Wednesday, February 25, 2009


Imagine my delight. I designed a pair of socks. My idea to make socks out of a zig zag pattern (called Wave) from the Learn to Knit Afghan book worked out. Here they are. I call them Mimus after the excellent young adult book I listened to as I knit. The character Mimus is a court jester. Does that not fit the oh-so-entertaining zigs and zags of the design?

I changed the pattern for knitting in the round and for stitch count. I used 2.25 mm needles at a gauge of 8 stitches per inch, which seems to be my standard. I cast on (from the top down) 64 stitches to make a sock with an 8" circumference. The yarn was the inexpensive Fortissima Socka by Schoeller-Stahl in 75% superwash wool and 25% acrylic, and it is scratchy. I don't recommend this yarn (though it might wear well), and will probably make these socks again in something more luxurious. After all, that is a major appeal of sock knitting: luxury made affordable.

Here is the pattern for Mimus. I figured out how you can keep the same stitch count and change the gauge to make different sizes. The stitch pattern is fairly elastic. It is also relaxing to knit.

Materials: Approximately 400 yards fingering weight yarn
Double pointed knitting needles to achieve the following gauges depending on desired finished sock circumference:

9 stitches per inch = 7 inch circumference
8.5 spi = 7.5" circumference
8 spi = 8" circ
7.5 spi = 8.5" circ
7 spi = 9" circ
6.5 spi = 9.5 circ
Stitch patterns:
Seed Stitch: round 1 - *knit 1, purl 1, rep *; round 2 and subsequent rounds - knit the purls and purl the knits as they present themselves

Left Twist: With right hand needle at back of work, knit through the back loop of second stitch in row, then knit through the back loops of both first and second stitch and drop both stitches from needle.

Right Twist: With needle at front of work, knit through the front loops of next two stitches, then through the front loop of first stitch only; drop both stitches from needle.

Cast on 64 stitches and divide evenly among 4 double pointed needles, 16 stitches per needle. (Or use whatever your favored sock needles might be and divide stitches accordingly.)

Join and knit 6 rounds for rolled edging at cuff.
Add 5 rounds seed stitch for elasticity.

Begin pattern
round 1 (and all following odd numbered rounds): Knit
round 2: *knit 3, left twist, purl 3; repeat from *
round 4: *knit 3, purl 1, left twist, purl 2; rep*
round 6: *knit 3, purl 2, left twist, purl 1; rep*
round 8: *knit 3, purl 3, left twist
round 10: *knit 3, purl 4, knit 1; rep*
round 12: *knit 3, purl 3, right twist; rep*
round 14: *knit 3, purl 2, right twist, purl 1; rep*
round 16: *knit 3, purl 1, right twist, purl 2; rep*
round 18: *knit 3, right twist, purl 3; rep*
round 20: *knit 4, purl 4; rep*

Work pattern for 6 (6.5, 7, 7.5, 8, 8.5) inches from cast on edge (this leg length is based on Priscilla Roberts-Gibson's magic number: circumference minus one inch.)

Continue working rounds, but divide stitches, half for instep, and half for sole. Continue pattern on instep half, and knit all rounds on sole half. Work 12 more rounds.

Shape heel on half the stitches (32), using your preferred method. I used the Priscilla Roberts Gibson short row heel with yarnovers. Directions for this heel are available in a feature from the Interweave Knits Fall 2000 issue. The article is also available online. I am providing a link to an html version that is incomplete. If you click on the link on the top of the html document, you will get to the full article in Adobe Acrobat format. I'm not sure how to link to the Acrobat document itself. You can also access this by searching Priscilla's Dream Socks. This article has a lot of interesting and useful sock-knitting information.

After heel is complete go back to working in rounds on all 64 stitches. Continue in pattern on instep stitches and in stockinette (all knit) on sole stitches. When foot portion is 6 (6.5, 7, 7.5, 8, 8.5) inches long, measured from flat part of heel (which hits at lower portion of shaping line), begin toe shaping.

I use Charlene Schurch's simple toe, which is as follows:
Round 1, Needle 1: knit 1, slip next 2 stitches and knit them together through the back loops from the right hand needle (ssk), knit to end of needle.
Round 1, Needle 2: knit to 3 stitches from end of needle, knit 2 together, knit last stitch.
Round 1, Needle 3: as needle 1.
Round 1, Needle 4: as needle 2.
Round 2: knit all stitches

Repeat these 2 rounds until there are 32 stitches left (8 on each needle). Then just repeat Round 1 until there are 16 stitches left (4 per needle). Place these stitches on 2 needles, 8 stitches on each, and close the toe with Kitchener Stitch.

Here is the original inspiration for this design:

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

are socks boring? part 2

No they're not. They're just limited, but the flip side of that is they provide a small canvas for creativity, like the the social world of a Jane Austen novel. In fact, however, it may be true that the socks I make have been boring. That is partly because I am a relative beginner at sock knitting, but mostly because conservative socks are more wearable, especially for my sock recipients who like things simple. To wit - I call these Red Devil to jazz them up (and in honor of the audio book, The Devil in the White City).

Raveled here, they are made with two skeins of Lana Grossa Meilenweit 50 Seta/Cashmere, a merino, silk, acrylic, and cashmere blend, and very soft with it. They are Schurch socks, of course, the Embossed Stitch from More Sensational Knitted Socks knit at eight stitches per inch on 2.25 mm needles (5 dps) on 64 stitches for a circumference of eight inches.

Now for a startling change of pace:

Meet the Bordhi Baby Boot, raveled here. This is the first sock suggested in Cat Bordhi's New Pathways for Sock Knitters. Bordhi calls the structure Sky architecture. It is made top down with an pyramid-shaped expansion over the instep and a simple short row heel that I want to try again. It wasn't until I made the second sock that I sort of understood how to make it. But only sort of. I somewhat fault her directions here. It is, however, elegantly simple.

Bordhi presents eight unusual sock structures, or architectures, in her book, and some of them are very beautiful. I want to try them all, but most are toe up, so I have to get with her cast ons and, especially, bind offs. The Baby Boot is made with a fraction of a skein of Louisa Harding Kimono Angora, a dk weight, on # 3 double pointed needles. I have an embarrassing amount of this yarn which is good for nothing but baby wear.

I can hardly contain my excitement over the socks I am currently making. I did manage to adapt the Learn to Knit Afghan zig-zaggy pattern to socks in the round. So far, I love the results, and feel that the finished sock will warrant a pattern posting. But we'll see about that when they're done.

Meanwhile please visit my work blog called Sounds - Music at Niles PL. I don't work on it much , but I couldn't resist rating the Season 8 American Idol performances. I put up a big American Idol display at the library to help generate interest in our CD collection. If you are an AI fan, let me know if my ratings match yours.

Monday, February 9, 2009


Here is a quick post to show off a couple of things - especially baby Rosie, as promised. Here she is posing in her Interworld suit (Raveled here):

By the way, shortly after she was photographed in her Anouk pinafore she threw up on it.

Next are the last few Learn to Knit Afghan squares I made. This first one is quite interesting. It is a slip stitch pattern knit on double pointed needles. It looks quite intricate because, with two sided needles it is possible to change colors every row. Usually, each color is used for two rows because the yarn has to purl back from left to right after finishing a knit row. I think this was a clever invention. It looks more like stranded knitting than the other slip stitch patterns.

That was the last slip stitch pattern in the book. I really like the next section so far. It is twisted stitches, where you get easy crossed stitch effects without the cable needle. I love this pattern and would like to adapt it for socks if at all possible. The next one makes a cushy fabric. The lines running down it are twisted stitches standing out in relief because, well, because they are twisted. It would make a great dish cloth except it pulls in before blocking. I could make it a little wider.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

are socks boring?

Before I started knitting socks last year, I got tired of reading posts about socks. I couldn't really relate. But now here I am of course, posting about socks. And I still think they're a little boring to read about, if not to knit.

At this point though I think it is sooo worth it to knit socks because hand knitted wool socks are so much better than store bought ones. They are even good to wear in the summer when you need to wear a sock, like for long walks. You can't say that about all knitted objects, especially sweaters. This past birthday and Christmas season I acquired 3 sweaters from Bloomingdale's and like them much better than any sweater I have ever knit. During the post holiday sale season I acquired 2 more in cashmere from J. Jill, and I can't stop wearing them. (This is a clue that I should never again knit a sweater that is not outerwear in anything thicker than fingering weight, or maybe sport.)

But getting back to socks, there is only so much you can do to make a sock both wearable and interesting. They all require patterns that fit the requirements of leg and instep in the round. Cat Bordhi does have some interesting -looking approaches in her New Pathways for Sock Knitters book, but I haven't tried them yet.

That is why I was interested in this book:
It is almost hard to find solid colored sock yarn - that is how popular handpainted yarns are. And using fancy variegated yarn is one way to make socks more interesting to knit. This book seemed to promise insight into the special qualities of variegated (not necessarily handpainted) yarn and how to make the most of it. But I was disappointed. There is nothing here inaccessible to common sense, like don't pair an intricate lace pattern with an intensely colored, busy variegation. Carol Sulcoski's explanation of how variegations are developed (short color intervals, longer intervals, etc.) is pretty common knowledge, or else readily available elsewhere. Her best idea, to break up the colors by using chevrons, is one that I have seen over and over again. It is illustrated on the cover. Unfortunately, I had to buy this book because it was not available through my library system, and I really wanted to see it.

Sulcoski offers 21 sock patterns from various designers, some quite nice. But here is a problem I have with ready- made sock patterns: they don't come in your exact size, and I don't think it's worth it to play around with needle sizes and math to engineer them. For example, only 11 out of the 21 sock patterns here came in the foot circumference I need for myself, and I'm being flexible. And, I don't have unusual-sized feet at all. I'll just continue to use Charlene Schurch's or Priscilla Gibson Robert's sock formulas that can be used for any size and almost any stitch pattern.

A good case in point is this finished object - socks with a 10 inch foot circumference, a size you won't find in any ready-made pattern with the possible exception of Nancy Bush's vintage socks book.

These babies took 3 skeins of Knit Picks Risata, a wool/cotton blend with a little elastic added to counteract cotton's lack of elasticity. This yarn is not as soft as wool and it's also a little too thick for me. I don't think I'll use it again, especially since all wool is as comfortable in summer as advertised. The pattern is Swedish Block, a six-stitch pattern from Schurch's More Sensational Knitted Socks. The heel is short row, and the toe is Schurch's standard, with decreases running up the sides.

Thanks to Anne for the wonderful baby posts and pictures of Rosie. I'll have another one in the next post.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

OMG, Anouk!

Hi, it's Anne. I know the last post I wrote was about Rosie, and this one is too, but after this I'm going to be quiet about her, I promise. This is so not a blog about baby stuff.

That being said - ANOUK!!! I have mixed feelings about Kate Gilbert. I don't share my mother's enthusiasm for the clapotis - I think it's too bulky to be a scarf and too small to be a shawl, so I don't really get the point. Plus, I get grossed out when my mother calls it the "Clap."

However, I adore Gilbert's Anouk baby pattern, and was beyond thrilled when my mother knit one. I know you're all dying to see what it looks like on Rosie, right? I'd say she seems to like it.