Saturday, June 23, 2012


Two types of cabled socks for men (RJK design)
My grandmother knit socks, slippers, and gloves. In fact that was just about all she knit. She rarely used a pattern. When we were little, she would trace our feet on a piece of paper to determine how big to knit slippers for us. She mostly knit ribbed socks for my grandfather.

I also remember watching her knit gloves—yep, all five fingers. She used safety pins to hold the stitches for each finger. Grandma had immigrated to the United States in 1908 when she was eight years old, lived through the Depression, never accumulated much, and basically used what worked instead of buying anything “fancy,” like stitch holders.

A few years after Grandpap died, she went into assisted living for what turned out to be the last year of her life. During that time, she became much beloved for knitting hunting socks for the male employees. She was 93 when she peacefully passed.

My sister inherited Grandma’s knitting needles and some years ago passed along the double-pointed needles because she wasn’t planning on using them. What a treasure! They were still in the small brown paper bag in which Grandma had wrapped them. They were all metal and looked well used, some even slightly bent. The smallest size was 000.

Voilá! The heel!

So about eight years ago, I took a leaf out of Grandma’s book and decided to try my hand at socks. They looked intriguing. How in the world did that heel get made? I’d also never used double pointed needles. The pattern I used came from Sockology by Lang Yarns, which has a number of lovely designs. It also has a very handy chart for the number of stitches needed for various shoe sizes: toddlers, children, women, and men. My pamphlet is a bit dated, but Lang has released other Sockology pamphlets, so check online or in your local yarn store.

While knitting with four thin needles requires some adjustment, knitting in the round takes even more. For me, the first row after the cast on is awkward. If you aren’t careful you can easily twist a needle and end up having to start over.

You also need to be careful about making the leap from the last cast on to the first knit stitch or you’ll end up with an unsightly gap. One trick for this is to cross the first and last cast-on stitches before knitting the first row. Gap problem fixed!

Oh, and you can also easily twist stitches. While this is a valid stitch, you might not want to do all of your socks this way. It will also make it difficult when doing other stitches. If you are familiar with circular knitting you won’t have a problem. You already understand that the project is always facing one way, rather than the usual one side being knit and the other side being pearl. With socks, you only ever look at one side.

So I got to the point where I was to start the heel. I’d studied the pattern, but it made little sense to me. I’d never done this kind of thing before. I proceeded carefully, and as I went along, the heel just started making itself. It was like magic!

While my first attempt became “my” sock, the next pair was for my husband, who was delighted. I believe my nephew Ian became the next recipient—and he liked the socks as well. From then on, it was learning to make the socks better. Each time I knit a new pair for my husband, he discards two pair of the commercial ones. (My biggest fan! XOXO)

After the first couple of socks, which were either ribbing or a ribbed cuff and stockinette, I made my own designs, mostly using cables. I also have done lace for some women’s socks. I must confess that I have not written down these patterns and will try to do so in the future.

Not long after I started knitting socks, they became “in” for knitters and patterns began showing up everywhere. So if you haven’t tried them yet, please do. I’m sure you’ll love them as much as I do. There are so many ways to knit them … and so many, many lovely yarns!

My stash runneth over,

Reah Janise

Wednesday, June 13, 2012


Today it’s not about me, but about giving you some information. As I work on this site, I will be adding blogs and links to knitting communities, places to purchase yarn, and people who are doing cool things with yarn.

First off, you may have found this site through, which is a terrific knitting and crocheting community. If you haven’t already become a member (it’s free!), do so now. If there was ever a place for the knitting and crocheting community to congregate it is Ravelry, which includes crafters from all over the world. Wondering about a particular yarn? Ask about it on Ravelry and see how many have it in their stash. Looking for a particular kind of pattern? Check it out on Ravelry, many of which are available for free.
Shawlette knit with Woolle's Color Changing Yarn
Ashton Shawlette pattern by Dee O'Keefe

While my sister Jackie (another knitter) was visiting about a month ago, I took her to our local farmers market. Among the vegetables and fruit was Solitude Wool, run by two Loudoun County, Virginia, shepherds who love wool—Gretchen Frederick and Sue Bundy. These hand-spinners have taken what they’ve learned in making yarn from their own flocks to create a range of special breed-specific yarns from sheep raised locally. Each fleece is hand selected. They even pay extra to get a good fleece. From the different breeds of sheep, which grow different types of wool, they design yarn to exemplify the character of the fiber. They sell their yarns mostly at farmers markets and from their website.

I learned about Wandering Wool by Joelle Burbank, an indie dyer, through a work associate. When I went to her site I was entranced with her outstandingly lovely colorways. Joelle is following her bliss, as Joseph Campbell would say, combining her love of yarn and of the outdoors into dyeing her own yarns. She recently quit her day job to see if she could make a living out of doing what she loves to do. She sells through Etsy and also some shops in the DC area.

I used to not like working with cotton, but some friends and family prefer cotton, so I’ve branched into this area. While investigating various cottons, I came across Woolle’s Color Changing Yarn. Elisabeth Drumm, another one who is following her bliss, designs unique yarns that seem to melt from one color into another. I picked up a skein (100 gr/480 yds) at a local shop and used it to knit my first shawlette. It was such fun that I bought another skein (different color) for another shawlette). Check out her fun colors, which also come in hefty skeins for regular-sized shawls at her Etsy store.

Happy knitting!

Reah Janise

Sunday, June 10, 2012


Reah Janise & Zip Lock Sweater


I've been a long-time knitter, having learned the craft from my grandmother and sister. Over the past decade or so have begun designing my own patterns for sweaters and socks. I'm still learning this process and thought it might be fun to share some of the designs with others--along with the challenges.

Thus far my biggest challenge is getting this website to work properly. Somehow I recently erased the original welcome text while trying to insert a button link to a sweater pattern. (sigh)

The other challenge has been actually getting the patterns in a shareable format. Transferring from handwriting and graph paper onto digital takes almost as much work as figuring out the original design (and it's just not as much fun). Be that as it may, that's part of the purpose of this website.

I love knitting, especially giving a knit creation to family, friends, and others. And for you who come to this site, I hope you too enjoy this wonderful craft and how it enriches your life.

The Zip Lock Sweater featured on this page is not my first design, but it is the first design where I've put a pattern together. It's also the first time I've installed a zipper (a little tricky, but fun!) and my first successful use of Fair Isle. It took a while to really understand the best way to work two colors across a row to get the proper tension and not bunch. Thanks to my sister for her advice on that!

And with that,


Reah Janise