Saturday, March 03, 2007

Sock Hysteria Is Mounting!

NOTE: Since it's not like me to write twice in the same night, this is to alert you to the fact that there is another new posting above this one - a review of that Irish weaving book, filed earlier. OK?

Now back to the ranting...

I knew I shouldn't have agreed. I should have turned right round and told Angeluna where to put her suggestion that I should sign up to Sock Madness. But insanity won the day and now there is only a week to go to Lift Off. On Saturday March 10, the 128 contestants will be emailed a completely strange and hitherto unknown pattern which they will then have to knit up as quickly as possible. We're all in different groups, depending on whether we are novices (less than 6 pairs to date) or Big Experienced Sockies. Half get knocked out in the first round, and then it's bare knuckles and dpns at dawn or something. Am I mad or what? Are we ALL mad or what?

I'm in a group called Wendy's Toe-Up Sock Division and I tell you if that pattern turns out to be toe-up, then this lady will be turning her own toes up and her membership in! I have never tried that method - well, I did, but after seventeen goes at the devilish invention known as Figure of 8 Cast On, I gave up and went back to the tried and tested cuff-down. Nobody but nobody could work that thing out and stay sane.

Jeri (who is in Stephanie's Travelling Sock Division) very kindly suggested that I should do a bit of practising with toe-up over the next few days just in case, and very helpfully gave me a few websites to try. The first one was Figure of 8 (I just typed that Figure of * and no wonder!) so got zapped instantly. The second one said, 'Some people swear by Figure of 8 but it can be a bit difficult to get the hang of, so here's an easier method.' She then proceeded to describe Figure of 8 minutely all over again. Exactly the same as before. Only more maddening because I thought I was going to get out of this frustration. The third used a provisional cast on which is at least doable, so I'll go with that one. Maybe.

You'd think rehearsing in advance was daft, but not so. There is a lady in my group (the Novices, naturally, I've only completed two and three-quarter pairs of socks to date, so I'm no expert) who is training seriously for the event. Yes, training. When she signed up, she could manage to finish a pair in a fortnight. Now she's down to a weekend. Yikes, and I'm in against that sort of track commitment?

Enough already. Let's turn to happier matters. This fine Saturday morning was the ideal time to head for the Little Mission in the West, aka Spin a Yarn in Kenmare, armed with a huge stack of Bibles, catechisms and hymn books, courtesy of Sr. Denise at Mission Outreach Services in Our Lady of Perpetual Gauge.

And they were waiting for me! Yes, Jo and Jean had logged on, read the posting, and were eagerly awaiting the Bibles. They had even printed out my posting 'Yo, There's A New Yarn Shop in the West', which was all the more touching for being unexpected (and by the way, Steph, they were thrilled silly that you had actually read about them and had commented in the posting!)

Jo sat down immediately and got stuck into Interweave Knits.

Meanwhile, Jean had latched on to Sock Madness. 'Can we all get in on this?' I explained that unfortunately it was limited to 128 participants worldwide and she was disappointed because she wanted a bit of an incentive to start knitting socks.

'Well why not use that day to start your own sockfest?'

'Yes, why don't we?'

Jo was delighted at the idea, and they immediately hauled out dpns and the most gorgeous yarn they could find to show willing.

They're going to encourage anyone who comes into the shop next Saturday to seize needles and yarn and start socks too. Now I think this is a VERY GOOD THING all round, don't you? You don't have to be one of the lunatics tied into Sock Madness, but if you want to knit a new pair, or have always wanted to try, or just have too much sock stash for comfort (is that possible?), why don't you make next Saturday the day to start as well and tell us all about it? The world would be a better place if everyone wore handmade socks. This is a fact. Make your own Sockfest.

And so inspired am I by this praiseworthy attitude at the Little Mission in the West that I am going to donate a few skeins of sock yarn to the Sock Madness marathon myself. I have some very nice wool/cotton blends which are lighter and cooler than pure wool and therefore more suitable for anyone not living in Canada (are you still freezing up there, Steph, Rachel H, Charity?). I can only find a picture of one of them, a lovely pale sage green:

but the other two are equally gorgeous. I've called them all after herbs that you find in the maquis - the scented scrub that covers the hills in Provence in summer and leaves a lingering scent on your clothes as you push through it. This one, predictably enough, is Provencal Sage.

We had a great sit around and chat at Spin a Yarn, and I got a few rows done on my Blackberry Pie socks (got to get them finished before next week, that's for sure). Jean even went out and got coffee, so it was very cosy. And yes, before you ask, they are signing up for Sunday School too (aka Knitter's Review Forum). The revelation that you could download free hymns (or sock patterns) made them even happier. What a wonderful new world the Net has brought.

A couple of customers came in; and while the lady trawled the yarn shelves, her husband became fascinated with the Colinette colours.

He was a painter, he explained, and had never seen such a blend of varying colours and thicknesses in a yarn. 'We have all Kaffe Fassett's books at home,' he said enthusiastically.

On the way back I took a picture of one of my favourite places, the Black Valley, for you.

This is a very remote place indeed, and you can only see it from the high road above. Can you glimpse the tiny track which runs through it, down there at the bottom? It's the old way to Killarney, in fact, leading to the Upper Lake, from which you would have taken a boat down to the town in olden times. People still do - they come through the Gap of Dunloe by pony and cart - that's the Gap there behind - and then take the boat back to Ross Castle. Definitely going to do that this summer myself. Why should visitors have all the fun?

And to cap it all, a rainbow on the road round by the Lakes.

Can you just see the rainbow? DH would know how to make it stand out more, but I don't want to disturb him - he's busy processing today's photographic jobs.

And finally - the Celtic Vest. I was so excited Thursday and Friday. At last, at last I was getting there. Closer and closer to the neckline. One more damned twisted cable after another. I got so sick of those cables. Never-ending, constantly demanding, always there at neckline and armhole both. But I was almost there. Now binding off for the shoulder. Now just a few more rows of those cursed cables to go round the back of the neck.

I was already composing the speech with which I would greet the roars of applause, the plaudits of the crowd. I was mentally thanking all of you who got me through it, my family, the dogs (although perhaps not Muffy the Yarnslayer). I looked sentimentally at the picture on the pattern and thought it was a pity I couldn't get Celtic buttons like some of you had, but the leather ones on the original would be fine.

Hang on a minute.




Oh dear heaven no, please no, no, no. Do NOT tell me I've forgotten buttonholes. I am NOT, repeat NOT going to frog back. Not now. I WON'T.

I was hyperventilating as I bent over the pattern, searching for that catty little side note, that 'at the same time' Catch 22 where they laughingly and offhandedly drop in a tiny hint that you should have thought of THAT earlier, ha ha!

But I didn't find it. No mention of buttonholes.

Only then did I see that at the very end of the page, the point at which I had been aiming for several months, was some tiny lettering.

continued on page 113.

Oh great!

I leafed through the pages with trembling fingers. But maybe it wasn't so bad after all. Looked as though I hadn't missed anything important. After all, what else could there possibly be?


'Pick up evenly all round the front and neckline seven thousand eight hundred and 'leventy-two stitches and work eight rows, making buttonholes as you go.' Or words to that effect.


If there is one thing that is IMPOSSIBLE, it is picking up evenly all round ANYTHING. They KNOW that. YOU know that. We ALL know that. It. Just. Isn't. Possible.

The number of WIPs I have abandoned at this stage of an almost-completed mission I don't care to think about. There is a perfectly beautiful Anny Blatt from last summer that was so close, so close...

I CANNOT do this. Inevitably one side has more stitches than the other, one part is puckered, another too loose. I cannot DO this. Pin, mark, glue, curse, measure, re-pin, re-mark, re-curse. It NEVER works out. Quite simply, I can't do it. All the rest of it looks perfect, but this I can't do.

Can I?

Someone come to my aid. Tell me how it can be achieved. Please.

But a word of warning. The first one - the FIRST one - to say, 'Oh but it's easy - you just....' GETS IT. OKAY?

I most emphatically do not want to hear anyone say, 'it's easy, you just...' It isn't easy and I just won't. I want constructive advice with practical guidance.

I know about pins. I know about picking up one for each stitch. That's fine except when you're working round necks and curved bits. You try it Miss Clever Clogs!


It really is so close this time...

There's time for you to advise, because tomorrow morning the plan is to take a flight to Bradford in Yorkshire for the Open Day at Texere Mill, there to find strange and unusual one-offs in coned yarn to smuggle back to West Cork.

That's the plan; but unfortunately the weather forecast suggests that the only sensible course of action would be to retire to the airing cupboard with a large bar of chocolate and a wicked novel. Screaming gales, drenching downpours, structural damage warnings. Like - really a good day to go flying, yes?

I'll go to the airport. If nothing else, they have good (if expensive) coffee in Departures. The worst scenario would be being delayed so much that there would be no time to do anything other than turn round and come back again. A semi-acceptable scenario would be to get up to the airport, find out that there were no flights, and come back with at least half a day's knitting available.

In the meantime, I rely on you to come up with the goods as you have so often done before, and clear this last barrier between your correspondent and Celtic Vest Completion. You are generous, you are helpful, you are wise.

HELP ME! A moi la legion!


Peg-woolinmysoup said...

Break out the communion wine, Sr. Jo and have a goodly amount! I have not advice on picking up stitches, I too think it is a cruel way to finish off this vest - after all, hasn't Elsebeth put us through enough hoops already?
Have a great time with the socks and take some communion wine to the Mission!!

Charity said...

Poor Jo, no advice at all for the picking up of stitches, I HATE it beyond all reason myself. But look how far you've come! You're so close, don't give up now!

I love the idea of starting socks on March 10 - I plan on knitting up a pair of the new Rainy Day Socks, perhaps I'll wait until Saturday to do it. :0)

Lynn said...

OK, why do you have to do it *their* way? With the number of buttons *they* specify, placed as *they* specify?

I finished the granddaughter's bolero with three rounds of single crochet. (I don't remember if you also crochet; it was an option for me.) There are no buttons and buttonholes on it, but if I had wanted buttonholes, I'd have simple done a chain-1 to replace the knitted yarnover. [I'm a big believer in EZ's simple, dainty YO, K2tog buttonholes. I don't like big klunky buttons-as-doorknobs.] And then on the next round a single crochet in that space. Or if you wanted longer buttonholes, chain-2 and do two SC's in that space on the next row. That's what I did for the button band on my coat of many colors.

Your Texas pralines go in the snailmail on Monday.

M-H said...

Wendy's original pattern uses a provisional cast-on that you do with a crochet hook. It's much easier.

Anonymous said...

Umm, this may sound a bit naive, but do you need an edging at all, considering you already have those crafty cables on the edges? Maybe just make some loops for buttonholes, maybe with crochet, maybe with i-cords, maybe?

Remember - knitting is relaxing, knitting is relaxing, knitting is ...

Thanks to your enthusiasm, I, too, have joined the Sock Madness, as socks have been my 'interest' for the past few months. Your wool/cotton blend looks wonderful and would make some fabulous footwear. I'm aiming to try to blend some wool with cotton fibre for sock-making, as I figure they might be a bit cooler for summer weather (one of my sons wears socks all year).

Anonymous said...

Holy Crap! Poor Jo, deep breaths, pet dogs, become serene, visualize a still pond in your mind and don't let it ripple. Yeah right. I'm going to send Jeri the mathematician and master picker upper over to your blog and she will take care of you. Of course you can do this. As a reward, I will be happy to search out buttons for you if you need them. I've a lovely little trick for the simple BO2, CO2 buttonhole which I'll be happy to give you when you are ready.

I did receive an interesting hint from somewhere about picking up and knitting the first round of stitches on a very small gauge circular to begin with, then to knit them onto your regular needle size on the next row. Totally eliminates gaps, etc. on that pick up row.

If you are more comfortable with crochet, why not?

BTW, I simply love what you've done with your missionary work. Jo and Jean really got with the program FAST, model converts. It shall spread from there, from that tiny mission. Love the idea of doing another SockMadness from County Cork. Although the girls with SockMadness said they might do another one once they get the kinks out of this one. Jo & Jean could promote sock knitting in the community, offer slight discounts on sock yarns they sell for the contest, etc. The sign-up was so international!

Did you get my e-mail with tutorial for the Turkish cast-on for the toe-ups? It really is easy. At least for me, and I was a klutz with the others. The CO is the least of my worries. It's getting the heel to fit and be in just the right place that concerns me. Afterthoughts just don't. Once we've gotten through our first pair, we'll both laugh at ourselves.

Anonymous said...

At the awful risk of giving bad advice (it was my first set of buttonholes, after all), I followed Elizabeth Zimmerman's advice for my recent stockinette cardigan: 1)Pick up stitches in a ratio of 2 for every three rows. 2) Turn the corners at the top by working m1 on either side of a central "corner stitch" on every other row (I did right sides) ie. increase 2 at the corner every other row. 3) along the neckline, pick up 1 for 1, then if you want the collar to pull in around the neck, work a few decreases along the back of the neckline halfway through the button band. Or not - I didn't. The full instructions are in her "Knitting Workshop" - it worked beautifully for me. The only thing I added was to pick up 1: 1 (rather than 2:3) and then when knitting the first row I worked k1,k2tog. That way there are no holes on the pick-up row. You can see pics of the result in my post yesterday, as well as the few days previous.

LaurieM said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
LaurieM said...

Oh Jo! I feel your pain, I do. Check out this post:
I practically put ruffles on my dad's vest when attempting to do the button band. There's some good advice in the comments to that post. You may want to check it out.

Also, I think it was very generous of you to join Sock Madness. Since we both know that you don't have the attention span to stick with one pair of socks for the amount of time it takes to complete them, I'm sure you did it just to give someone else a better chance at winning.

I'm kidding Jo! Don't sic Muffy at my yarn!

Anonymous said...

Ummm Could you just use something like cufflinks to close the vest? You know, the ones that have a little chain or something between front of cuff and back of cuff? Or maybe some other jewelry item. There has to be a way to Not do the pickup allllll the way around. Heck, you could sew furrier hooks and eyes to the inside in such a manner as to close the front invisibly. Best wishes on being inventive!

Artis-Anne said...

Yikes !! folks are practising for this competition , what have we got ourselves into ? I have never done a toe up one either ; as to making a pair in a weekend :0 no way !! Guess I will be weeded out fairly sharpish but hey I will have some fun trying:)
Your 'mission' trip sounds like a bit of heaven , wish I could take a pew .
Hope you get to go to Texere & get some goodies

Anonymous said...

Now there is a man I'd like to meet , my friend ( a non-knitting man ) also loves to have Kaffe's books which I like to buy him.

picperfic said...

I agree about the crochet edging worked in double crochetand buttonholes using a couple or three chains and a final row of crab stitch to 'finish' the edge.

Can I ask you please to stop writing such entertaining and readable posts because as i sat with my laptop on my lap and my second sock of a pair I am making for Barry, I merrily did the two by two rib of the leg part and lo and behold i have done half an inch too much, wouldn't be too bad if it were the first sock! I use the magic loop technique using an 80cm addi turbo circular kneedle and I love it, looks so complicated but it is easy I promise you. I have only been knitting socks a short while, always put it off because it looked so fiddly with all those needles to cope with AND I knew I knitted on the loose side and worried that the pins would slide out at inopportune moments, this never happens with the magic loop method. Good luck with the edging and I'm so looking forward to settling down to read your next post. Ever thought of writing a book? I'd buy it for sure!
Happy Sunday School...Marianne

rho said...

So, how was the weather did you get out on the flight??

You are making me sweat over my little plain vest - I won't even look that far ahead on the pattern - and if it says to pick up eleven million 'leventy thousand stitches it will just not have buttons and will just hang open I think, please, please knitting gods - no pick up stitches ....

Be sure to tell the ladies that 2 circs for socks is a super duper option if all those blasted little needles are intimidating - I kept dropping needles and sticking myself and all sorts of other things so I decided that 2 circs are the best!!!

Also can't wait to have them over on KR...

I. WANT. THAT. LITTLE. HOUSE!!!! I love that little house in the picture I love the fields around it and the hills in the background and the idea that there is water nearby -- perfection. Coming from someone who lives on an island and can't imagine being too far from water ever.

Also I will try to get some pics of my vest - but it sure doesn't look like much - a blue back and a rolled up blue left front LOL - Oh mistress of guilt... knitting content on a knitting blog who ever heard of such a thing!?!

Tan said...

My advice for picking up stitches: In most cases, picking up three then skipping the fourth works, except for very chunky yarns. Just go all around doing that faithfully and don't bother to count. You can either just poke the needle under the edge stitch from the right side, pulling the yarn through from underneath, or use a crochet hook to pick them up and transfer them to the knitting needle. Then when you have done that, count to see what you have. If your pattern gives you separate numbers such as each front, the neck, etc. so much the better. But if not, just make sure the fronts match, each other, then the front necks, etc. Write any disparities, including any in the over all stitch count, on little pieces of paper and safety pin them to the area where you have too many stitches. In your first row, decrease (or I suppose increase could be needed) to the stitch count you actually want. There is a good one-row buttonhole floating in the collective wisdom, but I'm not sure I remember it well enough to teach you over the internet.

pacalaga said...

Oh it's easy, you just GET SOMEONE ELSE TO DO IT.
Or put in a zipper. Or knit a really long strip with buttonholes and sew or crochet it to the vest.
The toe-up article you landed on was likely the one in Knitty written by none other than Wendy, the Goddess of our Group. I read that article and now happily knit all my socks toe up. (Well, happily until I get to the heel, at which point I curse until it's done, and then knit happily to the end of my yarn at the cuff.) Anyway, since the majority of patterns I see are written cuff-down, most of the new ones for SM (sock madness, or sado-masochistic? I'll let you decide) will probably be cuff-down.

Cindy/Snid said...

Good luck on the picking up stitches. I can certainly relate to your pain and can leave such things undone for quite some time myself. Although I will remind you that the blocking process can do wonders to work out little puckers and such.
Sock Madness. Jo, what have you gotten us into? I am in your same division and also had the thought of perhaps practicing some toe-up methods since I have never made socksd that way before. I am completely confuzzed and hope I can either figure it out or that we won't have to make any this way (I can hope can't I?). Well, I'll just have to give it a go and hope for the best!

KathyR said...

No advice on the picking-up-of-stitches problem. I hatehatehate picking up more than a dozen or so stitches! I look at the diagrams in the books then I look at my knitting - why does it never look the same? Grrr! So my sincere sympathies.

As to the socks, try the provisional cast on. I have used the crochet one several times and found it not to be a problem. If I can do it then I know that you can!

And I love your photo of the Black Valley and can't wait for you to go on the pony and trap trip and tell us all about it. The next best thing to doing it myself (though that would be marvellous!).

Anonymous said...

Does it really need buttons, petal? I nice frog closure might set off those cables perfectly. Or leaving it open works too. OR get a ribbon that has hooks on one side and eyes on the other and sew that in. (check out the Serrano pattern on Knitty. That's what Laura did)

Oh, and I searched for that gorgeous book just after you blogged it. Damn thing's not available in the Colonies yet. Even Amazon UK says it'll take 4-6 weeks to get. Sigh. Perhaps you could bring me a copy When You Come To Visit Toronto Soon in exchange for some Fleece Artist Sea Wool (new sock yarn. very, very yummy new sock yarn)?

Anonymous said...

I hate picking 'bout some sort of toggle or frog type closures applied after the vest is done????

Pat said...

How about using a pin or a brooch to close it - something Celtic would be appropriate (and far easier than all these picked-up stitches). I can never get the count right - not even when I'm doing socks!

Anonymous said...

Hi Jo, de-lurking for a moment to say that I love reading your blog...especially the lovely pictures of the amazing Irish countryside. I came across a site that offers some beautiful clasps you may want to use for your vest. The URL is
(no affiliation...just did a google search). I hope it works out for you and enjoy the sock knitting.

Roggey said...

holy wool, you've done pitched yourself over the edge and plunged into the deep end, haven't you? LOL

Anonymous said...

were it I...I would finish the whole thing off with I cord and then use those great nordic silver clasps. Or if you really like I cord, make double I cord and sandwich the buttonholes in between the two.

Jeri said...

Angeluna called me and I gave her all my best picking up tips but I guess she wasn't in a mood to type them? I'll go do a blog post straight away about what I think about picking up.

Dez Crawford said...

I'll second the Elizabeth Zimmermann advice for picking up stitches -- it always works.

Another method I like to use, when I have slipped the first stitch of every row (meaning I have 2 edge stitches for every 4 rows) is to **pick up the front AND back loop of one slipped stitch, then only the front loop of the next, repeat from**, all around the edge.

Put the buttonholes wherever they please you -- I am a fan of groups of five or seven -- but I always measure my button-spacing (regardless what the pattern says) starting from the widest point of my bust, and then evenly space a button or two above that, and however many buttons you want spaced evenly below. Buttonhole placement on the pattern (designed to fit a sylph with timid little teats) may not fall in as flattering a spot for those of us who wear anything bigger than a training bra, and if you don't make that your Ground Zero button placement, you will end up with an unsightly () directly over your widest bit.

I do use a needle a couple of size smaller for the picking up and knitting of the buttonband.

Dez Crawford said...

Sister Jo, over here at the Parish of Our Lady of Perpeptual Humidity, we have a cone of sage-green linen vintage yarn. How about I send it to you and you evaluate its quality and if it is worth anything to you, I was wondering if, upon evaluation, you might consider it worth trading for any remaining oddments of your wonderful Midwinter yarn? I will also include some fun goodies.

Also please send me your snail mail again, as I had a computer glitsch.



Jo at Celtic Memory Yarns said...

Sister Dezdemona at Our Lady of P-H, how strange! Your exchange currency is exactly what is required for the Midwinter yarn. It is indeed a happy coincidence that you should have the right moolah in stock. I will prepare the Midwinter skeins for the journey right away.

Blessings upon you, my child, and may just some of our rain and wind blow your way. Oh no, I forgot - you get enough of it already, don't you? Cancel that!

Anonymous said...

Would a pewter toggle closure, which is sewn onto each front edge, look pretty? Maybe a bit Scandinavian, but you could start "fusion knitting."

gail said...

What a wonderful post, full of excitement and gorgeous pictures--until the last topic!! Elizabeth Zimmerman tells one how to make "afterthought" buttonholes in one of her books. Or, you could use non-button closures. Or, you could apply some three stitch I-cord and simply make buttonholes with the I-cord. Anything to avoid ripping out the edging!

Denise said...

What a great post!

I love the pictures of the ladies at Spin a Yarn. Don't you think they need a blog of their own? The shop looks so cute, I can't wait to see it in person.

I am sorry to hear about the last minute discovery of the need to pickup seven thousand eight hundred and 'leventy-two stitches on the vest! A cruel pattern trick to be sure.

I have no advice to add to the good tips you've already gotten here, especially since I never get those pesky border stitch pickups right on the first try.

But I can provide enthusiastic encouragement! You can do it, Jo! If anyone can whip that vest into submission it's you! I'll be sending lots of positive energy your way!
(oops, I think I used up my day's allotment of exclamation points there)

Ms. Knitingale said...

Deep breaths, Pet. Okay, the vest: I absolutely HATE picking up 8 million stitches evenly around anything (because I could pick up all of two and get them uneven) so why not do a clever crocheted edging, with little chained loops here and there for buttons that you place wherever you damn well please? As to toe up socks, I figured out a figure 8 sort of cast on, but it required much profanity and, while I like it, I've yet to find a cast-OFF for toe up socks that doesn't look awful or lead to gangrene of the toes due to the extreme non-elasticity. Hence, I rarely do it. Did you try the toe up cast-on at Knitty? That's where I learned it and, while it did take me some messing around, it did finally get the point across. Good luck, dear. I know your vest will be lovely.