Wednesday, February 11, 2015

The Saga of the Rainbow Striped, Fair Isle, Thigh-High Socks

Peek-a-Boots are available from Skacel here
The saga began with a pair of clear, rubber boots. Last spring I was helping at a yarn show in Loveland, CO where one of the yarn shops was selling these clear "Peek-A-Boots", specifically designed so that fancy socks can show through. My (soon to be) mother-in-law, Peggy, insisted on getting a pair of these boots for me.

Along with the clear boots came a challenge: to knit a pair of socks worthy of being seen THROUGH boots. I was planning to go to The National Needle Arts (TNNA) trade show with Brown Sheep Company, where I hoped to wear the boots with the fancy-schmancy socks I would make. A few weekends later at the family cabin, Peggy brought me two options with yarn: one pattern was fun but well within my comfort zone as a knitter; the other pattern had more intimidating multi-colored stripes with fair isle colorwork. As someone who tends to choose type 2 fun (type 2 fun is the kind that's not fun at the time, but fun to look back on later: for example, marathon running, rock climbing, and bicycling through a hailstorm), of course I would take on the tough sock pattern.
Photo Copyright Joe Hancock.

The pattern is called Thigh-High Stripes by Deborah Newton. It's published in the book Sock Knitting: Master Class by Ann Budd. Click this link to see the pattern on Ravelry.

Now, at this point, as I was getting to know the Wells (Brown Sheep) family, it became apparent that they favored continental-style knitting as the "industry standard" over the "throwing" or English-style of knitting I had learned. Clearly I would need to convert from "throwing" to "picking" if I were to impress them.

Luckily, 2-handed color knitting is one of the best ways to learn continental knitting.  With this technique, you hold one color in your right hand and "throw" English-style, while you hold the other color in your left hand and "pick" those stitches continental-style.  This technique goes much faster than one-handed colorwork, plus your two colors don't get tangled.

I began knitting intently on the first sock. The continental knitting felt very awkward at first and I struggled to keep my tension even.  I spent an embarrassing amount of time working on this sock (as I only had a part-time job at the time) and made it this far:

I guess this will make a good wind sock.
. . . until I showed the sock to Peggy.   As she looked at the sock, hours and hours of knitting, her face fell as she broke the news to me. "Did you know you have twisted almost all of your stitches?" It was true; every stitch I had knit continental-style was twisted.  I had thought my tension was just really bad, but in fact, I was knitting each stitch backwards. Furthermore, this sock was simply too big and would never be wearable by me. The only good option, at this point, was to completely start over with a new sock.
This is what twisted stitches look like.

If at first you don't succeed... So I changed needle sizes and re-learned how to properly knit a continental stitch. The National Needle Arts show was only a few weeks away, so I would need to knit frantically to get the socks done in time. Maybe it seems silly, but sometimes in life you need a mission to conquer.
Finally, I finished the second sock in the airplane on the way to the show.  Peggy was nice enough to help me weave in the ends (this project had a LOT of ends to weave in!). I got to show off my socks at the trade show, but more importantly, I got to feel the satisfaction of completing my most challenging knitting project yet.
The finished product. I used Wildfoote Sock Yarn in Rose Bud (SY50), Volcanic Blast (SY51),  Deco Lime (SY44), Goldenrod (SY45), Blue Bird (SY53), Little Lilac (SY32) and Walnut Bark (SY52)
Although I got to make a fashion statement, the boots were not incredibly breathable.

Lessons learned: Consulting an experienced knitter for help in person is much more effective than consulting YouTube. Take the pattern gauge seriously and don't be lazy about the gauge. Don't give up on a project if you make a big mistake--learn from it.


  1. Those are awesome. Enjoying your journey as you share it here.

    ~~Elaine Besthorn

  2. Love these socks, Brittany! Your blog is so enjoyable to read! I agree....I work quicker and more efficiently when under a bit of pressure! Ha! Looking forward to your next blog!

  3. All you need is some glittery yarn to spice up those DRAB socks! ;-] Seriously, GREAT JOB!

  4. All you need is some glittery yarn to spice up those DRAB socks! ;-] Seriously, GREAT JOB!