Friday, September 10, 2010

Words I Thought I'd Never Say

I am finally tired of knitting socks. In the past two weeks I’ve knitted five pairs of adult medium socks and sample feet for four other sizes. I’m sure my saturation with sock knitting won’t last, but if I find time to knit today after I clean my desk, I’ll bypass my double-points in favor of circulars and cast on stitches for a triangular shawl (if I can find a suitably mindless pattern).

The first photo below shows socks with an 8" foot circumference in Quince yarns at gauges of (from left to right) 4.5 (Puffin), 5.5 (Osprey), 6.5 (Lark), 7.5 (Chickadee), and 8.5 (Tern) stitches to the inch. The second photo shows the feet only in Brown Sheep Lamb's Pride Worsted at 5.5 stitches/inch in size (from left to right) 9.5", 9", 7.5", and 6.5" foot circumferences.

Why have I been knitting socks like a fanatic? I’ve been under a self-imposed deadline to generate a toe-up sock pattern for multiple sizes (five) and multiple gauges (ten) for Quince & Co. Unlike the toe-up sock pattern (Working Socks from the Toe Up) I wrote for the Spring 2007 issue of Interweave Knits that features a short-row heel, this pattern looks like a “normal” top-down sock with a padded flap along the back of the heel and gussets along the sides of the instep. This pattern also includes stitch gauges in one-half-stitch-per-inch increments from 4.5 stitches/inch to 10 stitches/inch that gives enormous freedom for working with a variety of yarn weights and needle sizes. I plan to send the socks and pattern to the tech editor today so she can correct all my errors before the pattern is posted on the Quince & Co website. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Red-Letter Day

Today my Abbey Road Socks got posted on the Quince and Company website, along with their new sock yarn Tern (a delightful mixture of 80% wool and 20% silk) and I turned in the manuscript for my next book: Sock Knitting Master Class: Innovative Techniques + Patterns from Top Designers. You can get the sock pattern right now from Quince and Co, but the book still needs to go through all the editing, design, and layout stages and won’t be available until next summer (in time for Sock Summit 2011). I’ll let you know exactly when.
Care to help me celebrate?

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Thoughts on the G-word

I like to cast on stitches and get started on a project as much as the next knitter, but it’s an inconvenient fact of life that if I don’t knit a gauge swatch first, the project will likely end up the wrong size. Besides ensuring that you’ve chosen the right needle size for the project, a swatch can tell you a lot about how a yarn knits up. You’ll learn if the yarn is sticky or slippery on a particular type of needle or if the pattern stitch is too boring or too fussy for your peace of mind. This allows you to make adjustments in needle type or stitch pattern before you embark on a full-scale project.
But one of my favorite things about knitting a swatch is the opportunity it gives to experiment with different needle sizes. This is particularly useful when I’m designing a pattern from scratch. The ball band on most yarns specifies a particular gauge with a particular size needle. Rather than a rule, I consider this a guideline for what the manufacturer thinks will be a suitable fabric. Depending on the project I have in mind, it’s not unusual for me to disagree with the manufacturer. For example, I habitually knit socks at a tighter gauge than recommended, even when using dedicated sock yarns. Recently, I knitted a long swatch of each of the four yarns available from Quince & Company. Because I expect to knit socks with this yarn, I knitted the swatches in the round, beginning with at least two sizes smaller needles than recommended and ending at a couple of sizes larger. This gave me a nice range of fabrics from very tight (appropriate for socks, mittens, hats, and gloves) to quite loose (more appropriate for airy scarves or shawls). I now have a record of a variety of gauges to choose from when designing socks with these yarns, which gives me more freedom in choosing stitch patterns that repeat over a variety number of stitches.