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.

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 “SKYCAPELETKAL” 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!

Hawaii Retreat Cowl

I know that people have been taking advantage of working from home to travel. It’s all over my Instagram (no Facebook for this girl!) – the new trails that are being explored, the beaches that are being enjoyed, the different foods that are being tried – but I can’t bring myself to travel just yet. Part of this is due to our Spain trip imploding, we’ve already been burned by a lock down and I don’t want to relive that type of “action mode” again just yet. Some of it is a desire to not get sick/not get anyone else sick. Honestly, the biggest part is that I don’t want to travel if it means things are closed. The freedom to stop and enjoy a random restaurant, shop or museum is a privilege about traveling that I truly appreciate.

That aside, the longer we don’t travel the worse my wanderlust seems to get. I find myself daydreaming of hiking the Scotland Highlands or wandering the hills of Ireland. My partner is from New Zealand and I still haven’t explored the places he grew up. We used to be able to hop over to Canada with relative ease and there’s no end in site for the boarder closure. Needless to say, Simply Sock Yarn Company has been allowing me to travel vicariously through their gorgeous National Park Series. The first three month club focused on the Grand Canyon, Cub Lake, and the Black Hills National Forest and have each been knit up into gorgeous projects: House Slippers, Nelia Shawl, and Age of Brass and Steam. March’s colorway was inspired by Haleakala and it took me forever to pick a pattern that would suit it.

To the yarn’s credit, I felt very limited by the fact that I only had one skein. I thought about knitting a Spring Sorrel and several other DK weight sweaters before accepting the fact that I wasn’t going to get my hands on more skeins. So when I say that I settled on Joji’s Retreat Cowl, I need you to understand that there was still a lot of excitement around this pattern. In fact, the Retreat Cowl provided me with a nice break from a lace shawl that I’m passively working on.

The Retreat Cowl is worked flat after being started with a provisional cast on. After reaching the specified length, the provisional cast on is removed and stitches are picked up so that the lace edging can be worked. Simple, yet interesting. Plus it allows the yarn’s colors to bounce around and do most of the talking. I would knit this again, although probably in a tonal so that the lace edge stands out a little more.

Real talk about the lace edge: my row gauge was off and I was only able to pick up ~70 stitches. A quick search through the projects on Ravelry shows that this is a relatively common problem and results in a snug fitting cowl, even if you go up a needle size for the lace pattern. Thinking I was smart, I picked up two stiches for every stitch and worked 140 stitches (two extra lace repeats). The final result is a cowl that billows a bit at the bottom and is, stylistically speaking: a) not what I was going for and b) not really my style (or anyone else’s that I know of). That aside, it’s so frickin’ practical. The cowl will now sit slightly under the collar of a coat, as opposed to on top of it, and seal in warmth better. It’s a winter hiker’s dream! TBD if it ends up being gifted for Mother’s Day…

Close up of a multi colored ribbed cowl with lace edging being worn on a woman's neck.
Retreat Cowl, Knit by Iswimlikeafish

Knitting outside the lines aka Flax Light Modifications

If you’ve read any of my previous posts you’re already aware that I have a tendency to modify whatever I’m working on. Sometimes the modification is small, like in my second Stonewall sweater, where I removed the waist shaping, or my Wish and Hope baby cardigan where I gave up on the lace panels. Other times I remake the original object and it still looks like the original object, like my Azalea top. And sometimes you look at something that I’ve made and think “I mean the basic shape is the same but I’m not really sure you captured the original pattern”, like my Warp Speed sweater. The point I’m trying to make here is that sometimes I set out with the intention to modify and other times it just happens as the project progresses. Which sort of leads to the question: am I creative or just coloring outside the lines?

Sometimes, I think I’m creative (re: Winter Moss Hat). Most of the time, I think I take pieces of things that I like and put them together. This would lean the answer to the above question heavily to the side of coloring outside the lines. While not trying to discredit myself, I genuinely don’t think that I have the vision that a lot of my favorite designers have. I feel a strong appreciation for what they do and they inspire me, but that ah-ha moment that I imagine happens when they sit down to knit doesn’t happen for me. When I design, I design something that I want but can’t find elsewhere.

Enter Flax Light and my current pandemic knitting habits of the baby sweater. There seriously could not be a better free pattern out there for knitting outside the lines. I’ve added three more Flax Lights to my project page and tried out some new yarn with each.

A teal baby sweater with a waffle texture throughout.
Jo Flannel Flax Light, Knit by iswimlikeafish

Justin’s Flannel Flax Light, knit with Boss Sock by Junkyarns in Jo is perfect. I love the way that the colors and texture look like the ocean. Alicia Plummer is currently working on a children’s version for her flannel series, so I do feel a little bad that I’ve done the modifications required to knit a baby sweater, but I also can’t help but loving the final result. Boss sock was nice to work with as well, soft and silky as it slipped through my fingers. Not a lot of blooming during blocking, but that doesn’t really surprise me because of the general springiness of the yarn.

Jo Flannel Flax Light, literally named for each component because this is my 8th flax light (according to Ravelry), knit up in five days and the only thing I changed about the pattern was adding the texture to it. This version, and all of the other versions I have knit, does not take advantage of the short row options that have been added. This version is one that I can see myself knitting again, partially because I’m obsessed with the textured stitching of Plummer’s Flannel series and partially because it was so much fun to knit.

A lime green knit baby sweater with purl rows every fourth row to create a textured stripe.
Kryptonite Flax Light, Knit by iswimlikeafish

The next flax light I started was knit using Birch Dyeworks 80/20 Sock in the color Kryptonite. When I chose the colorway for this sweater, my goal was for something fun and gender neutral. AKA something that wasn’t pastel or gray. If the color alone didn’t get me excited, the name of the colorway (Kryptonite) did. Is it wrong to love the idea that a baby is wearing a sweater in a colorway named after Superman’s one weakness? How can you not appreciate the idea that the bundle of joy being wrapped up in this sweater brings the strongest of the strong to their knees?

If I compare Birch Dyeworks 80/20 Sock to Junkyarn’s Boss Sock, and am honest, there isn’t a huge difference in the way that they knit up. This comparison is particularly interesting because I haven’t knit the same project with slightly different yarn back to back like this before. Even considering the amount of time I spend knitting socks in graduate school, I tended to bias my purchases towards a particular brand of sock yarn (*cough cough* Alegria). This observation either means I’m not enough of a yarn snob to notice the difference (entirely possible!) or that the fibers are similar enough that purchase comes down to color (slightly more likely). Both yarns should hold up well during machine washing and I anticipate just a little bit of shrinking.

A light blue, dark blue and grey stripped baby sweater with orange cuffs.
Sunfish Flax Light, Knit by iswimlikeafish

In terms of sweater modification, I purled a row every 4th row to give the sweater a textured stripe. Honestly, not as interesting a knit as my Jo Flannel Flax Light — I hit the first sleeve and started wondering why the project wasn’t done yet. The second sleeve involved a lot of “you’re almost done!”, which ultimately implies that I felt the sleeves should have knit up faster.

Flax light number three (or number 10 according to Ravelry) is the least gender neutral if you’re focusing strictly on the idea that blue is for boys. Knit in Woolens and Nosh Targhee Sock, the body of the sweater is blue and gray stripes with the ribbing boasting a bright orange color. When I think of a sock yarn, Targhee sock is what I think of. This yarn feels durable and soft, which probably means that the final result will be a stiffer (less drapey) sweater. Though still superwash, Targhee Sock feels more like a wool than the merino yarns above (I’m not sure why that’s a thing for me these days, Merino is wool too!). Please don’t make me pick a yarn that I enjoyed the most, I can see myself buying all three again!

The only modification I made in this sweater was to eliminate the sleeve garter stitch panels. The stripping felt like enough of a design element on this tiny sweater.

Three folded baby sweaters, the top left is a lime green knit baby sweater with purl rows every fourth row to create a textured stripe. The bottom left is a teal baby sweater with a waffle texture throughout. The final sweater is folded to the right and in the middle of the previous to, it is a light blue, dark blue and grey stripped baby sweater with orange cuffs.

Mars’s Flannel

A mustard yellow sweater wet blocking in a white bathroom sink.
Justin’s Flannel Blocking

While this post doesn’t mark the first sweater I ever made my partner (See: writers block cardigan and Flax), it does mark the first time that I’ve ever used Julie Asselin’s yarn and the first time that Alicia Plummer designed a men’s sweater. Test knitting Justin’s Flannel was so much fun, that I can’t help but see it in every color.

For starters, Justin’s (Mars’s) Flannel is the perfect combination of mindless knitting with a little bit of texture thrown in to keep it interesting. When you combine that with the fact that it’s easy to read your stitches to see where you are in the pattern, this sweater makes for excellent TV, knit night, podcast listening, reading etc knitting. In fact, I had so much fun with it I manipulated the pattern to make a baby sweater for a friend out of fingering yarn (more on that later when it’s finished, also I have it on good authority that Alicia is working on a children’s version as well)!

The next thing I love about this sweater is that it’s actually unisex. While I love Plummer’s designs, I often skip knitting the waist shaping. Though large, Mars’s flannel is a sweater that I could grab and curl up in.

Naturally, even with all my warm and fuzzy feelings I couldn’t help but change a few small details of the sweater. If you like the way the sweater hangs on my partner, you would need to knit the body a total of 16 inches before the ribbing (that’s an extra three inches) and the sleeves 19 inches before adding the ribbing (an extra 1.5). There is also a LOT of positive ease in his sweater, thought it’s been a little while since he’s been measured it’s safe to say that it’s about 5 inches.

Five hanks of Julie Asselin's Nutured yarn in Miel (yellow)
Julie Asselin’s Nurtured in Miel

Speaking of curling up in something, I cannot stress enough how warm and cozy Nurtured by Julie Asselin is. The photo below of my partner shows him in 30 degree (F) weather without a coat. This is particularly noteworthy because he’s from New Zealand and usually has two – three additional layers on compared to what I have. I, as the photographer, am behind the scenes wearing my winter jacket loosely zipped. What a difference! The bloom of Nurtured is also beautiful, meaning that the yarn has an almost felted look to it until it is wet blocked.

One downside of Nurtured is that with the extra warmth comes extra weight. I tend to be someone who knits more with Fingering – DK weight yarns in the interest of my hands and wrists not being the limiting factor while I knit. It sometimes felt like I was knitting with cotton, the yarn doesn’t seem to have a lot of elasticity and the project was heavy. 100% worth it, but worth mentioning because I couldn’t spend a lot of consistent time working on the sweater because my hands needed breaks. Despite this, I would use it again (although I would probably use Nurtured Fine instead, light weight yarn biases and all). Also, doesn’t bother me, but this yarn isn’t machine washable.

All in all, highly recommend both the yarn and the pattern!

A man walking his hound in the woods wearing a yellow textured knit sweater.
Walking on the local snow mobile trail during melt season is the best time to grab a knit sweater.