Friday, March 28, 2008


Alex and I went to the desert for vacation last week, and returned sick. Really, really sick in one case. (I blame the airplane coughers, though breathing in who knows what in a dusty windstorm our first night camping couldn't have helped, either!) You certainly don't need to (or want to, I'm sure!) know the details, but needless to say, not much crafty stuff has been accomplished in the past couple of weeks.

Luckily, I have some handspun that I haven't blogged about, yet, so I can cheat my way into "new" content for a blog post. The first was an attempt at a 3 ply fingering weight yarn. It was very successful in some ways, but not at being a fingering weight:

hyacinth strands with quarter

The roving was Spunky Eclectic superwash merino in the Hyacinth colorway. The yarn is 100 grams, 227 yards, and 17 wpi (sportweight). And it's obviously pretty dense, because in numbers it has almost the same grist as Cascade 220, which is a light worsted weight!

hyacinth skein

This was my first time working with superwash merino. It was a bit more fussy than non-superwash merino, and I found that it felt a bit squeaky at first. But once I got used to its flyaway nature, and figured out how to avoid the squeakiness (no advice to share, it just happened), I learned to really like this fiber. The resulting yarn is very smooth and soft, and nice and springy. I plan to work with it again soon.

My next project was also merino, and came with a lesson. That lesson is that, while I like to believe that I have a good eye for detail, I'm certainly not infallible. For a couple of months (ever since I've had my wheel, and I can't believe it hasn't been longer than that!) I filled my bobbins by moving the yarn from hook to hook up and down the right side of the flyer. There are hooks on the left side of the flyer, and I'd heard they were there to balance the flyer. Then I did some Google searches on some spinning related topic or another, and found someone mention how she loves how full she can get her Schacht bobbins because of the offset hooks on either side of the flyer. Wait... they're OFFSET? I swear, I'd even checked for that when I first got the wheel. I knew that they weren't offset. Except... they are. And when you alternate sides, you fill your bobbin a lot more evenly and efficiently. Take a look:

the bobbin of stupidity and the bobbin of enlightenment

Isn't that amazing! There is no more fiber on the left bobbin than on the right. But I bet I could fit a whole lot more on the right bobbin than on the left bobbin, if I wanted. I thought I was an absolute dimwit for not realizing this earlier, and said so in the Schacht group on Ravelry. oops! I inadvertantly implied that a whole bunch of other folks were also dimwits, because there were a lot of people who hadn't realized that the hooks were offset. At least I wasn't alone!

Now, there are two ways to use the offset hooks, as far as I can tell. What you see in the above photo is a result of me using both sets of hooks on each trip up and down the flyer, if that makes sense. So I'd hook the yarn over the first hook on the right, then the first on the left, then the second on the right, then the second on the left, etc. The other way to do it is to just go up one side and down the other, filling in the gaps on the yarn's return trip down the length of the flyer. This second method is easier, in my opinion (you're less likely to lose track of where to move the yarn next). However, I think the first method looks prettier, and makes it easier to pack the bobbin as evenly and tightly as possible.

Here's the resulting yarn:

square macaw

macaw strands

macaw hank

I got the merino roving (Macaw colorway) from The Arts At Eagle's Find. The yarn is a 3 ply, 120 grams, 427 yards, and 18 wpi (fingering). It's incredibly springy -- even springier than than Socks that Rock. (Beginner's luck!) I had divided the roving into 3 even strips, to try to get a yarn without a lot of marling. The first two bobbins were almost spot on, but the third one got off. It's a pretty neat effect, even if that's not exactly what I was going for. I started socks with this yarn while on vacation.

Apparently I had more to say than I initially thought! See you guys again when fiber trumps illness...

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Wednesday, March 12, 2008



My first Knitty pattern! You can find them here, and if you're interested you can queue them here on Ravelry.


This is the pattern that I submitted to IK in December of '06, which they lost, which I then submitted to Knitty for the Winter issue, which didn't make it there because the email was eaten by gremlins. So, uh, if you knit these socks, be warned that you should do so with caution. A tornado might hit your house, or the earth may be swallowed by a black hole. Did I mention that I fell down the stairs right before I took a bunch of photos of the socks for Knitty? Though I wasn't hurt (aside from soreness and a bruise), so maybe that's when the socks' luck changed. It could be safe to knit them, after all. But I'm not guaranteeing a thing. Knit at your own risk. And wear a helmet.


I used Harrisville New England Knitters' Shetland yarn for these socks. Harrisville Designs is relatively local to me, and the color selections are stunning. Their New England Shetland yarn is similar to Jamieson and Smith yarn (for those of you colorwork fans), and spun in a old mill in New Hampshire. Now, I admit that this yarn may not be the ideal sock yarn for everybody. It is not merino soft, and it is not a tightly spun and plied sock yarn, like many of the sock yarns out there. I chose it because I couldn't resist the colors, because I really wanted to design with something local to me, and because I absolutely adore the way this yarn shows off cables. The cables have nice definition, but they are also soft, and not too popping. Perfect for socks, in my opinion.

If you are looking for softer and/or more durable socks, you may want to go with a more traditional sock yarn. Really, any fingering weight that you like should do. I knit these at 9 stitches per inch, and they can easily be up-sized by knitting them at 8 - 8.5 stitches per inch, and/or by using a larger needle for the leg of the sock.

One of my favorite things about these socks is that there is a subtle degree of calf shaping built in. They start off rather generous in size to begin with, at 72 stitches around. As the shaping on the leg of the sock increases in frequency, it also slightly decreases the circumference. This means that the circumference decreases ever so slightly as you get lower on the leg, down to the ankle, which is how many legs are shaped. I have to admit that this wasn't my original intention when I thought of this type of shaping. I just wanted to play with the cable placement. But it turned out to be a very nice, and flattering, side effect.


One of the things I'm proud of in this design is that it's all my own. Not that a simple braided cable (what runs along the leg of the sock) is innovative or unique, but I didn't consult a stitch dictionary for any part of this sock. I really love the cable I designed for the foot of the sock. It's inspired me to play more with cable design, because I found it really easy to do. I don't know if cable design is easier than lace design, or if it just comes more easily to me than lace. I designed it just by doing it. I knew I wanted the braided cables to entangle and become one on the foot of the sock, so I kept on swatching until I got the transition just right. I designed the foot cable as I knit it, keeping careful notes as I went along. It was a very organic process, which I think comes through in the look of the cable.


Those of you who have looked at my 1989 hat pattern and/or my Francie sock pattern will notice a trend that extends to the Salto socks. Actually, it started with the Salto socks. It's just a shame that it took me so long to get them published! The design trend is how I use increases and decreases to move stitches around in fun ways, not just increases and decreases for the sake of increasing and decreasing. And all 3 patterns use the increases I love -- lifted increases. I don't know if this design trend will continue, but I do like that I stumbled my way into a theme, at least for a little while.


It took me a long time to think of a name for these socks. I finally settled on Salto (somersault), because I'm a huge gymnastics fan, and these socks do a bit of textural gymnastics. The cables flip from the side to the front, then tumble in a new fashion down the instep. A bit of fibery acrobatics.

Please let me know if you have any questions about the pattern, or any trouble following it. I'm super excited to have a pattern in Knitty, and am even more excited that it's such a great issue. I have beautiful company there this Spring!

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