Book Review: Knitting socks with Handpainted Yarn

The other day I was shopping at Amazon for my sister-in-law’s Christmas present, when I noticed that this book (which I had not seen before) was now shipping.  Since Folk Socks, which I was going to get, had a long shipping time (I ordered it from Knitpicks instead) I got this lovely book.  I’m so glad that I did!

I will tell you right off the bat that I love books about sock knitting for some reason.  Once Folk Socks arrive I will own all of Nancy Bush’s books (she is my sock hero.)  I love Favorite Socks, and even the Vogue Sock Book, errors and all.  But more than sock books, more even that knitting socks, or wearing handknit socks, I love sock yarn.  Perhaps you have noticed, yes?  In fact, today I had an exceptionally good meeting, and as a reward?  I got a skein of one of the yarns used in this book.  But sometimes, of course, we all end up disappointed in our yarn once knit up.  I know I have destashed more than one skein that pooled hopelessly for me (and went on to make lovely socks in someone else’s hands.)  This book helps to give solutions you can work with.

The first part of the book is dedicated to a basic overview of color theory.  After reading the section I looked over my sock yarn stash (and thought about the ones I’ve given away) and realized that the ones I love the most are the ones where the color values are all similar.  Yarns are divided into three types – muted multis, nearly solids, and wild multis.  Patterns are marked as to which ones will work with which yarn.  There is also  discussion of dying methods, and how it affects the yarn’s pooling potential.

Of course, we all came for the patterns, and the book does not disappoint.  There are patterns from some big names (Ann Budd, Veronik Avery, Nancy Bush) as well as lovely patterns from newcomers to me.  Most patterns are written for several sizes, which is unusual for a sock pattern.  None of the patterns look super hard to me, and all are charted (I have discovered that I can’t knit socks without charts because I can’t memorize the pattern.)  Highly recommended, especially if you have a sad sock yarn habit like me (is there a 12 step program?)  Below are some more of my favorites… I have actually knit with two of the colors used before (the heel/toe color of the first sock is Shibui sock, and it still makes me mad how it pools as a semi-solid)  I’ve also used the Red Tail hawk Bearfoot that Nancy Bush uses for her socks (second pair) and I think they would be even lovelier in a different color… I find that Bearfoot obscures patterns because of the mohair, and that yarn is super dark (but comfy I know!)  Oh, and the yarn I bought?  Colinette Jitterbug in Slate, seen in the purplish pair above.  I love Jitterbug, short yardage or no… the feel of the base yarn is excellent, and it isn’t super skinny, and the colors are so pretty… of course, my socks will be shorter because I’m too cheap to buy 2 skeins, but no matter…


Gloomy day yarn

Since it’s a gloomy day here (we had snow and ice last night) and I have to go to work tonight (Advent reconciliation service) I thought I would cheer us all up with some random yarn prettiness.  These are the latest additions to my sock yarn stash.

Socks That Rock lightweight in Moonstone. I bought this during their 15% off sale last week.  I have another order coming with mediumweight in 24 karat and heavyweight in rosebud.  I’ve never used this yarn, but I’ve always been curious about the frenzy.  They have some more solid colors now, so pooling is less of an issue.  I’m thinking of Chalet Socks or some sort of lacy pattern.

Fleece Artist Somoko in Beet. So pretty.  This yarn contains mohair, so I expect it will fuzz up a bit, but the color is gorgeous.

Fleece Artist Sea Wool in Silver. Absolutely looks like silver.  Love the crunchy, springy feel.  I can’t wait to knit with this, I hope I can find a deserving pattern!  I love fleece artist and handmaiden yarns in general, so I’m pleased that these yarns are so nice.  I also want to try Casbah, Handmaiden’s sock yarn with cashmere in it.

I finished my first Cozy Cable sock.

It’s pretty and fits well (those cables really pull in!)  I am not so enamored of the yarn, but more on that later.

Right now I am eating Qdoba for a quick dinner, and I’ve just finished knitting the back of the climbing vine pullover on the machine.  I decided to go ahead and machine knit the stockinette, because I have so many sweaters still to get to this winter, and as much as I love the yarn I love my tendonitis less (I always knit too fast on stockinette and wind up having to take knitting breaks!)  Right now my tendonitis isn’t bad, but with Christmas and Christmas jobs coming up, who knows how I will fare.

December blah

Yesterday (Friday Dec 12th) was my last day off until December 26th.  I’m trying not to be grumpy about it, but I sort of hate all the stress that comes with the holidays for me (I have a job where I will never get Christmas off, ever.)  There is the stress of family, and family expectations (of course) and that combines with work stress and an endless stream of holiday parties (parties are not easy for me… I am too shy, and usually stressed out around the holidays.)

I haven’t actually done any Christmas shopping yet either, and I’m feeling pretty cranky about the whole thing.  I’ve decided to call my socks “Christmas socks” to cheer me up.

I think you can tell my stress level by how complicated a chart I’m willing to follow.  It distracts me.  And yes, there is a purl in the midst of one of my cables on the first repeat, which I wil not be ripping back to fix… it really is not noticeable when not in extreme closeup mode.

I also cast on for the climbing vines pullover.  I love the way the pattern looks in this yarn.  I was worried that it would obscure the vines, but I’m really happy with how it looks.  I’ve done another repeat of the pattern since I took this photo, and it’s going quickly.  I’m making the smallest size, and it looks tiny, but I’m counting on the yarn stretching a bit the way it has for me in the past.  If it doesn’t, then I’ll just have a super fitted sweater.  The chart for this sweater is super easy to follow.  I was was considering knitting the back on the bond, but I love this yarn so much that I might reconsider that idea…

Now I must be off to get ready for work tonight…

New Patterns and Obsessions

I am nothing if not obsessive.   All my life I have chosen interests and then followed them with (some might say) excessive enthusiasm.  First there were books… I carried them everywhere, and probably wasn’t seen without a book in my purse until well after the age of majority (and now I’m back there again, but nevermind…)  Then there was embroidery.  Then Crochet.  Then (recently) my obsession with restoring the house.  Knitting has carried on for quite awhile with no sense of waning.  Now you will rarely find me without a half finished sock lurking in my bag somewhere.  I even develop minor obsessions with my knitting.  Currently I’m really into semi-solid yarns, both for socks and sweaters.  Yesterday I started these socks.

The pattern is “Cozy Cables

It’s not a free pattern, but totally worth it… the pattern is extremely detailed and clear.  I’m loving knitting these, except for one thing… the yarn (dream in color starry) is too solid.  Fortunately, it has sparkles, and they will get me through the pain, but I think this yarn should be less solid if they are going to call it a semi-solid.  Other than that the yarn is lovely, and so much larger than the Malabrigo sock I used last that I can’t believe how fast it’s going!

My sock queue on ravelry?  Three pages long.  And I just bought “Folk Socks” and “Knitting Socks in Handpainted Yarn.”  My sock yarn stash?  Let us not speak of it.  I have sold off most of my variegated and am now replacing them with semi-solids and some variegated skeins where the colors are closer together.

The new Winter Knitty is out, and for once I have found quite a lot to love.  I immediately queued up the yarn for Amelia.

I love the little pintucks and the shaping.  Plus I have a thing for garter stitch cuffs for some reason.  The yarn is Madelinetosh worsted in Malachite, and is so pretty that honestly it might kill me.

My other favorite from the issue is Maja.

I love the geometric look, and I already own the yarn called for, Manos Silk Blend.   I bought it so long ago that I can’t even remember why, but it’s semi-solid!

I also really like the Plaited Points socks and have queued them, though I’m not sure if they would be an annoying knit or not.  Finally, Surface is gorgeous (I even like the funny wrap thing) but I have Kingscot to attempt before I queue any other Norah Gaughan patterns.

I did cast on today for the Climbing Vines pullover from the Winter IK today, but I don’t have any good photos yet.  I’m using Dream in Color Classy in Chinatown Apple, because I can squeeze the smallest size out of three skeins.   I hope to have pictures tomorrow!

Does anyone have a copy of the new Knit.1 yet?  They are relaunching with new editors and what appears to be a whole new look.  They seem to have at last been released from the death grip of lion brand, and everything looks beautiful and wearable.

I’m planning to make this garter stitch cardigan from Kathmandu aran tween (I have a really dark blue shade that is lovely, but needs to be a plain pattern or it obscures the details.)  The socks are by Cookie A… lovely.

Hope everyone is having a good week!

FO: Vaila

Pattern: Vaila from Twist Collective Winter 08

Yarn: Malabrigo Merino in buscando azul, 5 skeins

Needles: US 8

Notes: Ah winter… the enemy of the knitblogger.  I apologize for the lack of quality pictures here, but it gets dark at 5pm lately, long before my photographer makes it home!

Knitting Vaila nearly broke my spirit to knit, I have to tell you.  I picked a pattern that had lots of purling, knitting in the round, knitting bottom up, lace… you name the thing I don’t like, it had it.  I made a bunch of mistakes in the lace, but I don’t think you can tell – by the time I got to the yoke I just wanted to be finished, so I probably wasn’t careful enough.

The sleeves were tough.  I tried knitting them inside out (loose gauge) and then tried purling them (enormous ladders.)  Finally I knit them on the Bond knitting machine, which seems to have worked out fine.  In the picture above you can see comparisons between the machine and hand knitting after blocking.  The machine knitting is still alittle tighter looking and has a few vertical lines in it.  It also feels a little stiffer than the body.  You can’t tell a difference at all from the knit side though, so I would consider the experience a success.

I knit the sleeves shorter than the pattern called for, and they are still plenty long.  I also knit the turtleneck far shorter than the pattern – I knit 35 rows instead of 78.  I was concerned about looking like I didn’t have a neck.  I’m happy with it the way it is.

After I finished, I realized I had forgotten to hold the body stitches to graft, so there was some fudging going on, as well as some unintended ease in the bust.  I also did not do the special cast on, and I knit the ribbing on the same size needles as the body to avoid any flare at the widest part of the body.  I also added shaping to the body, making it hourglass shaped rather than A shaped, again because I was concerned about it being flattering around the hips.

Overall I am pleased with the result, if not totally certain it was worth the aggravation.  It fits well, and it is warm and soft.  I’m not so much a pullover person, but occasionally it’s nice to knit one up.  And I am very thankful for my new machine, without which I am quite certain this would have become an eternal UFO.

Vaila and the Bond: a story

Knitting Vaila is turning into quite the ordeal.  This isn’t the fault of the designer, it’s more the fault of me for choosing a pattern that combines a bunch of techniques I don’t like: patterns with lace on every row, sweaters knit from the bottom up, and reverse stockinette in the round.  I started the sleeves several times.  First I tried knitting them inside out, but that didn’t look great and my gauge was off.  Then I tried knitting them as called for, but I got horrible ladders in the purling.  I could have tried magic loop, but that would have added another technique I hate to the mix (I find it fiddly and annoying.)  So I was about to give up on the sweater, when my husband bought me the Bond knitting machine.

I hit upon the idea of knitting the stockinette portion of the sleeves on the bond and then picking up and knitting ribing for the cuffs off of the live stitches at the beginning.  So I made two swatches on the bond, with the #3 and #2 plates.  3 is supposed to be for worsted, but to get 4.5 st/in after blocking I had to use #2.  Washing the swatch is so important in this case – because of the weighted hem, the knitting will be stretched.  You also need to know your row gauge, because you cannot measure your knitting while it is on the machine.   It worked out great – the sleeves are done, though they require seaming, and it looks like the sweater will be finished someday (right now I am knitting the decreases, never my favorite part… remind me no more bottom up sweaters in one piece, ok?)

What follows is a little demonstration of knitting a sleeve on the bond.  I apologize for the quality of the pictures, but I was doing this at night!

First you will use the green cards provided to push forward the number of needles you need.

Take the weighted hem and lay it through the needles.

Make sure all the hooks are open using the transfer tool provided.

Lay a piece of elastic thread across the hooks, and weight down either end with a clothespin.  Now you will fold the hem over the hooks, so that the hem is hanging from the elastic thread.  Push the hem back towards the table.

Reset the needles by replacing the green cards with the yellow one.  Once all the hooks are pushed back to this position, remove the card.

Choose the size card you need for your yarn weight, and place it in the shuttle.  It is also recommended to wax the back of the card with a plain parafin candle (the new sets come with one.)

Close the shuttle and thread your yarn through the guide.  Now you are read to begin knitting.  Push the shuttle down the row, making sure the yarn doesn’t get tangled in the hem.  The hooks should catch the yarn.

One row completed.  Clip a weight onto the end yarn.  Now you continue, pushing the shuttle back and forth.  Be sure to tension the yarn with your hand at the beginning of each row, or you will drop end stitches.

The knitting grows really quickly.  Be sure not to let the hem touch the floor or your lap.

When you are done (be sure you count rows based on your row gauge) you can bind off.  I tried the back stitch method on my swatch, and liked it well enough.  For the sleeves I transferred the stitches on the hooks to waste yarn, and then placed the hem stitches on a needle to knit the ribbing.  After I finished the ribbing, I seamed the sleeves and then attached them to the sweater by knitting across all stitches.

On the left are the machine stitches.  Right now they are a little tight, but they should loosen up when washed.  I did find that machine knitting makes a tighter edge than handknitting, so the seaming was a little tough (I would have been ok on the knit side, but it was hard to see the reverse stockinette.)

I find machine knitting to be more like weaving than knitting for some reason.  In no way does it replace the joy of hand knitting, but it does make it easier for me to think about some basic sweaters to knit eat up the extra yarn in my stash.

I’m planning to knit the above sweater (the Climbing Vines pullover from the new IK) and am thinking of doing the back and sleeves on the bond as an experiment to see how shaping works, but I’m not totally sure I will…

I would consider the machine to be a worthwhile purchse.  There is a learning curve, and it really is only great for stockinette (it can do ribbing, cables etc, but it requires hand manipulation of the stitches.)  It’s a bulky weight machine, and it isn’t going to be good for yarns knit under sportweight.  I plan to use mine for gifts (since I am a selfish knitter, and I hate taking a lot of time knitting something that may not be appreciated) and the occasional boring bit of a sweater.  It’s got to go in the attic, so I need to clear some space up there.

I hope my explanations were a little helpful!

FO: Twisted Tweed Socks

Pattern: Twisted Tweed Socks

Yarn: Malabrigo sock in Abril, 3/4 skein

Needles: Knitpicks Nickel DPNs size 0

Notes: I found knitting these socks to be an overall pleasant experience.  I did make a few modifications.  I cast on 66 instead of 72 stitches, because I thought 72 would be too big.  They fit, but to be honest I could have gotten away with 72 – the fit over my heel is a little tight.  This is a very non stretchy stitch pattern, so keep that in mind when looking at the cast on number.  I mirrored the swirl pattern on the leg of the second sock, because I’m like that.  It’s really easy to do once you’ve knit the first sock… just start with row one of the pattern and then swirl the other way!  I knit the leg for 5 inches instead of 7 for two reasons.  First, I got tired of the pattern, and second I was worried about running out of yarn – I think the row gauge is rather short because of all the slipped stitches, so it eats more than you might think.  I changed the heel from short row to a ribbed heel.  Ribbed heels fit my narrow heels better, and I was worried about them being small.  Without the ribbed heel I suspect these would not have gone on.

About the yarn (since I know everyone is curious!)  Malabrigo sock is a really thin sock yarn.  I would compare it in weight to Lorna’s laces shepherd sock.  I don’t love thin sock yarns – I like my fingering weights on the heavier side.  It’s also extremely soft and silky, with a lovely sheen.  It has no bounce to speak of – it feels very much like a wool/tencel blend to me, though I know it is not.  I think it is going to pill like nobody’s business, in spite of knitting at a tiny gauge.  Just from being in my knitting bag it is already fuzzy, and I think this bodes poorly for its future.  The colors are gorgeous, and the color runs are very short, so that they probably will not pool (this sock would not have pooled even without the slip stitch I don’t think.)  I’m not sure I will use this yarn again because it is so thin, but I will wait and see about the wear issues.  I would recommend it though, with the warning about potential fuzziness attached.  But then again, with so many lovely sock yarns, when do I ever repeat?

The pattern was clear, although I think there may be an error on the toe shaping on the top down version – it called for decreasing 2 stitches at a time, but I’m sure it’s supposed to be 4.  That’s how I did mine, and I got a toe of the prescribed length.  I memorized the pattern 2 inches in on the first leg, and then I didn’t need to look anymore.  Highly recommended – the finished socks look more complicated than they are!