Wednesday, November 21, 2012

DIY Sock Blanks for Dyeing

Another one of my addictions has been dyeing yarn for socks.  I started out a few years ago with sock blanks and let me tell you that painting blanks is definitely addictive.  I came up with a pretty good  recipe to make my own blanks on my knitting machines so I want to share with you.  I usually buy my sock yarn on cones so I use either a postal scale or fishing line meter to weigh or measure my yarn while winding it off the cone.  The standard skein of sock yarn is 100 gr (3.5 oz) or about 450 yards, depending on the yarn.  Besides being cheaper, another advantage of winding off my own yarn from a cone is that I can put more or less yarn in the blanks, depending on the size foot I’m knitting for...bigger foot, more yarn; smaller foot less yarn.   
When dyeing for socks or mittens that I want to match, I knit my blanks with 2 strands of yarn so I will have an identical cake of yarn for each piece.  If I’m making one article such as a scarf that doesn’t need to match anything, I only knit one strand of yarn in my blanks. 
So here’s how I make my own sock blanks.  I start out with 6 rows of waste yarn and then change to the 2 strands of sock yarn, each strand run through its own tensioner.  Knit the sock yarn, then end with 6 rows of waste yarn again.  Then I run the yarn tail thru the live stitches on the needles and secure.  Do not use a permanent bind off.  Starting and ending with waste yarn allows me to ‘play’ with my blank while painting, such as straightening or pinning it in place.  And it’s easy to unravel after dyeing.
I use my Silver Reed SK860 or Brother KX350 midgauge machines for most of my blanks.  For a 2 stranded blank, I divide the total yarn in half if I’ve wound it from a cone.  Otherwise, knit 2 skeins of 50 grams together.
Sock weight on midgauge machine:
T6 or 7, Scrap CO 60 sts, K6R with waste yarn. Change to sock yarn and knit as far as yardage will go. Scrap off with 6 rows of waste yarn. 

(Click on photos to enlarge)
Sport weight on midgauge machine:
T8, Scrap CO 60 sts, then same as above, about 120 rows for socks. 

DK weight on bulky machine:
T6 or 7, Scrap CO 53 sts, then same as above, about 100 rows for socks.
No matter what yarn or what machine is used, make sure that the blank is not knit tightly. If too tight, the dyes will not penetrate all the nooks and crannies between the stitches and white or lighter spots will be evident in the finished yarn.
Here’re a couple things I do depending on what I want my result to be.  Most always, I pull out every other or third needle to hold position and slip across for just one row, say every 10 rows or so. That way if I want to keep my dye application in a straight line, the slipped row will act as a guide to keep me straight with the rows.  I get better absorption if I begin painting on the purl side so it's easy to follow the slipped row.  Then I flip the blank over and make sure I have good coverage on the knit side also.
If I want more defined stripes, I add in about 4 to 6 rows of scrap yarn (cotton or acrylic work best cuz doesn’t take up the dye) between my striped areas of dyeing.  Note that the pink rows in this blank are scrap yarn.  The dyes won’t bleed into each other in the  stripes with the waste yarn in there. The blank gets longer but I get better stripes.  In this picture, I’ve only put 2 rows of scrap yarn between the colors and I did get some color bleeding so I added more rows of scrap yarn on subsequent blanks for stripes.
After my blank has been dyed, rinsed and air dried, I then remove the waste yarn and unravel the dyed yarn into 2 cakes, ready for knitting.  Don’t worry about the kinks, they won’t be noticeable when knit. 
In my next post, I’ll show some of the blanks I’ve dyed and the resulting socks and/or mittens.  Pretty much fun and gratifying.   

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Socks Made to Fit
Any yarn and any machine may be used to make socks.  The key to any good sock is the fit.  No matter how beautiful or how expertly made, it won't be a good sock if it doesn’t fit.  This is my guide to getting a good fitting sock for me.  It may require a bit of tweaking for individual feet but this usually comes pretty close to any I’ve made by it.  Swatch your yarn to obtain gauge and follow these calculations.
Measure Foot:
*Around ankle (just above the ankle bones) -AND- around the arch.  If there is a lot of difference in the two measurements, use the smallest one in the formula to calculate number of cast on sts.
**Length of foot from end of toe to end of heel (standing on a ruler on the floor).
*A good rule of thumb to determine number of cast on stitches is by using the ankle measurement in inches times the number of stitches in your gauge per inch.  Subtract 10% if you prefer a tighter fitting sock.  Make sure it is an even number by rounding up or down.  You will be happy with your socks if they fit snugly but are not tight as most socks will stretch with wear.
**A shortrowed toe and heel for an adult sock will each be approximately 2” long, depending on the yarn and size.  Therefore, subtract 4” from foot measurement to determine how many rows to knit between the heel and toe.  I have found that reducing the length by 5 to 10% will give a satisfactory fit; i.e., my foot is 10” long, minus 4” to allow for the toe and heel, minus 1” (10%), times the number of rows per inch in my gauge = number of rows to knit for the foot section.  Multiply the number of rows by 2 for circular knitting.
                                                                         Example for a 10" foot
                                                               and 8.5" measurement around ankle:   

                                                              (10" long, minus 1" from total length)


Midgauge Socks in the Round

(Click on photos to enlarge)
Machine:  SK860 Midgauge with ribber
Yarn:  Berroco Vintage Colors, 1 skein
            50% acrylic, 40% wool, 10% nylon
            Machine Washable, 217 yds per 3.5 oz
Tension:  T5
Gauge:  5.5 sts and 8 rows = 1”
Size:  Woman’s 8

Socks made in the round but may be made flat and seamed

Divide skein of yarn in half, either by weight or yardage

1)  Double bed e-wrap 44 sts in 1 x 1 (or desired) rib.  K1R to left and hang CO comb and ribber weights.
2)   RC000, T2/2 K20R.
3)   For a seam up the back of the ribbing, transfer main bed stitches to the ribber bed.
4)   T6, K1R across.
5)   Lower ribber and remove CO comb and ribber weights.  Hang 4 claw weights evenly across.
6)   Transfer the right hand 11 stitches to corresponding needles from ‘0’ to R11 on the main bed.
7)   Transfer the left hand 11 stitches to corresponding needles from ‘0’ to L11 on the main bed.
8)   Unravel the row of stitches on the carriage side to have yarn in proper knitting position.
NOTES:  If a side seam in the ribbing is desired, transfer half the stitches opposite the carriage to corresponding needles on the main bed.
      Transferring stitches may be accomplished by scrapping off stitches to be moved with several rows of waste yarn and rehanging to the main bed or by using a garter bar or Decker type tool (comb). 

1)   RC000, T5/6, raise ribber and set machine for circular knitting and K50R.

1)   Lower ribber bed one notch.  On the main bed and with main bed carriage, shortrow the heel down to 8 sts and back out til all needles are in working position.
2)   Transfer purl bumps from the main bed to the ribber bed at each side to prevent holes.

1)   RC000, raise ribber and return carriage and all settings to circular knitting and K88R.

1)   Repeat shortrowing as for heel but decrease down to 6 sts instead of 8.  No need to transfer the purl bumps on each side.
2)    Cut yarn, leaving enough to graft the toe seam.
3)    Scrap off stitches on each bed with several rows of waste yarn and remove from machine.

1)   Seam ribbing.
2)   Graft the toe seam.

1)   For a longer sock, use contrasting yarn for the heel/toes to allow for adding more rows in the ribbed cuff and/or ankle.

2)   I use a strand of Wooly Nylon run through its own tensioner in the heels and toes for added body and reinforcement for longer wear.  If not using Wooly Nylon, I reduce the tension in just the heel and toe by one full number.

3)   Be sure to swatch yarn as gauge may vary with different colorways even in the same brand.

4)   Ribber tensions usually run differently than main bed tensions, so always run a test swatch and set ribber tension to match the main bed gauge while knitting in the round.