Category Archives: socks

Wintergreen: for socks

Over Christmas I suffered a knitting injury. Totally self-inflicted and I have no regrets. However, it did cut into my knitting time and spindle spinning. The adult colouring books satisfied my need to do something with my hands, for only a short while. I was at wits end. And then along came the January Fibre Club from Sweet Georgia Yarns. It was a stunning braid of Polwarth/Silk (85/15%).

I stared at it for a week, petted it for another week and then decided that I may be able to spin on my wheel without doing any further injury and impede my healing. I decided that I wanted to make socks with this fibre. Polwarth with a good amount of silk is perfect. I may have to hand wash them, but that’s okay. I’m not a big fan of the superwash fibres. They have a different feel and while I will work with them, they aren’t my first choice.

For socks I decided to spin a three-ply with medium twist in the singles and a lot of twist in the plying. I wanted a sock/fingering weight yarn, so the singles had to be spun fine. The colours in the braid are analogous, all related by the blues. I wanted the colours to mix and dance against each other. So it seemed a fractal spin was in order. I split the braid lengthwise into three sections. Weighed them and made adjustments so they were relatively even. Piece #1 I spun from one end to the next using a short forward draw, smoothing the yarn as I went. You can see the long lengths of colour on the bobbin.

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Piece #2 I split into three sections. And then I spun each of those three sections from one end to the other. Again, using a short forward draw and smoothing the yarn as I went. And I am not sure if you can tell, but the lengths of colours are getting shorter.

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Piece #3 was split into six sections, by this time they were nearly pencil rovings. Again, they were spun from one end to the next. Short forward draw.  Unfortunately, I didn’t take a picture of bobbin 3. And by that time, the colours lengths were much shorter.

I let the bobbins sit overnight and then plied the next day. I put a lot of twist into the plying.

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Here is the yarn on the niddy-noddies, getting all tied up for their bath.

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Here’s what the yarn looked like when it was taken off the tension of the niddy-noddy. Stretched out and the over twist reacting. Nothing a bath in hot soapy water can’t tame.

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I washed it in hot soapy water, rinsed it in hot water with a half-tablespoon of white vinegar. Thwacked it against my bathtub a few times, towel dried it and then hung it to dry, with no tension. Occasionally, as it dried, I’d grab it, shake it out a bit to soften up the silk that sometimes goes a bit stiff as it dries. And here it is. Completely relaxed and ready to be knit into a pair of socks. 412 yards, 115 grams, 6 twists per inch (TPI) but still wonderfully soft.

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And the final shot. For these socks I am going to try the ever-so popular Fish Lips Kiss sock pattern, and see where that takes me.  And in case you were wondering, my right wrist has healed beautifully. This spinning project, that took about a week, didn’t affect it at all. I hold the fibres in the right hand and draft with my left. So all’s good.

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How to avoid SSS – Second-Sock-Syndrome

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As I traveled around the province this fall, knitting was my constant travel companion. The easiest travel knitting project for me is socks. They don’t take much space and I have the pattern for them memorized. Just pick the needles, some fun yarn, and I am on my way.

Along the way I met many knitters who as much as they like hand knit socks, have either never tried to make a pair – because you have to make two of them (!) or if they tried, often times, never finished the second sock. Much to their surprise, this is a common affliction for many sock knitters. In fact it has a name – Second-Sock-Syndrome or SSS. Where we enthusiastically embark upon a sock project inspired by the yarn, the new needles, or pattern, and then once the first sock is made, you are mostly satisfied. Then we look to the second sock with dread. But the thrill is gone, we know what it will look like and how the yarn will behave. The second sock is a chore. (If you are a fast and prolific knitter, you probably have no idea what I am talking about – but the rest of us often suffer through the second sock.)

But I have found a way to get around SSS. Here is my cure.

First things first. Let’s look at the anatomy of a sock. When you knit a sock you knit seven sections that can be looked at individually. (If you knit from toe to top, just reverse the order, the principle that follows will be the same.)

  1. cuff
  2. leg
  3. heel flap
  4. heel
  5. instep
  6. sole
  7. toe

My technique for combating SSS is to knit the socks at the same time. And this is how I do it. First, I knit the cuff section for sock #1. Then I get another set of needles and I start another sock and knit the cuff section for #2. Then I do the leg portion for #1 and then the leg for #2 once that first one is complete. I keep moving along, doing one section at a time on the first sock, and then that same section on the second sock. If I am working from a large ball of yarn, the yarn for one sock comes from the outside of the ball, the other from the centre.

There are many advantages for knitting socks this way. Often I don’t work with a pattern. I just have the basics in my head. But I do need to remember how many stitches I cast on, how long each section is, how I turned the heel, and how many stitches I picked up after I turned the heel. These things are difficult to hold in your head if you make a full sock and then move the other one. Especially if a week or two (or several months) pass before you get started on the second one. When I do one section after another, I can easily see what I’ve done. And for the more finicky things like turning the heel, or picking up the stitches, I can quickly do them back-to-back.

Another big advantage is the true sense of progress. After all, you are making a PAIR of socks, why not see progress on the PAIR as you go along? And while it is possible to abandon one sock and never make the second one – I have a few examples that could prove this point, I have found it difficult, if not impossible to abandon 1/2 knit socks in progress.

2014-12-16 11.22.38The final reason that really sold me is this: when you have finished the toe on the first one, you then move onto the toe on the second one. That’s the stage I was at in the above photo. After that, all you have left to do is the Kitchener stitch on both and weaving in the ends.

And you have a pair of socks. Complete.

Doesn’t get much better than that.

A Fibre & Colour Challenge

At the Langley Weavers and Spinners Guild Annual Artisan Sale I sold my Candygram socks to a fellow artisan. Similarly inspired by the colours in the socks she bought, she asked me if I ever worked on commission.

My answer, “It depends. What are you looking for? Tell me more.”

So she showed me this photo of Turkey Tail Fungus that caught her attention.

It’s pretty amazing stuff in terms of colors and shapes. So I agreed to try to recreate this look and feel into a pair of socks. Crazy challenge in some ways, but so weird and wonderful why not try?

I have a few strategies at hand.

Plan A: easiest one is to over dye a pair a pair of socks that I have on hand. They are pink, orange and yellow – with an over dye of indigo they may just give me the look I’m after.

Plan B: spin a braid of  Sweet Georgia Yarns “Bourbon” but add some burgundy and white bits. Lots of work to spin, ply and knit. But will certainly do the trick.

Plan C: . . . hasn’t been thought through yet. That will involve space dyeing a skein of sock yarn that will do wonderful striping. But that’s Plan C. And we hardly ever get to Plan C right?

But then as I write this and think it through, there is also the wonderful curly element that needs to be considered. I must hit the pattern books to find the right way to describe this. I may even need a Plan D for this project.

Thanks Dawn for the challenge!