Sunday, 18 November 2018

Contrast Heels and Toes and Perfect Stripes

Morning everyone. It's Sunday morning here in the UK and it's unusually bright for November, with clear blue skies and no rain. It feels more like a late Summer's day than the run up to Christmas. Let's hope it continues.
Last night, I managed to finish one of my self striping socks and I made a start on the second sock straight away. I sat happily knitting whilst watching Strictly Come Dancing, only to realise (once I'd finished the cuff) that I had knitted the wrong cuff. I usually knit a 2 x 2 rib for my sock cuffs, but because I'm knitting Emma Potter's Dotty Socks, I decided to tweak the cuff to match the pattern, with a 3 x 1 rib. Oh no - all that wasted knitted. But I didn't unravel the cuff, I simply cut off the yarn and I'll keep it for another pair at some point.

So off I set again, this time knitting the correct cuff. I love a 3 x 1 cuff as I like the wider, plain band that is created. I think I'll use it a lot more in my sock knitting.
I've had a few questions about where to change colour for the cuff so I thought it would be good to share my method, for a standard heel flap.

First of all, for a top-down cuff, knit to the point of your heel, following your pattern, but on the last round of knitting, stop knitting when half of your heel stitches are left, before the stitch marker. So for my socks, with a 64-stitch sock, my full heel stitches are 32 stitches. Half of 32 is 16, therefore I leave 16 stitches unworked, before the end of the last leg round.
Next, change colour and using a double-pointed needle, knit the last 16 stitches of the round in your contrast yarn.
Note: there are a few different ways to change colour. You can simply start knitting in your new colour and weave in the ends later (there may be a small hole, but this will disappear when you tighten up the yarn tails and weave them in),
Alternatively, you can twist the contrast yarn around the main yarn before you start knitting, or you could try the Russian Join, which doesn't leave any ends to weave in (link is at end of post). 

Next, remove your stitch marker and knit the second half of your heel stitches (for me this is another 16 stitches).

Turn your work and using a second double-pointed needle, purl all of your heel stitches. Turn and continue working on these stitches to knit the heel flap and turn, according to your pattern.
You will now have two yarns attached to your sock - the main yarn which is located at the base of the heel and the contrast yarn which is attached to your heel.

For the first option, you can return to your main yarn and start your gusset from that point. Start by picking up stitches along heel (according to your pattern), then knit across the base of the heel, then pick up the stitches along next side of the heel, place marker, and finally, knit across the instep stitches, place marker (the markers are used for the gusset decreasing section). Cut off your contrast yarn and leave enough yarn to weave in later. Now continue decreasing as per your pattern and knit your foot.

But for me, I don't like to do this with a self-striping yarn. 

I find that the main problem area with self-striping yarn is the gusset. This is because when you have picked up your gusset/instep stitches around your heel, you have about 18-20 more stitches than you originally had for your leg. Therefore, your stripes will be shorted in depth than the stripes on your leg and foot, because you have more stitches to knit on each round. 

If your stripes are really deep then it won't be too noticeable. But if your stripes are only around 4 rounds deep, then it will be quite noticeable. I'm not a huge fan of my stripes going off-piste around the instep, so I use my 'cut and paste' method by piecing in pieces of yarn of the same colour stripe and if you can master the Russian Join then you won't have lots of yarn to weave in.

So when I've finished shaping my heel, I start the pick-up round with my contrast yarn, first knitting across the heel stitches with my short circulars.
 Next, I pick up and knit up one side of the heel.
Then I place a marker and knit across the instep stitches, place another marker and pick up and knit along the next side of the heel and passing the main yarn as I do this. Then still using my contrast yarn, I continue with the next round until I reach the main yarn for the second time, at which point I stop and change back to the main yarn and cut off the contrast yarn.

By using the contrast yarn to pick up the gusset stitches and knit part of the next round, it gives you the extra couple of rounds across the instep section, which you need to keep the stripe the same depth as the leg stripes.

Then, for the next three or four stripes (until I have finished the decreasing section of the gusset), I add extra little strips of yarn to make each subsequent stripe the correct depth (because each stripe of the gusset is1 round short per stripe).
Whilst it may seem fiddly, I like how this creates the perfect stripes and makes me happier with my socks.

You can then knit the leg, following your pattern, and always leave in the gusset stitch markers so that you know where to start your toe decreasing.

Once you reach the length required, you can change colour again to start your toes and follow your pattern for the correct instructions. You may need to adjust the starting point of your toes, depending on where your stripes finish. So for this sock, the last round of my leg stripe was Red, which means that my toe section looks a little longer than usual.

So that's how I create my perfect stripes. I hope it gives you some ideas for playing with your own self-striping yarn. On the other hand, perhaps life is too short to worry about these short stripes - I'd welcome your views and whether it's something that bothers you or whether you just accept it as a quirky part of your self striping socks. Perhaps I should pay attention to my own reflections:

Don't forget to enter your socks on social media or my Ravelry group, using the hashtags #novemberselfstripingsocks #yearofhandknitsocks #lynnerowe

This months prize is a fabulous book by The Loveliest Yarn Company, containing lots of amazing mini sock patterns for your Sockmas socks, along with a canvas tote bag and a few extras from me.
Here are all the links mentioned above:
Join my Ravelry Group to enter your self striping socks
Christine Perry (Winwick Mum): Basic Socks (Ravelry)
Winwick Mum website
The Yarn Café (for your West Yorkshire Spinners Christmas yarn)
Lynne Rowe: Lynne's Perfect Socks (Ravelry)

Dotty Socks by Potter & Bloom

Happy stripey sock knitting, 
Lynne xx

Wednesday, 7 November 2018

'A Year of Handknit Socks' - using self striping yarn

Hello lovely readers and a huge thanks to those who joined in with October's sock theme #octobervanillasocks. The winner was Amanda @thecalmnookcrafts and I have posted her prize to Australia. 

It was a treat to see your lovely knitted socks and I hope you can join in too for November. This month the theme is self striping socks, so grab yourself a ball or skein of self striping yarn and let's cast on.

If you share your projects, the hashtags to use are #novemberselfstripingsocks #yearofhandknitsocks #lynnerowe.
I shared my casting on and rib methods in a previous blog post here, and also how I work a standard heel flap and gusset here. Coming up soon are how to pick up stitches neatly for the gusset and how to knit a simple toe.

But in the meantime, here are a few tips for knitting with self striping yarn.

What is self striping yarn?
It's yarn that is dyed in long lengths of colour. When you start to knit, it changes colour to create stripes of a fixed length, which means that there is no need to change colour yourself (and no messy ends to weave in). 

Self striping yarn can range from two colours, to lots of colours. 
I love my teal and orange socks, using yarn from Black Horse Yarns, and my 'Mind the Gap' socks remain a firm favourite too - these are based on the colours of the London Underground, dyed by Trailing Clouds (all links are at the end of the post).
There is usually no graduation with the colour changes - they will just change from one colour to the next, to create crisp, clean lines.

Self-striping yarn is perfect for new knitters, because a striking and colourful effect can be achieved, with very little work.

Using self striping yarn for socks
The great thing about sock knitting is that both socks are identical, which means that your stripes will knit to the same depth for each sock. If you want your socks to match completely, you will need to make sure that you start your cast on at exactly the same point along the same coloured stripe. It isn't essential to have you socks matching. Many knitters like to knit with the yarn as it comes, without worrying about their socks being identical.

I don't mind either way, but I have a slight preference towards matching socks. Here's my method:

First, I always wind my ball or skein of yarn into a yarn cake. 
This helps me to see how the yarn is dyed and more importantly, if I wind the last few stripes around the skein, I can see how they will look when knitted up. Some indie dyers sell their yarn in balls that are already wound, or in yarn cakes, rather than skeins, which is really useful - and often they include a contrasting mini skein for heels and toes.
But you don't have to spend lots of money to buy a nice self striping yarn. Drops Fabel is one of my favourite yarns which is incredibly good value at just a couple of pounds per 50g ball, and there are lots of self striping colourways. West Yorkshire Spinners also sell great value 100g balls of self striping yarns, from shades inspired by birds and natures, to cocktails and Christmas colours. If you use contrasting heels and toes, you can often knit two pairs from one 100g ball.

With a yarn cake, I can also see if the first stripe of colour is a complete length, or whether it's slightly shorter than the other stripes. You can see that the Green in my West Yorkshire Spinner's Candy Cane yarn is slightly shorter than the Red and White stripes, so I didn't want to cast on with Green, as there was possibly only enough yarn for casting on with.
I decided that wanted to start my socks with a Red stripe at the top of the cuff. Because I use the thumb (or long-tail) cast on method, I always need to be mindful that I also need to use a long tail of yarn to cast on my stitches with (as well as the yarn from the ball) and this also needs to be Red. At the same time, I don't want to waste any of my Red stripe), so I try to make sure that once I've cast on my stitches, I only have a short amount of the cast on colour remaining (just enough to weave in). I know that for 64 sts, with 2.5mm needles, I will use approximately 58cm of yarn for one round of knitting, therefore when I made my slip knot I left a long tail of Red, approximately 60cm long, so that my cast on stitches are all Red. 
Casting on using the long tail or thumb method will have an impact on the depth of the first stripe, because you will use two rounds worth of yarn for casting on. 

I always make a note of where I made my slip knot so that I know where to start my second sock to make it match the first sock.

I'm not a huge fan of a solid colour cuff, so I tend to just start off with my self striping yarn, then use a contrast colour for heels and toes. 

For my #novemberselfstripingsocks I'm used Emma Potter's Dotty Socks pattern, which is a free pattern that you can find here on Ravelry. I really love the surface pattern that Emma has created. The little purl bumps result in a gorgeous texture that is quite soothing to run your hands over. 
So now you can make a start on your self striping socks - don't forget to share either a progress photo or a photo of your finished socks on social media (with November's hashtags above) to win this month's prize, which is A-ma-zing!!!. 

Kindly donated by The Loveliest Yarn Company, it's a copy of  their Sockmas book of festive mini socks to knit and decorate your home with. Along with a canvas tote and a few extra bits from me. These socks are incredibly cute and range from plain and simple stripes, to cables and stranded colourwork. I'm desperate to cast on and get knitting.

Next I will be showing you where to join yarn for your contrast heel and how to avoid the thin stripe at the start of the gusset, which is caused by having a lot more stitches to knit on each round. I often 'cheat' at this point to make sure my stripes are the same depth (I'll tell you more in my next post).

Here are all the links mentioned above:
Join my Ravelry Group to enter your vanilla socks
Christine Perry (Winwick Mum): Basic Socks (Ravelry)
Winwick Mum website
The Yarn Café (for your West Yorkshire Spinners Christmas yarn)
Lynne Rowe: Lynne's Perfect Socks (Ravelry)

Dotty Socks by Potter & Bloom
The Loveliest Yarn Company
The Yarn Badger

Happy stripe knitting,