Hello, String Theory.

I know I said we were elated at the arrival of Jitterbug last week–and really, we were! But that was before yesterday’s shipment from String Theory, a new yarn company for us. Yesterday, excitement erupted at the Hillsborough Yarn Shop as Anne pulled skein after skein of beautiful hand-dyed yarn out of the box, passing them around to an appreciative group of knitters who petted, hugged, and admired the new yarn with great delight. Several of them decided they couldn’t leave without a skein, and so they were here and gone before they even made it onto the shelf. Luckily, there is still plenty to show off. Have a look at what all of the fuss is about.

String Theory is a small company out of Blue Hill, Maine, a two-woman operation that has been getting a lot of attention recently. String Theory was recently profiled in Coastal Knits, a lovely pattern collection that we’re forever reordering. Clara Parkes mentioned them in a recent post on Knitter’s Review, which led me back to her Knitter’s Book of Socks, where I found patterns using both of the String Theory sock yarns we just got in.

String Theory’s Caper Sock is a luxurious fingering weight yarn, a blend of superwash merino, cashmere, and nylon. Cookie A’s pattern from Knitter’s Book of Socks, below, uses the Caper Sock yarn with lovely results.

Bluestocking, on the other hand, is perhaps the more interesting of the two String Theory sock yarns because of its fiber content: 80% Bluefaced Leicester wool and 20% nylon. Bluefaced Leicester is a particular breed of sheep known for its long, strong fibers, which ought to make a particularly durable pair of socks. (Care to learn more about breed-specific wools? Put Clara Parkes’ Knitter’s Book of Wool on your holiday wish list, or give it to yourself as a gift. Fascinating stuff!) It’s rare and exciting to see a yarn label that specifies the breed of sheep whose wool is inside it, with the exception of the ubiquitous Merino. I can’t wait to give Bluestocking a try, perhaps using Ann Budd’s pattern from Knitter’s Book of Socks.

The third and final kind of yarn we received from String Theory this week is their Merino DK, a name which speaks for itself. I can add little else to describe it, though I’ll mention that it’s superwash, squishy and soft, and that each 100 gram skein is packed with 280 yards. At a dk weight, that can easily take you through a hat, cowl, pair of mittens, or maybe even a scarf.

Come by the shop and we’ll be sure to show you in person all that I’ve shown you here. Forgive us if we can hardly contain our delight: we love yarn, we love knitting, and we are utterly irrepressible. See you at the shop!

Jitterbug. Again.

You would not believe the gasps of delight that accompanied this week’s much anticipated shipment of Colinette Jitterbug. (I know I say things like that a lot–it seems that weekly, we receive boxes of gasp-inducing yarns–but I’m just reporting the facts, here. We’re an excitable bunch.) Unlike most yarns, the Jitterbug comes to us in bunches of untwisted hanks, which makes for a dramatic entrance.

After oohing and aahing over each color as it emerged from the box, Anne and I got right to work twisting up each hank.

Jitterbug, as I’ve written before, is a tightly-plied, squishy, merino yarn in fingering weight which comes to us all the way from Wales. We’ve carried primarily variegated colorways thus far, but the semisolid colorways have been so tempting that we finally, happily gave in.

I went home with a skein of Jitterbug in a golden yellow to make myself a pair of bright, wild socks. There are several other projects awaiting my attention, but it’s quite possible that I’ll put them all aside to cast on with this yarn, for which I’ve heard nothing but rave reviews.

One such rave-reviewer is Anne, who made a little something out of Jitterbug for herself earlier this year.

No big deal, just one of the most amazing sweaters we have in the shop, an exquisite design from Marianne Isager’s Japanese Inspired Knits. Come by to examine Anne’s sweater in close, glorious detail, and to snag a skein of Jitterbug for yourself.

See you at the shop!

The Knitter’s Book of Socks.

Clara Parkes has done it again, and by “done it again,” I mean “provided a practical, beautiful, fascinating, rigorous resource for knitters.” From the author of Knitter’s Review, the woman who brought us The Knitter’s Book of Yarn and The Knitter’s Book of Wool, here’s The Knitter’s Book of Socks.

If you’re a sock knitter, this is an indispensable book. If you’re an aspiring sock knitter, this book may be a good place to start. While many of the patterns include cables, lace, or colorwork, the first is an introductory-level sock with a simple texture pattern, using worsted weight yarn. Once you’ve worked up a pair of those, you’ll likely be ready and eager to dip your toes into some of the more complicated patterns. Also: those of you who are worried that your knitted socks will be too baggy or too tight, not stretchy enough, or that they’ll fall apart after one wear will be encouraged and emboldened by The Knitter’s Book of Socks. Parkes spends entire chapters on the effects of various fibers, twists, plies, and stitch patterns on the structure of a sock, giving knitters the information they need to avoid the potential pitfalls that may concern them.

The patterns come from an astounding group of designers, using all kinds of techniques to make socks in a wide range of styles. Cat Bordhi, Lucy Neatby, Ann Budd, Norah Gaughan, Nancy Bush, Cookie A, and Jared Flood all make appearances, as does a favorite new yarn of ours: the Swans Island Organic Merino, in fingering-weight.

I’m almost halfway through a sweater using this yarn, and had never considered it for socks, as it’s hand-wash only. Then I came upon Parkes’ ode to hand-washing hand-knit socks, which made the task sound more pleasant than inconvenient. Having just accidentally felted a pair of colorwork socks, I’m ready to make the switch to hand-washing, and it sounds like my socks will look better and last longer that way. Suffice it to say, I’m reconsidering putting that beautiful Swans Island yarn on my feet, and I have no doubt that The Knitter’s Book of Socks will change the way I pair yarns and sock patterns, making me a better, more educated sock knitter. Come by the shop to peruse this new book, and plan your next pair of socks!

Chiffon.

Let this be my last Cascade addendum, the last of the contents of those 40 pound boxes to be introduced: say hello to a sumptuous new fingering weight yarn from Cascade, called Heritage Silk.

A few months ago, when we first ordered Heritage Silk, Anne got a single skein for us to knit up as a shop sample. That skein was passed to me, and as soon as I had wound it into a ball, I knew that I would love this yarn for socks. It’s a smooth yarn with the kind of high twist that makes for excellent stitch definition and well-wearing socks. Made from 85% no-nonsense superwash wool and 15% shiny, glamorous silk, Cascade Heritage Silk is a nice blend of basic and indulgent. I tried to knit a sock that reflected those qualities, and this is what I came up with: meet Chiffon.


Like my first sock pattern, Interrupted, Chiffon is knit from cuff to toe with a short-row heel, but is dressed up a bit with three bands of ruching. Come by the shop to see a sample of Chiffon, which you’ll find tucked into a cubby on the sock wall with the Heritage Silk yarn. Download the pattern for free on Ravelry, and please let me know what you think!

Interrupted.

A customer and I were chatting recently about the joys of sock knitting. Specifically, we were waxing rhapsodic on the joys of simple sock knitting–not the intricate colorwork socks that I often daydream of, nor socks adorned with various combinations of cable twists and lace, but basic stockinette or ribbed socks. “Socks are friends,” she said, and by that I think she meant that socks need not be impressive to entertain and comfort the knitter. Simple socks can be worked up while watching a movie, or waiting at a doctor’s office, or any of the many other places we end up waiting, for that matter. When you reach for knitting to keep your hands busy, but not necessarily your mind, simple socks are often just the thing.

Interrupted is a sock pattern of my own design, which I hope will satisfy knitters looking for simple socks. Knit with the tempting Claudia Hand Painted Fingering yarn, these socks are simple enough to allow variegated colorways to shine and interesting enough to support a more subdued color.

The brightly-colored sock pictured above can be found at the shop, tucked into the cubby where the Claudia Hand Painted Fingering yarn lives. Come by the shop to inspect the sock in person, which should give you a good idea of how the yarn knits up: soft but sturdy. Download the pattern for free on Ravelry, and please let me know what you think!

Hello, Bearfoot.

Mountain Colors Bearfoot: here is a loveable sock yarn. It’s not a new arrival; rather, we’ve had it at the shop for quite some time. However, having recently reorganized the sock yarn display, I’ve only recently come to admire its depth of color and its unusual fiber content. Bearfoot is easily our only sock yarn with mohair.

Mohair socks may sound almost torturous in mid-July, but I’m betting that later in the year, they’ll sound cozy and comforting. Til then, perhaps Bearfoot wants to be a shawl. Come and admire these jewel-toned skeins at the shop!

Summer reading.

Last week, Anne and I unpacked two boxes of books, almost all of which were new to the shop. We quickly made space on the teacart for them, and filled it even more quickly. As I’ve explained here before and as regulars have come to expect, the teacart is reserved for the newest additions to the shop. Because of the great quantity of new titles, however, we’ve had to spread out our most recently acquired books. There are simply too many to squeeze onto one teacart. We decided instead to tuck them in wherever they would fit, which is all over the place. Let me point them out to you here.
Our books are loosely organized by theme, with similar books sharing a shelf. So our newest books on colorwork joined their friends on the colorwork shelf.
The newest sock knitting books found a home with the other sock books, with the sock yarns close at hand.

Knit Noro: 30 Designs in Living Color snagged a space with the Noro pattern booklets and other technique books that play well with Noro yarns–entrelac, brioche, etc. These books are in the Noro corner, just above the Noro yarns.
Our newest books, pictured and unpictured, in no particular order:
Sock Knitting Master Class, by Ann Budd
Socks for Sandals and Clogs, by Anna Zilboorg
The Essential Guide to Color Knitting Techniques, by Margaret Radcliffe
Norwegian Knitting Designs, by Annichen Sibbern Bohn
Alice Starmore’s Book of Fair Isle Knitting
Aran Knitting: New and Expanded Edition, by Alice Starmore
Charts Made Simple: Understanding Knitting Charts Visually, by JC Briar
Knit Socks! : 17 Classic Patterns for Cozy Feet, by Betsy McCarthy
Sock Club: Join the Knitting Adventure, by Charlene Schurch and Beth Parrott
How to Knit Socks: Three Methods Made Easy, by Jeanne Stauffer and Diane Schmidt
Knit Noro: 30 Designs in Living Color
Knit, Swirl!, by Sandra McIver
365 Crochet Stitches a Year: a Perpetual Calendar, by Jean Leinhauser and Rita Weiss
Armenian Knitting, by Meg Swansen and Joyce Williams
I’ve just picked up my copy of Alice Starmore’s Book of Fair Isle Knitting, which should keep me busy for quite some time, reading, admiring, and planning. Serious, beautiful knitting tomes like this one are by far my favorite kind. If you’re seeking some knit or crochet inspiration, my recommendation is the right book–one that excites as well as educates. Come by the shop to find it!

Julia shows off.

As regulars at the shop are probably already aware, I’ve become preoccupied with knitting socks of late. Since I’m six and a half pairs into my sock knitting career, I thought it might be a good time to share my progress. Ready for some show and tell?

Cascade 220 Superwash Sport.
Berroco Ultra Alpaca Fine.
Debbie Bliss Rialto 4-ply.
Debbie Bliss Rialto 4-ply.

And what am I working on now? But of course:
Debbie Bliss Rialto 4-ply.

I have designs on a Zilboorg-style cabled cardigan out of the Shenandoe Farm yarn, but that’s only if I can peel myself away from my #2 double points. If you’re in need of some sock-knitting enthusiasm, I have plenty to spare: come by the shop and we’ll talk socks. Many thanks for enduring all those pictures of my feet! 

Reading material.

It hasn’t been a huge week-or-so for new yarns, though I do have a few to share in the coming days. There have been new books arriving, though, in their trademark smaller, heavier boxes. New yarn is exciting, of course, but I must say, I get a particular thrill opening a box of knitting books. My fondness for resource-type knitting books having already been expressed, this may come as no surprise. Join me, then, in welcoming a smattering of the latest books.

60 Quick Baby Knits: Blankets, Booties, Sweaters & More in Cascade 220 Superwash, from Sixth & Spring Books. But why, you might ask, do we carry this book, when we don’t carry Cascade 220 Superwash (at least, not in the worsted weight–we’ve got sport weight)? The answer: we are all about yarn substitution. We have at least eight worsted weight washable wools that I can think of off the top of my head, not to mention worsted weight cottons, which are also popular for baby things. A good pattern is a good pattern, and there is no one right yarn for any given pattern. Confused about how to substitute yarn? Just ask. Figuring out which yarn to use for a pattern is one of my favorite pastimes. 

The Knitting Answer Book, by Margaret Radcliffe. A small but thorough reference guide, perfect for a new knitter, or anyone who has ever wanted a knitting reference right in their knitting bag.

Fresh Vests to Knit, by Edie Eckman. A booklet for those knitters that seek only vest patterns.

A trio of toe-up sock books came in to join the other sock books: Socks From the Toe Up and Toe Up Socks For Every Body, both by Wendy Johnson, and Toe-Up 2-at-a-Time Socks, by Melissa Morgan-Oakes. Marion’s magic loop sock class has inspired many knitters to work socks from the toe up, rather than cuff-down, and our growing collection of toe-up sock books reflects this. If you’re looking to choose between these titles, Marion is a wonderful source, as I’m pretty sure she’s read and knit from nearly every one. As of now, there are still three spaces in Marion’s next magic loop sock class, by the way. Interested?

I’m a copycat.

Remember my sock-crazed friend, Andrea? Well, I copied her. After the baggy gray socks, I was ready for a pair that would fit correctly. Hence, these copycat socks, knit, like Andrea’s, in Berroco’s Ultra Alpaca Fine, and embellished with contrasting reenforcement thread at the heels and toes.

Now I am completely obsessed with knitting socks. I’m halfway through the first sock of my next pair already. Look for me at the shop, wearing the copycat socks two, three, maybe four days in a row… because handknit socks are exactly as comfortable as sock knitters like to insist they are.