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Paul Atwell Redux


I'd been meaning to rework the Paul Atwell Socks pattern for a while, and this week I finally got around to it. The new version, complete with five sizes rather than two, and more, shall we say, realistic sizing, is up on Ravelry and the Family Trunk Project site, and should have gone out to all previous purchasers earlier today. If you bought or traded for the pattern and haven't received the updated version, please email me and I'll send it your way. And sincere apologies to anyone who was inconvenienced by the issues with the original version; I really hope you enjoy the update.


The problems with this pattern were down to a combination of things. Primary among them was my lack of experience in pattern-writing (it was only my second pattern, and I had knitted many fewer socks than sweaters). I think the re-do benefits immensely from all the patterns I've written in the meantime; I've become more careful about mistakes and better able to spot a result that seems "off." But in addition, and this bears more careful thought, there is the issue of gauge.

I'm a pretty firm knitter, and usually have to go up one or two needle sizes in order to get gauge when I'm knitting other peoples' patterns. My regular, go-to number of stitches for foot and ankle when I'm knitting socks is 72, whereas I know many people whose standard sock measures only 60 stitches around. Normally with written patterns this shouldn't be a problem, because the proper gauge is given. However, I suspect two things:

1. People don't swatch for socks.
2. Even if they swatch, if they are a loose knitter and I got a certain gauge on size 1's, they are going to have a hard time finding sufficiently minuscule needles to reproduce that gauge. And even if they can, are they really going to have fun knitting a garment on size 000's? Likely the answer is no.

The latter point makes me pretty sad, actually. Because I really enjoy knitting on size 1 needles, and not only socks: the body of the Betty Jean McNeil sweater was knit on 1's, with the colorwork section worked on 2's. I have another sweater project in the works right now on 1's. But I don't want to make patterns that are inaccessible to loose knitters. For socks, I can easily make my version of the pattern the large or medium size, and draft a version with a cast-on closer to 60 stitches as the smaller size (Paul Atwell now features initial cast-ons of 64, 72, 80, 88 and 96). But for sweaters, sizing is more complex and simply going down a size is not always practical. It's a vexing problem.

For now, I will probably back off the tiny-gauge sweaters a bit, and trust to the magic of yarn substitution and going down a size to ensure that the tiny-gauge patterns I've already written (or am in the process of writing) won't be rendered totally useless. And if you have any questions or comments about adapting one of my patterns for a looser gauge, don't hesitate to get in touch.

Okay, enough photo-less meta posting! I seized a few seconds of sunlight in between the torrential rainstorms we've been having to snap a few photos of half a sewing project; I'll be back tomorrowish to show them off.

New Pattern: Paul Atwell Socks


We've posted a new pattern! After the hectic pre-Knitty scramble, and the involved sizing and chart-checking related to the Kenneth McNeil sweater and Jessie Lambdin shawl, I wanted a more manageable design project. An elegant, simple sock pattern seemed just about right.


Paul Atwell was a unique challenge as inspiration for a design, because he is the only member of my family tree about whom very little is known (by us, anyway). The biological father of my grandmother Marjorie, he separated from my great-grandmother when "Margie" was only two. The only things I know about him are that he was a sailor (and later recruiter) in the U.S. Navy, he moved from Kentucky to Vallejo, California in his late teens or early twenties, and his mother was rumored to be part Cherokee. I'm still working on researching this last detail, but so far I've come up short.

In developing the pattern, I decided to focus on Paul's connections with both the land (he came from several generations of farm families) and the sea. Modifying the traditional gull-and-garter stitch motif, I juxtaposed the "gulls" with seed stitch instead. There were purely aesthetic reasons for this; I thought the seed stitch brought out the golden hues of the sock yarn beautifully. But I also thought that the combination of seeds and sea birds was a representative one for a man who left his farming roots to pursue an oceanic career.


The pattern is quite basic, with my modified motif giving a little character to a standard, cuff-down sock with a slip-stitch heel. There are a couple of nice details, though: I like how the motif flows into and around the heel, and how the cuff ribbing is planned to transition smoothly into the gulls and seeds.


This is a good pattern to use with a semi-solid or lightly variegated yarn like the Sundara "Bronzed Sienna" pictured here. (If anyone doesn't already know about Sundara's beautiful dyeing work, by the way, I highly recommend her.) The vertical stripes and slipped-stitch gull pattern show up over the changes of color, and the columns of seed stitch make the yarn's lighter hues shine. I think the overall effect is unified and reasonably subtle, suitable for a lady or a fella.


The pattern is written for two sizes, Medium Women's and Medium Men's, and is for sale over here for $3.50 or 2 pages of your own story. I hope you like it!