Yarnwise, issue 57 – Leominster Socks

This weekend has been one of the most exciting in my short career as a knitting designer. Why? Because the latest issue of Yarnwise is out and I have a pattern in it!

Yarnwise, issue 57 - Leominster Socks

Back in November, I saw a post on Ravelry by the editor of  Yarnwise looking for last minute submissions for their Winter/Spring issues. I usually ignore submission calls because the deadlines rarely work well with my day-job and studying and, well, the rest of my life. However, I realised that for this one I had a pattern already mostly designed that fitted one of the themes really well and I had a few days booked off work that I’d be able to spend tweaking the design and actually writing the pattern. So, I knitted up a swatch/sample, put a submission together, sent it in and the rest is history.

Here are the sample socks before they were posted off to have their “proper” photographs taken:

Leominster Socks

I’ll do a full “Story of a design” post at some point but for now I’m too busy grinning at seeing my pattern in print!

Book review: Sock Innovation

Sock Innovation by Cookie A. manages the difficult task of trying to be two things at once and succeeding brilliantly at both.

Sock Innovation

Not only is it a great collection of sock patterns but it’s also an amazing resource for anyone with an interest in designing their own socks. It straightforwardly walks you through many of the issues that need to be considered: how to convert flat stitch patterns for knitting in the round; how to work out where to place the patterns so that they flow nicely into heels or toes; how to invert cable and lace patterns so that they can be knitted in the other direction. There are also descriptions of how to work some of the most common types of heels and toes.

The most important resource in this book for anyone wanting to design their own socks is a table of stitch counts for flap heel and turn variations. Heel flap patterns traditionally say something like:

Row 1: Sl1, kX, ssk, k1, turn work.

Row 2: Sl1, pY, p2tog, p1, turn.

Row 3: …

Row 4: …

Repeat rows 3 and 4 until Z stitches remain.

Until I started designing my Irish Stout Socks, I had never given any thought as to how someone would determine the number for X, Y and Z. For those socks, I figured it out by trial and error but going through that for every sock design would be extremely frustrating and time-consuming. Sock Innovation contains a comprehensive table for values of X, Y and Z based on the total number of stitches in your sock so I never have to do my own calculations again!

Sock innovation

The second half of the book is a collection of 15 patterns that demonstrate the techniques from the first half. There are patterns with multiple stitch patterns that transition into each other; socks with mirrored patterning; socks with non-standard gusset decreases. One of my favourites is Rick, shown below, which has a diagonal twisted rib pattern.

Sock innovation

So, whether you want to design your own socks or just knit fantastic socks with interesting construction, you’ll find something of value in this book.

Story of a design – Southwark Spire Socks

When we lived in London, my train journeys regularly took me past Southwark Cathedral. It’s an impressive building from all angles but I was always fascinated by two of the spires which are leaded with a beautiful geometric pattern.

Southwark Cathedral

Southwark Cathedral

A bit of trial and error got me a twisted stitch pattern:

and quite a lot more trial and error got me a sock pattern that incorporated it:

Southwark socks

Southwark Spire Socks are now available from Yellow Ginger Designs and Ravelry.

Winter of socks – part I

I hadn’t fully appreciated just how much colder Scotland is than London before we moved back, despite having lived here for most of my life. It doesn’t help that the flat we’re renting (while absolutely beautiful) has really high ceilings and single glazing throughout. It does also have a great heating system but sometimes even that is just not enough. However, woolly socks to the rescue! It’s amazing how much warmer everything feels with a pair of woolly socks on, which means that there’s only one solution – I need to knit Steven and me a lot more socks.

I did get a head-start with this pair that I knitted last autumn but for some reason stopped just a few rows from the end of the second toe. Five minutes knitting and some kitchener stitch this morning and I have a new pair of socks:

Winter Lace Socks

The pattern is a free pattern: Winter Lace Socks and the yarn is Cygnet Truly Wool Rich 4 ply. The lace pattern is very simple to follow and makes a very nice sock. I had hoped to get a pair out of a single ball of yarn but ended up having to start a second for the toe of the second sock.

And now they’re keeping my feet toasty warm while I blog – expect to see more socks soon!

Glasgow School of Yarn 2012

I had a wonderful day at the Glasgow School of Yarn the weekend before last. For the second year running, it took place in the beautiful Queen’s Cross Church, designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh. It’s not the ideal venue for a knitting event but well worth a visit on its own merits.

Queen's Cross Church, Glasgow

I couldn’t make it along on the Friday but signed up to take Woolly Wormhead‘s hat design class on the Saturday. She brought a huge selection of hats for everyone to try on to judge what style would suit them best and then we got stuck right in to measuring each other’s heads, calculating gauge and working through the maths for our hats. Much frantic knitting then ensued (particularly from me since I had not read the joining instructions carefully enough and brought lighter yarn than was really sensible) as we raced to get as far through our hats as possible. It was a great class and I learned a lot about hats and hat design that will no doubt show up in future patterns. I don’t have a picture of my own hat (which is just about finished) but here are some of the selection of her own designs that Woolly brought with her.

Hat Design Workshop

Because I was in an all day class there wasn’t a lot of time for shopping but I did manage to find a couple of beautiful things in the marketplace at lunchtime. I bought this pretty little project bag from AndSewtoKnit

Knitting project bag

which is just the right size …

Knitting project bag

… for a new shawl project using the yarn that I bought from Old Maiden Aunt.

Oren Shawl

The pattern is my Oren Shawl pattern and this one is going to be for wearing under my coat.

Speaking of patterns, I also got to see my Kentigern Shawl, which was my design competition entry, on display:

Kentigern Shawl

I’m making some final tweaks to the pattern before it goes for editing but it should be available in the next couple of weeks.

Down to the wire

The amazing thing about this post is that I wrote it on the train on my way to work. Not because it is amazing that the technology exists to allow me to blog from the train (which is also amazing) but because it means that I wasn’t frantically knitting my shawl, which is what I’ve spent every other train journey recently doing. For various reason, I had even less time to knit the shawl than I expected to have and it was beginning to look like it might not get finished.

Actually, since the pattern was due first, I had to finish writing that without having finished knitting the shawl so the shawl is artfully draped in the pattern photographs to try to disguise the fact that half of its border is missing! The pattern was finished and submitted on Tuesday (also on the train to work) and from then till I handed the sample in yesterday just about every waking minute that I wasn’t been at work was spent knitting.

In the end, the timetable for finishing it went something like this:


18:10 – catch train home from work, knit whole way home

19:00 – arrive home from work, start knitting again

20:00 – stop knitting long enough to eat pizza which had just been delivered

21:00 – contemplate possibility that it’s actually impossible to finish knitting shawl tonight, keep knitting anyway

22:00 – decide that it is possible but that it’s going to be midnight before it’s done

23:00 – Steven goes to bed

00:15 – knit last stitch of edging, decide to leave grafting of edging till morning

01:00 – go to bed having pinned shawl out to block

Various times during the night – wake up from a nightmare that I accidentally brought the shawl to bed and it’s started unravelling, double-check to make sure that shawl isn’t actually in bed unravelling


06:30 – curse the person who invented alarm clocks

06:50 – get up, make coffee, get dressed and ready for work

07:10 – force Steven to admire shawl before letting him leave for work

07:25 – realise shawl is still damp, get hair-dryer and dry shawl

07:45 – graft ends of edging and weave in remaining ends

07:55 – take some very quick, very blurry pictures of shawl which will almost certainly turn out to be completely useless for anything

08:03 – realise that I should have left for work 3 minutes ago, put shawl in bag and run for train

8:16 – actually catch train

12:00 – pop out of office during lunch to travel across city to deliver shawl

13:00 – shawl delivered, normal service resumes

Now that the dust has settled and I’ve had a good night’s sleep, I am looking forward to the shawl’s unveiling at this weekend’s Glasgow School of Yarn where it is my entry in their design competition.  I can’t make it along during the day today but I will be there tonight for the party to celebrate The Yarn Cake‘s second birthday and the results of the competition.

And on the way home on the train I’ll be frantically knitting the gauge swatch that is my pre-class homework for the hat design workshop that I’m attending at the Glasgow School of Yarn tomorrow!

I mis-counted.

It is not 152,000 stitches … it is more like 164,000.

Shawl - in progress

I’m working on a new circular shawl design and forgot to count the stitches in the border (mostly because I haven’t decided what they’re going to be yet).

According to my revised calculations, the bit shown in the picture is just over 2% of the total shawl. It would have been nearer 4% but I had to rip out quite a bit last night due to a silly charting error and ignoring the little voice in my head telling me that the lace didn’t look right.

Did I mention that I’m working to a deadline and that I’m moving house between now and when this is due? You’ll have to excuse me, I need to go knit the other 98% of my shawl.

Playing tourist, part II (with knitting and sewing content)

We’ve been doing sort of the reverse of our Cutty Sark tourism this weekend. We’ve been up in Scotland, exploring the area that we are moving to. We are going to be living near Stirling, which is a beautiful, old Scottish city that mostly looks like the picture below:


I spotted both a yarn shop and a fabric shop in Stirling but they were closed when we were there on Sunday so I didn’t get to look around. However, I did find a whole selection of cheap knitting and sewing books in one of the discount bookshops in the city centre. I managed to restrain myself and only bought two.

First was Fitted Knits by Stephanie Japel. I bought this mainly for inspiration and the section with hints and tips on customising patterns since few of the patterns would actually suit me, particularly in the heavier yarns that most of the patterns call for. It’s a beautiful book though and easily worth the £3.99 that I paid just for the photography!

Fitted knits

I’m hoping to get more use out of the second book which was Sew U Home Stretch by Wendy Mullin. I’ve heard really good things about the Sew U books and I’ve been wanting to have a go at sewing knit fabrics for a while since I’d love to be able to sew my t-shirts and tops for work. The patterns included with the book don’t go big enough for my bust size but there is plenty of discussion about how to apply the principles in the book to ordinary commercial patterns. There is even a section on making your own patterns from existing items that you love.


If we weren’t moving I would love to have taken the class on sewing knits that The Make Lounge are introducing but the first class isn’t until October so I’ll just have to make do with the book and the internet for now. I’ll let you know how it goes!

Playing tourist (with bonus knitting content)

My sister and her boyfriend came to visit last weekend since they had tickets for the event that shall not be named and we took the opportunity to play tourist with a visit to Greenwich Market and the newly refurbished Cutty Sark.

Cutty Sark

The restoration of the ship has been going on pretty much since we moved to Blackheath and only finished in April of this year so it was great to actually go and have a look around before we move away.

Cutty Sark

The ship is beautiful and there is a wealth of information and interactive exhibits on its history. It’s well worth a visit if you’re at all interested in sailing ships.

Imagine my surprise however when I opened a drawer in one of the exhibits to discover this:

Cutty Sark

Apparently, although she is famous for being a tea clipper, one of other cargoes that Cutty Sark carried was merino wool from Australia.

Cutty Sark

I didn’t spot any yarn for sale in the gift shop though!