Sunday, October 26, 2008

Smilla neckwrap to knit

I was going to name this First Snow, but then I realized Smilla is better. After all, I fumbled my way through the concept when I joined the "Smidge Along" group on Ravelry last year. Combining Smidge with the thought of the first snow of the fall, that light, crusty layer of wet white that coats everything, Smilla (as in Smilla's Sense of Snow) immediately came to mind.

The pattern below produces a neckwrap that is knit in the round, laid flat, and buttoned at the bottom. The stitch I used is the first half of the stitch pattern Stacey used for her "My So-Called Scarf." There's an excellent tutorial for this stitch pattern on the Mason-Dixon Knitting blog. However, I hope that you will find my version of the stitch fairly simple and won't need the tutorial.

Smilla Neckwrap
Materials: Karabella Margrite Bulky, (80% Extrafine Merino Wool, 20% Cashmere) 50 g. (1.75 0z.), 71 meters (77 yards), about 1.5 balls per neckwrap.
Circular needle, size 15 (10 mm), 16" long. Substitutes: dpns, two circulars, a long circular for magic loop or any other means of knitting in the round. A smaller size needle can be substituted, but you might need to cast on more stitches. (I used size 15 because that is what I had in a short circular.)
Finished measurements: 4.5" wide x 24" long
Stitch Glossary
SKYOP - Slip one stitch knitwise, knit the next stitch, pass the yarn over the top of the needle and, using the left needle, pass the slipped stitch over both the knitted stitch and the yarn over.
Gauge: 7 SKYOP, 16 rows, in pattern/4 inches (or 14 stitches, 16 rows if you prefer to count a plain knit row)
Instructions: Cast on an odd number of stitches, using a provisional cast on. I cast on 31 stitches for the gray Smilla, and 29 for the brown one. Both worked well. For a provisional cast on, I use a crochet cast on and pick up stitches through the bumps on the back of the crochet chain, but any cast on that can be removed to leave you with loose stitches for a 3-needle bind-off will do.
Round 1: K1, SKYOP around.
Round 2: Knit all stitches.
Round 3: SKYOP until one stitch remains, K1.
Round 4: Knit all stitches.
Note: It is important that you start round 3 with a K1 and that you keep the same stitch count. The pair of stitches that you passed a stitch over on round 1 should be split in round 3. This is what makes the stitches spiral around. If you lose a stitch (which is easy to do if you forget a yarn over) or start every round with a knit stitch, the SKYOP stitches will stack on top of each other, leaving gaps between them.
Repeat Rounds 1-4 until neckwrap is desired length. I suggest 23 to 26", depending on the size neck you'd like to wrap. Add buttonholes as desired when the wrap is two inches shorter than desired length. See buttonhole note below. After making buttonholes (or not), continue in pattern until the piece is the desired length, ending with Round 1 or 3. Divide the stitches equally on two needles and, using a third needle, bind off with a three needle bind off. (You will have one extra stitch; just bind it off by knitting it together with another stitch.) Remove the provisional cast on, place the stitches on two needles and bind off with a three needle bind off.
Buttonholes: For this gray version, I made buttonholes by binding off one stitch and casting on one in the same place on the following row, placing four of these bound-off stitches evenly around the neckwarmer. I then matched up two of the stitches on the front and back to make two buttonholes. However, since the stitch gauge is very large, these buttonholes were too big. I crocheted around them to tighten them up--hand sewing around them in buttonhole stitch would work as well.
The smaller buttons I have for the brown version will button through the stitches, since they are knit at such a loose gauge. No buttonhole is needed. Check your buttons before you get within 2" of the end to see if you need buttonholes.
(Edited to clarify the alternating stitches and needle requirements.)
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Sunday, October 5, 2008

Knitting socks for tender feet

I was so proud of one of my early pair of socks that I brought them with me while visiting friends this summer. Our host was very interested in them, so much so that I told him he could try them on. It was quite funny, seeing him put them on, pink toes and heels, brown and green yarn and all. He explained that he has very short feet for a man and that his socks always wrinkle up under his feet, making them quite uncomfortable. I didn't really believe him, but we compared, and his foot is the same size as mine. (I wear a women's size 7 1/2 shoe.)

Naturally, I immediately jumped on the idea of knitting him a pair of socks. Then, he commented that he found my hand-knit socks unconfortable because he could "feel the bumps on the bottom." He admitted he has very sensitive soles. I was more than a little concerned then than I would not be able to knit a pair of wool socks that he would find totally comfortable. Nonetheless, I have taken on the challenge.

First, I consulted Ravelry, and was rewarded with helpful advice, offered in this thread on the Sock Knitters Anonymous discussion board. I planned at the outset to purl the soles of the socks, putting the smoother stockinette side against his sensitive soles. Commonly known as a "Princess Sole", this technique is a bit more troublesome, but makes a more comfortable sock.
I knit this sock from the top down, and planned to use a slip-stitch pattern to make it similar to the socks my friend had tried and liked. However, the Wildfoote yarn I chose is too splitty to work well with any stitch more complicated than plain knits and purls. The pattern I originally selected began with a k3, p1 cuff. When I decided against doing the slipstitch, I simply continued the cuff pattern on down the leg. About halfway through the leg, I realized that although the k3, p1 ribbing was smooth on the outside but produced a "bumpy" inside. I was afraid that the single k1 rib would rub against my friend's leg and irritate his sensitive skin.
After all, a person with tiny little feet and such sensitive soles must have tender skin on his leg, too.
When I began the heel flap, I turned the sock inside out, placing the smoother k3 side of the knitting to the inside. Now I can't decide if I should call these Socks for the Tenderfoot or Inside-out Socks.
About a half-inch before the heel, I added an additional purl stitch to the pattern, making a k1, p1 section across the instep to allow more stretch there. Once I knit the heel, I continued this k1, p1 for another half-inch before switching to plain stockinette for the foot.
You can get a better view of the pattern I used for the heel and the Princess Sole here. It continues the slip stitches for the heel under the arch of the foot, then purls the sole. I'm sorry I can't model this sock for you. It is a bit too short to fit properly. I was so eager to see if the Wildfoote yarn softened up after washing that I knit the toe too soon. The Wildfoote does soften a bit, but it doesn't grow much after washing and blocking. Once I get a better fitting second sock knit, I will rip out the toe of this one and reknit it to match. You'll see modeled photos then.
Of course, such a plain knit sock is not that interesting or inventive. I've provided these details here in case you have a tenderfoot that needs socks.