I’ve had Mary Jane Mucklestone’s Border Socks from Interweave Knits Fall 2011 in my queue since the magazine arrived three years ago. I showed them at that time to my husband, who said he’d wear in them in the designer’s colors… so they went into my Ravelry queue. Till now. And now that Christmas is done and these are no longer secret, I thought I’d share.
Because of an unexpected trip to the U.S., I was able to pick up yarn in person vs. ordering it online. The nice people at Looped Yarn Works in Washington, D.C. (see my review of their store) were determined to find me the right yarn and dug through boxes of recently arrived goodies to produce three skeins of Malabrigo Sock. Not only that, but they made sure I viewed the yarn in natural light to get the best idea of how it would look. Somehow I’ve never knit with Malabrigo, though it’s a favorite among yarnlovers. I wasn’t sure the Cordova (brown) and Persia (navy) colors were different enough in value to be in the same colorwork piece, but it turns out that they are not actually next to each other in this pattern – they are separated by the Natural, which makes all the difference.
Needle Issue – and Solution!
The pattern calls for U.S. size 2 (3.0 mm) and 3 (3.25 mm) needles, though I found that to get gauge, I needed a U.S. 3 as my smaller needle. Colorwork always pulls in, so the designer cleverly has you use the larger needed for the colorwork portion on the cuff only. Without this change, it might be hard to pull that section over you heel. Problem was… I don’t own any U.S. 4 (3.5 mm) needles. I’ve been knitting for 10+ years and somehow have never acquired any in dpns or circulars. I think it’s because I tend to use 2 or 3 for fingering weight and 5 or 6 for DK… so size 4 is just this great big hole in my needle library.
So what to do? I remembered reading about a stranded colorwork technique in which you turn your circular knitting inside out and knit from the far side. This means the floats are carried around the outside of the tube you’re making instead of along the inside, thus stretching them out a bit. Worth a shot!
Turns out it worked! In addition to working the sock inside out, I added in a fifth needle to reduce strain. (Some people knit socks with five dpns as a standard – I usually prefer four.) I found the whole thing a little fiddly and floppy – it was hard to keep a good grip on everything, particularly with my left picking hand. (When working two colors in colorwork, I usually keep one color in each hand – the left to pick and the right to throw.) However, the fiddly feeling only lasted the 21 rounds it took to do the cuff’s colorwork. I popped the sock back right-side-out, went back to four needles, and was on my way. As you can see from the picture, the colorwork section doesn’t pull in at all.
I would have preferred to just use a larger needle, but living overseas in a country with no local yarn stores, it would have delayed me 10-14 days to order the needles I needed and wait for them to show up. Soooo… VICTORY!
I have to confess I’m a little worried about how these are going to wear. The fabric amazingly comfortable but fairly loose. The pattern called for U.S. size 1 needles, and I used U.S. size 3 to get the right gauge. (This probably isn’t as bad as it sounds – I think many knitters prefer size 1 for socks, whereas I usually use 2 or 3.) Additionally, the Malabrigo Sock yarn is 100% wool, meaning there’s no nylon for sturdiness. I can see the heels of these blowing out in rapid fashion, but if that happens, I suppose that means they’re being worn… and I’ve saved extra yarn behind for darning.
As I said, the fabric is lovely and soft and smooth – they feel just glorious on the feet. (Yes, I know they’re not for me, but how could I not try them on?) Furthermore, the colors, while appearing solid, have depth. There are highlights and lowlights to both the blue and brown that these pictures can’t do justice. I’m thrilled to have lots of leftover yarn. I might make another pair of socks (with smaller needles?), though I wouldn’t mind wrapping this yarn around my neck – or a loved one’s neck, in a loving, non-strangley kind of way. 🙂