Thursday, 26 June 2014

De-mystifying toe-up socks part 3: Finishing off, inserting the heel & grafting

This is the final part of the Demystifying toe-up socks series. If you missed the other posts, you can find them here. If you've been working along with me, you should now have something that looks like this: 
Ready to knit the cuff
This sample sock is a short one, so it's time to knit the cuff. I've chosen to use a simple rib in the contrasting yarn, knit as follows:
Sock tube finished and bound off. Time for the afterthought heel

You're almost finished and from the front it looks like a sock! It's time to move onto the afterthought heel. This is a great heel for a number of reasons: it's easy to do, there's no need to calculate anything, and it can be ripped out and replaced if you wear through it, or.... for any other reason but we'll come to that later!!!! If you've ever made a cuff-down sock, you'll recognise that this heel is identical to a standard wedge toe, simply a matter of decreasing and then grafting it shut. (If you haven't made a sock, you can see this in the photos below.)

Step 1: It can be easier to pick up the stitches on the 'wrong side', so start by turning the sock inside out. Then use one end of the circular needle to pick up the stitches along one side of the scrap yarn which was placed last week. Repeat with the other end of the needle, so that you pick up the stitches to either side of the scrap yarn. 
Pick up the live stitches to either side of the scrap yarn
Step 2: When all the stitches have been picked up, carefully remove the scrap yarn. I find it easier to do this from the right side of the sock. 
Step 3: Once you've done that, flip the circular needle through the hole so that you're ready to knit. If you count the stitches on your needle, you may find that you have picked up a loop which is not a stitch (on one or both sides) - don't worry about this as you need to pick up 2 stitches in each of the gaps between the needles anyway, just pick up less. I didn't pick up any loops and you can see that I have my original 24 sts on each needle. 
Step 4: You're now ready to knit the heel. Using the heel yarn (it might be the same as your main sock, a contrasting colour like mine, or your yarn plus reinforcing thread held double) and knit across the first needle. When you get to the gap between the needles, pick up and twist (knit into the back of) two stitches to close the gap. 
Picking up the stitches will leave a neat finish and after a few rounds will look like the picture below. Don't worry too much - you can also close any small gaps when sewing in the ends.  
Repeat on the other needle so that you have the original number of stitches + 2 (for me that's 24 + 2 = 26) on each needle. 

Step 5: You need at least a few rows of plain knitting before the decreases start. This means you can make any further adjustments to fit the heel you're knitting for - more rounds will make a deeper/bigger heel. I've knit three rounds in stocking stitch so I'm ready to continue as follows: 
  • Round 1 - *k1, ssk, k to last 3 st on needle, k2tog, k1, repeat from * on other needle
  • Round 2 - knit
  • Repeat rounds 1 and 2 until desired number of sts remain (for me, that's 8 on each needle)
  • Graft closed using kitchener stitch
Time to graft
Grafting / 'Kitchener Stitch' sounds terribly complicated, but it's simply a way of joining two lots of open stitches by sewing a row of stocking stitch between them. It's much easier than you might think, although I believe that - like anything - it can take a little practice to make it super neat (but maybe that's just my own aversion to sewing knits). Once you can get the tension right, it looks lovely and you can't see the join.
  • Cut the yarn so that you have a long tail (30cm or so is plenty for a few sts) and thread onto a needle, then hold the sock in your left had as if to knit. You'll be working with the sewing needle throughout. 

We'll be working into the first front stitch and first back stitch and either sewing into them as if to knit or as if to purl. When each stitch has been worked twice it's slipped off the knitting needle and is effectively cast off. (If you'd like to watch a video, lesson 3 in the free Craftsy Class Ins and Outs of Grafting* is excellent and much clearer than I can show you in still photos.) Work as follows: 
  • SET UP: front stitch, purl, keep stitch on THEN back stitch, knit, keep stitch on, THEN
  • 1. Front stitch, knit, slip stitch off
  • 2. Front stitch, purl, keep stitch on
  • 3. Back stitch, purl, slip stitch off
  • 4. Back stitch, knit, keep stitch on
  • REPEAT steps 1 to 4 until all the stitches are bound off. 
Apart from sewing in the ends, that's it - a finished sock. It's time to make the other one! (Next time, you might like to make two-at-a-time, my tutorial will help you get started.)

At this point I must apologise for the picture which was taken just as a bright flash of sunlight came into the room. I would have taken another but something happened to my sock shortly afterwards. I'm still traumatised about it, but I'll tell you more another day!
Finished sock (almost)
I hope you've enjoyed this series. If it's inspired you to knit more socks and to try different techniques, you might like some of the following links.
- Socks from the Toe Up* - a great book of toe-up patterns by Wendy Johnson
Knit Socks From the Toe Up* sock-knitting class on Craftsy
Knit Original Toe Up Socks* sock-design class on Craftsy
Tube Socks - a free kid's sock pattern by Jane Richmond which doesn't have any heel at all!
- There are thousands of afterthought heel sock patterns on Ravelry
- Finally, I have lots of tutorials on various topics which you can find here.

*CftC is part of the Amazon and Craftsy affiliate programmes - read more here
Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Show & Tell: The Sewn Bind-off

Sewn bind-off tutorial on Crafts from the Cwtch blog.
Since I came across Elizabeth Zimmerman's sewn bind-off in her Knitter's Almanac, it's been my go-to method for circular items. Mainly because it's so simple to do, but gives maximum flexibility as to how tight or stretchy you want to make it. While photographing the final part of the "Demystifying Toe-up Socks series", I took the opportunity to take some pictures of this too - I hope you'll find it useful. 

Step 1: Cut your yarn, leaving at least three times the length of the edge you're casting off and thread the end through a (sewing) needle. Insert the needle through the first two stitches, working from right to left, then pull the yarn through, but not too tight. 
Step 1
Step 2: Thread the needle back through the first stitch, from left to right. When all the yarn is through the stitch, slip it off the knitting needle. That stitch is now bound off. 
Step 2
Step 3: Repeat steps 1 and 2, ensuing to keep the stitches even and with the desired tension - too tight and you won't get much stretch. Too loose and it won't look very neat! 
Step 3
Step 4: When there is only one stitch left, sew into the first stitch that you bound off. Then sew-in the ends. 
The final part of the sock series will be published on Thursday, when we'll be adding the afterthought heel to our sock. In the meantime you can find lots of other tutorials here
Monday, 23 June 2014

Three weeks later...

The CftC "fitalong" started three weeks ago. If you missed the announcement, you can read it here. I drafted and re-drafted that post several times before publishing it, because I wasn't sure whether crafty folk would be terribly interested in something that would get you away from your craft to become more active - unless you can knit and walk simultaneously (btw socks are good for that, if you haven't tried!)

Twenty-one days on, I am glad I did because it clearly struck a chord with a number of you. I'm not going to repeat the private conversations and emails I've had with other 'fitalong-ers' and their families/friends who have joined in, but I will share some of the things that have happened for me in the last 21 days.

- I can feel my fitness has improved considerably. I'm not so easily out-of-breath (being asthmatic this is very good news) and have more stamina so have increased my daily goal from 10,000 steps to 12,500 and am regularly doing more than that.
- Using the combination of Fitbit and MyFitnessPal App, I'm much more mindful about healthy eating and staying hydrated. This is impacting the rest of the family. 
- My body is changing. Clothes that didn't fit in May are now comfortable - some need a belt!
- I'm sleeping really well.
- Hayfever aside, being outdoors so much more is great at this time of year. 
- Walking with my mum is nice, we get time to chat - away from distractions - and we have met some lovely people! (You can see below that she's top of the 'leaderboard' after pretty much ditching her car and walking everywhere.)
- My husband works in front of screens all day and usually relaxes in front of screens too. "The kids" bought him a tracker for Father's Day and we have actually been out walking together at weekends - he is OFFERING to come and suggesting walks! This is something I didn't expect.  
- On top of all this, weekly fuel costs have dropped by an average of 30% as I'm using the car less. But I've had to spend a bit more on dog food - Archie is eating a lot from all the extra walking. 
- Getting fitter alongside others has made it much more fun than doing it alone. It makes it easier to stick to, even on the days when it would be easy to make excuses, and that means it's much more likely to become habitual and a permanent lifestyle change. (There's a little friendly competition between a few people who have similar goals, which is quite amusing too!)
The Fitbit leaderboard this morning! Look at the combined results!!!

As a result of all this good stuff, the 'fitalong', which was intended to run for June, will continue into July. New people are still joining in and if you're thinking about it now would be a great time to join us. All you need to do is:
(1) Set yourself realistic goals for daily activity - it could be steps, how many minutes a day you want to be active for, distance, whatever you like. It doesn't matter how much or little you do already, just that you are committing to do more for the sake of your health and wellbeing. My tip, which is really only common sense, is to start off gently.
(2) Decide how you will monitor your progress - it could be one of the many available devices, a smartphone app, or a wristwatch and notebook. It's up to you.
(3) Come and say hello to the rest of the group. You can find a thread in my Ravelry group, and for Fitbit users there is a community group which automatically aggregates all member data, and where we can chat - the image above is from the group's homepage. There is a tag which we're using on Instagram and Twitter, and that is #cftcfitalong. Great for posting quick updates and pictures of the lovely things you're seeing on your walks.

The Fitbit group is the much more active than the other, but of course not everyone is using one of those devices so I was wondering if it would be helpful to add a private facebook group? If you think so, please let me know in the comments or by email and if there is enough interest, I'll sort something out. UPDATE: It's done - you can find the new facebook group here - send a request to join. 

Finally a shout out to everyone who is already taking part - here's to a happy healthy July! 
The New Flex: Wireless Activity Tracker
Note: This post contains affiliate links. Read more about them here
Sunday, 22 June 2014

Has crochet helped you?

A new crochet health survey has been launched to study how crochet heals people - maybe you can help? This is a 27-question survey (mostly multiple choice) designed to gather detailed information about the physical and mental health issues that are helped through crochet work and to what degree the craft is helpful. The survey is produced by Kathryn Vercillo, an expert in the topic of healing through crochet.

Kathryn Vercillo is the author of Crochet Saved My Life, a book about the craft’s health benefits (my friend Wink is in that one!). In the book Kathryn shares her own story of crocheting to heal from chronic depression. She also interviews two dozen other women who share their stories of hooking to heal. In addition, she aggregates the available research into crafting to heal.

Several formal studies have been conducted that show crochet to be healing. The new study is designed to add to the available information on this topic. One unique thing about it is that the study focuses specifically on crochet as opposed to lumping it in with other crafts. Another unique feature is that it goes beyond asking the question “does crochet help?” (because we know that it does) and explores how it helps, to what extent, and for what symptoms.

Kathryn Vercillo will do an in-depth analysis of the results of this study. She will use that information to publish a full report on the health benefits of crafting. She will also use the information in future publications and it will serve as the foundation for continued research into this important topic.
A survey like this has the potential to lead to a number of benefits including:
  • Credibility to get crochet into more settings including hospitals, recovery centers, in-patient therapy groups, prisons and schools
  • Information that can be given to doctors and therapists to help them understand how crochet can heal
  • Help for individuals who want to learn how crochet can help them heal
  • Lays the groundwork for additional research opportunities into the topic

You can help support the craft of crochet by contributing your response to this new survey. The survey is available at
Thursday, 19 June 2014

Demystifying toe-up socks part 2: The foot, leg and 'Afterthought heel' placement

This is the second part in the "Demystifying toe-up socks" series. If you missed the first bit, you may like to go back and take a look before reading on, or it might not make sense. At the end of last week's post, we'd just finished the toe. This week we're knitting the foot and leg - which is basically a tube - and deciding where the afterthought heel will be inserted, which involves just a little bit of maths.

If you're following along you'll need the sock you already started, a measuring tape, and some scrap yarn - ideally something quite smooth and easy to remove later.
Part 2: knitting the "tube" and afterthought heel placement
I've chosen this heel for a jolly good reason. After making myself numerous pairs of socks and wearing through the heels, I've decided this is the best - maybe the only - way forward. It means I can easily reinforce the heel and if a hole should develop at any time, the heel can be undone and re-knit without unravelling the rest of the sock.

It also works really well if you're using a different colour for the heel (and if you want to reinforce it!) or if you are not sure whether you have enough yarn to finish the sock, and want to keep your options open - you can come back to the heel with the same yarn if you do have enough, or finish it with something else if not.

The Afterthought heel decreases to a small number of stitches which are then grafted together (we'll talk about this next week). This is also good for me - frankly my grafting is in need of practice, and I'd rather it were in an inconspicuous place.

THE MATHS: Before knitting the foot, it's necessary to work out where to position the heel...
Sock maths
Some sock maths to work out heel placement
Once you've made a few pairs of socks for the feet in question, you'll become an expert at knowing exactly where the heel should be (for a child, this is subject to growth). In the same way, you'll learn how many stitches make a great sock for these particular feet, as well as any adjustments which make them perfect. We'll go on to talk about those things in a later post. Different patterns may also give particular instructions based on gauge, the amount of recommended ease etc.

For the purposes of practicing on our Demystified socks, we can use the general rule of thumb which is that an afterthought heel should be inserted somewhere between 4 and 6 cm (1.5"- 2") less than the length of the foot. When you have worked this out, you can continue your sock...

Step 1: Knit the foot until it measures the length you have calculated. My sock is for Little Miss and her foot currently measures 17.5 cm from the heel to her longest toe. I'm using a 5cm heel allowance, so I need to knit the foot until it measures 12.5cm from the toe.
As I'm using a second colour for the leg, I began with one knit round in the new colour before starting to work a simple rib across the top of the foot. The rib looks more interesting than plain stocking(ette) stitch and will add some elasticity - always good for 'gift' socks or, as in this case, the first pair of socks for someone who isn't around to try them on.

If you're following along, you can either continue in the same colour as the toe, or switch to something else, and it's up to you whether you prefer stocking stitch or the rib I'm using (or anything else, for that matter). Based on 24 sts on each needle, mine is worked as follows: 
  • Needle 1 (top) - p1, k2, (p2, k2) to last st on the needle, p1 
  • Needle 2 (sole) - k24
Step 2: When the foot is the right length, it's time to set-up for the heel, using scrap yarn: 
Heel placement for afterthought heel
  • Work the stitches on needle 1, as per the foot
  • Using scrap yarn, knit across the sole stitches on needle 2 
  • Slip the scrap yarn stitches back onto the left needle  
  • Knit the needle 2 sole stitches again using the working yarn
Step 3: Work the leg (in pattern, if applicable) until it reaches the desired heel-to-cuff length. For my ribbed sock, this means repeating the needle 1 instructions on needle 2, like this:
  • *p1, k2, (p2, k2) to last st on needle, p1*, repeat from * to * on second needle
Isn't that simple? Continue to work in pattern until approximately 1.5 to 2 cm before the length you'd like your finished sock to be. All that remains is to finish off the cuff and insert the heel - I'll show you how to do that in part three. (While you wait, there are lots of other tutorials and tips here!) 
Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Show & Tell: Etsy on TV for #PeopleMakeEtsy campaign

CftC is part of the Etsy Affiliate programme. If you purchase from an affiliate link, a small fee helps to fund the blog. 
Have you seen the new Etsy advert in the UK? I haven't spotted it on TV yet but thought I'd post it for today's show and tell...
The ad includes over 60 Etsy sellers from the UK as part of the new #PeopleMakeEtsy campaign. Great publicity for the many independent people who are selling through Etsy - and not just in the UK.

As you probably know, Etsy is one of my favourite marketplaces - it's the first place I look for 'special' purchases, gifts and artisan products, and I'm proud to be affiliated with them. I know numerous people who sell handcrafted wares and vintage finds via Etsy, and am constantly 'meeting' new people as I shop. In fact, I have a few posts lined up to introduce some of them to you over the summer.

If you haven't tried shopping on Etsy yet (really??), you can get £5 towards your first purchase by clicking this referral link. If you're not sure where to start you might like to take a look at my curated page which includes LOTS of lovely yarn, notions, and things for crafty folks. If you spotted something you like in the ad, the items are listed here.

If you are an Etsy seller, please feel to leave your shop name in the comments - I love browsing! 
Friday, 13 June 2014

FO Friday: Playhouse Makeover

It feels a little fraudulent to show this for "FO Friday" as (a) it was finished ages ago and (b) my mum did at least as much work on it as I did (we let the kids paint the back, but fought over the rest). Nevertheless it is finished and I'm showing you on a Friday. Do you remember this photo? 
I posted that back in August 2012 after buying the playhouse from a neighbour. It had been sat in her garden, full of old toys, and she wanted it gone. Of course it gave us the perfect excuse for a makeover.
Playhouse makeover

Playhouse makeover
I have some fabric put aside to make curtains and matching cushion covers but the house itself is finished and Little Miss has claimed it as her own, adding fresh flowers from the garden, pictures she has drawn (we need to find some frames) and a collection of her little things on the shelves. Archie loves hanging out there too.
Playhouse makeover
The weather is so glorious it's getting a lot of use at the moment - I might actually blow the dust off my sewing machine at the weekend!
Thursday, 12 June 2014

Demystifying Toe-Up Socks Part 1: The Toe

This is the first in a short series of posts to demystify toe-up sock knitting. I'm certainly not a sock aficionado and there are many people who have made plenty more socks and in different ways, but I'm going to show you my favourite way of starting a toe-up sock using a long circular needle and the magic loop method. There will be an afterthought heel in the 'demystified' sock, although you can use this toe with any other heel type you like. I'll talk about the heel in part 2. This is how it's going to work: 
This is my favourite way of knitting socks for a number of reasons:
- Using a long circular needle is much less fiddly than using double pointed needles or two circulars. It also makes it less likely that my needles will be lost, and is therefore more portable and convenient.  
- The sock can be easily tried on for size, right from the start.
- It's easy to make both socks at the same time on the same circular needle, avoiding 'second sock syndrome' or a mismatched pair.
- Inserting a stitch pattern into the basic sock can be done without figuring out how to knit the pattern "upside-down" as is usually necessary for cuff-down socks.
- Most importantly, it just feels right. I like my socks toe-up and my jumpers top-down, because that's the way I wear them.

If you want to knit along you just need sock yarn and needles that are appropriate - usually 2mm or 2.5mm and at least 80 cm long for magic loop.

- I knit 'Continental' style but the same instructions apply to 'English' style knitting - the working yarn is just held in the other hand.
- I'm assuming you can already knit and make increases of the M1L and M1R (leaning) varieties. If you are not sure, take a look at this excellent photo tutorial from Twist Collective. 
- The principles in this tutorial can be applied to any number of cast on stitches and for any size sock. For the purposes of the tutorial my "demystified" sock will be a fairly small one so that Little Miss can wear it afterwards.
- The toe shown starts with just 8 stitches so it doesn't take very long to knit - if you find it fiddly (it is, at first) you can keep ripping it out and trying again until you're happy that you have mastered the cast on and magic loop technique.
- I don't especially like knitting with the KnitPro Karbonz shown, but they are easier to photograph than my other shiny needles.
Demystifying toe-up socks, part 1
CASTING ON: Judy's Magic Cast On (JMCO) may look a little fiddly at first, but is totally worth learning - once you know how to do it you'll never look back! There is a very good 12 minute video from Judy Becker herself (here) which covers everything in minute detail. For the purposes of our sock - and those who share my short attention span - the following photos show what you need to know to get started.

Step 1. With your right hand, hold the tips parallel and then make a small gap between them. Leaving a tail which is long enough to cast on the required number of stitches plus a little excess, drape the yarn from back to front, over the rear-most needle. 
Step 2. Then with your left hand, hold the yarn tail over your index finger and the working yarn over your thumb as shown (if you know the long tail cast on, you have a head start!). This puts a little twist in the yarn which forms the first stitch on the back needle. The tail will become the stitches on the front needle, and the working yarn will become the stitches on the back needle. I find it easier to pick them up when one tip sticks out further than the other, as pictured below. 
Step 3. Move the needles back so that the one in front can pick up yarn from the tail - this is the first stitch on the front needle. 
Step 4. Move the needles towards you so the back needle can pick up the working yarn to make the second stitch on that needle. 
Repeat steps 3 and 4 until you have the required number of stitches on both needles - once you're into the rhythm it's quick. I'm using 8 stitches on each needle, for a total of 16. TIP: Aim to make the stitch tension about the same as your normal knit stitches so the first row is easy to knit.
*** If you want to try knitting your socks two-at-a-time, now is the time to cast on the second. Check out my earlier tutorial here! ***
With the correct number of stitches, move the needles into your left hand, ready to knit. Make sure the stitches are the right side up - if they look like the photo (fig 5) they are, but if you can see the purl bumps then it's the wrong way around. 
Step 5. As the last stitch is now just really a loop of yarn, twist the tail around the working yarn to secure until the first few stitches are done. I like to pull the tail between the needles so it is safe and can act as my marker - when the tail is to the right of the work I know I'm working the top of the foot, and when it's to the left, I'm working on the sole.

KNITTING THE TOE: Now that the cast on is done, it's time to knit the toe! With the right side of the work facing you (fig 6) slide the needle which is currently at the 'bottom' through the stitches until there is enough free cable to knit with it. Work across the stitches on the first needle. TIP: remember to watch out for those purl bumps - they should be to the back!
When you get to the end of the stitches on the first needle, turn the work so it's the other way up with the unworked sts now on the top-most needle. Then readjust the needle tips so that the unworked stitches are to the top/left and the worked stitches are held on the cable below, with the right needle ready to knit (fig 7). You'll see that these stitches are mounted in the wrong direction, for this round only you need to knit into the back of these stitches which will correct this.
The toe needs to increase by four stitches on each alternate round and this is done by adding a stitch at the beginning and end of each needle as follows:
Round 2:  (k1, m1l, k to last st on needle, m1r, k1) repeat on second needle
Round 3: Knit all sts
Repeat rounds 2 and 3 until you have the required number of stitches - I'm using 24 on each needle (48 in total, a usual adult sized sock is approx 60 in total). It's important to keep the yarn tight for the first few stitches on each needle, to prevent laddering - this can take a little practice if you have cables that are not very flexible. Once you've knit a few rounds, hold the work so that the two sets of stitches are parallel as this also helps.
That's all there is to the toe! In part two I'll be back to discuss knitting the 'tube' which will become the foot and leg, and where to place the holder for the afterthought heel. You'll need a tape measure for that. If you don't want to miss the post, you might like to subscribe to the blog by email - simply scroll to the bottom of this page and fill in your email address. I'll also post a link on the CftC Facebook page.

USEFUL LINKS: If you can't wait until then, you may like to check out some of these other resources
- Socks from the Toe Up* - a great book of toe-up patterns by Wendy Johnson
Knit Socks From the Toe Up* sock-knitting class on Craftsy
- Knit Original Toe Up Socks* sock-design class on Craftsy
- Tube Socks - a free kid's sock pattern by Jane Richmond which doesn't have any heel at all!
- Finally, I have lots of tutorials on various topics which you can find here.

*CftC belongs to the Amazon and Craftsy affiliate programmes. You can find out more here
Wednesday, 11 June 2014

WIPs and Books: When life brings you lemons...

My latest project is a Little Tubular Something... in other words, I'm making it up as I go along. After a few rounds sitting on the needles for aaaages, it is suddenly growing really quickly. Amazing, as it hasn't been picked up very much. (It's Kauni yarn and you can find it here.)
I've been putting the finishing touches to the first in the new series of posts entitled "Demystifying Toe-Up Socks" which should be ready tomorrow. My new sock design is still in the 'experimental chart' phase after my initial design idea was shelved (for the moment - I can't quite let go, as I really like the idea).
So what have I been reading? Last week I talked about American Wife - I'm still enjoying it but have been tired (from walking!) and as I read in bed, it means that not much progress has been made. But I have been dipping into a few other books - part of my new 'healthy' regime includes drinking more water. I got a nice (BPA free) water bottle to carry around at all times, and have been gathering recipe ideas for different 'fruit infused' waters - perfect for this time of year when fresh fruit is abundant and inexpensive and breaks up the monotony of a few litres of plain water a day. There are a various Kindle books on the subject - many free or available via the Kindle Lending Library - and lots of websites, if you care to google it. Which of course I did. I've been enjoying all sorts (one concoction was more like Pimms than water by the time the cucumber and mint was added) but sometimes you can't beat a plain old lemon.  
Monday, 9 June 2014

Coming to a foot near you....?

Over the last few years, I've experienced that, in broad terms, sock-knitting evokes one of two responses amongst knitters. Either (1) they love knitting socks and do so regularly, or (2) they haven't tried yet. Of course that's not to say that everyone who has made a sock is immediately addicted, but it seems to me that once people find a method of sock-knitting that suits them, they become a staple project. 

It's surely because socks tick so many boxes - they are small, quick, incredibly portable, can vary in complexity from absolute beginner level to super-complex, and can be made within any budget (my socks vary from £2.40 per pair made from Drops Fabel to £18 a pair made from hand dyed yarn). There are also numerous ways to knit them, from the cast on, to the heel and toe methods, to two-at-a-time. They can be knit on double pointed needles, two circulars or a long circular needle using the magic loop method. There really is something for everyone. 
Following recent discussions with friends, and then a thread on my Facebook page, it seems that toe-up socks are something that a lot of knitters want to try but are not confident to get started with. It's such a straight-forward method, I am surprised that so many people said they feel this way, and as I'm currently writing a toe-up afterthought-heel sock pattern, it seemed a good time to post a series of step-by-step tutorials. 

The first instalment will be posted later this week - in it,  I'll show you my favourite toe-up cast on and how to knit the toe. I'll be using the magic-loop method which is the way I learned to knit socks - I think it's really simple and that anyone who can knit can do it. As well as plenty of photos, I'll be including useful links. If you'd like to follow along with me, here's what you will need to get ready: 
- Sock / fingering weight yarn* of your choice 
- 2mm / 2.5mm circular needle, at least 80cm in length 
- Measuring tape

*If you don't have any sock yarn in your stash, don't worry - you can use any yarn (with appropriate needles) for the purposes of the tutorials if you just want to practice knitting along. 
Friday, 6 June 2014

Noro, Crochet and Nicki Trench

One of the things I love about social media is that so many people you wouldn't normally 'meet' are active participants. A few weeks ago I posted a picture of one of my crochet WIPs on Twitter and got a reply from Nicki TrenchNicki's Cute and Easy Crochet was one of the first books I bought when I started to crochet (maybe even before I could follow crochet patterns) and it turns out she doesn't live that far from me! We started chatting about crochet, workshops and working with Noro. As you probably know, I have a soft spot for Noro (a disproportionate number of my favourite projects are either entirely made from it, or include it in some way!) and I'm using Noro Kama for the project Nicki saw. I didn't know that she had a new book out which is called... "Hooked on Noro" and I was delighted to receive a review copy from the publishers a few days later. 

The book includes 13 beautiful designs which range from a jam jar cover to a tablecloth, with projects of various sizes in between - all made from Noro Silk Garden (various weights), Kureyon and Taiyo.  
As you can see, they are really lovely, and because the yarn does a lot of the work, it means the patterns are not too tricky either. They are clearly written and the majority are suitable for a 'hooker' with minimal crochet experience, provided you know the basic stitches and can read a written pattern (there are no charts). 

I particularly love the summer garden throw (above) and the baby blanket - those days are long behind us now, but I'm thinking of using the pattern to make a longer throw to use on the back of the chair. 

You can read more on Nicki's blog and preview all of the patterns on the Designer Yarns site. The book is available on Nicki's website and in many yarn stores right now. 

All images used with permission of Nicki Trench. 
Thursday, 5 June 2014

Yarn spaghetti x 2 and an American Wife

What a week it's been. I managed some work on my sock design - knitting the foot from the chart I felt happy with. Then I changed it. And changed it again. In fact despite knitting at least four different feet with slightly different 'tweaks' I am back to the drawing board - the idea is there, but not quite translated into stitches yet, and that won't do. Part of me is frustrated, but there is another part - the sensible bit - which appreciates that with each incarnation, I am closer to what I want.... but I'm not certain quite how to get there within the mathematical constraints of a sock which I would like to be sized up and down. It will come. It's a good job I'm using inexpensive (Drops Fabel) yarn for my mock socks! 
Ripping socks and unfortunate snags
Feeling a little deflated,  I went back to the other project I've been working on using the lovely cotton/linen Bigarelle from Bergere de France, and threw it in my bag to take along on an appointment ...without even stopping to put it in a project bag. This isn't the first time I've done such a thing, but it's the first time the fabric has become mangled with things in my bag to such a point that the long snags were beyond repair. It now looks like this... again (I had already ripped it out to fix a little error which had caused earlier procraftination).
Ripping socks and unfortunate snags
For the last few nights it's hardly surprising that I haven't been in the right frame of mind to pick either project up and so I started reading a novel recommended by several members of my book club -  American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld. 

Much has been made about the fact that this is a novel about a woman whose life bears an uncanny resemblance to that of Laura Bush (eg here, here and here). As a Brit I know little about "Dubya" and his wife, and am not sure that I really care about that side of it too much - it's just a darn good story. I'm currently at the point where 'Alice' meets 'Charlie' (George), and based on the reviews am expecting it to get a little more racy, but it's incredibly good and the main character so convincingly written that I am completely drawn in by her, and only wish I could sit and read all day. Obviously that's not a possibility for numerous reasons, including the Fit-along which is going great (I've managed 6,800 steps and 27 active/cardio mins already today - I'm hoping to double it before the end of the day). 

Following on from some discussions with numerous people and a general consensus on the facebook page, I've started working on a new short series of posts entitled 'demystifying toe-up socks' - it's going to include work-along instructions for making socks using the magic loop method (which can also be used for two-at-a-time) and lots of links to useful resources. If you haven't tried toe-up socks before and would like to, be sure to put aside some sock yarn and suitable circulars, and then stay tuned. 
Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Show & Tell: Hole-y Hexipuffs

When I say I've been working on my Beekeeper's Quilt for almost three years, you should know that I haven't been consistently working on it during that time. It's something that has been the object of numerous obsessive phases when I couldn't stop myself making the constituent 'hexipuffs', and at other times several months have passed between thinking about it at all. So it's still very much a work in progress (WIP) and will, no doubt, remain one for some years to come. 

The truth is I have a couple of hundred 'puffs which would already be enough to make something - like a bench cover, which was a possibility at one point - but I like the fact that it's a slow project and that there really is no rush to finish. I haven't started joining it together yet for the simple reason that I love the possibilities that exist while it's still in bits. Maybe the colours will be random. Maybe I'll make it into a rainbow, or perhaps some kind of flower motif will appear from careful arrangement... I really don't know... but it's fun thinking about it. 

A couple of days ago it was necessary to move my hexis from one large zipped plastic bag to another (my mum was fancying the bag they were in, so we did a swap) and while doing so, I spotted this: 
Holey Hexipuffs
Can you imagine my panic? After further inspection it seems that these are the only two affected by the mysterious holes. There are no further signs of winged creatures, eggs, or mouse droppings and the bag was sealed. As these were at the bottom of the bag, I think they were some of the earliest 'puffs and so they have probably been in various places at different times. Maybe they got trapped in a zip...? Maybe they went on an unseen adventure with one of the kids...? (There is still a missing set of hexipuffs that didn't turn up after LM was playing with them when she was a toddler!) I really don't know.

To be safe, I'm sealing the lot up today and popping them in the big freezer we keep in the garage. If there are any moth eggs, I'm assured that will kill them off. I'm also ordering some more lavender bags to repel the horrid creatures from my stash. Any other tips for me?

In other news, my Ravelry username has been changed to Sarah-Knight so it's easier for people to find/identify me. I think the old links to projects should all still work. Also the June fit-along is now in it's third day and off to a great start. There are more people joining in on the fitbit group later where, as of 9:50 am today we have a combined step total of over 111,000 since June 1st! There are more 'lurkers' than participants on the Ravelry group - please don't be shy, if you're thinking about joining in come and say hello! 
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