The Tzenni socks are finished:
I’m very pleased with how well they’ve turned out. Not that designing socks is really all that difficult; the basic shape is more or less a given, and there are only so many kinds of heel and toe, so really all I’ve added is the stitch pattern, but even so, I’m very proud of my first proper design.
I have written the pattern up – if anyone wants to test knit it let me know and I will email it to you.
I think that the two books I most enjoyed reading last year were The Maker’s Mask and The Hawkwood War by my friend Ankaret Wells. The books (which really should be read together, as they started life as one large book before being split into two volumes for publication) are part fantasy, part detective novel, part Regency romance and part cyberpunk, full of humour and populated with wonderfully vivid and three-dimensional characters. I particularly loved Ankaret’s heroine, Tzenni Boccamera, a shy, geeky engineer with a marvellously level-headed approach to problems and a great deal of determination, and in a Twitter conversation a couple of months ago I declared my intention to design some socks inspired by her.
One of the first things we learn about Tzenni is that she is scared of heights, and particularly of staircases, which puts her at something of a disadvantage living in a world of vertical city-states, or Spires. So I knew straight away that the socks would have to have a staircase-like stitch pattern. They also had to be green, because that is Tzenni’s family colour; after some consideration of photos of my stash Ankaret decided that the best match I had for Boccamera green was some Clan from The Yarn Yard (I can’t link to the yarn at the moment because the Yarn Yard’s shop was hacked just before Christmas and the new shop isn’t quite up and running yet) which was a club colourway last spring, inspired by the colours of Savoy cabbage.
On further reflection, I decided I didn’t want Tzenni’s socks to define her just by her family colour and her fears. Fortunately her society has a complex system of heraldic devices, and Tzenni’s personal symbol is a rose-glyph, so I took the Rosebud Lace from the first Barbara Walker Treasury, charted in in Excel and then added a framework of purl stitches around the rosebuds to represent the staircases.
This is my first self-designed pattern and I’m really pleased with how well it’s turned out. I still need to knit the second sock (which will have the stairs spiralling in the opposite direction) but once I have done I’ll write up the pattern as I know there are at least a couple of other knitters who’ve read the book and might like to make a pair – if anyone wants a copy just let me know!
I was reorganising my stash this afternoon (for which read, desperately trying to make space for the latest acquisitions) and I came across a couple of packets of glass beads I bought in John Lewis a few weeks ago. I’d recently spotted Kayla K’s simple crochet necklace with glass beads while browsing through patterns on Ravelrty, and I was inspired to thread some of the beads on to some leftover sock yarn that was lying around. I picked up a crochet hook that was also lying around (um…I may not be the world’s tidiest person!) and produced this:
Apart from using sock yarn rather than crochet cotton, I also decided to make a double-stranded necklace by turning the work and crocheting back into the original chain round the back of the neck, and making a loop and two ties to fasten it, although actually it’s long enough to go over my head without unfastening. I rather like it, and it’s certainly not bad for a Sunday-afternoon experiment. This was from a pack of multi-coloured beads, but I also bought a purple pack and I might try something similar with purple beads and purple yarn, or maybe even try using wire if I can find the right kind, although actually I think it’s rather nice to show off bits of pretty leftover sock yarn by making them into jewellery!
After a couple of weeks of knitting nothing but socks I fancied a change, so yesterday I cast on for Adrienne Fong’s In the Land of Oz (Ravelry link, sorry) in Schoppel-Wolle Zauberball (the Cranberries colourway):
This picture is from yesterday afternoon; it’s probably about twice that big now and I’m getting towards the end of the stocking stitch section. I have about 130 stitches on the needles. And although I was getting on fine with continental purling (Norwegian style) on my husband’s socks, purling back across 100+ stitches on the wrong-side rows is driving me dotty. I want to throw my knitting across the room. I don’t know why, exactly; it’s not actually terribly slow, or terribly hard. Maybe it’s just that it needs much more concentration than I’m used to giving wrong side rows in stocking stitch; it feels like it ought to be good TV knitting but it probably isn’t, really.
I know that if I persevere it won’t be very long before continental knitting (and purling) becomes as easy and familiar as the English style. Hitting a brick wall like this, it’s so tempting to give up, to stick with what I know and am good at despite the disadvantages that made me decide to switch in the first place, but when I tried going back to purling English style that felt strange too. It’s very frustrating to find that things which were simple have become more difficult; I hope it’s only temporary! Meanwhile I think I’ll go back to the socks for the rest of today – I seem to have got the hang of them OK!
We were on holiday in the Lake District last week. Not unsurprisingly, there was a lot of rain, and although we managed one walk we spent most of the week snug by the fire in our cottage, watching DVDs (Babylon 5, Scrubs and Pink Panther movies), listening to Radio 4, reading (Busman’s Honeymoon) and, of course, knitting. The end result was that I finished the Skew socks I’d cast on for the Tuesday before we went away on Thursday:
Despite the unfamiliar construction I found the pattern very easy to follow (except for some slight confusion in the stitch counts of the set-up rows for the ribbing, where I just did what seemed logical even where it didn’t quite agree with the pattern, and it turned out fine), and it was fascinating knitting the first sock and seeing how the unusual shaping eventually produced something that looked like a sock. And I love the way the diagonal lines of the socks work with the handpainted yarn (it’s the Knitting Goddess’s sock yarn, again, this time in the Winter Sun colourway):
They’re also a lovely fit, although a little snug going over my heels. I’m wondering about variations to the basic pattern; how about making the bands between the increases and decreases wider and running a cable or lace motif along them? Or adding a rib or another stitch pattern that would slant with the grain of the socks? There are lots of possibilities. Or maybe I should dig out my copy of Cat Bordhi’s New Pathways for Sock Knitters and try some of her architectures. It’s a good way to knit a simple enough sock to show off a handpainted yarn without being driven insane by miles of stocking stitch, anyway!
The Skew architecture isn’t the only new trick I tried out on holiday, though. Halfway up the foot of the second sock I once again managed to poke a hole in the tip of my left index finger where I’d been using it to push the right needle back through the stitches after wrapping the yarn, and rather than giving up on the knitting and sticking to my crochet for the rest of the week I decided that, given how often I manage to do this, perhaps I should switch to knitting Continental style. So I did. I’d had a certain amount of practice at Continental knitting working on two-handed projects (the frogged Ziggy socks, the push-me-pull-yous, and Opus Spicatum) so I didn’t find it too hard to switch over, although I was still surprised that I don’t seem to be knitting any slower than I do English style; I suspect that as I get more used to knitting Continental I might even end up knitting faster than I did. Purling is a bit more of a challenge (and I only know how to do Norwegian purl Continental style), but I managed the short rows on the leg of the second Skew sock and I’m down to the heel flap on a second pair of Earl Grey socks for my husband and it’s not going too badly. It’s not quite automatic yet – about half the time when I pick up my knitting I start off by holding the yarn in my right hand instead of my left – but it’s getting there, and means I no longer have to fear pointy needles!
And one last word of warning: don’t try putting a 3mm wooden crochet hook into a knitting needle gauge to check the size, or you will end up with a pointy stick. How do you check the size of crochet hooks, anyway?
At this time of year it becomes very difficult to blog about knitting, because so much of what I’m making can’t be revealed until after Christmas. I did take a break from present-knitting to design a little bag to carry my phone and iPod in:
I carry a backpack to and from work; it’s hard to find shoulder bags big enough to fit all the things I carry around with me (books, knitting, lunch, spare shoes) and I find that large shoulder bags give me backache anyway. The downside is that it’s not very easy to get at things in a backpack, and I like to have both my phone and my iPod handy; I use my phone for taking pictures when I’m out and about, and if I’m listening to the iPod I want to be able to change tracks or just see what’s come on. Before I bought the iPod I just carried my phone in my coat or jacket pocket, but the two together are a bit bulky, so I thought I’d knit a little bag with a long strap I could wear across my body.
My first thought was to knit a rectangular bag in sock yarn, but that would have taken quite a long time and I coudn’t spare more than a night or two from the Christmas knitting, so instead I dug out half a ball of Rowan Colourscape Chunky from my stash and started making what could have been a toe-up sock for a giant, using Judy’s magic cast on and a star increase, and then instead of knitting evenly I started to decrease again four rows after finishing the increases to narrow the neck of the bag. I was planning on casting off half the stitches and carrying on decreasing on the other half so that the bag was a full circle, with the top folding over to make a curved flap, but after seeing how the shape was developing I decided to make eyelets and finish it with a drawstring instead. I still like the idea of a circular bag, so I may keep experimenting with that, but I’m happy enough with what I came up with; it’s just the right size, and the neck is narrow enough there’s no danger of anything falling out but wide enough that I can easily reach in for the phone or the iPod whenever I want them. And I really like the way the rustic look contrasts with the shiny technology inside!
Apart from that, I’m on to the second sleeve of Imogen, and have been knitting with Debbie Bliss Donegal Aran Tweed (never again! It’s been discontinued anyway, but even if it hadn’t been I wouldn’t go near it again – it feels quite soft knitted up but is incredibly harsh to knit with), Kureyon (also quite harsh, but not as bad) and have just started knitting a toy chicken for my nephew in Rowan Felted Tweed (which feels absolutely lovely; I would like to knit more things in this). And I continue to accumulate sock yarn; I was lucky enough to catch a Wollmeise shop update on Friday and am eagerly awaiting the arrival of my two-skein ‘grab bag’ to see what all the fuss is about…
I finished the yellow Nancy Bush socks today:
I’m pleased with how they turned out; they’re a really nice fit, and the yarn (Knitting Goddess Blue-Faced Leicester 4-ply) is lovely and soft, and the colour is wonderfully vibrant.
It took me longer than it should have done to finish these, because I barely worked on them at all last weekend; I was too busy designing myself a pair of slipper socks.
They’re knitted in Texere chunky 100% wool on 5.5mm needles, giving a thick, squishy, warm fabric. I started as for a toe-up sock, knitted until it came halfway up my foot and then put the stitches on top of the foot on a holder and knitted flat to about 2″ short of the length of my foot, worked a short-row heel then picked up stitches along the sides of the foot and the stitches from the holder to knit a couple of rows of ribbing round the top. I sewed Fiber Trends suede slipper bottoms on to keep them clean and stop them from slipping on the kitchen floor, and I’m really very pleased with how they turned out; they’re warm and cosy and fit much better than the furry M&S slippers I had before. My first successful design!
Next up, sock-wise: probably the Yarn Harlot’s Earl Grey socks for my husband, although I have yet to find the right yarn for him to buy me to make them out of (it’s our seventh wedding anniversary this month, which is apparently Wool, so I said if he buys me the wool I will knit him socks out of it). I think that a heathery kind of a semi-solid in blue/grey/green would be best. Perhaps Natalie at The Yarn Yard will have something suitable next time she updates. Meanwhile, I need to finish the Ishbel beret and have lots of scarf and shawl patterns lined up.
This weekend I took a break from sock-knitting to make this:
I’m growing my hair, which means I’m currently spending quite a lot of time looking rather like an Old English Sheepdog; it’s too short to tie back and clips just seem to get lost, so hairbands seemed like a good solution. I’ve been tying silk scarves around it, but it struck me that knitting hairbands would be a good way to try out stitch patterns and use up odds and ends of yarn, so yesterday I fished out the tail end of a skein of Lorna’s Laces Shepherd Sock and set to work.
My first attempt was the Oriel lace pattern from Sensational Knitted Socks, but although I think it would make a very nice hairband in a solid yarn it looked like a complete mess with the variegation of the yarn I was using, so I frogged that and tried again using what I thought was linen stitch but which in fact turns out just to be a slipped-stitch pattern:
R1: k1, *k1, sl1 wyif* until 1 stitch remains, k1
R2: k1, *p1* until 1 stitch remains, k1
R3: k1, *sl1 wyif, k1* until 1 stitch remains, k1
R4: As R2
I think it looks quite pretty, anyway, and the hairband seems to do the job:
(Excuse scruffy hair.)
Perhaps the next one I make actually will be linen stitch.
I have also been sewing. I don’t sew, but I bought two tops at the Monsoon sale shop yesterday which fitted perfectly but had buttons down the front which gaped a bit, so instead of going for a size up (which didn’t gape at the bust but was far too big everywhere else) I decided to sew the button bands between the first and third buttons closed. Which worked perfectly, and I amazed myself by actually managing to make neat, small, regular stitches (apologies for somewhat blurred picture – I can’t seem to make the macro setting on my camera work so I had to use my mobile):
I’m always ambivalent about the approach of summer. Long light evenings and warm weather are all very well, but after months of comfort in boots and opaque tights I’m not looking forward to the foot problems summer always brings. I don’t like wearing shoes with bare feet; quite apart from the fact that I have never yet found a pair of shoes that didn’t give me blisters when worn without socks, my feet sweat and feel hot and sticky (on warmer days) or clammy (on cool days). And I hate the feel of sheer tights.
And, of course, I miss being able to wear my handknitted socks.
So, in an attempt to solve all of these problems at once, I have spent the weekend experimenting with odds and ends of leftover sock yarn in an attempt to create handknitted footsies:
This is the third attempt, and probably about as good as I can make it. Unfortunately, that’s not good enough; even with elastic threaded through the back hem they don’t really stay on my heels. I had half-suspected that this might happen, as it’s what I’ve found when I’ve tried the shop-bought ones, but I did hope having a properly constructed heel would improve things. I suppose I should have guessed that there was a good reason why I’ve never seen a pattern for this kind of thing.