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Monday, 27 July 2015

Super Socks book - and a giveaway!

Well, here it is!  Amazon have excelled themselves and the 3-5 days they told me it would take for my book to be available has been less than 24 hours - pretty great service!

Ta dah!



I wanted to turn the blog tutorials into a physical (and Kindle) book so that it would be an easy reference for people to use - either people who can't or don't use the internet, people who prefer to read a book rather than look at a screen or people going on holiday or somewhere without computer access but still want to knit socks, or perhaps as a gift instead of sharing a link.   Sometimes, it's just nice to have a book.

It seems incredible to me that all the thinking, knitting, photographing and writing over the last few months has resulted in this.  I love the accessibility of everything online and would be lost without the internet (YouTube in particular has been a lifesaver during some technical hitches), but actually holding a book your hands - especially one with your name on it - is really quite something.  It makes all the months of work worth every minute.

It feels like a seed has grown, or a caterpillar has emerged from a chrysalis - from this ...



and this ...


to something tangible with a picture of big daughter's feet on it (and one of the few blue skies we seem to have had this summer)!  I'm grinning like a Cheshire Cat!


Would you like to have a look inside?

The book has a paperback cover, is 8" wide by 10" tall and is 108 pages long.  I wanted it to be a decent size so that it would be easy to prop it open whilst you're using it, and also so that the pictures could be of an easily viewable size as well.  The nice thing about the blog tutorials has been how big the pictures are so I wanted to try to replicate that.  You can't follow illustrated instructions if you have to put your knitting down every two minutes to pick the book up and squint at the pictures!

It contains the same information as the blog tutorials, from choosing yarn and needles, swatching and matching yarns to the instructions themselves.  I've chosen a font that's easy to read ...


and offset the pictures with the text so that you can always see where you're up to.  The tutorials are set out for each needle type - short circular, DPNs and long circular - so that you can work on your socks from start to finish without having to search around the book for the next section. There are also the patterns for the 4ply and 6ply socks without the illustrations.


At the back of the book is an index - because there's nothing worse than wanting to check up on something and not remembering where you saw it!  That's where the search facility comes in very handy on the blog, but it doesn't work with paper!


The Kindle version is exactly the same but works on a Kindle instead.  These pictures were taken from the previewer that I was using - here it's set to show a Kindle Fire HD preview but the book works on any Kindle (although the photos change size).



As a Kindle works like a small computer, you can jump from any of the headings in the contents straight to the chapter


and I've also created an index at the back to allow you to jump to any of the specific sections that you might need.


I'm very grateful for all the support and encouragement that you've all given me over the Sockalong and no book would have been complete without mentioning this in the acknowledgements ...


so thank you once again.  It really wouldn't have been the same experience without you!

And finally ... what does it cost to have one of these books of your very own?  Well, as you've probably guessed, they're not free like the blog tutorials are, although I have tried to keep the cost down as best I can.  Most of the cost is the printing, especially as the book is full-colour throughout, and then Amazon's fee.  The profit that there is will be going towards the cost of big daughter's Peru trip which is less than a year away now.

In the UK, the paperback book costs £12.99 (less than a skein of hand-dyed yarn!) and the Kindle version is £6.40.  There's free shipping in the UK (thanks to Amazon's policy of free shipping for books over £10) and of course the Kindle version is an immediate download.  In other countries, it will be priced in the currency for that country and the shipping will be whatever Amazon's policy is there.  If you're a member of Amazon Prime, you can borrow the Kindle book for free.  If you don't have a Kindle, you can download a free Kindle viewer from Amazon which will let you read any Kindle book on a computer, and also a Kindle app which will let you read books on an iPad.

(If you do buy a copy, perhaps you'd be kind enough to leave me some nice feedback on the Amazon site as that way Amazon will share the book with other people who are looking for something similar - thank you!)

To celebrate the launch of the book, I'm going to give a copy away - either paperback or Kindle, whichever you prefer - and I'll sign the book if you'd like me to (providing you can read my rather untidy writing!).  

All you have to do to enter is tell me who you would knit a pair of socks for and why.  It can be anyone at all, living or dead, real or fictional, so just add your comments at the bottom and I'll enter you into the draw.  I'll be picking the winner on Tuesday 4 August at 8.00pm (BST) using the random.org generator so that it's fair.

In the meantime, you can find the UK paperback here on Amazon (my husband is laughing at me because I keep going to "check" that it's still there), the UK Kindle version here, the US paperback here and the US Kindle version here.  If you're in a different country you'll find it through the search bar - exciting stuff! 

I really hope that publishing the tutorials as a book will help even more people to discover that knitting socks isn't beyond them, and that it will be just the start of their sock knitting adventures! You can never have too many socks!



Sunday, 26 July 2015

Proofing

It feels like it's been such a long time in the making (I first started thinking about the Sockalong in January this year!) but the print and Kindle versions of the Sockalong tutorials are almost ready!

We've had a more than a few gloomy days over the summer so it hasn't felt like a chore to have to stay in and read and re-read the text to make sure that it says exactly what I want it to.


The book is simply an off-line version of the blog tutorials because not everybody can or wants to be online to read the tutorials (all of which will be staying on the blog and will always be free).  All of the tutorials in the book have been put together for each type of needle, rather than split across the three stages of making the sock as they are in the blog posts.  There are all of the photos and all of the instructions, together with the patterns for the 4ply and 6ply socks, just as there is on the blog so it's all the same, just in a more portable format.  Oh, and an index, because you can't click on a "search" button with a book! 

Once I was happy with the text, I was able to upload it to Createspace, which is Amazon's print-on-demand service.  This means that my book will be available for anybody in any country to buy, and if you order a print book it will be printed especially for you and shipped straight to your door. How exciting is that?!

I'm sure I don't have to tell you how super-exciting it was to get my proof copy in my hands! I hopped up and down, shouted (a bit) with delight and showed everybody in the house.  And then my Dad when he came over, then big daughter's friends who happened to call round.  And some Mums at school so that I could get their thoughts on it as people who hadn't been looking at it endlessly for months! 


You can create book covers through the Createspace website, but one of big daughter's friends wants to become a graphic designer and designed this cover for me instead - I love it! 

Whilst I was waiting for the proof copy to arrive, I'd started work on the Kindle version using a brilliant piece of software called Kindle Writer (well worth investigating if you're ever going to write a Kindle book) and was surprised to find that working on that was the best form of proofing I'd done so far!  As you can see from the picture above, what I thought was text without mistakes needed one or two revisions!


What I have found really fascinating about the Kindle version is that it needs to be created as if it were a web page, so it's full of HTML as well as text and pictures.  Luckily, the software creator has been on hand at the end of an email whenever I've got stuck and it's not been too much trouble at all!

The Kindle version will be available to download straight away without having to wait for it to be shipped anywhere, and Kindle Prime users can borrow the book for free.  

So where is it all up to now?  Well, the final checks are being made and the books should be available this week.  I'll be posting again in a couple of days - and telling you all about my giveaway too!

Until then ...  J



Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Yarndale Sock Line

Isn't this a lovely sight?  There's something about hand knits blowing gently in the breeze that really makes my heart sing.


Some of these socks are mine but others belong to other members of the family, and they know that there's love for them knitted into every stitch.  That's how it is with a hand made gift, isn't it? We put something of ourselves into every one.  When my girls were small, they used to love the Angelina Ballerina books and in one particular story, a character declared that "A home made gift comes straight from the heart".  I believe that's absolutely true.

You might wonder what a small dancing mouse has to do with Yarndale, and to be honest, there's no other connection other than it set me thinking.  Not long after the Sockalong started and there was talk of folks meeting up at Yarndale, it was asked whether it might be possible to have sock bunting to complement the other creative projects of crochet bunting and mandalas.  Imagine that!   After seeing the miles and miles of triangle bunting there, the thought of socks on a Yarndale line is quite spine-tinglingly exciting!



So I asked my friend Lucy what she thought and, wonderful supporter of the Sockalong that she is, she thought that there would be space in the Auction Mart for sock bunting and that it might look rather grand.  It would also be quite fitting as there is rather a lot of sock yarn to be squished at Yarndale and sock bunting would fit in with the theme very nicely.

I fizzed all the way home, my head buzzing and whirring with ideas (so much so that I missed my junction and took a rather scenic route home down a different motorway - that'll teach me to have my head stuffed full of socks!).  It struck me that lines of little socks neatly pegged out would be an ideal way to celebrate sock knitters old and new, and remind the world that sock knitting isn't just an activity from the past.

It also struck me that a Yarndale Sock Line would be quite a responsibility.  Would anybody want to join in?  What sort of socks would they make?  One sock or two?  And what size?  And afterwards - all those socks!   Where would they go?  How could they be stored?  It would seem such a shame to just pack them away when they could be warming someone's toes.  

And that's when my bright idea struck me, and I hope you'll think that it's a bright idea too.

I would like the Yarndale Sock Line bunting to be not just decorative but useful.  I don't want the bunting to be single socks but pairs which can be passed on to people who need a pair of socks. Homeless, terminally ill, women's refuge, bereaved - it doesn't matter as long as the socks, knitted with love in every stitch as any home made gift is, find their way to a new owner who can wrap their feet in woolly love.  If shawls can be given to comfort people then why not socks?  I've spoken to a couple of charities about this already, but I'm still open to suggestions so do get in touch if you've got any ideas!  I particularly want to gift the socks to people, not sell them to raise funds for a charity.

What do you think?  Do you like the idea?  If you'd like to join in with knitting a pair of socks which can be displayed at Yarndale and gifted afterwards, this is what you need to do.

1  Knit a pair of socks.  Any size, any pattern, any yarn (although proper sock yarn would be best for anything other than bed socks, please, so that they don't wear out too quickly) - just a pair of socks that someone will be able to wear.  From plain socks to patterned, those of us who are sock knitters know that a kind of magic happens when someone puts on a pair of hand knits and they will be delighted with their socks of any style.  Top down, toe up, two at a time - whatever your preference!

Here's my pair in progress:  



The yarn is Superba Circus 4ply shade 001, and I'm knitting a pair of child's socks using my basic 4ply pattern.   I had wanted them to be a bit further along before I showed them to you but they aren't, I'm afraid!  (I thought that starting a child's pair would make them grow faster but sadly, I still haven't worked out how to get more than 24 hours in my day!)  I'm knitting them on a long circular needle as I've cast on 56 sts which isn't quite enough to stretch comfortably around my short circular needle.  This is the pattern used in the Sockalong so for anyone not familiar with knitting socks but still wanting to join in, you can find the tutorials here.

2  Create a gift tag for the socks.  A parcel luggage label is an ideal size, but you can make one of your own if you want to, and if you want to decorate it as well, then feel free.  It needs to be securely attached to your pair of socks and have your name (your first name is fine), the place you live, the size of the socks (in UK size, please) and what the yarn content is (in case anyone has issues with wool).  If there are any particular washing instructions you might want to try to squeeze those on too.



On the back, feel free to write a message to whoever might receive your socks, but don't give any personal information.


3  Attach the socks securely together - I don't want any socks going AWOL at the Auction Mart!  You can either do this by using a safety pin or by threading the string or yarn from your gift tag onto a wool needle and taking it through both socks (I've had to use another pair here to demonstrate as mine aren't ready) ...



bringing the yarn back through to the front of the socks and tying with a secure knot.



4  Post your socks.  Lucy has very kindly allowed me to use her PO Box address so your socks will be heading up to Skipton for me to collect at the end of the summer holidays - I will need them to arrive by 8 September 2015 please!  Here's the address:

Yarndale Sock Line
c/o Attic24
PO Box 97
Skipton
North Yorkshire
BD23 9EN

Alternatively, if you're coming to Yarndale and would like to bring your socks with you, then please do so - I'll make sure I have plenty of spare pegs and hope that the Sock Line won't be too high for me to reach during the weekend!

What to do if you live abroad.  I am well aware that Yarndale is a UK-based festival and that to take part might involve a hefty expense with postage.  So, I thought that instead of sending me your socks from around the world - although you are very welcome to do so if you'd like to - you might prefer to gift your socks locally.  So that you can still join in with the Yarndale Sock Line, follow the steps above and take a picture of your finished socks, complete with the tag so we know who you are, and email it to me at winwickmum@gmail.com.  I'll print out the picture and hang that on the Line along with the pairs of knitted socks so if you can also let me know whereabouts in the world you are and where you will be gifting your socks, I can add that information so we can see socks being gifted all over the world!

It would be lovely if you wanted to join in (otherwise my pair of socks will look very lonely!) and I think that it would be wonderful to be able to spread the sock love and gift some socks to someone who might not otherwise get to appreciate the joy of hand knits!

Do feel free to ask any questions - and thank you! xx



Thursday, 16 July 2015

End of term












It always becomes a bit of a mad dash just before school finishes for the summer.  Here in England, the school holidays can be anything from six to eight weeks long, and sometimes longer depending on the school and the location.  It's a long time!  And whilst I am sooo looking forward to not dashing about in the mornings, marvelling at how it can still be a surprise to small daughter than she has to get up and get dressed every week day, negotiating the traffic on the school run, making sandwiches, finding change for this and that, collecting big daughter from college during free periods when there's no bus service and the constant battle to get homework done on time, there is a little part (OK, rather a big part) of me that will miss the freedom that I have during term time.

This week has been all about sports day and class parties, finding lost uniform (we've gone from losing most of it over the year to now having more of it than we started with - all with small daughter's name in it.  How does that happen?) and cramming in all the jobs that I know I need time and silence to think about.  Baking muffins at a rather late hour ready to take to school the next morning.  Running in the parents' race because small daughter asked me to.  Reading and re-reading the printout of the Sockalong book.  Changing a word here, fixing line spaces there, re-aligning photos.  It's time-consuming work and not something that I can when there's likely to be a "Mu-u-um" resounding off the walls at any given moment. 

And yet, in the midst of all this last-minute chaos, the garden does it's own thing, reminding me that it's only us humans who dance attendance to the hours of the clock.  The vegetables have their own timetable and it's good for me to remember that.  I'm really loving these rogue teasels this year, perhaps all the more so because I can't let them take over the vegetable box again next year. They're starting to turn pink now, just the slightest haze around the edges of their prickles. Beautiful.  Just like the scent of the star jasmine (Trachelospermum jasminoides) which grows by the front door.  I breathe in great lungfuls of the heady perfume every time I pass, and instantly I'm transported back to Italy on my honeymoon over twenty years ago.  How powerfully scents and music can affect our memories.

It's been hard to slow down because of my desire to tick all the boxes on my list this week, but it's been good for me to sit just for a few minutes whilst I drink my tea, instead of leaving it to go cold or slurping it on the go.  I've promised myself that I will take more time these holidays.  It doesn't take long to watch the sun go down. 


Thursday, 9 July 2015

Teeny Tiny Sock brooch and bag charm pattern and tutorial

One of the things that I have really enjoyed about the Sockalong - and which has been an unexpected bonus - is that people who have met each other through the Facebook group in particular are now starting to meet up in real life.  How lovely that knitting a pair of socks can bring you new friends!

However, the downside of being a sock knitter is that unless you wear your socks with sandals or see-through boots like these ones, it's much harder to recognise you than, say, someone who knits hats.  

So, to solve the problem, it's been suggested that Sockalongers meeting up should wear something recognisable.  I think it's best to avoid any cliches of red carnations and The Guardian newspaper so my contribution to the discussion is ... of course ... a tiny sock.  A teeny tiny sock that could be worn either as a brooch, attached to a bag as a charm or perhaps even become a keyring.  Or for whatever other use you can think of.  (I think it's quite Christmassy so could imagine it as a decoration, although it's a bit too tiny to put gifts in.)  And ta-dah ... here it is!



It really is rather teeny tiny, just 6 1/2 cm from cuff to toe ...


which makes it a great size to wear without looking like you're ... well ... wearing a sock!

Oh, I do like this little sock!  It's a bit big for a Barbie and a bit small for the cat (who wouldn't thank me for trying it on him anyway) but just right what I had in mind.  It also wasn't nearly as fiddly as I expected it be, which I'm sure you will be very relieved about!

I've enjoyed watching how it's evolved from really too tiny to nearly right to being just how I wanted it to be.  It's taken a few incarnations, as you can see, but I'm really very pleased with it!



and as you know, socks always come in pairs!  The one on the left was knitted with a long circular needle and the one on the right with DPNs; obviously I knit more tightly with a long circular as the pattern is exactly the same!



Now, I'm sure you can think of plenty of better ways to display your teeny tiny socks than hastily pinning them on whilst persuading your daughter to take photos, but just so that you can get an idea of the size of them, you can wear them as single socks ...


or as a pair ...


or attach one or more of them to your bag.  


It certainly beats having to wave your feet in the air so that everyone can see your hand knits!  

At this point, it's important for me to say that whether you are meeting up with Sockalongers or not, it is in no way obligatory for you to have a teeny tiny sock to belong to the Sockalong, and neither it is obligatory for said sock, should you wish to make one, to be knitted.  I have simply suggested that a teeny tiny sock would be a good symbol for Sockalongers to recognise each other, and if you wanted to crochet one, felt one, model one from clay or make one in another way - that's absolutely fine by me, as is whether you want to wear one or not!

I created this sock as a top-down sock, just like the Sockalong sock, but instead of a heel flap I have used a short row heel so there's no picking up of stitches or gussets to deal with.  I decided that with a sock this small, it would be Beyond Fiddly and life's just too short for that kind of thing.  I used the no wrap, no gap method rather than attempting to wrap and turn - I've recently discovered this method of creating short row heels and like it very much.  You can read more about it here.  The other good thing, as you will have already realised, is that there is no need for a tension swatch and no worrying about whether it's going to fit perfectly.  It will be perfect just as you knit it! 

So, would you like the pattern, then?  OK, here goes!

You will need:

1 set of size 2.5mm DPNs or 1 circular needle (I used my 80cm one) 
spare 4ply yarn
safety pin
wool needle
scissors

I made my first sock with DPNs so we'll start with those first.  You only need 4 DPNs to make this sock.


Cast on 16 stitches and knit in K1, P1 rib for two rows.  I always cast on and knit my first two rows on straight needles before joining into the round because I think it's much easier to do it that way. You can get a reminder of how to do this here.


Split your stitches across three of the needles - 5 on needle 1, 5 on needle 2 and 6 on needle 3.


Knit each round for the next 10 rounds, then you're ready to start the heel.  You're going to work on the next 8 stitches, and you'll find it's easiest to slip the other 8 stitches onto a safety pin rather than try to keep the DPN in place.


Heel

Row 1:    Sl1 purlwise, K6, leave 1 stitch on needle, turn
Row 2:   Sl1 purlwise, P5, leave 1 stitch on needle, turn
Row 3:   Sl1 purlwise, K4, leave 2 stitches on needle, turn
Row 4:   Sl1 purlwise, P3, leave 2 stitches on needle, turn
Row 5:   Sl1 purlwise, K2, leave 3 stitches on needle, turn
Row 6:   Sl1 purlwise, P1, leave 3  stitches on needle, turn

You should have 3 "side" stitches on each needle (circled in this picture) and 2 stitches at the "top" of the heel.


Now we are going to create the rest of the heel.  This might look complicated but if you follow the instructions you'll find that it all works!

Row 7:   Sl1 purlwise, K1, sl1 purlwise, pick up bar between slipped stitch and next stitch on left hand needle (shown by the wool needle) ...


 place on right hand needle and k2tog through back of stitches, turn


Row 8:   Sl 1 purlwise, P2, sl1 purlwise, pick up bar between slipped stitch and next stitch on left hand needle (shown by the wool needle) ...


place on right hand needle and p2tog, turn


Row 9:   Sl 1 purlwise, K3, sl1 purlwise, pick up bar between slipped stitch and next stitch on left hand needle, place on right hand needle and k2tog through back of stitches, turn

Row 10: Sl 1 purlwise, P4, sl1 purlwise, pick up bar between slipped stitch and next stitch on left hand needle, place on right hand needle and p2tog, turn

Row 11:  Sl1 purlwise, K6, turn ** this is deliberate, I haven’t missed anything out! **

Row 12:  Sl1 purwise, P7, turn

Row 13:  K8

This is what your heel will look like.


Now we're going to join the rest of the stitches back in to complete the foot.  

You have 8 stitches on your needle.  Counting from the right, you want to leave 5 of those stitches on that needle, slip the next three off onto a new needle and then add another two from the safety pin and finally slip the rest of the stitches on the safety pin back onto another DPN.  This will give you 5, 5 and 6 stitches split across your needle again.  The start of the round will be at the end of the 5 heel stitches.  

Knit 8 rounds.

Toes

Your sock will now look like this:


You're going to start the toe decreases from the next stitch as follows:

Round 1:     SSK, K4, K2tog, SSK, K4, K2tog
Round 2:    Knit
Round 3:    SSK, K2, K2tog, SSK, K2, K2tog

Leave a tail of about 5-10 cm to finish off your toes.  Thread the yarn onto the wool needle, then slip the stitches off the needles onto the wool needle ...


and draw the yarn through stitches, pulling them tight.


Fasten off your yarn by putting the needle back into one or two stitches first to hold it secure, then weave the end into your sock.


And that's all there is to it!  Easy, eh?

Want to knit with a long circular?  No problem!

The loop will be very big but it's not unmanageable.  You can cast on and join into the round as you would do with a normal-sized sock - if you need a reminder you can get one here.


When it comes to the heel, you can just leave your spare stitches safely on the cable.


And when you need to create your toes then your needles are already in the right position.


Want to knit with a short circular?  Now, that's not so easy.  I did try just so that I could say that I'd done it, and it is possible - just about - but not with anything shorter than a 30cm needle.  I didn't find it very comfortable, I have to say, and soon swapped back to DPNs.  You can see here just how small the loops are.


So there you have it - one teeny tiny sock for the wearing of!  I love it that people are meeting up and hope to meet some of you up at Yarndale in September.  You should recognise me - I'll be wearing my teeny tiny socks, although not on my feet!



This pattern is shared for free, but if you would like to make a donation to big daughter's social project trip to Peru (you can read more about it here) then we would be very grateful.  The PayPal donation button is in the left hand sidebar!  Thank you! xx