Sunday, March 01, 2009

Tops and Toes Blog Tour

Today, as promised, I’m participating in Kara Gott Warner’s blog tour for her new book, Tops and Toes: A Whimsical Collection to Delight Hat and Sock Knitters! I was invited to contribute a pattern to the book, and I’m thrilled to share a photo of Playful Polka Dot Socks with you today, along with this interview.

Kara: Hi Joanne, thanks for inviting me to stop by. I’m excited to learn more about your Playful Polka Dot Socks design. What was it that inspired you?

Joanne: Well, polka dots inspired me! I looked at a variety of sources that indicated that polka dots were in fashion. While I think polka dots are always fun and retro, not everybody can wear an itsy bitsy teeny weeny yellow polka dot bikini! Instead, I tried to figure out what part of the body is ALWAYS flattered by polka dots. Feet, of course!

Kara: I think the choice of Knit Picks Palette yarn was a great choice. Can you tell me a bit more about this yarn, and what makes it a great sock yarn. Is this yarn machine washable?

Joanne: I love that Knit Picks Palette has a wide range of colors. I happened to have some stash in a variety of colors, and the array of shades to be inspiration in itself. I’ve used it before in my Heart's Ease Sock Pattern and it’s worn well in a stranded knitting pattern. That’s why I chose it. Sadly, it isn’t machine washable—a real downside! However, there are many solid colored wool sock yarns that are, so it’s easy to substitute yarns if you’d prefer.

Kara: Why did you choose to design this sock from the cuff-down, rather then from the toe-up?

Joanne: I believe most sock knitters have a formula that works for them as if on automatic pilot. That formula can be knit almost without thinking and fits them well. For me, that formula is based on Priscilla Gibson-Roberts’ book,Simple Socks. While these socks could theoretically be worked toe-up, my habit is to work cuff-down. Fitting the color patterning to look “just so” can be complex when designing so I try to lessen any other designing complications!

Kara: I’m curious, since you’re working with 3 different colors, is it hard to do on something this small? Do you have a trick for working with multiple yarns? I always end up with a tangled mess myself!

Joanne: Many stranded or Fair Isle knitting patterns tend to be on smaller needles. I didn’t find the size to be a problem. In fact, I find knitting with two colors and two hands to be mesmerizing, especially when the movements are so small. Once I get the pattern down, it feels like a meditation, done while knitting!

Here are some things that make it easier. First, although there are three colors here, you only ever knit with two colors in a row. Therefore, there shouldn’t be any jumble of yarns to contend with—just two at a time.

The third color, the one that isn’t being used, can be easily carried up the back of the work. At the beginning of each row, just catch that unused color up by twisting it once on the working yarn, behind the first stitch. The twist will be at the back of the work and won’t show, but the third color will be carried right up to where you’ll need it this way, without any long floats….

…And, talking about floats… I try to design my stranded knitting patterns for socks without long floats so no one’s toes get caught! If this is a concern or you’d like to build in extra warmth, you can work that twist (mentioned above) even with your two working yarns. For instance, imagine you have a section with 4 sts of color A, and color B would normally be a float. Knit 2 sts of color A, twist color B at the back of the work once around color A, and then move on to the next 2 sts. Voilà! No long float, and even warmer tootsies will result…

Kara: with this cuff-down sock you use a Modified 3-Needle Bind-Off. This is an interesting technique. Why did you choose this to bind off the toe?

Joanne: My “formula sock” (mentioned above) uses a 3 Needle bind-off and that’s my habit—I use it in most of my personal sock knitting! However, when I attempted that, I found the bind off line made across the top of the toes was not tidy and neat. I suspect this is because when you knit with two colors, your gauge will be tighter than when knitting with one. The bind-off is in just one color and hence it looked loose and disheveled. I came up with a way to tighten that up through a creative modification.

The short answer is that it solved a technical difficulty between two gauges. The personal answer is that I’d hate to work a whole sock and have everything look beautiful but the bind-off! That would just upset me as a knitter, so I try not to let it happen as a designer!

Kara: How long have you been designing knitwear, and what are your favorite things to design?

Joanne: I’ve probably been designing knitwear since I was a kid. My first published piece was in Interweave Knits in 2002. I don’t really have a favorite! I usually work in the beginning to intermediate range, and I don’t do a lot of lace or polar bulky designs. Otherwise, I think my favorites are the ones that bring me pleasure to knit and wear! It’s hard to tell what will be a favorite until after I’ve designed it, knitted it, and sold it. I also have a fondness for patterns that other knitters love to knit, of course.

Kara: Have you been published in any other books or magazines? Tell me a little about your background, and what brought you to knitting.

Joanne: I’ve had designs published in a variety of places…a short list includes Knit Picks catalog, Interweave Knits Magazine, Spin-Off,, and Lion Brand Yarn Company. I’m most excited about the designs coming out in my books. Fiber Gathering just came out, (HURRAY!) and Knit Green: Twenty Projects for Sustainability, which is coming out this fall. I designed all 20 projects for Knit Green on my own!

I started knitting when I was 4 or 5 and I’ve always enjoyed it. I used to teach – high school, community college, and adult education, but the moving required for my husband’s academic career made it hard to find a new teaching job in each location. I began freelancing part-time in 2002 and took it full-time in 2003. My writing and knitwear designs are a fun part of that freelance career.
Kara, thanks for inviting me to participate!

(kind readers...was this interesting? Drop me a comment! I’d love to know what you think!)
For the rest of the blog tour schedule, click here:

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Now those are socks for learning to dance the Polka in!

March 1, 2009 at 6:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very nice socks, Joanne . . . I'm not a polka dot fan, but I could see making those (maybe I *am* a polka dot fan, but would prefer them on my feet).

March 1, 2009 at 7:40 PM  

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