Give an inch

One more inch

I really want to be knitting. I need the soothing, repetitive motion. I need the creative release. I need the warm, woolly goodness. I just don’t really know what to knit. Therefore, instead of knitting consistently on a project, I have descended into knitting an inch of ribbing in various yarns on various needles before changing my mind.

The photo shows my latest attempt which will be the cuff of a sock if it survives that long. The previous attempt at a sock was ripped out completely when I got to the heel because I just wasn’t feeling the love. I spent some time over the weekend looking at the yarns I have and whether I could find a pattern for a garment to suit them, with less than stellar results on both fronts. I did, however, dig out this 100g ball of Botany wool from 21st Century Yarns which I thought would be totally unsuitable for socks, yet cast on anyway. It actually feels quite sturdy so it may work out and at least I like the colours which in daylight tend more towards the pinky-mushroom than the photo suggests.

Next Monday I may have a whole new inch of ribbing to show you, but for now this is my knitting progress. I hope your projects are progressing with rather more enthusiasm.

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Stationary?

Muted socks - back
Back of socks

There has been progress, but it has been slow and this is the total amount of knitting I have done in the past week. I remember the days when I could knit the whole back of a cardigan in that amount of time, but the tides of life dictate my knitting performance. The tides of life, and the weather – over the past few days we have seen the return of the crazy temperatures we had early in the summer and I am not amused.

Muted socks - front
Front of socks on hold

As you may be able to see, I am currently working on the heel flap of the sock, with the stitches for the front on hold across two stitch holders. I have, apparently, chosen to work the heel flap in stocking stitch which is not my usual method. I noticed that after a couple of rows and I couldn’t be bothered to tink back and use a twisted rib which, in itself, indicates to me that I am not investing my accustomed amount of enthusiasm in this project.

When I cast on the sock, I said how soothing the colours are, and I still think that there is a lot to like in the muted shades of green, grey and pinky-purple. However, when I work on it I’m afraid ‘calming’ turns to ‘boring’ and I miss the splendid colours of my lovely golden cable-front cardigan and the bright and cheerful Mama Weer All Crazee Cowl. This sock yarn is the knitting equivalent of zonking out in front of the television, complete with the associated post-nap regret.

Adding to this rather underwhelmed feeling is the fact that I am not even sure if I need this particular pair of socks. I was knitting them as a less obtrusive pair to wear with my work trousers, but now I’ve started my new job I believe the uniform is going to be a dress, leaving socks for my personal life only. Now, in my personal life (“real” life?), I am a firm believer in the brighter the better, which leaves me in an odd position with regard to these socks and, I have to admit, my current stash of sock yarns. I think I may need to reassess, but this is not the time to do so.

I am not at the point where I am considering ditching this sock project, although it might be a different story if I had anything else on my knitting radar for the next couple of months. I might take the opportunity now to tink back those heel rows and do it differently because I know myself, and the fact that I am not loving the yarn now is no indication of how I will feel about the finished socks. They might end up being the favourite ones in my sock drawer. They might end up being incredibly long-wearing and still be taking their place in my rota when prettier ones are just a distant memory. Such is the way of the world, and I love it.


Sock Yarn = Opal Sport Exclusiv
Needles = KnitPro Karbonz 2.25mm


 

Call the sock police

24-05-19 socks

This week I made my second attempt at sock resurrection and I came to the same conclusion as I did on my first attempt, namely, when socks get to the pont where one bit needs mending they are probably telling you that they have come to the end of their life.

I would quite like to be the type of person who mends clothes or re-fashions them so they can go on being useful, but in my heart I feel that life is just too short for such endeavours. I will return to this point later, but first, let’s examine what I learned from my attempt to mend these socks.

I finished this particular pair of socks in September 2015, so I got a good four winters out of them. To provide some context, I have worn my hand-knit socks exclusively – by which I mean no shop-bought socks and no tights or stockings – for at least the past five years. It’s either been hand-knit socks or bare feet, and in England bare feet only happen in a minority of months. There are two reasons for using my hand-knit socks so consistently: firstly, although my feet are unexceptional, I have never found a pair of shop-bought socks that fitted me and, secondly, until this past winter I’ve been dressing in a strict uniform of leggings or trousers paired with tunic tops/short dresses so socks have been my default foot covering. This has changed somewhat over the past nine months as my weight has reduced and I’ve become more confident about wearing skirts or dresses with tights some of the time. Even so, I still wear trousers and socks a lot.

I think in all the time I’ve been wearing hand-knit socks, I have had one pair which sprang a hole in the heel and one pair that wore through on the ball of the foot; apart from that the point where all my socks wear out is at the toe. This year, with make do and mend becoming ever more popular, I started to think that I could just re-knit the toe of socks when it starts to wear and I made an attempt at repairing one pair, only to find the wool was so felted together that it was impossible to unpick the original toe and knit a new one. “Life is too short,” I thought.

Yesterday I was packing away some of my socks until the autumn, and I put several pairs to one side which are getting perilously worn on the toe. I picked the pair shown above and cut off the toes then proceeded to pick back to a suitable point to knit a new toe. Once again, the wool was felted, but I managed to get the first one done with a new grey toe and it went quite well. However, when I turned to the second sock, I realised that I would have to get rid of almost all of the foot area and re-knit it because there were several patches where the fabric was wearing thin. And so it struck me all over again that these socks probably aren’t worth the trouble of repairing – they have served me well and now they are ready to retire. “Nothing,” my mum would say, “lasts for ever.”

In a situation where we have no alternative but to eke out our clothing for as long as we possibly can, such endeavours are well worth doing. Ecologically, wearing old is many times better than producing new. Yet we have to balance this out with how we can best use all of our resources and that includes our time. I do not feel my time is well-used repairing socks, or re-fashioning clothes that are too large for me so that they fit again. I would rather knit a new pair of socks from scratch, which keeps manufacturers in business and employing people who need jobs. I’d rather donate the over-sized clothes to charity and replace them with more appropriately sized clothes that someone else didn’t want. I am not championing profligate shopping, and I have never been one to wear clothes once, or even for one season – the clothing industry has never got rich from my shopping tendencies. However, I think I will continue with my long-held system of wearing it until it threatens to fall apart then accepting the inevitable. To salve my conscience, I am going to investigate the textile banks which take items too worn to donate so they can be recycled into something else of use.

I’ll just finish up with a quick photo of the pens I am currently using. One YouTube channel I enjoy is Waski the Squirrel who does a weekly video series called “Pens In Use”. My own pen habit is much less extreme, but every so often things have moved on sufficiently to make an update worthwhile. So here is my current set:

24-05-19 this week's pens

I’ve got one more cartridge of the Graf von Faber-Castell Midnight Blue ink, then I will be using my bottle of their Cobalt Blue as my main blue ink. The rather old bottle of MontBlanc blue/black or Midnight Blue (I can’t recall which they called it) still has plenty of fills in it. I’m not sure about this ink in the gushy Parker 51, but basically I am going to try this pen with all the inks I can lay my hands on until I find a combination that I think works really well. My second Waterman Hemisphere is uninked at the moment, as are my Lamy Safari and Lamy LX. The Safari may sit on the bench for some time, but I think the other two will be back in action fairly soon.

I will finish up by wishing you all a lovely weekend, and sending commiserations if you have to work. See you again on Monday.


 

Finished object – Isambard Socks

15-05-19 complete socks

I had a bit of a knitting frenzy over the weekend and finished my Isambard socks. I have small feet and my socks don’t take long to knit if I work on them consistently. I love seeing all the amazing sock patterns that other people knit, but I only like knitting plain ones myself. I have no idea why that should be unless it is because I love my socks to be wildly coloured or have tons of variegation and those type of yarns just don’t play nicely with patterning. Or perhaps I am just lazy (actually, no perhaps needed there).

I have been knitting my socks for the past couple of years on 2.5mm needles, but I am coming to the conclusion that I might go down to 2.25mm for my next pair. I think I used 2.25mm when I first started knitting socks and they lasted rather better than my more recent socks, not that the more recent socks are problematic in any way.

I really enjoy how this wool knits up and the dyeing is very pleasing to the eye. Those blues and golds on the grey-beige background make me very happy.

Technical details:

Pattern:  Vanilla sock based on free pattern circa 2006/2007, came free with a ball of sock wool
Size: To fit UK size 4 1/2 shoe
Materials: Mr B sock yarn 75% superwash wool/25% nylon, 100g (I usually use around 55g)
Needles:  2.5mm KnitPro Zing metal double-point needles, 20cm long, pack of 5 (I use 4 with half the stitches on one needle, and a quarter each on a further two needles, working the live stitches onto the fourth needle)

The pattern I follow has a heel flap and gusset construction which suits me very well. The toe in the pattern is pretty standard, decreasing equal amounts on both sides until 12 stitches remain on both needles, then doing a Kitchener Stitch join. I learned how to do the Kitchener join using the knitting needles instead of having to thread up a tapestry needle and that made a lot of sense to me. However, last year I discovered the Barn Toe which gives a slightly deeper and more rounded toe shape and I like that a lot so I used it on this pair.

15-05-19 barn toe

I particularly enjoy the fact that with this toe shaping you just keep decreasing until you only have four stitches left and then you cinch them shut using the end of your working yarn. It is so quick to do and there’s none of that inclination to stop just short of the end because you need to look up the Kitchener instructions again.

As well as finishing these, I have made significant progress on my Inigo cardigan. I have all-but completed the back and have made a start on one of the sleeves. I thought, as my gauge is not exactly as per the pattern, it made sense to wait to finish the armhole shaping on the back until I had a sleeve complete so I can make sure that the pieces fit together well. Forethought – that’s a new one for me!

Whilst I was working on the Gaudi cardigan I logged it on Ravelry. I have been very lazy about Ravelry for quite a number of years, rarely using it and not logging any of my projects, although there was a time when I was quite diligent with it. Now I am suddenly getting back into using it to keep the project details and I am enjoying it once again.

There has been one drawback to my knitting endeavours this past week, which is that one of my fingers has developed a slightly alarming ‘click’. I have consulted Dr. Internet who informs me this is “trigger finger” (sounds like it is a surfeit of Kojak rather than knitting that has caused it) and since I am not in pain and my finger merely feels odd rather than actually seizing up, I am limiting the amount I work on my knitting for a few days to give it a rest.

I hope you have enjoyed seeing my finished socks and I hope your knitting, or other creative endeavours, are going well. For now, I think it’s time to have a nice cup of tea.


 

There’s a hole in my….

03-04-19 socks
…. Sock!

I doubt that this photo is a vast revelation amongst sock knitters. It’s just a hand-knit sock with a hole worn into it. It is slightly unusual for me, because in every other instance except, I think, one, my socks have developed holes at my big toe, not on the ball of my foot as this one has.

I am not sad about this development and I must make it quite clear I have no intention of trying to salvage the socks, mend them, or re-purpose them. I am happily going to wave goodbye to them and send them to the great sock drawer in the sky because they have been my number one worst-fitting pair of socks. For years! Why would I keep badly-fitting socks for years, you may ask. I ask myself the same question and I don’t know the answer. It isn’t as if I have had them unused in my sock stash; I have worn them very regularly, yet every time I have been struck by how poorly they fit.

I think part of the problem is I didn’t knit them long enough in the foot in the first place. I also think that over the years they have shrunk with repeated washing which has only exacerbated the problem. I clearly didn’t ever think much of these socks because I have totally failed to record their details anywhere. I don’t recall when I knitted them, or what yarn I used. I think it was a yarn with silk in it because I can remember thinking it might not be particularly good for socks but there was nothing else I wanted to use it for.

I decided to record their demise to make up for the total lack of regard I had for them during their life, and to note that even the projects we don’t adore can have useful lives. Despite everything, these socks regularly kept my feet warm and so, as Marie Kondo advises, I have said thank you to them and slung them in the bin!

The most exciting thing about this process is that I now have a legitimate reason to knit another pair of socks to replace them.


Have you ever continued to use a hand-made item that you aren’t happy with, just because it’s not quite bad enough to dispose of?


 

Finished object – Kingfisher in Fangorn Forest Socks

 

 

I finished knitting my socks on Sunday and I’m really pleased with them. This is the first project I have both cast on and finished in 2019, and my second completed item this year, which is admirable progress.

First off, I want to say how very happy I was with the yarn for this project. It is Noodle Soup Yarns’ MCN Luxe sock yarn in the Spooky Smog colourway from last autumn. This is a 3-ply sock yarn comprising 80% superwash Merino, 10% Cashmere, 10% nylon. It comes in at 350m/382 yards per 100g skein, which indicates that it is rather thicker than a standard sock yarn and that has resulted in a nice squooshy fabric. It can be machine-washed at 30º which is how I generally wash my socks anyway, although I understand they may survive longer if they are hand-washed.

The colour of the yarn is just amazing, deep and rich, and slightly brooding. It is not quite my all-time favourite colour combination, but it’s close. My favourite combination is one I think of as “bruise” – greens and blues and pinky-purples and a tiny bit more washed-out than this deep shade. I want to note that whilst I was knitting I didn’t find the colour coming off on my hands, an experience I have had with some other hand-dyed yarns in deep colourways. Personally, I love how the colours have ended up spiralling around these socks.

The pattern is just a plain old vanilla sock using the instructions I have had since I first started knitting socks in the “olden days” (this covers anything more than ten years/two jobs ago). I have tweaked it by replacing the standard wedge toe with the “barn toe” as I find this slightly deeper variation suits my feet well. I made these socks a good length, as befits thicker socks that will be welcome in colder weather, and I ended up with 26g of the wool left over. This should make toes for at least one, maybe two more pairs of socks.

I always knit my socks using four double-point 20cm needles. I cast on 60 stitches, with 15 stitches on each of two needles for the back of the leg and foot, and 30 stitches on a third needle for the front. This makes it a cinch to know exactly where you are on a round of knitting, and I find it makes working the sock very easy. Probably because I am so used to knitting this way, when I do try to use circular needles and a magic loop method, or even the two circular needles method, it just seems unnecessarily complex.

So now all that is left is to wash them (I always wash my knits on completion) and pop them in the sock drawer. Should be ready for the cold snap we’re expecting over the weekend.

Next up, it’s back to the Gaudi jumper, which in my mind is getting more and more modified as the days go by. I need to complete the back of it, which shouldn’t take too long now the socks are done.