Up or down?

There are many ways to knit socks, top-down, toe-up, TAAT (two at a time), twinned, single, war & peace (at same time on a single set of DPNS), magic loop, DPN, two circs, 9in circs ... the combinations are endless, and when you add in the variations in toes, heels and cuffs, you have a whole world of socks to explore before you even look at the leg and instep patterns. 

For some, there is only one way to knit socks, and they are devoted to that direction (cuff-down or toe-up) and use a specific needle set up to make that happen.  For me, I decide my direction and needle set up on what I want to accomplish. 

Right now, I'm working three different socks in three different ways, cuff-down on a 9in circ with a heel flap (the colorful one!), cuff-down on a single circ, aka. magic loop (yellow one), and TAAT, toe-up on a single circe with a planned afterthought heel. 

How do you knit your socks?

I have a reason for using each of these techniques and directions for what I want to accomplish with each sock. 

For the yellow sock (Georgian Bay Fibre Co. Bayfield Sock in McKellar Honey) I'm working on a new design, that I'm not certain of yet, so it may change considerably before the sock is done.  For that I like designing cuff-down as it is an extremely popular direction for socks, so if I want it to be accessible to the greatest number of people, and I prefer decreases to increases, so this way I can reduce for the gusset and toe rather than working increases. So that makes cuff-down the right direction, and magic looping is my go-to default when knitting socks.   I'm not doing this pair twinned, as I might do for a patterned sock like this because it is a design.  My technique is to design the sock on paper, knit one sock keeping notes and tweaking the design as I go, then write out the pattern properly, and then try to knit the second sock working from the pattern so that I can check how the pattern is written.  Then all the other stuff, tech editing, layout, review etc., but the two socks let me test my own pattern, because usually I've forgotten how exactly I knit the first one, so I use the pattern. 

For the colorful socks (Spun Right Round Snappy Sock in Graffiti), I'm doing these as purse socks, and I like having my on-the-go socks on 9in circs because it means that I can work them and just drop them when I need to stop.  No need to get to the next needle in magic loop, no worries about dropping a DPN.  Also they are a published pattern, written cuff-down so I'm working that direction, However, I find with 9in circs I need to be doing only knits and purls (no cables, no lace) or my hands really hurt.  So these Hermione's Everyday Socks are perfect for this sort of thing. However, I will be counting the purl bumps to make sure they are the same length!

Finally, the last pair of socks stripey (Turtlepurl Glitter & Stripes in Bah Humbug), I'm doing these toe-up because the person I'm making them for has small-ish calves so I can make the leg nice and long, and because Turtlepurl always come as two perfectly matched 50g skeins, the yarn is pre-divided so I can work them toe up and end when the yarn runs out (leaving enough to do the afterthought heels).  Also, because they are self-striping and toe up, the afterthought heel is perfect, no gusset to be worked as increases and there will be no break in the stripes.  Also, when working TAAT, the toe up method makes casting on super easy, using Judi's Magic Cast On, you can start them both at once on the same long circular needle, which means they will be exactly the same and done at the same time. 

So I need to get back to my sock knitting, winter will be back before we know it and handknit socks are the best part of winter!

So how do you make your socks?  Are you only cuff-down or toe-up?  Do you only use one needle type or to you vary it by the project?

Building the resource library

I finally pulled my spring/summer shoes out of deep storage this weekend as I went out for teaching gigs.

I finally pulled my spring/summer shoes out of deep storage this weekend as I went out for teaching gigs.

Well, after a very long, cold, winter, it seems that spring might actually come. With highs of +16C, and clear blue skies, it was a perfect weekend.  What made it even better for me was that I got to teach new rigid heddle weavers on Saturday and Sunday!  

I teach a beginner rigid heddle weaving class every couple of months at my local yarn store in Bracebridge, Muskoka Yarn Connection.  The class is about 2hrs and we get through as much as we can, going over the parts of the loom, warping up a loom (sometimes the store loom, sometimes my loom, and sometimes a students loom) and then the very basics of weaving.  Somehow, that two hours is never enough.  There is always one more skill, one more tip, trick or technique that feels so essential in that moment I realize I don't have the time to cover it.

So in the interest of helping my students, and other new rigid heddle weavers out there, I've been trying to build a Resources section on my website with my favorite blog posts, videos and links that show valid techniques in a clear way.  

I know that some instructors are wary of suggesting students go to YouTube, and I completely agree with this.  You don't know the quality of the instruction and if the technique the person on the internet is using is valid. However, with a sense of what you are trying to learn, you can find some great videos out there that will help you along the way.  Generally if the video is by a known brand, Schacht, Ashford, WEBS, KnitPicks, Lion Brand Yarn or a great content providers like Interweave Crafts, KnittingHelp and Craftsy .  There are great independent teachers out there putting out videos, however there is a whole bunch of crap, bad quality, bad instruction and bad technique.  So if you do decide to dive into youtube, please use a critical eye and if something seems off or wrong, it very well could be so check a few other videos before you go all in on something crazy.

 Because of where I live, in Near North Ontario (my mom is from Kapuskasing, so I really can't pretend we are in Northern Ontario, even though the people in the GTA think that we live in the barren north), there aren't the density of LYSs or workshops that you find in other areas, so when I went to learn a whole bunch of things, I turned to books, videos and the internet.  I'm mostly self-taught from these resources.  Learning in person can be amazing, and I've loved all the in-person workshops I've been able to attend as part of our local spinning & weaving guilds, but those are few and far between, and I wanted to learn so much more than these groups had the ability, or budget, to provide. So it is possible to learn techniques this way, however, without feedback you might be using the wrong spinning wheel and when a real spinning instructor sees you, their first words to you are "that wheel is too small for you".  But on the balance, the internet has been very good to me.

So, go check out the Resources Page, I've started linking up my favorite resources, with Rigid Heddle Weaving 101 and Sock Knitting to start, but I will be adding to those as I remember all the videos and resources that have made my learning easier.

So, what are your favorite resources?  Let me know your fave resources in the comments so I can add them to the list.

Birthday Socks ... all caught up

Two weeks ago I shared the idea of Birthday Socks, you can read it here, but the punchline was, rather than clumping up all my knitting gifts around Christmas, I would spread them out with people's birthdays.

The other thing I mentioned in that post is that I had a pair due on January 24th for Jim's (my brother-in-law) birthday, and a way past overdue pair for my mother.

Well this weekend I managed to finish up both pairs!


My mom's socks are a tad bittersweet, KnitPicks decided to discontinue the Felici sock line, however, they never communicated this to their buyers, so most of us thought new colors would be coming out this spring.  Well Felici sport was discontinued a year ago, but now the fingering is going too. As the current year colors didn't really hit me, the way they have in past years, so I didn't really buy much from this year, however I did buy 2 balls (enough for a pair of socks) of each of the remaining colors that I didn't have in my stash already.  Now, I am way over stashed in Felici, but I expect my current stash will last me long enough to be willing to shell out for hand-dyed self striping yarn (which is not nearly as cost effective as Felici is).

Also, I feel like I've come full circle.  The very first pair of socks I attempted were with Felici Sport and using the Jaywalker pattern. They were completely the wrong size so they got frogged and I made different pair from the yarn, but this pattern has stuck with me as one I wanted to knit.


Jim's pair represent much more excitement for me, I designed them myself.  I'm currently working on getting them written up, (and as the Queen of the run on sentence this is a bit of a challenge for me) and then tested and then hopefully published in the spring.  With their simple knit/purl patterning they are plain enough for most guys (and to make them easy to memorize) but complex enough to keep the knitter engaged. 

So with those to obligations knits done, and a shawl I've been (not) working on since summer frogged, I have a clean knitting slate.  As mentioned a couple of weeks ago, I was feeling guilty about embroidering instead of knitting, and now that I'm free to go back to embroidery I have regained my knitting mojo and just want to keeping on knitting.  

I've cast on a new hat, using the Sweet Georgia pattern North Wind Hat.  I made one of these last winter, and I LOVE it, however I made it from a doubled up silk/merino fingering weight yarn and so while it is nice and warm the band has all sacked out and despite a reblocking last weekend I can't make it tight enough around my ears for deep winter.  So I have a skein of aran weight yarn in my stash in a one-off color that is getting tagged in for this project.

I have also started a new embroidery sampler, Satin Stitches.  I'm terrible at satin stitch so this will be great practice, although I don't think it will go as quickly as the last two.

My color palette for my next embroidery project

My color palette for my next embroidery project

So hat, embroidery, and a short wait for some awesome new yarn that I hope to get by the weekend for a pair of socks for me and a new shawl.

Birthday Socks

I know many knitters punish themselves between October and December 24th to make Christmas gifts for the knit worthy (and not so knit worthy) friends and relatives.  While I have many family members who would welcome a knit gift, I'm terrible at deadline knitting.

So instead of making all my knit gifts due at once, I've switched over to the Birthday Sock system, where those who have earned the right for knitted socks get a pair around their birthdays.

I started doing birthday socks for my mom in 2011.  Not only were they the first pair of birthday socks, they were only the third pair of socks I had ever knit.They were not a success. I'm not sure if it was the yarn or the gauge or the knitting, but she always found the socks really bumpy on the soles of her feet.

The next year was more successful.  This may have something to do with the fact that it was the 11th pair of socks I had knit in 2012.  She quite likes this pair and I get some joy out of knowing that my mom has a pair of stripey hand knit socks in her drawer.

Sokka Socks (Ravelry)

This year's pair was not what I had planned. I had planned on making her a pair of Jaywalker's in Felici Cochineal (a yarn she had spotted in my stash and called dibs on), however when it got to be Christmas and I hadn't even turned the first heel, I went to plan B and gave her one of my Felici Sport pairs.  For those who didn't get to enjoy the wonder that was KnitPicks Felici Sport, this is a magic yarn.  It self-stripes but is a heavier weight yarn which makes for warmer, socks (and if you knit it at fingering gauge makes socks that don't show any wear after dozens of machine washings and dryings).

I'm not as self sacrificing to use up on of my few remaining skeins of Felici Sport on my mother (who is a rock-star who I love greatly), but it also happened that I managed to make the feet a tad too long and they fit her perfectly.

Her other pair are still on the go. I'm currently working on reducing the gusset on the second sock, so I have just two feet and toes left to knit on that pair, so I'm thinking she might get them for Mother's Day and I will do another pair for her for her birthday in October.

Now, onto the reason I'm talking about this, my brother-in-law Jim's birthday is this Friday and I think he is only going to be getting one sock.  I gave it a good go to have a pair done for him, but a few changes (including me designing my very first pair of socks for him using a new-to-me yarn) have held me up.  

However, I still think the birthday socks idea has merit.  I get to knit socks, something I love deeply, without causing my sock drawer to overflow and because my knit-worthy family members have the decency of spreading their birthdays around the year (January, May and October) I have a fighting chance of getting all the pairs made without making myself miserable.

I already have Carla's birthday pair all lined up. Also, because she likes an afterthought heel on her socks, I will have an excuse to try a very cool technique I haven't used before and know that they will fit the recipient reasonable well.

So what about you?  Do you try to do the Christmas knitting thing or do you spread your gift knitting out over the year?  Or are you one of those who is always knitting for Christmas so when it comes time to give gifts you just have to dive into your gift box and the knitting is all there waiting for you?

Feeling like a traitor

Since my post about my attempt to do Spin 365, I've hardly spun.  I finished off the white-nep skein and have nice red hand-dyed fluff on the wheel that I really need to get back to. I have the first bobbin done, but I still have 3/4 of the second bobbin to go.

However, I'm feeling like a bit of a traitor, I'm more interested in doing embroidery than knitting/crocheting, spinning or weaving.

In the past week I've taken on, and finished, two of the monthly samplers from Dropcloth. I subscribed back in August, but I finally got the nerve to take them on and I'm LOVING doing embroidery.  So much so I'm not really knitting. And I feel like such a traitor.

Of course this is exactly what my goal was for the year, "Do the projects (knitting, spinning, weaving, crocheting, tatting, embroidery) I want when I want to do them" was allowing for, but I'm struggling with it.

So I'm making myself finish up my current knitting project, a pair of socks for my BIL Jim's birthday (which is next Friday), before I can start my next sampler. I know I'm not exactly embracing the "impulsive" ethos I set for myself this year, but I will get there.

Also, some other big stuff has been going on the last couple of weeks.  The first, and bigger one, is a very cool project that I'm not able to reveal yet, but y'all are going to love it as much as I do.  The other is that Jack (the cat) and I are officially family.  H]e got his neuter on Thursday and I officially adopted him from the Muskoka OSPCA (who are amazing and wonderful).

He came home from the operation completely stoned, and with a wicked case of the munchies, but otherwise no worse for wear. He has shown no interest in his surgery site so no cone of shame for him.  Although, as part of the operation they gave him a good nail clipping and he has had trouble climbing the furniture (and me!) since he got home. I, for one, am glad he can't claw his way up my body so he may find that I will be more proactive on his nail clipping in the future.

So, am I the only one who feels guilty when I don't knit as much as I think I should, or are there more of us out there?  If you do, lets commiserate, if you don't would you share your tips and tricks for enjoying your hobby without guilt so I can have some new tools when the guilt strikes.