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Photo Credit: Deb Hickman

We’re getting ready to begin The Handmade Sock Society Season 3! We’re just days away from the start of presales! I’ve really been looking forward to this launch: sock knitters are such a fun and adventurous bunch, and these secret pattern collections always have such an exciting build up. Since the buzz began, I’ve heard from a lot of new sock knitters, or knitters who really want to join in with the fun but have been too intimidated to tackle the mystery of the sock. First of all, you’re not alone! A lot of people find the prospect of socks daunting. But the secret is that they’re not all that tricky. Honest.

Over the last two years, I’ve put together something we’ve taken to calling “The Sock Series”. They stated as emails and ended up here on the blog by popular demand. It a collection of tips, tricks, and resources on sock-knitting techniques that should make your first foray into the wonderful world of socks a little less scary. I’ve collected links to all those posts here:

Part 1 of The Sock Series: Choosing Yarn

Part 2 of The Sock Series: Needles and Techniques

Part 3 of The Sock Series: Casting On

Part 4 of The Sock Series: Avoiding Holes in the Gusset

I’ve also just posted another episode: it was sent to Curious Handmade Newsletter Subscribers last year and it’s a subject I still get a lot of questions on:

Part 5 of The Sock Series: Closing the Toes

I hope you find them helpful! And if there’s anything else about sock knitting that worries you, or if there’s another sock-knitting topic you think we should add to the series, let me know!

In the run up to the launch of The Handmade Sock Society Season 3, I’m bringing back our handy “Sock Series”. These are simple go-to-guides for the parts of sock-knitting that tend to scare off beginners.

This is our fifth guide to sock-knitting techniques! Today I’m going to discuss the Kitchener Stitch, a brilliant way to get a seamless finish on your socks.

Once you’ve knit to the very end of your sock’s toe, you need a way to close up that hole. You could just run your yarn tail through all the stitches and pull it tight (like the top of a hat) but that’s not very true to the shape of most feet. You could bind off and then just whipstitch the edges of the toes together, but that would result in a fairly bulky seam: not the most comfortable, especially when pressed against the toe of your shoe. So how do you take those live stitches and end up with a smooth finish (with no annoying seam)? Our friend the Kitchener Stitch.

I’ll be the first to admit that as a newer knitter I found this technique daunting. I’m afraid it was a major contributor to my Second Sock Syndrome for years! It’s not at all difficult, but I kept having to look it up every time I wanted to finish a sock. In the end, it was just a matter of practice. Now I think it’s very satisfying, and even quite fun. Hopefully, by the end of this email, you’ll think so, too!

The Kitchener Stitch is also known as grafting or weaving. It’s a very clever method that allows you to marry two sets of live stitches together into an invisible seam. It can look pretty complicated when you see the steps written out, but in reality, it is very simple, and it’s easy to get into a rhythm. All you have to do is start.

The very clever and generous Very Pink has made a few excellent video tutorials for the Kitchener Stitch

She also has a brilliant slow-mo version!

For visual learners, I think videos (and especially those slow-motion videos!) are hard to beat! I know some people do prefer to see the written instructions, too. Sometimes it’s just a bit quicker to glance at the instructions to refresh your memory than it is to rewatch a video.

How to do the Kitchener Stitch:

First, distribute your stitches evenly onto two needles, with the ends of the needles pointing the same way. You can use two double pointed needles, or just the two needles of a circular. Make sure the wrong sides (the inside of the sock) are facing each other. You’ll need a yarn or tapestry needle, threaded onto the tail of your yarn. Start with the yarn tail coming from the BACK needle.

First, you’ll work the Set Up instructions, once:

  1. Insert your tapestry needle into the first stitch on the FRONT needle as if to PURL, pull the yarn up and leave the stitch on the needle.
  2. Insert your tapestry needle into the first stitch on the BACK needle as if to KNIT, pull the yarn up and leave the stitch ON the needle.

Now it’s time to Kitchener:

  1. FRONT NEEDLE: KNIT OFF — insert the yarn needle as if to knit the first stitch on the front needle, pull yarn through, drop the stitch off
  2. FRONT NEEDLE: PURL ON — insert the yarn needle as if to purl the next stitch on the front needle, pull yarn through, leave the stitch on the needle
  3. BACK NEEDLE: PURL OFF — insert the yarn needle as if to purl the first stitch on the front needle, pull yarn through, drop the stitch off
  4. BACK: KNIT ON — insert the yarn needle as if to knit the first stitch on the back needle, pull yarn through, leave the stitch on the needle

Just keep repeating these steps until you reach the end of the seam. (It can help to keep muttering “Knit, Purl, Purl, Knit” as you go!) Then just pull the working yarn tight and weave in the loose end as usual. And there you go! You are the proud owner of a fully finished sock.

For a hybrid approach of words and photos, this classic Knitty tutorial has always been my go-to.

I hope that helps! By now, even the newest knitters in the Curious Crew should be well-prepared to take on their first socks (there is always plenty of encouragement, help, and community in the Ravelry group, too.) And if you’ve been making socks for years and years, and have a smart or sneaky grafting or finishing tip up your sleeve, please share it. Let’s never stop learning!

Happy knitting,
Helen x

Part 1 of The Sock Series: Choosing Yarn

Part 2 of The Sock Series: Needles and Techniques

Part 3 of The Sock Series: Casting On

Part 4 of The Sock Series: Avoiding Holes in the Gusset

Knitvent through the years

Helen —  October 21, 2019 — Leave a comment

This time of year naturally invites a bit of nostalgia. Our brains make much stronger memories any time there is a strong emotion involved, which is why we remember how we’ve spent most of the holidays in our lives but not what we were doing on most random Tuesdays in June, for example. Making and giving handmade gifts is another good way of creating a lasting memory. All the love and care and all the hours that go into each project have a way of working them deep into our hearts.

This will be the 7th Knitvent, a number that’s a little boggling when I look at it typed out there. Just like the holidays, each year is a mix of the comfortingly familiar and the unexpectedly new. It is astonishing to think about how many memories and gifts we’ve made together over the years, and I am so looking forward to doing it all again very soon.

I know we have many knitters, readers, and listeners with us who remember all the way back to the very first Knitvent, but we’re also lucky enough to have new friends joining the Curious Crew who have never taken part before. I love taking a moment before the season kicks off to look back. If you’re a long-time Knitventer I hope this retrospective shakes loose some happy memories and maybe inspires you to double back and knit something you always meant to make from a previous season (or to knit another version of an old favourite.) And if you’re a new knitter who is not quite sure what to expect, I think seeing all the past collections lined up together like this will give you some idea of what you’re in for if you join in!

We have a buy-one-get-one free sale happening right now, and all of our Knitvent collections are still available to purchase as full collections or as individual patterns, so if you’d like to revisit Knitvents past, now’s your chance to spoil yourself a little while you wait for this year’s fun to start!

Two-for-one sale on all Curious Handmade Patterns and Collections (Including past Knitvents!)


Knitvent 2018

Last year’s Knitvent explored the theme of Peace, drawing inspiration from some of the most beautiful poetry on the subject. Finding peace in a busy, conflicted world at a particularly hectic time of year isn’t always a simple task. I find that using knitting and stolen quiet moments of reflection as a kind of meditation, as a way to find my centre, helps me show up in the world in a more peaceful way. This was an introspective Knitvent, and I was very moved by the thoughtful response (and of course, gorgeous knitting!) from the community.

A collage of the knitting patterns from Knitvent 2018 by Helen Stewart of Curious Handmade

Patterns:

Large photo: Dust of Snow Wrap

Small photos, clockwise from top: Peace of Wild Things Shawl, Frost at Midnight CowlWinter Sleep SocksHow Quiet Mitts, How Quiet Hat

Buy the whole Knitvent 2018 Collection


Knitvent 2017

This was the year of our Nutcracker Knitvent, and it was one of my favourite collections to date. The community response was spectacular, with floods of happy memories sparked and shared by the Nutcracker theme. Favourite childhood moments, pure holiday magic, the real-life-fairytale of ballerinas and sweeping orchestral music: it was all incredibly inspiring and it was an absolute joy to see how much fun everyone had with these patterns.

A collage of images showing all the knitting patterns from the Knitvent 2017 collection by Helen Stewart of Curious Handmade

Patterns:

Large photo: Land of Sweets Cowl

Small photos, clockwise from top: Marzipan LegwarmersClara’s CapeTchaikovsky MittsTchaikovsky HatTulle Shawl

Buy the whole Knitvent 2017 Collection


Knitvent 2016

This year’s collection had a fun colour story with lots of pops of teal, one of my favourites. I was inspired by old fashioned travel posters and postcards, and by the idea of a ski holiday in an alpine forest. In 2016 we had a guest designer, which was exciting and brought a new perspective to the collection: Renée Callahan of East London Knit designed the very stylish Boreal Forest hat and cowl, featuring retro-styled graphical colourwork.

A collage showing all the knitting patterns from the Knitvent 2016 collection by Helen Stewart of Curious Handmade

Patterns:

Large photo: Alpine Sunset Shawl
Small photos, clockwise from top: Fresh Tracks HeadbandBoreal Forest HatBoreal Forest CowlJuniper SocksJuniper Mitts

Buy the Knitvent 2016 Collection


Knitvent 2015

The theme for 2015 was “light and bright” and captured the glitter and sparkle of wintertime and the cosy warmth of comforting, texture-rich yarns. From twinkling fairylights to far-off stars, from crisp unbroken snow and frosty icicles to the crackling glow of the fireplace, we reveled in everything that makes the season bright.

A collage image showing all the knitting patterns from the Knitvent 2015 Collection by Helen Stewart of Curious Handmade

Patterns:

Large image: Winter Wander Shawl
Small images, clockwise from top: Ice River HatIce River SnoodCabin Path ShawlKindling MittsKindling Hat

Buy the Knitvent 2015 Collection


Knitvent 2014

The second year of Knitvent played with texture and detail. The shine of sequins, beads, and ribbons contrasted with the tactile softness of mohair, cables, and tassels. I love seeing these patterns pop up again and again through the years, bringing more happiness to new people every season. Every time I come across a new project someone has made from the Knitvent archive my heart just glows.

A collge image showing the knitting patterns in the Knitvent 2014 collection by Helen Stewart of Curious Handmade

Large image: Adorn Gift Bags
Small images, clockwise from top right: Candlelit Beaded ShawlIce Skating Scarf and WrapLind CowlCrisp and Even Cowl

Buy the Knitvent 2014 Collection


Knitvent 2013

Our very first Knitvent together was ambitious and exciting and so, so much fun. I didn’t know how I was going to pull off releasing eight designs so quickly, but we managed it and I think it really gave me a burst of confidence as a newish knitting designer at the time. It’s been a remarkable journey since then, and I still see people knitting these designs all the time: the Red Robin Shawl and the Warm Wishes Hottie Cover in particular have really gone on to lead rich lives of their own since then!

A collage of the first 4 patterns in the Knitvent 2013 Collection by Helen Stewart of Curious Handmade
A collection of the next 4 patterns in the Knivent 2013 Collection by Helen Stewart of Curious Handmade

Patterns:

Top row, right to left: Red Robin ShawlCheckerboard MittsFresh Powder CowlWarm Wishes Hottie.
Bottom row, right to left: Stardust Infinity ScarfRella MittsQuicksilver CowlNaughty or Nice Hat.

Buy the Knitvent 2013 Collection


I want to say a huge and heartfelt thank you to everyone who has ever been a part of Knitvent and to everyone who is considering joining us in 2019. Your joy, enthusiasm, and generosity make this event so special, and I’m so grateful that I get to do this again with you this year! If you would like to make sure that you don’t miss any information about Knitvent 2019, make sure that you are signed up for the Curious Handmade Newsletter. That’s where you can hear all the news about our theme this year, the early bird special, upcoming giveaways and pop-up sales, and every bit of the Knivent magic. Happy knitting!

As Knitvent time approaches, I know many of you are already deep in your planning for this year’s gift knits. Handmade gifts are truly precious, and so much preparation and anticipation goes into the process: making a list, matching patterns and yarn, and somehow scheduling all that knitting into our busy days. It is one of the great joys of the season, as long as you have a plan, give yourself plenty of time, and remember that this is supposed to be fun!

There will be exciting new gift-knitting patterns on the way when Knitvent begins, but to help you in your early stages of gift knitting, here is our annual Curious Handmade Gift Guide. We’ve curated some tried-and-tested favourite designs which are sure to delight your dear ones this holiday season.

As a Knitvent warm-up treat and to make sure the season gets off to a glorious start, I’m running a buy-one-get-one free sale across all Curious Handmade patterns and collections from now until Monday, October 21st, 2019. Now’s the time to stock up on any patterns you might have missed. There’s no code necessary to get your free pattern. Just put any two of my patterns or collections into your cart by the end of Monday, October 21st and the least expensive item we be automatically free as a gift from me to you and your loved ones!

Shop The Curious Handmade Gift-Knitting BOGO Sale!

I hope you find some perfect patterns to keep you busy while we wait for the Knitvent launch: maybe you’ll be able to cross a few names off your list a little early this year!


One Skein Wonders

A smallish shawl makes an ideal gift. You don’t need much time or yarn to whip up one of these beauties. Easy to knit and easy to wear, these one-skein shawls are great for showcasing a special yarn. Choose something lacy and delicate for a special-occasion shawl (you can even add beads) or look for something solidly comforting to wrap them up warm for every day.

Large image: The Peace of Wild Things Shawl. Small images, clockwise from top left: Tulle Shawl, Little Meg Shawl, Alpine Sunset Shawl, Rewilding Shawl

Perfectly Matched

Any one of these items would make a fabulous quick-knit gift, but if you have the time to make a matching set you can really make your knitworthy loved one feel cherished. Pair a stylish hat with a coordinating warm cowl or a toasty pair of mitts. Almost all of these patterns come in multiple sizes or are easily adjustable, and with the right yarn choice they should suit just about anyone on your list.

A collection of accessory knitting patterns from Helen Stewart of Curious Handmade
Left to Right: Ice River Hat, Ice River Snood, How Quiet Hat, How Quiet Mitts
Left to Right: Kindling Hat, Kindling Mitts, Tchaikovsky Hat, Tchaikovsky Mitts

Snug Socks

A handmade pair of warm woolly socks is a wonderfully nurturing gift. Choose a squishy DK-weight yarn for the ultimate cosy kicking-around-the-house-pair or look for a sock yarn with a little touch of luxury (a bit of cashmere never went astray) and your lucky recipient will be dancing for joy.

A collection of five pairs of socks designed by Helen Stewart of Curious Handmade
Large image: Vintage Fairy Lights Socks. Small images clockwise from top left: Winter Sleep Socks, Juniper Socks, Red Robin Socks, Winter Rose Socks

Cuddly Cowls

Much quicker to knit than a scarf but just as warm and comforting, a cowl makes an excellent gift. If you have a bit of time before you’re exchanging presents, you can chose a delicate yarn, but for knitters in a hurry, a chunky, cosy cowl is often the answer. With large enough yarn and needles, anything is possible: many a knitter has been known to work a one-evening miracle with a super bulky cowl!

Large photo: Land of Sweets Cowl. Small photos clockwise from top left: Crisp and Even Cowl, Frost at Midnight Cowl, Fresh Powder Cowl, Laveer Kerchief

Grand Gesture Shawls

Reserved for only the most knitworthy of all your loved ones, a grand gesture shawl is a magnificent way to show how much you care. If you’re planning to knit a present on this scale, be extra sure to start early. With their interplay of colours, lace, and fancy stitches, these designs are a joy to knit, but it takes an investment of precious yarn, time, and energy to create a shawl like this. A true labor of love. The final result is sure to be cherished for a lifetime. This is how heirlooms happen!

Large photo: Inkling Shawl. Small photos, clockwise from top left: Sprite’s Fen Shawl, Maytham Shawl, Surprise Party Shawl, Snowmelt Shawl

Hopefully this guide has given you an idea or two to get you started! If you’d like even more inspiration, why not pour yourself a cup of tea and spend a little time exploring the whole library of Curious Handmade designs? Remember, every pattern and collection is buy-one-get-one-free from now until Monday 21 October 2019. Happy knitting!

The Knitting Pipeline Ireland tour was a triumph. What an incredible group of ladies. What a magical place. What beautiful memories. Even though Paula wasn’t there with us in person, her unmistakable touch was everywhere for each of those wonderful days.

I joined the group after they had toured around Ireland a little bit. They had settled into the glorious Mount Juliet country house estate for the knitting retreat portion of the trip, and I was so delighted to be a part of this company of amazing women. There was so much relaxing free time to chat and knit and soak up the surroundings, but we also had a few marvelous field trips, including a visit to a woollen mill and a rare breed sheep farm. I’ve recorded a podcast episode all about our time together, which you can listen to here.

I also have some really beautiful photos to share. Just look at this place!

Our home base, Mount Juliet, was a glorious spot, and it also inspired the shawl I designed for this retreat.

This is the Mount Juliet Shawl

Hidden amid peaceful woodlands and velvety green fields in Kilkenny Ireland sits a glorious old manor house called Mount Juliet. It was completed in 1760 and named for the bride of the Viscount of Ikerrin. Juliet Boyle, daughter of the Earl of Shannon, brought with her a generous fortune and an exquisite eye for beauty. The estate was built with her money and named in her honour. It was a tribute to young love and remains a masterclass in elegance and harmony.

At this time of year, the woodland walks are carpeted with bluebells, the hedgerows are dappled with hawthorne blossom, and the walled garden is bursting into colour. 

It is a stunning setting for the Knitting Pipeline Ireland Retreat, and I was honoured to be asked to design a pattern for the attendees.

The Mount Juliet Shawl is inspired by the compelling history and lovely Georgian architecture of its namesake, and dedicated to the vision and courage of women who make things happen, particularly our dear Paula Emons-Fuessle, who planned this wonderful gathering for all of us.

This asymmetrical triangle shawl features bands of simple but lovely lace in two colours, to recall the graceful lines and beautiful windows of the great house. Fittingly, the sample was knit with yarn from Olann, a brilliant Irish indie yarn company. 

This is a relaxing but engaging knit with enough gentle repetition that it is easy to memorise for long chatty evening with friends, but the final result is striking.

S I Z E 
One size

FI N I SHED M EASUREMENTS 
Approximately 150cm/ 59” on the curved edge, 135cm/53” straight edge and 97cm/38” cast off edge.

YARN 
Olann Sock Lite 80% superwash merino; 20% nylon; 425m / 465yds per 100g skein, 2 x 100g skeins, 
Colour A: Muir (Grey) 
Colour B: Annex (Pink)

Sample knit in a light fingering weight yarn used approximately: 
Colour A: 90g 382m / 420yds 
Colour B: 75g, 320m / 350 yds

NEEDLES 
4mm (US 6), 100cm (40”) long circular needles (or size to obtain gauge)

NOTIONS 
Tapestry needle 
Safety pin or detachable stitch marker

GAUGE 
24 sts/30 rows = 10cm (4”) in stockinette stitch after blocking 
Exact gauge is not critical but may affect the amount of yarn needed if different.

I love designing shawls for retreats. They seem to capture a little of the energy and magic that happens in these little pockets of sacred creative and social time. They mean a lot to those of us who were there, but they also provide a welcoming doorway for those who couldn’t be there…it’s a kind of sharing that I value highly. The Mount Juliet Shawl Pattern is now available to purchase on Ravelry. I hope that whoever casts this on feels a measure of the excitement and togetherness we felt in Mount Juliet, and enjoys every single stitch.

Buy the Mount Juliet Shawl Pattern on Ravelry!



Yesterday, I sent out an email to my mailing list that gave a peek into part of my design process. The response was so lovely that I decided to share it with the whole community as a blog post here. I hope you enjoy it!

The launch of TSS 4 is just a few days away and I am bursting to begin. I’m just tying up the last loose ends before this mystery collection is available to buy on Ravelry on May 4th. In the meantime, I wanted to share a bit about how I approached the design for this season.

One of the most beautiful things about knitting is that the design process from pattern to finished object is actually a collaboration. As a designer, I bring together concepts, shapes, stitches, and textures, and I am almost always deeply inspired by colour and the character of a specific yarn. After all the scheming and experimenting in solitude, the real magic happens when the pattern leaves my hands and goes out into the world. New hands, new minds, and new imaginations interpret what I have begun, and it is always a thrill to see the flow and swell of new ideas from the knitters who create from my designs. 

We talk a lot about choosing colours for our projects, because it’s such an exciting process, and I think because it can be a bit daunting as well. I often see knitters fretting that they might not choose the “right” yarn or that the colours they are drawn to might not go together well. To begin with, I don’t believe that there is such a thing as a right or a wrong yarn, only yarns that you love or don’t love. If you choose colours that spark inspiration and happiness for you, you’re already halfway there. With that said, I get so many questions about how I choose my colours and where I get my inspiration that I wanted to offer a bit of help to anyone who is having trouble getting started. 

Because The Shawl Society is all about building that collaborative community and deepening our creative confidence, I thought I would let you in behind the scenes to see how I gathered inspiration for this collection. I hope it gives you some inspiration as well, while you begin to gather your yarn choices for the upcoming patterns. 

The Theme

Choosing a theme or story for a pattern or a collection is an amazing jumping-off point for colour and design inspiration. Sometimes that’s a very literal interpretation: a design based on spring flowers might immediately bring to mind the fresh pastels of hyacinths or the sunny yellow of daffodils. Other times it can be more emotional and abstract: for example, last Knitvent had a theme of peace. Peace might not have a specific or defined colour, but we all know which colours and shades feel peaceful for us, personally. Thinking about colour in this way can lead to a very personal and beautiful palette.

For the upcoming season of The Shawl Society, my approach was a little of both. The sea has a million shades of blue, soft sandy neutrals, warm and glowing sunrises and sunsets, and all of those references spoke to me. But there’s also that feeling that I wanted to capture, that sense of being exactly where you want to be, of time slowing down, of pure quiet happiness. I had to search for colours that reminded me of what it feels like to spend a day by the shore. 

One of the most powerful tools I know for exploring these kinds of ideas is a Pinterest board. Here is the board I put together for this collection. I think the best way to build a board like this is to go in with a very loose idea of what you’re looking for. Just create a board and start pinning. Don’t hold back or try to curate anything at first, just add everything that speaks to you. Over time, you will probably start to identify themes and similarities developing: certain colours and textures that appear over and over again. This is an excellent way to start to understand your own tastes in a deeper way. 

True Collaboration: What Inspires You?

I chose an ocean theme for the six secret patterns of The Shawl Society Season 4, but you don’t have to. Maybe you also feel the draw of the waves, but maybe your “happy place” is somewhere completely different, and you’d like to explore that creatively. I’m imagining Shawl Society Members choosing far off cities, fictional locations, or even their own back yards, and building a palette from the inspiration they find there.

Maybe you don’t have a place or a theme in mind and your response to certain colours is instinctive: you just love it because you love it and it is as simple as that. That pure attraction to a yarn is pure and thrilling and I know it well…there doesn’t always need to be a concept! There’s a chance you might visit your local yarn store and a certain skein will sing out from the shelf, even though it’s completely different from what you thought you were looking for. Listen to those promptings and see where they take you! The first and only rule is to knit with what you love.

What About Colour Theory?

Colour theory can be a helpful tool in design. It shouldn’t be an intimidating subject or a set of hard-and-fast rules that dictate what’s “wrong” or “right” and it shouldn’t cramp your creative freedom. If you haven’t explored it before, there’s a wealth of inspiration online. We’ve visited it a few times on the podcast and blog, if you need something to get you started. 

I did an early podcast on the subject: Episode 46 has some handy definitions and links. 

A few years ago during a Curious Handmade MKAL, we were fortunate enough to have two guest bloggers share their wealth of knowledge about colour, colour theory, and shawls. These posts both have some really lovely inspiration photos with a wide range of colour combinations that might spark some ideas:

Kristen from Skein

Anj from Meadow Yarn
Watching what creative and talented knitters add to my design with their own colour and yarn choices is one of the most rewarding and heartwarming parts of this job. I absolutely cannot wait to watch that miracle unfold again for the 4th season of The Shawl Society. As you start to experiment and play, I’d love to see the choices you are considering: please share them on Instagram with the hashtag #TheShawlSociety so we can all begin to get inspired together!!

Happy Knitting!

Helen x


 

Our friends at A Yarn Story are hosting a special event at the Apex Hotel in Bath from 10am to 4pm, 11th May 2019. It is partly a goodbye party: a chance to spend a bit of time together before I move to Australia.

Come join us for a day of tea, cake and knitting. We will have a lovely sociable day and there will be the chance to meet and knit with other yarn lovers. There will be a marketplace with some of my very favourite indie dyers and crafty businesses full of delights.

An advance ticket of £10 will give you access to the marketplace and knit group, plus beverages and cake. Tickets will also be available on the door for £12. All are welcome!

Tickets are now available to purchase here.

There will also be a more intimate dinner event later that same evening: dinner tickets will be offered for sale later, to those who have already bought a ticket to the daytime event.

I hope to have a chance to see and chat with many of you in person!

I hope you enjoyed catching up with or reviewing the first three installments of The Sock Series. It’s lovely to hear from newish knitters who are building their confidence around sock knitting. By the time the first pattern of this new season drops, you’ll be unstoppable! I know we have a lot of expert sock knitters in our community, too, so if you have a special tip or trick you’d be willing to share with the rest of us, please let me know: sharing with—and learning from—each other is one of the great joys of the knitting community.

I’ve had a lot of questions about when we’re going to kick off this season, and I’m excited to say…

Membership for The Handmade Sock Society Season 2 opens TOMORROW!

I’ll send out an email with links as soon as it’s live with more details and everything you need to know. I can’t wait!

In the meantime, I want to celebrate this community and the around-the-corner kickoff of The Handmade Sock Society Season 2, so I’ve started a giveaway thread in our Ravelry group! The winner will get a hand-picked special skein of sock yarn from my stash…I’ll choose something I think you’ll like! I’ll also be offering a free pattern of your choice to six more lucky winners (one for each design!) To be in for a chance to win, all you need to do is

  • Make a project page for THSS Season 2 Socks #1
  • Post in the giveaway thread with your favourite seaside memory or place…if you’re landlocked and haven’t spent any time by the sea, where would you love to spend a peaceful week on your own, with your knitting? Share your dream seaside escape with us! Photos are highly encouraged but not required. 🙂

Now…back to the Sock Series!

Today I want to share a technique that I learned from a very dear knitting friend of mine, Paula from The Knitting Pipeline. Paula is an incredibly skilled knitter, and always so generous with her knowledge.  She showed me this very helpful sock-knitting tip on one of her wonderful retreats, and I’ve been using it ever since.

Anatomy of a Sock: The Heel Flap and Gusset

A feature of sock knitting (and one of the bits that scares most newbies the most) is the need to “turn the heel” of the sock. This is how you achieve the “L” shape that makes a sock a comfy, well-fitting sock instead of just being a scrunchy tube. It’s one of those things that sounds so much more complicated than it is. Once you’re actually doing it, it’s not so complicated at all, especially if you have a clearly-written pattern (and maybe a patient knitting friend online or in real life) to walk you through it. There are several different ways to create a heel, but one of the most common (and one of my favourites) is the heel flap and gusset. 

The actual knitting of the heel flap and gusset is actually pretty simple, as you’ll know if you’ve ever knit a sock of this type. But there is one issue that can haunt even experienced knitters: the hole in the gusset. What causes these pesky holes, and how can you avoid them?

When you create the heel flap of a sock, you’re only knitting half the stitches. Once you’re done, and after you’ve shaped the “cup” of the heel (usually with short rows…don’t worry, it’s actually quite easy!) you’ll need a way to resume knitting in the round. So, you pick up the stitches along the side of the heel flap you’ve just created until you reach the waiting stitches at the front of the sock. You could just keep knitting across, but if you do, there will always be a little gap there. This gap is what creates the holes (also known as pig’s eyes!) and it can be very frustrating. Who wants a little hole in a brand new sock?

The solution is usually to pick up an extra stitch or two in the gap, but as I learned, if you’re not careful how you pick up those stitches, you can sometimes inadvertently create an even bigger and more noticeable hole. There are a few different ways to tackle this, but the one I learned from Paula is so easy and foolproof that I’ve used it on every single sock since. 

I could try to explain it, but luckily, I don’t have to. The amazing Paula has already made a fabulous, easy-to-follow video, which makes it crystal clear:

Isn’t that ingenious? It’s so simple and so effective. I hope it’s as helpful to you as it has been to me!

If you are a regular listener of Paula’s wonderful podcast, you’ll know that right now she’s dealing with some scary health stuff, with all the grace and good humour we would expect from her. I know that messages of support and encouragement mean a lot to her right now. You can drop by her Ravelry Group to say hello and keep up with her health updates on her Caring Bridge site. She is very much in our hearts and I know so many knitters are sending her so much gratitude, love, and strength right now. 

Happy knitting,
Helen x

Around this time last year, I sent a series of emails full of tips and techniques for knitting handmade socks. They were such a hit in the lead up to the first season of The Handmade Sock Society that I turned them into a blog series, too. As we’re getting ready to start our second season of THSS, it seems like the perfect moment to revisit The Sock Series (and also add to it)!

It was such a joy to watch so many people stretch their sock-knitting skills in the Society last year. I received wonderful emails from knitters who had never made a single sock before but managed to find the courage to dive right in. I marveled at the seasoned sock knitters who said that they’d discovered a new technique or hack that they’d never tried before.

I absolutely love the way that the members of our community are always learning and growing. It pays to stay curious, especially when you’re passionate about making things. So, for everyone who is thinking about filling a box of socks this year (or even just casting on their first-ever pair) here are some links to the first three posts in The Sock Series to get you started:

Part One of The Sock Series: Choosing Yarn for Handmade Socks

Socks work harder than just about any other type of knitwear out there. They need to withstand constant friction and moisture, two things that can quickly break down delicate fibre. This means that for the most comfortable and long-lasting socks, you need to think carefully about your yarn selection. In this post, we take an in-depth look at what makes a great sock yarn great, and how to pick the right yarn for your handmade sock project.

Part Two of The Sock Series: Sock Knitting Needles and How to Use Them

One of the reasons new knitters are sometimes scared of socks is the fact that they are knit “in the round”. The first time you see a set of double-pointed needles or a magic loop, it’s easy to think you’re looking at something really complicated. This post demystifies the most common sock-knitting techniques, from DPNs to two-at-a-time and beyond.

Part Three of The Sock Series: Stretchy Cast-Ons for Hand-Knit Socks

When you’re knitting a cuff-down sock, you need to make sure that you use a flexible, stretchy cast-on method, so that it’s easy to get your foot in and out of the sock. There are so many great cast-ons out there, and I highly recommend experimenting until you find on you love. In this post, I share just a handful of favourites.

New! Part Four of The Sock Series: Avoiding Holes in the Gusset

Those pesky holes in the corners of your sock gusset can be a real pain, but there’s a simple trick to help you get rid of them as you knit!

I hope you’re getting excited for our next season of The Handmade Sock Society, and that you’ll find something here that helps you along the way. I’ll be adding more articles to The Sock Series over the next weeks, so don’t forget to check back. And if you’re not on the mailing list yet, you can sign up right here to get the new posts and all the Curious Handmade news right to your inbox. Happy knitting!

I don’t know about you, but these last few weeks before Christmas are prime shopping time for a lot of us. Giving and receiving handmade gifts is pretty much the pinnacle of presents for me, but gifts related to making or knitting are a pretty close runner up. What knitter or maker doesn’t want more beautiful yarn, useful tools, and inspiring books? Could anything be better than settling in during those lovely lulled days after Christmas to cast on a new project (or three) using something you’ve just received? When you really want to pamper the creative people in your life (and that certainly includes yourself!) I think that any of the items on this list would do the trick nicely.

Literally anything from Beyond Measure

 

I mean it. Literally anything. This little shop is so full of gorgeous little things: I’m warning you, to see them is to want them. I am a huge believer in investing in beautiful tools whenever possible, and the brilliant minds behind Beyond Measure have an eye for the lovely and the useful. As their own tagline says, their inventory is made up of “beautiful things for folk who make” and you could fill the best Christmas stocking ever from Beyond Measure.

 

A Subscription to Pom Pom Quarterly

I think subscriptions make wonderful gifts, as you get to spread the surprise throughout the year. Ever since the very first issue, the day my Pom Pom Quarterly magazine arrives in the post is automatically a great day. This magazine is so aspirational and so inspirational. I love pouring over the photos and daydreaming about future makes. Meghan, Lydia and their absurdly talented team outdo themselves every issue.

 

A Wax & Wool Candle

There’s nothing like getting cosy, lighting a luscious candle, and settling in for a nice long knitting session: to me that’s the essence of relaxation. Kjerste of Wax & Wool makes the most beautiful hand-poured soy candles in apothecary jars. She has done some wonderful collaborations with yarnies, including the delicious-smelling (and sadly now sold out) candle she made for La Bien Aimee. Wax & Wool have a selection of Christmas scents in their Etsy shop right now which would make an ideal little pampering present for any knitter.

 

An “Inside Story” membership from A Yarn Story

One of my favourite yarn stores of all time (and one of my lovely podcast sponsors, although this is not a sponsored post) started a VIP membership club this year for devoted yarn lovers. It’s a great opportunity to spoil an avid knitter this holiday, with goodies, a gift bag, special discounts, free shipping, a birthday gift-card, exclusive early access to the newest and most popular inventory, and much more.

 

Conscious Creativity by Phillipa Stanton 

This thoughtful, beautiful book from Phillipa Stanton is a wonderful way to nurture the inner artist in all of us. Exploring mindfulness, creativity, and emotion, it is an invitation to step back from our screens and engage with the beauty around us. I found it extremely inspiring and helpful, with easy exercises and thought-experiments to keep my creativity engaged in daily life. A brilliant gift for anyone who wants to flex their creative muscles in the new year.

 

Betty Etiquette Stationary

I am such a fan of all the lovely cards and stationary Betty Etiquette puts out. They’re pretty, they’re hand-crafted, they are joyful and light, and they help me be more thoughtful throughout the year. A beautiful card in the mail can transform someone’s whole day. It’s a lot of payback for a little gesture. Everything on the site is wonderful, from the stationary to the prints, home & gifts section, and the make-it-yourself resources of supplies, books, and workshops.

 

The Maker’s Yearbook 

A fresh new year means a fresh new planner around the corner: it’s always a joy to see the days stretch out before you and to start daydreaming about what’s possible. This special 2019 planner is especially designed for makers and artists. If you run a handmade business or are even thinking about it, I highly, highly recommend getting your hands on this one: I’ve gotten one for myself and have given it as a gift. Potentially game-changing and extremely inspiring. Now is the perfect time to pick one up, as it also includes a comprehensive and very helpful year-in-review section for 2018

 

Yarn Fictions Collections by Meadow Yarn

I could have made this gift guide nothing but yarn, but I decided to hold myself back and just include one. I just adore Meadow Yarn, which is why I’m so honoured to have them as a podcast sponsor. (Although again, this isn’t a sponsored post!) They’ve always carried the most beautiful selection of yarn, but when they started dyeing their own —inspired by brilliant short stories Anj wrote herself—they took things to a whole new level. Each of the Yarn Fictions collections revolves around a compelling fictional world, and the deep, saturated, tonal colours are an absolute delight. I love the idea that when you give this yarn as a gift you’re giving a whole experience.

 

A Big Blue Moma Basket

I have been all about baskets this year, and these baskets in particular ran away with me. First of all, I just find them so beautiful. The weaving, the hand-dying, the richness of the colours and natural textures…they make themselves at home in pretty much any interior. They’re also incredibly useful, whether you’re toting one along to the farmer’s market on the weekend, or stashing one beside the couch to hold your scrappy blanket project. And last (but certainly not least) I am deeply inspired by the story behind them. Big Blue Moma is a Canadian company, but the empowerment of craftspeople in Ghana is at the heart of everything they do. The women who make these stunning and useful pieces of art are paid a fair market price for their work. I love supporting other artisans and makers around the world with my purchases. Any of these baskets would make a thoughtful and generous gift to a beloved knitter (maybe even with a few goodies tucked inside!)

You can also get 10% OFF your basket at So Just Shop with code CURIOUS10

 

Knits about Winter

I’ve already mentioned this book and its gorgeous patterns once or twice on the podcast, but I’m just in love with it, and I think it would be a wonderful gift. Everything Emily does is exquisite and this book is no exception. Along with 12 fabulous knitting patterns, Knits About Winter offers sweet stories about Emily’s life as an indie dyer and some of the most evocative winter photography you’ll ever see. I might have grown up celebrating sunny Australian Christmases, but there is still something quintessentially Christmas about snow.

 

LouLeigh Needle & Notions Cases

While we can never (ever) have enough adorable project bags in our lives, I love the fact that LouLeigh does something a little different by offering beautifully made and extremely useful needle and notions cases. It can be a challenge to keep all our crafty bits together and organised in the flurry of  multiple WIPs and impulsive cast-ons. (I know it’s not just me.) Leigh is such a thoughtful maker, with an incredible eye for an adorable fabric and a commitment to being as sustainable as possible. She also sells brilliant patterns for her bags and cases, so that you can make them for yourself (or as a gift!)

 

The Shawl Society Season 1 Book

Of course, I couldn’t let this gift guide go by without a little shameless plug for my own book. I’m very proud of it, and very touched by all the lovely things people have said about it so far. As you can probably tell by this gift guide, I am a big book lover, and creating a beautiful, tangible book of my own has been a goal of mine for a long time. I have had so many hours of joy curled up with a cup of tea and a lovely book of knitting patterns, considering all the possibilities and being inspired by the lovely photos. That feeling is something I tried to capture in this book. I worked hard to make it worthy of all the amazing knitters I know, and I think it would make a great present for anyone you know who enjoys knitting shawls. The six patterns are all achievable for intrepid beginner knitters, and also contain enough gorgeous details to entertain veteran shawl makers.

The Shawl Society Season 1 book on Amazon.co.uk

The Shawl Society Season 1 book on Amazon.com

 


I hope this guide has given you a few ideas to let you cross a name or two off your Christmas list. I feel honoured to be part of a community that is so full of talent and passion. I know what a challenge and adventure it is to head out into the great unknown of starting a creative business. That’s why it’s so wonderful to have an opportunity  to support some of the fantastic independent businesses who are an integral part of our making and knitting community. I hope that you’ll remember small and local handmade businesses in your own shopping this year, too.