Lookit her, flaunting her YOs that way.
A couple of days late (par for the course when I say I'm going to post something), but hey, spies are like that. Unpredictable and all.
Spy sock tactic #1: Liberate stretchy cotton/lycra yarn from stash.
I plucked the Greenwood Fiberworks Cotton/Lycra sock yarn out of my stash for these. I received it in a swap from a lovely knittyhead whose name escapes me right now (the enemy must've erased my memory during that last mission).
It took about four or five tries to get the tension down. I figured with the elastic content, it would be best to hold the yarn loosely. Bad call. Way too loose, even using size 1 needles and a mere 45-stitch cast on (man, how bummed was I about that, I figured these socks would go by in a flash!). After several experimental trips to the frog pond, a tighter tension seemed to do the trick.
Here's a tip, which may help those of you looking to knit with this someday - hold it tight enough to stretch it out, but loose enough to make out the ridges. So, for example, if you stretched it out as far as it could go, then relaxed juuuust a bit so you could make out the "bumps", you'd be right on the money. Here's a pic for you visual folks out there:
Top - unstretched; Middle - completely stretched; Bottom - slightly relaxed and just right!
Spy sock tactic #2: Use secret decoder to configure CO + YO.
Since I had no clue what the yardage was going to yield, I went with my favorite toe-up starter, knitty's magic cast-on, and increased up to 64 stitches. Started with a YO/k2tog, then repeated every 8 stitches (YO, k2tog, k8, YO, k2tog, lather, rinse, repeat). This gave me four starting rows of spirals.
Twist and shout - actually, don't. You'll give away my position.
See, it's like this -- a well-trained spy will send out decoys to try and throw off the enemy. So Mata Hari here started all at the toes. The first spiral does what you might expect it to do - swirls about in a logical fashion from the toe to the top front corner. The third spiral almost makes it to the top of the foot, then disappears into the night. The last spiral ends after just two YOs (apparently her cover was blown). But the second spiral, she goes up all front and center, then spins about and ends in a random point in the back. Like any good spy would.
If you poke around the blogosphere, you'll see that other knitters generally start another row of spirals somewhere around the top of the foot or the heel to avoid the somewhat assymetrical blank spot growing there on the starting side. But that's just what you'd EXPECT me to do, isn't it! See, I'm a spy. I have secret missions you'll never be privy to. (Spy sock translation: I forgot and didn't notice 'til it was too late.)
Inside, out. Outside, in. Wait, huh?
Spy sock tactic #3: Confuse the enemy.
I decided to try wrapped short row heels on these. Yes, with a cotton/lycra yarn. That's stretchy. And textured. Even we spies have our dumbass moments.
They didn't go too badly. I picked the wraps up from the front (inside) on one sock, cursed repeatedly because they kept "choking" the wrapped stitch, making it a bitch to do those 3togs. For the second sock, I tried picking the wraps up from the back (outside), which made it a little easier.
Appearance-wise, picking them up from the front made the decreases on the purl side sit more on the outside of the heel. Picking the wraps up from the back made the decreases on the knit side sit more on the outside (like purl stitches). To even it out, next time I'll pick the knit side wraps up from the front and the purl side from the back. I think. Now I'm all confused...
Spy sock tactic #4: Knit to the wall.
I didn't have the yardage to make the spirals curve completely around the back, so my mission ended when the first one hit the top corner. Kinda random, but I'd juuust about hit the wall by then (it's an interesting way to jazz up plain stockinette, but after a certain point, you're ready to come home). After some 2x2 rib, I used a needle two sizes larger to bind off, which worked great! I'm going to try that on all my toe-ups from now on. We'll have to see if the fab crosses over to non-elasticy yarn.
Bendy. Stretchy. Key traits in a spy.
Spy sock tactic #5: Surrender to the stretch.
Back to the yarn - once I got the tension down, this was lovely stuff to knit with. However, there was some, er...what do you call it...debris?...in the yarn. Little black flecks, like this:
*poke* You alive?
I had a moment of "GAH!" when I saw the first one (for a spy, I gotta thing about bugs). Once I saw it wasn't moving, a closer inspection revealed the little flecks were not of a living nature. They appeared frequently enough that I eventually stopped trying to pick them out, as that would have seriously slowed me down (spies have to keep moving to avoid detection, you know). I just knitted them in and hoped they would wash out. It looks like maybe 80% of them did after just one run in the w/d, so I'd guess after a second, these'll be fleck-free.
I'm wearing them now and they are reeeealllly comfortable. Plus, the lycra content means you can knit straight-up stockinette and still enjoy a snug, stretchy fit. Bonus!
Spies are often subjected to torture, so as part of their training, I threw the pair in the wash then tossed them in the dryer. They passed with flying colors! No fading, no shrinkage. I can't believe I'd never heard of this yarn until it was swapped to me - think of what I would've missed! Definitely recommend this yarn for comfy summer socks!
She's a stretchy little courtesan in pretty, pretty pink - but she likes the comfort of cotton, too. Ah, the fascinating dichotomy of a secret agent. You better run off now, because this post will self-destruct in 10...9...8...
Mata Hari Socks
Yarn: Greenwood Fiberworks Cotton/Lycra sock yarn
Needles: KP 1, 32"