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.

Going to great lengths for a seamless cardigan

I have been wanting to knit the Salvia cardigan for years, and in 2015, I finally cast it on. I made the decision that I wanted to figure out how to work it seamlessly, or with as few seams as possible because I still have not mastered attractive seaming for my handknits (I promise, I am working on it and practicing).

I’ve been collecting techniques to avoid seaming over the years, including three-needle bind-offs, picking up stitches around edges, and so on, but this sweater has a unique challenge. The scalloped lace sections that give it its special style are charted from the bottom up, and because they are made with yarn-overs and decreases that play a visible role in the design, I wasn’t able to find an elegant way of replicating them in a top-down direction. I run into the opposite problem somewhat frequently in sock-knitting, where the lace only “reads” with the right gravity and flow in the direction it was designed. So I persisted anyway, quickly working the cardigan’s back, left, and right fronts all together in one piece to the underarms.

Diagram of a plan for knitting the Salvia Cardigan seamlessly

Next I worked the three pieces separately, back and forth on two needles, then finished with a three-needle bind-off at the shoulders. I’ve had my cardigan in a vest-like shape for several years now, while I hemmed and hawed about how best to proceed. The specific type of seaming I am worst at is setting in sleeves at the shoulder. Vertical mattress stitch is fine, but once I start working on a curve, it gets wonky and uneven, and no matter what I do, I’m not pleased with the finished product. So I’ve thought, on and off, for quite some time about how I could work the shoulders using short rows to shape the cap (I plan on something like this brilliant tutorial) and then pondered what to do about the bottom-up lace at the ends of the sleeves.

Recently I was grafting the toe of a sock using Kitchener stitch, thinking about what a neat finish it gives, and it finally occurred to me that I could probably graft in the round, so long as I had the live stitches from the sleeve and the lace portion matched up correctly. By placing the graft just above the lace cuff, I’m hoping it will be unobtrusive and neat and that the sleeve will appear as it is designed, without having to set in shoulders or compromise the design.

I cast on the first lace cuff the other day, and I can’t wait to find out if I’m right!

Previous Entries with this Project:
WIP: Art Deco Lace-Edged Cardigan

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!

FO: Varsity Kermit Sweater!!!

Way, way back in 2011 I sketched out the plan for this sweater and finally today, on Kermit the Frog’s 65th birthday, it is finally finished. Yaaayyyyy!!!

Pattern: Self-Designed Seamless V-Neck Cardigan, using the Incredible Custom-Fit Raglan Sweater Worksheet by Pamela Costello (Project page on Ravelry)
Size: Made to custom measurements
Yarn: Red Heart Sport Solid, DK weight, 100% acrylic, in Limeade and Paddy Green

Started: October 26, 2011
Finished: May 9, 2020

The idea for this sweater had been percolating for much longer, at least as far back as 2007 when I bought this yarn for a different cardigan and laughed that the color was so bright it looked like Kermit the Frog. It should be noted here that I absolutely love Kermit the Frog. As I type this I have a Kermit mouse pad, Kermit is the screen background on my phone, I have a Kermit keychain, more than a few Kermit t-shirts, dolls, water bottles, and so on. He is one of my favorite characters of all-time and never fails to make me smile.

One day riding the ferry home from school, I was thinking about this sweater quantity of bright green yarn and saw a high school student wearing a varsity jacket. I started thinking about the history of varsity sweaters, Googled a bit about the meaning of the stripes, and by the time I reached Staten Island I had sketched out a little V-neck cardigan to declare my varsity-level Kermit love.

I found an iron-on Kermit patch and ordered it right away, then worked out the measurements from the custom-fit raglan worksheet linked above. I found a nicely coordinating darker green for the ribbing and stripes, and I decided that even though varsity sweaters customarily had stripes on only one sleeve, I would indulge myself in a bit of symmetry so both sleeves would match. Knitting the sweater was straightforward and fast, but then I hit a roadblock with the patch. As the yarn was 100% acrylic (chosen for economy, my super sensitive skin, and easy care) I was leery about ironing the patch on, as it would melt the acrylic along with the adhesive.

I sat with this problem for close to a decade, then finally came up with an incredibly obvious solution. I first ironed the patch onto a piece of quilting cotton, then made a sort of sandwich of this layer, the sweater, and a second piece of cotton for a backing.

I trimmed the fabric close to the patch and pinned it where I wanted it above my heart on the sweater.

I turned the edges under and appliquéd the fabric as close to the patch as I could get it, pulling the edges in and slightly under the patch as I worked my way around.

It came out quite clean, and I’m delighted with how securely and neatly it sits on the sweater without pulling or causing it to sag.

I hemmed the inner piece of cotton and tacked it at the corners, to catch all the thread ends and knots and to further stabilize the patch. I had a good laugh, as my brother joined me during this part and recognized the Kermit collar points and silhouette from this back side, asking, “Are you sewing a Kermit onto that sweater??”

It feels lovely to be so understood.

The buttons are a cheery red plastic value pack that I found on eBay back in 2012. I like the contrast and extra little zip they give. At the time I was preoccupied with button bands gapping, so I made these nice and wide, then placed the buttons so closely together that it is nigh on impossible for them to gap at all. Having all these big, bright goofy buttons works with the aesthetic, and I am even more charmed than I expected to be by the whole effect.

Overall I’m thrilled with this project and so glad I took my time in making the decisions I did to get exactly the silly idea I had in my head to become a reality. One of the things I love most about knitting is that you can make anything you imagine, in any size or color you like, with whatever details you want, and you will end up with a one-of-a-kind handmade creation. I am also delighted with the success in making a sweater custom to my measurements so that the sleeves have the right roominess I was looking for, the V-neck hits in just the right spot on my bust, and everything is the right length and fit for a truly comfortable, just-my-size, just-my-style, and just-my-level-of-ridiculous cardigan.

Or as Kermit would put it…

Previous Entries with this Project:
Varsity Kermit Sweater