Guest Post on Wovember Blog

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I am honoured to have been asked to blog for Wovember. In true Clare style I have written about sock knitting and sock yarn. This time I have gone in search of the perfect sock yarn, without nylon. Yes folks, after all my advocating for nylon I have gone searching for the complete opposite.

I still think there is a need for nylon in sock yarns but my eyes have recently been opened to the world of sock knitting without nylon. Pop over to the Wovember blog to read the article I wrote for the team there. I hope you enjoy it. Click on the link to go straight to the article.

Pure Wool for Socks (no nylon here folks)

Happy knitting,

Clare

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How to Choose Yarn for Socks

If you listened to the Shinybees podcast and popped over for some more detailed information – welcome, I hope you like what you find. If you have not listened to the Shinybees podcast episode where we chat about yarn choices for socks I highly recommend you tune in, it is a great podcast – and the perfect intro for this article.

So, how do I go about choosing the right yarn for my socks?

How to choose sock yarn revised

When thinking about my sock knitting I always try to think about things in relation to three main categories: fit, durability and aesthetic. I find that by thinking in these terms I can often evaluate what I need from my tools, the pattern or stitches I am using to put together a design, or select a pattern.

On the topic of yarn I think these three categories are important and to use them effectively you need to think of the purpose of your socks. Are you knitting delicate little socks for a newborn baby or tough boot socks for hiking? These are extremes and you are probably looking for something in between. You need to evaluate what the most important elements are and then make selections accordingly.

This might all have started sounding very complicated so let me give you some hints and tips for making the right choices when you are first starting out. It is also worth remembering that it is all a matter of personal taste.

First let me explain my broad categories then we can look at requirements and yarn suggestions using them.

Fit: Just what it says on the tin, how will the socks fit. This is determined by many factors but yarn is certainly a key player. You need to ask yourself. How is the yarn you have chosen going to affect the fit of the sock? You want to look at things like fibre content and the way the yarn has been spun.

Durability: Think about how the socks will wear. To determine what you are looking for here you need to think about the use or purpose of the socks. Everyday socks, socks for babies, boot socks, fancy occasion socks. What kind of shoes will you be wearing them with? Again we will be looking at fibre content and how the yarn has been spun.

Aesthetic: What are the socks going to look like? Here you need to ask yourself questions about the design and your own personal tastes. Is there a pattern that you want to highlight or are they plain vanilla socks? Here we are going to be looking at things like colours, dye techniques, texture and the way the yarn is spun.

The process of choosing yarn now centres around these three categories. Let’s chat a little more about what to look for when thinking about each category.

Fit

In my opinion when it comes to socks fit is always the most important factor. Poorly fitting socks are terrible. Who wants a baggy sock bunched around their ankles, or even worse bunched inside your shoe around your toe.

In all honesty fit is not completely controlled by yarn choice, the main players when it comes to fit are gauge and measuring, however there are a few things to consider.

Try to avoid silk, or yarn with a high silk content. It drapes and does not hold its shape well. You could choose something with 10 or 15% silk but any more than that and you are heading for some fit issues. The same with bamboo and cotton, they are notoriously bad for holding their shape. Approach with caution when choosing yarn for socks.

Ideally you want something with a high natural fibre content that has been spun in a way that gives it structure. Sock knitters often favour tightly spun yarns, and while you don’t have to select a super twist yarn choosing a lofty loosely spun yarn might not do you any favours.

Summary: choose natural fibres and avoid anything with lots of drape (high silk, cotton or bamboo content).

Durability

This is another key player in the choices we make about socks. The vast majority of socks get lots of wear. They are on our feet, in our shoes. Inevitably they get hot and maybe damp (sorry but it has to be said). Damp fibre with heat and friction = felting. Lots of friction on knitting fabric = holes. We want our socks to last, how do we achieve this.

Nylon my friends, even avid lovers of natural fibres will often admit that nylon is their friend when it comes to socks. It gives strength and increases the durability and wear of the knitted fabric.

I would recommend aiming for between 10% and 25% nylon for your sock yarns. Personally I would not go for more than 25% as I want the natural fibre / wool to shine but that is a matter of personal choice.

When it comes to selecting your natural fibre of choice not all wool is created equal. Where you might often be tempted by the softest merino for your new jumper I would not always jump at the fine micron stuff for my socks. Remember you need something that wears well and the finest yarn is not always the most durable. Hence why the Blue Faced Leicester is often a hit with sock knitters. Still soft, but more durable than merino, add some nylon and you have a fabulous sock yarn.

Blends are often popular with sock knitters and some fibres are added for strength. Mohair is sometimes found in sock yarns and makes a wonderfully durable fibre when blended with merino and nylon.

Summary: choose something with added nylon or polyamide for strength. When selecting natural fibres go for something soft if you prefer but also opt for something with a little bit of strength. The tighter the spin, the more durable the sock yarn is in most cases.

Aesthetic

Often I think this category is put first, when I think it should be the final consideration. Get the first two right, fit and durability and then make the aesthetic work around that. After all what is the point of having pretty socks that don’t fit or worse don’t fit and have holes in the toes and heels?

When choosing yarns think about the following pointers:

Colour: dark colours mask textures and cables, favour lighter colours if you want your cables to pop or your textured stitch to shine.

Variegation: highly variegated yarns overpower patterns, cables and lace designs. Opt for something a little more subtle if you want the pattern to take centre stage. If it is the bold yarn you love, think about a slipped stitch pattern to feature the colours in the yarn.

Texture, halo and sparkles: textured yarns can detract for some patterns but a subtly tweedy yarn would be wonderful some cables, just make sure you choose a colour that allows the cables to pop. Yarns with a halo (alpaca and Exmoor blueface) can mask subtle details so make sure your pattern can be seen through the fluff. The subtle sparkle of stellina can add a touch a pizazz to your socks.

Pooling: some people love it, other loathe it. If you are trying to break it up try knitting from either side of the ball. Better still find a pattern that shows off the pooling and works with the design.

Self patterning and self stripe: perfect for making simple socks exciting. Remember the heel you choose will have an impact on the stripes.

In summary there are so many choices out there, the world really is your oyster when it come to choosing sock yarn.

Finally, don’t forget to experiment and try things out. After all you can always rip the knitting out and use the yarn for something else or change your pattern if you find your first choice is not right for you.

Join me later this week for my top picks for sock yarn. I will be looking at commercially available yarn and hand dyed specialities. I can’t wait to share them with you.

Happy Knitting.

Clare x

For the Love of Socks …

It is the final week of Socktober and to celebrate I am having a flash sale lasting for the rest of the week. Why? because I love socks, and I hope you do too. Details at the end of the post.

Sock Anatomy_baby socks_sock blockers

The five things I love about socks … 

1) They can be incredibly simple yet breathtakingly effective (think Vanilla socks with some fabulous self stripe) or complex enough to virtually warp you mind (think Cookie A).

2) Sock yarn. Need I say more? The vast array of stunning hand dyed yarn is enough of a reason to love socks for the rest of time.

3) They are portable. You can’t lug that huge jumper project about with you, but you can easily pop a sock in your bag (or pocket).

4) They really pack a punch when it comes to techniques, you can get a lot of new techniques into a sock if you want to. I love being able to practice things on a small scale. Think cables, lace, textures, twists. The knitting world really is your oyster when it comes to  knitting socks.

5) Nothing beats hand knit socks for cosy toes in the winter! Nothing at all.

Do you love socks? What is your favourite thing about hand knitted socks? I would love to hear from you.

Have you read this and thought you would love to get into hand knit socks but are not sure where to start? Jo from the Shinybees podcast and I are starting a sock segment aimed at answering all your sock questions. Tune into the latest episode of the podcast for more details.

Each episode we will be able to give you hints and tips on getting the best out of your sock knitting exploits. There will be tutorials, step by step instructions and lots of support to get you started with socks.

The Sock Surgery with Clare Devine on the Shinybees Podcast

Copyright Ryan McGuire. Used with permission

Copyright Ryan McGuire. Used with permission

Flash sale – super discounts all week. 

How it works: I will be posting a discount code every day until Friday. It will only be valid for 36 hours so you will need to be quick. The code will be for a specific sock pattern to celebrate the end of October. Posts will be in a different place each day so follow me on all my media streams and join the Ravelry group to be in with the best chance of collecting all the codes.

Instagramhttp://instagram.com/clare.devine

Twitterhttps://twitter.com/_ClareDevine

Ravelryhttp://www.ravelry.com/groups/yarn-and-pointy-sticks-designs

Hope you have a wonderful week. Happy Knitting.

Clare

x

 

Creative Blog Hop

A little while ago the brilliant blogger, writer and social media / marketing guru for the knitting world GreenTriangleGirl aka aplayfulfday nominated me in the Creative Blog hop. The idea is each person blogs with their answers to four standard questions and nominates two people to continue the chain.

I have really enjoyed reading answers by those who have already taken part and feel honoured to be part of this process.

Here is my contribution:

What am I working on?

At the moment I am really focussing on finding my feet.

Currently my life resembles a treadmill where someone has turned up the pace and my little legs are going as fast as they can to keep up with the belt. I am working very hard and am proud to say my legs are getting stronger and the strides are getting longer. Some days I can’t believe I am still standing, but I am and I relish a good challenge.

This year has been pretty huge for me on the work front and things are really picking up. This is wonderful and I am infinitely grateful for each and every opportunity that comes my way. As a bit of background, I had dabbled a little bit in some technical editing work when my daughter first arrived but had planned to go back to work in my old field. I never thought of myself as someone who would thrive on being self-employed. I am not sure why this is because I could not have been more wrong, it’s great working for myself and the world of freelancing is where I belong. I love it.

After building up my client base I finally took the big plunge a few weeks ago and went fully freelance (technically part-time I suppose as I wanted to balance my time between work and my little one). I have not looked back since. Current projects include technical editing and layout design, collaborations with fabulous indie-dyers for design collections of my own and researching for some pieces of writing commissioned by a knitting magazine.

No day is ever the same and I am very fortunate to have a good balance of creative design work and ordered more technical work, the perfect match for me.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

This is a difficult question for me. I am the ‘new kid on the block’, I am carving out a place for myself in this sector and that will take time. Actually, I think it will always be a ‘work in progress’. I have an interesting mix of skills and this has translated into an interesting mix of work within this sector.

On the client work front I like to think of myself as someone who is balanced and brings a wealth of experience from different sectors together to be the most effective editor and designer I can be for each individual client. In the past decade I have been on what some might think of a very varied and rather random journey. I started out studying photography, then worked in media selling advertising for a national newspaper, then shifted focus and worked in the humanitarian sector before studying to be a teacher. During this time I lived and worked on three continents; loving life and taking random opportunities to up sticks and move on as they presented themselves. I think this gives me a pretty unique set of skills. I love being behind the camera, I am passionate about creating with my hands and am equally comfortable behind a laptop screen plugging away at excel or tinkering about with a client layout. Having worked in fast paced deadline driven environments I thrive on the pressure that an imminent deadline brings (always useful when submissions are due).

Why do I create what I do?

I love making things work. At heart I am a problem solver who likes to look at the puzzle pieces and put them together, finding the missing pieces and working out where they are or how the gaps can be filled in the most effective way. This is why I love technical editing and layout work as a combined project for a client. Technical editing is a puzzle with maths, words and structure. I find the process of reading a pattern, knitting the design in my head and plugging the numbers into a spreadsheet very satisfying. Bringing the technical elements together with the words and watching the design dance across the page is pure magic. Sometimes when I am engrossed in my knitting I feel as if my fingers are dancing across the needles, the yarn turning and twisting through my fingers, I become entranced by the process of creating. I find the same joy in watching words and numbers combine into a brilliant pattern.

Combining this technical work with the creative process of designing a layout brings together a package that really works for designers. I love walking people through the process of what they want, what they need, what works for them, what they would like to avoid and then combining all of this together into a style that screams “I am xxxx”. The knitting world is a busy place and it is important to know who you are and have an identity that speaks to those who love your work and support you as a creative. A good pattern and layout design is just one tiny part of the process but I love being part of it, and that is why I have chosen to do what I do.

Creative blog hop_1

How does my creative process work?

I am an ideas person, ask the people close to me and they will attest to the fact that I have no shortage of ideas. I really do need a few more days in my week. I like to get all my ideas out there, frequently in a stream of consciousness to my husband the second he walks through the door. Then I like to let things simmer away, tinkering here and there, pondering the multiple options and waiting for the last minute before the deadline where I pull everything together in a blaze of glory and produce a finished product. (Okay maybe it is less of a blaze of glory sometimes and a mad dash to the finish line). I doubt this is the optimum way to work, waiting for the last minute, and in all honesty I do a lot of work before the deadline is even close. However, I always seem to have the most focus when I have no other option but to focus. With weeks to go my mind easily wanders off to my next brilliant plan, it is only in the final days that I can neatly tie up loose ends and bring something to life.

Between the idea and the mad rush for the finish line there is a process. It always involves my notebook and a pen. I love my computer but there is something about putting pen to paper that makes a difference to the way my brain works. I also like to talk to my nearest and dearest about ideas, problems and potential solutions. Articulating the process helps me to digest it a little better.

Creative blog hop_2

There you have it. A little bit more about who I am, what I am doing and why. I have a new blog series planned about getting started and am just putting the final touches to the first posts. Watch this space for more details.

In the spirit of the creative blog hop I would like to nominate two fabulous ladies who are rocking their own sectors of this industry at the moment.

The first is someone who has been a brilliant source of inspiration to me in the last year. Jess from Ginger Twist Studio in Edinburgh has a way with the dye pots and a fabulous bricks and mortar shop.

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My second nomination is my favourite northerner Jo the voice behind the Shinybees podcast and half of the brilliant The Golden Skein team.

shinybees

The golden skein

 

Shoes for Socks

Last week I showed you my lovely Hedera socks, a brilliant Cookie A design as part of the blog week challenge. I promised to deliver a solution to their quest to find the perfect partner, and here it is.

I have to start this piece with a caveat. I like shoes, but I also like to be comfortable. I walk a lot and frequently carry a toddler on my back. All of these factors contribute to the fact I can usually be spotted pounding the pavements of Edinburgh in my trusty (and rather old) North Face walking shoes. They are not pretty, I bought them in Australia, they have travelled across the world with me, spanning four continents, they are my trusted and faithful companions.

That said, I did not come here to talk about my old walking shoes. I came here to dream my friends! To dream of the magical combinations of hand knit socks and beautiful shoes.

As an avid sock knitter I think the discussion about how we show off our beautifully crafted items is an important part of sock knitting. I have scoured the internet and Ravelry to find some inspiring examples of sock and shoe combinations that will hopefully make your heart sing.

Prepare yourself for a smorgasbord of delightful hand knitted socks and some spectacular shoes.

Flats, heels, brogues, loafers, trainers, plimsoles … the choices are endless when it comes to finding the perfect match for your knitted socks. Here is a selection of my favourites found on Ravelry. The boundless talent of knitters never ceases to amaze me.

Mary-Jane style shoe fan? Comfortable, practical, and simply brilliant at showing off your favourite socks.

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Thanks to the Ravellers Peaknits, Kinara, Coopknits, SA Knitter and Dussaultnbattery for the use of their gorgeous sock and shoe combinations.

Loafers and brogues more your style? How about these examples for some inspiration.

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Thanks to the Ravellers Coopknits and Nina 90 for the use of their gorgeous sock and shoe combinations.

If you are looking for some irresistible sock patterns to complement your fabulous shoe selection look no further than Rachel Coopey. This utterly brilliant British designer has a phenomenal talent when it comes to designing socks. She has a number of sock books and clubs available and the patterns are exceptional. Additionally, she has just released an accessories collection Toasty (in case you fancy a change from hand knitted socks).

Ballet pumps and lace ups dominate your shoe collection? Whether your socks are patterned or plain, you can’t go wrong with the flats and hand knit sock combo.

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Thanks to the Ravellers Evilcb, Leah and Hildegunn for the use of their gorgeous sock and shoe combinations.

Comfort your main priority? If you are like me and love trainers, I think (though I may be biased) that nothing, and I mean that, absolutely nothing beats some hand knit socks and a pair of Converse. I am biased, and I did spend my teenage years in the 90’s try to scuff up my Converse (much to my mothers disgust). I may be a little older but I still have a big place in my heart for some well worn canvas plimsoles.

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Thanks to the Ravellers Leah and Pixisis for the use of their gorgeous sock and shoe combinations.

If you really want to let your socks shine you could opt for the clear Converse. They were released a few years ago and I am not sure how easy they are to find in the shops but they are, without doubt, a spectacular option for the hand knit sock show off in you.

Used with permission. Copyright: Sundogstudio

Used with permission. Copyright: Sundogstudio

Thanks to the Raveller Sundogstudios for the use of her gorgeous sock and shoe combination.

I am not very good at walking in heels. I think it is a combination of lack of training and being seriously clumsy that have meant I am very rarely seen in heels. That said, I was in awe of some of the sensational hand knit sock and heels combinations I found on my Ravelry hunt. Here is a small selection of those gorgeous combinations.

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Thanks to the Ravellers AnnikaAlmgren, What the Hay, Pneuma, Peacethrufibre, Knittymuggins and BrittanyLaine  for the use of their gorgeous sock and shoe combinations.

That brings me to the end of favourites from Ravelry, but I felt it wouldn’t be fair to leave you there. In my typical enabling fashion I thought I should at least show you some options to fulfill all your shoe shopping desires. Admittedly I may have a rather eclectic taste, and I am certainly not a fashion expert (ahem, scruffy walking shoe alert) … however I do love to dream a little sometimes. This is my selection of dream shoes to show off my socks.

I have paired each shoe with a sock from my Ravelry pages. I highly recommend knitting these sock patterns too!

These bright striped socks knitted from Trailing Clouds would be the perfect match for these clear Jelly boots from Office. 

Trailing Clouds Self Stripe - Mind the Gap

Trailing Clouds Self Stripe – Mind the Gap

Juju Jelly Mega Glitter Boots from Office.co.uk

Juju Jelly Mega Glitter Boots from Office.co.uk

How about all the metallics? Silver socks and copper shoes, a match made in heaven? I think Dr Martens has a brilliant selection of shoes worthy of your favourite socks. 

Thelonious Socks by Cookie A

Thelonious Socks by Cookie A

Dr Marten - Jocelyn in the colour Copper

Dr Marten – Jocelyn in the colour Copper

Spring Socks need spring sandals I love these socks and think that these Irregular Choice shoes are the perfect match. I know technically people say socks and sandals don’t go, but I think fabulous shoes and hand knit socks are an exception to the rule.

Zig-Zag Spring Socks by Judy George

Zig-Zag Spring Socks by Judy George

My Cup of Tea by Irregular Choice

My Cup of Tea by Irregular Choice

A well documented love of mine is bright socks. I love that you can wear something out of your colour comfort zone on your feet a little easier that you would around your neck. Funky white Converse are the perfect showcase for these socks by Fiona Bennet, a FAB free pattern on Ravelry that I highly recommend knitting.

Scylla by Fiona Bennet

Scylla by Fiona Bennet

White leather Converse

White leather Converse from Office.co.uk

Last but not least, the real dream shoes. I can see myself wearing these and I think they would go perfectly with my Hedera socks. I might need a little cash windfall before I can splash out on a pair of these, they are beautiful though. Fluevog make some pretty spectacular shoes. 

Hedera by Cookie A

Hedera by Cookie A

Simon by Fluevog

Simon by Fluevog

And there you have it folks. Think of yourselves as ‘enabled’ … go forth and match your socks with fabulous shoes.

Enjoy!

Cx