Monday, September 29, 2008

My Own Greatest Hit

Nearly four years ago, at the behest of Lorena, I designed the Wiggle dress.

Knitted in Rowan Calmer, with trim in Crystal Palace Squiggle, it's a dress sized for 3 to 18 month olds. It's been a huge hit at the Naked Sheep.

Lisa recently requested a winter version....

Worked in Diamond's Luxury Collection Superwash DK, again with Squiggle trim, it will make a terrific jumper for holiday parties. Next up, a little jacket to match.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Reverse Basic Ribbed Sock

I'm very fond of my Basic Ribbed Sock pattern -- I use it a lot. And I use it a lot with variegated yarns. I was looking at a half-completed Basic Ribbed Sock in a nice black and white mix of variegated yarn, when it occurred to me that I rather liked the fabric inside out. Click on the picture to see what I mean.

Whereby resulted the Reverse Basic Ribbed Sock. Tweaked so that the wrong side of the ribbing shows on the outside of the sock. Works terrifically well with a yarn that has short bursts of colour.

Women’s S (shoe size 5-7), Women’s M (shoe size 7½-9), Women’s L (shoe size 9½+), Men’s S (shoe size 6-9 ), Men’s L (shoe size 9½+)

400m/440yds sock yarn – this pattern works for any sock yarn with a 28-30 stitch gauge
-the black and white version was worked with two skeins of Shelridge Farm's Soft Touch Ultra sock yarn
-the orangey version was worked with a skein of Arequipa sock yarn
1 set of 2.5mm (US size 1/1.5) double-pointed needles

32 stitches, unstretched, across 4 inches/10cm in K3 P1 rib with 2.5mm needles.

Cast 56 (60, 64, 64, 68) stitches onto a single needle. Distribute stitches evenly across 3 needles. Join for working in the round, being careful not to twist.

Work 15 (15, 17.5, 20, 20) cm/6 (6, 7, 8, 8) inches of K3 P1 ribbing, as follows:
Round 1: *K3, p1; repeat from * to end of round. Repeat this for every round.
Yes, that's right, work the leg in k3 p1 ribbing. It's quicker for most knitters than p3 k1, and you'll turn it inside as you start to work the heel.

Turn Heel:
This portion is worked flat in plain stocking stitch.

Turn the sock inside out. You're going to start working in the other direction, so that the the ribbing shows at p3 k1 on the right side of the sock. You should be positioned so that the first st of the round is a knit st, followed by three purls.

Knit first 29 (29, 33, 33, 33) stitches. Put remaining 27 (31, 31, 31, 35) stitches onto a holder. Starting with a purl row, work 21 (21, 23, 23, 25) rows of stocking stitch, slipping the first stitch of every row. The right side is facing for next row.

RS: Knit 19 (19, 22, 22, 22) stitches, ssk, turn
WS: Slip 1, purl 9 (9, 11, 11, 11) stitches, p2tog, turn
RS: Slip 1, knit 9 (9, 11, 11, 11) stitches, ssk, turn

Repeat last two rows until all stitches have been worked. 11 (11, 13, 13, 13) stitches remain, and RS is facing for next row.

Re-establish Round and Create Gusset:
Knit all heel stitches. Using that same needle, pick up and knit 15 (15, 16, 16, 17) stitches along selvedge edge at side of heel, using slipped stitches as a guide. With a new needle, work in reverse rib pattern as established across the 27 (31, 31, 31, 35) stitches of instep – those stitches that you’d set aside on the stitch holder. Using another new needle, pick up and knit 15 (15, 16, 16, 17) stitches along selvedge edge at other side of heel, using slipped stitches as a guide. With that same needle, work 6 (6, 7, 7, 7) stitches from the first needle.

The beginning of the round is now at the centre of the heel. There should be 20 (20, 22, 22, 23) stitches on the first needle, the 27 (31, 31, 31, 35) stitches of the instep on the second, and 21 (21, 23, 23, 24) stiches on the third. Rearrange the stitches if you need to.

From here on in, the 27 (31, 31, 31, 35) instep stitches will be worked in the reverse rib pattern, and the gusset and sole will be worked in stocking stitch – that is, knitting every round.

Decrease Gusset:
Work a round even – keeping the instep stitches in pattern – twisting all picked-up stitches.

Work a decrease round as follows:
Needle 1: Knit to last three stitches, k2tog, k1.
Needle 2: Work all stitches in pattern.
Needle 3: K1, ssk, knit to end.

Work an even round, keeping continuity of pattern.

Repeating these last two rounds until Needles 1 has 14 (14, 16, 16, 16) stitches and Needle 3 has 15 (15, 17, 17, 17) stitches. 56 (60, 64, 64, 68) stitches total on your needles.

Work until foot measures 6.5 (18, 19, 19, 21) cm/6.5 (7, 7.5, 7.5, 8.5) inches, or 6 cm/2.5 inches less than foot length. (Note that the finished sock should be a little shorter than the foot. This makes for a better fit.)

Shape Toe:
From here on in, you’ll work entirely in stocking stitch. Rearrange the stitches so that you’ve got 14 (15, 16, 16, 17) each on Needles 1 and 3, and 28 (30, 32, 32, 34) on Needle 2.

Work a decrease round, as follows:
Needle 1: Knit to last three stitches, k2tog, k1.
Needle 2: K1, ssk, knit to last three stitches, k2tog, k1.
Needle 3: K1, ssk, knit to end.

Work 3 rounds even.
Work a decrease round followed by 2 even rounds, twice. [6 rounds total]
Work a decrease round followed by 1 even round, three times. [6 rounds total]
Work decrease rounds until 8 stitches remain.

To finish, cut yarn, draw through the final stitches and tighten. Weave in ends.

Monday, September 22, 2008

It's Research, Really

There's a block of Queen Street West, not far from where I live, that's an absolute killer. Heading west from the corner, it's as follows: a coffee shop, one of my favourite clothes shops in the entire world, a huge yarn shop, and then my hairdresser.

And if you stand at the corner and look north, there's a little ice cream shop that makes the best strawberry ice cream I've ever tasted.

There's also a terrific vintage clothes shop about 6 doors farther down.


It means that a haircut typically costs me significantly more than just the price of the cut.

On the yarn front, I usually try to resist, as I'm not a stasher by nature... except, of course, for my terrible weakness for sock yarn.

I found this little goodie in the bottom of a basket in the bargain basement.... $4.80. There was only one 50gm ball in this colourway, which I know gives me enough yarn for a pair with contrasting heels, toes and cuffs.

I justified it to myself because, first of all, it's monochrome, and secondly, because I've never actually worked with a yarn that comes with its own little spool of reinforcing yarn. I love that it's dyed to match. So yeah, it's research.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

On Socks of the Toe Up Variety

A reader (whose name, embarrassingly, I never caught) approached me at the K-W Knitter's Fair last weekend. (Hello!)

She mentioned that she'd learnt to knit top-down socks from me, from my Knitty article of way back...

and she wanted to now tackle toe-up socks.

How very timely. I have another Knitty article that answers just that question - "Socks 102". Well, actually, it answers a whole bunch of other questions as well, but here are the key points:

I'm fond of Amy Swenson's Universal Toe-Up Sock Formula... the girl thinks like me, of course I like it!

And you'll need to use a provisional cast on, for which you can find help here...

I differ from Amy in one significant way. It's all about foot shape. As explained in Socks 102, the problem I have with a standard toe-up sock is that the fit doesn't work for me. The standard construction assumes that the circumference of your heel is pretty close to the circumference of your foot. This just isn't true for me. If a toe-up sock fits my foot well, it's too tight around the ankle; and if it fits well around the heel it's too loose on the foot. A top-down sock doesn't have this problem, because there is a gusset -- a portion worked with more stitches around the heel.

So I added a gusset to the toe-up sock. All outlined in "Socks 102".. And if you want the backstory, read here and here...

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Following Up On the Soxx Appeal

Black hole of knitting is done... thank goodness.... and I have to say, I'm happy with the results. It looked pretty awful pre-blocking -- very uneven, and sorta lumpy.

I ended up steam blocking the piece, and I was pleasantly surprised at the different it made. To be precise, I filled my iron with water, cranked it up to maximum, held it about an inch above the piece and pushed the "steam jet" button.


(Sad but true, I use my iron more in this way than actually putting it onto a fabric.)

The stitches evened out nicely, and the fabric looks significantly better.

A reader, AuntieAnn, posted a comment about her experience with the Soxx Appeal... she said that she had trouble getting a good fit because of the elastic. My first pointer is to work a little smaller than you would normally... if you're using my sock template, instead of calculating the cast-on stitches using ankle circumference less 2 cm, I'd subtract 3 cm. And I'd work a little shorter than you usually would. My foolproof technique for figuring out if the sock is long enough before the toe decrease... ?

Halfway through working the instep stitches (so that the sts are distributed across four needles), I try the thing on.

This works best, I find, because the sock will stretch as it needs to, to fit your foot, and you'll get a good sense of what length you need to accommodate the stretch. I used to start working the toe 2 inches/5 cm short of the full foot length, but I tend to start a cm or so earlier than that now. A non-stretch sock yarn naturally stretches out during the day with wear, and I found a sock that was precisely the right length in the morning was loose by the end of the day. A sock that has to stretch a little -- just a little -- in the morning remains a good fit at the end of the day.

(Very attentive readers will recognize this yarn as one of my purchases from this year's Knitter's Frolic. Shelridge Farms Soft Touch Ultra Fingering. Newsprint socks.)

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Socks 102: Knitty Article

I'm honoured, once again, to be included in the pages of Knitty.

Socks 102 -- a discussion of advanced sock topics. Different types of toes and heels, notes on using other yarns, and a method for improving the fit of a toe-up sock with a short-row heel.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

A Black Hole

Credit goes to Jennifer, who captured it perfectly.

I'm working one of those super-secret projects (i.e. something to be published somewhere), and it's using an interesting yarn.

Knit One Crochet Too's Soxx Appeal. It's definitely odd to work with. Not bad, just odd. It's got a great fibre mix for socks -- merino and nylon, and a magic 1% nylon.

I've worked a pair of socks in this yarn, and I liked it very much. There is a balance that needs to be struck in sock knitting, I find... you don't want the sock too tight, but equally, you want it a bit snug so that as the wool stretches out over the day it doesn't become too baggy. I've started recommending that socks be worked about 1 cm/1/2 inch shorter than foot length -- I find that works well. The added nylon in the Soxx Appeal helps out a lot -- the elastic helps the sock keep its shape through the day and ensures that they stay snug but not too tight.

But for reasons I won't (yet) share, I'm working something else in this yarn. Something that requires a largish section of plain old stocking stitch.

Here's the thing about stretchy fibres. When knitted up, they stretch more vertically than horizontally... which means, conversely, that the fabric compresses vertically, too. Which means that row gauge is a killer. I'm getting about 45 rows on 10cm/4 inches. 45 rows! And on a large swatch of stocking stitch, that's a lot of knitting.

As we've been making our way through the first season of Mad Men on DVD -- great knitting TV, and my god what I wouldn't do for an hour in their costume department -- I've been knitting away. And every now and then, I stop to measure my progress. And at 11-12 rows per inch, it seems like it takes forever to hit that magical next inch... forever. There's times when I've measured, to see no progress at all.

It's like a black hole of knitting.

A colourful and comfy black hole, but a black hole nonetheless.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

All Alpaca, All the Time

I've been lucky enough recently to get my hands on some new alpaca yarns, direct from Peru.

TimiQuipa is importing some truly lovely sportweight alpaca yarn, and I've worked up three designs for them.

A baby cardigan...

and two lace designs....

These samples will be on display and the yarns and patterns will be available at the Creative Yarns' booth at the KW Knitters Fair next week. Stop by and say hello to Saul and Simona if you're there. They're lovely people, withe a lovely product.

The yarn is wonderful -- comes a great range of colours -- some of them undyed, and is priced very well.

Their yarns are also available at the following stores across Ontario:
Creative Yarns
Georgetown Yarn and Crafts
Grand River Yarns
JanKnit's Studio
Kismet Wool Shop
Knitters Attic
Linda's Craftique
London Yarns
Riverside Yarns
Rose's Fine Yarns
Ruti's Needlebed
Spun Fibre Arts
The Purple Sock
The Stitch Niche
The Wool Shop
The Yarn Boutique
Whitevale Craftworks

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Bits and Bobs

In a comment to my previous post, Marilyn tells a terrific story about flying with knitting shortly after 9/11... go read it!

I've ordered the Knit Picks Harmony nickel-plated sock needles. I've been working a lot of cabled socks of late, and have been struggling with the needles. For cable and fancy stitches, you need a good solid pointy point, and the points of my bamboo dpns were wearing too much. I love the points on the Harmony wood ones, but it occurred to me - in a smack-to-the-forehead sort of way - that an even better solution might be to try metal needles again. I haven't used metal sock needles in years. This is going to be an interesting experiment. I ordered the shorter ones -- I always struggled with the 8" length.

And look! A finished object!

It's a scarf! A crocheted scarf.

As you can see in the first photo, it's got a bit of a curve to it, the foundation chain being too tight, but other than that I'm pretty pleased with it.

My first-ever finished crochet project. It's a single ball of Needful Yarn's Joy, worked in double crochet. The square at one end is, IMHO, an elegant solution to the problem of not knowing how much scarf I'd be able to get out of the yarn. I worked a long narrow piece lengthways, and then when I was close to the end of the ball, I started working rows on the short end. I used the entire ball up, and have a decent length scarf out of 75m of yarn.

Now perhaps I can tackle a Zombie or two.