A Sock Detour

Jeane Hutchins, editor of Piecework Magazine, asked me to knit a historic sock for the upcoming Knitting Traditions special issue. She showed me a pattern for a sock in an old issue of Weldon’s Practical Needlework, a Victorian ladies’ magazine from the late 1880s to the early 1900s, and asked if I could replicate it.
The interesting thing about this particular pattern is that the sock is knitted in four pieces that are sewn together so that the heel and toe sections can be removed and replaced when they become too worn for darning. When the socks are knitted, an extra heel and toe are knitted so that they will be on hand when the time arises. I suppose Victorian knitters had ways to prevent themselves from losing these unattached parts.
Here are the four segments, knitted out of Brown Sheep NatureSpun Sport on size 4 needles at a gauge of 7 sts/inch. I used contrasting yarn for the heel and toe for emphasis.

I still have to sew the pieces together and knit another heel and toe. And that’s just for the first sock.
Hmm. I think that by the time I do that, I could have knitted another complete sock. But the purpose here isn’t efficiency of time, but conservation of yarn. Yes, the yarn will go farther if the heels and toes are replaced.
But I wonder about the comfort factor? If yarn becomes so scarce that I have to use and reuse the legs and feet of my socks, I think I’ll use an afterthought or short-row heel and toe that can also be replaced without seams!

In My Spare Time

I prefer to work on a single project at a time, but lately I’ve had several things in the works simultaneously. In between knitting my way through Sock Knitting Master Class (I’m on the twelfth of seventeen pairs), I’ve managed to dabble in some other things. Here’s a sneak preview of a yet-to-be-named shawl I just finished out of Finch (fingering weight wool) for Quince and Company. Look for the pattern on their website this summer!

My Go-To Socks

The first edition of Sockupied devoted entirely to new socks knitters, Simply Sockupied, features my “go-to” sock pattern for knitting socks from the top down at 8 stitches/inch. Five sizes are provided to fit from children’s shoe sizes 1-4 to women’s 12-14/men’s 11-13 shoe sizes.

Click here to download the pc versionclick here to download the mac version.

These socks feature the stretchy but sturdy Old Norwegian (also called German) cast-on; k3, p1 ribs around the leg and instep for a comfortable fit, a round heel with heel flap and gussets, and a wedge toe finished with Kitchener stitch. You can see the socks in my designs on Ravelry.
Whenever I want a mindless project for traveling, this is what I invariably pack in my bag. Wouldn’t it be fun if everyone made a pair?

That Scarf I’m Wearing

Every now and then I get a query about the scarf I’m wearing in my “about me” photo.

Though I’d love to claim it as my own design, it’s Lisa Daehlin’s Lacy Kerchief Scarf from the Summer 2005 issue of Interweave Knits. The scarf is pictured on page 49; the instructions begin on page 53. This is a very good example of how a different yarn can give a whole new look to a project.

You might notice that my scarf is decidedly different than the one pictured in the magazine. Instead of using sportweight mercerized cotton at 5 sts/inch, I made my version with fingering-weight cashmere at 8 sts/inch. I didn’t save any notes on this project, but I believe I used size 3 or 4 (3.25 or 3.5 mm) needles. I followed the instructions exactly as written and worked the number of pattern repeats specified.

The original scarf measured 82 1/2″ long and 12 1/2″ wide at the widest point; mine measures about 80″ long and 8″ wide at the widest point. It has probably stretched through the years because I remember that it was both shorter and narrower than the original, which was my intention.
If I were to knit it again, I’d make the tails shorter by working the leaf chart just one (not six) times at each end of the triangular garter-stitch section.

Wool People 2

Jared Flood of Brooklyn Tweed just uploaded Wool People Volume 2.

I am happy to report that I have the great honor of being among the 14 designers for this volume. Check out Guston and let me know if you decide to knit it.

Dyelot Woes

I recently made a pair of socks for myself using what looked like a full skein of Madeline Tosh Sock yarn in the Copper Penny colorway that I bought about a year ago. After I finished the first sock, I was pretty sure I didn’t have enough to complete the mate so I ordered another skein. Look at the difference in dyelot! I don’t mind mis-matched socks, but the difference in dyelots  was sure to look like a glaring mistake. So, I started the second sock with the new, darker dyelot, then changed back to the original when I thought I had enough to finish the sock. The color change shouldn’t show when I’m wearing long pants.
For those of you interested in the pattern, a very similar pair will be in the July 2011 issue of Sockupied, available from Interweave Press.

Pretty in Pink

The baby sweater I designed out of Quince and Company Tern has just been posted on their website. It’s called Ruffles and is listed on the Baby/Kid page. Knitted at 7 stitches/inch, this cardigan takes from 2 skeins for size 19 1/2″ circumference (tiny) to 4 skeins for size 26 1/4″ circumference.

My oldest son graduates from high school this week. If 10,000 of you buy the pattern, I’ll be able to send him to college for a year.

Another Quince Project

Yesterday my Cat Cay Cowl pattern was published on the Quince and Company website. I designed this cowl while anticipating our spring break vacation to Cat Cay in the Bahamas. Consequently, the stitch patterns include beach references: cables (ropes), embossed diamonds (flags), and small pebbly patterns (ripples on the water), all worked in a beautiful ocean blue shade of Tern (75% merino, 25% silk).

This cowl is knitted in the round but Murphy’s Law ensured that the “seam” was front and center for the photograph. Oh well.

I used the decorative Channel Island cast-on to give a pretty edge to the cowl, but the instructions you’ll download from Quince and Company were simplified to specify the more common long-tail cast-on. Those of you with eagle eyes will certainly notice the difference. Fortunately, there are several very good demonstrations of the Channel Island cast-on on YouTube. I encourage you to try it.

So that the bind-off edge would match the cast-on, I used the Channel Island bind-off, a technique explained and illustrated in Vintage Modern Knits by Courtney Kelley and Kate Gagnon Osborn (Interweave, 2011). Believe me, instructions for this bind-off alone are worth the cover price of the book!

Sweet Imogene

I’m on a roll with projects for Quince & Company. I just finished this baby sweater out of their Tern yarn (75% wool, 25% silk). I made the sweater for little Imogene, born to Quince’s photographer Carry Bostick Hoge earlier this year. I’ve used Tern for several pairs of socks, a scarf, and a shawl, but this is the first time I’ve used it for a sweater. It was such a treat to work with that I plan to use it for a lightweight sweater for myself.

The pattern will get posted on the Quince website after they photograph the sweater and give the instructions a once-over. You can bet that Carrie will take a much, much better photograph that I did here!

Another Project for Quince

The fingerless mitts I designed for Quince & Company are now available through their website at These Masse Mitts use two skeins of Lark knitted at 6 stitches/inch in a relatively simple pattern of 2/2 cables and 3/1 ribs. To keep the wrists warm, I made the cuffs long enough to tuck under jacket sleeves.
Boy, those folks at Quince sure know how to take a nice photo!