FO: Catnip Socks

Toward the end of July, I cast on a new pair of socks on a whim, thinking it would be fun to participate in a Sockdown knitalong in a beloved Ravelry group for the first time in… oh, ten years or so… and this weekend I finished my Catnip Socks!



Pattern: Catnip Socks by Wendy D. Johnson. (Project page on Ravelry)
Size: Women’s size 9.5 (US)
Yarn: Knit Picks Stroll Tonal, fingering weight, 75% superwash Merino wool / 25% nylon in color #26755 Cucumber
Needles: Size 0 (2.0 mm) DPNs (Knit Picks 6″ nickel-plated)
Modifications: Changed to a short-row heel with additional stockinette rows before beginning lace of leg; worked pattern over 70 stitches

Started: July 26, 2018
Finished: August 10, 2018



I’m just delighted with the way these socks came out. Something about the soft cool color, delicate lace, and fine gauge thanks to size 0 needles makes these basically perfect.


I was attracted to this pattern for the toe-up lace, which flowed neatly and was easy to memorize. I started with a figure-8 cast-on over 8 stitches and increased to 70 so the pattern would be continuous around the leg.



I worked my favorite short-row heel by decreasing to 13 stitches (11 on each side), then I continued in stockinette for 1 pattern repeat (8 rows) to give a bit more depth to the heel before beginning the lace for the leg.



I was somewhat irrationally nervous I would run out of yarn, despite the super generous 462-yard put-up. I had no reason to worry, as I still had quite a bit of yarn left after working my typical length legs and plenty of ribbing.



I truly enjoyed working with this yarn, which was soft but strong and so subtly variegated that the color shifts were nearly imperceptible at times, building to a beautiful semisolid. I’m glad I have other colorways of this yarn in my stash, as I can’t wait to work with it again.



Everything about this project was a dream, and it reminded me of why I love lace, sock-knitting, and lace sock-knitting so very much. Not suprisingly, I’ve already got another pair of lace socks on the needles.

Previous Entries with this Project:
Summer Knitting

 

Summer Knitting

Glancing over at my knitting basket, I can’t help noticing it’s taken on a distinctly summery feel.


I wouldn’t ordinarily have said I knit seasonally, as I am still making wool sweaters and heavy cabled things, but lately I have been craving softer, lighter colors, cotton and linen, and finer gauge yarns. I can also count on the summer for a major boost of start-itis, with three new cast-ons included (so far).


The first is a shrug that begins with a square lace panel constructed from the center out (I will sew that hole shut in finishing). It’s intriguing to watch the lace pattern build organically, and I’m looking forward to figuring out how to convert the pattern to be as fully seamless as possible.


Next is Lepidoptera, which I will admit I cast on in a total impulse because I couldn’t resist the beautiful soft pink yarn wound up in a cake after I used a bit of it to finish the candy pink Featherweight sweater I’ve been working on for years. I love the look of this pattern, and I know I will eventually enjoy working on it, but because the two lace panels are knit with two strands of yarn held together and there is an expanse of one-strand stockinette in between, one winds up juggling three balls of yarn at a time. I haven’t mastered the maneuvering yet, so this project is neither particularly easy or portable. I can’t help wondering why it wasn’t designed with two strands held together throughout, but I’m sure time will tell.



Lastly, a pair of Catnip Socks, a beautiful free pattern by Wendy Johnson that I have had queued since 2010, knit in this soft green hand-painted yarn that I love fanatically. I was chiding myself for casting on new socks when I have been trying to focus on sweater-knitting and have a huge pile of finished socks that I haven’t blocked or photographed yet, but I was able to justify them by the fact that I work from home and my apartment gets frightfully cold in the winter (and autumn…and often spring). Like most New Yorkers, I am nuts about not wearing shoes indoors, so I wear socks and slippers almost every day – they might as well be hand-knit, right?

These socks also gave me the opportunity to participate in my favorite sock-knitting group on Ravelry again, and I hadn’t realized just how much I missed the community and camaraderie there until I logged back in and poked around. When I saw the July-August challenge is lace, I entered some kind of fugue state where my hands were winding the yarn and pulling out needles automatically.

And on the theme of community, I have finally set up an Instagram account just for my knitting and crafts: @vickiliciousknits. I hope you’ll hop over and say hello – I’d love to connect with fellow knitters and craft-obsessives!

FO: Toe-Up Gentleman’s Socks

As Easter approaches, April seems as good a time as any to finally post the wintry Christmas gifts I gave my family this past year, right?

Back in 2010, I knit my father a pair of socks for Christmas in this beautiful green and brown variegated yarn (you can see the yarn here, but alas, I have not photographed the socks yet). He loved them, and he frequently told me how much they meant to him, but he kept them pristinely folded in his sock drawer unworn because he “didn’t want to mess them up.” I always said, “I made them for you to use,” then reminded him how much I love knitting, should they ever need replacing.

This winter, on one of those particularly bitter cold and damp days, my father was outdoors and no matter what he did, couldn’t get his feet warm. He and my brother stopped home for lunch and he looked in his sock drawer, dismayed, hoping maybe he would find another warm pair he could layer in his boots. As he tells it, his eyes went to the handknit socks and he heard my voice echoing, “I made them for you to use!” He slipped them on and said his feet were properly warm for the first time in decades. “They are absolutely the answer,” he said enthusiastically when he called me that night, “I can’t believe I waited so many years to realize it!”



Pattern: based on Gentleman’s Sock with Lozenge Pattern by Nancy Bush, published in Knitting Vintage Socks: New Twists on Classic Patterns (ebook here). My project page is here.
Size: Men’s size 10 (US) approximately (made to measure)
Yarn: Regia 4-fädig Color, fingering weight, 75% wool / 25% nylon, in 535; I used every last inch of 2 skeins, 100 grams, 460 yards/ 420.6 meters, plus I tipped the ribbing with a few rounds of Knit Picks Stroll Solids, fingering weight, 75% merino / 25% nylon in Fawn.
Needles: Size 1 (2.25 mm) DPNs (Susan Bates Silvalume)
Modifications: Converted to toe-up with a short-row heel, changed the ribbing to simple 1×1 rib.

Started: January 1, 2017
Finished: February 13, 2017



A few days later, after wearing his handknit socks outside every day with delight, my father called to ask how he should wash them, and I talked him through it. He said now that they were his new “secret weapon” in keeping his feet warm, he didn’t want to risk running them through the wash. “The only downside,” he said cheerfully, “is that I have no idea what I’ll wear while they dry.” I immediately ducked into my stash and pulled out this great dark green Regia superwash, wrapped it, and presented it to him on Christmas as A Second Pair of Socks, Some Assembly Required.



I wanted to knit his second pair in a slightly finer gauge, now that I was sure of the measurements and that he’d actually wear them, but I hadn’t brought needles or the pattern with me. I had a pair of socks that I’d been keeping at my parents’ house for months as my “away” project, and as I finished them next to the Christmas tree, I realized I could cast on for my father’s second pair right then. I figured I would get the toe started and consult the pattern when I got home, but I came down with the first of several terrible colds I’ve had this year (with bonus bronchitis!) and while I malingered at my parents’ house, decided to improvise the pattern by looking at photos of finished socks on Ravelry.



By the time I got home, I’d knit through the heel and worked out how to keep the pattern continuous around the ankle, so I decided (with apologies to the genius Nancy Bush) that I’d just wing it, and my socks would be knit in my “house style,” which I know fits incredibly comfortably. I knit the leg of the sock as long as I could before I started running low on yarn, then started the ribbing. I was dismayed to run out of yarn sooner than I expected, so I tipped the ribbing in a bit of light brown Merino superwash from my stash. My father likes that detail as a design choice and noticed that the Merino is slightly softer than the Regia wool, so it’s extra cushy where it touches his shin.



My father loves these socks and has raved about how they are even warmer than the first pair I knit him. Beyond the tighter gauge, he also noted that the diamond pattern traps little pockets of air around his feet inside his boots, so they are both breathable and extra warm. He likes the color and style so much that he said he’d wear them with work or dress shoes the next time it gets super cold in the winter.

I’m so happy he loves his socks so much – he was telling everyone at our St. Patrick’s Day party how great they were. I’m also delighted he has discovered the joys of custom-sized handknit socks, as I have quite a few more colors of yarn with his name on them. He also promises we’ll take some modeled shots soon.

Knitting all the time

I think that being a knitter is similar to being an artist, or a scientist, or a chef, in that as you go about the day, you don’t really ever stop being what you are, yet it’s not the only thing that defines your existence. As I ride the ferry, I always notice the knit items people are wearing, examining their construction, the fit, the lace or cable pattern, and in the same way that I look at paintings as if I had a brush in my hand, I wonder how I would make this thing, what I might change about it, and so on.

But mentally knitting, obviously, isn’t the same thing as physically taking needles and yarn and producing something, which is why I’m so delighted to have stolen moments here and there to make progress on a bunch of projects, old and new.

First, look what’s off the needles and awaiting blocking…

This is my Upstairs shawl/wrap/scarf, with which I am utterly enamored. I will go on (and on) about this project in its own FO post, but I will say that the thought of blocking it and having raggedly, pointy, stretched-out edges broke me down, and I bought blocking wires. I look forward to seeing how they work out.

I stayed with my family in New Jersey through Hurricane Irene, and the several days we were without power gave me quite a head of steam on a project I haven’t mentioned before.

This is a summery laceweight shrug knit in seafoam stitch, and even though it will probably be a while (like, the next three seasons) before I get to wear it, I’m pretty enthused with what I think it will become.

I pretty much always have socks on the go (I will do a whole sock catch-up soon), but these had been abandoned a while ago in my knitting basket. I can’t really remember why, save for the tedium of working with bamboo needles, but once I started them back up again, I whipped through a heel and have been moving up the leg.

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I love this snowflake lace pattern, and I keep thinking about where else I might like to use it (probably a cardigan or shrug?) since it is that perfect blend of organic and geometric, deceptively simple, and really quite lovely when stretched and worn (saving that for the FO post, again, soon).

Now I didn’t knit this, but this is a spectacular alpaca hat my parents picked up for me during their vacation to Peru in August.

I am so smitten with its colors, style, and decadent, soft warmth that I’m actually willing the weather to get colder so I can wear it outside of my apartment. My father bought my mother an insanely gorgeous alpaca cardigan, which I have to remember to photograph the next time I visit.

Mmmm, alpaca….

And saving perhaps the best for last, I have finally started a new sweater for my mother, which is technically her Christmas gift from ohh… 2008? This is not her gift this year, but rather something I’m going to try to get done soon because I feel bad promising people knits and not following through (I’ve done this with both parents and my brother, so yeah, bad habit of mine).

You may recognize it as the Cable-Down Raglan, a pattern I’ve admired for a long, long while. And yes, I have the yarn (and now the skills) to make one for myself too.

I had started a different cabled sweater for my mom years ago, but the more FO photos I’ve seen on Ravelry, the less I think that sweater will be particularly flattering for her, and it would make us both feel terrible to spend all this time knitting some elaborate cabled sweater that she never wears it because it looks bad. I admitted that this hesitation was most of why I’d stalled out on her super-belated Christmas gift, and she was relieved that I didn’t plug ahead on a feckless project. When I showed her the Cable-Down Raglan and photos of women with similar shapes and how wonderful they looked in it, she became enthusiastic and encouraged me to go forward with this one instead.

True to form, she picked out another heathered purple yarn, and I must say, I’m pretty pleased with the way it’s coming along. I really hope she likes it!

So these are but a few of the projects keeping my hands busy lately. I often think that if I focused on just one project at a time, I could whip out the FOs left and right, and this may be a strategy I can employ once I get some of the long-hibernating WIPs out of my basket and off my needles. But in the meantime, we’re coming into autumn, or Knitter’s Paradise, and I’m happy to have my hands full of wool again.

The Afterthought Heel

For the most part, I’ve got a tried-and-true system for sock knitting: figure-8 cast-on, kf&b increases set in one stitch from the edges on every other row, short-row heel, 1×1 or 2×2 ribbing with stretchy bind-off. It makes satisfying, wonderfully-fitting socks that I can knit effortlessly.

I had a nagging feeling like I wanted to try other toes and heels, just to broaden my sock vocabulary, as it were, but any time I planned such a deviation from my formula, laziness or inconvenience would prevail, and I’d revert to what I knew.

A pair of rainbow stripe socks (heeee!!!) finally gave occasion for learning a new heel technique, as I didn’t want to interrupt the delightful, cheery striping sequence to do the toe-up short row heel I typically favor.

I found the most wonderful, incredible afterthought heel tutorial on Jobo Designs, which explained not only the technique, but the overall progress of working an afterthought heel.

I used the waste-yarn method described. I was knitting toe-up (as usual), so I knit the foot until I reached the point on my ankle where I would ordinarily begin my short-row heel. I then worked half the stitches (two needles’ worth when I was working on four) using waste yarn.

You then drop the waste yarn, move back to the beginning of that portion and knit the waste yarn with your working yarn (my rainbow). It made a happy little zip across the back of my sock, which looked like this on the inside:

(Bonus: I could clearly visualize how knitting forms fabrics from loops – magic!)

I knit up the leg and cuff to my desired length, bound off, and then came back to the heel. I think if I were a newer knitter, I might not have had the nerve to pull out my waste yarn zip, but it was really no trouble to gently remove it and pick up the stitches on each side of the gap it created.

Once again, I got to see the structure of knitted fabric from one row’s point of view, which kind of fascinated me.

After picking up all the stitches, I essentially worked a sock toe, but located on the heel. I fumbled for a second about how one works a top-down toe, since I almost never do them, when I remembered that it is literally the reverse of a toe-up toe: decrease stitches set in one stitch from each edge on every other row, until you have about 40% of your stitches (in my case I went to 12) in the middle. Then graft it shut with Kitchener stitch.

Is it the easiest, most awesome heel I’ve knit? Well no, not exactly, but it was still vastly more enjoyable than any top-down flapped heel I’ve worked. More to the point, the afterthought heel let me preserve my striping pattern on the body of the sock and choose the colors I wanted to insert at the heel.

Oh did you think I was going to give away how great it looks now?? No, no, I’m saving that for the FO pics!