My current work in progress:

Seaforth designed by Alice Starmore, knit in British Breeds 5-ply Guernsey Wool on US 3 needles.


Socks, Randomly Speaking

Becky asked about my Trekking socks:
1) does the randomness of the colors bother you or are you ok with them not matching? 2) I am working on my first pair of Trekking socks (and only me second pair of socks ever). I am going toe-up (your pattern!)and have turned the heel and started the leg. I was planning to do the leg in stockinette, but when I tried them on, I think it is going to be too loose around my ankle and leg to stay up. Do you usually decrease stitches after turning the heel? Should I just start ribbing to solve the problem? I feel like you are one of the only people who I see making socks with stockinette legs so I am curious what your secret is.

In answer to number 1 — I am totally okay with the socks not matching. Some may consider this a flaw in my character, but I am surprisingly laissez-faire (for me) about randomness in socks. I am a perfectionist about a lot of stuff (some may call me picky), but matching socks is not one of them. I only wear socks with pants and shoes (not sandals) so no one really sees them anyway, so why should I care if they match?

I also don’t mind pooling and flashing in handknit yarns. Though I’ll admit that I admire people who go to great lengths to keep handpainted yarns from pooling as they knit socks. Me? I’m happy to just let the yarn do its thing.


As for number 2 . . .

What is my secret for making socks with stockinette legs that stay up? Fat ankles. Seriously. As a matter of fact, I often increase 4 stitches for the leg after turning the heel. I have sprained both ankles — and one of them very badly — so that they are now, sadly, permanently swollen to a certain extent. Gone are the days of seeing my ankle bone nicely defined.

Although I have knit a number of pairs of socks with a feather and fan leg, the ones that fit me best and feel the most comfortable are plain stockinette with the picot edge top.

Blue, Blue, My Needles Are Blue

But (perhaps surprisingly) my fingers are not. The indigo dye from the denim yarn comes off on the needle tips but not on my hands.

Wendy T. commented:
You mentioned cleaning your bamboo needles with Murphy’s Oil Soap. Just last night I went into my knitting needle holder and was disgusted to find some of my bamboo knitting needles and crochet hooks were MOLDY! All of my rosewoods seemed fine.

Does this ever happen to you? Do you suggest cleaning them with the Murphy’s Oil Soap? And, is there a better way for me to store my needles?

Someone in the comments or in an email recommended Murphy’s Oil Soap for cleaning dye off needles. This was a few months back, when I was knitting with sock yarn that was bleeding dye on my needles. I’ve not actually tried it yet, but I did get as far as buying the Murphy’s Oil Soap. Baby steps. ๐Ÿ™‚ Anyone actually used Murphy’s Oil Soap to clean needles?

Vanessa suggested in the comments cleaning needles by wiping them with a little bleach and a paper towel, then rinsing several times with water. finished with a coat of butcher wax. And Deni commented “Try the Mr Clean Erasable Pad – gently – to remove the dye from those needles. I was amazed how it took pink dye off mine.”

So there are a couple of other options for you.

Here’s a question for you denim knitting veterans — the ball band on the yarn recommends washing the pieces and then sewing the garment together. Can anyone tell me if the dye will stain other items in the wash, should I choose to wash a piece of denim knitting with, say, a beige bath towel?

Now, I washed the swatch with a dark green bath towel, so who knows if any dye came off.

Marlene commented:
There has been quite the discussion lately on the Master Knitter’s list about prewashing commercial yarn before knitting with it. I wonder if this would eliminate the shrinkage and dye transfer problems with the denim yarns. It sure would be nice to knit with that yarn if it was already soft, shrunken, and de-dyed, hmmmm?

It’s a great idea in theory. Actually, when I washed my denim gauge swatch, I skeined up on my swift the rest of the yarn from the ball I used for the swatch. I tied it carefully in several places, and washed and dried the skein along with the swatch.

But that washed skein was a total bitch to untangle and wind into a ball (even given the precautions I took tying it up before winding it) — it took me forever. I’d not enjoy doing that with all my yarn.


I’ll use that washed yarn for sewing the sweater together and knitting the neckband. That way, all the pieces and the yarn will have the same degree of fading and shrinking, as they’ll all have gone through one wash at that point.

Lucy sez


My daddy’s new video on YouTube is my new favorite movie! It just looks so . . . tasty. ๐Ÿ˜‰


  1. Moldy?! Eeeeewww, poor Wendy T! I’m afraid to go check on some of my lesser-used bamboos now…

    That poor mousie. I must admit Gracie thinks it looks tasty too though. ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. Rowan’s denim yarn loses lots of colour when it’s washed so it’s not a good idea to put anything else in with it. It’s meant to lose colour, it’s part of the faded indigo denim look and it continues to lose colour at subsequent washes.

    I don’t quite understand why people get so complicated about this type of yarn: if they don’t want to do the shrink thing – and in my experience it works very well – then they can just use an ordinary cotton yarn in the right colour. Or am I missing something?

  3. I washed a denim baby sweater with some beige towels and it didn’t transfer, but it was mostly the medium blue shade (with some ecru and the dark blue detail).

    One tip: since the yarn shrinks, if you seam it with the denim yarn, be sure to prewash the seaming yarn. You can undo your swatch for this, or wash some yarn with your finished pieces before seaming. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    I think I learned that from MDK Kay! ๐Ÿ˜€

  4. MDK Kay is a big fan of denim and I’ll bet could offer lots o’ tips.

    As for dye fade and color transfer in the wash, I’ve had great luck with Shout Color Catchers.

  5. Oh boy – does denim bleed. I wouldn’t wash it with anything you care about for at least 5 washes. It’s bad. It also will fade a bit as you wash it. It’s definitely a yarn in need of pre-washing for bleeding and shrinkage issues.

  6. What is your opinion on swapping yarns? I’ve read/heard some think of it as sacrilegious, but it’s been my experience that if I pick a comparable fiber/weight and do a gauge swatch, I’m a happy camper. Then again, I’ve not done a project yet like a sweater, where size would be pretty darn crucial. Your thoughts?

    and eww eww eww…I hope that little mouse has found a home somwhere else. ANYWHERE else!!!!

  7. What is your opinion on swapping yarns? I’ve read/heard some think of it as sacrilegious, but it’s been my experience that if I pick a comparable fiber/weight and do a gauge swatch, I’m a happy camper. Then again, I’ve not done a project yet like a sweater, where size would be pretty darn crucial. Your thoughts?

    and eww eww eww…I hope that little mouse has found a home somwhere else. ANYWHERE else!!!!

  8. Washing yarn: nope…..much too lazy…..and no, I would not wash it with anything other than denim jeans!…….

  9. I knitted a denim sweater for my brother with Rowan denim yarn. Everything was blue, my needles, my hands, even Chloe! I recommend washing the pieces all by themselves. I used Susan Bates plastic needles as I recall, and I have not used them since.

  10. What a cute little confused mouse. I’m sure Lucy really liked the bit at the end where it tried to crawl under the door and met a dead end.

    I once washed my Plymouth Bamboo needle in plain hand soap and water. The finish never was as smooth or fast, in my opinion. Perhaps I need to get some wax paper (baby steps), find the ostracized needle and give it a good rubbing. For $10, I think I’d try to save the needle with Murphy’s Wool Soap and some wax paper (If I have it on hand… don’t they give sheets of this out at the Bakery with pastries?) but be prepared to buy a new needle.

  11. Oh my! That video of the mouse on the run is HYSTERICAL! It reminds me of the mice running around the Boston subway rails. Hee hee hee!

    You have far more patience than I do, Wendy. If I had a washed but badly tangled skein of yarn, I’d probably just use it as stuffing for a toy rather than having to untangle it. Speaking of untangling, I have some microfiber ribbon yarn I purchased two years ago…still tangled.

  12. Ummm, Ummm, hello! mouse!!! cannot think straight, there is a MOUSE running around. Sorry, freaking out a little, don’t like free-roaming rodents.

    Knitting – was there knitting too?

  13. The mouse movie is hysterical ๐Ÿ™‚
    Another sock question. I am knitting your sock pattern. My first toe up sock. I have done lots of top down. I notice there isn’t any increasing for instep. Did I miss something? I am afraid that it will be tight over the instep. I am knitting these for my daughter who has a size 12 foot. So lots of foot part, before the heel. Thanks for any help

  14. Murphy’s Oil Soap? Never used it to clean needles, but I’ve used it on stairs and my dog went crazy. You’ve probably seen a canine scratching its back on the ground? Imagine the same thing happening, but five steps up a staircase. Catnip for dogs. If the effect carries over to felines, I’d keep the knitting needles seriously out of reach.

    Murphy’s Oil Soap is also great for spinning wheels.

  15. I want to thank you for showing the inside of your picot edges and describing how you did it. I used it on my most recent sock, and it worked wonderfully. I’m sold.

  16. Also one thing that’s really nice about the denim that you wont get by prewashing the yarn is that it fades at the raised part of each stitch, levaing really nice colour definition between the stitches, or any raised/cable work that you might do. I would have thought that pre washing would reduce that effect.
    As much as I disliked knitting with it, the finished product looked great, that was before I ripped it because it hadn’t shrunk properly ๐Ÿ™

  17. OK, so I’m not insane. I sprained my right ankle when I was 15 (square-dancing, no less). My ankles weren’t dainty to begin with, but now they’re mismatched. My mom and husband (asked yeeears apart) swear they don’t see a difference, but I can see it and I notice one sock always feels tighter. I’d knit one sock bigger out of every pair, but I’d probably forget which one when I’m rushing to put them on in the morning.

  18. I do tie-dye as well as knitting, and use synthrapol to wash excess dye out of stuff. It’s specially formulated to keep excess dye (at least fiber-reactive dyes) molecules from attaching themselves to other stuff in the wash. Very concentrated, it takes only a little. It might be worth a try on the denim yarn if you’re willing to go to the extra expense. I use it for other stuff too, though. It’s available from

    I’m loving the look of this sweater, even if it is miles of stockinette ๐Ÿ™‚

  19. Regarding sock shaping, I use Wendy’s toe-up pattern almost exclusively now, in plain stockinette with a k2,p2 rib, but I do add in a fair bit of shaping so that they’re a custom fit. I increase over the instep, decrease after the heel to fit my narrow ankles, then increase again when I reach my fat (ummm, shapely) calves. My only problem is, despite my best intentions, I’m really lazy about keeping notes, so I have to figure out what I did on sock 1 to make sock 2 match (more or less, anyway). But that’s what I love best about toe-up socks – I can try them on as I go and start shaping when I’m starting to reach the fat bits (or skinny bits).

    I love my custom-fit socks. I also custom-fit my husband’s socks, though he does get annoyed occasionally when I ask him to stick out his foot (for the umpteenth time) so I can try the sock on his foot to see where I am. I could use measurements, but where would be the fun in that!

  20. Today’s photo of Lucy is especially beautiful, in my humble opinion. Lucy, I’m still hoping for a pawtograph from you one day … maybe at your first book pawing.

    And, your daddy’s mouse on the run video is awefully cute.

    The colors in the current socks you’re working on look just like the assortment of colors in our fallow fields around the farm this autumn, on a sunny day. Very lovely.


  21. I love your toe-up pattern (both plain and feather-and-fan) and use it whenever possible. But what’s the picot bind-off? Is it the one in the FAF pattern on your site?

    I just made a pair of men’s size 12 socks, talk about a lot of foot.

  22. just stopping by to say hi. and that im starting my first sock using your toe up pattern and loving it. socks have scared me for a while and that kitchner sticth just wasnt helping matters so i found my old crochet hook and i cant believe how easy it was. thanks a lot -tonie

  23. Indigo is the type dye that actually just coats the fiber rather then bonding with it – which is why indigo has the characteristic fading. it will continue to lose colour through its entire lifetime.

  24. MMario beat me to it. I was going to tell you the same thing.

    It will also get softer too so it’s a trade off I suppose… Indigo is a fickle mistress.

  25. Here’s a suggestion for getting indigo off your bamboo needles that doesn’t involve getting them wet with anything: see if you can find something called “micron abrasive film”. I got a package at Michael’s and used it on cheap Chinese-made bamboo straights after I sharpened the needle points. Then I used it on the whole needle, and now I lo-o-ove my cheapie bamboo needles!

    Micron abrasive film is like super-fine sandpaper. Other places that might have scraps are auto glass places or glass-and-mirror stores.

    If you can’t find the micron film anywhere, my other suggestion is to buy one of the nail buffing kits that has a black, a white, and a gray buffer in it. I’ve used the #2 and #3 buffers to take light corrosion off old steel lace knitting pins, so they should work on bamboo. (But I swear by that micron abrasive!)

  26. Poor mouse, I hope they opened the door for him!

    here is a good utube kitty video:

  27. I’ve used old pantyhose to “sand” my bamboo Crystal Palace needles before. The needle got a little rough for some reason, but I spent a few minutes “sanding” it with old pantyhose and it smoothed it right out. Just a suggestion!

  28. Washing denim colored in a zipped pillowcase with 2 Shout Color Catchers right in the pillow case seemed to catch all the loose dye. The pillow case stayed white and fortunately for the slightly demented one who threw it in with other light cottons, they all did just fine (NO dye transfer, on the white or yellow). The Shout things were the same color as the sweater when they came out, so they do work. But, best advice is now coming, use the Shouts but avoid light colors anyway. I may have just had a lucky day.

  29. I also increase for the instep (more gusset stitches), decrease for the ankle and increase again for my (ahem) well-developed calves. I’ve adapted the wonderful Shapely Socks pattern by Dawn Adcock to do it toe up too. She uses ribbing on the back of the ankle and at the back of the top of the sock, just before the cuff.

  30. I like beeswax for my wood needles. I haven’t noticed any mold whatsoever. I rub them with salad bowl beeswax you can find in any home decorating store, then with an undyed pure beeswax candle. Just another option for you.

    I think washing and drying your yarn is a good idea in theory, but as you found out the hard way, not so much in practice.

    Lucy’s new video is definite Oscar material.

  31. I meant that the mouse would get the best villian in a new piece and Lucy would get best disappearing act.

    My cats would have been all over that mouse. the house would be torn to bits while they tried to catch.

  32. Gwyndolyn O'Shaughnessy says:

    MOLD? Throw out the moldy needles Right Now. You will NEVER get rid of the mold and its smell. No matter what you do to the needles, the spores may transfer to your knitting. Once molded or mildewed, the stains and smell will NEVER come out of the FO. Further, mold and mildew are highly allergenic — right up there with dust mites and pets (sorry, Lucy). Would you want to wear mold or mildew next to your skin? Ewwww …

  33. Gwyndolyn O'Shaughnessy says:

    Oh, and throw out the moldy needle case, too.

    (Some folks have trouble with cute mice; I get grossed out just thinking about moldy knitting [shudder].)

    BTW: Lucy is even more gorgeous than usual today. Love that Lucy!

  34. I have a whack of denim yarn set aside for the Filey and Mystic sweaters. Just from swatching, my needles turned blue. It was amazing! That was a few years ago, and I never cleaned the needle because a) I kind of liked the blue wood, and b) I can easily tell which needle I got gauge with. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  35. I love that color patterning of Trekking. I am knitting an oblong shawl from it. Would be twice as far along but had to frog because of a dropped stitch. Am now using lifelines. Trekking is just so nice to work with, I think.

  36. I love that color patterning of Trekking. I am knitting an oblong shawl from it. Would be twice as far along but had to frog because of a dropped stitch. Am now using lifelines. Trekking is just so nice to work with, I think.

  37. I’ve been thinking about making an Alice Starmore Aran sweater whose pattern calls for Rowan denim yarn — you are inspiring me to think more seriously about it. Wool is almost always too warm, so the cotton denim is appealing.

    Am I the only one who feels sorry for the poor little mouse? Not that I’d want him running around in my house, you understand, but I still feel sorry for him.