Tsunami Socks

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While in Portland, Oregon last summer I bought some beautiful hand-spun, hand-dyed sock yarn. I spent more than I should have, but when it comes to finding gorgeous sock yarn in a place I love I’ll pay just about anything to take it home!

Two beautiful skeins from The Yarns of Rhichard Devrieze (Peppino in Class Act) sat in my stash (wrapped in tissue paper) waiting for the perfect sock pattern to come along. I found it six months later in a great little book called Knitted Socks East and West by Judy Sumner. This fantastic collection of Japanese inspired stitch patterns included a pair of socks inspired by tsunami waves and islands. The second I saw them I knew my fancy yarn had met its match.

My Tsunami Socks are my new favorite pair! I love the subtle shades of blue and coral – a perfect combination for the idea of “waves” rolling around “islands.”

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Tsunami Socks

Overall, the pattern for these socks was incredibly easy to follow. I’m usually not a fan of chart only patterns, but the charts in this pattern are large enough to read without difficulty and the instructions are very clear. Just be careful reading the instep chart. The red repeat line is hard to see.

I’d recommend this pattern for knitters with a little experience who might  be ready for a challenge. The “wave” in the leg of these socks is completed with a four-stitch cable, which can be daunting for knitters who have never worked with a cable needle. Still, it’s a good first project as the cable only occurs once in 12 rounds. Be brave and give it a whirl!

My current project is a cute easy-knit tank top. Stay tuned!

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c.b.w. 2016

Caretta Caretta Socks

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After a long season of Christmas knitting, it was great to get back into the groove of knitting socks. Even though my sock drawer is already stuffed with 30 pairs of knitted socks (I wish I was exaggerating, but I’m not ), I had double pointed needles in one hand and a two hanks of sock yarn in the other before the Christmas tree came down.

I was looking for a little bit of a challenge this time around, so I selected a pattern from Socktopus by Alice Yu. The patterns in this book are incredibly beautiful, but also on the more difficult side. I wouldn’t recommend it for beginners despite the fact that the patterns are meticulous and clearly written. Some of the stitches and techniques require a little courage and experience!

After looking through all the patterns, I settled on Caretta Caretta Socks. I love knitting lace designs and I liked how this particular lace pattern was a bit thicker than most. The only adjustment I made was eliminating the beadwork. As pretty as the beads are in the pattern, I’m not a fan of beads on socks.

For the yarn, I went with an old favorite: Plymouth Yarn Happy Feet in gorgeous shades of purple, blue, and green with flecks of gold. I love how soft this yarn is, but I have noticed the gauge is a bit larger than stated on the tag (I tend to knit right on gauge and no matter what I do, this yarn always goes bigger!). I scaled my needles down a full size to compensate.

My socks turned out great! The variegated colors worked really well with a thicker lace pattern.

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Caretta Caretta Socks in Plymouth Yarn Happy Feet

One of my favorite features of this pattern is the 3×1 ribbed heel flap. It matches the cuff and integrates fully into the lace pattern as if its an extension. It’s a nice touch that gives these socks and elegant flow.

My Caretta Caretta socks are now sitting at the top of my sock drawer and I love them. Meanwhile, I’m already knitting another pair of socks. This time I’m following a pattern inspired by Japanese knitting techniques and stitches. And the yarn is divine – I bough it in Portland and it’s proving to be phenomenal. Stay tuned!

Happy Knitting!

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c.b.w. 2016

Fixing Those Darn Holes in Knitted Socks

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One of the reasons I love knitting socks is the fact that they rarely get holes. Back in the days of store-bought socks, I was dealing with holes every few months, which meant I had to keeping buying more socks.

Hand knit socks are much more sturdy and can take a beating if they are well cared for. I knit my first pair of socks 3½ years ago and they are still good as new even though I wear them all the time. The same goes for just about every pair of socks I’ve made since.

However, no pair of socks is immune to wearing thin or eventually forming that dreaded hole. Four pairs of my hand-knit socks recently developed either a full-blown hole or thinning spots. Sadly, two of those pairs are among my favorites!

It was easy enough to figure out why these four pair wore through so much faster than the others. Since making them I’ve learned how important yarn/fiber choice and sizing is when it comes to socks. If socks are made with the wrong fiber they will not hold up to regular wear and tear. Even worsted weight yarn can wear down quickly if the fiber content isn’t ideal. For example, wool blends tend to hold up better than 100% wool.

If socks are too small or too big, the same is true. A sock that’s too small is stretched to it’s limit which puts more stress on fibers that are already fighting a battle against shoes, floors, and constant movement. A sock that’s too big is sliding around all over the place pulling fibers at odd angles. All the more reason to check gauge and know your foot measurements!

To fix my socks, I relied on a how-to article I found in Sockupied, Ed. by Anne Merrow. It lays out the classic method of darning with easy-to-follow written directions and diagrams. This method works on socks with full-blown holes and threadbare areas all the same. However, it’s a lot easier to execute over threadbare areas, so try to catch those holes before they break open.

Darning takes just three steps:

  1. Straight-stitch a frame around the damaged area. Anchor stitches at least three rows out from the damage.
  2. Weave horizontal threads through each row of existing stitches and pull snugly (but not too tightly over open areas).
  3. Weave a vertical thread through each row of existing stitches and the established horizontal thread.

When in doubt, follow the diagram:

Light green = Step 1
Dark green = Step 2
Yellow = Step 3

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A few hours of work repaired my beloved socks.

Round 1: Repairing a Wide Open Hole

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Ahhh! That’s a bad hole!

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Not bad for my first try!

Round 2: Repairing A Threadbare Area (with a learning curve)

It’s ideal to have matching yarn, but when I made my first few pairs of socks, I didn’t think to keep the extra yarn. Two pairs had to be repaired with starkly different yarn which highlights my sometimes horrible stitching! Still, the damage is fixed! Both sock pairs are back in action, but this one shows the repair best:

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Yikes! A bald spot!

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Fixed (with a bad toupee). Note to self: Always save extra yarn.

Round 3: Repairing A Threadbare Area (Now I’ve got it!)

Matching yarn makes all the difference. Not only is it the right weight and color, but it fills in the gaps much more efficiently. The repair in this pair of socks is virtually invisible. It also helps that my stitching improved greatly since Round 1. When learning to fix your own socks, save your favorite pair for last. By then, you’ll know what you’re doing and your favorite socks will once again be perfect!

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You should have seen my face when I discovered this almost hole.

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Perfect camouflage! My favorite socks are ready to wear, again.

Happy Darning!

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c.b.w. 2016

Knit Happens at Christmas

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When I learned how to knit three years ago, I had no idea how much of a Christmas tradition it would become. What started as a pair of socks for everyone turned into special orders to specific knitted items and/or specialized projects.

I’m not complaining in the least because I love giving handmade gifts. Sometimes I wonder if my friends and family feel that way – there’s always that little voice that wonders if they’re thinking, “oh no, not again!” However, everyone’s excited responses told me I hit the mark this year!

My Christmas knitting odyssey began in early August. My stepmother very specifically asked for lightweight dishcloths. So, I tracked down some Sport weight cotton and got to work:

Yarn: Premier Yarns Cotton Fair (Violets and Cocoa)
Patterns From: Eight Linen Washcloths

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Next, I knit up some socks for a few friends that haven’t received socks since the first knitty round of Christmas. I made a simple 3×1 ribbed sock with a touch of color work in various worsted weight yarns (my yarn stash came in pretty handy!). Then, I got creative and paired each pair of socks with a book. Now these simple socks are “Reading Socks!”

Yarn: Various stash yarns, worsted weight
Pattern: Ann’s Go-To Socks

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One of my friends is a fellow Twi-Hard, so I made her a replica of a hat worn by Bella in the movie version of Eclipse. This was my first attempt at color work beyond the heel and toe of a sock. While I love how it turned out, this project reinforced my overall preference for textured patterns instead of color work.

Yarn: Lion Brand, Vanna’s Choice, (Green and Natural)
Pattern: Twilight Eclipse Bella Striped Hat

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My love of lace knitting got a nice workout with a scarf I made for my aunt. I found this pattern while playing on Pinterest and it turned out to be a beautiful and relatively easy pattern.

Yarn: Paton’s Classic Worsted Wool, (white)
Pattern: Birch Trees Scarf

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When I made my mom a kitchen towel last year, my sister wanted one, too. So, I decided to make one for her for Christmas. While a bit unconventional, this towel is highly absorbent and very sturdy. A row of buttons allows for the towel to be secured around an oven handle.

Yarn: Sugar n’ Spice Solids and Twists (Wine and Cottage)
Pattern: Triangles Towel

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Last, but not least, I made my mother something very special. Her kitchen window has long been in need of a pretty curtain or valance. I just so happened to come across a stunning lattice lace curtain pattern and thought it would look fantastic on her window. It’s one of the larger pieces I’ve ever made and it turned out beautiful!

Yarn: Knit Picks Shine Sport (Platinum)
Pattern: Dappled Lace Cafe Curtain

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One section of a 48″ panel

Knitting gifts is always fun, but now I’m excited to pick up my knitting needles and make a little something for myself!

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c.b.w. 2015

The Braided Trivet Solution

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After three years of knitting, I’ve amassed a ridiculous amount of scrap yarn. This is the yarn where there’s too much to throw away yet not enough to complete even a small project. It’s a conundrum every knitter faces – What the heck do you do with all that extra yarn?

K1506_small2The solution came to me in the Summer 2015 issue of Interweave Knits magazine. In it, there was article on nifty ways to use an i-cord for household items, like coasters, seat cushions, and trivets. My interested was lukewarm at first – I loved the idea of knitting things for my home, but I hated the prospect having to knit i-cords. After knitting several i-cords for a tank top I made a couple of years ago, I swore I’d never do it again.

Then, I read a little further and found out there’s a much easier way to create the dreaded i-cord. Remember those tube knitting tools for kids? Well, take that idea and mechanize it with a crank and rotating hooks. The Embellish Knit essentially “motorizes”  the i-cord process. Sign me up!

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I tracked down an Embellish Knit at my local craft store and got to work! Creating an i-cord has never been easier – In under twenty minutes the Embellish Knit can crank out a 75 inch i-cord. After learning how to knit an i-cord on needles and hating every minute of it, I believe this is the best invention ever created for knitters!

My first trivet was created with leftover sock yarn from socks I made earlier this year. I simply turned the crank and made three 70″ i-cords. Then, I tied the top sections together by the tail yarn. I secured those ends to the back of a chair and braided the cords together. The last step is stitching the braid into a coil, using a horizontal zig-zag stitch, (the entire process is outlined visually in Interweave’s article).

I ended up with a 6″  trivet that didn’t buckle thanks to the horizontal zig-zag stitch.

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6″ sock yarn braided trivet – wool, alpaca, acrylic blend.

The success of the first trivet led me to experiment with other scrap yarns in different colors and weights. Through the process of trial and error I learned the Embellish Knit can handle a variety of different yarns, but anything above #3 weight yarn gets tangled in the hooks. Wool, cotton, acrylic, and blended fibers all seemed to work well as long they are on the lightweight end of gauge.

My scrap yarn basket has thankfully been reduced significantly thanks to a number of successful trivet projects.

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6.5″ braided trivet – spun and worsted 3-ply wool.

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7″ braided trivet – 100% cotton, sport weight

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8″ braided trivet – worsted weight wool, 10 ply

This one is definitely a birthday present for my mother-in-law. Turquoise is her favorite color and the yarn came from a pair of socks I made for her two years ago.

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7.5″ braided trivet – wool/acrylic blend, #3 weight

The most recent trivet I made is for me. It matches my kitchen perfectly and I love the heft of a lightweight worsted wool.

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8″ braided trivet – worsted weight wool, 10 ply

Some of these lovely trivets will be wrapped up as Christmas gifts and some will make their way into my kitchen. Either way, I’m thrilled to have a practical, yet fun way to use up yarn that would otherwise just sit there tempting my cat to make a mess.

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c.b.w. 2015