Not a Convert to Toe Up Socks

Photo of toe-up socks knit in Koigu KPPPM

When I first learned to knit socks 13 years ago, I was taught on double pointed needles, top down.

Photo of handknit socks

In fact, that sock project was my first adult knitting project.  (My friend and teacher Liz and I have many things in common, one of them being that we like challenging projects.)

I have merrily churned my way through — oh my god, Ravelry does not lie! — 47 pairs of socks over the years, most of them top down and usually on DPNs.  It’s just what feels right.  If I am doing plain a vanilla sock, I will gladly take it with me to the movies.  Do you know how much knitting you can get done in the dark when you just have to go round and round?!

In 13 years I’ve knit 2 pairs (and some partials) of toe up socks.  The first pair was knit almost 10 years ago in an orange colorway of Koigu KPPPM that was given to me as a gift.  I loved the yarn, but the socks came out baggy.  Whatever.  I still liked them and I wore them until I wore them out (vowing never to knit socks with Koigu KPPPM again!) and stuck with my top down approach for the next many years.

Photo of toe-up socks knit in Koigu KPPPM

As my knitting skills progressed and I met other knitters who had their favorite ways, I decided I should give it another shake.  I cast on with some orange and red patterned Opal and got stuck at the heel.  Those sat for a while.  Like a couple years in the WIP basket.  I loved the yarn too much to never have socks out of it so I bravely ripped it out last year.

On impulse this fall, I bought some Patons Kroy self-striping yarn that was on sale at the big box store.  It was rainbow-y and under $10 for a pair, what can I say?  I decided this was my moment to try toe-up again, so I could use every bit of the yarn.  With a little help — encouragement, scolding, and nudging — from my friends, I made it through and knit the entirety of both skeins.

Photo of toe-up socks knit in Patons Kroy

 

This pair of toe up socks fits better in that they are not baggy, but they have problems. I hate the kitchener toe, which sticks out and won’t shape to my foot even after being worn and washed for three months.  Also, these tall socks have no shaping for my Hungarian peasant calves, so they bunch up around my ankles.  I wear them around the house rather than try to stuff them in my shoes for both of those reasons.  Since they contain nylon and get a little less wear than my other warm socks, they will probably last forever.  First world problems, eh?

I know there are things I could do to make toe-up socks work for me, but I think I am at the point in my knitting life where socks are background, comfort knitting that I do not want to think about.  Maybe I’ll try again in a few years; maybe not.

With not much more than a shoe size or foot length measurement, I can cast on a knit anyone a pair of socks with the formula in my head.  Why mess with something that works?

What’s your comfort knitting project?

Changes!

Picture of a cake of sock yarn

So much change around here!

The Obvious

I installed a new theme for the site.  Changing the furniture around here is so much easier than in my actual house.  Also, WordPress is getting easier to use all the time and more and more functionality is trickling down to those of us who mostly use the free themes and plugins.  Woohoo!

The Big

I started a new part time job working for Riin Gill at Happy Fuzzy Yarn in October.  Turns out we’re neighbors and her need for a studio assistant and my additional availability this fall with both kids in school coincided nicely. I’ll write more about the inside life of a artisanal fiber arts studio because it is FASCINATING, but for now suffice to say I wash and skein dyed yarn, package up orders, talk to new local yarn stores about carrying our yarns and combed tops, share studio shots on Instagram, tweet about sales and news on Twitter, and keep the couches warm in our Ravelry forum.

You should totally come join us.  For January and February I am hosting a knit-along for socks and a spin-along for the Local Wool Project (both run for two months).  There will be prizes at the end!

The Best

I am feeling better.  My health was poor last year and it took me forever to figure it out.  I have so much more energy for everything now.  I’m going to be a total ass and not go into details here, but instead reassure you that all is well now.

What’cha Makin’?

Well, there’s the socks for the knit-along that I mentioned above.  I’m using a gorgeous colorway of HFY Corrie Sock called “Heliotrope”.  I started off making the February Lady Socks by Kate Atherley, hoping beyond reason that the lace was simple enough and the variegation wasn’t so strong that it would overwhelm the patterning.  Alas, I was proved wrong.  So now I am doing a simple knit-and-purl pattern that provides interest while remaining stretchy.

HFY American Worsted "Wine"

I’m also knitting a hat in HFY American Worsted “Wine”, trying out a simple but attractive cable design.  I love the cables in the semi-solid colorway!  I’m on my second attempt; I needed to go up a couple needle sizes because it turns out this is a heavy worsted yarn.  This ain’t no Cascade 220.  And, truth be told, the crown decreases are kicking my butt.

And… there’s more, but that’s all I’m going to confess to at this time!

What have you been working on?

The Gray Got to Me

Last year I started these socks:

The cuff of gray wool socks knit out of Paton's Kroy on double pointed needles

It was July.  It was my birthday, in fact.  I thought I was safe from the curse of knitting a gray project in winter.

Alas, I was overcommitted on projects and my work on these progressed very slowly.

Before I knew it, it was winter.  Have I complained enough about the long, cold, snowy winter of 2013-14?  Yeah, somewhere around the fifth snow day following the Winter Vacation of Vomit, I threw these socks in the bottom of a project bag, faintly promising myself I would come back to them when they stopped reminding me of sadness.

So I picked them back up again this summer, in August, and I knew I had to get them done QUICK because the long range forecasts for the upcoming winter are bad for Michigan.  You can read that as:

  1. I need some wool socks before the snow flies, and;
  2. I can’t be knitting anything gray when the snow flies.

I had the first, half-knit sock done in a week and the whole shebang done by the time school started.

But I did a thing to make them happy grey socks.  (Don’t get me wrong, I love Patons, but I am reexamining my relationship with neutrals.)  I took some leftover sock yarn from my Jaywalkers — knit in Conjoined Creations Flat Feet — and added in some brightly colored toes.  Yey!  Color = happiness!

Handknit gray wool socks

 

What do you think?

Next time I’ll do stripes.  I have more grey, white, and black Patons — and lots of colorful fingering weight yarns — and I have learned my lesson.

Okay, So the Gift Knitting Wasn’t All Roses

I didn’t tell you the entire story of my holiday gift knitting in the last post.

My parents and siblings decided this year to scrap the round robin of individual gifts in favor of the secret santa system — which wasn’t even secret, not that any of us heathens cared.  So you can imagine my relief when evil-me went from trying to talk good-me into making a whole bunch of stuff — starting, oh, mid-November — to sane-me realizing I could still crank out a gift knit because I only had to make ONE.

I got my brother’s name.  Noah is awesome, fashionable, self-reflective, sensitive.  In other words: a great recipient of handknits.

Noah!

I started off making Noah Purl Soho’s Shawl Collar Cowl in Malabrigo Chunky — Lettuce on the outside, Natural (white) on the inside.  The yarn came from my stash, the project was working up quickly.  At Thanksgiving, I asked Noah’s fiancée Abby what kind of handknit he would like and she said “a cowl” and told me how he tried to buy one on Etsy and it was too long and girlish.  I felt like a champ!  The Shawl Collar Cowl is so chic and manly and I was going to solve Noah’s problem.  And he was going to look smashing in that lettuce green, if I do say so.

my beautiful failure

How does the saying go?  If it’s too good to be true… Well, perfection was far from achieved: I ran out of yarn.  Although I had researched what yarn would be a good substitute and looked up the needle size, I never checked how much yarn I needed.  Why, I cannot say.  This is not my first time at the rodeo.  (This is not the first time I have made this mistake, either, arg!)

Worse yet, this college town has gone, in five years, from having three yarn stores to having half a yarn store.  The remaining half store is downtown, where no one who doesn’t work downtown wants to go.  But go I went — and on the Saturday before Christmas no less.  I knew it was a long shot, that I might have to start over in a new color rather than just alternate between dye lots, but at least this place specializes in Malabrigo.  I still had hope that this project would be saved.

(There’s that foreshadowing of doom again, eh?)

I do believe I gasped out loud when I walked in to this very small shop.  Admittedly I had not been there in a year or more and I knew the owner had been scaling back the yarn portion of her business (she also sells clothing and jewelry). Eyes as wide as saucers, I gaped like a fish for a moment before finally choking out the question, “Where’s all the yarn?” to the owner.  The shelves and walls set aside for yarn were nearly empty — altogether there was only an armful of yarn in that shop.  The needle wall was almost empty.  My stomach sank to the floor as I realized: I have more yarn in my house than this shop now carries.

You might be tempted to conclude that there was a run on her small stock as people grabbed all the yarntastic gifts, but no.  The owner patiently explained that Malabrigo, the small cooperative, cannot keep up with the demand of her customers, so people are putting themselves on a waitlist and when it comes in, she calls.  A month later and I am still aghast at this… solution?  I am sure I don’t know all of what is going on in her store, but isn’t this the kind of thing that a dozen online businesses are doing, only faster?  And charging less?  And if you can’t keep yarn on the shelf, but still have empty shelves, why wouldn’t you carry another brand?  This used to be the place to go for Reynolds brand yarns, as well, including Lopi.  I didn’t see that at all.

At this point I could have gone to the big box store and gotten something else so I could forge ahead, but I decided to cash in my chips and cast on a pair of socks.  There was now no way I could finish in time and I used a precious skein of Trekking XXL that I had been saving for myself, but it seemed that some kind of sacrifice was demanded by nature in order to make this vicious cycle of WTF end.

socks of brotherly love

Noah was gracious about opening up part of a gift that wasn’t finish and I know he looks forward to these extra special  socks.  I’m still not done with Noah’s holiday socks because I  tried to pull off some other knitting miracle for my husband’s January birthday.  But first, I have one more gift knit to tell you about.  And this one is truly epic (the knitting, not the story).  Here’s a preview:

IMG_0233

The Gift of Gift Knitting

It’s really no fun to read about how crummy someone’s vacation was so we won’t dwell on it.  I’ve only just recovered, psychologically, this week.  Farewell, 2013!  Don’t let the door hit your arse on the way out!

The BEST part of winter break, for me, this year was seeing how genuinely happy my husband and children were upon opening their handknit gifts.  Does that sound too cute and saccharine?  It’s true.  There were big Os of surprise, there were smiles, thanks, hugs, and kisses from four through thirty-six.  GO ME!

boot socks

(It does help that I have made it clear that the best way to get on the handknit list is to appreciate the things I make, sincerely and loudly.  This elf is making her own kind of list and checking it twice.)

For the past few years — in my efforts to enjoy the winter holiday season rather than just survive it — I’ve stepped way back from trying to make something for EVERYONE (that’s 11+ people).  It seems like a good idea in the planning stage (I looooove the planning stage), but the execution of the plan goes on too long for my available knitting time.  There’s the amount of knitting time I actually have and what I wish I had or sometimes just think I have.

Full disclosure: I was on the crazy holiday knitting train at times this season.  And then I got off.  Got on. Off.

red scarf

I try to have a pair of socks on the needle for one of the four of us at all times.  So when Z’s latest pair came off the needles in mid-November, I decided it was serendipity and tossed it in the gift knits basket.  Then I saw, in that basket, a lovely, drapey, moss stitch scarf in heathered burgundy Paton’s Classic Wool.  Guess who likes burgundy?  Not me.  But Matt does.  (Like me, his favorite color is green, so this really wasn’t obvious to me or him while I was knitting this scarf, off and on, for a couple, um, years.)

purple mittens

That only left my four-year-old, who could use a handknit pair of mittens.  Something to balance out all the pink and leopard print.  I finished on Christmas Eve, after tucking my puking children and husband into bed.

She, by the way, wins at appreciating my work.  She reminds me almost daily how much she loves her mittens. Aw! Her savvy father, in between appreciations, has already put in his request for a Purl Soho Shawl Collar Cowl.

I wish I had better pictures to share, but here I am, working at home, and my family and all their handknits are out of the house.  The dark purple of those mittens is especially difficult to capture at this gloomy time of year, while attached to a four-year-old.  More information and photos are available on their Ravelry project pages, linked above.  An account on Ravelry is required to view.

How did your handknit holidays go?