Saturday, September 9, 2017

Mosaic/Slipped Stitch Practise

I'm a big fan of slipped stitch/mosaic knitting for socks. It's a way of getting that fair-isle look without having to worry overmuch about the tension. Slipped-stitch patterns are a bit tighter (and thicker!) than regular stockinette, so you do have to watch your tension a little (I usually use one needle size larger than I'd usually use - so a 2.25mm rather than a 2.0mm), and my socks turn out well.

I'm not sure what the official definition of "slipped stitch" patterns is versus "mosaic" patterns, but my working definition is that slipped stitches are the technique, and mosaic knitting is a particular group of designs made using the technique of slipped stitches. Barbara Walker's stitch dictionaries feature pages and pages of what she terms "mosaic knitting", and I've noticed that one commonality is that these patterns feature TWO ROWS of knitting/slipping per colour. So perhaps that's how she classifies them? There are also lots of pages of what she calls "slipped stitch" designs, that don't seem to share this feature.

Anyways, what you call these patterns is neither here nor there. They work great for socks!

 When I first started exploring these stitches I made a scarf, which was great fun to do and didn't take long. I picked some fun-looking stitches from various sources. Here it is:

[mosaic scarf]

It's done in three colours (this one was from some alpaca yarn from KnitPicks, which is rather sheddy but very soft and warm) - I find that using a limited number of colours ties the design together in a pleasing fashion.  The basic idea is 8x8" sampler blocks separated by garter rows and finished with a few rows of garter edging. It's not very long (it's more suitable for manly crossover-type wear rather than a wrap-around-your-neck style), although you could easily add more sampler blocks to make it as long as you want. 

Anyways, download the pattern for the thing below, and make in time for the holidays!

Monday, July 10, 2017

All About Sheep!

I signed up to talk at a local PechaKucha event recently. It was fun!

You get 20 slides and 20 seconds per slide to talk about anything you love.

Guess what I talked about?

Monday, July 3, 2017

Blended Fiber for socks

Now that I have some experience with single-breed handspun socks, I'm starting to want to branch out into fiber blends. Since I have no ability to blend fibers myself, I'm always on the lookout for suppliers who can sell me sock-friendly blends. My first forays will be into single-breeds with either nylon or mohair for strength.

So far, I've spun up a 70/30 shetland/mohair blend (from the UK) that has become a pair of socks that I am very happy with. The spun yarn (3 ply) had a nice sheen, but no bounce. The socks were knit at tight gauge. They developed a hole at the toe (my big toenail is a veritable saw) rather quickly, and have been darned, but the rest of the sock is, so far, wearing admirably. Comparable to my Romney socks.

[Shetland/mohair socks]

I have also spun and ruined a pair of 70/30 Finn/nylon socks - these felted very quickly. So no more Finn for me.

I have, laying around, some 70/30 Southdown/nylon as well, that is still waiting to be turned into socks. Yes, yes, I will get around to you!

And, I should mention one of my earliest forays into spinning for socks, a 70/30 superwash BFL/nylon blend that became a pair of socks for my husband, which have lasted 2 years so far with no signs of wear. I'll have to do a post on these so you can have a closer look at them (compare new and 2-year old photos), because so far, these are the strongest handspun socks I've made.

But here are some purchases that I made that I now have regrets about:

[70/30 (non-superwash) BFL/nylon blend]

[70/30 BFL/mohair blend]

I purchased them via the internet based on a description alone, which, it turns out, isn't enough. 

It's hard to see (particularly difficult in the second photo), but these blends are not actually blended enough for use in socks. The fiber is meant for decorative items. When the dyer ordered their raw material (from World of Wool, I suspect), they requested only 1 blending pass, so that there are still very visible "ropes" of nylon (emerald green streaks in the upper photo) or mohair (deep yellow, shiny, wavy locks to the right of my thumb in the lower) in the tops. I am afraid that this is not going to even itself out during spinning, so that the yarn will not have an even distribution of nylon in it. While this might be nice for a shimmery shawl, I'm not convinced it's useful for hard-wearing socks...I'll have to make a shawl or something out of these two!

So, lesson learned: I need to be sure that the blending is thoroughly done, and this is something I need to ask about, if I cannot see the product!