Friday, August 30, 2013

Tips & Techniques: Fish Lips Kiss Heel

A couple weeks ago I was checking out one of the sock forums on Ravelry. That's when I noticed a post by one of the members, Sox Therapist about something called a new sock technique called the Fish Lips Kiss heel, which she'd invented.

I was intrigued.  I'm always on the look out for new sock techniques. And the creator promised that this new heel eliminated gaps, results in a guaranteed fit and can be worked cuff down or toe up. The last part really caught my attention since I constantly stumble over finding a good toe-up heel.

I mentioned it to my knitting buddy Geri and within a few days she'd tried it out and blogged about it (here). (Spoiler: She loves it!) And she's not the only one. In just under a month, 112 sock projects have been recorded in Ravelry. The Sox Therapist group on Ravelry is filled with pictures of the heels along with rave reviews. The Sox Therapist is there to answer questions and share suggestions. She also has a couple Youtube videos demonstrating her short row method.

I have to admit, I haven't tried it myself - yet. But I was intrigued about the technique and wanted to find out more. So I contacted the Sox Therapist who kindly agreed to do an interview. I have to admit, her enthusiasm about socks is evident.
Picture someone puckering out their lips ready to give you a kiss
Well, this heel, when off the foot, looks a wee little bit like that.
Photo courtesy & (c) Geri Inglis
In fact, her enthusiasm is so contagious, that I've decided to do a giveaway (even though I just finished doing one). I'll give away 5 copies of the Fish Lips Kiss heel to winners chosen by a random number generator.

To enter:  Leave a comment (make sure I have some way of contacting you, either a Ravelry ID or your email - which isn't published). For a second contest entry, in your comment include your favorite sock tip or technique. Don't worry if someone's already mentioned yours. Comments don't have to be original. I just want to hear a helpful sock tip or technique.
Deadline: Contest closes Wed, Sept 4th, 2013. Winners announced Sept 5th, 2013.
So, here's what I asked the Sox Therapist and how she responded:

1. So what is the FLK heel?

The Fish Lips Kiss Heel is not just a heel -- it's a totally new method for making pretty socks that fit!  I devised a method for making and using cardboard sock templates with critical markings that allows you to knit perfectly-fitted socks easily and without math.  Then there is the heel design -- simple, yet innovative.  There are no wraps, gaps, or holes (anywhere!!).  Also no gussets or flaps, no counting, no math, no changes in number of stitches, (so absolutely no getting lost!), no knitting around the front of the sock before the heel is completed, no disruption of front-of-sock patterning to create the heel. Just a beautiful, easy heel that fits every time, no matter who you knit it for, even if you never once tried the sock on the actual foot while you were knitting it.  I knit socks for people who live across the country, and whose feet I have never even seen.  I mail them their socks, and when they pull them on, they fit!

2. What inspired you to come up with the FLK heel?
I am insatiably curious.  I am also a math and English major.  I love to teach. (Knitting, yes, but lots of other things, too.)  I learn things very easily, but I've noticed that not everyone has a strange brain like mine.  Lots of people hate math, for instance.  Lots of knitters who have tried to knit wrap-and-turn short-row heels have lost their place, couldn't see the gaps, and gotten into a whole mess of trouble with their stitch counts.  I see many published patterns where even the sock photographed in the pattern was loose under the foot and had "interesting" things happening above the heel.  I am a passionate toe-up knitter, but it was beyond irksome that it took too much effort every time I knit a sock to make things work.  If I knit socks for a different person, or with a different weight yarn, or with a different stitch count or different sized needles, it was near-impossible to figure out where to start the gusset, and things just got more complicated from there!

The Fish Lips Kiss Heel - Photo courtesy & (c) Sox Therapist
So one day a few years ago I just got sick of it all and threw up my hands.  After all, it occurred to me, people go to stores and buy socks all the day long, and they fit!  So why then, I asked myself, is there all this difficulty when sock knitters encounter a high instep or socks that bind at the ankle hinge?  I figured that if flap and gusset heels really did fit most people better, then industry would be using them. But nope, the industry doesn't!  Puzzled, I went to my sock drawer to seek out answers to these vexing questions.  I pulled out a store-bought white sock with a gray heel knit into it, and stared that thing down, oh yessiree, I did.  I even counted the teeny tiny rows and heel turn stitches to figure out exactly what was happening there.  
It was my light bulb moment.  It started my "I will solve this mystery!" process, and I haven't looked back.  The day I stared down that sock, I sat down with paper and pen, and first wrote out a list of everything I observed about the store-bought sock.  Next I made a (very long!) list of all the angsty things that annoyed me and others about hand-knitted socks.  For the past 2+ years I have worked my way through that list, determined not to publish my design until I had crossed off every single "ugh!" that made knitting socks sometimes not so much fun.  At one point I was almost there!  The heel was beautiful, the socks always fit and never had gaps or holes, etc., etc. But... the pattern/design wasn't simple to memorize.  My heart sunk, because "must be able to knit from memory without a pattern" was on my must-have list, and I just couldn't let that one go.  I literally chucked the design and started over, simply not willing to compromise on a single element of my ultimate sock method.  
The Fish Lips Kiss Heel eBook is the happy result.  There are lots of pages in the eBook, but it's a fun, easy read.  And believe me -- once you've knit a pair, you will toss the whole thing aside and not need to pick it up again!

3. How is the FLK heel method different from other sock heels?

Simple answer:  It's blindingly easy to knit, and it fits!  You can choose any pattern you like, and plunk this method/heel into it.  The sock will look beautiful and will fit the recipient, cuff-down or toe-up.  I encourage knitters to click on the pattern page to learn more, but briefly, I use an unusual short-row stitch, an innovative heel construction, and a foot template to get a perfect fit.  The eBook comes complete with high-quality photos that more easily show what stitch is what, (different-color yarns so you can see what is happening, there).  But even simpler, you can just use my videos and knit along with me as you learn to knit the new short-row stitches.  I also created a math algorithm that enabled me to devise a simple formula for drawing guideline markings on your foot templates, (plural, because you're going to now be knitting well-fitted socks for everyone you know!).  Knitters don't have to figure out anything complicated, because I have done that for you.  Just measure where I tell you, drop the numbers into the formula, and presto!

My new heel method and foot template, when combined, are quite unique.  And yet you end up with a beautiful heel that just plain looks like a simple store-bought sock that fits properly.  You might think you've seen this "pattern" before, but I would assert that all together, you haven't seen this until you've seen it.  And for only a dollar, that's a happy surprise.

4. Does it work every time?
Yes, every time.  I have knit over a hundred pairs for many dozens of different people.  I taught the method in retreat classes and my students had the same experience.  There is an ever-growing number of Ravelry projects with surprised and happy knitters who now have a way to knit socks that fit, when many previous patterns and attempts were unsuccessful, or spotty at best.  The pattern is currently rated 5.0 of 5 stars because, knitters say, "It's easy, it fits, and it's pretty!"
Photo courtesy & (c) Geri Inglis

5. Why not make it available for free?
My personal experience on Ravelry has been thus:  Click on a cool pattern and see that it is free. Yippee!!! Click on a cool pattern to discover that it is $6, (or much more).  Heart sinks.  Knit cool free pattern and wish that there was some easy way I could thank the designer monetarily, but within my budget, (and not look cheap or ungrateful).  I decided to charge a dollar, which is far less than the average pattern price because, to be perfectly honest, it was important to my husband that he not "lose me" to my passion without at least minimal compensation.  Now when he sees me knitting with a notebook next to me, or responding to Ravelry forums and private messages, he says, "Oh -- I see you are working!"  It seems to be a Y chromosome thing for husbands to want others to value their wives' time as much as they do.  I don't need the money, but FLK knitters are so excited to be able to afford the pattern and also are thrilled at how much they are getting for that dollar.  I won't get rich charging a dollar for my patterns, but if it was free, I wouldn't enjoy designing and supporting patterns as much as I do.

6. Any other innovations up your sleeve?
Oh , yeah!  Knitters can follow me on my group, Sox Therapy, where I will announce upcoming and new release patterns, as well as share in KALs, Q&A, finished project pictures, etc.

7. Tell us a bit more about yourself.
I have been happily married to my wonderful husband for almost 30 years, and we have four great kids, two of them married, and one grandson (so far!).  I come from a very long line of innovative knitters and crocheters, and all of our kids, (even our son), know how to knit.  I own my great grandmother's historic spinning wheel.  She invented and patented the process of turning milk casein into fiber, and would spin it, weave it into cloth, and then sew fine men's tailored suits with the resultant cloth.  She took that wheel and traveled around the country to state fairs demonstrating her methods at a time in history when women just didn't do such things, (get patents and travel without their farming husbands).  I have articles about her, and a treasured photo of her on the Vermont family homestead porch, spinning with that wheel.

My grandmother and mother taught me many, many skills, and I started knitting,crocheting and sewing at age five. When I was a few years older, Grandma taught me to spin, first with my hands while she treadled  and then we traded.  When I had each separate skill mastered, (relatively speaking -- I was very young!), she set me to spinning on my own.  She also taught me to sew, quilt, do all manner of needlework, to garden and preserve food, and to cook.  She shared a voracious passion for reading with me as well, pointing me to many an interesting book.  She only had a 4th grade education, but was one of the most brilliant women I have ever known.  Her passion was civic and political activism, (again, at a time when women didn't do that sort of thing -- guess she learned that from her mother!).

Music and instruments were and are also a big part of my life, and I have passed that love and those skills to our four kids.  My husband is a "doer" as well, and the two of us have enjoyed sharing our passions with our kids as they've grown.  The kids have helped us roof our house and out-buildings, rebuild a 1929 Model A Ford, grow and harvest our orchard and gardens, raise chickens, and oooohhhh, how we love to make music together!  Hubby and I feel very blessed to have young adult kids who are close to each other and to us, and who enjoy being a part of each others' daily round.  Oh... And they're proud as punch of their Mama's new-found little bit of knitting glory.  Life is very, very good!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

And the winner is....

Silver Linings, from Lola-Doodles
Wow! First of all, let me thank all of you who entered! What an overwhelming response to our giveaway. Thank you for taking a few minutes of your time to pick out a favorite colorway and post your comments, tweet or blog about the contest.

Now to the part we're all here for:  I used the random number generator over at and it told me that the winner is.... tessercat! Tessercat has been notified and has chosen "Coffee with Amos" which will be popped in the mail and heading north just as quick as possible.

Dowager's Prize Roses, from Lola-Doodles
Silver Linings
Don't forget - only 3 more days until the Dowager's Prize Diamonds pattern is available for $2.50 at Lola-Doodles Etsy shop. Lola-Doodles will also have a limited quantity of the Dowager's Prize Roses and Silver Linings colorways available in 3 sock bases. Once those are gone, you'll be able to custom order any of her colorways.

Silver Linings

Dowager's Prize Roses

Dowager's Prize Roses

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Big reveal is tomorrow!

Thanks to everyone who entered our contest for a free skein of Lola-Doodles yarn and a copy of my new "Dowager's Prize Diamonds" socks. The pattern and exclusive yarn colorways will be available from the Lola-Doodles Etsy shop starting Sept 1st!.

The winner will be announce Wednesday morning, so stay tuned. It could be you!

Monday, August 26, 2013

Dowager's Prize Diamonds - in pink

Photo (c) Chath
Chath has test knit for me several times. She's a talented and knowledgeable knitter who has shared some of that knowledge with me over the past several months. I've also gotten to know her better and she's a wonderful lady.

She also knit a fantastic pair of  Dowager's Prize Diamonds (Ravelry project link):

Photo (c) Chath
Chath used Praefatio Yarns MCN fingering (available on Etsy) in Rhododendron for her size medium sock. The medium size, which isn't officially documented, is knit by casting on 72 sts as for the large, but using a 2.25mm needle instead of a 2.5mm needle. The cables and twisted stitches also pull in the fabric a bit, giving it just enough grip to ensure a good fit. She ended up using approximately 184 yd per sock for a total 367 yards used for the pair.

The contest deadline is tonight! If you haven't entered the Dowager's Prize Diamonds contest yet, check out this post to find out how to enter.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The Dowager's Prize Diamonds - in grey

Photo courtesy of ryllisse
I just have to show you some of the test knit samples of The Dowager's Prize Diamonds. The testers did a fantastic job providing feedback and working out the kinks in the pattern. And they did some amazing knitting and photography.

I present Ryllisse's Dowager's Prize Diamonds (Ravelry project link):

Ryllisse used Knit Picks Stroll Solids, Heathers & Twists in Agate Heather for her size large sock, using approximately 175 yards per sock to fit a size 6 foot. The stitches really pop when the sock is worn!

I love how the cables almost appear lighter in color in the first photo. If you haven't entered the Dowager's Prize Diamonds contest yet, check out this post to find out how to enter.

Photo courtesy of ryllisse

Monday, August 19, 2013

Contest Time!

First off - my apologies for being a few days late with this announcement. I was suffering a horrible migraine over the weekend and was completely out of commission. But enough about me - let's get to the contest!

It's pretty simple. To launch our upcoming joint venture, Lola-Doodles and I are having a contest. But first, what is it we're celebrating?
Dowager's Prize Roses

The Deal
Starting September 1st, Lola-Doodles will be hosting an exclusive yarn/sock pattern combo in her Etsy shop. You'll have your choice of 2 colorways to go with one of my patterns, designed especially for these Lola-Doodle colorways.

What you'll get:
  1. Your choice of Lola-Doodles Dowager's Prize Roses or Silver Linings in her Classic, Buff and Twinkle yarn bases.
  2. An exclusive sock pattern: The Dowager's Prize Diamonds at a discounted rate of only $2.50.

Dowager's Prize Diamonds
The Dowager's Prize Diamonds pattern will only be available from Lola-Doodles between Sept 1 - Nov 30. After that, it'll be available in my Ravelry shop at the regular price of $4.50.

Once the Dowager's Prize Roses and Silver Linings colorways are sold out, Lola-Doodles will take dyed-to-orders for your choice of colorway with the pattern.

The Contest
We're offering 1 skein of Lola-Doodles Classic Sock yarn in your choice of colorway, plus a copy of the Dowager's Prize Diamonds pattern.

All you have to do is one or more of the following:
  • Leave a comment here on which colorway you'd want if you win. Make sure you include some way for me to contact you, either your Ravelry ID or email (which isn't published). To see more colorways Lola-Doodles has to offer, check out the previous sales link under Shop Details on the Lola-Doodles Etsy site.)
  • If you're on Twitter, tweet about the contest. Tweets must include my Twitter name (@iammo_25) and a link to this page.
  • If you blog, mention this contest on your blog and then leave a comment here with your blog post URL.

You'll get one entry into the contest for each thing you do. So if you comment, tweet and blog - that's 3 chances to win!

Contest starts today and runs until end of day Monday, August 26th. On Wednesday, August 28th I'll reveal the winner, so be sure to check back then.

Dowager's Prize Diamonds in Silver Linings Buff Sock
Dowager's Prize Diamonds
in Silver Linings

Thursday, August 15, 2013


Guess which blog is going to be giving away a skein of sock yarn?
Guess which blog is going to be giving away a free sock pattern to go with that sock yarn?

Guess who has partnered up with a certain Indie Dyer, who has appeared in this space before, to create an exclusive yarn/pattern pairing which will be available soon?

This blog.
This blog.
Me! Lola-Doodles!

When: Contest details will be revealed Saturday, August 17th. Come back for your chance to win!

Monday, August 12, 2013

As busy as a very busy thing

Whew! You know it's been a busy week when it takes until the next Monday morning before you have time for an update.

Last week was a flurry of activity as I kicked off a secret sock test knit which I hope to submit for publication. At the same time, I have three other sock test knits going on, which you can see over on the Ravelry Free Pattern Testers forum (The Dowager's Prize Socks, The Man in the Brown Sock and Nemesis).

I love the test knit phase of a project. Not only do I get to see a pattern come to life for the first time on someone else's needles, which is a huge thrill. But it's also a fascinating (and humbling) experience in one's own fallibility.

By the time I write up a pattern and put it out for testing, I've spent a lot of time on it. I've knit the socks at least once and often twice. I've done the math for the difference sizes. I use the most recent published pattern as the basis for the new pattern, so that hopefully any typos and errors have already been found and all I have to do is modify some wording, numbers and charts. I check it over more closely than Santa checking his naughty and nice lists on Dec 23rd.

And then other people start taking a look at it and finding the mistakes that my eyes, through over-familiarity, have overlooked. Some are typos. Other things are more basic (e.g., a 58 stitch cast on isn't divisible by 4, therefore you can't do a 2x2 rib cuff).

I hate making mistakes that cause my testers to have to rip out part (or all!) of their work. In fact, I hate making mistakes at all. But as a professional technical writer, I know that writers are not good editors/reviewers of their own work. You get too close to your own work and your brain fills in what it expects to see instead of seeing what's actually written on the page. It's human nature. And I find it fascinating.

I've had a few conversations lately with some of my testers which I think have really upped my game. I love learning from people who have differing view points and ways of approaching a problem. And for that reason I am grateful to all my testers who question my choices, tell me what parts are confusing and make suggestions for improvements.

I'll leave you with pictures of The Man in the Brown Sock and Nemesis. These two socks will be part of an Agatha Christie inspired series of patterns which I hope to launch by the end of August - beginning of September. The Dowager's Prize Socks pattern will be available within the coming week, as part of an exclusive pairing with Lola-Doodles' Dowager's Pink Roses and Silver Lining's colorways. More on that later this week!

Man in the Brown Sock


Thursday, August 8, 2013


This photo is a random cat's interpretation of me this morning:

image from: Waking up today. #notgonnahappen
— Emergency Kittens (@EmrgencyKittens) August 8, 2013

Friday, August 2, 2013

Sunshine on a sunny day

A little sunshine to start the weekend off right....

There's a field of sunflowers near my Mom's cottage. After lunch today we decided to stop and take some photos:

They just look so happy, don't they?

Beautiful blue sky...

Let's get a little closer, shall we?

Don't be shy - look a little closer.

The last thing I saw before the sunflower attacked*:

*Just kidding. No photographers were harmed in the taking of these photos.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Sale - 40% off

Well, it’s a long weekend in Ontario, Canada this weekend. We celebrate something called Simcoe Day, in honour of John Graves Simcoe, Lieutenant Governor of Upper Canada (now Ontario) in the 1790s.

But that’s not what this sale is about. This sale was inspired by the need, the need for speed. As in, one of our vehicles no longer has any. Because it needs a new transmission. And those things are expensive.

So, for a limited time - all individual patterns in my Ravelry shop are on sale, 40% off. This does not include the ebook collection of patterns, which is a savings over buying the patterns individually at regular prices. Sale ends end of day (EDT) Sunday, August 3rd. No coupon needed.