Surprise! Socks

The mystery revealed. It’s the Surprise! Socks. Well, Surprise Sock, anyway. Second sock is on the needles.

At first, it looks like a normal sock, albeit one knit in Koigu KPPPM, gorgeous fingering-weight hand-painted yarn in 100% superwash merino wool.

But then you put it on and it’s actually lace ribbing with a butterfly on the foot–

…and another on the heel!

Toe closeup (only you will know– you, and anybody lucky enough to give you a foot massage):

Heel closeup (perfect for clogs):

Leg closeup (photo tip for sock photographers working solo– this is actually my arm):

A little bit of the outdoors for your feet when they’re indoors.


I posted recently about the Flutterby Socks, then noted in my last post that progress was being halted because of materials problems. Here’s what I mean:

The yarn is Heritage from Cascade, a 430 yd per 100g put-up in fingering weight that I bought at $13.50 for one skein. It’s 75% superwash merino wool, 25% acrylic.

I knitted a sock in it, washed the sock in warm water with shampoo and dried it in the dryer, all of which was in accordance with the directions. I then wore the sock for approximately 2 minutes in order to walk outside and take the following photo:

The problem is that the sock has already begun to show signs of wear, the kinds of wear that I’d expect of yarn after three or four days spent being walked all over. Certainly not reasonable wear from being washed once and worn for five minutes, tops.

Some pictures of the wear on the sole of the sock– some fuzzy areas, some beginning pills, and spots where the nylon (white fibers) appears to be working free of the wool.

Since these socks are meant to be gifted, I wasn’t at all happy. I then did what I recommend all dissatisfied customers do when they buy a product that doesn’t live up to expectations– I sent a polite email to the company describing my problem. I like Cascade yarns in general, have been happy with the results from using them, and was unpleasantly surprised at the performance of this yarn. Did the people at Cascade know about problems with the yarn?

I sent this email on a Sunday evening. I received a response within an hour. It was amazing! I may be unhappy with the yarn, but the fast and courteous response I got from Cascade was everything a person could hope for when corresponding with a company. Apparently this is the first they’ve heard of problems with Heritage, but they asked me for more details (color and dyelot), photos if possible and even to send them the sock or a swatch so they could check it for details. I’m putting the swatch in the mail tomorrow. They also offered to send me a replacement skein in the color of my choice– I chose Jade.

I hope that the problems with Cascade Heritage are limited to the color and dyelot I purchased, but if they’re not, Cascade’s response has convinced me that the problems will be remedied. I’ll let y’all know once I try out that replacement skein. In the meantime, I still plan to finish the second Flutterby sock– I’ve just turned the heel.

Mystery picture

I have been distracted from the Flutterby Socks by some materials problems, which I will describe more in a later post. In the meantime, I’ve been working on a new project– here’s a teaser:

Flutterby Sock

Houston, we have a sock.

The butterfly pattern is modified slightly from Nicky Epstein’s Knitting Over the Edge.

Made from Cascade Heritage sock yarn, 75% merino superwash, 25% nylon, 437 yards/100 g per skein, on size 2 needles.

I fully expect to have yarn left over when I’m done with the second sock.

I know my previous post on set-in sleeves, though intended to be simple, was still a welter of lots of words and formulas and scary things.  For your (and my) immediate sleeve-designing needs, here’s a cheat-sheet with just the formulas for calculating a basic set-in sleeve.

For expanded detail or information about how to get measurements A – D, refer to Jenna Wilson’s Knitty article or this KnittingHarpy post or both.

Shaping a Set-In Sleeve Cap Using Armscye Measurements 

Numbers to Measure
Your gauge.
A: The inches of your initial armpit bindoff in the sweater body ______
B: Half the perimeter of your armscye, in inches ______
C: The final bindoff of the sleeve cap, which is typically between 2″ and 2.5″ ______
D: Half the width of your sleeve at its widest point ______
Numbers to Calculate
F: Armscye perimeter unaccounted for after initial and final bind offs: F = B – (A + C) ______
G: Half sleeve width minus initial bind off: G = DA ______
X: Height of sleeve cap: X2 = F2G2 ______
H: Width to decrease away: H = GC ______
Convert H to stitch gauge: H* ______
Convert X to row gauge: X* ______

Your Sleeve Cap Instructions

Decrease H* stitches evenly on each side across X* rows, in addition to initial bind off A and final bindoffs 1/2 C and 1/2 C, to create your sleeve cap. Never decrease more than one stitch per side per row. If you have too few rows, add some additional rows to the sleeve cap, and remember: Too big is better than too small.

SSSP 5: The Sweater!

Meet the Sideways Striped Sweater. Despite all the last few days’ posts, I’m really quite happy with it.

Why thank you, I knit it myself.

Varying the width of the vertical stripes prevents the dreaded Garfield-watermelon effect.

Garter borders on hems and sleeve ends are so neat and elegant.

My favorite thing about designing my own knits: Shoulders that are broad enough and hips that are wide enough. It’s a thrill.

Yarn: 9 skeins Jaeger Extra Fine Merino DK, from Yarns Etc., 4 in tan and 5 in green.
Needles: Size 6 and size 5 circular needles, size 6 and size 5 dpns.
Pattern: Self-designed. Body knit sideways, sleeves knit cuff-up, neckband and bottom hem picked up and knit on afterward.

Photography by my incredible husband, who makes me smile. Freakishly multi-colored hair real and natural, yet inexplicable.

ETA: Check out the worksheet I’ve put together as a quick-and-easy alternative to this text.

I love set-in sleeves in a ridiculous way. I think they’re stylish and flattering. They’re also, as we’ve all been told, the hardest sleeve to design and the hardest sleeve to attach to the sweater body. Here, I’ll be talking about how to design a set-in sleeve in a way that’s reasonably easy and involves very little trigonometry.

I had a terrible time with the sleeves on the SSS. I ended up knitting the sleeve caps three times, and seaming them onto the sweater three times. Ugh! I think the problem is that everyone is always telling me how complicated set-in sleeves are. I questioned my judgment, and as a result, had an awful time getting things right. What I’d like to do here is explain the mistakes I made and how I fixed them, and in the process explain the simplest way to design a good-fitting set-in sleeve cap.

My personal set-in sleeve guide is Jenna Wilson’s Knitty article. It is fantastic, and I recommend it unreservedly. In case you’re feeling a bit lost in it, however, here’s my simplified breakdown of what you need to know to design a sleeve cap:

FYI: Armscye == the armhole you shape in the body of your knitted garment, and to which you attach the sleeve.

  1. The inches of your initial armpit bindoff in the sweater body, A.
  2. Half the perimeter of your armscye, in inches, B
  3. The final bindoff of the sleeve cap, which is typically 2.25″, C
  4. Half the width of your sleeve at its widest point, D.
  5. Your gauge.

A, C and D:

A, C and D are relatively easy to get. It’s #B that seems to be the killer. Jenna recommends heavy doses of trigonometry, and it’s definitely a method that works, if you do the math right and don’t forget any numbers. But you can also do it a simpler, if less precise, way.

1. You’ll need a piece of string, and your blocked sweater with the armhole.
2. Lay the sweater down flat on the ground. Without stretching the string, lay it down on the knitting so that it follows the curve of the armhole from side seam to shoulder seam, as shown in this picture:


3. Pick up the string, careful to keep track of the length you’ve just determined. Maybe you could just cut the string at that point?

The length of that string is approximately half the perimeter of your armscye. It is important to lay the string down on the knitting and not on the ground beside the knitting on the inside of the armscye, since laying it along the inside of the armhole curve will cause you to underestimate the armscye perimeter.

So now you have A,B, C and D, plus your gauge. Here’s how you figure out your sleeve cap math:

Your goal is to get a sleeve cap whose perimeter is equal to the perimeter of your armscye, or B * 2. Since you’ll be doing the same shaping on each side of the sleeve cap, we’ll just figure out the math for one half of the sleeve cap, and you can do the exact same thing on the other side.

First, we have to take care of the lengths of the perimeter already accounted for by your initial and final bind offs. We’ll call that leftover perimeter F.

F = B (total perimeter) – (A (stitches you bound off right away) + 1/2 * C (remember, we’re only doing half the sleeve) + 1/2 * C)

So far, you know you’ve bound off A inches to start, which takes care of a certain number of inches of your perimeter. And you know that at the END of the sleeve, you’re going to bind off 1/2 * C stitches and in the row before that, another 1/2 * C stitches. Together, these form the flattish top of the sleeve cap. That takes care of some of your perimeter, but you still have all the space between the beginning and the end of the sleeve cap to deal with.

Now the trigonometry comes in. The Pythagorean Theorem states that, if the two shorter sides of a triangle are called x and y, then the third side, z, can be attained through this formula:

x2 + y2 = z2

Why do we care? Well, the perimeter you have left, F, represents z, the long side of the triangle. The base of the triangle y is G, calculated as D – A, or half your sleeve width minus the armpit stitches you already bound off. The height of the triangle, x, will be the height of your sleeve cap, and it’s what we need to know.

So to get it, you plug in the numbers:

x2 + G2 = F2

Which, if you rearrange it to put all the things you know on one side and the things you don’t know on the other side, is the same as:

x2 = F2G2

Solve for x by taking the square root of F2G2. x is the height of your sleeve!

So now you know that you have a sleeve cap that is x inches high, not counting the rows you used to cast off in the beginning (A) and at the end (C). And you are left with H = D (half sleeve width) – A (inches bound off at start) – C (inches bound off at end) , the number of inches of width you need to decrease on each side of the sleeve as you get to that height.

Now it’s time to bring stitches back into the equation. If you convert H from inches to stitches using your stitch gauge, you know how many stitches you need to decrease away. If you convert x from inches to stitches using your row gauge, you know how many rows you have to do those decreases in.

You can choose to do your decreases regularly, or to do more decreases at the beginning and end of the sleeve cap and fewer in the middle, which will get you closer to the classic bell shape. For what it’s worth, I did the SSS sleeve cap with regularly-spaced decreases.

If you have so many stitches to decrease that you would need to decrease more than one stitch per side per row, you can add a few rows more to the sleeve cap to keep things smooth. Better a sleeve cap that’s a bit big (up to one additional inch in the perimeter) than too small.