Swatching for low-investment socks, and a nifty new tool

So I've finished the wonderful afghan for the book project about Dorothy Reade's lace designs and the work is piled up around me, but I need some knitting. I need to have a fill-in project that I don't need to think or care much about. It can't be boring, though.

I'm behind on deadlines, and I've spent the past couple of days formatting the hard drive on the PC and reinstalling XP and a bunch of applications. I still haven't reinstated the documents; too tired, especially of computers, for the most part. Whatever I knit has to be moderately brainless and yet satisfying. I've tried a couple of hats using scrap yarn, but have ripped three times because what was happening on the needles just didn't catch my fancy.

A friend mentioned that she likes Red Heart's Heart & Sole sock yarn, so even though I have very nice sock yarn waiting for me here I grabbed a couple of balls while I was out doing other errands. I would care about what I was doing with those other yarns. I would feel the need to design something nice to show them off. I need a true no-brainer.

The store I stopped at had single balls of two colorways of Heart and Sole, and four balls of a third. That's all. I have long feet and need at least two balls, maybe more, to complete a pair of socks. So I didn't even have to decide on colors, except to affirm that this set will go with some of my clothing . . . like the jeans. I'm not so sure that there's any benefit to putting aloe in yarn, but maybe it will soften up my winter-dry hands.

Using this yarn, I have no responsibility other than to get the gauge right, then knit away at a plain pair of socks. I'll likely end up with socks that are wearable and I'll have firsthand experience with this yarn, which is always useful, especially when I've invested very little financially or emotionally in the experiment.

However, there's a bit of fun to be had as well.

Recently I ordered a refurbished iPod Touch. I'm trying to simplify my life. Apple products seem to be helping. Then I discovered this cool little tool for the iPod Touch called KnitGauge, which is set up to measure a gauge swatch:


Hard to believe that this is a task that can be accomplished by an electronic device.

You knit your swatch. You put in two pins, no farther apart than the display area on the iPod or iPhone (they can both run this app, which costs 99 cents . . . not including the iPod). You count how many stitches are between the pins, and you touch the screen to enter the information—that's the blue indicator, and my number here is 23. Then you touch the screen again to slide the red and green "pins" to match where your real pins are, and the device gives you a readout of how many stitches you have in 1 inch, 2 inches, 4 inches, and their metric corollaries. It also tells you exactly how far apart your pins really are. (Same method for rows per inch, if that's what you want to know.)

See the yellow rulers? Tap those and they expand to give you either imperial or metric measuring devices as big as the screen. Hit "info" and get a succinct, clear description of how to use the tool.

Devised by Michael Golden and released in conjunction with Ashland Sky, with testing and ideas contributed by Mary Danca, Sandi Golden, Cat Bordhi, and Judy Becker. (I'd link to those other folks, too, but I'm not sure which people of those names they are; I have a sneaking suspicion about which Judy Becker it is, but not a certainty. One of the weird things about the internet is that I used to think my name was just mine. It's not.)

Very cool.

Thoughts on the swatch: This sure shows why it's important to understand the relationship between color repeats on space-dyed yarn and the fabric you're constructing. The swatch, worked at about one-third to one-half the circumference of a sock, is pretty ugly. It does absolutely nothing for or with the colors. They look awkward and clunky.

I think the socks will be fine. And as I was knitting, I began wondering what sorts of patterns would come up if I knitted the yarn into a fine (small-square) entrelac pattern. The ways in which the colors would fall in the squares could be intriguing.

I don't know if I'd want to mix these particular entrelac color effects with the stripes for which this yarn was designed, but since I have nothing to lose here (it's not a serious piece of knitting, and I'll only be working on it during times when I would otherwise be tempted to chew on my fingernails), I might try that out. Since I'll be working toe-up, I can make up my mind later. I could even work a round or two of entrelac and then rip back a little way if I don't like it.

Love the magical gauge calculator.

I also found an app called StitchMinder that counts pattern repeats, rows completed, increase and decrease intervals, and the like. It's free (again, once you've got the device that runs it). I've used it a little and think it will be handy at times, alhough it's going to be hard to compete with my pencil and hash marks. The developer is working on another elegant little program that will let users monitor several projects at once, and manage inventory of yarn and needles. It's called KnitMinder. That won't be free, but I think will be worth the $5 or so it will cost.

It's nice to have a few simple computer-related activities that work without crashing or requiring major renovations (knock on wood).


Have I mentioned the Sock Summit recently? August will be here before we know it. That's good, although I've got a heck of a lot of work to get done between now and then. The Sock Summit is going to be astonishing. I keep learning about more people who will be there that I either haven't seen in years or will be meeting in person at long last.


2 thoughts on “Swatching for low-investment socks, and a nifty new tool”

  1. Paul from Quilt2Go here; just wanted to let you and your readers know that KnitMinder was released last week and is now available for download on the App Store. I’ve also created KnitMinder Lite, a free version which stores a limited number of projects, yarns, and needles that you can use to try the program out before buying. As always, you can reach me directly through the Quilt2Go web site if you ever have any questions, problems, or suggestions for StitchMinder and KnitMinder. Thanks for mentioning my apps!

  2. Well, cool! I’m quite fond of StitchMinder, and I knew you were working on KnitMinder. I appreciate the alert that it’s available. Thanks for your work on apps for knitters, Paul, and for the overview on your blog of what’s available, including other people’s work as well as your own: . You’re right: there needs to be a top-level classification that would make these programs easier for us to find. I don’t have much time to go browsing around.

    I immediately got your KnitMinder and the iKnit Needle Sizer. Thanks for the tips.

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