socks

Never forget your Kitchener stitch again.

Kitchener stitch is one of those things. You think you have it off pat, you sit down with your sock and your needle ready to go ..and can you remember the blessed way to work the stitches? Nope.

If you are anything like me you always have to look it up in your handy reference of choice (for me - it's Google every time) and before you know it your precious 5 minute window has disappeared and your attention is needed elsewhere..

So, let me introduce you to King Philip and you will never forget again. More precisely King Philip and his Purple Knickers - or the mnenomic Knit, Purl, Purl, Knit

K = knit (insert needle as if to knit on 1st stitch of front needle and slide off)

P = Purl (anchor next stitch on front needle - insert needle as if to purl & pull yarn through)

P = Purl (insert needle as if to purl on 1st stitch of back needle and slide off)

K = Knit (anchor next stitch on back needle - insert needle as if to knit & pull yarn through).

And there you have it. Simple, effective and slightly cheeky. The perfect mnemonic.

Incidentally, opinions vary about whether setup stitches are needed for Kitchener stitch or not. Some patterns ask you to work the 1st st on each needle in a different way, before you start sliding stitches off the needle. Personally I have tried both ways and find that I get slightly rounded and more comfortable corners by omitting the setup stitches. So in the interests of simplicity that's exactly what I do.

Catbells - launch of a new sock design

Catbells: a unisex cuff-down sock

Catbells: a unisex cuff-down sock

I am really pleased to be able to share the launch of my new sock design - Catbells - with you today. The first of a six part sock series which chronicles the walks done by my young boys as they have grown up in the Lake District - a very special family place for us.

Catbells is one of the first 'proper' mountain walks that we ever did with our two boys when they were really very small. The youngest, aged 3 went most of the way in the backpack but the eldest at the ripe old age of 4 and half, proudly walked the whole thing - although he did the last half-mile back to the car on Daddy's shoulders.

I am really pleased to say that there is also a KAL for this design and for the whole series. You can join in either on my Ravelry group, on Instagram or on my Facebook group - Everyday Knitter. Use the hashtag #socksandsummits and #catbellssocks so we can see all of your fabulous socks.

The Catbells design and indeed all of the designs in the series use yarn from the incomparable Rusty Ferret - you can find all of Leona's amazing hand-dyed yarn at www.fluph.co.uk

To buy the pattern - just visit my Ravelry page. f you are a newsletter subscriber you will already have received your exclusive discount code. If not there is also an early bird discount for the next 2 days (until Feb 3rd, 2017) - just use code SUMMIT20 for 20% off the full purchase price.

Thank you so much for all your interest and support with this series. I hope you enjoy knitting them as much as I have and that you enjoy 'walking the Lakes' with me and my family.

It's time for another Twitter chat

I can't believe that it is already a month since our first Twitter chat but the calendar doesn't lie, and as Christmas approaches with the speed of a freight train I'm quite looking forward to spending a cosy night in with you all tonight, talking about socks and maybe drinking a glass of mulled wine.

So, lets talk about socks and specifically the gifting of socks. Do you knit socks for gifts? D you have a list as long as your arm of willing recipients, or do you keep sock knitting purely for yourself? If you have any tips or tricks for gifting socks or any cute way ways of packaging them please pop along and join in the chat.

If you aren't sure what a twitter chat is - please see this previous blog post.

So grab, your festive tipple of choice and join us at 8pm tonight (GMT, London)

The joys of scrappy socks

If you aren't ready for the commitment of a full-on sock yarn blanket, scrappy socks can be a fabulous way to use up all those odds and ends. There is a wonderful hashtag on Instagram called #frankensocks and this is well worth a look for inspiration. Totally mismatched, fun and colourful these type of socks look amazing and are totally unique.

If, like me , your brain can't deal with totally random socks you could always strike a happy medium by knitting striped socks in brightly contrasting colours. I knit a pair recently, using them as an opportunity to showcase a range of sock yarn leftovers in my stash from some of the very talented indie dyers we have here in the UK. To make sure that the socks matched - there's my inner control freak talking - I knit them toe-up, two at a time on a long magic loop needle. This did involve a bit of extra faffing as I had to wind off enough yarn for 2 balls, but with each stripe/ball only taking 3-4g this wasn't particularly onerus.

In fact, just between me and you, it sometimes took me longer to decide on the next yarn stripe than it did to wind it and knit it.

Taking the #franskensocks theme a step further there are some very popular advent themed scrappy socks projects out there too. The Opal Sock Yarn Advent calendar is a very popular one which is almost certainly sold out by the time you read this as the kits went on sale around the beginning of October. Many thrifty-minded knitters however have decided to do their own advent socks - knitting a stripe each day on their socks - ending with a snazzy new pair of socks ready to wear on Christmas Day. Some have even gone the whole hog and have their set of little yarn balls all ready to go in individual sealed bags. With all the hectic preparations going on before the holidays, there is something very pleasing and soothing about making time to sit down each day and knock out out a stripe or two on your fun, colourful project.

 

Getting ready for a new twitter chat

Carrying on the Socktober theme into the coming months I am really excited to share with you the news that I am planning to start a live monthly Twitter chat. I have recently really enjoyed participating in a few such chats - most notably #makingwinter and the fabulously informative #instachat run by Sara of @meandorla fame.

There is an undeniably energy associated with lots of like minded folk coming together to share tips, tricks and a general buzz for their passion and as much as I love Instagram, for real-time conversations and banter it hard to beat Twitter.

So, put a date in your diary for Monday 21st November at 8pm (GMT). For non-UK folks,  use the handy converter here to find out what time this is in your timezone.

I will be using the blindingly original hashtag #KnitSockChat - I did honestly try to come up with something more inventive - but hey, it does what it says on the tin.

Please look out for reminders on social media and about a week in advance I will be posting a list of 5 questions to serve as prompts and a focus for our discussions in the hour long chat. If there are any burning issues to do with sock construction that you would like addressed please do get in touch. It would be great to hear from you. Similarly, please do share the news with others, I'd love to reach as many people as possible and help spread the sock love.

 

Be prepared

Toe-up socks, two at a time on magic loop. Heaven.

Toe-up socks, two at a time on magic loop. Heaven.

Sit a group of sock knitters down in a room and I can spend ages marveling at our different techniques and materials. Basically we are all producing a circular tube of knitted fabric but very rarely are two knitters working the same way. Some are devoted DPNs fans (either using 4 or 5 needles), some love the tiny 30cm circular needles. Then we have magic loop devotees and those who prefer using two small circular needles. Of all the techniques I have tried the latter is the only one that I really can't embrace. For the others each has their time and place as far as I'm concerned.

An on-the-go essential. Stripy sock on a tiny 30cm circular (Hiya Hiya)

An on-the-go essential. Stripy sock on a tiny 30cm circular (Hiya Hiya)

My go to favourite is a toe up sock on an 80cm magic loop needle. But there are times when a small circular needle is very handy. I do a lot of knitting at my kids sporting events and in that situation I often just need to be able to drop my knitting to attend to a particular crisis or applaud as necessary. For these times magic loop can be a bit too fiddly and more times than I care to remember, a piece of sporting kit has caught on a loop and merrily removed half the cable from my stitches. A small circular needle has much less potential for accidents and as long as you remember to push the sticthes down on the needle a bit you are usually safe from accidental unravelling.

As I do a lot of travel knitting DPNs are probably my least favourite way to work socks - simply because of the potential for loss. More times than I care to admit I have managed to lose a DPN down the side of a train seat, or I have searched my knitting bag in vain. Knowing full well that I put 4 DPNs in there, only to find that, inexplicably 1 has disappeared en route.

Whatever your preferred technique it is always good to know how to employ an alternative method should the need arise - if only to confuse the non-knitting 'Muggles'.

I'll show you mine....A sneaky peek into my sock yarn stash

A recent, gorgeous addition to my stash from  The Wool Kitchen  via  The Golden Skein

A recent, gorgeous addition to my stash from The Wool Kitchen via The Golden Skein


A quick inventory of my stash, not surprisingly shows that my stash consists of approximately 80% sock yarn. Sock yarn makes the perfect 1 skein purchase at a yarn festival or shop as you can always find a use for it, if not as socks then as a shawl or cowl.

Some of my stash is for my 'work stash'. These are skeins that are earmarked for design projects - some written down and some still floating around in my head.

Yarn from West Yorkshire Spinners features heavily in my recent FO photos

Yarn from West Yorkshire Spinners features heavily in my recent FO photos

Quite a large proportion of my stash is my 'workhorse' sock yarn. These are the skeins I reach for my DH or my sons request a new pair of handknit socks. Self striping yarn from West Yorkshire Spinners falls into this category. Both the Birds and the Cocktails range are ideal sock yarns. Machine washable, fabulous colours and everyone loves a funky pair of striped handknit socks. If I am going through a particularly organised phase I like to have a few pairs of these in the gift box, ready to be pressed into emergency service.

Some of my most prized sock yarn possessions - I would grab these first if the house were on fire

Some of my most prized sock yarn possessions - I would grab these first if the house were on fire


The final category are my prized 'golden skeins'. Some of these are indeed from the Golden Skein (a quarterly yarn club of unbelievable awesomeness) and others have been picked up on my travels. Some of these I have very firm and definite plans for (someday) and some are just pets. On days when I feel a little blue or a bit out of sorts, a quick rootle through this section of my stash is always enough to bring a smile to my face.

There are times when I do feel a little guilty about the size of my stash - particularly when my husband asked me recently whether we should think of listing it separately on our house insurance.

But then there is the smug satisfaction of knowing you have a perfectly curated selection of yarn, just sitting there waiting for its potential to be untapped. At a moments notice you could see the perfect pattern, march upstairs and after 5 minutes with the ball winder and swift be merrily casting on for your dream project. In reality of course it doesn't always work out like that but a knitter can dream can't she?

 

Five fabulous reasons to knit socks

Handy responses to have up your sleeve - louisetilbrookdesigns

Handy responses to have up your sleeve - louisetilbrookdesigns

Whenever you knit socks out in public, you will invariably attract attention. And at some point you will be faced with the question of "Why do you knit socks?". Here are 5 fabulous reasons why knitting socks is a most excellent idea.

  • The ultimate portable project: With just 100g yarn and needles needed you can happily occupy yourself for hours. Train journeys, doctors waiting rooms, endless kids sporting activities... My sock knitting comes with me everywhere and anywhere and I'm yet to find a situation where knitting is inappropriate (except possibly job interviews and in church). A spare pair of needles and a ball of yarn sits patiently in the glove box of my car, awaiting the day it might be needed. Yes, the AA provides wonderful roadside assistance in the event of a breakdown, but the sock yarn and needles will keep me sane and stop me stressing out during the inevitable wait. The expert sock knitter is always well prepared.
  • Everyone loves warm handknit socks: Yes, handknit socks really are warmer than commercial socks which often contain a large proportion of cotton or synthetic fibres such as nylon. Try and see if you don't believe me. I'm yet to find anyone, who after wearing handknit socks for a day would happily swap them back for a commercial pair.
  • They make ideal gifts: This is a tricky one as you could be making a rod for your own back. Obviously, the point of making beautiful, colourful handknit socks is so that you have a sock drawer to be proud of. Others, once they see your socky prowess may be keen to have some for themselves. By all means knit for gifting if it gives you pleasure, but don't forget that each sock represents hours of your hard work. So choose your giftee wisely and don't ever feel pressured in to knitting for others.
  • They make a perfect small canvas for trying out new techniques or stitches. trying out a new cable pattern for example, over a 70st sock is a lot less daunting than bravely casting on 200st for your first full-on aran sweater.If you make a mistake or find that cabling isn't for you it is a lot less ripping involved and a lot less personal drama.
  • People (ie non knitters) will think you are immensely clever. Just trying wipping out your DPNs or a magic loop needle on public transport if you don't believe me. If I had a pound for every time someone had told me how complicated my knitting looks, I would maybe not be rich but would certainly have a fabulously curated yarn stash. For extra credit, try knitting socks two at a time and watch jaws drop

Socktober is coming

Louise Tilbrook Designs: Socktober is coming...

Louise Tilbrook Designs: Socktober is coming...

There are many reasons to get excited about autumn here in the northern hemisphere. Winter boots and black tights hide a multitude of sins and there can't be a knitter in the land that doesn't secretly relish being able to wear a handknit sweater all day without ending up as a sweaty puddle on the floor.

For the dedicated sock knitter however, these reasons pale into insignificance beside the annual event that is Socktober. A whole month devoted to knitting socks, wearing handknit socks and talking about socks. Sounds like my idea of heaven.

There are lots of KALs and events going on for this Socktober - La Bien Aimee is hosting a sock KAL for example - just search on Instagram under #socktober and you will see what I mean.

For myself I am setting a personal challenge to knit (and finish) as many pairs of socks as possible during October. A quick inventory of my projects reveals 4 pairs of socks in various stages of being finished:

A whole lot of sock toes - and not much else

A whole lot of sock toes - and not much else

A pair of vanilla socks in yarn from Countess Ablaze (35% finished)

A pair of grey striped socks for DH (35% finished)

A pair of bright Halloween socks (90% finished)

Two pairs of striped kids socks (knit two at a time) (10% finished)

My aim is to have these finished by October so that I can start November with a few clean pairs of sock needles and lots of fabulous design ideas for 2017.

What are your plans for Socktober. Do leave a comment and let me know or share a picture over on Instagram and tag me - I'm nosy like that.

 

Afterthought heels: or the ninja skill of cutting your knitting

If you follow me on social media you will more than likely know that I'm a huge fan of the afterthought heel and indeed it is one of my favourite classes to teach. Every time I post an image on the subject though it generates a lot of comment and interest and so I thought I would do my best to summarise how I go about inserting a true afterthought heel.

There are also methods which involve knitting in a strand of waste yarn at the point where the heel is to go. This can then be removed from the sock tube and the live stitches placed onto your needles. Confusingly this may also be referred to as an afterthought heel when in fact it is really a Forethought heel - you need to know in advance where your heel is going to go. As you are merrily knitting your sock tube it isn't always possible to stop and try it on or otherwise determine where to place the heel - think crowded train carriage or dark cinema. For these and other reasons I vastly prefer the true afterthought heel.

For this you will need:

  • Your completed sock tube. I prefer to knit both socks and put in the heels at the same time.
  • 3 DPNs - I prefer wooden DPNs with sharp tips
  • 1 lockable stitch marker
  • 1 tapestry needle
  • Sharp scissors
  • Tape measure
Work out where to insert the heel

Work out where to insert the heel

1. Try the sock on and pull it firmly up the leg. Find your ankle bone on the inside of your foot and trace an imaginary line with your finger down to the sole (underside of your foot). Mark this point with a removable stitch marker. It is normally about 2-2.5" from the back of your heel.

Start to pick up stitches for one side of the heel.

Start to pick up stitches for one side of the heel.

2. Take the sock off, lay it flat being sure to have the toe flat - your heel needs to align with the toe - and starting at one side of the sock start to insert a DPN tip into the first leg of each stitch from the row you have marked with your stitch marker (self striping yarn can be helpful here as, often you can follow the line of a coour change).

Work your way across, take your time being sure to pick up the leg of each stitch until you have half the number of stitches of your total sock circumference. eg. for a 64st sock I would pick up 32st. I find that wooden DPNs are easier to use as they are more flexible but this is personal preference.

Once you have 1 line of stitches picked up repeat the process on the 2nd row below your first DPN. You will end up with stitches on 2 DPNs separated by 1 row of knitted stitches.

Identify where you are going to snip

Identify where you are going to snip

4. Insert a tapestry needle into the leg of one stitch in the middle of that row and pull it up firmly to make a loop. Take a deep breath and snip that loop. Now breathe out and slowly start to unpick the loose thread you have created on each side of the fabric.

Start to snip

Start to snip

5. Keep going all the way across until you have 2 DPNs each with 32 (or your chosen number) stitches on them and two curly strands of yarn at either end. These ends can be woven in later. I normally tie them in a knot with the working yarn to keep the tension even. I then untie them and darn them in at the end.

All neat and tidy

All neat and tidy

6. It happens to the best of us. During the picking up of stitches if you find that you have missed a stitch and you have one loose, just secure it with a lockable stitch marker and slip it back on the needle as you knit that row.

Use your locking stitch markers to capture any strays

Use your locking stitch markers to capture any strays

Now, just reattach your working yarn and start decreasing as you would for a toe. Essentially you are knitting a 2nd toe in the middle of your sock. My preferred way of doing this is:

Rnd 1: ssk (sl 1 knitwise, sl 1 purlwise, k those 2 tog tbl), k to last 3 st, k2tog, k1. Repeat on 2nd DPN

Rnd 2: k

You may come across the odd stitch which is aligned back to front on the needle, if that happens simple knit it through the back loop to correct it.

Repeat Rnds 1 and 2 until you have decreased the total number of stitches by half. For my 64st sock this would be 2 DPNs each holding 16st. Try on the sock at this point and check the fit. If you need to do a few more rounds you can continue 1 or 2 more decrease rounds.

Finally - use Kitchener stitch to graft the heel closed, exactly as you would do a toe.

Weave in all the ends and do a happy dance in your new socks! Take a photograph to show me (tag it with #louisetilbrookdesigns)  - I'd love to see your finished heels :)

 

Next time: a closer look at sock toes.

 

 

 

 

My magic formula for happiness: A Toe-up sock in self-striping yarn

I am a firm believer in not messing with perfection and the first thing I want to do when faced with an amazing skein of hand-dyed self striping sock yarn is to knit it into a perfectly plain and splendid pair of socks.

My default, stress-free option is to work a pair of stockinette, toe-up socks using the magic loop technique and my beloved Hiya Hiya sharp circular needles. If they are socks for me (I wear a UK size 6 shoe) I work on the basis of 60st and a 2.5mm needle. My husband usually gets a 72st sock with a 3x1 rib on the foot and leg.

Teaching toe-up sock knitting is one of my favourite classes to teach and I created the Have Fun Socks pattern as a freebie. Both to accompany the class and to offer as a free Ravelry download to all those thinking of trying out the wonderful world of toe-up socks. This pattern uses a standard short row heel but - full confession time - if I am knitting for myself I nearly always opt for a Fish Lips Kiss Heel. Obviously I can't infringe copyright and reproduce the pattern myself but I urge anyone who will listen to me to spend the $1 required to obtain this fabulous pattern for themselves.

I have taught some fairly resistant toe-up sock knitters in my time and one of their chief bugbears is often the fact that a "normal" short row heel doesn't fit very well. The FLK heel overcomes a lot of these difficulties and the additional information provided within the pattern gives you all the information you need to fit socks to the most challenging of feet.

If you want to preserve the continuity of those perfect stripes you can work the heel in a contrast colour - or wind off 10g yarn from the skein before you start knitting the sock, to use for the heels. The latter option involves a certain amount of prior thought however, and when faced with the giddy excitement of a new skein of yarn I admit that I often overlook this step.

The only exception to my winning formula is if I am travelling or otherwise out in public, and I'm not sure when to stop for the heel. If they are for me I can usually just measure (assuming my tape measure hasn't been pilfered out of my notions bag by small boys) but often I do prefer to try them on - just to make sure the heel goes in the correct place.

In the past I have tried on a sock WIP on public transport and I can attest to the fact that this will usually generate a fair number of curious (and sometimes even horrified) looks. To avoid public shame and embarrassment I now normally take the cowards way out and just continue up the leg to knit a long (13-14") tube and put in an afterthought heel.

If this thought fills you with horror - watch out for my mini tutorial on this - next week.

 

Purveyors of Self Striping Delights: The Knitting Goddess

As a recent newbie to the world of knitting, Joy of the Knitting Goddess was one of the first indie dyers I discovered online. The first was the lovely Amanda of the sadly missed Natural Dye Studio.

But like Amanda I was struck by Joy's subtle use of colour, the depth of tone she managed to achieve on her sock yarn bases and her fabulous attention to detail.

The Knitting Goddess' online shop is a veritable treasure trove of hand-dyed goodness and if you ever get the chance to visit her in person at one the many shows she does in the UK, they are even better when seen (and squished) in person.

Thismonth I am devoting the blog to my love of self stripe yarn and Joy has some amazing offerings in this category.

Better than a sweetie shop: a selection of Joy's hand-dyed self stripe yarns.

Better than a sweetie shop: a selection of Joy's hand-dyed self stripe yarns.

Her Britsock self-stripe is a particular favourite and was one of my first adventures into bold self-striping yarn and I haven't looked back. Britsock is a great blend of 40% British Falkland Polwarth, 20% British Wensleydale, 20% British Alpaca and 20% nylon, and it manages to be warm, luxurious, hard wearing all at once. The colours are arranged in thick stripes and I love that you can see subtle variations in the tone as you are knitting with it - one of the many joys of hand dyed yarn.

My first self-stripe: the 'Wimbledon' colourway from The Knitting Goddess

My first self-stripe: the 'Wimbledon' colourway from The Knitting Goddess

A self-striping option is also available on Joy's other, very popular  wool/nylon sock base and is well worth a look.

As well as a brilliantly stocked online shop, there is always the Knitting Goddess group on Ravelry. This is one of my favourite Ravelry haunts - a really vibrant and friendly group who love to share ideas and projects for KG yarns. If you've ever found Ravelry to be a little bit daunting - this is a great place to dip your toe into the water.

Spring Forward - an optimistic KAL

March 19th sees the start of the Spring Forward KAL running in my Ravelry group. With Spring very firmly in mind, pick a fabulous yarn from your stash and any of my self-published patterns (either free or paid). It can be a colour that reminds you of spring or the name of the pattern, yarn or dyer. Anything that links in your mind to Spring and encourages Spring-like thoughts is fine by us.
 

Or you could interpret it as 'springing forward' into a new challenge. Maybe this is the time to try toe-up socks if you've always been a die-hard cuff-down knitter? Or maybe you'd like to try cabling without a needle? In short - any way you can make it work is absolutely fine. If you've ever taken part in one of my KALs before you will know that we are not friends of the Knitting Police.

The only 'rules' are that you must be a member of my Ravelry group to join in the fun.

Sharing of posts on social media is always encouraged - please use the hashtags #springforwardkal2016 and #louisetilbrookdesigns so that we can see what you are up to.

The KAL runs until May 1st, you will have plenty of time to knit up a wonderful spring-themed pair of socks or maybe a light and airy shawl?

 

Love is... stripy socks

With Valentines Day fast approaching I decided to get a scoot on with some plain vanilla socks I had on the needles so that they could be pressed into service as a gift for my DH. We don't normally make a fuss on Valentines Day - we may make a special effort and cook a really nice meal with a bit of fizz to go with it, or a good bottle of wine but we don't normally go in for overpriced cards and flowers.

No second sock syndrome here...

No second sock syndrome here...

That being said he has been away from home (for work) a lot recently and I know that he likes to wear his handknit socks in his hotel room at the end of a long days travelling. On his last transatlantic flight, a British Airways steward even offered to buy his socks off him - much to the amusement of the fellow business class passengers.

It just so happened that this sock urge coincided with my recovery from the lurgy and so I completed these in record time following my tried-and-true formula for stripey socks: toe-up on 2.5mm needles, fish lips kiss heel and 1x1 rib cuff. For DH I generally use a 72st sock and for a bit of variety I worked the top of the foot and leg in a 3x1 rib (K3, p1). I like the stretchy fit it gives without breaking up the beautiful stripes too much.

Yarn: Stride sock yarn in colourway Robin Red Breast by The Knitting Swede

Just to make them a little bit more special I found a downloadable pdf design for a little wrapper - designed to be printed out and wrapped around your gift.

I found them via the Attic24 blog at a very cute creative blog called Buttons - do check it out as she has some great information there.

All ready for gifting...

All ready for gifting...

I don't normally do in for packaging my gifts very much, being something of a lazy gifter but I am really pleased with how these look. With a bit of luck he won't have to wait another year until the next pair.

Wyrt Socks

The first pattern launch of 2016 is a bit of a cheat really. The Wyrt Socks were originally released in November as a 4-part Mystery KAL on the Ravelry Solid Socks group. It was my first time writing a pattern for a mystery KAL and it was so much fun. Lots of folks in the group were new to toe-up socks and were really keen to try a new technique. There was lots of chatter and support and, I'm pleased to say lots of new and beautiful socks as a result.

Wyrt Socks and the tree roots that inspired them.

The pattern was inspired by winding tree roots on one of our favourite family walks in the Lake District. We spent a happy autumn day there not too long ago, finding and trying to identify fungi, picking up leaves and generally having a fun family potter about.

The socks themselves were knit using one of my favourite sock yarns - Pendle 4ply by Eden Cottage Yarns. As a Lancashire girl who grew up in sight of Pendle Hill, the name alone would be enough to entice me but Victoria's genius with colours and the firmly plied yarn with just a hint of halo makes this a perfect yarn choice.

The socks feature two bold, textured cables which wind along the front of the sock, offset by garter stitch panels. Garter stitch is surprisingly underused in sock patterns - and speaking personally - I love the added squish factor that it gives. So much so that I decided to depart from my usual heel treatment and opt for a garter stitch short row heel. Fun and quick to work I really like how the garter stitch gives an added stretch to what can, traditionally be a difficult heel type for some people.

To see the pattern on Ravelry and to check out some of the inspirational projects - please click here.

New pattern release: Priory Socks

I am pleased to be able to share a new sock pattern release with you today.

Many of you may have been fans of the online magazine Knotions, back in the day. I know that I certainly was and I was really pleased when I saw that it was being brought back.

I was even more pleased to be able to submit a new sock design to it, and over the moon when it was accepted.

Priory Socks ºLouise Tilbrook Designs

The Priory Sock pattern was inspired by a visit to the wonderful 12th century former monastery - Bolton Abbey in the heart of England’s Yorkshire Dales. They are toe-up and feature an elongated cable design which creates subtle arches reminiscent of the high arched windows – so much a feature of this historic building. Even though it looks impressive the majority of the sock is worked in a rib pattern with infrequent cable crosses.

A different kind of heel - garter stitch is surprisingly comfortable

There is also a garter stitch short row heel which I think fits in really well with the design.

Alongside the Priory socks there are 6 other patterns. There is a great sweater by Elizabeth Helmich (Couting Sheep on Ravelry) and a matching beret. Rachel aka ThornMaiden Designs has a cute beret and matching mitts.Woolly Wormhead has a great hat pattern and as well as producing the magazine Jody aka Savannahchik has also designed some great fingerless mitts.


All the patterns are free to download here and there are some great articles and designer interviews too - well worth a look.

Indie Designer Giftalong 2015

Aaand..they're off

The 3rd annual Indie Design Giftalong has now started over on Ravelry.

335 designers from 30 countries have combined to offer a fabulous 25% discount on selected patterns. Use code giftalong2015 at checkout from Thursday, November 19th at 8:00 pm US EST - Friday, November 27, 2015 at 11:59 pm US ES.


Louise Tilbrook Designs: GAL Patterns
As well as the sale and the chance to find some new-to-you designers there are KALs, competitions and general chatter happening over on the Indie Design Giftalong group.


 As you might expect I'll be hanging out in the thread related to sock and other foot/leg patterns but I can never resist checking out all the other amazing patterns - and I do need a new hat for winter....


Gotland Socks - In Progress



Last week I talked about the start of my adventure into knitting with 100% British wool and the #breedsswatchalong project. On a recent visit to my LYS - the wonderful and charming Sheep Shop, Cambridge - a selection of 4ply Blacker Yarns caught my eye.


Gotland 4ply from Blacker Yarns


The Gotland 4ply from Blacker Yarns came in a wonderful range of muted greys, from pale to dark and I knew immediately that 2 balls were destined to come home with me to make a pair of 100% British wool socks.

Here I departed slightly from the KnitBritish recommendation to knit an 8" swatch. Sorry Louise, but an 8" square on a yarn worked at 32st per inch is not going to happen in my lifetime :)

I decided to do the next best thing and knit a sock toe. Let's face it, I'm sure a lot of sock knitters work out their gauge by doing this. I for one, very rarely try to convert a gauge knit flat into one knit in the round and the various methods for working around this have never really struck a cord with me. If I'm going to see what gauge I get with a sock yarn I find it a lot easier and more relevant to just start knitting a sock. It could explain why I have so many abandoned sock toes on needles strewn around my house but anyway, I digress.

I knit a sock toe (on 2.25mm needles) and was very taken with the resulting fabric. Firm and dense yet with a great halo and a definite warmth - this yarn would make totally fabulous warm socks. I can't speak to their durability, although I'm sure the firm gauge will help with that, but I'm going to carry on and see what I come up with.

In this fabulous article on using breed specific yarns for socks, Sue Blacker suggests that there may be some felting on the inside of 100% Gotland socks due to the nature of the wool, but I'm game to give it a go. I will report back...

Socks for men: Part I



Full disclosure here. I have started to write this piece twice now and each time I have deleted it. Why? Simply put, I have been trying to write a piece on knitting socks for men but each time I do it sounds trite and stereotypical. There is no average man any more than there is an average woman, and I would never dream of writing a piece on knitting socks for women.


That being said it does seem as though men are often under-served in the sock pattern department and that is one reason why I strive to ensure that the majority of my patterns are unisex. A quick whizz through the Ravelry search for 'Socks' shows 14,812 patterns (at the time of writing) and 209 pages.
Sock patterns by gender tag, Ravelry, October 2015


Of these only 1,848 (39 pages) have the 'male' tag as compared to the 'female' tag: 6,445 patterns (135 pages) or the 'unisex' tag: 6,519 patterns (136 pages).

Obviously some patterns, like many of mine are tagged with all three but whichever way you look at it is seems to be that men are getting a bit of a raw deal when it comes to choice for sock patterns.

As I started to think about knitting socks specifically for men, a number of common misconceptions started to occur to me:

There is an often perpetuated myth that men will only wear dark grey/black socks. Whilst that may be true in a corporate environment, the pattern pages on ravelry are full of men rocking more colourful socks and I know that my husband, whilst he does wear dark socks with business suits he loves to chill out in his hotel room or on the plane with a fab pair of handknit socks. He has even had cabin crew try to buy them off him before now. For every man who only wears dark, plain socks I'm sure there are several who will happily sport a bright self stripe.

Unisex patterns: Louise Tilbrook Designs 

Cables are generally a winner too as long as though don't add too much bulk when worn in shoes and aren't too "twiddly". This is my husband's technical term for cables which are deemed by him to be over-complicated.

Cables have the added advantage of making you look super clever. After all, not only can you knit amazingly warm and well fitting socks but you can move the stitches about and bend them to your will. You are a veritable sock ninja!

What do you look for in a good mens sock pattern? I'd love to know. Please do leave me a comment here or via social media.



Here we are in October already and with #Socktober well and truly underway. Autumn is in full, blustery swing here in the UK today and it seems fitting that under my smart work work boots I am wearing my best handknit stripey socks to keep my feet warm.

I do hope you have your Socktober knitting planned out and on the needles but just in case you need a little extra enabling - fear not as I have a little round up of some fun goings on in the knitterly world.

First up we have the #gbsocksawaykal hosted by the lovely Isla, of the even more lovely Brit Yarns fame. Her KAL group on Ravelry is a really fun and chatty place to hang out. Even if you aren't knitting socks (and if not..why not??) there are plenty of great tips, patterns, chat and inspiration to get your sock knitting mojo going.

As well as the KAL, Isla is also running a competition jointly with Joy of the Knitting Goddess. You are challenged to come up with a new Britsock colourway (of up to 3-4 colours) which to you, perfectly sums up Britishness. There are some great entries already and I can't wait to see what is eventually chosen.

If you are all about the KALs still, Sara of Sara's Textured Crafts is hosting one too - with the emphasis firmly on relaxed fun and chatter over on her Ravelry group.

As for my own knitting. I am having a bit of a Finishing Festival. I have several pairs of self striping socks in various stages of completion which, to my shame, have languished for far too long in search of the new, the tempting and the deadline knitting. My boys are clamouring for their completed socks - each of them chose a shade of the West Yorkshire Spinners bird-inspired yarns some time ago.



To forestall the inevitable arguments I initially started working them two at a time - one from each skein. But I soon came to realise that this didn't make for the most portable of projects. This was compounded by my trying to work the heels with separate little balls of yarn (I pre-wound about 5g from each skein before starting) in an attempt to keep my nice even stripes on the front of the sock. Things got into a bit of a tangle and had to be set aside (read - shoved into a corner) until I had time to untangle and rearrange on separate needles. All is now going swimmingly however and I have high hopes of being able to present not 1 but 2 pairs of finished socks for #FOFriday this week.

How about you - do let me know what you are working on and how your Socktober is going.