Waiting for Rain Shawl

This week, I finished knitting a shawl. These are unusual colours for me, but I really like the result.

The pattern is called Waiting for Rain (that’s a Ravelry link) and it features lace inserts in a garter stitch crescent-shaped shawl. The construction is really interesting, plus it’s easy to play with the colours and the design.

I knit mine in Madeline Tosh Dandelion, which has 10% flax. It’s interesting because the different fibers take the color in different ways. I used two skeins of Chickory and one of Whiskey Barrel. I decided to do the lace inserts in Whiskey Barrel, as well as some extra stripes and the bind-off. This yarn is discontinued so it’s gone from the MadTosh website, but here’s a Ravelry link.

This meant that I had too much yarn – the pattern calls for 700 to 800 yds, and I had over 900 – but I wanted to use it up. The pattern has three lace inserts. Once I’d followed the directions, I continued in a similar way and added two more lace inserts, then knit in garter stitch until the Chickory was gone. I liked the yarn. It’s smooth and cool, and I like the colour gradations in each colourway. There were long fibres, presumably of flax, and it was tempting to tug them out but I knitted them in. The pattern was well-written and clear. I bought the collection and will knit another shawl from it.

Here’s a detail shot, showing off the yarn:

Waiting for Rain shawl, knit by Deborah Cooke in Madeline Tosh Dandelion

There are stripes in the Whiskey Barrel, but the Chickory has some of the same greyed brown tone in it so it’s hard to tell which yarn is where. I like that! If you’re curious though, all the garter stitch below the lowest lace insert is in Chickory, then the bind-off is in Whiskey Barrel. You can just barely see it. Also, the garter stitch is all Chicory down to the first lace insert. (The shawl is knit from the top of the picture.)

My only disappointment is that I wasn’t sure how much Whiskey Barrel to leave for the cast-off, and I left too much. 😦 That means leftovers for the stash, about 8g. It turns out that I could have knit a couple of rows of garter stitch in the contrasting colour before casting off, but that’s how it is and that’s how it will stay. There’s no need to frog back a 500 stitch cast-off!

Here’s the complete shawl:

Waiting for Rain shawl, knit by Deborah Cooke in Madeline Tosh Dandelion

I was debating whether to block this shawl. I don’t usually block garter stitch shawls because I like the squishy texture they have right off the needles. It’ll get bigger if it’s blocked, though, and I was thinking it’s just a nice size. While taking the pictures, though, I can see that the ripple on the increasing edge is too much. I’ll give it a good block it this weekend.

What do you think?

Japanese Sewing Patterns

It’s been quite a week here with a lot happening behind the scenes. Kim Killion and I have been working together to rebrand the Bride Quest series. We have six new covers completed and she’s finishing up the POD wraps. Then we’ll have the two boxed set covers to finalize — and then I have a LOT of content to proof, format, and upload. It’ll be a little bit crazy, but the covers are so beautiful that it’s all worth it. The first peek at the new covers will be in my May newsletter, going out next week, then I’ll load them here on the site May 29th.

But it’s Fiber Friday and time to talk about textiles and colour—and the wonderful stress-busters that they are. I’ve embarked on a new adventure that I wanted to share. I’d heard a fair bit about Japanese sewing patterns and earlier this month, I decided to try some. Part of the impetus was that I nearly finished a garment from a US pattern company, tried it on, and discovered that the fit was weird. The scoop neckline has ripples on the back shoulder, not because my shoulders are weird but because the curve of the pattern piece is wrong. It’s even ripply on Nelly, my dressmaker’s dummy, whose shoulders are perfect. As this dress has a ton of tiny pleats that took forever to sew, I was a bit annoyed.

Time for a change in my approach! I ordered three books from Amazon: Simple Modern Sewing, Basic Black, and Feminine Wardrobe.

These pattern books come with sheets of patterns in the back, much like Burda magazine. You have to locate the pieces for the garment you want to make and trace them out in your size, then add seam allowances. We have a tempered glass coffee table so I cleared it off and set a desk lamp underneath it to trace the patterns. The sizes tend to be smaller—the largest size in Simple Modern Sewing is L for a 37″ bust—but when you have all the sizes shown together, it’s easy to extrapolate to the next larger one. I missed that the patterns are also for shorter people—until I made my test garment. I’m 5’5″ so am usually on the short end for American commercial patterns, but the back waist length was only 15.5″ in SMS instead of 16.25″. I wouldn’t have bothered adding it to a waistless garment, but my first test was the wrap top on the cover of SMS, and it looks best with those ties on the waistline.

What I like about these patterns is that the books show lots of variations. So, that wrap tunic on the cover also has the option of 3/4 sleeves, and is shown in a dress length, too. Once you have the basic pattern fitted, you can have some fun.

I had some bright sheeting in my stash that I bought in a $1/m sale just for making muslins, and cut into it for a test garment. I had to drop the darts, but the fixes were very easy. These designs have simple lines—in fact, I probably chose one of the only ones that I’d actually need to modify. (But I like that long linen wrap dress sooooo much.) Several bodices later, I have a very ugly test garment—it’s too orange to show you!—but it fits. Ha. Now the fun begins.

I’ll do the finishing on the test garment and probably just wear it around the house—sometimes we need a garment that can risk being ruined with some job or other! Then I’m going to cut a real top out of some really interesting cotton with a border pattern. It looks like this:cotton border print

And here’s a detail shot:

I’m not sure how I’ll be able to place the border pattern on the blouse, but I know it will look great.

Next up, I’m going to try the dress option with one of the linen fabrics in my stash.

Have you embarked on any craftsy adventures lately?

Tumbling Blocks

In recent years, Rowan has been hosting regular KAL’s (Knit-A-Longs) for afghans. I participated in one of the first ones, which was an afghan designed by Martin Storey. That was a mystery KAL – we didn’t know what the whole afghan looked like until the last clue was delivered. This spring, there’s a KAL designed by Kaffe Fassett. It’s not a mystery – you can see the whole afghan on most websites that are selling the yarn as a kit. Here’s the WEBS product page.

As much as I like Kaffe Fassett projects, I find this afghan a little bit eyeball-melting. It’s too high contrast for me to live with. The dominant block, though, is a variation of one of my favorite Kaffe Fassett designs, Tumbling Blocks. Here’s the afghan block. The other thing – and this is a picky nit, I know – is that the blocks aren’t square. That bugs me.

So, inspired by the KAL, I was thinking of knitting a different afghan, Kaffe’s Upscale Tumbling Blocks Throw. Isn’t it gorgeous? I thought this would be a great stash-buster. The complication was that most of my worsted stash yarn is Patons Classic Wool. I have pretty much all the colours, but PCW isn’t superwash (like the Rowan yarn specified for the throw). It’ll shrink and felt in the wash, and it makes no sense to me to have a blanket or throw that can’t be washed. Hmm.

My knitting progress is a bit slow right now. Now that all my supplies have arrived, I’m making book charms for Romancing the Capital in August in my crafting time. I have about a third of them done and they’re really cute. The more I thought about it, the less I wanted to knit an entire afghan.

But because I couldn’t resist that first block design, I cast on a KAL block in PCW in colors more like that of the throw. I knit about half, then ripped it back to start at a different point in the repeat and make the block square. 🙂 Here’s the result:

Kaffe Fassett's Tumbling Blocks knit by Deborah Cooke

This technique is called intarsia – there are blocks of color that don’t go all the way across the row. In fair isle, another color technique, each color goes across the row, popping up at intervals. (My Bute sweater was a fair isle project.) I really like this block, but I’m not going to knit a blanket like this. Instead, I’ll make another one just like this one and – you guessed it – combine them both into another felted bag.

What do you think?

The Dragon Scarf

It’s been a while since I’ve had a Fibre Friday post, but today’s the day. I’ve been in a dragon mood lately and here’s the first project to show for it.

Dragon's Tale scarf knit by Deborah Cooke

Dragon’s Tale is a scarf designed by Nim Teasdale. (That is a Ravelry link. I think you’ll be able to see the page, even if you don’t have a free Ravelry account.) I knit mine in Noro Silk Garden, because it was in the stash and it had a good dragon-y colour to it. This is much thicker than the specified yarn, but I still used the same size needles. I wanted a dragon of substance! I used two balls of the Noro Silk Garden and am very pleased with the results.

Dragon's Tale scarf knit by Deborah Cooke

Dragon's Tale scarf knit by Deborah Cooke

I love that tail!

He’s been finished for a while, but we needed a bit of sunshine for a picture.

What do you think?

Making Book Charms

Book Charms made by Deborah CookeBook charms are adorable and readers love them. I’ve bought them in the past from Etsy vendors, but when I realized I needed at least 100 of them for Romancing the Capital in August 2017, I decided to try making my own.

A big part of this decision was that I found little blank books in the dollhouse section at the craft store. They have paper pages and little covers, which are so much more realistic than book charms made of clay. Small BooksSince these look like little hardcover books, I decided to make slipcovers for them (instead of just gluing my front cover on the book). This is, of course, the Hard Way, but I think the result is worth the trouble.

The tricky bit is getting the proportions right on the printed slip cover. I measured around the book and created a template (using the free online graphics software Canva). I started with the POD cover of one of my books since that image is a full wrap. (That means it includes the spine and back cover.) Remember that you need to have the right to work with the copyrighted cover image. If you’re indie-published and paid for the cover, you’ll likely have that right. If your book was published by another publisher, you might not. Be sure to check.

My POD covers are PDF’s, but Canva doesn’t work with uploaded PDF images. (Your application might.) So, I opened the PDF on the largest computer screen in the house and took a screen shot of it—which gave me a JPG to upload. The proportions are different between the actual book and the book charm: the spine is thicker on the mini-book. I tried a number of solutions, but the best one turned out to be this: I cropped the front cover and positioned it, then did the same for the back cover. I cropped only the title from the spine—it’s usually a third or half the height of the spine—then made it large enough to fill the height. This also made it much wider and helped with that blank space. This also made it much wider and helped with that blank space. The resolution diminished, but these will be tiny when they’re printed.

The Crusader's Bride by Claire Delacroix minibook slipcoverWith some covers, I was able to size the front and back larger than the trim size without losing any type. This made the recognizable cover image larger. When possible, I also chose a colour for the background on the template that would blend into the actual book cover image.

Also, because I made a slipcover, I had endpapers, which meant locations for more information. This was part of my diabolical plan. On book charm covers, the type is really small and often illegible. Plus I like having my website url on everything I use for promotion. I put my website url on one endpaper and the book title on the other. Above and below are screenshots of the finished slipcovers for two of my books.

Wyvern's Mate by Deborah Cooke MiniBook Slipcover

You can see that the spine for Wyvern’s Mate is much wider than that of The Crusader’s Bride. It’s actually a bit too wide and laps onto the front and back of the book charm. These print books are a different trim size with a more vertical orientation—you can also see that the front and back covers are more narrow than those of TCB—so compromises are necessary.

These images are JPGs because they’re screenshots, but you want to save or download these little covers in the format PDF for print. You can see that there’s a band of the background colour at the right and left. These images are over 700% of actual size, so a lot of that type isn’t going to be legible on the book charms.

Printed Sheet of Book Charm Covers by Deborah CookeOnce the slipcover images were downloaded, I used a Word document and Inserted Picture from File so that the covers were three across. I got eight rows on the page. If you’re like me and use cheap paper in your printer on a daily basis, you might want to invest in a smoother and whiter grade of paper stock. You will use up printer toner with this project if you’re making any quantity of charms, so get a toner refill while you’re at the office supply store.

Above is a sheet of covers. You can see that it’s two sets of twelve: I set up the top twelve, then selected all, copied and pasted to fill the page. There’s a space between each cover horizontally and a return between each row vertically.

To ensure that the image didn’t rub off or get scuffed up on the finished book charm, I wanted to seal it before attaching it to the book charm. I was looking for a full adhesive sheet to laminate one side and am glad I didn’t find it—it’s really, really difficult to put down a large sticky sheet of laminating material without getting a fold or a bubble. I used clear Avery Labels (intended to be used for shipping labels – Avery 7664) as my laminate. There are six labels on a page and a label will cover six book covers, but I found that working smaller was easier. I cut each label in half, which is enough for three book covers, touched down one edge then smoothed it across the covers. Fast. Practice makes perfect! I used a burnisher to make sure it was smoothly applied.

Book Charm covers by Deborah CookeNext, cut the book covers apart. If they’re lined up perfectly, this is pretty easy to do with a cutting mat, straight edge, and an X-acto knife. Once mine were cut, I folded down the front end paper, then wrapped one cover around one book before folding down the back end paper. (The books do vary a little bit in size, so you need to match cover to book, one at a time.) Once everything looks good, glue the endpapers to the inside book cover. They’re the same kind of paper, so it should make the best seal and I like that the slipcover lifts off the outside of the book a bit, like a real slipcover. I used a small gluestick, which minimized the chance of my getting glue in the wrong place. Put a weight on the book or clamp it until it dries.

Finished Book Charm by Deborah CookeMr. Math has a Dremel drill press, so he drilled little holes in my little books once they were dry. I put a jump ring on each one, then since these are charms for a bracelet, I added a clasp before closing the jump ring. This makes it easier for readers to add the charm to their bracelet at the event. The finished books each get their own bag. (The dollar store will be your friend with this project.)

Finished Book Charms by Deborah CookeWhen I posted on Facebook that I was making book charms, readers became quite excited. When I showed the finished charms, some people wanted to buy them—which is a mark of very good swag! I’m going to add a page for with charms to my online store. Stay tuned!

Knitting Under the Weather

Tomorrow, it will be two weeks since I started with this stupid cold. It’s the one that just won’t quit, and the last couple of days, I’ve felt as if it’s coming back for another visit. Being sick messes up a lot of things – my schedule, my writing, and yes, even my knitting. I thought we’d talk today about knitting under the weather.

When I’m sick, I don’t knit complicated things. Most of the projects I have on my needles ARE complicated, which means that I cast on new projects when I’m sick. I also lose patience with things quickly, so I cast on more projects. I also frog things back that aren’t working. Those tendences were compounded with this cold, because I also sorted stashes and cleaned. My stashes are more organized, some stash has been rehomed to places where it will be better appreciated. I also delved into some new territory because of discoveries of forgotten stash.

I have, for example, been gathering hoard of gemstone beads and charms. I like them. This past week, I sorted and organized that hoard, then finally started to create with these treasures. For example, here are some of the earrings I made:

Bead Earrings made by Deborah Cooke

The dragon ones have glass beads, while the ones with the moon have a lapis lazuli bead and a mother of pearl bead each.

I also began to experiment with using wire to make jewellery, like this necklace of amethyst beads and silver wire:

Amethyst necklace made by Deborah Cooke

Here’s one with Czech glass beads and silver wire:

Bead necklace made by Deborah Cooke

In the great stash sort, I discovered a huge bag of partial balls of sock yarn. These are leftovers from knitting socks, and most of the balls aren’t big enough to make another pair (or even one sock). They’re too good to chuck out, though. I had been working on a hexagon afghan, but the fact is that I don’t like knitting those hexagons very much. I never get around to them. So, I started another project to eliminate sock yarn stash – this will ultimately be an afghan, if I don’t lose patience with it, but is made of mitred squares knit in garter stitch.

Mitred square in sock yarn knit by Deborah Cooke

You eliminate the sewing by picking up stitches and knitting the squares together as you go. I can’t knit a whole blanket that way, so plan to knit blocks of nine squares. I’ll figure out how to join them together later. (Maybe I-cord in a contrasting colour. I like I-cord.) Here’s a block of six squares knitted together – you can see that I’ve picked up the stitches to knit the next one beside the black, blue, and green stripey square.

Mitred squares knit in sock yarn by Deborah Cooke

(Here’s something funny: when I created this post, WordPress indicated that I’d used this title before. I searched for that post called Knitting Under the Weather and read it – it was from four years ago and also about a nasty cold that wouldn’t go away. 🙂 I also talked then about the effect on my knitting, and was knitting my stripey Noro bag, which was also in garter stitch squares that are knitted together as you go. Consistency is a good thing, right?)Striped garter stich bag in Noro Kureyon Sock knit by Deborah Cooke

What do you craft when you’re sick enough to be under the weather but not sick enough to stay in bed? Or do you clean and sort instead?

Knit, Knit, Quilt

We haven’t had a Fibre Friday in a while, so let’s fix that today.

First of all, I finished that pair of socks, the ones I cast on so I could tell my niece how to knit socks in Patons Kroy Jacquard. (You might remember that blog post. I wrote out my sock pattern for her, once I figured out what I do.) Here they are:
Socks knit by Deborah Cooke in Kroy Sock Jacquard

You see that the toes don’t match exactly. I had a lot of knots in one of the balls, so did a bunch of joins. I decided just to use one of the little balls up to finish the second toe, instead of winding through what was left to find a match. That was the lower sock – it also had some sections where the yarn wasn’t dyed as much. See the white bits on that pink and purple stripe above the heel?

I have been knitting away on my Bohus-inspired pullover and am almost done the ribbing at the bottom of the body. About sixteen rows to go! The stockinette from the bottom of the yoke to the hip ribbing seemed endless but it’s done. I can’t wait to cast it off and try it on. I should be able to show you next week. The yarn is lovely. Then I’ll knit the sleeves, which have the treat of a little bit of colour detail at the cuff. I’m thinking of that as a reward for slogging through all the stockinette. 🙂

And, because I have the attention span of a flea when it comes to knitting projects, I cast on another sweater at Christmas. It’s been an addictive knit, so I’ve completed the back. This is Wilhelmina in Rowan Colourspun, a yarn I’m already missing. (It’s discontinued.) I was waiting for a brighter day to take pictures but it’s still snowing and still dingy, so the pix are a bit dull.

Wilhelmina knit by Deborah Cooke

Oh, so many modifications on this one! First, I’ve substituted colours. The pattern calls for a different red that is more rosy—Giggleswick—but I used Jervaulx, which is more blue. Because of that, I switched out the contrast colours. The pattern called for a taupey gold and a blue-green. I’ve switched those to two shades of grey, and for the fourth colour, I used Rowan Felted Tweed in Seasalter. The Bute cardigan used Felted Tweed and Colourspun together, even though Felted Tweed seems much thinner (It’s less fluffy.) Seasalter is the exact shade of the blue thread in Jervaulx, but in the knitting, it’s a bit too close to the value of the darker grey to stand out as much as would be ideal. In this pattern, it also seems thin. It’s just an accent colour, though, so I’ll carry on with it as the fourth shade.

Yarn choices for Wilhelmina knit by Deborah Cooke

I also modified the shape of the sweater. It’s hard to see in the picture on the Rowan site, but the body is very wide on this sweater and the shoulders actually slope down, almost to the elbows. (You can see it in some of the project photos on Ravelry, which are pictures from knitters who have made the sweater. I think it’s funny how many of them take the same pose as the Rowan model for at least one of their pictures.) I didn’t think this would be very flattering, given my pear shape, so I used the stitch counts from Bute, which is the knitted at the same gauge, but the fair isle pattern from Wilhelmina. It will fit like Bute but have reindeer, which sounds ideal to me. I’ll make a round neck at the front, too, instead of the v-neck on Bute.

It is interesting to see how muted and muddled the fair isle is—I would never have guessed that the grey and the red would blend as much as they did. I do like it, though, and have cast on the fronts.

A couple of weeks ago, I promised to show you some things I rediscovered in the reorganization of my fabric stash. Here are my little batik dragon blocks, which were forgotten in the stash. It looks as if I ordered them from Keepsake Quilting but it was a long time ago. I have to find a good use for them.

Batik dragon blocks

And here’s a partially pieced quilt which I totally forgot about. The turquoise border is a length of fabric from Africa, which I won in a raffle at a romance writers’ conference in British Columbia probably twenty years ago. It’s so pretty, but very stiff. I have no idea where or why I came up with this palette and this design, but I like it. I need to get this one finished.

Quilt top pieced by Deborah CookeI cut the border fabric to piece this center for the quilt and set in squares at the corners, too. There’s a wider piece of border, as well, which I’ll use for an outer border. It looks as if I intended to put more little squares in between the two borders, as I’ve made up some 9-patch blocks from the fabrics used in the center. It’s a bit of a jigsaw puzzle as the amount of border is limited. I’ll have to do something else in the corners. In the picture below, I laid the wide border against the narrow one so you can see what it looked like before I cut it.

border fabric from Africa

It is such pretty fabric. The gold is metallic, and that medallion in the black border says GCA. It seems to me (hmm) that there were two African fabrics in the raffle, that another quilter won the other one and we decided to split them both in half so we each had a piece of each print. I’m going to have to go looking for that second fabric in my stash!

What have you been crafting lately?

Knitting and Other Tangles

I don’t have a finished project to show you this week, but there are a few things nearing completion. I’ve been a bit of a butterfly lately, flitting from one project to another, then on to the next. That’s what I usually do when things are at sixes and sevens or when I’m distracted. I can’t be the only one who was distracted by the US elections. I’m also participating in NaNoWriMo, plus alternating between two book projects. I’m participating in several promotions this month which are new to me, which mean four newsletters going out in November. Then there are plans to make for the holidays ahead. It is a busy, busy, time of year.

So, let’s review my flitting! First up, I’ve knitted the front and back of Homeland, a cabled pullover in Rowan Big Wool by Martin Storey.

Homeland back knitted by Deborah Cooke in Rowan Big WoolThis is a very textural project and I like it a lot. The colour isn’t true in these pictures—the green is more of a dull pea green and the red is closer to burgundy. I thought the green shade was a bit flat (ironically, it’s called Zing). It’s a discontinued color that I expected to be more lime, like Reseda. (In the pattern picture, Homeland is knit in Reseda. These are the perils of buying yarn online.) I’ve perked it up with some leftover red Big Wool at the cast-on edges.

Homeland front knitted by Deborah Cooke in Rowan Big WoolThe red colour is discontinued and is called Bohemian. It actually is a marl, with two shades of red twisted together. Really pretty yarn. I made a sweater-coat with it, which I’ve never worn, and I’m thinking of ripping it back to make another Barista, maybe an over-sized one. It seems more likely that I’ll wear a pullover (especially if it’s red.) Sweater-coats always sound like a good idea to me, but don’t get much use. Maybe they would if I lived somewhere else. In my corner of the world, if it’s chilly enough for a sweater-coat, chances are good that there’s either rain in the forecast or there’s a biting wind, which zips between the stitches. What’s interesting about the two shades of the same yarn is that the red is much wider than the green—it’s more fluffy, not heavier—and it’s so much softer, even though the content is the same. The red is almost silky, while the green feels like wool. It must have been spun by a different mill, or from the fleece of happier sheep.

I’m waffling a bit on the sleeves. They seem wide and I’m wondering whether they’ll be too bulky with all those cables. One clever Raveller has knit her Homeland with simpler ribbing on the sleeves, and I’m thinking about going that way. While I think, the sweater waits on my decision.

I’m also still charging along on my Bohus-Inspired pullover. This is my tv-knitting.

Bohus Inspired Pullover knitted by Deborah Cooke in Rowan ColourspunIt doesn’t want to lie flat for the picture, because of the circular needles. Look at the angle of the sun! Winter certainly is coming.

I’m knitting the stockinette-stitch body down from the underarms to the hems. The pattern calls for 13″ and I’m closing in on 10″. I actually took a break from the body and knit the cowl instead. (I picked up the stitches at the neck and knit up. The instructions said to knit the cowl separately then sew it on, but less seaming is better in my universe. It’s about 1/4″ shorter than called for because I knit to the end of the ball and cast off. I wasn’t going to add a second ball just for a little bit. That is a one-ball cowl.) I need to get a new television series to binge-watch and get this body done. The Colourspun is really pretty, with lots of little flicks of colors in the charcoal. It’s very soft, too. I’ll wear this one a lot once it’s finished.

Bohus Inspired pullover detail knit by Deborah Cooke in Rowan Colourspun

And, while I think about the Homeland sleeves, I picked up my Audrey cardigan again, in purple Angora Haze. (Angora Haze was discontinued and replaced with Mohair Haze.) This yarn sheds and I get it everywhere, even with having a tea-towel in my lap and wrapping it up when I’m not working. Mostly I find it in my mouth. 😛 I hope it sheds less once it’s knitted up. It’s very VERY soft, the yarn is a beautiful deep purple and I love the cable stitch. This one isn’t television knitting—even though I have the pattern memorized at this point, I still have to pay attention to my knits and purls on the wrong side. I’m finding the dark wool a bit challenging at night, after I’ve been on the computer all day. It’s a much darker purple than it appears to be in this picture.

Audrey knitted by Deborah Cooke in Rowan Angora Haze

I began with the left front but had to put it aside. Rowan often provides instructions that assume you knit the pieces in order, starting with the back. So, the instructions for the front at the neckline shaping say something like “knit until X rows less than the back before the shoulder decreases”, which means you have to knit the back before you can knit the front in order to count back those X rows. (Other companies and designers give measurements: “knit Y inches after underarm decreases, then shape neck as follows…”) So, the left front is on a stitch holder and I’ve been knitting the back. It looks wide, but I’m not going to frog this cable or this yarn. It will just have to be wide—which means it will be warm and pretty, but not fabulously flattering.

I also went into the attic a week ago to find a piece of fabric. I didn’t find it where I expected it to be, so had a big hunt through all my various stashes. They were due for a sort and a reorganization, and they got it. I found the fabric that launched the quest in the first plac (ha!) as well as some treasures I’d forgotten all about. I’ll share those with you next week.

The final big distraction this week was that the New Girl got up close and personal with a skunk on Wednesday night. Yuck. I’ve never had a dog do this before, but Mr. Math had. She took the spray right in the face and was frightened. She peeled back into the house to find me (apparently, I fix all woes), raced up the stairs and into my office where I was working, then tried to get into my lap from under my desk. She weighs 55 pounds, so the lap thing doesn’t happen. Mr. Math called her down to rinse out her eyes and face. There we were at 11 on Wednesday night, washing her face with tomato paste dissolved in water (I didn’t have any tomato juice), then giving her a shampoo. I dumped everything that had touched her into the washing machine with detergent and a cup of vinegar. She doesn’t smell like skunk anymore, but the house does. This old house has hot water radiators, which are wonderful, except when you get a stink into the house. It takes forever to get rid of it, even with the fans going and some windows open. There was frost on the ground this week, so we won’t get too crazy with the open windows.

I hope your week was a little less scattered than mine! Inspire me with your favorite show to binge-watch.

Basic Sock Variations

Last week, I explained how I knit a basic sock. Today, I’ll explain two variations: heavy socks and knee socks.

Heavy Socks
Socks in Briggs and Little Tuff knit by Deborah CookeMr. Math likes thick socks in the winter – he wears them instead of slippers in the house. I use a Canadian yarn for these socks called Briggs & Little Tuffy. It’s wool with a bit of nylon and comes in heathered colors, as well as a marl or two. It’s yarn that remembers the barn, so expect some vegetable matter to be spun in. It’s a thicker yarn than the sock yarn mentioned last week.

You’ll need two skeins of Tuffy for a pair of socks, but will have a fair bit left over – not enough for another pair of socks, but plenty for contrasting toes and cuffs. (My neighbor says two skeins make three socks, so four skeins make three pairs, but I’m not sure about this.) I use 3.0mm needles for these socks and cast on 56 stitches, but otherwise, just follow the basic sock instructions. They knit up pretty fast compared to socks in regular sock yarn.

A side note here on washing hand-knit socks: I wash our hand-knit socks in the washing machine, but I wait until there’s a load of them and use the delicate cycle. They’re wool, after all, and I don’t want them to felt (and shrink). You can also wash them by hand, which will keep them looking their best. NEVER put them in the dryer, because then they will shrink. With socks knit in B&L Tuffy, I also use sock stretchers. This ensures that the socks don’t shrink as they dry, or if they have shrunk a bit in the wash, it stretches them back out again.

Knee Socks
I love the idea of knee socks. I’m not sure why, as I don’t wear them much and they take a long time to knit. (All that ribbing. Ugh. But the ribbing gives them a better chance of staying up.) Invariably, I have a pair on my needles – sometimes for quite a while.

Knee socks are (duh) longer than regular socks, but they also need to be wider at the top to accommodate your calf muscle.  They take a lot of yarn as a result – buy twice as much yarn as you need for regular socks. You’ll have some left over, but not as much as you might expect.

If you’re using sock yarn, go with your usual 2.25mm or 2.5mm needles. Cast on 96 stitches, and work in 2×2 ribbing for 2 inches. Then knit in 6×2 ribbing for 30 rows. (You might be taller than me. Adjust this measurement so that you’ve knit to the widest part of the calf, with a two inch cuff.) Now you have to decrease down to 72 stitches to finish the sock. There are two options for this: hide the decreases or create a gusset.

Hide the Decreases:
Knee sock in Fleece Artist trail socks, Hercules colourway, knit by Deborah Cooke The second of this pair of socks is currently on my needles. It’s knit in another yarn from the Maritimes: Fleece Artist Trail Socks in the Hercules colorway. Because it’s a handpainted yarn, the repeat on the stripe sequence isn’t precise, as it tends to be on commercial yarns. The color increments are also much smaller, which makes swirls instead of bands.

You can hide the decreases by changing gradually from a 6×2 rib to a 4×2 rib.

Decrease round #1: *SSK, K4, P2, K4, P2, K4, P2, repeat from * to end of round.

Work 9 rows.

Decrease round #2: *K5, P2, SSK, K4, P2, K4, P2, repeat from * to end of round.

Work 9 rows.

Decrease round #3: *K5, P2, K5, P2, SSK, K4, P2, repeat from * to end of round.

Work 9 rows.

Decrease round #4: *K3, K2tog, P2, K5, P2, K5, P2, repeat from * to end of round.

Work 9 rows.

Decrease round #5: *K4, P2, K3, K2tog, P2, K5, P2, repeat from * to end of round.

Work 9 rows.

Decrease round #4: *K4, P2, K4, P2, K3, K2tog, P2, repeat from * to end of round.

Done! You have 72 stitches. Now, work in 4×2 ribbing for the rest of the sock, following the basic instructions.

Create a Gusset:
norosocks.JPGThis pair of socks are knit in Noro Sock yarn. Although this is a yarn from a big commercial mill, there’s a deliberate wabi-sabi attitude toward self-striping repeats in Noro yarns. Sometimes a color is missing from the sequence. Often the color segments are of different lengths. The repeat is less perfect and more organic, which I like a lot. These socks are knit from alternating balls – 2 rows from ball A, then 2 rows from ball B, then back to ball A for two more rows etc. This is one of my favorite ways to show off self-striping yarns.

You can see that I still had the matchy-matchy disease badly enough to start both colourways at the same point of the repeat. (There is no cure.) On the foot, I changed out one ball of Noro Sock for Briggs and Little Durasport, which is about the same weight but wears better. That’s the solid denimy-blue.

These socks were a bit skinnier than the pair I’m currently knitting. They were my first knee socks and I cast on 88 stitches. They’re a bit more snug and more likely to fall down. That’s why I now start with 96 stitches. In this picture, you can see one of two gussets on each sock. Essentially, one of the 6×2 rib repeats is decreased until it disappears into the next rib. The gussets are also centered over the heel – on this pair, there are three plain ribs between the gussets. There are two gussets in these socks, but if I cast on 96 stitches, there would need to be three. I’d eliminate the rib in the center back in addition to the two shown here – like this:

Work as above to the decrease row.

Decrease round #1: SSK, K4, P2, K6, P2, SSK, K4, P2, K6, P2, SSK, K4, P2, continue in 6/2 rib to end of round.

Work 3 rows.

Decrease round #2: SSK, K3, P2, K6, P2, SSK, K3, P2, K6, P2, SSK, K3, P2, continue in 6/2 rib to end of round.

Work 3 rows.

Decrease round #3: SSK, K2, P2, K6, P2, SSK, K2, P2, K6, P2, SSK, K2, P2, continue in 6/2 rib to end of round.

Work 3 rows.

Decrease round #4: SSK, K1, P2, K6, P2, SSK, K1, P2, K6, P2, SSK, K1, P2, continue in 6/2 rib to end of round.

Work 3 rows.

Decrease round #5: SSK, P2, K6, P2, SSK, P2, K6, P2, SSK, P2, continue in 6/2 rib to end of round.

Work 3 rows.

Decrease round #6: K1, P2 tog, K6, P2, K1, P2tog, K6, P2, K1, P2tog, continue in 6/2 rib to end of round.

Work 3 rows.

Decrease round #7: SSK, P1, K6, P2, SSK, P1, K6, P2, SSK, P1, continue in 6/2 rib to end of round.

Work 3 rows.

Decrease round #8: SSK, K5, P2, SSK, K5, P2, SSK, K5, P2, continue in 6/2 rib to end of round.

From here, just carry on with the basic sock instructions. Make sure when you set up your heel that the gussets are centered over it.kroysock

And here’s one basic sock completed of the pair I cast on last week. I like this colourway a lot!


Basic Socks

Kroy Socks knitted by Deborah CookeI had an email earlier this week from my niece, who wanted to know how to knit socks. For some reason, she thought I might know. (Ha.) Since she lives far away, I can’t sit down and show her. I need to explain how to do it. I knit socks so often that I don’t pay a lot of attention to what I do (and don’t use a pattern anymore) so I got out my needles, cast on, and wrote down what I was doing as I went. The result is here, for my niece and anyone else who wants to knit socks.

Here we go.

Start with the yarn.
Picking the yarn for a project is probably the most fun part. So many possibilities! For socks, you’ll want a sock yarn – which means that the fiber is mixed with nylon so the socks wear better. Also, new knitters tend to have uneven tension, so wool is a good choice – it’s the most forgiving. (Cotton is merciless because it has no stretch. If you want cotton socks, knit them as your second pair – or maybe your tenth!) So, a yarn that is wool blended with 10 or 15% nylon is a great choice.

The yarn you choose will either come in 50g balls or 100g balls. The 100g balls will usually have 400m or more, which is perfect for two socks, pretty much independent of what choices you make. With 50g balls, two balls might not be enough. I have some Lorna’s Laces Shepherd Sock here, for example, which has 215m in 50g. Lots for a sock. I’m casting on with Kroy Socks, though, which is a four ply yarn. It’s a little thicker so there’s only 152m in 50g. That’s a bit short for a sock. I buy a third ball with this yarn, just to be sure. Once you’ve knit a few pairs of socks and have ends leftover, you can always knit the toes in a contrasting color.

Socks knit in Patons Kroy FX by Deborah CookePick your needles.
You’ll need a set of double-pointed needles (DPNs) or a pair of short circular needles in your needle size of choice. It’ll be between 2.0mm and 2.5mm, depending upon the thickness of your yarn and your own tension. Tension is personal. You might knit tightly and need to use a bigger needle to get a nice fabric. You might knit loosely and need to use a smaller needle to have a good result. The knitted fabric shouldn’t be so tightly knitted that it’s stiff, and it shouldn’t let too much light get through, either. There’s a balance to be struck. I’m going to cast on with my tried and true 2.25mm DPNs. (Thrift shops, btw, are great places to get needles cheap.)

Cast on.
There are two main ways to knit socks: “cuff-down” means that you start at the cuff and knit down to the toe; “toe-up” is the other way around. Let’s knit cuff-down. You want a stretchy cast-on so it’s easy to pull on the finished sock. I use the long tail cast-on. There are a ton of online videos demonstrating this, if you haven’t learned it already.

For socks, I cast on 72 stitches. Some people use 64, but I hate tight socks. Hate. Hate. Hate. (This is one of those choices that will affect how much yarn you use.) Distribute your stitches across 3 of the DPN’s (Yup, 24 on each one.) and join without twisting. If you’re using short circulars, put half of the stitches on each needle and join without twisting.

Socks knit by Deborah CookeFussy Knitter Tip – If you’re knitting with self-striping yarn that comes in 50g balls and you have the matchy-matchy disease, be That Customer and go through the selection until you find two balls that start at the same place in the stripe sequence. Commercial yarns (like Kroy Socks) have a striping sequence that repeats at precise intervals. If the ball starts in the same place, you cast on each sock from the new ball, you’ll get socks that match. This can be a bit of a mind-melting exercise as mills wind self-striping yarn in either direction of the color sequence. So, you can be looking for balls that start with B-C-D of an A-B-C-D-E sequence, and will come across ones that are D-E-A as well as those that are B-A-E. Remember that puzzle-solving is good for avoiding dementia. If you have the matchy-matchy disease badly, choose a point to make the cast-on knot that’s easily repeatable – maybe the point where one color changes to the next.

You can rib a little or a lot. I hate socks that fall down almost as much as tight socks, and ribbed socks stay up. I rib all the way to the heel, then on the top of the foot to the toe. (Ribbing uses more yarn than stockinette stitch, so this is one of those choices.) You can rib 2/2 (K2, P2) or 4/2 (K4, P2) or 6/2 or any repeat that divides evenly into 72. You can rib for an inch or two inches, then change to stockinette. You can rib 2/2 for two inches then switch to 6/2 to the heel. This is my favorite combination because ribbing goes slowly. I knit the leg 6″ for my socks, and 8″ for Mr. Math’s socks. You can vary this, but as soon as the sock goes over the calf muscle (knee socks) you need to make some adjustments. We’ll talk about knee socks next week.

Fussy Knitter Tip – When you knit on multiple needles, it’s easy to get a gap in your knitting where you change from one needle to the next. This is called a “ladder” because it looks like one. To avoid ladders, try three tugs. When you change needles, give your working yarn a little tug. After you knit the first stitch on the next needle, give your working yarn a little tug. Third time’s the charm – after you knit the second stitch on the needle, give your working yarn another tug. Presto. No ladders. This tactic also works if you get a loose knit stitch right before you switch to purl in your ribbing. Give that knit stitch a tug, then the purl one, and no more loose stitch.

Sock in Patons Kroy Sock knit by Deborah Cooke

Turning the Heel.
This is the trickiest bit, and it’s not that tricky. (You can do it.) First, you’re going to knit a heel flap that goes down the back of your foot. Then you’ll do some decreases to turn the work so you’re knitting the bit that goes on the bottom of your foot. Then you’ll pick up stitches on each side of the heel flap so that you’re knitting in a circle again. You’ll decrease down to your original stitch count in gussets. After that, it’s straight on to the toe.

If you have a sock yarn that includes a spool of matching nylon thread (Lang Jawoll does this. The spool is buried in the middle of the 100g ball.) use it for this part. Just knit with it along with the sock yarn for the heel flap and the turning of the heel. It’ll help the socks to wear better.

Sock knit in Patons Kroy Sock by Deborah Cooke

1. The Heel Flap
A heel flap should be a little less than half the width of the sock. Half of 72 is 36, so we’ll make ours 34 stitches. After you’ve knit the leg as long as you want it to be, arrange your stitches so that there are 34 on the first needle. Slip 1, knit 1 across these 34 stitches. Turn. Slip 1, purl to end. Turn. Repeat this sequence, working only on these 34 stitches, until you have a heel flap that’s about two and a half inches deep.

Fussy Knitter Tip: I like when ribbing lines up, no matter what I’m knitting. Since I’m knitting these socks in 6/2 rib, there are nine repetitions around the sock. I chose to have four knit bands descend into the heel. To make it symmetrical, I didn’t work the last two purl stitches in the last round of the sock leg. Instead, I moved them on to the next needle and worked them as the beginning of the heel flap. That gave me (8 x 4 +2) 34 stitches for my heel flap.

2. Turning the Heel
This is a sequence of decreases which turn your knitting so that you’re knitting along the bottom of the foot instead of down the back of the heel.

Slip 1, K to 2 stitches past the middle of the row, SSK, K1, turn. Count how many stitches are left unworked. Add three. This is your magic number.
Slip 1, P your magic number of stitches, P2tog, P1, turn.

Sock knit in Patons Kroy Sock by Deborah Cooke

You’re creating a little wedge in the middle of the row. For each right side row, K to the stitch you slipped in the previous row (it’s the one before the little gap), SSK and turn. For every wrong side row, P to the stitch you slipped in the previous row (right before the little gap), P2tog and turn. Do this until all the stitches at the base of the heel are part of the wedge. (On this sock, the turning of the heel coincided with a color change in the striping sequence, so the turn is dark pink. I wish I’d done that on purpose because it’s very cool, but it was just dumb luck.)

If you aren’t at the end of a right side row, knit across the stitches to get there.

Fussy Knitter Tip

– Needle management is fiddly at this bit. You might need to use a stitch holder or extra needle to get all the picking up done. If you’re using two circulars, keep the top of the sock on one needle, and put everything else on the other one. If you’re using a set of four DPN’s, keep the top of the sock on one needle, and divide the bottom between two other needles. If you have a set of five DPN’s, keep the top on one, each side of the heel flap on one, and the bottom on one.

3. Picking up Stitches
All those slipped stitches up the side of the heel flap are screaming for you to pick them up. (Just listen.) Use a spare needle and pick them up. Pick up an extra one at the top of the sock, before the live stitches you still have on your other needle. Knit up the side of the heel flap, knitting together the last two stitches (to avoid a hole.)

Fussy knitter tip – Twist those stitches along the sides of the heel flap when you knit them, to avoid holes.

I keep ribbing on the top of the foot, so I rib across the top of the foot. (Knit the knit stitches and purl those purl stitches.) On the other side of the heel flap, you’ll pick up the same number of stitches as on the first heel flap—including an extra one at the top—SSK, and knit down to the bottom of the heel. Your row starts and ends at the middle of the row on the bottom of the foot. You’ve got all your stitches on your needles again, the heel is turned, and we’re almost home free.

Sock Gusset in sock knit by Deborah Cooke4. Decreasing from the Heel
You have lots of stitches for the heel but too many for the foot. You need to get back to 72 stitches again. This is simplest if the top of the sock is on one needle all by its lonesome. Work across the bottom and up the side until there are three stitches on your needle. K2tog, K1, then work across the top of the sock. On the other side of the sock, K 1, SSK, then knit to the end of the round. Knit one round. Repeat these two rows until you have 72 stitches again.

I had, for example, 28 stitches on each of my side needles. I needed to decrease down to 17 on each needle to get back to the 34 I started with for the flap. Now that the decreasing is done, I have little triangular gussets on each side of my sock, and 72 stitches in total.

Ha. Told you it was easy.

Knit the Foot
You’re going to knit the foot until the sock reaches the joint below your big toe. (The one at the end of the first metatarsal.) Then it’s time to decrease for the toe. Keep knitting in the round for at least three inches, then try on the sock. When the sock covers your foot up to that bone, it’s time to decrease.

Decrease for the Toe
You’ll probably need to redistribute your stitches. The toe decrease happens on the left and right sides of the foot. If you’re using four DPN’s be sure you have exactly half of your stitches (36) on the top needle and 18 on each of the bottom needles. Consider the beginning of your row to be in the middle on the bottom of the sock, between those two DPN’s. Knit until there are three stitches left on the first needle. K2tog, K1. On the second needle, K1, SSK, K until there are three stitches left, K2tog, K1. On the third needle, K1, SSK, K to end. You’ve just decreased four stitches. K one row. Repeat until there are sixteen stitches in total. Break your yarn, graft your toe stitches (Kitchener stitch is your friend) and you’re done!


Now you just need to make another one to match. 🙂