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I love wearing socks that are knit out of handspun yarn.

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(These are a pair knit out of Pigeonroof Studio merino/nylon in “Mystere”, n-plied.)

This creates a little bit of an issue — I have to spin the yarn, and then I have to knit the socks. And, as someone who is very hard on socks (for some reason, within the last month or so I have basically walked out of multiple pairs of hand knit socks — we are not talking small holes here, these are just heels that completely gave out!), the thought of walking through a pair of handspun, hand knit socks is very tough.

Yes, of course I can be vigilant about darning my socks…. and I think I will, once I learn how. (Note to self: Research different methods of sock darning.)

I decided to see if I can make a sock yarn that would withstand my tough wear. I had some Coopworth fiber from Shepherd’s Hey Farm (Hannah), and I had some Polwarth fiber from Blue Moon Fiber Arts. What if I ply 2 singles spun out of the polwarth with 1 single of the coopworth? Would the single ply of the long wool fiber make an other wise soft yarn stronger? Would it make the overall yarn very “wooly” or would the polwarth make the yarn softer?

I spun both fibers with more twist than I would normally spin these fibers with. I also plied with pretty high twist — to balance the yarn and because I thought this would make for a harder-wearing yarn. This was a little bit tricky, because the polwarth and coopworth were spun with different amounts of twist…but the resulting yarn ended up being balanced, and I thought, looked pretty.

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The grey is the coopworth, undyed, and the blues to yellow is the BMFA polwarth. I was excited to see how this yarn would knit up. And I had just the pattern for it. Cookie A. Sock Club‘s February 2014 pattern called Possibly Maybe.

I skeined the yarn and set off on knitting the socks.

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I cranked away. I had 330 yards of this yarn, and since most of my socks were 300-320 yards… I thought that I had spun enough yarn.

However….

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Oops!

So.. the solution here? I had a few people weigh in. “NEON PINK”!!! Someone said. (I almost did it, too!) “Try to match one of the colors so it will not be so noticeable.” “It won’t show because you can keep your foot in your shoe…”

I decided, since I had a little bit of the polwarth singles left over, that I would ply that with something (unfortunately, I was out of the coopworth fiber!) to make the Toe Yarn.

Luckily, in the fall, I had spun some Wensleydale that had been dyed navy blue. the single was a little bit thicker than the ply of the Coopworth, but I thought that since Wensleydale is a long wool breed, that this would be close enough for the socks.

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The yarn felt similar, but clearly, it was a lot more blue-dominant than the original yarn.

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…But, the socks are done. The yarn, knit up, feels like wool hiking socks. I think that is what I will be using them for. Let the wearing phase of the experimentation begin! I will report back.

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Knit, of course. In fact, a knitter may actually look forward to a 14 hour stretch of time when she is trapped in one place while hurtling through the air at 1,000,000mph in what appears to be a large tin can.

I travel a lot. I have almost, since my teen years, never flown without knitting. Except for a few occasions (once in Mexico and once in Korea), my knitting has made it on board without issue at the security gate (this in more recent times, TSA has relaxed now though, making things a bit easier for domestic travel).

Preplanning your travel knitting is quite crucial. One has to be extremely realistic about the amount of true knitting time that she may have, but she may risk a psychological meltdown should she run out of knitting during a long flight (where, as I mentioned before, you are strapped into a chair inside a tin can far above the earth’s surface).

My strategy in thinking about knitting on-flight is two fold — bring one project that “needs” to get done, and bring one project you “want” to work on.

The “need to get done” category could be the never-ending-stockinette/garter portion of a larger project; a project with a deadline; or something that needs the last 10% push to get through the “boring” part. My “need” category for this trip, of course, consists of socks. It’s actually perfect for travel since socks are pretty compact. And, I finished a sock on this flight — the Solfar sock in Plucky Primo Fingering. To be fair, I was already up to the heel turning (my favorite part of a sock) on this sock before the flight. (Please excuse the photo quality – at least hotel sheets are white for a good background!)

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The “want to get done” category for me generally includes a new project that I may want to work on. A word of warning here. READ THE PATTERN first. Otherwise, you may get all excited to cast on only to realize that you don’t have the waste yarn on hand, or the right stitch markers, etc. My way of combating this mistake (and I have made this mistake before) is to cast on for the project before the flight. I finished most of a mitten on this flight as well, the Octopus Mitten in Cephalopod Traveller.

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I have 2 more inter-continental trips (which are always longer flights than you think), and of course, I have to return home (with the jet stream so this is a shorter flight at ~11 hours). I have big aspirations for how much knitting I am going to get done on this trip, along with my jam packed schedule of work (yes, this is a business trip).

Perhaps a bit of a travelogue if I have time, although this is a really really short and jam packed trip.

…Because December is all about socks. As you all know, I’m not much of a sock knitter.

Unless there is a goal. And, I have to finish 3 more pairs of socks by the end of the year to successfully complete my 12/12/12 in 12, also known as the Crazypants Plan.

Irisberry socksMy latest pair is Cookie A’s Cubist Socks. It’s knit out of Iridaceae Colorworks Cypella — 80% BFL/20% nylon yarn with high twist that I really loved knitting. (Loved so much that as soon as I finished these socks, I ordered 3 more skeins in various colors from Ali’s shop). These were destined to be gifts from the get go, hence the colorway that I used is Irisberry, which variegates from periwinkle to purple. Very pretty, for a big purple lover. These socks will be packed up in my friend’s bag so she can take them to her Mom in Shanghai.

I’m sprinkling my knitting all over the globe!

And, I’ve 4 more pairs on the needles:

sock design1. I have resurrected what I’m calling My Innovation Socks. I took a sock design class from Cookie A at Vogue Knitting Live in January. I have 1/4 of a pair done, and I have pulled this out from the depths of my cabinets. It’s a sock full of twisted stitches (because I was way too ambitious in my foray into sock design), but at least it is being knit out of Wollmeise 100% in Himbeere, which is a fuscia!

IMG_85032. For the friend who is going to take the Cubist Socks to its rightful owner, my go-to sock in sport weight, which is Adrienne Ku’s Simple Skyp Socks. These are being knit in Sanguine Gryphon Bugga in Golden Orb Weaver. They are relatively quick…knit on US/2.0 needles, and simple yet not boring. After my standard of 64-72 stitches cast on for regular sock weight yarn, casting on 56 seems so few! (I should have really researched worsted weight socks!!!)  How can I send a pair of socks off to China without putting some socks on the carrier, right? These should be nice and squishy as the yarn is 80/20/10 merino/cashmere/nylon blend.

IMG_85053. Sarsaparilla Socks by Cookie A (October Sock Club exclusive pattern). These are going to be for Dad — and are actually the first club pattern I’ve cast on with the club yarn. The yarn is an exclusive, Super Duper Sock Club Yarn milled by Green Mountain Spinnery in the color…Sarsparilla. I believe the base is the same as Green Mountain Spinnery’s Forest yarn (70% fine wool and 30% Tencel). I’ve JUST cast this one on, and using US1.5 instead of my usual 1.0. This yarn feels scratchy in the skein and a bit rough as I am knitting it, but the knitted fabric is surprisingly soft. I’m thinking that blocking will further soften the final product.

solfar4. Solfar Socks by Cookie A (June Club pattern) in The Plucky Knitter Primo Fingering in a really pretty blue called Vintage Icebox. Another pair out of the club yarn. I really like this base so the knitting is going relatively quickly here.

If I knit #3 and #4, then I am also all caught up on the Cookie A Sock Club patterns for the year. Which enables me to rationalize how I should (and I already have) sign up for this Club again in 2013. Which you should, by the way. The patterns (you get 2 every other month) are worth it all on their own — because honestly, Cookie A has singlehandedly made me like knitting that second sock — but you get 2 cookie recipes every other month as well, and the yarn she has sent with the club has been very nice. (If you think about it, with all the intricate patterning in the socks, you will never get clown barf in this club).

The December shipment is here as well, and depending on how the above socks on the needles go…maybe I can cast those on before the end of the year, as well.

Can I finish?

I love hand knitted socks. To me, there’s nothing more decadent and wonderful as hand knitted socks. Lucy thinks so too 🙂 (Not really, but if I write that, I can insert a gratuitous Lucy photo. She actually is modeling a pair of baby socks for me.)

So you would think that I would have drawers upon drawers of hand knitted socks. But I don’t. Because I have been secretly (well….I’ve been out of the closet about this for a while, actually) suffering from an affliction that is common among knitters.

Second Sock Syndrome. That second sock is a total anathema to me.

I have been in search of a cure for a while. I’ve tried everything — knitting with fabulous yarns. Knitting patterns that are interesting. Knitting two socks at once. Toe up. Cuff down. Nothing has worked so far.

But here’s the newsflash. I finally have a cure, and it has allowed me to finish three pairs of socks in three months.

I can crank out a shawl in a few days. A sweater in a couple of weeks. But averaging a pair of socks a month? Total victory. I read some threads in Ravelry about how people completed the latest Cookie A. Sock Club installment in a couple of days. I can’t even imagine it! To me, they are superhuman.

Should I divulge my secret? How did I do it, you ask? Do you have sad, mismatched socks lurking in your drawers?

Here’s is the answer!

(1) Plan 3 pairs of socks. (Let’s call them socks A, B and C, with sock #1 and sock #2 of each kind.) I would suggest an easy pair (for me that means sport weight on #2 needles), a medium pair (sock yarn, #1 needles, moderate patterning) and a hard pair (something fiddly but gorgeous, like traveling twisted stitches).

(2) Cast on A1, B1, C1. For me, this means knit enough of the sock so you get a feel for how the knitting will go — so probably the ribbing plus a bit of the leg pattern. Yes, this requires you to have 3 sets of needles….but you probably have them in your needle stash, or were secretly coveting Signature DPNs in #1s anyway.

(3) Finish A1, cast on A2. Try on A1, photograph, put it up on your Ravelry project page and move the progress bar to 50%!!!

(4) Repeat (3) for socks B and C.

At this point, you’ve knit 3 socks, none of them matching, and you’re psyched. And it’s been long enough from when you’ve knit sock A that it takes you a pattern repeat to actually remember the pattern.

(5) Finish A2. This will feel like it is flying, until you are 80% done with this sock. Then, you will have to rely on the sheer power of the last 2 inches of the sock (the toe — decrease-city) to power you to the end.

Flaunt the fact that you have a pair of socks completed.

(6) Repeat (5) for socks B and C.

There you have it. From left to right, Simple Skyp Socks by Adrienne Ku (free pattern!) in Sanguine Gryphon Bugga (sport weight!), Turbulence Socks by Cookie A. in Socktopus Sokkusu-O, and Wayward in Hedgehog Fibres Sock.

(It goes without saying that using fantastic yarn helps too!)