Wednesday, December 14, 2022

Shredding the Envelope

My latest pattern, Soliton Wave, was released by Anzula on Dec 1. Here's my KBFF Brenda being the perfect model! 

Brenda also hosts a long running podcast, Cast On. Her latest episode, #185, "Knitting Adjacent," features an interview with me about this pattern.

There's something important about this pattern that's not evident from pictures alone... the format that I used to communicate the detailed instructions is completely new. I created it especially for this pattern, because traditional formats just didn't cut it. Below is the story of how and why I came up with the instructional format I use in the pattern. For a bite-sized pattern featuring my new format, please check out my free pattern Rosetta Stone.

Visual thinking

When it comes to knitting instructions, I have long wished for more than just basic row-by-row instructions. Sometimes there's also a grid chart, but if there are any increases or decreases, a grid chart doesn't resemble what comes off the needles. 

Example of how a grid chart shows decreases... a lot of empty squares.

Knitting is a three dimensional creative experience, and a grid shows only two dimensions. I often find that well-crafted photographs of a knitted item give me more useful information than any detailed instructions, because my brain perceives most knitting instructions as noise.

Soliton Wave would not exist without my two primary design building tools: Excel, and Stitch Maps. You've probably heard of Excel, but how about Stitch Maps? I got to know its creator, JC Briar, after she had finished the underlying science but before she had launched it. It is an incredible visualization tool, and a perfect complement to my strange brain. 

The basic structural building blocks of Soliton Wave are increases and decreases, used as surface decoration, to create curving channels of purl stitches. My first design that featured this effect was Tachyon, a clocks sock worked from the toe up. In Tachyon, the curves are parallel, so the rhythm of working knits, purls, increases and decreases across any given row is relatively straightforward. 

Soliton Wave, however, takes those waves and staggers them longitudinally. 

When the waves are staggered like this, the rhythm of movements across any individual row is harder to follow. Unfortunately, standard knitting instructional formats don't provide the visualization power that a pattern like this needs.

So, I came up with my own format.

Shred the Envelope

In essence, my new format is an annotated Stitch Map. It is an outgrowth of how I design my patterns (build in Excel, render in Stitch Maps; then iterate, rinse and repeat.) I'll walk you through how I design, and how that led me to create the format for Soliton Wave. 

Starting out in Excel, here is a sample single column that expands and contracts in size, based on placement of increases and decreases over a series of rounds. (This shows the RS view.) I've added some green and red shading to help show where the curve expands and contracts. Think of this as a building block of a larger design.

If I plug this into Stitch Maps, this is what I get.

Now I can add more columns in Excel, separated by purl channels, and stagger the vertical position of these columns. The cell with the border around it in each column is the base of each curve. Can you see the pattern? Each column is offset from its neighbor by 4 rounds.

Plugging that into Stitch Maps, you get this:

If I were limited to using traditional formats for writing up this design, I would have to transform my excel table and stitch map into this:

I don't know about you, but when I look at these traditional instructions I have a difficult time seeing any visual relationships, whereas they are so clear to me in Excel and Stitch Maps. And this is just a swatch; when scaled up to a full size scarf or wrap, it becomes very difficult to navigate instructions in either of these formats.

So, let's take my little Excel table and re-sort the columns and rows to line up with the stitch map. Like any chart, it starts at the bottom right corner. Columns are laid out from right to left, the direction in which we knit; instructions inside each cell read from left to right, the direction in which we read.

Can I just take a moment here to kvetch about how terribly inconvenient it is for me as a knit designer, that we read in the opposite direction than we knit!

Just to make it a little easier to visualize the relationship between Excel and Stitch Maps, here's that stitch map again, this time indicating the same stitch that is boxed in the Excel chart.

The problem I faced now was how to express the WS rows. When I'm building a design I always write it from the RS of the fabric. But if the fabric is worked back and forth, the instructions need to change the direction of the WS rows, and swap knits for purls. This is a pain to do, and it completely wrecks the visualization of the curves traveling longitudinally along the fabric. What a mess!

But there's a simple solution here. Since all the shaping happens on RS rows, I dropped all WS rows from my little chart, and added general instructions to work every WS row in pattern (knit the knits, purl the purls).

And now we have this. 

Which is, I think, so much better than this:

If you build it, they will come.

I know it's madness for me to come up with a completely new format. Knitters are accustomed and attached to the formats that they use, and my new format is completely unlike anything else out there. I have no idea how this will land. But I needed to do this. I'm sure I'm not the only knitter out there who struggles to visualize the end result from existing traditional formats. I needed to break out of that box and trust myself. I did this for me, but I hope it will help others. 


Friday, July 8, 2022

Tachyon: KAL Week 3

 Hello knitters!

A few of you have contacted me with questions about where to start the heel. I realize that the starting point for the heel is probably a bit counter-intuitive, so here are some visuals.

If you are working a standard toe-up sock, this is probably the point where you would start working the gusset, and this is where you would start working the sole flap for JSPH. 

The first picture shows where the sock would come to if unstretched.  This is right at the top of the arch, where the foot circumference begins to increase. (Please forgive my black fingers... I'd just made myself a blueberry smoothie!)

The next picture shows where the sock should comfortably stretch to. This is about 1 inch of negative ease.

Here is a review shot, JSPH is on the right, standard square heel on the left. It might be hard to see the sole flap (blue) but the heel back (red) is right above it, so that shows you how long the sole flap is. See how, with JSPH, it reaches all the way to the middle of the arch. 

For more specifics on JSPH, please visit the blog post here

Saturday, June 25, 2022

Tachyon: Collected errata

Howdy knitters!

Unless/until I send out new file updates, I'm keeping track of emerging errata here and also on the Ravelry Pattern page (bottom of the Notes field.)

Latest errata found:

All sizes, in the Heel section, under Working the Heel turn, Row 4 (WS) reads "Sl 1 p1 wyif..."  Alas, that p1 is supposed to be a pw

New addition to the pattern! 

Earlier today I sent a pdf file with a table listing the detailed line by line instructions for working the asynchronous clocks. If you purchased the pattern via Ravelry you should have also received an update from them. The index file applies to all sizes.

Previous updates to each size (v4 for sizes XS, S and M, v5 for size L) fixed the following errata and points of confusion:

- there were several numerical typos in the size Large.
- link to Judy's Magic Cast On,
- a little more detail about negative ease, and determining the right size,
- correct (!) page numbers

I'll keep you posted of anything else that turns up.  

Friday, June 24, 2022

Tachyon KAL: Week 2

UPDATED 6/25 a few hours after the KAL. An astute participant spotted that I had mixed up "Outside" and "Inside" in the instructions below. Gaah! Sorry about that. It's now fixed. Hopefully this wasn't up long enough to mess anybody up. Please feel free to email me ( with any questions. 

Hello Tachyon knitters!

I've received a few questions from folks who have reached the round in the left sock where the clocks patterns start, and are unsure how to proceed (this is round 15[18, 21, 24] for sizes XS[S, M, L] respectively). 

First of all, please bear in mind that it's hard to write a pattern that is intuitive for all learning styles. That's precisely why I'm available for questions. I'm glad that some of you are reaching out. Please do continue to do so. :) 

Context: each ROUND of the sock includes a ROW of each of the clock patterns. Knowing this terminology may help you follow this post, and the pattern.

The idea I'm trying to express with the table format in the pattern is that when you get to round 15[18, 21, 24], of the LEFT sock, you'll begin a rhythm in which you will always k13[15, 17, 19], then work a row of the the Inside clock, then k15[19, 23, 27], then work a row of the Outside clock, then k to end. 

Round 15[18, 21, 24]:
K13[15, 17, 19], {Row 1 Outside: M1R, k1, p1, k1, p1, ssk, k3}
k15[19, 23, 27], {Row 1 Inside: K1, k2tog, p1, k1, M1L},
k14[16, 18, 20]

Round 16[19, 22, 25]:
K13[15, 17, 19], {Row 2 Outside: K2, p1, k1, p1, k4},
k15[19, 23, 27], {Row 2 Inside: K2, p1, k2},
k14[16, 18, 20]

Round 17[20, 23, 26]:
K13[15, 17, 19], {Row 3 Outside: K1, M1R, k1, p1, k1, p1, ssk, k2},
k15[19, 23, 27], {Row 3 Inside: K2tog, p1, k1, M1L, k1},
k14[16, 18, 20]

Round 18[21, 24, 27]:
K[15, 17, 19], {Row 4 Outside: K3, p1, k1, p1, k3},
k15[19, 23, 27], {Row 4 Inside: K1, p1, k3},
k14[16, 18, 20]

From here, hopefully it makes sense that on the next round of the sock you will work the next row of the Inside and Outside clocks (in this case Row 5 of both), then the next, etc. until you reach the end of the Inside clock (because that's only 16 rows high as opposed to 24 rows for the Outside clock). After you finish Row 16 of the Inside clock, begin again on Row 1. The two clock hands are not synchronized so the Outside clock will not restart on Row 1 when you restart the Inside clock.  It's important to find a way to keep track of where you are, and to be able to read your knitting so you can see how many rows down your last increases and decreases were. (Or, go offroad and synchronize the clocks. Whatever works! Remember, this is supposed to be fun for you.) 

JFYI: How I do it: 
As a magic loop knitter, I'm accustomed to dividing whatever I'm working on into 2 parts. I personally find it easier to keep track of the asynchronous shaping if I shift over the start of my round so that the instep sts are one one needle and the sole sts are on the other. If you're wondering why the round didn't start this way in the first place: It's because the toe shaping is a little tricky as the clocks nudge upwards from the midline into the instep, and I think it's easier to keep track if I center the round in the middle of the sole. On round 13[16, 19, 22] the shaping has finished moving onto the instep, so after that is when I shift around my sts. 

After shifting over the start of my round, this is how I would work Round 15[18, 21, 24]:

Needle 1: {Row 1 Outside: M1R, k1, p1, k1, p1, ssk, k3}, k15[19, 23, 27] {Row 1 Inside: K1, k2tog, p1, k1, M1L};
Needle 2: K to end.

Hopefully you get the idea. I can talk more about this in the KAL.

Sunday, June 19, 2022


My latest sock design, Tachyon, is now available on Ravelry. It's a clocks sock worked from the toe up, utilizing all three of the new sock techniques posted recently on this blog (My Edge, Banditoe, and Jeny's Square Peg Heel/JSPH).  

I published this design through Madeline Tosh. I have been a fan of these guys for years and this is the first design I've developed for them (the first of many, I'm sure!) They have been AMAZING to work with. If you are not familiar with their yarns, you must go take a look. They have been incredibly supportive of me as a designer so they get major good karma points. 

I'm currently leading a KAL through Tosh for their vacation sock-a-long, and as of this writing (6/19/2022) there are still three sessions left. I hope you will hop on board. Based on the questions from yesterday's session, I've put together a video demonstrating how to get started.

If you are up to the heel, please visit this video, also available through the My Edge post. 
0:00 - Pick up and knit
4:23 - Pick up and purl
6:58 - Working decreases with picked up sts 

 Thanks and stay tuned!

Judy's Magic Cast On, My Way (video)

Follow up to this post from 2011 in which I illustrate my method of executing Judy's Magic Cast On (JMCO). Here is a video!

Monday, May 23, 2022

Banditoe (The Banded Toe)

Banditoe is a variation on the classic wedge heel, in which the sides of the wedge go all the way across the foot, in a band. 

Yes I realize it has a funny name. It's an ode to the humor of incorrect autocorrects. The story: I came up with this toe configuration with the help of my friend Brenda Dayne. We text each other a lot, and at the time I was calling this the "banded toe." But my phone kept autocorrecting it to "Bandit Toe."  So we decided to just go with it, and named it Banditoe!

The method consists of three basic steps.  If you're working toe up:

1. Cast on sts provisionally.

2. Work a small tab back and forth.

3. Shift to working in the round; pick up and knit sts along each side of the tab, then continue working regular increase rounds until you reach the target stitch count for the foot.


Instructions are written for an 8-stitch band in fingering weight yarn, 8 or 9 st/inch, but Banditoe can be worked in whatever width band you choose, and worked to any size, any desired final stitch count.

1. Cast on 16 sts using JMCO (8 sts on each needle), rotate 180°.

2. Starting and ending with a knit row, work 7 rows back and forth in stockinette stitch, slipping the first st pw at the beginning of each. (9 rows total)

3. Shift to working in the round, and continue with toe shaping.

This involves picking up and knitting edge sts using the My Edge method. Using My Edge is important with Banditoe because the traditional method leaves a seam on the inside, and especially at the toes I find this is uncomfortable.

- Pick up and k tbl 4 sts along the edge.  

4 edge stitches viewed from the WS.

Here the outer legs have been picked up but not yet worked.

4 edge stitches picked up and each worked tbl.

- Now k8 to the other side of the band, pick up and k tbl 4 sts along other edge in the same way.  24 sts.

Once you have picked up sts along both edges, k22, stop; this leaves the last 2 sts in the round unworked. Group them with the next 10 sts on one side; 12 st remain on the other side. The band is now in the middle on each side. Image shows the sts ready for being worked on a magic loop.

Now simply follow the chart below. You may choose whatever increase pattern that works for you; I like to work the first 4 increase rounds consecutively, then the next 5 alternating with a non-shaping round.

Banditoe can also be worked top down. I don’t have a tutorial yet for working in this direction, but conceptually it’s the opposite of the three steps for working toe up:

1. Work regular shaping (decrease) rounds until you are almost at the tip of the toe.

2. Work a band back and forth a few times, decreasing on each side (like turning a heel).

3. Graft.


Wednesday, May 18, 2022

My Square Heel (toe up!)

Flap & turn heels don't have to be worked cuff down! 

When working a square heel using the traditional cuff down method, first you work a flap, and then you turn it at the base. Hence the name "flap & turn." Then you pick up sts along the sides of the flap and work gusset decreases in the round. 

Toe up, you simply work in the opposite order:

1. Increase by the number of desired gusset sts.
2. Work the sole as a flap.
3. Pick up the edge sts around the sole flap, then work back-and-forth across the heel back, working the last stitch on each side with a gusset stitch on each turn. 

This is why I want to avoid using the term "heel flap." It's used to describe the flap worked at the back of the heel. However, when you work toe up, the sole is the flap, and the heel back is the turn. 

The traditional proportions for the Dutch/square heel are 1/2 of total stitches for the back of the heel, and 1/3 of those stitches for the sole. This creates a small gusset and a narrow band at the sole, like this. 

 Source: Folk Socks, Nancy Bush (Interweave Press, 1994). 

I personally prefer to work my sole over 2/3 of the heel back. This simple change improves the fit greatly IMO; the sole (blue) is now the same width as the weight-bearing part of my heel, and it leaves more room in the gusset.

If you work a flap & turn heel from the toe up, you have to know how many stitches and rows you'll need in the different parts of the heel before you knit it. So I’ve put together a chart with the numbers you'll need. (Note this is not a custom fit worksheet. For custom fit socks, Kate Atherley is your guru.)

Click on the chart to see a larger image.


Detailed instructions 

1. Work the gusset increases

It's up to you to determine where to begin your gusset increases. I start mine at about the middle of my arch.

Starting with 48[56, 64, 72, 80] sts, increase by 2 sts every other round until you have increased by 9[10, 11, 12, 13] sts on each side of the sock.  

2. Work the sole as a flap.

Select the desired location for the sole of the foot. From the center of this location, k 8[9, 10, 11, 12] sts, turn. Sl 1 pw, p 15[17, 19, 21, 23] sts, turn. 

Black: foot. Purple: Gusset. Blue: sole flap.

Work the sole flap back and forth over a total of 8[10, 12, 14, 16] rows. You should be able to count 4[5, 6, 7, 8] sts along each edge of the flap, starting 1 row below the live sts on the needle, up to & including in the last full round below the flap. 

For a detailed tutorial on how I pick up and work the edge stitches of a heel flap, please see this companion post on my blog.  

Stitches along the RS left edge. The purple stitch is from the last round worked before the flap. This sole flap is 8 rows high. 

3. Work the heel back.

Pick up and knit tbl 4[5, 6, 7, 8] sts along the RS left edge of the sole flap, working the last into an ssk with the adjacent gusset stitch to its left, turn. Sl 1 pw, purl back to other edge of the sole flap, pick up and purl 4[5, 6, 7, 8] sts along WS left edge, working the last into a p2tog with the adjacent gusset stitch, turn.

* Pro-tip #1: The ssk and p2tog on this first set of turns will each have a gap if you work them traditionally. See ssk example below. For more details on working these two decreases please visit this post, section 3, "working decreases with picked up sts," which goes into detail on this point.

The image below shows stitches picked up along the R edge of the sole flap (viewed from RS). Note how the sts lean the opposite way from normal. When you purl these sts (from the WS) they will twist in the opposite direction as the sts on the other side of the flap. 

Now that you have incorporated the sts along both sides of the sole flap, work back and forth across the heel back, each time ending with an ssk (RS) or p2tog (WS), until you have decreased all the gusset sts you created earlier and you have returned to your original stitch count of 48[56, 64, 72, 80] sts. The heel is now complete and you can resume working in the round. 

* Pro-tip #2: To avoid having a gap at the top of the heel back on the right side, after you work the last ssk, continue working around the front of the sock, and work that last decrease as a k2tog from the RS. In the image below, do a k2tog into the first 2 sts on the L needle.

* Pro-tip #3: I always get loose stitches on the left side of my heel back. To help with this, I use the hungry stitch method to tighten up this side. Even after using hungry stitch, I still manually distribute the slack across the rows as needed. In the photo below, the stitches in the lower half of the heel back have been manually adjusted, and those in the upper half have not. 

Friday, April 22, 2022

My Edge.

I often come up with my own knitting methods instead of using traditional ones, and picking up & working edge stitches is no exception. The traditional method works well for sweaters, but I don’t think it’s the best method for socks. 

In this post I will cover the following:

  • Brief review & recommended tutorials for traditional method of picking up and knitting edge sts
  • Tutorial for my method, and why I prefer it to the traditional one
  • Details specific to working flap & turn heels from the toe up, like JSPH (Jeny's Square Peg Heel)

I will start with a brief word about the last point above, because JSPH has completely transformed the way I think about working edge sts. If you’re working a flap & turn heel from the toe up, picking up and knitting the flap edge stitches is only part of the picture. You also have to pick up and purl on the opposite side of the flap, and also work decreases with picked up sts on the first row. Neither of these is hard to do, just slightly fussy.

If you prefer learning by video rather than still images, I made this video just for you. 

0:00 - Pick up and knit
4:23 - Pick up and purl
6:58 - Working decreases with picked up sts 

Traditional Method

Here is an example photo of what the traditional method of picking up and knitting sts looks like worked in stockinette, RS and WS.

There are lots of tutorials available on the internet on “How to pick up and knit edge stitches.” These generally all demonstrate the same method. I personally recommend this photo tutorial on Modern Daily Knitting written by Kate Atherley, and this illustrated tutorial by TECHknitter (“Added Yarn Method” section). Bear in mind that with socks, it’s not necessary to skip every 2nd or 3rd stitch as you would need to do if you were making a sweater or large garment. 

My Method

Let me explain why I don’t use the traditional method when I’m making socks. Look closely at the photos above. The RS looks ok, but on the WS you can see there is a prominent seam. This is fine for sweaters, but for socks it is potentially uncomfortable. 

Whereas, this is what I get when I do it my way:

Viewed from the RS, the two methods just look a little different.

But, viewed from the WS, you can see that my method eliminates the bulk of the seam.

I do think the traditional method looks nicer on the inside than mine does. But if it's on the inside, I'm much more concerned about comfort than I am about appearance. 

There are two key structural differences between my method and the traditional one: 1) I pick up and work through only the outside leg of the edge stitch, rather than both legs; 2) I twist the leg in a particular way as I work it. 

Tutorials on the traditional method often state that working edge stitches through both legs makes the joint more secure, but that's not necessarily the case. The real game changer is to twist the picked up leg as you work it. 

Let’s zoom out for a minute...

See how the traditional method is taller at the joint? And the gauge of the new sts (off-white) is slightly expanded right there? And the edge sts (purple) pooch out a little bit? These are all subtle indicators that the traditional method is looser and therefore less secure than mine. Again I’m sure it works well for sweaters, but for socks I think my method works better.

Tutorial - My method

Here is what the flap looks like just before I start working edge stitches. The example shows a sock heel sample. The colors indicate different parts: the purple section represents the foot, the blue section is the flap, and the magenta working yarn represents the first row of edge stitches. Rows begin and end in the middle of the flap.

It's easier to see the stitches on the WS. There are exactly 12 edge stitches that I'm going to pick up, numbered 1-12  below. Stitch #1 is immediately below the last stitch worked, and stitch #12 is actually below the first turn of the flap; the color change indicates that this stitch was worked in the round. 

The stitches can each be picked up and immediately worked, or you can pick them all up first and then work them. I personally prefer to pick them all up before working any of them. I start at #12 and work my way up to #1, but the direction of pickup doesn't matter.

To pick up: I insert the R needle into the middle of the edge stitch, then continue to the next. I typically use a needle 1-2 sizes smaller, because these can be tight.

The resulting row of sts will sit on the R needle just like normal stitches, leading with right leg in front.

Once the stitches are all picked up, knit each one through the back leg. (Note that stitch #1 has been worked once already.) This will twist each stitch and tighten up the joint.  

*Note that if you are working a toe-up flap & turn heel, there will be an ssk at the end of the row. This decrease and the p2tog on the other side are worked a little differently from normal. This is discussed in more detail in the last section.

The picked up stitches can be twisted either way, but I prefer the look of them when they are twisted as described above. Below is a comparison example - the stitches on the right half were twisted in the other direction. These are slightly looser and  more prominent. 

Toe up flap & turn heels 

So far I’ve given you everything you need to know for using my edge stitch method with a standard cuff down flap & turn heel. For working toe up, there are some remaining details to cover.

Picking up and purling

(Jump to 4:23 in my video)

Picking up and purling is slightly trickier than picking up and knitting, but it is not difficult. I find it easiest to hold the flap WS facing me with the edge at the bottom, then rotate it in order to work the purls. Note that even though you have worked down and back from the other side, there are the same number of rows on this side from which you will pick up stitches. Once again, stitch #1 is immediately below the one just worked, and stitch #12 was worked in the round just below the flap.

To pick up: I insert the R needle into each edge stitch, then continue to the next. 

This time, the stitches sit on the needle in the opposite direction, leading with the right leg in back.

Now purl each stitch through its front (left) loop. When you turn it to the RS, you will see that the picked up stitches twist in the opposite direction as those on the other side of the flap. 

Working decreases with picked up stitches

(Jump to 6:58 in my video)

If you are working a toe up flap & turn heel, your first RS and WS row of the heel back are worked as you are simultaneously picking up and working sts. This calls for a bit of jiggery-pokery.

In both cases, if you work the decrease normally you will get a hole. This is what the ssk would look like if worked normally:

So in order to hide this hole, you will twist only the front stitch. When working the ssk, slip the first st purlwise so that it still sits on the needle leading with right leg in front. Slip the next st knitwise. Now both sts lean towards each other on the back side of the needle. 

Slip both sts back to the L needle purlwise, then k2 tbl. The resulting decrease twists to the left, just like all the other edge sts that were picked up and knitted (tbl).

To work the adjusted decrease on the purl side, you do something very similar. Both sts are already in the position you need -- they lean towards each other on the front side of the needle. 

With the sts in this position, work a p2tog. When you turn back to the RS, you will see that this decrease now twists to the right, matching the other edge sts.

I work these adjusted decreases on the first rows only; for subsequent rows I work regular ssk's and p2tog's. 

Thanks for reading!