techniques

Re-learning How To Knit Socks

Re-learning How To Knit Socks

I've been on a sock adventure lately and I've so enjoyed sharpening my knitting skills and learning new ways to do things. The thrill of watching a new technique come to life never wanes and it's extremely satisfying to start something without a clue, re-do it half a dozen times to get it just right and then revel in mastering it. If you haven't tried something new lately, you should. I promise you'll have fun and personally, I think socks are a good place to start.

See my yarn? Isn't it pretty? It's a hand-dyed alpaca/merino/nylon blend by the very friendly indie dyer Happy-go-knitty here in Auckland, New Zealand. She does a fabulous range of vivid, cheerful colourways on several bases and her yarn is in hot demand. This blend is stunningly soft (it's 60% alpaca and 20% merino) and seems to be hardwearing which surprised me given it's composition. I re-knitted my first toe no less than four times and you would never guess, the yarn looks pristine.

I may be the last person to try self-striping yarn, but better late than never I guess. I can confirm that stripes are as cool to knit as they say. The colours appear magically and it's quite addictive knitting band after band. These certainly won't be my last self-striping socks either -  I'm quite a fan of stripes and I'm sure I'm in need of a few more pairs. 

Re-learning How To Knit Socks

But, there's more to these socks than trying new yarn. I'm also using new-to-me techniques like starting at the toe instead of the cuff and a fancy short row heel. Fun huh?!

The toe that I ended up going with was chosen basically because I didn't have a 2.25mm circular needle and overall I prefer double pointed needles for knitting small numbers of stitches in the round, socks included. Sometimes it is easier to choose when your choices are limited ;)
 
I found my toe cast on in Cap Sease's book Cast On, Bind Off, 211 Ways to Begin and End Your Knitting. She's got a bunch of sock cast ons for cuffs and toes and I used the Straight Wrap Cast On aka Turkish Cast On. I have actually used this cast on before - but on a larger scale for the fab knitted bag I made last year. Anyhow, this time I started with 24 teeny stitches and away I went. 

I'd love to say it was a breeze, but it was really fiddly. The end result was good but I was nervous I'd snap my needles over those first few rows and felt a little cross with the whole thing. It probably didn't help that I started the first sock so many times, to tweak the number of stitches I was increasing, to perfect the look of the increases and to change needle sizes. It was so much of a chore that when I cast on sock number 2 and then realised that I had left too much of the darker blue for the first stripe and the two socks wouldn't exactly match -  I took the uncharacteristic route of deciding I didn't care and kept knitting anyway.

Next time I think I'll avoid casting on with my dpns. I'm planning to get myself a teeny weeny circular needle tip and knit my toes with that. I have a feeling it'll be a more pleasurable experience.

Re-learning How To Knit Socks

I thought the heel would be interesting and I was keen to try the short row Fish Lips Kiss Heel after all the hype I've heard about it. Now I've done one (and a half) heels I'm pleased to say, it lives up to the hype. I found it fun and easy to knit and it's both comfy and a good fit on my foot. The instructions are great, including photos to describe some of the stitches and there is a ton of information on how to knit a sock for any sized foot from the top down or the bottom up. It's a cheap little pattern at US$1 and I think worth it's weight in gold if you're keen to try a short row heel that'll give you a nice fit.  

(All that said, I've heard good things about the Fleegle heel too - and since I love trying new things, I'm giving that one a go with my very next toe up socks.) 

Do you like my sock blockers? They are fat wire with a hook at the top and look quite old. Happily, I found them in a cupboard in our new house. My theory is that the farmer who lived here stretched his socks over them at the end of the day and hung them over a heater (still in the cupboard) to either dry out or warm up for the next morning - or maybe both. I wonder if he'd be a little surprised at how I'm using them?

You can find more details about my socks, including stitch counts and needle sizes, on my Ravelry project page.

Stay tuned. I've got a giveaway coming up over the weekend!



Truly Grace - We're off!

Outfit 3 - Truly Grace

Have you cast on your Grace cardigan? I have :) After wrapping up my Flowing Lines sweater in the wee hours of Thursday evening, I cast on my Grace on Friday, the 1st of March.

So far, sort of so good. Once again I fall between sizes and that leads to a dilemma about which size to choose and then the nervousness about whether I picked the right one. I like the fit of my Audrey cardigan, so I measured it and have opted for the smaller of the two Grace sizes in question. I'm counting on relaxing into the knit and my gauge "relaxing" with me. Hopefully that'll ensure it turns out slightly bigger ... fingers crossed.

The lace, although terribly simple (variations of a YO, k2tog combination) is deceptive. If you inadvertently forget to YO at the end of a row or muddle one row for another and YO, k2tog instead of k2tog, YO, you quickly end up in a pickle. I did. After doing the first 12 rows I realised the first 4 or 5 looked a little odd. I thought I'd been paying careful attention, but apparently not. Somewhere I'd muddled my rows and the lace was slanting off to one side instead of zig zagging neatly. It's fixed now :)

As of today, I've done all my raglan increases and am making my way down to the bottom of the yoke. With a bit of luck I'll finish that and divide for the body and sleeves tonight. The lace adds interest, but after my initial boo boo I'm double checking myself all the time, not going terribly quickly, and am quite looking forward to getting onto the stockinette sections!

For the raglan increases I've used M1R (make 1 right) and M1L (make 1 left). This creates a nice pair of increases that mirror one another. I have a little way of remembering how to do each...

M1R: lift the bar between the stitch you've just knit and the next stitch, from back to front (I'm left handed and so M1"Right" must be back-to-front) then knit into the back leg so it twists;

M1L: lift the bar between the stitch you've just knit and the next stitch from front to back (you guessed it, left-handers aren't back to front...) and then knit into the front leg so it twists.

It might not work for you .... unless you're left handed too ;)

If you'd like to join our Grace knit along please do! Latecomers are very welcome and there's no pressure to finish by the deadline (except for me!)

I've made a page telling you all the information about the knit along here. There's also a link at the top of the page. If you've got a blog and would like to grab a button for your side bar you're welcome to use this one. 

Truly Myrtle
Let me know if you'd like me to set up a blog linky under my Grace posts too.

How is everyone else getting on?

P.S. Outfit 2 is finished and photographed!!! Keep your eyes peeled for the Big Reveal tomorrow ...


Russian Fudge Arbutus


Arbutus

Arbutus

Have you ever made Russian Fudge? If you're from New Zealand you may have. You've probably tasted it at least. Russian Fudge is the Myrtle family's go to recipe for teachers' gifts. It includes condensed milk and cooks to the colour of, well, the colour of my Arbutus cowl. It's my favourite flavour of fudge, by a long shot.

I'm very pleased with my Russian Fudge coloured cowl.  And, thanks to the very lovely Georgie Hallam aka Tikki on Ravelry, I have now become acquainted with quite possibly the best short rows I have ever come across. After my recent rather dismal short rows Georgie dropped me a line telling me about German short rows. (Have you come across Georgie? Remember I recently knitted a couple of her very pretty patterns for my girls? If you're interested you can find them here and here.) Well, after all that designing, I felt sure Georgie knew what she was talking about. So, when Georgie said "try German short rows", I set out to try them.

Arbutus is full of short rows and I've read several comments about people getting unseemly holes with the wrap and turn method suggested. I thought I'd try Georgie's suggestion, found a couple of very good youtube videos (here and here) demonstrating German short rows, and had a go. FANTASTIC! But look, you can see for yourself ...

Arbutus

Pretty good huh! You can see where I've turned my knitting and knitted extra knit rows around the front loops in between the purl ridges - there's a sort of line running down the left side of the looped pieces. But no gigantic holes. It's very neat.

I've since used them on my Flowing Lines sweater, to shape the shoulder caps, and they're great for that too. Go on, try them!

In case you're wondering, my Arbutus is knitted in squidgy Mirasol Tuhu yarn, colourway number 2007, which I'm calling "Russian Fudge". It's 50% baby lama, 40% merino, 10% angora blend, hence the halo. Although a DK weight yarn, it's knitted on 5mm needles (US9) so the fabric has a ton of spring and drapes beautifully. It's great on ... you'll see soon :)

You can find my Russian Fudge Arbutus on Raverly here.



Happy Blue Hat


Here & There

It's still cold here, so Outfit 2 needs a hat. I've knitted Veera's Here & There togue before, as a gift and have been hankering after my own ever since.

I'm super pleased with mine. I've used very delicious Malabrigo yarn so the whole thing is squishy and soft and will be really warm when I get to wear it (after the final Outfit 2 photos ... it's a good incentive to finish these outfits!)

Veera designed it for the Malabrigo freelance pattern project, so it's intended to be knit in Malabrigo and I've unwittingly used similar colours to hers. The Prussian Blue is the Pagoda colourway and the white is Natural. I just love the ebb and flow of colour, you can see it clearly in the band.

Like my first version of this hat, I've decided to include the faux seam at the back instead of hiding it behind the cable like others have. I rather like the seam.

Here & There Here & There

This is how it looks on the outside. At the end of each row I twist my yarns at the back and give them a little tug to tighten. There's a slight jog, but actually it's pretty neat and tidy.

Here & There Here & There

Here's the wrong side. The twisted yarns form a neat line on the underside.  No straggly bits or unsightly mess. And it's not hard to do, just twist and tug.

You can find my hat on Ravelry here



The Joy of Swatching


Swatching for Flowing Lines - Outfit 2

I never used to swatch. Never. I didn't even know what swatching was! I still don't tend to swatch for kids' garments or accessories, unless I'm making up the pattern myself, but when I comes to sweaters and cardigans for me, I have totally changed my ways. 

Last week I spent a couple of evenings swatching, ripping and swatching again for my Outfit 2 sweater. Can you see how my swatch in the photo has a fringe? That's because I swatched in the round. I needed to do this to check my tension against that required for the pattern (which is knit in the round) and I know that typically my tension changes between knitting flat and knitting in the round. What's clever about the swatch I made is that instead of using a ton of yarn and knitting a complete tube; at the end of each row I slid my knitting to the tip of my left needle and carried my yarn loosely around the back and then knit the next row. I used a circular needle, but you could use a double pointed straight needle. By slipping your stitches and carrying your yarn this way, you are always knitting on the front of your work, just like you do when knitting in the round. Jane Richmond has a great tutorial explaining this technique which you might like to check out.

Anyway, making the effort to swatch was especially worth it this time because it meant that I got to test out the stitch pattern. I'm so glad I did, as I've ended up making some changes to the pattern as written so that it suits me better.

You see, the front and the back of the sweater are covered with a travelling stitch. It's a two stitch "cable" and although technically it could be done with a cable needle, Veera suggests a method for twisting the stitches without one. I tried but I just couldn't get it right and my stitches were looking AWFUL.

Here's what Veera suggested:

Right twist (k/p): knit the second stitch, purl the first from behind, pass both stitches on the right needle; 

Left twist (p/k): purl the second stitch from behind, knit the first stitch, pass both stitches on right needle.

I found that my knit stitch ended up too long on the right twist and the left twist was awkward to execute. I wonder if she's a continental knitter and if that'd make this method easier to execute? Anyone tried it?

After flicking through my books, I found that in fact there are several ways to knit two twisted stitches. I tried a couple and eventually found a method that I liked. Then, after fiddling with it in my swatch, I decided that my travelling knit stitch looked even better if it was twisted. (You can see the difference between untwisted knit stitches at the bottom of my swatch and twisted ones at the top - see how the top ones are so much neater and my tension more even?).

So, my swatching paid off and now I'm twisting every knit stitch (including at the ribbing along the neck and bands so it matches). The method I'm using to do my two stitch (twisted knit) cable is this:

Right twist (k/p): slip the two stitches to right needle as if to knit 2 together, insert left needle through both from left to right and slip back to left needle, knit 1, purl 1 through the back leg; 

Left twist (p/k): slip the two stitches to right needle as if to SSK, insert left needle through both from right to left and slip back to left needle, purl 1, knit 1 through the back leg.

It takes a bit longer but the result is a tight, neat line of travelling twisted knit stitches. I've noted the method I'm using on my Ravelry project page too.

Better get back to it ;)