Is sock yarn ‘stash yarn’?

There are many divisive issues in knitting: to swatch or not to swatch, process v. product, but perhaps one of the most controversial is whether sock yarn counts towards stash. One would think that the debate is settled when the Yarn Harlot decreed that sock yarn isn’t really stash yarn. Maybe I just think of ‘stash’ a little differently.

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Take this beautiful skein of sock yarn. I bought this lovely skein of Indigodragonfly CaribouBaa in the fall of 2016.  I had no idea what I wanted to do with it, but I knew the colours were pretty, and when I bought it, it was my first ever Indigodragonfly, so I was excited. There it sat for almost a year and a half; other projects came and went, but inspiration had yet to grab me for this yarn. And then it did.

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In March/April I purchased two skeins from one of my LYSs (one two separate occasions, as it turns out).  After chatting with a friend about this yarn and how to use these two together, she encouraged me to take a closer look at Stephen West and his brioche patterns.  While brioche wasn’t in the future for this yarn, The Doodler was. I saw the pattern, I saw the skein of Indigodragonfly on my shelves, and I knew these three had to be used together.

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I have a hard time buying more than one skein at a time if I’m just buying yarn. Some of this is budget, and the rest is practical.  I’ve been stung too many times by not buying enough to complete a project that I’m either running out and buying more or ripping back and buying new.  If I have a project in mind that needs ‘x’ amount of metres, then cool, I’ll go out and buy what I need, but to buy ‘x’ skeins just because, that I just can’t do. But sock yarn, oh lovely sock yarn. You can buy one skein of fingering, and you have enough metres to make a plethora of things. A hat, no problem! Socks, duh. A shawl/cowl/neck accessory, done and done. Or, like my lovely blue/green Indigodragonfly, it can just live there until the perfect project comes along.

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Skimmer Socks

The desire to knit down my sock yarn ends continues in a very fun way.  Meet the Skimmer Socks:

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Okay, Simmer SOCK, singular, because Sock #2 is still in progress. But, please allow me to rave about this pattern for a few minutes.

The pattern I used was Skimmer Socks Revisited by Sheila Toy Stromberg (revisited as she revamped a popular pattern of hers written a number of years ago).  This pattern popped up onto Ravelry’s Hot Right Now around the beginning of May, and when I saw my purple and blue left overs together, they were just destined to become these socks.

The pattern was VERY clearly written, and if anything was unclear, like my confidence in doing short rows, she has a corresponding tutorial on YouTube. To make it even better, Stromberg has marked the timestamps when that particular technique is shown in the video.  While the tutorial is around an hour, I fast-forwarded to the parts I needed clarification on and then happily resumed my knitting.

For my high-arched feet, I made size large which required around 140 metres of yarn, and the fit is great. I can certainly see myself making more of these socklets in the future, with my only major mod would be making the insole shorter so that they’ll be slightly more no-show when I wear flats.

To everyone in Canada, I hope you are having a fantastic Victoria Day long weekend! To everyone else, Happy Monday!

On knitting up those pesky left overs

It’s inevitable. You find a pattern, buy the yarn, knit the pattern, and unless you end up playing an epic game of yarn chicken, you’re going to end up with left overs, those few grams of yarn that really, what CAN you do with it? A few weeks ago, these odds and sods were my focus and using them up in creative manners my mission.

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Well, first, I took over 100 grams from 5 different sock yarns and turned them into a lovely asymmetrical shawl.  I used the Ex-Boyfriends pattern and now have a shawl in browns, greens and a pop of purple. I felt highly satisfied when it was finished because those were 5 small cakes out of my stash.

Like many knitters, I also have quite a bit of acrylic kicking around. You know the yarn, the stuff you bought before you discovered your Local Yarn Shops and the wonderful and unique skeins they carry. Don’t get me wrong, acrylic has a time and place, but those small remnants were just taking up space and annoying me just enough to find a solution.  Enter my ‘Ugly Slippers.’ I took my favourite slipper pattern, divided up what was left of an orange and yellow into two, and finished off with the red, which I had significantly more of. The colours are out of order for me to call them ‘Jayne Cobb slippers’, but they are rather cunning, dontcha think?

For a final stash busting attempt, I discovered a new kind of torture. I had enough Opal remnants to make a smallish pair of socks, and tempted to try a new method, I bought 40″/100 cm circulars and started a pair of toe up two at a time socks. I. Hate. It. With a passion I didn’t know existed. The almost finished toes were lying on the top of my knitting basket, and we were in an epic showdown. My dilemma was: do I persevere and keep on, hoping that this method will grow on me, or do I face ‘defeat’, realize life’s to short to knit something I’m hating, and re-cast on with a different method, like my 9″ circulars which I LOVE? The desire for movie knitting won out, and I transferred one of the two onto my beloved 9″ circulars… Life’s too short to knit something out hate, right?

The Stages of Knitting a Sock

With sock knitting, well, any kind of knitting, there are different stages. Sure, there are the technical stages: the cuff, the leg, knitting the heel flap, turning the heel, etc., etc.  I’m talking about the emotional stages.

First, there’s the yarn. Oh, buying sock yarn! I actively have to stop myself from buying skeins and skeins of yarn when I’m in a shop. So many choices, so many fibres. Of course, there’s also the pattern selection, different textures, levels of complexity.

You start with the cuff: you see your project start and watch it grow from essentially a series of loops on a stick to a few inches of fabric. You also see the true brilliance of your yarn shine. Did you choose a solid colour, get to see your self patterning yarn take shape, or are the various colours of the variegated skein doing their marvelous thing?

Then, you start with the leg, the meat of the sock, all stitches dedicated to the pattern.  A few rounds go by and you truly get to see how your choices are playing out. The textures are coming into focus, or in the case of vanilla socks, the satisfaction of endless rounds have taken their start.

I must also ask, is there anything that makes a knitter feel more magical than turning a heel? With a few stitches and a few short rows, you’re turning the direction in which you knit your stitches, from vertically to horizontally.

The foot offers a slight break to a weary knitter, because even though you love the pattern you’ve dedicated many rows to for the leg, you only now have to continue it for half the stitches, while the other half are blissfully reserved for plain knitting for the sole of the foot.

Finally, you get to the toe. After hours of knitting, you know the end is near, and after only a few rows, which inevitably get shorter and shorter, you are finished the sock. Kitchener those stitches, weave in those ends, and take a deep breath. You now get to repeat the process again for sock number two. Sure, the second time around, the feelings aren’t quite the same, having lost an element of surprise, and some knitters need a little more encouragement to get that second sock started. For me, knowing I’ll have a warm pair of socks at the end of it all gets me casting on and starting this process all over again.

Happy knitting!

Making Madewell Progress

Since March last year, I’ve been slowly but surely working on a cardigan: Madewell by Joji Locatelli.  It’s a fingering weight project, and because I like, ahem, challenges, I decided to make it with black yarn.  When I’m working on it around others, like at a LYS, people often share their own black sock yarn horror stories (“Never again” is often exclaimed), and on a few occasions I’ve been asked why am I punishing myself. Black sock weight yarn can be a wee bit hard on the eyes. Challenges aside, I love it, and with my wardrobe, a black cardigan will be worn time and time again, hence my colour choice.

This has been a great project to pick up after having put it down for weeks at a time. It’s largely stockinette, lots of knits and purls. Because I no longer feel the urgency of holiday knitting, I’ve been able to dedicate more time towards this project. I was nearing the end of the body, no more shaping increases or decreases, so the knits and purls proved to be great mindless knitting, working on a row or two while watching TV or reading on my e-reader.

I feel like I’ve actually made some progress with it this weekend, finishing the bottom ribbing and starting working on the sleeve.  This is my first experience with raglan sleeves, and I must say I love it. You don’t need to worry about setting in and seeming. The stitches came off the holder, onto a 16″ circular needle and away I knit in the round. Once again, being all stockinette, it’s proving to be fantastic for mindless knitting.

One whimsical feature of this sweater are the elbow patches, a great way to use up a few metres of that extra sock yarn everyone has in their stash.  I had three colours of Manos Del Uruguay that worked well together, so after binding off the main body, I took a break and knit up one elbow patch. They add a great pop of colour to this staple sweater.

Can’t wait to get back to knitting and hopefully in the coming weeks, I’ll be able to show off the finished cardigan!