sockyarn

March Modular Challenge

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As February draws to a close (I’m not even going to think about how quickly that whooshed by) we have been pondering what our next monthly challenge will be over in the Facebook group. As we are currently in the middle of a sock yarn mini swap, many of us are either rediscovering our long-term sock yarn blankets or have been inspired to start one.

So it seemed particularly appropriate for March to be our Modular Month. Specifically a month for us to set ourselves some challenges relating to a long term modular or scrap yarn project.

In line with our group style I’m not going to set out any hard and fast rules for participation but here are a few thoughts on how you could make the challenge work for you.

  1. Knit a square per day on your sock yarn blanket...and weave in the ends (the last bit is optional but your future self will thank you for it).

  2. See how many squares you can knit or crochet in 31 days. There are no prizes for this or knitting police checking up - but you do get to give your blanket a sizeable boost.

  3. Knit/crochet a stripe per day on a blanket/afghan/scarf.

  4. Work on a modular blanket or other project. Several group members are knitting the Vivid blanket pattern from Tin Can Knits which would be ideal for this.

  5. Unearth your long-term WIP out from where it is hibernating and just show it some love. You don’t need to set yourself a challenge other than to admire it and imagine how cool it will look when it is finished.

Sock yarn blanket patterns include, but are in no way limited to:

Sock Yarn blanket by Shelley Kang

 

Memory blanket by Georgie Hallam

Knitted patchwork recipe by Martine Ellis

However you chose to take part and whatever you chose to work on I do hope you have fun with this one. Please do share your progress on the Facebook group - I can’t wait to see how you get on. If you are sharing on Instagram please use the hashtag #modularmarch so we can all follow you.

 

Advanced stashbusting - doubling up that sock yarn

If, like me, you have a well curated stash of leftover sock yarn it is only a matter of time before you find yourself contemplating it with a slightly overwhelmed expression and a distinct lack of storage space. There are, after all, only so many sock yarn blankets one can have on the needles at any one time.

If you haven't already tried it, may I suggest working with two strands of sock yarn held together - as the ultimate stashbuster.

Holding two strands together generally gives a weight of yarn somewhere between a DK and aran weight - I usually get a gauge of around 20st to 4" - making it comparable toa worsted weight, although obviously this does depend on the relative thicknesses of your chosen 4ply yarns. Working on a 4.5mm needle the two strands of yarn combine to give a pleasing bounce and loft to the fabric and the ability to play with colour and introduce gradual ombre-style effects is an added bonus. Pairing a super bright skein with a more sombre one might also be a good way to tone down some of the more exuberant skeins that we all have hiding in our stash.

Assisted Hatching baby sweater

Assisted Hatching baby sweater

For those of us with a well endowed stash of leftover sock yarn, an added highlight is that this type of project really does eat up yarn. Making a worsted weight baby sweater - here I used the Assisted Hatching sweater pattern by Elizabeth Ditchburn Dew - which used up practically all of a 400m (100g) skein of 4ply Zitron Trekking XL. Obviously you do have to take a little bit of time at the beginning of the project to wind 2 equal sized balls of yarn, and some people find that they get better results if they wind these two strands together into a single, larger ball from which to work. But this is a simple job that just needs a pair of kitchen scales and a bit of company from Netflix.

The possibilities of this type of yarn combining are endless, and I often find myself dreaming about an ombre style blanket - baby sized or bigger - starting with the lighter shades of yarn from my sock stash and progressing towards the darker ones. Maybe one day...I might just need a bit more sock yarn first though.

 

 

What exactly is a Twitter Chat?

On Monday 21st November 2016 (at 8pm GMT,London) I am going to be hosting the first of my monthly Twitter Chats aimed at everyone who loves to knit socks - and I know there are a few of you out there.

So far so good, but what exactly is a Twitter Chat, I hear you say.

Well, fear not. It isn't scary. It is just a bunch of people chatting on Twitter but instead of randomly chatting amongst ourselves we use the hashtag #KnitSockChat. This enables us to see all the conversations going on around us and to join in and hopefully make new friends who share our love of all things to do with knitting socks.

Most Twitter Chats last for an hour but don't worry - it's fine to dip in and out as you can. Most of us have other things going on in the evening - small people, pets or significant others clamoring for attention - but the beauty of Twitter is that you can join in as it suits you and no one will be offended if you bow out. Or if you are can't to join in at the time you can catch up with the conversations later and find out what you missed.

To give us something to get us started I will post 3 questions or topics during the chat:

Q1: Show us a picture of your favourite knitted socks or sock WIP. What do you love about them?

Q2: Patterned socks or plain vanilla?

Q3: Do you knit for others or just you?

To help you get the most out of the Chat it helps to remember to use the hashtag #KnitSockChat on each of your posts - this will help everyone else to find you. And also if you answering a specific question, preface your comment with Q1, 2 or 3.

With these simple guides in mind, grab a beverage of choice and join us for some serious sock chat.

I look forward to seeing you there

x

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.

 

In praise of the humble mitered square

Lets face it, after a few months (years) of knitting socks, you are going to have amassed a fairly hefty collective of leftover sock yarn. If I am knitting socks for me I normally expect to have about 30g of sock yarn left from a skein of 100g - sometimes a little less if the design features lots of yarn-eating cables.

And all those little 30g balls of yarn can soon add up.

For me, the tipping point came when I decided to reorganise my sock yarn stash and put all the leftovers together. When I realised that I had about 1.5kg of little sock yarn balls it was time to admit that a) I needed help and b) maybe I should make something with it all.

The next few weeks on the blog will therefore be devoted to ideas for using up that leftover sock yarn, starting with the epitome of thriftiness - the Sock Yarn Blanket.

If you have a few hours to spare just type in the words 'sock yarn blanket' into Google or Pinterest and prepare to be blown away by the creativity and colour you will find. One of the most popular patterns or recipes is a free pattern download: The Mitered Squares blanket by Shelley Kang. Endlessly adaptable and highly addictive, it's easy to see why there are so many versions of this on Ravelry and it's hard not to be drawn into their appeal. There is something very pleasing about how all the neat little decreases line up along the length of the blanket and bright hand-dyed yarn in garter stitch is always a real winner.

It is worth considering however that this is a large scale undertaking and because the squares are joined as you go, the project quickly becomes non-portable. Some clever knitters have got around this however by using the same principle to knit square panels of say 3x3 or 4x4 which can then be seamed together. Indeed, the very clever ScullyWully on Instagram took this principle and expanded it to create a series of monthly blocks - with the colours influenced by the seasons and the other projects she was working on at the time.

If large-scale commitment isn't your thing, you could always take this idea and adapt it to make cushion covers for example or smaller cot-sized baby blankets.

The only other caution I would issue, with my 'voice of experience' is to weave in the ends as you go - ask me how I know! With that caveat in place my only other advice is to go for it and have fun. If your enthusiasm wanes you can always curtail the project and make a cushion cover, or you can go the whole hog and make a king-sized bed masterpiece.

More self-stripe love from The Knitting Swede

I first met Tanja aka the Knitting Swede at Fibre East in 2015 when my two young boys spent a lively 5 (or 25)  minutes arguing over exactly which pair of stripy socks they would like me to knit for them. A decision was finally reached after much wrangling - although obviously - the actual knitting of them took much longer.

Tanja has a great eye for colour and I love that she pairs colours together that you might not have ordin arily thought of as working together.

I particularly love the fact that Tanja has a series of precise options for her self stripe - with 2-stripe, 3-stripe and 4-stripe options in a wonderful array of colours.

One of her best sellers is the 2-stripe Robin Red breast colourway and I knitted up a pair of these for DH quite recently. They are now a firm favourite of his - and really quite a bold choice for him. He normally steers away from brighter colours but the dark russet red against the steel grey really appealed to him and I was really pleased with how they turned out. A 3x1 rib on the foot and rib gave a great fit without breaking up the bold lines of stripes and I am happy to report that they are holding up well to repeated washing and wearing.

Tanja is often to be found at the main UK shows where you can get the chance to see her fabulous range in person. She also has a website and great online service. Her Etsy shop is updated regularly although if there is something you particularly have your eye on you need to be quick as she can sell out rapidly.

 

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.

 

Whirlwind

As I write this Edinburgh yarn Festival 2016 is receding into the past and Easter is breathing down my neck with a degree of urgency. I truly have no idea where the month has gone but I am acutely aware that in 2 days time I am required to have my whole family transported 250 miles north, with a full complement of all-weather gear (Easter in the Lake District can require either snow shovels or sunscreen - my bet is on the former this year). Not only that but we need to have sufficient supplies for an Easter egg hunt - the snow shovels may come in handy for this - and the makings of an Easter family dinner.

This post was intended to be a leisurely round-up of my Edinburgh shenanigans but to be honest, you are probably more than tired of hearing about it if you weren't there. And if you were there, you will still be wafting along on the same yarn fume high that I am.

So I will content myself with flinging some of my purchases before your eyes - metaphorically, obviously - I'm not letting these goodies out of my clutches any time soon.

A modest yarn haul from Edinburgh Yarn Festival 2016

A modest yarn haul from Edinburgh Yarn Festival 2016

 

From top left we have 3 fabulous skeins of Tamar 4ply from Blacker Yarns, a skein of Ground Control 4ply from The Wool Kitchen, a skein of yarn from La Bien Aimee that loudly declared itself to be a Hitchhiker in the making; a skein of the fabulous new 4ply yarn from The Knitting Goddess; and in the centre 2 skeins of the wondrous new yarn from Rachel Atkinson aka Daughter of a Shepherd, whose Hebridean yarn debuted in Edinburgh.

There were other purchases too - a lovely project bag from The Little Grey Girl and fibre from Porpoise Fur but you will see more of these another day.

For now, I will take this opportunity to wish you a happy Easter. May it be filled with knitting and chocolate.

 

x

 

 

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.

Airing my stash

The new year has seen a bit of domestic upheaval and decluttering and as a result I have been thrilled to have acquired a nice big wooden chest of drawers in our spare room. Of course, I immediately did what any self respecting knitter would do and filled it full of yarn.

All the boxes under the bed and on top of the wardrobe were piled gaily into the drawers and I gazed happily on its woolly contents.

These beauties from The Uncommon Thread have their own special drawer

These beauties from The Uncommon Thread have their own special drawer

After the dust has settled though I find myself surveying it with a somewhat more critical eye. I did a major round of decluttering last year so I am pleased to report that there is no lurking fun fur/eyelash yarn in there, and a lot of my pre-ravelry acquisitions have already been sent to the local charity shop.

On surveying what is left I realised I have some beautiful yarn and it needs to be allowed to see the light of day. I also have some non-so-beautiful yarn which leaves me wondering why I bought it in the first place. Looking at the yarn in the latter camp I realised that most of it was purchased at yarn shops as impulse buys, and mostly when exploring new towns and new-to-me yarn shops.

I'm sure you know the feeling. On a trip to a new town you come across a yarn shop, or your DH finds one and, pleased as punch, insists that you go in and he will treat you. Never one to look a gift horse in the mouth you enter the shop, ready to be sent dizzy with yarn fumes and instead find yourself surveying a huge wall of baby acrylic yarn.

There really is a place for pastel baby acrylic yarns, of course there is, but I have a strictly limited need for it. Of my precious yarn storage space I would much prefer that I give homes to beautiful hand-dyed yarns, items of wonder and beauty and just enough good quality dk weight wool to make a few sweaters. Add in some great sock yarn and some fun self stripes and that really would be my ideal stash.

Anyway, that aside. The reality is that when I find myself in such a yarn shop, with my DH looking expectantly at me I usually panic and pick something that I know, in reality I will never knit with but it looks pretty. The yarn then comes home with me and goes promptly into the stash, never to re-emerge.

Now, I know myself too well to ever utter the words 'cold sheep' ever again. I love yarn too much and specifically I love buying and holding new yarn too much for that. What I do want to do though is to better curate my stash and make sure that I do justice to some of the lovely yarn I currently own.

I'm not quite sure what shape that will take but I am busy doing lots of planning for the current year and realistically assessing how much knitting time I have both for new designs and for personal knitting. With that in mind - and the recent Episode from Jo of Shinybees fame on Knitting Goals - I will be back shortly with my realistic, achievable and downright cunning Knitting Goals for 2016.

Loving my stash

This year I have been deliberately low key about my goals and intentions for 2016. I know I have a tendency to try to commit to lots of different things at once and often end up not achieving many, or indeed any of them.

This year I decided to take a little time and not feel the pressure to commit to any particular goals, just because January 1st has rolled around again.

One of my major goals for last year was to get the website up and running, and now that it is I feel as though I want to relax here a little. To take stock and take a little time to grow into this new space of mine.

One thing I have started to do however is to look at my stash with a more critical eye. Specifically the yarn I collected before I discovered luxury and hand-dyed sockweight yarn, and that which I collected after this point. My stash definitely falls into two camps - Noro Silk garden, I'm looking at you!

My aim for this year is continue enjoying fabulous hand dyed yarn from some amazing indie dyers and I have no intention of cold sheeping in the slightest. What I would like to do is to go through some of my older stash and give away that which I know I'll never use. Then, with what's left my aim is to always have a simple project on the go that is using up some of my older stashed yarn. Baby hats, blankets and little sweaters are always perfect for the gift box and use up those odd half skeins of sock yarn. I recently discovered the joys of holding sock weight yarn doubled to make an approximate worsted weight yarn and the resulting super-squishy fabric is perfect for using up some of that stash.

2016 is going to be my year of stash appreciation - here's to the well curated stash!

Making friends - the Knitters way


A series of random late night tweets one night and I found myself gatecrashing a yarn crawl in London - visiting new-to-me yarn shops and making great yarny friends into the bargain.
A wall of wool, at Prick Your Finger


The route was carefully planned to include Prick Your Finger, Loop, Knit with Attitude and Wild and Woolly, ending in a pub - of course - and a knitting quiz.

The perils of childcare meant that I could only stay for the first 2 shops but the carefully planned itinerary meant that I was able to duck out after Loop and catch a bus back to Liverpool St.

Prick Your Finger was a shop I had heard much about but hadn't yet visited and so I was really pleased that we went there first. The owner, Rachel was really welcoming and we spent a happy time browsing her beautiful collections of yarn. She has a passion for supporting British and local producers and that really shone through in her choice of yarns. John Arbon, Excelana, Blakcer Yarns and others were all wonderfully displayed. She also stocks, buttons, jewellery, drop spindles and much more and we could have spent much longer there.
My carefully curated haul - much joy


Mini skeins kindly gifted by Amelia

Specially made stitch markers by OfBlitheSpirit


Next on the list was Loop in Islington. A true 'destination' yarn shop I had been to Loop once or twice before but I never pass up the opportunity to go and this time I was on a mission. I want to make the Laneway tunic by Veera Valimaki in grey and I knew that Loop stocks an impressive collection of The Uncommon Thread's sockweight yarn. No one does grey quite like Ce Ce and I was indeed spoilt for choice. Indeed I fear I embarrased myself somewhat by laying out all the different shades on the floor to better examine them.

Anyway, after much deliberating I made my selection and spent the rest of the visit with them clutched protectively to my chest. It was lovely to chat to the staff there and to put names to faces. The yarn crawl continued without me after that but I know that they had a great time - check out the hashtag #4plyyarncrawl on Twitter and Instagram to see what we got up to.
The midway point: Our collective haul


Huge thank you to Rae, Amelia and Alitzah for making the day such fun - we will have to do it again soon.
xx


Sock heaven

Now, heaven knows I have no shortage of socks on my needles at the moment. I have a complicated toe-up design which is currently tying my brain in knots. I have a straightforward sample knit which is quite relaxing, but suffering ever-so-slightly from 'second sock syndrome'. I have a plain pair of grey socks for my father in law which are languishing in the WIP pile - plain, grey, huge - not very appealing -say no more.

And then, into my sock knitting doldrums drops this little beauty:


The very talented Sparkleduck has produced a wonderful rainbow yarn in her fabulous Socka base, which produces two colours per round on a sock. The colourway is Warm Rainbow (in case you were wondering).

I can be a little colour-shy sometimes but this yarn positively sang to me and implored me to take it home and knit it...so I did:

I was dithering about whether to do an afterthought heel so as not to interrupt the stripes but in the end I plumped for my favourite Fish Lips Kiss Heel and I love the way the stripes work over the heel - great fun.

I was also a little worried about potential pooling and did consider a pattern designed to work with highly variegated yarn such as Hermione's Everyday socks but in the end I decided to just go with the flow. With 60st on 2.5mm needles the stripes worked up into a very pleasing sequence that is strangely hypnotic to knit.

I sock down, and 1 to go.

Sock yarn blankie

Don't worry, I won't bore you too much with photos of a mitered square blanket growing at a snails pace but once I month I will post a tally of how many squares I have completed. More as a means of keeping the project 'front and centre'. otherwise, I know what I'm like. It will slide to the bottom of my WIPs basket and then further into dusty oblivion before being rescued during a marathon cleaning attempt.

So In April I did a grand total of 40 squares - it has grown a little since this photo was taken - and I'm really enjoying it.

I am trying to stick to mainly UK indie dyers yarn - fortunately I have many (many) leftovers and am loving how all the different colours and tones come together.

Very addictive. Just need to keep reminding myself to pick it up at least every other day to keep the momentum going.