Hand-Knitted Socks

Hand-knitted? Hand knit?  Whichever.  I thought at one point I would never, ever, ever knit socks.  The stitches are just soooooo tiny, you guys.

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But my friend Alexia assured me that once I got going they were really fast, and the appeal of knitting something that was so eminently practical was pretty strong.  Like when I started thinking about Sewing All The Things, the idea that another entire sector of my wardrobe had the potential to be Made By Me was hypnotic.

I cast on.  And then I ripped it out and I cast on again.  For some reason, getting the in-the-round thing going was super tricky for me, even though I’d done it before.  Finally, I got it going and started my first pair: Hermione’s Everyday Socks,  which I found on Ravelry (you can find me there as @whipstitchdeborah).  I used a beautiful yarn I scored from an IG sale with @skeincocaine (most aptly named IG account EVAR), and it’s lovely and squishy and soft, and did most of the knitting in the car on the drive back from Grand Canyon.

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These were much easier to knit that I would have expected.  And fun!  I know, I know.  But really, I’m not just saying that.  I can’t read in the car, and I want to talk to my husband, anyway, but I intensely dislike wasted time, and cross stitch while riding shotgun was just too finicky.  All the switching colors and splitting floss, yikes.  This is vastly more straightforward and easy to manage without making a mess.

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I got the first sock mostly done in the cozy car hurtling east on I-40 between Arizona and Atlanta, even working while we out-raced a winter storm to avoid getting stuck in Little Rock.  I cast on the second once we get home, as IG friends with far more knitting and sock experience than I have (I only wear them three months out of the year, after all–hooray for a warm climate!) suggested that starting to knit socks two-at-a-time was maybe a recipe for frustration, and learning sock “structure” by knitting them individually first would be a better approach.

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Maybe you’ve never read or heard people geek out about “turning the heel,” the point in sock knitting where you take the tube part–either coming from the top down or from the toe up–and make it “bend” to head the other direction at 90 degrees.  Most of the time, whenever someone uses this term, it is followed very closely with the word “magic.”  There’s a reason for that.  IT IS MAGIC.  There appear to be lots of ways of doing it, but they all seem to involve grabbing stitches that are headed north/south and knitting off them to head east/west.  It’s a little tricky and took me a couple YouTube videos to understand what I was sticking my needle into before making the next stitch, but once you get the hang of it, it’s pretty fun–and the results feel like you’ve just gotten your letter to Hogwarts in the mail.

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These are the completed socks, which have seen heavy wear, and have also faded every so slightly from washing.  I’ve been running them through the washing machine and then hanging to dry.  They are soft and squishy in a way that I never comprehended a sock could be before I knitted my own–even better than the $20+ socks from the outdoor store that you would swear are your favorite socks ever.

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Naturally, because it’s me and I can’t bear to do things the easy way if there’s any chance for there to be a method of complicating matters, I cast on a second pair that were far less simple: these are lace and mock cables, and they’re so, so pretty.  The pattern is the Monkey socks, and it feels wild and carefree compared to Hermione’s socks. The yarn is Sea Witch by House of a la Mode on StevenBe, and it was the colors that drew me in.

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I mostly worked on these on the sofa and at ballet classes; thought I’d only done half of one, but looky!  I find I am far more industrious than even I thought.  I set these aside for most of the spring, and worked on a sweater for my daughter instead–I don’t really like having more than one project ever going at the same time, for exactly this reason.  I had actually almost forgotten about these, and they’re still unfinished–and with the pattern, it’s not quite suitable for knitting during the church service, which I freely admit I do.

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The yarn overs–where you wrap the yarn around the needle but don’t stick it through a loop first–make the lace pattern, and they also feel wild and daring, because you’re basically making a hole in your knitting AND THAT’S JUST CRAZY.  The interaction of those strategically-placed holes and the winding pattern makes “leaves” and I think these might be the prettiest socks I’ve ever (almost) owned.

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I vaguely recall the heel on this being made differently from the Hermione heel, but it’s not a clear memory.  It looks pretty good, though, yeah?

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At some point this spring, I cast on a third pair, I think right before we left for our big family trip this summer as a project for the planes/trains/car while we were in France.  These are the same as first pair, but without the repeating pattern, so they’re basically just a plain sock in the same dimensions and with the same heel.  They’re FLOWN along, and are so pretty.  The yarn is a commemorative Prince colorway called I Wanna Be Your Lover, dyed by LushKnit and snapped up in one of her Instasales.  They’re bright and bold and PINK and I love them.

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I worked on these all the way to, through, and from France this summer, followed by on the drive back from South Florida to Atlanta after seeing family in July.  Because there is no pattern, it’s just around and around and around, which makes the time fly by and makes it easier to concentrate on conversation (or on finishing up the Harry Potter audiobooks which SAVED OUR LIVES when all three children had to sit across a single back seat in the rental car and were on the verge of eating one another–put on a little HP and TOTAL SILENCE while looking out the windows, enraptured!).

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I’ve just got to finish off the toes on these and they’re done!  I was traveling without a blunt darning needle, so I had to work a temporary solution on sock #1 to free my needles and cast on sock #2; so far, so good.

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Believe it or not, I tried to make them match exactly, but the “striping” effect didn’t play out quite the same between the two–one had big fatty stripes, and the other they’re a little skinnier.  But who cares?  And I don’t even mind at all that no one will know by looking at them that this is a commemorative Prince-themed yarn BECAUSE I WILL TELL ANYONE WHO STANDS STILL LONG ENOUGH.

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None of these socks are perfect.  There have been dropped stitches that I had to find and drag back up to the needle, which causes a little under-breath muttering that may or may not go over poorly at church.  There are a couple rows where something got away from me or where I split the yarn and didn’t get a smooth result.  I honestly don’t care.  I sincerely enjoyed knitting all of these, and wearing them will make my winter so much cozier.

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Finishing is FUN!  I had read people complain about the Kitchener stitch, which makes an invisible join along the toe but requires “sewing” the toe closed, but once I tried it, I loved the repetitive nature of the stitch and found it pretty easy to pull off.  As long as I could remember the steps, that is.
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Why bother to make socks, then?  Seriously? It IS a lot of work, and I do live in a climate where it’s over 80 degrees for six months out of the year.  Is this really the best investment of my time, if we’re being analytical?

The truth is, they really do feel amazing.  So, so much softer than I can describe.  Plus, unlike a lot of other shapes, it’s simple to knit with large sections that don’t require referring to the pattern.  Knitting socks is easy to transport, which gives it an advantage over almost every garment sewing project, and they’re quick to complete.  I like that as you’re working on socks, everyone can tell what it is, deflecting lots of irritation questions about your “what is that, crochet?”

And maybe the strongest argument: sock yarn is SO PRETTY and very affordable.  I may or may not have two dozen more colors waiting to go–which gets me one step closer to, well, maybe not a 100% handmade wardrobe, but at least one where 100% of the categories have at least one handmade option in them.  It’s a mountain I am willing to climb–in hand knitted socks.

Fiesta Fun Fabrics Romper for Summer

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I first met Dana through a benefit auction online.  I offered up one of the dresses I used to design, and she was the second bidder–outbid by a dollar.  And we bonded over how, in a benefit/charity situation, maybe our goal shouldn’t be winning the auction by the least amount possible, because maybe the goal isn’t winning the auction, but rather making an impact and the “winning” is icing on top.  We became fast friends.

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Last Chance to Find Your Sewing Buddy for 2017!


TODAY is the final day to register for the 2017 Sewing Buddy Project!  After nearly a decade and over 1000 sewing friends matched, the Project is here to find you your perfect sewing pen pal!  A one-time fee gets you hand-matched to another sewing enthusiast for a year of sewing prompts, chances to connect, and the kind support of someone who really GETS you.

Already registered?  Don’t forget to log on to your account and visit the main group page to complete the Google doc with your information in order to be matched!  Matches will be emailed directly to your inbox by Feb 2, 2017.  I can’t wait to introduce you to your new sewing best friend!

Find Your Best Sewing Friend: The Sewing Buddy Project

sewing-buddy-button-2017At the beginning of 2010, I sent out a quick survey to see what it is that most of us see as the reason we aren’t able to successfully get our sewing goals met each year.  Is it time?  Or how much space we have to work in?  Is it lack of accountability?  Or something else?  The answers were varied and came from all over the globe, and I was fascinated to see what everyone had to say–and even more fascinated to know how many of us are having the same experience, despite very different backgrounds!

The results of the survey said that all of us had some goals to meet–goals we’d been sadly ignoring in years past.  Some of them were expected, and others were a surprise–not all of us felt the same way about every aspect of our goals and obstacles, but there was a lot of overlap in the answers.  Want to see my super-scientific-I-have-a-social-sciences-degree analysis of the answers that were submitted?  Here ya go!

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Make This The Year You Sew Your Own Wardrobe: The League of Adventurous Dressmakers

Years ago, before I started Whipstitch, I was a schoolteacher.  Schoolteachers are not, as a cultural group, widely known for their fashion sense.  For the most part, I suspect I dressed like a sad librarian.  I know this because the most common days on which I received compliments from my students for looking “nice” were the days when I DIDN’T get dressed by choosing the top thing from the unfolded pile of clothing and instead ironed something that had been in the closet.  Short version: I didn’t dress like I cared all that much about how I dressed.

But that wasn’t a wholly accurate reflection of how I felt on the inside.  In point of fact, I cared a great deal about how my clothing fit and looked.  I was (and remain) particularly focused on silhouette, and in how garments work together to create a pleasing whole when layered and combined.  Most of my inspiration came from magazines and window shopping–this was before the internet, so I couldn’t Pin my ideas or create a virtual inspiration board.  Instead, I tore sheets from fashion magazines and made literal, actual, old-school bulletin boards of looks and colors that I loved, that I felt reflected on the outside how I saw myself on the inside.

A teacher’s salary, though, wasn’t really up to the price tag of my taste level.  Most of the clothes that I admired were far beyond my reach financially.

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The Murder Mystery Quilt and The League of Adventurous Dressmakers: BACK FOR 2017!

This past year has been one of the happiest, most rewarding years I have ever spent sewing, and that is down to a single factor: the people I spent it with.  I made the decision almost exactly one year ago that I was going to focus on two groups in 2016: The Murder Mystery Quilt and The League of Adventurous Dressmakers.  The first has been a pet dream of mine for ages, because who doesn’t love a mystery??  The second was a passion project, born directly out of my desire to sew better clothing with people who love to learn.

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The End of the Stash

I wore my Driftless Cardigan–photograph below from Instagram, and yet another garment I have yet to blog about because I’m too busy wearing it–this morning, and a friend asked if I had made it.  And what I told her is this weird revelation that I’ve been having over and over, and that feels so obvious that I keep doing a double-take, because how have I failed to see the truth of this so many times?  It is this: I wear the clothes most that I like most.

navy Driftless Cardigan | Whipstitch

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Do I Really HAVE to Block My Knitting?

It is finished!  My amazing yellow yellow merino-and-silk sweater is all done.

easy silk knitted cardigan

Well, finished depending on whom you ask.  Seems like nearly all the knitting sites I’ve seen say it isn’t really finished until I block it.  Which appears to involve soaking it and laying it out to dry, and if I understand it right, will make the fibers fluff up and then hold the shape better?

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#aggressivelyambitious and the Handmade Wardrobe

I did a personality profile recently.  Not like an online quiz kind of thing, but like a detailed personality assessment with a 39-page analysis and a person-to-person de-brief with the consultant.

It was so, so fun.birkman pages

I mean that completely un-ironically.  I LOVE test-taking.  LOVE IT.  Always have.  I would get all a-twitter on days when we had standardized testing, I thought it was like a treat, like Christmas coming early and ALL FOR ME.  I thought the PSAT was a PARTY.  (Side note: I am not normal.  I embrace and delight in this.  My personality profile told me so.)

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Supertote Backpack with Leather Handles

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I have never made a bag I liked nearly as much as this bag.  It is possible I have never OWNED a bag I like nearly as much as this bag–and I am deeply emotionally attached to my yellow full-grain pebbled leather Ralph Lauren satchel with brass hardware, so that’s saying something.  This is the Supertote pattern from Anna of Noodlehead, which I originally bought thinking it would be a great shape for a ballet bag for my girls (spoiler: it will be), but then realized would also make a great backpack for me for our upcoming family travels.  BOOM.

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