Spud says (the blog)

Archive for ‘How To’

March 28, 2013

Learn to Knit Socks? Check!

Recently,  I asked Colleen Powley, our resident Sock Master (as I call her), to teach me how to knit socks. I really, REALLY wanted to make socks, but, alas! I found sock knitting intimidating. When I found out that Colleen had done several sock patterns for Spud & Chloë, I asked her to teach me. I knew I could do it with her tutelage! (And I did!)

To start, I made a lone baby sock for practice using Colleen’s Lots O’ Socks pattern and Fine in Lizard #7812 (which I discovered is a totally adorbs color for baby socks, as is Bumble Bee #7811!). After bravely and adeptly conquering the baby sock, I was ready to try a pair of grown-up socks! Using Popsicle Socks as a guide and trusty Fine as my yarn again, I made some sporty-looking socks for me in Sidewalk #7822 and Glow Worm #7801. However, though they started out as Popsicle Socks… they didn’t exactly end up as Popsicle Socks, as you can see.

Glow Gray Sock

Glow Worm and Sidewalk Sock

Things changed when I accidentally made the cuff too long (I got into a groove with the rib pattern and forgot to stop!), so I had to make some decisions about where to end the cuff and how to work in the colors. First, I decided to make the cuff three times as long, striping Sidewalk and Glow Worm as I went, trying to make it look like it had been my plan all along to make the cuff that prominent. Given the totally different look the sock had after these changes, I then decided to use only little accents of Glow Worm with a Sidewalk base instead of striping them both repeatedly throughout the remainder of the sock. The result is that I used the Popsicle Socks pattern as a guideline for how to make each part of the sock, but chose totally different methods for coloring and the cuff—a “mistake” turned design element!

These socks were a lesson in improvisation and in trusting myself and my instincts, which is something every yarn crafter, much like any chef, musician, artist, or other creative person, must do at times. Instead of getting discouraged with my early mistakes on only my second attempt at socks, I decided to make this into an opportunity to work outside the box and make a pair of spiffy socks by winging it! Now I am a bit obsessed with socks, stashing masses of sock yarn that I probably will never use in a lifetime, with plans to fill both my and my husband’s sock drawers with only homemade socks. (I am sure that will totally happen, but it’s good to have goals…)

Glow Gray Socks

Blocked and finished!

Anyway, the point of all this is to encourage you, dear readers, to just go for it if you want to make a pair of socks but find them intimidating. (Trust me, if I can do it, you can do it!) To help, I thought I might break things down a bit as a little introduction. As with anything, once we understand it, it is far less scary. What I’ve learned is that, though there are lots of parts to a sock, they all serve a purpose. Once I understood how all these parts fit together and that the shaping of top-down socks is just a bunch of decreasing, socks started to “make sense.” They are like Frankenstein’s monster, except you can put them together without lightning or reanimation of any kind. :) (Whew!)

Ready? Let’s go!

Anatomy of a Sock

Anatomy of a Sock

This is what happens when you make a sock from the top-down (I have not made toe-up socks yet!), and most sock instructions will be laid out in this order with these general concepts applied:

1. The cuff, generally done in a rib pattern for half an inch to an inch or so (but not always, as exemplified by my Glow Gray socks), helps to keep the wearer’s sock from slumping like a deflated balloon while it’s being worn.

2. The leg bit spans the space between the cuff and the top of the foot, the length of which depends on the style of sock and how long the wearer’s calf is.

3. The heel flap is just that—a flap that spans the heel from top to bottom. It is done across only half the round, leaving the other half to languish in wait until Step 5.

4. The heel turn is a decrease (commonly done using short rows) that creates a “cup” so that your heel has somewhere to sit.

5. The gusset kind of has two parts: a) pick up the stitches from the sides of the heel flap, then connect them to the languishing half from Step 3, rejoining in the round as you go and then b) perform a series of decreases to get back to the original number of cast-on stitches.

6. Then it’s time to create the foot (also sometimes called the instep), which spans the area to the top of the toe.

7. Finally, perform another set of decreases to create the bit for your toes to sit in.

Sing along with the Spud & Chloë Gang!
(to the tune of Dem Dry Bones)

Can’t see the video, click here


The Cuff holds up the Leg bit.

The Leg bit spans to the Heel Flap.

The Heel Flap ends with the Heel Turn.

The Heel Turn decreases to make a little cup.

The Gusset joins the Leg to the Heel Turn.

The Foot is worked to the Toe bit.

The Toe bit decreases to the bind off.

And that’s the recipe for socks!

Once you understand that recipe, you can feel comfortable following any of the magnificent sock patterns out there, such as these other Spud & Chloë patterns, all by Colleen Powley (a.k.a. the Sock Master): Cable Cable Cable Socks, Sassy Stockings, and Two-for-One Socks. And, don’t forget our free sock patterns from right here on Spud says (the blog!): Ribbed Socks for KidsRibbed Socks for Bigger Feet, and Jelly Bean Baby Socks. Or, simply let your imagination guide you!

For more information on learning to knit socks, “Getting Started Knitting Socks” by Ann Budd is a great book that Colleen recommended to me!

August 13, 2012

Swatch City

Hi, Knitters!

Are you dreaming about cooler days? Ready for some autumn inspiration? Join in this month’s knitalong, and make the new Chinese Lantern Hat with me! I’m Neighbor Elizabeth, and, starting today, and over the next couple of weeks, I’ll be here to help you each step of the way, beginning with one of the most important steps – the dreaded gauge swatch.

Completed swatch viewed from the front…

…and from the back!

Nobody likes this step. It seems like a terrible waste of time, yarn, and, honestly, it’s boring, right? I feel your pain, really, I do, but I make them anyway, because there are some big benefits!

  • A chance to work with this yarn, in this particular stitch pattern, and to develop a sense of both. Practice makes perfect!
  • The finished swatch is a visual reference for the correct gauge. Whenever in doubt, it can be compared to what is currently being knit.
  • Needle sizes can be adjusted prior to cast-on. This should save the frustration of re-knitting a project because the finished dimensions were off.

Case in point: I was knitting my own gauge swatch on my trusty size 8 needles, just like I’ve done twice before for this very same hat, except, today, and who knows why, my gauge was too tight. Rrrrip! Out it came, and I tried again on size 9s. Perfect! I can now change my needle sizes to: US7, US9, and US 10½, before I actually cast on for the hat. If it can happen to me, it can happen to you…

Let’s get started on the gauge swatch!


  • Your favorite color of Spud & Chloë Outer yarn (I’m using the new color, Rhino, #7220)
  • US size 8 (5 mm) knitting needles (your choice of: long, straight needles, a circular needle long enough to work with flat, or, my personal favorite, a set of interchangeable needles with size 8 tips).
  • A ruler, or other device for measuring gauge
  • A copy of the Chinese Lantern Hat pattern, available here.

List of Abbreviations

  • CO – cast-on
  • BO – bind-off
  • sts – stitches
  • Rep – repeat
  • K1b – knit into the front of the stitch located one row below the current row. (See photos.)

K1B Step 1: Insert your needle into the row below.

K1B Step 2: Wrap your yarn around the needle as you usually do.

K1B Step 3: Proceed to pull the new loop forward.

K1B Step 4: Drop the stitch off the left needle.

Half Fisherman’s Rib Gauge Swatch

CO 17 sts.

Row 1: K1, *K1, P1. Rep from * to last 2 sts. K2.

Row 2: K1, *P1, K1b. Rep from * to last 2 sts. P1, K1.

Rep Rows 1 and 2 12 times more. 26 rows total have been knitted.

BO all sts purlwise.

Finished swatch should measure approximately 5 ¼” square. (Perfect for an extra-large mug ;) .)

Measuring for Gauge

Before you check your gauge, tug at the sides of the swatch to allow the “floats” created by the K1b stitches to settle in place. Then, just let it relax, and count the number of stitches and the number of rows in 4″.

Stitch Gauge: 12 ½ sts = 4″

Row gauge: 20 rows = 4″

For this hat, it is not necessary to block your swatch, but, if desired, soak swatch in lukewarm water and roll in a towel to remove excess water. Gently form it back into a square without stretching it too much. The size should not vary significantly from the finished dimensions when dry. This is all the information you need to make your very own mug mat, I mean, gauge swatch! Don’t forget, if you need help, you can find me answering questions over at the Friends of Spud & Chloë Group on Ravelry. (I’m kittyli over there.)

Happy Knitting!

~ Neighbor Elizabeth

Up Next

The Kitchener Rib Cast-On using a Crochet Chain, which will forever put an end to the question “How do they get that ribbed edge to look like that?”

January 31, 2011

Steek Alert

Hi Spud & Chloë Friends,

I took a steeking adventure with TC’s Easy Top-Down Raglan Knitalong sweater from this past fall. She decided that she prefers a cardigan and really, I knew that before I even made the sweater. She has always adored cardigans both zipped up and buttoned up.

The other thing is that I shortened the sleeves to 3/4 length by her request.

The best part? Now we can share! I made a video of the cutting of the sweater to steek. I read all kinds of stuff on steeking and I watched a video about steeking, too. Click here to see the instructional video on steeking I watched before steeking my sweater. Here’s what happened:

January 27, 2011

Sleeve Instructions for the Camp Hoodie

Hi Spud & Chloë Friends,

I have the sleeve instructions for the Camp Hoodie all set. It is an add on to the original Camp Hoodie pattern so you need the printed pattern (purchased at local shops and online, click here for stockists) to make the sweater in the photo.

I will have an instructional video on short rows that are used in the cap of the sleeve coming up. If you are anxious to get going before I have the video available just google “wrap and turn knitting” and you will find a ton of videos and tutorials on this technique. Wrap and turn or wrp & t or w&t is the technique you use when making short rows. Short rows add fabric without adding length to what you are knitting, sort of like a pocket.  Click here to see the page on google for wrap and turn knitting!

One more note about the sleeve instructions, I used a technique I found in Wendy Bernard’s Custom Knits and adapted it to create the sleeve for the Camp Hoodie. Custom Knits is packed full of wonderful information and techniques and I like to give full credit when credit is due. Wendy Bernard is a genius at top-down sweater construction and I adore her smart and practical techniques. Her picked up top-down sleeve technique is the best I’ve seen.

If you have this book already (I know most of you do from our last knitalong) look on page 164 to learn more about short row shaping. Also, Wendy now has a top-down sweater knitting instructional video made by Interweave. I purchased her video and it is fantastic. Wendy gives clear, step-by-step instruction on creating a custom fit top-down sweater. I have to give this video a quick shout out along with the book. The more resources and studying we do as knitters, the better we get. Keep adding to your bag of tricks. Click here to see Wendy’s video or download. I ordered the download version. Two thumbs up!

Anyway, my video will be coming soon on wrap and turn and short rows as I get the second sleeve on my Camp Hoodie Sweater.

Without further ado…

Click here for the add-on sleeve pdf for the Camp Hoodie!

Can you believe it is Thursday already? I can’t. Talk to you soon.

September 23, 2010

Three-Needle Bind Off

Hi Spud & Chloë Friends,

I am making progress on the hood. Today I filmed a quick video showing how I am joining the top seam of the hood. I decided on a three-needle bind off. It is a simple and slick technique that is worth learning. You can use it in many different situations.

Next up I will be picking up the edging for the hood. TC also wants ties with pom-poms and either a kangaroo pocket or two separate pockets. The pocket style is yet to be determined…

I’m so close to being done I can taste it!