We visited a friend recently and of course, I was knitting away as we chatted. I explained about the tuff socks naturally project and she brought out her entire sock drawer in which there were quite a few pairs knit by my own hands, some of which I don’t remember knitting! There was just one hand spun pair, and they were quite recent. Here they are finished in mid 2017. They look very lightly worn indeed though she assures me she has been wearing them. No signs of wear at all on this as-yet-young pair of tough knits. Hopefully that speaks to the qualities of a suffolk/mohair/silk blend…
Tag Archives: socks
I know I’ve mentioned Danish knitting kits… and I finished another one.
About to embark on grafting the toe on the train.
Stripes on a plane!
Sunny day at my place of work.
Knitting on Kaurna land…
And the finished article. There was a hitch in which I failed to recognise that the pattern called for a change of colour for the heel. If I had actually done that (or gone back when I realised my mistake much later), I might have had enough yarn to make the toes match. However, the dear friend whose very large feet these socks are destined for won’t be troubled, and I am guessing those mismatched toes will often be inside shoes…
I thought one thing I could do to complete the feedback loop on the toughness or otherwise of my sock spinning would be to ask people I’ve given handspun socks to whether they could return them for inspection. One of the hard things about the fact that I–gasp–can no longer wear handknit socks, is that I don’t have the capacity to see and feel for myself how my handspinning fares in daily wear inside a shoe or boot. In return for people showing me how their socks have worn, I’m offering to mend socks that come back to me to close the feedback loop. So if you happen to be reading this and you think you have a pair of handspun, handknit socks I gave you, bring them in and if they need darning, I’ll do the honours!
I think it is worth considering the question of wear. It is a striking feature of most conversations I have with people about how hand knit items are wearing, that they feel they need to apologise if something I knit has worn out or worn through. I don’t think so. Sometimes it is obvious enough that the fault was with the spinning or knitting or fibre choice (so if anyone should apologise it should be me; or perhaps there could be shared acknowledgement of how wonderful the alpaca socks felt, but that they were never destined to last decades). On the whole, though, I tend to think that it is rather flattering that people like things I made enough to wear them until they fall apart. And unless I know what happened to them, sometimes I am not in a position to learn what might make me a better sock spinner (for example). Nylon is permanent, it will never biodegrade, and therefore we should think seriously before we use it. But the flip side of this recognition is awareness that socks without nylon will not wear as well as those with nylon. There is a reason it came into use in the context of socks. And–now that I have lived long enough to understand how a plastic bag will “degrade” into squillions of little bits of plastic, I think it may be time for a thoroughgoing recognition that when your #tuffsocksnaturally wear out they will biodegrade, so the compost or the worms can take them, especially if you dyed thoughtfully too.
But I digress. This sock came home recently with only one hole! I made these socks a little over a year ago (follow the link for details), so they have not had a huge amount of wear. But the hole was quite big, and clearly resulted from the fabric wearing right through in a large area. Given the fact that the other sock had not worn through in the same place, I’d say there was a weak patch in the fabric, likely caused in this case by the blending of the fibres (Suffolk, mohair and silk) being uneven, or by the spinning being on the thin side, or underplied. I decided on a knit-in patch rather than a darn. So I picked up stitches at the base of the heel flap (above) and began to knit, joining on by picking up a stitch on each side of the patch each row, and knitting it together with the edge stitch of the patched section. The under-heel section will be thicker than the surrounding fabric, and the patch is generous, but I think under the heel is about the least sensitive place to put a patch and clearly reinforcement is needed!
To finish the patch, I picked up the same number of stitches , knit right up to them, and grafted them together (kitchener stitch, if you prefer). If you’d like to see that mending strategy again, I’ve blogged it before here and here (on cardigans) and here (another pair of socks!)
Another pair of handspun and handknit socks came home the same day. These had two tiny, neat darns in red thread, a lovely application of visible mending (and I think I found the remainder of the skein in my stash subsequently, which may explain the yarn choice another way). One darn was up by the cuff, where it may have been a breach in the spinning or perhaps a munch from a m*th. The other is here on the toe, where wear is to be expected, in my view. All our feet (and shoes) are different, of course!
I found the post about knitting these socks here. They were knit in 2014 and have gone from son to mother in their lifetimes thus far. And yest so little obvious wear??
I spun them from… Superwash Merino/Bamboo/Nylon blend. I bought it at a spinning workshop as the recommended blend for sock spinning, and did a class on spinning for socks. the other thing I note with interest is that I knit them on 2.75 mm needles. I think that was partly because the yarn was finer than I anticipated, but it dies also suggest a finer gauge than my usual, and that is another long-wearing-sock-strategy handed down through the ages. So–the combination of nylon content, tight gauge, machine prepared fibre and handspinning produced a higher wear sock–but not a nylon-free sock, and let’s not pretend that industrially produced bamboo fibre is kind to the environment–though I do assume it would biodegrade at least. So there you have it! My first two worked examples of handspun handknit socks in wear for review. What are you learning from reviewing your spinning and knitting?
My friend-in-blogging-and-making, Rebecca from Needle and Spindle, has had the exciting idea of a shared project on handspun socks without superwash treatment or nylon. They would make use of the properties of breeds of sheep that were preferred for socks [by those who wearing wearing socks at all] in the swathe of human history in which nylon did not exist, superwash had not been invented, and the merino had not yet become the overwhelming giant of industrial wool production. I give you the Suffolk!
Adele Moon will be joining us for some sock spinning and knitting and posting. As you know, I love to knit socks, and I love to spin, and I’ve often thought I should be doing more spinning for sock knitting. And of course, like a lot of people who read this blog, I think a lot about the industrial production of textiles and the pollution it causes, the permanence and harmfulness of plastics of all kinds (I’m considering nylon just this moment), and about the burdens of my own decisions on the earth and all who share her. There can’t be any pretence, in my case, to having all the answers; or to proving up to the challenge of making right decisions on all occasions. I should think my readers all know that I can’t do that yet. But I don’t think that can be a reason not to look for solutions or to make the changes we can figure out how to make.
Full solutions to the issues of pollution and plastics require change on way more than personal level. There’s no real point, to my way of thinking, in getting overinvolved in our own feelings of self-blame or failure, on these questions. Better to keep focused on how to move forward, and how to spread awareness and action more widely.
At my place, the recently acquired Suffolk fleece will be part of the experiment. I’ll be sharing what I know about knitting socks that last, and maybe we can spend some time on what to do when they disintegrate too! I have begun to call in surviving socks that I hand spun and hand knit for friends and relatives so that an inventory (and some mending) can be undertaken. I’ll be spinning, and of course, dyeing with plants and knitting socks on public transport and in meetings.
The tech minded spinners will have company in Rebecca, and there will be somewhat less well planned spinning at this blog, as you may have come to expect. It sounds like fun, doesn’t it? Feel free to offer your tips and inspirations!
This is an open project, anyone can join in. If you are interested in being part of the Tuff Socks Naturally Project, please share your experiments or link to your project pages on this blog in post comments, or on Rebecca’s blog, Needle and Spindle, or with any of us on Instagram: @rebeccaspindle, @localandbespoke or @adelemoon and use the #tuffsocksnaturally tag.
Dear reader, you know how socks go in my life. I knit them at bus stops and train stations, on public transport, and oh, goodness! I knit them in meetings. In my new job, there are more meetings for the day job than ever. I am all in favour of well run meetings. They can be forums for collaborative decision making about things that matter. But, well, I have my flaws and some days the flow of wool and colour through my fingers is just a pleasure and other days it stands between other people and my impatience.
Things are challenging in the place where I am lucky enough to have a job while many other people are currently much less confident about their future. So when I could see grafting the toe of the rainbow socks coming into view, I wound a new ball of sock yarn before bedtime just to make sure I could keep fingers entertained and brain engaged prior to use of my mouth the next day at work. Here’s the cuff emerging on the train!
This sunny day on the bus, I must have been going somewhere very serious indeed, because I can see I’ve abandoned my backpack for my satchel. Below, I am knitting down the heel on a cold day. It rained that day and the smell of the eucalypt India Flint used to dye that coat rose up!
And finally, here I am ready to graft the toe. Yes, on the bus. I remember one of the first times I grafted a toe, I took two different knitting books on a train journey to Port Adelaide and read each description of kitchener stitch a lot of times before making an attempt. Now, I can do it in the middle of a meeting or on public transport.
And finally, the socks, finished and ready for recipient… whimsical cables…
Wool and silk yarn, dyed with legacy logwood from my Guild where it was left by someone who no longer wanted it or needed it. An astonishing colour to be able to get from wood!
I posted a picture of these socks while in progress on Instagram and a friend said that the word “lurid” came to mind. Well, yes! Nothing naturally dyed going on here. She also asked if they were a statement on the times–for those outside Australia, our nation is currently debating whether the law should be changed so that people of the same sex can marry. And despite the well-established reality that more than half the nation supports this change (as established by opinion polls) we are having an expensive but non-binding postal survey on the matter at the moment. It has been a time of some very heart warming moments but also some thoroughly unpleasant public debate.
I admit, I had not been thinking of that when I cast on. But–really–my friend was right on both counts. These socks are going to live with a friend whose favourite colour is lurid (bonus points for neon or dinosaur prints), who has been in a same sex relationship for over 20 years. She isn’t enthusiastic about marriage, in the way that those of us who spend a lot of time thinking about the history of women’s rights, domestic violence and such like often aren’t. Of course, we know people who have wonderful marriages. But we’ve seen a lot of the ways that marriage can go wrong, and that sure makes marriage as an institution less romantic. We remember its role in treating women as property and limiting women’s rights to bodily autonomy, working rights, equal pay, voting rights, engagement in the economy and so much more.
However–right here right now, for many people who support same sex marriage this is really a debate about whether everyone should have the same legal rights. That’s a very easy question to my mind.
Meantime, the socks are packaged up with laundry requirements and darning thread and ready to go to their new home. I cannot control the national debate, but I can show the love to y near and dear and keep people’s toes warm in their gumboots, shoes and boots!
A while back I acquired some merino-silk 4 ply (fingering) yarn to use as a no-nylon sock yarn.
Of course, it all started out white. Over time, some was dyed in legacy logwood. Some with legacy cochineal, and some with indigo. Then I decided on overdyeing the cochineal to create stripes and spots, creating some deep pink-purple and some blue sections where I had tied resists during the first dyeing in cochineal.
There was hospital knitting, nursing home knitting, public transport knitting as ever, meeting knitting.
There was even knitting during an experimental opera!
And now there are socks. The pattern is an old favourite, Jaywalker, by Grumperina. It doesn’t stretch much but it stays up and it looks great.
They are destined to be added to India Flint’s collection… bless her creative mind and nimble fingers and keep her toes warm, I say!
As usual, the latest pair of socks spent quite a lot of time on public transport. This is a local train service knitting opportunity.
They came on some pretty tired and sad visits to hospital and nursing home as one of my dearests has been having a very tough time and I have been doing what I can to accompany her. Knitting on public transport was a big help on a few visits when I took trips to visit her and she had already been taken by ambulance to some other place.
Socks don’t care about your worries. They just keep growing as you keep knitting, and that works for me.
As you can see, it’s another pair of socks made with the same fibres. And roughly the same size. And there the resemblances end! I managed to finish the skein with only this tiny ball of wool left! But did get two pairs out of my naturally dyed Suffolk handspun.
They have already gone to a dear friend who spends more time in gumboots than pleases her sometimes, and finds a hand knit sock an asset in her gumboot (wellington boot? galosh? wellie boot? rubber boot? you get the picture, I hope).
None of the pictures really came out right, with some too washed out and some a little overdone. But I am sure you get the idea! And in these times of considering mortality and suffering, I thought I would share this little gem taken as I ran through the cemetery one morning. There were four magpies perched on this statue but two flew away as I approached. Camera shy. I understand.
Some time back, I embarked upon creating sock yarn from scratch, beginning with scouring, dyeing and combing raw local Suffolk fleece. If you missed the early, exciting stages (yes, that is a joke!) here is a post about the wool. Here is one of multiple dye adventures. And the spinning went on at intervals over some months. It’s hard to make incremental progress in spinning fun with photos!
Here is the first sock being knit at a coffee shop after exercise class, overseen by a dog.
Here is the second sock, almost done on the weekend when I cooked for many friends planting 500 trees on land two of our friends (and their two children, as they grow) are reclaiming, rehabilitating and revegetating with a degree of care, thought, vision and commitment that is awesome to behold. I was just too scared of back re-injury to plant. So made myself a bit useful kitchen handing. In between times, I knit and chatted with small folk. I even did the hilarious feat of walking while knitting.
It was hard to photograph the socks really well. But there are some nice colours in there!
And I am a sucker for the ingenuity of the heel arrangement. The socks have whimsical cables, which puzzled some onlookers and delighted others. And they are in no way twins, which likewise puzzled and affronted some while pleasing others very much. I’ll be honest, this is not exactly what I intended. But you know–they are fine! And headed to a happy new home as I type. They will be snug, and hopefully, made as they are from a suffolk/silk/mohair blend and dyed with plants and cochineal–strong and colourful both. And–there is enough for another pair, perhaps with a toe that, in this context, will not stand out if knit from a different yarn altogether–the finished socks weigh 101g and 89g remains…
These socks, made from possum wool purchased in Aotearoa/New Zealand, began slowly and suddenly leapt forward when I travelled to Sydney for a family occasion and then a holiday in December. I think the slowness was due largely to the loss of the previous sock in progress, needles and all. It somehow made me feel like I might be losing my capacities in some way, rather than seeming like an unfortunate accident. I can’t say why I adopted this kind of interpretation but I hope to get over it!
Here is the first sock, in the very incongruous setting of a public lecture theatre at Sydney University. It is in an old building and has all wood seating, all wooden desks and steeply raked benches with wooden doors. But of course it also now has fluorescent lighting and computer projection screens. Outside I wandered off and away past beautiful Moreton Bay fig trees.
Here is the sock in progress beside the beach at Coogee.
And here is a (random, bonus) rainbow lorikeet in Sydney, sighted when I was out for a run. I am not sure if this one was feeling bold or sleepy, but after all the times I have tried to photograph one of these birds and barely succeeded in getting a blur in the distance… here it is!
Some weeks later…
Here they are in all their dark chocolate brown glory, ready for the feet of my beloved, when the summer ends and the autumn begins to ebb. She tried them on, the day I handed them over (yes, it was 41C) and they came off again pretty fast!!!