Sunday, 30 July 2017

Easy Lace Socks - free pattern and tutorial

Hello again!  It's lovely to see you back again, I hope you're all ready to start your Easy Lace Socks! Please note - this tutorial is picture-heavy!  

This post follows on from yesterday's where we talked about the basics of the Easy Lace Socks (if you missed it, you can catch up here) and I tried to answer some of the questions I thought you might have.

Although it looks quite complicated, this lace pattern is much easier than you might expect. It's worked in blocks of six stitches over four rounds, and the six-stitch blocks are repeated around the sock.  The lace pattern is created by knitting increases and decreases so no extra needles or special techniques are required - there's nothing in here that you probably haven't already done in other projects.

Saturday, 29 July 2017

Easy Lace Socks tutorial - getting started

At the beginning of this year when I posted the tutorial for my Easy Cable Socks, I said that my focus for this year would be on bridging the gap between the basic 4ply Sockalong sock and other sock patterns.  Although some people are quite happy to tackle a different sock pattern after knitting the basic sock, others feel that the leap required from plain knitting to a pattern is just too big.  That's OK.  Some of us like to take the steps into the swimming pool whilst others launch themselves from the side, but eventually all of us are swimming.  I like to think that this year's tutorials are just a set of steps into the pool!

The next pattern in this tutorial series is going to concentrate on lace knitting.  I know that sometimes lace knitting looks like the most complicated thing on earth, but it really is just two needles and a piece of yarn - there's not even a cable needle involved like there is with cable knitting!  The creation of lace knitting is actually very simple.  It's all worked on increases and decreases, and creating new stitches by winding your yarn around your needle so that (usually) your number of stitches on the needle will remain the same.  There are always exceptions to this rule, but once you can knit lace stitches, you'll be able to tackle anything, I promise.  Trust me, I'm a sock knitter! :) 

The good news is that means, then, that there's not a great deal of difference in the actual knitting of these socks - my Watercress Leaves socks ..

A pair of orange, brown and yellow variegated socks in a lacy pattern, modelled on feet

to these ones which are called Spring Forward ... 

and to the shawls, cardigans, baby blankets and tops that you might have wanted to try but never quite got round to starting.  If you've always thought that lace knitting was too hard, then I hope that I can show you that you can do it and open up yet another rabbit hole for you to disappear into!  I think that lace knitting looks like a special kind of alchemy and is a wonderful way to impress yourself (and other people)!

Before you head off in to the archives of Ravelry, though, let's take a look at the Easy Lace Socks and see what you're letting yourself in for.  I'm going to go through the basics of the lace pattern and how lace knitting works today so that you'll have an understanding of it when you look at the main tutorial.

This is what the Easy Lace Socks look like ...

If you've just made a pfft! noise and thought these look far too complicated and are not for you, then just hang on a minute!  Remember that I said above that lace knitting is a special kind of alchemy?  This pattern is just made up of knits, purls, increases and decreases, but lace always looks far more complicated.  You've already mastered the basics if you've knitted a plain Sockalong sock, so there's no reason why you can't give these socks a go.

The lace pattern runs right around the leg of the sock and then down the top of the foot.  I've written the pattern in such a way that you can make the amount of lace that you knit smaller if you want to, but I promise that it's not difficult and you should be able to manage a whole sock-ful of lace, even if you've never knitted it before.

I've chosen to use a heel stitch heel which you'll be familiar with if you've already knitted the basic 4ply Sockalong sock.  In fact, the whole pattern is based on that sock so nothing should feel too far out of your comfort zone.

Let me show you what the pattern that you're going to be knitting looks like.  I think it looks a bit like little ladders, and it creates a neat ribbed pattern that should fit well on any size of foot (and of course I'll tell you how to adjust the lace pattern to fit different cast on sizes).

If you look closely, you can see how the stitches work to create the lace pattern.  There are only four rows (or rounds) to this pattern and it's worked over six stitches so you're not having to remember anything complicated.  There's a decrease at each end of the pattern block which is what pulls the stitches in the right direction for the pattern, and just like the gusset decreases on your socks, they lean to the left or the right depending on which row of the pattern they are on.  I'll show you exactly how to knit this pattern in the main tutorial, but it's easier than you might think!

There's also an increase on every pattern round - for every stitch that you decrease you need to replace it with another one otherwise you'll end up knitting an ever-decreasing triangle and that's not quite what we're after for a sock.  There are a few ways of creating new stitches and in this lace pattern, we're going to use the easiest of them all - the yarn over which gives a nice airy (lacy) look to the pattern.

The main tutorial will have the pattern both online and in downloadable PDF form, lots of photos and also video clips (I've received so many lovely comments about how they helped with the cable socks - thank you! - that I've created more for this tutorial).  I'll also show you how to read a chart which really isn't as hard as you might think.  I'll be posting all of that tomorrow, but in the meantime, I've tried to answer some of the questions I thought you might ask.  If I've forgotten anything, do let me know in the comments!

What size are your socks going to be and can I change it?

The sock will be based on my usual size (my UK size 5 foot) but it's easy to adjust that to fit your own foot.  Don't forget that the size of a sock is based on the width of your foot, not the length, so I recommend that you look at the sock stitch calculation in the Sockalong tutorials which will help you work out the size based on the width of your own feet.  You can also try your sock on during the knitting process to make sure it's comfortable.

Can I use any yarn for these socks?

Yes.  The pattern is written for 4ply yarn so any 4ply should work, although I always recommend a quick tension swatch just to be sure that your size will work out right.  

I've used Doulton Flock Border Leicester 4ply in the colourway Cringle Moor for my socks, and you can read more about it here.  It's another no-nylon sock yarn that I wanted to try out and it has worked beautifully with the lace pattern.  I'm very happy with the way the socks have turned out and would definitely recommend that you check out the yarn if you are also interested in yarns that are a bit different from regular sock yarn.  I'll be writing a review of the yarn in about six months' time when I've been able to give the socks a good try out so do look out for that post!

I've never knitted lace before, will I be able to do it?

Yes!  All you're going to be doing is decreasing stitches and then making a new one by wrapping the yarn around the needle.  The decreases are nothing that you haven't done before if you've already knitted a sock, and wrapping the yarn around the needle is easy.  You'll feel like a magician with your pointy sticks and yarn by the time you've finished this! 

Can I adjust the size of the pattern block for a bigger or smaller sock?

Yes!  It's very easy to do that with this particular pattern.  I'll show you how to do that in the main tutorial. 

Can I continue the lace pattern down to the toe decreases?

Yes of course, if you want to!  You'll just have to adjust your lace pattern as the number of stitches gets smaller which isn't hard to do.  I decided to stop the lace pattern at the toe decreases because it is easier to do it that way, but you can take your pick how you want your socks to look.

Right then!  I think that's everything for now ... I hope that's been useful as background information and tomorrow I'll share the pattern with you.  Do ask if you've got any questions, but I hope that now you're all ready to grab your yarn and needles and prepare to cast on!

Friday, 28 July 2017

First week of the holidays

Oh, it's been wonderful to get off the treadmill this week, although it's surprised me how fast the time has gone.  Late mornings, pyjama days, no school runs ... it's been a much calmer Perry household this week!

Before I tell you a bit more about what's been going on, I must first say thank you to everyone who commented or emailed me about last week's Monthly Musing.  I really appreciated that you took the time to share your thoughts about children growing up - and I had another "where has the time gone?" moment this week when we went to buy small daughter's high school uniform (she's decided she wants to stay as "small daughter" for now, even though she's nearly as tall as me!). She looks so different in her high school blazer compared to her primary school cardigan and keeps wanting to try it on again - at least when September comes, I'll be used to how it looks!

She was a massive help to me on Wednesday when we unwrapped the Yarndale Sock Line socks that have been sent in so far.

We had quite a system going as she unwrapped them and read out the details and then I logged each pair of socks and photographed them ready to go on the Pinterest board (I've started uploading them so that you can see, and will be adding to them over the weekend).  I like to make sure that I have the details of where the socks came from and the size so that it's easier for me to send them on to their new homes later, and also to tell you where they've gone.

We have over 60 pairs already which is really wonderful, thank you!  They're from all over the world too - England, Scotland, Wales, France and the USA with more on their way from New Zealand and other places.  I think the thing that always takes my breath away about the Yarndale Sock Line is the generosity of everyone who gets involved.  Not just the buying of the yarn and giving of the time to knit them, but the cost of the postage (and it's not cheap to send parcels at the best of times, never mind from abroad) and also the fact that these socks are a proper gift.  They're not grabbed from a display rack on the way to the checkout; you can tell as soon as you hold a pair in your hands that someone has thought carefully about the yarn they're going to use and about the pattern they're going to knit.  Some socks are plain, others have a pattern knitted into them; there are first pairs ever knitted and umpteenth pairs knitted and they are all beautiful.  These socks are not just thrown together, they're knitted with love for somebody that the knitter will never know, but they have still taken the time to share their skills to brighten someone else's day. I am immensely grateful for every pair that I hold in my hands and hang up on the Sock Line as I know that the gift of the socks is much bigger than the pair of socks themselves, and I believe that whoever gets them will feel that too.

Still on the subject of giving (although in a different way), we've been able to sit down and catch up with a few films on our must-watch list this week.  One of them was I, Daniel Blake, which has haunted me for days.  It's not the cheeriest film we've ever watched - it's about the welfare system in our country - but it's absolutely compelling viewing and is one of those films (like Made in Dagenham, about discrimination against women in the workplace) which every young person should have to watch.  Small daughter is old enough to understand what's going on in this film but I don't think I can bring myself to watch it again straight away so it'll have to wait for a short while. Part of the story takes place in a Food Bank and it's not right that our young people should grow up thinking that Food Banks are acceptable in today's society; nobody should have to rely on them because they can't afford to eat in any other way - often through no fault of their own.  I, Daniel Blake won all kinds of awards and it's not hard to see why.  It was such a good film that I'd highly recommend it if you're looking for one to watch although be warned, there can be no happy ending in a film like this, and there won't ever be whilst there are people in our country who fall between the bureaucratic cracks.  In the meantime, I'm going to make sure that my contributions to the local Food Bank are more regular because who knows?  We're all only a small step away from being the person in that queue - and often through no fault of our own.

OK, off my soap box now, and something happier to talk about instead.  I recently did a blind sock yarn review for Louise at KnitBritish - what that means is that she sent me a small skein of yarn and I tried it out without knowing anything about it all.  I've tended to keep my yarn reviews to no-nylon yarns these days (and there's another coming up soon about the Northern Yarn Poll Dorset Lambswool that I knitted my Easy Cable Socks in now that I've worn them for six months) but I knew that Louise would have some exciting British yarn for me to play with so I snatched her hand off said I would be delighted to have a look at it.  

It was lovely and I'd definitely recommend it if you're someone who likes wool socks that don't feel too woolly.  You listen to my review here on the KnitBritish podcast and find out what the yarn is too (the review is at 40:15 but there's plenty in the episode before it that is definitely worth listening to as well :) ). 

I'm still working on my Bumpy, Curved Trail socks although it's been slow progress over the last couple of weeks as school events seemed to take over every part of our lives.  I should be able to get on with them over the holidays, though, and I'm looking forward to making a start on some of the skeins of no-nylon yarn that I've got lined up in my stash too.  Yes, yes, I'm quite sure I am doing that thing where I think I've got endless days to blissfully sit and knit whereas in reality the novelty of a pyjama day will wear off very quickly, but it's nice to dream about it for a while!

Oh, and something very exciting has happened - Super Socks has been approved by Warrington Livewire as a suitable book for their library system and a copy of the book now has a new home in Culcheth Library!  It's close to Black Sheep Wools which is very handy for anyone who borrows it and is suddenly struck by the urge to knit socks :)  The good thing about the library system is that any book can be borrowed throughout the borough so you don't have to live in Culcheth, you just have to be a member of the Livewire service.  Hopefully there will be one or two more sock knitters as a result!

Finally, I hardly dare to tell you that I've nearly finished the sock tutorial post as I feel as if I've been doing that for too long now.  The blog posts are written, it's down to finishing the video editing and uploading them to YouTube and that will take as long as it takes.  I've set myself a new deadline of before the end of the month and I'll do my best to stick to that!

Well, thanks for making it through the rantings and ramblings, hope you have a great week! xx

Friday, 21 July 2017

Monthly Musing - July 2017 - End of an era

Small daughter finishes at her primary school today.  We've had a week of parties, performances, assemblies and tonight there's a prom - they're certainly going out with a bang!  After today, my connection with this primary school that both my girls attended is over and if it wasn’t in an area that’s great for dog walking then I might not even go back there.  Part of me is delighted, as I know that small daughter is more than ready to move on to high school, but another part is a little sad as small daughter is becoming less small every day.  We can’t make our children stay little forever, and nor should we want to, but it is a strange moment when it hits you that they are growing up.

Small daughter is also excited and a little sad.  She’s spent time at her new high school and is looking forward to the challenges that it’s going to bring.  She’s ready to be stretched in her subjects, to learn more about the world and what’s going on around her; the school puts an emphasis on being aware of current affairs as well as curriculum subjects as they (wisely) say that there’s no point in students leaving with a fistful of exam certificates and no awareness of what’s going on in the world.  She’s ready to make new friends although she intends to stay in touch with her old class.  They’re already swapping phone numbers and getting ready to write messages to other all over their school t-shirts (a tradition in this school that stretches back to when big daughter was there and even before).  When small daughter has done the same time again in this new school, she’ll be heading for university (if that’s what she wants to do) and big daughter – well, big daughter will be a grown woman with a life of her own by then.  It’s not something that I like to think about too closely.  My chicks are spreading their wings and already I can see them moving ever closer to the edge of the nest.

Not all of us are great at change.  I know that I’m not; I need time to think about what’s happening and how it’s going to make life different.  I always know that life will be better because I believe that every situation in our life is designed in some way to improve it even if we can’t see it at the time, but that doesn’t make it any easier when we’re faced with events that are both expected and unexpected.  It’s going to take time to adjust to this new life where small daughter has a phone and a key and knows which bus to get on.  I’m not quite sure that I’m ready for that so I am grateful that we have the school holidays to spend time together whilst I get to know this new, confident person.  And perhaps have to find a new blog name for her.  Small daughter is growing up. 

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Sockalong knit n natter meet up

I really must take a new photo - the sale has finished!

What are you up to next Wednesday morning between 10am and 12pm?  That's the 19th of July, and if you're anywhere near Culcheth in Warrington and fancied coming along to Black Sheep Wools Craft Barn for a bit of a knit n natter, it'd be great to see you!

Members of the Winwick Mum Sockalong Facebook groups are getting together to knit, crochet, chat and also to sample Black Sheep's excellent cake and smoosh lots of yarn.  Black Sheep Wools are now a flagship store for Rowan Yarns complete with a brand new Rowan section, and they've recently started stocking lots of exciting new yarns such as Baa Ram Ewe and Sheepjes - not to mention a good selection of sock yarns too! 

We have these occasional meet ups and it's always lovely to see people rather than photos and admire their projects in real life.  You don't have to be knitting socks, you can bring any project you like and it's free to come along.  We don't provide any refreshments so that you can choose to visit the cafe or not - we just take over the workshop room for a couple of hours to meet friends old and new and have a lovely time!  

If you're getting a lift, your driver can either while away a couple of happy hours in the cafe or on the big squishy sofa with a newspaper, or take the short drive into the village of Culcheth where there are shops and more cafes, and a play park too if you have small people with you.

See you there! :)

Saturday, 8 July 2017


Hi, how's your weekend going?  It's been another warm and sunny one here, and the Trachelospermum jasminoides (star jasmine) has been a wonder to behold and smell (besmell? Could there even be such a word?).  It grows up a sunny wall at the front of the house and is absolutely smothered in white star-like blooms that pack a really powerful punch in the scent department.  Even our postman has noticed and he's normally too busy to stop and smell the flowers.

Ahh, jasmine.  Definitely one of my very favourite smells.

And my absolutely favourite vegetable, peas in a pod.  Nothing can beat popping that green case open and seeing those peas all snug together, admiring the way that nature has designed them to grow in perfect form - and then eating them.  Even tomatoes warm from the greenhouse only come a close second.  I should have been picking the peas and bringing them into the house for dinner, but instead I have found myself standing in the garden eating pod after pod of them and smiling at the memory of getting into trouble for the very same thing when I was little and lived with my parents.  We grew most of our own vegetables so for me to snaffle all the peas that were supposed to go into the freezer for the winter was something that was frowned upon, but now there's no one to tell me off except myself and that's not going to happen :)

I have spent this weekend working on the lace sock tutorial.  It's been slow going as the girls have been around and I've been easily distracted, but I've done the bulk of it now so with a fair wind and a bit of luck it should be ready to post this next week.  I finished the socks themselves ages ago but I've procrastinated over the video editing and have learnt my lesson now as it's not fun to leave it all till the last minute.  Still, it'll be worth it - I hope!  

I've also finished my West Yorkshire Spinners Marie Curie socks.  These are the ones made from the limited edition yarn that is supporting the Marie Curie charity - you can read more about it here (and you can see a bit about the tutorial socks too!).  They've been a quick knit - WYS yarns always do seem to knit up very quickly and are always even nicer once they've been washed and worn.  There's a donation from each ball of yarn being made to the charity which makes it an even better excuse to buy the yarn whether you need it right now or not! :)  (Incidentally, someone suggested to me recently that this yarn might look good in the Couthie shawl pattern and I think those bold stripes would lend themselves very well to that if you don't fancy socks.)

At the risk of running out of WIPs (works in progress) - ha! - I've cast on another pair of socks. This pattern is Curved, Bumpy Trail socks by Rich Ensor and I thought it would be perfect for this Wool is the Answer 4ply in colourway Blueberry Mash.  I've admired Rich Ensor's patterns for quite some time although it's only now that I've finally got to cast one on.  It's working out just as nicely as I hoped it would, although I have to agree with other people who've posted their projects on Ravelry that this pattern is not written for beginners.  The actually knitting part isn't difficult but it took me some time to work out what the charts and written pattern were telling me to do. I'll be sure to make notes on my Ravelry project for this sock so if you're tempted to have a go at it at some time, do check them if you get stuck.

Finally, before I go and see a bit of the weekend sunshine before the sun goes down, Let's Knit magazine have reminded me to remind you that if you are so inclined to vote in the British Knitting and Crochet Awards this year and haven't done so, there's still time before the closing date in August.  I would be thrilled if you would like to vote for my blog in the Favourite Knitting Blog category - thank you!

Have a brilliant rest of the weekend, whatever you're up to! xx

Monday, 3 July 2017

Re-opening Winwick Church

It was so lovely at 2pm yesterday afternoon to be part of a village community and to be able to join in with celebrating the re-opening of our church.  Whether you're a churchgoer or not, a church is a part of what makes a town or village what it is.  Winwick Church is a local landmark, easily recognised from the M62 motorway and even before we lived in Winwick, seeing it always made me feel that I was home.

We live close enough to walk to the church and decided it would be a good idea to do that in case the small car park was busy.  We set off in plenty of time for the re-opening service so that we would be able to find a seat and although that turned out to be harder than we thought, we were delighted to see that the church was full.  I don't think I've ever seen the church this full before, and I was really pleased that so many people had turned out.

We eventually found ourselves a space right over in the corner next to the Legh Chapel where we'd been cleaning the week before.  Small daughter was pleased to note that her beautifully mopped floor still looked good, and my husband and big daughter cast a critical eye over their work on the wrought iron and were pleased that they didn't spot any places they had missed.  You can see here just how many people there were - and there were still people coming in!  Some ended up sitting in the Chancel which is away to the right, others had to stand at the back and the sides.  I felt that it was a wonderful acknowledgement of the work that Reverend June and the rest of the church community have put in, and whilst nobody expects the church to be as busy every week, it was right that it was yesterday.

From our side vantage point, I could see parts of the church that I've never looked at before. Another angel tucked up high in the ceiling ...

A stained glass window that I pass every day in the car but have never really looked at.  (That's not a wooden TARDIS on the left, it's the porch door :) )

Stone arches and the refurbished ceiling; whenever we've been to services in the church we've tended to sit in the main aisle so we've always looked forwards, never across the church.  It's a good view, although we might look a bit strange if we chose to sit here again when there was space in the middle!

When the service began, it was apparent just how much a part of the community the church is. The school choir sang, the village Brownie pack were there, the Mayor of Warrington, our local MP and other visiting dignitaries, even the architects and roofing contractors.  The whole service felt joyous and inclusive, and also a momentous event for our little village.  Afterwards there was tea and cake in the church hall (such an English thing to do!) and I am sure the celebrations continued for quite some time amongst the church committee who will have been mightily relieved that the work was finished and everything went so well.

Now that the church has been restored, the intention is for it to be used for a wider range of community activities than it had been previously.  There is a new stage area (that's the red carpeted area in this picture) which can be set up for concerts and talks, lighting and good sound system so that now the church can be a unique venue for all kinds of events.  A large proportion of the work was paid for the Heritage Lottery Fund who have secured an agreement with the church that it will be open for at least 40 days of the year when services aren't in progress so that people can visit to look around.  The dates of the open days and more info about hiring the church for an event can be found on the church's website here.

After being closed for seven years, it's really wonderful to see our church open again.  Definitely one of the joys of village life.

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