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Hoosier Musings on the Road to Emmaus

Friday, January 20, 2006

I can stop anytime I want. Really.

I am a beginning knitter. And when I say "beginning," I mean just that. I started this insidious interesting little obsession hobby only a few months ago, after a trip to the local fabric store went quicker than I expected. I had some extra time, so I wandered around-- and discovered that over to the side there was this ENORMOUS selection of yarns, in a riot of colors, and sizes, and patterns, and textures... Lord forgive me, I am a sucker for texture. The next thing I knew, two little skeins and a pair of fat plastic needles had adhered themselves to my hand. In order to make a break from the store they pried my credit card out when I wasn't looking; and then they followed me home.

Being the geeky sort, I wandered around online until I found a place that would show me how to put my purchases to good use. I found some directions that were only moderately confusing, and began.

Ripped out, and began again.

Finally, on the third try, I managed to get a needle loaded and a row of knitting started. This boded well; so I kept going. . . and going, until I had used up my two small skeins. Lo and behold, I had a scarf! A fuzzy blue scarf, with soft little sparkly bits in it. (Okay, I know that yarns have names, and that I should probably remember it-- the yarn that willingly gave itself to my first project-- but I don't. I simply used it, casting on and then casting off without a second thought. It served my purpose, satisfied my longings, and I moved on. (I am coming to better understand the appellation "Yarn Harlot.")

Over the next few weeks, I made trips back to the store on several occasions, and yarn went through my needles like water through a sieve. I took the knitting everywhere-- to sit in the doctor's office, to watch the boy's soccer games, to pass the time in the passenger seat when our family travelled... (no, I did not try to knit while driving. I may be crazy, but I'm not stupid). I've made scarves for both children, the boy's teacher, my sister-in-law... and the current project doesn't even have a destination. It's only reason for existance was that I was working on purling (that being the other basic knitting stitch, and kind of like knitting only backwards).

but you know... a woman can only knit scarves for so long before she wants to move on to harder drugs projects. I considered hats, and mittens, and even sweaters or shawls; but I have lately developed the urge to make socks. This is not logical, I know. I can buy socks by the bin at the local department store, with less effort and less expense. Nevertheless, the desire is there, and grows stronger by the day.

Herein lies my dilemma. I have tried looking up directions online, just as I did to learn what I have so far-- and I find that they are written in code. Unintelligible code, confusing and bewildering and beyond comprehension.

Fingering weight yarn? I finger all of it. That's what yarn is for, yes?
bulky weight? That hardly seems kind. Is there a Weight Watchers for yarn?

Slip 1, purl 9, p2tog, p1, turn.
Slip 1, k3, SSK, k1, turn.
Slip 1, p4, p2tog (across the gap), p1, turn.
Slip 1, k5, SSK (across the gap), k1, turn.

If knitters had been employed during WWII, we would not have needed to worry about transmission of secret information behind enemy lines.

And then I look at the pictures, and they use four needles to do one sock! Criminy, I can barely handle two without doing harm to some vital organ.

However, I am stubborn tenacious. And I am obsessed with committed to learning how to knit a sock.

So I'm coming to you for help. Are there any knitters out there, who would be willing to translate for me? Or heck, show me where to begin? Yarns, needle sizes, directions comprehensible to the rank amateur... ?


Blogger Being Shielded said...

Congratualtions on trying socks! I don't have that kind of courage yet.

A book is a good investment (I like "Stitch 'n' Bitch") and find friends who knit or classes at the yarn store. The book will provide an introduction to weights, needle sizes, guage, directions, and suggests techniques to keep you sane when you pick up a project after letting it lie fallow for a few days.

I'm still figuring out the directions thing. I do know that they are arranged in rows, and generally a pattern repeats several times in a garment. "K" and "P" are knit and purl, and the number following tells you how many of those stitches to make. "p2tog" means to purl two stitches together, and you can knit them together also. (I constantly have to look back at the book every time I do this.) As for the rest of the directions, I can't remember off the top of my head.

The four needles thing -- that's pretty much how to do a round object on a linear plane. (I've seen this done, but haven't done it myself.) You just work the yarn in a spiral shape, passing the work from one needle to the next. The alternative is to "knit in the round" which means having two needles connected by a length of tubing. You never have to change to a different set of needles, but it can get confusing to how many rows you've actally done.

January 21, 2006 10:18 AM  

Blogger G. Brooke said...

So where's Emily already?

January 21, 2006 12:45 PM  

Blogger Dawgdays said...

I was to told to pass on this info:

- Google for "universal sock pattern"

- Five needles are actually easier than four.

This is from someone who is knitting a stole for the new priest in the family. I'll see if she'll comment directly.

January 21, 2006 5:55 PM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

All the socks I've done so far have been worsted on size 4 double-pointed needles (worsted is the weight - the yarn label will often say what weight it is). However, stuff labeled as sock yarn will generally be fingering weight, which is thinner, or occasionally sport weight, which is in between. These will require smaller needles.

For the Universal Sock Pattern, which has multiple versions (I use the algebraic version and generally have to tweak it a bit because of the way my foot is shaped) and a guide for weights and needle sizes, look here:

For abbreviations, look at
halfway down the page for translations, and at
for how to do them.

There are some good articles at
down past the list of patterns about certain knitting techniques - double-pointed needles (DPNs), weaving in ends, etc. There might be one there about socks, I'm not sure.

Two more things:
*It's easier knitting in the round with five needles than with four. You spread your stitches across four needles and knit with the 5th.
*Circular needles (with the tube between the ends) can also be used to knit in the round, though not for socks (circumference is too small) unless you use the magic loop method or the two circulars method. Both are described on knittinghelp.com.

January 21, 2006 6:17 PM  

Blogger Emily said...

Some good books are the "Stitch 'n Bitch' mentioned already, and also "kids knitting" by Melanie Falick, who has a nice section on knitting in the round.

Weight of yarn: super-bulky/bulky is the biggest, followed by biggy/chunky, aran, worsted, dk, sport, then fingering and lace weight. The bigger the yarn, the bigger the needle. The more stitches per inch, the tighter the gauge and the smaller the needle.

If you're making socks, you want to knit with a smaller needle than you would usually choose for that yarn, because you want a tight fabric that won't wear out as easily.

The Sock Knitters website has a lot of stuff. I think it's http://www.sockknitters.com. If that doesn't work, take out the extra k.

We can correspond further by email if desired!

(And we can then go to Yarnaholics Anonymous together).

January 22, 2006 7:14 AM  

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