Sock yarn stash? Sock yarn shawls!

Martingale's Knit & Crochet Friday

Sock-Yarn ShawlsI just couldn’t wait. I’m sure you know the feeling: you fall head over heels for a pattern, you happen to know the perfect yarn is waiting patiently in your stash, and your fingers start twitching with that irresistible urge to cast on. Right. Now. That’s how I felt when I saw the project photos for Jen Lucas’s new knitting book, Sock-Yarn Shawls.

The pattern that whispered my name? It’s called “Inflorescence,” and it just so happens that it ended up on the cover. Isn’t it stunning? There was just one problem, one wee obstacle keeping me from scratching my itch: the pattern wasn’t available yet. Oh sure, we had the shawls in the office and the photo shoot had already taken place. But the book was still being edited and we were nowhere near page-layout stage. What to do? What any self-respecting knitter would do who had access to gorgeous shawl patterns before they were available to the public: go right into that manuscript file and print the instructions, of course! Can you blame me? These designs are stunning. Who wouldn’t want to get started right away? And because I got started right away, not being a very fast knitter, I actually finished in time to show you the results today, at the same time I have the pleasure of introducing the book.

Mary's Inflorescence shawl
Here’s my version of “Inflorescence.” The yarn was a birthday gift several years ago and has been waiting for the perfect project. I’m thrilled with the finished shawl.

But let’s back up and provide a little background for those who might be wondering: What is sock yarn and why should I care? The term sock yarn has come to refer to fingering-weight yarn designed specifically for knitting socks. It might be wool, wool-blend, Superwash wool, or any of a range of fibers including cashmere, bamboo, tencel, and cotton. It might be mottled, self striping, variegated, or hand dyed. Regardless of the fiber content, the yarn is superfine and is usually knit on small (US size 1 to 3) needles at a gauge of seven to eight stitches per inch.

Sock yarns

It’s hard to say which came first, the popularity of sock knitting or the yarns designed for knitting socks. It’s kind of a chicken-egg question. Did knitters start knitting socks like crazy and yarn companies respond with fabulous yarns? Or did the yarns come first, leading to the mind-boggling popularity of sock knitting? Either way, it’s fair to say we’ve witnessed an explosion of sock patterns in the last decade or so, and with it, absolutely gorgeous yarns with which to knit them. And sock yarns have been adopted by indie dyers in a big way, making these some of the most beautiful—and irresistible—yarns available.

But what happens when you’ve knitted socks for every day of the month as well as for every member of your family and you still have a stash of sock yarn? Or maybe you never quite got the hang of sock knitting (or don’t care for it) but couldn’t resist the yarns? What do you do? You start searching for patterns for sock yarn, and you discover that there are nearly as many uses for sock yarn as there are for any other yarn weight. You can make accessories such as hats, scarves, and gloves, children’s clothing, and lightweight sweaters and tops. Or you can make small shawls, as Jen Lucas learned.

From Sock-Yarn Shawls

Jen admits that, once she discovered that people were using sock yarn to knit small shawls and tried one herself, she quickly became obsessed. To the extent that she knit the same shawlette pattern four times before stopping herself. Eventually she began to design her own patterns, leading to the collection of 15 lovely designs presented in this book. Each design is knit from just one skein of yarn, although it should be noted that if you substitute yarn, the yardage requirements might change and you might need more than one skein.

Tab cast onYou can choose a design with more or less lace, depending on your preference. The projects are divided into three sections: lace edged, allover lace, and something called “Beyond the Triangle.” There are both charts and written instructions for every project, so you can work whichever way is more comfortable for you (speaking as someone who’d rather have a root canal than work from a chart, there’s no question what I prefer). And many of the patterns include an option for making the shawl larger by repeating certain elements. But my favorite discovery (besides the patterns) is Jen’s clever Tab Cast On (above), a beautiful way to begin any triangle shawl and a technique that I plan to use from now on. You just have to see it!

So, are you ready to take a break from sock knitting and wear some of your beautiful yarn where the whole world can see it? Look through the photos below and listen carefully…one of them just might be calling your name.


What projects have you made with sock yarn? Share your story in the comments and you could win a copy of the Sock-Yarn Shawls eBook! We’ll choose a random winner one week from today and let you know by email if you’ve won.

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Thanks to all who entered the drawing! The randomly chosen winner is Julie, who writes:

“I’ve never made a shawl with sock yarn. I’ve got several skeins of sock yarn that would be perfect for this type of project! I just need to win the book to start!”

Julie, we’ll email you about your free eBook. Congratulations!

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