Category Archives: socks

Toe-up or Top-down?

Which do you do? I’ve been knitting toe-up socks for some time and I have really enjoyed the process. I can now knit any sock using the knowledge I have about constructing a toe-up sock – the toe, the foot, the gusset increase, the heel flap, the gusset creation and the leg. See, it’s all easy – each part has its construction process, and if you follow it, there you are, a sock –  or two if you’re happy with the first one.

My most recent sock, however, is a top-down sock. Why? Because I’m going to the Sock Summit and I figured I needed a refresher so that I wouldn’t seem unknowledgeable in any of the classes I’ve registered for. Experience does count for something, after all.

I chose a very simple pattern called Faceted Rib Socks from the Little Box of Socks which I received for Christmas from Holli. I like the look of the pattern with the yarn I’m using, a 100% merino hand paint from Fleece Artist.

But it has not been a pleasant knit, not because it’s difficult, (it’s a 4 row pattern, easy-peasy), but because I seem to lose attention and after knitting blithely away, I have discovered at least 3 times that I’ve forgotten to knit one of the rows, so that I’ve needed to frog the sock, and get those silly stitches back on the needle. I also lost a stitch somewhere while knitting the heel (or maybe I gained one, who knows?), so when I discovered the missing stitch while knitting the gusset, I had to include an extra stitch so things would work out tidily. I also found that I lost interest as I knit, so that I often didn’t knit more than 8 rows before I would stop, put the needle down and do something else.


My faceted Rib Sock

My faceted Rib Sock

But there are positives. Now that I’m knitting the foot, I have not forgotten to knit any rows, so it’s finally growing without frogging. Small mercies. And I’m knitting using Magic Loop, which is so sensible. One needle, no fussing, no dangling needles as in two circ knitting poking through my shirt and tickling my chest. Although I would change the name Magic Loop if I could – no magic here, it’s just circular knitting in a very logical, mathematical fashion – thank heaven for the person who invented circs to begin with. Now that I’ve begun to use it, I see no need to ever go back to four needle or two circ knitting for my socks ever again. (Although that didn’t stop me from buying a set of five sock needles because they were made of hardened birch – something about those needles said, “Buy me”!, perhaps as museum pieces for my collection.)

So now I have to get back to knitting them. I have to get to the end of the foot, decrease for the toe, do the kitchener stitch on that, and then cast on all over again for the second sock. At least this time, it should be less knitting, because I won’t have to knit the two extra inches I did the first time before I realized, after frogging, that the sock was perfect at the shorter size.

Stitch detail

Stitch detail

 To get back to the question I asked at the beginning – top-down or toe-up? Well, to juggle language a little, toe-up wins hands-down. It’s easier for me because I have control over the length of the foot, I love using Turkish cast-on for the toe, and I really like not having to pick up stitches. Okay, I admit it, it wasn’t that hard to pick up those stitches, but it was still something I can do without.

Gusset detail

Gusset detail

What did I learn from my top-down sock experience? Well, yes, you can still knit it using Magic Loop; I learned a new cast-on for me, Twisted German Cast-on, which does give a good stretch to the cuff of the sock; I didn’t suffer too much from having to pick up some stitches, even if I did lose a stitch somewhere or other. I also learned that I have a rather limited attention span, and need to focus just a little better when I’m knitting so that I don’t forget to knit a row every now and again.

Cast on edge

Cast on edge

Another view of the cast on edge

Another view of the cast on edge

But the most important thing I learned? I really love knitting toe-up socks and I’m going right back to it as soon as I finish this pair. Yes, I can knit top-down, but darned if I have to. Thanks to Wendyknits, Cat Bordhi and all those others who went ahead and figured out how to knit our socks from the toe I know that knitting toe-up is the more pleasurable experience for me. And if it isn’t a pleasure, why do it? That is the question and the answer is obvious – don’t do it.


Anarchist Knitter Me!

I have a confession. I have considered entrelac one of my least favourite looks in knitting. I have seen some bad entrelac – a sweater in pale blue and white that made the woman wearing it look a lot like the Michelin man. It somehow seemed to be a technique that was more interesting in the theoretical sense than in real life.

But recently I have been guilty of actually knitting entrelac myself. And why? Because I feel that I need to learn more about knitting – to become a better knitter and to add to my knowledge of how knitting works. I have been discovering a few things and have recently been inspired by Anna Zilboorg’s Knitting for Anarchists. I told a friend that and he looked at me as if I had two heads – and immediately told me that I was no anarchist – to him I was a rule bound knitter who thought there was a right way and a wrong way to knit, and perhaps even that I thought that my knitting was the “right way”.

(I have included a link to the Amazon entry for Zilboorg’s book because if you scroll down far enough you will find several reviews that give you a better understanding of the book’s premises. One of the reviews is actually by Cat Bordhi.)

I admit it, I am certainly a rule follower, I like to follow a pattern, even though I have certainly done without. And I think I have been breaking out of that rule-bound shell. If you look back at my recent blog you can see my Elizabeth Zimmerman Seamless Hybrid Shirt Yoke sweater, which gave me a lot of unease, but which I feel I completed very successfully, even though I needed a little hand holding by a few fellow knitters to get through it.

But that wasn’t the first time I had knit an EZ sweater. I don’t have pictures, but in fact, about 20 years ago, I knit an EZ ski sweater in the round, using two colours, steeks and my own blocked out designs. So I certainly had a sense of adventure back then. I have also thrown myself into knitting lace, from a pattern, yes, but bravely, learning the ins and outs of the pattern as I went.

But let me get back to Entrelac. That friend I mentioned earlier has knit several entrelac pieces recently, including a sweater from a book called Out of Africa which he adapted as he went. The sweater is redeemed as well by the fact that it was knit in very fine yarn, so there is none of that puffiness that a larger yarn makes almost inevitable.

So I decided that I was not afraid to knit entrelac and that I would find a project to do. And since I have been knitting socks, and reading about knitting anarchy, I searched around and found the perfect project, the Entrelac Socks, designed by Vickie Starbuck, in Socks, Socks, Socks, edited by Elaine Rowley. The socks are done in the round, they are toe-up, they are entrelac – what more could I want. And I took my anarchist lessons to heart and taught myself how to purl backwards so that I could do the socks without constantly switching from one side to the other.

I was also inspired by the Yarn Harlot. A few weeks ago she posted a blog entry about the Toronto Pride Parade, and shared some of her yarn recommendations for Pride. And I happened to have a ball of Rainbow dyed sock yarn from Lorna’s Laces which has been in my stash about two years. Time to do something with it. So here’s your first look.

I have already finished sock number one. But there was I a little problem – sock number two would be a challenge since the yarn for it had already been knit into a hat. That hat was Half Dome from Knitty.Com. And I posted a picture of it on my blog way back in 2006. Here it is.

And here it is next to its friend the sock.

So obviously there was a dilemma here. But easily solved. I would rip the hat back, because to be honest I was never going to wear that hat, and nobody I knew was going to wear it either. And that gave me another challenge – what to do with yarn that has been a hat for two years. Boy, is it crinkly when it is frogged.

However, still acting as anarchically as possible for me, I remembered reading about how to get the crinkles out of knitting, so I first wound the yarn into a hank over the back of one of my chairs, then ran a nice sink of hot water, and after tying off the hank, I hurled it into the water and swished it around for a minute or so – and to my delighted surprise, it seemed that the crinkles came out instantly. I took the hank out, squeezed it to get out some of the water (someone suggested maybe I didn’t need to be as vigourous with the drying as I had described in an email), and then laid it on a towel to dry. A day later, that yarn was ready for knitting and I was happy because I could really consider that I could wear my Rainbow Entrelac socks at our upcoming Gay Pride Parade here in Vancouver.

So here I am, working on my anarchist skills, and knitting up a storm with some wild Rainbow socks. For those of you who like to get up close and personal, here is another look at my sock as it was growing under my needles. I’m working on sock two and it will certainly be finished in time for the parade. Look for me on the street – look down to see my socks, worn with Pride and a sense of accomplishment.

OMG – I just discovered that our friend The Yarn Harlot has knit the same entrelac socks, but her experience was somewhat interesting. Just for the record, I followed the instructions (such an anarchist) and had none of the problems that the Yarn Harlot had first, but which she apologizes for misunderstanding.

More socks

I’ve been very busy knitting socks. Since the most recent post about socks, I’ve finished at least five pairs. I bought Cat Bordhi’s new book, New Pathways for Knitters and the first sock I had to do was Coriolis. I knit it in a beautiful yellow-green yarn from Nature’s Palette and while it dyed my fingers green, it looks beautiful and I love the way the spiral curls up the leg. For the next Coriolis I knit I will add a couple of plain rows before knitting the purl row for turning so that there isn’t that little pook-out where the spiral ends.

The other sock, on my right foot, is Ambrosia by Anne Budd, published on Knitting Daily a while ago. I enjoyed knitting the cables and even got brave enough to do them without using a cable needle. I just dropped the stitches that needed moving, knit the appropriate stitches then picked the hanging stitches up with the needle and continued merrily along. I did have a problem with the socks though. The cable pulled the socks in so much that when I finished the heel I couldnt’ get the socks on. After some consultation, I ripped the socks back to below the heel, and added many more stitches to make the instep bigger. It worked, although the socks are still a little tight around the instep. I need to wear them a bit to make them stretch.

I’ve also knit two pairs of socks using the Canadian dyeing company Hand Maiden – a delight to knit because it is so soft. I love the feel of the yarn, with it’s blend of Merino, Cashmere, and nylon, and the socks are great. Both the socks are from New Pathways again – this time Upstream and Riverbed whose only difference is where the increases are – on the top for the first, and the bottom for the second. Upstream is the purple one, Riverbed the brown one. Riverbed was made for my husband and after I gave them to him to try on I told him he couldn’t really wear them till after they were introduced at the next West Coast Knitters Guild meeting a couple of weeks from now. He was very dutiful and gave them back to me, even though I know he wanted to wear them. Shame on me.

Here’s another pair I finished at least a month ago. I bought the yarn in Victoria, BC when I was there for the Fibre Fest. The yarn is Jitterbug. Too bad they are now a little too small for me, since I washed them. I love the colours.

Socks, Socks, Socks

I’ve been sock crazy for months – or as my GLBT list says, “I’ve gone over to the dark side”. Many, many socks have been knit, and yes, I do manage to complete a pair before I knit another. The socks you see here are a pair I knit after I first saw someone knitting with Koigu. I had to have some – it was like a drug – get it to me now. I knit these socks like crazy and they are certainly wonderful. One little note – I wore them once and after taking them off noticed that there was a line of soft abrasion right over my big toe on both socks. This yarn is obviously very soft. However, they have been washed a number of times now and they are holding up just fine. And another little note – they were knit toe-up with no picking up stitches on the side of the heel flap. Yes, there is a heel flap and a short row section to make the rounded section where the heel turns upwards. I love that.

The interesting thing about these socks is that they are part of a series I have been knitting using a left foot/right foot pattern which I adapted from an explanation of top-down socks knit this way. It took lots of concentration to get the pattern adapted – somehow it felt like knitting in a mirror; every thing I wrote had to be considered backwards from the way the pattern was written. It felt quite wierd.

Here’s a detail of the heel and the gusset. The gusset is knit right in and is very simple. It was taken from the sock design in for Widdershins socks, a pattern I loved. It was my first foray into toe-up socks and I found it a revelation. I have avoided socks because I didn’t want to deal with that heel flap – oh have I mentioned that I hate picking up stitches already? And look – a slip one knit one heel gusset, just like in a top down sock. I’m such an innocent – I didn’t even know it was possible. I have grown so much. (lol) Now I’m thinking I’m an expert, but then again – there’s more to come in future blogs about that…

And look – here is my very delicate heel and foot – a mere size 10.5 inch foot. That’s about average. Note the short leg above the heel – I’m not into tall socks ever since I started running and discovered short running socks. The top was cast off using the knit 2 tog thru back loop technique which gives a nice stretchy finish. One of the early socks I knit I cast off the normal way, but that was another lesson learned, since I could not get it over my ever-so delicate ankle. Thank heaven for yarn stores – I learned the technique I used here at one of my favorite yarn shops here in Vancouver – Three Bags Full, thanks to Francesca and Linda.

There are more socks waiting their turn to be blogged. I must be happy with this one for now. If I try to do too much, nothing will get done. That’s my style, and I have to live with it.