Round the Needle

Wash those socks! April 02, 2016 17:07

Green sock

I make a lot of hand knit socks, and eventually hand knit socks get holes in them.  My usual method of darning is to say, “Oh darn!” and drop the pair in the trash, because I think it’s easier to knit a new pair than to repair the holes.

However, there are exceptions.

Last month Ray showed me a hole in the bottom of his current favorite pair of socks.  I was a bit puzzled, as they’re knit from a workhorse yarn that almost never wears out, they’re only two years old, and he only uses them as slippers.  I just didn’t understand how they could have gotten a hole in the sole this fast, if at all.

Then he said the magic words. “It’s not like I washed them a lot.”

Hmm.  I probed a bit to see what he meant by “a lot.”  Well, turns out what he meant was “never.”  As in, “I have been wearing these socks for two years and I have never washed them.”

Before you get carried away with “Ew!” and “Gross!” let me tell you that he is not alone.  I have heard this story before from friends about their husbands and socks.  They don’t wear them often (the socks, not the husbands,) sometimes only as slippers, and they are not smelly or visibly dirty (again, the socks...) Since they are hand knit, the men (and sometimes women) believe that it’s best not to machine wash them, and never think to hand wash them. Then the socks get holes in record time and everyone is puzzled.

The answer:  Wash those socks.

Dirt is abrasive and dirty socks will wear out faster than socks that you keep clean.  Even if you can’t see dirt, or smell a funny smell, your socks are picking up dirt, especially if you wear them as slippers.  That dirt builds up in the soles and begins to wear away at the wool fibers, like tiny pieces of embedded sand paper.  Then you get a hole.

When I took a good look at Ray’s socks I found the fabric around the hole was a bit stiff.  That’s what happens when it gets dirty, and the stiff fibers are more prone to breakage.  It’s easily remedied by a quick wash, and the beauty of most sock yarn is that it’s superwash.  That means even if you gently hand wash every hand knit you own, you can almost always machine wash your socks.  I lay mine flat to dry when I’m done, but I know people who send theirs through the dryer with no problem. (NOTE OF CAUTION: don’t try this with socks knit from non-superwash yarn. You will end up with small, felted shoes for elves.

You can hand wash your socks if you like, but the truth is that hand washing doesn’t really get them clean.  It works wonderfully for sweaters, cowls, and even hats, but socks get DIRTY.  A gentle soak and swish will result in dirty water, but it will also leave a lot of dirt behind in the fabric to chew on your wool sock fibers.  If those socks are knit from superwash yarn, toss them in the machine, set it on a gentle cycle with cold water and get those puppies clean!

Now, back to the hole in Ray’s socks.  As I said, these were a favorite pair.  I knitted them two years ago while he was in the hospital, from one of my favorite yarns that is now out of production.  Nicely cabled and very stretchy, he says they are one of the most comfortable pairs of socks he has every owned, so I conceded and agreed to fix the hole.  I located some matching yarn, and thanks to this knitted patch repair method that I find MUCH easier than darning, they are almost as good as new.  If he keeps them washed, they should last a long, long time.

You might want to run along now and check your sock drawer.   I think you might just find some things that need washing!


Happy Halloween! October 31, 2015 17:25

Yes, it’s Halloween. The happy fall holiday that for most folks means pumpkins, ghosts, costumes and trick or treaters. If you’re a knitter it also means, “hey, you better get some holiday gifts done.”

This Yellow Seed Stitch Beret is the perfect quick      holiday knit that still feels like fall. Chunky yarn,   lovely fall color, and an easy project. I’m headed out on a flight to Portland tomorrow, and I’m taking this project along. The yarn is yummy Julie Asselin Ankara in warm autumnal Jaipur.

We do a bit of traveling this time of year, and I always like to have a project to take along. Something easy to memorize, so I’m not digging around for my pattern, and relatively small, so I have a sense of accomplishment when I return. By Thanksgiving I plan to have a few of these hats finished up – one for me, and two more for gifts!

The story in your knitting February 16, 2015 09:00 2 Comments

SamanthaYou know the time of day; you've just come home from a long day of work, or maybe it's your Saturday "you-time." You put on your cozy clothes, those fuzzy socks you love, sit on the couch and turn on a good podcast, or music, or your favorite television show to listen along to while you work on your project.

Something phenomenal is happening - while you're working and you're memorizing your pattern, you're listening to your show and you find that the words begin to play into your work. Each pattern row is woven with the information from the voices and sounds you're hearing.

Your project becomes something special at this point. You listen as you figure out a tough spot in your project. You listen as you un-knit that row you totally messed up. You listen as you re-knit the row and make it look perfect again.

Then the project is done, and you give that sigh and force yourself from your comfortable spot on the couch to go make dinner. When you return to your finished piece and run your fingers along the cables and the slips, you remember the exact words and feelings of the voices from your program, and the project becomes a special bookmark in your life.

The next big thing February 15, 2015 11:48 1 Comment

YottaWinter is the time to start thinking about cozy, soft knits - both for projects and for wonderful things to wear. Even better if they’re quick projects. That way you can both knit and wear them before spring arrives!

This is truly the year of the big yarn. I don’t mean the “next big thing yarn,” I mean BIG yarn. We’re seeing chunkies and bulkies pop up everywhere this autumn, and nothing is more fun than a special hand-dyed bulky. Julie Asselin’s Yotta is my new favorite.

Here’s the thing: I’m not always a bulky yarn fan. They can be rough or they can look like roving for little kids. It takes a special bulky to win my heart. It has to be soft enough to feel good in my hands and garment, and look sophisticated enough to create a nice look. Yotta does both.

MelanieMy sample skein arrived in a variegated (I’m offering Julie’s lovely semi-solids to you) with a range from purple to orange. The texture is soft, not toothy at all, and it has a brushed hand that makes you want to pet it. The single strand is thick, like a pencil roving, but has enough twist to stay put. It also feels like it’s the tiny bit felted, meaning it’s going to hold up nicely when knitting.
Yotta gauge
I wanted to find just the right pattern, so I chose one that Julie herself designed for Yotta. Melanie is a cross between a cowl and a necklace, and interesting combo that lightens up the thickness of the yarn. It’s available for free on Ravelry. Yotta would also make a great Gap-tastic Cowl.

You can see the wonderful stitch definition here. This a fashion-forward, modern-looking yarn. Anything you choose to make with it will have a young, edgey vibe. This is the yarn to take down to your local coffee house, grab a cup, then sit outside on the sidewalk and knit. And when you’re done, do the same and wear your new cowl.