Saturday, December 31, 2011

Mock Cables and Lace

I've made my way to the Mock Cables and Lace socks, which marks the halfway point through the patterns in Sock Knitting Master Class.

At first, I thought I'd skip these socks since I knitted the originals for the book. But then I decided that I wanted to experience the pattern as other readers and knit them again. Besides, I really like these socks and I gave the originals to Julia Boyles, who did the great book design.
The originals were out of String Theory Bluestocking, which is a blend of 80% Blueface Leicester and 20% nylon. I don't have any more of this yarn on hand so I substituted Sanguine Gryphon (which will soon be split into two companies: and Bugga!, which is a blend of 80% superwash merino, 10% cashmere, and 10% nylon that has a round structure similar to Bluestocking.
Instead of working with one long circular needle in the magic-loop method as in the pattern, I chose to work this pair on my Signature double-pointed needles, which make easy work of twisted stitches, decreases, and 1/1 cables. I was also too lazy to use the k1, p1 cable method for casting on and used the Old Norwegian method instead (described on page 39).
The knitting is progressing quickly (probably because I've knitted these socks before) and I'm already at the heel.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Winter Wonderland and New Ball of Yarn

A few days ago, we woke up to an unexpected 14" of snow. For a day, only high-clearance four-wheel drive vehicles could traverse our unplowed street. Here's what our back deck looked like:
In respect for the beautiful view out the windows, I spend the day in my favorite chair and knitted on my Diamond Jacket.
I finished the first ball of yarn and made good progress on the second. Unlike many knitters, I do not like to change balls at the ends of rows. The yarn tails make it more difficult for me to sew seams. Instead, I change balls at least a few stitches from the edge. For the Diamond Jacket, the first ball ended close to the center of a row.

To join a new ball, I simply work one (1) stitch with the yarn from each ball held together, then continue with the new ball, leaving tails several inches long from each ball. Ideally, I make this double stitch on what will be a purl stitch when the right side is facing. That way, there's just a small thick area that coincides with a purl bump and is therefore less noticeable. After the piece is complete, I'll weave in the tails diagonally across the wrong side of the fabric. In this case, I'll follow the "ridges" formed by the diamond pattern.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Diamond Jacket: #2

It's been only a few weeks since I started Marion Foal's Diamond Jacket (from Marion's Knitting Collection 1) and I already wonder if I'll ever get it done. At a gauge of 8.5 stitches/inch on size U.S. 1 (2.25 mm) needles, there are a lot of stitches and a lot of rows to knit. So far, I'm only about 7" into the first sleeve. But I do love the soft lightweight fabric produced by the small needles. The marker is to help identify right-side rows (the stitch pattern is reversible).

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Knot Socks--A Complete Pair

I finished Nancy Bush's Knot Sock (p.96 of Sock Knitting Master Class) and enjoyed every minute of knitting. The pattern is one of those that is involved enough to keep it from getting boring and simple enough that the chart need only be glanced at a few times during each repeat.
Here they are just after blocking.
Notice anything different about the toes? Once again, I ran out of yarn and had to substitute another yarn at the end. Curse my big feet!
I could have avoided this if I'd paid closer attention to the number of yards in the skein I substituted for the Schaefer Yarn that Nancy used. Schaefer Anne has 560 yards (which is more than enough for even heavily cabled socks) and the yarn I used had just 385 yards. I should know by now that I need at least 400 yards for the longish legs that I like and big feet that I have.   

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Knot Socks--Nearly Done

I'm making my way down the foot of Nancy Bush's Knot Socks from Sock Knitting Master Class. Recently, I was asked how to make two socks the same length so I thought I'd show you what I do.
As I work my way along the foot, I place a safety-pin type marker in every 20th round of knitting. This way, I only have to count 20 rounds at at time, then I place a final marker on the round before the toe (or heel) begins. Then I know exactly how many rounds to work for the foot of the second sock. I've found that I try to knit at least to the next marker at each sitting, which makes me finish quicker. I do the same thing when knitting the legs.
If the sock has a stitch or texture pattern, as in the Knot Socks, you can simply count the number of pattern repeats in the first sock to make the second sock match. If you do this, be sure to make note of where in the last repeat the toe or heel begins so you can end the second sock at exactly the same place.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

A Gift of Knitting

For the past several years, I've donated a Knitter's Gift Basket to Heifer International as a way to pass on the good fortune that knitting has brought me. Through donations, Heifer distributes livestock, from chicks to water buffalo, and seeds and seedlings to people in need throughout the world. These gifts provide families with the dignity to feed themselves and the means to pay for shelter, clothing, and education.
Especially in times of global hardships and uncertainty, I like to think that through knitting, we can bring a little peace and tranquility to our own worlds.
Won't you help me share the joy?

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Knot Socks--Making Progress

I'm making good progress on Nancy Bush's Knot Socks (p.96 of Sock Knitting Master Class) and things are going smoothly. I've knitted the leg, heel, and gussets and I have to say that I love the yarn (Three Fates Tethys) and I love the simple rib and cable pattern.
Nancy used the Dutch heel for these socks. It's been a long time since I've done this type of heel and I wonder why. The heel turn is done in such a way that the center heel flap stitches continue uninterrupted (in the heel flap stitch pattern) along the base of the heel. It makes for a well-fitting cushiony and durable heel.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

It Takes a Genius

Not only was I unable to email images from my iPhone to myself, my Mac mysteriously stopped allowing me to upload images to my blog a couple of days ago. Being the computer-challenged non-geek that I am, I made an appointment at my local Apple store with a "genius." Really, that's what they are called. And for good reason. In less than 15 minutes Brad fixed the settings in my iPhone so I can now show you the picture I took of my son (on the left) when he returned from Spain earlier this week (his travel buddy is on the right):
 And the picture I took of my completed Traveling-Stitch Stockings (pictured on my own feet):
Brad deserves the "genius" moniker in my book, but I wonder if he ever feels a little overwhelmed by the pressure of the title.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Full House

We are now a happy family of five again.
Last night, our oldest son returned from three months in Spain. While there, he hiked 500 miles (!) along the  El Camino de Santiago trail in the Pyrenees, then he spent three weeks each volunteering on organic farms.
I took a photo of him when he checked in at the airport back in September.
I took a photo when he got off the plane last night but I'm unable to post it--I can't seem to figure out how to email myself a photo from my iPhone. You'll have to trust me that despite much longer hair and much, much dirtier clothes, he looks about the same.
I was expecting there to be some adjustment period while we all got used to each other again, but I was not expecting the curve ball he threw my way today. He offered to make dinner! He's in the kitchen right now cooking up some sort of lentil stew thing that he learned to make on one of the organic farms. And he plans to make bread, too! Be still, my heart!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Knot Socks--Getting Started

Last night I started the eighth pair of socks in Sock Knitting Master Class--Nancy Bush's Knot Socks (pabe 96). Nancy used Schaefer Yarn Anne, which is a relaxed three-ply blend of merino, mohair, and nylon. The mohair adds a soft halo to the ribbed cable pattern.
For my version, I'm using Tethys Sock, a springy two-ply yarn from Three Fates Yarns in the colorway called Petrified Forest. This yarn was donated to the teachers at Sock Summit and I've been anxious to give it a try. Normally, I prefer three-ply yarns for socks, but this yarn is fairly tightly twisted and has lots of "spring." It also has 20% nylon, which should help in the durability department.
These socks begin with an interesting Double-Start cast-on (described on page  42) that creates a decorative seeded edge. The cable pattern is a welcome relief after the intense traveling stitch pattern in Meg Swansen's Twisted-Stitch Stockings (page 86). There are only two types of cables, and only one type is worked in any round. This promises to be an easy pattern to memorize.
I get gauge on size 1 (2.25 mm) needles but I cast on and will work the top half of the leg with size 1.5 (2.5 mm) needles to make them fit more comfortably around the wider circumference of my calf muscle.
It's currently 2 degrees outside with a predicted high of 13, and there is a foot of snow on the ground. Conditions are ideal for sock knitting!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

New Beginnings

One of the highlights of the Knitter's Review Retreat is New Beginnings, when we each commit to a new project, one that hopefully will be completed in the upcoming year. Clara holds a short but solemn  ceremony of commitment, then we cast on and share our stitches and good wishes with the entire group.
For my New Beginning, I plan to knit Diamond, a very fine jacket in British designer Marion Foale's book Knitting Collection 1 (distributed by Unicorn Books). I bought the book and the Marion's own yarn at Tutto, a delightful little yarn shop in historic Santa Fe.
Now, I just might be a little nuts. The gauge on this sweater is 8.5 stitches/inch, which puts it tighter than most of the socks I knit. Given that I plan to add a few inches (two more buttons) to the body length, I figure that this jacket is equivalent to about ten (10) pairs of socks. In order to see some progress, I decided to start with one of the sleeves. The knitting you see above represents about an hour of knitting. At this point, all bets are off on whether I'll finish in time to wear it to the retreat next year.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Twisted-Rib Stockings--Done!

This is probably the most interesting pair of socks I've ever knitted!
After the top of the foot and the back of the heel are completed, stitches are picked up around the entire circumference for the sole. This entails picking up a lot of stitches along each side of the instep. I placed markers to help me pick up the necessary stitches evenly.

After all of the stitches are picked up, the sole stitches are worked in rounds.
After surprisingly few rounds, some of which involve decreases at the toe and heel, the sole is complete.
The remaining heel and toe stitches are gathered and the others are joined with Kitchener stitch. I hope you're not intimidated by this grafting technique. Once you get started it follows a nice rhythm and is much, much easier than it sounds. Not to mention that it's absolutely necessary for this sock!
Here's a list of what I learned and what I did differently from the instructions in Sock Knitting Master Class:

  • Instead of working with two circular needles, I worked with one 40" circular using the magic-loop technique (described on page 13). I used an Addi Turbo needle, but wish that I had the sharper tips that come on the Addi Lace needles. Twisted stitches are most easily worked with sharp needle points.
  • I used the Old Norwegian cast-on (page 39) to ensure a strong, flexible edge at the top.
  • There is a correction to Row 3 of Chart A: the center two stitches should be worked as a left twist as described in the Stitch Guide.
  • There is also a correction to the set-up round of the Instep. It should read: Set-Up Rnd: (Rnd 4 of Chart A) Ssk, work 11 sts in patt, place last 8 sts just worked (center sts of Chart A) on waste yarn holder to work later for back of heel, work 3 sts in patt, k2tog, work to beg of held heel sts--54 sts rem.
  • I worked one less instep decrease to end with 34 stitches instead of 32, with the hopes that this would make the socks fit my biggish feet better. This left two twisted knit stitches at each end of the needle.
  • I chose not to use Meg's method of knitting (and purling) back-backward as described on page 94. Instead, I worked the old-fashioned and cumbersome way of working back and forth in right-side and wrong-side rows. I was afraid that my tension would suffer if I used Meg's technique. But I have to say, it's no fun working twisted purl stitches!
  • Also to accommodate my biggish feet, I worked the instep about 1/4" longer, working to 4" from the last pattern row of Chart A before beginning the toe.
  • I worked the toe in stockinette stitch instead of continuing the twisted-stitch pattern all the way to the tip.
  • I decreased the toe to 14 stitches instead of 12. 
  • When picking up stitches along the sides of the heel "flap," I picked up through the back loops.
  • When picking up stitches for the sole, I also picked up through back loops. I picked up 34 stitches instead of 29 on each side (because I had worked more rows on the upper foot).
  • I worked the sole for 13 rounds (instead of 11) before the first decrease round to accommodate my wide feet (see note on the top of page 94). 
  • To finish, I cut the yarn leaving a 30" tail, threaded the tail through the 7 heel stitches and pulled tight to gather them, then used the Kitchener stitch to join to 34 stitches on each side, then gathered the remaining 7 toe stitches. 
  • Although the instructions say that two skeins are needed for a pair of socks, I miraculously finished with about 3 yards left of the first skein. 
  • With the extra skein, I think I'll make another pair but adjust the pattern for a "normal" round heel and wedge toe.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Entering the Digital World

Who'd believe it? A couple of weeks ago Interweave turned my handy guides to yarn requirements into iPhone apps and now they tell me that my books are going to be available electronically as well! You'll be able to purchase the eBooks alone or as a set with the print version--called a Collection--through the Interweave Store and, in just a few days, through my website (click on Books and Apps).

The following are available now:
The Best of Interweave Knits eBook and Collection 
Getting Started Knitting Socks eBook and Collection 
Knitted Gifts eBook and Collection 
The Knitter's Handy Book of Patterns eBook and Collection
The Knitter's Handy Book of Sweater Patterns eBook and Collection
Knitting Green eBook and Collection

The rest will be available in the coming weeks.
Favorite Socks: 12/8/2011
Sock Knitting Master Class: 12/15/2011
Bag Style: 01/20/2012
Color Style: 01/20/2012
Lace Style: 01/20/2012
Simple Style: 01/20/2012
Wrap Style: 01/20/2012

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Twisted-Stitch Stockings Upper Foot Completed

These socks have me intrigued. I've never knitted a moccasin sole and it's a little hard for me to envision.
That's why I've been knitting like a bandit these last couple of days.
I finished the instep and the heel "flap" this morning.
It begins with the center 8 heel flap stitches put on waste yarn, then the upper foot is worked back and forth in rows while maintaining the twisted cable pattern on the instep and decreasing stitches each side of the held heel stitches. Then the instep is worked straight to the toe, which is shaped with decreases. The remaining toe stitches are placed on a holder.
Here's what it looks like when viewed from the wrong side of the instep. The two orange markers show where the heel decreases ended.
Next, the held heel stitches are worked (in pattern) while stitches are picked up along the shaped edges.
Here's what it looks like after the heel is completed. I've removed the two orange markers. (The color difference between the two images is because one was taken at night under artificial light.)
Tonight I hope to work the sole.
Stay tuned.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Twisted Stitch Stockings--Getting Started

My knitting journey through Sock Knitting Master Class has brought me to Meg Swansen's Twisted Stitch Stockings (shown on page 86).
I love twisted stitches and have been looking forward to this pair of socks for the pattern. But I have to admit that I'm a little intimidated by the moccasin foot shaping. It requires that the upper foot be knitted back and forth in rows, then the heel "flap" is worked back and forth in rows while it is joined to the back of the instep. Finally, the sole is knitted in the round, shaped with decreases, and finished with a length of Kitchener stitch along the center of the foot. There's not really a way to try on the sock and check for length until it's completely done. But the advantage is that the sole can be removed and completely reknitted if holes develop.
Not wanting to mess with perfection, I ordered two skeins of Vuorelman Satakieli from Meg at Schoolhouse Press in the same gray-blue color she used (#631). But instead of using two 32" circular needles, I chose to knit mine using the magic-loop technique with a 40" circular.
Everything went smoothly for the first few inches. But then I realized that there was an error on Row 3 of Chart A (the braided pattern). The chart says to work a left traveler on the center two stitches of this row. But the pattern is a little more elegant if these two stitches are worked as a left twist instead. The difference is that both of these stitches should be knitted through the back loops as for a left twist. A left traveler has one of them purled, which doesn't flow as nicely into the embossed braid pattern. (I will notify Interweave of the correction on Monday.) Fortunately, this is a minor error visually and you really can't see where I changed the way that these two stitches were worked.  
I'm anxious to get to the instep so I can try my hand at the unusual construction. If things go as I plan (but why should they?), I'll get to the instep tomorrow.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Rose Ribs Completed

I had hoped to finish the second Rose Ribs sock (page 80 of Sock Knitting Master Class) at the Knitter's Review Retreat, but there was just too much going on. Instead, I finished it on the plane home on Monday. I love the yarn I used for these sock--Plucky Knitter Primo in Sticky Toffee. It's a nice round yarn with plenty of stretch. And in a fiber combination of 75% extra-fine merino, 25% cashmere, 5% nylon, it's a dream to knit with and should be heaven to wear.

Those of you with eagle eyes might notice the slightly darker toe on one of the socks. That's because I didn't remember to take my gauge swatch with me and I needed that yarn to complete the second sock. Fortunately, I found a few yards of a similar yarn at the Retreat.
Next up are Meg Swansen's Twisted Rib Stockings.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Feeling Thankful

Today is Thanksgiving, and stuffing and pumpkin pie aside, it's become my favorite holiday because it's the day that I reflect on all that give me cause to be thankful.
Right up there with my family and my health, I'm thankful to all the knitters (and spinners) who make my world a better place to live.
To you, I say a heartfelt thanks for giving me the opportunity to turn my hobby into my living.
I wish you all well (and lots of cashmere).

Monday, November 21, 2011

Knit Handy and Crochet Handy

The wizards at Interweave Press have just converted The Knitter's Handy Guide to Yarn Requirements and The Crocheter's Handy Guide to Yarn Requirements into handy iPhone apps.

Called Knit Handy and Crochet Handy, respectively, these apps will let you determine how much yarn you'll need for basic garments and accessories knitted (or crocheted) at a variety of gauges for a wide range of sizes. Crochet Handy also has conversions single, half-double, double, and treble crochet stitches. All of this is available at the iTunes store for just $0.99 each.

For more information and an official press release, go to:

For Knit Handy, go to:
For Crochet Handy, go to:

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Two New Classes

Today I fly the friendly skies to Rochester, New York, where I have the good fortune to teach at Clara Parkes' Knitter's Review Knitting Retreat this weekend.
I've developed two new classes this year, both of which will debut at the retreat. It's fair to say that I'm a little nervous. But I've made handouts and have knitted swatches so at least I'll have something to show.
On Friday, I'll teach shadow knitting. This is a magical technique where you manipulate garter ridges in two colors to create patterns that seem to appear and disappear, depending on the angle at which the fabric is viewed. Very cool!
On Saturday, I'm scheduled to teach "Conquering Kitchener Stitch". In three hours I hope to make 30 people comfortable with Kitchener stitch, whether it's used for stockinette stitch, reverse stockinette stitch, garter stitch, or ribbing. And as a extra bonus, we'll master the invisible ribbed bind-off, which has its roots in Kitchener stitch. Want to place any bets on whether or not everyone in the class will leave feeling at peace with this most misunderstood grafting stitch?

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Rose Ribs--First Sock Completed

I've been traveling a lot lately and have been afraid to bring my extra-sharp Signature needles in my carry-on bag in case some TSA employee decides to take them away from me. That means that I've been making slow progress on my Rose Ribs socks. But I finally completed the first one and got through about half of the leg of the second last night.
I followed the instructions for the larger sock, casting on 70 stitches on size 2 (2.75 mm) needles. I worked four pattern repeats, then changed to size 1.5 (2.5 mm) needles to narrow the calf. I followed the instructions in the book (pages 81 to 85 of Sock Knitting Master Class) for the heel, but I picked up the gusset stitches through the back loops and then worked those picked-up stitches through the back loops on the first round. This helped tighten the join between the heel flap and the foot. The little safety pins mark every 20 rounds of knitting so I'll be sure to make the foot on the second sock the same length as the first.
The Rose Rib Lace pattern is a relatively simple alternation of yarnovers and left-leaning (ssk) and right-leaning (k2tog) decreases. Every other row is worked as the stitches appear so in the 8-row repeat, there are only 4 rows that need attention. The pattern is not charted in the book because we thought the instructions were so easy to follow written out in rows. Still, I managed to lose my place and more than once skipped a pattern round. I finally noticed that the eyelets are outside the medallions for two pattern rows, then inside the medallions for two pattern rows. Rnd 1 forms eyelets on the outside, Rnds 3 and 5 form then on the inside, and Rnd 7 forms them on the outside again. The decreases are worked so that k2tog decreases and ssk decreases are aligned for two pattern rounds, then they trade places. I've probably just made this sound more complicated than it is. Give it a try--the socks are definitely worth the effort. If you prefer working from charts, you can easily chart the 7-stitch, 8-row repeat for yourself.
I hope to wear these socks when I teach at Clara Parkes' Knitter's Review Knitting Retreat this weekend.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Arwen's Yarn

Early this summer I visited the alpacas at Stargazer Ranch in Loveland, Colorado. I left with some fleece from Arwen.
I've blogged about my trials in cleaning and carding the fleece, but now my efforts have paid off. I have 875 yards of sportweight alpaca in a luscious chestnut color. I photographed this yarn while waiting for a wardrobe change at a recent photo shoot for an upcoming book that will be published by Interweave Press. (I'm the editor of this book but am not allowed to disclose information about it yet.) Encouraged by the amount of yarn I produced, I'll probably knit it into some sort of warm lace shawl.
The photographer's assistant, Scotty, was suitably impressed with my yarn and modeled it for me.
Now, there's an fashionable look!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Rose Rib Socks--Getting Started

You probably think that I've abandoned knitting my way through Sock Knitting Master Class. Not true!
But I did get sidetracked for a few weeks. I'm back at it now and have started Evelyn Clarke's Rose Rib Socks, pictured below and on page 80 of the book.
Evelyn used two skeins of  Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock (80% superwash wool, 20% nylon; 215 yd [197 m]/2 oz) in blackberry.
According to Clara Parkes, these socks have best stitch definition if worked in a well-rounded yarn (Shepherd Sock is 4-ply), but a springy two-ply yarn would give equally attractive results. She mentions that the 20% nylon provides welcome reinforcement to the openwork pattern and bottom of the foot and toe, and that this simple pattern allows for a bit of color variation, although the stitch pattern will look best in a solid or semisolid.
I looked through my stash for something suitable and found a gorgeous skein of Primo (75% extra fine merino, 20% cashmere, 5% nylon; 385 yd/100 g) that Plucky Knitter ( donated to the Sock Summit teacher's bags. This yarn is a round, tight 4-ply with subtle color variation, so even though the nylon content is a bit on the low side, it promises to work beautifully. The rusty color I have is called Sticky Toffee. Yum.
I get the suggested gauge on my size U.S. 1.5 (2.5 mm) Signature needles. To ensure that the upper leg will fit my calf (which doesn't have a well-developed muscle), I cast on with size U.S 2 (2.75 mm) needles and plan to switch to the smaller size when the leg is half done. I'm following the size for the larger socks with a foot circumference of 8 3/4".

How I Spent My Weekend

Last Wednesday we had a 12" snowstorm that threw us right into the heart of winter. Unfortunately, a lot of the trees still had leaves and weren't strong enough to support the weight of the snow. Through the night, we repeatedly heard thumps in the backyard. I had to be away at a photo shoot during daylight hours so it wasn't until Saturday that I saw the extent of the damage.
I've never witnessed a tornado firsthand, but it must look pretty much like this. The one live branch remaining on a maple we've been trying to keep alive fell off so now it looks like a ship's mast. The cottonwood dropped about 20% of it's branches.
We managed to cut everything into small pieces and put it in bins and bags for compost. I could hardly get out of bed this morning.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

1000,000 Winners

Thanks for taking part in the 100,000 drawing. I enjoyed reading your comments. According to an online random number generator, the winners are noallatin, who asked for Knitted Gifts and debd94, who requested The Knitter's Handy Book of Patterns.
Noallatin and Debd94, send your mailing addresses to me at and I'll get your books in the mail.
Here's to the next 100,000!

Friday, October 28, 2011


Today my website counter turns 100,000. To celebrate your faithful readership, I'll hold two drawings for free books. Just respond to today's post and tell me which book I've authored or coauthored that you'd like and why. I'll use a random-number generator to choose two qualifying comments and post them tomorrow, Saturday, October 29. Then you'll have until November 1 to email your mailing address to me at
Good luck and thank YOU!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Approaching 100,000

The counter at the bottom of my blog page was at 99735 when I logged in this morning. That means that it will register 100,000 any day now. This milestone cannot go uncelebrated. Stay tuned for another give-away!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

SOAR Recap

Two weeks ago (has it really been two weeks already?), I had the good fortune to attend Interweave's premier spinning retreat SOAR (i.e., SpinOff Autumn Retreat) on scholarship. This year, the retreat was in Manchester, New Hampshire, and although the trees weren't quite yet at the peak of fall beauty, my breath was taken away by all that I learned in five intensive days of spinning. I'm quite certain that I will continue to spin until I'm too feeble to sit upright and hold fleece.

For the first three days, I took Blending and Spinning for Superior Socks by master spinner Michelle Boyd. The most striking things I learned in Michelle's class are:

  • Socks are more durable if knitted from yarn spun in the worsted method, which is slower than woolen spinning but results in a stronger and smoother yarn that is less likely to wear out or pill.
  • Socks are best if knitted from yarn that has NOT been treated for washability. This is because in making a yarn superwash, the scales on the individual fibers are smoothed down (so they won't felt). Although this makes for a soft hand and easy washability, socks (and any other garments) knitted from superwash wool have less inherent elasticity and tend to stretch out. I guess that's why my socks tend to "grow" on my feet by the end of the day.
  • Socks should be knitted with three-ply yarn, which is smoother and more durable than two-ply yarn. Three-ply yarns are also more round when viewed in cross section, which adds structural strength and insulation. They also help prevent shrinkage, as the close-set plies allow little room for fiber compaction. This probably explains why my favorite sock yarns have always been ones with three or five plies.
  • For durability, sock yarn should contain about 20% of a strong extruded fiber such as nylon, rayon, or silk.
  • Socks knitted with the ideal yarn may feel a little stiff on the needles but with will soften and form to the foot after being washed and worn, and they will last longer than socks knitted from softer yarns.
After three days, I was able to produce a fairly consistent three-ply worsted-spun yarn out of a variety of fiber combinations, including blue-face leicester, merino, alpaca, nylon, bamboo, and silk.

And I got reasonably good at chain-plying my samples. Here is a sample of spaced-dyed fleece that I spun, then chain-plied to maintain the color blocks. Thanks to Michelle Boyd for taking a photo of my hands holding the precious yarn.

I also took four half-day workshops.
In South American Camelids by Robin Russo, I learned a bit about camel, alpaca, guanaco, and vicuna fibers and I tried my hand at spinning an assortment of them.
From top to bottom: two samples of natural alpaca; lavender alpaca blended with gray Cormo; pin-drafted Suri alpaca; Suri alpaca top; mixed llama hair and down, combed; distinct double-coat llama; homogeneous llama; guanaco top; blend of llama and alpaca; baby Suri alpaca:

In An Overview of Rare Breeds by Deborah Robson, I test-spun a variety of wool fibers not widely available but worth looking for.
From top to bottom: Hog Island; North Ronaldsay, Wenselydale, American Jacob, Manx Laughton (my favorite!), Clun Forest, and Black Welsh Mountain:

In Navajo Spinning and Handcarding by D.Y. Begay, I tried my hand at using a four-foot Navajo spindle. In addition to twisting some singles, I learned enough to know that I'll leave this technique to the experts.

In Spinning Singles from Commercially-Prepared and Dyed Top by Deb Menz, I learned to make intentional color sequences from dyed fleece. This was a great way to wrap up the retreat--I broke out of my mud-color rut and played with bright and exciting colors. My vibrant skein of over-twisted singles still makes me giddy.

When I wasn't in class, I enjoyed meeting some of the most welcoming and interesting people in my life. Unlike the stereotypical hippy throw-backs to the 1960s, spinners include people from every walk of life. And judging from the people I met at SOAR, they are the most fun-loving people on the planet.
Sign me up for next year!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Sock Yarn Winner

There were a total of 24 requests for the leftover yarn from Deborah Newton's Thigh-High Stripes--19 who responded by commenting on the blog page and 5 who were unable to post a comment and contacted me directly.
The winner is Librarynan who posted the following on 10/4/11:
I'd love to knit a pair of socks with our leftover yarn, Ann! Think your shorter version would be something I could do without being too intimidated.
Librarynan, send your full name and mailing address to me at and I'll get the yarn out to you this week. If I don't hear from you by 10/12/11, I'll draw another name.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Thigh-High Stripes--A Completed Pair

I finished both socks! Just to shake things up a bit, I kept rust as the main color but I switched out some of the colors on the second sock so that the two wouldn't match perfectly. I've decided that for the time being, these will be my official socks for spinning--won't they look groovy against the wood treadles of the wheel?

Here's a breakdown of the yarn amounts (in grams) used for Deb Newton's original knee socks (in blue) and my abbreviated version (in red):
brown: 71 for knee socks; 10 for my version
teal: 20; 8
lavendar: 19; 8
chartreuse: 17; 13
rust: 19; 37
rose: 21; 10
gold: 26; 15

Now's here the good news: there is enough yarn left over to knit the knee socks if you use teal for the main color, and more than enough to duplicate my version exactly. Not one to keep all this color happiness to myself, I'll send the leftover yarn to an interested reader. All you have to do is respond to this email with your name and why you want to knit these socks by Oct 10, and I'll draw a name and announce the winner. Then you'll need to email your mailing address to me privately at If I don't hear from you within 48 hours, I'll draw another name.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Thigh-High Stripes--First Sock Completed

I've made a lot of progress on my version of Deborah Newton's Thigh-High Stripes. This is because I chose to shorten the leg considerably and because color stripes always encourage me to keep knitting to see how a new color looks next to the others. Before I could stop myself to take a photo, I finished the entire sock!
It hasn't been blocked yet so it's a little wrinkly here, but I'm thoroughly satisfied.

Here are the changes that I made to the original instructions:
  • I used two sizes smaller needles to give me a gauge of 10 sts/in instead of the 9 sts/in called for in the pattern. This is because I like my socks to be really, really dense.
  • I CO 84 sts (this had to be a multiple of 6 sts to fit the colorwork patterns) for the top of the leg and I maintained this stitch count for the entire length of the leg. I also worked the entire leg on the same size needles, which isn't different from the original patt but is different from my typical method of working the upper leg on a size larger needles.
  • I used rust for most of the ribbing, heel, and toe (there wasn't enough brown left) and I switched out other colors to my fancy, while working Charts C, D, B, and E with rust instead of brown for the pattern.
  • I worked about 1 3/4" of ribbing, then worked the leg until the piece measured 6 1/2" from the CO edge. In retrospect, I wish I had worked 7" for the leg.
  • Right before beginning the heel flap, I put a holder through the leading legs of 6 sts in the row below the sts on the needle to prevent the sts from stretching as I worked the heel flap and, therefore, prevent a hole from forming at the top of the gusset (see my blog post for Wednesday, Sept 14).
  • I worked the heel flap on 42 sts for 42 rows, ended the heel turn with 24 sts, and picked up 21 sts for each gusset--there were 108 sts at the beg of the gussets.
  • I decreased the gussets to 80 sts to make the foot a little tighter than the leg.
  • I decreased the toe every other round to 40 sts, then every rnd to 24 sts and finished with Kitchener stitch.
Because I love the colors and pattern in these socks, I'm not even daunted by the number of ends that have to be woven in. The sock is sure to look a whole lot better after I weave in the ends and give it a long soak in a warm bath.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Almondine Revisited

As you know, when I knitted Anne Hanson's Almondine socks from Sock Knitting Master Class, I ran out of yarn (see Almondine--A Complete Pair, posted August 24). I fear that some of you will think that Kollage Sockaliscious doesn't have enough yardage for a standard pair of socks. The socks that I originally knitted were the third size given in the book. It turns out that these are even a bit big for my chunky feet.
To prove that there is plenty of yarn in Sockaliscious, I just finished another pair according to the directions for the second size. They took 91 grams of yarn--the leftover is shown below. Erica at Kollage was kind enough to send me a skein for this, so I'm going to return the favor and send the socks to her. I hope they fit!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011


Two weeks ago, I was at the Scotts Bluff Valley Fiber Arts Fair in Mitchell, Nebraska. This fair is sponsored in part by Brown Sheep Company and includes classes, demonstrations, and fiber vendors. I taught a class on the fundamentals of sweater design and another on how to generate a sock pattern for any size or gauge. I foolishly neglected to take any photos, but I assure you it was a lot of fun.
A few days later I went to Taos, New Mexico for a knitting/eating/shopping vacation with a group of friends. Between the two, I haven't had much time to blog. Two of us stayed at the historic Casa Europa 
Bed and Breakfast. The other three stayed at a guesthouse owned by one of their in-laws. The only photo I took before the battery died in my camera was of two of the resident donkeys seen from the deck of the guesthouse.

I indulged in some of the best cuisine ever and some serious yarn purchasing from Tutto in Santa Fe. We made a pact that we'd finish at least one of the projects we bought by this time next year (so we can all buy more yarn on our next trip). I'll let you know how that goes.
Before you go thinking that I'm a serious spoiled brat (I know I am), I'd like to mention that I came home with a serious infection in my eyes. They itch, burn, ache, and discharge a disgusting yellow goo. Ewww. So far, the eyedrops the doctor gave me haven't helped much. 

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Thigh-High Stripes--Getting Ready

The next pair of socks in Sock Knitting Master Class is Deb Newton's Thigh-High Stripes, which were given cover status. And for good reason--this is an impressive pair of socks.

But, I've concluded that I will never wear such long socks, nor am I willing to knit for anyone as a gift. Instead, I'm going to modify the pattern for a pair of striped socks in normal length. This means I won't have enough stitches to do the large snowflake pattern, which, between you and me, is a relief.

I happen to have the Classic Elite Alpaca Sox yarn (60% alpaca, 20% merino, 20% nylon; 450 yd [411 m]/100 g) leftover from Deb's pair, so my abbreviated pair will still look a lot like the original. The originals weigh 170 grams. I weighed the leftover balls and figured out how much of each color was used:
turquoise: 20 g (90 yd)
brown: 71 g (319 yd)
orange: 19 g (86 yd)
gold: 26 g (117 yd)
green: 17 g (77 yd)
purple: 19 g (86 yd)
rose: 21 g (95 yd)
The numbers here add up to 193 g, but that's probably because Deb used some yarn in swatching.
I'll weigh the balls again when I've finished my short version and will let you know how much yarn they take, too.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Happy-Go-Lucky Boot Socks--Gusset Trick and a Finished Pair

As I was working my way down the leg of the second Happy-Go-Lucky Boot Sock, I got an email from Sharyn Sutherland from down under in Australia. Sharyn has found a fool-proof way to prevent holes from forming at the tops of the gussets and was kind enough to share her discovery with me. The timing couldn't have been better--I was getting ready to start the heel flap on my Boot Sock. And you know what? Sharyn's trick worked beautifully. Here's what I did:

Step 1: A couple of rows before the start of the heel flap, place 3 stitches that correspond with the instep and 3 stitches that correspond with each side of the the heel flap on a coil-less safety pin (I use the little plastic pins from Clover). This keeps the stitches on each side of the heel divide from stretching out as the heel flap is worked.

Step 2: Work the heel flap, heel turn, and gussets as normal. You can probably remove the safety pin after a few rows of gusset decreases, but I left it in for good measure.

Step 3: Remove the safety pins and marvel at how there is no hole to be found. Because the heel flap is worked in a contrasting color for these socks, there was a small hole on the other side where I joined the new color. But once I woven in the end, it disappeared!

I happily went on to finish the second sock of the pair.

Notice how there is a much tidier look to the top of the gusset in the second sock (on the right) than on the first (on the left), where I didn't use Sharyn's trick.

You can bet I'm going to use this simple trick on my next pair of socks.
Thank you Sharyn!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Emptying Nest

I've been distracted these last two weeks helping our oldest son Alex get ready to live his own life. He graduated from high school this spring and is taking the next year off. He calls it a gap year. I call it a gasp year.
Last week he flew to Spain to backpack and work on organic farms for the next three months. He'll come home for the holidays, then he plans to volunteer in Nicaragua in the spring, where he'll teach English and help with community service projects. While we're proud of his independence and philanthropy, I do wish he'd find adventure a little closer to home. We figure that he'll only be back for short visits from now on. Sniff.
Here's Alex a few minutes before we parted ways at the airport.