Category Archives: Knitting Lab

SOCK LAB: Week 1 Update

Sock Lab Week 1 finished & toe & ball

Sock Lab: Week 1

Last night was our first week of SOCK LAB and it was super fun! Sandra brought a half-finished sock, Liane brought something in progress (she’s prodigious and always has a pair of socks on the go), Jonathan started something new with a very sheepy yarn, and Judy and her friend were trying their hands at their first sock EVER. Shelna is a total sock knitter, but she forgot to bring hers because she’s pretty focused on chemo hats right now. Remy from Les Sheependales was working on a gorgeous mystery knit-a-long shawl, and I think Nicole is deep into a blanket. And as for me, I hauled out a long-neglected, half-finished sock project and inadvertently ‘cheated’ (it’s not a contest)  and finished the FIRST sock of Sock Lab!

The Back Story

Now, to start, you should know that I am not a sock knitter. Some people love knitting socks, others can take it or leave it – I fall into the latter group. Don’t get me wrong, I love love love wearing my handknit socks, they’re the best thing EVER, but making them isn’t really my groove.

Flash back to a couple of years ago, I started a pair of knee socks, completed one sock, and promptly lost interest. I do this, I suffer from Second Sock Syndrome, I totally own it. I also have no issue with letting projects lay fallow; I’m very human and feel shame about lots of things, but this is not one of them. So, for Sock Lab, I pulled out my estranged sock project. Sock Lab is about collective support, which I clearly needed to finish this shock. I unsealed the ziplock, stuck my nose in, and pulled out all the component parts (many mislaid accessories and needles were recovered), and evaluated the situation.

Sock Lab Week 1 Sock Surgery

I tried on my sock, remembered how much I love the feel of hand-knit wool socks, and then also recalled that I no longer enjoy wearing hand knit knee socks. This must be why I dropped the project. The prospect of making a second knee sock definitely did NOT fill me with joy, but the prospect of wearing a pair of regular socks was motivating. So I changed the project! I decided to make these socks something that I *would* wear, and performed a little surgery.

How I Did It

Surgery isn’t necessarily hard, it just requires good light and a bit of uninterrupted free time:

  • I cut the sock about 4 or 5 rows above the place I wanted to pick up the live stitches. Cutting knitting makes a deliciously crunchy sound and feeling, it was very satisfying.
  • I ripped back to the row above the one I wanted to put the needles in.
  • One by one, I took out the last row of stitches and put them back on the needles.
  • I re-knit the cuff.

Sock Lab Week 1 toe & ball

Having finished the first sock of Sock Lab, I gloated a little and moved on to the second sock … which I had conveniently already started!

Project Deets

  • The stripey yarn I used is some iteration of Lang Jawoll Colour that has since been discontinued. Lang is a Swiss company, and their Jawoll sock yarn is a conventional, long-wearing, Teutonic sock yarn, very similar to Regia. If you are now jonesing for a stripey sock I highly recommend the Urth Uneek Sock Kits – they’re GORGEOUS and come with three different patterns that work perfectly for the yarn. If I’d started with the Urth I doubt that I would have put the project down!
  • The grey yarn is a solid from Regia (I enjoy the aesthetic of having the toes and heels in a contrasting colour. Sock yarn technology has come along since I started my sock, and Regia now makes sock yarns with the contrast colour built-in! Both Regia Pairfect Design Line and Wool & The Gang/Regia Kinda Magic Sock have got all the patterning sorted out for you.
  • If you’re wondering about the pins in the sock, they mark increases I made. I leave them in as a guide until the very end of the project as a kind of guide (because I have the memory of a goldfish and constantly lose things like little pieces of paper where I have written down notes). Read more about this hack HERE. Why did I increase? I have narrow feet and I can’t stand the feel of loose socks, so I start with a narrow toe and increase around the ball of the foot and as I inch towards the instep (this is the beauty of making yourself socks – you can try them on as you go and tailor them completely).
  • FYI: I knit these socks toe-up, with a short row toe. The heel is a toe-up gusseted heel, I used the Toe-Up Slip Stitch Heel Sock Formula for this.

In Conclusion

So, not bad for the first week, no? So much drama: trying to remember things from a few years ago, feeling feelings, making decisions, cutting, picking up stitches, re-knitting, feeling different feelings …. it feels a little like the Nickelodeon tween sitcoms my niece watches. Drink it in, because I don’t think my socksperience will get interesting again until I have to remember how I did the heel.

See ya next week!

 

KNIT HACK Sweater Lab Prep

 

 

Sweater Lab TONIGHT

Our inaugural Sweater Lab ( in collaboration with Your Fiber Intake) starts TONIGHT! Since it’s a bit of an experiment for us, we don’t know what the result will be, but I think everyone will have fun, so it should be a success. For those of you who have already made a sweater, you don’t really need any prep, but for the uninitiated, I’d like to offer a bit of guidance. For more info on Sweater Lab, follow this MAGIC LINK (or click on the picture or any of the other links).

So You’ve Never Made a Sweater Before ….

DON’T PANIC … You don’t need to be afraid. It’s just a garment, and the pattern tells you how to do it, step by step. When you don’t know what a term or abbreviation means you can look it up on the internet. If you are old skool, you can look it up in a book, like The Principles of Knitting by June Hemmons Hiatt, The Knitter’s Companion by Vicky Square, or The Ultimate Knitting Book by Vogue Knitting.

Choose a Pattern

You need a pattern. I suggest going for something basic, something vetted, and something worked in the round.

BASIC … seems obvious, and yet many people make their lives difficult by taking on something more involved. Why do they do this, they get caught up in the *idea* of the finished product; they want it to be perfect and ideal for their taste. Let go of that, it’s your first sweater, not your last. It doesn’t need to be ideal, it just needs to be a sweater. Moreover, I have found that people are less likely to complete their projects when they contain a lot of barriers. Newbies with simpler projects tend to learn faster, have more success with their project and ENJOY THE PROCESS.

VETTED … this means a pattern that is written by a professional designer and has already been made by many people. For the following example, I’ll use FLAX by Tin Can Knits.  You can find the latter on Ravelry; go to a pattern, and click on the PROJECTS tab at the top of the page. It will show you all the projects people have made with the pattern. If you go to the drop-down menu that ways FILTER THESE PROJECTS you can refine your search to ALL HELPFUL PROJECTS. The little life preserver at the top right of each project indicates the number of people who found this project helpful. Presently, it is not possible to sort the projects by ‘Most Helpful’, so you have to troll through the projects to find one that is useful.

IN THE ROUND … I primarily prefer sweaters worked in the round (top-down) for newbies because they usually have minimal finishing, especially seaming. For newbies, seaming tends to be a barrier to actually finishing a project, and a bad seaming job decreases satisfaction with the project. Now, I’m not saying *never* make a seamed sweater, quite the opposite, there’s nothing sexier than old-fashioned set-in sleeves. You do not need to be afraid of or avoid seaming, but on your first sweater making a project in one piece tends to end with more Joy and less frustration. This goes back to our first principle, go for Basic andENJOY THE PROCESS.

TENSION … choose a pattern that is worked with a yarn that is a worsted to chunky weight (between 20 to 14 stitches over 4 inches/10cm). Going thinner or thicker seems to make life difficult, and decreases the success of the project.

Suggested Patterns

The following are all basic garments, are written by professionals, have clear instructions, and are worked in the round, from the top-down.

 

Choose a Yarn

A few considerations on choosing the yarn for your first sweater …

TENSION … make sure your yarn matches the stitch tension in your pattern or is close (within one stitch over 4″/10cm).

DURABILITY … you may be ripping back your work a few times, DO choose a yarn that has some durability and won’t get mucky with a lot of handling. Single ply yarns do not tend to wear well, no matter the price-point, they end up looking mungy very quickly. Multi-ply yarns tend to fare better. Super scratchy wool yarns tend to be very durable, super soft yarns tend to start pilling WHILE you are knitting. My best advice is to find something in-between. By the way, durability is also beneficial once you’re finished and will add to the longevity of the garment.

FIBRE …DO choose a fibre you enjoy, but DO NOT choose a fibre that is hard to work with. A 100% wool like Cascade 220 Superwash or Cascade Eco are ideal; they work up easily, wear well, and are cost effective. Wool blends are also suitable, like Berroco Vintage or Berroco Vintage Chunky; both knit well, wear well, and are machine washable, and people are rarely allergic to it. If you need a cooler yarn, try a cotton/synthetic blend like Cascade Avalon.  Fibres that are unpredictable or hard to work with include alpaca (and other camelids), linen, pure cotton, mohair, viscose (and other cellulose plant-based fibres like bamboo), and 100% synthetic yarns.

COLOUR … choose whatever colour makes you happy (solid, heathered, tweed, variegated, self-striping), but don’t choose something that is very dark. Dark colours will make it hard to see what you are doing, and this could prove to be a very bad thing on a project where you don’t really know what to expect.

PRICE … this is a touchy subject, especially since I’m the one selling the yarn and you are the one who has to actually shell out your hard earned cash. You don’t need to lay out a ton of money for a good yarn, but when it comes to cheap yarns, you get what you pay for. Actually, you often get less than what you paid for. The retail garment industry has decreased our awareness of (and exposure to) good textiles, and as a consequence, many people aren’t familiar with quality textiles or their market prices. Quality textiles are more expensive than you expect, you’re might experience a little bit of sticker shock. From my perspective, I’ve found that people who use a decent yarn enjoy their project more, it is more successful, they actually finish it, they like and use the finished product, and they enjoy the process.

Suggested Yarns

 

I think that’s about all I can handle writing (and you can read) right now, but I promise to follow this post up with a very exciting discussion on SWATCHING! (No, seriously, it’s REALLY important. You need to swatch, and you need to swatch properly).

NEW Sweater Lab

 

 

Sweater Lab

We think the new year is the perfect time to try new things, and in collaboration with Your Fiber Intake, we’re trying something new too – we call it Sweater Lab! The Lab is a place for independent knitters to meet and learn together; socialize, network and try something new.

The Lab is kind of like a Knit-Along – we’re all in it together, supporting each other – except everyone chooses the project they want to work on, at their own personal skill level. For our inaugural outing, we’re going to work on a sweater!

Sweater Lab is FREE, but it is NOT a class, it’s a collaborative, community experience. If you need extra help, one-on-one instruction is available during Sweater Lab for $4.97(+tax)/15 minutes. We’ll also offer FREE suggestions on patterns, yarns and other materials, as well as taking your measurements, swatching, and other support you’ll need to get your project off the ground.

  • Wednesday nights from 6pm to 8pm, January 17 to February 28, 2018
  • Drop-in, no need to sign up
  • Everyone is welcome, all skill levels
  • Location: 1382 Bathurst St, Toronto ON

Note: If you need more instruction than provided at The Lab we also offer conventional workshops, as well as one-on-one instruction at reasonable rates.