Saturday, August 28, 2010

Sock Heels

As I mentioned in my last post, I’ve become obsessed with knitting toe-up socks with round heels—the kind that heel that is most commonly used for socks knitted from the top down. I’ve taught a class in toe-up socks with short-row heels for a few years, but some students have requested a more “normal” heel for these socks. To determine the method I like best, I’ve knitted a number of samples to experiment with the methods used by Chrissy Gardiner (Toe-Up! Patterns and Worksheets to Whip Your Sock Knitting into Shape), Wendy Johnson (Socks from the Toe Up), and Melissa Morgan-Oakes (Toe-Up Two-at-a-Time Socks). 

Finally, I think I’ve come up with my favorite variation. To test it out, I knitted one sock from the top down (shown on the bottom), then a mate from the toe up (shown on top). There are only subtle differences between the two—the most noticeable being that the “wedge” on the sides of the toe-up sock is narrower than that of the top-down sock. This is because I worked the increases one stitch in from the edge instead of two stitches in. I’m happy to report that when on my feet, I can’t tell the difference between the two.

I plan to write up instructions for the toe-up version for multiple sizes and gauges. If all goes well, the pattern will be available online this fall from Quince & Company. I'll let you know when!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

What I've Been Up To

It’s been more than a week since my last post and I'm feeling a little guilty. Here’s what’s kept me away from my computer.
Last week, our son Alex returned safely from Nicaragua. I'm happy to report that he looks and acts much the same as when he left. He had a fantastic time and is considering returning in a couple of years as a supervisor; he’s already talked on the phone with a few of the families he met. School starts tomorrow so he’s been off with his friends most of the time. I did catch him relaxing in the hammock he bought before he boarded the plane home.

I finished the repeat Beginning Spinning course I signed up for this summer. I have 930 amazing yards of two-ply Corriedale yarn to show for it. I haven’t decided what to do with this yarn—maybe a vest or some tightly knit, highly textured mittens. For now, I’m happy to just admire how clever it makes me feel.

I also knitted a pair of socks with my handspun for SpinOff magazine (it won't be published for a few months) and a pair of gloves for Piecework (which also won't be published for a few months). I bought the fleece for the socks (100% superwash merino) from Traci Bunkers at The Estes Park Wool Market in June. I spun the yarn on a spindle I bought the same day, then plied it with a wheel I borrowed during the spinning class. I purposefully spun the yarn as thin as I could, but after I plied and washed it, it came out more of a sportweight than the fingering weight I was after. To make sure I had enough yarn, I worked a short-row heel (which I believe uses less yarn than the more traditional round heel with gusset). I always count the number of rows in the leg and foot of a sock so that I can knit the mate to match. What I failed to take into account is that my handspun is not as uniform at mill-spun. One of the socks is considerably larger than the other. One of my feet is bigger so maybe this won’t be a problem.
I used the new Quince & Co Chickadee yarn for the gloves. It was a dream to knit with and I couldn't be happier with the stitch definition!

I’ve also been experimenting with different ways to work a round heel on toe-up socks. This is the type of three-part heel that you usually see on top-down socks: heel flap, heel turn, and gussets. I’ve knitted five full-size samples and several small sections of just the heel turn. I’m getting close to working out my favorite method for various sizes and gauges. Stay tuned.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Why I’m a Spoiled Brat—#11

Because I changed my name when I married, it’s a little known fact that my mother is Barbara Walker. Not the Barbara G. Walker of A Treasury of Knitting Patterns fame (which would have been fine), but the Barbara S. Walker of ceramics and sculpture fame. When I was a child, my mother took up ceramics and later became a co-owner of The Lodestone Gallery, a fine craft store here in Boulder, Colorado. She made everything from dishes to lamps to Christmas tree ornaments, then in later years she settled into sculpture. Although she tried to get me interested in clay, I always preferred clean crafts such as sewing, knitting, and embroidery. But I am absolutely certain that I was influenced by my mother’s industriousness and creativity. She, as well as my father (who was a college professor), taught me that it is possible to make an income following your passion. Both of them loved what they did. Through the strength of their example, I gave up the corporate world (I had a MS in geology of all things) to pursue a career in fiber. And I’ve never looked back.

Here are a few photos of my dear mum and her sculptures—the last photo is a bust she made of my dear dad. They set the stage for my very good life.