The author's feet, crossed and wearing gray wool cabled socks, rest on a brick staircase.

Jacob Wool Hiking Socks

I’ve just finished my latest knitting project – a pair of socks knitted in local wool. The yarn is from Avillion Farm – I’ve previously knitted two sweaters from her lovely Jacob and Shetland flock, and almost two years ago I bought a skein of her (then) new Jacob/ mohair sock yarn. The yarn is roughly a sport weight, so I thought it would make lovely hiking socks. And since I don’t wear my hiking socks daily, I knew I wouldn’t mind handwashing these socks.

I used a pattern from the book In the Footsteps of Sheep by Debbie Zawinski (Schoolhouse Press, 2015). The book is an account of her walking journey around Scotland in search of each region’s iconic sheep breeds, and each pattern designed for one of the breeds has a story behind it. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and wanted to make a sock from one of the patterns, so this seemed like a perfect match. The socks I chose, Andrew’s Scottish Blackface Shepherd’s Socks, have a double-thickness heel, perfect for wearing in hiking boots, and a staghorn cable running up the side. They are designed for worsted-weight yarn and a man’s foot, so using the thinner yarn and smaller 2.5mm (US 1.5) needles worked out perfectly. I did try a couple of different needle sizes before I found the one that worked.

I’m very pleased with the finished result and I can’t wait to wear them with my new hiking boots.


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Zero-Waste Sewing

I don’t usually post about sewing here, but I’ve been reading a lot about zero-waste sewing lately, and I thought I’d share a couple of projects.

My first project was a simple full skirt, made from a square tablecloth I bought at a yard sale a couple of years ago. I didn’t use a pattern for this project. After playing around a bit in front of a mirror to see how it would drape when gathered, I folded the tablecloth in half and cut a waistband at the folded edge. This gave me two rectangular pieces of fabric that I then gathered and sewed together at the sides. I decided to make the waistband flat in front and with an elastic back, so I interfaced the length the waistband I wanted for the front waistband, then folded it and sewed to the skirt, pulling the gathers in somewhat more at the front than the back. I then threaded the elastic through a portion I’d left unsewn, and sewed it down at the side seams.

Here is the finished skirt. I am planning to open the side seams and add pockets; I have another of the same tablecloth I plan to make a top from, and hope to use the leftovers from that piece to make the pockets.

A middle-aged woman wears a white sleeveless shirt and a royal blue full skirt with geometric print.

My second project was a pair of pajama shorts. I had a yard of 58 inch wide fabric, and I wanted to see if i could alter the pattern to cut it from a single width of the fabric. Starting from a pattern I’ve used before, I cut the front and back pieces out of Swedish tracing paper and sewed them together at the inseam to form a single pattern piece. I altered the inseams slightly so the pieces would be on the grain when I cut out the single pattern piece.

I did end up needing to make some adjustments to the crotch seam for a better fit, as I did my adjustments on the fly and they weren’t perfect, but in the end I managed to cut the shorts out of just a bit more than 1/2 yard of fabric!

Here are some resources on zero-waste sewing in case you’re interested in trying it out:

The Cris Wood Sews Envelope Dress

Seamwork article on zero waste design

Zero Waste Sewing by Elizabeth Haywood


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Close up of the raglan shoulder seam on the Sagebrush tee.

Considerations in Sweater Knitting: Seamless vs. Seamed

Recently in my Instagram stories, I posted a poll on knitting sweaters in pieces. Not surprisingly, there are some strong opinions on seamless vs. seamed sweaters. Now, I love a good seamless yoke as much as the next person, but I generally prefer to knit sweaters in pieces. Here are a few of the advantages of pieced sweaters:

  1. The project is more portable. It’s easier to carry around a piece of a sweater that you’re working on than a whole sweater. Personally, I think sleeves especially are an underrated on-the-go project. And you don’t have as much sweater in your hands and lap as you knit, which is a) less weight for your wrists to deal with, and b) less hot in the summer.
  2. You can use the sleeve as a gauge swatch! Of course I’m going to be a stickler and tell you to knit a proper gauge swatch, but there are times when my knitting changes between knitting a swatch and knitting an actual garment. Maybe I didn’t knit a big enough swatch, or maybe I’m simply more or less relaxed when knitting the swatch vs. the actual garment, but starting with a sleeve is a great way to double-check my gauge. The downside, of course, to using the sleeve as a swatch, is you may have a bigger chunk of knitting to rip out if your gauge is off or you don’t like the fabric you’re getting. And yes, you do need to stop and block the sleeve before measuring the gauge.
  3. Seams help add structure and may prevent bias in the fabric. This is especially true for fibers that have a lot of drape, or for plant fibers which will tend to bias (twist) when worn. Have you ever had a cotton top you knit twist around your body when you wear it?
  4. This is more particular to top-down seamless sweaters, but in my experience trying on as you go works better in theory than in reality. I know lots of folks will argue with me on this point, but hear me out. First, you usually won’t have blocked the sweater if you’re trying on as you knit, so if your gauge is going to change with blocking, you won’t get an accurate sense of the fit. Better to knit an accurate swatch (see above) and do a bit of math. Second, I’ve found that it’s easy to overestimate the length of a piece that’s on the needles – I think maybe there’s some wishful thinking at play when I want to get the piece done!

On the flip side, there are some distinct advantages to seamless sweaters. The most obvious one is that once the knitting is done, there is less finishing standing between me and wearing my new garment! And one time I do appreciate a seamless sweater is when I’m playing yarn chicken. If the sweater is knit top-down, or if the sleeves are picked up and knit down from the completed garment, I can make adjustments to the body or sleeve length (or both) according to how much yarn I have. If I don’t have enough, I can maybe live with a slightly shorter hem or a 3/4 sleeve.

What is your favorite way to knit a sweater? Are there any advantages or disadvantages I haven’t covered here?


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