Monday, 12 October 2015

Socks for men: Part I

Full disclosure here. I have started to write this piece twice now and each time I have deleted it. Why? Simply put, I have been trying to write a piece on knitting socks for men but each time I do it sounds trite and stereotypical. There is no average man any more than there is an average woman, and I would never dream of writing a piece on knitting socks for women.

That being said it does seem as though men are often under-served in the sock pattern department and that is one reason why I strive to ensure that the majority of my patterns are unisex. A quick whizz through the Ravelry search for 'Socks' shows 14,812 patterns (at the time of writing) and 209 pages.
Sock patterns by gender tag, Ravelry, October 2015

Of these only 1,848 (39 pages) have the 'male' tag as compared to the 'female' tag: 6,445 patterns (135 pages) or the 'unisex' tag: 6,519 patterns (136 pages).

Obviously some patterns, like many of mine are tagged with all three but whichever way you look at it is seems to be that men are getting a bit of a raw deal when it comes to choice for sock patterns.

As I started to think about knitting socks specifically for men, a number of common misconceptions started to occur to me:

There is an often perpetuated myth that men will only wear dark grey/black socks. Whilst that may be true in a corporate environment, the pattern pages on ravelry are full of men rocking more colourful socks and I know that my husband, whilst he does wear dark socks with business suits he loves to chill out in his hotel room or on the plane with a fab pair of handknit socks. He has even had cabin crew try to buy them off him before now. For every man who only wears dark, plain socks I'm sure there are several who will happily sport a bright self stripe.

Unisex patterns: Louise Tilbrook Designs 

Cables are generally a winner too as long as though don't add too much bulk when worn in shoes and aren't too "twiddly". This is my husband's technical term for cables which are deemed by him to be over-complicated.

Cables have the added advantage of making you look super clever. After all, not only can you knit amazingly warm and well fitting socks but you can move the stitches about and bend them to your will. You are a veritable sock ninja!

What do you look for in a good mens sock pattern? I'd love to know. Please do leave me a comment here or via social media.

Friday, 9 October 2015

Making friends - the Knitters way

A series of random late night tweets one night and I found myself gatecrashing a yarn crawl in London - visiting new-to-me yarn shops and making great yarny friends into the bargain.
A wall of wool, at Prick Your Finger

The route was carefully planned to include Prick Your Finger, Loop, Knit with Attitude and Wild and Woolly, ending in a pub - of course - and a knitting quiz.

The perils of childcare meant that I could only stay for the first 2 shops but the carefully planned itinerary meant that I was able to duck out after Loop and catch a bus back to Liverpool St.

Prick Your Finger was a shop I had heard much about but hadn't yet visited and so I was really pleased that we went there first. The owner, Rachel was really welcoming and we spent a happy time browsing her beautiful collections of yarn. She has a passion for supporting British and local producers and that really shone through in her choice of yarns. John Arbon, Excelana, Blakcer Yarns and others were all wonderfully displayed. She also stocks, buttons, jewellery, drop spindles and much more and we could have spent much longer there.
My carefully curated haul - much joy

Mini skeins kindly gifted by Amelia

Specially made stitch markers by OfBlitheSpirit

Next on the list was Loop in Islington. A true 'destination' yarn shop I had been to Loop once or twice before but I never pass up the opportunity to go and this time I was on a mission. I want to make the Laneway tunic by Veera Valimaki in grey and I knew that Loop stocks an impressive collection of The Uncommon Thread's sockweight yarn. No one does grey quite like Ce Ce and I was indeed spoilt for choice. Indeed I fear I embarrased myself somewhat by laying out all the different shades on the floor to better examine them.

Anyway, after much deliberating I made my selection and spent the rest of the visit with them clutched protectively to my chest. It was lovely to chat to the staff there and to put names to faces. The yarn crawl continued without me after that but I know that they had a great time - check out the hashtag #4plyyarncrawl on Twitter and Instagram to see what we got up to.
The midway point: Our collective haul

Huge thank you to Rae, Amelia and Alitzah for making the day such fun - we will have to do it again soon.

Monday, 5 October 2015

Here we are in October already and with #Socktober well and truly underway. Autumn is in full, blustery swing here in the UK today and it seems fitting that under my smart work work boots I am wearing my best handknit stripey socks to keep my feet warm.

I do hope you have your Socktober knitting planned out and on the needles but just in case you need a little extra enabling - fear not as I have a little round up of some fun goings on in the knitterly world.

First up we have the #gbsocksawaykal hosted by the lovely Isla, of the even more lovely Brit Yarns fame. Her KAL group on Ravelry is a really fun and chatty place to hang out. Even if you aren't knitting socks (and if not..why not??) there are plenty of great tips, patterns, chat and inspiration to get your sock knitting mojo going.

As well as the KAL, Isla is also running a competition jointly with Joy of the Knitting Goddess. You are challenged to come up with a new Britsock colourway (of up to 3-4 colours) which to you, perfectly sums up Britishness. There are some great entries already and I can't wait to see what is eventually chosen.

If you are all about the KALs still, Sara of Sara's Textured Crafts is hosting one too - with the emphasis firmly on relaxed fun and chatter over on her Ravelry group.

As for my own knitting. I am having a bit of a Finishing Festival. I have several pairs of self striping socks in various stages of completion which, to my shame, have languished for far too long in search of the new, the tempting and the deadline knitting. My boys are clamouring for their completed socks - each of them chose a shade of the West Yorkshire Spinners bird-inspired yarns some time ago.

To forestall the inevitable arguments I initially started working them two at a time - one from each skein. But I soon came to realise that this didn't make for the most portable of projects. This was compounded by my trying to work the heels with separate little balls of yarn (I pre-wound about 5g from each skein before starting) in an attempt to keep my nice even stripes on the front of the sock. Things got into a bit of a tangle and had to be set aside (read - shoved into a corner) until I had time to untangle and rearrange on separate needles. All is now going swimmingly however and I have high hopes of being able to present not 1 but 2 pairs of finished socks for #FOFriday this week.

How about you - do let me know what you are working on and how your Socktober is going.