Black And Blue FO Friday

I promised you a finished object, so it’s time to deliver. Last Sunday I completed my Black and Blue Ribs Socks.

They were knitted in Trekking XXL sock yarn in color 35. Trekking XXL is one of my very favorite sock yarns. It’s a workhorse yarn that wears really well. It’s a bit thinner than most fingering-weight sock yarns, so I usually knit it up on 2.25 mm needles instead of my usual 2.5 mm, and I cast on 80 stitches instead of 72. I’m always amazed at sock knitters who cast on only 64 or even 56 stitches. They must have very narrow feet and tiny calves, or perhaps they knit their socks at a much larger gauge than I do. I like my socks to be 8.5-9.5 stitches per inch, so 64 stitches just won’t do. But I digress.

Trekking XXL comes in a huge variety of great colorways, and I have never been disappointed with how a Trekking colorway knitted up until I made these socks. I had no idea when I bought this yarn that it would knit up in a “camo” pattern. I don’t like the camouflage look, and I was really disappointed when I realized this colorway is camo because I love the combination of blue, black, and gray. I was expecting more of a striping pattern, but instead, I got this.

Black and Blue Ribs socks in “camo” yarn

The stitch pattern is a simple Shadow Rib pattern, which is one of my very favorite patterns for socks. It looks good in almost any yarn, solid, tonal, semi-solid, patterned, self-striping, or hand-dyed. And it’s easy to knit, but interesting. I started with a 2 x 2 ribbed cuff, then worked the Shadow Rib pattern. The heel flap is Eye of Partridge. I worked the gusset decreases on the sole of the foot again,

Heel gusset decreases were made on the sole.

but I reversed the shaping, switching k2tog for ssk and vice versa, because I was curious as to how it would look.

The gusset decreases lean right on the right side of the heel and left on the left side of the heel.

I must admit that I really, really like knitting the gusset decreases on the sole. It looks nice, and the fit is fantastic.

Black and Blue Ribs on a “model.” Please ignore the old lady skin.

Be sure to check out FO Friday on Tami’s blog.

My Broken Heart

A while back, I purchased a sock pattern through Ravelry called Breaking Hearts Socks by turtlegirl76. My main reason for buying the pattern was to get the instructions for knitting a heel with the gusset decreases on the sole instead of along the sides of the instep. I could have figured it out for myself, by why do all that work when someone else has already done it for me, right? Besides, the stitch pattern used for the sock is awesome, and I’m helping to support a talented designer, so it was a win/win/win proposition.

Anyway, I gave the heel recipe a try when I was knitting the Reversible Ribs Socks, and I loved how it turned out. The heel curves perfectly to hug the foot just right. The Reversible Ribs Socks found a home with the boy’s sock-worthy GF, so I was eager to knit a pair of socks for myself using this technique. And what better way could to use this technique than by knitting the original? It was time to cast on the Breaking Hearts Socks.

The first step in knitting up this pattern was choosing the yarn. I had gone through my sock yarn stash at the beginning of the year and pulled out a bunch of balls of Trekking XXL, which is one of my very favorite sock yarns, so I decided to use Trekking XXL. I settled on a lovely mostly blue colorway that knits up with subtle stripes.

I had a big problem right off the bat. The pattern is written for 64 stitches. If I had chosen a sport-weight yarn for this pattern, 64 stitches would be fine. But I knit socks almost exclusively in fingering weight yarn, and if I knit socks for myself on 64 stitches, I have to knit at a really horrendous gauge–7.5-8 stitches per inch–in order for the socks to fit. I hate socks knitted at that large a gauge. The stitches are too lose and the socks don’t wear well. I like to knit my socks at a gauge between 8.5 and 9.5 stitches per inch.

I had to adjust the pattern to 72 stitches, which resulted in modification #1. I increased the stitch count to 72 by adding an extra stitch between stitches 6 and 7 and between stitches 10 and 11 on the chart. The pattern is repeated a total of four times, so I added eight stitches (64 + 8 = 72 ). Seventy-two stitches is my Goldilocks number for socks knitted in fingering weight yarn on 2.5mm needles. (I got 9 stitches per inch with this yarn.)

After casting on 72 stitches, I began knitting the twisted garter edging. For some reason that still baffles me, I couldn’t get the twisted garter edging to work. I knitted it at least five times over the course of two days, and every time it turned out wrong. I don’t know why I couldn’t get it to work. I’ve knitted this edging before with no trouble. I even watched and followed the designer’s on-line tutorial. But I obviously kept doing something wrong because every time I started to knit the first round of the P1, K1 rib, the garter edging was wrong-side out. So I did what any knitter who is frustrated with being such a bonehead would do, I modified the pattern. Enter modification #2. I knitted a ribbed cuff to match the now-modified Breaking Hearts stitch pattern–*K3, (P2, K3) twice, K3  repeat from * 3 more times. I knitted the ribbing for one inch (13 rounds), then started the leg.

After knitting a couple of pattern repeats on the leg, I decided that I didn’t like how the purls on stitches 6-7 and 10-11 in round 3 of the pattern looked with the yarn I’m using, so modification #3 was born. I changed the purl stitches to knit on round 3, but I left the purls in round 6. This removes some of the textured effect of the pattern, but I think the yarn I chose looks better with those purls changed to knit.

I knitted 12 pattern repeats, then started the heel flap. I worked the heel flap as directed except that since I started with 72 stitches instead of 64,  I was working the heel flap on 36 stitches instead of 32.

The pattern calls for a heel flap that is 2.5 inches long, but I knit heel flaps to be 2.75 inches long. We are now at modification #4; I repeated the stitch pattern on the heel 6 times instead of 5 because I need a 2.75-inch heel flap instead of a 2.5-inch heel flap.

I turned the heel, purling 22 stitches instead of 20, and after all the short rows were completed, I had 24 stitches remaining instead of 22. I picked up 20 stitches along each side of the heel flap, then adjusted the instructions to accommodate the extra gusset stitches. I counted 17 stitches from the instep to the heel on each side and placed my heel markers. The gusset decreases were worked every other round on the heel stitches, and when there were only two heel stitches left, I knew I had decreases the gusset stitches down to 36 stitches.

The gusset decreases on the foot instead of the instep

The gusset decreases are on the foot instead of the instep.

 

I continued knitting the foot with the instep in pattern and the foot in stocking stitch for 14 pattern repeats. It was time to start the toe. The pattern has a toe that continues the Breaking Hearts stitch pattern all the way to the end. It’s a gorgeous design feature, but I could tell from looking at the chart that this toe would be too pointy for my feet. So I decided on modification #5. I knitted a modified round toe as follows:

K7, K2tog
Knit 3 rounds plain
K6, K2tog
Knit 3 rounds plain
K5, K2tog
Knit 3 rounds plain
K4, K2tog
Knit 3 rounds plain
K3, K2tog
Knit 2 rounds plain
K2, K2tog
Knit 1 round plain
K1, K2tog
K2tog

The toe looks great, don’t you think?

modified round toe

modified round toe

And it fits just the way I like, as does the heel.

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The curve of the gusset hugs my heel.

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A perfect fit!

 

 

Sock #1 turned out great and fits beautifully. And I made good notes so that sock #2 should be a good match.

Trekking Along

I’ve been doing a lot of sock knitting while watching the Stanley Cup Playoffs. I have four different socks going, three of which are in Trekking XXL, which is one of my favorite sock yarns. Socks make for good hockey knitting.

The most progress has been made on my Trekking 2 x 2 Ribbed Socks. Sock #1 is completed.

A glorious slef-striped sock

A glorious self-striped sock

Sweet, eh?

Using 2.25mm/US#1 dpns, which are giving me a gauge of 9 stitches per inch, I cast on 80 stitches and started knitting away in 2 x 2 rib. When using a yarn as busy as this one, a simple design is best, and it doesn’t get much simpler than 2 x 2 ribbing.

I made the cuff 7 inches long. I decided to work a short-row heel because a gusset would mess up the striping. And because I wanted to keep the flow of the striping from the leg to the instep, I started the short-row heel  with a new working yarn.

I work short-row heels over approximately 60% of the stitches. I wanted to keep the instep stitches balanced, so I knitted the heel on 46 stitches, leaving 34 stitches on the instep needle. The instep pattern begins and ends with Purl 2, which keeps it all nice and symmetrical.

After getting the stitches all situated, I dropped the working yarn and started working the heel stitches from the opposite end of the ball. I didn’t cut the main working yarn because I knew that when the  heel was finished, I would break the “new” working yarn and the original working yarn would be sitting right there patiently waiting to continue going round and round, keeping the stripes intact.

When I work short-row heels, I wrap the stitches in the usual manner, but when I knit the wrapped stitches, I leave the wraps along. This creates a very nice line of tiny, decorative eyelets that for my money give the best looking short-row heel ever. It also has the advantage of not requiring the knitter to pick up and knit wraps. In my opinion, that’s a big plus.

So, after knitting and knitting and knitting some more, the foot of my sock measured 8 inches, so it was time to do the toe. Yeah, I have big feet. They are 10 inches long. There are many options for toes, and normally I chose a nice round toe because it just fits me better than a wedge toe. But for these socks, I decided to knit a short-row toe that is nearly identical to the heel.

Can you see any difference between the heel (right) and the toe (left)? Me, either. :-)

Can you see any difference between the heel (right) and the toe (left)? Me, either. 🙂

Although the heel and toe look virtually identical, there are a few differences. First of all, I just continued using the original working yarn to knit the toe. Also, the toe was worked on 50% of the stitches, not 60%. It’s knitted on the instep stitches, then grafted to the stitches on the sole. And I left only 14 unworked stitches instead of 16 between the wrapped stitches on the heel.

Yeah, that’s a lot of Kitchener (40 stitches grafted to 40 stitches), but I can Kitchener in my sleep or, in this case, while watching game #2 of the Western Conference final of the Stanley Cup.

Can you pick out where the graft is?

Can you pick out where the graft is?

BTW, the Blackhawks won to take a 2-games-to-none lead over defending champs the L A Kings. Go, Hawks!

Sock # 2 was cast on the moment I finished weaving in the ends on sock #1, but I haven’t gotten beyond the cast-on. I have three other socks clamoring for my attention. I had to work a little on each of them just to shut them up. 🙂

Candy Corn And Other Stuff

Yes, it’s another FO Friday and I have lots to report on this gorgeous late November morning. First things first, I finished the Vanilla Candy Corn socks.

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The socks are not identical, but I rather like them that way. I love how the colors in this Trekking XXL stripe and flow, and I think this colorway looks fabulous in garter rib, don’t you?

Remember this fiber from the Sunset Fibers Roving of the Month Club that I was spinning? I turned it into this lovely 2-ply fingering-weight yarn.

DSC02347_2

I’m really pleased with how this yarn turned out. There are lots of long sections of solid or nearly solid colors connected with marled sections, and I think the effect is simply spectacular. Linda at Sunset Fibers is a gifted dyer. I’ve spun up three of her colorways so far, and all of them have been beautiful.

Okay, so far we have a pair of finished socks and 4 oz. of 2-ply handspun yarn. But there’s more. Remember the Cotton Candy fiber I was spinning up for the November challenge for the Raverly Spindlers group? The theme for the month, which I picked, is “life is a carnival.” So here’s my finished yarn.

DSC02337

I spun the yarn on my two Golding Ringspindles and my Schacht 1.1. I wanted to make a 3-ply, so I wound the singles off the spindles into a plying ball, then I plied the yarn using my Schacht 2.2.

When I was winding the plying ball, as I neared the end one of my singles snapped. I decided that rather than splicing the ends I would break the other two singles, then wind the remaining yarn into a separate plying ball. The second ball was tiny, so I plied it first.  After taking the plied yarn off my niddy-noddy, I decided I had put in too much twist when I plied it, so when I plied the second, large ball, I put in less twist and the finished yarn is more to my liking.

Just in case you hadn’t guessed, the tiny skein in the picture is the over-plied yarn from the tiny plying ball and the large skein above it is the more loosely-plied yarn from the large plying ball. I have no idea what I will use this yarn for, but it will look pretty in my stash. 😀

I was  afraid that the colors would turn muddy when I plied the yarn, especially since I was doing a 3-ply. But my fears were unfounded. The yarn remains quite colorful. Life is a carnival!

Today Is Wednesday And You Know What That Means

Yep, it’s WIP Wednesday. I’ll keep it short and simple today because my back is very unhappy.

Vanilla Candy Corn sock # 1 is completed and so is the toe of sock # 2.

Vanilla Candy Corn socks are progressing.

My Cotton Candy spinning challenge (Spindlers on Ravelry) is coming along. I have one spindle finished and a second one is nearly finished. I plan to do a third spindle, then make a 3-ply sock yarn. The blending of the colors will probably turn everything to mud, or maybe to clown barf, but I shall press forward. 😀

Louet Northern Lights in Cotton Candy on Golding Micro Ringspindles

And, finally, this lovely fiber from Sunset Fibers, which is the November edition of the Fiber of the Month Club

Sunset Fibers pin-drafted Corriedale fiber beautifully dyed

is turning into some very lovely singles that will be plied together to make a 2-ply yarn that should be lace weight.

Two bobbins of the fiber spun on my Ladybug

That’s it for today’s WIP Wednesday. Click here to see what everyone else is doing.

Can We Talk?

A few years ago, when I hosted my blog on the now-defunct dotMac/MobileMe site, I wrote a post explaining that I have a tendency to cuss. A lot. I know that some people think that cussing is an indication of a limited vocabulary, but I disagree. I have a very large vocabulary that just happens to include a plethora of cuss words.

Cussing doesn’t offend me under most circumstances, but I know it offends a lot of people, and because I want to share my knitting with any and every interested knitter, I avoid using words that some people might find objectionable, offensive, or off-putting. But that doesn’t mean that my knitting (and spinning) isn’t often accompanied by a whole heap of cuss words.

Some kinds of knitting are just conducive to f-bombs and other obscenities, for example, knitting socks from the toe up. Some sock knitters love knitting socks toe up and think it’s really the only sensible way to knit a sock. They are wrong, of course, but I believe in live and let live. 😉 There are circumstances under which knitting socks toe up is the better choice, but unless the situation dictates toe-up knitting, I knit socks cuff down. So I’m sitting here not a little confused as to why I decided to knit my Vanilla Candy Corn Socks from the toe up. My intention from the start was to knit a plain vanilla sock, with maybe some ribbing on the instep as well as on the cuff, so I’m baffled as to why I started sock #1 at the toe. I have no explanation. I just don’t know.

Vanilla Candy Corn Socks sock #1

But I do know one thing. Had I started this sock with the cuff, it would be finished right now. Instead, I still have 2 or 3 inches left to work on the leg and cuff because I had to knit and reknit the <insert your favorite expletive> heel a total of five times. That’s not a typo. I knitted the freaking heel five times. Five. Times. And trust me, the cuss words flew each time. Lots and lots of cuss words. Lots.

The first time, after I had completed the heel,  I then tried the sock on. The foot was too long. The biggest difficulty I have with toe-up socks is knowing when to start the heel. I’ve tried all the tricks of the trade, but I still have a hard time getting it right. No biggie. It’s just a heel. I ripped the heel out, ripped back a few rounds of the foot, and knit the heel again. I tried it on and guess what. No, the foot wasn’t too short this time, it was still too long. Rip, rip, rip. Knit, knit, knit. This time the length was fine, but I messed up the short rows. Rip again, knit again, but this time my stitch count was off. I had dropped a stitch. Rip again, knit again, and I finally got it right.

Short row heel finally made the Goldilocks zone.

Because I didn’t want to disrupt the striping of the yarn, when I got to the heel, I dropped the working yarn and attached yarn from the other end of the ball to knit the heel. That way, when I started knitting the cuff, the pattern of the yarn colors continued to flow as though they were never interrupted by a heel. Because they weren’t. 😀 The ugly loose stitched circled in black is where I dropped the yarn for the heel and picked up the working yarn again. Once I weave in the end, that loop will disappear.

The cuff of the sock is just good old garter rib, which is one of my very favorite stitches to use for socks. It’s simple, works with almost any yarn, and fits really well because it is very stretchy. You just alternate rounds of 2 x 2 rib with rounds of plain stocking stitch. But don’t do it with Kollage square dpns. They are just awful to work with. I hate them. Hate. Them. Note to self: buy some Chiao Goo sock needles in 2.25mm.

 

 

Not So Plain Vanilla

You, my dear readers, know that I am a rather avid sock knitter. I love knitting socks, I love wearing hand-knitted socks, I love giving my hand-knitted socks to sock-worthy recipients. I’ve hand-knitted at least 150 pairs of socks in the past 15 years and my joy in knitting socks hasn’t diminished in the least.

When I first started knitting socks, I loved to try different patterns. I enjoyed knitting challenging patterns and trying new techniques. But after all these years, I have discovered which sock knitting techniques I enjoy the most and which give me the best results. I now prefer simple patterns and generally avoid patterns that require a great deal of attention.

The vast majority of the socks I have made were knitted cuff down with a heel-flap-and-gusset heel. I used to hate making socks toe up. The toes didn’t fit right, the short-row heels looked awful and didn’t fit my high instep, and I never seemed to be able to start the heel in the proper place, so the foot would inevitably be either too long or too short. I’d end up with ill-fitting socks that looked like they were knitted by a novice. But because there are situations in which toe up is the better option, I kept trying. Through trial and error, I finally figured out how to knit toe-up socks that fit me and look good, too. I found a really nice cast on (Judy’s Magic) and a well-fitting toe (Chrissy Gardiner’s shaped round). I discovered how to knit a short-row heel in both toe-up and cuff-down socks that fits my high instep–just knit the heel on 60% of the stitches instead of 50% of the stitches. And I found a way, thanks to sock designer Debbie O’Neill, to make very attractive short rows without having to pick up and knit the wraps.

The result is that I feel confident to make a short-row heel in a cuff-down sock when doing a heel-flap-and-gusset heel would disrupt the patterning of the yarn colors and I don’t hesitate to knit socks toe up if I’m concerned I might run out of yarn or if I’m too lazy to convert a pattern from toe up to cuff down.

And sometimes I knit socks toe up just because I can. That’s what I did when I decided to knit up the gorgeous Trekking XXL sock yarn that is in the process of becoming the Vanilla Candy Corn Socks. The pattern for these socks is definitely plain vanilla, but these socks are going to be anything but plain, thanks to the gorgeous colorway.

(not so plain) Vanilla Candy Corn Socks sock # 1 in progress

I love it when the yarn does all the work. 😀

WIP Wednesday–What I’m Working On

I’ve been a very busy girl. Just how busy? You’ll find out on FO Friday, but this is WIP Wednesday, so here’s what I’m working on.

I cast on a plain vanilla sock using Trekking XXL. The toe reminds me of candy corn,

Judy’s Magic Cast On begun with 20 stitches and increased to 80 stitches using Chrissy Gardiner’s shaped round toe.

so I decided to call the socks Vanilla Candy Corn Socks. I’ve knitted more of the foot since I took this picture, and the colorway doesn’t look at all like candy corn when it’s knitted on 80 stitches at 10 stitches per inch on 2.25mm needles, but I’m keeping the name. 🙂

I’ll knit the leg of the sock in ribbing for a good fit, but I love the way this colorway is knitting up in plain stocking stitch so I decided to keep the foot plain. Trekking XXL sock yarn is one of my very favorite sock yarns. It is beautifully dyed, wears like iron, and knits up really nice. It’s a fairly light fingering weight, so I prefer to knit it at a gauge of 10 stitches per inch instead of my usual 9 stitches per inch for sock yarn. I’m using the Kollage square DPNs (double-pointed needles, for the uninitiated) that the DH bought me for Christmas a couple of years ago. The stitches are very nicely formed and even. These are not my favorite needles, but I have to admit that I get excellent results when I use them.

My spindles have been busy, too. I’m spinning some fiber for the Ravelry Spindlers November challenge, “Life Is a Carnival,” and the Louet Northern Lights in the Cotton Candy colorway is spinning up very nicely.

Luscious Cotton Candy

I think I’ll end up doing a 3-ply sock yarn with this fiber. It’s a medium grade Corriedale, and although it doesn’t have any Nylon in it, it should make a sturdy sock yarn because I am spinning it very tightly, and I’ll ply it tightly, too. I am really enjoying spinning this fiber. It drafts easily and smoothly, and the color changes are fun to watch. I also love the Golding Ringspindles (Micros) that I’m using to spin this fiber. The more I use them, the more I love my Goldings.

My Golding spindles have been busy for sure, but so has my Ladybug. I bought some lovely Falkland from Unwind Yarn Company in a colorway called Flirt that is mostly white with red and pink splotches on it. It is spinning up into very lovely singles.

Unwind Yarn’s Flirt fiber and singles

Once again, I plan to do a 3-ply and use the yarn for socks. I have a pattern picked out, but you’ll have to wait a while for the unveiling. 😀

Speaking of socks, I think my sock mojo is returning. I’m working on 2 pairs right now, the Vanilla Candy Corn Socks I shared at the beginning of this post, and a pair of knee socks that I am making for my oh-so-sock-worthy future DIL.

I took this picture before I cast off the sock.

Sock #1 is finished and has been tried on by its intended recipient to check for fit. Much to my amazement, it fit! YAY! I have never knitted knee socks before, and I wanted to make sure the first sock fits before casting on the second sock. I’m using a basic knee sock pattern that I found on the Internet via Ravelry, and it is absolutely excellent. The yarn is Knit Picks Stroll Tonal in the Wild Blue Yonder colorway. (I going from memory. I hope I got the right name for the color.) I thought plain vanilla toe-up knee socks would be über boring to knit, but much to my surprise, I have really enjoyed knitting this sock, even on two circular needles. And I now have 6 or 7 different sock patterns and yarns awaiting cast-on. Some of those yarns are my handspun, so I am definitely getting knitting inspiration from spinning. And vice versa. Socks, how I have missed you!