Category Archives: Knitting

Duck-billed Sockosaur, with Selfies

There are strange creatures in my house. Not too long ago, I came across something I never expected to see –

DuckBilledSockosaurusSideView1the fearsome duck-billed sockosaur.

There’s only one thing to do when you’re invaded by sockosaurs: KEEP KNITTING!

And then take a few selfies.

Will This Work, Part 4 – Amazing.

I’m amazed, anyway.

Last fall, mostly out of curiosity and also because I got really tired of the seams in my socks chewing into my toes (handmade socks don’t generally have those seams across the top of your foot), I decided to see if I really could knit a pair of socks.

At first, I wasn’t sure the cuff was big enough to let my entire foot through. (Fortunately, knitting  st  r   e   t   c  h es.)

SockHeelTurnThen I came to the part where the sock needed to make a right-angle turn, because that’s what feet do. The directions made no sense, no matter how many times I read them. Knit a heel flap? What’s that? Turn the heel? Turn it into what? It was all obviously impossible. But I was halfway done, so I might as well just keep going, row by row, doing what the directions told me to…and all of a sudden

RedSockSideViewI had a sock! And a while later, I had a pair of socks. And they’re so very very comfortable that I might just wear them every day if they weren’t the kind of wool you have to handwash and let dry lying flat (which takes a couple of days).

I wanna make some more socks!

Will this work, part 3 – As the sock turns

Last time I talked about socks, I had discovered that my tiny little ring of knitting actually was big enough to stretch over my heel. So far so good. But next, I had to blindly trust the pattern directions to lead me through a series of meaningless socky technical terms.

The heel flap, for instance. Have you ever heard anybody talk about heel flaps? I haven’t. What in the world does it mean?

SockHeelFlapIt turns out that a heel flap is a rectangular strip of knitting flopping down from the back of the leg (which you’ve already finished knitting by this time). You put half the leg stitches on a holder shaped like a giant safety pin, and knit back and forth on the remaining stitches until it’s long enough to cover your Achilles tendon. Yay! One heel flap done.

After that, you need to “turn” the heel ninety degrees so the sock can continue out to the end of your toes. But how?

ShortrowsIt’s all in the short rows. You knit a little more than halfway across the heel flap – remember the heel flap? – then turn around and purl a little past the halfway point in the other direction. You keep knitting (or purling) partway across the heel flap, going a little farther each time and knitting a pair of stitches together as you come to the end of each row, until you make it to the very end of the heel flap again.

SockHeelTurnAnd this is what you wind up with. It really does make a right angle turn for the back of your heel to nestle into. Amazing.

Now I need to deal with the “gusset”. After that, the project looks like pretty smooth sailing out to near the end of your foot. Then it’s time to do some more decreases to close up the toe end, and finally sew the last few stitches shut – and, at that point, theory says that you should have a brand new sock to wear 😉

We’ll see.

Will this work, part 2…

Knitting. Gotta love it. Either that, or throw out the yarn and needles. About a month ago, I decided to see if it really is possible to knit socks. (I know, I know. The world is full of pairs of socks; obviously there must be some way to knit them.) But right away, I ran into a problem – the cuff looked too small to ever pull onto my foot and around my heel and up my leg.

SockTopViewThere didn’t seem to be enough sock at that stage for a realistic test, so I kept knitting. Around and around and around, spiraling down my theoretical leg, until I finished the first part of the pattern (lacy little diamonds).

SockToesThat looked long enough to give it a real workout getting past my heel. I’ve been dividing the knitting between three needles and knitting with a fourth, but I spread it over all four to provide more flex (and a bigger safety margin so the stitches didn’t fall off the ends of the needles) while I pulled the sample on.

SockHeelAnd…it worked! Up my foot, stretch-stretch-stretch around my heel, and onto my calf. Yay!

SockLegOf course, this is the easy part. I’ve finished knitting the rest of the leg; no problem, just keep spiraling. Exactly like a sleeve or a hat or a pullover sweater, except that socks are smaller. Now, though – now the sock has to make a right-angle turn. Human feet are a weird shape, when you stop to think about it.

I won’t pretend the directions for the next stage make sense when I read them. Heel flap, turn, gusset – gibberish, if I try to picture how it’s all supposed to work. At this point, I’m just planning to knit along row after row, obeying the pattern, and find out what happens.

Wish me luck.

Is this going to work??

Another fit of curiosity took hold of me recently, and I decided to see if it’s really possible to knit a pair of socks. So far, I’ve got most of the cuff done – the cuff’s only a few rows long – but I’m getting worried.

RedSockCuffThat little circle of yarn has to stretch far enough to go all the way around my heel. Is this thing really going to work out?

Playing with yarn – big and little oopses

CowlTwoSidesReversibleI’ve been knitting away for weeks on a reversible cowl, sort of like a ring-shaped scarf, and it looks like I’ll finish just in time for warm(ish) weather – starting this week, I’ve seen crocuses and second-year pansies that sprouted and started to bloom again, and there are rumors of robin sightings.

Well, the timing doesn’t matter much. Some people say it will get cold again in about eight months, and besides what really interests me is finding out what kind of strange shapes and designs you can make out of long fuzzy string.

Not that I managed to get through this experiment without mistakes, two in particular – the big oops and the little oops. The little one was too annoying to live with, so I ripped it out and fixed it. The big one? Fairly noticeable, obviously wrong, and it can stay just the way it is.

The Little Goof

CowlLittleOopsFor those of you who knit, two-sided knitting is done almost exactly the same way as basic knit one – purl one ribbing. The differences are that you need two yarns, and you alternate yarns for each stitch. (Well, except when the pattern says not to.) What happened was that I only moved one of the pair of yarns to the back of the fabric for one stitch, leaving the unused yarn running in plain sight in front of the new stitch.

CowlRippingDownStitchesWhen I finally noticed it and talked myself into fixing it, I undid that entire column of stitches, all the way down to the mistake, and then rebuilt it with a crochet hook.


(So what we really have here is a double-sided, reversibly patterned, knit and crochet cowl. Maybe I should throw in a bit of cross stitch too. Or some welding.)

The Big, Permanent Goof

CowlWrongWayHeartThe cowl has a design of hearts, alternately pointing up or down. (The pattern’s not even a little bit subtle.) And I made one heart pointing the wrong way. And it’s going to stay just like that.

Hmm. Maybe I should have thrown in a couple of sideways hearts to keep the upside-down heart company. Too late now.

Let’s see, what can I knit wrong next?

Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Red and White

Cee is planning a series of photo challenges based around colors – this week, she’s asking for pictures featuring either red or white or both.

RedAndWhiteDoubleKnittingAnd it just happens that my messing around with yarn has left me halfway through this very red and very white…well, kind of cream…piece of two-sided reversible knitting. (Pattern from the Winter 2012 issue of Knitty.)

Knitting Experiment #1: Fail

This year, I wanted to find some time for a running project of trying out unfamiliar knitting techniques. Now, there are really only two ways to make a stitch when you’re knitting: you can insert the needle from the left and knit, or insert the needle from the right and purl. But that’s after you get started – persuading the yarn to organize itself and stay on the knitting needle long enough to serve as the very first row is a completely different problem.

There are many, many ways to create that first row of stitches, but the pattern I wanted to try out called for using “Judy’s Magic Cast-On” to create a decorative two-colored edge. Actually, I tried JMC several years ago, but the instructions I had then were so vague I couldn’t even create a first stitch – no matter what I did, the yarn slithered off the needles. This time, I had much clearer directions (written by Judy herself).


It’s straightforward enough, sort of – hold two needles side by side, hold two yarns in your left hand with one looped around your thumb and the other around your index finger, and alternate wrapping one yarn around one needle and the other yarn around the other needle. What could go wrong?

JMCTimeToFrogTrust me, I found a way. If you wrap the yarn clockwise when it ought to go counterclockwise, you too can create a mess and have the thrill of ripping out everything you’ve done after that. But eventually I managed to cast on 104 stitches of each color. (Yes, 208 total.) Yay me! Problem solved, right?

JMCStartingToKnitUm. Not exactly. JMC was invented to start socks from the toe end, with twenty stitches or thereabouts. I had 208 stitches to deal with. What I discovered when I started knitting the second row was that the yarn wrapped around the two needles got tighter and tighter and tighter the farther I went, until I just couldn’t coax a needle into the next stitch at all.

I wound up using a different decorative cast-on technique. Maybe next I’ll try a pair of socks and find out if I can make Judy’s Magic Cast-On work there.

Stone 19, twenty-eighth day

Lazy Day

It’s been a hectic week, a hectic several
weeks. So nice to sit, no place to go,
familiar chairs and books and mess nearby.
The needle’s bluntly pointed tip slides through
the brown yarn circle; lassoed by more yarn,
it draws back, yarn pursuing. One more stitch.
The room is warm.

Stone 6, fifteenth day

Studying the Stash

There’s so much yarn. And oh I love it all.
Maroon and red, hotpink rosepink palepink
and browns, in darkbrown redbrown cream and beige
and greens and blues and grays and white and black
and orange yellow purple lavender.
I want to knit so many dreams or socks
or sweaters hats or dreams. And if I had
just ten more arms, six knitting pairs, enough
to make a spider jealous – soon I’d buy more yarn.