FO – Fancy Merino Socks

That Nancy Bush, man. She can really design a pair of socks.

Nancy Bush is one of the only designers for whom I will happily knit socks from the top-down, and I’m really happy when I do.

Pattern: Fancy Silk Sock for a Child of 5 or 6 Years by Nancy Bush, from the book Knitting Vintage Socks; my project is here on Ravelry
Size: US women’s 9
Yarn: Knit Picks Stroll 4-ply fingering weight, in Glacial, 75% Merino wool / 25% nylon; I used 71.9 grams, which was approximately 332.6 yards/ 304.2 meters
Needles: Knit Picks size 1.5 (2.5 mm) nickel-plated DPNs, set of 5
Modifications: added one lace repeat to lengthen the leg, otherwise knit as written

Started: January 2, 2010
Finished: February 17, 2010

I’ve wanted to knit these socks for a while, and the January Sock Knitters Anonymous challenge featuring Nancy Bush as a designer provided the perfect opportunity. While knitting, I wondered why I enjoy Nancy Bush patterns so very much, and I think it’s the utter clarity of design, which is carried through in the directions. Every stitch is accounted for, with patterns that are logical and intuitive, with clever transitions and connections among motifs, as well as ways for keeping track of progress that aren’t tedious, such as counting the selvedge chains on the heel flap.

A lot of the sock patterns I’ve seen are essentially some stitch pattern plugged into a basic sock formula, which is what makes them so easy to convert to toe-up. I like that Nancy (yeah, we’re going to be on a first-name basis now) really thought through ways to incorporate the vintage shapes into an overall harmonious flow of stitchery that results in not just a sock, but really a bit of artistry.

And yet, these delicate little tulip shapes blooming up the leg, as well as the dancing lace between them, are incredibly easy and fast to work, which of course I have to love. This portion of the design could have been worked upside-down, but I don’t think it would have the same dimensionality and rhythm.

I’m completely in love with the yarn. It is creamy and squishy and soft, yet strong and durable, making for a lovely sock that feels great on the feet, but holds up to wearing with shoes. I have great love for Knit Picks, and this yarn is one of the ones I’d most highly recommend.

Oh, and the color. It’s this agonizingly beautiful minty bluish greenish color, very accurately named for its similarity to glacial ice (which I will be seeing a lot of on my upcoming trip to Iceland). It also conjures a particularly delightful chapter in the D.H. Lawrence book Women in Love called “Crème de Menthe,” along with general mint green frostings and creamy, decadent things. It may be weird to associate this color with romance and indulgence, but I picture it somehow with cushy white spa robes and crisp white sheets, gentleness and tenderness and all kinds of mushy things.

My only misgiving of sorts, with these socks, is that the lace cuff at the top is a little tight, which prevented me from lengthening the leg as much as I wanted to. I’d read recommendations to work it with a larger needle, and I meant to, then forgot at the last minute and went at it with the 1.5 size. I figured I should be alright since I’d already gone up a half size from the recommended size 1’s, but this is a common issue for me with top-down socks. I can probably fix the cuff with some aggressive blocking (though weirdly, I can’t find my sock blockers anywhere!). Still, these are long enough that they don’t bother me, and their loveliness makes up for anything else for me.

Previous Entries on this Project:
For the Love of Nancy Bush

FO – Lotus Hat

To interrupt my spate of sock posts (I’m going to put another pair up today), I thought I should share this little lace hat.

While knitting it, I wondered about the purpose of such a hat, and then I found the perfect day to wear it, when it was sunny and almost warm, but still cool enough to want to cover my ears and (still wet) hair while walking the dogs.

Oh hi, I have thesis face and look like hell. But don’t you like my hat?

Pattern: Lotus Hat by UptownPurl at Third Base Line; my project is here on Ravelry
Size: one size, women’s beanie-style hat
Yarn: Knit Picks Comfy Worsted 10-ply, in color B990 Creme Brulee, 75% Pima cotton / 25% acrylic; I used 44.9 grams, which was approximately 97 yards/ 88.7 meters, just under one ball
Needles: size 6 (4.00 mm) 16″ circular and set of 5 size 6 (4.00 mm) DPNs
Modifications: added one chart repeat to lengthen

Started: January 17, 2010
Finished: January 17, 2010

I haven’t really worn this style of hat before. If it’s cold enough to wear a hat, I generally go for something thick and wooly. If I want something prettier, I’d go for one of several traditional tweed caps or felt cloches I have (is it in any way surprising that I love hats?). So this was a departure, and one I’m glad I took.

Do you do this? Contorting and torturing your poor photographer (thank you, Mom!) trying to get a shot of the top of your head? There were actually some comical out-takes from when I tried to do it myself, and my mother mercifully intervened.

What initially drew me to this pattern was the lotus flower shape made by the crown decreases (hence the name), and I think it’s beautifully written to take full advantage of the transition between the lace and this shape. The cross-hatch lace itself is lovely and very enjoyable to knit. It’s an intuitive, rhythmic pattern, and I liked watching its organic development. I knit this hat in just a few hours, and I’m sure part of the speed was how much I enjoyed working the lace.

I am head over heels in love with the yarn. It is heavenly soft, with just enough squish and bounce to have excellent stitch definition. It feels great to work with and even better to wear. While knitting this hat, I thought I should try to use this yarn whenever possible in future, especially for baby and children’s garments and anything that would be worn against the skin.

This project felt nice and serendipitous. This ball of yarn was leftover from a camisole I knit last summer (yeah, I should probably get around to photographing that too…), and I’ve been going through one heck of a yellow obsession, so it all came together nicely.

I was sweating the yardage the whole time, which is why I didn’t add yet another chart repeat, but I decided that if the hat were much longer, it would start looking silly for a spring cap, and I didn’t want it to be puffy on the top of my head.

I can’t explain it, but I have a bit of a compulsion to wear my hair in braided pigtails with this hat – I’ll have to let you know how that works out.

New year, new lace

In lieu of a mosaic of last year’s FOs (which I umm, still haven’t finished photographing) or a summary of frantic Christmas gift knitting (nope), I have a fresh start for the new year.

Hellooooo, lace. I’ve missed you.

This is the start of the Wakame Lace Tunic, from the summer 2008 Interweave Knits. It has a very interesting construction, and I really love the lace pattern. I hope I continue to enjoy this project after a couple hundred more hours of it.

FO – Yellow Evening Stockings

It feels like so long ago that I photographed these, and even longer since I finished them, but I’m happy to finally present one of my favorite FOs yet, yellow knee socks:

Pattern: Evening Stockings for a Young Lady (Ravelry link) by Nancy Bush, from the book Knitting Vintage Socks
Size: lady’s US size 9 with 9-inch foot circumference and 9.5-inch foot length
Yarn: Knit Picks Palette 4-ply fingering weight, color 6240 Semolina, 100% wool; I used 2.14 skeins, which was 107 grams/3.76 oz or 494.3 yards/452 meters.
Needles: Knit Picks 6″ nickel-plated double-pointed needles, set of 5 size 1.5 (2.50 mm)
Modifications: Added 10 lace repeats after calf decreases to lengthen leg; used toe from Hedera instead of star toe in pattern

Started: September 1, 2009
Finished: September 27, 2009

These were my first knee socks, and I actually followed the pattern, despite my general reluctance (should I call it extreme aversion?) to knitting socks from the top-down. That Nancy Bush, man. She can write a pattern!

Usually when I knit socks, I take the lace or stitch pattern and plug it into my preferred method of toe-up sock knitting. I was really tempted to do that with these socks as well, but when I started reading all of the calf-shaping instructions, I realized that these were a totally different game, and if I wanted socks that would fit, I should do them the way Nancy wrote them. I’m so glad I did!

The calf shaping is wonderful. It was written to transition smoothly within the lace pattern, so there was no tricky math or problematic recalculation of where in the lace to work increases or decreases. The lace pattern itself was wonderfully intuitive, and I memorized it in the first repeat. Because it was so easy and logical, these socks literally flew by, and I loved every minute of them.

I was iffy about the star toe in the pattern, since I was definitely planning to wear these socks with shoes and I wanted something that would lay as flat as possible. I opted for the toe from the Hedera pattern, which was one of the only top-down toes I’d done before, but which I noted fit my toes very comfortably and worked unobtrusively in shoes.

And I have to admit that while I wasn’t a fan of working the heel and gusset (the pattern was very clear, easy to follow etc – it’s just a personal thing), it looks pretty lovely and it fits very comfortably into my shoes. Shockingly, these socks actually stay up while I walk too, which is a major bonus for any knee socks.

I knit these socks as part of the September Sock Knitters Anonymous Sockdown challenge, where one of the options was knitting yellow socks. I was surprised at how many people started out hating on yellow, since I adore it. I had been dreaming about yellow lace knee socks for a while (perhaps I have a bit of Malvolio in me), so I found this a perfect occasion.

The yarn was a pleasure, as I expected. While not as soft as some of the pricier sock yarns I’ve used, I found Palette to be a really good yarn for this project. The socks didn’t stretch out with wearing, they didn’t felt or pill at all, and they seemed comfortable and durable, yet soft. For the price, I don’t think you can find a better value in fingering-weight wool, and I genuinely adore its color.

If it’s not overly obvious, I love these socks and I’m thrilled with this project. I wore these to work and my labmates were all coveting them like crazy, asking where they could buy a similar pair. I love having something so unique and so specifically suited to my personality, which I enjoy wearing as much as I enjoyed making them!

A Touch of Yellow

As much as I don’t want to acknowledge that summer will ever end, I’ve become increasingly aware of the chill in the air. In my memory, summer stretches through September and well up to my birthday (November 1), but in reality, I know that fall is coming sooner than I think.

I put aside my plan to make the Upstairs Wrap for this October wedding. I still plan to make it, since I absolutely adore the way it’s coming out, but I think it will be too airy, light, and summery for a proper fall wrap.

Instead I’ve started a pair of wool knee socks, in a delightful warm yellow (Knit Picks Palette, in Semolina). I really don’t like knitting socks from the top down, but I’m glad I’m following the pattern as written on these.

I guess they are my way of stretching a bit of summer into the fall.