Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Why I'm a Spoiled Brat #17

As you know, I taught at Sock Summit 2011 last month and came home with an impressive haul of yarn and accessories. One thing I didn't get, though, was a commemorative mug from Jennie the Potter. She sold out the first night.
While chatting after class, I mentioned this to one of my students, who turned out to be a potter in her own right. A few days ago I got a package from Nan in Oakland, Oregon. In it was a perfect-size coffee mug with an etching of a sheep on one side and Sock Summit 2011 on the other.

I've been using the mug every day and am reminded of the fun I had at Sock Summit with every sip.
I don't deserve it, but I sure do enjoy it. Thank you Nan!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Ann's Folly

Back in June, some friends and I visited a nearby alpaca farm and I got the bonehead idea to challenge my friend Sarah to a friendly competition where we'd split a fleece and each make something with it. We chose the first cut of a fleece taken from a cute Huacaya named Arwen (you can see photos of farm and Arwen on my post for June 26, 2011). Here's my share of the fleece.

The fleece looked clean at the farm, but when I prepared to wash it I discovered a lot of sand, dust, and bits of grass. I washed it a few times but couldn't shake the sinking feeling that this was going to be a bigger job than I thought, especially once I started picking through the fleece to open the fibers in preparation for spinning. I worked on it on and off since July and finally have collected the "clean" fiber. I think I discarded nearly a third of the original.

When I bought the fleece, I didn't stop to think that I don't have carders. And I didn't realize that alpaca requires different carders than wool. Fortunately, I have friends that spin and one of them (thank you Maggie!) loaned me a drum carder appropriate for the fine fleece. I set up the drum carder on the back deck and got to work.

Unfortunately, this particular drum carder is quite old and the drive band wasn't up to the task. Three times the plastic band snapped and three times I tried to melt the ends back together. On the last try, I wrapped the join with packing tape as well. But it was no use. The darn thing wouldn't hold together.

So I ended up rotating the small drum manually with my right hand as I used my left to turn the crank to rotate the large drum. It took a couple of days (and a few puncture wounds) to get through all of the fleece. There is still more grass and dust in the fleece than I'd like, but I've made it this far and I'm determined to finish. I have about 40 batts, each weighing about 6 grams, which means that I have about 8 ounces of prepared fiber. I have no idea what I'll make. Whatever it is, it will have to have a rustic feel. Suggestions anyone?

Friday, August 26, 2011


I've just been given the go-ahead from Interweave Press to announce my next book.

Drum roll, please . . . The Knitter's Handy Book of Top-Down Sweaters will be available next spring!

Like its forerunners, The Knitter's Handy Book of Patterns and The Knitter's Handy Book of Sweater Patterns, this book includes multiple sizes and multiple gauges in chart format, but all are worked in a single piece from the neck down. Get that? No seaming!
Instructions range form 26" to 54" chest/bust circumferences (in 2" increments) and from 3 to 7 stitches per inch (in 1" increments). In addition to the basic instructions for circular yoke, raglan, modified-drop shoulder, set-in sleeve, and saddle-shoulder styles, there will be 15 patterns (in 5 sizes each) to demonstrate how the basic instructions can be modified for infinite possibilities. And because it's easy for my designs to start to look alike, 5 of the patterns (one in each style) are by guest designers, Pam Allen, Veronik Avery, Jared Flood, Anne Hanson, and Kristen TenDyke.
I think it's going to be a long winter.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Happy-Go-Lucky Boot Socks

Last night I started Veronik Avery's Happy-Go-Lucky Boot Socks (page 60 of Sock Knitting Master Class).

These slouchy socks are knitted in sportweight yarn and are therefore a bit heavier than most of the socks in the book. But they will be comfortable with Birkenstocks or Danskos in addition to boots.
I chose three colors of Louet Gems Sportweight yarn that I have left over from Getting Started Knitting Socks--Aqua (A), Terra Cotta (B), and Ginger (C). The instructions call for 150 yd of each color. I estimate that I've got between 160 and 224 yards of each color so I'm confident that I'll have enough.
Although Veronik used size 2 (2.75 mm) needles for the socks in the book, I'm such a tight knitter, I get the correct gauge with size 4 (3.5 mm) needles. (And yes, I do knit all my sock swatches in the round because that's the way that I knit socks.)

For these socks, I'll use the of Blackthorn double-point needles that I bought at Sock Summit. Actually, I was so taken by them that I bought an entire set of U.S. sizes 0000 to 4. These needles are made of carbon fiber, which, according to the website, is the same material used in the Boeing 787 Dreamlier and the Blackbird Stealth Jet as well as sporting good that demand strength in a lightweight material. You might have noticed them in the photo I took of all my Sock Summit loot in my August 7 blog post.

The size 4s are missing from this photo because I've got them in the sock cuff. These needles have short but sharp points and make the most wonderful scratchy sound when the rub against one another--much like pencil on paper.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Almondine--A Complete Pair

I finished the Almondine socks and happily, you can barely notice that the toes are knitted with a different yarn--I ended up using about 30 yards of Lorna's Laces for the toes. The color match is even better than I thought.

Now, before any of you start thinking that there isn't enough yardage in Kollage Sock-a-Licious to make a pair of socks, let me be perfectly clear. I chose to knit the third size for a 9" circumference, which is larger than even my big feet. And the leg measures 11 1/2" long from the top of the cuff to the base of the heel, which is 2 1/2" longer than I normally knit the legs on my socks. If I had knitted these socks at a more normal 8" circumference and worked the leg to my standard length, there would have been plenty of yarn to finish the socks. And as soon as I get another skein of this yarn I'm going to prove it by knitting a "normal" pair!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Almondine Snafu

I've run into a little problem with my Almondine socks--the problem being that I have too little yarn.
Anne Hanson used Cascade Heritage Paints; I used Kollage Sock-a-Licious. I didn't bother to look at the yardage of each and now I'm paying for my oversight. Heritage Paints comes in 437-yard skeins; Sock-a-Licious comes in 350-yard skeins. That's a difference of nearly 90 yards. It wouldn't have been a problem if I had knitted one of the two smaller sizes, but I knitted the third size for a 9" foot circumference (which, it turns out, is too big for me).
When I finished the first sock last week, I knew I was in trouble because I had less than half a skein left.
I decided to knit the leg of the second sock on the same number of stitches I used for the first, then decrease the gussets until 60 stitches remained (instead of 70 as called for in Sock Knitting Master Class), and knit the foot according to the second size. I figured that the smaller foot would conserve yarn and I'd have a chance of ending up with enough.
When I ran out of ball yarn, I undid the Kitchener stitch in the toe of the first sock, and knitted the second as I raveled the first. My oldest son was kind enough to point out that I'd still end up with only one sock.

In case I still came out short on yarn, I knitted the second sock to the beginning of the toe and set it aside. I then ripped out the rest of the foot on first sock to the gussets, then added more gusset decreases, then worked the foot as far as the yarn lasted. I got to about 6 rounds short of the beginning of the toe. (I would have had enough yarn if I had chosen to reknit the legs smaller, too.)
So, now I have to decide whether to buy another skein of yarn or finish off the toes with something else. I spent a while in the basement going through my stash and I have found a good color match in Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock.

But the yarn is considerably thinner than what I was using. I haven't decided yet whether to use the thinner yarn, use a yarn of matching weight but contrasting color, or break down and buy another skein of Sock-a-Licious.
I'll let you know when I've made a decision. I think I can be fairly certain that I'll keep this pair.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Almondine Socks--Making Progress

Even though my sister and her husband were visiting for the last week, I've made respectable progress on Anne Hanson's Almondine sock from Sock Knitting Master Class. The sharp points on my Signature needles make easy work of k2tog and ssk decreases, plus they coordinate so well with the yarn (Kollage Sock-a-Liscous) that I just love to knit with them.

For me, this pattern is very straightforward and easy. I'm making the third size (9" foot circumference), but I plan to only work 4 repeats of the lace pattern (as for the second size) before I start the heel. Otherwise, I think the sock will be too long for my liking. I may also need to make the foot a bit shorter since my foot actually measures 8 1/2" in circumference). We'll see.
So far, the only adjustments I've made are to use the Old Norwegian cast-on (p.39) and I used one size larger needles (size U.S. 3) for the cast-on, ribbing, and the first 2 repeats of the lace pattern.
I haven't found anything tricky so I don't have any tips yet. Stay tuned.

Friday, August 12, 2011


I've decided to knit Anne Hanson's Almondine socks out of Kollage Sock-a-Licious (70% superwash merino, 10% silk, 20% nylon) in the color called Purple Heart. After the French Market Socks, I think this pair will be a breeze.

I get the correct gauge of 8 sts/inch in stocinette on Signature size 2 needles. Don't you just love the way the needles coordinate with the yarn?

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

French Market Socks--A Complete Pair

At last!
I finished both French Market Socks and, as usual, the second was easier than the first. My tension improved too. The first sock is on the right, the second is on the left. Even the heel looks more normal.
You can see other knitter's progress at Budd's Buds group on or on the Sock Knitting Master Class forum at KnittingDaily.

Next up: Anne Hanson's Almondine. I look forward to the simple lace pattern.

Monday, August 8, 2011

French Market Socks--Correction!

Thanks to some alert knitters, an error has been discovered in the French Market Socks in Sock Knitting Master Class.

On page 61, first column, Right Sock, Joining Rnd, 3rd line of paragraph, there is a typo. The first square bracket has the color letters reversed. It should be [k5 with A, k1 with B], not [k5 with B, k1 with A].

Keep in mind that after joining, the pattern will encircle the foot correctly, but in order to flow properly into the established instep patterns, the round will no longer start with Stitch 1 of the chart for either sock. For the right sock it will begin with Stitch 4 and end with Stitch 3 of the original 6-st chart; and for the left sock it will begin with Stitch 3 and end with Stitch 2.

Now, I don't know why I didn't notice this myself when I knitted the right sock. I remember stumbling a bit on the joining round but I must have thought that I misread the instructions and didn't pause to look at it carefully. It takes a village.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Sock Summit 2011

It took a few days, but I have finally recovered from Sock Summit 2011. For those of you who don't knit socks or who live in complete isolation, Sock Summit is the premier sock-knitting conference that has taken place in Portland, Oregon, in 2009 and again in 2011. I attended as a student in 2009 and returned as a teacher this year. Rumor has it that there were more than 1,900 registered students and about 6,000 attendees total. That's a lot of sock knitters.

You'll find a fairly complete report by Clara Parkes at Knitter's Review. Between the classes, lectures, demonstrations, shopping, shopping, and more shopping, this is quite possibly the best event ever for knitters, even those who don't knit socks!

Here's a peek of some of what I brought home! I think some of these yarns will find their way into the 15 socks I have yet to knit from Sock Knitting Master Class.

Monday, August 1, 2011

French Market Socks--A Finished Sock

Whew. I finished the first sock! If I hadn't decided to knit every sock Sock Knitting Master Class, I don't think I ever would have attempted these socks. But I'm glad I did! I can now hold two yarn and get reasonably even tension. Something I've never done before.
I'll admit that even though I love the Kitchener stitch, I was relieved to finish the toe with a simple gathered tip.
Here's the unblocked sock. Notice the odd bulge in the heel.

Here's the blocked sock. The stitches are a bit more uniform, but the heel looks just as odd. I'd let you know how it fits, but these socks are too small for my farm-stock feet. I'll have to find a friend to try them on.