A sock at sea

Published on Wednesday April 2nd, 2008

As I hinted yesterday, there’s a new sock on the needles and photographic evidence that he exists.


If you fell overboard, surely you’d like someone to throw you some knitting while you waited for rescue? Mind you, the fingers would numb pretty quickly in the waters of the San Juans. Winter temperature is about 45 degrees F., which gives you 15-20 minutes to climb out again undead, or so I’m told.


The best thing about this particular sock is that I only have to knit him once. He is a sample and a test knit of the gentleman friends of my secret red socks. He’s also my first taste of the new ShibuiKnits Sock color Man Blue. I love it. I loved it better when I thought this little sock fellow was going to be 80 sts and the denim hues were distributing themselves heterogeneously, but at 72 sts I have a nice steady spiral going on, and that doesn’t bother me too much.

Can we talk about US #2 needles, though? My fellow American knitters, we really must get on board with the metric system. I was going to knit this sock on two circular needles, but found that the new #2 Addi Lace needle I’d bought was 3mm, while the old regular Addi that I’d sized as a #2 on my Susan Bates needle gauge was, in fact, more of a #1.5 – only 2.5mm. (We can talk about Addi’s lamentable failure to come up with a permanent ink that doesn’t let the markings wear off the cord, or to engrave the sizes into the metal, some other time.) This would never do, and so I had to run out and buy some Japanese Clover dpns in US #2 = 2.75mm. This is as large as I’d care to go for ShibuiKnits Sock, which is a slender weight like Koigu. 3.0mm would produce too open a fabric for my taste in socks. The good news is that the Clovers are 5″ long, which is my ideal dpn length for socks, mittens, etc. They fit nicely in my hand without snagging their tail ends in my cuffs the way their 6″ brethren do, but they’re not so short as to be always bluntly stabbing me like the horrible 4″ Addi dpns, which no one should ever, ever buy. I would happily lead international days of protest against the Addi dpns, which are a stain on the escutcheon of this otherwise fine needle company.

The Man Blue sock enjoyed his nautical environment. He reminds me of the blue socks so ardently knit for men in uniform throughout our history. Jo knits blue stockings in Little Women, do you remember? These are dressier than anything knit for speed and function would have been, of course. Thinking about the history of blue socks reminds me — have any of you encountered Susan Strawn’s new Knitting America: A Glorious Heritage from Warm Socks to High Art? It has mixed reviews on Amazon, and my passion for history in general and the history of the knitting craft in particular makes me want this book to be good. No Idle Hands is a thorough and scholarly history, but there’s room on my shelf for a more approachable book with lots of photographs and vintage patterns.


Spring Thaw and Ivy Socks

Published on Thursday February 14th, 2008

Holy comments, Batman! I’m truly flattered by the love for the Blue Thistle jacket, and I’m working my way through to say thanks and answer questions. I was especially tickled that so many first-time commenters came out of the woodwork – thanks, new readers and not-so-new readers chiming in for the first time!

Since you all seem to like seeing new sweaters, it’s convenient that I can finally unveil a secret knit that was finished in November. I’m seeking permission to bring a photo over here, but for the moment you can skip over to the ShibuiKnits page to peek at Spring Thaw! And why, yes, I am just a little bit pleased to be finally modeling the sample of my first published pattern.

And while you’re over there, you can also take a gander at my Ivy Socks – I’ve been sitting on these puppies since July. Whew! It feels good to have these knits out in the world! The patterns are available from Knit/Purl, or from your local ShibuiKnits retailer.

Less than 48 hours until I leave on my pre-dawn drive to Tacoma for a heavenly weekend of Madrona workshops! I get to bask in the wisdom of knitterly goddesses Nancy Bush and Lucy Neatby, my friends. And will any of you be in attendance? I hope we’ll meet in perusing the booths of yarny goodness. I’ve decided to allow myself a skein or two from Blue Moon’s Raven Clan (if there’s any left), because I think it’s such an interesting experiment to do a whole run of different black colorways, and because there’s no black yarn in my stash, but throw yourself between me and the credit card swiper if you see me reaching for anything else, okay? Look for a full report on Monday!

In which I am branded a loose knitter

Published on Sunday January 27th, 2008


I finally brought about the trifecta of Mr. Garter’s Christmas slippers, Mr. Garter’s feet, and the camera in a decent pool of light. These are the Saturday Morning Slippers from Kristin Spurkland’s The Knitting Man(ual), and I’m proud to say that Mr. G has been wearing them regularly since the 25th of December. The yarn is Steadfast Fibers Wonderful Wool in driftwood and groovy green above, and the Wonderful Wool driftwood carried with Green Mountain Spinnery mystery wool on the sole. The Wonderful Wool is basically Lamb’s Pride’s plant-dyed cousin from a little company in Idaho – it’s an Aran-weight wool blended with 15% mohair, and it makes excellent mittens and slippers and wears like iron. I don’t even like to think about how long it’s been in the stash, but now it’s keeping my husband’s feet nice and toasty.

This project was more of a wrassle than a knit: two strands of worsted on size 8 needles in a twisted garter stitch is enough to make your hands beg for mercy. But I fought through them, and since I wasn’t sure there was anywhere in the house I could dry a dense woolen garment in two days without the recipient finding it, I got a little creative with a toolbox and the dehumidifier in the stock room at Knit/Purl. I’m here to tell you there’s no faster way to dry your handknits than to suspend them over the dehumidifier from the handles of two hammers balanced on the fuse box. They were bone dry the next morning and ready for wrapping. It’s nice to have an option for sturdy slippers that doesn’t involve felting. And Mr. G’s pleasure in wearing them means the pain was worthwhile.

While I may be devoted to my husband, my pal Patrick recently accused me of having knitterly commitment issues. Fair enough: from where I sit I can spy the basket containing my Gee’s Bend Log Cabin blanket, my Lily-of-the-Valley corset, my Lotus Blossom shawl, and my Frost Flowers sweater. It’s been at least six months since I’ve touched a single one of them. In the mean time, I’ve cast on roughly nineteen new projects (thanks, Ravelry!). Fourteen of those are finished, five are on the needles, and I’ve flirted (meaning I swatched, which doesn’t count as casting on – it’s like first base) with two more. Mr. G will kindly cover his eyes while I tell you I sassed Patrick that commitment is for poor souls who don’t have a different tasty morsel for every night of the week.

Seriously, do you believe in monogamous relations with your knitting projects? I clearly don’t, but I think the record will show that I finish the ones I start more often than not. I crave variety is all. Last weekend I realized I wasn’t actively working on anything with a needle larger than a US #2. There’s the Trøndelag mitten on #0s, an 80-stitch sock on #0s that I can’t show you yet, and the Ivy lace stole on #2s. A hankering to knit something instantly gratifying drove me to the stash after the bulky cinnabar Perendale wool, and in two days’ time I had a cardigan up to the armpits and a sleeve ready to join it. I busted out another half a sleeve this afternoon. If I don’t run out of wool, this will be my fastest sweater ever. I’m not a big-needle gal, but the #10.5 whoppers surely do crack along! Patrick will be lucky if I don’t call it the Wham-Bam-Thank-You-Ma’am cardigan.

But just to prove that I haven’t dropped the torch, I give you Ivy stole progress:


That’s about a third of its total length, not counting the edging I get to pick up and knit with a 47″ #0. Two chart repetitions per week should leave me the whole month of April to gnash my teeth over the edging and half of May to block it with seventeen porcupines’ worth of pins. Don’t begrudge me my other liaisons will I can still get them.

Published on Tuesday October 30th, 2007


In the spirit of more regular posting, a previously undocumented FO: Lady’s Shooting Stockings. These were a long time coming. You last saw them here…


(Don’t try this at home, kids.)


… twelve thousand feet up a Rocky Mountain. These are already well-traveled socks, and I have every confidence that their adventures will continue in their new home with Jen. They were a birthday present earlier this month, and the completion of the second sock is really all I have to show for Socktoberfest this year. Really, it was more of a sweatery October. But here are the specs:

Gentlemen’s Shooting Stockings from Nancy Bush’s Knitting Vintage Socks

Trekking XXL in some long forgotten colorway, one skein

US #0 needles

I really thought these socks were for me. But Jen and I met over a sock exchange, and she’s such a good friend and such a masterful and inspiring knitter that I figured it wasn’t by accident that her birthday coincided with the finishing of Sock the Second. She’s got size 9 feet, like me, and she’d already admired them during our carpools together. (Get thee a knitting carpool buddy if you possibly can.) So off they went to her, and now I’m down to only two mateless swingin’ single socks. I’ve been very good and haven’t started any new ones, but I did buy Cat Bordhi’s New Pathways for Sock Knitters with my sample-knitting money today, and I am awfully curious to try out her wild new ideas. Ms. Bordhi hangs her hat in my hometown, so it’s always a good chuckle to see familiar people and circumstances turn up in her books. She designs socks to commemorate a midnight ride on the sheriff’s boat for her grandson’s birth; I nearly debuted on a little Cessna because the pilot was on his way to the wrong mainland airfield. Ah, island life. I do miss it.

I also miss knitting socks. There’s something so satisfying in seeing them take shape, and there’s very little fiddling with sizes and math and gauge to make them turn out right, unlike my up-against-the-deadline Shibui sweater. Just pleasurable knitting, round and round, with a stitch pattern for interest, and those exquisite wee needles making a beautiful fabric. Call me perverse, but I love my #0’s.

Up next: more finished objects! Yay! And an epic project is born…