Monday, June 27, 2011


Do socks have a life? A friend of mine, who shares my enthusiasm for knitting socks, once expressed the desire to live in her sock drawer. We both think of our knitted socks as children of sorts who grow up, maybe move away, and have a productive life. I am confident that they don't have to pay taxes. But do they die?

My daughter acquired some parakeets as a young girl. She was quite fascinated and charmed with the budgies. To humor her, I dyed some wool yarn in parakeet colors and knit up some parakeet socks, shown above. She wore them for many years. They weren't made out of very good yarn to start with, and they didn't hold up well. They felted, they became permanently dingy. At least the dye didn't fade much. One of them even wandered off somewhere, as socks do sometimes. Possibly it even fled. Then the moths found the remaining one, and turned it into Parakeet Swiss Cheese (photo below, click to enlarge).

This sock has used up its useful life. It will no longer keep any feet warm or snuggly, but I cherish the memories. I can't bear to toss it in the trash. I guess it will have to go in the attic along with my favorite baby outfits that the kids outgrew (in a week). The first born of those babies is about to go far, far away, off to college, to begin his own life. It will be even harder to let him go.


Wednesday, June 22, 2011


It has taken me several years to figure out that the adjective "Chinese" does not always refer to a country in Asia, but is often used as a synonym for "weird". This charming stitch pattern in Barbara Walker's Second Treasury of Knitting Patterns (page 285) has always intrigued me with its unusual little wiggle from side to side.

For this reason the pattern does not lend itself well to flat, straight garments such as scarves or dishcloths, unless the resulting zig zags are part of the design. It works best for garments knit in the round, so that the wiggles mesh together into a whole. It looks best with a light yarn so that the little holes (yarn overs) stand out well.

I must have been slightly insane, therefore, when I chose a fingering weight cotton ribbon to make myself a top with this pattern. Ribbon just doesn't work very well for lace. And to make matters worse, I held two strands together! I can only justify myself by explaining that I got the cotton ribbon very cheaply, and it came on a spool of FIVE POUNDS!

The pattern itself is an original design. I am pleased with the way it looks. I even added some very clever shaping to fit my, ahem, rather triangular shape.

The yarn was stiff, slippery, and hard on the hands. I realized early on that my choice of yarns wasn't ideal. It was not my favorite project. I put it down for long periods of time, so that it took me about three years to get it done. And the most incredible thing happened after I finished and blocked it... I GOT AWAY WITH IT! Click the photos to enlarge.


Wednesday, June 1, 2011


Ribbing. It's made by knitting one or two stitches, and alternating with purling one or two stitches. You make it at the cuff of hats, sleeves, socks, or mittens. It is very elastic, and helps to keep them snug. Ribbing is also fully reversible- the fabric looks the same on both sides. The photo above shows ribbing made by alternating knit two, purl two over a multiple of four stitches.

What happens if you make a mistake, and accidently or on purpose leave out a stitch so that you have a multiple of four plus three stitches? You can still knit two purl two across, but you have to end up with a purl 1 stitch. The result is called mistake stitch, and looks like this:

This is one of my favorite stitches for dishcloths like the ones shown above. They are just nubby enough to scrub well, knit up very fast, and are reversible. These were also made at a critical width so that the colors in the yarn bounce back and forth joyfully. I used Peaches & Creme cotton yarn, size #6 knitting needles, and 35 stitches.