woman’s body, and each pattern has a wider variety of sizes than you are likely to find at the mall (I’m guessing sizes 0-20).  I love that her patterns are simple and plain enough to be wearable and fashionable.  Each one has simple embellishments or details that make it special and different, without making it fussy or dowdy. Somebody in publishing please offer this woman a book deal!


I’d love to know what books you think are missing from my shelf – What are your must-own pattern books?

The knitting I wish I was doing

This week is crunch time for our move, and I’m not doing very much knitting. In fact, I was so exhausted last week, that I made a serious error on my lattice top, and had to rip half of it out. Since then, it’s been languishing in the bin I keep for works in progress.  However, not having time to knit, doesn’t mean I haven’t been thinking about knitting. I’d love to have some me time to sit quietly with my needles this week…

One of the many rad lattice tops on ravelry

In lieu of sharing any actual projects, I thought I’d share my summer project queue; a round-up of the knitting I wish I was doing, if you will.

1.  Cap Sleeve Lattice Top by Purl Soho.  I’ve recently become enamoured with Purl Soho’s blog, the Purl Bee. So enamoured in fact, that I’ve made Purl Soho a must-stop on our upcoming family trip to New York City; hopefully I’ll have my top finished by then. I have actually cast this on one, in grey and yellow Cascade Ultra Pima, and it’ll be the first thing I come back to, as soon as we’re settled in. I can’t wait to wear mine around our new neighbourhood with a pair of boyfriend jeans…

My Vodka Lemonade, in progress, with a shortened collar

My Vodka Lemonade, in progress, with a shortened collar

2. Vodka Lemonade Cardigan by Baby Cocktails.  Like my cap sleeve top, I have cast this one on (also in Cascade Ultra Pima). I think it’s a perfect summer knit, since the DK cotton is a nice weight and fiber for wearing over summer dresses, on cool evenings – if only, I finish it before the evenings get absolutely cold. I’ve set aside some time to go to a yoga retreat next month, and I’m already imagining wrapping this around me, by the lake.

Watermelon cardigan, taken from the pattern website

3.  Watermelon by Alana Dakos. I’ve bought the pattern and enough pink and green yarn to make a pair of these for my adorable new nieces (six and three months old!). I can’t wait to see pictures of them rolling around in matching cardigans…. so clever and adorable.

4. Plain host/hostess gift socks.  I’ve completed one pair, but want to cast on another in Tough Love Sock, this time in Stormchaser.  I think these socks will make the perfect gift for my sister and brother-in-law, who will be hosting us in New York, late in the summer. It’s hard to come up with a thoughtful gift for hosts who have everything, especially if you’re flying carry-on. But, I think everyone can use another pair of socks, and the fact that they’re homemade tells your host how much you appreciate it!

5. Stonecutter Sweater by Amy Miller.  It’s highly unlikely that I’ll get to this one before the weather turns cold, and I move on to heavier sweaters and Christmas gifts. However, this sweater, from the most recent Interweave Knits, was the first thing that caught my eye, in a fabulous issue filled with gorgeous patterns.  How great would this look over a bathing suit and shorts? Or dressed up the way it’s styled in this picture? There’s always next summer…

Stonecutter sweater, from Interweave Knits.

I lost my knitting mojo.

Last week, I lost my knitting mojo.  I’m not sure if it’s because I was sick all week, or because I’ve been a little stressed at work. I’m usually pretty dauntless when it comes to trying new things, but the challenges I had with my Overby sweater,  and argyle socks left my confidence as a knitter a little dented.

Usually when I finish I project, I know exactly what I want to make.  Inevitably, there is something I just can’t wait to make.  Most of the time, the only challenge is narrowing all of my ideas down.  This week, however, I made three half hearted runs at Skew socks, but ended up frogging them. (I’ll try again this summer, when I have the stamina to concentrate on all those directional increases, which are currently my knitting kryptonite). After giving up, I couldn’t think of a single thing to cast-on.

I looked through my ravelry queue, browsed all of the knitting blogs I follow, and pawed through my stash, but remained uninispired.  And then I found this:

My very first knitting project, knit two decades ago on my grandma's couch

My very first knitting project, knit two decades ago on my grandma’s couch

my first ever knitting project, cast-on on my grandmother’s couch two decades ago. It’s just a rectangle of garter stitch in scrap yarn, cast-on for no particular reason, other than to knit it.  To engage in the process. To let my fingers repeat and master a simple movement. To spend some time with my grandma.

The simple joys of knitting: socks in Sweet Georgia Tough Sock in Summer Dusk

The simple joys of knitting: socks in Sweet Georgia Tough Love Sock in Summer Dusk

So I did something unusual. I cast on a pair of simple garter stitch socks. It’s a pattern I’ve made countless times, and frankly a little boring.  I usually knit because I want to wear or give the project.  I mostly choose projects, because they will challenge me to pick up or develop a new skill, but these socks couldn’t be easier, and I have no recipient in mind for them.  I’m just really enjoying the process.  The reassuring repetition has calmed my unquiet mind.  My frustrated fingers are finding their confidence again in this familiar task, and I’m being reminded of knitting’s most significant gift: peace of mind.

Completed toe-up slip stitch heel socks by Wendy Johnson in Sweet Georgia Tough Love Sock in Summer Dusk

Completed toe-up slip stitch heel socks by Wendy Johnson in Sweet Georgia Tough Love Sock in Summer Dusk

Stunt knitting: 2 socks at once

Knitting two (training) socks at once: one is pink, the other is blue

Knitting two (training) socks at once: one is pink, the other is blue

Last weekend, I took a class on knitting two socks at once, on the same set of needles, using the War & Peace method. Rarely have two forms of such obscure geekery been so satisfyingly indulged.  The first historical mention of this method is the following passage in Tolstoy’s masterpiece:

[..] a rapturously breathless cry of children’s voices filled the room. “Two, two!” they shouted. This meant two stockings, which by a secret process known only to herself Anna Makarovna used to knit at the same time on the same needles, and which, when they were ready, she always triumphantly drew, one out of the other, in the children’s presence.

They're done!

They’re done!

It was only a matter of time before Anna’s secret was out, and now we can all impress small children and curious onlookers with this somewhat astonishing knitting technique.  Very closely related to double knitting, this technique allows you to knit two socks simultaneously, inside one another.  (Alternatively, if you alternate colours, and thereby interweave your yarns, the two fabrics will become interwoven and you can create a fabric that has no wrong side, like this fantastic scarf by Andre Sue).

The big reveal: kissing socks!

The big reveal: kissing socks!

There are long three part youtube tutorials on this method that taxed my attention and ability to follow a video.  There is also a pretty comprehensive photo tutorial on knitty. However, I’d strongly recommend taking a class, if there’s one offered in your area.  These trainer socks, in worsted weight yarn, were achieved knitting every second stitch from one ball of yarn, and purling every other stitch from the other ball yarn.  The stockinette sections are relatively straighforward, but the inside out ribbing, titling increases and simultaneous gusset pick-ups are not for the faint of heart.  I’m not sure that this technique will save me any time, but it will definitely add a bit of interest to the task of knitting basic stockinette socks, and impress anyone who witnesses the big reveal.

Turns out my sloppy two in one worsted socks were a perfect fit for my son!

Turns out my sloppy two-in-one worsted socks are perfect slippers for my son!

Because I was learning, I knit my trainer socks in two very contrasting colours, and here you can see the pink sock materializing inside the blue one. Our instructor recommended knitting real socks this way in self-stripping yarn, but making sure the stripes do not align (that way you can see which sock is which).  I’m thinking of taking this a step further and knitting two sort of matching socks at once (for example, 1 pink sock with a blue heel and toe and 1 blue sock with a pink heel and toe). When I do conquer Anna Makarovna’s techinque, it’ll be using Kate Atherly’s pattern. Which all begs the question: Can I sustain it while watching this season of Game of Thrones?

Once More With Feeling: Completed Argyle Socks

My husband in his Sneaky Argyle socks by Wendy Johnson in Dream in Color Smooshy

My husband in his Sneaky Argyle socks by Wendy Johnson in Dream in Color Smooshy

After my struggles with these, I’m really happy to have finished them in time to give to my husband for his birthday!  The finished product was well worth the frustration, these are among my favourite handknit socks.  Something about this colour combination feels just conservative enough for his job at a bank, without being too boring or expected.

_AWN3894It’s a real struggle to find good sock patterns for men; I bought Wendy Johnson’s Toe Up Socks For Everybody because it included so many great manly socks.  I look forward to trying out some of the other great patterns in this book: I think the Basket Case socks will make another great pair of husband socks, and I’m toying with the idea of some Belle Epoque thighhighs for me.

I’m usually really pleased with Johnson’s instructions, and I’m a big fan of the clarity and simplicity of her first book, but be forewarned: these Sneaky Argyle Socks are described as a great beginner project, but there are some really long floats, and you will have to be very careful about making them too tight (as I learnt to my great dismay!).  I sized up 2 needle sizes (to 2.5mm) and knit the colour section inside out to ensure that they would fit over my husband’s feet. Now to find a great anniversary pair…

Knitting-fail: Sneaky Argyle Socks

Once more with feeling: my argyle sock, now in two pieces

My argyle sock, now in two pieces

When non-knitters and beginners tell me they’re intimidated by my finished objects, I try to tell them the truth: we all make mistakes. After all, I see what they don’t – the huge knitting-fails.  I was in love with these argyle socks by Wendy Johnson the moment I finished the first one: so beautiful, so perfect for my husband to wear to work, such a great use for leftover yarn…

And then I tried it on. The colourwork section didn’t fit over my foot; it wasn’t even close.  I tried blocking it over a soup can, but there was no improvement.  Of course, we can file this under avoidable mistakes:  the floats should have been looser, I should have tried the first few rows of colourwork over my foot, I should have done some research before attempting my first colourwork sock (one of the blogs I follow had a post detailing this exact problem, with this exact pattern). Woulda, coulda, shoulda – didn’t.

Once more with feeling, knitting the argyle section inside out

Once more with feeling, knitting the argyle section inside out

I didn’t want to lose the foot of this sock, nor did I want to waste all of that burgundy Dream in Color Smooshy (especially since my LYS stopped carrying it), so out came the scissors.  I’m going to take a second run at the argyle, but this time I’m switching to 2.5 mm needles for the argyle section and using this technique to keep the floats loose. I’ll keep you posted on how they turn out…