Our current sock dilemma

If I had to pick only one type of thing to knit for the rest of my life, I would probably choose to knit socks. While in grad school, I was the one in the front (or second) row knitting a sock. On the T, whether sitting or standing, I was the one knitting a sock while looking at the people around me. I even used to walk around the city while knitting socks! These days, I knit socks during zoom meetings and while sitting on our front porch. This is a very wordy way of saying that I knit my first pair of socks back in 2014 and have not stopped knitting them since.

My preferred way to knit socks is one at a time, top down, with the Fish Lip Kiss Heel (FLKH). In fact, at least 30 of the however many socks I’ve knit (70? Maybe?) have used the FLKH. In my near decade of sock knitting, I have never experienced someone who has the ability to literally walkthrough a pair of socks until I met my husband (no pictures, it’s too sad).

I started knitting for my husband before we had even started dating and were just friends. To this day, he is my favorite person to knit for and is always seeking ways to encourage me to knit for him more. In many ways, we are the perfect match, but in this case I’m going to bring your attention to his love of socks and my love of knitting them.

When I say that my husband loves wearing socks, what I’m really saying is that if his feet are not in the water they are in a pair of socks. Morning, noon and night. At the time of this post being written, he has worn through 4ish pairs of handknit socks. While, yes, he wears these socks all the time, it hasn’t been until recently that he’s started busting through new socks that I’ve knit him. When I say that the heel on a pair socks I gave him in December were busted in early February, I wish I could say that I was exaggerating.

Personally, I blame his boots and not my knitting. That being said, the Make Good Podcast episode for this week addressed my question and had some suggestions that I should share:

  1. It honestly might just be the boots. Again, I think I’m sticking with this being the problem. They’ve entered into our lives more recently and they’re becoming his go-to shoe. Scratch jokingly mentioned duck tape as a possible solution, but unfortunately that would lead to blisters and gluey socks.
  2. Since the boots aren’t going anywhere any time soon, it’s time to take a more serious look at how to reinforce the heels. For starters, it sounds like using a more robust wool that’s reinforced with nylon would mean that the FLKH could still be my heel of choice. Socks that have nylon in them do seem to be doing better than those that don’t, so I think this is a good step towards lasting socks.
  3. Another trick would be to add an additional thread to the heel. I’m intrigued by this idea and may need to try it!
Green, blue variegated knit socks.
Pattern: My Knitted Heart Vanilla Socks by Elizabeth Suarez
Yarn: Wonderland Yarns & Frabjous Fibers Mary Ann in Let’s Mosey

My current strategy is to knit a gusseted heel with a slip 1 knit 1 approach on the heel flap. I know this is a tried an true method, but the FLKH is so much faster. Perhaps my next pair will combine suggestions 2 & 3!

The other thing I’ve been working on is adding some flexible negative ease to the socks. I’m currently working a 2×2 rib down the sides of each sock in hopes that they stay up on his legs better.

Though more time consuming, I’m happy with the way things are coming out.

A quick note on the yarn I’m currently using: It’s the last skein of the national park series pt 2 from Simply Socks Co. (I have one more skein that I haven’t worked with yet). It’s been a while since I’ve worked with wonderland yarns and I’ve forgotten how fun their colors are.

June Book Club: The Ten Thousand Doors of January

I have so many positive things to say about this book that I don’t know where to start, so I will start by simply saying: this book was fun. This book was so much fun that I have spent the last month telling everyone who will listen how enjoyable the Ten Thousand Doors of January is. If you’re reading this blog for the first time, and you didn’t join us in reading the Ten Thousand Doors of January, you should seriously consider putting your device down and picking the book up.

To understand one of the reasons that I love this book I think it’s worth taking a second to mention that portal literature (think Alice in Wonderland) has always played a special role in my life. As a kid, I dreamt of my shower drain opening up so that I could dive into the ocean as a mermaid and watched the stars in hopes that Tinkerbell would fly down and take me away to Neverland. The idea that we live in a mundane world but are surrounded by magic makes me so unbelievably happy to this day. So when you consider the idea that there are thousands of doors in the world that are open and just waiting to be discovered, it’s hard to imagine a world where I do not love this book.

The portal piece of this book is well done, but when you strip that piece of the story away it’s still a phenomenal story. January is a young girl living in Vermont during a time when young girls didn’t have many options in the world. She is the ward of a wealthy caretaker who is more interested in keeping her as part of his collection (both because she is mixed race and because she comes from another world) than in building her up to be the woman she is meant to be. In fact, the most painful transformation that occurs in the book is when January realizes that she needs to act a specific way in order to be loved and accepted, especially because her skin color doesn’t match those that are around her. She almost has to be extra well behaved, a societal pressure that worked well with this story.

And then he sends her to an asylum in an attempt to keep her safe and prevent her from thinking about doors. How on earth do you convince someone that you’re not crazy when you’ve been labeled as crazy? How do you behave in a way that convinces people that you are not a danger to yourself when everything that you do seems to confirm what they believe. How do you hold onto who you are while also conforming so that you are able to succeed? Although January wasn’t in the asylum for very long, I enjoyed watching her work through these questions while trying to keep herself safe.

Safety is an interesting theme within this book because it’s almost as if January is telling you that you can be safe or you can be yourself. True, sometimes there is safety in being yourself, but more often than not you need to put yourself out there in order to get what you want. This goes against all of the teachings that January has absorbed over the years and we see it pronounced the strongest when she eventually leaves her parents to write her own story.

I also want to take a moment to discuss the idea of a story within a story, because this writing technique was executed in a way that allowed me as a reader to escape further into January. I too felt comforted as she read the story in the asylum. I too felt overwhelmed when I discovered that her father wrote each word and that it was real. True, I still struggled to sympathize with his motivations, but it made me understand who he was and what his intentions were.

According to this story, love literally spans worlds waiting for you to come home again. Thought I didn’t need January to fall in love because I was rooting for her to reunite with her family, I didn’t mind it either.

I’ve only seen one episode of the Netflix series a few months ago, but that’s moreso because my partner isn’t interested in watching with me. Next month we’ll be reading the Queen’s Gambit by Walter Tevisand and allowing ourselves to fall down the chess rabbit hole that caused so many games to sell out this past fall. Mostly, I’m wondering if I’ll want to pick up Alice In Wonderland when the story is over.

Cover art for the queen's gambit by Walter Tevis

When she is sent to an orphanage at the age of eight, Beth Harmon soon discovers two ways to escape her surroundings, albeit fleetingly: playing chess and taking the little green pills given to her and the other children to keep them subdued. Before long, it becomes apparent that hers is a prodigious talent, and as she progresses to the top of the US chess rankings she is able to forge a new life for herself. But she can never quite overcome her urge to self-destruct. For Beth, there’s more at stake than merely winning and losing.

Upcycling a Reading Chair

Patinaed wooden chair with gold patterned turquoise cushions.

Allow me to set the scene: Your belly is pleasantly full of diner eggs and toast. You’ve consumed just the right level of your morning drink of choice (I’m on team tea!) and have made a productive home depot run. While driving home, you remark to your partner/fiancΓ©/friend/husband/wife/sibling/parent/child that you should take the long way so that you can enjoy a short hike before the weather warms up. Stopping at the thrift store just before the trailhead wasn’t really part of that plan, but the parking lot’s almost never so empty and you can’t help it. After wandering around for about five minutes, you find a solid wood chair with gross cushions on it. The price is right. There’s room in the boot (trunk). It would be perfect in the family room and you’re semi confident that you can make new cushions. Would you go for it? We did, went for our hike and then threw the cushions out as soon as we got home.

The chair in question has caused a lot of inspiration and discussion in our household. Do we sand and re-stain it? What about throwing on some chalk paint? How on earth does one sew a cushion? What kind of fabric should I use and how much do I need? Joann’s down the hill sells large amounts of foam… right?

We ended up purchasing 4 yards of denim fabric from Spoonflower and 2 yards of 5 inch foam from Joann’s. Then came the google searching, has anyone done this before? In case you’re curious, the answer is yes! There are a lot of tutorials out there, but when it comes to drafting a pattern for your custom cushion Online Fabric Store had the most straightforward tutorial. Another pro tip we discovered is that a bread knife will work just as good as one of those expensive electric cutters!

Both cushions were sewn up in an evening, the hardest part was the little bit of Frankensteining that I did in order to create the bottom cushion’s t-shape (both sides have a hand sewing piece in order to make the curve). Honestly, it would have looked smoother if I had used matching thread, but you can’t really see it anyway. This is one of the few projects I’ve sewn where the “fit” of the final object would make or break it. Sure, I’ve made dresses before, but you can sort of fix those after the fact.

I’m super proud of the way the two cushions came out, even if the only piece of the original chair that remains is the frame. To the original cushion’s credit, the plan had started out as keeping them and putting new covers on. Even with fabric and foam cost taken into account, we could not have gotten a better chair for our space within that price range. My partner has already fallen asleep in it twice, I think it’s safe to say that this one is not style of substance.

Knit-Along FAQs

Top view of small pothos plant and philodendron rootings. Below the plants there is a green half done stockinette gauge swatch on circular needles. The swatch's yarn is still connected to a yarn cake.
Gauge swatch knit in Skyland Comet

We’re officially into the second month of the Calgary Capelet knit along (KAL)! I’ll admit to being someone who didn’t cast on April 19 due to the suggested needle size being used in pursuit of a Retreat Cowl that I thought I’d finish in two days (not sure why on Earth I thought that was a reasonable timeline). After knitting and wet blocking a rather large swatch, I cast on with a size 6 and am enthusiastically knitting along. There is still time to join us, we’re having a lot of fun chatting on Ravelry and knitting together.

Some of the participants in the KAL have never participated in one before, and I’ve done a few posts now on the KAL I usually participate in over the summer, so I thought it might be worth taking the time to discuss why you might consider participating (besides the potential to win prizes).

First things’s first: What exactly is a KAL?

A knit-along (KAL) is a group of crafters working on a project together over a set amount of time. I saw crafters here because you can also participate in crochet-alongs, sew-alongs, spin-alongs, and I’m sure there are also embroidery alongs if you know where to look. The ultimate goal of the -along is to build community around a common project and find inspiration in your fellow crafters. Sometimes this inspiration takes the form of observing modifications or color choices that you didn’t think of and other times the conversation leads you to projects that you hadn’t even considered starting!

Freshly joined ribbing on circular knitting needles. The green project has a black and white photo of a woman wearing a capelet with a cable down the front center.

Where are KALs typically organized?

All over the place! You can participate in KALs at your local yarn store, your favorite designer may be hosting a KAL, yarn companies sometimes offer them, podcasts or blogs may opt to host one – sometimes it’s even just a matter of searching “knit along” or “KAL” in the ravelry forms to see if there’s one being hosted!

What’s the difference between a KAL and a MKAL?

The M in MKAL stands for “mystery”. This means that a group of people are working on a project together and no one has an idea of what the finished knit is going to be. Clues, or portions of the pattern, are released over a specific amount of time (usually weekly) and you have between clues to knit that section. Some designers give really good information before the MKAL starts to help you pick yarn and to give you an idea of what the final garment/accessory is going to be, others provide more limited information. When it comes to MKALs, I have a few pieces of advice:

  1. Take a look at the other designs by the designer who is hosting the MKAL. If you like their work, the odds are you’ll also like the mystery item that you’re working on.
  2. See what other participants are thinking about in terms of yarn type or color combinations. You may find yourself inspired!
  3. Ask the designer if you aren’t sure about a color combination or fiber content. A lot of times they’re hosting a MKAL because they want to engage in the community as well.
  4. It’s ok if you don’t like the final piece. I’ve done a couple of MKAL where this has turned out to be the case, but the fun I had waiting for clues to be released and guessing what the final knit would look like. Spoilers are a lot of fun if you’re willing to peek ahead to speed knitters and you can always bail out at any point.

Do I need to complete KALs or MKALs within the specified time period?

No! Take a long as you want knitting your projects and feel free to continue to post in the forms. As the KAL or MKAL comes to a close, the only thing that you really need to be aware of is the folks monitoring the forms may not continue to participate as often. Also, it means that you may need to avoid looking at the project pages or Instagram to avoid MAL spoilers.

Remind me again about Blue Sky Fibers (BSF) current KAL?

Check out my previous blog post, or keep reading for BSF’s Ravelry post. BSF’s post has a pattern discount code and information about a prize for participating:

Spring is here, and so is our new yarn Skyland! Join along as we knit this luxurious accessory piece perfect for wearing all year round.

Join us April 19 through June 30 as we host our first KAL in our brand new yarn, the Calgary Capelet in Skyland. Made from a blend of 40% Fine Highland Wool, 30% Baby Alpaca and 30% Silk, Skyland is the perfect yarn for this soft and cabled capelet. In this KAL, which is great for intermediate knitters, participants will learn to follow a 12-row cable pattern that repeats on both the front and back.

The Calgary Capelet is available in four sizing options to fit bust size 30-58”. This beautiful capelet has excellent stitch definition and stunning cables. Skyland is available in eleven classic and sophisticated colors.

Download the pattern for 50% off with code β€œSKYCAPELETKAL” through Ravelry or the Blue Sky Fibers website.

Interested in joining the KAL? Find your local yarn store that carries Blue Sky on our stockist page and ask if they’re participating. Gather your knitting friends and make it a virtual group project!

This page will be our home base. Please post comments, questions, and progress pictures here. Post an image of your final piece to any of our social channels to be entered into our grand prize drawing – just make sure to tag us so we see it. Once the KAL is over, we will randomly select one lucky winner to win our grand prize – a year (1 per month) supply of patterns, that’s 12 digital patterns of their choice!

Happy knitting!

Geranium Dress(s?)

I still remember the first time that I sat down at a sew machine (7th grade home economics if anyone is curious) and have made a couple of things over the last couple of years (a dice dress, a dog bed, some catnip toys, a pillow, a gnome bag and a chili peppers dress to name a few), but the last couple of months I’ve been revisiting sewing as a way to learn new things and hone existing skills. Some of this may be because I finally caved and bought my own sewing machine after working on a vintage one and a hand-me-down for so long. It’s fun to sew on a machine with settings and features that you’ve purposely selected for yourself.

During our winter break, I found myself taking a break from knitting to make an everyday bag out of some purposefully selected gnome fabric. Working with leather and rivets for the first time, I realized that sewing has the ability to provide me with something that knitting doesn’t anymore: feeling like a beginner.

It’s fun to be a beginner at something because you get the thrill of completing something while also needing to patiently work through mistakes and mishaps. You get to smile at your imperfection as opposed to thinking: I’ve been doing this so long it should be better. I’m more patient with myself as a beginner, something that feels good as we reach the final stretch of this pandemic.

When my coworker mentioned a local fabric store was offering virtual classes, the timing felt right. It was time to learn the whys around things and maybe be pushed into trying a few skills I didn’t think I was ready for. So I signed up for “Sewing for Baby” and ordered fabric to make a bib, burp cloth and a little dress.

Let me just start by saying, I think baby clothes are the perfect way to learn new skills if I haven’t said that on this blog before. The projects are small enough that you’re finished quickly, while being complex enough that you can learn some new skills. The burp cloth and bib force me to practice smooth (and tight!) round edges, while also diving into the land of hammer in snaps (which I’m still not 100% sure I’ve secured properly). I’m currently waiting on 3 fat quarters to make 3 more of each because practice practice practice. These simple projects have helped me get to know my machine and have shown me that slow is all well and good, but some speed can actually give you more control.

The baby dress, however, has been so fun to make that I want to make like eight more. Geranium, by Made By Rae, is considered an intermediate sewing pattern and is the cutest little dress. This pattern is so beginner friendly, while also having different options so that you’re not making the same thing over and over. Between the detailed instructions and Mary Margaret from Notion’s videos, I learned so many things while making my niece a little dress for her birthday. Sleeve ruffles, finishing seams, making button holes with my machine, sewing on buttons with my machine, correctly gathering a skirt — so many new skills leading to so many new what about this questions.

Isn’t that the best part about learning a new skill though? Discovering what you can do and learning all the things you didn’t know you didn’t know? I’ve signed up for a dress making class via notion that starts later this month and am looking forward to learning more about what I don’t know. I’m also already plotting my next Geranium dress, it’s safe to say that this “sewing thing” is going to start competing with my “knitting thing”!

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