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September 12, 2008

Semi-wool socks: My first!

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What was in the bag? Mystery solved!


I'm not sure I would have ever of my own volition picked up some yarn and needles and started knitting socks. But Lark Books is coming out with a sock-only book next year and they asked me to contribute a little blurb about knitting my first pair of socks. Which meant I had to learn how to actually knit a pair of socks!

My first socks are a worsted wool pair of foot-warming stripedness (so useful in the Valley!) I used a yarn called Classic Worsted Tapestry by Universal Yarn, Inc., purchased at A Mano Yarn shop when I was there using my giftcard on my birthday. I thought it was very reasonably priced at around six bucks a skein, and they say it takes one skein per sock (but I have A LOT of yarn left over!) I've seen some sock yarns that are $20 a skein, and this one knit up just as pretty as anything twice its price!

I'll save most of my commentary for the sock book, but I will say that knitting those mittens a while back certainly made me more confident to pick up stitches, which seems to be one of the main troubling spots in something sock-like. I also used an AWESOME pattern, "Beginner Socks" by Knitting Pure & Simple, a pattern also purchased the same day at A Mano thanks to the wise advice of store co-owner Annette (thank you!!). I'm very critical of most patterns because I think a lot of the ones I've read are almost deliberately obtuse, using shorthand when real words would help. This pattern was very clear and easy to follow, down to how many stitches you should have on each needle. It is kind of rare for me to be loving a pattern (I'm a tough crowd over here in Gone With The Pattern land) so it was a happy day to find a GREAT pattern like this one, it is really well done, and perfect for beginners. Here is a list of where you can buy the pattern. I plan to buy as many different patterns as I can find by Knitting Pure & Simple, the way the writer explains things makes perfect sense to me.

When I bought my first sock pattern Annette helped me figure out the right yarn to use with it, this is why it's so nice having access to local yarn shops and their expertise. I can't tell you how many times I've bought yarn for a project but don't have a pattern or the other way around, a pattern and no yarn and then the project just stalls forever. Having all the supplies together at one time was a good start.

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Frankie likes yarn.

There was only one area where I got momentarily stumped when making these socks. With knitting I always find it's easier to go ahead and try the stitch or decrease or whatever and see if you can muddle through instead of freezing with self-induced Stitch Fear Paralysis. So when I got to SSK (slip one as if to knit, slip one as if to purl, then place the tip of the left needle into the fronts of these stitches and knit them) I had a little trouble envisioning how this would happen. So I tried it -- no problem slipping the stitches, it was the knit I was worried over -- and yet I couldn't figure out how to knit them together. Turns out that I was trying to knit them with the left needle instead of doing the knit portion with the right-hand needle, a feat only accomplished after visiting my favorite knitting website, KnittingHelp.com. I LOVE THAT WEBSITE. If you ever can't figure out a stitch, just go there and watch the videos, it's amazing. I wish the woman (or women? not sure) who run that site would get a million-dollar award, they have helped me so many times and I love those videos. This KnittingHelp page is where I figured out my SSK decrease, on that page it is called "SSK Improved."

In the end, socks are like all knitting -- what you make of it. I know some people are religious about socks and that is lovely, I am religious about champagne and good cheese and also potatoes. Well, food in general. I will definitely make socks again, though I think hats are still my favorite portable piece (turning the heel of that first sock while on the crosstown bus was a BIG mistake) and I liked how quickly this particular pattern knit up, worsted weight = fast! It's always important, too, to take the extra time in the very beginning and knit a gauge swatch (I personally like swatching but I am demented, or so I am told) and as I am always hopeful and optimistic with my first cast-on stitch, I usually try knitting my gauge swatch in the recommended needle size. It never works out for me, of course, but I still hope.

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Bus knitting.

This pattern called for five stitches to the inch and on the recommended size 6 needle I was getting six stitches to the inch. Up to a size 7 needle and I was getting 5.5 stitches per inch. At first I was dismayed (slightly) that I had to go up two full needle sizes to get my gauge right (from a six to an eight! no way!), but then I remembered I had two sets of size eight double-pointed needles in my knitting needle stash and it ended up great for me to be a SupaTight Knitter, since I could knit both socks at roughly the same pace, casting on the cuff for one and then knitting it to the heel turn (all easy enough since there was no counting) and then pausing. Then I cast on for sock two and knit the cuff and was able to compare my socks next to each other for a very close match in size. I know there is a fancypants way of doing this on one circular needle and so on but this pattern specifies how many stitches per needle using regular double-pointed needles and it's pretty step-by-step, something I liked and anyway, I already had all those size eight double-points. I don't think I'd ever used them before!

This yarn was beyond pretty -- I used color 7020. I'd make these again, no doubt. It took me a few days to make them both, because I am slow and I wasn't really able to knit the more complicated heel stuff while on the bus.

Don't know what my next project will be, I wish the weather would turn cold soon, a good chilly 70 degree day is what I need to feel inspired!

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Bob -- not impressed.

Posted by laurie at September 12, 2008 9:51 AM