Thursday, January 23, 2014

Pixie slippers morph into socklets

After making a bunch of pixie slippers for gifts (they are really quick to make), I found myself wondering if the basic concept couldn't be modified to make a little sock.  After all, I don't really need the flap at the top (which is just about a quarter of the square), and it would be nice to avoid the pointy toe for everyday use.  And it would be nice to use different pattern stitches, something smoother, more sock-like than garter or ridged single crochet.

And if you can get a real sock from one 50-gram ball of sock yarn, you'd get a pair of footlets out of the same amount of yarn, if you had a pattern that worked.

So that was the challenge.  First question:  What shape would I be making?  Well, if you make one pixie slipper,

Here's the basic pattern -- This doesn't look like a square!

But with a loose gauge it can stretch
Fold in a triangle, ws facing, stitch along the
bottom and halfway up a side ..

Turn outside out, fold down the top, and here you have a pixie slipper, with loose ends that need to be tucked in.
cut off the pointy toe and the flap at the top,
OMG! She cut the fabric!
Actually, it is starting to look like a bootie/socklet thing

and then take out the seam that held it all together, here's the shape that comes out:
And here is the shape to make ..

Second question:  What is the easiest way to make this shape?

Well, "easiest" can mean different things to different people.  For me, an intuitive shape is to stitch in the round (a coil) starting at the ankle, increase out to the toe, then join a little seam for the toe and along the bottom edge.  This photo shows a cut edge (bottom of photo) that is the top of the sock.  The two short straight sides going out on each side join to be the center back. The two long straight sides coming in are the center bottom.  The little dip at the top is going to get joined for a toe seam.  Should work.  Here's how:

1.  Choose a pattern stitch.  I chose chain-1 net stitch:  Setup row:  on a chain stitch foundation (even # of sts) the desired length, sc in the 2nd ch from the hook.  *ch1, sk1 ch, sc in next st.  Repeat from * across.  End the row with a sc.  To continue in a round, ch1, insert hook in the first ch sp of the row - that joins it in a round and starts the coil - and sc1.  There is a jog where the first row starts.  In finishing, use the starting tail to make a neat join and smooth that point.  Then, *ch1, sc in next ch space.  Repeat from * around.

Note:  the size I am describing here is to fit my foot, which is 9 ( ___ ) inches long.  Half that is 4.5 ( ___ ) inches, a relevant piece of information later on.  If the size you want to make is bigger or smaller, substitute your numbers in the ( ___ ) so the statements are true for you.

2. Start at the top of the sock, with a foundation row that is as long as my instep - because it has to slide over it.  The point where the end of the foundation row joins the beginning - to make a round - is the middle of the top front of the sock.

3.  Before continuing in a coil, take a moment to place a marker in the 2nd sc of the row just finished.  Increase 1 pattern stitch on either side of the marker in each round.  Each time you reach the marker, move it to the stitch above it in each round - it will alternate between a sc and a ch. To increase 1 pattern stitch:  (sc, ch1, sc) in the closest ch space on either side of the marker. In one row there will be just a ch1 between the increases.  In the next round there will be a (ch1, sc, ch1) between the increases.  Keep the increases close together at the center top of the piece.

4.  Continue in the pattern as set until the piece is as long as the foot.  By that, I mean that the measurement of the last round completed, when the piece is laid flat (2 layers), is as long as the foot.  So I stop increasing when the long edge is 9 ( ___ ) inches long.  Finish with a sc in the ch sp just before the next increase.

5.  From here on, continue in rows.  Ch2, turn.  Sc in next ch sp.  (ch1, sc in next ch sp) across, ending with a sc in the ch sp just before the next increase.

6.  Ch2, turn.  Sc in next ch sp.  (ch1, sc in next ch sp) across, ending with a sc in the ch2 turning chain at the beginning of the previous row.  Repeat this row until the piece measures 4.5 ( ___ ) inches from the foundation edge to the last finished row.  Remove marker.

The row ends make the toe. The last worked row will be joined as the bottom seam.  Here's how:

7.  (WS facing) After the last row, sl st to the ch2 at the beginning of the last row, joining the short toe end into a round.  Ch1.  Stitching across the row ends and point at the toe, sc in the same ch sp.  *ch 1, sk 1 row end, sc in next ch space. Repeat from * around, keeping in patt across the stitches at the toe point all the way across the other row ends, ending with sc in the sl st space where the toe end was joined into a round.  Fasten yarn, but do not cut.

8.  Lay the piece flat to join the toe seam, with the long open edge centered on top, looking at the two layers of the toe next to each other.

9.  Lay yarn along toe edge over to right side to start joining the short seam.  Draw up a loop in a ch sp at the corner.  Enclosing the yarn along the edge when convenient, sl st in the ch sp on one side then on the other, zigzagging across.  At the left edge of the toe, fasten yarn, but do not cut.

10.  To join the bottom seam:  Place marker in a sc on one side of long open edge, about 2/3 of the way to the heel (this does not have to be exact).  Insert hook in ch2 sp at the beginning of that last row, at the toe.  Draw up a loop, making sure the excess yarn is not held too tightly.  Since this excess yarn is short, on the inside of the toe, there's really no point in dealing with tucking it in or fussing with it -- it would take more trouble and fuss to cut it, start new, and have to tuck in both loose ends.  *Ch1.  Sl st in corresponding ch sp on opposite side.  Repeat from * back and forth, joining the seam, ending with a sl st in the ch just before the marker, with about 1/3 of the seam left open.  Move the marker to the last sl st made. Continue with the heel shaping.

Bottom seam including heel shaping
11.  The heel whorl:  Decreasing and continuing in a coil, *sc in next 2 sts.  Sk next st.  Rep from * around the remaining opening one time, ending with sc around the marked slip stitch .  Then, (sk next sc, sc in next sc) around and around until 6 sts remain.  Lay the piece flat, and slip st the remaining seam together, inserting hook through both layers.  Fasten off.

12.  Weave in the loose ends.
Finished socklet

This was made using Cascade Sateen worsted weight, for a quick bedsock, stitching with a 4.5mm hook.  This made a slightly loose gauge so the sock stretches to fit my foot neatly.  Normally, I would look at the recommended knitting needle size on the yarn label, and use that size hook.  If I didn't like how that gauge works out, I adjust the hook size to something I do like.

Next, the same thing in sock yarn, so I can wear it with real shoes.  Onward.

Three balls of yarn

Casablanca wound in balls - long
stretches of color
There is a common wisdom that hand-dyed yarns should be worked 2 balls at a time, mixing rows from both balls, to minimize the dye-lot variations that happen with hand-dyed yarns.  Working between two balls of yarn can also help mix things up a bit so the colors don't pool so drastically.  Thing is, with two balls of yarn, you have to work two rows of each before switching.  With crochet rows being fairly tall, that can be pretty stripey.  As an alternative, I started working with three balls of yarn, changing yarn at the end of each row.

I recently started a sweater using Cascade's Casablanca yarn, which has long stretches in each color.  If I used only 1 skein at a time, the short rows of my sweater would have wide stripes, and the wider parts of the sweater would have skinnier stripes, and it would all look fairly color-blocked - an effect I didn't want.

By starting with three balls of yarn, each starting at a different point in the color sequence, my sweater is coming out with a more fair isle look. Still need to make more progress on the sweater to see how it all works out.

I also used the 3 balls of yarn trick on a toddler sweater, this time with one ball each of two solid colors and a coordinated ball of a variegated that includes those two colors.  Because they all blend, the variegated yarn helped soften the stripey effect of the solid colors, and made the whole piece more lady-like.

If you use 3 different colors (A, B, and C), changing every row, the color sequence will be ABCABCABC - a 3-row repeat.  If you use four colors (W, X, Y, and Z), and switch yarn at the end of each row, picking up the yarn that has been waiting the longest, you end up with an 8-row repeat:  W-X-Y-Z-X-W-Z-Y.  That puts the colors in slightly different sequence, making the fabric look fancier.  It's another easy way to look clever.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Revisiting the Slam Dunk Pixie slipper

Here is a pattern originally posted 12/19/07 - golly, ages ago!  Thanks to a visitor comment, I'm thinking it might be relevant to revisit:  

And speaking of gifts and last minutes, here is an idea for a little bootie that you can work in a lot of different ways. It works great in knitting (just plain old garter stitch, knit every row). I have done it a lot in crochet, too, using single crochet in the back loop only.

Basically, you make a square, but don't cut the yarn when you're done. To make the square easier to stitch together, knit as many ridges (on one side) as there are stitches. If you crochet, single crochet (in the back loop only) as many rows as you have stitches. The gauge will work out.

Then, fold the square so it is a triangle, so the yarn is hanging down at one end of the fold.

From that corner, stitch two folded sides together -- that is the sole of the bootie. Then turn the corner and stitch about a third or halfway up the other side. The point where the crochet hook goes through the edge in the photo is about how far up to stitch. Now fasten off and tuck in the loose ends.

Fold down the top flap that didn't get stitched, and you've got a cool goofy Pixie Bootie.

If you stitch tightly, it makes more of a slipper and doesn't stretch much. This is good with very sensible sturdy yarns.

If you stitch loosely, it is really stretchy and is more of a bedsock, for those of us with cold feet. This is nice for soft cozy yarns, even chenille (which was never made for the ages)

About sizing: Everyone is different, but here is a general guideline of how many stitches to start with, whether you knit or crochet:

3 sts/inch
4 sts/inch
5 sts/inch
6 sts/inch
3” square – ornament, good for holding little gifts, too
5” square – baby bootie
7” square – kid size
9” square – lady’s medium
11” square – large

(Thank you to Susie in Phx for the editing suggestion - I didn't know how to include a table when this post first published.)

It is always safer to make it a bit bigger than not big enough. If it turns out that the square is a tad too small, consider single crocheting around the square one time to add just a bit more before stitching the seams.

Thursday, January 2, 2014


At the beginning of the year, many of us make resolutions to improve ourselves over the coming twelve months.  When you get to the heart of the matter, a resolution--any resolution--is a declaration that you intend to be more deliberate, more in control of some part of your life.  You want to plan, not react.

An element of planning can be useful in needlework, too.  I do a lot of needlework that is based on needs, rather than just what I feel like making.  I make sweaters for my sons when they need them, dishcloths for the kitchen, and socks for myself.  Making things that I need feels good, but it can pile up if I'm not careful.  It's like planning a schedule, where you need to be careful not to over-commit and to give yourself enough time to complete each item.

It can be a good exercise to list out and prioritize the things you want to make.  Here's an example:
I need a new pair of house socks, but it's a bit late in the game to make them for this year.  All three boys are going to need new sweaters, hats, and mittens at some point.  I need to finish the sweater I'm making for myself, and the baby will eventually need a blanket when he moves into his own bed.  Given seasons, sizes, immediacy of need, and the time involved in making things, I can prioritize these projects thus:
  1. Sweater for me
  2. Hats and mittens for the boys
  3. Socks for me
  4. Sweaters for the boys (oldest to youngest, according to their need)
  5. Blanket for the baby
This isn't a schedule that's set in stone, but it helps me plan ahead and get things done in a timely manner.  My making things for the family is useless if I produce sweaters that will only fit this summer or find my self scrambling to make mittens a few days before a snow trip.  I can also prioritize the kinds of yarn purchases I make.  I know that my prioritized projects probably will not involve a lot of cottons or novelty yarns, and that, when I shop a sale, I should look for yarns that will fit the larger projects I want to make.

These ideas are all related to the larger subject of being a smart consumer and a smart producer, but smart shopping and just-in-time delivery are often left behind when it comes to hobbies.  So in the new year, let us resolve to be resolute.