aswim in knits

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Christmas socks ... in detail, with lots of photos

Over the past weeks, I mentioned a certain pair of socks that I was working on, but gave no details. The socks were a gift for my mother in law (a.k.a. Mim) who sometimes reads this blog. (Hey Mim, if you are out there, did you know that you can leave me comments by clicking on the "comment" link at the bottom of each day's post? I think the directions are easy enough to follow.)

Since all 3 of our other parents -- my mom and dad, and Thom's dad -- were getting handknit gifts, it was only right to knit something for Mim too. She and I went to Webs over Thanksgiving. Under the guise of "seeking her advice" on sock yarn selections, I got her to pick out some sock yarn she liked. She chose Artyarns Ultramerino 4 in color 120, a very subtly variegated teal color.

You can't really see the variegations in the photo, but they will show up better in other pictures...

I printed out lots of sock patterns from the internet, but none were quite what I was looking for. Finally, as Christmas was creeping closer (December 7, to be exact) I found a pattern I liked in the newest issue of Interweave Knits. These socks, called "Embossed Leaves" fit the bill perfectly -- an interesting, lacy pattern, but not so open as to give the wearer cold feet.

I cast on for the first sock shortly thereafter. Usually I knit 2 socks at the same time, but decided not to for this pair. I knew I'd be hustling to finish them in time, and every minute I could knit would help. One sock at a time is more portable for knitting in lines and during short breaks here and there. But, I did knit the two socks in parallel. I'd knit the cuff of one, then the cuff of the other, then the first half of the leg on one, and then on the other, etc. This way, I could keep any shifts in gauge pretty consistent from one foot to the other.

Within a few days, I had one sock halfway down the leg, and the second one through the heel flap.

That's the second sock, posed on a can of pink grapefuit scented Method all purpose wipes. This company has great product packaging design. I bet they never realized that a can of wipes, turned upside down, closely approximates the width of a human calf, ankle, and heel. Of course, neither did I until The Mafia and I got creative with our use of office supplies to pose our gift knitting. See her posts, December 13 and 16, for more examples of such silliness.

Like a busy little bee, I worked away at these socks whenever I had a spare moment. Each pattern repeat (the length of one leaf) took me about an hour per sock, so I figured out my knitting schedule, and planned it out so that I would finish the knitting on Wednesday the 21st, leaving me a couple of days to block and wrap.

All was going well. I worked both socks up through the gussets. I did the foot and toe on the first sock, and laid it out to block.

I do not have fancy sock blockers, so I bent some 20 gauge wire into a roughly sock-shaped loop, slipped the sock over this improvised form, and pinned to a towel. Voila, a sock blocker!

Once dry, the first sock looked fabulous. In the blocking photos, you can start to see the variegation, especially on the sole of the foot.

While this was drying, I started working on the foot of the second sock. By Wednesday night, all that remained was the toe, which I started to work on while waiting in lines at the stores that night. I thought I made some sort of mistake on the star toe, which was a new technique for me, so I stuffed it back in its bag, to figure out when I got home.

Turns out, I had no problem following the instructions for the toe. The problem was much further back ... I worked one decrease round too many at the gusset, and now I was two stitches short on the sole. Another knitter might have just dealt with that and modified the toe shaping. Not me. I could never give a gift -- especially to another knitter -- knowing that there was such an egregious mistake.

So, sock #2 got attached to the ball-winder, and ripped back to the gusset. Yes, some tears were shed.

I ignored the sock for the rest of the night. It was already almost 10:00 pm when I ripped, so the "rest of the night" was not too much longer. Thursday, I hardly had time to look at the sock, as I was busy with other projects. Friday afternoon, I camped out on the couch and finished the second sock around 5:00 pm. It promptly got a wool wash and a trip to the sock blocker. And I got to take a deep breath, as I finished it just in time for a blocking, and could turn my attention to other Christmas projects (assembling a photo album, wrapping gifts, etc.)

By Saturday morning, I had these ...

Here you can see the leaf detail and the toe a little better...

Just before leaving for various family visits, I wrapped up the socks.

What's in the little snowman box? Oh yes, these ...

Some handmade stitch markers. I bought the beads for these before I picked out the yarn ... great coincidence that they are almost the same color as the socks!

While these socks took a little longer than expected (due to some unanticipated ripping and reknitting), I loved the end product. So did Mim! She promptly put them on and wore them for the rest of Christmas morning.

Now, for the project specs:

Yarn: Artyarns Ultramerino 4, color 120

Gauge: about 7.5 sts/in

Needles: The ribbing and the top of the leg was knit on a size 2 Addi Turbo. The bottom of the leg, the heel, and the foot/toe are all on a size 1 Addi Turbo. Magic Loop technique used throughout...

Pattern: Embossed Leaves from winter 05 Interweave Knits

Pattern modifications: worked the heel slightly differently, so that I did not have to cut the yarn. Used a larger needle for the top of the leg for a slightly looser fit. Otherwise, followed the pattern exactly.

I loved the pattern, and would consider knitting it again ... for me!


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