FO: Mermaid Pomatomus Socks

When I was a new knitter way back in 2006, I started keeping an aspirational list of “Someday Projects.” These were the ones that seemed too complicated, too technically daunting, or just too intimidating to even consider before a lot more projects and years of learning. Even though I’ve knit many, many pairs of socks, I still kept these socks in the aspiration-only section of my queue until one day I got my hands on the absolute perfect yarn for them and realized I was totally ready.

Handknit socks from the Pomatomus pattern by Cookie A, in variegated blue yarn, modeled on feet

Pattern: Pomatomus by Cookie A, available for free from Knitty winter 2005 (Ravelry Project page)
Size: Women’s size 9.5 (US)
Yarn: SweetGeorgia Yarns Tough Love Sock, fingering weight, 80% Merino wool / 20% nylon in Mermaid; I used every last inch of the 115g skein (425.4 yards / 389 meters) plus a few yard of Knit Picks Stroll in Mermaid
Needles: Size 1 (2.25 mm) DPNs
Modifications: Widened and lengthened for fit, as described below

Started: September 5, 2019
Finished: September 21, 2019

So the truth is, I had actually started this pattern once before, back in 2008, when I was still a bit iffy on socks overall, and I felt overwhelmed trying to carry yarn-overs across DPNs or manage a lace pattern that moved. That attempt was quickly set aside, and after working similarly complicated, shifting lace patterns, I was determined to make it work this time. I made it a little harder and more yarn-consuming on myself than I needed to by going down a needle size and working the pattern over 84 stitches for the leg, instead of the 72 stitches the pattern calls for. I preferred the way the yarn looked at this gauge, and I liked the smaller scale of eyelets and the way the lace stretched.

Handknit sock in progress, showing the Pomatomus pattern's cuff and first few lace repeats on DPNs

I had won this gorgeous yarn as a Sock Knitters Anonymous (Ravelry link) prize, and I was so thrilled by the way the colors danced and shimmered in the lace pattern. I also really enjoyed the harmony of a sea-inspired pattern (Pomatomus being the genus for bluefish) with a yarn named Mermaid. It all just came together exactly the way I hoped it would.

Handknit Pomatomus socks, modeled on parallel feet facing forward

To get the fit I wanted around a wider calf, I started with 84 stitches on the ribbing and continued at this width for most of the leg. I also added a chart repeat to lengthen the leg, which I usually do for top-down socks so they hit at a comfortable point and don’t slouch or fall down. I reduced to 72 stitches as I approached the heel by omitting yarn-overs over one lace section for half a repeat, and the transition went so smoothly I can’t even remember or see in these photos exactly how I did it. It was important to me that I preserve the way the pattern flowed into the heels and stay continuous from the leg into the foot, so I worked these decreases in the repeats at the sides above the ankles, where they could kind of melt into the gussets.

Handknit Pomatomus socks modeled on feet, standing slightly on tip-toe and viewed from behind to show heel detail

I loved the impact of the twisted stitches on the heels flowing out of the lace and the fit of the ribbed heel flap.

Handknit Pomatomus socks modeled on feet, viewed from above

The rest of the gusset and foot was worked according to the pattern, and I especially appreciated the way the designer transitioned the lace through the instep chart so it flowed from the leg perfectly.

Detail view of handknit Pomatomus socks, showing toes with coordinating yarn striped in

As I approached the toe on the second sock, I realized I was short on yarn due to the modifications I’d made to stitch count, gauge, and the way the allover ribbing design ate up so much yardage. I was initially planning on just knitting a contrast toe with a solid-colored coordinating yarn from my stash (also named Mermaid, as it happens) but when I saw the two yarns next to each other, I felt they were so, so close in tone and value that I could get away with striping them together to kind of blend the two. I think the contrast between the ribbed lace and plain stockinette also helped me get away with a tidy visual transition.

Detail of handknit Pomatomus sock on sock blocker, showing toe

I frogged back both toes to this point and blended in the contrast yarn. I’m really pleased with how well that strategy worked out, and I feel in some small way this maybe justifies my habit of buying so many similarly-colored yarns to have this kind of option?

Detail view of handknit Pomatomus socks on sock blockers, showing lace pattern in SweetGeorgia Mermaid yarn

This lace pattern worked so beautifully with this yarn that I literally can’t stop looking at these socks when I wear them (or take them out just to admire them). My father was so impressed with the cleverness of the lace and its resemblance to fish scales and waves that he asked for a pair of his own for Christmas (“yeah, even with the holes, that’s fine!”). I’m not only thrilled with the way these socks came out, but also super happy I have learned enough about knitting along the way to get the exact fabric quality and size/fit I wanted, as well as the know-how to overcome running out of yarn without compromising the overall effect.

Handknit Pomatomus socks, side-by-side on sock blockers

The thing I love so much about knitting is that for the most part, it’s just different combinations of two stitches, knitting and purling, plus yarn-overs. Yes, it gets fiddly and can be tricky with decreases, lace, shaping, construction, sizing, and so on, but in the end, it’s fundamentally always built of things I already know how to do. I love projects like these socks, which are confidence-building, useful learning experiences, beautiful to look at, and great inspiration to tackle the patterns I’ve been keeping on my Someday list.

Handknit Pomatomus socks, modeled on feet, with one stepping in front of the other

Because if I keep at it, put one foot in front of the other, continue challenging myself and just doing it, Someday has to come one day, right?

FO: Walking through a Vineyard Socks

Before I get to the socks, I want to note that I have a lot of other things I’d like to talk about, and I’m planning some wordier posts soon. I’m in a bit of a logjam with my classes, some personal things, and the all of this going on, probably much like everyone else. So let’s start with the socks, and I will chip away at the rest as I can.

I also need to add a note of caution: throughout my site, I have links to pattern and project pages on Ravelry without individual seizure warnings. I generally label Ravelry links separately from other links already, but please, please proceed with caution before following any links to Ravelry until they get their redesign issues sorted out for accessibility.

Walking through a Vineyard Socks, shown on feet outdoors to demonstrate the stitch pattern as worn.

Pattern: Walking through a Vineyard by Dots Dabbles, a pattern available for free on Ravelry (Project page)
Size: Women’s size 9.5 (US), made using size L from the pattern
Yarn: Knit Picks Stroll Tonal, fingering weight, 75% Merino wool / 25% nylon in Mountain Pass
Needles: Size 1.5 (2.5 mm) DPNs
Modifications: I added additional stitches to the ribbing and lengthened it slightly. I also added length to the toes, as described below

Started: May 29, 2020
Finished: June 26, 2020

Socks flat on blockers

As I mentioned on Instagram, when I first started knitting, the idea of so many twisted stitches and cable crossings seemed impossible to me at the fine gauge needed for socks. I figured socks like these would take a year or more, if I could ever get through them. I’m delighted to see how much I’ve grown as a knitter since then, as well as what a joy these deceptively complex little twists and crossings were.

Socks on feet, with toes pointed together

As I’ve been doing with most top-down socks lately, I started with a greater diameter of stitches and lengthened the ribbing to give a stretchier, more accommodating cuff for wide calves. I worked 24 rows of ribbing and decreased the extra stitches evenly spaced in the 23rd round.

Detail view of twisted stitch pattern and cabling

The twisted stitch pattern was rhythmic and intuitive. The symmetry and enjoyable flow of more complicated rows, then more “restful” rows kept my momentum going, and the length of the chart repeat was just right to easily track. I love the way this yarn looks in twisted stitches and cables, and I have been incredibly happy with every project I’ve worked in the Stroll Tonal line.

Round heel, with decreases centered on the sole

The round heel is an elegant detail that allows the columns of cables to continue from the leg into the foot uninterrupted. I worked a similar style of heel on a pair of toe-up colorwork socks that we haven’t talked about yet (soon!) and continue to be impressed with how comfortable the fit is on the ball of the heel. As diehard a short-row-heel lover as I’ve been, I may have found a new favorite gusset-heel style.

Detail of gusset and heel flat on sock blocker

The way the sock makes room to cup the heel ensures the cable patterning fits perfectly across the instep and snugs into the arches without distorting the pattern. It also de-emphasizes the stitches picked up along the heel flap, which is the area that still causes me the most insecurity in top-down socks, somehow, after all these years.

Toes of socks on feet, with detail of cable patterning

The pattern gives the option for a plain or a patterned toe, and I’m glad I went with more patterning. I just love the cable transitions and the way that design detail, combined with the green color, give these socks a Celtic feel. I added additional rows in the toe decreases, which resulted in a few plain rows at the very tip.

These socks were an absolute joy to knit, and I’m thrilled with the finished result. I’d give this pattern my highest possible recommendation, and if you are hesitant that they are too complicated, I assure you, the clarity of the instructions and detailed charts will carry you through.

Spring Socks

One of the goals I’ve set for this year is knitting a pair of socks each month, usually as part of the Sock Knitters Anonymous challenges on Ravelry. I’ve also decided they would be part of the #FreeSocks2020 project, where the socks are knit with yarn I already have in my stash, from patterns available for free.

These are my Cuarzo Rosa socks, and between the pretty lace pattern and delicate pink heather color, they feel just perfect for spring. I cast these on for the April-May SKA challenge theme of “under-appreciated patterns,” where a design must have fewer than 15 projects on Ravelry to qualify. I am stunned that I was only the seventh person to cast on for this incredibly beautiful and enjoyable design.

Inspired by the lacy clusters of rose quartz crystals as they are found in nature, the pattern grows into rhythmic organic shapes that are nowhere near as difficult to knit as they may look. I always love that quality in lace.

I’m having a great time watching these socks develop and look forward to having a finished pair 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.

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