Monday, March 01, 2010


I was putting away clean laundry the other day and realized that my collection of dress socks–which I grant you is not uncommonly extensive–is now about fifty percent hand-knit.

That's a respectable total, I think, especially considering my tendency to over-think knitting projects in general, and socks in particular. After a recent speaking gig somebody asked me, "Do you swatch?" and I replied that it sometimes feels like I never do anything else.

Those Looking Glass Socks I wrote about a few entries back, the ones made from Supreme Possum, are a perfect example. I fussed and fussed and cast on and knit and ripped back and cast on again and ripped back again and broke out the colored pencils and doodled on napkins and Googled "Fibonacci" and created charts in Illustrator and stared at the wall and bent the ears of several persons willing and unwilling. I wound up with this.

Striped Sock

I'm happy with it. It's fine. It may even be cute. But after all the exertion I keep thinking of a favorite anecdote from one of my culinary idols, Madeleine Kamman. In When French Women Cook, Madeleine tells of slaving for hours in the kitchen over a new dessert intended to impress the chef to whom she's been apprenticed. The chef looks at the finished dish, tastes a spoonful, and says, "Congratulations, chérie. You have just re-invented Nesselrode Pudding."

After all that effort, it does seem one might have come up with something more revolutionary than 2-4-2 stripes, doesn't it?

On the other hand, just at present I need a bit of plain vanilla. When I have an odd moment to knit, I can pick these up and knit. No charts to consult, no maneuvers that can't be accomplished on a speeding bus, no passages that preclude conversation. There's something to be said for that.

Part of the swatching process involved testing five different solutions for avoiding that ugly color jog that you get when working stripes in the round. The first two solutions were
  1. pretending I didn't care about the ugly color jog, and
  2. pretending the ugly color jog didn't matter if I kept it at the back of the leg.
The other three were various sly tricks figured out by knitters far smarter than I. I ultimately settled on the jog-less jog Meg Swansen sets forth with characteristic brilliance in Handknitting With Meg Swansen. I'm not going to explain it here, because it's Meg's technique and not mine. And for heaven's sake, the book is cheap, amazing, and readily available. If you don't have a copy, you should get one.

I will show you how well it worked. Here's the foot, with the spots where the color jog would be in plain view.

Striped Sock Folded

Here's the path of the jogless jogs.

Striped Sock Color Changes Path

As you can see, Meg's maneuver (which I can perform, but still not comprehend) causes the first stitch of the round to travel one stitch to the left each time it's performed. Here's how it looks on the inside, with the unused yarn being carried up a short distance between stripes.

Striped Sock Interior

Maybe, just maybe, if I keep fiddling and dawdling, I'll eventually come up with such a fabulous contribution to the field.

Or maybe I'll be 96 and still knitting freaking stripes. Time will tell.

A Gold Medal

Ironically, while I've been doing this very unremarkable work I've also been preparing a reward for those who have completed extremely remarkable work.

Knitting Olympics 2010 Gold Medal

It's the Gold Medal for Yarn Harlot's 2010 Knitting Olympics. If you like it, you can get one of your own here, or snag sidebar- and Ravelry avatar-sized versions from Stephanie's blog.

A big ol' salute to everybody who took part, including Harry, who finished his animal blanket with time to spare and didn't even care when Dolores told him the cow looked like an elk.


Anonymous said...

Talk about timely! I am knitting a striped sweater (top-down raglan) and a pair of striped socks. I was able to hide the jogs in the raglan seam, but my other tricks for hiding jogs don't seem to be working for me.

::off to library website to order Meg's book::

Anonymous said...

lovely socks. classics work!

Cathy said...

Good work on the medals Franklin. I just got my Knitter's mag today and there you are again 2 pages in. Quite the celeb aren't you?
I think your socks look great and don't you just love love love possum?

kerrylinnet said...

Beautiful socks! The medal is awesome as well and I have snatched it for my desktop this month.

Michelle said...

I earned my medal for participating in the Knitting Olympics for the first time (I didn't knit four years ago); thank-you so much for designing it!

Nichole said...

They are gorgeous! I was thinking of knitting socks for my boyfriend (new-ish relationship, very much in love....) and these are a must! I can barely knit socks to fit my own feet, so trying to fit someone else's will be a challenge.

JelliDonut said...

Brilliant--you, the socks, and the Gold Medal. Yes, if you are a knitter, you must own Handknitting With Meg Swanson. I think it's a law or something.

Jeremy said...

They're beautiful, Franklin. And I'll definitely keep in mind that jogless color change. It's nearly invisible if you don't know where to look.

(Also, I'm greatly amused that my verification word for this comment is "pantson". My first thought was "Why?")

Mel said...

Those are darling. When can I expect to receive my pair? Size 13, remember.

G. Knerd said...

Thank you for the medal - now I just have to figure out how to put it up on my sidebar in my blog.

Also, those socks are ridiculously good looking - all that swatching must have paid off somehow.

=Tamar said...

Beautiful work on the socks!
And a handsome medal. Will it ever be available with the caption "Runs with knitting needles"?

I think I have my answer - my validation word is "maird". (Shouldn't that be "merde"?)

Laura Sparling said...

Thanks for your post, Franklin. I've read about the jogless jog and am now off to buy a copy of Meg's book. The socks are so lovely.

I think I shall be knitting a pair of striped socks very soon!


Moorecat said...

I keep trying to convince myself that the dark halo around those socks is contributed by the possum, not your leg hairs.

Surely the soles of your feet aren't hairy...

Sweet Camden Lass said...

Oh, nicely snuggly socks :-)

Once again, I failed at the Olympic Knitting, so once again I can't display your medal. *pout*

Mind you, not everyone else was dealing with hordes of rugby players requiring bandaging/hand holding-while hip dislocated/nosebleed staunching/ice packs etc on the first weekend. Six teams, six matches... pratically deserves a medal on its own.

Mind you, I bet they didn't make a sleeve that was 8 stitches too wide either (which was the absolute killer of the Olympic Dream).

Jane Prater said...

We all need a simple sock for mindless work when the brain just can't function anymore. Yours are lovely. Thank you for designing our medal.

Su1282 said...

Thanks so much for the perfect medal! It's on my Ravelry project page. I did not use a jogless jog technique in my olympic sweater. I went with option 1.

Anonymous said...

wow, as usual, that is beautifully photographed. Beautifully knitted too. I don't know if you read my post about my sampler stole, I was hoping or wishing you would photograph it. It is so beautiful and I just don't know how to take a good picture. go look and tell me what you think. as far as the jog, look at my new pattern in knitters, there's some jogless jog striping for you!!

Debbie said...

As they say in the South (and in parts of Indiana) - "I gotta get me some of that possum!" The socks are beautiful, I bought the book, and got the medal for my not-as-wonderful-as-your-socks olympic shawl.

Anonymous said...

thanks for showing me that jogless job. i can see the texture of the join but no color jog; brilliant; as is your button. run knitter run

marie in florida

Seanna Lea said...

I love the sock with its stripiness even if you reinvented the wheel to do so. It's the perogative of perfectionists to do things the hard way after all!

danièle said...

Well, I agree with Moorecat : the socks are gorgeous, but the halo is a bit... disconcerting. But they do look awsome to wear. I am not sure that I will knit possum myself, though.
And I was thinking that maybe some people at Amazon will wonder about this rush on Meg Swansen's book ;0)

Anonymous said...

Love the way the socks turned out -- your possum yarn post is the one that reminded me that I tend to pair pink with grey often enough to call for at least one pink/grey pair of socks. Might try using that pattern, too. (I tend to avoid the jog issue by doing a purled column up the back of the leg that tends to make the color changes a bit less obvious -- and more importantly gives me a tidy spot for calf increases.)

annie said...

As Mies van der Rohe, Buckminster Fuller, and Robert Browning said, "less is more". You nailed a classic!

Marlowe said...

Lovely socks!

Anonymous said...

Don't tell me you made the other one the same! After all that angst, you could have done your Tweedle Duh socks! The stripes are beautiful though. Perhaps you know best.

I downloaded your wonderful gold medal from the Yarn Harlot's blog as I did finish Cat Bordhi's Rushing Rivulette socks in time. I am very pleased; with them, with me, with Cat, with Fleece Artist and expecially the medal. I am blogless so it is my screen saver at work. heh

Thank you so much for designing it.

Verification is 'stroak'. Purrrfect.


Sara in WI said...

Sometimes you just have to not think about it but knit it...profound,eh?

Cindy AKA ChessWidow said...

The socks turned out beautifully as I knew they would. They must feel unbelievably soft while wearing them.

Wendy said...

Lovely stripes! Also love the Addi ad of you and your lace knitting. Thanks for designing such a great medal, and sharing it with all of the Olympic Knitters. I'm so happy to have it on my blog.

KarenJ. said...

Tell Harry that elk is good. It was, after all, the Canadian Olympics.

As for your socks, they're gorgeous, but could you please post a picture of the cuddly downunder opossum? I looked at the socks and kept seeing that nasty faced critter you showed when you displayed the yarn and at the time of the sock kick off. Ugh.

Great medal! Thank you.

Gail (nosenabook) said...

The extreme neatness of your socks do entirely make them remarkable knitting. Some got it, some don't - neatness, that is.
It's the fuzzy possum that makes them cute.

Rowan said...

I LOVE the colours of the socks, and am very impressed by your jogless stripes, the technique for which I am just about to attempt in my own pair of socks. I also like the 2-4-2 stripe: very snazzy!

Miss Sandra said...

Why do we say 'plain vanilla' as if its not worthy? I don't know. What I do know is 'plain vanilla' seems to have worked for Coco Chanel so I'm stickin' to 'plain vanilla'. Not that you asked but I had this overpowering urge to put it out there. *sigh*

Rosi G. said...

I used that method for a top and it worked well. Pondered it on socks but was undecided. Can you feel the bumps of the unused yarn on your foot?

Gerri in St Paul said...

Just got VK and stumbled upon The Ad. That is what I call rockin' the needles. Going to buy a bulletin board so I can pin it up!

junior_goddess said...

I can't find the quote!!!

Something if if it does not seem carelessly wrought, then all your handwringing will be for naught.

evalyn said...

I love your Possum Socks. They look very cozy.

alice said...

I love the Vogue inside cover! congrats!

Anonymous said...

So, I return appropriately humbled. I tried some two colour knitting. That jog thing you have done is a Work of Art. I take it back about the other sock and the idea it be different than this sock. Please forgive the arrogance of my ignorance.


Rosemary Riveter said...

Apparently, when my mother or I work on an essay or project, it looks to my Dad like "an elephant giving birth to a mouse". Lots of huffing and puffing and fuss with a surprisingly small result. I like to think we are doing all the rewrites internally, as said "mouse" will require very little editing.

Fortunately, he is much more impressed with my knitting than with my composition techniques.

Lily said...

The tweedle dee duh socks might actually work if you switched the dominant color. But it could be too subtle. Changing the heel/toe color would probably also help...

The stripes are very nice though. I've been working on my first pair of socks since Christmas - almost done with the second one now.

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