Spiral stockings Part 1: the Needling

spiral stocking

Beginning the Vibeke Lind spiral stocking…

Yes, there are a lot of needles in that thing, but you only have to deal with two at a time. If you’re lucky.

I had a bad sock knitting experience, my first time around. When I worked on the sock, I felt like I was holding a well-behaved little porcupine on my lap; it could be done, but it wasn’t comfortable. Then I got to the heel, which involved using two more needles to hold the heel flaps. That was more than I could handle, and I started losing needles and dropping stitches every time I picked up my knitting. The worst episode was on a city bus, when I lost two needles at once; they skidded along the grooves on the bus floor to the very back where a nice drunk person was sitting. He decided he was going to return these mysterious objects to me, and, really, we’re both lucky we survived, because he should not have been handling anything that sharp.

I’m not saying this wasn’t mostly my fault (needle/stitch problems, not alcohol problems). A little research would have shown that sock knitters who aren’t completely daft use point protectors (the little green witch’s hat in the picture).

In spite of all that, I’ve spent years thinking about the spiral stockings from Vibeke Lind’s Knitting in the Nordic Tradition. I’ve always wanted a pair because I wear skirts all the time the winter, but I don’t like tights. Strangely, it’s hard to find thigh-high woolen stockings. These stockings also have spiral ribbing all the way to the toes, which looks wonderful as well as keeping your socks up where they belong. In addition, the lack of a heel attracted me (see paragraph #2), as did the possibility for of using socks for barter after civilization collapses; I’d like to find a stress-free sock pattern. Socks are a year-round commodity here, and everyone else is growing heirloom vegetables, so there may be a niche for me to fill.

If anyone wants to knit along with me, I would be so delighted. It should be fairly easy, and you can stop wherever you want: boot sock, knee sock…all good. If someone does want to try this, and can’t get the book, I’ll email you the pattern – karen at themakeshift dot org.

You start by casting on 48 stitches on three needles, and then alternate three knit and three purl, staggering the rib every five rows. I was confused by the paragraphing in the pattern at first and still don’t understand if you are supposed to knit or purl when you put in the extra stitch to shift the rib. I decided I just needed to commit to one (purl!), and that seems to be working. You decrease after 26 staggers, although I may be doing that earlier, because I’m not tall. I’m using Brown Sheep Company Lamb’s Pride bulky wool, in deep charcoal, and size five needles. (What? Don’t roll your eyes. Size five isn’t that small. I don’t want woolen fishnet stockings, sexy as that sounds.)

More pictures to come :-)

Tools: useful and beautiful

“The true secret of happiness lies in taking a genuine interest in all the details of daily life.” – William Morris

I like to use beautiful things, which means I’ve broken a few of them. The first item in the photo gallery was broken when I got it, though: a watch that belonged to a family member (by marriage), supposedly army issue, Tsarist Russia (look! Cossacks!) escaping through Finland…we have so many family stories that can’t withstand interrogation. In any case, I think the little hands on the front are unexpectedly sweet, and I like opening up the back and looking at all the gears. I consider it useful because I fully intend to find a watchmaker someday, if such people still exist, and have it repaired.

The second item is my grandfather’s folding carpenter’s rule from Ukraine/Poland/the Czech Republic (pick one). My grandfather staggered off after they got to the U.S. and forgot to take it with him. I love that you can see where it’s been broken and carefully repaired, and I use it when I’ve misplaced both of my tape measures.

Up next, my mother’s hammer. If you never met her, you have no idea how funny that sounds. I am a steroid-swilling giantess compared to her; my mother’s forehead would crease while she was struggling to push in a thumbtack. I guess that’s why she needed her own hammer. Anyway, the head is brass, with a wonderful sheen, and it’s the perfect size for small hands, as my daughter can tell you. It’s actually quite a wicked little tool.

Finally, my favorite wooden knitting needles, a present from Shanan. They’re so fabulous, they practically knit by themselves. There’s an explanation for how they’re made here, although I’m not sure it’s the same brand.

Sweaters and bears


This battered thing is my grandmother’s Norwegian sweater; she bought it in Setesdal in the 1950s (so I was told). It does need a lot of repair, but it was knitted by hand and I think it’s beautiful. This is the traditional Setesdal style, and the Norwegian name for the little white spots translates as “lice,” although I don’t know that for certain, because my Norwegian is limited to the prayer that begins “I Jesu navn gar vi til bords.” It hasn’t been useful up to this point, but I still practice it occasionally in case the island is invaded by Vikings.

I have a memory from early childhood (a disclaimer, if ever there was one) of my grandmother attacking a bear with a frying pan. It was a black bear, not a grizzly; this was northern Minnesota, not Alaska, and she was irritated, not crazy. It was at her cabin, and she had just planted bulbs that had arrived in the mail. A bear stopped by to eat them, and she grabbed the frying pan off the stove and went after it. I was almost too small to see over the windowsill, but I watched the whole thing and, strangely, I don’t remember being frightened at all. I’m so glad I still have her sweater.

Hello, kitty


This is a late birthday present for a three-year-old girl who loves purple and Hello Kitty. (I have Hello Kitty yoga pants; I can’t resist her either.) I found the pattern at Silk and Wool and had a lot of fun making it, although my cat is much more burly and has a faint anime tinge. And, yes, it’s only H.K. inspired, not a perfect replica. As advised, I’ve made the head smaller, and used buttons for eyes after I was reassured that the birthday girl would not eat them. I also felted it a little, because I will felt anything. My daughter contributed the pompom for the collar. I was not happy about that at first, but now I think it’s great.

I can’t decide if late birthday gifts are disappointing, or a nice surprise. It would be best for me to choose the second option, since the gifts I make are usually late.

The untangler

untangling yarnI took this picture with my phone: Rebecca’s hands, untangling my yarn. She loves untangling things; so does Nadia. I think that’s very odd. Is there a name for it?