Unwinding

Rewind / unwind / unpick / unravel / frog / begin again (Michael Finnegan). Just to give you a heads up, from the way things are going, these are the future titles of the next few blog posts. I’m just about to frog the sock again. Which is a shame actually, but also doesn’t matter.

After my last post I decided to start again, in grey. This time the cuff took forever because I did 2×2 twisted rib stitch, which is tighter than regular rib and so barely stretched across the needles. I like twisted rib stitch, but is it worth the hassle of trying to squeeze your way through every stitch? Maybe not for a sock. Weirdly, it stays stretched out once you’ve knit it, or it does for me. When I’ve done regular 2×2 rib it sort of sucks itself in and only stretches when you wear it. Twisted rib seems to stay stretched out. Wait – this photo will show you what I mean, twisted rib on the left, regular rib on the right.

Just me, or the same for everyone? Or actually, is it just this yearn? Anyway, once I got past the cuff I thought I’d make life easy and do some plain knitting. And then I thought maybe I should do some colour work after all. I know I said I don’t really like knitting colourwork, but everyone else’s socks on Instagram look really great – and… bleurgh. There you go.

This is an awful photo but I actually really like the sharpness of colour changes in knitting. I don’t think people make much use of it – often people try and soften the edges or try and create organic shapes in colourwork, but there’s something really nice about embracing the fact that slabs of colour just look good. So I went with colour blocks of 4 stitches. This is good because, 1) counting to 4 is easy to remember 2) carrying the other colour over 4 stitches is fine, you don’t need to do any weird ‘catching the float‘ techniques, which I know I’ll forget to do and then risk a flappy thread that’ll catch and break.

Somehow, I did pretty well with this. Usually, because I’m a tight knitter, the fabric gets really pinched when I knit in more than one colour. No matter how hard I try to keep the floats loose. But I think I did ok this time. Or maybe not.

I switched back to grey, measured it against the well fitting stripy sock and decided it was time to do the heel. I did an ok job with the heel itself, and for me, a decent job of picking up the stitches to get the whole sock back on the needle.

But here’s the thing. It just doesn’t fit well. I pulled it on to check the heel, and the colourwork section is just too tight. I can get it on alrightish, but it’s a slight squeeze every time. I would suggest if you’re (I’m) going to do this, and you don’t want to go up a needle size – which is what a lot of people do with colourwork, but I don’t want to do – then you’ll just have to add more stitches to account for the tightness of the floats. The yarn also shrinks ever so slightly in the wash too – even though it is listed machine washable at 30 degrees. If I did finish the sock it wouldn’t take long before I couldn’t wear it at all. So, I’ll unravel it and try again.

Who says knitting isn’t a cheap hobby? I’ve been using these same balls of yarn for entertainment for literally weeks. Maybe one day I’ll even get a functioning pair of socks out of them too.

I’m assuming someone’s written extensively about the fact you need to account for all this if you’re knitting colourwork socks, but never mind. Experience is a great teacher, as they say (when they’re being polite about the fact you’ve just screwed something up needlessly).

In more productive news, I knitted the bear a blue t-shirt. I think it’s better. Same as the rabbit in the previous post – which, it turns out, is loved.

So that’s where we’re at this week. A few steps forward in knowledge, and a lot of rows back in knitting.

Unravelling

Truth be told, I was a bit grumpy last time I wrote. Not sure why. I’m much happier right now though, because I’ve finally managed to dig out a bramble from the garden. It took about 30 minutes kneeling in the wet mud, with my head in a flowering currant (or indeed ribes sanguineum), but I finally did it. It’s been bugging me since we moved in (3 years ago). It’s hard to get to, and the… stems/trunks/stalks (?) that come off the bramble are the kind of thickness you can only imagine in fairytales. I’ve never seen anything like it. But as the currant bushes haven’t come into leaf let I could finally get to the heart of the bramble. It was a beast. I thought I might have to ask for help digging it up, but I got there in the end. This is in no way interesting to anyone but me, but honestly, I am very pleased with myself.

In other news, I made a quick-ish rabbit for someone at work. Originally I’d planned to dress her in the dungarees I made for the bear (I’m not convinced the bear is happy with their clothes), but then I just sort of knew that the person who would receive the bunny would prefer it with a tail – and I’d sewn up the back of the bear’s dungarees and there’s no way to unpick it. So I made a new pair of dungarees, but without the pocket this time. Actually, they’re quite cute pocketless, I think. The white bunny is there for scale – both made with the same pattern, but the white bunny is in worsted weight yarn.

Here’s an artless shot of the bunny’s tail as proof. I posted her to the recipient on Monday, and by Friday, I’d given her up as lost. Which was awkward. Do you tell someone you’ve made them something and it’s got lost in the post? If they weren’t expecting to get it, would you just be making a scene? I wasn’t too sure. But then on Friday afternoon, I got a nice message to say thank you. I think the bunny had just taken the long route across London.

Here’s a sort of secret. My boss knows, not everyone else does. If I’m in a long (up to an hour +) meeting which is mostly listening, I sometimes knit. If I don’t knit, I end up getting instant messages about work which I feel obliged to answer, and then I check my email and before long I’m responding to a bunch of work related questions and then I might as well not be in the meeting at all. Knitting keeps me focussed and listening to what people are saying. I’m not alone in this, I’ve heard other people say it helps them to focus too – just no one I work with, as far as I know. Anyway. I unravelled one sock in one meeting, and this sock in another:

It got to the point where it was okay, just not…that great. It’s not like I desperately need a knitted sock I don’t like much, so I unravelled it and started again. I thought maybe solid blocks of these colours would work better?

The colours do work better like this – but then I was working on the heel yesterday morning and decided I didn’t love this either so I unpicked this too. I have no idea what I’m looking for in this sock, but clearly none of the above. I’ll work it out. I did actually find someone who makes beautiful socks on Instagram. Amazing colours, beautiful photos. Maybe I will have to go back to learning colourwork after all? I love how solid her colours are. Less about texture, really. Although this is the wrong yarn for trying that kind of thing. Anyway. I’m still attempting to knit socks, basically. What are you up to?

Cables and stripes and bears, oh my!

There’s probably a sock pattern for every type of knitter. Assuming you’re ok with knitting in a circle, of course. Plain socks, colourwork socks, cabled socks and textured socks. Delicate lacy socks and chunky socks. Main problem, I think, is working out what kind of knitter you are. I’m still not sure. To be honest, I’m not even that sure I’m a knitter – but I have the needles, the yarn and I like making things, so for now, knitting it is.

I think when I started writing this blog I assumed I’d find a ‘craft’ that totally fit me. Something I’d stick with and get good at. I’m not sure I’ve done that – knitting ended up as a default, because its super easy to make *something*. It’s also pick up and put downable without too much fuss. You don’t need to get a sewing machine out or open a cupboard. You can leave it lying about and pick it up when you feel like it. (And usually it is lying about. We had a sock on the kitchen table for weeks. My partner is very gracious about eating his dinner with a sock staring him in the face, while I’m in the process of knitting another one). Knitting’s also pretty easy to take with you if you’re travelling – although not as good as tatting, which is much smaller.

Anyway, that’s long winded way of saying I’m making another pair of socks. (And no, I haven’t been travelling.)

I decided I should see if I liked knitting cabled socks. I used the Winwick Mum pattern, left over yarn from my first pair of socks, and the measurements from the second sock of the first pair. The answer? I don’t mind knitting cabled socks, but I am terrible at counting in the round. I don’t know why I’m so bad at it, (just put a marker in and make a note as you go) but for some reason I lost count, all the time. I also decided I don’t like this colour. Or I don’t like so much of this colour in one go. So I unravelled it and started again. And I bought some grey yarn.

Next I made a brand new cuff (groan) and did about 3 repeats of cable pattern in grey. That was ok. I’m still bad at counting but the cable pattern just didn’t show up in the grey yarn – too small a cable and too woolly. So I unpicked that – but not before totally forgetting to take a photo.

(The colour on these photos is terrible, sorry about that). So one of the other things I wanted to try was ribbed socks. I wanted to see if it added interest to knitting plain socks or just ended up being annoying. Jury’s out actually. It’s ok – but then this sock isn’t whizzing along at the speed of the last pair, so maybe it is a bit disruptive? It’s knit 3, purl 1. I also had a bit of a google to see how I could make the cuff neater. My knit 2 purl 2 ribbing never looks that neat, so I swapped it out for twisted rib stitch. That looks incredibly neat – especially if you do a good job of it, which I haven’t really. But try it. It’s easy to do and looks really nice. Downside is that I had to do it all on DPNs, as I couldn’t get it to stretch across the circulars. (I got there eventually, as you can see, but how do people have the patience to knit whole socks on DPNs?)

Technically speaking, the body of the sock so far is 2 rows of each colour. That’s pretty good as you can carry the colour as you go, so not too many ends to sew in. I say ‘technically speaking’ because practically speaking you can see at least one row of orange which is deeper than the others. If I’m honest, there are 2, but the photo is deceptive. I did tell you I couldn’t count. Also, I’m not in love with the grey and orange if I’m honest, but I’m ignoring that for now. I’ll switch to yellow at some point soon. The three balls look nice together, but just less good when knitted up.

The only other thing to try sock wise, was colour work. But I think I’ve finally got to the point where I understand myself well enough to know that it would drive me a bit nuts. I hate unruly things you have to keep untangling, and colourwork falls into this camp. I do it occasionally – some Little Cotton Rabbits clothing – but on the whole, I probably don’t find it that enjoyable. And I guess you don’t have to do hobbies you don’t find that enjoyable, right? Doesn’t stop me looking at everyone else’s work with envious eyes. Maybe I just need to try harder.

So I’ll stick with the ribbed socks, and probably make cabled socks another time, in another yarn. In the meantime I’ve been wearing the socks I have knitted and I love them. Especially the last pair. I can’t believe I made them.

I also made a small bear! I wasn’t really expecting small bear to be this small. She’s knitted out of yarn I’ve had for years, which just seemed to be a good colour for a bear. I used the head pattern from the Little Cotton Rabbits mini animals and the body from the 7″ pattern. What you can see above, left to right is – regular sized bear in small yarn, in the small size dungarees, a small bear in small yarn and small dungarees, and a small bunny in worsted yarn and small dungarees. I can’t believe how chunky the bunny is! I love her none the less. Small bear became a slight issue in that I was worried I didn’t have the yarn to make clothes that would fit, but Krea Deluxe cotton on 2.5 needles worked out ok in the end. I’m still in 2 minds about those colours, but they’re the ones I had. The colours of the Krea Deluxe cotton range are really lovely though. Even if the cotton is a bit splitty at times.

And that’s all for now. I need to go because I’m making a pie, and apparently we’re supposed to be eating soon. The pie is… not yet pie shaped. It’s in a casserole dish, waiting to be assembled. Onwards.

Hope you’re doing ok.

First finishes of the new year

Well. You’d think I was the world’s greatest knitter – and the world’s most frequent sock wearer. I’m actually neither. In fact, I’m typing this barefoot which is a bit silly, but anyway. I finished my second pair of socks yesterday! And I’m very pleased with them, even if I do say so myself.

I have to be honest, the kitchener stitch I’ve done to graft the toes of the 3 other socks I’ve knitted so far was a disaster. No matter how many times I read or watched the various tutorials I found, I just couldn’t get it. But I knew I’d used it at some point before and found a tutorial that clicked for me. So I dug around and found it eventually.

Knit-slip purl. Purl-slip knit. Just remember that and keep on going. That’s it. It’s not more complicated than that. Knit-slip purl. Purl-slip knit. Knit and purl relate to the direction you put the needle in the stitch. So, I’m not going to shame myself by showing you the mess I made of the others, but rest assured the 4th sock is better. The others are really bad. Sometimes you have to do the best you can and keep on trying.

I made the small bunny last year as I was trying to use up some stash yarn. She’s quite green… I made the dress and wasn’t keen on it at first. Then looked again and thought it was fine after all. Just an odd colour combination maybe. But the little cardigan calms it down I think. I did have more stash yarn to use up, but someone from work is learning to knit, so before xmas I donated some needles and some yarn I knew I was unlikely to use to her. Not many people live near me, but she’s only a 15 minute drive, so we did a very chilly socially distanced yarn handover and cup of tea in the garden. She’s since made a baby blanket for her friends, which she, and they, are super pleased with, which is really nice. (That was in the time when it was ok to meet up outside if you were socially distanced. Felt a bit weird signalling directions through the kitchen window so she could get to the back of the house without coming inside, but probably less weird than it would’ve been if either one of us had made the other sick. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ )

I’ve also been getting the full benefit out of my Almina shawl this year. Damn, I love this thing:

I’ve realised it took a year to knit, but I trail it around the house with me like a kid with a comforter. If I’m not wearing it as a shawl / scarf, I often have it as a blanket on my lap when I’m working. It’s really thick and warm. I’m still considering making another one in a light colour to be honest, as I still can’t find another shawl pattern I like as much. And believe me I’ve tried. (Instead of ‘doom-scrolling‘ I’m a pattern-scroller. It’s an awful habit that I’m going to try and kick. Imagine what I could be doing if I wasn’t staring at the screen so much.)

So that’s where we’re at. Hope you’re safe and well. Look after yourselves. I should probably go and put a pair of socks on. Y’know. Because I can.*

(*There’s a certain irony here. It’s actually very hard for me to put socks on at the moment because I’ve done my back in again. Win some, lose some!)

The joy of socks

So, I did it! In my last post I was building up to trying Winwick Mum’s sock tutorial. I’d already bought a sock pattern I liked the look of back in May, and the yarn to knit it, but frankly, I didn’t understand the pattern at all. So I thought I’d learn to walk before I started running, and used the yarn to do the tutorial instead.

It’s a great tutorial. I actually did as I was told, and swatched for a change. Look! Here’s the proof:

One of the great things about this pattern is that you can make it work for the yarn and the needles you have. That’s even better when you decide you have to start *right now* and you’re refusing to buy anything else because you’re supposed to be using things up.

As I knit really tightly, I was cautious and rounded all the calculations up. In the end that meant I was casting on 84 stitches, using 2.75 needles. EIGHTY FOUR! That’s quite a lot compared to everyone else. Originally I was going to do a basic sock with contrasting cuff, heel and toe, but the more I knitted, the more the leg just seemed like a vast expanse of red. It looked like the biggest sock I’d ever seen, if I’m honest. And the yarn is nice – it’s really nice to wear actually – but it’s very ‘hiking sock’. So by the time I got to the foot, I panicked and decided to whack some random stripes in there. Everyone else’s socks on the internet seem so… refined. And there was I knitting the biggest hiking sock in the world. But actually, it wasn’t that big in the end. A bit big, but not that big.

I also had a huge stroke of luck. Just as I was getting to my wit’s end with the DPNs, I decided to have a dig about in my supplies box. And who knows why, but past me had bought myself a 2.75mm circular needle! I can’t imagine when or why I bought it, but it was exactly the size I needed (30cm) and made everything so much better. There’s a lot of just straight ’round and round’ knitting in a sock, and doing it on a circular needle is a dream. I can’t quite handle the extra flappy cable of the magic loop (it really stresses me out for some reason), but the short circular is perfect. Big thanks to past me 🙌.

For the second sock, I decided to use the same colours but just go with the original plan. No stripes. I’m calling them a pair! And I’m wearing them right now. This was really just for the practise.

So now I’m on to my second pair. This time I’m using self striping yarn (Felici, Knitpicks). I did swatch again and actually it’s the same stitch count, more or less. So I went from 84 to 76 for my cast on. And that’s a perfect fit:

This yarn is really different. Much less ‘wooly’. It also feels a bit more robust. We’ll see how each pair wear. I must admit the first pair look like I’ve already had them years, and I’ve only worn and washed them once. But they are nice and soft. This pair feels like it’ll look smarter.

I’m thinking of treating myself to another needle and doing what Lucy does, over at Attic 24. Rather than do a complicated 2 at a time thing on one needle, she literally just knits 2 at a time on different needles. I like this idea, because socks make great TV knitting, up until the point they don’t. If you have 2 socks on the go, you can grab the one that doesn’t need much attention when you need it, and do the more complicated stuff on the other one when you have time. Also, there’s less chance of second sock syndrome.

Here’s the obligatory shot of a sock in progress.

I must admit, I’ve paid zero attention to how many rounds I’m doing, and I know the stripes don’t match up (the balls didn’t start in the same place, and I didn’t mind), but it all seems ok. And it feels nice to make something I can wear. This time I’m paying more attention to the gusset decreases. On the first pair I kept thinking ‘is this a decrease round or a straight round?’ – and every time I put the sock down I swore I would remember what round I was on when I picked them up again. Reader, I did not.

I’ve still got orange and yellow yarn left from the first pair, so next up I’ll make another prototype pair. Maybe either with ribbing, or cables. Or one of each. That’s one thing about working from home and having every meeting on screen. No one can say your socks aren’t a pair :o)

I hope things are ok where you are, and you’re safe and healthy. I’ll leave it at that, because sometimes, it’s just nice to think about socks and not… everything else.

If you’re thinking of sock knitting, I’d totally recommend the tutorial. Not least because it works for the yarn and the needles you have. You only need to swatch for yourself, not to match someone else’s gauge, which for me was a huge bonus. Winwick Mum, if you’re out there, thank you.