Summer of Socks, vol. 2 – Denim Ribs & Embossed Leaves

Yes, ladies and gents, it’s time for another installment of…bum bum buuuuuummmm…


The Summer of Socks! While we’re in winter! Hooray!


Just as a recap, as I explained in the last post, I spent the summer knitting socks for my family, and I packaged them up with hot cocoa mix and personalized marshmallows into super cute mugs for them to enjoy on Christmas Eve.

And speaking of super cute mugs, just look at those little kitties. Those things are just so freaking adorable. I couldn’t resist getting them for my brother and sister-in-law, as they are also cat people.

Here we have the next two pairs of socks in the line-up. Denim Ribs


…and Embossed Leaves.


Oooooh. Aaaaah.


My brother Jarrod tends to spend his life in jeans and t-shirts, and when I saw the colorway called the Pearl in Knit Picks Hawthorne, I knew it was something that he would like. I’m not sure where the name “the Pearl” comes from, since all I can think of when I hear that is the incredibly depressing novella by John Steinbeck. Looking at this colorway, with its varying shades of denim-y navy blues and pops of cream and gray, I get the impression of a well-loved, well-worn pair of jeans. Not to mention the synchronicity in the fact that it looks like the denim cousin to the Mt. Tabor colorway, previously featured on my dad’s socks.


I didn’t want to do anything too fiddly here, due to the fact that the high contrast between the colors would probably obscure any stitchwork. Instead, I wanted something where those long stretches of cream and gray would pop out and spiral around and look awesome, just like they looked in the skein.


I went with an old stand-by, dependable pattern, the Good, Plain Sock recipe featured in Knitting Rules! by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee, the Yarn Harlot. She is knitting royalty, and if you don’t have a copy of this book, you are seriously missing out. In it, she gives “recipes,” not complete patterns, of socks, hats, scarves, and shawls, and gives you all the tricks and tips you need to write your own patterns for yourself. Plus, she’s funny and snarky in all the right ways. I adore her.


I have made so many socks with this pattern, and it always comes out great. This one in particular has a 3×3 ribbing throughout the cuff, sort of similar to my Plain Vanilla Taiyo socks. They also have simple slipped-stitch heels and capped toes, just the basic background structure to make the yarn really stand out.

I played a serious game of yarn chicken with these, due to the fact that my brother wears between a size 10-10.5 men’s shoe, and I had only about a foot left of yarn when I was done. Good thing to know that Hawthorne, with its 357 yds., had plenty enough for some giant socks.


Here we have some of the prettiest yarn I have ever seen. Seriously, look at all of these colors! It’s Knit Picks Hawthorne (again!) in the colorway Alameda, and man, it was so much fun to knit up. I lived for hitting all of the little bright blue spots. (Do other knitters do that? Pick a favorite part of the colorway and get really excited to knit those particular stitches when you see them coming up? Just me? Okay.)


These beauties were made for my sister-in-law, Kim, who enjoys feminine details, especially if they’re purple, so I figured something lacy and flowery and leafy would be perfect. The pattern here is Embossed Leaves by Mona Schmidt, again from the book Favorite Socks: 25 Timeless Designs from Interweave.


I’m been wanting to knit this pattern up for a good, long time, mostly because of the ingenious little details that take into account how the leaf pattern interacts with the structure of the sock. There is a stockinette stitch smooth heel with purled “gutters” on the sides that extend from the purled areas between the motifs on the cuff. That sentence seems like nonsense, but trust me, it’s something to be excited about.



The star toes incorporate purls into the decrease, making it look like the leaves all swirl together at the bottom. And those perfect little spirals at the end of the toes! Mona, you’re a genius.

That’s it for this installment. Stay tuned for the next…and final episode of….the Summer of Sooooooooooooocks (oooooocks oooooocks oooocks ooocks).


Summer of Socks, vol. 1 – Retro Rib & Osean

The wait is over!


I know that you were all on pins and needles, just frantically wondering what all of my super-secret sock hinting was about. You barely got any sleep, with all of that uncertainty. Your work suffered. Your personal life suffered. It really took a toll that neither of us anticipated. And for that, I am truly sorry.

Oh wait, I forgot! There’s like, maybe 2 people who read this. What a relief. I’m glad to know that thousands of lives have not been ruined over some Christmas socks.



That’s right! Christmas socks! I spent my summer, in-between working night shift and studying during the day, knitting socks for each member of my family, each one personalized to their likes and dislikes and relative foot sizes, as one would hope. They were then packaged up with hot cocoa and monogram marshmallows into a new mug, all perfect for enjoying on chilly winter nights.


And dang if they didn’t come out cute.

First up, the socks that I made for my parents, Retro Rib and Osean.  (Those are the sock pattern names, not my parents’ names, just for clarity.)


My dad is a hard person to knit for. He often loudly declares not having a need for any things at all, at any time at all. He pretends that he thinks that people waste time on hobbies, but secretly loves receiving anything handmade. He’ll insult your present by saying he has no need for it, but then tell you exactly how he’ll use it in the same sentence.


It’s a bit of a complicated relationship.


He’s a fan of green things, especially when they’re vaguely camo- or military-esque, so I figured that the Mt. Tabor colorway of Knit Picks Hawthorne would be perfect.


It’s a lovely tonal mix of greens and grays that has a sort of nice silvery-sheen to it. It’s rustic and homey without being drab.

I chose the pattern Retro Rib by Evelyn A. Clark out of the book Favorite Socks: 25 Timeless Designs from Interweave, which is a wonderful book for anyone who’s an avid sock knitter. It’s got all kinds of gorgeous patterns with a range of complexity levels, plus lots of size options for most of the socks, which is great when your brother and father have really big feet.


I did make one important pattern modification here, which I think really ties the sock together. The original pattern calls for a regular slip-stitch heel, where every other stitch is slipped on the RS rows, to make a visually-interesting and sturdy fabric on that part of the sock. It’s fairly standard and makes sense usually, but it made absolutely no sense to me here, considering that the sock has a mistake rib pattern that prominently features long columns of twisted stitches.

Instead, I only slipped the stitches that lined up with these columns, continuing that pattern (except for the purling) all the way down to the bottom. I feel like it makes for a much more elegant solution than just slapping any old heel on there. I also remember (keep in mind I made these months ago) that the directions for starting the heel flap didn’t really make the flap centered in a way that made sense to me, so just make sure that you’re keeping a eye out for that, if you’d like to knit a pair yourself. There are errata listed on Interweave’s website, so there might be a fix there already. Do yourself a favor and check, instead of just flying off half-cocked, like I always seem to do.

Anywho, my dad did just as expected when he received these. He said, “What made you think to make these? For me? What am I going to do with these?” and “Oh, these are just too big!” and “Okay, well they fit but they’re not going to fit under my shoes,” and “I guess I can wear these when it’s cold,” and “Oh look, they fit with my slippers! These will be great when it’s chilly outside.” And in a matter of hours, they were suddenly an acceptable gift.

Mission accomplished.


Making things for my mother is not nearly so much of a challenge. She loves receiving gifts, especially handmade ones, and she’s a very good gift-giver herself. I have knit more things for her than anyone else in my family, except for Dan. She knows how to receive a gift with grace and delight and takes pleasure in taking care of and displaying these objects as they are intended. She also knows that knitted items are meant to be worn, not just looked at, and she uses them faithfully. It’s real cute.


When I visited my best friend and his wife in San Rafael, CA, this summer, we stopped by a small yarn store/custom fabric dying shop called Dharma Trading Company that appears to have a lively and thriving online business of which I was unaware. I asked the person working there if they had anything local, because I enjoy buying hand-dyed local yarns when I’m travelling, and she showed me Invictus Yarns, an Etsy seller from Sacramento who does absolutely beautiful work. This particular skein is Beyond, which is a really soft and wonderful merino, nylon, and cashmere blend, in the colorway Tranquility. What better way to pamper the feet of someone who really deserves it than with cashmere?


My mother and I share a love of the color blue and a preference for anklets, so when I saw Osean by Trudy Hertaas while searching on Ravelry, I knew it would be perfect.


It has a wide lace panel in the center that mimics ocean waves, flanked by rope cables on either side. It was just enough fanciness to show off the blues and greens of the yarn without getting too crazy.



The whole thing came together so nicely, it was like the yarn and pattern were made for each other. After she opened her gift, she put them on right away and wore them for the whole rest of the night. I hope that she wears them so much that she wears a hole through all that cashmere and I’m forced to make her another pair. That would be great.

Stay tuned for two more installments of…bum bum bum…the Summer of Socks! In the middle of winter. It made more sense a few months ago, I promise.

A Study in Subtlety – Stone Molly

2014-07-21 010

About a month ago, I saw a beautiful skein of Malabrigo Rios sitting in a basket in a yarn shop in New Orleans. (The Quarter Stitch in the French Quarter. And yes, before you ask, of course you should go. It is small and colorful and packed with amazing things and friendly, helpful people.)

2014-07-17 014

It was relatively unassuming. Just pale and brownish, a bit of a pastel rainbow going on. The color name listed is Piedras, spanish for “stones.” It reminds me of smooth river stones or collections of seashells. Items that seem drab and brown from far away but reveal rainbows of color on closer inspection.

Dan was skeptical, but I saw that it was going to knit up into something special. Something that would show off that hand-dyed splendor for which Malabrigo is known and coveted. However, it’s also some pricey stuff, so only one skein went home with me.

2014-07-17 024

While it was sitting on the swift, being wound, I noticed those beautiful rainbows even more.

2014-07-17 023

I mean, look at that! It’s not screaming out to be noticed, but it’s so pretty that I can’t even stand it. What do you do with only one skein of a yarn like that?

2014-07-17 025

2014-07-21 051

If you guessed make a fabulous slouchy hat with lots o’ texture, you are right! Meet Stone Molly.

The pattern is Molly from the very talented Erin Ruth at knit me a song. I can’t pretend that the name didn’t draw me in, as this particular combination of colors plus pattern name makes me think of Molly Hooper from Sherlock. (Let’s all pretend that my post title didn’t give that away.) It doesn’t appear as though her blog is still up and running, which is a shame, because this hat is an engineering marvel.

2014-07-21 052

First off, you are working in two different stitch patterns that have two completely different row counts. The mistake ribbing (or waffle stitch, if you want to make yourself hungry while talking about your knitting) has a 3-row repeat. The cable has an 8-row repeat. Completely non-divisible and yet totally balanced. Genius.

2014-07-21 055

Secondly, the decreases in this hat are deliberately placed in order to interrupt the stitch patterns as little as possible. They only take place on knit rows so that the purl stitches in the ribbing track all the way up the crown. There are no attention-grabbing spirals or squares, just fields of purls and cable that inexplicably get smaller and dwindle towards the top. It would have never even occurred to me to do such things.

2014-07-21 053

Thirdly (and in my opinion, bestly), the cable pattern does not just unceremoniously cut off once the decreasing begins, which is something that happens often in lesser hat patterns. This cable subtly tapers down until it melts into the background, and when the hat is on, the effect is of a wide cable that evenly decreases all the way up to the top of the head. And also, just one cable element to be worn rakishly off to the side? Yes, please!

In order to make this hat with only one skein of Malabrigo Rios (which clocks in at a generous 210 yds., normally fantastic for a hat, but maybe not for one with so much texture and slouch), some modifications did have to be made, but I was sure to incorporate these as seamlessly as possible into the original pattern. I fought the good fight in trying to make the whole thing with just one skein, but I ran out of yarn with only 5 decrease rounds to go, and all that beauty was certainly not going to be sullied with the clumsy addition of another yarn for the top. I did some math, ripped things back out to the appropriate point, and soldiered on.

Now, in order to knit this as I did, you have to go and download the original pattern because it is so much genius, and you definitely want to support those designers that make these beautiful, elegant things, yes? Then take a look at my changes as follows:

The original pattern states, “Repeat Rnds (1-3) 18 times more.” Instead, I only did 15 repeats of the entire sequence, ending up with Row 2 instead of Row 3 of the cable pattern. This way, the ribbing section remains intact and only the cable crosses need to be moved around within the crown decrease section. I know this doesn’t make much sense without the pattern in front of you, but that’s why you went and downloaded it, right? Right.

Now for those decreases. Only some of the rows deviate, and this is only to offset the cable crosses so that they remain the correct proportions for the cable to decrease seamlessly into the crown. Here are the way that those rows should now read:

Row 5: P1, k12, p1, knit to end
Row 6: P1, C6F, C6B, p1, knit to end
Row 11: P1, k8, p1, knit to end
Row 12: P1, C4F, C4B, p1, knit to end
Row 15: P1, k8, p1, k2, (k2tog, k3) to last 4 sts, k2tog, k2
Row 16: P1, C4F, C4B, (p1, k1) to end
Row 19: P1, k4, (p1, k1) to end

And that’s it.

2014-07-21 023

The combination of all that texture and the subtle rainbow striping of the yarn results in a hat that looks like a rich coppery brown from afar, but reveals hidden rainbows of color close-up. Not to toot my own horn too much (but really, what else is blogging but that?) I feel like this was the perfect marriage of yarn and pattern, and I can’t wait for the fall so that I can wear it everywhere.

Dan made a scarf. And then he made it look cool.

I have no idea how long ago it was now, at least 4 years ago probably, but one day Dan decided that he wanted for me to cast on some stitches for him so that he could make a scarf. He had been attending my knitting-and-socializing-while-eating-ice-cream-and-sandwiches group every week for months without a project of his own, and since he had already been taught how to knit, and could surely be taught how to purl, then he could definitely make himself a scarf.

2014-02-01 290

On Tuesday, that scarf officially became a reality.

During this past week, New Orleans…shut down. There was snow and ice in the forecast, and we apparently have absolutely no idea how to handle such things, so we were stuck inside with just our cats, our Scrabble board, our extensive collection of ridiculous movies, and our knitting to entertain us for two whole days.

I don’t know how we survived.

2014-02-01 232

(Look at that lovely even tension! Can any of us say that our first scarves looked anything as nice as this? I certainly can’t, that’s for sure.)

2014-02-01 239

In true Dan fashion, he just took whatever random balls of yarn I had left over from a project and made them into something effortlessly cool. Remember his freehand pumpkin masterpiece? It was something like that, just spread out over several years’ time.  He doesn’t really ever have a plan, and he doesn’t really ever care. He just makes cool stuff. Those of us who have to try really hard to be cool (and fail most of the time) will always be in awe of this talent.

2014-02-01 241

He decided that it should be 1×1 ribbing.  I taught him how to purl.  He decided at some point that it should have some big color block stripes. Just on the side. For no good reason.  We made it happen.

2014-02-01 282

And it’s genius. It reminds me of racing stripes in the best way possible.

We took the scarf out today in the now mid-60 degree weather (it makes absolutely no sense to me how 62 degrees is possible two days after 20 degrees, but thinking about it too hard will make my brain hurt), and pretended that it was cold enough to wear.

2014-02-01 298

I think I’ll call this one, “Dan with Bird House.” He’s such a great model.

2014-02-01 303

No, seriously, he really is. And I can tell that he’s really pleased with his work (even though, let’s all be fair, this is about 3% Jinger since I did cast on, bind off, and block this for him, plus teach him how to knit in the first place…maybe let’s even call it 5%), even though he’d never admit it.

2014-02-01 292

He just looks super cool.

2014-02-01 317

And helps the rest of us look cool by default.

Good job, babe. I’m proud of you. Now make me one, or I’m going to steal it.