Continuing your Sock Knitting Journey

Note from the SpaceCadet:  My friend Amy (DPUTiger on Ravelry) is a knitting teacher, a quilter, and a newly-minted weaver.  And she’s been kind enough to write a series of posts about her favourite ways to start new sock knitters on their journey…

So you’ve tackled Fuzzy Feet and are ready to move along and try something else. Where is a good place to start with that beautiful fingering weight yarn and the toothpick-sized needles?

My first pair of fingering weight socks were generated by my sock class teacher with Sock Wizard.  They had crazy-long cuffs (hello, 7” of 2×2 ribbing!) and took a really, really long time to knit. I did a second pair with the same yarn, on needles that I hated, and with short-row heels and toes.  That experience nearly put me off of socks completely.



So, you ask, what turned things around for me, and what would I recommend to you so you don’t suffer the sock blahs right out of the gate?

Knitting Rules.  If you aren’t familiar with Stephanie Pearl-McPhee, aka the Yarn Harlot, you should be. Stephanie is a terrific writer with a sense of humour.  And whether you are an experienced knitter or especially a knitter that’s just starting to branch out into the world of Not Scarf Knitting, Knitting Rules is a valuable addition to any knitter’s library.

So just as I was finishing the Socks from Hell, the Yarn Harlot began blogging about the step-out socks that she was knitting for an appearance on Knitty Gritty. I was intrigued, picked up a copy of Knitting Rules and hit the jackpot.

And while Stephanie provides a perfectly awesome 64-stitch sock pattern, she also provides a good basic sock recipe. I love this pattern and recommend it because it gives you the tools to create a sock in any size to fit any foot. She gives you permission to stockingette that leg after a couple inches of ribbing. She has great information on how to start with hats, sweaters, all kinds of things. The book is a great foundation for wherever you want to take your knitting.

There are a few little tidbits I’ll throw in before I leave you in suspense waiting for my final salvo on sock knitting:

  • I have one rule in my classes: No Eeyores.  If you attack something new with a positive, can-do attitude, you will succeed!  If you are convinced sock knitting is too hard for you, then it will be.  Period.  Attitude is a self-fulfilling prophecy.
  • Lifelines are your friend!  (What is a lifeline? Click here)  If you’re new to sock knitting, throw a lifeline in before you start something new. My ideal lifeline material is DMC Perle Cotton, commonly used for cross stitch and embroidery. If you use lifelines, you really can knit fearlessly, because it will be simple to rip out and re-start if you screw up or get confused.
  • Every single sock pattern in existence can be knit using any of the three small-circumference knitting methods: double-pointed needles (DPNs), two circular needles, or the Magic Loop.  All three methods are interchangeable.  Always.  No exceptions.

I’ll be back again to discuss the one book that changed my knitting life. Until then, enjoy your foray into sock knitting!

A First Step in Sock Knitting

Note from the SpaceCadet:  My friend Amy (DPUTiger on Ravelry) is a knitting teacher, a quilter, and a newly-minted weaver.  And she’s been kind enough to write about her favourite way to start new sock knitters on their journey…

Socks seem to be part of the “Magical Mystery Tour” of knitting. Somehow, people get all freaked out with sock heels, short rows, gussets, kitchener stitch … the list goes on.

And with all these amazing hand-dyed yarns to choose from, why not add sock knitting to your repertoire?

I teach sock knitting at Bloomin’ Yarns, my LYS.  On Ravelry, I’d say one of the questions I see most often is how to get started with sock knitting. I have a prefab answer that I use over there, but you lucky folks get the expanded version with the why’s and wherefores behind my answer.

The number one thing that I recommend for a first sock is usually Fuzzy Feet. It’s a free pattern from the Winter, 2002 issue of Why do I like it so much for a first sock?

knitting, sock yarn, sock knitting, tutorial, fuzzy feet, knitty.

The first reason is that it calls for a worsted weight yarn. I believe that using fingering weight yarn and sock-sized needles is a skill all by itself. When you are used to using worsted weight yarns and needles in the neighborhood of a US 8, it’s a big change to go down to 8 sts/inch and a 2.5mm needle. And it’s better to learn one thing at a time, not two.

If you already do enjoy small needles and want to jump right in with that set-up, then you can go wind your next skein of SpaceCadet so you’re ready to roll with my next guest post.

So what else is so great about Fuzzy Feet?

They are knit with a worsted weight feltable wool (like Cascade 220) on US 10.5 needles, which makes them very quick to knit. I usually use a 16” circ, so I don’t even have to mess with a small-circumference technique like DPNs (double-pointed needles), two circular needles or Magic Loop. The construction is identical to a traditional top-down sock so you can learn the process with great big comfy needles. And the best part? It doesn’t matter in the least if you mess up, because when you’re done… you felt the slippers.

knitting, sock knitting, felting, fuzzy feet.

Have you ever felted anything before? There is virtually no stitch definition left after the felting process so those wonky short rows to turn the heel? Those gusset stitches that you picked up that are a little loose and open? The kitchener stitch at the toe that isn’t quite perfect? Gone. All of it.

You wind up with a pair of comfortable, warm slippers. And you learned the mechanics of sock knitting! Even my uber-picky husband likes his Fuzzy Feet. He’s on pair #2, since he walked through his first pair by the end of Winter #3.

knitting, sock yarn, sock knitting, fuzzy feet, tutorial.

So what’s the next step after you’ve finished your Fuzzy Feet? I’ll be back to talk about that next time!

Great Tools for Beginning Spinners

Note from the SpaceCadet:  My friend Natalie (npeace on Ravelry) is a prolific spinner who creates amazing handspun yarns almost exclusively on spindles.  She’s been kind enough to write about a few of her favourites here.

A while ago, I wrote a bit about resources for a beginning spindle spinner.  Since writing that post, a couple of people have come back to me saying:  That’s all well and good, but what are the actual tools that a beginner needs?

It’s a good question.  One of the appeals of spindle spinning is that it really doesn’t take much.  A spindle is basically just a stick and a weight, in one configuration or another.  Get one of those and add in some fiber – preferably prepared for spinning, but even that’s not completely necessary – and you should be good to go, right?  Well, yes… and no.  Yes because, well, yes; at a minimum that is what you need to spin.  No because, like most activities, having good tools makes the process easier – especially in the beginning.

I recommend a high-whorl spindle to start with.  There’s nothing intrinsically better about high whorls compared to low-whorls, or any other kind of spindle for that matter.  All types have their advantages.  However, the current spindle resurgence, in the US at least, has centered around the high-whorl spindle and this type of spindle is the most readily available, and the most generally used.

For a complete beginner, I suggest a spindle between 1 and 2 ounces.  Something in this range should suit most beginners nicely, and will continue to be useful as a plying tool even if the spinner decides with experience that they prefer lighter spindles.

Whorl diameter is also something to consider.  Generally, the broader the whorl is, the longer the spindle will spin.  For a first spindle, look for something between about 2.5 and 3.5 inches.

With these basics in mind, let me show you the spindles I most often use to teach beginners to spin.  These are only the tools that I have found to be effective – there are many other good spindle makers out there, and this list is by no means exhaustive.

My absolute favorite teaching spindle is this is a 1.3 ounce Kundert:

This spindle has a long, level spin that makes it easy for beginners to control as they first learn to draft.  It also has a nice broad whorl which lends stability to the spin, and the shape of the hook captures yarn well, minimizing slippage.

With many of the advantages of a Kundert spindle, but at a lower price point is this spindle from Spinsanity:

This spindle does not have the hand-turned elegance of the Kundert, but it is well crafted and has a very similar kind of long, easy spin.

Another maker I often recommend to a beginner is Jonathan Bosworth:

His spindles come in several size ranges, but a beginner would probably do well with a midi.  The whorl here is much narrower.  However,  the way it is shaped still keeps the weight distribution towards the rim, which makes for a long, steady spin.  The narrower whorl also makes it easier to carry around with you, so if you plan on spinning  when you’re out and about, this might be a good choice.

Finally, on the high end of the price spectrum is Golding Fiber Tools:

Golding craftsmanship speaks for itself.  If you’re one of those beginners ready to commit whole-heartedly to this spinning thing from day one, a Golding learn-to-spin kit would be an excellent way to start.

There are many other good makers out there and this list is just something to get you started.  If you try one of my suggestions and find that it doesn’t suit you, by all means try something else.  Check out the Spindlers and the Spindle Candy groups on Ravelry for other ideas.  Your spinning will only be improved by experimentation!

Getting Started in the Tour de Fleece

Note from the SpaceCadet:  My friend Natalie (npeace on Ravelry) is a prolific spinner who creates her wonderful yarns almost exclusively on spindles.  With the Tour de Fleece coming up, it felt natural to ask her to share her thoughts on the best way to get started…


By Natalie

July 3rd marks the start of one of the biggest events of the spinning year – the Tour de Fleece.   For 3 weeks, spinners everywhere will spin along as the cyclists in the Tour de France work their way across France.  During this time, gorgeous handspun yarns will be popping up all over the internet as spinners show off their tour projects on their blogs and on Ravelry.

It was actually all this frenetic tour-based posting of handspun that got me interested in spinning a few years ago.  If you find yourself drooling over yet another absolutely stunning barber-poled yarn or wondering how it would feel to play in a big pile of cloud-like merino… well, that’s a pretty common side effect of the Tour de Fleece.

Natalie spinning SpaceCadet Creations BFL combed top in Garden in Spring, on a Butterfly Girl spindle

It used to be that people felt they had to invest hundreds of dollars in a wheel in order to do “real” spinning.  This often seems like too daunting an investment to make just to give something a try.  Fortunately, with the current resurgence in popularity of the humble spindle, spinning is becoming ever more accessible.  If you get all fired up by the Tour de Fleece and want to give this spindle thing a try for yourself, here’s a list of resources to get you started:


Respect the Spindle by Abby Franquemont – If you’re only going to buy one spindle resource, this is the one to get.  It starts with the basics but will continue to be useful as you gain competence and experience.  There is also an accompanying video available as a DVD or as a video download from the Interweave online store.

Productive Spindling by Amelia Garripoli, also known as the Bellwether.  This book covers a lot of the same material as Respect the Spindle, but the approach is different, and it is an equally valuable resource.

Internet Resources:

Both authors above have informative blogs.  Abby Franquemont’s is and Amelia Garripoli can be found at  Both have extensive archives of general spinning and spindle-specific information.  Abby Franquemont has also posted a number of fabulous instructional videos to you tube, which you can find here.

Also invaluable to the new spindle spinner is the Spindlers group on Ravelry.  The “Stupid Questions” thread is full of answers to every beginner question imaginable, and if you can’t find what you’re looking for there you can post a new question.  Many experienced spinners generously spend their time monitoring that forum and answering all manner of questions for the new and confused.

There are many, many more resources out there, but starting with the list above will have you up and spinning very quickly.  Have fun!