Posts categorized "socks"

Review: Custom Socks - Knit to Fit Your Feet

It's HERE!

Kate Atherley's new, fabulous book that will become THE guide to making socks that fit your feet (and the feet of anyone you wish to knit for).  

Custom Socks

I have been waiting for her book since I had the privilege of reading a very early draft a few years back.  Kate knew that I've had some troubles making socks to fit the growing-boy in my life and her advice has made me a better sock knitter and ensures Xander will have the hand-knit socks he loves.  

Full disclosure: Kate is a personal friend--we share a love of good beers, spreadsheets and general geekery.

I know I sound a bit fan-girl about this book, but I can't help it--it has DATA (and I love data).

For this book, Kate conducted an online survey of sorts, asking knitters of the internet to provide foot measurements--lots of measurements from lots of feet.  She used this information and her clever math skills to determine the dimensions of an "average" foot.  Kate noticed that a lot of feet had similar proportions: foot length to foot circumference, heel diagonal to foot circumference etc.  Using this information she was able to provide both a standard sock construction (in a bunch of sizes and gauges) and could also provide instructions for "outlier" feet to customize the fit.

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Her research is outlined in the book and it's the basis for what amounts to about 100 standard socks patterns fitting children through to adults (with large feet like Xander's) in a range of gauges in both top-down and toe-up configurations AND a guide to knitting the socks that work for any foot you can measure.

Like all of Kate's books, measuring and planning is everything.  Custom Socks provides detailed instructions on how to measure a foot and determine where the not-so-average parts are.  She takes a gentle approach for the measuring- and math-shy, walking the reader through her method in an easy-to-read fashion with good visuals.  Knowing the foot you are knitting for makes all the difference and by following her guide you can plan for the problem spots and knit a sock that fits.  The book has lots of advice that isn't measurement dependent including where to add reinforced stitches to prevent premature wear, how to choose the right yarn and how to break the rules when needed (e.g. if your feet aren't the same size, knit two different socks!)

There are also chapters on Yarn, Needles and Gauge and Adding Stitch Patterns which is where Kate starts showing her beautiful designs--plain socks are great, but sometimes a knitter wants to have some fun and these patterns don't disappoint.  

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Patterns for lace, cables, stitch patterns, fair isle and the most amazing knee socks are in this book (I've already purchase my yarn to make these).  

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Makes your knitting heart sing...right?

The final portion of the book is all about customization.  Kate takes some of the more common non-average situations and provides expert advice on how to customize a sock to fit: skinny and shapely legs, larger and smaller ankles, low and high arches (my sock nemesis, we meet again) and toe shaping (bet you haven't considered that one before--I certainly didn't).  Again, the book takes a guided approach to the measuring and math, walking the knitter through the steps to determine a solution to the sock knitting issue.  

Kate's approach can be a bit of tough medicine: you have to measure, and swatch and plan before jumping into a project (even the simple sock) but the payoff is worth it--you make beautiful socks that fit, you rip less and you become a better knitter.

Want some proof?  Kate has been tutoring me on how to make a sock to fit Xander.  He has size 12 feet thin legs and an enormous instep (seriously, that's a 7.5" dpn), and he has socks that fit!

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I've already measured Emma's foot for her next pair of socks and was almost disappointed to find out her feet and absolutely average--I wanted to take Custom Socks through the full method for this review.  Then I realized, knowing this was just as good.  I can knit the standard sock for her foot and be confident it'll fit and I'll have a happy kid in Spock Socks (yarn is Live Long and Prosper by Turtlepurl).

Custom Socks is an excellent addition to any sock-knitter's library.  And a great guide for a new-to-socks-knitter or the sock-knitting wary.  I highly recommend it.


Knitters, we have a problem

I have knit all my travel knitting.

I thought I brought ample supplies. I had two easy projects and a difficult one. Lots of yarn for a family trip to Ottawa with a short stop at the cottage in Tweed. Usually I don't have a lot of time to knit. In fact, I played a lot of Two Dots and didn't knit when I opportunities. My knitting was even confiscated during out tour of the Parliament building.

It should have been enough.

I finished Rickenbacker before we left Ottawa. It needs a solid blocking and then it will be a perfect little scarf.

I finished the second sleeve of my Rhinebeck sweater (Brandied Cherry) on the drive to Tweed and the first few hours at the cottage. Frankly, that was unexpected...I got into the groove of the stitch pattern and just chugged along.

So I started the front. The hard part. The cables for which I must follow a chart. I haven't knit cables in a long while and it was great. I sat on the deck, half watched the lake and knit. I almost ran out of battery on my ipad which has the chart. That would have bought me some later knitting time now that I think about it.

Then I ran out of the yarn so had to shelve that project. Totally surprised me.

I didn't knit again yesterday because I knew I only had one project left. My always-in-my-purse project. Socks. Almost done socks. Crap, why didn't I bring more knitting socks.

It was a lovely afternoon again on the deck. Interspersed with some Twitter and Two Dots and Netflix. Then they were done. The ends woven in.

I guess I can wear them home in the car. Where I have a 2 1/2 hour drive and NO KNITTING.

NEXT TIME I BRING ALL THE YARN.

 


Their feet grow up so fast

Xander is a growing boy who likes handknit socks.  

2003:

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2008:

Xander sock

2010:

image from farm5.static.flickr.com

And has a nostalgic mother. (OMG he's so cute!)

Actually Xander is a giant teen who really likes handknits socks and has a mother who is happy to knit for him because he's so appreciative.  Even for a 13 year old who is 5'9" and growing and has size 12 feet and a huge instep.

Non-knitters: This is what motherly love looks like.

Xander noticed his last pair of socks were too small and asked to be next in the sock queue.  I wanted to knit socks and asked him to choose from my stash. He chose Into the Whirled, The 'Verse colourway.

I loved his choice.

I started knitting.  I decided on top down (so I had control over the heel and could lengthen the foot if needed in the future).  I also went with a 2x2 ribbed cuff to work with growing, but still skinny legs.

I thought it was all going so well.  I added an extra inch to the heel flap compared to the last pair I knit for him.  Xander has a HUGE instep and I knew from Kate's wise counsel (and fabulous books) that a bigger heel flap means a bigger gusset and more stitches to decrease at the instep.

I was impressed with myself that I THOUGHT this through and had a PLAN.

Turns out I still think my baby is baby sized:

image from flic.kr

He can't even get his foot in.  Crap.

image from flic.kr

We talked and I said I could rip back to the heel flap and try again or I could keep these for me (or Emma who is eyeing them hungrily) and he could have the next pair.  And if he didn't like anything in my stash we would go and buy something especially for him.

Xander was sad but then made an excellent point: he is growing.  Fast and often.  He doesn't wear socks in the summer.  It would be better to keep these for me and make his next so they would be done when he was ready to wear them.

Smart kid.

And I get some kick-ass socks. (Already on the second one).

image from flic.kr


So maybe I can knit nice things

I'm happy to report two finished objects that I am rather pleased with.

I finally finished the Willow and Oz knee socks I started in October.

Randomly striped knee socks are definitely nifty, but these were a slog. I think it was the knitting with two balls of yarn. Not portable and a bit fiddly.

Emma loves them and that makes me happy. The colours are fantastic: Indigodragonfly merino sock in My world is all askew and Hootenanny: Well it's chock full of hoot, just a little bit of nanny.

And yesterday I finished something nice for me:

Sweetums fingerless mitts in beautiful Indigodragonfly merino silk. This is not a colour I would pick for myself. That the nice thing about clubs. They push you outside of your normal boundaries. Now that they're done I love them. The colour is so pretty (top photo is more accurate; it's hard to photograph your own hands).

These were the ones I stumbled on a few weeks back. Once I got over that it was smooth sailing and for a little bit I felt like I had my knitting groove back.

They're very warm and cozy. And sadly, still needed. Actually, it was too cold to wear them today.

I think I'm going to stick with some small things, it feels good to finish some pieces that I'm happy with.

 


New Toes

Generally I subscribe to the Yarn Harlot's "oh darn" method of sock repair, whereby one holds worn through, thin, hole ridden socks over a waste receptacle, says "oh darn" in a clear voice, and drops the socks in the waste bin. I figure I have lots of sock yarn in the stash and I like knitting socks, and sometimes the holes are just too big to deal with any other way.

Not my Monkey socks. I like them a lot. They fit right and the yarn (Oak Grove) is pretty. I properly darned the toes on these a few times, switched the foot I wore them on to wear out another spot and I even babied them a bit.

This winter when I went to wear them, I noticed another hole in the toe and that there really wasn't much left to darn. I decided to rip out the toe and add a brand new one.

This is relatively easy on a cuff-down sock.

First, snip the yarn below the lowest hole. Grab a dpn and start unravelling the yarn.

I found I sometimes had to unravel a couple of rows because some of the darning yarn was in the lower rows. When I was done I had a little toe cup full of holes off the sock.

Then all you have to do is put the live stitches back on the needles and work a new toe. I used Kate Atherley's method so I don't even have to graft. And, I found a teeny little bit of the original yarn so my toes match.

Now my socks are good as new.

 


Christmas Knitting Round Up

December was sort of busy.  I got into a big fun groove of Christmas knitting.  I didn't really plan to make things for everyone but since I wasn't running I had all this TIME, so I just started making stuff.

(And I want to say a big thanks to everyone who commented about my back and my decision to take a break from running.  It's been 6 weeks and I'm still cranky about it.  Having your stories of finding new physical activities and of recovery really helped me).

 

A hat for Craig

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He picked the yarn when we were visiting Kim and Ron of Indigodragonfly this summer.  It's hard to say no when your sweetie chooses a bright yarn and asks for you to knit something.

Simple watch cap.  A lot of ribbing.  Craig asked for it to be longer and it ended up too long.  It's pretty silly, but fine with the hem folded over. Seriously, I don't let him out like that.  

Pattern: Pismo Hat

Yarn: Indigodragonfly Merino Sock in Zen and the Art of Clown Disposal

A hat for Emma

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She chose the pattern and the inner liner colour.  I didn't have anything suitable in the stash, so I picked up this stripey yarn.  Emma has a yellow pea coat, so it's a good match.

Pattern: Brimley

Yarn: Biscotte and Cie Gobelin and Tosh Dk

Mittens for Xander

He asked for mittens.  That's a quick and easy project.  I tried Elizabeth Zimmerman's mitred mittens. Very fun.  All from leftovers.

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Socks for Mom


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By request.  I've made my mother socks before and she's only really liked plain socks in a commercially spun wool/nylon yarn.  So that's what she got.

I used Kate Atherley's pattern from her new book: Beyond Knit and Purl.  I do better with a pattern than when I wing it.  This way I have some numbers written down!

Pattern: Classic Top Down Sock

Yarn: Opal Feelings

A Scarf for my Memere

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It's hard to buy a gift for your 86 year old grandmother.  A handknit cashmere scarf really does seem like the most appropriate thing.

She doesn't knit so it's extra special (and she brags about me to her friends!)

Pattern: Miss Otis Regrets (fabulous 1 skein project)

Yarn: Handmaiden Cashmere

Something for Charity

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This was a totally last minute crazy idea.  We have a charity auction at the President's holiday party to benefit a mental health initiative on campus.  This year donations were down and when the call came out, I decided to knit up a scarf.  In a weekend.

It's not so hard when you have a yummy 50/50 merino silk single in the stash.  It sold for enough money to make me feel good about the donation (I would have bought it myself if needed) and someone has something pretty.

I confess I'm not keen on the colours, but the knitting was lots of fun.

Pattern: Noro bias lace scarf 

Yarn: Schaeffer Helene


While I was away

Uh, sorry, I disappeared for a few weeks there.  I was on holiday for the last two weeks of August and really ramped down my time on line.  I think it's good to do that sometimes--disconnect and play.  I wasn't completely off--I still read Twitter and I was never without internet--but I just scaled back.  No checking work email, no looking at tweets throughout the day, no blogging or hanging out online...less of it all.  

Now I'm back to work, the kids are back in school and the laziness of Summer is slowly ramping up to the busy times of Fall.  Looking at the photos from my time off, I can say I'm not ready.

And, I miss attending TIFF.  I think heading out for a crazy number of movies made a nice bridge into Fall. Next year I think I'll take a few days off and see some movies.  I'm writing it down to remind myself!

So what did I do while I was away?  Lots of reading, knitting, hanging out with the kids and a whole lot of unstructured time.  We clean some rooms (big decluttering), I finally painted the basement stairs (I'm not even going to look in the archives to see when they were installed.  It was at least 2 years ago that I primed them) and got to some neglected around the house stuff.  

We also had a mini-family reunion at my cousin's pool (so much fun) and took it easy.

For example: Fan Expo

Emma is turning into quite the fan-girl so jumped at the chance to hang out with her fellow geeky nerds. We all really liked the Lego

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We saw some stars: John Barrowman, Nanna Visitor, Levar Burton and Emma's current favs Spike and Drusilla from Buffy The Vampire Slayer (which she and I are watching for the first time right now)

Each kid got one treat.  Xander scored an awesome square Minecraft Mug and Emma waited patiently in line to meet Juliet Landau (Drusilla).  She was great (we all met her) and Emma was a bit overwhelmed:

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She was better when we met Megan Fahlenbock, the voice of Gwen from Total Drama Island (a show we all LOVE).  She was great to talk to (closer to my age than the characters she does voices for).  

The whole day was busy but fun.  We embrace our nerdiness.

Even though we're total city mice, we also took some time to play country mice too.

Off to the cottage.

There were frogs:

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Swims in two lakes:

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Fishing (we fish in a private lake that seems to be filled with fish--I love it because I always catch a bass with minimal effort)

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Knitting--I finished my first ever pair of socks from my handspun.  I had lots of yarn and I'm full of moxy so I went for knee socks.

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(this is a truer photo of the colour)

I will definitely do knee socks and handspun socks again (I have some superwash on the wheel right now--but haven't spun since we started the kitchen reno).

Everyone had a fun holiday.  We're still wishing it's summer, but also don't mind the coming of Autumn. I've already started a beautiful new Rhinebeck sweater!


End of 2011 Knitting Frenzy

I don't have a lot of unfinished knitted things taking up space in my yarn credenza (yep, I have my own yarn storage furniture), but there are a few things I want to get off the needles by the end of the year.  I like the idea of knocking down my stash a few kilometres (I love the downloadable excel spreadsheet on Ravelry!) and also having a relatively clean slate for the new year so I can cast on a whole bunch of new things.

I also don't do a lot of Christmas knitting, but always cave at the last minute and decide to make a few things.

This year I wove a scarf for my brother Mike.  He made a request on his birthday, went through the stash with me and well, said it would complement his rather expensive hipster coat--how can a big sister refuse?

I didn't get good photos as I finished it a few hours before we had our Christmas celebration.  But here's Mike happy with his scarf.

The warp was Indigodragonfly sock in Shadows and Fog and leftovers of Bugga and Tanis.  Yum.

I also decided to knit both kids socks for Christmas.  My children have size 9 feet.  Not my best plan.  I realized I wouldn't finish Emma's so I'll shoot for her birthday in January.  The pattern is Tiara from Indigodragonfly and the yarn is MCN in Now accepting applications for Minions.  It was a Smart-Ass/World Domination One Skein club offering in 2010.  Here's the first sock.  Not bad being 50% of the way there.

I did manage to finish Xander's sock.  I used the Velodrome pattern by Natalie Selles and Socks that Rock Lightweight in a one-off colourway.  It was a tight timeline--I finished them December 24th at 8pm.  The funniest part was him not noticing while I knit them in the car on the way to Mom's!

They were put on the second after he opened them--the finest compliment one can give a knitter.

With all that Christmas knitting out of the way, I decided something for me was in order. I went with the easy win: Momentum Cowl in vintage stash Colinette Point 5. Started at lunch on Christmas, was done before bed. Emma is stealing borrowing it for now.

Now that those things are out of the way, my plan is to finish that Tiara sock and finally finish the Hanami Stole I started in 2009. Probably not doable in the next 2 days, but it's good to have goals!


I've been knitting stuff (finishing it too!)

Look!  Finished projects!

Redhook Vest

Redhook

Yarn: Briar Rose BFL dk.  I had enough minus the cast off row, so after a little rip back, I had enough. Just. 

Pattern: Redhook by Jared Flood.  Perfectly written pattern, fun to knit, great to wear.

Redhook

 

Staked Socks

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Yarn: Indigodragonfly Merino Sock in And then Buffy Staked Edward. The End (Smart Ass Knitters/World Domination Club Exclusive Colour).  I love the smoky tealy goodness.

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Pattern: Staked by Glenna C (Club pattern, available soon).  My first ever complicated patterned socks. It was fun to knit, even with the miss crossed cables and slightly messed up decreases on the foot.  My feet don't notice, so I don't care.  I might venture into more complicated socks again!

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Clockwork

I finished this a long time ago, but wanted to show it off because it's my current favourite scarf to wear and it was great fun to knit.

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Yarn: Sanguine Gryphon Bugga in Longhorned Beetle (leftover from my Swedish Heartwarmer Shawl) and Baruffa Bollicina Cashmere Silk from super old stash.

Pattern: Clockwork by Stephen West.  Deceptively simple to knit.  I love garter stitch squooshiness.


Never Ending Plying

I've been getting back into the groove of spinning these last few weeks.  The current goal is to make sock yarn.  Good, solid sock yarn.

I've spun up the singles--pretty stuff Lisa Souza superwash merino in the Mardi Gras colourway.  As advised by Molly my spinning sensai I'm over spinning the singles and over plying the whole thing to get a strong sproingy yarn. (Sorry about the iphone photos--I figured it was better to do this then not blog at all, but you may disagree!)

Never ending plying

I'm also spinning up 8oz instead of the usual 4 because I'm not sure if I'll be able to stretch out the 4oz to make socks on my first try.

I must say, the whole thing is taking forever...

Well, the singles went fast enough, but the plying is never. going. to. finish.

I've had a few glitches along the way.  First is time--I thought I could do it in an evening and well it's been the usual craziness here so "in an evening" really means, in a few minutes I get between activities.

Then the big drive band that makes the treadles go broke.  I'm not sure why, but there was a moment when the whole thing felt like I was biking up the big hill on my street and then wham!

The Little Gem doesn't have a traditional treadle system with footmen, but instead uses a big elastic to make the treadles spin the drive wheel.  Like this (the lower green band):

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I tried MacGivering a few things that didn't work, but then managed to trim and burn the ends enough to melt the drive band back together until I can get another one.

Yesterday, drive band intact, I got going again only to realize I put the band on the wrong way and so was plying  in the wrong direction.  Sigh.  It took a few minutes to figure out what was happening, and a lot longer to fix it.

Last night (me and the wheel needed some time away from each other) I got in the groove and went back to plying pretty sock yarn.


Never ending plying

I still have at least another evening to go.  I definitely need a smaller whorl to make this go faster and perhaps a bigger wheel. I'm jonesing for a Matchless.  I love my Little Gem, but really see how a big wheel goes faster without as much work from me.