Archive for February, 2008


Friday, February 29th, 2008

I’ve decided on the final set of colours (again) to create my handspun fair-isle hat. Here they are, all ready for blending. Quite happy with them considering I couldn’t dye anything other than primary colours a few weeks ago.

Fair Isle Hat - Dyed Solids

The hat project was put on hold temporarily when a package arrived from Posh Yarn. What can I say? Very posh indeed! Dee’s yarn is simply amazing and the pictures on the website don’t do the yarn justice. I bought 2 skeins of Lucia Sock Yarn (70% Merino, 30% Cashmere) and one skein of Cecilia Cobweb-Weight Yarn (50% Cashmere, 50% Silk).

The Cecilia was purchased to make an undetermined shawl for a friend’s birthday. Dee brought the Garden Party shawl to my attention and I immediately knew it was the lucky winner. So I downloaded the pattern and after a few emails between Dee and I (to determine relative weights of Cecilia and the yarn used in the pattern) I was off. The pattern written by Laura from Fiber Dreams is fantastic. It is clearly written and the graphs are large and easy to read – no need to blow them up with a photocopier.

I decided (with Dee’s help) to use 3.25mm needles instead of 3.75mm since Cecilia is a tad lighter in weight (2/26) than the yarn used in the pattern (2/18). I emailed Laura to find out the dimensions of the centre panel of her blocked shawl to help me determine the difference in sizes between the two. Don’t want to get all the way to the end to find out it is too small! Laura is lovely to deal with – very helpful and friendly too!

I finished off the centre panel this morning and have just blocked it out (very roughly) and I think we’re in business. It isn’t quite as big as Laura’s (to be expected) but it is only marginally smaller, so I’m happy to continue on as soon as it dries.

So I’m off to blend some fibre…

Garden Party I

A New Hat for Winter!

Tuesday, February 26th, 2008

That little thought started me off on a journey…

One of the reasons I decided to learn how to spin was to be able to have a say in the yarn I knit with, instead of relying on commercial offerings only. When knitting the hat below, I was a little disappointed with the graduations of blue available to me.

Dad's Hat

So I’m going to try and produce a sequence of yarn that can be used for a new fair isle hat. I’m a relative newbie when in comes to spinning (about six months) and very recently started dyeing. This was my first attempt at mixing non-primary or secondary colours from the three primaries and was quite happy with the results.

The colours are as they came out of the dye-pot. I’ve deliberately not levelled the oranges and browns to increase the ‘heathery-ness’ factor. All of the blue/green set are quite level and even. The two oranges were dyed with the silver corriedale, the rest with the medium corriedale.

Dyed Corriedale

The shades of blue are a little too far apart for what I had in mind, so now my dyeing/spinning/knitting project has expanded to include blending on my drum carder…

To produce a graduating sequence of colour, I’m thinking something along the lines of:

  • Blend dusty blue with undyed silver/white
  • Use dusty blue as is
  • Blend dusty blue with navy
  • Use navy as is

Hopefully if I can make this blending project work, I’ll have a more even progression from light to dark and back again (and the yarn will have a heathered look which I love as well).

I think I’ve got most of what I want before I start blending, but I’ll need a ’stand-out’ colour to lift it, since the colours I have are quite subdued. Maybe a red, but don’t want it to blend too closely to the browns and oranges – perhaps a muted reddish-purple.

I’m still in two minds about the two oranges as well - too close together for my liking. Could possibly blend the lighter one with some undyed silver/gray to lighten it a bit and move it away from the orange/brown.

Toe Up Socks with Heel Flap – Part V – Leg and Cuff

Thursday, February 21st, 2008

We’ve just finished the heel and we’re ready to knit the leg and cuff. There are a number of ways to close up any gaps that may form at the top of the gusset. Everyone has their favourite way. Here’s mine… When knitting the first stitch of the heel, I pick up the stitch below the last instep stitch (the one just knitted before this stitch) and knit it together with the first heel stitch. This is picked up in the same way as a lifted increase. When I get around to the other side, I knit the first instep stitch in the same way (by picking up the stitch below the last heel stitch). Other people make 1 by picking up the strand between the stitches and then decrease the made stitch on the next row. Do whatever method you find most appropriate for your style of knitting.

Toe Up Sock - Working Leg

So we continue knitting in the round until we get to the cuff. How long do we make the leg? As long as you like. I like to have the leg and cuff of my socks equal the length of the foot. I also usually make the cuff around 1½” – so when I’m 1½” from the end, it is time for the cuff (see image below).

Toe Up Sock - Checking Length

I like to decrease about 10% for the cuff. I work the first round of rib as follows: (Rib 9, work 2 together), then continue on for the desired length.

The cast off edge for toe up socks needs to be super stretchy. Again, there are a myriad of ways to do this. Here is a link to my favourite sock cast off – it is super stretchy and looks neat and tidy. The stretchiness of this cast off equals the stretchiness of the long tail cast on.

After casting off, weave in your ends and you’re done (except for maybe knitting the second sock!)

Toe Up Sock - Finished!

Toe Up Socks with Heel Flap – Part IV – Gusset and Heel

Thursday, February 21st, 2008

Have you tried your sock on yet? If not, now would be a good time to try it on. It’ll be naturally loose at the end where the live stitches are, but you should get a feel for how it is going to fit when finished.

Now is also a good time to recheck your gauge again.

You should have a few good inches of knitting done (unless you’re knitting for tiny feet), so measure your row gauge over as many inches as possible. My sock is nearly 7″ long at this point, so I can comfortably count the rows over at least 5″ and divide the count by 5 to check my row gauge. If your count is different, it is not too late to recalculate your values before proceeding.

If your stitch gauge is different to your original swatch and the sock is too loose or too tight, your best bet is to start again using the values you’ve just measured. If you didn’t knit your swatch in the round, or possibly got bored and decided 1″ is enough to get a decent idea of your gauge, then these factors could contribute to your gauge being different.

Toe Up Socks - Gusset

Now we’re going to increase for the gusset. The gusset increases are indentical to the toe increases, except we’re only increasing on the first half of the sock stitches (the heel half), instead of both halves.

Increase at the beginning and end of the first half in next and every alternate round for a total of ______(M) rounds.

You should have ______(E + M) stitches at this point - ______(J) instep stitches, ______(J) heel stitches and ______(M) gusset stitches - ______(M ÷ 2) gusset stitches on each side of the heel. It may assist you to place a stitch marker between the gusset and heel stitches at this point.

Knit across the ______(M ÷ 2) gusset stitches. You should be at the start of the heel stitches, ready to start the heel shaping. We shape the heel using short rows . If you are unfamiliar with short rows, see for a tutorial on short rows using wrapped stitches. To shape the heel, we’re going to work back and forth (instead of in the round) on the heel stitches only, working two less stitches on every row.

Right Side: K ______(J – 2), wrap the next stitch and turn.
Wrong Side: P ______(J – 4), wrap the next stitch and turn.

Continue in this way for ______(L - 2) more rows, ending with a right side row (including wrap and turn).

Purl across to the last heel stitch, picking up the wraps as you go. Purl the last heel stitch together with a gusset stitch.
Turn. Slip 1 and knit across to the other end of the heel stitches until you get to the last stitch, picking up the wraps. SSK the last heel stitch together with a gusset stitch.

Now we’ll work the heel flap in Heel Stitch as follows.

Row 1: Slip 1, Purl across row to last heel stitch, purl last heel stitch together with a gusset stitch.
Row 2: Slip 1, (K 1, Slip 1) across row to last heel stitch. SSK last heel stitch with a gusset stitch.

Repeat the last two rows until all gusset stitches have been used up.

You should be back to ______(E) stitches again and ready to work the leg.

Toe Up Socks with Heel Flap – Part III – Casting On and The Toe

Tuesday, February 19th, 2008

Welcome back! I hope you’re armed with needles, yarn and calculations.

My preferred method for socks is either magic loop or working on two circulars. I prefer magic loop if I’m working on one sock at a time, but use two circulars if working on both socks simulateously. Use whatever you feel comfortable with. If you’d like to try something new, check out for great videos on magic loop, working with dpns and working with two circulars. Being able to easily try the sock on as you’re going is one added benefit when working magic loop or two circulars.

Toe Up - Part III

My new favourite cast on for toe-up socks is Judy’s Magic Cast On. It works a lot better than my old favourite – figure 8 cast on – since there is no tightening up of stitches involved.

Since we’re working from the toe upwards, we need to sort out our increasing method. If you want a nice invisible increase, I suggest using M1L and M1R (see for videos). When working the toe increases, use these increases one stitch in from “edge”. By edge I mean the side of the foot. For example, if you cast on 12 stitches, your first round would be:

(K1, M1L, K4, M1R, K1) twice

Otherwise, if you want a little texture, use the bar increase (knit into front and back of stitch). Bar increases are best worked in the first and second-last stitches, since the bar appears to the left of the stitch. If worked in this way, you’ll end up with the bar one stitch in from the “edges”. Again, if you cast on 12 stitches, your first round would be:

(Inc in first st, K3, Inc in next st, K1) twice

One last thing to note - the first half of the stitches are the sole stitches, the second half for the top of foot. Doesn’t make a lot of difference if you’re doing a stocking stitch (stockinette) sock, but relevant if you’re using some form of stitch pattern for the top half of the foot.

Here we go! Don’t forget to substitute your calculated values wherever you see a letter in brackets, eg “(A)” should be substituted for your value for A.

Cast on ______(G) stitches using Judy’s Magic Cast On. The first half of the stitches are for the bottom of the foot, the other half for the top of the foot.

Increase at the beginning and end of each half, on every round, ______(I) times, then every alt round until you have ______(E) stitches. If you like a more tapered toe, you could increase every third round instead of every alternate round.

Continue straight until your work measures ______(O).

Toe Up Socks with Heel Flap – Part II – Gauge and Calulcations

Monday, February 18th, 2008

I made my swatch by casting on 60 stitches in the round, knitting a few rows of garter stitch (1 row knit, 1 row purl), knitting a few inches of stocking stitch (stockinette) and then finishing off with a few more rows of garter stitch. I like to leave my swatches to rest overnight before measuring them to let them settle a bit. I don’t steam or block them, because I don’t do this to finished socks (although I do it religiously with other knitted articles). If I ever made lace socks (which I haven’t), then I’d definitely block the swatch prior to measuring. I measured my stitch gauge over 3″ and divided by 3 to get my stitches per inch. My row gauge was measured over 2″ because the stocking stitch part of my swatch wasn’t quite 3″ long.

Jo Sharp Swatch

When taking foot measurements, I like to measure the circumference of my foot around the widest part of my foot and then subtract 10% for negative ease (making the sock a little smaller so that it stretches to fit the foot better). If you don’t wish to subtract 10% for negative ease, you’ll end up with a sock that fits (assuming you knit exactly to your gauge!) but it may stretch a little with wear and you’ll end up with a baggy sock you probably won’t wear. If you’re looking for loose-fitting socks to wear to bed, I’d still take off at least 5%. For foot length, I usually take off about 1/4″ off the actual foot length to give a snug fit.

The calculations below are straight forward, but you’ll need a calculator (unless you’re a math genius). Once these calculations are done, they’ll see you through to the end of the sock (promise!) I’ve labeled each calculation with a letter of the alphabet. I’ll leave blanks in the pattern where you’ll substitute one of your numbers. For example, “cast on ______(G) stitches”. You’ll insert your value for (G). I’ve inserted an “Sample” column in the table below. This contains calculated values for my sample sock.

If someone can think of an easier way to present this information or has any suggestions for easier reading, please let me know.




Sample Value


Stitch Gauge (measured from your swatch)




Row Gauge (measured from your swatch)




Your foot length (from tip of toe to heel, minus 1/4″ for snug fit if desired)


10 1/2″


Foot circumference (measured around the widest part of the foot, minus 10% for negative ease)




Foot Stitches (rounded DOWN to nearest 4 stitches)

(A) x (D)



Foot Rounds

(B) x (C)



Toe – Cast On Stitches (rounded to nearest 4 stitches)

(E) ÷ 6



Toe – Number of Increase Rounds

((E) – (G)) ÷ 4



Toe – Increases #1 (rounded DOWN)

(H) ÷ 2



Heel Stitches – Half of Foot Stitches

(E) ÷ 2



Heel – Turning Stitches – 1/3 of Heel Stitches

(J) ÷ 3



Heel – Number of Short Rows to Turn Heel (rounded up to nearest ODD number)

((J) – (K)) ÷ 2



Gusset – Number of Rounds

(J) + 2



Length of Gusset and Heel

((M) + (L)) ÷ (B)



Foot Length (Toe to Start of Gusset)

(C) – (N)


Armed with these calculations, we’re ready to knit the sock! Stay tuned - the next post containing the instructions for knitting everything from casting on to the start of the gusset will be here shortly. I’ve cast on and I’m testing what I’ve written prior to posting to check for accuracy. I’d hate to lead you all down the garden path and have you hate me forever…

Toe Up Socks with Heel Flap - Part I - Swatching

Friday, February 15th, 2008
I’ve decided to make my sample socks with some Jo Sharp Silk Road DK Tweed I’ve had sitting in my stash.

The recommended needle size is 4mm (US 6). To make a more dense (and hopefully longer lasting) fabric, I usually drop a couple of needle sizes. So I’m going to knit a swatch (in the round) on 3.5mm (US 4) needles.

To keep things simple for the purposes of this tutorial, I’ll knit the sock in stocking stitch (stockinette).

If you’d like to try out two different needle sizes, you could knit the swatch on two circular needles - one half of the stitches on one needle (say 3.25mm (US 3)) and the other half on another (3.5mm (US 4)). That way you get two swatches for the price of one!

Happy swatching!

Jo Sharp DK Tweed

Hello World!

Thursday, February 14th, 2008

I’ve always wondered why people write blogs. I’ve never bothered before because I never thought I had a great deal to say that would be of interest. I guess ravelry has changed all that. After posting recently about some toe-up socks with a heel flap, I was asked to describe the process whereby I created the socks.

So my first blog entries will be describing how to create toe-up-heel-flap socks in a size to suit you with any yarn and whatever needles you choose. I knit socks on one circular needle using the ‘magic loop’ technique, but this sock method will work no matter what your weapon of choice may be.

Hope you enjoy following along… Wish me luck!

And please, leave your comments. I’ll need all the help I can get.