Tag Archives: socks

Garpen Socks

There has been quite some sock knitting going on–with more than one pair on the needles at once.  years ago I always had one pair of 4 ply (fingering) and one pair of 8 ply (DK) socks on the needles at once.  At this stage I think teh driver has been wanting to make sure one pair is always at a stage where I can knit without looking in meetings, as my life contains many of them at present.   These are the Kit Couture Garpen socks.  The site is available in English (translation button in the top right of the screen) but so far I think this specific pattern is only available in Danish.  I decided I could probably manage without the translation!IMAG6170

Here they are in Tasmania.

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And, of course, on public transport!

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They have rather lovely details.

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I believe that after an awkward start I managed to get the colour changes for the stripes looking quite neat!

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Then right at the end I took my eye off the diagram, in which the toe would have been apricot.  I am fascinated by these moments in which I sometimes catch myself with a perception of something (here, a sock pattern) that is so convincing I assume it is correct.  But the pattern says otherwise when eventually consulted (after this pair were completed).  Never mind–I doubt the recipient minds at all and they are ready to keep her toes warm through our winter as autumn is here, at least some of the time!

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Dyeing and knitting Suffolk socks

This post is part of the Tuff Socks Naturally project, an open, collaborative project exploring more sustainable alternatives to superwash and nylon in sock yarn. You can join in on the discussion, share pics and projects on this blog or the glorious Needle and Spindle or on instagram using the hashtag #tuffsocksnaturally.

Once upon a time there was some raw Suffolk fleece.  And then, it was spun into a 3 ply yarn.  And then, it met several eucalyptus dye baths… and then a nice gentle soaking rinse or three…

A series of small skeins arose.

They were weighed and wound into balls by hand and prepared for hand knitting. This picture captures the colours best, I think.

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There was knitting on public transport.

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there was knitting on the road to Warrnambool.

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There was knitting on the way back.

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And finally… on a day so overcast as to leach colour from the knitting:

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There were socks long enough to go all the way to the top of a gumboot (wellington, galosh) on a chilly morning feeding donkeys.  These socks are bound for a lovely friend who keeps a small farm with a lot of chickens and some rescue donkeys.  She had some specific requirements!  She wasn’t the least bit concerned about socks that would not be silky soft.

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On top of the 3 ply, Suffolk yarn with high twist (and on the thick side for socks), I reinforced heels and toes with silk/cotton thread.  I dyed some in eucalyptus but underestimated how much I was going to need.  When I ran out while on the road (to dye camp!) I wasn’t prepared to stop.

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I think the reality about these socks is that they have been knit at a dense gauge that will hopefully result in long wear even in a gumboot, but it is not very stretchy!

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Finnish tough socks naturally?

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It all began when I finally managed to pick up a parcel that a friend who now lives in Denmark had left for me when she had passed through our town while we were away.  The contents were truly astonishing. Better than Christmas.  She had chosen some lovely wool, a book and a chocolate treat, all wrapped up in a bag! She delivered another Danish knitting kit as well. The yarn is Finnish wool dyed with plants and cochineal.  I couldn’t wait. I’d just finished a rather plain coloured sock and I wasn’t finished preparing my next Suffolk sock yarn.  I cast on!

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Here, a sock poses above Port Willunga beach on a summer outing. Is it just my imagination, or was this shot so peculiar my beloved took a snap of me taking it to preserve for posterity?

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Here, it graces a completed summer holiday puzzle.  My daughter brought Christmas gifts that were all second hand, wrapped in newspaper and tied with binder twine, designed to entertain us while in Melbourne.  One of the puzzles was unpacked immediately!

 

Here we have the second sock with many extremely ripe strawberries after a heat wave visit to the Farmer’s market.  And, on the side of a triathlon where I was cheering on my very fit beloved.  And now we have the frivolous images out of the way, here”s the lowdown.  I loved this yarn so much I wanted to knit it right away.  It’s the right weight for socks (4 ply/fingering) but I have no reason to think it is especially sock-worthy in terms of the breed or construction of the yarn.  On the other hand, my experience is increasingly telling me that adding silk into sock yarn is not an especially winning strategy.  As a beginner spinner I was so surprised to be told that silk was strong.  I had always thought of it as a rather fragile fibre.  But here’s the thing.  It’s both.  Silk has a high tensile strength.  If you try to snap a silk thread, it is really strong.  But I don’t think that tensile strength is matched by its capacity for abrasion resistance.  I’ve tested this by mending high abrasion areas of clothing with silk thread sashiko style–with lots of running stitches across the area of the patch.  The silk thread rubbed right off, and quite quickly.  I think that the high wear areas of a sock require a lot of abrasion resistance, and perhaps silk is not the best choice.  This was an experiment with doing all the engineering I know about to strengthen this pure wool sock.

I knit these socks cuff down, and I decided not to rib the leg.  I am not sure whether this wool will be a good match with the wearer’s skin.  It isn’t merino soft or silk soft, so I decided not to add any texture that might create unwanted friction.  Instead, I created a shaped calf.  These socks are for a woman who walks a lot.  So, since I made them quite long, some room for walking muscle.  As I reached the end of the leg, I started heel reinforcing stitch above the heel.  I notice this is a place where socks can wear through and there is nothing technically difficult about reinforcing the section of the leg immediately above the heel proper, where some boots and shoes rub.

When I reached the heel, I used heel reinforcing stitch as I usually would, and added some (ecru–offwhite) cotton/silk stitching thread in for reinforcement.  You can see the stitch and colour changes in the image above. The last time I received feedback on a pair of socks for this specific person, I saw she’d worn through the sole under her heel first.  So when I got to the heel turn and began the sole, I continued the reinforcing thread, through the heel turn and then running it across the sole and snipping it off when I came to knitting across the gusset and top of the foot.

I think the idea for treating reinforcing thread in this way came from something the wonderful Elizabeth Zimmermann (wise and ingenious fairy godmother of English speaking knitters) wrote, though I think she was using woolly nylon.  She wrote in a period when nylon blend sock yarn was not available or widespread as it is today, and she was needless to say, interested in a hard wearing sock.  I think she wrote a pattern for a re-footable sock, which I read once and found beyond me.  It might be time to look it up, because perhaps by now my knitting skills will meet it.  Here is how this strategy looks on the inside of the sock. Lots oof loose ends.  But they will be barely detectable to the wearer’s heel and will not work their way out of the knitting.

I changed down a needle size for the sole to give it more durability without impinging on the wearer.  That might be one of EZ’s ideas too.  The toe also received reinforcement.

And there we are.  I purled the recipient’s initials into the back of the calf for my own amusement and hopefully hers!

And there you have it.  A sock of unknown toughness, engineered for better wear, gloriously coloured and gleefully received.  When I am listening to the former knitters I meet on public transport, in cafes, at bus stops, in meetings, I am often saddened that they know no one who would welcome a hand knit and especially not a hand knit requiring hand washing.  That is the most common reason I hear for their abandoning knitting (followed by arthritis, scourge of knitters).  My goodness!  I am blessed by many lovers of hand knits, and while for me, knitting is its own reward in some respects… it is also like cooking someone a delicious dinner.  People who enjoy and appreciate are those for whom I’d cheerfully cook or knit again given the chance.  There is nothing like being really confident that someone loves that meal or sock or slipper or jumper so much that if you made another, they’d love that too… and I am especially blessed to know folk who will happily wear experimental garments.

 

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Handspun socks in use 3

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…

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Grinda socks

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I know I’ve mentioned Danish knitting kits… and I finished another one.

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About to embark on grafting the toe  on the train.

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Stripes on a plane!

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Sunny day at my place of work.

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Knitting on Kaurna land…

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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…

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Handspun socks in use 1 & 2 PLUS Knitting in a patch

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!

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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!

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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?

 

 

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Tuff socks, naturally: The project

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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

 

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Logwood purple socks

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.

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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!

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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!

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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.

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And finally, the socks, finished and ready for recipient… whimsical cables…

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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!

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Rainbow socks

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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Indigo and cochineal Jaywalkers

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A while back I acquired some merino-silk 4 ply (fingering) yarn to use as a no-nylon sock yarn.

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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.

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There was hospital knitting, nursing home knitting, public transport knitting as ever, meeting knitting.

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There was even knitting during an experimental opera!

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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.

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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!

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