Sock knitting

Being brave

Sometimes you just need to take a deep breath and go for it, whether it's applying for a new job, making that dreaded phone call or tackling your next big project.

If you've followed me for a while you'll know that I'm no stranger to the fine art of procrastination. In fact it's probably fair to say that I could procrastinate for my country if it were ever to become an Olympic event.

For ages now I've been wanting to do a Facebook Live in my group (Everyday Knitter). I've planned it, rehearsed it, imagined it but never actually taken a deep breath and done it. Various excuses have included "I'll just wait until I've had my hair cut" and "I need to find the right shawl to wear".

Yesterday I listened to the very inspiring Making Good podcast with Jen Gale. There was a whole episode about making more out of Facebook and using it to best advantage. Jen is so down to earth and practical that I just thought - "why the heck not".

I was going to wait for the right time (I even scheduled it in my diary) but then I found myself with 10 child free minutes and just took a deep breath and went for it. I was very nervous but people were very kind with their comments and I'll definitely be doing it again. I'd like to do a weekly slot where people can ask questions and each week I'll pick one at random to answer.

Sometimes you need to take leaps of a smaller scale too. This skein of gorgeous yarn from Goldings Yarns has been sitting patiently in my stash. It came in the Mystery Gems package from The Little Grey Girl a while ago now and I've been saving it for that "perfect project".

But in the interests of "just going for it" and as an antidote to the horrible grey weather we are having at the moment, it's going on my needles today.

Bright, cheery, fearless socks are on the way.



How to work a rounded toe

A few people asked about the rounded toe on my latest sock - specifically about the fit. This is the best photo I have to show it but it is really comfortable. A little roomier than a standard toe but so far no complaints at all. And of course, the added advantage is that there is no need for Kitchener stitch. To work the toe was super simple too. On 64st:

K6, k2tog to end

K6 rnds

K5, k2tog to end

K5 rnds

K4, k2tog to end

K4 rnds

K3, k2tog to end

K3 rnds

K2, k2tog to end

K2 rnds

K1, k2tog to end

K1 rnd

K2tog to end

Break yarn and thread back through rem 8st using a tapestry needle. Pull tight and weave in end.




A fickle beastie

Gauge - it's a fickle thing alright. For years, in fact for most of my sock knitting career my default option has been for sock yarn and 2.5mm needles. No messing, no fuss and no thinking required. Now suddenly my default option started giving a sock yarn fabric that was a bit too loose, a bit too wibbly and not at all as smooth as I would like.

I've no idea why, my needles haven't changed, but suddenly it seems as though only 2.25mm needle tips will do. It happened on my last pair of socks and I put it down to the fact that the yarn I was using was quite tightly spun and maybe a bit less plump than some of the yarns I had been using. But nope, it seems to be an issue for all of my socks now.

This delightful yarn from Easy Knits would probably look good at any gauge with those little neon pops of colour but it seems that for me 2.25mm needles are now the perfect sweet spot.

The only problem of course is that I only possess 2 pairs of said needles. I have 2.5mm tips all over the place but now it seems I need to restock. 

How to get your afterthought heel in the right place

As much as I love the afterthought heel I know that not everyone is convinced and one of the most common questions I hear is from knitters who worry that they won’t know where to place the heel to ensure a good fit.

This is one of the most common concerns and is heard a lot with toe-up sock knitting in general.

With cuff down socks it is very clear. You knit the leg until you have a length you are happy with - for me it’s 6.5”, for my husband it’s 7.5”. The you knit the heel, then you work the foot.Simples!

With toe-up socks it is more of a leap of faith. Standard instructions tell you to start the heel between 2-2.5” before the back of the heel ie total foot length minus 2 to 2.5”. If you get to the leg and find that the heel is in the wrong place, then a bit of judicious ripping is required.

With an afterthought heel this is a rather more unnerving prospect as once your heel is cut, there isn’t much room for error.

The best advice I can give for this, which will also increase your confidence, is to practice doing a few standard toe-up socks first with either a basic short row heel or a fish lips kiss heel. Learn where the best fit point is for you - you can put in a lifeline if needed so that if you do make an error in the heel placement you can just rip back to the lifeline and not worry about lost or dropped stitches.

Make a careful note of the exact length for your ideal heel placement then use this measurement when doing your afterthought heel.

Also - my best tip for making sure you get a good fit is rather than measuring the toe-up sock flat, actually slip it onto your foot and use a bulb pin or similar to mark the point on the base of the sock where the cut should go. For my UK size 6 foot, this is usually at 7.5” from the toe (with sock slightly stretched). My total foot length is 9.75”

Armed with this information I can now pretty much pop in an afterthought heel (for me) wherever I am, safe in the knowledge that the sock will fit me fine.

I hope this helps ease the nerves somewhat. If you do decide to be brave and give it a go - do let me know how you get on.


To finish or not to finish...

It's a dilemma that most knitters will empathise with. I have at a conservative estimate 5 pairs of vanilla self stripe socks in various stages of completeness. Most of them are toe-up with an afterthought heel and at least 2 pairs could be finished in an evening if I put my mind to it.

My problem of course is that Stash Dash starts in just 3 weeks - on May 26th - I think (but don't quote me on it). Under the rules of this annual event all yardage from a completed project counts towards your Stash Dash total - no matter when it was started. So I could wait until May 26th and then whip a load of afterthought heels in and easily get the first 1000m or so under my metaphorical belt.

But then, I'm feeling the urge to finish a few things and free up some project bags. Oh.. and I've run out of sock needles too. Decisions...


Fickle Steps - a new sock design

Fickle Steps by Louise Tilbrook Designs

Fickle Steps by Louise Tilbrook Designs

After months of keeping it under wraps I am really pleased to let you know that I have a new sock design published - in a fabulous new magazine called Rib.

Aimed at men who knit and those who knit for them this is only the magazine's second issue but it has already built a considerable following on Ravelry and on Instagram. They have a wonderful clean and pared back aesthetic and the designs in this issue all have that immediate appeal that makes you want to grab your needles and cast on immediately.
I was so pleased to be able to work with them and also to have to chance to work with some fabulous yarn -Nomade - from Julie Asselin

Fickle Steps is a pattern for a unisex cuff down sock with a design that is fun to work and easy to remember.

There are some great sweater patterns in this issue too and I can see them appealing to both men and women. The Survey Pullover for example would make a great addition to my wardrobe!

I do hope you pop over and take a look at the magazine and I'd love to know what you think.


Making something out of nothing

The art of creating something from nothing: otherwise known as Judy’s magic cast on

No matter how many pairs of socks I make I never fail to be amazed by the sheer ingenuity, the brilliance and the downright magic of Judy’s magic cast on.

First popularised in the now-famous Knitty article the simple series of steps has revolutionised the world of the toe-up knitter and brought joy to the heart of all those knitters who secretly wish that Lord Kitchener had never dreamt up the eponymous stitch for closing a toe.

The beauty of the JMCO is that it magically creates two rows of live stitches from nothing with no need for a provisional cast on or other fibre faffing.

Hold the two yarn ends with finger and thumb, wrap the yarn around the needles just so, knit 2 tiny rows and there you have it - a perfect, seamless, baby sock toe. 5 minutes ago it didn’t exist and now it does. Sheer magic which never fails to amaze me as I stop to admire the stitches that have appeared between my needles.

It’s true that it does take a little while to get to grips with the wrapping, and the first 2 rows can be a little fiddly but once you have those mastered it you can cast on a pair of socks in less time than it takes to boil the kettle. And in the time it takes for your coffee to reach an acceptable drinking temperature you can have a fully fledged sock toe, ready to shove in your handbag and keep you company on your daily travels.

The original article is well worth reading on this subject - it explains everything brilliantly and far better than I can. If you want to see a demo in action I can highly recommend Clare Devine of Knit Share Love who has a fantastic video. Alternatively, check out this link for an video tutorial.

Like anything worthwhile it can take a few goes before you have the technique down pat, but once you do you can whip out your needles and a cake of yarn and before you know it - you’ll be knitting a sock.

Strong coffee and strong stripes

After a few weeks of being missing in action I am pleased to report that my sock knitting mojo has returned. It seems like a different lifetime ago that I cast on these socks in a coffee shop in London whilst DH waited for his knee surgery. For the past few weeks I just haven't felt like knitting on socks at all but at the weekend I picked these up and with renewed joy sat down to watch the magic of these simple stripes unfolding.

I only intended to work a few rounds but before I knew it the leg of the sock whizzed by and I found myself at the cuff. This yarn comes in 2 perfectly matching 50g skeins so I know need to wind the other one before I jump in the car this morning. The yarn is one of the Star Wars series by the US dyer Must Stash Yarns and this is the Hans Solo colourway. 

It's a sure sign that my sock mojo has returned - the thought of leaving the house without a sock WIP is enough to cause consternation and distress. What if I'm stuck in traffic? So the sock WIP returns to my passenger seat and all is right with the world.