Like many other knitters who just so happen to knit socks, I suspect I'm a bit of a sock snob.
Most knitters ascend to sock snobbery when they catch the sock knitting bug. Why buy socks when you can make socks that will fit perfectly and last longer? It's an easy choice for most sock knitters.
But I was doomed from the start. My nickname growing up was "Socks." (Really.)
I loved all the different cute little socks. There was a different pair of socks for every occasion, every outfit.
And then in college for three whole years before becoming a sock knitter, I worked in a store that sold SmartWool socks. And you have to know the merchandise, so I bought a pair in just about every color. (For you non-sock knitters, they're pretty durable. I still have almost all of them, and they're still in great shape.)
With all these predispositions to sock snobbery, the minute I got the hang of sock knitting, I was a goner. Now I have no fewer than 18 pairs of handknit socks in my sock drawer, in every color of the rainbow.
For years after I started knitting socks, I made them or less as directed in the pattern. I managed to learn a few different methods of heel and toe shaping, but that was about it. Socks always went up to the normal mid-calf height, and that was that.
But that's not really my sock style. If I had to choose, it would be ankle socks almost every time.
Early on in my sock knitting adventures, I tried to knit ankle socks and failed miserably. No matter what I did, handknit ankle socks always slipped down into my shoes and drove me crazy.
I figured handknit ankles socks just couldn't be done.
I was wrong.
To make non-slippy-sloppy ankle socks, you simply need to make the cuffs just a little bit longer than you think you should have to. My cuffs usually end up somewhere between 2 and 2 1/2 inches from the top of where I turned the heel (using short rows).
Somewhere between ten and twelve rounds of K1, P1 ribbing on the cuff seems to be the magic number for me, but if you wanted more elasticity, you could work in K2, P2. I do like to have at least a few rounds of stockinette between the heel and the cuff, just because it gives that smoothness inside the shoe.
That's it. It's that simple.
You could use this technique for just about any sock pattern. Nine times out of ten, though, I'm using a super simple pattern, since socks are my #1 mindless knitting/movie theater knitting project.
Here's what I do, more or less:
Size 2 needles
The tubular bind off is about as fancy as I get with this pattern. I just like the way it looks, but you could use any stretchy bind off you like. I'm also quite fond of the ssk bind off.
If this pattern is way too basic for you, there are some great simple sock recipes out there. I cut my sock-knitting teeth on the Yarn Harlot's pattern in Knitting Rules. Other folks swear by Wendy's Generic Toe-Up Sock pattern, which I have vague memories of maybe using once upon a time.Either way, I don't think you can go wrong.
Are you getting into the madness? My bracket was shot from pretty early on. Last year I won the office pool and used my winnings to buy a lovely swift. Not what most people would spend their winnings on, but it was one of the best investments I've ever made.
I'm getting into a different kind of madness.
At the beginning of the year I saw a plan to try a new craft every month. It sounded like fun but also ... overwhelming. Since I use craft as my primary means of relaxation, it didn't seem to be the best idea to build overwhelm into my year on purpose.
Still, I'm interested in building skills and always, always, always learning new things. So I signed up for two concurrent weaving classes this month. (Plus the weekly agility classes I do with the dog.) Hence the madness.
In the first class, I'm weaving yardage to make a summer blouse. It's going to be the widest I've ever woven (but not the whole width of my loom), and it's my first multi-color warp. The warp has 8 different types of yarn in it, and thank goodness I had help winding on the warp - otherwise I probably would have given up.
Even so, warping hasn't been the easiest thing ever. At the suggestion of my teacher, I designed the warp in the reed, then we wound the warp onto the back beam. then we moved the reed to the back, and as I thread the heddles I take each end out of the reed. Once that's done I had to re-sley the reed.
Only when I started threading the heddles I forgot my teacher's advice and did the exact opposite of what I was supposed to do. I didn't take the ends out of the reed, and I only realized my mistake because I ran out of heddles a quarter of the way through. Whoops.
The way the reed was tied to the loom, I had to carefully take everything apart and gently move the reed...hoping the ends didn't all fall out.
Luckily it worked with a minimum of angst, and I figured out a better way to sit when I'm threading the heddles - if I remove the beater, I can sit on the treadles and be in the perfect position to thread heddles all day without hunching over. Which is a good thing when there are 700 ends to deal with.
Then at the next class, we tied on the warp by lashing it to the cloth beam - also a new technique for me, and definitely a great way to make sure I'll end up with an even tension on the warp.
Now it's time to start weaving, only the warp doesn't want to rest on the shuttle race. According to the loom manufacturer, this is because there's too much tension on the warp ... I do like to weave with a fair bit of tension. Currently, I'm trying out some fishing weights to add weight to the harnesses to see if that will fix the problem.
And all of that is just the first class.
The second class is all about weave structures. We started with summer and winter and profile drafts, and my mind was blown.
I've just about got the homework warp on my second loom, and then I'll actually weave it. But I've got to scurry because it's due tomorrow...
I've already apologized for being late (fashionably, I hope) to the party that is 2015 year-in-review blog posts. There's just so much that happened last year!
One of my most exciting accomplishments in 2015 was that I started to design my own sweaters - two with my own handspun! And, while I'd only knit a sweater a year from 2012-2014, in 2015 I made two sweaters and a vest. Not too shabby.
I still have a lot to learn about sweater design and fit, but I'm pretty exciting about what I have learned, and I'm loving that I'm taking a more active role in creating my own wardrobe.
How I designed it: This sweater is a mishmash of Elizabeth Zimmerman sweaters: the classic EPS, the Brooks, with a v-neck and a shawl collar thrown in. I also designed the colorwork pattern. I wanted subtly shifting colors, without big motifs.
What I learned:
This sweater quickly became one of my favorite sweaters - as soon as it was done (and cold enough), I've worn it almost every day. Rest assured, it does get washed, and while it's drying there is a serious hole in my wardrobe.
As I mentioned above, I did learn that stranded colorwork stretches vertically when washed and blocked. Of course, I didn't learn that until after knitting the entire sweater, and ended up having to do some surgery on the sleeves to make them shorter. But I do love the long length of the overall sweater because....
I made it too big. This is a roomy sweater, even though (I think) I intended for the result to be more fitted. As I discovered later on in the year, I tend to overestimate what size I need (even after I've measured myself).
The Key Takeaways:
How I designed it: I used an existing vest (like this one) for the initial measurements and worked from there. Added a cable detail at the edges. Pockets + zipper.
What I learned:
This vest is extra special to me because it is made from local Jacob wool that I handspun myself. Because there wasn't enough of one color to make a whole vest, I decided to go for an ombre effect.
The armholes are a little funky - they're a bit too deep, and at the same time they're too shallow for the edging I chose. I really didn't want to do a knitted-on edging, though that might have worked better.
Overall, the coolest thing about this vest are the finishing touches - the zipper and the pockets. They make it a much more wearable item, especially the way I use this vest - as an in-between weathers piece, particularly when hiking.
The Key Takeaways:
Old Man Corriedale
How I designed it: This is a mashup of EPS, the measurements of the Jacob vest, and some other sweater design basics. It's not quite done yet, but since all the main pieces were made in 2015, I'm counting it!
What I learned:
The body and sleeves of this sweater are made, and I'm almost done seaming the sleeves. The body was made in one piece, and that's where it's fitting a little large. Since it's destined to be a cardigan, I'm planning on lopping off a few inches at the center front before I pick up for the neck band. After that, all that's left are pockets!
The Key Takeaways:
If you know me, you know I love books. My house is covered in them. In 2015, I read close to 80 of them. Here are the knitting-related highlights.
The Shepherd's Life - I've already waxed poetic on this one. Even if you're not a knitter, you're missing out if you haven't read this one.
The Illustrated Herdwick Shepherd - Like The Shepherd's Life, but with more (gorgeous) color pictures. If you're in the States, you'll have to pay a bit more to get it, but it's worth every penny.
Super Stitches Knitting - This is my go-to stitch dictionary. It's compact and has a ton of different types of stitches. It might not have exactly what I'm looking for, but it usually has something close. If I'm traveling and know I'll need a stitch dictionary (as one does), I bring this one.
Adventures in Yarn Farming - The story of a couple who buys a farm and becomes shepherds. Basically my life's dream. With beautiful photos and projects.
Knitting Pattern Essentials - The title may be a bit broad, since this book really just deals with designing sweater patterns. But for sweater design, it has everything you need.
The Spinner's Book of Fleece - Gorgeous, with all the information you'd need to up your spinning game. With individual profiles of different types of wool.
Knitting Around - Anything by Elizabeth Zimmerman is golden. In addition to her no-nonsense patterns, this book also has an interesting autobiographical aspect to it. Well worth a read.
Finishing School - Even if you already know how to block and seam your garments, this book has so much valuable information on swatching, garment construction, and design. My copy is a little dog-eared since I consult it constantly.
Top Down - All about how to knit top-down sweaters with set-in style sleeves. I've knit one sweater in this method and loved it. Still trying to wrap my head around the theory, but the patterns are lovely.
Farm to Needle - I've already mentioned this book, but it's worth mentioning again. Amazing stories, beautiful photos, tempting patterns. This book has it all.
Buachaille: At Home in the Highlands - Kate Davies's latest, with patterns designed for her new yarn line. Luscious pohotos, wonderful writing, projects, and recipes. As always, a home run.
Did any knitting/fiber books take a special place on your shelf last year? I'd love to hear about them!
*note: some links in this post contain affiliate links.
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