Holy Hurricane, Batman! Please consider supporting Huston relief efforts with a donation to the Red Cross if you are able. Now back to your regularly scheduled book club.
This week I read The Dressmaker of Khair Khana. The book is the true account of five sisters that began an in-home tailoring business in Taliban occupied Afghanistan. The oldest sister is married and is a skilled dressmaker and designer. The other sisters have no background in sewing whatsoever. In fact, the second oldest sister, who starts and runs the business, was a college educated teacher when the Taliban arrived in the capital, forcing women indoors and out of the workplace. I think the most powerful aspect of the book is hearing about the Taliban’s effects from the perspective of a Muslim woman, who is resolute in her faith, and her reaction to the new rules. Additionally, I had basically no idea what impact this had on non-Taliban Muslim men, and the imminent danger they were in on a regular basis. Her older brother and father had to leave the country to find work because they were suspected of supporting an opposing political party. Her younger brother had to escort her if she wanted to go to the market or make deliveries, even though he was still in middle school. It’s a great read, and was a good choice for listening to while knitting. It’s not as dark as you would expect it to be and has a very happy ending. I highly recommend it.
I’ve been in the mood for non-fiction lately. Next week, I’m reading Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief. I saw the documentary, but haven’t read the book. I’m about halfway in now. It’s intense, but super interesting.
I have officially started my Christmas Knitting! I actually usually start a little sooner than this, but recently I was polishing off the sample of Hunting Sasquatch, an MKAL that begins in just TWO weeks. We just made more kits, and you still have time to get one before the hunt begins!
As promised, this week and next week I’ll be using this time to put out some tutorials to make casting on and getting started a breeze. This week I’m going to go over the mechanics of two-at-a-time socks and my favorite cast on for cuff down socks: The Twisted German Cast On (TGCO). Next week, I’ll be going over yarn management for color work and give instructions for making a gauge swatch so you’ll be ready to cast on your Hunting Sasquatch socks as soon as the pattern drops.
TWO AT A TIME SOCKS
The actual knitting of two-at-a-time socks is no different from knitting one sock at a time. It can feel kinda weird at first, in the sense that you might feel that your stitches/needles are crowded, but with a little practice this is a great way to avoid second-sock-syndrome. I used to suffer from a severe case of it, but now that I knit two at a time, I’m cured! Anyhow, just like knitting one sock, establish if you’re knitting toe up or cuff down. Hunting Sasquatch will be knit cuff down, but I’m going to show you photos of the toe up socks I started for Christmas, and then you’ll have seen it both ways.
For both toe up and cuff down, I feel STRONGLY that it is in every knitters best interest to work the cast ons and a few rows of both toes/cuffs separately, and then move them onto one pair of circulars to be knit two at a time after that. I’m going to pull from both ends of my cake, knitting one sock from the center end and one sock from the outside end, but you could just split your yarn into two cakes, if you prefer.
Knitting is often weakest at the cast on and bind off, and it’s just better to take your time and make sure those parts of your project are perfect. I know that this is a bold statement, and there are many talented knitters that cast on both at the same time and work them together from the get-go, but to this I say:
That’s cool. Do you.
For myself, I’ll keep doing separate cast ons, and that’s what I’m going to show you today. For my toe up project, I’m making a pair of Hyrule Socks, but I’m going to knit them extra long so they are calf socks. I’m using a skein of Dragonology that I’ve been hoarding since we offered a limited run of the color last earlier this year. This particular skein came out a little too yellow, so I kept it for me. Bwah ha ha ha!
The basic idea is to knit the toe through any increases, and if you’re going cuff down, just a few rows of cuff will do. If you’ve never worked toe up and want to try, I have a video tutorial HERE on making your first provisional toe. I’m not even remotely sorry about the production quality of that video, in case you were wondering. I stand by every choice I made there. ;) Additionally, the Hyrule pattern has a written tutorial for working a Figure-8 toe up cast on. The Figure-8 is particularly nice for two-at-a-time socks.
So, knit two toes or two cuffs on two separate pairs of circular needles. If you’re going with cuffs, you cant beat a Twisted German Cast On. It’s stretchy and beautiful and perfect. It’s not the easiest cast on, but it’s worth learning. It’s a long tail cast on, and don’t be skimpy with your tail length. This is not a place to cut corners. It’s much better to have too much and have to trim the excess than to have not enough and have to start over.
For the Twisted German Cast on, make a slip knot leaving a loooooooong tail. Like, at least 10 inches more than you think you need.
Holding the needles together (this ensures a nice stretchy edge), snug up the slip knot and then follow the video below. Fair warning, this takes many tries to get right, but it’s so good once you’ve got it down. In the video, the tail is being held on my thumb, and the working yarn is on my pointer finger. There are already a few sts on my needle when the video starts, but yours will have just the 1 from the slip knot, which counts as the first stitch you’re casting on. There’s some background noise, so don’t have your sound turned super high when you hit play.
So, now you’ve got your toes or your cuffs, and it’s time to move them to one long circular needle for knitting in magic loop. Like anything in knitting, there are options other than magic loop for two-at-a-time, but since I used ML myself, that’s what I’m showing you here.
First, work across the stitches on the front needle of which ever pair of needles you want both socks to wind up on.
After finishing the stitches on the front needle, drop that yarn, and knit with that needle across the stitches on the front of the second pair with the yarn attached to the second sock. When you’ve finished that step, the second needle will be only through the back sts of the second sock, and the front sts of the second sock, along with the front and back sts of the first sock will be on the first pair of needles.
Now, slip the stitches from the second needle onto the back needle of the first pair. You’re slipping from left to right so that the back stitches of both socks are on the back needle, and the front stitches of both socks are on the front needle, and when you’re done there is nothing left on the second pair of needles.
Now you’re ready to go! Knit the back sts of sock 2 with the yarn for that sock. Drop that yarn and knit the back sts of sock 1 with the yarn for sock 1. Turn your work and repeat on the front, knitting the sts for sock 1, then dropping that yarn and knitting the sts for sock 2.
Note that you don’t have to do any of this. Any socks can be worked one or two at a time, but this is a nice way to avoid getting restless halfway through the second sock. See you back here next week for a crash course in color work!
I tried to get Mr. Llama to grow a mountain man beard to be on theme for Hunting Sasquatch, but apparently his facial hair doesn’t count as a KAL. I can see where he’s coming from. We’ll have to rename it. Beard-A-Long, maybe?