Zen And The Art of Darning Socks

Sometime toward the end of last week it became apparent that almost half of Mr. Knitting Sarah’s handknit socks were starting to go threadbare. When it rains, it pours, right?! I mentioned to Mr. KS that I’d started another pair, but that he might need to supplement with some ready-to-wear socks. He informed me that he’s totally converted to handknits and doesn’t intend to go back. I was kind of shocked because I thought he might be kind of ecstatic at the chance to integrate some RTW socks into his rotation, but as a knitter I knew I needed to jump into action. That one pair of socks I was working on was not going to cut it! I needed a new plan. I knew it was time to get darning!

I spent the first 2 days of the great sock repair extravaganza of 2019 (which included a whopping 4 pairs of socks) working in Swiss darning. “Swiss darning” is the same thing as duplicate stitch, for those who weren’t aware. I just think “Swiss darning” sounds way more elegant so I like to go with that name (because I can!). In any case, one pair had a pretty small hole near the toe which was relatively easy to fix. The next pair we decided we would just let nature take its course because the socks are 6 years old and entirely stockinette where Mr. KS prefers a 2×2 ribbing on the top of the foot and cuff for a better fit. It’s weird to relegate them to just be worn until their eventual demise, but we agreed that it was time better spent to work on a new pair that fit better than to prolong the life of this pair.  And so I was down to the last two pairs.

The first pair, I darned. And I darned. And I darned.

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I was reinforcing the foot in each sock as well as areas along the decreases on the toes, all of which were showing a lot of wear. I didn’t have any yarn that matched, so I just grabbed a skein of similar yarn that I didn’t think Mr. KS would want a full pair of socks from. Since the mending would all be hidden within a shoe, the bolder colors would be hidden, after all. After what felt like Swiss darning forever, Mr. KS was ecstatic with the outcome.

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I wasn’t really going for pretty with these, just functional. A band-aid for the sock shortage of 2019 and I’m fairly confident they’ll do the trick for a while. I was really concerned that the patches would feel weird or uncomfortable, but Mr. KS assured me they were great and he was very happy.

After darning what felt like a lot of real estate on these, I was curious to try a different technique. Instead of the relative tedium of Swiss darning — as elegant as that name may sound, it is still pretty grueling — what if I would just cut off the worn part of the foot and re-knit the whole thing through the toe? Surely the ability to go into auto-pilot knitting with a basic foot and toe would be faster than trying to neatly Swiss darn 1/3 of the footbed, right? I resolved to try it and compare. I mean, you’ll never know unless you try!

Normally I’d look up loads of tutorials since I’d never tried anything like this. I mean, I’d never cut my knitting for steeking even! But I just kind of visualized what I thought would work and went for it. I’ve probably knit close to 100 pairs of socks at this point, so I am pretty confident in the ins and outs of handknit socks and figured based on the terrible state of this pair, I wasn’t going to make them any worse!

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It was surprisingly easy. I used a set of one size smaller DPNs to pick up the stitches just because it made the process a little easier. The variegated yarn also helped me to stay in the correct round when picking up stitches. Since I could literally pick anywhere to start, I chose a round that both stood out from the one next to it and was one consistent color all the way around just to make picking up that much easier. The ribbing was a bit trickier until I knew what I was looking for, but I figured it out. Before I knew it, I had the sock on the needles, the worn foot & toe cut off, and I was knitting it off the smaller needles and back onto my 3mm (Mr. KS prefers sport/DK weight socks, hence the 3mm needles). Easy peasy!

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For those wondering, this was the old foot & toe.

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You can see it was already darned once and the rest of the knitting was almost threadbare.

I took no scientific measurements because I was just exploring the technique this time around, but I would venture to guess that for this extensive of a mending project it was probably about equal to Swiss darning the whole thing, if not a smidge faster. And the second sock was definitely much faster to get set up and back on the needles. I took a little more time to add some heel reinforcement as well with a little duplicate stitch… er… I mean Swiss darning.

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I was already that far into it with the toes, I might as well take some precautions on those heels as well, right?!

And I’m happy to report that Mr. KS loves his mended socks!

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I just looked them up on Ravelry and these are also 6 years old! Considering Mr. KS spends 10 hours a day, 5 days a week minimum on his feet and has been wearing this pair regularly for the first 4 years of its life and pretty exclusively in rotation with about 5 other handknit pairs the past 2, they have held up remarkably well, I think! Yes, they are still worn, but the fact that re-knitting and reinforcing might buy another year or so out of this yarn is pretty remarkable. And knitting a couple toes and heels is much faster than knitting a whole new pair of men’s size 13 socks!

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And what a great way to use a yarn that’s not exactly Mr. KS’ palette, too!

I’ve been pretty shocked throughout the process at Mr. KS’ enthusiasm for this mending of his handknit socks. Honestly, I always kind of look at him when we’re discussing it, waiting for him to crack a joke about my dedication to such a weird process because there are a lot of things in the knitting and spinning world that he loves that I love, but he himself does not understand. It turns out mending is not on that list. Instead, he explained this morning that he really appreciates the process of not just pitching the socks when they are worn. There’s something special, he said, about giving them a second life. And in that sentiment, there is something that touches my heart.

I’ve come full circle now to see that the mending honors the time commitment of creating the socks in the first place. To give them a little TLC, a gentle refurb, a small time investment in order to let them live a longer life — that’s placing a value on them that I don’t think we consider as much as we probably should when it comes to the ‘things’ in our daily lives. In the throes of the project, it was easy to see it as a tedious task, for me to make comments about how it was a true sign of love to mend because it is so boring. I won’t say mending is my favorite thing in the world to work on, but by the end of this process and by seeing my husband’s enthusiasm for his drawer full of mended socks, I’m looking at it all from a much more zen place. How wonderful that I have the time and skills to be able to take these socks that were essentially a couple weeks away from the trash and breath another life into them. Another season of hiking, another year of toasty toes on the cool floors on spring mornings, another first truly chilly day of fall — another year of handknit socks.

The next time I take on a mending project, I have no doubt that I’ll approach it with more patience, maybe even just a hint of reverence for the time and love this project represents and how mending it is really the way you honor that. I’ll be sure to document it better for all of you, my friends, so you can add the same handy skills to your knitting toolkit. And so that you, too, can discover (if you haven’t already) zen and the art of darning socks.

 

Maybela’s Promise, A Hitchhiker

Remember a while back when I was posting a bunch of black and white photos of my very first Hitchhiker?

Like this…

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And this…

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Well, today is the day I get to share the project IN COLOR with you!

Are you ready?!

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TA-DA! It’s Maybela’s Promise from Three Waters Farm on their fabulous 4-ply fingering weight Superwash Merino + Nylon base.

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I’d like to start by saying I’ve had Martina Behm’s Hitchhiker in my queue literally for years. I’ve watched practically everyone I know knit one and yet I was never compelled to try it. When I got this yarn in my hands, though, I knew it was time. I just had this feeling that they’d be a match — you know how that goes, right? And with this excellent pairing, suddenly I knew exactly what everyone was talking about. The knit was just divine.

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As I mentioned with my first experience with the Three Waters Farm yarn this summer, I love this base. It’s a generous 465-yard skein that and I simply adore Mary Ann’s eye for color. I’ve found her translation of her fiber colorways to yarn colorways to be particularly fascinating in the very best of ways. She’s just done a fabulous job!

Would you like to see my finished project? Oh, I’m so happy I can show you because…

 

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I just LOVE it. The slate-y greens, the burst of autumn’s best oranges and yellows and reds. They are just spectacular!

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For as simple as it was to knit, I think it’s just a stunning piece.

Now I love this scarf/shawlette so much, but I’m even more excited to share that not only is the fiery Maybela’s Promise available for purchase in the Three Waters Farm shop…

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Photo courtesy of Three Waters Farm

But there are actually 3 additional colorways to choose from, too!

Meet Lonely, Crazy, and Blue…

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Photo courtesy of Three Waters Farm

Scottish Landscape

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Photo courtesy of Three Waters Farm

And Red Velvet

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Photo courtesy of Three Waters Farm

All four colorways are dyed on the same 75/25 Superwash Merino + Nylon base, which is really a wonderfully versatile yarn — strong enough for socks and yet still soft enough to be worn next to the skin. And I can truly attest to that as I’ve knitted and worn this base as socks and now my lovely Hitchhiker scarf! As I mentioned earlier, they are generous 465-yard skeins and they do arrive in a long skein, too long for the average swift so be aware you’ll need to wind it by hand, nostepinne, or onto a niddy-noddy and then onto your swift and winder set-up. It’s worth it though, I promise!

I’ll admit, I just order a couple skeins for my mom — she chose Scottish Landscape & Red Velvet. What are you favorite colorways? What would you knit with this awesome yarn?

 

 

 

 

 

Humidity, Being Sandblasted with Dirt, and Summer Knitting

I’m very happy to report that the computer is still alive. I repeat, the computer is still alive. Happy dancing all around! That feels like such a major development in my world that I need to announce it with jazz hands level excitement. ANYWAYS…

I mentioned in my last post that it was my son’s birthday over the weekend. He loves to be outdoors and be active so I did a lot of outside stuff over the weekend that I might have thought twice about if it were not his birthday. These things that taught me some important life lessons, such as if you bike next to a corn field in June in Wisconsin and the wind is blowing a steady 40mph, not only will your legs be a little sore after, but it’s also kind of like being sandblasted, but with dirt. Also, if the forest looks dark and green and it’s very humid you can’t stop walking or you will lose 75% of your blood to mosquitoes in about 9seconds. Ah, the things we do for our kids!

You have to admit it’s pretty though and if you’re wearing long sleeves, long pants, closed-toe shoes, and a hat, it’s not so bad.

These are just a few little photos from Powers Bluff County Park where we went before the thunderstorms started yesterday.

The last time we were here was on a foggy day in March, so it was very cool to see it in its summer greenery. And it was good to stretch the ‘ol legs on some quiet trails.

Because of our heating system, we don’t have central air in the new house and instead just a smaller cooling unit which happens to not be in a central location in the house, so I opted to pick up a couple fans to help move the air around. While at Menard’s after biking, freshly sandblasted with dirt and kind of boiling, I briefly considered what Mr Knitting Sarah would say if I brought this one home…

It seemed like a great idea at the time and after the 40mph winds it really seemed completely reasonable, but in the end I went with a couple smaller ones instead. That was probably a good choice, I suppose.

When not galavanting outside, I did get a little time to work on my Spring Dream Kit from Heart of the Mitten.

This really unique fabric is created while holding one strand each of Be Sweet Bamboo, Mango Moon Twist, and Be Sweet Skinny Wool together. I was a little worried about holding multiple strands together and having them turn into a huge knotted mess, but it’s been totally effortless. In fact, it’s turned out to be a super simple, highly enjoyable knit. For those interested, mine is the Raspberry colorway and I believe they’re on sale now right here. I believe I’m about halfway through the main portion currently. I don’t really travel with it just to keep it nice and neat, but it’s an awesome project to unwind with at the end of the day.

I hope you had an equally fun and exciting summer weekend. Or maybe I should hope that you had a quieter, cleaner one. Either way, I hope it was grand and that you were able to sneak in some knitting or spinning!

 

In Review: June Cashmere

 “Do you want to try this cashmere?” is a question to which most knitters will immediately reply, “YES. Just, YES.” I am no different. I had read some good things about June Cashmere so when the opportunity arose to try out a yarn from them, I said, “YES. Just, YES.”

When my package arrived, I was immediately impressed.

june2And I dug right into reading about how the yarn wrapped in the light blue paper found its way to my hands. I was wowed by the images of Kyrgyzstan and the Kyrgyz people, who are largely nomadic shepherds, from which this yarn originates. June Cashmere prides itself on purchasing directly from individual households who have actually combed the fiber, cutting out middle men and helping shepherds to get higher prices for their fibers.

From Krygyzstan, this fiber is transported to Belgium where it is scoured. It then travels to be dehaired in England and is spun in Scotland. From Scotland it makes its way to Maine where it is organically dyed.

juneAnd from Maine, it’s made it’s way to my hands. They talk in the literature about how Kyrgyzstan is “between East and West , along the legendary Silk Road” and I can’t help but think about this journey as the ‘Cashmere Road” that my yarn has traveled.

I selected the DK weight in the Mulberry colorway…

img_5019It’s a dusky lavender-y pink hue. I thought a lot about making a hat or a cowl, but after far too long being overly picky as I carefully scoured Ravelry for the pattern, I stumbled upon Bonnie Sennott of Blue Peninsula designs’ Fee-Bee Mitts and I knew I’d found it. Delicate and sweet, this design embodied what I saw in my sweet skein.

img_5063I love the detailed cuff which is simple, but elegant lace . It’s simple to work as the mitts are knit flat and then seamed.

img_5066And the wide, broken rib pattern on the body of the mitt is just enough stitching to let the yarn really sing.

img_5069It took just a day to work these beauties up entirely and the seaming was quick and satisfying. These would be a fantastic little luxurious gift for a loved one and these likely will be as my daughter has of course already claimed them. Of course she has, right?

img_5071I found the yarn to have a wonderful depth of color and having had other cashmere yarns that have been prone to splitting, I used needles with blunter tips. I’m happy to report that it really was not an issue with this yarn though. This yarn knit like a dream.

img_5070All in all, I will definitely be keeping June Cashmere on my short list. It’s worth noting that they have a beautiful array of colors that are available in both DK and lace weight yarns as well as a nice variety of in-house patterns that highlight the elegance of this yarn. From the socially responsible harvesting of the yarn to the beauty of the finished product, I think this is a wonderful option available for hand knitters. Whether you’re purchasing a skein or two for your favorite knitter, treating yourself, or knitting for a friend, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed with June Cashmere.

Samothrace Wings, Broken Pavement

January and February brought a new knitalong + spinalong over in the Three Waters Farm Ravelry group. Featuring the prolific Susan Ashcroft’s designs, this was a super active event in the group (Ravelry tallies 80 projects and almost 200 photos shared!) and you’d better believe that an active Three Waters Farm thread is an inspiring one.

My first spin of 2016 was created just with this event in mind.

skeinI knew I wanted this “Broken Pavement” Merino/Superwash Merino/Silk yarn to be a shawl and there are no shortage of options when it comes to Susan Ashcroft’s designs. Originally I thought I’d do a Quaker Yarn Stretcher, but when I cast on and started working the pattern it wasn’t right for the yarn. Don’t get me wrong, the pattern is fantastic and I’ll surely use it eventually, but it just wasn’t it for this yarn. I went back to searching.

What I found was Samothrace Wings. It was a super quick scarf that I whipped up in a week and the only in-progress photo I have of it is not cooperating with my blog. I thought it would be more complicated, but I had it memorized in no time and likewise finished in almost no time. Honestly, the biggest delay I had with this project was waiting for my blocking mats to free up so I could wash & dry it. And then over the weekend I was finally able to get some photos.

flatAnd I took a lot of photos because it’s just so pretty.

waves detI just love how subtle the colors are. Many other versions of this pattern highlight the short-rows a lot more, but mine is more like lapping waves on the beach where the colors all kind of overlap and topple over each other (thank you, 2ply handspun!).

wave det1Don’t you think?

I’ve really been on a kick with these long skinny scarves and shawlettes lately.

lengthThanks to a skillfully written pattern I was able to use up just about every last bit of my 350yards of this yarn for this scarf, creating a really versatile length.

on neckI can wear it with the ends poking out like a scarf or tucked in, like this,  so it looks almost cowl-like. Either way, I love that the length gives me options and that the subtle, almost neutral colors will surely go with almost everything in my wardrobe.

I was so happy with this pattern and so inspired by the group of spinners & knitters in this SAL + KAL that I actually knit up another of Susan Ashcroft’s patterns in another Three Waters Farm handspun. When you find a designer that you like, it doesn’t hurt to try a few designs, right?! I’ll share that soon, so stay tuned!

Christmas Eve Cast-On

If you’ve followed me for a while here, you’ll know that I always say I don’t knit gifts very often unless a friend or family member expressly asks. I love it when people do ask, but I’m just not a knitter who enjoys surprising others with knitted items very often. What can I say? I’m so weird! In any case, I always into the holiday season blissfully knitting on whatever I want. I do, however, inevitably choose a few small things at the very last moment to knit up for gifts. Why do I do this to myself? I have no idea. You’d think this would be insanely stressful, but after one tense year of trying to finish socks for my hubby on time, now I have a very strict no stress policy. I knit to unwind and while I do indeed put in extra time for a few small holiday gifts, I’m a firm believer that what gets done, gets done, and what doesn’t, doesn’t. End of story.

This year, as you know, I have a few projects that’ll be wrapped up as gifts — two shawls and a pair of slippers were the original goal. Well, I finished those (photos to come post-holiday) and then decided to finish my handspun Easy shawl for the Three Waters Farm Behm-along (photos to come once it dries). And then, with less than a week before the big day, I noticed all these fantastic hat patterns flooding social media and like so many, thought — “Oh yes! That’s a great idea! I can knit a new hat for each of my kids.”

So I did some stash diving and pulled out some sweater yarn leftovers. Yes, a Hipster Hat (taking advantage of one of the 12 Days of Christmas free pattern offerings from Tin Can Knits) in Tanis Fiber Arts’ Green Label in the Poppy colorway for my red-loving son.

img_1713And I finished it today. I have one more skein of this yarnwhich I’ve dog-eared for a  Cabled Canuck for me. I can’t have too many red hats. That’s a fact.

Next up though, I’ll be casting-on Clare Devine’s Everyday Brew for my daughter. Brought to my attention by the lovely ladies at Cream City Yarn who I got to visit last week, this is knit in a bulky weight yarn and is sure to fly off my needles. And then…

I have a plan.

I’ve been seeing the hashtag #christmasevecaston a lot lately and it got me thinking that I should cast-on an extra special project on Christmas Eve. Luckily, I have just the extra special project!

boxIt arrived on my doorstep a couple weeks ago and I’ve been waiting for just the perfect time to share with you and cast-on. My very first Imperial Yarns in a very cute hat kit.

Imperial Stock Ranch all started with one man, Richard Roland Hinton, who was born in 1852 while his family traveled the Oregon Trail. You can read the story of how he built this ranch on its website, but suffice to say with a focus on sustainability Hinton didn’t just establish a ranch in 1871, he created a legacy that would last long beyond his years. Today this ranch thrives on producing acclaimed black angus beef, lamb, and — of course — beautiful wool. They harvest this wool once per year and it is then “custom milled without harsh chemicals or extreme temperatures, leaving it comfortable soft and pure.”

yarnI can attest to that. The single ply yarn ‘Tempest’ included in the Chain Stitch Slouchy Hat Kit is easily the softest American wool I’ve touched. This single is available only in this kit at this time and – wow — is it ever something special!

This hat is part of a new collection designed by Deborah Newton just for Imperial Yarns and I’ll be participating in the Deborah Newton Collection KAL. You can check out the list of eligible patterns here. The designer is an active participant in this KAL and she’s available for questions. Plus there will be a pretty sweet grand prize for those who take part, so if you’re interested I’d love it if you could join us. The KAL runs through January 31, 2016, so there is ample time to hop on board and treat yourself to some of this gorgeous American wool.

Now logically I know I’m just one hat and a few short days away from my super special Christmas Eve Cast On, but as I’m sitting here next to this wool… I won’t lie — it kind of feels like an eternity. My hands have some last minute gift knitting to get done before this treat can reach my needles. I suppose it’s time to keep my eyes on and hands off this prize though, right?