Putting my money where my mouth is, I have embarked upon my quest to make a decent pair of socks from a yarn that doesn't particularly appeal to me.
I have finally decided to try the Socks that Rock. It's the Rainforest Jasper colourway, light weight, the first selection from last year's sock club. It looks so innocent, this little hank of yarn, but it has earned my designation of a Dugly-Uck for two reasons.
First: I was disappointed when I received this because, despite STR's well-known reputation for flashing and pooling, my first exposure to it is a striping yarn. Even the Queen of the Cool Pool (see here and here) had troubles with this one -- scroll down on that second page to see what I mean. When you accept it for what it is, though, it does stripe quite nicely -- see here. Fine, no fun pooling action; stripes it shall be, and the very best stripes I can make.
Second: The more grievous problem, at least to my eyes, is with the colours. In the hank, they look quite nice, but when knit up , they seem to me to collect into the Very Unfortunate Combination of what appears to be Hospital Wall Green and Diarrhea Brown. I would note all of the selections from last year's club have made their way into Blue Moon's regular rotation -- except this one.
Trying to look on the positive side, though, the colours are not solid. There is a good variation and depth to both the greenish and the brownish. I decided to try to play that up a bit.
One good way to highlight individual colour spots in a variegated yarn is with slipped stitches. They elongate and draw attention to themselves. The very clever Cable Twist sock pattern from Hello Yarn also lays them on a diagonal, which I think further enhances their effect. This pattern has been on my list of things to do for quite a while, so I was delighted to give it a try.
I think the pattern does a great job of adding little blips of individual colour without obscuring the stripes, while adding a bit of textural interest. I've changed it from a 7-stitch repeat to an 8-stitch repeat to fit my stitch count.
Note: I love working this pattern. It's easy and effective. You know how some people have knit 10 Pomatomus or 12 Monkeys? That's how much I like this pattern. You're likely to see a lot more of it here.
When I want to preserve a particular colour patterning, I generally do a short-row heel because once it's done you're back at your original stitch count and the patterning should continue. However, to fit my foot, I have to do it over two-thirds of the stitches, which leaves only one-third plain on the instep. When I want to maximize an instep pattern, I do a flap and gusset so I can have half of the stitches on the front worked in pattern. The problem with that is that the gusset will distort the colour runs in the yarn and you tend to get something weird going on. I resolved to find a way to get the best of both worlds.
The answer: The band heel. Several patterns on the net use this heel, and Nancy Bush describes one in Folk Socks, I believe. However, it has always seemed a little complicated and cumbersome. I spent a fair bit of time digging through the instructions and simplifying them, and have come up with something that I think works with all stitch counts. (More about that in another post.)
Its big advantage, though, is that you work a flap, shape it, turn the heel, pick up some stitches along the sides of the flap and Presto! you're back at your original stitch count with NO gusset. Any colour weirdness is only on the flap, which is fine by me. It turns out that it fits my foot wonderfully, and you do end up with this cute little band on your heel.
Very cool, indeed.
The Screeching Halt:
I'm back at my original stitch count and, after adjusting my yarn so it resumes at the proper place, both my colour pattern and stitch pattern should continue uninterrupted.
... my nice, neat stripes have gone wonky. Crap! I neglected to take into account one Very Important Element.
Here's a test to see if anyone has actually read this far without falling asleep. Do you know where I went wrong? If so, send me an email (address in the side bar) with your answer. I'll put all the correct answers in a hat, draw a name and send the winner a prize. What will the prize be? HA! I'll dig through my stash and send you some guaranteed Dugly-Uck yarn to play with. I dare you to enter!
Oh, and my thoughts about losing my STR virginity? I am surprised at how thick the fabric is. The yarn certainly feels nice while you're using it, and the socks should end up soft and cushy. Their durability can only be determined after a thorough road test. I'm still confused, though, as to how the light weight and the medium weight can knit up into the same gauge, at least according to the Blue Moon site. I guess I'll have to dig out some ugly medium weight to play with too.