I Love a Good Yarn

Yarns, stories, and sometimes stories about yarn


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A new-to-me technique: Two-at-a-time socks

Next week I’ve got a business trip to California, which will involve a good amount of time in airports and airplanes (I live on the east coast, and quite a distance from a major metro airport at that), so I needed a smallish project to take with me that would involve a) minimal/simple pattern repeats, b) easily packable needles and yarn, c) a minimum of additional tools (I do love cables, but have you ever tried to retrieve a dropped cable needle when sitting in an airplane seat?) but also d) enough actual work that I won’t run out of project before I run out airport/airplane time.

Socks are the obvious choice, but socks are sometimes tough for me when it comes to choosing patterns for the yarn I have. Most of my yarn is multicolored, whether variegated, self-striping or speckled. Finding the right pattern to feature the beautiful color in the yarn while also allowing any lace, cable or other interesting stitch elements to come through is a challenge. And I often fear my spindly little double-pointed needles won’t survive all the tossing around when projects are as mobile as they are when I travel. I solved this conundrum for the upcoming trip and even hit the trifecta of great pattern for the yarn I wanted to use, simple yet satisfying pattern that doesn’t need extra tools and cool new-to-me technique to add to my repertoire that allows me to leave the double-pointed needles home.

First, the pattern and the yarn: I’m making the Vintage Fairy Lights socks by Helen Stewart. The pattern calls for yarn “with a bit of sparkle,” so the Mt. Rutsen Studio Yarns Firefly fingering (colorway “Patti’s Holly Bush”) I received in my December yarn-of-the-month club delivery fit the bill perfectly. The thin silver thread that appears here and there among the white, pink, cranberry and blue-grey provides the sparkle, while the pattern that runs for about 25 rounds below the ribbed cuff is meant to mimic bulbs on a string of Christmas lights.

Fairy lights socks 2

I have only ever knitted socks, gloves, mittens and the like on double-pointed needles, but I’ve been curious about the magic-loop method for a number of years. I’ve just never gotten around to trying it. I searched YouTube for videos from which to learn the technique and had to sift through a lot of bad instruction, teases for paid instruction, and poor video quality before I found just the right one for my purposes. But finally I happened upon this video, and I can wholeheartedly recommend it:

First of all, I have mad respect for Therese Inverso, the knitter in this video, who is knitting gloves from the finger tips down. Think about that! It boggles my mind. She also shows two different variations on the two-at-a-time circular technique–one using a single, long circular (magic loop), and one using two shorter circular needles. She covers everything you need to know to be sure you’re keeping your knitting organized and accurate, and she points out the possible pitfalls and how to avoid them. I chose to use the two-needle technique, as I was concerned that with all the jostling around in my project bag while traveling, I’d run the risk of loosing that “dog ear” on the magic loop and messing up my work. I’ve solved the problem of keeping the two needles distinct by using one metal and one bamboo needle (Therese has needles with different-color cords), and, as the yarn came in a single skein, I’m knitting one sock from the center of the cake and one from the outer strand. So far, I’m thrilled with the results, but I’m very curious as to how things will go once I get to the heel flap and have to stop knitting in the round and start up again after picking up the gusset stitches. I’m sure it will work out fine, but that’s the kind of thing I have to actually wrap my hands around, as I’ve no capacity for visualizing without doing.

The initial plan was to just get the project on the needles and knit about five or so rounds into the cuff and then set it aside for the trip next week. But I’ve had so much fun with this new-to-me technique that I’m already 40 rounds in and at the end of the Christmas light pattern. So, to be sure I don’t run out of knitting before the trip is over, I’ll be bringing a backup sock project. This one will be a simple Vanilla Sock pattern, also knit two at a time on two circulars, but using two skeins of this gorgeous Koigu Painter’s Palette Premium Merino:

Koigu

My first-ever socks were made with Koigu, so it’ll be fun to work with that brand again. It doesn’t contain any nylon or other material to help with stretchiness, but I see loads of socks made from this fiber on Ravelry, so I’m sure it will be OK.

I’ll be back in a little over a week, hopefully with some fun reports about Bay Area yarn stores!