Tuesday, November 24, 2015

What to do with hole-y socks Part 4

 One of the easiest things to do with hole-y socks is to make wristlets or disposable coffee cup cozies from them. This is easy because the leg of the sock is the correct size, in most cases, for these applications.

 Separate the leg from the rest of the sock by snipping a stitch and unraveling a round just as for the fingerless mitts. Measure the length needed. In the case of my socks, the leg is usually a couple of inches too long for wristlets and enough for a Starbucks Venti cup - so way too long for most other disposable coffee cups. I unravel a few inches of the leg to get the correct length. Note that if your socks were knitted toe-up, you can't unravel in that direction. You have to snip the stitch and separate at the correct length for the finished object allowing room for your edging. There are a couple of other options to get the right length. One is to make a folded hem at the bottom (on the heel side vs. the ribbed cuff side). Another is to fold the ribbed cuff in half to reduce its length and make a hem there. Putting a hem at the bottom allows for a disposable cup that is much wider on the top compared to the bottom. So the heel side of the leg would be on top of the cup and the ribbed cuff would be on the bottom. If you fold over the ribbed cuff, you can have it be the top or the bottom of the cup cozy.
 One sock is sufficient to make a cup cozy and a matching coaster set if you have holes in the heels or near the ball of the foot close to the toe. You need enough solid fabric in the foot to make the coaster (or the cozy).

 Here, I separated the leg, folded over the hem and sewed it down. I also did a few rounds of garter st on the bottom (near the heel) before binding off.  I have a cup cozy and a foot.
 Looking at the foot, I want to orient the coaster so one side has the slipped st pattern and the other has the plain sole.
 I cut interfacing to provide some stiffness to the coaster. I had some really stiff interfacing so I used that. It is a fusible one but I didn't fuse it.

 In this case, I made a mistake and didn't pick up the freed sts on the foot and made quite a mess as I was undoing the gusset. So I made a seam rather than a 3 needle bind-off, which is much nicer. I folded the messed up part inside and sewed one seam with a back stitch from the wrong side. Then I inserted the interfacing, folded the other edge inside and whip stitched it. So the two ends don't match.
 Here is the coaster - the slipped st side...
 and the stockinette side.

 On another sock, I did a better job because I learned my lesson. Don't undo both sides of the coaster at the same time and don't lose your sts. I picked up the sts as I was undoing the last round and was able to do a 3-needle bindoff on the one side of the coaster. Then I inserted the interfacing.

 I had 2 feet leftover from making my fingerless mitts. So I cut 2 pieces of interfacing and made 2 coaster.  I removed the toe at this point so that I could carefully pick up the sts as I undid the round. You can see that I already have the sts on the needles above. After inserting the interfacing, do a 3-needle bindoff on the other side.

 And there you have it. A much neater coaster. What I love about these projects is the fact that I can learn and mess up without too many consequences.

 Next up, I'll show you a good way to stabilize a cut edge for fingerless mitts and mug cozies and a little sweater I made for a cup. However, it is too long for most of my mugs so it will  have to wait for the odd Venti drink that I order. 

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

What to do with hole-y socks Part 3

 Re-purposing these socks makes me happy. I spent a lot of time knitting them and only a small part of each sock is worn. So making something useful out of the sock and using it for many years makes me happy. I get warm fuzzies when I pick up something that was made from a worn-out sock. For example, my oil bottle and WPI tool live in a bag made out of a sock foot. I use that bag all the time and it makes me happy. Also, old fabrics are soft and lovely to the touch. I like old cotton, silk and wool. They gain a patina with age.

 I have a metal Sigg bottle and I drink both cold and hot water from it. The hot water habit came from China where it is readily available for tea. Indians and Chinese believe that drinking hot water is better for you than drinking cold water. The problem with both hot and cold water in a metal bottle is that the bottle either sweats from condensation or is too hot to touch. A bottle cozy seemed like the perfect antidote to both. 

 Big hole in the heel. All my socks wear there. So you won't find a lot of things made with heels in this series :-) I've thought about using the heels from the other sock in the pair but when I've examined them, the fabric is thinning and I don't see the point in making something that is going to wear quickly. I try to use the parts that are solid in these projects.

 If you are wondering why I developed holes in so many socks all at once, the answer is easy. I didn't. I just have been saving pairs of socks with holes for inspiration and time. I did a number of projects a few years ago, which is where the oil bottle bag came from, but I gave most of them away. I made cuffs and cup cozies, which we will discuss later, and took them to the yarn store where people just snapped them up.

 The main part of the bottle cozy is the leg of the sock. I cut as close to the heel as I could and separated the leg from the rest of the sock. The bottom of the cozy came from the foot. Since I had a solid piece of fabric on the foot - the sole was not worn there - and the bottle fit on the folded foot, I decided to use a doubled fabric there. I could have cut the foot lengthwise and spread it open to get a bigger circle. The reason I did it the way I did was that there were two spots on the bottom that weren't cut so that made things easier for sewing. I just put the bottle on the sock foot and cut it out leaving a bit of extra width on the cut parts. I found that pencil and ball-point pens don't mark the sock sufficiently. If I had tailor's chalk, that would have helped. But I was too lazy to go up to the sewing supplies and see if I had any. I winged it.
 That is the foot after the bottom piece was cut out.
 And here's the cut piece. After I made this cozy, i started experimenting with stabilizing the cut edge. This is more important for the fingerless mitts and I will do a tutorial on that shortly. But after experimenting with a crochet steek technique, I found that just doing a back stitch with doubled sewing thread is less bulky and much easier. The sts on socks are so dense due to the the tight gauge (8.5-9 spi) that it is really really hard to get a decent-sized crochet hook through the sts. The hooks that did fit easily split the yarn. I even tried crochet cotton but what I had was too thick for the crochet hook. I think a thinner cotton might work. But the back-stitch is so easy and fast and so much less bulky that I think it is the best method for these small items. It also gives you a lot of control in terms of placement.

One of the real advantages of re-purposing socks is the ability to experiment. You learn how knitted fabric works and you can play around with practicing skills - like grafting - or with different ways to stabilize a cut steek. Socks are usually made from superwash yarn so they are much less forgiving than most other wool yarns which will eventually felt. If it works for a sock, it will probably work for a bigger piece. And, these are small projects which don't take much time - so one can afford to experiment. If it doesn't work out, oh well!

 I did not stabilize this. I just sewed it as it isn't a join that will take a lot of stress. 
The photos above and below are of me sewing the bottom to the top. As you can see, I just use the thread as it comes off the sock. The waviness is very pronounced as it has been in that configuration through many washes. I just pull it tight as I sew and it straightens out into the new configuration once the cozy is washed and dried. It might feel a little crunchy before it is washed but that goes away. The crunchiness is because the thread has extra folds in it .
 I didn't pin this. I eyeballed it. You have to ease the circular sock leg around the circular bottom as you sew. If you are more comfortable with pinning, pin in quarters and then make sure you are sewing the matching parts together. Otherwise, it will torque in one spot and bunch up in another. 

 I used a running stitch with small stitches to do the sewing and then whip-stitched the cut edge with the rest of the yarn. If I had stabilized the edge, I probably wouldn't have needed the whip-stitching. I think I will go back and sew the seam allowance to the top so it doesn't lay flat and make the bottom bulky. 
 I collect other bits and bobs that might be useful in re-purposing socks. Sometimes I have to buy new things, but it makes me happy to reuse buttons and other things in these projects. I had a new single shoe-lace in my basket which matched. So I threaded that through for a handle. I was able to thread it with just the plastic end of the shoe-lace.
 There's the sewn on bottom. I manually pushed the seam allowance around the top, which is why I think I will sew it down that way. If part of is in down on the bottom of the bottle, it makes the bottle unstable.
 And there it is. The finished cozy. If you have a bigger bottle, you may want to use both socks. Sew one leg to the other as we did for the headband and then add the bottom. In my case, the leg was sufficiently long. I would have liked another inch at the top but wasn't prepared to use the other sock for that inch. 

 Next time we will make coasters. 

Sunday, November 8, 2015

What to do with hole-y socks Part 2

Since I will be out on Tuesday and Wednesday is Diwali, I decided to post today and I hope eventually to be able to actually post on Tuesdays. :-)

Today we will make a headband from a pair of well-worn socks. In this case, the holds have to be in the toe or the heel. They can't be in the ball of the foot because every part of the sock except for the cuffs, heels and toes are used.

First I separated the two feet - removed the toes and the heels and put them on needles. Now, note that there is no end on yellow edges. These were the parts where the sts started so you can't unravel the rows to get yarn to knit with. This is important in this particular rescue project.

I forgot to take a picture before I started deconstructing the socks. You can see the toes and the leg portions with the heels attached below.

I grafted the two foot sections together. The yarn coming off the black/white part of the sock was grafted to the yellow section of the other foot.

When I examined the legs, I noticed a gusset as I had worked these toe-up and done a reverse regular heel-flap/gusset heel on them. The gusset would be a problem for the headband so I took the heel off and unraveled the gusset and re-knit that section without the decreasing. This was a pain. The yarn had semi-felted and took forever to unravel. The re-knitting went fast.

Then that was grafted to the two leg sections. Again, matching an end with yarn with an end that didn't have any.

This photo shows the cuff being removed.  I was a little nervous that I wouldn't have enough length. That is why I took the trouble of unraveling the gusset and re-knitting. I figured that if I had enough length, I wouldn't have to do that on the second leg. 

And I didn't have to. The length of the second leg without the gusset was perfect. I measured around my head as I went. I picked this pair of socks for the headband because it was colorful and the double layer will be nice in the winter when I walk/run outside.

The final step is to graft the beginning to the end. If you've done the matching of the ends correctly, you will have one end with yarn and one without. Yes, it is great practice for grafting. I put the two sections on 2 needles each and grafted the two front needles together and then the two back ones. But you can also do it without needles. I was afraid I'd pull the sts too much when I pulled the yarn through.

I also didn't bother steaming or washing the bits of yarns that were used in the grafting. I will wash the whole thing and block it when I'm done with all my re-purposing. That will even out the grafting. Right now you can see where it is grafted because it feels different there. A bit crinkly.

It is a tight fitting headband but it stays put, which is important.

Next up is a water bottle cozy.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

What do you do with hole-y socks? Part 1

I had to drive an hour away for work on Monday and Tuesday this week. Tuesday was also election day so I had to stop by the voting place on the way back. So no blog on Tuesday. Maybe Tuesdays are jinxed. Oh, and next week's post won't happen on a Tuesday either. I have to go to a professional society meeting. But Tuesday is a good day to shoot for!

Anyway, I am doing a mini-workshop at my spinning guild this month. The subject is recycling your socks. They asked me to do one on darning socks but I don't see any point in darning socks. I tried that when I first knit socks and they wore out. Back in the early 2000s. The problem is that the yarn around the darn is also weak so it gives way next. And so on. I even tried sewing on slipper soles and making slippers out of the socks. The holes just grew and grew and grew. So I quit.

Now I make the socks into other useful objects so one can enjoy them. Over the next few weeks, I'll share some of the items that I create from the socks. Today we will make a pair of socks into fingerless mitts. This took me 3 evenings for a pair.

Here is the hole in the heel. Assessing where the hole(s) are is the first step. You'll see later that I have to deal with a sock that has a hole in the ball of the foot. Heels are easy.

The next step is to look at the sock and decide what one wants to do. In addition to assessing where the hole(s) is/are, determine whether the sock was knit toe-up or cuff-down. You need to know that so you can cut and rip back. Knitting only rips back in the opposite direction it was originally knit in. You have to plan your cuts so you have yarn to knit up and finish the ripped edge.

In this case, the legs of the sock have a lovely lace pattern which I want to exploit. I also love this color and the yarn. In fact I was very sad when the hole developed. Making a pair of fingerless mitts will showcase the lace and let me enjoy it and the yarn for a while longer.

Snip a stitch and slowly pull out a row of sts. I like to do this right above the heel shaping if I am going to do something with the leg on a cuff-down sock. This way I get the most yarn to work with. On a toe-up sock, if you are making fingerless mitts from the leg, you have to cut precisely at the right point and then join in yarn to finish the cut edge. You can't rip back and re-use the yarn without a join.

When I first started, I used to cut the sock apart but I lost too much yarn that way. This can be slow going if the sock has started to felt. Take that into account as you decide what to do with the sock(s). In some cases, one uses only one sock or one part of one sock. 

Repeat with the other sock so you have both separated into legs and feet with the heel attached to the feet. Once the row is removed, the two pieces will fall apart.

 I checked the length of the leg against my hand. As you can see, it is way too long for a fingerless mitt. So I started ripping back.

I ripped back, measuring every few inches till I had a length that was good for a mitt. I kept the curly cuff for the wrist side and decided to a ribbed edge at the fingers. These are all design decisions you get to make.

You don't have to worry too much about sts unraveling when you don't want them to. They've been held in shape so long that they just sit there and wait to be picked up. In fact, sometimes they have become so friendly with their neighbors that it takes some effort to rip the rounds out.

If you typically knit socks with the same size needles, there are no decisions about needle size here. I always knit socks on 2 mm or US size 0 needles. If you knit with different sized needles, you need to pick up sts using the same size needles you originally used for the socks.

I like to use needles that are a bit blunt and slick for picking up these sts. The yarn is worn and you've just been unraveling it so sometimes it has split and a sharp needle just splits it further. Make sure you are picking up the entire st and orienting them correctly for the way you knit. I used Knitpicks metal dpns for this.

Based on the lace rib pattern, I decided to keep the purl sts between the lace sections intact. The lace section was 9 sts wide so I did a k3, p3, k3 across it and then the p2 between the lace sections. I did an inch of ribbing following that patterns: k3, p3, k3, p2 and repeat around. Then I bound off. If your sock has a different pattern or is rib or stockinette, you can just keep the existing rib or use any ribbed pattern that goes with the original leg pattern. 

Once that was done, I measured again and marked my thumb position with a pair of pins. There is no thumb gusset so the thumb opening has to be a bit wider than if there was a gusset. Make sure the two mitts match.

I decided to snip between the two purl sts that separated the lace patterns. This is also something you take into consideration to make the mitts look as if they were mitts from the very beginning. I just cut in this case, but later I decided I would do a row of crochet on either side next time before cutting. It pulled apart a bit more than I wanted and since this is sock yarn, it won't felt together. You can see the cut above and below where I am holding it open a bit more.

Once it was cut, I picked up sts all around leaving a l-o-n-g tail in the beginning to neaten up that edge. Make sure you are picking up far enough from the edge so the new sts are secure. I did an inch of k2, p2 rib and bound off. Then I took the beginning tail and did a row of running st followed by a row of buttonhole st on the edge to hold the cut edge intact.

Repeat for the other mitt. You can see the little thumb edge above from the right side.

This view is from the wrong side where you can see my finishing of the cut edge.

There's the pair. All done. And on my hands below.

I had to take the photos one at a time as I needed the other to take the photo! I wore them at Rhinebeck! Next up we'll make a headband. 

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Jury duty and more...

I didn't post on Tuesday this week as I was called out to jury duty. I have been on call the whole month and was diligent in checking to see if I needed to go in. Of course, I forgot to check on Monday night so discovered on Tuesday am that I needed to go. It is about 60 miles away - US Federal Court. So Tuesday was a hugely chaotic day. Fortunately I had packed my lunch already so just threw everything in the car, including reading material, and took off. Sigh. Traffic was bad and I got lost looking for the parking garage and then trying to find the courthouse from the parking garage. I got there 90 mins late.

As a result, I was not selected to go to the courtroom as one of the first 75. I was in the 16 people left behind to be in the next group. This was both good and bad. Good because I could read. Bad because I had to listen to the handful of women who talked constantly. One of them asked the officer in charge of us about every 30 mins what was happening. They were very nice women. Just didn't have any entertainment and therefore talked. And complained and whined. Sigh

I got through 2.5 PLY magazines on Tuesday. At 5 pm, we were told we were going to have to stay late to finish up the jury selection. This was so that we didn't have to come in on Wednesday. At 5:10 pm, the courtroom called to say that court was recessed and we'd have to come in the next day. Darn! The women immediately wanted to know why things had changed, why the people in the courtroom were told to come at 9:15 am while we were asked to come at 8:30 am, and so on. Sigh

The way the process works is this: the first 75 people were questioned one by one to see if they could be allowed to serve on the jury. Once they were eliminated by the questioning, they could go home. So some of them were able to leave earlier in the day on Tuesday. The ones left at the end of the day (35 or so) had to come back in with us on Wed. We were the backup crowd. If the jury could not be selected from the 35, then they would call us in.

On Wed, I was more prepared and got up on time and got there almost on time. This time it was traffic and rain that delayed me. I was there about 10 mins late. We were put in a little room this time with hard wooden chairs. Not the nicer room with comfy chairs we were in on Tuesday. Darn! I got through another 1.5 PlY magazines before we were dismissed around 11:30 am. The jury had been selected.

We weren't allowed to bring electronics in. I thought about bringing knitting or a spindle but decided that catching up on PLY was a good thing. I am way behind on reading them. I should have taken a set of Post-It flags to mark articles that I wanted to refer back to. Oh well.

On to travel - this is a short post. Back in July, I went to Montpellier France for a business trip. I didn't have a lot of time to explore because I wanted to get back in time for my wedding anniversary. However, I did arrive early, on the morning flight from Paris. So I had a few hours on the day I arrived to wander around. Montpellier is a big university town but it also has a lot of lovely old architecture.
 Morning sunrise from my hotel room. There is a big roundabout outside which you can barely see. We were in the more modern part of town.
 This is the plaza in the old part of town. It is a pedestrian plaza. All those tents are owned by cafes. You sit outside and order coffee or lunch or a beer or even dinner and people-watch. It is a lovely place to hang out and people do hang out.
 Montpellier has a trolley system. We could have taken the trolley to the town center or walked - about 15 mins. We chose to walk. In the past, when I've been there and had to walk back in the heat of the afternoon, I've taken the trolley. But in this case, my work took me in the other direction and so we just walked here the first day and then for dinner on the other days. So walking was fine. Montpellier gets really hot in the summer.
 There is also a cute little tourist train. I haven't ridden this. People also bike all over town.

There is a carousel in the plaza also. Also a fountain which I did not photograph in its entirety. However, you can see it on the right here in front of the carousel.

A movie theater is also on the plaza. From the plaza, there are numerous narrow winding streets that wander off in different directions. These lead to smaller plazas where there are parks or cafes or both. There are also shops on the streets.
 We walked by this shop selling ballet shoes. Quite the window display!
 Looking into the shop you can see the boxes of ballet shoes in the back.
 This shop sold hats. I was tempted to buy one as I forgot mine. But I thought better of it as I have a couple of hats at home and I would have to carry this back.
 In the old part of town, cafes and restaurants are everywhere. Some are tucked into the buildings and don't look like much from the outside. These are the more expensive ones. There are many that flow onto the street also. You can see a bit of one of these here. They have some internal space but also have tables and umbrellas on the sidewalk or on a plaza. This photo is taken from a plaza looking into a street.
 Here's looking into another street. I think we ate dinner at the restaurant on the left on one evening.

Finally, we had a local colleague (relatively local - he is from Nice) who drove us to work and back every day. We stopped at a good bakery for a cheap coffee and pastry for breakfast. In the past, I used to stop at a bar/cafe for a coffee and a pastry but he said that now many French people go to these bakeries. The coffee and the pain au chocolat were excellent. He comes from a bread making family and told me that a bread baker will use less butter in a pain au chocolat and a pastry chef will use more. Pain au chocolat is the only breakfast I eat in France!
Well, the one morning, a dragonfly came and sat on my saucer. He/she was very persistent and didn't move so I took his/her picture. Not something I've encountered anywhere else!

That is all for today. Over and out!