FO – Fern Pattern Socks (Farnmustersocken)

When I photographed the last five pairs of socks I’d knit in one session, my father apparently asked my mother, “Just how many pairs of socks has she knit while procrastinating her thesis??” While I clarified that those were socks spread out over the past year or more, I also had to sheepishly admit that yes, there were two more pairs.

As my love of green lace is extensive and well-documented, I have to say, I really don’t see myself getting tired of it.

Pattern: Fern Pattern Socks (Farnmustersocken) by Diana Harrison, from the German magazine Wollke7; my project is here on Ravelry
Size: US women’s 9
Yarn: Knit Picks Gloss Sock 4-ply fingering weight, in Jade, 70% wool / 30% silk; I used 83.7 grams, which was approximately 367.4 yards/ 336 meters
Needles: Knit Picks size 2 (2.75 mm) DPNs, set of 5
Modifications: worked toe-up with a short-row heel

Started: February 7, 2010
Finished: March 14, 2010

I knit these as part of the Under-appreciated Patterns challenge for Sock Knitters Anonymous on Ravelry. The criteria for this challenge included that there must be less than 15 projects at the time of cast-on for a pattern to be considered under-appreciated, and in this instance, my project was the third.

I figured the reason it was obscure was because it was written in German, though I’m surprised more German-speaking sock knitters hadn’t picked up on it. Because the lace pattern was charted out, I found a very helpful German to English Symbol Knitting site that made quick sense of it, which combined with Google Translator helped me sort out all the relevant details. No longer will I be put off by patterns written in another language, with the internet here to help me!

This pattern has a lot of pluses for my personal preferences. The repeats are simple and short, yet long enough that you only need to work a few over each round. The fern shapes are built by two 8-row sequences of essentially the same pattern, shifted left or right, so the stitches and sequence of working them are almost the same. The only even remotely tricky part is that at the start of the 15th row on the chart, a stitch must be moved from the previous needle to make the pattern work. I wondered how that was going to work out, then just did what it said, and I had my answer: effortlessly.

In addition to being great fun to knit, this type of lace also has a strong visual impact and dimensionality without getting too distracting. I enjoyed working it in a solid color so that from a distance, they’d be sort of sedate, but up close you could really see the stitches, unobscured.

Working on larger than my usual needles, with the somewhat beefier Gloss yarn, made these socks move pretty quickly. I knit most of them while I was in bed sick with bronchitis (yuck), but even through a codeine haze I could tell I was going to be happy with the finished product.

I worked my standard toe starting with a figure-8 cast-on, then a short-row heel. I have to say I really love the way this yarn works at this gauge, as it makes for really neat structural elements that feel great on the feet.

I look forward to wearing these often and continuing to spread the love for green lace socks.

Previous Entries on this Project:
Neue Socken

Grape Lace

In what I’m sure will come as no surprise to anyone, I’ve started a new pair of socks. These are special because they’re not the usual sock, so much as lace stockings, and well, I have reason to believe I’m going to love them.

So you’ve seen Bettie’s Lace Stockings from the Spring 2009 Interweave Knits, right? As soon as I saw them, I fell in love and was certain I would be making them one day.

Among the numerous points that attracted me to this pattern (beautiful lace! size 2 needles! not a lot of yarn but you end up with knee socks! fast! stretchy! ribbons!!!), the fact that they are designed toe-up jumped out and made me extraordinarily happy. Toe-up is, to my thinking, the most logical and comforting way to knit socks, and I’ve noticed that the fit is much better than the top-down socks I’ve knit.

I changed the cast-on to my usual figure-8 (not a big fan of unpicking provisional cast-ons) and increased to 48 stitches, then got going with the pattern as written. Then I started feeling a little disconcerted.

(This is actually the bottom of my foot.)

The elements of this design are essentially a wider central pattern of lace, flanked by two narrow eyelet panels. Eventually there will be calf increases and what all built into these elements, but on the foot, it felt very strange to work three sections of lace, two of which were split on the bottom of the foot. I tried to think through the logic on that, but when I realized that there would be a short-row heel interrupting the lace up the back of the leg anyway, I wondered if it wouldn’t be better to knit the sole in stockinette?

I hemmed and hawed about how well they would wear with sole lace, and whether I felt like knitting two extra repeats when I was only interested in the one on the top of the foot. When I noticed how many times I’d flubbed the eyelet panels (from losing track at the start of the row at the middle of the sole), I took it as a sign, frogged back to the toe and started over.

I am so much happier now. I have the wide panel of bee pattern lace centered between two narrow eyelet columns on the top of the foot, with the sole knit in plain stockinette. I’ll work a regular short row heel, then follow the pattern afterwards for calf increases and so on. It’s moving way, way faster, and I’m not so annoyed feeling like I’m putting a lot of effort into something that will get bedraggled in my shoes anyway.

If you’re interested in making this change (and heck, for my own future reference when I inevitably forget what I did and need to match the second socks), it’s quite easy.

Cast on using a figure-8 or Turkish cast-on, Judy’s magic cast-on, etc and increase to 48 stitches. Or do whatever provisional toe-up cast-on you like, so long as you get to 48 stitches. When you switch to 3 needles (one for the top and two for the bottom), slip the first stitch of needle 1 and the last stitch of needle 2 to the bottom needles, such that you have 13 stitches on each of those and 22 stitches on the top needle.

P1, work a repeat of the narrow eyelet lace (in the pattern it is called Feathered Fagoting), work a repeat of the center bee lace (Narrow Gathered Lace), p1, work a second repeat of narrow eyelet lace, p1. Then knit the sole stitches in stockinette. Much easier, faster, and it retains the stretchiness of the pattern, with the sturdiness of a stockinette sole. Now these are socks I will love to knit as much as I’ll love to wear them.

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.