Thursday, December 8, 2011

Two For Ones Purely Practical Legwarmers

When we think of legwarmers, we often think of scrunched up fashion accessories worn around the ankles over tights.  While you can certainly do that with these, they were conceived to wear under jeans or business pants for warmth and to stay up so you don't have to fuss and fiddle with them throughout the day. 

Having made one pair last winter and finding I was living in them, I wanted more colors because they can be seen when you sit down and cross your legs (hence socks coming in different colors).  But I didn't want to make that many pairs.  Therefore, these are 2-toned so I could wear them with either color at the bottom.  I don't wear mine on the outside so I didn't care how I paired my colors, but if you do, just pair compatible colors because they look good out too.

These are meant to fit a bit snug, consequently they also serve as what older folks will recall as "support hose."  They just feel reeeeeally good. 

While you wouldn't think that two tubes would require much thought, this pattern is more a discussion of ribbing behavior and fit than just the "how to" knitting directions so that whatever size you are, yours can fit and stay up as well as mine do. 

Mais Voila.  Mindless TV knitting.

Sort of like knee socks except without the feet so they don't have to be washed every wearing.
Worn so bottoms will show over shoes (above photo)

OR worn higher up so they won't show at all.

Or scrunched over tights if compatible colors are used.

SIZE:  Since gauge is impossibly inaccurate on ribbing, the pattern as written comes out perfectly for the following measurements... use this as a stitch/measurement ratio if you need to adjust number of stitches up or down for your size (further discussed below):
Measured with foot flat on floor and sitting down, this is for calf size 12 inches around at widest point, and 13" long from crook of knee to bottom of ankle bone.  There's upsize width leeway built in if using needle sizes 6 and 7, but if your calf is significantly larger, you might want to add stitches (pattern is 4-stitch repeat).  If your calf is less than 12" you would subtract in 4-st increments or go down on needle sizes, or both.   

WHY TWO NEEDLE SIZES:  I found that a little ease at the bottom keeps these from rolling up if you want to wear them at clog-top length.  (It does not lay loosely or add bulk if you don't want them showing at all.)  At the same time, that same amount of ease at the top keeps them from being binding at the crook of your knee and rolling down.  So at both ends, the same ease works well, but for different reasons.  Also, just FYI it is not the tightness at the top that holds these in place, but the snuginess around your calf, which beats a 1-point stranglehold any day. 

   In the instructions, I'm using needle sizes 6 and 7 but I knit on the tight side.  By dropping down a size (needle sizes 5 and 6) that also works if I want a little snugger fit for added support. If you knit at all loose, definitely use the smaller set of needles.

EASY PEASY PATTERN for the stated leg measurements (or to be adjusted for you, as described above):
      Cast on 40 sts somewhat loosely onto the larger DPN needles (or 40" circulars if using Magic Loop) and join in the round, knitting 2x2 ribbing (k2, p2) for 20-25 rounds. Switch to smaller size needles and continue in 2x2 ribbing until half the total length that you’ll want from crook of knee to top of where a clog shoe top would be (*DO see important note below re determining that length*.  For the above leg measurements, that halfway point would be a total of 9 inches of knitted length for a 13" long span).
     Switch to second color and continue 2x2 ribbing on same needles with new color for the same #rows (mirrored).  And, of course, approx. 20-25 rows before anticipated finish, switch back to larger needles and knit until you have a mirrored duplicate of the entire first half.  (If you misjudged and discover you want to make them longer, no problem.  It makes no difference if there's more length in one color than the other.)
      BIND OFF: Absolutely, truly, take-it-from-experience, consider using Jeny’s Surprisingly Stretchy Bindoff, an excellent video, and do it with medium-to-slightly-loose tension.  I have used Zimmerman’s Sewn Bindoff and this is so much easier and faster.

This bindoff (for socks, mitts, etc.) looks like this.  As you can see, it respects the ins and outs of ribbing very well.

**VERY IMPORTANT NOTE RE LENGTH:**   If you want these to stay up without fussing with them throughout the day, do heed this.  When these stretch widthwise over your leg... and they are meant to stretch quite a fair bit, they WILL shorten lengthwise, and significantly so (like over 30%!).  So do try them on as you go to see how many of your rows settles in to x number inches.  Wear them for a while, because you'll have pulled them taut when putting them on.  The trick is to know how they measure after they settle in to whatever length that many rows wants to be.  If erring in any direction, err on the side of long.

YARN:  Use any worsted wool you want, but I am totally sold on Berroco Ultra Alpaca for these.  (No association or connection with the company).  My reasons -- it has such great bounce-back when knitted up. I also find this yarn to be warm but not hot when inside.  I'm somewhat wool sensitive, and it's not one bit itchy.  (I thought it might when I felt it in the skein but it knits of soft and non-itchy, plus very soft and squishy.  Ultra Alpaca is also a joy to work with, not at all splitty.  It comes in 38 colors and Berroco uses very good quality fibers.  Finally, dollarwise it's a great value in terms of quality and amount for the price.  So those are all my reasons for such a plug on using this particular yarn for these. As a bonus, though, with 215 yards per skein and only approx. 120 yds. per color needed for the legwarmers, that leaves me enough yarn left over for a pair of Maine Morning Mitts (free pattern on Ravelry) in each color.  I got mine at Yarn and Fiber Company in Derry, NH which has a ton of colors in stock, reasonable pricing and as far as I know, they often don't even charge shipping. (Do still check if you call them or order from their website).  And I have to mention it -- though Cascade Lana d'Oro worsted has the same 50/50 alpaca/wool content and appears interchangeable, having knitted a pair of mitts out of it, it's no substitute IMHO for a ribbed project that needs bounce back.  It's a looser ply, somewhat splitty to work with and it just does not knit up with anywhere near the same heft or memory.   

One final note:  If you make these and do a project page on Ravelry, please link them to my Ravelry main pattern page.  I love these just as is, but would be thrilled to see any modifications that others might decide to make too.