The book Knitting Socks with Handpainted Yarn is finally out!
I say finally although it really didn’t take long at all — it was rather a whirlwind by publishing standards. Carol contacted me in January to ask if I’d be interested in submitting a design. I submitted by early February, heard back at the end of February, got the yarn and knit them by the end of March. Then Interweave photographed, tech edited, and produced the book in a few months all so it could be out before Christmas.
The first few chapters of the book are worth its price alone. Carol guides us through a variety of topics on handpainted sock yarn – fibers, types of dyeing, why pooling occurs, what you can do to remedy it, and how to pick a pattern to suit your type of yarn.
There are 21 patterns in the book, both by the big names you’ll recognize (Nancy Bush, Ann Budd, Priscilla Gibson Roberts) and some newer folks too. The patterns are broken out by the type of yarn that best suits them — nearly solid, muted multi, and wild multi — giving the reader some guidance in selecting a pattern that’s appropriate for the yarn.
You’ll find a pretty big variety in techniques used here to work with and combat some of the challenges of working with handpainteds — eyelets, wrapped stitches, varying stitch counts, two-color knitting, intarsia, beads and embroidered embellishments, and even a sock that uses up leftovers in a beautiful way.
When I was working on my sock for the book, I probably sketched and swatched at least 20 different samples. I settled pretty early on the fact that I wanted to use extra-long rows as my method of working with the issue of pooling. I learned a while back that long rows work nicely with a lot of handpainted yarns, but I wanted to come up with a different way to make the long rows — in this case, really deep chevrons.
The sock took a bunch of swatching before I got it right, and of course I knit more than I took notes, so after I came up with the right approach I had to do that fun thing where I tried to pull apart the stitches to try and figure out what I did (in the software world we call that “reverse-engineering” which sounds so much better than “damnit…what the heck did I do there?”)
Lucky for me I was able to figure it out (good thing since at that point Interweave had accepted my design)
The pattern that I came up with follows an unusual construction that had a couple benefits I never could have predicted.
- It starts out with some ribbing at the top.
- Then, short rows are worked to setup the chevrons. Pythagoras would be very happy with these socks, because the short rows take into account that a knit stitch is wider than it is tall. In other words, the triangle lays pretty straight across at the top.
- The chevron is worked all the way down the heel (you can see a good pic of this at the top of the post) and creates a roomy short row heel. See how the sock curves out at the back of the heel? While I’d love to take credit for it, it was truly one of those happy mistakes.
- Next, the bottom half of the short row heel and gusset is worked, and chevrons are worked down the leg.
- For the toe, some shaping is worked to give the toe a curved shape while keeping the chevron pattern.
- And finally, the bottom of the toe is worked back and forth to complete the sock.
I felt some relief when I started knitting with the yarn and saw how the colors were striping. Phew! This is working! The yarn was really great to work with — Fiesta Yarns Baby Boom in Mochachino. That first sock took quite a bit of ripping and reworking and I didn’t have to toss out any of it.
- I had quite a bit of yarn left over from the 2 balls I used so you could make the leg longer and still have enough.
- The stated gauge is 7 sts per inch, but the pattern is offered in 2 sizes — 7.5″ and 8.25″ circumference. If you want to work the sock at a 8 sts per inch you could follow the larger size and get a sock that’s approx 7.25″ around.
- If you have wider calves and want to make the leg wider than the foot, start by following the directions for the larger size, and once you’ve worked the heel, work additional “Shape Gussets” rounds to reduce the stitch count down to the smaller size.
Now that the book is out I’ve started to make myself a pair out of some Tess Yarn I bought just for these socks. I’m using the larger size’s numbers at the smaller gauge (Tess yarn works up really nicely at 8 sts per inch). I’ve only done the cuff and I can’t wait to see what the chevrons look like.
If you make a pair, please let me know. And if you have any questions or problems, leave a comment and I’ll get back to you.