Monday, June 27, 2011

Double Heelix: Taming your yarns

As the first wave of early adopters casts on their Double Heelix projects, another question many of them have been asking is: "how do you keep those 4 strands from becoming a tangled mess?"

Well, it does take a little doing, but less than you might think. There are three things I do that seem to keep the tangle at bay.

#1: Maintain consistent yarn positions relative to the work. This project is not a good one to knit while on the go. You can't toss all your yarn into one bag or basket without asking for trouble.

So, if you're this dude...

Your yarn 4 balls would be placed like so, relative to your work (and your person).

#2 Twist your work in the opposite direction that the yarn twists.
As demonstrated by this quick (0:20) Youtube video.

#3 If all else fails...
The little balls of yarn should be small enough that you can unwind them and pull the all the way out of the tangle. Then you can manually disengage the 2 large yarn balls from each other, and then wind up your small balls again.

Keep those questions coming, and I'll get to 'em as soon as I can!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Double Heelix: Demo video

Double Heelix went live three days ago, and I've been thrilled with the reception!

Here is a YouTube demo video I just put together, which walks you through the cast on and the first 2 cycles of the heel. It's definitely a challenging sock project to tackle, and I hope this makes it easier for knitters to get over the inital learning curve.

Thanks to everyone for your interest, I am honored. :)


Monday, June 20, 2011

Double Heelix!

The day has arrived. Knitty is up!

(Photo: Lorilee Beltman)

If you visit this article from the latest issue of, you'll see a project that has been long in-the-making. The design in the article is a version designed for high contrast, semisolid yarns, but there's more than one way to wrap a helix around a foot!

(Photo: Eddie Carden)

You'll recognize the knitty socks here (I'll call them "Flavor 1"), along with another flavor, kindly modeled by my sister-in-law.

In Flavor 1, the 4 strands that make the heel reduce to 2 at the ankle, which then split off to work either the cuff or the toe. The helix knitting ends at the ankle and the rest of the sock is stockinette worked in the round.

In Flavor 2, all 4 strands used for the heel continue to make the rest of the sock, but the 4 strands split into 2 sets at the instep. 1 strand of each color is worked in either direction, which changes the bold helix into a pinstripe helix.

(Photo: Jeny Staiman)

Flavor 2 is made with Blue Moon lightweight sock yarn, in colors Bejewelled and Korppi. The gauge for this yarn is slightly larger than that of Shibui/Koigu (I get 7.5 st/inch with BMFA lightweight and 8 st/inch with Shibui/Koigu). But if you are knitting for a medium, large, or extra-large foot, all you have to do is follow the knitty instructions for the size below the one you're making. Size S using Blue Moon will yield a medium-sized sock, and likewise, size M made with Blue Moon will yield a large-sized sock.

Now here's another flavor...

(Photo: Jeff Staiman)

I affectionately call these socks "Double Heelix On Acid" because they are made with a Rockin' Sock Club yarn called "Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test" (some readers may recognize it). The yarn was so bright, I thought it would benefit from some contrast with black, and this is where I ended up.

In this flavor (Flavor 3), after you finish working the heel, all 4 strands continue to make the next part of the sock. It doesn't matter whether you carry the 4 strands into the foot or the heel, so I made one of each!

Sizing with Flavor 3 is as with Flavor 2, since it also uses Blue Moon Yarn. Actually I'm not sure what I used for the black, it was something in my stash that matched the gauge. But if I were to pick a Blue Moon yarn it would definitely be Shadow.

There are yet more ways to explore this topic, and as I make my way through them, I will share them with you. Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Provisional Primer

(Updated June 10)

I've done a lot of thinking about how intersecting knitted parts fit together. Sock parts in particular. Like many knitters, I got holes at the corners whenever I picked up provisional sts, as you would with an afterthought heel. Not anymore! Getting a neat join with a provisional cast on is a key component of many patterns I'm currently working on, so I thought I'd offer some basics as a reference.

Part 1: Knitting over scrap yarn

One makes afterthought heels (or glove fingers, or moebius baskets, etc.) by knitting some of your live sts with scrap yarn, then knitting over these scrap yarn sts with working yarn. Later, one un-picks the scrap yarn and continues with a new strand of working yarn, and works the heel. That's it in a nutshell.

Here are some visual aids...

1. Decide where your opening is going to be, and how many sts will need to be picked up later (e.g., about 16 sts for a glove finger). Divide the number in half. That's the number of stitches you're going to mark with scrap yarn.

2. Knit the selected sts with scrap yarn (in this case, 8 sts).

3. Knit over the scrap yarn with working yarn (for illustration purposes, this is shown in a different shade, although in practice there is no need to use a different strand). The sts immediately above the scrap yarn are the provisional sts. Red arrows mark the direction in which you will work these sts (i.e., up!)

4. Continue knitting.

Once you've finished the section on top of the scrap yarn, you'll come back and remove the scrap yarn. As you un-pick, you would of course put the live sts onto your needles (light blue sts on one needle, dark blue on another needle). In my illustrations, I've purposely left the needles out. Just pretend they're there.

5. Here's the fabric with scrap yarn removed.

Now let's take a closer look at the provisional sts, just above where the scrap yarn was. When you knit these earlier, you had 8 loops going up, indicated by the red arrows. (Note that the 8 sts on the bottom of the opening, in light blue, also line up with these arrows.) Now you're going to pick up the loops from the underside of the provisional row and knit in the other direction. The black arrows indicate the direction you'll be knitting those loops.

Note that there are 7 live loops on the underside of the provisional row, one fewer than you had on the top. That's because the top and bottom of the provisional row are offset by 1/2 stitch.

And that brings up a little problem... see those holes on the outer edges where your scrap yarn was?

An easy way to tighten up this area is to pick up the sts on these edges, marked in green below, and put them on the needle with the dark blue sts.

Now you have one more stitch on the top than you do on the bottom, for a grand total of 17 sts around. Voila, a much better join!

Part 2: Using a provisional cast on

So far we've been talking about picking up provisional sts by knitting a partial row with scrap yarn, then knitting your provisional sts right over it. This is all well and good, but it limits you to having approximately the same number of sts on the top and bottom of your opening. What if you want to have more sts on one side?

Let's say we want to have 10 sts on the top, and the same 8 sts on the bottom. Rather than knitting those 8 sts with scrap yarn, just run a length of scrap yarn through them to act as a temporary stitch holder.

Next, cast on the desired number of sts with scrap yarn (e.g., 10 sts).

Lucy Neatby has an excellent video on how to do this kind of provisional cast on.

Next, knit over your cast on sts in the next row. 10 red arrows indicate the provisional sts and the direction you're working.

Keep knitting...

Now when you come back and un-pick your scrap cast on, you'll notice that, assuming you pick up the end sts, you will have 11 sts going in the other direction, marked with the black arrows. The 8 sts in the row below that were held with the scrap yarn are conveniently waiting for you to pick them up again, giving you a total of 19 sts around.

So in either case, if you have (x) provisional sts, you will have (x) going up and (x+1) going down, assuming you pick up the end sts.

I will note that I do still get little holes at the corners even when I pick up the edge sts. I typically get rid of the holes by distributing the extra slack along the adjacent sts. That way there's no need to use a strand of yarn to close the hole. Some knitters pick up additional sts and knit them together. Do whatever works for you!

A note to those of you who dismay at the idea of working a heel (or foot, or finger, etc.) with an uneven stitch count: Fret not. You can still Kitchener your sides together, so long as two conditions are met:

1. the number of sts on the two needles differs by 1,
2. the graft starts on the side with the greater number of sts.


Monday, June 6, 2011

Heelix: Teaser photos!

I have finished my first three working samples of Heelix and felt it was time to give folks a sense of what to expect at the Sock Summit next month. So, without firther ado...

On the left is a Heelix made with 2 variegated yarns from Prism. On the right is a Heelix made with 2 semisolid yarns from Smooshy. Both these socks were cast on at the heel, then the 2 strands divide at the ankle to make the leg and the foot, respectively.

These two socks show the wide range in color effect you can get depending on your yarn choices. The two Prism colors I picked (Alpine and Cabernet) overlap just a little bit in shade, making for a subtly-spiraling heel design with intermittent color convergence. The one on the right (the "manly" sock, so dubbed because my husband said to me, "hey, I'd actually wear that one." Harrumph.) is made with 2 shades of Smooshy: Grey Tabby and Black Pearl. In real life, the contrast is a little more evident than it is shown here.

Next we have here something a little different. And this begins to show the versatility of Heelix: did you know, you can use the Heelix cast on to make a helix toe, not just a helix heel? This gives you a helix all the way up the foot, then the 2 strands divide at the ankle to work heel and leg.

I knit this particular one using ToshSock in Citrus, and ShibuiSock in Pagoda.

So, Heelix used in combination with a sock construction worked entirely in the round is incredibly flexible. I am having a great time mixing and matching the colors in my yarns and my sock configurations. I hope this post will get my students psyched for what they will learn at the Sock Summit this July!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Interlock Bindoff: the Back Story

Have you seen the latest? In April 2011, Interlock Bindoff was published on Here’s a video I just put together as a demo.

Some of you might be wondering, what gives? Why is Jeny so obsessed with stretchy bindoffs?

A couple of years ago Jeny's Surprisingly Stretchy Bindoff was published in in I've been thrilled with the response, for the most part. But for the most part is a key caveat. Some people hated it, which kindof kept me up at night.

The folks I know who have more publications to their name tell me not to sweat it. "No one can please everyone," they say. Which is true. But since I make my living seeing the world through the eyes of others (my clients, my students, my 2 year-old, etc.), and since I am an insatiably curious person, I decided to examine the point of view of these knitters who didn't have great experiences with JSSBO. Maybe I could learn something from this?

My primary finding of interest was that some folks disliked JSSBO's appearance.

I think it's pretty, but that's a subjective opinion. However, it's a fact that JSSBO is quite visually prominent, so I wondered if I could come up with something that was just as elastic and snapped back just as well as JSSBO, but blended into the fabric more organically. Achieving high elasticity without flare was the real challenge here.

Since most cast ons don’t seem to have the same issues as bindoffs, I approached this challenge via reverse-engineering. Deconstructing the simple loop cast on is what ultimately led me to Interlock Bindoff.

I discovered a few months ago (ironically, just a couple days before Interlock went live) that I was not the first person to explore this topic. Those of you who are familiar with the brilliant Skew sock pattern will recognize the other intrepid explorer as our very own Lana Holden, who apparently is my evil twin in many respects, not just knitting.

All this said, I hope you’ll give Interlock a try. It’s a bit more fussy than JSSBO, given that it’s sewn. But for things like socks and cuffs that don’t have a ton of stitches, it’s the one I always use now!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

On to Sock Summit!

Look, look! Hey, that's me!

This summer at the Sock Summit, I will be teaching a class called "Heelix," which covers two topics:

1. Cast on and knit a heel using helix knitting,
2. Knit a sock from the heel-out.

The helix heel maps a double Archimedes Spiral to a heel shape, resembling a configuration something like this.

Heel-out socks follow this sequence of events (bearing in mind that you can switch the order of #3 and #4).

Stay tuned for upcoming posts containing more detail on some of the techniques used in this class. Although I won't be posting any class content, I will share some related fundamentals that will come in handy with all kinds of knitting projects, socks and beyond!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Judy's Magic Cast On, a-la-Jeny (video demo)

New! as of 6/19 2022, here is a video demonstrating the kinetics of  the method illustrated below. 

A bit over a year ago, I posted my version of Judy's Magic Cast On, which is very similar to the traditional version except that I start on the bottom needle. My original post is here. Then sometime after that, I re-engineered the first step, to make casting on easier and to make the end result neater. In the meantime, I also got some more practice using Adobe Illustrator. So I now present to you some updated illustrations of this excellent provisional cast on brought to you by the extremely clever & creative Judy Becker. In the illustrations below, blue indicates the working yarn, held with the thumb and wrapped over the top needle. Red indicates the tail, held with the forefinger and wrapped over the bottom needle. Starting position:

Position the 2 tips of a circular cable pointing to the left, and wrap the yarn around the bottom needle like so. (This will become your first cast on stitch.) Hold the working yarn with your thumb. Hold the tail with your forefinger. Step 1: Cast on the first top stitch. Bring the working yarn up behind the bottom needle and in front of the top needle.

Now swing your hand down behind the needles, as shown by the arrow. This will bring the working yarn over and around the top needle. The result will look like this. You have now cast on two stitches: one on the bottom needle, and one on the top needle.

Step 2: Cast on the next bottom stitch. Bring the tail up in front of the bottom needle and behind the top needle.

Step 3: Cast on the next top stitch. Bring the working yarn up behind the bottom needle and in front of the top needle, just as you did in Step 1. Swing your hand down behind the needles... ...and you will have two stitches on each needle. Repeat steps 2 and 3 until you have cast on the desired number of stitches. Then you can continue to knit with your working yarn.