As part of the Level Up Your Socks KAL I thought it would be good to hear from some other sock designers. I did an interview with Anna Friberg, who uses the brand name Yarnesty, about her experiences of sock knitting and designing.
RG: Tell me a little about yourself and your designs.
AF: I have known how to knit since I was very small, I don’t even remember who taught me to knit. But I think it must have been either Mum or my maternal Grandma, as I remember that I knit my purl stitches as a Norwegian when I was young, and they grew up close to the Norwegian border.
RG: That’s really interesting, when did you stop using the Norwegian purl?
AF: That was when I was working on getting the same gauge with knitting and purling. Early teens, I think.
I knit a lot until I started uni. After that, I knit a little bit here and there, but not many things were finished. I came back to it in a serious way around ten years ago, and then I became an everyday knitter five or six years ago. That was when I discovered Ravelry and began to read patterns in English.
My first pattern in English was a free pattern from Ysolda: Garter Stitch Mitts.
RG: I think those garter stitch mitts have been in my queue for as long as I’ve been on Ravelry.
AF: They are a really fast knit ?
Today I prefer English patterns. Even if they are available in Swedish. The instructions are more defined in English.
RG: How hard do you find it to follow patterns in another language?
AF: Well I think English is easiest. I can follow Danish and Norwegian as well if I must ?
My day job is as a quality software engineer for software that is used in aircraft. And that includes a lot of inspections and knowledge of processes. Not as much coding anymore.
I live in a house in Ljungsbro, a small village outside a town called Linköping. That is about 2hrs south of Stockholm. I live there with my husband and our two teenaged children.
AF: It all started out with me listening to the iMake podcast and Martine lured me to participate in a challenge to knit on a sock every day. After a while, I found a way I liked to make my vanilla socks and someone asking me to write down my Vanilla Sock pattern.
I could have written it down on a blog but I like doing things thoroughly. So I wrote down a pattern and put it up on Ravelry. Then I did two or three more sock designs that summer.
Then my friend Jannika told me about Joeli’s Designer Bootcamp on Periscope. And that was when I started to take my designing to a new level. I also used a Tech Editor: James Bartley and that has improved my designing immensely!
RG: That’s great.
You design a lot of stranded socks, what is it about that style that attracts you?
AF: I suppose that is a part of my Scandinavian heritage ? At the same time I think it is a bit of a challenge to have stranded knitting on the leg of the sock, as it can be difficult to get the sock over the heel and arch. So that is why I often have patterns around the sock’s foot instead.
RG: That’s a good way to take the limitations of stranded knitting into account, without losing the lovely designs you can make with it.
You’ve just done your first Mystery KAL, the Town Wall Socks. How did that go and did you find it was different to a normal KAL?
AF: I was blown away of the response. Of course, it helped that MoodsOfColors, a very appreciated Swedish indie-dyer sold kits for the socks in her sock yarn subscription. But even without those kits, many knitters from all over the world was interested in participating. Many who never have tried my patterns before. That was really fun.
A normal KAL is also a good way to get the word out, but I think the MKAL attracts even more. Knitters like to get a pattern in clues and not knowing what comes next.
I also enjoyed all the secrecy! I was very careful not to give away anything beforehand. I only had one test knitter. Of course, the dyer had seen the prototype. And I never gave away if there should be a colour change or not for the next week. Well after a while, the knitters probably saw a pattern, that the colour changed each clue, but they never knew ?
It is a fun way to design as well. It can be a little bit of a franken-sock, but at the same time the yarn and the colours kept it together.
RG: That sounds really fun. Might you do another one in future?
AF: Yes I will definitely do more of that. Not this year, though ? The chatter on social media has been super fun to follow and participate in!
I am super grateful that so many have participated and knit them. And even people have started them after all clues have been revealed. That is lovely to see!
RG: I’m always a bit hesitant with mystery patterns because sometimes I love the beginning but then they go in a strange direction halfway through.
AF: I agree, I have done maybe 6-7 MKALs so far. I have actually loved most of them.
RG: So tell me the biggest problem you’ve ever had when knitting a sock and did you manage to fix it?
AF: Most of the surgery I have done on sweaters or shawls. Socks are so small items, so I usually rip back and start over instead of fixing it with surgery.
But, I knit kilt hoses for my son, and I had a simple cable on each side of the leg. (same as on the Fergus pattern). And after having knit half a leg I realised that I had done the cables too wide. Then I ripped only those stitches over the cable pattern (10 stitches or so) and re-knit the cable pattern correctly.
RG: Ripping back can be very useful. That must have been quite fiddly fixing those cables.
AF: Yes a bit fiddly, but with a pair of extra needles, it went quite well.
RG: You mentioned earlier that English patterns tend to be more detailed than European ones, do you think this leads to different types of problems for knitters?
AF: I tend to write very detailed patterns. Most people appreciate knowing whether to, for example, slip a stitch purlwise or knitwise.
On the other hand, if they are used to patterns with open directions, they might skip reading instructions that are crucial for the next section and that can become a problem. I have only had one or two customers with those kinds of problems.
When it comes to more traditional Scandinavian patterns, they are sometimes so open (a bit like vintage patterns) that you have to be a very experienced and advanced knitter to be able to follow them.
Even if I regard myself being an experienced knitter, when I knit other designer’s patterns I want them to be very detailed and especially I want to know what to do next. Of course, I make changes in patterns, but that should be my own decision. Not that I have to, due to a pattern lacking in instructions or if the math is wrong in the pattern.
RG: It can definitely be frustrating if you can’t understand how the pattern is supposed to work.
AF: In that case, I’d rather make it up myself ?
RG: What’s your best tip for knitting socks?
AF: I think that if you want to be able to enjoy your socks as long as possible you should knit them with quite a tight gauge. That makes the socks more durable. Personally, I think that 9 sts/inch is nice for fingering weight sock yarn. And the socks will be thin enough to wear in your everyday shoes.
RG: That’s a very good tip ?.
What’s your favourite resource for sock knitting?
AF: I have learnt loads by reading Sock Architecture by Lara Neel. It is quite a technical book and my engineer brain likes it ?
RG: I like that one, it has formulas in.
AF: Exactly ?. For new techniques, I often look at VeryPink Knit’s youtube channel.
RG: To finish I have some quick-fire questions.
- Toe up or cuff down
- DPNs, magic loop, tiny circulars or two circulars
- Cables, lace or colourwork
- Two at a time, in parallel, or one at a time
- Metal, wood, bamboo or carbon fibre needles
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