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My personal (but public) notes about my homebrewing, knitting and other random stuff

Monday, March 06, 2006

Learn by doing

For several days now I've been putting off turning the heel of my practice sock because I didn't feel that I understood the instructions in the book (Elizabeth Zimmermann's Knitting Without Tears, which I was beginning to feel was inappropriately named) at all well. That's had the knock-on effect of stopping me from making a start on my real socks too. I'd got as far as finishing the heel flap and then ground to a halt.

Tonight I finally decided to bite the bullet and have a go, and I found that once I got started a fair amount of puzzling over the written instructions, a small amount of lateral thinking and a quick peek in Montse Stanley's Knitter's Handbook (which, despite being a pretty comprehensive reference work doesn't have much to say explicitly about socks, but does have a useful section on picking up (or knitting up) stitches - just what I needed to make sense of EZ's rather terse instructions).

The actual turning of the heel, which consisted of knitting various short rows (the first time I'd tried that technique), was actually very straightforward once I realised that I was supposed to work back and forwards across the centre of the row, gradually bringing in extra stitches from the edge and decreasing the total number of stitches. It took a bit longer to figure out the next bit, where EZ referred rather cryptically (at least for a knitting newbie like me) to knitting up stitches. From the photo in the book, and a small measure of common sense (about all I could muster), I was able to figure out which direction I was supposed to go in, and intuitively knew (or at least thought) I had to pick up stitches along the edge of the heel flap. It was only when I consulted Stanley for how to do that (since EZ didn't seem to talk about that technique - or perhaps it's just that the index is rather skimpy) that I discovered "knit up" to be more-or-less a synonym for "pick up" and was able to make sense of the instructions at last.

I hit upon one more small problem when I'd worked round to the bottom again. I'd transferred from double pointed needles to single pointed ones while doing the heel flap, and I suddenly found I needed to get my stitches off the wrong end of the needle. It was no great problem, as I could simply slip them across to a dpn and get to work. However, when I do the socks for real it will be easier if I remember to switch back to dpns the row before I start to work up the edge, or even if I just stick to dpns throughout.

Also, while I was using 5mm needles for the test piece (partly to make it bigger and slightly easier to see what was going on, and also so that my 4mm dpns would be free to start the real socks, as I intended to do before finishing the test heel), I'll be using 4mm ones for the real socks and I only have a set of four of those, while I have a set of five 5mm ones. Most of the time that won't be a great problem as I've only been using four anyway, but there was a point when I was starting to work in the round again after the heel that I needed to bring the fifth needle in to play. I'll have to be a bit more careful with my needle management next time.

Because I'm so chuffed about cracking the heel, I've decided to upload two photos of it. One is (or should be) at the top of the post and other one right here:

As well as my sock knitting, I've done another 16 rows of my garter ridge scarf today (including 2 rows before work this morning, as I decided to break away from having to do it in 8 row blocks) and a handful of rows of my tote bag. I may start the new skein going on my ribbed scarf before I go to bed, but I'll probably start my first real sock instead. I reckon to have at least one of my scarves finished by the weekend - it's just a shame that the snow round here has already more-or-less melted!
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