Wednesday, May 11, 2005

A Look at My Bear Butt

Teddy Bear Body, 75% complete
Originally uploaded by panopticon.

I'm sick at home today. Some kind of stomach bug. You shall be spared further details.

My bones ache so much that I cramped up when I tried knitting to pass the time. So I have to content myself with photographing what I'm working on.

(That's how bored I am. You know I'm not much of one for photographs of works in progress.)

This is 75% of the body of a teddy bear, which I'm making as a present for C because he asked for it specifically (the only circumstance under which I will knit anything for anybody).

It's the pattern for "Jack" from Sandra Polley's The Knitted Teddy Bear. Making it has been a watershed for me, and I'm not even close to finished.

It's my first piece with yarn lighter than worsted weight.

It's my first piece that involves a lot of three-dimensional shaping on the needles. (The hats I've made have all been of the perfectly circular, pull-on variety.)

It's the first piece I've ever started (meaning, actually cast on) during my commute, and that's where most of the the first half was created.

You knit the body halves starting with the ass end (see illustration) and finish with the shoulder shaping.

I got to the shoulder shaping just before my train pulled into the station near my office. When we arrived, I got off the train but sat on a bench on the platform to finish casting off.

Suddenly, what had been a wonky piece of flat knitting popped into a three-dimensional shape I could recognize: a sloping shoulder, wide hips, a pudgy tummy*, even a humped back (Polley is gratifyingly attentive to the shaping details of old teddy bears).

People who don't knit probably would snort at the application of the adjective "thrilling" to the process.

They will never understand.

Socks? Socks!

I confess to needing another project to balance the endless charcoal stockinette of the bear.

I originally pulled the teddy patterns book off the shelf thinking it might be nice to knit something tawny and light after four projects in black, navy, navy, and gray. When C said he'd like a bear, I was delighted and told him to pick out any one he liked.

He picked the black one.

So, I need something with BRIGHT COLOR in it. And I am dying to try sock knitting.

I know there are sock people who read this blog. Help me out here.

Do you have a favorite basic pattern for a first pair of socks?

How about yarn choice? Brands? Colorways?

These socks are most likely going to be hidden inside boots most of the time (just about the only thing I wear on my feet), so I'm not concerned about sticking to "masculine" shades.

I thought I'd ask here, first, since the service I get in the yarn shops in Chicago often leaves much to be desired, whereas y'all are a veritable font of friendliness.

(Even when some of you are suggesting I made you look like a syphillis advertisement in your new banner, when what I was really trying to do was highlight your captivating good looks. Ahem.)

By the way, if you are one of the seven knitting people in the continental United States who didn't go to Maryland Sheep and Wool, Tricky has done his usual splendid job of writing it up (with copious illustrations).

And and usual, I find myself wanting many of the things (and a few of the people) featured in the photographs.

On that note, back to the couch with me. I have a lighthearted filmfest waiting, consisting of the first two episodes of Fanny and Alexander (the television version) and Akira Kurosawa's Ran.

*You know I'm sick when I start using words like "tummy." Gack.


Sister Sue said...

I would really, really, really like a scarf (and matching hat?). I know that's boring, but should you decide to oblige, you could pick a happy, bright color (or colors?). I would trust you in color and yarn choice completely (you would never make anything horrid like the furry yellow thing I got for Christmas last year. Remember?) I would wear it to school (and even IN school on cold days--and we have a lot of cold days). I would tell everyone my brother made it for me. My students would love you more than they already do.
Maybe for Christmas...? I leave it to you to decide, but now you can't say I never asked.
Hope you're feeling better soon (which is probably where this note should have begun. Oh dear. Sorry. And in such a public forum. Alas!)

Faustus, M.D. said...

Socks are SO FUN I almost can't stand them.

What you should do is get a copy of Socks Soar on Circular Needles. I've done two pairs on dpn and one on circular, and it goes much, much faster. There's a basic pattern there. The rest of the patterns are all for girls, but once you get the hang of it it's easy to adapt other patterns.

If you like I can mail you a copy of the pattern for the first set of socks I knit.

Actually, there's also a good Patons book of socks. I think it's called Pull up your socks!

Good luck, and email me if you get stuck.

Jon said...

Well, if it's socks you want, I could always send you some sock stuff from the shop.

And I'm sorry if you took offense to my syphillis comment (snort!). I'm just very abashed when it comes to highlighting who I am.

Why am I babbling?

Rachel said...

Socks are indeed a joy. There is a really good pattern in an old copy of Interweave Knits called Priscilla's Dream Socks, and they are wonderful because the heel is formed by using short rows and you never have to pick up stitches to make the standard squarish looking heel you see on so many sock patterns. That being said, I am currently spending a lot of time with the Nancy Bush book called Knitting on the Road. I think there are a lot of "women's" socks in there, but there are also a lot of socks all inspired by various areas of the world and full of interesting information.

Many people rave and rave and rave about Lorna's Laces and Koigu as being the best of the best of sock yarns. I have had the privilege of touching these yarns, and I can definitely see why they feel this way. And as far as beautiful colorways go, I don't think you can beat Lorna's Laces. Now if only one of the ridiculously stupid yarn shops in my area would carry any decent yarn, I'd be set. I also saw some Cherry Tree Hill once and it seemed rather yummy too. I'm fond of the brightly colored variegated yarns for socks. I feel socks should have character. Oh, and if you are going to use DPNs, be sure to get yourself a pair that is a little shorter. I've been working on 7" DPNs for my current pair of socks and they are too long. I went out and bought some shorter ones for the next pair, as it seems that I am lately obsessed with socks and that doesn't appear to be changing anytime soon. Let me know if you'd like to "look" at that Priscilla's Dream Socks pattern -- I am sure any pattern could be adapted to incorporate that heel.

TrickyTricot said...


Don't listen to any of these crazies. Socks should only be done on DPNs. I love Wendy's Toe Up Sock Pattern ( cause it's easy and goes quickly (short rows for the heel and the toe). Besides being an easy pattern, there's a whole tutorial on doing the short rows on Knitty. Though it takes some finagling of numbers (which I could help with if you want), I really like using Cherry Tree Hill Merino Mini for socks. It's a DK weight superwash, the colors are great, and it knits up quick.

TrickyTricot said...

And PS - Why are the titles to your posts so misleading? I mean, I was expecting something completely different *grin*

goblinbox said...

DPNs are certainly the way. Don't know how anyone could knit socks without DPNs. And for God's sake buy superwash. (Socks must be able to go in the normal laundry or they're just not worth making - you know how socks are with their wandering ways.)

I have a custom sock worksheet I'd be happy to email you if you want it. You make a gauge swatch, measure your foot, plug in the numbers and it gives you a pattern for a custom-fitted sock!

markknitz said...

i'm a sock virgin and just got a pattern from a friend of mine who swears by it. i would go w/ tricky's advice. if anyone knows socks it's gotta be him. shortrows sounds like a good idea, too. i'm not nutty about that boxy square heel and shortrows are nice and round and easy. i prefer circ to dpn's but it seems like dpn's are MADE for socks, so i'd go there first. sorry to hear you're not feeling well. get well soon!

Rachel said...

I second the DPN recommendation (in case that wasn't clear in my first post) but like I said, shorter DPNs between 4-6 inches makes for better sock knitting. I have a friend who has 4 inch DPNs and uses them for socks and mittens exclusively. One day I borrowed them to cast on for a pair of mittens, and it made such an amazing difference in how fast I could go.

sep said...

DPNs? Yuck! I've used both and after I learned to do it on circulars I never went back. This is of course, a matter of great controversy (say that word with a British accent to yourself) and you will find wars, I say, wars(!) about this issue :)

Do go out and by Bordi's book, but start with KnitWit's blog, a wonderful site on socks,

I began knitting socks the "usual" way, top-down, finishing with the toe which you have to cleverly pull together without making it too small and lumpy.

I recently started a toe-up sock and I much prefer it. It fits much better and the toe-box is smooth and seam-free. Don't let the provisional cast-on scare you, it's really just simply a crochet chain that you knit into on each side and then rip out, leaving you to knit up on one side and down on the other. It's so easy once you get the hang of it.

So, if I were learning all over again:
1. start with a toe-up pattern, maybe from Bordi's book (which is for one sock on two circ. needles)
2. consult KnitWit's blog
3. move on to doing your next pair as two socks on two circ. needles at the same time, look here!, it's an online class. You could alter it for a toe-up version.

happy knitting! do email me if you get stuck!

sep said...

oooh, one more thing! look here for the toe-up, two-circular method: pattern

and, I got this for x-mas this year: sock wizard software and I love it! I can make any pattern I want in any gauge I get with any yarn I have on hand, no more depending on my LYS to figure stuff out for me. I'm not affiliated at all, I just love this software (I have the sweater wizard too).


Tres said...

Sorry you're not feeling well.

I am about 2 1/2 inches down from the cuff on my first sock and hating it. I don't understand how people love knitting socks so much.

I'm working it on #4 dpn's and although I'm not afraid to say I'm generally very good with my hands, I just can't get any enjoyment out of struggling to control these tiny needles, tiny stitches.

I am about to abandon the thing and try it with the circulars. There is a good description of the procedure at

I am using the pattern from the Ann Budd book "Knitter's Handy Book of Patterns" which my sister swears by. It gives the pattern in charts that let you pick the gauge and size.

Good luck, feel better, and I can't wait to see pics of the finished bear!

Cheryl said...

If you do decide on DPNs, don't let it discourage you...for a while it's like knitting with a sea urchin.

Colleen said...

DPNs all the way, baby.

To do my first sock I tried Felicia's First Time Sock Knitters KnitALong and the pattern at bellaonline was so easy to follow step by step.

birdfarm said...

Sir Edwin, did you mean Knit Wit's blog? Or the site whose URL you provided, which looks like it has more knitting instructions...

Also, Franklin, if memory serves, didn't you once date a guy whose last name was Andrade, or is that my imagination? Is that his website people keep linking you to? Wouldn't that be ironic? Or irritating, or depressing? Or something?

diane said...

I'm on the third sock of my first pair (basic top down)... no I don't have three feet - it's just that by the time I finished the second sock the first look like crap compared to the second, so I decided to do the first over again. I'm using Lornas Laces on US1 dp (wood). I have rather large hands and find the 7" to be perfect - anything smaller and I think I'd be jabbing myself in the palm all the time.

Inbetween the 2nd and 3rd sock I did start a pair on US3 (like logs after the 1s) using Cascade Fixation. They went much faster and the stretch in there kind of hides those slight imperfections.

I've found that getting thru the first 2" or so on dps if awkward, but once past that it starts to roll along.

birdfarm said...

As will soon be evident, I'm not a knitter. But I have a question.

I've watched Sir Edwin (aka Loopy) make lots of socks--two at a time on two circular needles--and I can't begin to imagine how much harder it would be to make them with straight needles.

In fact I can't understand why anyone would want to.

I asked Sir Edwin why anyone would want to, and she said it's supposed to be more authentic or traditional or something. Is there a better reason?

Two at a time, folks. C'mon, you can't beat that. Then you'll never have the problem that Diane describes above, or the problem Dr. Faustus had in 2002, when he broke up with a guy for whom he had knitted one sock.

Felicia said...

DPN's. Once you master them, sockknitting goes real fast. Plus, if you knit in public, people will think you're wrestling with a porcupine!

Knitty also has a good sock tutorial, and you make a baby sock. The one I use over at my KAL-- you knit a sock on size 6 or 8 dpns, with worsted weight. It's great, because you actually end up with something you can wear.

I have the Knitted Teddy Bear book. The teddies look precious, I just find the patterns to be written in such a way, I have a difficult time translating it to needles. Someday, I'll get it figured out. I was never dyslexic or had learning disabilities until I started to read knitting patterns.

I hope you're feeling better!

Anonymous said...

Also, try using Regia self-patterning sock yarn. You don't do anything with it and it ends up looking like a foot-shaped Rembrandt.

And would you mind sending me your email? I'm having trouble finding it on this site (if indeed it's here). Birdfarm sent it to me but then I lost it. I'm at

Faustus, M.D.

obscure said...

Haven't visited in a bit--loved the duck tale. Socks--I just began to knit socks (after 50+ years of knitting just about everything else including bears). I really like Nancy Bush's patterns (found in her books and in Interweave Knits); they are very well written. I've used DPNs because I had them around, but plan to learn circulars the next time. I'm not interested in the self stipping yarns because I get board doing all stockinette--anything with a challenging stitch pattern to keep me awake until the magical heel turning.

Socks and Ducklings and Bears, OH MY!


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