I hope everybody has been having a wonderful holiday week, because I sure am! (and not just by strictly limiting my exposure to the news, though that has certainly helped! criminy.) My recipe for success is to spend the days immersed in a chocolate-studded landscape of books, sleep, nice people, and soft knitting. I'm particularly enchanted by the knitting... these sock legs look so amazing to me, like stained glass, or striped candy.
Admittedly, if these are a Christmas present to me, they are obviously of the 'wrapped up with needles with a promise to finish later' variety.
But still! The pleasure of touching alpaca yarn while knitting is a gift of its own.
If I'd wanted something finished - and I kind of did - I could have deemed the green socks I was obsessively knitting earlier in December my present. I was thinking of that, actually, but I didn't get the ends run in until the evening of Boxing Day so I'm sticking with the alpaca ones.
Let's take a closer look.
These are almost fingering-weight socks. Normally I make my winter weight socks with heftier yarn in at least sport weight, quite often a DK, so I had to be mindful and cast on 64 stitches as I do with my spring/fall stripey Vesper socks. When I did the first pair of green obsession socks I was on autopilot and cast on my usual 56 stitches, not making the connection between the fact that that yarn is fingering weight too, and the likely outcome. I knit past the cuff before I realized I was making a child-sized sock. This is not a mistake I want to make twice!
The alpaca sock skeins I source from Meadowview Alpaca Farm are never quite enough to make the socks I want to wear, because I like a pretty good length of leg. Enough to clear the top of my boots and give me some buffer so that when I sit down, what shows is pretty handknit sock and not a short interval of actual, freezing-cold skin. So I always pair my chosen skein with another yarn to ensure I'll have enough alpaca to cover my foot, and this time it was a carnival-coloured wool/mohair blend from Syliva at Stoddart Family Farm (she of the green obsession sock yarn.) Which, now that I think of it, means that these are truly local socks - both yarns from small farms in Ontario! no wonder I love these things so much.
Back in the day, I used to stripe my sock legs athletically, with a thick contrast colour, a thin, and back to a thick one before switching to the main colour for all but the heel and toe. But I got tired of all the switching so lately I've been working much smaller stripes to see how far I can get away with just twisting the two yarns at the beginning of the round and carrying on.
For these socks the stripe is one to one, but because some of the same light green of the alpaca yarn is in the wool/mohair too, the effect is blurred and sometimes it was hard for me to see which stripe came next!
I'm glad I'm onto solid alpaca now, even if it does mean keeping my fingers away from random chomps.
For the heel flap, I stuck with alpaca, and I'm hoping to stick with it for the toe as well.
I did that with the green obsession socks and when I finally got around to running in the ends it was SO fast and easy! and comfortable underfoot, too. You only feel the run-in tails (if at all) for the first few wears until the heat and friction of use felts them in with all the rest of the fiber, but still.
(side note: the reason the second sock is well into the gusset is that I brought it along with me to a carol service and midnight mass on Christmas Eve, instead of a nice sensible Vesper sock. I was wearing a black wool dress coat with a black jumper underneath. I will leave you to imagine the carnage.)
The only downside is that while I love the alpaca, and I love the stripes, I'm not sure I love such a long expanse of alpaca against such a long expanse of dense stripes.
But here's the secret to sock design:
In ordinary use, you only see the foot or the leg, not both together.
Most of the time - between shoes and pantlegs, you don't see any of the sock at all, or maybe only a bit of ankle. So you really only have to please yourself. For the foot, choose something you'll enjoy the feel of on your skin, or will tolerate the occasional exposure to a wood floor, or keep you extra warm in whichever circumstances are most important (in boots in the snow, or on a sofa while reading, for example.) For the leg, which requires no shaping, choose an interesting stitch pattern or a yarn-stretching stripe or a mindless knit you can do anywhere, depending on your needs. When you're done, whether or not the leg and the foot match, you still get a Yay!
At Christmastime I think it's nice to make something for yourself even if you're busy making things for other people, but where possible, it's pretty wonderful to buy yourself something you couldn't otherwise afford in a Boxing Day sale, too. I didn't go out on Boxing Day itself (that is the one day I year I let myself lie around and eat candy and read books and nap without guilt) but the next day, I treated myself to a 100% cashmere poncho. I am wearing it as I type and I can tell you, it is the ultimate Hug.
I just have to be smart, and not wear it while I'm knitting a pair of alpaca socks.