Candy + Bagel

Responsibly Handmade Fashion by Jean Chung


Monogamy is so overrated

WIPs & FOsJean ChungComment

Don't worry. I mean when it comes to knitting and sewing, I cannot seem to focus on just one project at a time.

Over the last few weeks, I've been re-organizing my creative space to evaluate my stash size, what I need to toss and what I need to work on, and was mortified at how many WIPs I've come across. Didn't I almost focus my entire last 2 years on reducing the number of WIPs? And my stash? 

I'm happy to report that my stash hasn't grown all that much, and have shown some improvement. But seriously, I'm finding projects from 2012! I know because I bought that yarn at a  big yarn factory parking lot sale and it was before we moved into this current house. We moved in 2013. 

With sewing, I have more logical explanation for multiple projects. I like to do one activity per sewing day. I have Tracing Day, Pattern Cutting Day/Fabric Washing Day, Fabric Cutting Day, and Sewing Day. So I tend to move my projects in phases, in assembly-line style but with just one person doing everything. So I have a pile of pinned pattern/fabric pieces in the corner of my sewing space, waiting for my sewing mojo to hit and finish all these projects.

I'm thankful (almost) that I only have one spinning wheel and 4 bobbins so that I can only do one spinning project at a time. I don't think I can handle more relationships right now.

There are projects that work out fine -- I start them and get excited about working on them, and progress steadily over 1~2 weeks until I finish. 

There are projects that I start with the intention of finishing quickly (usually for gift knitting) but run out of interest right before I finish. I have several sweater projects like that right now, and I have an inkling that it has something to do with having to knit the sleeves......

I also have "always have around" projects, these are my sock projects. I find it very annoying when I suddenly find myself in a situation where I can be sitting in the car for an hour or two, but have no WIP I can just take with me. Sock projects fit the bill perfectly for portability and simplicity. Who doesn't love rounds and rounds of stockinette stitch? 

In the next few weeks, I'm going to try to finish at least a couple of WIPs that have been dormant for a long time. I need more space for my sewing and my knitting projects are scattered all around the house!



How to make a good pair of socks - PT TWO

WIPs & FOsJean ChungComment

In the last entry, I discussed my preferences for sock yarns and patterns for sock knitting. You can read it here, in case you missed it.

Today I'm talking about choices. Once you have a favorite sock yarn or two, and know what to knit, you still have choices to make, like colors and washing methods.

3. Colors

I mentioned how beautiful sock yarns are, right? Socks are mostly hidden. Although my husband and I are fairly conservative and boring in our day job outfits, we are adventurous with sock choices. I have cartoon characters on my socks! The crazier the better. The new trend is splash dyeing. I love how these socks knit up. Usually very light blush/peach or white or black, and then bam! splashes of colors. 

I just got a beautiful skein of 100% superwash merino yarn from Baah Yarn. 

It IS 100% superwash merino, but where we live, there's really no reason to wear socks (knitted or not) during the day, other than the conventions. While some parts of the country are still very much covered in snow, or just getting warm enough to ditch jackets, we've been in the full summer temperature since January. We have A/C on right now. My knitted socks, especially the ones in 100% merino are for home use only. Besides, the splash dye thing is just so fascinating to look at!

For the first few years, I only gravitated towards rich, solid or semi-solid colorways. For my husband, I often went with black or gray while I went for plum or red/pink tones. Now with two dogs and messy toddler boy at home, I go for more variegated themes. Self-striping is addicting, "I'll just knit until the next color change..." which is perfect for those with second-sock syndrome. 

4. Washing

I toss my husband's knitted socks in the washer. I refuse to wash his dirty socks by hand. For this reason, I stick to yarns I KNOW that can withstand the washer (AND DRYER).

For my socks, I wash by hand. So I do occasionally, knit socks with non-superwash yarns, including the ones I spun myself. When they're dirty, they go into a lingerie bag, separate from my usual dirty laundry hamper. When I have 4~5 pairs, I fill my bathroom sink with cold water and mix in knitter-approved cleanser: SoakEucalan or Allure. I let them soak for 10 minutes, then drain, roll them up in a big bath towel and press so that excess water gets absorbed by the towel. Then I air dry on the rack. Occasionally, I use Gleaner to get the pills and my dog hair out.  

I think, at any given moment, I have about 3~4 pairs of socks WIPs -- and I just did some spring cleaning and organized yarns by weight. I found that I could fill all my worsted AND chunky yarns, often bought in sweater quantities, in ONE Rubbermaid storage box..... while I could fill one in the same size with just my sock yarns. 

I don't even know why I keep hoarding sock yarns... it's not like they are going to disappear if I don't keep them hostage at home!

How to make a good pair of socks - PT One

WIPs & FOsJean ChungComment

Knitted socks. To beginner knitters, it's like magic; to seasoned knitters, it's an obsession and the reason behind our uncontrollable stash problems; to non-knitters.... "WHAT? WHY? ARENT THEY SCRATCHY? TOO HOT? WHO DOES THAT?!!"

I love knitting socks. They are so portable, especially if you're into magic loop method. I love DPNs but I've broken a few too many while carrying them around in my project bags. And, don't even get me started on all the beautiful hand-dyed sock yarns: variegated, self-striping, tonal, splash-dyed...

I just saw this newsletter from Countess Ablaze (@countessablaze) and thought about my own preferences for sock yarns and sock knitting.

1. Sock yarns

As the newsletter points out, not all fingering weight yarns are sock yarns. Also, not all superwash yarns are sock yarns. Unless you live in California like me and you only wear socks in the morning (and before bed) like slippers. I've knitted quite a few socks out of 100% superwash merino, and they're super soft and absolutely delight to wear around the house. 

But if you want to actually wear the socks with shoes, I recommend something else. Because one of the characteristics of superwash yarn is that, when wet, it's super stretchy. Superwash is basically a special treatment done to wool so that the cuticles are all flattened, to prevent them from being grabby (this is why things felt). Think "straight perm" done to your hair and the hair looks shiny and doesn't tangle as much. 

What happens when you wear socks in your shoes? Your feet get sweaty. The moisture from your feet make the yarn weak. Your feet endure tremendous friction and pressure from your body weight all day long. Eventually the yarn won't be able to take the stress and get worn out faster.

Speaking of moisture, it could also cause felting. Not all yarns are created equal; not all superwash yarns, definitely, are not created equal. I've made socks for my husband out of 100% superwash yarn a long time ago before I realized this rule. I put them in the washer a week later. They now fit ME (I wear women's size 7; my husband men's size 11). It wasn't cheap yarn, at about $20 per skein. In fact, some sock yarns like Patons Kroy from big box stores are still beautiful today after many many wears. The quality of superwash yarn is not directly related to the price of the yarn. 

My favorite sock yarns are reasonably priced yarns, with about 70~75% superwash merino or BFL, with 25~30% nylon or polymide, with very good twist. Merino and BFL are very soft fibers, and with nylon, the socks last a LONG time. 

My go-to yarns are Cascade Heritage, Sweet Georgia Yarns Tough Love Sock, and Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock, for their availability as well as their fiber blends. When I shop online for indie dyer sock yarns, I also search for similar blends and twist. 

I pulled a list on Ravelry for reference here.

2. Patterns

I like SIMPLE patterns, some knit-and-purl texture patterns or very simple lace patterns. Cables are not my thing for socks, although I love them for garments. It's because the tight twists of the stitches sometimes affect the stretchiness of the socks. 

I also dislike complicated charts for sock designs. I've made them once or twice just because sometimes you do need that challenge in your life... But to me, socks are portable projects. If I have to refer to a chart every time I move on to the next row, that is going to seriously affect my overall knitting time. And on some days, the only time I get to knit is 5~15 minutes in the car after work. 

The pattern needs to be in my brain by the time I'm an inch from the cast-on edge. That's also my design rule. I design for advanced beginner knitters, somebody who has been knitting for maybe 6 months to a year, who's done a couple of projects like a baby sweater or a lace shawl. 

Here is a list of downloadable patterns on Ravelry for textured sock designs (only Ravelry members are able to view the pattern list). 

In the next entry, I will continue talking about sock knitting, like color choices and washing methods.