I am on a sock ROLL these days, you guys! Trying to up my sock drawer game before the cold weather really sets in – there’s nothing like a cozy pair of hand-knit socks to keep your feet warm! Not to mention, socks are THE BEST travel knitting project. I love that the project is small enough to fit in a Bento Bag (my Bento Bag is actually homemade and pretty terrible looking, but this is the one I want and HINT HINT MOM CHRISTMAS GIFT HINT HINT ::ahem::) so I can carry it around in my purse for whenever the maker’s urge strikes. Plus, I don’t need to carry several skeins of yarn to complete the project – or lug around a huge half-finished piece (as is with the case of a sweater). AND, sock yarn makes a great travel souvenir. Done and done.
I’m going to skip out of order and share my most recent sock project first (oh yes, there’s an unblogged sock project before this one hahaha) because I also want to talk about the trip I took while I was working on sock #1 from this pair! Oh yes, these are totally my travel socks.
But first, I will talk about these socks a little bit more! The pattern is Vanilla Latte Socks, which is a free pattern on Ravelry and makes for a simple top-down sock, knit in sock weight yarn. This is one of those projects that has thousands of makes, and for good reason – it’s easy, it’s straight forward, and it makes a really nice pair of socks. I like that the pattern includes different options for knitting the heel flap and finishing the toe. It was a GREAT travel project, as it didn’t require a lot of my attention, but it was interesting enough to knit so that it didn’t get boring.
For my socks, I knit the size small (I wear a 6.5 shoe) and followed the instructions for the Eye of Partridge heel flap and the rounded wedge toe. I knit the pattern via Magic Loop on circular needles, as I reeeeeally don’t like to travel with DPNS because my stitches always fall off!(even with the little rubber stoppers. Or they poke through the stoppers and stab me through my bag! This happened in Peru with the aforementioned Previous Pair of Socks haha) Changing the pattern to incorporate Magic Loop was as easy as just switching the needles. Seriously. Really easy. Although I would recommend if this is your first pair of socks, follow the instructions exactly as written before you start changing needle type, as patterns written for DPNs will have you put a certain number of stitches on each needle, which can get confusing if you’re a n00b. Once you figure out the anatomy of the sock, though, changing things up is a breeze.
I wanted to try self-striping yarn for this pair, and HOLY SHIT I AM INFATUATED. For those of y’all who don’t know what the deal with self-striping yarn is – those stripes are all the result of the way the yarn was dyed. I didn’t have to switch yarn colors or weave in ends or anything. Self-striping yarn is AWESOME, you guys!! Instant striped socks, wheee!!😀 And this particular yarn is pretty cool, too – this is Jawool Color Superwash by Lang Yarns, which I’ve never heard of, but my local yarn store totally sold me on it. It comes with a little spool of reinforcement yarn, which you can hold double with your regular yarn to reinforce the toes and heels (or darn future holes with). I reinforced the toes, but not the heels – only because I forgot to when I was knitting the heels There are tons of color options for the stripes, but I really loved the unusual color combination of this one. Since it’s fingering weight yarn, I knit the socks with size 0 needles.
I found the pattern really enjoyable to knit, and waiting for the next stripe color to appear was way more entertaining than I could have imagined. I started this pair en route to Portland, Maine, where I had a sewing retreat a little over a month ago. I finished the first sock exactly one week later, while I was waiting in the airport to fly home. The second sock took a couple of weeks to finish – mostly during weekly knitting group meetings, or watching TV with Landon. Not a lot of memories attached to that second sock, ha!
I did want to talk a little bit about that trip, because it was a really wonderful week! As I mentioned, I had a Sewing Retreat held at A Gathering of Stitches (or AGOS, as we call it ), which is located in beautiful Portland, Maine. Y’all. I was warned by some people that I’d really like Portland, but I had NO IDEA how much I was going to fall in love with that city! Portland is absolutely amazing – it’s a beautiful town with cool little shops (like an entire shop dedicated to SOCKS, ahh!) and places to eat, there’s a big emphasis on local food and culture, and the place is so small that you can really just walk to anywhere you need. So many cool old New England houses, so many cool businesses, so much amazing coffee (my very favorite was from Tandem Coffee, which of course I brought a bag home and I’ve been trying to drink it as slooowly as possible. It’s the weirdest, yet most amazing coffee I’ve ever tasted. Trust.). If it wasn’t for the awful winters, I would move to Portland in a heartbeat. I won’t even pretend that I didn’t dream about it while I was there. I had my house picked out and everything hahaha.
So, the retreat was a pretty loose, relaxing 4 day weekend of sewing. I had 11 awesome women who showed up at the studio every morning, and each had their own individual project to work on. AGOS Studios was the perfect spot to have this – it’s a large space, with plenty of room for everyone to spread out. There were cutting tables, multiple irons (including, of course, a gravity feed iron – which I think most everyone was planning on buying one after the week was over haha! Gravity feed irons are AWESOME!), sergers and sewing machines (everyone had their own machine, whether they brought one or borrowed from the studio). Each student was given a little goody bag of small sewing supplies and notions – stuff like seam gauges and tape measures and my favorite Chaco Liner and candy. It was a really good goody bag haha. Samantha (the owner of AGOS) also had a selection of additional notions and fabric and supplies (such as thread and interfacing) on hand in case anyone needed to buy last-minute for their project.
We were provided lunch every day – and it was always something amazing and local, with dessert included. The food was REALLY REALLY good!! We had a “get to know each other and eat pizza” night the evening before the weekend officially started, which was a great way to get to know all the people who showed up, and learn a bit about each other. And we had a multiple-course, incredible farm-to-table dinner at The Well at Jordan’s Farm on the last night. I still have dreams about that meal, tbh.
All the students who signed up for the retreat were just amazing. There was a huge variety of projects and skill levels – from beginners to people who have been sewing for 40+ years, learning basic construction, tailoring, fitting, and even making jeans (I had 2 students who made Ginger jeans! And another who made some awesome red pants). I wasn’t sure how exactly the weekend would work out, since there was only 1 of me to help 11 people, but it ended up working really well! Everyone was fairly self-sufficient, and while I certainly stayed busy, there was never really a long wait if anyone had a question. People were also keen to help each other out, which is my favorite part because I love eavesdropping in on that shit and learning a thing or two myself! We had one woman at the retreat who wasn’t a student, but just there to check things out the first couple of days – her name is Adele, and she rents studio space at AGOS and is a master at bridal alterations (or, rather, a master at every sewing project she puts her hands on. Adele is amazing!). Adele actually made me a custom sloper; she wants to teach a class on this technique that she perfected and she needed a body model. The accuracy of that sloper was incredible – I think the only fitting we did needed a small change to the shoulder, and that was it. Plus, she drafted it up in about 20 minutes, on less than a dozen measurements (it’s my understanding that body slopers usually need something like 40 measurements). Pretty neat stuff! Plus, I have a sloper to play around with now, yay!😀
I had such an amazing time at the retreat – hanging out with and getting to know all the awesome people who signed up, and falling in love with Portland! Samantha was really great to work with, we got along right off the bat and she was so helpful with any Portland-related questions I had. Plus, she put together this entire retreat on her own – from the space, to the catering, to booking my AirBNB for me (which was ADORABLE, btw!). I just had to show up on time haha. I’m a shitty planner, so this was perfect for me. While I like doing project-based classes, I really thought the loose layout of this retreat worked out really well, since everyone got to work on projects that they were actually excited about. Plus, it was really fun to go from talking about finishing knits, to hammering in jeans rivets, to figuring out the kinks in a FBA. That might sound stressful to some teachers, but I was in heaven!
Post-retreat, I took a Megabus up to Boston and spent a couple of days there before flying home (at that airport was where I finished my first sock haha). That was more of a personal trip than anything, so I’m not going to go into detail about everything I did there. I did, however, spend my days with Jenny, where I saw the Appleton Dress pattern right before it was released! And I had Shabu Shabu with a bunch of awesome Boston sewing bloggers! And I had drinks with Norma and we talked about bras! And I got to go shopping at Grey’s Fabric and Gather Here! And I saw robots at the MIT Museum! So yeah, Boston was great!
So yeah, good times in September! Like I said, I reallllly loved Portland, and I am dying to go back! Samantha and I have talked about doing another retreat for 2016, and hopefully we’ll be able to work something out. I really loved doing the bring-your-own-project style that we had going on, and I’m certainly keen to do more. If you’d like to read more about the retreat and see more photos, Sam has a post up on the AGOS Blog about her experience. And if you know of any other places where I should be stretching my feelers about one of these sorts of retreats in 2016 – holler! I’d love to travel more for this sort of class next year, I’m just not sure where to start asking!
I’m actually headed back out this week for another sewing class – the Pants Making Intensive at Workroom Social! YAY!! I am really excited to see the new space that Jennifer has, and super excited to get to making some pants! Speaking of which, I think we have one more space open in that class – so if you’re a last-minute kinda person and were thinking about signing up, go check it out In the meantime, I will see y’all next week!