Thursday, December 10, 2015

What to do with hole-y socks Part 6 (and last)

 Finally! We will go on to another topic next week. But i have to share this last item with you but I am so excited about it. This will work for you if you don't wear through the toes of your socks, because we will be using the toes.

 I always felt bad throwing the toes out. Not very bad, but just a little bad. And the result of this is such a useful object for me. I am a headphone junkie. I have lots of different headphones. Some are for running, some are for sleeping, some are for planes, etc. They are a pain to keep neat. The more expensive ones come with their own case but the cheap ones don't. So this pattern for a earbud case hits the spot extremely well.

 Pick up sts at the top of the toe. You may be able to use yarn you've unraveled but usually there isn't enough to actually knit a case. So attach a piece of yarn from elsewhere in the sock, or a new piece of yarn. In this case, you can see a little of the st pattern right below the needles. This is important because you want a bit of a straight part before you start decreasing. Sometimes you will have enough to just start decreasing. At other times, you will have to knit straight for a bit before you start decreasing. All of this is rather organic. I have been knitting straight for about 1/2" to 3/4".

 Once the straight part is knit, I start decreasing 4 sts on every other round, exactly as you would decrease for the toe. The idea is to reduce the circumference a bit to hold the earbuds in place. The case doesn't need to go down to a very narrow top. I decreased 4 times, so 8 rounds of decreases. Then I switched to rib and ribbed straight for 8 rounds - which is about 1". Then a loose bind off in rib. That is it.

 The other side is from the sole so there is not little row of patterning.
 Earbuds in the case.
 A view from the side.
 The earbuds next to their case so you can see how big or small they are relative to the case. I ended up with two of these from the pair of socks. One lives by my bed for my night-time earbuds and this one lives in my purse with these earbuds that I use for walking, running, housework, gardening, etc.
 I also made another one from this sock. You can see the shape is a bit different. In this case, the sock was knit with slightly bigger needles but I was lazy and didn't feel like digging out another set of needles so the top of the earbud case was knit with a smaller needle that the bottom. But it works.
If you wear a hole through your toes, you can easily knit one of these cases. I would just start with a slightly wider bottom - maybe 40 total sts in a sock gauge rather than the 24 or 32 we usually start fingering gauge socks with. That is both sides of the cast on, using something like Judy's magic cast on. Increase every other round 5 times which will result in 60 sts (40 cast on + 4x5 increased). Knit even around for 1" or so and then do the decreases and bind off as above. If you have larger earbuds, then you can make it larger.

Interesting, isn't it? These earbud cases also make good quick little gifts for people and there is time to make them before Christmas!

I think I will do a travel post next week as I don't have anything else to write about re: knitting or spinning. I need to get the spinning wheel going again but I've been busy around the house and with other things on weekends. 

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

What to do with hole-y socks Part 5

 I am sure you are wondering when this will end. Soon, my friends, soon... Even I am totally out of the upcyclling mood now. I am just documenting what I've already done.

 Over the years, I have made many mug cozies. Unlike the disposable cup cozies, these involve having to go through a handle, and therefore need an opening in the side. I love the idea of a sweater for my mug as I think hot liquids in ceramic mugs cool off way too fast. But I have not come up with a perfect design yet and I will continue to experiment.

 The last one I made a few years ago was a coaster/cozy in one. I attached a circular coaster to the bottom of a cozy similar to the one I will show you. But it falls off half the mugs I've tried it on. Attaching a coaster is not a great idea, either. But these experiments have taught me many things about cut knit edges which has helped with steeking real knitted objects. If you are afraid of steeking, what better way to get over it than by cutting into a sock with a hole? What is the worst that can happen? You have to throw it out!

 In this case, after I made the finger-less mitts, I was not happy with the way the cut edge unraveled. I stabilized with sewing after the fact but I thought, why not use a crochet steek? So I tried it.
 I started with this. It is the leg of a sock, with a hem where it has been cut. The ribbed edge is the cuff of the sock.
 Crocheted steek instructions can be found on Kate Davies's blog, and Eunny Jang's blog. I am not going to cover them here but focus instead on working the technique on a tightly knit sock. I used sock yarn and then I went to thin crochet cotton, which I did not photograph.
 It is possible to work a crochet steek on a sock, but it is not worth it. I ended up having to use a very tiny crochet hook to get into the stitches. That hook kept splitting the yarn and the crochet cotton. But I persevered.

 And finished it. Once fully across the length of the piece and then part-way across. I pulled them both out because it was way too bulky. You can see that in these photos. That is only one side of the steek. I'd have to repeat that on the other side and the bulk would be way too much. Not pleasing at all.

 So I went back to another steeking technique that I used on my Rose Lace Collar. It is fast, holds quite well and adds no bulk at all. What is it? Back stitch along one leg of a column of stitches. On the Rose Lace Collar, I did 2 rows of back stitch - one along each of the legs of a column of stitches. But for this I just did one.

 Can you see it? I used a slightly different color of blue. The thread is doubled and I just make sure that I am making tiny stitches so that each knit stitch is secured by at least one back stitch. It took me less than 10 minutes to do this with a lot less aggravation than the crochet. It worked like a charm. Those are the cut edges above in the two photos - one of each row of back stitches.

 I stitched down the right leg of one column of stitches and up the left leg of a column of stitches with two separate rows of back stitch. I left one whole knit stitch in the middle of the two rows of back stitch. I cut along the center of that column of knit stitches. So it was very close to the stitched row. For a larger project, I would probably leave a bit more space. For the fingerless-mitts, I probably wouldn't.

 Then I picked up just below the backstitched row - 3 stitches for every 4 rounds of the sock - and did a 2x2 rib o each side. On one side I worked 4 yarnover buttonholes. That is just a yarnover followed by a p2tog to keep the rib pattern but it could be a yo and a k2tog and one can work the decrease before or after the yo.
 Completed ribbed edges showing the insides. I whip stitches the edge to the ribbed edging to keep it neat.
 Finally, I went through my button collection (mostly from sweaters and coats that I no longer own) and found 4 small buttons. The yo buttonholes were very small given I was using 2 mm needles. The buttons are all the same size but they don't match. Oh well.

 The problem with this mug cozy? It is too tall for most mugs. So I still don't have a great mug cozy design. But this one will also work for disposable cups (unlike my coaster attached one) and can be used on insulated mugs, if needed.

 I have one last item I made from sock parts and I think it is a winner. They are earbud cases and they use parts of the sock that I've discarded so far. So hold on and the series will soon be over!

For your viewing pleasure, here is a photo of my Jenkins Turkish spindle family and a couple of sample skeins I spun on two of the newest members.
 From left to right, Egret, Swan, Agean, Lark, Delight, Finch and Kuchulu. I got the Egret at Rhinebeck but haven't spun on it yet. The Lark and the Finch were acquired recently in updates at the Jenkins website. I just happened to be online when they were going on sale and I lucked out in getting them. They sell out in minutes.
 Abstract Fibers Merino/Superwash Merino/Silk in Huckleberry spun on the Finch.
Abstract Fibers Targhee in Hopworks spun on the Lark. I didn't think I would enjoy spinning dyed brown fiber but I did. 

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.