Sock Stories – The Weasley Homestead

Erica Lueder designs some simple, yet lovely, socks. You might know her most popular pattern, Hermoine’s Everyday Sock. Also by her, I’ve made Petunia Dursley’s Double Eyelet Socks, Dumbledore’s Christmas Stockings (RAV LINK), Socks for the Deputy Headmistress, Devil’s Snare Socks, and the Weasley Rib. Yeah, safe to say I like her patterns. They usually feature a simple repeating stitch to give the sock itself some texture and the knitter some interest while making it. With many of the pattern repeats often happening over a small amount of stitches, it makes the socks fairly adaptable as well.

I just finished The Weasley Homestead for a pair for my dad. It’s a 2×2 ribbing pattern along the leg and instep.

If I have to rib, 2×2 is my preferred way to go. In my mind, it feels less tedious than 1×1, but, getting towards the end of a 80 row sock, the ribbing was starting to lose its appeal altogether! That said, the sock yarn and its fading and colour changes kept me interested.

Canadian Red Cross Knitting During World War II

Recently, the Museum I work at received a donation of materials from a local Canadian Red Cross Branch. The first thing I asked was whether there was anything knitting related. To my delight, YES. Included in the donation were four pamphlets created by the Red Cross:

  • The Canadian Red Cross Society Selected Civilian Knitting Instructions for Women and Children (Compliments of The Yellow Pages of your Telephone Directory)
  • The Canadian Red Cross Society Knitting Instructions for the Armed Forces (Compliments of The Yellow Pages of your Telephone Directory)
  • Red Cross Knitting Instructions for War Work, Number 1 For the Services, Issued by The Canadian Red Cross Society, Revised Edition, November 1940
  • Red Cross Knitting Instructions for War Work, Number 2 Knitted Comforts for Women, Issued by The Canadian Red Cross Society, November 1940

After carefully looking through the pamphlets, and after our Registrar scanned them all so I could look at the digital versions, the next thing I wanted to do was learn a little more about them and about the Red Cross and knitting in general.

From the archival collection of the Oshawa Museum

I turned to the Toronto based newspaper, The Globe and Mail, to see what might have been reported on at the time. One thing that surprised me the most was how often it was reported that items were having to be fixed or reknit completely by Red Cross volunteers.

It was estimated that some 750,000 people on the homefront (the majority of which were likely women) produced more than 50 million garments during the Second World War.1 There were likely knitters of every skill level pitching in to do their bit.

Pieces were quality controlled, and in Toronto, they passed through the Red Cross offices on Jarvis Street. One volunteer, Mrs. Gibbett, was interviewed about the work of re-knitting items, and about socks, she commented “I hate to think of the poor boy’s feet after wearing a pair of those [socks with knots along the bottom under the heel and toes]. I rip them back and knit it up again.” Her job was described as ‘Unexciting,’ and even Mrs. Gibbett herself said “It’s not a very attractive job, but it’s got to be done. We can’t let all that wool go to waste, you know.”2

The Red Cross often made materials available for volunteer knitters – they would send out wool and the knitters would send the finished items back. The quality control job was one I hadn’t thought about, but it’s importance was great. Not only did it mean materials were not wasted, but it helped ensure that what was being sent was top quality – it would fit and not lead to potential injuries (like with knotted sock bottoms). Those who looked after the quality control were working throughout the war, and I’m sure many a feet were thankful they were.


  1. That stat came from the Canadian War Museum: https://www.warmuseum.ca/blog/an-army-of-knitters-in-support-of-the-war-effort/
  2. “Reknits Others’ Knitting, Woman’s Job Is Unexciting,” The Globe and Mail, Aug 1, 1944, pg. 10.

Revisiting grafting and its common ‘namesake’

By far, the most viewed posts on my humble blog are those that I’ve called the ‘Historic Knits.’ The Sontag, the World War Socks, and the post I wrote about Lord Kitchener and the so-called Kitchener Stitch.

That post didn’t go far enough into his history and omits why he is an extremely problematic figure. I messed up. Mea culpa. I will be editing the original post to include links to this one.

Admittedly, I don’t know much about the South African (Boer) War. I know Canada participated in this conflict (and it was one of many issues which faced PM Laurier where he had to seek compromise between English and French Canada). I know that it was a conflict in southern Africa around the turn of the 20th Century.

And that is all I know off the top of my head.

However, I’ve recently learned that Lord Kitchener, the British military general who died during WWI, was involved in the Boer War. Kitchener instituted internment/concentration camps, and these became the template for what Nazi Germany would use 40 years later.

As summarized by the Canadian War Museum,

Imperial forces attempted to deny the Boers the food, water and lodging afforded by sympathetic farmers. Britain’s grim strategy took the war to the civilian population. Canadian troops burned Boer houses and farms, and moved civilians to internment camps. In these filthy camps, an estimated 28,000 prisoners died of disease, most of them women, children, and black workers. Civilian deaths provoked outrage in Britain and in Canada. This harsh strategy eventually defeated the Boers.

https://www.warmuseum.ca/cwm/exhibitions/boer/boerwarhistory_e.html

During WWI, Kitchener was the public face of the British enlistment. He was inextricably linked with the British war effort. Heck, when he died, his name was chosen as a patriotic symbol for renaming Berlin, Ontario. Since 1916, this city has been known as Kitchener.

Historians need to be able to critically examine the past and question the actions of individuals.

Like most historical figures (strike that, like most regular people), Kitchener is a complex individual who isn’t without flaws and controversy. He is problematic knowing his policies directly led to thousands of civilians’ deaths at the time and later to thousands upon thousands more.

Knowing that ‘grafting’ has been known as the Kitchener Stitch for well over 100 years, it likely isn’t going to leave the vernacular any time soon. I, myself, will try to avoid calling it anything other than grafting if I can. But, perhaps, next time you go to ‘kitchener the toe’ of a sock, you might remember the man and the untold numbers of lives he directly or indirectly affected with his ‘scorched earth’ war tactics.

On making something cozy for my BFF

Find yourself an Ashley.

Ashley is my best friend. We’ve known each other for a stupid amount of time. The fact that we’ve known each other for more than 20 years is absolutely mind boggling, because that means we’re not in our 20s anymore, and I totally feel like I’m only 23. Wait, what was I saying? Oh, right.

Ashley and I had homeroom together in Grade 9 & 10, but we didn’t talk. I was a little intimidated by her, and, according to her, I would sit there and talk with my friend about the Backstreet Boys (and yeah, that’s 100% accurate). Then grade 11 came around and we had three of four classes together, including drama. That year’s big project was writing and performing a ‘docudrama’ and we were partnered together. I think I have the script somewhere in storage to this day. We’ve been friends ever since.

Last spring, due to unforeseen circumstances, I found myself at my parent’s house for a week, and at first I was there without access to knitting needles or yarn. She didn’t hesitate to run over to my parent’s with a few supplies for me, including balls of yarn and needles.

She truly is the best.

Knowing the yarn was Briggs and Little, I feel it’s safe to assume she bought it from the mill in New Brunswick. Her family lives nearby to the community where Canada’s oldest woolen mill is located, and I’m pretty sure the yarn came from the store at the mill. After I was back home, I asked if she would like the yarn back, and she told me to hold onto it.

So I did.

And I made her something.

A few months back, I professed my love for marled yarn as I made my nephew just the cutest little clothing set using a sock weight marled yarn. I took a look at my stash and realized that the yarn from her was two skeins – one marled and one white. I wanted to knit her something cozy. Warm, perhaps a little scratchy, and cozy. 

The pattern is The Fisherman’s Boot Socks by Maritime Family Fiber. I followed the instructions for the smallest size, but my needles were 4.5mm, not 4mm, so I was ultimately making something a little bigger than the pattern called for. They were worked on and off for about six months. But they were finished while the Canadian winters were still bringing about the cold, like they always do. Because toes get cold, and sometimes a thick wool sock is the coziness you need to help stave off the chill.

So, if you can, find yourself an Ashley. Ashleys are good people. Ashleys know how to hook a friend up, and Ashleys totally deserve warm socks.

I adore this human. From 2018, when concerts were a thing…

Top Five Ideas for Left Over Sock Yarn

I cannot be the only one to have a sad bin filled with left over sock yarn, those odds and ends that remain after a project, in assorted colours and yardages. Ok, maybe ‘sad bin’ isn’t a fair categorization of this left over yarn. A bin full of potential, perhaps?

For me, my bin continues to grow, despite finding ways to creatively use up the stash. Here are my top five suggestions on how to use up that Left Over Sock Yarn

The LOSY hat

That stands for the ‘Left Over Sock Yarn’ hat. I’ve made two of them, a quick and satisfying way to use up quite a few balls of yarn. The pattern is available on Ravelry (RAV LINK – if it’s available off, I wasn’t able to find it). Any DK weight hat pattern (or project, really) could be a LOSY project. The hat is made by holding two strands of yarn together. Once one runs out, you pick up a new colour. Thanks to this, you end up with a lovely faded effect with the finished object.

As mentioned, I’ve made two, and with both, I tried to stick to the same colour family when making them – the first was made with purples and the second with greens/greys.

Cowls or other patterns meant for minis

Really, when you think about it, your left over balls of yarn are really just mini skeins waiting for the right project. Minis are a fun way to play with colour, to try different yarns without investing in a whole skein, and they are great for accents, colourwork, or perhaps a cuff/heel/toe for a sock.

There are lots of patterns that cater to minis. A pattern I have earmarked for using up some left over yarn is the Wandering Thoughts Cowl by The Knitting Artist (RAV LINK). I adore triangular shawl like cowls. This isn’t new information. This cowl, like the one I reverse engineered in the summer, has different colours and stitch patterns used throughout, and the designer used five colours, estimating she used 6g to 20g of each colour. In the pattern write up, she encourages knitters to play with colours, and, “there is a coloring page at the end to help you sketch out ideas before starting.” Love this. I haven’t made this cowl yet, but I figure it’s only a matter of time before I pull out the yarn bin, find my colour combo, and cast on.

Sock Yarn Blanket

I’ve written about my sock yarn blanket before – It’s a simple blanket with mitered squares made from different skeins of sock yarn. Any time I finish a project, I add a new square to my blanket.

I opted to make mine with only one square from each yarn, but if you were wanting to finish a blanket faster and really use up your sock yarn, you could make lots of squares from the yarn until the yarn is used up.

There are lots of patterns you could use for a blanket like this. The pattern I’m following for mine is memory blanket (RAV LINK) by Georgie Nicolson – off rav link: https://www.tikkiknits.com/blog/knitting-blankets

This is the latest sock yarn blanket update. This blanket has been on my needles for YEARS, so posting these progress photos help me see that yes, indeed, it is slowly but surely growing.

Skimmer Socks

I ADORE my skimmer socks. I’ve made three pairs through the years. These simple socks are awesome to wear with running shoes on a summer’s day, you know the ones where you’re wearing cropped pants, and having a sock popping out from your shoe would just ruin what you’re going for with your outfit.

The pair I recorded on Ravelry notes that I used about 100 yards for the pair – and every pair I’ve made, I’ve done so with a main colour and contrast for the heel/toe/edging. The pattern I’ve followed is Skimmer Socks Revisited by Sheila Toy Stromberg.

Ugly Socks

Ok. Maybe the nickname needs work. I call these my ‘ugly socks’ because they are just a smattering of left over self patterning yarn made into a pair of socks They really are just a pair of scrappy socks. I was methodical with mine – I took each left over ball I was going to use and divided in half by winding and weighing. I would then end up with two almost identically weighed balls that could be used for each sock. And then I knit. I’ve made two pairs of this, and both I’ve made using a toe-up pattern (Vanilla Sock with Gusset & Choice of Heel RAV LINK by Jo Torr). I liked the idea of basically knitting until I ran out of yarn, that way I’ve used up as much of the yarn as possible.

Any sock pattern would work. Any sock yarn would work. You don’t even need to be as particular as I was with the weighing of the yarn.

These are just my ideas for using up some of your left over sock yarn. What is your favourite way to use up left overs?