Tuesday, January 25, 2022


 I don't wear knee highs, usually, but I recently got a book about the twisted-stitch knitting of Austria and have been drooling over the stockings! So, in time for Christmas, I've knit up a pair of red wool stockings for myself...and here are my learnings from this fairly epic project.

[twisted stitch stockings]

Twisted stitch knitting is basically tiny cables, with all knit stitches knit through the back loop. It's meant to be done at a tight gauge and is therefore tough on the hands and time-consuming. The results are pretty spectacular, though!

The wool I used (Garnstudio DROPS Fabel) is on the thicker, woolier side for this type of knitting. I wouldn't really recommend it but it was what I had in my stash (you need at least 150-175g for a pair of stockings like this, best to have 200g on hand). I would actually recommend a yarn more like Lang's Jawoll Superwash, Regia 4-ply, or similar; these brands have no halo. I used red, but don't go darker or you won't see the patterning very well. Light grey, white, beige, etc are best. Stay away from black, brown, blues, or greens. And of course, do not use anything that's patterned; I think even marled or "kettle dyed" yarns not be good choices.

Use thin needles. The stitch counts on these socks are very high. I used 2mm needles and the boy's stocking pattern and settled on 80 sts circumference for the socks (normally with this yarn I would use 64 sts). The patterns in the book have even higher stitch counts, so I would need thinner yarn and smaller needles! Be prepared to adjust your design...luckily the book has tons of patterns to choose from!

I knit toe-up and 2AAT. This allows me to adjust the pattern/sizing "on the fly" and ensures I wind up with 2 identical socks. I started with my usual 64-stitch toe and when starting the pattern on the top of the foot I increased from 32 sts to 40 on the front (leaving 32 on the sole) and followed the patterns for the boy's stocking in the book. 

I recommend using a heel design with a generous gusset, so not a short-row or fore/afterthought heel. I used the fleegle heel, but more traditional flap would also work. The gusset prevents any distortion of the patterns over your instep, and with all those cables the socks are going to be a lot less stretchy. In fact, if you are picking your own stitch patterns, try to use some non-cable patterns (like fagotting, or a simple K1 P1 K1 band) as a separator. This is what the book's patterns show. These will add a little stretch. 

When done the heel, I had to adjust the pattern; I ended up using 80 stitches in circumference, which is more than the boy's stockings detailed in the book call for. I just substituted a slightly wider pattern for one of the designs to get the count I wanted. Then it was a straight shot to the calf gusset!

I have very, very large calves from years of cycling. So I knew the boy's calf gusset was not going to work for me: I picked one of the men's patterns. And I could've gone even bigger by modifying the design! I started the gusset about 14cm up from the heel (ie. where I started the patterning on the back of the leg), but this will depend on your legs. Put in lots of lifelines so if you have to rip back you will have an easier time of it! I didn't really follow the instructions in the book to the letter, but generally kept increasing 2 sts every 3 rows or so. Again, the rate of increase will depend on how big your calves are.

At the top of the gusset, I decreased about 20 sts - so not all the stitches I put in for the gusset. Fit the stockings to see what works for you. Before starting the ribbing at the top of the sock (just below the knee), I put in a lifeline and took them off the needles for a blocking and a fitting. The yarn relaxed and the socks grew a bit!

I left the lifelines in and then knit the cuffs: 12 rows of K1P1, then a row of K2tog YO, then another 12 rows of K1P1. Then another lifeline before taking the needle out. Then it was time for the casing and the elastic. The cuff folds over nicely thanks to the YO holes and the lifelines really help with alignment when stitching the casing down. Keep stretching the top of the sock when stitching, to keep the cuff from getting too tight! I threaded in a piece of 1" wide elastic to keep my socks up.

The results are pretty spectacular and nice and warm.

[finished stockings!]

[backside showing gusset insert]

Thursday, November 12, 2020

Sock Yarn, v13

....aaaand more socks knit up....

1. Zwerger Garn Opal (uni colours) - a very popular European sock yarn that I only recently got my hands on; it's not easily available in my area so I resorted to online shopping. Comes in nice subdued plain colours and is the usual 400m/100g grist (ie. nice and thin). I find it harsher and splittier than my favorite Regia, but it isn't bad at all. It softens a bit in the laundry, and holds its shape admirably. So far (about a year) holding up well, no felting, pilling, or fading. ** update 2021 ** the pair of socks requires darning, multiple holes on the sole. Lasted just under 2 years....not very impressive!

2. West Yorkshire Spinners Signature 4 ply - purchased online, not locally available. It's got 35% BFL in it, which I thought would give it some lustre and also some longevity. Has some nice colours (I especially like the golden colour). However, the yarn has no shine, it's quite hairy in fact. A bit splitty to knit. What I dislike about this yarn, though, is the fact that as you wear the sock, it starts to bag - the body disappears. After a laundry cycle the sock is all nice and tight again, but during the day the socks slide down my leg. I won't use it again (for socks). 

Finally, an update on Drops Fabel, which I've now found a local source for. The upside of this yarn is it's nice colours and good price point, the downside is it is a bit thicker than I'd like. The ballband shows 410m/100g, but it feels a good deal thicker than this and the final sock just feels heavier. Wears well, maintains its colour and doesn't felt.

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

The Only Cast-on You Need To Know for Toe-Up Socks...

...is the Turkish cast-on. The others (figure 8, judy's magic) are harder and do not add any additional value, IMO. The Turkish cast-on is ridiculously simple and can double as a provisional cast-on. Why use up valuable braincells on any others?

I've blogged about this one before, but it seems my favorite resources are gone off the InterWebz, so here are some photos and a little "how-to". I had to teach my local knitgroup this cast-on, which resulted in some excellent tips, which have been incorporated into this instruction set.

For first-timers, use a light coloured wool. It's easier to see what you're doing. I'll describe the process for two-at-a-time socks.

1. using one ball of the yarn, make a slipknot on one end of your circ. Hold the needles in your left hand so the tips are pointing to the right and the slipknot is on the bottom needle.  See below.

[slipknot on bottom needle]

2. Now start winding the yarn around both needles, from the back to the front ("like the sun rising over the horizon, towards you", a helpful tip from one of my knitgroup knitters!), counting as you go for each stitch thus wound - ie. cast - on. I usually do 12 to 14 stitches for a pair of grownup socks.

[start winding, up over the top, from the back to the front]

[keep going until you've wound on enough stitches]

3. When you've wound on / cast on enough, trap the yarn between the two needles to hold it while you cast on for the second sock.

[trap the yarn between the needles so you can cast on for the next sock]

4. Start with a slipknot on the bottom needle again. Note: it's a little easier to get the slipknot on if you pull the bottom needle out a little! Then wind on again, the same way as you did for the first sock, and trap the yarn between the needles again.

[slipknot on bottom needle for second sock, pull the bottom needle out a little]

[cast on complete for both socks]

5. Done, that's the cast-on. Unbelievably simple, eh? Now comes the fiddly bit, which is where you start knitting. Free the yarn from between the two needles and make sure it comes up from the bottom needle, behind both. Gently pull the bottom needle out (to the right) and use it to start knitting off the top needle. It should feel quite natural and not hard, the yarn loops should lean the correct way and it shouldn't feel like you're making twisted stitches. If it does, it means you wound on in the opposite direction ("setting sun"), so yeah, you'll need to start over.

[untrap the yarn, keep it behind the needles, and start knitting off the top needle]

6. Once you've knit both socks' worth of top-needle stitches, you'll have all the stitches on the top needle, which is now facing left, and a loop hanging on your right. Your other needle is hanging on the left, and it will shortly be the new bottom needle. Carefully and slowly push the bottom cord into the stitches and pull on the top needle, maintaining that loop on the right, until the bottom needle (rather than the cable) holds the stitches and the top needle is free. It's helpful to maintain the orientation of your knitting, don't flip it around just yet. 

[top stitches all knit, tip of needle is on the left (I'm holding it) 
and loop is on the right; 
push the bottom cable to the right, into the stitches; 
pull the top needle left, out of the stitches.]

7. Now flip everything over (swing the needle tips around 180 degrees) so that the needle holding the stitches is on top and the tip is pointing right. You'll see the slipknots on the top needle, as the first thing. Remove the slipknot. Drop it off the needle. Do not knit it. Being very careful to use the correct yarn - ie. NOT the end hanging off the slipknot! - knit the rest of the cast-on stitches. That's it. You are done, with two rows knit already, and you are ready for the cast-on part of the toe end of your sock! 

[almost ready to knit the other row; 
the slipknot is first on the top needle]

Now just continue as per usual, increasing for the toe of your socks. It's just that easy! Another tip from my knitgroup: use a YO increase every other row - it's much easier to see than a Kfb. On the plain knit rows, you can tighten them up by knitting the YO's TBL. 

Here's a photo of my socks, showing a few rows knit (and increased). You can see the cast-on is basically invisible from both front and back. 

[up close you can't see the cast-on, in the middle of this knitting]

[invisible from the back, too!]

To use this cast-on as a provisional cast-on (note: it has the same number of stitches in either direction, which is something you won't get from some other provisional cast-ons - like the crochet cast-on, for instance), cast on over a second circular needle, which you simply leave hanging. You can replace it with a holder (ex. string) later.