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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One of the things I love about knitting cables is they look much more complicated than they actually are. Yes, you can create really complicated cable charts, but at their most basic, cables are simple stitches knit out of order so that they cross over one another. You either hold a set of stitches to the front or back on a cable needle; or, if working without a cable needle you simply rearrange the stitches on your working needles.
The Winding Stream Socks have a cable chart that, with only 10 stitches, is simple enough you may not even have to look at the chart once you’ve worked through it once. All you need is to be able to ‘read’ the knitting, and you can anticipate what comes next. If you look closely at the chart, you can see that it breaks down into a series of just six steps, repeated over and over again. Let’s look at the chart for the left sock.
The cable chart starts with 3 columns of knit stitches, separated by purl stitches. I’ve color-coded them in the charts below: red, blue and green. These columns ‘travel’ toward each other and then cross over and under each other to form the pattern, and you only have to worry about one or two crosses at a time. The steps are as follows:
Step 1. The red and blue columns travel toward each other, crossing in front of the background purl stitches between (left and right 2/1 purl crosses). Meanwhile the green column simply continues on it’s merry way.
Step 2. The blue stitches cross in front of the red. (2/2 left cable cross)
Step 3. The blue and red columns now need to move apart again; this time the blue continues moving to the left and the red is on the right. (2/1 left and right purl crosses)
Step 4. Now the red column continues straight ahead and it’s the green column’s turn to join the dance. The blue and green stitches move towards each other, again crossing in front of the purl stitches between (more left and right purl crosses).
Step 5. The green stitches cross in front of the blue stitches. (2/2 right cable cross)
Step 6. The green and blue stitches move away from each other, crossing in front of the purl stitches between. (left and right purl crosses)
Now even thought the colors have switched around, the order of knit and purl stitches is the same as at the beginning, and we’re ready to start the repeat again.
I’ve created a little animation of this to show the flow of the stitches across the work (full disclosure – I wrote this post just so I could have an excuse to play with animation):
It helps to remember two ‘rules’ for this chart: 1) There is a ‘rest round’ in between every round with cable crosses. On those rounds you simply knit the knits and purl the purls as they present themselves; and 2) Knit stitches always cross over purl stitches.
The chart for the right sock works exactly the same, only you work steps 4-6 first and then steps 1-3. Once you understand how the cable works, you can start to anticipate which cable cross occurs next. It may seem difficult at first, but with a bit of practice you can get into the flow and work the pattern without the chart!
Please do leave a comment if you found this helpful, and let me know what other tips and tricks you’d like to see.