For every sock knitter the definition of what a “good” sock yarn is can be very different. For me it is a combination of durability, value, esthetics and ease of knitting.
Have I sacrificed one of those things for a certain project? For sure, sometimes you need to follow the sirens call. But for the most part I want to build a beautiful sock that is going to last.
Durability can come from a few places. The easiest one to look for is yarn composition, my favorite sock yarns are ones that are 75% wool and 25% nylon. I don’t want a merino, I want a good rustic generic wool. Merino is soft and lovely but the structure of the wool isn’t one that is designed to take much of a beating. It is a short staple wool so it can pill very easily and pilling can lead to structural issues. I have plenty of merino in my sock yarn stash but if I am knitting something for someone I know is hard on their socks it won’t be my go to. If you want something breed specific I would suggest something that is longer staple like a BFL or Cormo.
The nylon helps add strength to the wool and will prevent holes from forming. For anyone who wants a natural option mohair will also add strength to the wool. There are blends that use bamboo instead of nylon or mohair but in my experience it doesn’t add the same strength.
Another place durability can come from is the twist of a yarn. Something that has a tighter twist (like the white yarn in the photo) will be stronger and will be able to deal with the friction from being worn in shoes.
The fibre content and twist also factor into the ease of knitting. Wool based sock yarns are my favorite to knit with because of the give the fibre has while knitting. Wool has a natural elastic property so it doesn’t cause extra strain on my heads while knitting. I have tried knitting with plant based or acrylic sock yarns and they just aren’t my favorite. I find plant based sock yarns to hurt my hands since the fibres don’t have the same natural elastic properties. It is totally a person preference though and some people love it. Just don’t spend your precious knitting time working with a fibre you hate. There is always more yarn.
Value & esthetics are closely tied. There are some beautiful hand dyed yarns that are worth every penny and there are some big box yarns that cost very little and make beautiful socks. Supporting indie dyers is an amazing thing to do if you are in a position to do so but keep in mind that just because it is more expensive doesn’t mean it is better. There are indie dyers out there that have bases that felt very easily and colours that bleed. There is a portion of person responsibility in caring for your socks but just be careful if you are splurging. 99% of indie dyers put their hearts and souls into their work and produce an amazing yarn that is worth your money but if you are worried check ravelry to see how the yarn has held up or is rated.
About a month ago Knit Picks reached out to me to send me some of their new 100% American Grown High Desert yarn to try out. It comes in both a sport and a worsted weight, and I chose the worsted in 2 colors. The yarn label says it is 100% Shaniko Wool which I thought was a sheep breed that I hadn’t heard of but it turns out that it is a wool company instead.
The Shaniko Wool Company is a US company established in 1871 in Shaniko Oregon. They were originally a ranch, that became a homestead which became a wool company. As I was working with the fibre it was reminding me a lot of Imperial Yarns and it turns out they are both owned by the same people.
The High Desert yarn is Merino/Rambouillet and Imperial Yarns are mainly made with the wool of Columbia sheep. But interestingly enough Columbia is a composite breed that comes from selective Rambouillet breeding. The main difference between the two types of sheep is that Columbia sheep have a higher wool production. Both breeds produce a bouncy, light and warm fibre.
Knowing that the yarn was going to be light and warm it was just begging to be made into a garment, so I cast on a Parallel Raglan by Mollie Conrad. I wasn’t really able to hit gauge with the yarn so I have kinda gone off book. Because the pattern is top down I am able to try it on as I go to make sure it is actually fitting as I wing my way through.
Working with the High Desert yarn has been a dream. Pulling the yarn from the center hasn’t been an issue at all and I was able to find the end without the traditional yarn barf. There have also been zero knots or yarn weirdness. It has a three ply construction and because of the twist of the yarn creates a really interest texture. The twist should also help add structure to the bouncey fibre.
I am planning on writing a follow up about this yarn once I have finished the garment and have put the yarn through its paces a bit. With the drapeyness of the pattern and the natural bounce of the yarn I am a little worried about it stretching out but we will see. More to come! If you want to see progress along the way I will be posting them ove on my instagram.
There seems to be a list of patterns out there that are in everyone’s queue but few knit because of the intimidation factor. The Persian Dreams Blanket is that pattern for a lot of people, which is totally fair it is an epic knit. The original is knit in fingering weight which even seems impossible to me. One of my goals this year is to conquer its worsted weight twin.
The way the blanket was originally constructed seems to be a little out of date so I am taking liberties with the guidance of Ravelry project notes. The first change I made was the hexagons I am knitting and the amount. I am taking each chat from the pattern and the expansion pack and knitting two of each and leaving all the stitches live. To make the project manageable I am aiming to knit hex a week which thus far has been working quite well. Once they are all done and blocked I will sort out how they are going to go together and then use a 3 needle bind off to join everything. This will add a ridge but it will also add more structure. The last change I am making is to the border. Originally the pattern has a seed stitch border that is knit onto each hex but doesn’t seem to fit together very well as a whole piece. I could pick up around the whole outside and knit on a seed stitch border but I have decided to do an i-cord instead. I think it will be easier and mimic the 3 needle joining better.
To eliminate another big source of stress for this project I opted to use the recommended yarn which is Wool of the Andes and most of the same colour palette. The only colour change I made was the background which I switch from white to grey. I don’t trust myself enough to keep a white blanket clean during the creation or the finished use. This would work in almost any palette or you could also use self-striping yarn, copying the palette is just what made sense for me. The only time this has been a huge issue is with the lighter colours Haze Heather specifically and has lead to some areas that are more subtle than I would like.
The last big game changer with this project was learning Stephen Wests Weavin Stephen technique to weave in my ends as I knit. Getting to the end of each hex and not having ends to weave in has been huge.
A few months ago I started making a new series on my youtube channel called Creepy Knitting. I was inspired by Bailey Sarian and her Murder, Mystery and Makeup Monday videos to take two things I love and put them together; true crime and knitting.
It was something I was worried about putting out into the knitting world which does not really show a grittier side. Would people shun me entirely? Would people think I am an insensitive jerk because of the jokes I made? Would anyone even watch? It’s definitely not something for everyone but true crime isn’t as taboo of a thing anymore so it seemed worth a go.
If anyone has thought I was a totally insensitive jerk they have kept it to themselves and the reception of the series has been so positive. We are living in a world where true crime documentaries are the most popular thing on Netflix the weekend they come out so thankfully that seems to have translated to the fibre community.
I have kept the series to stories that relate to things I wanted to know more about and/or killers that aren’t as well known. Although I love the stories of Manson and the like, they have been done to death. The world is filled with so many stories and it feels like more attention should be put elsewhere. For April I have a whole lineup of crime stories from Korea and I’m very excited to share what I have learned.
I’ve been taking throwback Thursdays lately and applying it to my knitting projects. I realized recently that I have been knitting for about 10 years and I wanted to remember some of the places I started.
First every project was a GAP-Tastic Cowl out of Red Heart Chunky that I got along with no-name plastic needles from Wal-Mart. I took the pattern, googled each abbreviation and found Youtube videos to show me what to do. The hodgepodge nature of my self-teaching is one of the reasons that the way I knit is so odd. She is rough; cast-on is too tight, impromptu lace and knits and purls in the wrong place. Luckily though because of the layering nature of a cowl, it’s hard to see these things when it’s on. I still have it and will still wear it on chilly days.
First socks came many many years later. I had discovered Felici and the wonders of self-striping sock yarn. I had also just started listening to the Knitmore Girls Podcast and listening to Gigi try to convince Jasmin to knit socks convinced me to give it a go. I used the Knitmore Vanilla sock pattern and the world’s shortest wooden DPNS (would not recommend super tiny short needles). Turning a heel felt like magic and honestly still does. I remember knitting the toe at least 3 times because I couldn’t figure out how/when to decrease, they looked like elf shoes.
My first sweater was a bold/stupid choice. I was feeling pretty solid with my knitting skills and fell in love with a heavily cabled pieced cardigan in sport weight. At the time I didn’t have any knitting friends to tell me how dumb this was. All things considered, it could have gone worse but it certainly didn’t go well. I messed up the bobbles on the back enough times that I declared it a design feature. It took me over a year with many breaks and it took the Ravelenic Games to get me to get it done at all. The cherry on top of all this is because I didn’t know how to care for it properly I ended up slightly felting it almost the first time I washed it. It was still wearable but a little snugger than before. I was actually able to wear it when I went to Ireland a few years later and have photos of it at Blarney Castle.
Below I have linked some of my favourite beginner patterns if you need somewhere to start or if you know someone who does. I don’t recommend the traditional starter scarf since most people will lose interest before they reach the end.
I’m sure that saying that crafting has been keeping us sane for the past year would be an understatement for most of us. What would we have done through all the lockdowns and all the TV marathons without it? Crafting has always been my happy place. It was the thing that allowed me to be in social settings without having a full anxiety attack. It has allowed me to focus on creating something beautiful when the rest of the world has made no sense and there was nothing I could do about it. It has helped me grow as a person and has taught me many important skills. There is a saying that crafting is better than therapy and that (in most cases) is true.
All of my life I have struggled with anxiety and crafting, knitting more specifically, allowed me a way to channel a lot. In my early 20s when I was attempting to be a somewhat (keyword somewhat) normal person my age and was going out to bars and such my knitting would come with me. I’ve never been a huge nightlife person but I felt like it was something I should be doing at that age and should at least try. I would always feel super out of place but I got into this habit of setting myself up in a corner of the bar watching drinks/stuff and knitting on a sock. More times than not I would end up attracting the attention of confused muggles and making unintentional friends. These sort of public knitting conversations are normally something I dread but after a couple of beers, they are hilarious.
Knitting was also the way I was able to cope with being in a very controlling and abusive relationship. I wasn’t allowed to go out so what I would do is sit at home and make chemo caps for charity. The situation was garbage but being able to make a positive impact on a cancer patient’s life was allowing me to find a silver lining. I was also a baby knitter at the time so if the hats turned out a bit big it was fine since a variety of sizes were needed.
Crafting has taught me all the important aspects of patience. If I don’t have enough patience with the speed of my project corners get cut and the end product doesn’t end up the way I want and it might be done but it’s not what it could have been if I had taken more time. If I take the time and do the work one little stitch/motif/chart at a time I will be a much better product. I need to have patience with myself when I am learning new techniques and that it takes a while to be good at something. Weirdly enough you can’t just sit down at a spinning wheel and be magically perfect, it’s very frustrating. And there is no shame in ripping back something multiple times when learning a new knitting technique to get it to look passible. I say passible because striving for perfection isn’t healthy but being patient with your project and your learning process is.
Obviously, any kind of craft isn’t going to help you on the level that seeing a psychotherapist or psychologist is but it an easy step to take in the moment if that isn’t a step you are ready to take yet. Knitting (and crafting) is an anchoring point for whatever the world may throw at you. Its familiar, its comforting, its a little feeling of home.
In September I started volunteering with a local cat organization, Cat Therapy and Rescue (CTRS). Volunteering with animals is something that I had always wanted to do but because of the euthanasia aspect of that line of work, it was always something I was apprehensive to do. CTRS is an organization that focuses on special needs cats, cats from overcrowded shelters, abandoned cats and owner surrenders that are at risk of euthanasia which meant they were in the work of preventing something that was my biggest hurdle. They were also the organization that we adopted 2 of our 3 cats from and to say they have enriched our lives is an understatement. One of which was actually a result of this volunteering experience.
They are a charity without a shelter so they utilize foster parents and the adoption centers in local Petsmarts (and let’s not lie it’s one of the best parts of going to Petsmart). My role is going once a week to care and play with the current cats in one of the local adoption centers and honestly, it has become the highlight of my week, especially during the weirdness that has been 2020/2021. I never know who may still be there from the week before or what new kinds of personalities to expect but it is always a fulfilling experience to get to play with the cats and make their days a little brighter until they find their furever homes.
This volunteering experience also threw my crafting in a different direction. Over the holidays I was crocheting a few cat toys and realized that this would be a good way to help raise a little more money for CTRS. Starting an Etsy store has always been something that I had thought about but nothing seemed to fit into place until this. So in November, I opened KittenCraftCA and it has been an adventure ever since. 50% of the profits go to CTRA and from Nov-Jan we were able to raise $250 to help them with their amazing work. I have loved being able to embark on this new adventure and to be able to do some good in the process. The cats are also enjoying their new jobs as product testers, except for when I make things that are clearly more for human enjoyment than cat enjoyment (like cat crowns).
It has also forced me to push my crocheting game and learn new techniques, like invisible increases and colorwork in crochet. As the business begins to grow I can’t wait to grow my skills along with it and see where this adventure takes me.
Hey lovely humans! The podcast made a roaring comeback in october but I have been neglecting the blog and haven’t posted them over here yet. Here is the latest episode with show notes. Hoping to bring this platform back to life over the next little bit.
FOs ~Bulky Garter Blanket Don’t use magic knot, almost had a disaster. Used Cuddle Blanket Mighty Stitch Sampler from Knit Picks, 6 colors 300 g each No pattern just 70 sts cast on US 35 19 mm and knit till I ran out of yarn ~Christmas in July Socks Area 51 Fibres Summer Advent Skein 2.25 mm, 60 sts, toe up heel flap from sock architecture. ~Mermaid Ave Socks by Summer Lee Hedgehog fibres birthday cake with jawoll contrast Small size, 2.25mm ~Advent Socks 2020 by Natalie Sheldon HO (woot!!) Self striping for contrast, harvest colorway cozy knitter Main colour is rain storm heather knit picks stroll. Used Balbriggan Heel from Sock Architecture
WIPS & Future Knitting Plans ~Persian Dreams Worsted by Jenise Hope Also using expansion pack, 2 of each hex Wool of the Andes, US 5, 3.75 mm needle, magic loop then 16” circ. Keeping on track with one a week plan, 4 done, 2 full charts. Made a tracker for planner. Using the weavin stephen technique to weave in ends as I go https://youtu.be/Fz292NAjH2M ~Sample Knit of Baleen for softsweater CWM Mulespiner in a dark dark brown 70” size. Only breaking of the No Cast on January Rule but its work so im not counting it ~Bernie sanders socks Stone knits Bernies sock pattern, gonna extend the pattern to the whole sock Commemorative socks ~WIP Sock Box https://www.ikea.com/ca/en/p/rabbla-box-with-compartments-90348124/ Moved my sock WIPS into this box to keep me accountable Socks living in here are: *My Young Padawan by Heidi Nick out of Black Cat Custom Yarns in Sith Lord *Carousel by Louise Robert out of Nova Plus Sock Multi
Other News knit faster workshop by amy detjen from VKL Virtual