Sunday, November 15, 2009

Hail, Yarnissima

The last two posts have been about sock patterns that have failed to capture my heart, but now I want to spread some love.

Yarnissima first came to my attention in a discussion on Ravelry about Cookie A's book Sock Innovation and it's exclusive cuff-down designs. Pinneguri put forth the idea that Cookie is a designer of patterns rather than architecture, contrasting her with Yarnissima, "a sock- architect, she makes socks differently, she builds them up." I made a note to check out this Yarnissima person, and I'm very happy that I did.

The pattern is called "brainless" and it highlights two very simple and very cool features that show up in Yarnissima's designs: a cable embellishment running along the sides of the foot, and a gusset triangle which is bordered by twisted stitches and emphasized with a purl background.

Isn't that cool? What a brilliant stroke of creativity to turn the gusset section into fixture of the sock design, rather than trying to hide it.

Yarnissima's designs are available from her website, and I encourage you to check them out. There are more designs that were exclusive to sock clubs, and I hope those eventually see the light of day.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Frontiers of Sock Construction 2: Personal Footprints

I was vaguely looking forward to Cat Bordhi's latest book Personal Footprints for Insouciant Sock Knitters, but when I saw the video overview she posted on YouTube, I got obsessed. I couldn't wait for my copy to arrive from Amazon; the week the book was launched, I called every yarn shop and bookstore in town, hoping they had a copy in.

So perhaps my expectations were a little too elevated.

The Personal Footprint sock is another of those simple and genius discoveries that Bordhi has become relatively famous for: socks on 2 circs, the Moebius cast-on, and the elegant math and "No Rules" gussets of the New Pathways sock. In "Personal Footprints," Bordhi presents us with the "afterthought cuff." As I said in my last post, this is a brilliant departure from common sense -- knitting the foot of the sock as a closed tube which is then cut open to knit the ankle portion of the sock.

This innovation let's Bordhi focus on customizing the fit of the sock to the individual owner. In a nutshell here's what you do:
  • Cut out a tracing of the foot to serve as your guide. This is the eponymous "footprint."
  • Knit a toe-up sock, trying it on as you go and increasing as needed to fit the wearer's foot. Along the way, make notes on your footprint (toe/heel length, arch increases, ankle point, etc.)
  • After marking on your knitting where the leg will be, close off your tube by knitting a round heel.
  • Thread needles through your knitting at the cuff point, snip the yarn, unravel, and proceed with your cuff.
Intriguing sock construction philosophy, but I’m not a convert.

My biggest problem is that you have to keep trying on the sock -- over and over and over and over. Inevitably, this means you have to keep ripping back and adjusting, because until knitted fabric has about an inch extra to give the stitches some integrity, you can't reliably check the fit.

I prefer to plan ahead: know my gauge, know my targets for making the sock fit.

So I turned to science; I measured my foot and marked the intervals where the circumference is 3/4 inch bigger (6 sts in my gauge), planning my increases for those points. That alleviated the need to keep ripping when I would later discover that I needed to increase an inch or so back.

In the end, round toes and heels don’t fit my foot well, and I wasn't happy enough with my Discovery Sock to finish it and make more. Maybe over the holidays I'll get some members of my family drunk, put pen marks all over their feet, and try making Personal Footprints for them. But ultimately I don't see this ever becoming more than a novelty side trip in my sock knitting career.

The book is a good production. The instructions are clear, and Bordhi's videos supplement the book well. There's a nice assortment of specific sock patterns included, although only a couple of them really grabbed my attention. Personally, I would have been much happier if the book had dispensed with the patterns altogether, focused on the technique, included better notes to improve fit, and retailed for half the price. But I'm glad I have it, and I expect I'll return to the technique a couple times when looking for departure from the routine.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Frontiers of Sock Construction 1: The Hat Heel

In September, two new frontiers opened up in the sock knitting world: Hat Heel and Personal Footprints. I'm certain that, for two months, you've been dying to know what I think of them.

Naturally, I was intrigued by both. Creative construction has always fascinated me. Mom taught me to knit so I could make a ski band, but a simple, wide loop would not do -- I wanted something with character and shape, something that got wider and narrower as needed. And duh: no sewing allowed.

These two sock-making methods are right up my alley. "Hat Heel" starts with the heel and builds the sock outwards from unusual gusset constructions. "Personal Footprints" is a brilliant departure from common sense, instructing you to knit the foot of the sock as a closed tube which is then cut and opened to knit the cuff.

I've tried both, and my world is unchanged. Probably. There may be something to "Personal Footprints," but more on that later. First up: the Hat Heel.

The pattern is wicked clever, and it starts off fun: you knit a round cup-shape for the heel, then make long, wing-like triangles that will wrap around your foot and join at the top. That's where things began to go badly for me. I had trouble making a smooth join with so few stitches at the points of the triangles. But then the next step was a nightmare. Picking up stitches isn't usually a deal-breaker for me, but it’s not my favorite knitting activity, and this requires you to be pretty good at it, picking up all around both sides of the loop you've made. I made a dog’s breakfast out of it.

In the end, I won the battle but surrendered the campaign (the war goes on). No matter how skilled you might be at neatly picking up stitches, you're creating inflexible seams in your sock, right at the point that your foot needs the most flexibility. A lot of hard, messy work for a sock you're destined to hate wearing.

Tomorrow: Personal Footprints for Insouciant Sock Knitters.

PS: Click the picture to embiggen, and check out that gorgeous yarn. It's "Tesla" from Gaslight Dyeworks.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

We interrupt this hiatus with a post

So, yeah, I haven't posted anything in 3 months. I can't even say that there's been nothing to write about: in socks alone there was Sock Summit, a funky new sock-construction method on Knitty, my new-found adoration for Yarnissima, a big "Ah Ha" moment I had about my Evil Genius numbers, and a new Cat Bordhi book. I'm doing another Stopwatch Sock project to test how long it takes me to knit a pair, and I think I'm rekindling my love for the PGR short-row heel. Plus, I've knit a shawl, I'm thinking about knitting another one, and I've got a sweater project going.

I haven't written about any of this because I'm lazy. So maybe this is a sign that you'll be hearing more from me here. Or maybe it's not.