Sunday, December 30, 2007

The NZAK and I

My New Zealand Auto Knitter (NZAK) with 80/40, 60/30 and 60/30 compound arrived over a month ago. It's the Mean Green Machine of 2007. We have been becoming acquainted. We have smoothed our differences and I have made socks, BLACK socks! on the 60/30 set up. And they are perfect socks at that! They might look gray because of the flash, but they are inky black just like I've been wanting. The yarn is KnitPicks Essential and knitted up perfectly at nine rounds to the inch. They are soft and comfortable and just the thing for my winter Crocs. Yes, "winter Crocs." They are called Troika. Check them out if you are a Croc fan.

I'm taking another look at my sock yarn stash. It is beyond belief! There is enough to knit socks forever and ever amen. I have some great sock yarn from the usual suspects (Lorna's Laces, Regia, Opal, Trekking XXL) and then I have some from some great indie dyers on Etsy and eBay. The sources are wide and varied thanks to the Internet. My latest acquisition is Noro Kureyon Sock Yarn, color number S40. I've read varying reviews about it and have not formed an opinion of my own yet. I've only gazed at it and fondled it so far. Yes, it does feel a bit scratchy, but that's how Kureyon is. The reviews from other CSMers have me hesitating to foul up a machine with it. It seems it's a bear to wind into a cone on the electric cone winder. I might have to save the Kureyon for handknitting.

So the NZAK came. It was packaged to perfection. I worked up a sweat just unpacking it.

Then I attempted to put the stand together. I had a heck of a time getting the legs (well, one of them) at the right angle to screw together. Once that was accomplished I attached the machine and started to crank. It was set up with the 60/30 compound and a long cranking of sock yarn coming off it. It purred like a kitten. When I was sure it was working well, I cranked off that waste sock and set the machine up to make my own small sock. That was when the fun began. The fun lasted for a few weeks with many days not having enough hours for me to get an NZAK fix in. Suffice it to say that after far too many tries and failures I switched to the 60/30 regular cylinder and ribber. Some more fun happened as I tried to get my tensions and stitch lengths at a point that made me happy. It finally happened this past week and thus the black socks.

Am I the only one growing tired all the stripety socks? I have loads of colors, handpaints, faux Fair Isle, variegateds and the like. I'm pining for plain socks, solid colors, even striated would be nice. I love the Lorna's Laces almost solids. I've bought many indie dyers' takes on solids and some of the usual suspects' tweeds and ragg looks. Please tell me I'm not the only one tiring of the stripes. However, I still can't resist another jungle, rain forest or whatever Opal comes out with next. And of course I had to have some Kaffe Fassett for Regia.

So far I've made seven socks on the NZAK which actually equal only two pairs. I know the math doesn't add up. With the black sock I made a sock twice before I got the right feel to the fabric. The first two times it was too loosey goosey. The third sock had perfect fabric and the NZAK fairly hummed as I cranked it out. It was such a breeze I was cranking round number 86 in the foot when my brain caught up with what I was doing. The foot needed only 65 rounds. I was supposed to stop and do the toe at 65 rounds! Ripping and rehanging were taking more time than just rewinding and starting all over so that is what I did and produced the two perfect black socks you saw above. Thus it took five socks to make that pair. The mahogany pair made next took only two socks. See, I got better. The color is better in this picture.

The NZAK and I have had our differences and will have more in the future I'm sure because one day I will go back to the compound. Right now I am knitting up all the Essential before I switch to another yarn and possibly the 80/40 set up and have to adjust the tensions. I'm loving it right now because it's doing my bidding.

For those of you relatively new to the CSM game I cannot stress enough how much fun this is when everything works according to plan. I also want you to know without a doubt that things might not always work according to plan and there is a learning curve. For some the curve is steeper than for others. There are many varying factors: machine, yarn, even humidity and level floor. Let's not forget operator and expertise with knitting machines. And let's not forget the machines have their idiosyncrasies. As for my NZAK and I, we are fine and making socks in Philadelphia.

The Sock Lady

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

People from MARS Meet

Hey! It's been a long time. This blog has been terribly neglected. That is not to say I have been neglecting my sock machines, well not all of them. I can't believe I allowed four months to slip by without a word.

In October the MidAtlantic Region Sockknitters (MARS) met at the charming farmhouse of Gregory Wollon in Havre de Grace, MD. It was quite a turnout. There were the usual suspects, a newbie or two and a guest or two. The weather was perfect for cranking out on the porch or inside in one of the many sitting rooms, nooks and crannies.

I took no machine with me. I was in a schmoozing and yarn shopping mood and knew that packing, unloading, toting and setting up a machine would be more trouble than it was worth. Furthermore, I expected to play on somebody's NZAK while there, and I did. Shirley, the Crazy Slipcover Lady, who is also aprilsosa, my favorite yarn pusher, had her new NZAK and I got a chance to set it up and crank a round or two. Mine was on its way, but hadn't arrived in time for the meet. Below is a picture of Shirley kneeling at the NZAK as Gregory sets it up.

As always the eats were great, the Beardies adorable, and the sheep, well, they were sheep. It was a great day and I went home invigorated by sock machine talk with old and new friends.

I'll leave you with a picture of a couple of Beardies napping in their crates . . . until I woke them up.

The Sock Lady

Saturday, August 4, 2007

CSMSA Conference 2007 Impressions

It's always a great feeling to come away from an event remembering the people who made it so much fun. I have a lot a pictures, but realize I failed to get some I wish I had. I met "the guys" at this conference. There was "Mark, the Man" who is the maker of the Elias and the Elijah. That Elijah has my name written on it. It's blue, my favorite color, and left handed. Perfect for a lefty like me. I never got a picture of him or his machines. Drats!

I did get pictures of Larry. Boy, did I get pictures of Larry! See how photogenic he is:

Larry in Sheep to Socks contest finishing a toe and . . .
Larry the WINNER!
And heeere's Eric!
Check out his shoes.

Yes, they are real wooden shoes . . . from Holland . . . MI . . . but authentic none the less.

The other guys, Pete, Roger, etc., I had met in Laconia, NH and Barry is my machine guru whom I see at least quarterly. Even so, I wish I had gotten pictures of them at the conference. Maybe next year.

The machines! Oh, the machines. There were the usual suspects--AutoKnitter, Gerheart, Harmony and Legare. Then there were the NZAKs! Many NZAKs, including the blue contest prize and the bronze beauty.

Beautiful Blue

Gorgeous and Gleaming!

And a pretty note on which to end today's blog entry.

The Sock Lady

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

The 2007 CSM Conference, Frederick MD

I haven't blogged here for three months! My how the time flies. It seems I only blog here after a sock machine event. I've just returned from the CSMSA conference and have lots of fuel to fire off a blog entry.

The conference was a blast! It's taking me a couple of days to recover from all the fun. There were old machines and new machines, old timers and young 'uns, experts and newbies, and everything in between. Stephanie DeVoe, her daughter Trish, Gregory Wollon, Donna Peters (Country Rain), Barb Tanner and the rest of us from MARS, did a fantastic job (even if I do say so myself). Barry Travis provided many free gifts for the conference goers plus his time and expertise. Mary Walton made 100 cup holders for the tote bags! Everyone was generous with their time and expertise and it paid off.

Stephanie and Trish


Donna helps a sock knitter


Mary helps Marilyn

I came home from the conference with some new skills and a Second Place ribbon. The new skills are making mittens (thanks Deb), making baby socks on a 54 cylinder (thanks Roxana) and Kitchener stitching toes without putting them on hand knitting needles (thanks Mary). I can turn a sock inside out and do it, no problemo!

I had made no entries for the contests before the conference. Real life intruded so much on my play life this year I couldn't wrap my brain around much of anything. But at the conference, immersed in the creativity and camaraderie of the event, I found myself setting up my machine and designing a scarf using the couple of used and reused, far less than perfect cones of Magic Stripes yarn I brought along just in case I did get around to cranking a few rounds. I made it up as I went along, Kitchener stitched the ends that night in the hospitality suite, blocked it in my room the next morning and entered it in the contest in the last hour before the contest closed. My kooky scarf 'unvention' captured the imagination of the conference goers and enough votes to win a ribbon. How cool is that?!!!

It's taking me days to get this up and ready for posting. I think I'll pause here, publish it and give you more tidbits and pictures in the days to come.

The Sock Lady

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival--A Fun Weekend

I've been off knitting socks on my circular sock machine trying to get ahead of my sock yarn stash. I did a pretty good job of it. Another reason for cranking out socks nonstop was to get my Legare machine revved up for a demonstration I was to take part in at the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival this past Saturday. What a blast I had there this weekend!!

I arrived before the public opening on Saturday morning and was allowed to park near a door at the Main Exhibition Hall because I had my sock machine to unload later in the day. I spent the whole morning shopping the Festival. Unfortunately my favorite sock yarn vendor, Koigu, was not there this year. Many people make sure to get there early just for the Koigu mill ends at half price. Mine wasn't the only face showing disbelief and disappointment when learning of Koigu's absence.

I recovered quickly and immediately set out to see who else might have sock yarn of interest. However, I have such a sock yarn stash I limited myself to sock yarn bargains--of which I found few. In fact, I bought yarn for only one pair of socks to hand knit and a couple of cones for sock machine knitting. My main yarn purchases of the weekend were a sweater kit, Pastel Stars, from Philosopher's Wool and 12 skeins of a bargain cotton blend yarn from Little Barn that might one day become a ruana from the pattern in Sally Melville's Knit Stitch.

The MidAtlantic Region Sockknitters (MARS) sock machine demonstration in which I was to participate was scheduled for 2 p.m. in the Main Exhibition Hall. Having parked at the wrong end of the building it took me a while to maneuver my equipment through the throngs of shoppers in the aisles and arrive at the demo area. Some of the group was already cranking. I got there just in time to unpack, unwrap, set up and start where many interested people could see the whole operation from beginning (pulling a machine out of a carrier) to end (making a stockinette sock with ribbed cuff).

Here I am standing to give someone else a chance to crank.

She gets the feel of it.

Barb (peach blouse) oversees a cranking.

Barb and Gregory (in black) answer questions.

As the day winds down, Stephanie (brown print blouse) answers questions with a smile.

Joyce works on her machine. Notice her stand and color coordinated packing boxes. The stand is a work of art made from a stained bar stool and colorful Formica. The shelves come off for packing and transporting. The two machines are transported attached to the shelves in the crates. It's all her design and she made them all herself. Compact, colorful, attractive. Fabulous!

The demonstration was a huge success. There were many people interested in the sock machines, men and women, and a surprising (to me) number of those people have machines. Many of them have not gotten as far as making a sock or even getting a decent tube. Some have hardly touched their machine since they got it. They were glad to find us there and thrilled to see a sock made.

The Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival 2007 was a wonderful weekend for me even without Koigu. Our circular sock machine demonstration was the icing on the cake. I witnessed only one incident of displeasure the whole weekend. I captured it in a photograph.

"B-a-a-a-aaa. I don't want my leg hair combed!"

The Sock Lady

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

New Socks

Where have I been for the last two weeks, you wonder? I've been making socks. I have been making socks in a style I perfected last year and forgot about until recently. I have some luscious Merino wool yarn that begs to be made in this style sock for summer. Merino wool in the summer, you ask? Yes! In the cool evenings at the seashore, mountains, Cape Cod and other New England locales, your toes in Tevas and other active sandals can get a little chilly. I'm a Birkenstock girl myself and everybody needs at least one pair of Crocs. The socks I'm making are perfect for all those sandals. Socks in sandals, you ask? Yes! It's the look. I'm not talking about women's trouser socks or men's calf length, black, dress socks in sandals. (a mental picture I prefer not to dwell on) I'm talking about summer colors, hand paints, anklets. Can you say SANDAL SOCKS? Wait until you see them! The unveiling should occur early next week. You will want a pair . . . or two.

I have a pair of socks on the needles that have been there for some time. In fact, I have a few pairs on needles. They are my portable projects, except recently I've been caught up in dishcloth knitting and socks have taken a backseat. I'm making the sandal socks on my Legare antique sock machine.

Time to get back to it.

The Sock Lady

Saturday, March 31, 2007


What else would 'The Sock Lady' write about. Well, how about dishcloths? This blog is strictly for socks, but I think this dishcloth qualifies:

If you are a sockaholic and crazy for all things socks, you can imagine how glad I was to stumble upon this dishcloth pattern. It's a Carol Callaway design you can find at Knitted Kitty Designs under "Freebies." You'll have to join the Yahoo group to get the instructions though.

As for my progress on actual socks, I'm Kitchenering as fast as I can--between dishcloths and sweater swatches.

The Sock Lady

Monday, March 26, 2007

No More Stripes, Please!

I've had it with striped socks! And my stash is full of sock yarns of the striped nature. I'm looking for some tweeds, some subtle lines, but no pooling, and please, no wide stripes. Wide stripes are really a trial in a 100 gram ball, skein or hank of yarn if you're trying to make matching socks. I'm also tired of the whole fake fair isle look. I want some handpaints that are just random blends of color. I spent a whole day making a pair of socks only to be forced to make them fraternal twins. In order to make them identical, I would have to bypass many yards of yarn to reach the correct repeat in the striping pattern. I hate when that happens! There wouldn't be enough yarn left to complete the second sock. This is where a picture of the two socks should be inserted to show what I mean. However, I have an electric cone winder and before I thought to take a picture or talked myself out of it, I frogged and rewound the two socks--this time onto two separate cones ending them both in the same place in the striping pattern. I will be limited as to the size socks I can make, but at least they will match.

Many people do not bother with matching. In fact they prefer to wear socks that don't match. They knit the yarn as it comes off the ball without regard to matching the mate and they love them. I say "More power to them!" Although I've made little gift cards explaining fraternal twin and identical twin socks, I'm not comfortable with them. I just can't do it. They make me think 'seconds' or 'discount' or 'mistake.' Now, don't misunderstand me. I like making a statement. A pair of socks of two patterns in the same colorway or the same colors used in different places so that they looked like planned differences are fine. I can do those. I can wear those. I can share those. It's the OCD in me that just cannot tolerate those pairs of socks that are slightly off because no attempt was made at matching. I'm sorry, but that's just me.

So today it will be a do-over for the rewound wide stripes. The two socks will match. They will be identical. I will be happy.

The Sock Lady

Monday, March 19, 2007

A Little Machine Music

I used the weekend to turn out a few pairs of machine socks. I meant to make more, but there were a few glitches. Sometimes when you get a machine running as smooth as 'buttah' and churn out a few pairs of socks, the machine gets tired or thirsty or just plain ornery and starts to act up. Sometimes a needle or two disappoints. This was one of those times. A pair a day was all I could muster.

Kitchener time! I hope to get these done while watching Dancing With the Stars.

Today I made a mental inventory of my hand knit socks that are UFOs. I have five pairs. I wonder if I have forgotten any. One day this week I will search them out and see how many forgotten ones might be lurking in various bins and baskets. Uh-oh, I just thought of another pair. That's six. Way too many!

The Sock Lady

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Time to Knit Socks

It's back to winter here in the MidAtlantic and Northeastern US. Time to Knit Socks. This is where it all happens, or at least it did yesterday.

Above is the Legare 400 with 72/36 set up. Ooops, ribber is not in the picture. Below is what is to my right, tools, phone, TV and cable remote controls, calculator, notes, file cards. No mug of decaf, bottle of water or glass of wine present at the time, but all the other necessities right at hand.

I'm working on socks for men, using the more subtle colors in my stash. The pair on the chair are of yarn originally intended as a gift for a woman. Working the yarn on this machine at this setup told me otherwise. These socks will be for a small footed man or a big footed woman. My friend is neither of those so she will get something more appropriate when I change to the 54/27 set up or move back to the AutoKnitter machine with the 60/30 set up. Not to worry, I have enough size variables and yarn choices to make socks for every foot. And no socks feel better than hand made ones of natural fibers.

Time to make the socks,

The Sock Lady

Friday, March 16, 2007

The Sock Lady is Born

They call me "The Sock Lady" because I'm addicted to knitting socks. By hand or by machine, socks are my favorite things to knit. Why? Because they are a portable project, take a minimal amount of time to complete and if you've ever worn hand knit socks you wouldn't even ask why.

I started knitting socks in 2001 after coming back to knitting and finding the holey scarves knit of sequined yarn on fist sized needles did not hold my interest. They may have been easy, quick first projects for some, but they were a nuisance to me. I bought Learn to Knit Socks by Edie Eckman and a sock fanatic was born.

My first pair were these:

Not the prettiest, but the best of the two color choices of Lion Brand WoolEase sport weight and the closest to DK weight available in AC Moore the day I bought the yarn. I don't care! I love them and still have them . . . somewhere.

They were made using four US 3 aluminum double pointed needles. That was what was available in the craft store at the time. I found a yarn shop after that and switched to bamboo needles. I also found a society of sock knitters online, a whole sub culture full of information, tutorials and patterns. I went directly to using five needles size US 1. I had found my knitting niche.

In 2001 Cat Bordhi hit us with Socks Soar on Two Circular Needles and I was there!

A huge investment in 24 inch Addi Turbos ensued. I like to work on both socks at once and more than one pair at a time. I put away my sets of bamboo double points and soared on two circulars . . . until 2002 when The Magic Loop, Sarah Hauschka's "magical unvention" by Bev Galeskas was published by Fiber Trends.

Away with the sets of two circulars. I started buying Addi long circulars in pairs. I found that 32" is the ideal length for me. I learned the method with the recommended 40" but moved down to the 32 inch, the least amount of length suggested, which turned out to be my favorite. Since then many tutorials have appeared for knitting two socks at once on either two circulars or one long circular (40"). I don't like working of two socks on the same needles. I prefer to have each sock on separate needles and working from one set to the other.

During all this hand knitting of socks and changing of needles and methods, I stumbled upon a reference to something called "antique circular sock machines." A machine for knitting socks? Could this be a faster way to use up the requisite sock yarn stash of a sock fanatic? I jumped head first into the notion and found another subculture, complete with historians, refurbishers, restorers, online Yahoo groups and its own organization, CSMSA. Knitting nirvana!

By this time I had developed my own basic pattern for hand knitting socks, a plain stockinette sock with heel flap and gusset. My quest was to find a machine to duplicate my basic pattern. I decided on an AutoKnitter with a 60 needle cylinder and 30 needle ribber since my basic sock was a 60 stitch cast on and 1x1 ribbed cuff. My first machine socks, not from the AutoKnitter but from my third machine, a Gearhart, are pictured here:

They duplicate my hand knit socks except that they have short row heels. Taking into account the equipment, accessories and supplies I bought before producing a pair of machine socks, I estimate these socks are worth $3,000. I plan to frame them. I have the yarn to make an identical hand knit pair and frame them as well, for comparison--$3,000 vs $13.00 socks. Actually both pairs of socks will be 'hand knit', one pair by hand on one long circular needle and the other pair hand turned on a circular sock machine.

Although I turn some socks by hand, knitting socks with one long circular is still my favorite knitting.

That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

The Sock Lady