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Sock it to me

I finished the second Solemate sock last night. I love it. The shadow-wrap heel fits better than the German short-row heel, feels smoother inside, and looks nicer. I like the way I reduced the gusset stitches on the second sock better, too. (I worked it flat, like a heel flap, rather than reducing the stitches in the round, which made the first sock a bit baggy around the front of my ankle.)

Solemate socks, version 1 and version 2

Solemate socks, version 1 (bottom) and version 2 (top)

Both socks are about the same size, but the second sock used 4g less yarn than the first. I’m not sure how much of that was the heel structure and how much of that was gauge. I worked the the first sock using DPNs from and the second using circulars from a different manufacturer. I worked the back of both socks above the heel turn using needles one size smaller, but I switched back to the larger needles sooner on the first sock.

The only piece of the puzzle that I’m not totally happy with is the bind-off at the top of the sock. I worked the k1, *p1, slip both stitches back to the left needle and p2tog, k1, slip both stitches back to the left needle and k2tog, repeat from * bind off. (I’m not sure what it’s called exactly.) It’s super-stretchy, which is great, but it flares out a lot, which is not so great. I didn’t weave in the ends yet; I think I might pull it out and work a tubular bind-off instead.

In the meantime…. Right after I snapped this picture, I ripped the first sock back to the heel. I’ll ponder the bind-off while I redo the heel and leg. I’m open to suggestions!



My first pair of socks was a pair of top-down, traditional heel-flap socks. They fit my too-long, too-narrow, too-high-arched feet perfectly and hooked me on sock knitting. Then I discovered toe-up sock knitting, and was torn.

There were a lot of pros for toe-up socks:

  • Running out of yarn 1/4″ from the end of your sock is a lot easier to deal with if you’re working toe-up
  • Judy’s Magic Cast-On is An Amazing Thing of Beauty (and is way more fun than Kitchener stitch)
  • Short row heels look more like “store-bought socks” (and tend to be better-received by non-knitters)
  • Easy to check sock fit and make adjustments as you go along

But there were a few cons, and they were pretty significant:

  • Short row heels don’t tend to fit people with high arches as well
  • My attempts at traditional, wrap-and-turn short row heels were pretty darn ugly, full of holes and stretched-out stitches

So I played with a few variations. My Serpentine socks used a gusset heel that fit my instep well, but were a bit too big around my ankle. The short row heels in my Everyone Outta the Pool socks fit well but still weren’t that pretty, and they were a bit harder to keep track of/adapt to other patterns. The German short row heel I used in the first Solemate sock was easy to execute and looked okay, but was a little bit lumpy inside and required a plain round in the middle of the heel that messes up self-striping yarn patterns (and would also make it difficult to add a contrast-color heel).

But once again, Ravelry came to my rescue. Another Raveler mentioned being pleased with a “shadow wrap heel” in one of the Rav forums the other day. Of course, I had to look that up immediately. And then I had to try it out on the second Solemate sock, which had patiently been waiting for me to get around to turning the heel.

To accommodate my high instep, I combined the shadow wrap technique with a gusset: First I increased 1/3 of the heel stitches on either side, then I worked the shadow wrap short row heel (over the original number of stitches only), and finally I worked a 1×1 rib heel flap, consuming the gusset stitches until I was back to my original heel count (well, in this case, until I was down to my new heel count, as I needed a few extra stitches to continue my cable pattern seamlessly around the sock).

Shadow-wrap short-row heel

Success! The heel fits beautifully and comfortably over my arch, and the ribbing (which I worked on needles one size smaller) hugs the back of my heel and adds a little bit of padding like a top-down heel flap does. The short rows are easy to execute and keep track of, and the finished seam is pretty and gap-free. I think I’ve found my go-to short row heel!

Now the burning question is… should I leave the first sock alone, or should I rip it back and redo the heel using this technique? I’ve already decided I want to rip the ribbing at the top and redo it. But how far should I rip? If I redo the heel, I can also try a few things to round out the shape of my short-row heel a bit, to accommodate my super narrow heel even better. Hmmmmm…

What’s your favorite sock knitting method? Top-down? Toe-up? Heel flap or short-row? Wrap-and-turn or something else? Gusset or not? Have some other fabulous technique I haven’t heard of yet? Please let me know in the comments!

Pack your knitting first

Today is the first day of school here. My son is grumbling and packing up his new school supplies, but like many moms, I’m looking forward to the start of the new school year. Especially since my youngest will be attending preschool for two mornings a week, which means that I will have two whole hours to myself, two mornings a week. Yes, my first stop will be at my LYS. How did you guess?!

The last couple of weeks have been crazy. In addition to all the back-to-school errands, we snuck away for a family vacation (from which I brought home a lovely stomach flu souvenir, sigh). We made our annual pilgrimage to my parents’ vacation home on a lake in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania. It’s a lovely, peaceful place. We sleep in (well, as much as the kids will let us!), take long walks, and go swimming and canoeing. My husband and son did a lot of fishing in the lake and caught enough keeper-sized fish for dinner one evening.

I, of course, brought plenty of knitting to keep me busy while our youngest was napping. I had the second Solemate sock to finish, as I had gotten distracted from my Ravellenic project by the felted slippers for my daughter. The first pair of slippers were a bit tight on her, so I cast on for a second pair, which I brought with me. The project I most hoped to complete during the week was the Scalloped Lace Toddler sweater, but at the last minute, I also threw in the Cathay yarn I’d purchased for a Tahoe sweater. I didn’t want to be caught “under-yarned” as the Yarn Harlot says!

The key words in that last paragraph are “at the last minute.” I’m the chief packer for my family. My husband packs his own clothes and the fishing gear, but I’m in charge of pretty much everything else. This means that I pack clothes for myself and the kids. I pack toys and activities to amuse them. I pack the not-insignificant amount of gear that you need with a toddler. I plan the meals we’ll eat and decide what we should take with us and what we can buy up there. There’s no washing machine, so we pack our own sheets and towels, plus beach towels, etc. You get the point; it’s a lot of stuff. And I’m always worried about forgetting something vital, so I made lists and triple-checked them. So the end result is that, although I thought about what knitting projects I’d want to take with me, I didn’t actually pack any of them until the morning we left.

I realized my first mistake before we’d been on the road an hour. I pulled out the slipper I was working on and discovered that, since I’d been working in the round, I had two different size tips on my circular needle. Which wouldn’t have been a big deal except that I was ready to begin working the heel flap, which is worked flat. D’oh. I contemplated changing the tips around at the end of every row and decided I’d rather just poke myself in the eye with one of them. I dig around in my bag and came up with an empty size 6 circular needle. I was using a size 11 (8mm) needle for the slippers, so I figured I could make two wraps for each stitch on the size 6 (4mm) needle and come up with the same approximate gauge. A size 5 probably would have worked perfectly, but I made do with the size 6, as the slight gauge differences will vanish in the felting process.

Once I’d finished the slippers, I reached for my next project, the scalloped lace cardigan. I carefully removed the waste yarn from the sleeve stitches and put them back on the needles. Then I picked up stitches from the underarms and resumed working in the round. I worked up to the point where I needed to work the first color, and then I reached in my bag. You guessed it; I had every color but the one I needed to use first. Another d’oh!

I worked on my sock for a bit, but I was really craving a larger gauge project that I didn’t need a magnifying glass to handle. (I really missed my knitting chair at home, which has a convenient reading lamp just over my right shoulder.) That left the Cathay sweater. For this project, I had actually remembered to bring both the yarn AND the needles I needed. Thank goodness! I was able to knit a second swatch, calculate all my stitch counts, and cast on for the bottom hem. I had a nice chunk of knitting time in the car on the way home, and have been making good progress in the evenings since then. Now that school has started, I might even be able to sneak in a bit more knitting time during the day. A girl can dream, right? Of course, I still need to finish the Scalloped Lace Toddler Cardigan, now that I’m home with my missing ball of yarn…

Think of me as your public service announcement: If you’re planning to travel, pack your knitting projects first!

Gauge. Argh.

So the good news is, I really like the way the twisted slipped stitch pattern looks with the Solemate yarn. It breaks up the pooling a bit and looks pretty neat!

The bad news is, while I was admiring the pattern, I was ignoring the little voice in my head that was whispering, “it’s too big.” I finally got out my ruler, checked my gauge (26 stitches over 3 inches), plugged it into my calculator (8.5 inches times 26 stitches divided by 3 inches, minus about 10% for a snug fit), and came to the painful realization that I’m going to have to frog it and redo. Again.


But isn’t it pretty?

On the brink of frogging....


What are you doing for World Wide Knit in Public Day this year?

As we did last year, my family is going on a bike tour tomorrow around Baltimore. I took along a pair of socks that I was working on for my husband last year, and did knit on them at the picnic after the ride. (Wish I could knit and ride at the same time!)

This year, I am planning on taking along another pair of socks:


This is a pattern of my own that I’ve been playing with for a while. The yarn is Miss Babs Northumbria Fingering BFL in the “Sugilite” colorway.

Today, though, I am working on the second baby sweater:


I redid the stripes (using the more subtle green yarn), and am now up to working the ribbed buttonband. This has been a quick, fun knit, and the yarn (KnitPicks Comfy) has been much easier on my hands than the 100% cotton I used for the Scalloped Lace Baby Sweater.

What’s on your needles right now? Are you participating in any activities for WWKIP Day?

Oooops, where did that come from?

Noro Silk GardenI might have bought some yarn last week. I’m blaming it on 1) my lemming tendencies, and 2) the generous gift certificate to my LYS that my darling husband gave me for Christmas.

My lemming tendencies are well-documented.  I’ve knit a Clapotis, two Baby Surprise Jackets, two February sweaters (in both the Baby and Lady versions), and countless pairs of Fetching mitts. If it’s one of those popular patterns that I encounter time and time again, it’s probably only a matter of time before I am overcome by the urge to make my own.

Lemming SocksLast May, the Yarn Harlot blogged about her Everyone Outta the Pool socks. I had some gorgeous variegated sock yarn that wasn’t behaving in the patterns I’d tried, so with barely a moment’s hesitation, I ripped it out and cast on for a pair of Everyone Outta The Pool socks.

Love them. 

Yarn is Cherry Tree Hill Supersock Select.  The colorway is called “Wool in the Woods Lottery,” which I picked up at my aforementioned LYS several years ago and have never seen anywhere again since. I loved working with it– gorgeous color, good sturdy twist, and very little pilling now that they’ve been worn. The heels and toes are some Knit Picks Stroll sock yarn that’s been languishing in my stash for a few years. The Stroll is much thinner than the CTH Supersock, and although the color (Dusk) is a perfect match, I wish I’d used something a little closer to the CTHSS in texture, as the heels and toes are already looking a bit pilly. 

Anyway, back to my stash acquisition. What caught my eye this time? The Lanesplitter Skirt (yes, another Knitty pattern). I poked around in the pages of projects (1389 projects!) on Ravelry, and it just looks like one of those patterns that is universally flattering. So what’s not to love? I was especially taken with several versions worked in Noro Silk Garden colorway #252, and when I wandered into my LYS with my gift certificate in hand and found that color on their shelves? I was helpless, I tell you!

So now I have six skeins of Noro Silk Garden to work with. I have kind of a love/hate thing with Noro. I love the colors, and it’s really quite soft once it’s all knit up. But the knitting of it is somewhat less pleasant for me… it’s scratchy and filled with vegetable matter (twigs and other odd bits), and the skeins have lots of knots, which often change the color sequence completely. So before I can cast on, I will re-wind each skein, separating it at each knot and (if necessary) re-winding the balls so that the color sequence is consistent and I can easily match up the colors when I have to join a new skein.

But before I start winding, I will take the most obviously mis-matched skein and use it for swatching. The pattern calls for size 10 needles, which would make a fabric that is much too loose and stretchy for my tastes. Ravelry shows this project worked anywhere from a size 0 up to a 11. From my previous experience with NSG, I’ll probably start with a 7 and go down to a 6, maybe even a 5. Stay tuned…

FO Friday: Serpentine Socks

Serpentine Socks, 3


Serpentine Socks by Wendy D. Johnson


Knit Picks Stroll Sport in Hollyberry, 3 skeins


For the most part, I followed the pattern as written. I used the magic cast-on (which was rather tricky on DPNs; I’ve found it much easier to work on circular needles). I got a slightly tighter gauge, so I went up to the largest size, which fit great. I didn’t like the large holes the YO’s in the pattern gave me, so I substituted M1L and M1R. And I finished with 1×1 ribbing instead of 2×2, so I could use the tubular bind-off (which I now love, despite having to fiddle with kitchener).

Part of the reason I chose these socks was to learn how to make socks toe-up. This method is now my favorite, since it allows me to make socks which both fit my big feet and are long enough to suit me, without running short on or wasting yarn. I’ve not been particularly happy with short-row heels, in either fit or execution, so the gusset heel in these socks was also very appealing. Basically, you increase your heel stitch count by approximately 2/3 and then work a heel turn similar to those worked on top-down socks, working back and forth until you are back to the original number of stitches. It was easy to work and seems comfortable to wear, and there are no strange gaps or ugly stretched-out stitches that I’ve gotten with wrap-and-turn short rows.

This pattern was from Wendy’s book Socks from the Toe Up. If you’re new to toe-up socks, I highly recommend this book. There are good descriptions and diagrams of the various cast-on, toe, and heel methods, as well as some very lovely sock patterns.

Time to complete:

Okay, this is embarrassing. I cast on for these socks right after Christmas… 2009. Yes, more than two years ago. I finished the first one (or at least, I got to the end of the first skein of yarn) pretty quick. I had just enough yarn for a couple of rows of ribbing and then I bound off. I immediately cast on for the second sock, ignoring the fact that the first sock really wasn’t long enough for my taste (and didn’t have enough ribbing to stay up well). I was nearing the end of the second sock when I, er, had a mishap with the rest of the yarn. (It fell out of my bag when I threw it in the car, but I didn’t realize it until I looked into my rearview mirror and saw it rolling around in four lanes of rush-hour traffic. Yes, it’s funny… in retrospect. At least it was the unused yarn that fell out, and not the 3/4-completed sock!!)

So I ordered another ball of yarn, finished the second sock (now longer than the first), added 1″ of 1×1 ribbing, and used the tubular bind-off to finish. It looked and fit great! Went back to the first sock, undid the bind-off and the rounds of ribbing, made it the same length as the first sock, and… put both socks in the UFO (unfinished object) basket for more than a year. No idea why. I pulled it out the other day and in less than an hour, I’d finished the cuff, worked the tubular bind-off, and woven in the ends on both socks. I love them, and I’m kicking myself for not finishing them up sooner!

Pretty red socks… just in time for Valentine’s Day!