my first afterthought heel

I’ve wanted to try knitting an “afterthought heel” ever since I first heard of this intriguingly named construction technique. In essence, socks are long tubes of plain knitting, broken up by one bit in the middle which requires concentration and skill. Don’t get me wrong, I love heels, I think they’re all sorts of magic and I love trying out different ways of doing them, but the truth is, they can be fiddly, they require that you look at your knitting and concentrate, and somehow the need to knit them usually seems to appear at the most inconvenient time, like just when you’ve plonked yourself down in front of the latest episode of your favourite tv show and you just want some plain mindless knitting.

Well, what if you could move that fiddly bit to whenever it suits you best, rather than interrupting your smooth knitting when the sock tells you to? That’s exactly what an afterthought heel does. It lets you put in a sort of placeholder (a line of waste yarn) in the sock, where the heel will go, and go on with knitting your plain tube. You can return to your heel and complete it whenever you feel like it. The added bonus is that it helps maintain even stripes on striped socks.

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So, after years of knowing all this in theory, I finally tried it out in practice last week, and I’m pleased to report it was simple as pie and worked just as I had imagined it. Yay for afterthought heels!

As for the rest of this project, I’ll show and tell you more when I’ve finished the second sock. No one has yet invented a magic cure for Second Sock Syndrome, unfortunately… ;)

Mister Flamingo goes to ballet school

Knitting… It’s amazing how, after all these years, it still surprises and amazes me so often. Take this project.

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It was started almost four years ago, as an idea at the stich’n’bitch group I was attending at the time. We were meeting up in a cafe called ‘Flamingo’, someone had come across a free flamingo pattern on Ravelry, one thing led to another, and all of a sudden we had all cast on to knit flamingos in honour of our host location.

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Shortly afterwards, however, I stopped going to the group. It was nothing dramatic, other commitments came up, habits changed, you know, life happened, and it just didn’t fit any more. The half-baked flamingo sunk deep into my haberdashery drawer and was forgotten.

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Except here’s the thing, I’m one of those people who likes to Finish Things. Whether it’s a conversation or a book or a knitting project, it really really REALLY bugs me to leave something unfinished. So for all those years this little flamingo was nagging at my subconscious, the little loose end which just wouldn’t go away. So, finally, a few weeks ago, just to get it out of the way, I decided to finish him. I did not expect to like the process, or the finished product. To be honest, the work in progress looked kinda ugly. And I’m not particularly into flamingos. I just wanted to get it over with.

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And here we come to the surprise and amaze part. I finished the flamingo last week. I wound in the seemingly hundreds of ends. I awkwardly and asymmetrically attached the pieces to the body. I stung myself with a needle a bunch of times and cursed under my breath.

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And then I looked at the flamingo – and in a split second, I was utterly in love. All of a sudden, I found this little dude perfect and adorable and squishable and lovable. I wanted to show him to everyone I know. I wanted to take photos of him in every room of the house. I wanted to invent stories about him going to ballet school…

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The same little dude that I finished just to get it over with.

Such is the magic of knitting. Such is the magic of Making.

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Welcome, little friend.

p.s. Happy Women’s Day, everyone! :)

the home stretch

Old WIPs have been instrumental in my return to knitting (and crocheting). I have a few rather large projects which have been siting in a 70%-finished limbo for quite a while, and it was precisely that feeling of “oh they’re almost done, you just need to go for the home stretch” that made me feel empowered enough to tackle them (yes, empowered – the immensity of projects can be truly intimidating sometimes!). It worked for my beautiful sweater, and now it’s working for another, even bigger project.

In fact, at first glance, this seems like a tiny thing.

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But add a lot of tiny things…

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…and you get one gigantic, ever-gowing thing.

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When it’s finished, this will without a doubt be the biggest project I’ve ever conquered. That remaining pile of circles still looks a bit scary, but I’m so close now that I can almost smell the end! I can’t wait to show you the finished product!

the trouble with sock sizing

Here I am, sitting with my two favourite books on socks, both informative, educational, detailed, well thought-through. And yet, they are both utterly useless in helping me out of my conundrum. You see, I’m knitting socks for my mum, whose foot size is totally different from any of the feet I have close to me.

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And yet, the thorough introductory sections and the 38 patterns included in these two books all say the same: Work even until the foot is approximately xy cm shorter than the desired finished length. Assuming, of course, that you have the foot at hand and can therefore easily slip the sock-in-progress on and check them against your desired finished length. So what if you don’t?

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Is there a better answer than the only one that comes to mind now, which is try to eyeball it and keep your fingers crossed until December, when I plan to hand over loads of socks to loads of family members (as a surprise), all with vastly different foot sizes? Is there an obvious thing I’m missing? Or a magical chart somewhere on the internets that will tell me everything I need to know, if only I’d be bothered enough to google for two minutes? Help!

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p.s. This is another pair of plain vanilla socks knit from the toe up, in the magnificent
Ancient Threads Sockittome Select, one of my all time favourite sock yarns.

the socks that started it all

Here they are, the socks that reminded me that knitting socks is easy and that I love it.

For this first pair, I kept it simple and easy – the so called “plain vanilla” socks: all stockinette, no special features, letting the yarn tell its own story. For these kinds of socks I usually turn to Wendy Johnson’s Socks from the Toe Up book, which helped me make my first steps in sock-knitting and remains a trusted resource. While I have nothing against cuff-down socks, toe-up knitting can be really handy in certain situations, for example when you’re not sure how much yarn you will have exactly. You get the non-negotiable part of the socks (i.e. the length of the foot) knit first, and then for the cuff you can just keep knitting until you run out of yarn.

I really love that Wendy presents a number of different toe and heel techniques, and these kinds of simple socks are perfect for experimenting and finding your preferred option. For these socks I went with the short-row heel, which I think of as “the standard” heel type. The finished heel was fine, but I did find the process rather hard on the fingers (lots of tight wraps to pick up and knit), so it’s not my favourite heel type.

Further experiments in sock construction techniques to come…

a year of socks

Towards the end of last year, knitting slowly crept back into my life. I was enjoying this resurgence of my old passion, so as I packed my suitcases for a week off at my parents’, I was eager to bring some knitting along as well. What’s easily transportable (my suitcase already bursting at the seams with xmas gifts) and easy to work on (i.e. won’t distract me from participating in all the family chatter going on), I thought? Socks, of course.

So I pulled out a ball of sock yarn from my stash, checked my trusty reference books, and did the fiddly part of casting on, so that in the midst of the family hubbub I could simply dive in to some mindless knitting. I saw this as a sort of experiment for my hands, which had struggled with RSI for a long time, but seemed to be doing ok lately. If they could handle a week of almost daily knitting on teeny tiny needles, we might be getting somewhere. I approached it cautiously, but enthusiastically.

And it worked just fine. Not only did my hands not complain too much, but I also rediscovered that funny thing about socks. You know, that thing about how they seem sooo scary (the fine yarn, the small needles, the complex construction elements), but then you knit one and remember that it’s mostly just knitting a rather small tube of stockinette, with a little shaping in the beginning (toe) and middle (heel). It’s what I love about socks.

And so, having come back home in the last days of 2016 with two socks almost finished in one week, somehow the decision was already half formed in my mind before I even articulated it. 2017 would be my year of socks. I would work from my stash, experiment with patterns, and see where it got me. Mostly, I would have fun.

So here we are. Two pairs are already off the needles, and will be making an appearance here soon. But if I was to have a year of socks, well, then surely I deserved a little treat to properly show them off when they were done. And I’m even knitting from stash so I’m not spending any money on yarn. Surely that should be rewarded, I reasoned. A few clicks around Etsy and I ended up with these beauties. I absolutely luuuuurve them and I’ll be putting them to good use this year.

Stay tuned :)