Handspun spinning slippers, the knitting thereof

Being Part II of the tale of the handspun spinning slippers. Part I is here.

So I have my lovely yarn:

and I want to turn it into slippers like these. There are a few complications, though: the handspun is probably a bit heavier than the recommended yarn (which I would know for sure if I had a gauge to measure wraps per inch, or even a wooden ruler that was less than a yard long. I don’t. It’s on my list.); I don’t have a lot of it, and don’t want to use any of it to make a gauge swatch; I’m impatient — this is my first usable yarn, and dammit, I just want to make something; the pattern is ‘one size’, and I can guarantee you that size will not accommodate my rather large feet. I was going to have to wing it.

At this point in the story, I run into a quandary, dear reader. I would love to say exactly how I made the slippers, but I won’t. The result is too much like the original design, and I can’t in all conscience post detailed instructions for making them here when Reiko has gone to a lot of trouble to write a pattern, especially since she is using the proceeds to help people. Also, did I mention that I didn’t do a gauge swatch? So I won’t be providing numbers here; you’ll have to buy the pattern for those. It’s two and a half bucks.

In my humble opinion, the best way to make socks or sock-like foot coverings when you’re short on yarn and/or can’t be arsed to swatch is to do them from the toe up. You run the risk of getting to the heel and finding they don’t quite fit right, but then you haven’t done much more knitting than the swatch would have taken, and you can always rip back. It’s probably a bad idea to do this for yarn with more than about 10% silk (which might grow with washing) or with yarn you’re not that familiar with (again with the post-washing surprise potential), and if you’re planning to machine wash the finished object and haven’t used that yarn before, for the love of all the work you’ve done, make a swatch and wash it the way you’ll wash your socks. That said, there’s something freeing about seat-of-the-pants, toe-up, swatches-be-damned sock making. We’re living on the edge, here.

The Comfort Slippers pattern is top-down, so I’d have to work backwards. I took the end stitch count from the pattern and added a couple of stitches for extra foot width, grabbed two circular needles of what was probably the right size and cast on with Judy’s Magic Cast On. What’s the right size? Well, you’re shooting for a dense fabric, so whatever needle will give you that. If it doesn’t feel right after a few rows, try again. It’s only a few rows; better to redo them than to have drapey socks or socks that stand up on their own.

I increased where the pattern had decreases, trying them on as I went, until they seemed about wide enough (i.e., a bit too loose, as the knitting would pull back once the needles weren’t holding it out). Actually, my increases are a bit closer together, and I wish they weren’t. The next pair, I’ll separate the increases more to make the toes more like the original. When the toe was a bit short of where I wanted it (to allow for edging), I cast off the number of centre top stitches that the pattern had you cast on, did a few more decreases to open up the foot, then knit straight until I was a couple of inches short of the heel. Now, these slippers weren’t going to be worn in shoes, and I was not feeling very mathy, so I just did a short row heel instead of the reinforced heel. More edge decreases to open up the heel, then straight knitting until the back heel was about the height that I wanted it, minus a bit for the strap. Then I picked up stitches around the foot and, ignoring the heel stitches, did three rows of 2×2 ribbing on the picked up stitches, decreasing on the second row where I wanted corners (on each side of the toe and at the turn for the ankle), and binding off in the same rib, leaving the one remaining bind off stitch on the needle. Looking at the pattern again, this is not at all how she did the edging, and I like hers better, so that’s probably what I’ll do next time. I picked up one stitch along the short side of the foot edging just worked, knit across the back, picked up two stitches on the other edge, then cast on stitches for the strap until I had the same number as the pattern. (My ankles are narrower than my feet, so between that and the slight difference in gauge, I figured that would work.) A few rows of 2×2 (until it was about as long as I wanted it), bind off in rib, and voila!

These are some well-loved slippers.

They say that you don’t really learn what your handspun yarn is like until you knit with it, and they’re right. This yarn was pretty in the skein, but a bit hard. Knit up, though, it softened and opened up even before the final wash. (I knit English style — with the yarn in the right hand — which opens up the twist a bit.) After a light blocking, by which I mean give the thing a bit of a soak and dry flat, they were soft and cozy and a bit fuzzy and everything I’d hoped they would be. The slight difference in each single made the colours flow nicely into each other, though I’d had to cut out a fair bit of the darker blue to get the light blue in. And just as I had imagined at the beginning, whenever I get frustrated or bored with something I’m spinning, I look down at my slippers and remember how rewarding the whole process will be.

4 Comments

  1. I don’t follow a lot of the technical stuff, obviously, but wow, the color-fade in those slippers is REALLY pretty.

    1. Thanks, Lee! I really like that, too. Must keep an eye out for more gradients, at least until I learn to dye my own.

  2. Alison James

    Those are some lovely slippers!!!!
    Really well-written articles!

    1. Thanks! Mwah.

      I’ve been late on replying to both of these very kind comments, for which I humbly apologize.

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