It can be hard to come back to something after a hiatus (and, let’s be honest, a string of hiatii)(not the island), but sometimes the best solution is to jump right back in. I have lots to share with you and look forward to getting a bit of consistency going, now that things have properly settled. Leaving a full-time position, starting a new degree and dealing with the pandemic all took some time to adjust to!
I have for you today a new pair of socks. Though they may look it, these are no ordinary pair of socks. These socks represent a brand-new, beautiful biped bond. Since that fateful day in late 2005, when I bought my very first ball of Opal sock yarn from Pippa Blue (which I think morphed into Quilt Yarn Stitch at some point) at the Knitting and Stitching Show, I have rarely deviated from the pattern that was on the back of the ball band. At 60 stitches, 2.5mm needles, cuff-down, heel flap and gusset, it is about as simple as a sock is going to get… and that, for the most part, was plenty for me. Sure, from time to time, I knit some fancy socks. I even knit a pair or two from the toe up to see what it was like. But for every fancy pair, I probably knit 10 plain pairs: 60 stitches, 2.5mm needles, cuff-down, heel flap… I had it nailed.
But… things changed. It wasn’t boredom. I mean, this is socks we’re talking about! Boredom doesn’t even enter into it: socks are beyond boredom. Socks are what you do when you are too tired to do anything else. They’re what you do when you’re waiting for something inane and tedious to occur – the pot to boil, your name to be called, the bus to come. They’re what you do so that you have evidence that you did, in fact, exist during that brief moment in time, that otherwise would vanish into the void with all those other empty moments, so intense was the tedium. Maybe I’m just not that patient but either way, there was no getting away from the fact that things changed. And I don’t mean metaphysically either! My gauge changed, man. My gauge changed.
Gradually, my socks went from being the snug, always-up-never-falling-down, shining examples of simplicity to being (brace yourself)… loose. I know. The legs won’t stay up. There are ladders in the toes. The stitches are gappy and they just don’t feel as warm anymore. I realised that I hadn’t even admitted it to myself until one day, I found myself looking at other sock patterns on Ravelry. Patterns that were knit on different sized needles. Some of them even had different cuffs.
Enter designer Summer Lee and the collection, Summerland Sock Set! I was smitten. A set of 5 different socks, with enough colourwork to make them fun and still not need the pattern to be tattooed onto your arm. Sold! Truth be told, there is nothing earth-shattering about the collection. Each sock in the set is very straightforward, but I think that there is value in doing simple things well. They are all mix and match, with different cuffs, leg lengths, heels and toes to choose from. The colourwork patterns are clearly charted and easy to memorise, and I find the colours of the samples inspire me to pick up my needles – no mean feat as a designer!
I casted on, as per pattern, with 2.25mm needles. Knowing for a fact that I dislike working on 2mm needles, I really don’t know why I didn’t think to try 2.25mm before now. And as for the cuff! I don’t believe I have ever intentionally knit a cuff that was not a 2×2 rib. Ok, ok, so I only made it as far as a 1×1 rib, but in my defence, I used it as a good reason to use a tubular cast-on – more on that in a bit! Yes, there should be a swirly pattern all down the foot, but I was having such fun with the pink stripes that I forgot to go up to a 2.75mm for the swirliness. (I even put in a spare thread for an afterthought heel, that’s how much fun I was having!) I figured the needles would be ok, but as I approached the toe and couldn’t even fit my hand into it, I had to accept that maybe this was not going to be my Cinderella moment.
I ripped it back to the stripes and decided to just keep it plain with a heel flap and gusset. Can’t be going completely mad now. There is supposed to be a complementary set of stripes before the toe shaping. It is extremely well set out in the pattern – where to measure from in your work, how much negative ease to include – but my feet really aren’t that long, and I realised that the proportions would look a bit odd. So I worked a row of 1st blue, 1st pink before changing to an all-pink toe:
The blue yarn is a 100% 4-ply wool from West Yorkshire Spinners. I think they call it ‘Signature 4-ply’, and the colourway is ‘Bubblegum’. It is really such an unctuous shade, I gravitate towards wearing them in the most clashingly way possible. The pink yarn is a random ball of Regia 4-ply that I threw into an order from Stoffe.de. It’s the German (and I think the original) version of myfabrics.co.uk, an excellent all-round source for fabric and yarn. Obviously, it is better to buy at home but when I can’t find what I’m after, I have – up until Brexit – tried to support crafty friends in the UK. Now, I’m sorry to say, I have shifted almost all of my non-Irish shopping to Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands. Between excessive delays, worries over customs and duties, and rising shipping costs, it’s just not worth it. It makes me very sad and worried for our woolly friends across the sea.
Anyway, I just love my new socks! Using 2.25mm needles has made up for my change in gauge and I am back to snug stay-uppers. I am excited to cast on another pair from the set. I wonder what colours I will use! I think I might try the pair with spots on the legs and solid colour cuffs and toes. I mentioned about a tubular cast on earlier. Some years back, I acquired a marvellous little book called ‘Cast On, Bind Off‘ by Leslie Ann Bestor (not an affiliate link). It is small, is spiral bound so it stays open flat whilst you wrangle with your knitting, and it is jam-packed with about as many cast ons and cast offs as you would care to ever know about. Ok – it’s not exhaustive, but I have never found myself wanting beyond the covers of this book.
Speaking of books, this year I have been working almost exclusively from Ann Budd’s classic, ‘The Knitter’s Handy Book of Top Down Sweaters.’ If top down isn’t your thing, she also has a book for bottom up sweaters as well. I am currently working on a series to show you how I used the book as a starting point, so I won’t go into too much detail about it now. No more than the Summerland Sock Set, there is a lot to be said about doing simple things well.
One more thing before I go. Yesterday, I came back, through a circuitous internet rabbit warren, to this old post on Kate Davies’ blog and let me tell you! I am intrigued! Have you ever heard of ‘inkling’ before? Tell me all that you know.