Monday, October 31, 2011

Rose Rib Socks--Getting Started

You probably think that I've abandoned knitting my way through Sock Knitting Master Class. Not true!
But I did get sidetracked for a few weeks. I'm back at it now and have started Evelyn Clarke's Rose Rib Socks, pictured below and on page 80 of the book.
Evelyn used two skeins of  Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock (80% superwash wool, 20% nylon; 215 yd [197 m]/2 oz) in blackberry.
According to Clara Parkes, these socks have best stitch definition if worked in a well-rounded yarn (Shepherd Sock is 4-ply), but a springy two-ply yarn would give equally attractive results. She mentions that the 20% nylon provides welcome reinforcement to the openwork pattern and bottom of the foot and toe, and that this simple pattern allows for a bit of color variation, although the stitch pattern will look best in a solid or semisolid.
I looked through my stash for something suitable and found a gorgeous skein of Primo (75% extra fine merino, 20% cashmere, 5% nylon; 385 yd/100 g) that Plucky Knitter ( donated to the Sock Summit teacher's bags. This yarn is a round, tight 4-ply with subtle color variation, so even though the nylon content is a bit on the low side, it promises to work beautifully. The rusty color I have is called Sticky Toffee. Yum.
I get the suggested gauge on my size U.S. 1.5 (2.5 mm) Signature needles. To ensure that the upper leg will fit my calf (which doesn't have a well-developed muscle), I cast on with size U.S 2 (2.75 mm) needles and plan to switch to the smaller size when the leg is half done. I'm following the size for the larger socks with a foot circumference of 8 3/4".

How I Spent My Weekend

Last Wednesday we had a 12" snowstorm that threw us right into the heart of winter. Unfortunately, a lot of the trees still had leaves and weren't strong enough to support the weight of the snow. Through the night, we repeatedly heard thumps in the backyard. I had to be away at a photo shoot during daylight hours so it wasn't until Saturday that I saw the extent of the damage.
I've never witnessed a tornado firsthand, but it must look pretty much like this. The one live branch remaining on a maple we've been trying to keep alive fell off so now it looks like a ship's mast. The cottonwood dropped about 20% of it's branches.
We managed to cut everything into small pieces and put it in bins and bags for compost. I could hardly get out of bed this morning.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

1000,000 Winners

Thanks for taking part in the 100,000 drawing. I enjoyed reading your comments. According to an online random number generator, the winners are noallatin, who asked for Knitted Gifts and debd94, who requested The Knitter's Handy Book of Patterns.
Noallatin and Debd94, send your mailing addresses to me at and I'll get your books in the mail.
Here's to the next 100,000!

Friday, October 28, 2011


Today my website counter turns 100,000. To celebrate your faithful readership, I'll hold two drawings for free books. Just respond to today's post and tell me which book I've authored or coauthored that you'd like and why. I'll use a random-number generator to choose two qualifying comments and post them tomorrow, Saturday, October 29. Then you'll have until November 1 to email your mailing address to me at
Good luck and thank YOU!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Approaching 100,000

The counter at the bottom of my blog page was at 99735 when I logged in this morning. That means that it will register 100,000 any day now. This milestone cannot go uncelebrated. Stay tuned for another give-away!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

SOAR Recap

Two weeks ago (has it really been two weeks already?), I had the good fortune to attend Interweave's premier spinning retreat SOAR (i.e., SpinOff Autumn Retreat) on scholarship. This year, the retreat was in Manchester, New Hampshire, and although the trees weren't quite yet at the peak of fall beauty, my breath was taken away by all that I learned in five intensive days of spinning. I'm quite certain that I will continue to spin until I'm too feeble to sit upright and hold fleece.

For the first three days, I took Blending and Spinning for Superior Socks by master spinner Michelle Boyd. The most striking things I learned in Michelle's class are:

  • Socks are more durable if knitted from yarn spun in the worsted method, which is slower than woolen spinning but results in a stronger and smoother yarn that is less likely to wear out or pill.
  • Socks are best if knitted from yarn that has NOT been treated for washability. This is because in making a yarn superwash, the scales on the individual fibers are smoothed down (so they won't felt). Although this makes for a soft hand and easy washability, socks (and any other garments) knitted from superwash wool have less inherent elasticity and tend to stretch out. I guess that's why my socks tend to "grow" on my feet by the end of the day.
  • Socks should be knitted with three-ply yarn, which is smoother and more durable than two-ply yarn. Three-ply yarns are also more round when viewed in cross section, which adds structural strength and insulation. They also help prevent shrinkage, as the close-set plies allow little room for fiber compaction. This probably explains why my favorite sock yarns have always been ones with three or five plies.
  • For durability, sock yarn should contain about 20% of a strong extruded fiber such as nylon, rayon, or silk.
  • Socks knitted with the ideal yarn may feel a little stiff on the needles but with will soften and form to the foot after being washed and worn, and they will last longer than socks knitted from softer yarns.
After three days, I was able to produce a fairly consistent three-ply worsted-spun yarn out of a variety of fiber combinations, including blue-face leicester, merino, alpaca, nylon, bamboo, and silk.

And I got reasonably good at chain-plying my samples. Here is a sample of spaced-dyed fleece that I spun, then chain-plied to maintain the color blocks. Thanks to Michelle Boyd for taking a photo of my hands holding the precious yarn.

I also took four half-day workshops.
In South American Camelids by Robin Russo, I learned a bit about camel, alpaca, guanaco, and vicuna fibers and I tried my hand at spinning an assortment of them.
From top to bottom: two samples of natural alpaca; lavender alpaca blended with gray Cormo; pin-drafted Suri alpaca; Suri alpaca top; mixed llama hair and down, combed; distinct double-coat llama; homogeneous llama; guanaco top; blend of llama and alpaca; baby Suri alpaca:

In An Overview of Rare Breeds by Deborah Robson, I test-spun a variety of wool fibers not widely available but worth looking for.
From top to bottom: Hog Island; North Ronaldsay, Wenselydale, American Jacob, Manx Laughton (my favorite!), Clun Forest, and Black Welsh Mountain:

In Navajo Spinning and Handcarding by D.Y. Begay, I tried my hand at using a four-foot Navajo spindle. In addition to twisting some singles, I learned enough to know that I'll leave this technique to the experts.

In Spinning Singles from Commercially-Prepared and Dyed Top by Deb Menz, I learned to make intentional color sequences from dyed fleece. This was a great way to wrap up the retreat--I broke out of my mud-color rut and played with bright and exciting colors. My vibrant skein of over-twisted singles still makes me giddy.

When I wasn't in class, I enjoyed meeting some of the most welcoming and interesting people in my life. Unlike the stereotypical hippy throw-backs to the 1960s, spinners include people from every walk of life. And judging from the people I met at SOAR, they are the most fun-loving people on the planet.
Sign me up for next year!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Sock Yarn Winner

There were a total of 24 requests for the leftover yarn from Deborah Newton's Thigh-High Stripes--19 who responded by commenting on the blog page and 5 who were unable to post a comment and contacted me directly.
The winner is Librarynan who posted the following on 10/4/11:
I'd love to knit a pair of socks with our leftover yarn, Ann! Think your shorter version would be something I could do without being too intimidated.
Librarynan, send your full name and mailing address to me at and I'll get the yarn out to you this week. If I don't hear from you by 10/12/11, I'll draw another name.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Thigh-High Stripes--A Completed Pair

I finished both socks! Just to shake things up a bit, I kept rust as the main color but I switched out some of the colors on the second sock so that the two wouldn't match perfectly. I've decided that for the time being, these will be my official socks for spinning--won't they look groovy against the wood treadles of the wheel?

Here's a breakdown of the yarn amounts (in grams) used for Deb Newton's original knee socks (in blue) and my abbreviated version (in red):
brown: 71 for knee socks; 10 for my version
teal: 20; 8
lavendar: 19; 8
chartreuse: 17; 13
rust: 19; 37
rose: 21; 10
gold: 26; 15

Now's here the good news: there is enough yarn left over to knit the knee socks if you use teal for the main color, and more than enough to duplicate my version exactly. Not one to keep all this color happiness to myself, I'll send the leftover yarn to an interested reader. All you have to do is respond to this email with your name and why you want to knit these socks by Oct 10, and I'll draw a name and announce the winner. Then you'll need to email your mailing address to me privately at If I don't hear from you within 48 hours, I'll draw another name.