Posted tagged ‘socks’

It’s hard to dance with a devil on your back

July 9, 2015


Pattern: Pembrokeshire Pathways (rav link) by Brenda Dayne
Yarn: Knit Picks Essential (75% wool, 25% nylon), colorway Turtle Multi
Needle: U.S. 1 (2.25mm) nickel Options fixed 40″ circulars (two-at-at-time magic loop)

I’ve made my mother a couple of shawls and a warm, neck-hugging cowl for her trip to Scotland. But I think what she would really appreciate is a pair of socks. She’s always relaxing on the balcony with a book and a beverage, putting her feet up, and those feet would be even happier if they were protected from the sea breezes and A/C drafts by cozy, beautiful, delightful handknit socks.

But I have never made socks for anyone other than myself. I am at a loss as to how to begin. I know when to start the heel or the toe on socks I make because I try them on. Socks that come out too loose or too tight, too short or too long, are socks that are worse than useless. Instead of reminding you of the glorious, life-affirming luxury of a handknit sock, they remind you of compromise and failure and mediocrity and how cheap a 10-pack of socks is at Wal-Mart and at least those would fit, by God.

I was determined to overcome my fears and knit a sock for someone other than myself. For my mom! I chose a yarn that my dad, who does the laundry these days I think, could throw into a washer and dryer and not ruin. chose a pattern that was ribbed so it would fit even if my size calculations (based on Dad telling me that Mom wears a size 6 1/2 shoe) were off. It was all going great, until the toe. I started the toe earlier than I would have for myself, at 7 inches of foot length, going for a sock about 9 1/8″ or 9 3/16″ long, which is about 5/16″ to 3/8″ shorter than I would make a sock for myself. Unfortunately it turned out to fit me perfectly. The round toe seemed to just keep going. Normally one makes a toe about 2″ long; this one was 2.5″. When it became clear it was running long I eliminated a couple of rows, but it was too late.

See how perfect they are for my size 8 1/2 feet, my 9.5″ long feet? Maybe they would still work for Mom, I thought, and sent them off — partly as an exercise in letting go, in not getting too attached. I kind of loved these socks. They fit me so well. The cables-and-lace pattern was beautiful, the colors perfectly complementing it. I wanted to keep them. But I had made them for mom. Maybe they would magically fit. In my heart I knew better; Dad reported they were about a half inch too long. That means I will get them back, which makes me happy. But it also means that I have to start over thinking about socks for Mom. And as hard as it was to get over that hump of socks-not-for-me the first time, failure on the initial attempt is not making it any easier.

All you can do is cast on again. And again.


The sky goes on forever in a symphony of song

April 16, 2011


Pattern: Falling Leaves by Jessica Landers
Yarn: Knit Picks Essential (75% merino, 25% nylon), colorway Tuscany Multi
Needles: U.S. 1.5 (2.5mm) 47″ nickel Options fixed circulars (two-at-a-time magic loop)

According to my notes, I started these socks on December 24, 2009. It was Christmas Eve. I must have been just finished with Christmas knitting and craving something for myself, something long-term and of my own choosing, something as different from the large-gauge accessories I was making for friends and family as could be. At least that’s how I imagine it. That was 16 months ago. Frankly, I have no idea what I was thinking.


What I do know is that I worked my way past the heel of these toe-up socks and encountered dismay. I had started the gusset too late; the foot was too long. I stuffed them in a bag and pushed them to the back of my pile of WIPs. And there they stayed until after the following Christmas, when I was drawn back to them through guilt about starting anything new for myself when I had a year-old WIP in hibernation. I pulled them out; I tried them on; I decided they weren’t unworkably big, and that I should carry on.


And here they are, not form-fitting but perfectly serviceable and quite elegantly patterned. Just as sock weather is ending, I have squeezed in a few wearings, enjoying the workhorse yarn matched with the eyelet lace pattern, like a piece of ornate silver gracing a rough-hewn country table. And I wonder what took me so long, and why so many socks went unknit because these were languishing unfinished.

It’s they that are lost, it’s they are confused

April 9, 2011


Pattern: Hedgerow Socks by Jane Cochran
Yarn: Knit Picks Essential Kettle Dyed (75% wool, 25% nylon), colorway Spruce
Needles: U.S. 1 (2.25mm) Knit Picks Options nickel fixed 47″ circulars (two-at-a-time magic loop)

It has been two years since I finished a pair of socks. I have dozens of socks in my queue — gorgeous socks with cables and traveling stitches and complicated charts that take up three pages. But none of them could get my sock knitting mojo back. For that I needed — a trip.


You see, socks mean travel knitting to me. They are impressive for the observer, they last through multiple cross-country plane rides, and when you’re done you can wear them right away. But there’s a hitch. The complicated sock patterns I love to knit make terrible travel knitting. You have to keep your charts in front of you at all times, and the pattern is constantly changing. For travel socks, you need simplicity. But simplicity is boring.


That’s why I love these socks. Ribbing, but ribbing that demands attention. Double moss stitch in between columns of knits and purls. A basic yarn that unexpectedly becomes a smooshy soft cushion for your feet. In just two lengthy trips, I went from cast-on to round toe. Sock knitting is back in my life, and now that I’m home for the next few months, those complex cables are calling me.

Slip to the dark side

December 26, 2009

Pattern: rpm by Aija Goto
Size: 9.5 (L)
Yarn: Noro Kureyon Sock (70% wool, 30% nylon), colorway S40
Needles: U.S. 1.5 nickel Options 40″ fixed circulars (two-at-once Magic Loop style)

I tend to start knitting a pair of socks because of one very specific circumstance: I’m about to leave on a trip. These socks were hurriedly cast on right before I left for the AAR annual meeting in Montreal. And they turned out to be perfect travel and meeting knitting. They feature a stitch pattern that, once established, is exceedingly easy to read off the knitting, meaning you don’t have to consult your printout. And the luminous color changes in the inimitable Kureyon style make the knitting endlessly fascinating and pleasurable, even while it remains very simple.

Having learned my lesson from a succession of wearable but snug socks, I caved to reality and knit the larger size. For awhile after turning the heel I thought they might be too big. But once finished, they are well-nigh perfect — slipping on and off easily, the slightest slouch on the leg accentuating the spiral stitch pattern. If I knit socks with this yarn again — and I hope to do so, I’m a Kureyon junkie — I’ll go down to 1’s or 0’s. The fabric in these socks is just slightly on the loose side. But again, because of the casual effect and subtle slouchiness, it doesn’t detract at all. And the thick unspun portions that are Kureyon trademarks might bulge out unpleasantly at too tight a gauge. As knit here, they fit right in with the bloomed stitches once it’s washed.

These pictures were taken on a darkly overcast Christmas Eve morning, in the middle of an epic rain. I love the way the colors take on an ultraviolet glow in this light. There’s nothing like Noro, and I feel like an undercover alchemist wearing it on my feet.

You should spend your life with someone

August 1, 2009

Pattern: Magic Mirror Socks by Jeanie Cartmel (PDF link)
Yarn: Koigu Painter’s Palette Premium Merino (100% merino wool), colorway P419
Needles: U.S. 1 40″ nickel Options fixed circular (two-at-a-time magic loop style, toe up)

It was the last day of July. For the whole month, cheered on by fellow members of Team Welcome and all the nearly 700 participants in Ravelry’s WIP Wrestlemania 2009, I’d been focusing exclusively on finishing my works in progress — all the knitted items I had going simultaneously, or those that had been set aside to wait for sewing up or grafting or attaching buttons, or those that had been abandoned months or years ago.

As part of that commitment, I hadn’t cast on anything new since June. But in June, I did start a few things … some fresh projects, some knits of a more recent vintage, so that the parade of ancient unfinished objects didn’t get too dispiriting. The random number generator picked 24, and in bag 24 I found this pattern and this beautiful yarn, which I bought in Chicago while there for the American Academy of Religion meeting in November 2008.

I admit that I neglected my older WIPs, the ones the event was designed to help me conquer, because of the siren song of these socks. They progress slowly, a few lines of the chart at a time. Luckily I had many occasions when this careful knitting wasn’t in the cards, and the mindless rows of a baby blanket or a pair of handwarmers were the only activity that fit the bill. Otherwise I probably would have knit little else in July.

Last night I decided that I had enough length on the legs and began to knit the cuff ribbing. The hours ticked by as I knit the twisted rib, first one sock, then the other. I thought I might finish the knitting before Wrestlemania expired along with the month of July, but not the bind-off, which required me to choose a stretchy one at minimum, and find supplies that weren’t beside me on the couch at maximum.

But while chatting in the Luau Lounge with some of my teammates, I began to feel as if quitting with only the bind-off to do would be a crying shame. I could count the socks as done for the purposes of Wrestlemania if I chose, but I knew I’d never be able to live with that; socks still on the needles are hardly finished. And if I had time before midnight, why not go for it and gain a legitimate victory?

At 11:56 pm on July 31, as the judges were getting ready to ring the final bell, I pulled my tapestry needle through the last stitch on the last sock, completing Elizabeth Zimmerman’s sewn bind-off and my socks. I had been worried pretty much since the short-row heel that they were too small, but as July turned into August, I coaxed them onto my feet for a blurry iPhone photo.

One way or the other, these socks would have gotten done; if not yesterday, then today, or tomorrow, or next week. But the benefit of an event like WIP Wrestlemania is that it imposes a certain discipline on the participants. Its austerity pays off in a feeling of accomplishment, and the banishing of disorganization and haphazard approaches to production.

And of course, beautiful, beautiful socks.

Time to hit the highway

May 22, 2009

How could something so beautiful be so deadly?

I was slain by the stealthy assassin Madalice today. And so ends my week-long participation in Sock Wars IV. She chose the Air Raid socks, one of three possible patterns, and one that seems to be favored by the fasted knitters in the competition. The yarn is Plymouth Sockin’ Sox (60% superwash wool, 25% bamboo, 15% nylon) in color 2. Look how well they fit and how beautiful they are; it’s a pleasure to succumb to them. My last words were (no joke), “At least I didn’t get socks today, I’m still alive!” At that point, Noel told me that there was a package waiting for me at home.

Just look how close I was to finishing the pair of Insidious destined for my target, Knit&Sip. I was one inch from starting the toe. I could have finished them tonight if the Priority Mail people had chosen to hang on to my death socks one more day.

I chose to knit Insidious, attracted by the ribbing (which I thought would be forgiving for my target’s size 10 feet) and the cables (which I thought would be fun to knit. Here you can see the big Insidious cable and the little 2/2 cables that surround it. In the end I probably sacrificed a little speed for the fun of these cables. I also thought this pattern worked best with the yarn I had chosen for Knit&Sip, Knit Picks Felici in the Martinique colorway.

The socks in progress will be mailed out to Madalice tomorrow so she can finish them up (fast as she is, it’ll probably be a matter of minutes) and hurl them toward their intended target. Congratulations to a worthy opponent. In lieu of flowers, please send a donation to the Sock Wars IV tip jar.

Hey look I’ve changed

April 26, 2009

Pattern: Flippant by Sivia Harding (Rav link)
Yarn: Patons Stretch Socks (41% cotton, 39% wool, 13% nylon, 7% elastic), Olive colorway
Needle: U.S. 1.5 (2.5 mm) 40″ nickel Options circular (two-at-a-time Magic Loop style)

About a year ago, I bought a pair of sandals on a whim. They were cushy. They were good-looking. They were on sale for practically nothing.

They were also, I realized when I tried to wear them for the first time, half a size too big.

Combine this problem with another problem I gradually began to have over the next year: rather large amounts of leftover sock yarn. Whaddya get? Mini-socks. Socklets. Flippants.

Advantage #1: Use leftover sock yarn for something other than the scrap pile.
Advantage #2: Slightly enlarge the size of my feet in a limited area so as to make them the size of my sandals.

Unforeseen advantage #3: Hey, I like the lace pattern on these!
Foreseen advantage #4: Cushion that area between the big and second toes where the thong part of sandal always rubs.

Am I ready for summer or what?