By Jennifer R. Carnes
Every nook and cranny in my house is stuffed with projects and crafting items. I love to craft. Beading, crochet, quilting, knitting, cross-stitch. I’ve done it all and I absolutely love it
I taught myself to tat. I’ve watched many videos on YouTube learning how to twist wire jewelry. I’ve crocheted and knitted many afghans and shawls. I’ve also sewn a lot of my daughter’s clothing (mostly when she was younger although recently I’ve made her a bunch of flannel pajama bottoms to wear around the house – you never really know what a 13-year-old will do).
But my latest obsession – and I do mean obsession – is knitting socks. (I’ve been told by more than one person that people who knit socks generally are addicted! Knitters either love knitting socks or absolutely cannot stand it.)
Several years ago, I wrote about a small specialty yarn shop in north Tucson, the Tucson Yarn Company, in the Nugget. My final thoughts in that article was a wish to try out some their yummy self-striping sock yarns. It’s taken time, but I’m finally there.
This past Jan., I began a journey to teach myself to knit socks. I’m working on my seventh or eighth pair right now, not counting the extra thick slippers I knit up for my mother-in-law. It’s no surprise, my family knows they will find hand-knitted socks under the Christmas tree this year. Christmas stockings, so to speak!
I started out with a really basic pattern and have branched out from there. I’ve been having fun experimenting with all the different types of toes and heels. There are lace patterns and Gansey patterns. And then there is the choice to knit the top down or toe up. (Actually, there is a war being waged between those knitters who like going from the top down and those who prefer going the other way around – Sock Wars!)
I’ve tried many of them. I’ve found that I prefer knitting the socks two at a time toe up using the Magic Loop method (one really long set of circular knitting needles). That way I don’t catch the dreaded Second Sock Syndrome! My favorite toe cast on is a modified Turkish toe (it’s round and is a bit swirly). I’ve experimented with different heel construction and my current favorite is a garter stitch short row heel (think extra cushy heels on your store-bought socks).
Additionally, I’ve discovered an entire online community for knitters, crocheters and spinners. When I started searching for videos, tutorials and patterns, I kept running into references to Ravelry. I was hesitant to join something online. Something else to have my email address. But when I finally broke down and signed up for it, I was so amazed. It’s like Facebook for knitters!
There are forums and groups! You can set up a library with books from your own collections; the patterns are cross-referenced with projects that other knitters are working on with photos and their project notes.
In one instance, I was trying a new heel construction (Cat Bohrdi’s Sweet Tomato Heel) and ran into some difficulty. I went to the forum and looked around to see if anyone else had encountered the same problem. They did and I posted my question along with a photo of the problem area. When I logged in next, I had an answer to my problem – from Cat Bohrdi herself! (I’ve decided I don’t really like that particular heel construction, but you never know until you try!)
I’ve learned some new terms as well:
So much more than knit and purl.
Something else I’ve learned, although I never could put a definition to, is that I am very tactile. I have to touch the yarn. Touch is what brings my inspiration. I’ve found several indie dyers through Ravelry, but I’ve been hesitant to order any of their yarn because I would be purchasing it “feel untouched.” I love all the colors, but it’s hard when I can’t touch it.
My current favorite yarn is Malabrigo Sock Yarn. It’s very soft to the touch and knits up easily. I’ve also experimented with BAAH! La Jolla handpainted yarn, Cascade Heritage sock yarn and Ella Rae lace yarn. I’ve got many others in my stash waiting to be knit (although I’ve heard from more than one sock knitter that sock yarn doesn’t count as stash). Most of the sock yarn I have knit is 100 percent Merino wool or is a Merino wool blend. There is many different fibers to use: cotton, silk, alpaca, mohair (which comes from the angora goat), bamboo and cashmere. I’ve got some cashmere in my stash that I’m waiting to find just the right pattern.
There are a number of really good books on the market for knitting socks, but you don’t have to buy a book to find patterns. There are a lot of free patterns on Ravelry and on the internet. There are also patterns for sale through Ravelry and Etsy for very reasonable prices. Your local library may have some books as well.
Let’s talk color. I love anything to do with Harry Potter and my family will tell you that I am a Tolkien fiend. There are dyers out there who have reinterpreted the Harry Potter movies as well as all of the Lord of the Rings movies.
I’ve seen colorways based on Alice in Wonderland, The Hunger Games and many others.
One company, Barking Dog Yarns, have created a pair of colors for socks called “Opposites Attract.” They created one variegated skein of yarn for one sock and then took an accent color from the first skein and made it the main color for the second skein. The colorways are named after famous couples: Bonnie and Clyde; Vampira and the Crypt Keeper; Lucy and Desi; Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum; George and Gracie. I really want to knit a pair of socks from their yarn, but again – feel untouched.
Throughout the Copper Corridor there are folks who raise goats, llama and alpaca. I’d love to find out if there is anyone spinning their own yarn from these local fibers or if there are any yarn dyers in our area. I’d really love to write a profile about folks who may be doing these sorts of activities. So if you or someone you know is a yarn spinner or dyer or is just a really enthusiastic knitter, please contact me via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
• Ravelry can be found at www.Ravelry.com. Sign up is free.
• Tucson Yarn Company is located at 6330 North Oracle Road, Suite #D-242, Tucson, AZ 85704; (520) 229-YARN (9276); www.tucsonyarn.com. The ladies there offer a variety of classes and “knit-ins”. The store has a lovely seating area and knitters (crocheters too) are invited to sit and knit a spell.
• Barking Dog Yarns can be found at www.barkingdogyarns.com.
• Etsy.com is also a great place to find indie-dyed yarns and other handmade knitting accessories. It’s also a great place to sell your handmade items.
• Knittinghelp.com is a great resource for “how to” videos. They even have an app on the Apple App Store for your iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad. I have it loaded on both my devices just in case I need help when I’m on the road.
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