Saturday, 6 October 2018

Cast on for 'A Year of Handknit Socks' #octobervanillasocks

Hello lovely readers. How are you? I hope you've been able to find time to craft and relax. It's October already which means one thing - it's also #socktober which is the perfect time to share my new blog series with you called "My Year of Handknit Socks".

Introducing my new blog series:
Each month I will be knitting a pair of socks that feature a different technique. I will be showcasing sock designers, sock yarns, indie-dyers and suppliers of accessories, along with a few patterns of my own. I will be trying different stitch patterns, different heel and toes methods and even two-needle socks and long socks with leg shaping.

It's something you can join in with too, and I'd love to have you on board; plus there are some fantastic prizes to be won - what more could you wish for - socks and prizes!!! And you don't need to commit every month - just dip in and out as you please.

How to join in:
Each month, you can knit your own socks, following the theme for that month and enter via Ravelry or Instagram. I will pick a winner from the entries for that month/theme only, and prizes will range from sock yarn, to books and accessories.

EITHER: Join my Ravelry group (link is at end of post) and add your finished socks to the discussion page for that month.

OR: Post on Instagram and use the hashtags #yearofhandknitsocks together with the hashtag for that specific month and also tag me @the_woolnest. 

I will then be able to search for the hashtags and at the end of each month I will pick a winner at random. Prizes will vary from month to month and I will pay postage costs. If you enter on both Instagram and Ravelry, it will count as two entries ( which means more chance of winning, yippee).

What are the themes?
I've made a handy table so that you can save it off. We will be staring off with something simple and moving towards more advanced techniques as we progress.
Each month, I will remind you of the theme, both on Instagram and Ravelry and I will blog regularly, sharing my progress throughout the month and along with any valuable tips.

Getting started with a simple/plain sock:
The theme for October is a simple "Vanilla" sock, so share your Vanilla socks on Instagram with the hashtag #octobervanillasocks
A simple "Vanilla" sock is usually knitted all in one colour so there are no colour changes to deal with. The simplest sock is usually worked from the cuff down, with a basic heel flap and gusset, and a shaped toe.

I have written a pattern for a simple sock, which I use in my socks kits, and you can download it here so that you can use the pattern, along with my tutorial below.

Download Lynne's Perfect Sock Pattern

Alternatively, pop over to Ravelry and search for these free patterns, and see which suits you best. Christine Perry (aka Winwick Mum) also has a wide range of great sock tutorials over on her website, including a full tutorial for her Basic Sock pattern (link is at end). Christine is one of the leading experts on sock knitting, and she has kindly gifted a copy of her latest sock book (More Super Socks) as a giveaway prize. Exciting!!!!

What do I need?
For most sock patterns, you will need just a few items, and your pattern should list everything at beginning:
- sock yarn (usually 4ply yarn, but can also be 6ply, double knitting or even aran weight)
- a set of 5 double-pointed needles (often called DPNs)
optional short circular sock needles (23cm in length)
- 3 stitch markers (two can be the same , but one should be different to the other two)
- a wool needle for weaving in ends and for working Kitchener stitch (which is a sewing stitch that joins or grafts the toe stitches together seamlessly, without making a bulky seam. This is because the way that you sew will mimic the knit stitch, which is flat and smooth)
- optional wool wash (or use organic/baby shampoo or shower gel instead)
- optional sock blockers (to help shape your socks)

Note that an average pair of ladies socks will only use up around 60-70g of 4ply yarn, so there will be a nice amount left over to use in a different pair of socks, for the heels and toes, so nothing ever goes to waste.

How many stitches do I cast on?
Most sock patterns use a standard number of stitches for casting on. You will choose the correct number of stitches for your chosen size, from 56 (60) (64) 68) (72) stitches.

64 stitches will generally fit an average adult foot (shoes size 5-6), so working up from this, 68 sts will fit a medium foot and 72 sts will fit a larger foot. At the other end, 60 sts will fit a smaller foot and 56 sts will fit a child/pre-teen. But remember, we're all different shapes and sizes, so you may need to try a few sizes before you find the perfect fit.

The number of stitches you choose will determine the finished size of your sock, which you will aim to fit the measurement around your foot (when stood flat). You will need to measure the circumference at the ball of your foot, and look at the measurements in the pattern to choose the correct size.

Remember that the foot circumference of your knitted socks will measure smaller than your actual foot, because the socks will stretch to fit (they have negative ease).

If your pattern does not provide measurements, use the following as an approximate guide for foot circumference:

Child 18.75cm - Adult Small 20cm - Average Adult 21cm - Adult Medium 22.25cm - Adult Large 23.5cm

The length of the foot can always be adjusted to fit - you simply knit the foot until it measures the length required MINUS the toe, which is usually around 5cm in length (your pattern should provide the exact measurements as the length of the toe may vary slightly).

I you are knitting for a gift, use the following as an approximate guide to foot length, then simply deduct the length of the toe from your chosen measurement:

Generic foot lengths: UK 1 (20.5cm)/UK 2 (21.5cm)/UK 3 (22.5cm)/UK 4 (23cm)/UK 5 (24cm)/UK 6 (24.5cm)/ UK 7 (25.5cm)/UK 8 (26.5cm)/UK 9 (27cm)/UK 10 (28cm)/ UK 11 (28.5cm)

You will need to make sure that your tension is correct - most socks are based on a tension of around 8.5 sts per inch, which is the same as 3.4 sts per cm (usually written as 34 sts per 10cm)

My yarn for October's Socks:
For this month's sock, I am using a gorgeous skein of hand dyed yarn, called "Pride and Prejudice" from the lovely and incredibly talented Petra, over at Black Elephant. Petra is one of my favourite indie dyers and I have lots (and lots) of amazing Black Elephant colourways, so it seems fitting to kick off my #yarnofhandknitsocks with one of these.  My October socks are a gift for my daughter, for Christmas (I'm starting early!!!). She spotted the skein in my stash and said that she loved, so I know she'll be delighted with her socks. I love the pale green and heather tones, and every now and again, there are speckles of rich colours.
So let's get started with the cuff and leg. This post is all about casting on, joining to knit in the round and working the cuff. 

For some people, these word alone are enough to put them off. But please believe me when I tell you that it's not as difficult as it sounds. After knitting just one socks, most knitters are hooked. I use socks for TV knitting, as well as for mindful knitting and travel knitting. They're so versatile and small, so can be popped into your bag and taken anywhere. 

Most patterns tell you to dive right in and cast on over 4 double-pointed needles (DPNs). However, this is something I always avoid because it's quite a tricky thing - DPNS can get really tangled and twisted whilst you're trying to cast on over 4 needles.

So I have devised a different method, as follows:
Have your chosen pattern to hand so that you can start following it, and use my tutorial below for casting on.I use a short circular sock needle for my main knitting but also use a set of DPNs for casting on, heel and toe:
1. Cast on the required number of stitches onto one DPN, plus 1 extra stitch (even if your pattern doesn't say to do this).
 2. Knit the first row of your rib pattern, to the last stitch. For me, this is usually a [k2, p2] rib. Leave the last stitch unworked, then slip this stitch purlwise to the right-hand needle
3. Do not turn at the end of the row. The side of the work that is facing you is the right side (if needed, put a safety pin or stitch marker on this side so that you can clearly identify the right side).

4. Now that you have a little bit of weight on your stitches with the first row, it's much easier to transfer your stitches to 4 DPNs.

5. Starting at the opposite end of the DPN, slide the stitches off and split them evenly over 4 DPNs or slide them straight onto your short circular needle (this is the method I use).
6. Keeping the right side facing you, bring the tips of the first and last DPNs (or the tips of the first and last circular needles) together, making sure that you haven't twisted any of the DPNs around.
7. Now for the magic part - join in the round by slipping the top (unworked) stitch from the right needle onto the left needle.
8. If desired, place a stitch marker onto the tip of the right needle to mark the start of the round (I just use the tail-end of yarn, as I find stitch markers too bulky).

9. Knit the first 2 stitches on left-hand needle together as 1 stitch.
10. Continue in rib pattern as per your pattern. Now you have the correct number of stitches, because you have just decreased 1 stitch.

11. Continue knitting in the round to complete your rib, and you will find that the cast-on edge of your rib is nice and level where you joined the stitches and there are no gaps that need sewing up.
A rib of 20 rounds using a [k2, p2] rib, makes a really good fitting rib, but you can make your rib slightly shorter if you prefer - try 16 rounds. Or you can try a [k1, p1] rib, or even a [k2, p1] rib if you are knitting with 60 or 72 sts.

Once your rib is complete, continue working in stocking stitch for the leg (knit every round). I like my socks to be quite long, so I usually knit approximately 65 rounds in stocking stitch.

And the prize for October is: 
1 ball of Candy Cane sock yarn (100g/400m) from West Yorkshire Spinners. This yarn is incredibly difficult to find, so when I found it, I bought 2 balls; one for me and one for October's winner, so that you will have a ball of self-striping yarn for next month's sock.

I hope that helps you to get started with your sock, and I will be back next week with the heel instructions.

Here are all the links mentioned above:
Join my Ravelry Group to enter your socks
Christine Perry (Winwick Mum): Basic Socks (Ravelry)
Winwick Mum website
Black Elephant online shop
Susan B. Anderson: How I Make My Socks (Ravelry)
Louise Tilbrook: Adult Socks For Beginners (Ravelry)
Lynne Rowe: Lynne's Perfect Socks (Ravelry)
Ann Budd: 8 stitches per inch Socks

Happy sock knitting,
Lynne xxx

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