Knitting 101: The Christmas Stocking

Alright knitters, time to get into the Holiday spirit! Grab some hot cocoa, put on the tv fire place (I live it Texas y’all, it’s ALWAYS too warm for a real fire), and bake some sugar cookies. We’re finally ready to start our Christmas project!

Now, if you read the design post, you saw that the original knitting project looked like this:

knit design

Pretty cool right? Well, pretty cool if you have a very small set of needles and a lot of time. The snowflake pattern wasn’t working out with the size needles and yarn I wanted to use for this–and I really did want this to be a quick, easy project for anyone to be able to pick up–so I scrapped that idea in favor of something less intricate and a lot easier to knit.

Before we start with that though, make a gauge swatch. Yeah, I know, everyone’s LEAST favorite step. But especially if you want different measurements for your sock, you’ll need to know your gauge.

Now that you know your gauge, you can decide how big to make your stocking. Do you want a “standard” size sock? Something long and skinny? Maybe a miniature version for the office? Whatever you decide, you can use the patterns for Top Down Socks or Toe Up Socks as a guide for this whole project.

If you just want to follow along, I’ll be working top down with worsted weight yarn and US size 8 (5.0 mm) needles. If you haven’t familiarized yourself with stranded (aka Fair Isle) knitting and how to carry yarn up for stripes, you may want to take a look at my posts before you get started.

Ok, you have your gauge (17sts x 19 rows = 4″ x 4″) and you know how long and wide you want to make your stocking (~7″ across the top, ~10.5″ leg, ~7″ foot) so, now what?

Grab your needles and cast on of course! I cast on 52 which was actually turned out to be kind of a pain as I got into this. You see half of 52 is 29 and 29 is a prime number. Prime numbers don’t like to break into smaller parts evenly, so when I got to redesigning the pattern it wound up a little uneven, but that’s a story for a design post, so I’ll leave it for there.

When you get to the pattern at the end of these posts, you’ll see that it calls for 4 or 5 DPNs, I’m going to be completely honest here: I couldn’t find my 4th double pointed needle, so I am using circular needles to make mine.  The truth is that so long as you are able to comfortably join the circle, even one sock can be done with short circular needles.

How exactly do you DO that? Basically the same way that you cast on for two, except you are only casting on one. Cast on your stitches, find center, and work half at a time. There is a bit of a trick to it when you’re working with stranded knitting though.

Tension is HUGE in stranded knitting (as we’ll see farther down), so to help with that, the best way to handle a circular cast on is actually to cast on all your stitches in a line like you would for a straight needle:

cast on one circ

Then find the one quarter to one third mark on either side. Leave somewhere between a quarter and a third of the stitches on one needle, about one third to a half on the wire, and the other quarter to third on the other needle to work like so:

quarters

You can see in the photo that the cast on looks a little stretched here, if it does NOT tighten up and look more even once you’ve knit one round then you need to adjust your tension and try again.

Once you’re happy with your cast on, knit a few rounds to make your top. If you prefer a straighter top rather than the roll down style I’ve gone with here, either block the work when you’re done or knit a round, purl a round and then knit the rest. The purl round will help to tack the top straight without having to block the work. I kind of like how the roll came out though, take a look:

rolling top

To achieve that effect, I knit 2 rounds of red, one white, one green, one white, and two red, carrying the colors along as I went.

Once the top is finished, we can begin the charts.

The what?

The charts. Using a chart to guide your colorwork is sort of a short hand that many times is easier to follow than, “with white knit one, with red knit two, with white knit two, with red knit two, with white knit two, with red, knit three…” you get the idea.

When you’re reading a chart, the numbers across the top indicate the stitch and the numbers along the side indicate the row. Just look at the color in the square that matches the stitch your working. For my stocking, I have written the chart for half the stocking, so just go back to stitch one when you’ve finished the first half and start over.

Before we start with Chart A, knit one round with white. I’m knitting one round of white between each chart to help give some space. Keep that in mind as we go along so your charts don’t get too mashed together. Here’s Chart A:

Chart A

A fun little note, when you turn this thing inside out, you’ll have an inverse color scheme in the strands if you’ve carried your yarn right (keep this is the inside, so you’re looking at it backwards too):

inverse

Now, I warned you about keeping good tension through the stranded portion of this pattern right? See in that picture above how the work is starting to look a little bit like a corset?

corset-1330777_1920

That’s a tension issue. If you let it go too long, it will start to REALLY look like a corset

bad tension

Especially if you’re working with DPNs, you’ll need to watch your tension when you change needles. If you’re working with circular needles, there is a trick you can use to help you get the tension right.

Mark the beginning/end of your round and as you work, continue to shuffle your stitches around, so that no matter where you’re at in the pattern, you always have the strand for the color you’re changing to on the working needle. So if you need to switch to red, the last red stitch you worked is still on the working needle. That way every time you need to pull a float across to become a working strand, you have the needle to measure against and help to keep a constant tension.

Once Chart A is done, work another round of white (spacer remember?). Then work Chart B:

Chart B

Looking at Chart B, you may be saying “wait, how do I work three colors?” Don’t worry, it’s really easy. Let’s take a look at switching colors with three strands.

First, of course you have three strands you’re working with. In this case white, red and green:

3 strands

I’m changing from green to white in this picture, so the big thing to pay attention to is what happens with the red. Tuck the white strand behind the red like so:

cross white.png

Then wrap it across both the red and the green:

wrap white

That will force the red and green strands to stay close to the work and keep them from flopping around.

There’s one more thing that I want to address before we hit Chart C. In my post on stranded knitting, I very clearly say

“The tick with stranded colorwork is that you can only go so far with it. Carrying the yarn two to four stitches works fine, but anymore than that and you have to start worry about loose strands and potentially backing the work”

And I know you all can count, so you can see that I skip TWELVE stitches on the first row of the chart….

Yes, I just contradicted myself, but for good reason. I wanted to show you all what I was talking about with crossing more than four:

long float.png

That red line I’m holding up is the float between the red stitches on the first round of chart B. That line is a good tension (by my judgement), but you can see how a toe could easily get caught on it if it were an everyday wear sock. Being as this is a stocking and I like the pattern, I’m going to leave it that way on mine. I want you all to play with your tension here. See what you can do and how far you are comfortable stretching your floats.

If you don’t like the long string, just add to the top of the green dots and you’ll have something that looks a bit more like Christmas lights than polka dots. You’ll want to do the same for Chart C if you decide to go that route.

The last thing before we finish up the leg. If you’ve finished Chart B, your yarn might look like this:

tangled mess

Now would be a good time to untangle your skeins before moving on to another round of white and Chart C:

Chart C

Another round of white then Chart B, a round of white, Chart C, a round of white, and B one more time. You can actually keep repeating that pattern over and over until you’re happy with the length. Remember to keep untangling your yarn. It is NO fun to pick the knots out of this business and you can crunch your yarn (especially acrylic) and it won’t want to go back. Once you’re happy with the length, you’re done!

leg finished

When you’re ready, move on to the heel, which I’ll cover in the next post.

 

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