Challenge Socks #5: Get Smart Socks

Every time I look at these socks, all I can think is, "Missed it by that much!" Maxwell Smart eat your heart out. I'm considering starting a gallery of Get Smart Socks -- or even branching out with an entire Get Smart line of projects that just don't quite hit the mark.


That's right -- they don't match properly. I had the hardest time splitting this skein! Right around the half-way mark the colors were variations on pinks, purple-pinks, pink-purples, etc, and without a hard line delineating the color changes... well... I messed up. If they weren't so clearly capable of having been matched better, it wouldn't bother me so much. These, though, pretty much scream, "So close and yet so far away!"

I actually bought this yarn in late February 2007. I remember vividly because I made J stop at Acorn Street Shop on the way home from UW Medical Center, where I'd just had surgery for kidney stones. You know how sometimes you think you're doing just fine but you're really totally looped out and it's a good thing they made you bring someone else to drive you home? Well that was me that day! I'd never worked with Noro yarn before. Didn't even have any in my stash. So when I saw this skein of Noro Kureyon Sock on sale, I bought it -- despite the fact that it really didn't look or feel like anything I would enjoy knitting.

And I didn't enjoy knitting them. Not one single moment. The yarn is miserable to work with! It's rough and scratchy. I actually developed callouses on the parts of my fingers and hands that made contact! Moreover, my hands were strained and achey every time I worked on these socks. Every stitch required extra effort. Turning the needles took extra effort. They seemed interminable! I don't know how many times I called my sister to say, "I really hate this yarn."

I found the inconsistencies in grist irritating more than charming. See that bit pooking out weird just below the yellow?

It's an ugh in my book. Pooking is definitely the right word for what it's doing, too. (Sorry I didn't bother to color-correct that picture.)

The parts I liked?

I appreciated the way the colors transitioned. It was interesting to watch as I knit... even as I ground my teeth at the mis-match. I also liked the heels.

For some reason, I really enjoyed the stitch definition and the way the reinforcing thread worked in with the Noro.

I used my beloved Eye of Partridge stitch. This time I put 2 stitches of garter on either side of the heel flap.  It's a neat look.

I really like the fact that they're done, too!

It may be debatable whether my Get Smart Socks can rightfully be counted towards My So-Called Sock Challenge, though. I started them quite some time ago and had worked them up to the point where the gusset starts before I set them aside for a long hibernation. When I pulled the partially knit pair out of my sock yarn stash on February 24 and decided I'd soldier on and finish them rather than frogging them and giving away the yarn, I honestly thought they'd only been hibernating since winter 2010. However, if my notes are correct -- and I'd bet money they are -- I actually cast these on back in February 2009. Read that again: 2009 -- TWO years ago!!! I rarely leave WIPS to languish like that. I did mention that I really hated knitting these socks, right?!

February 24 I picked them back up again. I blasted through the gusset, debated working the faster short-row heel but stuck with my trusted one to ensure these miserable things at least fit, stacked a 3 x 1 rib on top, and knit until I found a stopping point that had a color on the bind-off edge that at least was close if not a match.

So half the socks were done a long time ago. But even though I hadn't frogged them, they basically moved back into my thinking as stash yarn rather than WIP. I'm not playing my sock challenge by any rules other than that I need to use stash yarn and I need to knit at least 12 pairs in a 12-month period, so I've decided to count them.

My So-Called Sock Challenge Tally (as of 2.28.11):
Total: 5 pairs in 3 months

The Details:

Pattern: Mash-Up Magic Toe-Up Socks (designed by me)
Started: February 2009
Completed: February 28, 2011
Materials: Noro Kureyon Sock yarn in a Mork's suspenders-style colorway
Needles: US 1-1/2 / 2.5 mm
Gauge: 8 st/in
Primary Stitch Count: 64

The big question now is whether I'll wear them. They haven't been on my feet yet. I'm told the Noro softens with wearing and that I'll probably end up loving them more than the rest. Wouldn't that be something?! I'm open to that possibility so will keep an open mind. I'm also curious to see how the yarn holds up to wearing since it's not plied. Time will tell!


Challenge Socks #4: Sleeping Socks For C, No. 2

When last we met the fourth installment of My So-Called Sock Challenge (a.k.a. Sleeping Socks for C, No. 2), I was second-guessing my yarn choice. As you may recall, I'd completed the toes before I realized that I was working with a thick-thin yarn that might not be sock-comfy.

On the advice of Shannon and some of my off-line knit compadres, I stopped second-guessing myself and just plain went for it. A mere four days from start to finish, my fourth challenge socks -- made to fit a child size 4 (that's 8 inches long and only an inch shorter than my own size) -- came screaming off the needles:

I had decided to call the handspun, of which I had just shy of 185 yards, Poisoned Apple as a nod to the fact that this project had seemed like it would be such a simple, quick, no-brainer but then I was zapped -- surprised by the reminder that I'd used this yarn to experiment with inconsistent grist. The other thing about this yarn is that I don't have a clue whether the wool is superwash or not. I'd purchased the roving from A New Yarn shortly before the shop went out of business, and it had come in as a donation with no label.

Of course, once I got past my hesitation of whether to continue using the Poisoned Apple handspun for sock, they really were a speedy knit. I didn't analyze yarn weight, but it's probably somewhere between Aran and worsted in the thick areas and between fingering and DK in the thin ones.

I stuck with simple stockinette and let the handspun do its thing. Ironically, the major color shift happened the same place on both socks. The yellow and dark green variations all landed in the space from the toe to the heel, and the brighter greens landed from the heel to the cuff. They're fraternal yet matched in an interesting way.

You may have noticed already that I veered from my standard sock preferences and put in a short-row heel rather than my favored turned heel with gusset.

What persuaded me to do such a thing?!

A reality check: These socks are meant for sleeping in; they're not being worn inside shoes or even on a person who will be upright much of the time they're on. Moreover, I had no intention of spending a lot of time on these socks -- especially considering that fact that if they aren't superwash, they might not have been the best choice for a sleep sock -- and short-row heels knit up more quickly than the heel-flap/gusset variety. The double-wrapped diagonal line is super thick in some places, but it did work quite nicely.

Finished off with a simple 2 x 2 rib cuff at ankle length, they now make a nightly appearance on the Girlio's feet.

Thanks to everyone who encouraged me to soldier on!

Pattern: Mash-Up Magic Toe-Up Socks (designed by Zhenya Lavy)
Materials: Poisoned Apple Thick-Thin Handspun, 183 yds, spun at my Mom's house in Ohio
Skein 1, 93 yds, spun and plied on my sister's Ashford Traditional, 1/27-28/10
Skein 2, 90 yds, spun on my sister's wheel and plied on my Spencer Parasol dropspindle, 1/29/10
Needles: US 4 / 3.5 mm
Gauge: 5 st/in
Primary Stitch Count: 36
Started: February 2, 2011
Completed: February 5, 2011


Challenge Socks #3: Fascine-ation

I can't tell you exactly why it took me so long to post these socks; I can tell you that I absolutely adore them! I completed them exactly one month ago today and call them my Fascine-ation socks. A pattern is forthcoming.

The decorative stitch on these socks is quite wonderful. From a distance, it looks like a cabled braid:

But take a closer look and you discover that there's no cabling involved whatsoever!

The diagonal lines that your eye reads as crossed stitches have been created using the simple technique of slipping stitches that then get passed over newly knit stitches. It's ingenious, quick to work, and easy to execute without those pesky errors that creep in with some stitches just because you can't quite remember -- or figure out -- what row you're on.

To be clear, I'm not the clever knitter responsible for developing the Fascine stitch. As with so many other wonderful stitches, we have Barbara Walker to thank for bringing it to our attention. I think it's an absolutely perfect stitch to try with hand-dyed yarns that don't have long color repeats. The diagonal slip/passover breaks color lines and enhances the visual interest without overpowering the dyer's work.

The Fascine stitch's comparison to cables doesn't stop at resemblance. The stitch draws the fabric of the sock in for a nice, dense, foot-hugging fit. They're so comfortable that they may just be my favorite hand-knit socks to-date!

The basic sock construction follows the MUMTU recipe.  The decorative stitch begins on the top of the foot and extends up the leg for a long, lean look. As is my usual preference, I worked a traditional, turned heel with the Eye of Partridge on the heel flap.

I used Koigu PPM in browns and couldn't be happier with the results. This particular yarn is one of Koigu's more subtle in the nuances of its colorwork, with some areas containing delicate speckling that leaves me puzzled as to the dye technique. Whenever I buy Koigu, I look for colorways with this quality -- as far as I'm concerned, there is no more wonderful dye work done today.  (My Monkey socks were knit from a similarly scrumptious Koigu.) My only disappointment with this yarn was that there were two knots in one of the skeins. I'd not experienced that with Koigu before and was surprised to find the first, let alone a second.

After a 3/4-inch rib, I finished with Jenny's Surprisingly Stretchy Bind-Off:

In this application, the bind-off created an almost ruffled edge. This is because the bind-off's expansiveness gets doubly emphasized by the Fascine stitch's denseness. I imagine the bind-off would have the same impact coming off a cable. The ruffle disappears during wearing, though, so it's not something that could work as a design element.


Pattern: Mash-Up Magic Toe-Up Socks (MUMTUS) by Zhenya Lavy
Decorative Stitch: Fascine Stitch worked over a 6-stitch repeat
Materials: Koigu PPM browns with a hint of orange
Needles: US 2 / 2.75mm
Gauge in Stockinette: 7.5 st/in
Primary Stitch Count: 60
Started: January 19, 2011
Finished: February 1, 2011