Thursday, May 5, 2011

SSP Fail #1

Well. The SSP has experienced its first resounding failure.

The April SSP socks do not exist - I have two cakes of yarn wound up with nowhere to go. What happened?

Well, they did get off to a late start, due to the lateness in finishing the March socks. The pattern I had chosen was Slant, by Hunter Hammersen, and I was working with Claudia Hand Painted Fingering Yarn, in Cabin Fever. Very pretty yarn, working up beautifully on 2.25 mm / US 1 needles.

The problem? Gauge.

I don't have big feet - I wear size 6 shoes. Sock patterns usually call for a gauge of 8 sts to the inch or so, which I get on 2.75 mm / US 2 needles. On these smaller needles, I get something closer to 9.5 sts to the inch. You'd think that that would be the entirety of my problem - not getting gauge, so the sock comes out smaller than anticipated. Here's the thing though - I can't knit most sock patterns at 8 sts to the inch and get a good fitting sock. Most patterns ask you to work over 64 sts, and at 8 sts to the inch, I find that too baggy. When using the bigger needles, I end up tweaking things so that I work over 56 sts - 60 if the stitch motif isn't very stretchy. So my thinking was that if I was working a tighter gauge, I could use the pattern numbers as written. This works, but only if the stitch motif is fairly stretchy - if there are lots of double decreases or stitches that are slipped over top of others, then there are problems.

With Slant, you work an extra long loop, then sort of cable this lengthened loop over two other stitches. Even though there is extra yarn in the long loop, this still reduces how much stretch the resulting fabric has. While the pattern notes that the stitch motif produces a stretchy fabric, I found that on the smaller needles, I ended up with a very close-fitting sock - I could get it on, but just barely. As I started the chart for the foot on the first sock, I started thinking.

This yarn, Claudia Hand Painted, is new to me. I don't know how well it will tolerate washing and wearing. This is part of why I wanted to work it up on the smaller needles - to give its durability the boost of dense gauge. But I have learned the hard way - I'm looking at you, Cherry Tree Hill Super Sock - that superwash doesn't always mean the same thing. Some superwash yarns are fabulous for socks - I can toss them in the machine for washing, and tumble them dry as well. Others don't like to go in the dryer, but are fine in the machine. Others still don't really like the machine. So I've become more attentive to care labels. If the care label says I can toss it in the dryer, then I will. If it doesn't, I won't. Yes, this seems like it ought to be common sense, but I've been trying different things based on advice from different people, and now I've just decided to err on the side of caution.

In any event, I don't yet know how the Claudia Hand Painted is going to behave in the wash. My plan is to wash it on a gentle cycle, in cold water, in a mesh bag - like all my other handknit socks - but to skip the dryer since the label does not say "tumble dry low". But if this yarn is like other yarn I've used - ahem, Cherry Tree Hill - then it might do funny things in the wash anyway, and with a fit as close as I was getting, any sorts of shenanigans would mean socks that won't go on my foot.

The thought of having such pretty yarn become unwearable socks after the first wash did me in. I pulled the 75% of the sock that I had done out, and rewound the yarn, which will become another pair of pretty socks, using a motif that doesn't involve so much stretch-reducing stitch manipulation.

So I'm trucking along on my May socks, and making decent time - these ones are going toe-up, and I'm already working the gussets. Maybe I'll start in on some replacement April socks towards the end of the month?

(Oh, and even though it sort of looks like I'm slagging on Cherry Tree Hill here? I'm not really. No, I wouldn't buy the yarn again for socks. But I totally would for a shawlette or sweater. It is nice yarn. It just doesn't handle the sort of washing I want for my socks.)