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?

New Pattern: Squadron Socks

So I've released my first pattern, Squadron Socks.  Knit from Georgian Bay Fibre Co.'s Kilcoursie Fingering, this pattern is a great for guys, the pattern is engaging for the knitter but subtle for the wearing. 

I did a post over on the Georgian Bay Fibre Co. blog about the story behind the socks, and I'm sharing it here for you.  I would suggest you follow Carla, she is a great knitter and dyer and takes much better photos than I do.

But I didn't want you to miss out the story behind my first published design

This all started out so innocently, I just wanted to knit my brother-in-law, Jim, a pair of Birthday Socks.  For those who read my blog, you know that I don’t do Christmas Knitting, but for a few close family members I make Birthday Socks.

So Jim’s birthday is at the end of January, however it was the middle of the month and I was home for a visit and I hadn’t started Jim’s socks yet.  I was in a bit of a rut and I hadn’t found a pattern I loved, most of the pattern’s designed for men can be a smidge dull for the knitter. 

However, right at the end of the weekend as I was about to head out, something incredible came out of Carla’s dyepots.  It was golden yellow, rusty orange and just beautiful.  It was the first skein of the colorway we now know as Franklin Island Lichen. 

Well the skein was yelling at me to take it home and knit it into socks for Jim.  Before I knew it I was diving into my Barbara Walker stitch dictionary and coming up with the pattern. 

My blurry iPhone photos don't do this pattern, or the yarn justice, (and it doesn't help that my feet are much smaller than Jim's)

I was inspired by the pennants that are flown on many of the boats out on Georgian Bay.  The most decorative of which can usually be found on the member boats of the Sail & Power Squadron. The group, who encourage safe boating, are quite active in the Parry Sound region.

With the shifting k4/p4 patterning, this sock is engaging to knit and easily memorized, but subtle for both men and women who don’t want flashy socks. This pattern works best with tonal colorways as the textured fabric can get swallowed up by a more multicolored skein.

So happy belated birthday Jim, with your socks finally photographed and the pattern released, you can finally wear them, two months later.

New "Spring" Socks!

The quotes around "spring" are more about the season than the socks.  We got another 5+cm of snow overnight and there are still a few flakes in the air.

The view from my apartment deck this morning.  If you squint you can see the edge of the Muskoka River melting.

However, there is nothing like a good pair of new socks to help improve my mood, and its even better when they are a hot, awesome, almost coral-ish, pink.

For much of my life I've shied away from pinks, as they didn't appeal to me and they were way to "girly" for me.  However as I get closer to 30, I'm discovering how much I like bright, brash colors and pinks like this do the trick nicely.

This colorway is one of those special, unrepeatable skeins that happens when a dyer gets to the end of their day.  This skein, which is Kilcoursie Fingering by Georgian Bay Fibre Co.  was one where Carla had been experimenting with some yellows and had a few skeins she wasn't pleased with, so at the end of the dye day she over-dyed it with leftovers, which must have included some magenta. 

I even wore them to work yesterday! They make most days better!

As her sister, and resident sock knitter, I offered to take that skein of dastardly pink yarn off her hands and make myself a pair of socks out if it.  I know that was a very generous offer on my part.

So now I have socks that are worthy of spring, now if only "spring" would get the hint and catch up!

Project: Cavalcade "Spring" Socks
Pattern: Cavalcade Socks by Tanis Lavalle of Tanis Fiber Arts
Yarn: Kilcoursie Fingering in an OOAK by Georgian Bay Fibre Co.

What I Love Wednesday: Georgian Bay Fibre Co.

What I Love Wednesday is a new feature I'm trying out on the blog.  This is where I share with  you the tools and toys I love to use.  All the items featured on What I Love Wednesday have been purchased, used and loved by me. 

Georgian Bay Fibre Co. is my new favorite thing.  Now, in the effort of full disclosure part of the reason I love it is because my sister, Carla, is the dyer behind this new company and I've spent many hours helping out as her studio assistant, however this yarn is fantastic.

Also, this is why I've been so quiet the past few months, I've been working with Carla since January to get things ready to go.  I'm terrible at keeping secrets so I had to just go quiet for a while as things were coming together.

But onto the yarn ...

Permanent Collection featured on Hennessy Fingering

Lilac, the colorway of the year (available till December 31) and the Spring Collection (available until June 20th)

Featuring Bluefaced Leceister (BFL) yarn and spinning fiber, GB Fibre Co.'s colorways are inspired by the Georgian Bay/Parry Sound/Muskoka area.  The best thing about the colorways, is that they are designed to work together.  Every time I'm in Carla's studio, I just want to play mix-and-match and knit all the three-color shawls out there.

While the colors are stunning, the yarns themselves are amazing to work with. BFL is great yarn to work with. It is a British Breed categorized as a Longwool. But its particular characteristics makes it a "goldielocks" yarn.  In the Fleece and Fiber Sourcebook, Deborah Robson and Carol Ekarius state that BFL is an "... exceptionally adaptable wool, well suited for garments that need to be soft but also must stand up to wear, such as socks, sweaters, mittens and hats. In weaving, it will drape well without being heavy".

I've had a chance to experience this first hand,  having knit or woven with nearly all the available bases.  The bases have been named in a great system, using the names of different bays within Georgian Bay, each base is named based on it's fiber content/type and then by weight.  

The Hennessy line, 100% untreated (aka. not superwash) BFL, is available in Lace, Fingering, DK and Aran weight.   I've knit with the Fingering and Aran weights.

Lumen Shawl by Sivia Harding in Hennessy Fingering, Aster.

The fingering might be my favorite part of this line.  I prefer knitting lace to most anything else, and the Hennessy Fingering has a great 2-ply structure that blocks like a dream.  While I'm not a color work knitter myself, this yarn would be great.  I'm considering making a stranded hat  just to try it out for that purpose.

North Winds Hat by Felcia Lo in Hennessy Aran, Almost Truffle (aka, the accident skein that inspired the Potter's Truffle Colorway)

I've also knitted out of the Aran and while it was only a hat, I've been wearing it every day since I finished it on February 6th.  And its been a helluva winter and there is no sign of pilling and it has retained it bounce.

The attracting of the untreated BFL is great for me.  It's like eating whole-grain bread, its really, really tasty, but it has a bit of a crunch to it.  It feels rustic and historic and different than anything else I've worked with.  

Over the weekend I was home and snagged 3 skeins of the Hennessy DK in Squall, and I'm itching to cast on a Mara shawl.  I may do that before bed tonight.

Not only is there the Hennessy line, but my heart lies with the Kilcoursie family.  With 80% Superwash BFL and 20% nylon, this is sock yarn through and through.  Right now it is only available in Fingering, but I know Carla is investigating getting a DK and Aran. These heavier weights will be perfect for boot socks, baby blankets and anything you want to be able to machine wash.

Squadron Socks by ME! in Kilcoursie Fingering, Almost Lichen (the skein that inspired the Lichen colorway)

Squadron Socks by ME! in Kilcoursie Fingering, Almost Lichen (the skein that inspired the Lichen colorway)

I love this yarn so much I designed my very first pair of socks in it.  The pattern is just awaiting photography and then I will be releasing it through Georgian Bay Fibre Co.  The pattern will be for sale on Ravelry and I can't wait for you to knit it.

The final line is Pengallie.  This one is really special with 80% super wash BFL and 20% silk, this shiny beauty is perfect for shawls and sweaters.  I haven't knit with this one yet, but I know that Carla has and there will be a great pattern coming out for it soon.  Currently available in a fingering weight, I know Carla hopes to expand this line as well.

So please go and check out her website http://gbfibreco.com and get yourself some of the best yarn out there!

Knitting-a-long with Tanis and Glenna

Another fun thing I missed out on sharing this fall, was a KAL (Knit-a-long) using Glenna C patterns and Tanis Fiber Arts yarns.  I forget what started it but in the Tanis Ravelry group we started chatting about using Glenna's patterns (specifically The Urban Collection Vol. 1 and Vol. 2) for Tanis' yarn and before we knew it we were all in for a KAL. 


For my part I managed to finish two projects for the deadline.  The first was the Armour Road Socks using TFA Yellow Label in Paprika (a OOAK color from an Etsy update in the summer) and the Charlotte Street Mitts in TFA Purple Label in Autumn Sun (a Year in Colour Club offering from September 2011).

I did finish the second sock, later that week.

I did finish the second sock, later that week.

They were fun knits and I LOVE making DK weight socks, I see many more pairs in my future (especially with KnitPicks Felici Sport discontinued) as they are a fun quick knit and so very warm. I knit the mitts a bit too larger (after many years of too tight gauge this was a bit of a surprise) but I don't care.  They are really soft and so comfortable so I carry on. Also, I still have a half-skein of the Purple Label so I will probably make another pair of fingerless mitts (a different pattern) because this yarn is just so darn nice.

I'm grateful for the KAL because it encouraged me to knit up patterns that had been lingering pretty far down in my queue and yarns that have been marinating in the stash for a while (well one of them ...)

There is another TFA KAL going on right now, however I don't have any projects entered.  I have too many non-TFA knitting commitments right now (including three Christmas stockings and a pair of socks for my mom, all of which are in various stages of completion) but I am really enjoying seeing the WIPs and FOs in the TFA Ravelry group. I hope my queue is cleared up so I can participate in the next KAL because they are a bunch of fun.