A silly little trick

On Thursday of last week, two things happened. First, Joe left for a conference in NYC, and I woke up feeling awful. I’m leaving soon for a two week trip out of town, working two gigs (the Columbia Gorge Fiber Festival then a few days off, then the November Strung Along Retreat – at last count, by the way, we had a tiny few spots left. Email if you’re in) and I can’t afford to be sick right now, so I did something drastic and amazing.

I took the weekend off.  I know – lots of people take the weekends off, but what’s that joke about owning your own business? It’s awesome because of the flexibility. You can work any 14 hours a day you like.  Both Joe and I have recently lapsed (out of necessity, mostly) into a wild schedule where we work all the time, and Thursday I woke up feeling it, and I promptly cancelled all but two of my weekend plans. One was a bike rally meeting with my Co-Lead – Cameron, you’ll meet him soon enough – if you’re on instagram you might have seen him go by already, and the other was a plea from a friend who desperately wanted to learn to knit. Turns out he’s recently learned he’ll be an uncle, and wants to knit a blanket.

He came over, I drew him a picture, gave him needles and yarn, taught him the premise of knitting (pull loop through loop using stick) the knit stitch, the purl, increasing, decreasing, placing markers, casting on and casting off, and he left three hours later with a top down baby sweater on the needles.  (I’m very good with beginners.)

trevorknits 2015-11-02

Other than that, I slept, knit, and tidied. The whole thing was very restorative, and there’s an amazing amount of knitting to show you, but it’s all blocking right now. Tomorrow we’ll have a festival of finished things. Today though, let me show you a little sneak I do to make sure my socks match exactly – or rather, that it’s possible for my socks to match exactly.  (Sort of.)

I’m knitting a pair of socks headed for the Long Range Planning Box (although Christmas is so shockingly soon I don’t know if we can call it long range) using Opal #8610 that I snagged at the Knit East marketplace from Cricket Cove. It’s supposed to look like a watermelon, and I suppose it does, if you have a wide way of thinking about watermelon. (All that yellow, doesn’t seem right.) I knit the first sock, and I rigged the colourway so it worked out the way I liked.  I knit to the end of the heel, then ripped out a chunk of the colourway so that the pattern would progress undisturbed along the top of the foot. I rip out parts of colourways all the time to get what I want… and usually things work out just fine, but before I do the second sock, I always double check that it’s going to work.

startingrewind 2015-11-02

I knit that first sock, and then before I start the second one, I break out the ball winder. I lay the finished sock nearby, and I start winding. I wind to the place where the first sock began, and then I start following along. As I wind, I count off sections of the first sock – a section of pink on the ball, a section of pink on the sock, now yellow, now green…. I wind and watch, making sure that subtracting a section of yarn from the first sock didn’t leave me with a wrong order for the second.

rewindingone 2015-11-02

In this case, I have more than enough – and enough in the right order.

sockonedone 2015-11-02

(I always weigh the remaining yarn after the first sock, and compare it to the weight of the sock to make sure I have enough- but with long repeats, that’s not always enough to get you a match.) Especially when I plunder a colourway while making a sock for a big man. If it turns out that I don’t have enough, I’ll choose to use the gutted bit from the first sock to start the second, because I think that mostly, the legs of socks are covered by pants, and it’s the feet we really look at. In any contest between matching legs or matching feet, I’ll take feet every time. It’s what you see when they’re poking out the bottom, or propped up on the coffee table. Feet over legs. That’s how I do it.

74 thoughts on “A silly little trick

  1. Good for you for taking the weekend off! Sounds like you really needed it. The socks look lovely, and I’m totally with you on trying to make things as matched as possible.

  2. I am so glad to hear that you convinced your friend to do a sweater instead of a blanket. I know some beginners who could manage a blanket (especially with bulky yarn), but blankets are scary.

  3. I can’t help but think that you’d have so much more knitting time if you’d accept fraternal twin socks. This is coming from someone who has been known to buy same socks in different colours just to have a mismatched pair.

    • For some of us, that’s a “no can do”. It drives me crazy enough that I frogged a pair of socks once because one sock knit up with pooling & the other knit up stripy. It was early in my knitting life, before I learned how to make my socks match.

  4. I am glad to hear that you were able to get the rest you needed. I sometimes feel guilty for calling of work when I’m sick, but then again I have sick days that I’m entitled to take. I can’t imagine how guilty I’d feel if I was working for myself.

    Back when I was knitting a pair of socks every week or so, I used to really anal (in a good way) about matching up the patterns on my socks. I think I got out of the habit of doing it when I started knitting with more indie-dyed stuff. Still good to know that I’m not the only one who wants both socks to match!

    • Hoping this doesn’t come off as snarky, but… I wish everyone who can afford to take sick days off work would stop feeling guilty and instead start feeling virtuous for staying home and not spreading their germs. Sharing is not always a good thing. End of soap box and back to my 7th box of Kleenex.

  5. Hmm, I always think the feet will be in shoes and it’s best to have the upper bits match. Actually, I knit for a teenager who always wears mismatched socks anyways, so it hardly matters. Now I am knitting some for my dad, but the yarn is so short (Kroy FX) that there can be no fudging at all. I had about 10 inches left from a ball after the first sock.

    • Heh – that is exactly my theory also! I am not a socks and sandals type person – mostly mine are tucked inside Doc Martens of some description.

  6. Yay for another knitter added to our tribe!

    And interestingly, I match socks the opposite way…if there’s a part that’s going to be different, I match the legs. On the theory that the feet will be covered by shoes or slippers, and the legs are more likely to be visible. But then I don’t walk around in just socks as a rule…I’m either barefoot or wearing socks and fuzzy slippers. Now I need to observe the recipients of gift socks and determine if they’re walk around in socks much before I decide how their socks should match!

  7. I think I’m a little dim. I get the part about doing the socks to the heel. And I get the part about winding the ball so you have matching sections. I don’t understand the “then ripped out a chunk of the colourway so that the pattern would progress undisturbed along the top of the foot”?

    • When you get to the heel, you are working only on the heel, and so when you get back to the whole sock, the pattern has generally been disrupted.

      • The solution to that is to use a different yarn (a solid is nice) for the heel, so that when you resume the body of the sock your yarn pattern picks up where it left off. Don’t cut the yarn for the foot and leg, just drop it while you work the heel and then pick it back up when the heel has been completed.

  8. I have actually seen watermelon that’s yellow inside. Anyway, that yarn is really pretty. I love when the yarn makes Fair Isle patterns for me and all I have to knit is my basic sock pattern.

    Hope you are feeling right as rain very soon!

  9. I really should start weighing my socks, since you mention it. I’m knitting a pair by the seat of my pants. It’s supposed to give me a pair, but there’s always that off chance that it won’t. But what is a reward without a little bit of risk to get there?

  10. I generally try to match the leg, figuring that people other than family are only going to see my socks with shoes and it’s the ankle area that needs to match.

  11. Regia has issued a yarn that has chrome yellow leaders at the beginning of the ball, and in the middle of the ball. Idea is you wind off the yellow leader, do the first sock, then wind off to the next yellow leader and wind it off. They say that puts you at the start place for a matching sock. I’m still on the first sock, so I don’t know if it works. Interesting idea. I imagine doing this for two sweater fronts or sleeves would also work.

    The more I use my scale to do this sort of thing, the more I wonder how I ever got along without it.

  12. Out of curiosity, did you teach the new knitter Irish cottage knitting right from the starting gate? Can’t tell from the pic. Like the sock yarn, watermelon colored or not. Amazingly, my OCD has not yet extended to matching the stripes on my socks precisely, but I think I’ll bookmark this post just in case. 🙂

  13. Everyone needs to take time off for themselves (and budding knitters). My socks rarely match. Sometimes they aren’t even a matching pair. Especially since I discovered an inordinate number that need to be darned, none of them a matching set.

    • I told myself to not get worked up if my socks were going to turn out fraternal instead of identical, lo and behold when I finished with the first it left me in the exact position to get identical socks anyways. Funny how the universe works. Good luck with your darning.

  14. I just did the same thing with a hat! I had a 200+ yd ball of Freia for a 130 yd hat and I wanted the whole range of ombre color in the hat. I ripped out about 3 or 4 good size chunks while knitting it and got a nice light to dark roll brim hat. I’ve never done that before, but if Harlot does it, it must be ok!! Get better quickly 🙂

  15. Hmmm. It hadn’t ever occurred to me that I could skip chunks of a colorway while knitting. Seems completely obvious now that you mention it. I’ll definitely keep this strategy in mind the next time I stumble across colorways which are only partly appealing.

    Good on you for taking time off for you! Like the flight attendants always say, put on your own oxygen mask before helping others. 🙂

  16. One time, when I was relatively new to sock knitting, I made a pair for my husband from self-striping Paton’s. Somehow I managed to line up the stripes but not the colors! I kinda like the look though.

  17. I so love the fact that in 3 hours you have a new knitter. Any suggestions for a left handed knitter? I have one asking me to learn to knit, but I don’t have the slightest idea how to go about it!

      • Yup, it does work! Sit them in front of you. When you make a knit stitch, they will see a purl, and when you make a purl, they will see a knit. It’s how my right-handed mum taught left-handed me when I was 7.

    • No, no, no!!! Knitting is a two-handed skill (unlike crocheting, for example). A leftie shouldn’t be taught any differently than a rightie. Well, some lefties like to pick continental-style with their left hand & some righties like to throw English-style with their right hand, but don’t do any of that reverse, knit-in-a-mirror stuff. That’s a trip to Crazytown for everyone concerned. Just my two cents. (And I’ve taught many lefties to knit over the last 30+ years…former yarn shop owner.) :o)

      • I agree that left-handers should be taught to knit in the same direction as right-handers. I knit with my left hand and don’t reverse anything. Actually I only have a left hand so I throw to knit and pick to purl. Anything’s possible if you want it enough.

      • I agree. My Mom and her identical twin (who was developmentally challenged and functioned at the level of a 4-yr-old) were lefties who both knit the “right-handed” way and were both quick, excellent knitters.

  18. I wind /buy two balls of the same kind, and knit two socks at the same time, starting at the same place in the yarn colorway. Not magic loop, but the parallel needles.”knitting circles around socks”. Works every time. But I am not picky and enjoy fraternal socks as much as identical socks 😉

  19. Yarn Harlot, I saw a new product the other day at my local yarn store (River City Yarns, Edmonton) and immediately thought of you. Unfortunately, I don’t remember the brand, but there is a sock yarn that has a starter section in bright bright yellow. You snip right at the yellow to start, knit the first sock, and then part way through the ball (after more than enough yarn for the first sock) there is another yellow section to mark where to snip and start for the identical second sock! For a brief moment, I entertained the possibility that you had been a consultant in developing this product, but then realized that it was a German yarn company. 😉 Next time I’m there, I will write down the brand.

  20. I wish I knew how to teach beginners like that!!! I always end up casting on for them because it’s too confusing to explain. I’m not a good teacher at all. Well done, YH!!! You have created a new knitter to join our ranks, and that is an awesome thing. Enjoy your tiny bit of “down time,” though I know it’s not really “down.”

    • The last time I tried to teach, I kept having to fix his knitting because he kept yarning over or dropping stitches on accident and had no idea what was going on. Youtube is a life saver.

    • I NEVER start with casting on. I cast on for them, and let them knit for a while. After a bit, when they’re comfy, I backtrack and teach them the knitted on Cast on. It’s pretty simple once you can do the knit stitch.

        • To repeat the info from upthread: you do NOT have to reverse knitting for left-handers! Unlike crochet or embroidery, where you hold a single needle or hook in your dominant hand, knitting employs both hands, with a needle in each. I’m primarily left-handed for my fine motor skill activities, and knit just like all my right-handed friends do. You can pick either English or Continental style, the handedness makes no difference.

          Some knitters do learn to knit right-to-left, as well as left-to-right. This is in order to avoid turning their work, especially when working a technique such as entrelac. But very few knitters ever bother to learn this, it’s not necessary.

  21. What a great tip. I love that in knitting there’s always another level. Sure you can just knit a self-patterning sock any old way and have it come out okay but the next level is controlling the pattern so it looks, and is, intentional. Looks more like Fair Isle too. I’ve learnt so much from your blog. Thanks Stephanie.

  22. That “rip it back” thing to which you so casually refer–how do you do that on size 1 stitches? I usually just start all over again. What is your secret?

    • It’s not ripping it back (or out)..it’s cutting and discarding a chunk of the self patterning yarn and starting again with a section that matches the pattern already established. Think stripes if you weren’t carrying yarn up the side – you would cut and start with the new color…..make sense?

    • No, reallly- and seriously-how do you rip out small stitches rather than starting over? I know I can “unknit” each stitch individually, but I picture some way to pick up 60 or more very tiny stitches without losing them to the row below.

      • She is not ripping back parts of the sock, she is skipping parts of the ball of yarn, to get the colours she wants on the top of the foot.

      • If I need to go down a ways on small needles, I use a needle to pick up a dozen or so stitches just above to where I want to be. I then take out the needles, rip back carefully until that point, and then work back the row or round, putting the stitches on the proper-sized working needle one by one, whether they were on the (usually smaller-sized) needle that I used to mark where to stop ripping back, or just loose. Does that make sense?

  23. How do you control the pattern the yarn makes? Would it work for both kids’ socks and adult socks? What is someone as big as Joe wanted watermelon socks; could you do that?

  24. I pick up the yarn from other end of the ball to knit the heel. When the heel is done, I switch back. The yarn pattern is preserved.
    Sometimes I use a second ball of yarn to do the heel; depending on how much I will have to unwind to get the patterns to match up, if it is enough for a heel, I’ll use that.
    For a large pair of socks, a contrasting or coordinating yarn for the heels works well.
    I prefer matching tops since I mostly knit hiking socks and the tops are showing out of the boots. I don’t worry about heels matching at all.

  25. Feel better quickly. Eat lots of grapes (the zinc in those helps, I throw them in the blender with orange juice.)

    Thank you for the how-to on the sock matching! And for getting a new knitter going.

  26. This is another great advantage to toe up, 2 at a time socks. I do not worry about the leg as much anymore, I wear flats and the top of the feet is what shows for me.

    Always good to take time for yourself. It’s not a concept women always remember.

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