Sock knitting and the trials of learning something new

I’ve been learning how to knit socks for the last couple of months. I chose a couple of free patterns and some yarn back at Easter time. It was another month or so before I actually started trying to knit a sock.

The pattern I started with was title ‘Socks for Beginners’ but was very much not written with beginners in mind. Specifically there was no description of any terminology, and knitting has a lot of terminology and abbreviations. Fortunately there is a wealth of information on the internet and I more or less figured out the instructions.

3D Knitting – My first time knitting in the round

I really enjoyed knitting the socks. I liked the 3D nature of the socks and seeing the object appear felt very accomplished. However the sparse nature of the pattern caused another problem – the fit of the sock. I have small feet and not particularly slender ones, but the sock from the first pattern was so short and stubby – it didn’t look like a sock. It also had a really narrow heel – only 3 stitches for the middle of the short row heels. The lack of instructions meant I didn’t feel comfortable altering the pattern myself. I was also a bit disillusioned that it looked nothing like the socks I was used to.

Even my child sized feet are not that short and fat

So for the second sock, I used a different pattern. This one had more size variations and considerably more detailed instructions. I still turned to the internet occasionally (picking up stitches), but I finally had a sock looking sock.


The main thing learning to knit socks has actually taught me is how to unknit, i.e. undo something smoothly so I can go back a specific number of rows etc. I’ve had to do it quite a few times over the course of the three socks. I’ve also since starting the sock discovered ravelry, which has considerably broadened my access to patterns and different sock construction techniques. I can now see how store bought socks differ in construction to the heel flap and short row heel method of construction. I love my socks but I think I will definitely investigate other construction methods in the future.

A Comparison of the two socks 

My finished socks aren’t perfect but they keep my feet warm and are a pair. One is slightly in smaller than the other, so the gusset stitches stretch a little. And I couldn’t get the kitchener graft to work on the second sock, I tried three times and then called it a day. I’ll try again next time.

Making on a budget – Making do

I’m trying to get in the habit of posting regularly again and be a bit more connected with other bloggers. So I’m planning on doing a series of tips about ‘making on a budget’ and linking it up with the tuesday tips and tutorials link up that quiltingjetgirl and late night quilter are running.

This series is definitely a series of tips. I’m a postgraduate student living in a rented flat in one of the world’s most expensive cities and while I’m happy to spend some money on my hobby, I don’t have much to spare. When I’ve looked for tips on saving money on craft or sewing blogs, the tips are fairly repetitive. There are tips on budgeting, shopping sales and to collect stuff, and this is fine and useful but not necessarily appropriate especially if you a renter or live in a small space. So I’m going to curate some of my tips on making without space and money.


Making do with what you have

My first tip is to use what you have, especially for tools and notions. This is especially true if you are beginner. While having the best tools will make the job easier, there’s often a work around. This gives you time to decide if this is the technique or skill for you before spending money.

When I took up sewing properly, I was in the lucky position that I had been beading for a long time so had a collection of things of needles and thread that could be used. However I often find reading peoples advice that fairly specific thread or needles are required – but realistically what they mean is it will make it easier. So use what ever you have at least until it isn’t working – then its time to buy the better product.

And this becomes even more true when you stop talking about basics but more specialist tools. I have two main examples, one from beading and one from quilting. When I started bead weaving, I needed something to store the beads I was about to pick up. And there are many different types of trays and mats and pots that are sold for precisely this but I was very young, had a small amount of pocket money and it was pre-internet shopping so didn’t have access to specialist shops in the small town where I grew up. So I ‘borrowed’ the mini tray from my mothers tea strainer (I still have it well over 10 years later so stole may be more accurate). Its nicely shallow but has a lip to stop the beads escaping and even though I now own some specialist trays and mats, I still use the little tray.

The other is when I started quilting, I took a course and among some of the other recommended tools were clover clips. I spent money on things like rulers, rotary cutters and cutting mats but clover clips were too expensive for me to justify at the beginning. I’ve done some quilting since then but less than I planned originally. However on both projects I have finished, I’ve had to put binding on. At first I tried pinning the binding but it was really tricky, so I looked around for something like a clip and found paper clips. They do the job fine, at least for the small projects I am currently making. Actually I use paperclips for all sorts of things, holding fabric together, to hold paper and fabric together when basting for english paper piecing, binding and as stitch markers when knitting and beading

The motto of my stories is that there are other options for most tools, especially modern ones. If makers have made do for centuries without that tool, then you can probably finish your project with an alternative. So don’t wait but give it a go.

Here’s a list of my current make do’s:

  1. Paper clips for holding down binding on quilting projects
  2. Paper clips as stitch markers when knitting
  3. Prittstick (Asda own brand) as a water soluble glue for EPP basting
  4. Cotton wool or make up pads as a stuffing for small toys or ornaments – These can be very cheap when bought at discount shops or on offer and I’ve used them for all sorts of things
  5. Using my beadloom for weaving – yeah this is a pretty specialist make do but I was really interested in trying weaving and by rigging my bead loom up a little differently I have a close enough approximation of a weaving loom to let me do small pieces.


Hopefully this gives you some ideas of places you can save some money at least until you are sure you really need the proper thing. Do you have any make do’s to share?


October 2016

I’m so nearly done with my PhD. The thesis has been submitted and I’m waiting to organise my viva. It is such a relief to not be working on my thesis anymore. I’m still pretty busy with other things but my head is feeling much clearer and I’ve managed to start a few new projects and put some hours into others. I’ve even started a couple of draft blog posts. I’m hoping to get back to a more regular posting schedule.

One other thing I’m planning on doing is to participate in the ‘tips and tutorials’ link party that Yvonne from quiltingjetgirl and Stephanie from Late Night Quilter are hosting. My posts are definitely going to fall into the tips category but knowledge is a good thing so I’ll put them out there anyway.

September was pretty sparse with crafting time, I pretty much only knitted so heres my works in progress:

  1. Socks – The new pattern was considerably better and i’m 3/4 of the way through the second sock
  2. EPP Cushion – One diamond was added
  3. Fringed Handbag – No Progress
  4. Bead Embroidery Purse – I did a couple of hours work on this at social beading group
  5. Learning Curve Sampler Quilt – No Progress
  6. A lacy scarf – I ended up restarting this scarf as it is knit in the round and had two twists in it. I’m now on my second ball of wool (again)
  7. Weaving – I started a new piece in order to make a tablet case
  8. Beaded chainmaille necklace – I just started this but its beautiful

And finished objects:

  1. Oven gloves – I finally got round to sorting the binding and they’ve been in use for a couple of weeks.
  2. A beaded necklace – I made the most of some time off to finally make up a necklace that I’d bought supplies for back at Easter.
  3. I did some bead stringing and used some gorgeous lampwork beads I’ve owned for 10+ years. Hopefully now I will actually wear them.

I’m feeling a bit more inspired at the moment and I’m trying to make the most of my free time, so hopefully you’ll be seeing more of me.