Boring Can Be Beautiful – Plain Vanilla Taiyo Socks

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When Dan and I visited his family in New Hampshire around Christmastime, we made it a point to visit a wonderful little yarn shop in Littleton called the Yarn Garden where I picked up a skein of Noro Taiyo, not really having any other specific plans except “special socks just for meeeeee,” which is usually the plan every time I touch sock yarn of any kind.

For those of you that do not know the way of Noro yarns, you need to get yourself to an LYS (Local Yarn Shop, for the unfortunate non-knitters. We have a lot of acronyms in the knitter world.) and investigate this wonderful stuff. Noro is a Japanese yarn company, known for wildly inventive and unpredictable colorways, a thick-and-thin-slightly-splitty-and-charmingly-containing-vegetable-matter type of spinning style, unique fiber combinations, and a slightly elevated price tag. Things made with Noro yarns are often the most beautiful handknit objects in the world, and the projects that showcase the various ways that different knitters choose to highlight Noro’s beautiful color changes tend to become personal points of pride.


Case in point, my Noro Kureyon scarf, hat, and gloves set, affectionately referred to as Phase Shift. I made these six years ago, and they are still my favorite things to wear in wintertime. Putting on your Noro hat and scarf is like sending out a beacon to other knitters because you can be sure that they will recognize Noro’s stripey glory and give you, at the very least, a knowing nod of approval. It’s like that way that people who own Jeeps always honk and wave at each other. Except sometimes we tend to stick a hand out and and grab each other’s handknit scarves and hats and sweaters and flip them inside-out. That’s when you really know you’ve found a kindred knitting spirit.

Back to these socks.

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I hemmed and hawed about what to do with this investment of a yarn for a long while, pouring over my sock books (yes, you have to have more than one), trying to think of what to do that would do justice to this crazy colorway.

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I mean, look at that turquoise! Out of nowhere. So bright against the grayed out teals and blues and buttercream.

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Stitch patterns were considered, swatches were made…even half of a sock in a beautiful Cookie A. pattern was knitted, but things were just not working out. The thick-and-thin nature of the yarn did not play well with fancy stitches, and the abrupt color changes obscured any type of vertical elements. So what to do?

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It became evident fairly quickly that plain and simple would be better, and I pulled out my dog-eared copy of Knitting Rules! by the Yarn Harlot herself, Stephanie Pearl-McPhee. Her pattern for A Good, Plain Sock is definitely something that every knitter out there needs to have in their arsenal. I’ve used it many, many times before (my Southwest Anklets and Stripey Anklets, just for reference), and what’s fantastic about the pattern, or recipe, which she calls it, is that it can be custom-tailored to a person’s foot or to an unusual yarn with relative ease.

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As a person with short, wide feet and very high arches, I really appreciate this style of pattern-writing. Once you’ve gotten your numbers down for your particular weirdly-shaped foot, custom making socks that fit perfectly is a simple affair.

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It turns that that super simple and boring 2×2 ribbing and plain stockinette is the best thing to show off all of the weird beauty of this yarn.

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The weird slubs and bits of cotton and silk, the sudden shifts of thick and thin, the random stripe sizes and color changes…the boring suddenly becomes beautiful. And, I’m happy to report, that even though this yarn is only 17% wool, it splices like a champ, which is a must when you’re dealing with self-striping yarns.

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The cats got themselves involved with the photoshoot, as well. It probably didn’t help that Dan was cutting the grass and making all sorts of sounds outside that needed to be investigated.

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And then Trip needed to see if he could walk on top of the mirror, just for fun.

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This cat is a menace. He won’t stop until he makes it to the top of the ceiling fan. And then the roof.

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After the frustration of the pattern deliberations and the mis-start, I am so happy that these came out so lovely. I even have quite a bit of yarn left over, and I’m debating what to do with the leftovers. Perhaps some sort of cowl-type thing? Or something paired with a solid to emphasize all that striping even more?

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I’m afraid that if I go on Ravelry to further investigate what people have done with their Noro sock yarn leftovers, I might walk away from the Internet with several more skeins of it on the way to my house. It’s probably best to wait and enjoy these beauties by themselves for the time being.