Sunday, March 17, 2024

Tranquil, Quiet, Soothing

 2 a.m. I'm getting ready to go to sleep. Sitting on the edge of the bed, I turn my head and glance through the window. There I see the sideways smile of the crescent moon illuminating a patch of the black sky. I notice the angle of the roof on the other side of the lane, barely visible. I see the square chimney tops and the shapes of windows on buildings sitting in the glow of the streetlights. I stop for a moment or two, just to look and to savor the peace that descends upon me as I sit there. A cloud veils the moonlight for a minute before moving on until the moon is smiling at me once again. I smile back. I slept well.

Sunday, March 10, 2024

Chaotic, Crazy, Crowded

 At least that's what it felt like. We went to Letterkenny the other day. We needed to have a key made. When we moved in here, the local co-op could cut the keys for the downstairs doors, but not the mortise key to our apartment. We hoped to have better luck with the elderly gent who has a little shop in the Letterkenny shopping centre, so off we went. The bus ride is just under an hour and goes through some very scenic areas. It's all very rural until you get to the outskirts of town. 

When we got off the bus, a small older lady with a shopping cart on wheels came up to me and commented on the nice ride. I agreed with her--it's a very pleasant ride. Then she asked me how to get to Primark. I told her that it's called Penney's here and told her how to get there--basically, cross at the crosswalk, go to the right, and keep following the sidewalk to the shopping centre. Go through the doors straight ahead and keep going straight and until you're in Penney's. She kind of vaguely repeated what I'd said, but she still seemed anxious and a little confused, telling me it was her first time 'doing this.' Bill and I had planned to go to the charity shop right by the bus station before going to key man, but I wanted to put her at ease, so I said, 'Why don't we walk you over there?' She protested a little bit, but not too much, and she seemed visibly relieved when I assured her that we were going that way anyway. We got her to where she wanted to go, we got our key, did a bit of grocery shopping, and sat and had some yogurt, since it was lunch time. We were lucky to find a bench because it was crowded. I felt like I was ready for a nap.

 Back at the bus stop, things were a bit chaotic because it was 1 o'clock and there are a lot of buses coming and going at that time. Our little 19-seat bus didn't leave until 1:15, but the driver arrived early and was unable to pull in right away because there were a few large buses parked there. The lady with the cart--now full and she also had a shopping bag--looked at me and kind of nodded in the direction of our bus as it pulled up, so I nodded back. But she then tried to board one of the big buses, so Bill and I hastened over to direct her to the right bus, just as a space opened up for it. She looked at me with wide eyes and said, 'There are just so many buses and people. It's a lot.' We all got settled in for the pleasant ride home (we got off in the village before hers). Soon we were away from the crowded town and back in the countryside, once having to stop on a dime to let three sheep cross the road. It was a relief.

I was thinking about this lady as we were on our way home and I realized that I always find Letterkenny somewhat stressful. Once we're done there, I always feel drained. It's the largest town in Donegal, but it only has a population of around 19,000. In the past, I have lived in larger towns that were considered quite small and rural, but I am apparently no longer used to dodging people as I go and having so much going on at once. I don't actually dislike Letterkenny. There are things worth going there for--the museum, art exhibitions, and of course, the library. It's just that the sensory overload really takes a lot out of me somehow. Now that I have paid attention and am aware of this, perhaps I can prepare better in the future. Or I will just know that when I get home, I will be tired and ready for a nice cup of tea and I'll look forward to that!

Friday, March 1, 2024

Crochet Socks Tutorial/Instructions

 I was recently asked for a tutorial/pattern/instructions for some crocheted scrappy socks, so I put one together.
Before I get to the process, there are a few preliminaries. First, this post will be quite photo heavy, in case that's an issue. Second, this is a description of the process I use and not a traditional pattern. When I was experimenting to find the crochet sock construction/stitches that I like best, I was trying them on my own feet, so the numbers I use are specific to me. The good news is that the process is easily adapted so different feet and different thicknesses of yarn. I make mine with sock/fingering weight yarn, but the same construction method could be used with any yarn weight. Also, for my socks, I use a US E hook with the sock yarn. I am a tight crocheter. For those who crochet more loosely, a smaller hook might be better. You don't want a loose, floppy sock. They will wear better if they aren't loose and drapey. 

Crochet Socks Process Tutorial 

Supplies: yarn of your choice and an appropriate hook. I use sock yarn, which has some nylon in it for strength. Mohair is also very strong and would work well for slipper socks.

For the scrappy socks, I begin by gathering my scraps of sock yarn and joining them using the Russian join method--this way I don't have knots. There are many youtube videos that show how to do this, if needed. I simply put yarns together that I think will work well next to one another. When I have a decent size ball, I start crocheting. If I need to, it's easy enough to just add more.

Stitches Used: US hdc (which is UK half treble), chains
to make a hdc, yarn over, insert hook in stitch and pull up a loop, yarn over, pull through all 3 loops on hook

These socks are constructed from the toe up, so you can try them on as you go. They also have an afterthought heel, which means that if you wear out your socks on the underside of the heel like I do, you can take the heel off and add a new one. So starting at the toe, continuing through the foot, making a flat piece to cover the area between foot and ankle in front, then the cuff is the basic way these are constructed. Then yarn for the heel is joined and the heel created.

Chain 11, half double crochet (hdc) in 3rd ch from hook (the 2 skipped chains count as your first stitch). Hdc until you reach the last chain. 3 hdc in last chain--you will now see that you are ready to work across the other side of the chain (all of the following photos show a sample sock that I made for the purposes of this tutorial using thicker yarn and a bigger hook, so things would be easier to see. Each section is in a different colour)

Work a hdc in each of the chains along this side, making 3 hdc in the last stitch. Do not join. It may be helpful to mark this last stitch in each round until you've finished the toe section.
Continue making hdc around, working in the very back (3rd) loop. 

Make 1 hdc in each stitch, except for the 3rd stitches in the group of three at either end, where you will work 3 stitches. This stitch skews right, if you're right-handed, so increasing in the 3rd stitch keeps the increases at the ends.By working in this 3rd loop, you will push the first 2 loops to the front and this is what will create the ridges.

Try on the toe cap as you go. You want it to cover your toes width-wise, without any ease. When you reach this stage, stop increasing.

Then continue working 1 hdc in the 3rd loop of each stitch, without joining at the end of the rounds. Just keep going around until the sock just meets the junction of the top of your foot and the bottom of your leg. Do not make this part too long. These socks stretch some in width, but a lot in length, so bear that in mind.

When the foot is the appropriate length, it's time to work flat for a few rows, so lay it out as pictured and for the next round, stop when you get to the halfway point. Then work hdc in 3rd loop for the other half of the stitches (for example-the socks I make for me are 44 stitches around, so I do 22 stitches and stop). 

Ch 1 (does not count as a stitch), turn, and work back over half of the stitches (in my case, the same 22 I just did), but through the FRONT loop.
At the end of this row, ch 1, turn, and hdc through the 3rd loop in every stitch across. Don't forget the very last stitch as it's easy to overlook and can be a bit fiddly.
Repeat the last two rows one more time. At the end of the last row, you will have the front of your sock facing you and it's time to set up for the cuff. 

Simply make a chain that is a few more than half of your foot stitches (example: my foot is 44 stitches and I make 27 chains--if you have thin ankles you might want fewer, if thicker, you might want more)
Join with a hdc in the first stitch of the flat part.
Now go back to working hdc in every stitch around and around without joining at the end of the rounds. If you prefer, you can use a different stitch pattern for the cuff. Just work in the round until your cuff is as tall as you want it. Fasten off.
view from back of sock--the gap is for the heel
Attach yarn in any stitch of the bottom of the cuff. Hdc until you get to the sides of the flat section. Yarn over, insert hook in the end of a row, pull up a loop, insert hook in the end of the next row, pull up a loop, yarn over and pull through all 4 loops on your hook.

Yarn over, insert hook in the end of the next row, pull up loop, insert hook in the end of the next row, pull up loop, yarn over and pull through all 4 loops on hook.

Continue on to foot section--hdc in each stitch across until you come to the next flat section, then repeat what you did on the other side.

Continue hdc around, decreasing twice on each side. When you're approaching the first decrease in the group of two, stop one stitch before you get there and yarn over, insert hook in stitch, pull up a loop, insert hook in decreased stitch on previous round, pull up a loop, yarn over and pull through all loops on hook. Then yarn over, insert hook in next decrease stitch from previous round, pull up loop, insert hook in next stitch, pull up loop, yarn over and pull through all loops on hook. Work hdc in each stitch across foot. At the decrease section, repeat the process you did on the other side. Work around like this until the heel fits your foot well or until there are just a few stitches left. Cut yarn, leaving a long tail.
Thread the yarn tail through a tapestry needle and sew the opening closed. Weave in all ends.

Note: When doing the heel, I insert my hook through both the 2nd and 3rd loops so the heel is sturdier and less stretchy.

So that's how I make my crocheted socks. I love them. They're very comfortable, cushy, and cosy. They use less yarn than knitted socks do. And they're great for scraps. You can also easily make toes and heels a contrasting colour. It's all up to you.

If anyone has any questions, feel free to ask and I'll try to answer. Happy crocheting!