Category Archives: Socks

Easy Peasy Lace Socks – Idlewild

I am a lazy knitter in general, but with socks I am especially reluctant to do anything that requires me to look at a pattern.  I have made enough socks that I can take some yarn, guess at the gauge, and get going.  Self-striping yarn is a real bonus, because then it looks like I did something difficult, at least to a non-knitter.

However, I am trying to knit most of the projects in Drop Dead Easy Knits, so I pulled some light blue sock yarn out of the stash and cast on for the Idlewild Socks, designed by Kirsten Kapur. (photo by Gale Zucker)

knitting, book, hand knit, models

I can’t find the yarn label for the yarn I am using.  I think it is some Periwinkle Sheep I got at Sock Summit in 2009.  So yeah, it is well-aged.  I will use no yarn before its time!

Photo Aug 23, 8 06 03 AM

Back to the socks.  I did have to look at the pattern initially, but they are really drop-dead easy. (Branding, ya’ll!) There is only one round out of four that requires attention. I even took it to a St. Paul Saints game last night, and made good progress. Photo Aug 22, 9 02 46 PM

Truth in advertising! These are named for Idlewild Airport, because they are a good design to work on while waiting, and I agree.

I generally prefer to make socks on bamboo double points. I have a routine where I cast on one cuff, then the other, and do my two-at-time on-double points. This hasn’t been working so well for this pari. One thing I learned is that bamboo knitting needles must get more brittle with age. I am using US 0 needles, and have broken 2 so far.  Granted, I am a bit careless with where and how I stash a project bag, so I cannot blame it entirely on the needles.

Photo Aug 23, 8 28 17 AM

To safeguard my remaining needles, I switched to magic loop. I bought a set of tiny Chia Goo interchangeables a couple of years ago in a weak moment, and I have never used them.  Now is the time.

Photo Aug 23, 8 05 26 AM

I do really like them.  The cord is nice and flexible, the points are pointy, and so far I have not broken them, or even bent them.  So far. I dislike doing two at a time on one long circular, so I have to make do with sequential sock knitting.

By this time of year I generally have some socks set aside for holiday gifts, but as of today I have two only pair of heavy Oxbow socks, and now 1.5 Idlewild socks. If I intend to do gift socks, I’d better get cracking.

Are you still knitting socks?  Got a drawerful yet?


Twelfth Night I Think

Could be last night or the night before, depending on who you ask.  Whichever, the Lord of Misrule must be setting up the weather.  Minus 7 F and bitter windchills.  This was most welcome to sit and knit and read by:


The Holiday Recap: Present-making was limited this year, as those adult children have such busy lives.  We did one big gift.  This was the inspiration, a fake advertisement:

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IMG_2210I did socks, some of which didn’t quite fit and now have to be adjusted.  It adds to the legend when you say you can do that, of course.  My goddaughter said the ones I made her from leftovers  are her favorites of all the ones I have ever made her.  (She is a big charity shop devotee.)  I meant to get  an Esther Williams type photo of all the feet but the mayhem was too much.


My basic sock over 48 sts with a K3, P1 rib.  The yarn is leftover sport weight sock yarn Supersocke 6-Ply Wohlfühl Color, now discontinued. I wish I had bought more. Here’s a pair made from one skein.

basic socks sport

I did some hats, too. Action shots from our mid-day walk, with a bit of freshly falling snow for atmoshphere.–  a Big Flap Hat in Rasta, from Malabrigo.  (Such lovely yarn!)  And a Hugs and Kisses Hat in Cascade 128 superwash.


A slightly better shot of the little hat, with the back of my husband’s Nansen I knitted a zillion years ago:


Now to my favorite time of winter, no fuss, no muss, no gardening, just reading and knitting and trying to stay warm.  Best wishes to all of you for 2015.




Knitting, Walking, and Memory

I’m sure most knitters/crafters have had this experience – you pick up your work and start knitting, and as you knit, you remember last night’s movie, or meeting, or conversation with friends. A bit of online searching turned up many scholarly research papers on topics such as “multisensory associative learning.” I don’t have the stamina to follow these up at the moment (or probably ever) but since what we learn enters our brain through sensory channels, such as sight or smell or touch, the ability to remember when that sense is stimulated makes, well, sense.

Last Sunday morning I picked up a sock, the second of a pair, and found that my careful grafting and weaving in of ends was time wasted. I had to pick it apart because it was shorter than its mate. I’m not all that fussy, but really, a pair of socks that will be a gift should be at least close to the same size. As I was putting the sock back on the needle, I had the familiar sensation of remembering the movie I was watching the night before. Now, of course, I can’t tell you what movie it was.  (The socks in question are the purple stripe.  This is the pile of Christmas socks finished to date.)

2014-12-14 09.59.30

Later that same day, I had a more surprising memory experience. I went for a walk into a wooded park area, not far from home. The winter my horse died I walked in there frequently. I needed more time in the woods, something riding had provided me. My foster horse now gets me into the woods, so I hadn’t been there much since then.  It was a grey, miserable afternoon, but I needed a walk break. As I stepped onto the lightly snow-covered path, Dickens came flooding back to me. (That winter when I walked that path often, I had been listening to an audiobook of Our Mutual Friend.)  All of a sudden, bobbing to the surface of my brain was the Golden Dustman, the River Thames, and especially a very funny scene where a semi-literate market stall owner is hired to read The Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire to the illiterate Golden Dustman.  Is walking also a pathway to memory?

winter walkrosehips

I think 19th Century giant novels like Dickens make satisfying audiobooks. Since they were often published in serial form, they work well as chapters picked up here and there, say when going for a walk on a cold, grey day. There is very little effort required to keep track of the goings on –

“But in the nineteenth century, breaking down the novel’s bulkiness into twenty snippets of entertainment allowed readers to “inhabit” a world, like a television soap opera, in manageable segments. Deprived of the luxury of installment reading, readers today find features of Dickens’s prose overbearing that would be much more appealing if read, especially read aloud, over a year and a half.”  Robert L. Patten

I don’t typically listen to modern novels as audiobooks. Somehow they don’t work for me. I just finished Life after Life by Kate Atkinson, which really enjoyed, but can’t imagine it as an audiobook.

What do you listen to when knitting, or driving, or walking?

Craft Friday: The Magic of Making

Beverly at Pomogolightly is having another CraftFriday, instead of Black Friday. I avoid even grocery stores on Black Friday if I can help it. (For those fortunate enough not to know what that is – it is a push for sales the day after American Thanksgiving to get your books in the black.  It has gotten waaay out of hand.) I plan to shop in my stash. Although one must be careful shopping in stash.  I was working on a pair of mittens for the mitten drive at work using a ball of  lovely lovely turquoise yarn.  More than a few rounds into the second one, I realized it was not the same turquoise yarn as I had used for the first.  Some idiot had wound two different yarns into the ball of leftovers.  Some idiot too lazy to turn a light on in her workroom?  Fortunately, this same idiot had another ball of the right yarn.   Can you tell I worked on this second one at the office, while on a webinar?

emergency stitch holder

A paper clip makes quite a satisfactory temporary stitch holder.

I am also cranking out gift socks, resting up for more complicated labors yet to come.

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I am feeling a bit sad that I am too far away from my great niece to start the gift making traditions. There is such magic in making things.

I was pondering the magic part this morning when I serendipitously read two posts – one by Franklin Habit, and one by Donna Druchunas, both on the magical aspect of craft.  Donna quotes Neil Shubin, Your Inner Fish 

“The hand actually defines us in many ways. When you think about what makes our species unique and special, it’s having thoughts and being able to make those thoughts real. And the way our thoughts become real is through use of our hands to build things, to make things.”

And that is magic, of a sort.  Are you planning any magic?  If you need inspiration, pop on over to Pinterest and see Beverly’s Craft Friday board.

I plan to shop in my stash, but with the light on.

Knitting Two Socks at a Time on Double Pointed Needles

I bumped into my friend Bob in the Skyways of downtown St. Paul the other day. He is a knitter, and after discussing naughty puppies and naughty horses, he brought up second sock syndrome.  I explained to him my approach to avoiding second sock syndrome, using double-pointed needles:



You may think it an attempt to trick you, but really, it is so simple.  Two sets of sock needles, wind the yarn into two balls.  Work one cuff, then the other, one leg, then the other, etc. etc.

I have tried to do the two socks on one long circular.  This pair started out that way, to help  a knitting student who wanted to learn the technique.  Seriously, to me it is one big pain in the rear. Fussy, tangled, and more trouble than it is worth.  To me.  I have many friends who prefer that approach and I hope they continue to be happy with it.  When a student asks “Is it really better?” I tell them they’ll have to try it and see.  I prefer working socks on double pointed needles, and two sets helps me to avoid Second Sock Syndrome.

Another ‘time saver’ that I don’t find saves me any time is cabling without a cable needle.  Perhaps that conversation is better left for another day.

On the topic of Wise and Foolish Virgins, Stashdragon left me a link to an article on Norwegian Tapestries that includes a photo of the original. Don’t just look at the photos, though, it is really an interesting bit of writing, including the tale of a weaver who argued with the carpenter building her loom.  She ended up being burnt as a witch.


Is something retrograde?

I was planning a perfectly-executed knitting remodel (thanks, Jocelyn, for the language) of my gansey.  This weekend, however, had other plans, and all I have to demonstrate is how easy it is to make mistakes, and the longer you have been knitting, the easier it is.  I have a knitting friend who is also a stunt woman, and she says the stunts you get hurt on are the ones you do so often they are second nature.  You just forget to pay attention.  I clearly have not been paying attention.  Here’s a shot of the gansey, with some nice bright yellow basted down the center cutting line.  I wondered whether to hand or machine sew on either side of the line, deciding that small machine stitches would make most sense here, since it isn’t a nice, flat stockinette steek .  That way the stitches would be good and tight and never go anywhere.  Ever.  Thank goodness I remembered to photograph it for the blog…

since that is the BACK of the sweater.  At least I saw it while taking the photo and before I started flashing the scissors around.  Picking out the small machine stitches was a real treat.

Next up was a pair of socks that was, if truth be told, only 1.5 socks.  Sometime last year I set them aside, mostly because I wasn’t enjoying the needles I was working with.  (More on those later in the week, I hope.) I gritted my teeth and set to the second sock.  It was taking FOREVER.  It also seemed wide, but given the needles and the fact that I started it last year, I thought it was my gauge, so I knit tighter.  That made it really super fun.  I finally counted the stitches in preparation for turning the heel.

Yes.  22 stitches more than needed.  Certainly 22 sts more than sock number one. I considered just leaving it that way, since they were for me, but  decided that was just plain lazy and stupid.  So I cast on for a new second (third?) sock.  This time, I used different needles.  I may be a slow learner, but eventually I get there. I also took the socks to Week Two of my beginning knitting class for show and tell.  I think they enjoy seeing that I just don’t sit around all smarmy turning out perfectly-knit items.  Or maybe it just makes them fear they will end up like me.  If that’s the case, a cautionary tale is always a good thing.

Then on Monday, a day off,  both the kitchen sink and utility sink (where the washer drains) backed up.  After a couple of hours, I was all for calling in the professionals, but them are fighting words around here.  Many hours later (“Run more water in the other sink.  Can you go to the store and get another snake? OK, pull the plug.  Yell down when the sink is empty.”) we had clear running drains.  I would still have preferred that the plumber do it while I sat around knitting and waiting to write a check.  I won’t even talk about the banking/download mishaps.  Are the planets aligned again?  Can I try to cut the gansey?  Stay tuned.


Mud Plus Wool Equals Good

Here’s a testimonial to hand knit wool socks, in case you ever need one.    For those unfamiliar with mud season, and the power of mud to say, suck the boots right off of one’s feet, here’s a cautionary tale.  Don’t be lazy, tighten the laces on your boots.


I was out at the barn, walking in the nearly ankle deep combination of mud and manure in the pasture — not deep at all in mud season terms — when I took a step that left one of my boots behind.  I’m not sure exactly what transpired, or what laws of motion and physics were at play.  (It all happened so fast, doc.) There I was, ankle deep in mud and manure wearing only my hand knit wool socks, my boots several feet apart from one another, and several feet away from me.  I must have shrieked, because some friends came running, then began shrieking themselves, falling on the ground, laughing.  The horses were totally uninterested in my predicament.  I stood for a few moments trying to choose a course of action.  I decided the best thing to do was keep walking in my socks, grab the boots, then get in to the wash stall.  I left the socks on, and hosed my feet off until the water ran clear.  Put my boots back on, and had warm comfortable feet the rest of the afternoon.  Of course, it was about 58 degrees, so hardly freezing, and the boots are insulated.  Nevertheless, this wouldn’t have been as successful with cotton socks, I’m sure.  Testimonials available to those skeptics who say when they see you knitting socks, “You know you can buy them for really cheap at Target.”  And no, the boots do not stink now.  The interior is nice and clean.  Love that wool.

Although I may be a loser in the grace department, I am a still a winner!  Look at the beautiful yarn I won from the fabulous Knititch‘s contest.


It’s organic laceweight singles, enough to make an enormous shawl, from  Garthenor Organic Yarns in Wales.  It came with the spinning oil still on it, and I was anxious to see how it felt, so I immediately washed and wound one of the balls.  Gorgeous, and it still smells a bit of lanolin.

I’ve been burning the midnight oil at work.  No, all government employees don’t disappear at 4:30. I have to tell everyone from the president to the janitor it seems, what we  plan to do with the stimulus funds and no bonuses are involved, rest assured.   Some work involved a trip to Washington DC where I bought this locally dyed yarn by Woolarina at Stitch DC.  I’m thinking Lace Baby Cardigan or Overlap Sweater.  Isn’t that a cute tag?



Dreaded Droop

I opened the freezer at work the other day and saw this — only in Minnesota.


I finished one (and one half) Welsh Travelling Sock from Shear Spirit.


I’m using Malabrigo Sock in a gorgeous red (Tiziano) that I am unable to capture. I started looking at the manual for my camera (Fuji E550. )  I bought it several years ago, and keep meaning to figure out the non-point and shoot features.  It has a macro feature, which really shows the nonblocked beauty of the stitch, and a slightly closer version of the color:


This is a fun stitch. I made a heavy sweater/jacket with it about 15 years ago. I thought the nature of the pattern, with the combination of slipping and stockinette, would stabilize the garter and keep the garment from stretching. I put in a zipper and lined it for more stretch prevention. The yarn I used was a soft, silvery, unspun Icelandic from Schoolhouse Press. One of the first days I wore it, a beautifully dressed woman stopped me and told me it was “Drop Dead Gorgeous.”   Of course, I couldn’t resist telling her I had designed and made it myself.   My smug preening did not last long, however.  A more accurate phrase might have been “Droop Dead Gorgeous.” Within about a month it was down to my knees everywhere but the zipper, and the lining was all pooched up. I removed the zipper and the lining and tried to felt it. That was a joke. I ended up throwing into the goodwill bin. I hope someone looking for a thrifting opportunity found it and made something fun.

In retrospect, with a few more years of yarn knowledge under my belt, I think a tightly plied yarn might have stood up. Well, a yarn with any plies would have been an improvement. I had seen a coat Meg Swansen made with the same yarn, without making the connection that hers was snugly stranded colorwork at a fairly tight gauge.  I haven’t given up my aspiration to make a knitted coat.  In fact,  I have looked longingly at the back belted jacket (Ravelry link)  by Bonne Marie Burns in the new Mason Dixon Knitting, but am still a bit gun shy. If anyone has made this, I’d love to hear how it holds up. (Not down.)


Sock Pattern as Promised

We are coming out of the deep freeze here. It was 24 below zero a few mornings last week. We were scheduled to have insulation blown into the sidewalls of the house on Thursday, but it was too cold. They came Friday and it was still really, really, really cold. I felt terrible sitting in the warm house, watching these guys out my windows. It was a Little Match Girl moment. Pardon me while I eat my roast goose.

Finally, here are the Tendrils Rib Socks. (available at the Yarnery or Ravelry.)


They were test knit not without some trials and tribulations. Chris bravely made top down socks, and managed to overcome her fear of the heel-flap-hanging-in-space. Gale was dedicated, but not quite willing to put her life on the line. The final pair in the photo were made with the beautiful Yarni, hand dyed right in North Saint Paul by a Yarnery staffer. The color is called foggy lake, but to it looks a bit more like a winter dawn on a cloudy morning. That sounds unpleasant, but it’s not. The muted colors of the dormant trees and shrubs contrasted on the snow are subtle, but lovely — like this yarn color.

Speaking of socks, this sort of thing really irritate irritates me. Just past the reinforcing yarn.


I know that many other media outlets are competing for space regarding our incoming president. I just wanted you all to see what I got in the mail:


It is on creamy thick paper with raised gold lettering, but it didn’t come with a ticket or a travel voucher. I wasn’t that large a donor! But really, don’t you wish you could be there?

Also, check out the profile of Barack and Michelle from 1996 in this week’s New Yorker. That’s the kind of man I want to see in the White House.


December Stitches

November is gone. All those folks out there swe-moing and wri-moing and nan-blo-po-moing were having fun and I got to read about it. I was wmao –ing, so not wanting to sit at the computer in the evening after a long day of computer sitting. I also had dental surgery and need to have more. Whine whine.

I experienced a lovely little December activity yesterday – I dug up the last of my leeks and potatoes. I had mulched them with hay about a month ago, waiting to see how they would hold up. They held up just fine, and the leek and potato soup is excellent. I expect I could mulch the potatoes heavily and still dig them up in January, but really, I just don’t think I could motivate to go dig when the temperature is hovering near zero, or the hay is under a foot of snow.

I have been knitting away, of course, and got some new designs done. Have you ever found a stitch pattern that just grabs you by the fingers and drags you along, so you finish a project you weren’t even planning to start? I recently found one of those. I am always looking for simple stitch patterns, suitable for socks, that are easily memorized and have several plain or almost plain rounds for resting and pretending to take notes during meetings. I started a pair of socks in some stash superwash DK in what I’m calling Tendrils Rib. (It’s Japanese, so it doesn’t have any name I can determine.)


As I worked on the socks, I thought that they were so cozy and snug feeling, that the pattern might work perfectly for mitts.


Yes, it does. (Pattern for these now at The Yarnery, soon to be up on Ravelry and in my shop.)

Well, what about more mitts? What about a hat?


I am thinking of mittens next.

I like twisted stitches, but not too many in one pattern, since my personal knitting technique causes me to twist my wrist a bit more than usual and I end up a little sore. These have only a few twists, just enough to make the ribbing snug and attractive, but not too many to be irritating.

There are lots of way to do left and right twists. Right twists are simple, knit two together, then knit the first stitch again and slip the stitches off the needle. Left twist can be more problematic. You can work it like a tiny cable, taking one stitch off, working the next, then putting the first stitch back on the needle. It looks good, but is way too much trouble to me. I have sampled several other techniques:

Left Twist (LT) Methods

  • Skip the first stitch and knit into the back of second stitch, knit the skipped stitch, then slip both stitches from needle.
  • Skip the first stitch and knit into the back of the second stitch, then knit the skipped stitch through the back of the loop and slide the entire unit off your needle.
  • Skip the first stitch and knit into the back of the second, then knit BOTH stitches together through the back of the loop and slide the entire unit off your needle

I used the first technique, because although the left leaning twist stitches don’t look as smooth as the right twist, it is easy to work, and doesn’t tighten up the left twist more than the right twist, at least the way I knit. There is one technique that has you purl into the back of the second stitch. Unless there is a really good reason to purl into the back of a stitch from the right side, I’m not going to do it. It’s so awkward. That reminds me of a student in my class the other night, learning how to increase by knitting into the front and back of a stitch. She is a very quick learner and I’m not sure why she was having so much trouble with this. So much trouble, in fact, that this pre-med student said she found cutting up cadavers simpler. Must smell worse, though.

Now I’m using the new Malabrigo Sock yarn for a lighter weight sock. The Malabrigo colors are gorgeous, and it is quite soft. The wear factor is yet to be determined. IT was hard to photograph, so I tried to scan it, but that didn’t work much better. If you can find the yarn in person, go look for yourself.


Anyone out there who would like to test knit the socks, or the mitts, or the hat, let me know. I’d love it.