Three for Three or Four

This year’s self-imposed-sock-club continues to be a big fat win.  I finished January’s on time, as unlikely as that seemed, and then February’s were done before February was too. (Though I didn’t manage either time to post about them within the right month, so I’m giving myself two extra points for this one.)

March’s socks have slid along rather quietly under the radar. I didn’t post about them because they were Ken’s Birthday socks – though I’ve only just finished them now. (Two points deducted.) I was hoping to surprise him, but snapped on his birthday and gave him an unfinished sock – just before the toe.  I’d been knitting along at a pretty good pace, but as I got closer to the end of the sock I started to worry that they weren’t going to fit. This is an ongoing problem I have with socks for people with large feet. I’ve got small ones myself, and I’m accustomed to knitting for me, so when I cast on the appropriate number for a big guy, I spend the whole knitting trip spreading the work out on my leg every hour or so and saying “Really? That can’t be right.” I decided not to take any chances with Ken’s, and stopped knitting a day or two before his birthday so he could try them (it) on before I went any farther.

They (it) fit beautifully, so I pressed on.  The pattern for this elegant pair is Vägvarda (I had to google how to do the umlaut.) The yarn’s West Yorkshire Spinners Signature 4-ply (again, I’m working through a stash of it I bought to do Cameron’s socks and some of Elliot’s ornaments.  It’s really nice, so I don’t mind) for the grey (Poppy Seed) and white (Milk Bottle.) The red’s Drops Fabel #106 (super sexy name) because WYS didn’t quite have the red I wanted.  For anybody keeping score – I used a 2.25mm needle, which is my standard for socks.

I loved knitting these.  What do you think it is that makes colourwork knitting seem to go so much faster than regular knitting? It can’t actually be faster, I know that’s not possible. I’m pretty comfortable knitting with one strand in each hand, so I do power through pretty quickly, but it seems to me that it comes of the needles faster than anything else. Is it because you’re following a chart? Ticking off one row after the other, with a concrete way to see how far you’ve come, and how far you have to go? And if that’s true, how come it doesn’t work for lace?

One last picture of this charming pair, this time of the clever and tidy gusset decreases, here positioned on the bottom of the foot. (A standard sock decreases by two stitches every other row on the gusset. Those decreases, as this sock proves, can go anywhere, as long as the sock gets smaller in circumference where the foot does.)

I lied, here’s one more –  this one that I snapped with my phone yesterday, before I finished. I’m posting it because here, one sock’s been blocked and the other – not. (That was so Ken could try on the first one.)  I hear so many knitters say that their colourwork looks shabby, and I’ve even seen people rip it out for looking shabby, and I just wanted to show you the difference a little swim and tidy up makes.  See? More than any other kind of knitting, blocking is important for colourwork. You really can’t tell if you suck before it hits the water.

Another bonus today – more socks, bringing this year’s total to four. I keep a pair of simple socks in my bag, knitting from the pattern I keep in my head. Yarn: Land Jawoll Color “Aktion” in the colourway fetchingly named 132.0265. Pattern: my own plain vanilla sock from Knitting Rules. (The only truly useful book I’ve ever written.)


I keep this knitting – plain socks, in my bag all the time – pulling it out when I’m on the subway, in a queue, at dinner, in meetings, walking down the street (when it’s not winter.) I beaver away at them here and there, and then every so often, when I’m least expecting it, a pair of socks falls off of me.

Peace out, see you in a day or two, and know that while knitting improves with practice, it remains really freakin’ tricky to take pictures of your own feet even after years of yoga and  trying.

66 thoughts on “Three for Three or Four

  1. Very zippy socks, well done.

    I’m off to cast on my fifth (or is it sixth?) baby sweater. I’m using sock yarn, but it’s just not the same, so thanks for letting me have a bit of a borrowed sock high.

    I can knit a pair for myself in about 14 hours . . . I could just take the weekend and a ball of Opal . . . no one would have to know. . . .

  2. Exquisite! I’m astonished you were able to knit anything else while working on those, but you forgot to mention that those lovely cowls also fell off your needles this month…

  3. I confess that even though I teach stranded knitting, I’ve never knitted a pair of stranded socks. I guess I’m concerned that they won’t have the necessary elasticity. Now you’ve convinced me to get over it. These are the best!

  4. I love Ken’s socks! Lucky man to have a friend like you to knit them for him. 🙂 I use your sock recipe all the time. Well, truly, I’ve memorized what fits my foot. 🙂 Sock knitting is soothing. I was remembering my first socks using chunky yarn, just to learn how. After the second pair I entered Sock Wars at Rav, and after that socks became my car knitting. I was so proud when I turned the heel in the car. LOL Socks are great.

  5. Wow. Ken’s socks are gorgeous! Well done. 🙂 Your “extra” pair look great, too. Congrats on keeping up with your sock club. (We won’t mention where I’m at with my mitten club…..)

  6. Ken’s socks are awesome! So beautiful! (or handsome.) I am really fond of colorwork, and I love how the colors really go well together.

    Thanks for all the books and the blog and everything!

  7. I’m working on another pair of the plain vanilla socks, with a slight modification for size, for hubby. It’s the best pattern for him.

    And Ken’s socks are *gorgeous*. I’d better not show those to hubby, else he will want those too.

  8. Both pair look great! At this rate, you’ll have knit socks for everyone on your X-mas gift list by Halloween — even Elliot’s friend Penny!

  9. Ken’s socks are lovely! And so are yours, too, of course. I have to disagree, though, about the speediness of colorwork vs lace. For me lace goes tons faster than colorwork…..maybe because I need to practice it more.

    • OK, I want a PICTURE of her taking that picture!! =)

      I have to say it doesn’t sound that effective (what with the upsidedown head and all the weight on balls of feet), but it sure would be fun to watch..

  10. Ken’s socks just might be my favorite socks. I hope he loved them. I adore them. I find colorwork so fussy so I probably will never make these, I will love them from afar.

  11. I post pictures of my shoes to Instagram almost daily so I feel your pain about the difficulty of taking pictures of one’s own feet

  12. Holy cow I love those socks you made for Ken. I am going to get that pattern. I always sweat out the amount of yarn I have when I knit socks because I have US size 12 feet. (11.5 inches). I have gone off the trail to some degree as there are 4 women pregnant at the clinic where I work and I would really like to knit something nice for them. I’m about midway through an Orenburg lace blanket but miles of lace to go before I sleep.

  13. All your books are useful! As well as endless “it’s not just me!) moments, they provide a good laugh which as we all know is the best medicine.

    On the twin notes of socks and laughter (fraternal rather than identical twins, I admit), I wrote a song a while back for people with second sock syndrome – to the tune of The Gnu by Flanders & Swann.
    I don’t suffer from SSS myself, but I can picture the agonies of those unfortunates who do. The lyrics are at if anyone would like to take a look.

  14. ” The only truly useful book I’ve ever written”

    this does rather depend on your definition of useful!

    But yes, it is a wonderful book! I have internalised your sock recipe (though just for fun sometimes I do Zimmermann afterthought heels instead!) and it works every time!

    Knitting Rules and Knitting Without Tears (Zimmermann) are the two books in my knitting library which I actually USE over and over again – rather than just look at the pictures!

    Thank you and I await the next book, useful or not, with bated breath.

  15. I’ve experienced the same thing with colorwork — it does seem to go faster than one-color knitting. I think it must be the urge to see the next motif emerge. Perhaps one day I’ll time myself knitting with two colors and one color to see if it really is faster.

  16. Stranded knitting is my favourite. It’s not fussy with lots of increases or decreases of yarn overs or nupps or cables but it wildly interesting all the same because, well, because it’s magic. Toss a steek in there and it’s full on mythical. Lovely socks!

  17. Ken’s socks are awesome. I am sure he will love them as much or more than all of us reading this. Happy Birthday Ken. Hope you have a fantastic birthday with your new socks!

  18. Ken’s socks are awesome. I’m just wondering though – would the decreases on the bottom of the heel bother a person? It’s almost like a seam right there.

    I do agree about giving colorwork a nice bath. It helped me so much with the mittens that I made.

    • I was wondering the same thing. I have never made socks (not needed so much since I live in Texas) but all of these posts are making me want to try knitting them! This pair, in particular is beautiful.

  19. I laughed when you referred to the Drops Fabel colourway as “sexy”; I work at Wool & Silk Co. in Shelburne, ON, and we always comment on the imaginative colour names that Drops gives their yarns. That one does actually have a colour name, it’s (wait for it) Red. 🙂

  20. I love Ken’s socks! The colourwork is fantastic and I love grey, white and red together.
    Your sock pattern from Knitting Rules is the one that is in my head (as well as on my phone in my pictures, too, in case I have a big case of self doubt) and I use it time and time again.
    I remember before committing that pattern to memory and phone, I was beavering away on a sock on a lovely sunny hill at the Edmonton Folk Music Festival, listening to Sarah Harmer (I know – how much more perfect can a day get?!) and I realized my pattern was at home (and not on my phone). I texted my bestie in Calgary and said: “Do you have the Harlot’s Knitting Rules book, and if so, can you lay your hands on it immediately?” The reply: “Yes and amazingly yes”. She sent me a photo of the pattern pages and I was back in business – thoroughly delighted with the modern times in which we live and my ability to get a knitting pattern (THE EXACT knitting pattern I needed) sent to me on a hillside. I was extra excited because I was on sock one and it was early in the day…I had a whole lot more of Folk Fest (and yarn) spread before me, and when you knit live music vibes into a garment, well…it’s priceless.

  21. I too keep some vanilla socks (your pattern (it’s a classic!)) otn for travel, meetings and restaurants. I so love the color work socks and may have to make a pair for myself after the shawl and sweater fall off my needles! The trees are starting to shed their pollen and much gardening must take precedence during the daylight hours.

  22. OMG. Ken’s socks are beautiful!

    As to color work, I think that it has a very high”One more row” factor because each row usually has a new pattern.

  23. Well, this turned out to be a pricey visit to your blog! I fell in love with the Vägvarda socks, bought the pattern and then made the mistake of looking at the other designs. I may just have to buy them ALL! I have a thing for snowflakes. Just a little bit. Thanks, I think?

  24. Lovely socks.

    I would love to do colorwork socks, but I knit tightly anyway and have real gauge problems between the colorwork and the regular round-and-round stockinette. Maybe I’ll give it a try again.

    Knitting Rules truly does rule! And, I enjoy rereading your other books, too. “One Little Sock” in Secret Life of a Knitter still makes me weepy and “DPN” and others in the book still make me laugh and nod my head in agreement.

    Maybe I will try colorwork again. As you have said (paraphrasing): it’s only knitting. No one gets hurt!

  25. Totally agree about giving colour work a bath and block before judgement. It made a world.of difference to my first stranded jersey I knit earlier this year.

  26. They are gorgeous! I just wish you had posted a picture of the inside of the socks so we could see how you stranded them.

  27. I have to say, those are the most beautiful socks I’ve seen in a long time. Must be my colors??!!
    Would I try them? – —a definite ‘maybe’.
    I have two sick cats right now with URIs, so most of my knitting is pretty boring / that I can put down and figure out where I am when picking it back up. Catnip mice, knitted knockers, and baby blankets for the Preemie Project. Lots of snot flying around this house….:( 🙁

  28. Just wanted you to know that “Knitting Rules” is one of my favorites and I’ve rather taken a liking to your vanilla sock pattern, just finishing up another pair. Thanks for that.
    Love from AK

  29. I usually have least two pairs of socks OTN — various patterns, but one is always your Plain Vanilla Socks. They were the first pair I ever knit, and I’ve never stopped loving them… long since memorized the pattern, so I can take them everywhere.
    And like so many others here have said, I love the book!
    Thank you

  30. I laughed and agreed with every part of this post. I even read the part about “Really? That can’t be right”, to my husband because he’s heard that come out of me once or a thousand times.
    And I’m SURE my colour work sucks, so I’ll block my Baa Ram Ewe Dovestone sweater before I rip out the yoke, again….
    PS- I have fallen completely and deeply in love (obsession?) with spinning, please thank Judith for me!

  31. Socks terrify me. I mean knitting them does. The idea of controlling five needles and carrying them around somewhat puts me off (that’s a gentle description). Also I’m having trouble usually to get sizing right on sweaters even which is more forgiving. I mean, you can always say the ease was intended (or that it was supposed to be figure hugging one). Not so with socks. All the more admiration for these ones – they look perfect.

    • Magic Loop!! I never use DPNs on socks – I’m a little clumsy, and one ALWAYS drops… and then rolls away… but Magic Loop with a long circular is my way of cranking out anything in the round. Give it a try!

      • Or, two circulars held parallel for two-at-a-time (“Knitting Circles Around Socks”). It’s my go to method for socks and for sleeves.

  32. I love those socks. I have knit stranded socks and they don’t have enough stretch so I think I need to loosen up a bit but you are right watching the pattern emerge seems to help knitting steam ahead. Jo

  33. I was sitting in the hospital waiting room working on a pair of fair isle mittens the other day, one color in each hand… new pattern and it’s not intuitive so I was following along pretty closely and suddenly realized 2 women sitting across from me nearly had their noses in my mitten.

    I have 2 new students 🙂

    (I was working on Night Owl Gloves by Natalia Moreva (Kulabra Designs on Ravelry))

    • “Nearly had their noses in my mitten”….
      trying to laugh hard really quietly because I’m the only one in my house awake so far this morning. Great line! Enjoy the teaching 🙂

  34. Lovely socks, but what do you mean by Knitting Rules being the “only useful” book? I beg to differ. I turn to your other books when my depression swells into an airbag around me (or so it feels). Your humor is as much a gift as your skillful knitting is, and very useful to help revive better spirits!

  35. Ken’s socks are gorgeous! What a lucky guy!

    I’m wondering about what you did about the floats? Did you catch every single stitch? I could see catching every 3 or so stitches on a hat, but in a sock , especially at the foot, it seems even short floats would catch toes and add to the general discomfort–although I love knitting socks, I’m one of those people with super sensitive feet and I can’t wear hand knit socks.

    But I think I’d knit these just to frame them and put them on my wall ;o)

  36. Your color work is what I strive for with every pair I knit. Do you block your socks in sock blockers or just smooth them out?

  37. I ove those socks. Enjoy knitting them until, like me, you can’t see the tiny stitches. It’s one of the downsides, albeit small, of being lucky enough to live a long time.

  38. Those are some seriously beautiful colourwork socks. You’re getting me ever-closer to being bitten by the sock-knitting bug, Steph. So far I have resisted.

  39. Oh, I think these were one of the six sock patterns I recommended to you when you last asked for favorites! What a hoot to see them on your blog! Gorgeous socks! Now, are you going to knit the other five pairs I suggested? You might have to hire me!

  40. Hell YES! There is a book even how to knit two of them at the same time, which would solve the second sock syndrome 🙂 Whenever I feel brave enough 🙂

  41. a shout out for Knitting Rules. It is a superbly useful book; every time I go back to it (every year or so) I’m again astonished at how much Really Useful Stuff is in there. I do your plain sock out of my head now, too (though I always end up with uneven decreases in the gusset, and fudge a bit). I have bought many copies and given them away; I keep one that I carried (already well worn) to Sock Summit 2009 and you signed. Thank you!

  42. I too love Knitting Rules, for both its wonderful utility factor and the amusing duality of its name.
    It is possibly my favorite of the seven Yarn Harlot books that I own (eight if we count a duplicate). Some are signed and I hope to someday get you to sign the rest!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.