Wednesday, June 29, 2016

K'done: Diamondback socks

Got variegated sock yarn? Maybe this is the pattern you're looking for.

Pattern: Diamondback Socks, by Kirsten Hall
Yarn: Invictus Yarns Master of My Feet, in Possessive
Needles: 2.25 mm / US 1

Tour rank: #111

A photo posted by Jen (@pikaknit) on

It seems like we all fall for it from time to time: we see a breathtaking skein of sock yarn somewhere, and we make it join our little flock. We're so mesmerized by the colours that we sort of forget that these things can be a bit challenging for knitting up - sometimes, they stripe nicely, but then things get thrown for a loop when you get to the ankle, where the circumference has to be changed up a bit to allow for gussets and suddenly the colour runs aren't being used at the pace they were before, and now there's this giant blotch of one colour on one gusset, with the other one showing weird zigzags of a couple of other colours. Other times, you just get a mess right from the get go - the so-called flashing and pooling that people often complain about.

While I have been more careful in recent times to enhance my sock yarn stash with tonal and semi-solid colourways, there are some variegateds in the mix. It happens. They're so pretty.

And now I have another tool at my disposal for working with them. One that doesn't involve slipping stitches - and there are some great slipped stitch motifs out there, but the problem I have with slipping stitches is it changes your row gauge, which is fine on the leg, but it makes for a difference between the instep and the sole of the foot, so when the sock is off the foot, the sole pouches out weirdly. I suppose, ultimately, it doesn't matter, because that difference doesn't seem to impact fit any, but it still makes me mostly avoid slipped stitch motifs for socks.

This pattern uses short rows, so you're basically knitting chunks of fabric instead of one continuous spiral.

A photo posted by Jen (@pikaknit) on

The resulting effect is a tube made up of diamond-shaped tiles of fabric. Depending on how your colour runs go, the effect can vary quite a bit. My yarn actually had pretty short colour runs, and if you look at the way it knitted up on the soles, it may not have pooled terribly in a plain stockinette sock - although, it did do some flashing in the ribbing, maybe it would have been a mess? There's no traditional heel flap, much like the stage 2 sock, which doesn't bother me any, though I find the diamond pattern sort of pulls on the heels a bit to make them a bit pointy. We'll have to wait and see if that becomes an issue with actual wear.

The designer suggests that knitting backwards while working the short rows can eliminate needing to endlessly turn the work, but I ended up abandoning that strategy fairly early on in the first sock. For one, I knit backwards kind of slowly due to lack of practice, but more importantly, when working the diamonds that are interrupted by ribbing at the sides of the socks and in the gussets, I realized pretty quickly that while I can work a purl stitch backwards, I'd never done a backwards knit stitch before, and with the way I hold the yarn, it's not exactly a simple thing to work out how to make the wrap happen once the needles are in the right arrangement. I also end up knitting combined when I knit backwards - because of how I hold the yarn, the wrap goes in the opposite direction of my normal knitting, so on the right side the worked-backwards stitches present with an Eastern mount (right leg of stitch to the back) as opposed to the Western mount I normally get (right leg of stitch to the front). This is easy to accommodate, you just knit into the back legs of stitches on the right side so they don't twist, but for the decreases - well, really, just the k2tog - I needed to remount the stitches to avoid getting a twisted decrease. So I just turned the work a whole bunch while knitting these. It was fine.

A word to the wise, though - this pattern EATS yarn. Like no pattern I've ever worked before. After finishing the first sock, I thought my remnant cake looked a bit wimpy compared to normal, so when I was done I weighed the socks, and weighed the other two Tour pairs for comparison.

Twists & Turns socks: 74 g
I Remembered It Again socks: 82 g
Diamondback socks: 91 g

Um, yeah. These socks ate 9 g more yarn than a pair of pretty heavily cabled socks, which in turn ate up 8 g more yarn than a pair of lace socks. No wonder my remnant bits from this stage are so small!
So, if you typically use most of 100 g of yarn to make a pair of socks - maybe get some extra bits for a contrast toe and cuff?

So there you have 'em. Another pair for my drawer, another stage done. The next three I really hope for better race performance - my class has completely wrapped up now, so sock racing can be a pretty big priority now! Which is great, because the next stage is the beaded sock. I better go find my beads.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

K'done: I Remembered It Again socks

Second stage of the 2016 Tour de Sock: complete!

Pattern: I Remembered It Again, by Heidi Nick
Yarn: Invictus Yarns Master of My Feet, in Powerful
Needles: 2.25 mm / US 1

Tour rank: #151

Well. I did better this time, but once again work interfered with sock racing. Once again, I knew it was coming, but it's still a bit disheartening to experience it. Stage 3 is also going to be disrupted by work - the pattern is going to drop crazy early in the morning, and I have to proctor a final exam that morning too, which will be followed by marking the exams.

Hey look! Green socks!

A photo posted by Jen (@pikaknit) on

I bought this yarn in anticipation of the Tour last year, thinking it would be good to stretch out of my usual colour box, and socks are a great way to do that. I'm not sure green or blue is great up near my face, but on my feet? No problem. I wound up the yarn as a possibility for one or two of the stages last year, but ended up not using it, so it went back into a Ziploc bag and into the yarn cabinet, waiting for its time.

Clearly, its time had come.

This pattern is super, super cabled. The charts are excellently clear, and even colour-coded for additional visual cues to help you avoid working the wrong cable at the wrong time, but despite the fact that the pattern repeats itself a few times throughout the sock, I was unable to memorize it, and therefore was a chart slave throughout the knitting. There are just too many different sorts of cables scattered throughout the repeat. (To be fair, the full motif is repeated three times per sock.) When I saw all the cables, including some 4-stitch cables, I decided to err on the side of caution and cast on the largest size in the pattern - 71 stitches around. I'm glad I did - I knit socks at a smaller gauge than patterns specify, somewhere in the neighbourhood of 10 stitches to an inch, and cables knock the lateral stretch out of knitted fabric, so the resulting socks really seem to fit pretty well, with me being able to slip them on and off without worrying about exceeding the limits of the yarn's tensile strength.

Also, the patterning on the back is not like the patterning on the front:

A photo posted by Jen (@pikaknit) on

It's not super easy to see in that shot - and by the way, twisting around to take pictures of the backs of your own feet is not exactly simple - but there's a sort of argyle diamond pattern rendered in texture with purl stitches. They continue along the heel instead of the usual slipped stitch heel flap. Since I've never had a pair of socks wear out on the heel flap, I am not at all concerned about the thinner fabric on that part of the sock. This pattern has you continue to work in the round for the gussets and heel flap, which was my preferred sock construction technique once upon a time, before I learned how to pick up stitches without making myself crazy along the way and in a way that I actually liked the look of. Doing the gussets and heel flap together runs into the same situation that toe-up socks do, where it feels like the gussets just take forEVER because the rounds are getting progressively longer, so progress seems to get slower with each set of two rounds (increase round + plain round).

That being said, the sock still felt pretty quick. I'll probably be knitting another pair - Sister has been eyeing them appreciatively.

Monday, June 6, 2016

K'done: Twists & Turns socks

The 2016 Tour de Sock has begun!

A photo posted by Jen (@pikaknit) on

Pattern: Twists & Turns, by Adrienne Fong
Yarn: Invictus Yarns Master of My Feet, in Peachy Keen
Needles: 2.25 mm / US 1

A photo posted by Jen (@pikaknit) on

Tour rank: um, as of this moment, it is undetermined, but I definitely just got finishing points for these. I was the last member of my team to cross the finish line, but at least I got them done before the info for round 2 was released! I'll take it!

In actuality, this pattern just hummed along - the lace pattern is really intuitive, with panels of twisted rib that decrease away with a lace motif, so you don't have to strictly memorize the chart, just follow it for setting up each section and then work the pattern until you run out of twisted rib stitches, then consult the chart for setting up the next section, and after you've done that a small number of times, you get the hang of how the whole thing hangs together and just motor along smoothly. If I hadn't had to lose so much time to work-related tasks - like the 8 hours I ended up giving up on day 2 - then I would have had a much speedier finish. I suspect round 2 will be pretty similar, but once we get past June 25 and my current teaching contract has been fulfilled, and these paper revisions I'm wrestling with have been completed and submitted, my ability to prioritize sock racing will improve dramatically.

I didn't mirror my socks, but that option can be had very straightforwardly (and the pattern tells you how, if you can't be bothered to figure it on your own). While I generally am not a big fan of twisted stitches, I found I didn't mind the panels of twisted rib on these, because the pattern sets you up to decrease them away - they're gradually overtaken by a travelling lace panel, which leaves plain stockinette in its wake. It was sort of like old school video game levels - you work a setup round, that establishes all your baddies (the twisted ribs), then go round by round, taking out one with each successive round, until finally there are none left, and you whip along triumphantly with nary a purl or twisted knit in sight, and then you set up for the next 'level', with a new set of baddies, and a new plan for taking them down, since the direction of travelling lace panel is now switched, producing the switchbacky motif for which the pattern is named.

I am very pleased with the resulting socks, and would happily knit this pattern again - in fact, yesterday I was reflecting on this as I chugged along contentedly, and considered what a shame it is that the other people I knit socks for - my sister, and perhaps from this point forward, my mother - are lace-averse for socks. They think the holes negatively impact the comfort factor by making the socks 'breezy'. Maybe I'll just have to make another pair for myself anyway. They'd be quick.

Now. There's some deprioritized house cleaning - namely, dishwashing - that I probably have no real excuse for continuing to deprioritize. And some other stuff - sweeping floors, cleaning bathrooms - that I'll have to handle in the next few days. Because Round 2 is coming soon!

Ah, sock race season. Even if I'm not able to just immerse myself in all socks all the time, it's still a fun time.