Archive for the “handspun” Category

Drumroll, please.



And now, on center stage, the Knitting Pirate is pleased to present, in their debut appearance… HANDSPUN SOCKS!



410 yards of two-ply yarn, spun from 4.4 ounces of BFL from FreckleFaceFibers on Etsy, became this pair of toe-up, short-row-heel, socks for myself! I started them in the end of July, 2009, when Janis and I challenged each other not to just spin yarn, but to actually knit with it, too. We both decided on socks. I decided to go with toe-up, because I didn’t know how far the yarn would go, but I knew I wanted to get as much out of it as I could. I used Wendy’s Generic Toe-Up Sock Pattern, substituting a figure-eight toe.



One of the neat things about toe-up socks is that there’s really no need for a gauge swatch; you can just use the toe as a swatch. The yarn seemed thinner than most commercial sock yarns I’ve knit with, so I decided to use size 0 needles. I started with my usual sixteen-loop toe, knit until I thought it fit my foot, realized that it was too large, and horrified my audience by nonchalantly ripping it out and starting over. “But you’ve knit so much already!” they said. “Isn’t it frustrating to have to begin again?” I explained that I’d rather lose an hour or so of knitting, than put in the time it takes to knit the entire pair and end up with socks that don’t fit. It’s possible that my horrified audience didn’t entirely understand.

(Lesson learned: When using a toe-up toe as a swatch, work the increases only to the point where the toe fits over your first four toes. You can leave the pinky out, it’s okay. She won’t mind, because in the end the socks will fit much, much more snugly around your foot.)



The socks do fit perfectly, thank goodness. They are a little tight to get on, but once I have them in place they fit me like, well, like socks. No bagging around the ankles, no sagging around the legs, and no extra material around the foot. I hope they wear as well as they fit!

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My mom had surgery this week, and I wasn’t able to be there the day of it – so I went to visit her as soon as she got home and was up for visitors. She seems to be doing pretty well, all things considered. We sat and chatted while I worked on the Handspun Sock, and she showed me a gorgeous scarf that her friend knit for her as a long-distance hug. Not just any friend, but her friend from college who taught her to knit in the first place, without whom I wouldn’t be knitting now! It’s made up of a bunch of different yarns from her stash, in a bunch of different colourways, which blend together beautifully to make something which is very much Mom’s style.

I don’t have a picture of the scarf, but I do have this picture of the nieceling wearing the Bunny Sweater that Mom knit for her! The bunny is still missing a pompom tail, but that’s all right. And now that Mom’s done knitting the kid-size sweater, she’s thinking of knitting one for herself. Does anyone have any suggestions for a structured cardigan or coat that might work? Something suitable for office-wear?

Then Mom totally made my day by asking for a pair of socks to wear with blue jeans, although in the past she’s said that she wasn’t interested in them as she tends to wear very thin nylon socks. But the gloves I made her, and the scarf from her friend, are working to change her mind. Not to mention Pirate-Husband, who chimed in to say that he’d been skeptical about handknit socks until he got a pair, and now he is all about the socks. I would be thrilled to make socks for my mom! I just need a few measurements, I told her, and then I will surprise her with when she gets the finished pair. This is going to be fun! Hey Mom, do you want plain socks? Stripey socks? Socks with a fancy stitch pattern?

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On Tuesday night, I stayed up too late in order to turn the heel on my second handspun sock. I may have had some difficulty counting, though I hate to admit it. A short-row heel is not hard to do, so I don’t know why I was having such trouble. With thirty-six stitches, I just needed to work back and forth, wrapping the next-to-last stitch as the rows got shorter, until there were twelve wrapped on each side and twelve unwrapped in the middle. So back and forth I went, keeping a mental count: One, one. Two, two. Three, three… until I got up to Eight, Seven. How did that happen? I tinked back until everything matched and tried again, and got it right the second time.

The reason for wanting the heel turned Tuesday is that on Wednesday, I was finally able to rejoin my old crowd, the Reston Stitch ‘n Bitch, for their third anniversary celebration. We had about 40 knitters (and crocheters, and embroiderers) there and it was a wonderful time! I can’t say that I got too much knitting done, but at least it was all stockinette and I don’t have to worry too much about messing that up. We meet at Cosi, which was as warm and welcoming as I remembered. Our group takes up the entire back of the restaurant! Towards the end of the evening, our organizer Marie organized cheesecake for everyone.

I think I am going to have to make more of an effort to get back there on some Wednesdays. Maybe not every week, since I do have to stay late at work in order to get to Reston at the right time… but some weeks. Yeah. I miss everyone. It was awesome to go back.

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On Sunday, I brought the second of the handspun socks to a community meeting. The meeting was a nightmare, which allowed me to crank away on the sock until I was afraid that I’d actually knit too far up the foot, and I had to put it away. At that point I actually started to participate in the meeting, which may have been a mistake – I can see now why so many people in my neighborhood just don’t get involved!

Back at home, I measured and was happy to conclude that the foot was still about an inch short. I worked on it while watching the Vikings/Saints game, and then on Monday evening I settled in to knit the short-row heel. Well, I got about eight or ten rows in and something went wrong. I couldn’t tell what – perhaps I forgot to wrap one of the stitches, or maybe I forgot how to count as I knit. Either way, I was tired so I decided not to stress over it; I put it down and went to bed. I’ll fix it up this evening.

On the spinning front, this lovely fiber from LakeHouse Loft was my birthday present to myself. It’s six ounces of Corriedale in randomly-patterned colors, and I’m not yet sure how I’m going to spin it. I could do a three-ply sock yarn, or a slightly heavier weight for a matching hat and fleep-top set. Most of my queue is hats and socks, with the occasional scarf or dishcloth in there as well. What can I say – I like socks!

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Cascade Heritage SockThese socks are cranking right along, and I am absolutely loving the yarn. Fortunately I have another skein in a different colorway for myself! As I expected, there was a little pooling around the gusset, but for the most part the colors are distributing evenly. It is much more vivid in direct sunlight, which is a neat trick of the dye job. Indoors, the colors are quite subtle. (You can ignore the safety pin; that was just a place-marker.)

Handspun BFL SockI have been thinking of the handspun socks as the “Perfectly Imperfect Socks.” There is something incredible about knitting with yarn that I spun myself – about being able to spin yarn that’s good enough to knit with – about watching the colors come together and knowing that there will never be another pair of socks like these. They’re mine, from beginning to end, and I am wonderfully proud of them. And of myself.

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Fortunately, only three stitches had slid from the needles of the handspun sock, and hadn’t dropped down very far at all. I was able to rescue them in just a few minutes (doesn’t everyone keep a small crochet hook in their purse?) and resumed knitting with no progress lost. The yarn seems to be slightly thinner in this section and I’m hoping it’s not too thin for the sock.

The truth is, I think I will love these more if they are slightly imperfect. As a perfectionist, I’ve always been a hoarder of arts and craft supplies, and now of yarn – because as long as it’s still unused, it has great potential. If I use it up, it might not come out as well as I imagine it in my head. These socks are an attempt to conquer that terrible attitude. I was hesitant to spin the fiber into yarn because I didn’t want to mess it up, and then I was delaying knitting the yarn into socks because I didn’t want to mess it up. But I have one sock done and another on the way, and they’re coming out all right if not perfectly… and they are mine, my very first handspun socks, and no matter what they’re like when they’re done I will adore them.

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Every time I put my sock in progress into my purse, I think “I sure hope none of the stitches slide off the needles.” They almost never do… but when I took the toe of my handspun sock out of my bag, I noticed a suspiciously ramen-like section of yarn. Yep, sure enough. some of the stitches had slid free and dropped down a few rows. Phooey!

In lieu of fixing it, I worked on the Cascade Heritage sock. I’m done with the leg and about to start the heel flap, but I’ve run into math troubles. I’d thought to continue the k3, p1 ribbing down the heel, but this is a 68 stitch sock – so there are seventeen groups of four stitches – so how many of them would I use to make a symmetrical heel flap? If I want to frame the instep with purl stitches, that would mean doing the ribbed heel flap over 35 stitches rather than 34. And then what are the heel turn numbers?

The internet has the solution: apparently 70 stitch socks, with 35 stitch heel flaps, are not uncommon! I checked a few different patterns and picked the numbers which looked best to me. Here’s hoping it works out well. If it doesn’t, it wouldn’t be the first time I’ve un-knit a heel flap!

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I’ve been holding off on knitting my handspun socks for a while, because I want to bring them to New York for Thanksgiving. They’re all stockinette with the exception of the heel and cuff, which means I will barely have to think about working on them while I’m visiting with the family. And besides, if I’m going to show off my knitting, I might as well show off my yarn-spinning skills while I’m at it! No one else in the family (besides Mom) knits, that I know of. Perhaps they will think I’m a little strange for futzing with yarn and needles during our visit, but I’m okay with that.

I don’t have a recent picture, but the first sock is completed and the second sock is just past the toe increases. I have plenty of foot to knit, and I doubt that I’ll have enough time to get up to the heel turn. Knitting goes a lot more slowly when there are twenty people to talk with at the same time, but that’s all right. I just need something to do with my hands so I don’t fidget too much.

One problem with having so many projects going on at the same time is that it seems as if I will never finish any of them. I know that it will feel that way for a while, and then I will suddenly have several finished projects all at once, which will feel pretty awesome indeed. I’m making progress, slowly but surely, five rows here and five rows there.

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I haven’t knit much in the past couple of weeks. There always seems to be something else to do, people visiting, places to go.

Half of the blues and greens Falkland is spun into singles that should ply into a striping heavy fingering weight yarn, and I’ve split the other half to be the same. I took a pair of pliers to my spinning wheel to open up the eyehooks just enough to let me switch the brake band around so that it will work better for plying. I can’t believe I didn’t think of that before watching the New Voyager video that recommended it – of course a spring-tensioned brake won’t work if the bobbin is turning towards the spring!

My friend for whom I’m making Napramach asked me again about it last night. I haven’t touched it in weeks, but now I’m reminded that I need to get back to it. It takes a lot of concentration and unbroken blocks of time, which seem to be in short supply lately.

I cast on for the second handspun BFL sock, and am through the toe increases and into the foot. It will probably be my Thanksgiving knitting, as it’s stockinette all the way up. That makes it perfect for knitting while talking.

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I did not go to Rhinebeck this past weekend, and it’s probably just as well. I heard that it was cold and rainy. Perhaps next year!

Instead, I spent the weekend in Boston with a couple of friends who indulged my strange hobby and waited patiently while I visited Newbury Yarns and Windsor Button, petted all the yarns, and purchased nothing. There were a couple of sock yarns at Windsor Button that almost came home with me, but in the end I decided that nothing really had to.

I did get to work on my handspun sock for a while in the airport. A woman across from me at the gate watched curiously for a minute or two, then asked, “Excuse me, but… what is that called, that you’re doing?”

“Knitting,” I said. “I am knitting a sock, even if it doesn’t look like much yet. This will be the toe.” I showed her the barest beginnings of sock.

She nodded. “Nih-ting,” she said, trying the word on for size as if she’d never encountered it before. “Nih-ting. You don’t see too many people doing that anymore!”

“No,” I agreed, and went back to it.

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