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  • Stock Your Sock Drawer - Dianna Walla

    We love Dianna Walla and are always so happy to have her on our blog!   Dianna is a knitwear designer who is currently living in Norway and who has designed patterns for us including Skógafjall Aspen Hollow socks, and the Hearth Slippers.   You can find Dianna on her website, Paper Tiger, and follow her on Instagram at @cakeandvikings .




    1.  Do you consider yourself a "sock knitter"?   Why do you like to knit socks?

    It seems funny to say it because I've actually designed a few pairs of socks, but I've always considered myself a rather casual sock knitter - I knit socks, but they've never been my first priority. Living in Seattle, I did like to wear them in the winter because they were good at keeping feet warm in a chilly, damp climate. But my relationship with handknit socks really changed when I moved to northern Norway almost two years ago, because here I can wear handknit socks year round. I found myself rotating through my small collection of handknit socks on a regular basis and suddenly knitting more socks felt like a priority. I've been very focused on socks recently because I find them very soothing to knit, and they can be as complex or as mindless as you want them to be, which is handy while I'm busy working on my master's thesis.


    2.  When did you knit your first pair of socks?   Was it harder or easier than you thought?

    I knit my very first pair of socks in the summer of 2009, and they were rather impractical - bulky weight ankle socks! But I had knit Owls by Kate Davies, and I had leftover wool, so when I found the pattern Chunky Ankle Socks by Tara Mercer it felt like a good opportunity to try sock knitting. The bulky weight and short leg meant they went much quicker than normal handknit socks do, so it was a quick way to learn about simple sock construction. In the end, it was easier than I expected! I knit my first "real" pair (with fingering weight) a few months later, and I've been knitting socks every since.


    3. Are you a DPN or Magic Loop knitter and why?   Has it always been that way? If not when and why did you make the switch?

    I'm very much a DPN knitter, and I always have been. Occasionally I now knit sweater sleeves on two circulars for gauge reasons (I knit tighter on DPNs than on circular needles) but I've never been a Magic Loop knitter. I don't knit on public transit in Tromsø so I'm not worried about losing needles that I've dropped or that kind of thing - and if I drop one on an airplane, there's plenty of time to find it. 


    4. Do you have a favorite pattern or heel and toe construction?

    For whatever reason, I like cuff down socks the most, and I do think it's hard to beat a traditional heel flap and gusset. That being said I do work afterthought heels as well, and I have tried (and designed with) toe-up construction. I've knit several pairs of Erica Leuder's Hermione's Everyday Socks, and with over 18,000 projects on Ravelry it feels like most sock knitters in the world can say the same. Otherwise I don't often repeat patterns, any sort of vanilla sock being an exception. But one of my all-time favorite pairs of socks is my Twisted Flower socks, from a pattern by Cookie A. It's full of beautiful twisted stitches and lace, and I think I will make another pair of those at some point. They feel like art on my feet.



    Aspen Hollow socks by Dianna Walla for our Farm to Needle book.   Photo by Kathy Cadigan.



    5.  Is there a favorite sock yarn at Tolt that you have worked with or want to work with?

    I quite like Madelinetosh Twist Light and Artisan Sock by Hazel Knits, and I think the Arne and Carlos line for Regia is my favorite self-patterning sock yarn of all time. I'd love to try Socks Yeah! by Rachel Coopey, but I haven't gotten my hands on any yet. I have been exploring some of the European handdyers since moving to Europe, though, and I'm really into what Phileas Yarns from York and La Bien Aimée in Paris are doing. We also have some wonderful hand dyers here in Norway, and right now I'm particularly digging a brand new company called Garnsurr, who work with women from minority backgrounds in rural areas of Norway, many of whom came here as refugees. Many of them have no formal education and limited Norwegian language skills, so Garnsurr's aim is to not only teach these women to dye yarn as a way to make money, but they also offer Norwegian language tuition and other integration services. I haven't tried their yarn yet but I'm eager to support their work!


    6.  Do you have any tips, tricks or advice you can give to other sock knitters new or experienced?

    I'd say don't give up when you're frustrated and don't be afraid to try new things! There are so many different techniques to knit socks or work heels, toes, and cuffs, and it's really easy to stop exploring when you find something that feels comfortable. Trying new patterns or construction methods may only make you realize how much you prefer what you were doing before, but you might find something cool and new that you love. And I'd also mention caring for your handknit socks - I almost always handwash mine (though my husband prefers to throw his in the washing machine), as I find that helps them last longer. And something that no one ever told me: socks worn around the house on hard floors will wear out faster than socks that you wear in shoes or boots. It seems counterintuitive, but I haven't had to darn any of my own handknit socks yet while my husband (who wears them as house socks exclusively) has worn through several pairs, even after mending them.
  • Knitting and the Outdoors by Anna Brones

     





    The outdoors is where I go to disconnect, to remove myself from the world of obligations and to-do lists. More importantly, there’s rarely cell service. Amongst the trees, in the mountains, along the coastline, there are no inner voices calling out to me telling me what I should and should not be doing. Instead, it is quiet, peaceful.

     

    Knitting is the same. The rhythm of the movement of my hands is calming, meditative. Being occupied, they also can’t pick up the phone to check the latest message or news item. It’s an activity that pushes me straight into the present moment and keeps me there. Distractions fall away, time passes without me noticing.

     


    Knitting outside means breaking everything down to the simplest moment. It is you, your work and the sound of the wilderness, the smell of a campfire. Perhaps there’s a mug of tea or cup of coffee next to you, maybe even a nightcap of whiskey as you knit through dusk.

     

    Knitting and camping; I find that the two go quite well together. Knitting is after all activity that’s both simple and complex. The end result - be it a hat, a sweater, a pair of socks - is a combination of small actions, all based on those two basic elements: knit, purl, knit, purl. While the end product might be a source of excitement - a new sweater! - it is the act of making, the entire process that gets us to that sweater, that is the most important, much like the end destination of a day on the trail might be a lake or a summit, but it is the journey created by every step along the way that brings that destination its true meaning.

     

    Sitting outside with a knitting project in hand, life feels like it scales back, reduced to the bare, essential elements. Ingredient lists for meals are shorter, but even the easiest of culinary combinations are the tastiest. A piece of grilled bread slathered in goat cheese and drizzled with honey. A morning cup of coffee. A bowl of oatmeal with freshly foraged blackberries strewn on top.

     

    I am reminded of a Terry Tempest Williams quote. “To be whole. To be complete. Wildness reminds us what it means to be human, what we are connected to rather than what we are separate from.”

     

    In the midst of a maddening world, I crave that connection; we all do. We need more wild. So here I am knitting a sweater with no real pattern, using up lovingly handspun wool gifted to me by my mother. I think of how it too was once wild, in the form of an animal. There’s still a hint of lanolin, to remind me that it came from a living thing, not a product extracted from the ground. The morning sunshine rises above the treeline, hitting my face. It’s quiet now that the campground elk have gone on their way. There’s no real goal to this project, or even the day, just being present in this time, the now.

     

    Here I am, whole, connected to the place around me and to the fibers that I hold in my hand.


     

    Anna Brones is an artist and writer and the author of several books including the forthcoming Best Served Wild: Real Food for Real Adventures.
  • Stock Your Sock Drawer - Andrea Rangel

    We are so happy to host Andrea Rangel here on our blog for our Stock Your Sock Drawer Series. Andrea has been a part of Tolt from the very beginning, designing our first pattern, the Tolt Hat and Mitts, and continues to collaborate with us on special projects, including our Farm to Needle book. Our recently published Camp Tolt Pattern, Okanogan Socks, were designed by Andrea; when we decided that we wanted a pattern for technical hiking socks, we knew immediately who we wanted to ask... 
    You can follow Andrea on her blog and on Instagram @andrearangelknits and be sure to check out her book, Rugged Knits



    1.  Do you consider yourself a "sock knitter"?   Why do you like to knit socks?

    I’m an everything knitter, including socks! I love to wear hand knit socks, so it’s always good to add to my wardrobe. And, like most sock knitters, I appreciate how portable a sock project is. Just one ball of skinny yarn brings lots of hours of enjoyment!


    2.  When did you knit your first pair of socks?   Was it harder or easier than you thought?


    I knit my first pair of socks for my grandad when I was a fairly new knitter. They were in a weird microfibre yarn and they came out enormous. Not sure why I sent them anyway, but he still gets a good laugh out of them and I know he appreciated the effort. Making the socks was easier than I expected (aside from my gauge and materials issues - we’re always learning, right?), but turning the heel was so magical! I didn’t have any understanding of what I was doing - I just followed the directions without question and when that little heel pocket appeared I was so amazed. It was like alchemy! Just follow this magic spell and a sock will appear! I still love that about knitting socks.


    3. Are you a DPN or Magic Loop knitter and why?   Has it always been that way? If not when and why did you make the switch?


    I’m all about the magic loop. It’s so much less finicky in my opinion, and I can just use my favourite interchangeable needles for it instead of having to go fetch something different. I did start out knitting socks with dpns, but I never warmed to them. They always felt a little overwhelming (and I would always drop my needle on the floor when I got to the end of one!), so I was delighted to find out about magic loop.






    4. Do you have a favorite pattern or heel and toe construction?


    I like knitting socks every whichaway and don’t really have favourites. Toe-up is great because it allows for adjusting the leg length without much trouble, but the traditional top-down sock with a reinforced heel and Kitchener toe is such an elegant construction that I love it too! The heel and gusset in that construction are particularly pleasing and I love the way they fit.


    5.  Is there a favorite sock yarn at Tolt that you have worked with or want to work with?


    My favourite pair of socks right now is my Clochan design knit up in Hazel Knits Entice MCN (which could easily be substituted by YOTH Little Brother or Hazel Knits Artisan Sock). I was initially a little nervous that they wouldn’t wear as well because of the cashmere content, but they feel so luxurious and have proved to be super sturdy! I wear them as boot socks and hike in them and they make my feet so happy. 





    6.  Do you have any tips, tricks or advice you can give to other sock knitters new or experienced?


    When I first started knitting socks, I had trouble getting the snug gauge that makes a comfy and durable sock. I’m a pretty loose knitter, but wrapping my yarn twice around my index finger instead of my usual one time, thus adding a bit of extra tension, made all the difference! My advice is to be willing to try new things - tension your yarn a little different, knit a sock construction you’ve never tried, use a different yarn! 
    I also have a recommendation about fit - try knitting your socks with a bit of negative ease. I usually wear socks that are about an inch smaller than my actual foot circumference. In fact, I knit the XS size of my new sock pattern, Okanogan, which is 6.5 in/16.5 cm, and it fits my 8.25 in/21 cm foot just fine. I had to be a bit forceful to get the sock on my foot, but once it was there, it was comfy. 
    Hand knit socks aren’t as stretchy as store bought ones, so that can take a bit of getting used to, but it’s worth it! You can knit socks to be really durable by working at a snug gauge and reinforcing wear points like heel and toes (see Okanogan again), but the true genius is that hand knit socks can be repaired! If you get a hole in your store-bought socks, all you can really do is throw them away. But handmade socks are survivalist socks. With a little spare yarn and a darning needle you can reinforce worn stitches. Add a couple double pointed needles and you can fix actual holes! That makes hand knit socks super practical as well as being special. 
    Happy sock knitting! 




    P.S. If you’re ready to stock your sock drawer, I hope you’ll have a look at Okanogan! It comes in a bunch of sizes and it’s got tons of clever details to make it the perfect trail sock.
  • Best Friend Vasa




    When Veronika first told me she was releasing a new yarn for light weight summer knits I was eager to see it.   I love wool yarn and it's usually the only thing I knit with which means I don't have many hand knits for the warmer weather ( actually, I think I only have one hand knit summer top!).  I told Veronika I was excited to see her Best Friend yarn and wanted to knit a Vasa tee with it, she kindly offered to send me a couple of skeins just in time for my trip to Santa Fe.  

    The yarn arrived the day before we were to fly out which didn't leave much time for swatching.   I decided to do something that I would never recommend to another knitter... I skipped the swatch.  Instead of going in blind I thought it wise to ask Veronika what she would recommend in the way of needles.   Vasa has a gauge of 24 stitches per four inches using fingering weight yarn on a recommended US 3 (3.25mm) needle, since Best Friend in a light fingering Veronika suggested I use a US 5 (3.75).  Veronika, the queen of swatching, warned me that this was a suggestion and that I wasn't to blame her if the garment didn't fit, haha!





    My plan was to knit the Vasa in the round.   Sitting on the plane I cast on the front panel stitches and worked a few rows of garter (knitting flat) and after about an inch and a half I put those stitches on hold and cast on the back panel stitches and worked them the same way. I then joined both pieces and worked them in the round until the desired length, purling two stitches on each side for a faux seem. When I reached the underarm I split for front and back and worked those pieces flat. Then, I bound off for the neck leaving an even amount over the shoulder so that I could do a three needle bind off.   

    This was a perfect project for my adventures in Santa Fe, simple and light weight, and I am so pleased with the way it turned out. I ended up getting about 25 stitches per four inches. The top turned out to be about a 34" bust (the smallest size) instead of the 38" bust I cast on for. Despite the smaller size it still fits nicely, and, because of this beautiful yarn, it has lovely drape. I'm so happy to have another summer knit!!!

     

     

  • Stock Your Sock Drawer : Susan Moskwa

    We are so pleased to introduce to you our friend Susan Moskwa.   Susan does a lot of behind the scenes work for Tolt, she is the tech editor for our patterns.   She is truly amazing and we don't know what we would do without her!  When Susan is not busy crunching numbers and making edits she enjoys spending time knitting.   You can find Susan on her website or on Instagram .







    1. Do you consider yourself a "sock knitter"? Why do you like to knit socks?

    Yes! For me, socks are the "comfort food" of knitting. They're safe and easy; I know my size, I can knit one from scratch without a pattern, and I know how to fix things when they go wrong. I travel a lot, and socks make great travel knitting: small, portable, and it takes me a couple weeks to finish a pair. Plus I love that one skein is enough for a pair, so—unlike sweater quantities of yarn—I can buy sock yarn here and there without knowing exactly what I'm gonna do with it but without worrying whether I'll have enough.



    I also love socks as a tiny canvas for whatever type of knitting you want to try out. Lace, cables, colorwork, bobbles, beads... you can do them all on a sock. You could do them all on the same sock. You can do totally crazy things on a sock that you could never get away with on a sweater (remember this??). Socks can be practical or decorative, rugged hiking socks or cashmere-y house slippers. When I was younger, I didn't believe in crazy socks; I thought of socks as underwear for your feet, something purely functional, not meant to be seen or shown off. But now I knit them in all kinds of colors and designs, and I love to incorporate them as part of an outfit, not just a layer between foot and shoe.



    2. When did you knit your first pair of socks? Was it harder or easier than you thought?

    I started knitting regularly in 2008, and in summer 2009 I knit my first pair of Leyburn Socks. I found it quite straightforward: start with a well written pattern, and do exactly what it says. Once you can knit, purl, decrease, and knit in the round, you've basically got what it takes for socks.


    3. Are you a DPN or Magic Loop knitter and why? Has it always been that way? If not, when and why did you make the switch?

    I started out using DPNs, but I got terrible ladders at the joins and I didn't want to have to constantly worry about snugging them up or shifting my joins. As soon as I learned Magic Loop, I never looked back. I also tried two-at-a-time socks on a long circular needle, just to see if I liked it, but found that a bit too fiddly... too much managing cables and working yarns and trying to keep everything straight (both physically and conceptually). I also like to do a lot of trial and error on the first sock, and then knit the second sock straight through once I've gotten everything exactly the way I want it. When I knit two-at-a-time, that meant ripping back two socks for every one mistake.

    4. Do you have a favorite pattern or heel and toe construction?

    I like to knit top down with a heel flap; I have a high instep, and this construction always fits me. I went through a phase of experimenting with different heel types, but nothing worked as reliably as the heel flap + gusset. But I also like to try new things, like interesting constructions or moving the gusset around. I rarely knit the same pattern twice. Among my own patterns, my favorite is Cheshire; I love the movement between the textured and the reverse-Stockinette sections.



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    5. Is there a favorite sock yarn at Tolt that you have worked with or want to work with?

    Right now I'm more drawn to individual colors than I am to any particular yarn base. I'm finding self-striping yarns really fun, and I'm trying to buy more solids and semi-solids, because I like knitting complex patterns that don't show up as well on multicolored yarns. I'll always be a sucker for a rich blue or purple, no matter who's dyed it!

    6. Do you have any tips, tricks or advice you can give to other sock knitters, new or experienced?

    1. Newbies: Don't be intimidated. Just follow the directions (carefully).
    2. Everyone: Take the Yarn Harlot's Grok the Sock class. This is the class that propelled me from "someone who has knit some socks" to "a sock knitter". It includes principles for knitting socks without a pattern, among other very useful and empowering info.
    3. Learn to darn and mend your socks! It will make you feel very clever. Plus, better to spend an hour darning than two weeks knitting a new pair to replace the old one.



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