Warm toes, wriggling hedgehogs and the awesomeness of Anne…..

WYS socks on Brittany dpns

In case you think you’re dreaming and are starting to rub your eyes…..no you’re not still half asleep…. I’m actually knitting socks……I need Bernard to give me a fragrant trumpety trump introduction……toot toot…….I can’t quite believe it myself, especially as I’ve got a little basket with four socks on the go at the moment……I’ve had very half hearted attempts at trying to use double pointed needles before, and they’ve all ended in tears and knitting that looks like something the cat has dragged in, but that hasn’t stopped me dreaming, being all wistful and sighing “if only” or “I wish”…….

I’ve mentioned my marvellous friend Anne on here many times before, she’s been knitting since she was knee high and is also a very skilled dressmaker and needlewoman (she’s currently making someone a wedding dress, not a frou frou meringue but something very beautiful, elegant  and that can be worn again for posh do’s….), over the years I’ve known her she’s kindly and patiently given me knitting lessons, only to have me completely forget everything she’d shown me within minutes of her leaving….when I told her about the shawl and showed her what I’d been doing she laughed and couldn’t believe it (I think she’d thought like me that  I was only ever going to be a knitter of dish cloths)….

WYS socks on Hiya hiya dpns

Anyway knitting the shawl (sorry to keep on about it) really helped me understand how a stitch is constructed, and how I go about fixing my knitty mistakes whether it’s picking up a slipped stitch or correcting yarn overs and such like…..and the last time I saw Anne before Christmas I’d said that this year I’d really like to learn how to knit socks (and where pre-shawl this would have been as daft sounding as wanting to learn how to fly…it now seemed something achievable)…due to various coughs and colds  I didn’t get to swop presents with Anne until a couple of weeks ago and along with a pair of her knitted socks (she knits me these for birthdays and Christmas so my toes are kept very happy and warm) she’d put together a sock knitting kit….a set of Brittany needles, a little sock pattern and a ball of self striping yarn……so as soon as we’d had lunch and a pot of tea was made, I got my first sock knitting lesson…….

I love Brittany needles, the wood feels lovely and warm in my hands, they help me feel such a conection to my  knitting, and while the tiny dpns do look a bit like I’m knitting with cocktail sticks they worked their magic, and within stitches it felt a lot less like I was holding a wriggling hedgehog and my fingers were knitting…..somewhat too tightly at first and I had to keep thinking flopsy drunk fingers to loosen up my stitches,…..also Anne is an excellent teacher, she’s very patient and shared with me some of her own little tips to make for nicer looking socks…..

A few years ago I did a PTLLS course and realised that I find reading handouts and someone else’s instructions very hard, if I’m just told something without being allowed the time to jot it down then it goes in one ear and right out the other…when I’ve had to learn how to do computery things I always need to write down my own little notes, often with pictures of my fingers pressing buttons.  It seems like a pfaff but it’s how I’m able to learn, in the past I’ve been made to feel that I “fared so sorft” if I didn’t just immediately get it or understand what I was being taught……

And I’m finding knitting the same…as long as I can write out an instruction or pattern line, draw out where my needles need to be, the direction of my knitting etc then I’m quite happy……and because Anne is such a love she’d knit a bit, explain what she was doing, un-ravel, pause while I wrote out what to do, sometimes with a little scribbly thumbnail and then she’d knit again…..

Jamiesons of Shetland socks

I’ve had 3 lessons so far and I’m really enjoying seeing the socks grow… I’ve also bought a couple of other double pointed needles (dpns) by different brnads to see how they compare and which suits me best…..

The Brittany ones are lovely, but they are quite delicate (and I’ve already snapped a couple, but their replacement service is really good)…I’ve got some in bigger sizes and don’t think they’ll be breaking in a hurry.  They feel really lovely to use and the wood means my stitches don’t go flying off the ends.

The super shiny needles are Hiya Hiya (bought from Ginger Twist Studio in Edinburgh along with Clare Devines Sock Anatomy book)…..they are so sleek and slippery, my stitches really glide along with no trouble, and I’m fast losing my heart to them.  I was a bit worried that they’d be too cold as I suffer from Raynauds but the metal doesn’t feel chilly in the slightest.

Finally I’m trying out some Karbonz by Knit Pro (bought from the excellent Meadow Yarn, their customer service is top rate and they have a wonderful choice of everything a knitter could wish for)….the metal tips mean they slip through a stitch like a knife through butter and then the karbon stem holds the stitch, they’re lovely and smooth but I am finding a slight catch where the tips join the stem….this may be because I’m so tight in making my stitches…..

close up of the stocking stitch Jamisons socks

The yarn in the first two pictures is by West Yorkshire Spinners, it’s their sock yarn and is self striping, this colourway is called Goldfinch.  Isla at Brit Yarn has a lovely selection of their sock wool and is incredibly helpful and has answered all my knitting enquiries.

I’d got to where I needed to be for my next lesson a bit ahead of myself, and then had restless fingers and wanted to practise, so had a bit of a root around in my wool and found a couple of balls of Jamieson’s of Shetland Shetland Spindrift….I’ve used the same amount of cast on stitches as for the WYS sock yarn but I’ve made the height of the sock a bit shorter….the wool knits up a dream and I’ve been wriggling my fingers through the ribbed end pretending it’s a cardigan cuff…..(the colourway is Damson and it’s all full of tiny flecks of other colours).

back view of sock in Lavenham Blue wool

My last sock is using a wool I’d half forgotten I had…..my friend Debbie (who modelled my dottie angel frocks in the Summer and kindly took photos of me and my shawl last Saturday) bought me this a few years ago from Cafe Knit in Lavenham in Suffolk….I really do have lovely friends as Debbie herself is vegan but knew I’d like this wool.  It’s called Lavenham Blue and it’s spun from a local flock of Leicester Longwool and is dyed using woad grown in East Anglia….perfect for channeling your inner Boudica as you knit.  It’s 3 plys spun together and I’m pretty sure it’s a dk weight wool (I’ve lost the information tag that came on the skeins.)

Originally I’d used some of it for a pair of wrist warmers but I’d knitted them up a bit too loose and the wool was sommewhat ticklesome and scratchy so they weren’t being worn as much as they deserved, so I un-ravelled them, spit spliced the wool together where necessary and then started knitting these socks up on 3.25 mm needles……I’ve probably made this one a bit big but for now I’m just trying to practise the basic construction of a sock…..

detail of Lavenham Blue sock heel

I do like the heel construciton though, Anne said she prefers this way which gives for a stronger heel (it won’t wear out so quickly) and it almost looks like it’s ribbed…..the back of the stitch is purled, then the front is slip 1 stitch, knit 1, then slip 1 all the way across.

The colour of the woad wool is really pretty, and reminds me of a jam jar of water that you clean your brush in if you’ve painting with blue….all watery and mottled.

view of inner heel on the Lavenham Blue socks

The wool that is used to knit the stitch forms tiny loops across the back of where the preceeding stitch has been slipped so it’s nice and easy to count your rows and see how many of them you’ve knitted….I’ve knitted less rows than for the socks using the sock weight wool, and then I’ve shaped the heel at the bottom….I just need to recaluclate now how to do the de-creases at the side as I’ll have less stitches to work with (you have to pick up the slipped stitches at the ends of the heels once the heel has been knitted) as I knit the foot section of my sock.

Anyway I’m really pleased with my socking progress and would like to say a huge thank you to Anne for all her patience and kindness….I can’t wait to get these on my feet and am looking forwar to the day when I get to knit a pair of socks for her.

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10 thoughts on “Warm toes, wriggling hedgehogs and the awesomeness of Anne…..

  1. Ah congratulations! I love it when someone gets so excited to knit something. I started knitting socks on wooden needles, but now swear by Hiya Hiya. I’m trudging along making a pair on a long circular, two at a time, which is great for keeping track of decreases and rows, but I am finding it slower than dpns. Good luck – it sounds as though you have a great teacher.

    1. Hi Liz, you’ve just made my brain explode with the thought of knitting two socks at once….I haven’t tried them on a circular needle but it’s on the agenda to learn. I just want to have a go at everything.
      And yes you’re right, Anne is an gold star teacher x

  2. You’ve caught the bug! I’m on my third pair of socks now, on two short circular as I haven’t mastered two at a time yet, but I’m already thinking about buying more needles so I can cast on more! I’m already ahead of my skill level, wanting to knit lace socks and fairisle ones. I am so slow though, a pair of socks will take me a month 😦

    1. I bought the Sock Anatomy book by Clare Devines and that has a lovley selection of different socks in it, and she looks at the different construction so you learn toe up/heel down and different heels so there is plenty in it to keep you on your toes x
      There is a dvd by Hazel Tindall where she shows you how to knit stranded/fairisle knitting which I’m currently saving up for and which got a brilliant review on the Knit British site….you can buy it as a download or an actual dvd….her website and blog are both wonderful reads.

  3. Big FANFARE!! You are really steaming ahead with your knitting! I am now waiting to see if you get addicted to sock knitting like so many people seem to have 🙂 I can’t say I’m addicted…yet! To be honest I think I love trying new things too much. I am enjoying having another pair on the needles though to just pick up now and again and work a few rows. My next sock challenge will be to crochet some socks but this time in sock yarn rather than chunky 🙂 Your friend Anne sounds amazing, it’s great having friends you can share your interests with, especially if they have the patience to teach well too 😉 Have a great week x

    1. Hi Sharon. I’m really enjoying knittng them, and am amazed at the different ways they can be constructed, so there is plenty to feed my addiction…..I’m currently trying to do the maths in making a pair for my boyfriends birthday. I’m amazed how many people will chat to me on the bus and tell me about their mums or grandma’s knitting socks…our great aunt (who gave me “dorothy” the beautiful hand cranking sewing machine) knitted so many socks as a child for soliders during the first World War she got a certificate and a thank you letter. (she wasn’t a blood relative so it’s not in the genes)
      Yes, Anne is amazing, she’s the best fun and is such a good teacher, she doesn’t get me at all flumoxed and explains what I need to do really well xx

      1. I’ve not seen that book but will see if my local library can get it in. I bought Clare Devine’s book from Ginger Twist Studio in Edinburgh, I think I heard it mentioned on the Knit British pod cast and it’s very good….it also really helps I have Anne popping round for weekly “this is what we do next” stages in my socks….just waiting to knit toes for the stripey ones, and then they’ll be on my feet.

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