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?

Spring Valley Shawl

photo of the Spring Valley Shawl by Carol Ullmann

One of the things that I bought yarn for at the recent Fiber Expo was 3 skeins of Happy Fuzzy Yarn DK Merino to make my own Spring Valley Shawl. Finally.

Picture of yarn from Happy Fuzzy Yarn
DK Merino, just waiting it’s turn.
Photo of Spring Valley Shawl by Carol Ullmann
I did the pattern photography with my friend’s daughter modeling.

I love this pattern!  Riin picked the colors and I designed this striped asymmetrical shawl with a deep edging of beehive lace and a simple crochet edge to highlight the new DK Merino yarn base offered by Happy Fuzzy Yarn.

Some patterns fight back in the design process and require a lot of ripping back, swatching, swearing, and finger-crossing.  This one was smooth, joyful, easy, and sprang pretty much full-formed without fuss.

photo of the Spring Valley Shawl by Carol Ullmann
Pattern sample done blocking and I am so sad to see it go!

If you are the kind of person who loves a big cuddly shawl or scarf, Spring Valley will make you happy too.  Happy to knit, happy to wear.

Available to purchase on the Happy Fuzzy Yarn website or on Ravelry.

I can’t wait to see what other people do with this pattern — other color combinations, perhaps other weights of yarns.  If you are a clever sort of knitter, it would be no big deal to knit this in any weight of yarn so long as you set yourself up with the correct stitch multiple for the lace.

Surprise, Baby!

The Baby Surprise Jacket in Happy Fuzzy Yarn Superwash Sport

The Baby Surprise Jacket was the most fun thing I knit all year.  Bold statement considering we have three more months to go, but I’m sticking by it.

This is probably one of the world’s most famous knitting patterns, first published by Elizabeth Zimmermann in 1968. The knitter just knits along, tracking some not-complicated increases and decreases, and when you bind off, you are left with an odd blob, but with a quick fold here and there, the garment’s shape is revealed. A couple quick seams later and you have a really cute jacket.

This pattern has spawn child and adult versions and is a favorite for those who want to use scraps and handspun because the geometry of this pattern shows off stripes and multicolored yarns to great effect.

I was able to see all this for myself in Ravelry under the projects tab for this pattern. Armed with that knowledge, I chose a gender-neutral green and yellow multicolor from Happy Fuzzy Yarn called “Colorado River” in the Superwash Sport base. This yarn is incredibly squishy and dyes up vibrantly thanks to the superwash quality.

It knit up quickly and when I was near the end, I puzzled out the folding just to see what it look like.

The Baby Surprise Jacket in Happy Fuzzy Yarn Superwash Sport

It took my breath away, it was soooo adorable. I think the Baby Surprise Jacket, done up in a sportweight yarn, makes a sweater that fits a 3-6 month old — well, based on standard clothing sizes for babies. YMMV.

If the pattern weren’t awesome enough by itself, my son FINALLY learned to knit one night on a weekend trip by working a couple rows on this sweater.  Yes, I left them in.  His stitches were fine! (Those are his hands in the action shot above.)

The Baby Surprise Jacket in Happy Fuzzy Yarn Superwash Sport

This sweater was a gift for our newest nephew, born at the end of August.  He’s a little bean now; we can’t wait to play with him when he gets a little older!

I can’t recommend this pattern highly enough. It kind of makes me want to go on an EZ pattern bender. Have you made any of her patterns? I’ve knit a few and enjoyed them also; I think it’s time to discover others by her.

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?

Proof that Dr. G’s Memory Vest Makes People Happy

Mission accomplished!

Being a goal-oriented person, I am pleased to have not only finished my husband’s Dr G’s Memory Vest (pattern by Kirsten Kapur of Through the Loops), but also to have accomplished my goal of knitting a sweater for each person in my immediate family this season.

Except myself.  I am not neglecting myself.  I do not buy into the Martyr Mother role!  And winter is not over yet.  I will cast on for my new sweater any day now.  I just have to make a decision on which pattern…  Isn’t sifting Ravelry for a pattern the best part anyway?

Back to the vest.  On a friend’s suggestion, I went with Aslan Trends Del Cerro yarn.  It was one of those yarns that seemed like it would work, but so did not – at first.  I wanted to make a medium, which would have given Matt some negative ease in the fit, but after casting on and knitting for a few inches, it was clear that it was coming out way too small.  So I threw my naughty knitting into the corner for a few days ripped it out and knit the vest in the extra-large size.

 

Well hallelujah and all that jazz because it ended being a great fit!  It’s approximately 43” around the chest, which is about what size the medium was supposed to be.  I’d like to claim awesome knitting ninja powers, but I suspect I just got lucky.  The false start made for a good gauge swatch as well.  The one tricky spot was the v-neck; I had to rewrite the decreases because of the difference in my row gauge.  Row gauge didn’t give me a problem in the other parts of the sweater.

Don’t get me wrong about the Del Cerro, either.  It’s a great yarn.  It is comprised of many small plies and it is very bouncy and squishy.  It was just a bit splitty in the knitting up, but not so much that I am put off using it in the future.  The important feature of this yarn: It has GREAT stitch definition for all those cables.  I hope down the road that it doesn’t fuzz over so much that the cables become blurred, but if it does, oh well – there are more vests to be knit and there is a life-cycle to all these knitted goods.

Coincidentally, Matt’s first opportunity to wear this was on his birthday last week.  We had to go out and get a new white button down and everything.

 

Donut Mondae at Zingerman’s Roadhouse ~ what more could a person ask for?!

Dah-ling, you look mah-velous!  Happy Birthday!