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,

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