I’m on my third batch of stitch markers. I’m not losing them, I find myself giving them away to people who have the same complaints I do about the commercial stitch markers. I have the same policy with earrings I make, so it’s a natural extension of something I’m already doing. Fun!
I’ve used a variety of stitch markers but was wholly unsatisfied with what’s currently available. They’re either bulky or intrusive or too easily dropped/lost, all of which are frustrating. I’ve worked out a couple solutions that work better for me.
If I leash together two of the commercial markers (I’ve used plastic split ring, round plastic and triangular) they work much better as the marker doesn’t get lost and is easily retrieved if it slips from my grasp when transferring from one needle to the next, but they’re still bulkier than is comfortable when using sock yarn and size 1 needles. On the plus side, if the leash is tied to a clip or pin so it can be fastened to the work, they don’t fall away when they’re dropped.
An even better solution are markers made from filament and beads. The flexible filament is very thin and keeps the marker from interfering with the work, the bead makes the marker easy to spot and acts as a handle or connector and are big enough that both needles can simultaneously be inserted into the marker reducing the chance you will drop it when transferring between needles.
Beyond that, they’re pretty and make me smile.
I love the Paton stretch sock yarn and I love wearing the socks. I only have one pair of socks I like as much, a Smartwool sport sock that fits as well as the socks I make for myself.
In the socks I’ve done so far, I’ve got two modified versions of the sweet tomato heel and a short row heel using the sweet tomato stitch pickup technique. This time I’m going to work a modified version of the afterthought heel. The single row of black yarn near the needles is where the heel will be inserted.
After three pair of socks, I think I’ve found my rhythm . . . sort of. The trick is to wear glasses strong enough for me to see the stitches. I’m no longer dropping stitches or inadvertently adding stitches. Who knew? Go me!
I’ve refined the pattern I’m using (toe up sock). My wedge toe has more of a pleasing curve (magic cast on 40 stitches, increase every row for 4 rows, every other row 2x and every 4th row 1x for a total of 68 stitches). Now that I’ve got the technique down and have wised up and started wearing strong glasses things are coming together nicely. I just need to test drive this heel technique to see which one works best for me (least number of holes and fits the best).
Because my feet are so short I can get a whole pair of socks out of a single skein of sock yarn if I don’t need tall socks. If you discount the ~30 hours it takes to make a pair of socks, these are a bargain at about $6 a pair. If I want the socks taller than a 3″ crew, I need just a touch more yarn, thus the black toes, heels and cuff.
This latest pair of socks show I can’t seem to get the quality of work paired with the pattern matching. Admittedly, this yarn is the left over from the very first pair of socks, so I’m cutting myself all kinds of slack. As I seldom leave the farm, the likelihood of anyone but me noticing the pattern doesn’t match is pretty darn small. And if they do notice, I’m pretty certain I won’t care.
I’m about 2/3 of the way done with my second 6″ crew sock. It’s going very nicely. My heel-turn technique is improving (fewer holes) and my work is nicely even. I love the cast-on technique for toe-up knitting. The heel turn method is easy and easy to adapt to fit my specific heel. Getting a good fitting sock with no pattern is easy, after the fifth heel tear-out on the first sock. Go me. <grin> The next pair I’ll do differently still and they will be even better . . . and faster!
I’ve got a couple yards left in the first skein of yarn which isn’t going to be enough to finish this sock. The second skein will let me finish this sock and should leave me with enough to make another pair with short cuffs. I couldn’t buy quality socks for the price I paid for the yarn so color me happy. I guess that’s one of the blessing of having small feet . . . more sock per yard.
At this point, I need to solve my needle problem. I’ve ordered another brand of needle AND some fix-it stuff. If one won’t work, the other should.
The fix-it stuff is for the problem I have with the join between the tip and cable for the square needles. They really are a good concept, but the design/execution could really use some work. Let me explain.
The socks I’m making are worked in super-fine yarn. Other than crochet thread for doilies, that’s the finest yarn sold in skeins for hand knitters. The yarn manufacturer recommends a size 3 needle but I like tightly knitted socks so I’m using a size 1 needle.
For the stitch transfer to go smoothly for finer yarns, the join between the cable and the needle really has to be flawless. Add together the fine yarn, small needle size and tight knitting and getting the yarn back on the tip from the cable becomes tricky in the best of situations. As you can see, the join on the top needle in the above picture is a far cry from ideal.
When I got the square needles, I was appalled at the price (easily twice the price of needles the same length and size at KnitPicks.com) but I really liked with the squared off shaft which reduces hand strain and the slightly shortener tip which fits my hand better.
The total limpness of the cable is a true wonder. When you make socks using two 16″ cable needles, stiffness in the cable prevents even tension in the stitches where the needle change occurs. This is magnified for tight knitters. That forced unevenness drives me nuts. The limpness of the cable on these needles solved that problem. The difference in appearance between the first sock (done largely with stiff cable needles) and the second (completely knit on limp-cable needles) is graphic.
To fix the hip-join problem between the tip and the needles I used my brass hammer and cobbler’s jack and reshaped the butt of the tip. This worked really well right up until the altered shape of the butt impacted the integrity of the cable sheath. Click the needle image and you’ll see what I mean. The extra sharpness at the butt over time caused the sheath of the cable to separate and peel back giving an additional place for the cable to snag the yarn, though it’s still an improvement in moving yarn back onto the tip over the original shape. Unfortunately, in one needle it caused complete separation between the tip and the cable.
I’ve got some neat stuff coming that I hope will allow me to solve the tip/cable join problem and let me continue to use these too expensive but wonderfully shaped needles.
Check out Sugru. It’s an air curable silicone rubber which bonds to aluminum. When my multi-color 8-pack arrives, I should be able to reshape the join to a smooth ramp AND take the stress off the cable sheath at the join. If it doesn’t work as well as I think it might, I might be able to use it instead of cork for the heel seat in my shoes! The uses for this stuff have got to be endless!
I have decided I need a purple pair . . . I just need to find the right purple. Every girl should have at least one pair of purple socks. The Patron Stretch Sock yarn is so awesome I am hesitant to try another type yarn. I’ll have to see what kind of purple they make.