Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Christmas Socks

Oooh, my freezing toes! I spent the solstice planning a workshop on the use of the feet and floor in dance, and it made me start to think about Norwegian-style stranded colourwork socks to lounge about in. I found several designs by Drops, but decided to have a go at these using some of my acrylic DK stash, just to see how the yarn performed and to practise my stranding technique. Instead of the traditonal red and off-white shown on the pattern, I went for blue and cream.
Apart from the fun of the colourwork patterns, DK knits up so quickly compared to 4 ply! Once I got to the solid-colour foot, I was wizzing along and knitted a pair of socks in a couple of sessions. Unhappy with my sloppy stranding, as well as a noticeable 'jog' (discontinuity in the pattern) between rounds, I frogged my first attempt at the colourwork. Various YouTube videos provided guidance on stranding techniques and advice on how to avoid the jog. While my stranding was easy to tidy up, I'm still not jogless, although I've tried lifting the first stitch of the second row, tightening the last and leaving the first stitches loose, knitting the first stitch twice ... they might work with thick stripes, but I need to find out more and think about how to manage this with more intricate patterns. One piece of advice was just not to worry about it, on the basis that once you've pulled the stitches about to block the item or wear it, it will look a bit more even.

Even with tidier stranding, my tension tightens a bit over colourwork, so I went up a needle size with the decrease for the leg after the cuff, for ease. I tried these on once they were finished, and on my chunky ankles and legs, I think I would need to go up a needle size again.

Pattern and modifications summary:
Cast on 56 sts with blue on 4 x 3.75 mm dpns (14 sts/needle)
knit 1 round  blue
knit 1 round  cream
12 r k2,p2 rib in cream
Change to 3 x 4 mm needles for decrease round (k5, k2tog) 8 times, leaving 48 sts (16sts/needle)
knit 1 round in cream before working chart A.
Redistribute stitches (without working) by popping the last 3 from needle 1 and the first 3 from needle 3 onto needle 2,  to leave 22 on instep (needle 2) and a total of 26 for heel.
Knit needle 1 sts and turn to start the heel flap on a purl (WS) row.
13 rows heel flap
Heel decreases (square heel) worked well, neat and no holes. Knit across needle 1 and pick up 11, work instep, pick up 11.
Knit a round after the pick-up round, putting the last stitch of needle 1 and first of needle 3 onto needle 2 to get 24 sts on instep and count this as foot round 1
Start gusset decreases on the next round 2 and on rounds 4 and 6.
Foot total 40 rounds before working toe decreases, leaving a total of 8 sts for the gathered toe. (I’ve changed my mind about gathered toes - it looks very neat.) Foot length is just about 24 cm, so size 38/39.

Working on these socks reminded me that I was going to write a post comparing the various makes of acrylic DK I had used on the colour sampler blanket, because I noticed significant differences. So it was on these socks; the cream acrylic was Woolcraft New Fashion DK, a whole ball left over from the colour-play crochet blanket. It's quite thick for a DK and a little coarse and fuzzy. I'm not sure I would use it for socks again - the legs on these can almost stand up by themselves. The blue is Hayfield Bonus DK 'Sapphire', which is thinner and softer, and rather lovely because the colour isn't quite solid. Although the foot length is right for me, the ankle/leg width isn't, so I'll offer these for sale at my Dancing Feet Workshop.

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Fantasia 2014

I had to shake off my desire to hibernate to get myself booked and organised for last weekend, but I'm so glad I did. The annual trudge up to London for JWAAD Fantasia was more than worth it.

As usual, the weekend started with my friend (and partner in perpetrating belly dance here in West Wales) Rose's classes' Christmas 'Do', complete with lovely solos, group dances, silly belly dance games directed by yours truly while some dancers changed, food, and a special ceremony this year to remember and celebrate the lovely Sue Phillips, whom we are all missing terribly. I wish it could be a joint thing with my dancers, but I know that most of them would be working during the day, besides which, there wouldn't be enough time to showcase a dance or two from Imago as well. Never mind, Imago had a little celebration last Wednesday, with a meal out at a local curry restaurant after our last class of term, including a happy significant birthday to one of the dancers. The general consensus was that she must have forgotten her birth year or got it wrong somehow, because in no way does she look 60! But then, I've said that to two other friends this year, too. Perhaps 60 is the new 40? Or maybe, as we all know, it's just that belly dancing keeps you young!

This year I was off to the smoke on my own, as Rose decided to stay with friends in London. The journey felt so long without our usual catch-up chatting, but the Friday traffic wasn't too horrible and I got to my parents' place unfrazzled.

I always wonder a little about the sanity of dancers at these weekend events. We have early starts after late nights, little time to eat between workshops and get dehydrated, despite frequent gulps of water. It doesn't hit you until later, though, because you're too busy in interesting workshops, shopping in the souk, watching the show and catching up with friends whom you otherwise only 'see' on Facebook.

It was so lovely catching up with teaching friends too, enjoying Sandra Thompson's workshop on Muwashshahat, Shona Hagan's Modern Oriental and a challenging, ballet-influenced Magency from Antje Lossin which needed quick, precise footwork. I was particularly interested in exploring percussive dance with Lotus Niraja over from the USA and  Valerie Romanin from France. I managed the workshops by having a chair to sit on every time my knees started to twinge and ache, so that I was up and down like a yoyo, but managed to dance more than I expected and despite the long drives, my knees were pretty good with a bit of extra rest, with no lasting pain or other problems.

This year, workshops were arranged a little differently, with the option of shorter workshops, but there were also tickets on sale to watch the competition, as well as the Saturday evening show. The Sunday afternoon part of the competition was dancing to a live band, which was awesome, but was cut short at the interval. Ozgen, who was also one of the judges, treated us to a performance. He is a wonderful dancer, compelling, elegant and dramatic. After several minutes' dancing, he collapsed to the floor and there was a pause where we all wondered whether this was just a dramatic move, before he groaned in pain. One of his knees had given way, and we left the theatre, allowing him some privacy and the care of a doctor and nurse who were in the audience, while they waited for the ambulance, which would apparently not be there for a couple of hours!  (In fact, it was a few hours before they came, since just rolling around in agony is not life threatening and for some reason, the service was really busy on a Sunday afternoon.) As well as being wonderful dancer, he is a good teacher and lovely person, so we were all terribly worried for him. We also felt for the performers in the competition. Thankfully, his dislocated knee is now healing well and I think the competition was rescheduled and finished.

Sunday evening and most of Monday were spent relaxing and chatting to my parents,enjoying my Dad's anecdotes from his time in the RAF. My Mum has been struggling with a rheumatoid arthritis flare, but is knitting jumpers for a charity supporting African children, so both of us could sit and knit.

I got back late on Monday night and was met by the cats and a heap of mail. The cats seemed a little traumatised by my 4-day absence. Greebo had a massive cat-sulk going on and kept sitting or lying down in front of me with his back towards me. Once I'd put the heating on for an hour to get the chill off the cold cottage, fed the cats, cleaned up some cat sick, unpacked the car and then found my towel and got ready for bed, he was ready to forgive in return for cat treats. I could hardly move for them both snuggled against me all night, more than once feeling the prick of claws to warn me not to try going anywhere as I tried to turn over. I was exhausted, but my dreams were full of dance and music.

Monday, 22 December 2014

Mojo; Lost and Found

I was discussing tidying craft rooms with a friend, and telling her how tidying mine up a bit had helped me to find my sewing mojo again.

Mojo. It seems to be used a lot nowadays, but it's not a word I would normally use. It felt so strange to say it that I had to go and look up what it really means and work out what I meant by it.

(You probably know this already, but I'm a teacher, amongst other things, so can't resist providing explanations. Sorry. Skip ahead if you like!)

Mojo refers to a magic charm, talisman, spell, influence or magic power. It's derived from the name for a Hoodoo amulet bag worn on the person to attract luck, protection or the fulfilment of various wishes, made of flannel or leather and containing several items or 'ingredients'. These are usually associated with the reason for or desire behind the mojo bag, such as crystals, herbs, coins, charms, hair and so on.

Well, I didn't know that, but do like to learn something new every day.  I was thinking of it more like an abbreviated portmanteau word relating to motivation for and enjoyment of something. Probably, that's what it seems to mean now; inspiration, creativity, desire, passion, positivity, with a side-order of get-up-and-go. All things critical to getting things done and loving life, so no wonder the loss of it is depressing.

Having found my mojo, I've promptly, but hopefully only temporarily, mislaid it.  I overheard someone complaining that she'd lost her housework mojo. I don't think I ever had one of those. In the absence of getting a round tooit, I generally have to tell myself to JFDI. So perhaps if I tidied up a bit more, I'd find it again. Worth a try, particularly as I may need to start sorting out and packing in the not too distant future. Oh my, 2015 may turn out to be a year of changes!

Sunday, 21 December 2014

'Maidenhair Fern' Socks

I ended up buying a circular 2.75 mm needle with a long cable so that I could start the two-at-a-time, toe-up, magic-loop technique socks and found a couple of instruction videos, first for JMCO from Knit Purl Hunter and another for Liat Gat's Limitless (long-tail) Cast On for two at a time, magic loop socks. I decided to go with the JMCO, since I learned how to do it on dpns and I like it better than a long-tail cast on (although I may use the latter if ever I get down to doing my legwarmers!). A few rows in, I started to wonder why magic loop is thought to be quicker than dpns. The idea is that there is less 'adjustment' of the yarn and needles, but I was finding getting the stitches from the cable back onto the needle to be an absolute pain, and using two balls of yarn, which needed to be kept on their respective sides, meant further fiddling about. After a couple more rows, I realised that the problem with remounting the stitches was that the joins between cable and needle tips weren't smooth.  It's a Pony fixed circular, and just not up to the job of sliding stitches back and forth over the joins. I frogged the few rows I'd done, and started to wonder about how to smooth the join while I cast on another pair of cuff-down socks, from a pattern called 'Maidenhair Fern'.

I didn't realise from the picture, but this is an interlocking leaves lace pattern and doesn't look much like maidenhair fern to me, but I love leaves so it's not really an issue. I picked up the Drops Fabel 'Forest Long Print' (#650) which is a self-striping yarn. I love the way it's made up of different colours plied together, although it is a bit splitty and I'm not sure about the bands of pale brown against the greens - the pattern would stand out more with a solid colour.

I usually need to cast on 72 on my usual 2.75 mm dpns in order to cope with my chunky legs and ankles, so increasing to 75 sts for the pattern repeats around the leg didn't seem outrageous (although I forgot about how stretchy lace patterns can be). I prefer ankle socks, so did 12 rounds K2, P2 rib for the cuff, followed by 40 rounds for the leg, which was two and a half pattern repeats, achieved by starting on row 9 of the pattern.

The heel was worked over 2/5 rather than half the stitches, due to the multiple of 15 sts needed to continue the pattern down the instep. Probably because I was working on my own gauge and larger needles, the suggested heel flap seemed long so I only did 31 rows and picked up 19 sts along each side of the flap (including the corners to eliminate holes).

The increase to 81 sts for the foot after the gusset decreases seemed very strange - why have a larger foot than leg/ankle circumference? I decided to continue the gusset decreases until there were 20 sts for the sole and 45 for the instep pattern, leaving a total of 65 sts for the remainder of the foot, which was plenty.

The foot was 64 rounds (4 pattern repeats) from the start of working in the round again after the heel decreases to the start of the toe decreases, with the gusset decreases happening over the first 40 rows.

The socks fit quite well, although I need a broader sole for my wide feet and don't really like the lace design wrapping around the sides. I think, if I were to do it again, I might tweak the leaf pattern in some way, with a narrower instep pattern and wider stocking stitch sole. The leaf pattern isn't so obvious when looking down from the wearer's point of view. Perhaps I should set up a mirror on the floor to photograph my socks!

Friday, 19 December 2014

Goodbye, My Lovely

In mid November, I heard the sad news that one of our lovely dancers had died. Sue was one of my friend Rose's dancers,and was friendly, easy to talk to, intelligent, vibrant, active, full of the joy of life. She often helped out during dance events, wore leggings and ankle chains and her long, silky, silvery hair in a plaited crown. As another dancer observed, 'I hope I'm that cool when I'm her age!'

My cherished memory of her is when we sat at Rose's house between day workshops and evening hafla. She was having fun combing through my terribly tangled hair while we chatted about our love for Radio 4 programmes, particularly 'In Our Time'. It was cosy and relaxing, a perfect, happy moment.

I felt compelled to go up to her funeral in Cellan, near Lampeter, and met up with other members of the belly dance community who knew and loved her too. We had arranged to car share from the Co-op. As we chatted, we learned more details of her death. Apparently she had fallen asleep in a chair, head cradled on her hand, and had slipped peacefully away. She'd had her 70th birthday at the beginning of the year.

I already knew from chats with her that she lived on a typical, small upland farm, with the only access to the house being a walk (or occasional drive) across fields, and could not believe that there were still places like this. She was to be buried there, next to her husband whom she had survived by seven years or so. The instructions for the funeral were to wear wellies and fleeces, and to bring only biodegradable and preferably garden flowers, but after a cold, wet spell I had nothing in bloom and settled for chrysanthemums, with the cellophane wrapper removed.

It was a fine day, cold and clear. There were quite a few people at the burial, and I realised how little I really knew her. She was active in the church, and as a child safeguarder. It was a Christian burial, without hymns but with additional opportunities for anyone to say some words. I wasn't the only one shedding tears as her wicker coffin was lowered into the grave. As we placed our flowers around the grave, someone started playing something beautiful on a violin. Eventually, we all headed back to our cars parked up on the road, to meet back at a local church hall.

Heading back across the fields - the line of trees marks the road
The WI were in charge, so there were tables set up along the centre of the room, laden with sandwiches, small cakes and other finger foods, with tea (so good, I had to have a second cup) and coffee dispensed from the kitchen at the end of the hall and smaller tables around so that small groups could sit and chat. It was all just right, an opportunity to meet and chat to her other friends and family and felt like a celebration of her life.

As I drove back from Lampeter, I reflected that the only way it could have been better would be for Sue not to have died. As I arrived back, the light was going, so I went to put the hens away. I came back out of the barn to be treated to a final burst of brilliance, a perfect end to the day.


At Rose's classes' Christmas 'Do', we ditched some of the games in favour of a little memorial ceremony for Sue, presided over by one of the dancers who has been ordained as an Interfaith Minister. We wrote our treasured memories or just a few words on cards and placed them in the bowl, and remembered our friend and happy times.

Goodbye, my lovely. We miss you, but no doubt the angels had a party when you joined them!

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Basic Toe-Up Socks, Part 2

So, last week's post left me in need of yoga to restore my calm after finding that the 64 stitch basic toe up sock with the decrease bind-off from the ill-fated Origami Socks pattern was too tight to get onto my foot. As you may have seen from this post, I didn't even get to yoga class because of the severe weather. Oh, well, these things happen.  At least I could put my feet up and have another go at the socks!

Having unravelled back to the last row of the foot, I increased by 8 stitches (to 72) and then set the heel up over half of those stitches (36, over two needles, so 18 on each). I redid the heel, transferred the stitches onto a cable and checked the fit. Yay! So I finished the leg and this time did my usual cast off in rib (knit or purl 2, pass first stitch over, then knit/purl the next and pass previous stitch over) which turned out rather stretchier than the other bind-off. I pulled the loop out wide and left the yarn ball attached, to try it on. Oh no! It may be stretchier, but not stretchy enough! I couldn't get the sock on. However, this time, I knew it was a problem with the cast-off (bind-off), so went in search of something stretchier.

I found a video for Jeny's Surprisingly Stretchy Bind-Off (JSSBO) and it made sense. It adds more yarn into the cast-off row by releasing each stitch off the needles with an accompanying yarn over. It took me a few moments to work out which way to wrap the yarn overs to be correct for the next stitch, as the video is demonstrated by Cat Bordhi working in continental style and she picks the yarn up around the right-hand needle so quickly, it's difficult to follow. For future reference, the trick is: put the yarn in the correct place to work the type of stitch which is next on the left needle (so at the back for knit, at the front for purl). For knit,. it then follows that you have to bring the yarn forward over the right needle and around to the back again. For purl, you have to take the yarn back over the right needle and around to the front again. (Note, Over the needle.  They're not called yarn-overs for nothing!) Once you're sorted with that JSSBO is easy. Okay, it takes a bit longer, and uses two rows' worth of yarn, and the resulting corrugated edge is quite visible (I've discovered some people are into invisible bind-offs). But, and this is the essential thing, it is surprisingly stretchy. And crinkly, squooshy and comfy. I tested it with the yarn ball still attached and it was easy to put the sock on, and lovely to have an edge which doesn't dig in.

So, I started the second sock straight away and finished it in just a few sessions. I sorted out the angle of my needles to make Judy's Magic Cast On (JMCO) less fiddly on dpns. I increased by 4 stitches on the last two rows of the foot, placing the increases a stitch away from the ends of the instep and either side of the heel needles (thus on the inside and outside of the foot). Having done Cat Bordhi's Sweet Tomato Heel a couple of times on the first sock, there was no need to refer to a pattern. Rather than put all the heel stitches on one needle as the pattern suggests, I worked then over two needles, dividing the 36 stitches by thirds, so 12 (6 on each needle) as the centre set of stitches. Easy, and it seems to fit me well. And having done JSSBO once, and got my yarn-over directions sorted out, that was easy too. Success, at last!

The only thing I might change is the width of the toe and therefore the number of cast-on stitches, as it is just a little long and pointed, but I haven't decided on the best number of stitches per needle to start with. At least 12, I think, rather than 10. I might have to have a play with that when starting another pair of socks.

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Rain Stops Play

Although I wish for higher numbers in class, I have a lot of sympathy for those who take one look outside on these dark, cold nights and decide that snuggling on the sofa with a mug of tea wins against going out to class. The other night while I was changing to go out to teach, I had to fight down the urge to change into my pyjamas and just go to bed with a mug of cocoa. It was windy, pouring with rain, dark and dismal, and it was only the thought of my dancers having to brave the same for their love of the dance that got me going.

I rarely cancel a class, or skip one myself, but sometimes the weather is just too much. Yesterday was a case in point.  Ready to go, I stood at the back door and watched soaking wet birds in the garden. The chaffinches and blue tits were irritable and squabbled constantly. The robin and blackbird were finding some tasty bits from the compost heap, and a couple of song thrushes were pecking at fallen crab apples. I meant to make crab apple, ginger and mint jelly this year, as the fruit set on the apple was very heavy. But it's been raining for weeks, turning the little golden apples from under-ripe to splitting and mouldy within a week.

I set off for yoga class at 4.00 pm, and quickly realised that the deluge I skipped through to shut the hens away and dive into the car had evidently been going on for hours. Ah, the joys of living in the country! There are a few miles of back roads in every direction before I can get onto a main (A-class) road. The roads were starting to resemble a series of streams and lakes. I had to turn back on my first choice of route, because although I have a Fiat Panda 4x4, it's still quite a small car in comparison to a Land Rover, and I met a flooded section I wasn't confident about; I knew the road dipped, but how deep was the water?

After 25 minutes' driving, I was still only 4 miles from home. The water on the roads was getting deeper, it was getting dark, if I did manage to get to class I would be quite late, and I knew the heavy rain was forecast to continue through the night. In the dark, with floods across the roads getting deeper and difficult to see, the return journey would have been a bit stressful, to say the least, even in my relaxed, post-yoga state!

I sent a text to explain and apologise for absence, then turned around and headed home. Already, there was more water across the roads, as it fountained up out of drains, poured off the land through field gates and overflowed the ditches, washing leaves, wood and stones out onto the roads.

Once home, I looked up the weather forecast, mug of tea in hand. The yellow weather warning for heavy rain was in place until 9.00 am this morning. Last winter was extremely wet, so I hope we're not in for a repeat. This is from the Met Office summary:

'Winter 201[3-201]4 was an exceptionally stormy season, with at least 12 major winter storms affecting the UK in two spells from mid-December to early January, and again from late January to mid-February. When considered overall, this was the stormiest period of weather experienced by the UK for at least 20 years. An analysis of pressure fields by the University of East Anglia suggests this winter has had more very severe gale days than any other winter season in a series from 1871.
The persistent heavy rainfall through the season resulted in this being the wettest winter for the UK, England, Wales and Scotland, and the equal-wettest winter for Northern Ireland in series from 1910. It was also the wettest winter in the long running England and Wales Precipitation series from 1766. There were more days of rain during the winter than any other in a series from 1961.'

Residents in the Somerset Levels, which were under water for weeks, may feel that this is an example of British Understatement.

The horrible weather has reminded me that I need to take a look at my severe weather policy for class cancellations. Out here in the Wild West of Wales, even a yellow warning can make road conditions quite dangerous.  I asked to cancel an adult education class back in February when there was a yellow warning, but with a forecast for wind speeds increasing to hurricane force later, and was met with a certain amount of scorn and derision. 'It's only a bit windy. You won't get paid, you know, and you'll have to make the class up at some other time.'  By the time the class members had been contacted, the severe weather warning had changed to amber, and the centre was closed because tiles were beginning to fall off the roof and there was a risk of being hit by flying debris. Only a bit windy.

Needless to say, if an amber weather warning is in force, the class will be cancelled. I don't want anyone to risk driving to class in severe weather like that. In those circumstances, snuggling down on the sofa with a mug of tea is fully justified!

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Basic Toe-Up Socks, Part 1

Learning to do toe-up socks, even without the magic loop, two at a time, is proving to be more of a learning curve than I expected.

I hate having to frog (unravel) items, so I was in great need of yoga after the Origami Socks Failure. Feeling far more peaceful, I started the Basic Toe-Up socks. Judy's Magic Cast On is rather fiddly on dpns, so the toe seemed to go on forever. Eventually I gave up on just two needles and added in a third so that half the stitches were on one needle, and the stitches for the heel were divided equally over two needles.

70 rounds later, I was ready to set up for Cat Bordhi's Sweet Tomato Heel. Just to check that I understood the instructions correctly, I found her video instructions for the heel.  Yes, I was doing it right, the only difference being that the pattern made the heel from half the total number of stitches, whereas Cat Bordhi set it up to use two-thirds of the total stitches, with the remaining third for the instep/front of ankle.

The heel looked lovely, and I was so lost in admiring it that I forgot to transfer the stitches to a cable and just check that the sock actually fitted. Off I went, for another 40 rounds up the leg (I don't like my 'everyday' socks long) and then did 10 rounds k2p2 ribbing. I went back to the Origami socks to try the different bind off (K1, slip the stitch back to the left needle, k2tog tbl, *slip resulting stitch from right to left needle, k2tog tbl*, repeat until all stitches have been cast off). Neat bind off, but although I did it quite loosely, it wasn't stretchy enough for the ribbing underneath it. Aaaargh! Unravel it and cast-off loosely in rib. Stretchier, although still not quite as stretchy as the ribbing underneath it.

Leaving the last loop pulled out and the yarn ball still attached, I tried the sock on. Or at least, tried to. Although the toe looked too pointed, I was surprised to find that it fitted quite well. The problem was, the cast-off edge wasn't stretchy enough to go over the widest part, the heel to instep/front of ankle. Try as I might, I couldn't get it onto my foot. Here's an idea, let's stretch the heel-instep part of the sock and see whether it actually stretches enough to meet the measurement, which means the cast off might be the issue. Nooo! I don't know what I hate more about unravelling, whether it's the fact that I haven't got it right first time, or the time taken just to find that it's wrong, or the fact that you can unravel in a fraction of that time. Perhaps it's all three.

Oh look, time for yoga class again! Then I'm going to have a hot bath, change into pyjamas, cook dinner, and have another go at the heel, having increased the number of stitches in an attempt to cope with my bulky heel/ankle measurement. And try to remember to try it on this time! I'll crack this yet!

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Time for the Toe-Up Challenge?

A friend asked, why bother knitting socks? Fine-gauge, cotton-rich socks are easy to find and cheap to buy, easy to wash, dry quickly, comfortable to wear and last for years. This is a good question, and the answer was initially, to learn how and prove I could. A few years ago, I couldn't imagine myself knitting socks, then decided it was a skill which I lacked and should acquire, although I still couldn't see the fascination. Since then, I've discovered that these small items in which you invest time and, yes, more money than you would when buying mass-produced socks are lovely, personal and individual in a way that the mass-produced ones cannot be. I feel as thought I've knitted a piece of myself into them.

I've done a couple of pairs of socks since I told myself that my next pair would be to learn to do them toe-up (instead of cuff/top-down). Time for some new skills.  While I was thinking about it, I realised that I would be learning a new technique for the toe (Judy's Magic Cast On or JMCO).  As these are otherwise 'vanilla' socks, with no pattern, I thought I would go the whole hog and try to learn how to do two at a time on a circular needle using the Magic Loop technique, and throw in Cat Bordhi's Sweet Tomato Heel while I was at it, perhaps. Why not? I had earmarked some of the Drops Fabel for this, so I have two balls to work from, instead of trying to knit from an outer and centre end of a 100g ball (and, knowing my luck, becoming irretrievably tangled!).

I've had a little go at magic loop before, using DK (at the start of the seven colour socks) and found the business of transferring half the stitches around from the needle to the cable or vice versa a bit strange. I ended up unravelling what I'd started because the tension was rather uneven, with a ladder between the stitches either side of the cable loop. Still, practice makes perfect, right?

So, dig out wool, pattern, stitch markers, circular needles ... ah, problem. No circular needles the right size, except one old set of 2.5 mm with a very short cable which wouldn't loop effectively or hold two pairs, although the short cable was presumably designed for sock knitting. The law of stash rules again.  I feel another wool and needles order coming on. Note to self - buy some 2.5/2.75 mm circulars with an 80 or 100cm cable for doing two at a time magic loop.

In the meantime, I looked for other toe-up patterns with instructions for dpns. There were a few, including one for 'Dummies', which seemed to make a lot of assumptions about the knitter's knowledge of techniques and involved references to wrapped stitches. As I read through the patterns, I became increasingly baffled by the instructions.  I could get the technique for the wrap and turn, but couldn't wrap my head around things like double wraps and picking up the wrap instead of a stitch or ... I don't know what. I evidently need to find a video. When it comes to knitting, I'm more of a visual learner than I thought I was.

I ended up with two patterns earmarked; one for basic toe-up socks which could be done one at a time on dpns as well as circulars and an intriguing pattern for 'Origami Socks'.

Still feeling baffled by the issue of wraps, and how much of a dummy I might be if I couldn't understand the pattern designed for dummies, I went with the seemingly simple Origami socks. I found a 100g ball of Rico Superba Bamboo, which I couldn't remember buying, but was rather nice. Since I would be doing one sock at a time, a single ball was fine.

I was a little confused by the instructions, but decided that since the heel shaping resulted in a sort of triangle, the shaping would start when the foot tube measured from toes to point of heel, 100 rounds after picking up from the toe ‘strip’ for me (size 39, 24 cm foot). The 100 rounds, plus the fiddle of picking up stitches from the P2tog decreases, was enough to start me wondering about second sock syndrome.

Once I’d finished the heel shaping and had started working in the round again, I looked at the shape and size of the sock and wondered if I could actually get it onto my heel, so transferred my stitches to a cable to try it on. My fears were born out; the shaping is too ‘subtle’, and with no gusset and only a shallow heel cup, I couldn’t get the tube of the sock to stretch enough to manage the front of ankle-back of heel measurement (33.5 cm on me). This sort of shaping issue is something I’m going to have to watch for with other toe-up patterns.

Yes, it could probably be fixed/made to work by increasing the number of stitches and/or doing some sort of hybrid heel shaping, but I’ll leave that for someone else with more experience to play with. So lesson learned, frogged and abandoned. A few hours work, unravelled in a few minutes. Hopefully yoga class this afternoon will help me feel less irritated and ready to start another pair of socks this evening.

Sunday, 2 November 2014

Cable Entertainment

I had planned to start some toe-up, two-at-a-time, magic loop socks (to learn how!) but finding, as per the law of the stash, that I didn’t have the right circular needles, and unable to resist casting on for another pair of socks, (and generally loving cables) I went for the Candy Twist Cable Socks pattern on Ravelry. When I queued the pattern, I thought maybe I would need to buy a solid-coloured sock yarn in perhaps a turquoise (NOT pink!), but in the end decided to use the Texere Jura ‘Leather’ in my stash. I don’t know why it’s called ‘leather’ as it’s a lovely golden-green-brown, ticking all my boxes for colours which don’t know exactly what they are.

I planned a little knitting session on 12 October and looking at the pattern reminded me that I had queued a project for a cable needle holder. Out came the remnants of the old, cream Aran yarn and the cable needle holder was whipped up in no time at all. Such a good solution for holding the cable needle between rounds.


That reminded me about another queued project, an owl bookmark as a gift for a friend. Using a little of my stash DK and a couple of shirt buttons, unravelling a length of yarn into singles to use as thread to sew them on, it also took no time at all. I got a bit bored with the long section and despite slipping stitches as directed at the start of each row, I can’t get it to lie flat. I think it will need steam blocking before I wrap it up. No tassel - I think it looks better without.

Then I made a start on the first sock. The ‘candy twist’ cable is not very stretchy, so while the number of stitches seems a lot for the ankle, it’s right. The heel and toe both seem a little long and narrow, but the number of stitches as per pattern gives the correct size for my foot on 2.75 mm needles. The first sock was finished in a week. After that I was a bit too busy with other things to sit and knit, so the second sock wasn't finished until the end of the month.

They look a bit strange, lying there on the blanket, but it's only because the ribbed and cabled leg looks narrow compared to the stocking stitch foot, which hasn't been blocked.  It took me a while to work out why it was called a candy twist cable. Then I realised the design looks like an oval boiled sugar sweet in a twist of cellophane.

I'm finding the 'Jura' quite a coarse yarn. It's okay to wear, just feeling a little hard when I first put it on, especially the square heel. This 'leather' colour is a little softer than the 'pistachio' I used on the Estonian Crossroads socks.  Time will tell how well it washes and wears, and whether it will soften a bit (although the Estonian Crossroads socks have been washed a few times now and don't really feel any softer). I'm not sure I'll buy any more. The colours are lovely, but I was a little shocked to see that the 100g cones I bought for £3.99 each in June are now £6.50!

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Lampeter World Dance Show 2014

Only a couple of months since the August show, there I was, in cat-herding mode again! This time, for the Lampeter World Dance Show, a showcase for a variety of dance styles to promote classes in the Lampeter area. It had been 18 months since the previous one. Due to other bookings in the Victoria Hall, this show had to be on a Friday night, with some taster workshops on the Saturday. As usual, I was still chasing dancers' music and details in the week leading up to the show. I had thought that setting the running order for August was difficult, but this was really tricky, as so many dancers were dancing more than one piece. I spent hours on it, trying to sort out some breathing and changing time of at least 7 minutes for those dancing more than once. A Friday night so close to the start of the autumn term was too difficult for all of my dancers, so I decided to do one solo in addition to fan veil choreography which Rose and I had set for our fan veils workshop on 1st June. One of the groups I was counting on for a veil piece pulled out early on. The running order became possible again with the addition of a 20 minute Flamenco section, effectively creating a three part programme. Two short intermissions for people to take a break, get something to eat, browse the souk, and for the raffle. Sorted, what a relief!

The relief didn't last long. I printed out the running orders, then had a call to say that the Flamenco section had been cut due to illness. In a last minute flurry, I asked our visiting stars if they could do an extra piece each, just to re-establish some breathing space for other dancers. And, being stars, they said yes they could.

I used to drive to Lampeter via Newcastle Emlyn, but this time took a route through Carmarthen, which proved quicker and seemed an easy run with fairly good road and traffic conditions. I helped to set up the dance area, gave running orders and other details to the sound and lighting technicians and had enough time to put on costume and make-up without feeling rushed. Dancers started to arrive. As the time drew on though, we started to worry. Where was the souk? It turned out that they had left London quite late and were on their way. We planned to have all hands on deck to help unload and set up the minute they arrived. At the half, they still weren't there, and that included Zara, one of our guest stars; they were caught in bad traffic and horrible weather on the M4.

We hung on a little longer, then started the show anyway, the running order hastily amended to include an additional brief dance history chat and improvised Tsifteteli from me. Our other visiting star, Stephanie Gawne, danced the most brilliant and immaculate Charleston I have ever seen. In fact it was Meta-Charleston, sparkling, fun, energetic. I wished I'd filmed it, because I wanted to watch it all over again. She said she wanted to do something a bit racier for her fill-in piece and would only need a very quick change behind a screen before she went on again, for what turned out to be a very cheeky samba. In fact, so cheeky (ahem!) I think some of the audience were a little shocked. But, as she said, 'So what? We've all got them!'
Photo credit: Zara Dance
Zara and her lovely Mum arrived at the break and dancers flocked to help get boxes in from the car and set up some tables of dancers' goodies. Zara also danced a samba, and took a great photo of the lovely Sue P. trying on the samba headdress for size.

Rose dancing with a Dancing Moth silk veil!
By the end, I was exhausted and was grateful that, as I wasn't a local or a special guest star teacher, I wasn't due to give a workshop the following day. Even though I had heard about the change in the weather from dancers arriving for the show, I was quite shocked at how bad the roads were when I drove home, compared to my drive there six hours beforehand. Water, leaves, chunks of wood all over the roads! Thankfully, everyone got back safely. I decided not to go back up to Lampeter to attend any taster workshops, but I heard that they were as good as ever, and felt I'd missed out.

With thanks to all the dancers, technicians and audience and helpers for making another successful show!
(PS, dates for your diary, the next Lampeter World Dance show is currently planned for Friday 16 / Saturday 17 October 2015!)

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Tsifteteli

With so much focus on the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) in belly dance, it's easy to forget that Greece has a shared cultural history through its time in the Byzantine and Ottoman empires. Greece has its own style of belly dance, Tsifteteli, (similar to the Turkish Ciftetelli). With the Lampeter World Dance Festival coming up in mid October, I thought it would be nice to dance Tsifteteli, as an appropriately folkloric-based style. It's not the first time I have visited Tsifteteli, as something about the end of the summer seems to bring it out for me. Perhaps I'm trying to hang onto the last days of brightness and warmth, or wishing I'd managed to have a holiday ....

I picked up my still-unfinished notes and started thinking about music and choreography in earnest, with a view to basing the first half of the Autumn term classes on this. It contains a nice selection of easy footwork, hip moves and shoulder shimmies which are part of the building blocks of belly dance, but the movement vocabulary is more restricted than the variety of moves used in, say, Egyptian-style raqs sharqi. At the same time, Tsifteteli's cultural context of history and music is quite deep and occasionally dark. So it's interesting but accessible, just the job for new starters in the class.

However, I've only ever attended one workshop a while ago, which had more focus on the rhythm and footwork steps than the core-based belly dance moves or cultural aspects of it. Thank goodness, then, for the internet and YouTube, because if I had to try to research this through a library, I would probably get nowhere. The discussions around cultural (mis)appropriation are still in full flow. I'm bored stiff with the topic, so I won't go into it here. Suffice to say, I want to create something which respects the music and dance form. So that I feel I can teach with a little authority, I have been doing a lot of research to fill, well, not just a gap in my knowledge, more like a vacuum! I've immersed myself in it, become sidetracked reading about Greek history and listening to Tsifteteli and other Rebetiko music.  

Even so, I'm finding very little on the subject, so it's proving quite slow and difficult. I came across the predictable comments that 'you had to be born Greek to be able to do it' and conflicting opinions about what it was not, rather than what it was. I could see that someone else had asked the question on a (non-belly dance) forum, and the answers were a sort of off-hand 'it's Greek belly dance like they do in the clubs'. If you search for Tsifteteli dance on YouTube, most of the results are for modern DJ club mixes. The accompanying videos either show mash-ups of other videos of belly dancers who are dancing oriental or tribal fusion styles to other music, or shots of bright young things in very high heels, small tops and short skirts, gyrating away under club lighting. Anyone who can do wrist curls while doing hip lifts or asymmetrical horizontal hip circles turning on the spot would fit right in.  There are so many of these types of video, it's difficult to find something more authentic. However, there are a few leading authorities to whom I am immensely grateful; Chryssanthi Sahar, Athena Najat and Maria Aya. (Hmm, maybe you do have to be Greek?)

I've also been having an entertaining time watching extracts of the Greek TV variety show Στην υγεία μας (Stin iyeia mas - Cheers!) where they have the studio set up a bit like a bouzoukia club, with a platform for the live musicians and singers, dance floor and small audience who chat, drink, smoke, sing along, shout encouragements, get up to dance, break plaster plates or throw white carnation flower heads at the dancers and each other until the dance floor is so littered that an area needs to be brushed clear. I'm loving the music and party atmosphere (although it seems that only the young and very slender get up to dance!)


Current earworm: Tha Spaso Koupes. I can't stop singing it. 'Aaah, aaaah, tsifteteli, aman, aman, yaleleli ...'

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Aran Stash Slipper Socks

How long before I yielded to the urge to start another pair of socks? Not long at all!
Sorting through my stash revealed approximately 145g of natural/cream colour Aran yarn. I remember buying the unbranded skeins in a Bradford wool shop in 1981 or thereabouts (in what seems like another life) for an Aran jumper.  I think it was something like 40% wool, 60% acrylic.  The jumper shrank and felted a very little each time I washed it, however carefully, until I gave up and gave it to a petite friend who wanted a thick jumper

I browsed on Ravelry for aran-weight, ankle socks patterns. Cursing myself a bit for not having learned to do toe-up two-at-a-time, which would have allowed me to knit up the leg until all the yarn had been used, I settled on one by Drops with a cable design down the instep. Even though I didn't know the yardage of the yarn, I reckoned that 145g should be enough for a pair of ankle length socks.  First problem - no 4.5mm dpns. Typical, isn't it? Even after adding to my sets of needles, I still don't have the size I want to start a project.  I found a set of four 5mm dpns and decided to go with those. A swatch (20 sts/26 rows to 10cm) revealed that I would probably have to go up to 5.5mm dpns to get their gauge with their suggested yarn, so I cast on for the middle size, given my chunky feet and legs, and hoped for the best.

I had to read the pattern through a couple of times first. It's not as if the pattern is complicated, but I found the way in which it's written and laid out difficult to follow and frankly irritating. Looking at some of the pattern and project comments, it seems a number of people found the same. I read M1 and further on, M2.  What? Make 1 or 2 stitches? Why? Then I realised the charts were labelled M1 and M2. You get to the bottom of the heel flap and have to go back up to read a previous section of text above the main pattern to find the heel decreases. You reach the toe decreases, but there's a section to read through first before you can carry on. The text says work M2 over M1, but I think that 'over' means 'instead of' because there is no way to work the cable pattern and decrease on the same stitches. The decreases create a nice leaf shape at the end of the cable.
Several people also noted the baggy cuff, but mine was enormous and the number of rows made the back of the sock slouch downwards. So I frogged and cast on the smallest size.  I got as far as the pattern start and decided I didn't get the two rows of knit to start, or like the change from the rib to the pattern, so frogged again to think about what to do.

After these couple of false starts, without which this would undoubtedly have been a fast knit, I decided not to follow the pattern so closely and decided on the following:
Cast on 42 sts.
6 rounds knit (instead of 2, creating a thin reverse stocking stitch curly top, and this could have done with being 9 rounds, perhaps.  Or additional rounds of rib, and if I'd had the smaller size needles, I would probably have switched sizes to make it a little less baggy).
6 rounds P3, K3 rib. I started the rib with the purl, so that the purl panels continue unbroken when the pattern starts.
6 rounds with instep pattern (1 pattern repeat)
14 rows heel flap - I may have been able to get away with 12
Pick up 10 sts on heel flap edges before and after instep pattern row 7 (although if I went for 12 rows, I guess I would pick up 8 sts each side).
Start  gusset decreases on instep pattern row 8; K2tog before the instep pattern section, SSK after, decreasing on even rounds until there are 21 stitches on the sole section again.
A total of 48 pattern rows - 8 pattern repeats, then toe decreases. I could probably do with fewer, and the 'leaf' shape would still work if the toe decreases were started after a pattern row 4 instead of a full pattern repeat.
Row 10 of toes S1, P2tog, psso, but somehow (watching TV and not concentrating!) I ended up with 6 stitches top and bottom on the first sock and 7 on the second.  I Kitchenered, but think perhaps a gathered toe as in the original pattern would work better.

All these modifications set me wondering; how many changes does it take before you effectively have a different pattern?

They were quite big on me when I first tried them on, and I could perhaps have gone down to fewer stitches in the foot as suggested in the pattern.  Testing for shrinkage, I gave them a quick hand wash and they smelled so much of wet wool, I wondered if the yarn might be 60% wool. They didn't seem to shrink at all, but they are baggy enough to cope with a little. The cream colour means that they are definitely socks for when I have my feet up! They're nice and warm. All I need now is a cup of tea (and perhaps a woodburner to warm my toes by!).

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Cardigan Belly Dance Festival 2014

The fourth Cardigan Belly Dance Festival was the best yet, with two days of great workshops and an evening showcase for works by classes and dance groups in Pembrokeshire and Ceredigion, as well as solos and duets from teachers and professional dancers.

A terrific amount of work goes into haflas and shows.  The driving force behind this festival is my friend and partner in dance crime Rose, who teaches belly dance and belly dance based fitness in south Ceredigion, and her ladies. My rehearsal schedule alone left me feeling quite tired. Learning point for next time: I must remember that, however much an impending show focuses the mind on costume, leaving it to a fortnight before the show to get it all together and make costumes for others is just not good! Getting pieces rehearsed, and dealing with the technical requirements and running order is more than enough.

It was also the most difficult running order I had ever had to deal with. Apart from the usual framing with strong openers and closers for both halves, and avoidance of the same styles back-to-back, the main difficulty was the need to allow time for a number of people dancing more than once in different pieces to catch their breath, change costumes and touch-up make-up. Topaz Tribal from Abergavenny took the last slot as a very welcome late addition, and they were great at sending their details and music in right away. I still had to chase for other dancers' music and details in the last week.  I say it every year - it's like trying to herd cats.  Unfortunately, last minute difficulties with one dancer took up a lot of time, and a last minute pull out from another couple (I mean, 11.00 pm the night before? Come on!) left the running order unfixable. By the time I arrived at the theatre a couple of hours late on Saturday lunchtime, having driven most of the 20 miles behind a laden lorry doing 20 miles an hour on winding roads with no safe overtaking spots, I was in a thoroughly bad mood and feeling extremely stressed.

The first thing one of my dancers did when she saw me was give me a huge hug, which went a way towards dispelling it. I met the technician for the first time on the day, having only had a brief phone and email exchange with him a few days before.  We chatted about the music and lighting requirements and I knew I could safely leave him to it. Sitting in the dressing room, trying to get a temporary finish on a couple of costume galabeyas also helped to calm me down.

I had three dancers who were making their belly dance performance debut, all having only been dancing a few months. This was their choice, as I take the view that performance isn't compulsory, and a dancer is ready to perform when she feels she wants to (hopefully to fulfil a personal goal or challenge and to provide entertainment, rather than just 'show off') - regardless of how long she's been dancing (which doesn't mean much anyway) or how well she dances. Everyone has to start somewhere, and these local shows and haflas are a safe place to do it. Two out of the three also decided to do the 'pop-up troupe' workshop on the Saturday, where the participants learn a choreography to perform that night.

Imago Dancers perfoming Habibi Ya Eini, everyone singing 'Yalla, yalla!'My group opened the show with the choreography we'd been rehearsing so hard, to Nourhanne's version of Habibi Ya Eini.  It was quite a busy choreography, not really designed for beginners as I didn't think that my new starters would want to perform.  But they did, and danced well, then some went on to give the 'pop-up troupe' piece all they had too. To say I'm proud of them all is an understatement! They rock my world!

Fan veils fluttering as the dance finishesIn the end, only four of us danced the fan veils piece which resulted from the workshop at the beginning of June. Although we had sent everyone away with choreography notes, music and the opportunity to have filmed the dance on their cameras or phones, most had not rehearsed it by themselves, possibly in part because it's so difficult to find the space at home. Just four of us filled the performance space; like Isis wings, fan veils are space-hungry props!

My double veil piece wasn't as awesome as I'd hoped. It needed more rehearsal, and better matched, synthetic veils, rather than silk. The SmallWorld Theatre gets very warm and I was dripping, so the silk just stuck to me, refusing to run through my fingertips, clung to itself and refused to float well - argh.

There was a man there making a film of the Saturday workshops and show, with Rose talking about belly dance, and it has just been loaded to YouTube.  Unfortunately, there's no clip in it of my group dancing, (or many of the other pieces), but I'm on there, chatting to the tech and dancing, for a couple of seconds. It is a great short film and brings back happy memories.



Thanks to all who taught and attended workshops, performed and came to watch us, Jake the Tech and those who seamlessly did all the front of house duties,all making it such a success. If you missed it, it's generally the second weekend in August, so why not make a note in your diary for next year!

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

The Last of the Current Knitting UFOs

A bag containing a jumper which I started, ooooh, years and years ago and only got a third of the way through, has been looking at me accusingly. It started life as a cardigan, but when it came to doing the front, I changed my mind. I remember that the number of stitches made the work seem interminable. I put it down to knit a sample cardigan for a wool shop, and never picked it up again. Decision time - frog or finish? On closer inspection, I found moth holes, so the decision was made for me.

I looked at my work, tutting at the uneven 1/1 rib stitches, as I slipped the work off the needles and started winding the yarn onto a niddy-noddy to create skeins,  It's a washable pure wool 4 ply in a sort of denim blue, but in some lights it looks greyer. Not a colour I would normally choose, so I guess I must have picked it deliberately to go with jeans, which I wore all the time back then.

A moth had got to one of the balls, too, so I wound the broken (chewed!) yarn off the ball.  I had only bought enough to do a sweater in size 38 and I have expanded somewhat over the years, so there isn't nearly enough to knit it up into a sweater for me unless I combine it with some other 4ply yarns and do a Fairisle. On the other hand, I'm a sock addict now, so the yarn could come in handy for socks, although it doesn't have any nylon to help it wear longer. Or perhaps I could do a shawl? Maybe I have enough yarn for both?

So, now I have several skeins of various weights of crimped yarn in a colour I'm not mad about. Somewhere, I have some acid dyes. I wonder if they're still okay, as it's a couple of years since I did any dyeing. I could have some fun playing with some colours!

As I was musing about all this, I realised that this was the last of the knitting UFOs.  For the first time in nearly 30 years, I now have nothing on the needles! It's not like I haven't plenty of other UFOs and projects in other crafts, but it feels a bit weird. How long will it be before I yield to the compulsion to start the next pair of socks?

Well, it won't be tonight. Time for bed! Good night, all.

Saturday, 23 August 2014

Estonian Crossroad Socks

I’ve become a little obsessed with sock making and wanted to know more about the traditional techniques, so having seen Nancy Bush’s Folk Socks recommended in a couple of places, I treated myself to a copy. Leafing through, I immediately liked the 'Estonian Crossroad' socks and had to start them. Even though they were another pair of top down, heel flap (I keep telling myself that my next pair are going to be toe-up, but I haven’t got there yet!) I’ve learnt a new cast on, three new stitch patterns and had the heel I worked on my previous sock project, the Seven Colour Socks, confirmed as a square or Dutch heel.

I bought some Texere Jura 4 ply (although I see it's listed as 5ply/Sport weight on Ravelry) 90% wool/10% nylon to add to my sock yarns stash. The 'Pistachio' colour felt a little crisp, rough and hard under my fingers (and feet) and I’m wondering whether it will soften a little once it’s washed. I also bought the 'Leather' colour, and it almost looks like a different yarn, much softer. I should remember to look for yarn reviews on Ravelry, although there isn't much about Jura.  A couple of people noted that their yarns were crisp and one commented that it shrinks, so I think I had better wash these socks by hand.

The book contains instructions for a long tail cast on, but no instructions on how to calculate, or estimate, how long a tail you need for the number of stitches! Thinking about it, I reasoned that perhaps if I wrapped the yarn around the needle the same number of times as the number of stitches to be cast on, plus a couple of inches, I should have enough. On the first sock, I only just had enough yarn to finish casting on. On the second, I overcompensated and had about 20 cm spare. I'm sure there's a way to work this out, so will have to do some research. In the meantime, I gnash my teeth at authors and editors who don't realise that the instruction to 'leave a long enough tail' begs the question 'how long is long enough?'

Temporarily forgetting a previous pair of socks where I found that 66 stitches on my preferred 2.75 mm dpns was about my minimum, I cast on 64 sts, 16 on two needles and 32 on a third (for the instep, as it's easier to do the pattern all on one needle), rather than the 56 stitches as written. The chevron stitch leg is just about stretchy enough, but a bit snug across the front of my ankle. I really hope these socks don't shrink!

The extra 8 stitches were worked as extra knit stitches into the chevron pattern so that the pattern repeat became:
P1 slip 1 K1 psso K5 yo K1 yo K5 K2 tog

When it came to the cable and cross pattern down the instep, the extra 4 stitches on the instep needle were worked in as an extra K2 at the start and end of each chart row.

As I had done a 10 stitch square heel on the seven colour socks, I did the same for this, although the original pattern is fewer, and of course in 4 ply yarn it comes up narrower than in DK.  With 32 sts on the heel needles, the 10 stitch heel is roughly a third of the starting stitches, but in 4 ply, I felt I could do with a wider heel and will have to remember this if I do another square heel.

To get the foot length, I did an extra 10 rounds of stocking stitch ( a total of 70 rounds when counting from the start of the instep pattern). The extra stitches meant an extra row or two of the 'star' toe decreases, as I started with a repeat of K6 K2tog (instead of K5 K2tog as in the pattern). This time I gave in and did a gathered toe as suggested, and was pleasantly surprised at the result.


I used 76g of the 100g cone. I don't think my photo does them justice - they're much prettier in (on?) person!

An Unexpected Blessing

Months ago, I saw a Facebook post by one of my friends, dancer and artist Katherine Soutar-Caddick, about artwork for a woman who was walking the length, breadth, height and depth of Wales (and a little bit of England). She is planning to walk 3000 miles, raising money and awareness for a couple of ovarian cancer charities, having been treated for it herself.

This amazing, resourceful, adventurous woman is Ursula Martin, and you can read all about what she is doing, look at her route, read her blog (a very good read, as she writes very well imho), look at the lovely photos and find out how to contribute through her website: One Woman Walks Wales.

So, much earlier this year, I Liked her Facebook page, bookmarked her blog and casually checked in every so often to see how she was doing, marvelling at the number of miles she was covering, the beautiful Welsh scenery in the photos, the way she was sleeping rough with a tarp and bivvy bag, the people who met and walked with her, the increasing amount of money raised.

Checking in July, I noted she was on the Cistercian Way and realised with a shock that she would be passing only a couple of miles away from me. Sadly, the days when I could pop my walking boots on and join her for a few miles are over. Still, I thought, I could give her the opportunity for a bed, hot bath, food and company. This sort of practical support makes sense to me. Ursula is walking alone, without an entourage and support vehicle. Someone has to care for the carers.

Only one problem - my chaotic cottage! I had made little progress with the 'Can't Have Anyone Over Syndrome' in the past couple of months, and decided that having someone to stay at short notice would be an unexpected blessing, motivating me to do more cleaning and tidying. Furthermore, I reasoned, someone used to sleeping rough will be okay with the generally poor state of decoration, the clutter and the number of spiders. This place is an arachnophobe's nightmare. I swear they come in and breed faster than I can evict them, (though I do like spiders and am pretty lax at making them homeless) and they do a good job with the flies and wasps. Ah, the joys of country living!

So it was that I did a superficial blast through the bedroom, bathroom and kitchen/diner (which took me a couple of days of microbursting) and met up with Ursula in St Clears. She had arrived earlier than expected on Friday 1st August, partly due to the 5.00 am start she'd made from somewhere near Carmarthen. I shopped briefly on the way home and Ursula made up her bed and collapsed gratefully into it for a well-earned rest while I pottered and tidied some more. I made a vegetable curry, we chatted a little and I went to sleep feeling blessed that I'd had the opportunity to meet Ursula and give her a dry, warm place to sleep as it bucketed down with rain outside.

From St Clears, the Cistercian way goes west and south down to Tenby, then turns north again to visit Whitland. Ursula had another stopover arranged for the two days down to Tenby and back, then she could stop over with me again.

All went smoothly, and I picked her up on the Monday evening and whisked her off to Narberth, where she patiently sat through a two hour Imago Dancers rehearsal for the Cardigan Belly Dance Festival the following weekend. After a leisurely breakfast the following morning, with discussion of the problems of plantar fasciitis and heel spurs (oh, how I empathise!) and research into whether the local Pembertons chocolate company still existed (unfortunately not), we took simultaneous selfies.  This is not something I would normally do, as I hate photos of myself, and I'm never at my best in the morning.  Some things just have to be done.

Shouldering her pack, Ursula walked off up the road to pick up the route to Cwmfelin Mynach and beyond, heading for her next stopover in Brechfa. A few days later, new business cards with details of her walk and ovarian cancer symptoms arrived, just in time for me to put some out for all comers at the Belly Dance Festival.

It's taken me a few weeks to catch up with this post, so she's now up in North Wales. She has been walking for nearly 6 months and covered roughly 1300 miles of her intended 3000. I'm hoping to see her again, when she comes back to do the south-western section of the coast path, with a loop along the Teifi and Towy rivers, later in the year. Some of the Imago Dancers may join her for a little way, as she was a hit when she watched rehearsals. Wherever I am by then, perhaps she'll be able to stop over with me again; it would be my privilege and delight.

The Coordination Conspiracy

When you're learning to dance, there are a number of things happening which can make following along difficult and make the dancer feel that they lack coordination. I commented on issues of spatial references and disorientation in my last post, and will cover issues of right/left confusion and mirroring in another. This post is for the whole parcel of other things which are going on, so let's have a little look at them.

Muscle Tension
There is no single way for a body to accomplish a movement; your brain and nervous system knows this and try to select a way of doing it from all the options you have of how to move bits of your body (something called degrees of freedom). When learning a new movement, the nervous system may stiffen up various muscles, to reduce the options of how to move.  As you repeat the movement, your body tries to find an optimal way of moving and things can loosen up again.

The trouble is, as soon as you realise you're feeling stiff and uncoordinated, you become anxious and even more tense.  Tension inhibits movement. The more tense and anxious you are, the more self-conscious you feel, the more tension you put through your body as you try to get or 'grab' for the movement, the more you feel you're behind and that you're making a mess of things, the harder it gets.  So keep a good posture, but otherwise RELAX.

Over-Reliance on Visual and Spatial Cues
Some people are naturally 'visual' learners, but most people have a mixture of learning styles, and therefore a range of memory strategies.  However, dance seems to encourage visual learning. This is great if you are learning, but it's possible for something to go in through the eyes and out through the body without settling in the brain and creating a memory.  It happens with me all the time. When I'm copy-typing, the words go in through the eyes and out through the fingers, and at the end of the page, I probably couldn't tell you much about what I typed. At the end of an Improvised Tribal Style (ITS) piece, I couldn't remember what combinations we had used, because it went in through my eyes and out through my body with enough thought to execute the moves, but not enough to commit them to memory.

I'm often bemused when after 32 counts of drilling something with the class following my back, I yell 'Keep going!' and turn round to see how everyone is doing ... and everyone falters to a stop. If you rely on visual cues and don't use other senses and cues to start remembering moves, a combination or a choreography,  you will be thrown if you no longer have a leader to watch, which could be every time there's a turn! Similarly, if you always rely on certain markers in class, such as a whiteboard at the front, or you always dance in a certain spot, you can be completely thrown when asked to dance in a different place facing a different way. Try dancing things through in your head as you lie in the bath or in bed, dance in the garden where there are no familiar reference points and use as many sorts of cues as you can - hearing the music, feeling the moves in your body, chanting the moves in your head ('back trip-let, back trip-let, step touch, step touch, Maya right, left ...' etc (whatever makes sense to you, but try not to let your lips move!).

Lost in Space - Under-Reliance on Visual and Spatial Cues
Just as you can be over-reliant on what you see, and lost without it, you can get also get lost when you don't pay enough attention to other dancers and your relative position to them and points on the stage/floor. When dancing for the first time in a new space, note where the centre front and centre of the space are, the sides, back and diagonals/corners. Note where your spot on the stage is, and your 'marks' to hit when you move to different places.

One of the things which makes American/Improvised Tribal Style so lovely to watch is the way everyone looks up and out, or at each other when circling, so that they can use their peripheral vision to catch the leader's cues and ensure their moves are synchronised and their spacing good. You cannot do this if your unfocused gaze drops to the floor while you dance, which is a very common issue. As a beginner, you feel self-conscious, and the modest, lowered gaze is a sort of 'don't look at me' signal, as well as a way to avoid looking at the scary audience and watch the leader's feet instead. Smile, or at least set your face in a pleasant, open expression, and focus on where you are supposed to be looking, whether it's a glance down to your own hip, following your moving hand, looking out to the audience, engaging with the other dancers, or just looking in the direction of travel for turns and steps taking you around and across the floor.

Mind the Gap
There's naturally a gap between perception and action. See then do, hear then do, think/remember then do. When you're trying to dance quickly, this gap needs to be as small as possible, and preferably an overlap rather than a gap. The trouble often occurs when you are over-thinking, which can create a mental block, derailing instructions to your muscles, literally making you pause for thought. and you get stuck in serial processing, building the movement layer by layer from the feet up, rather than parallel processing mode, getting the feel of the whole body movement. When this happens, try to find other cues, such as a a point in the music or a repeated combination or series of combinations which you like or find easy, and then stop thinking so hard.

Tricky Transitions and Stuck Feet
Transitions are often about where the next move comes from, thus where the last move finishes.  Problems with transitions and feet which feel stuck are often due to having your weight in the wrong place. For example, if you finish the last move with your weight on your right leg, then it's likely the next move will either stay with the weight on the right, or transfer your weight to the left. If you unthinkingly shift your weight or take a step after the last move, then you may not be able to start the next move promptly, or at all! The moment of confusion, where it feels like you feet are stuck to the floor, leaves you behind the music as your mind starts to freewheel. Don't panic! Find a point in the music where you can pick up again.

You also need to be ready to move and ready for the next move. It amuses me sometimes when I'm asked 'Which foot do I move?', when one is supporting the body weight, and one is free to move.  I'm always tempted to give the wrong answer to see what happens. Go through the move slowly and deliberately, noting which foot/leg is supporting and which is free to move, and which foot is supposed to be leading for that step. Make sure you don't inadvertently shift your weight from one leg to the other, for example, by lowering a heel from classic foot position.

Another way to get your feet stuck is to have the weight too far down and back. Remember your posture; lift the ribs away from the hips and keep the spine long, shifting your weight very slightly onto the balls of your feet, ready to move.

Size vs Speed
There is a  trade-off between speed and accuracy of movement which is mediated by size.  In other words, the faster you have to make a large movement, the harder it is to control it and be accurate. To keep control, the movement needs to start smaller. For example, the back-step triplet in my choreography to Habibi Ya Eini requires fairly fast steps (that means transfers of weight) and a peep back over the same-side shoulder as the foot stepping back. To keep it fast, the step back is only small - about a foot length, with the heel scarcely touching the floor, and the look back only involves turning the head and shoulders by twisting the upper body.  If you take a large step back onto a flat foot and turn the body side on, the move becomes too big and slow.

Inflexible Muscle Memory
It is possible for a move to get 'stuck' a certain way, so that you have to fight your muscle memory to do it differently.  For example, if you have been dancing for a while but have almost always only done step-touch moving forward or around on the spot in quarter turns, it can be very difficult to do it on the spot, travelling backwards, or with a half turn. If, as a beginner, you copied the teacher's exaggerated steps, stamping down on a flat foot, you may find it difficult to do the move quickly and smoothly without a tense, flexed ankle. It's good to practise moves with as many variations as you can think of, to build flexibility into your muscle memory.

Doing Too Much
I bless my various teachers for their advice over the years, and this is a subject which has generated some true gems:
  • Sometimes, less is more. Don't try to layer everything, hit every accent, move every part of your body at once or visit every part of the stage in a single dance piece - it's too much.
  • Don't throw all of your energy out all of the time. High energy output all of the time wears your audience out. Allow them to breathe!
  • Do only the moves you need to, and use only the muscles you need to do those moves.
This is particularly true for belly dance, as throwing everything you have at a move can result in a lack of isolation and rhythm.  It becomes even more noticeable in group dances. Sometimes, it's a result of a lack of control and subconscious panic; in trying to keep up, you end up doing twice as much. Start slowly and build up speed, and practise regularly to tone muscles and make them respond you your commands.

Doing Too Little
Apart from forgetting or skipping moves and combinations and looking lost, the main issues with doing too little are to do with where your weight is and that the moves and dancing can look sloppy and unfinished. If it's a four count step, such as a 'forward-and-back' step (AKA Turkish, Ghawazee and probably other things too, depending on the teacher or who you ask) make sure you step (transfer weight) on all four counts.  If you only do three, you'll be on the wrong leg. If you convert it to a forward and back foot gesture, you may end up with your weight on the correct foot, but two counts early. You may forget arm frames and flows, or 'drop' a move before it is finished or centred, which can have knock-on effects in transitions, as well as looking as though you just got bored of the move halfway through.

Know Your Music
It can be very difficult to dance and react to music you don't know, unless it just has a constant 4/4 beat, in which case you could probably pick any piece of music with a similar speed and constant beat and dance the same thing to it. The quarter tones and intervals of Arabic music can sound strange at first, but the more you listen to it, the more familiar it becomes. If you are going to dance a choreography, you really need to know the music.  Initially, you may get too involved in trying to learn the moves to listen to the music properly, and miss cues in the music as a result, so that you end up behind or ahead. Listen to the music over and over, until you know it and could perhaps sing it to yourself, and are familiar with the count, rhythms and musical cues.

You Can Do It!
All this makes it sound as though learning to dance is very difficult, but it's easy and hard at the same time, and sometimes only as hard as you make it.  Over-comparison with others can make you feel like you're not getting it, not doing it well enough, or assuming that others can do it more easily than you can, but you have to try not to compare yourself to others. You may be very self-conscious, but thinking only about the dance and losing yourself in the music can help you forget about that. Take a gradual, mindful approach to learning, and believe that you can do it (because if you believe you can't, then you won't!). Dance like nobody's watching. And practise, practise, practise.

Disoriental Dancing

This post has been brewing for several weeks now, so dancers in my classes will have heard all of this at some point and performed the choreography which gave rise to this series of thoughts. I felt I needed to write them up, for future reference.

Working on the notes for the class choreography and the difficulties dancers were having in the last lesson of term set me thinking about awareness of space and direction, how I describe them, and how easy it can be for newer dancers to have difficulty with them.  My choreography notes always contain a table of the abbreviations I use to describe directions and as I copied it into a new document, I thought about the root of the words oriental and orientation. At times like this, I reach for my battered copy of The Concise Oxford Dictionary.

Orient, (noun): the East, countries east of the Mediterranean, especially East Asia. Middle English from Old French from Latin oriens, orientis rising, sunrise, east (oriri rise).

Oriental (adjective): of the east or of those countries east of the Mediterranean.

Orient, (verb): place to face east, determine position with regard to points of compass, settle or find bearings, direct towards, gain a sense of direction, position or relationship with one's surroundings, (from French orienter from Latin, as before).  Also Orientate, as a back form from ...

Orientation (noun): the act or process of orienting oneself or being oriented to find one's relative position, gain knowledge of surroundings, information or sense of self.

Add the prefix dis- and you have the reverse, removal or absence of this.

Disorientation (noun): A temporary or permanent loss of or state of confusion over one's sense of direction, position or relationship to surroundings, place, time, sense of what is correct, or personal identity.

Which is a very good word to describe the feelings of bewilderment resulting from the sensory overload involved in trying to keep track of, and concentrate on, what your feet, hips and arms are all supposed to be doing, the direction of travel and where you are supposed to be facing in relation to the 'front' and other dancers, while keeping time with and listening for cues in the music and probably also listening to instructions and prompts AND trying to watch and mimic the teacher (or the dancers in front or to the side and occasionally all of them in turn). It's amazing no-one falls over and not surprising at all that many dance students feel they have problems with coordination.

Many people think their coordination is bad, but actually, it's such a common issue when learning to dance as to be normal. I think beginners assume that practiced and professional dancers don't have problems with coordination, but I've been in a class with other professional dancers where none of us could coordinate our arms and legs on the first try in one exercise. It took a bit of thinking about and slow, deliberate practice a few times before we were up to speed and could then let our bodies take over and stop concentrating so hard. Except for certain neurological and movement disorders can make it very challenging indeed, coordination can be learned and improved. This is why I regularly add coordination exercises in my classes - I need the practice too!

So let's have a look at issues of space and direction, and I'll discuss some other things which conspire to make you feel clumsy and uncoordinated when you're learning to dance in future posts.

When you're dancing, you are moving your body through space and time. I bet you've never thought of it like that!

The time element is in the beat/time signature, speed (beats per minute), rhythm(s), melodic phrasing, the corresponding speed and duration of dance moves and overall duration of the music and dance.

In terms of space, there are two sets of references:

Fixed, which describes directions in relation to the dance space. The dance space is often thought of as a box, with four walls and four diagonals. Turning clockwise from the front, you would face the right front diagonal, right side, right back diagonal, back, left back diagonal, left side, and left front diagonal. If you were on a traditional stage, the front wall is where your audience would be. Stage right and left are from the point of view of you as a performer on stage. Old stages sometimes had a slope or 'rake' so that they were higher at the back, so upstage is towards the back wall, and downstage is towards the front. Up is towards the ceiling, down is towards the floor. On is into the dance space, off is out of the dance space.
Some people think of these directions like points on a compass; others prefer to divide their space into 12 and think of a clock face.

Relative or Body, which describes directions in relation to your (the dancer's) body. You have a front, right side, back and left side. I sometimes refer to 'dancing in your own box'. You can move your whole self or just bits of you forwards, backwards, left, right, diagonally, turning clockwise (i.e. to your right) and anticlockwise (to your left), upwards, downwards, outwards (away from your centre) or inwards (towards your centre).

When dancing 'on your feet' (as opposed to sitting, lying, etc) your weight can be even, across both feet, or transferred from one foot to the other, or moved towards your toes or heels. When you are doing something like a hip drop, your supporting leg is the one carrying most of your weight, and your working leg/hip is the one doing the hip drop.  The leading foot is the one you step onto first, which may or may not be the same as your direction of travel. The trailing arm or leg is usually the one on the other side, for example, away from the direction of travel. It can be useful to think in this way when learning moves, as it relates them to the body, reducing the right/left confusion which arises when you do the move 'on the other side'.

I use clockwise and anticlockwise for the direction of circular movements, turns and curved pathways, to distinguish them from the directions right and left.  I could say round to the right, but this begs the question - on the spot or in how wide a circle?

Okay so far? As with anything, dance has its jargon.  Different teachers may explain things differently, but once you start to become familiar with a way of thinking about space and directions, it can make learning to dance easier.

It may help to think of your dance space as a box,  but what if the box has no distinct front or is a circle or other shape, with audience spaced around it? Dancing on a diagonal may take a bit more concentration, but you just have to decide which way is front. Your own personal front, sides and back don't change. Difficulties arise in trying to cope with both sets of spatial references, and the issues of right-left confusion, mirroring and handedness (which are big enough to need their own, separate post!).

Working with two sets of spatial references may need some thought, but is an accurate way of recording and thinking about what you are doing and where. It starts to get confusing when there is a perceived clash of directions, for example, moving forwards facing the back (i.e.upstage), working with your right leg/hip while turning left (or vice versa), or arms held in front while you are facing anywhere but front.

If you're in a class or workshop, and you find yourself a bit 'lost in space', there's a good chance that others are too, so ask the teacher to explain or go through it again. Break the movement phrase or combination down, thinking about the fixed and body-relative references and timing. Repeat a few times, building speed, then try to stop thinking about it so hard and feel the whole body movement instead. With practice, everything will start to fall into place and you'll feel less uncoordinated and disoriented.

Friday, 22 August 2014

Seven-Colour Socks Pattern Translation


These are the socks I wrote about in June. I was looking forward to wearing these socks to keep my toes and ankles warm between dance workshops, but so far have forgotten to take them with me, probably because it has been so warm. I am thinking of developing a pattern without the stranded colourwork and with a shorter leg and fewer colour rings, as they would make lovely lounge socks for dancers (and anyone, really).

Meanwhile, here's the pattern, translated from Norwegian into English.  My additions and comments are included [in square brackets]. You will need to refer to the original pattern charts on the Ull.no website for the colourwork (click on the hyperlink with the pdf symbol under the heading 'Last ned gratis'). I've included a list of the original colours at the bottom of this post, although you can choose your own colour combinations.

Rainbow Socks
Design: Borghild Kolas

Rainbow socks with many colour variations.
Sizes: 6/8 - 10/12 years - adult/women's
Yarn: Embla Hifa 3, 100% pure new wool, approx 201m per 100g
Fjell Sokkegarn (Mountain Sock Yarn) 3, 80% wool/20% nylon, approx 167m per 100g
Yarn pack contains enough yarn for two pairs of socks. [Ull.no offers yarn packs for these socks.]
Suggested needles: 4mm dpns
[Tension: 10 x 10 cm
Fjell Sokkegarn 3    22 sts. x 29 rows on 3.5 – 4 mm needles
Embla Hifa 3        20 sts. x 27 rows stocking stitch on 3.5 mm needles/20 sts. x 23 rows stocking stitch on 4 mm needles]

Yarn colour and quantity:
[I've included the suggested quantities, but I think they refer to the yarn supplied in the pack. Although acrylic is lighter than wool, my pair of socks only weighs 103g in total. See below for a list of the original colour variations. I used acrylic DK in the following colours:

50g   Colour 1  Camel
100g Colour 2  Dark Red
100g Colour 3  Burgundy
50g   Colour 4  Claret
50g   Colour 5  Copper
50g   Colour 6  Old Gold
100g Colour 7  Dark Brown

With colour 1, Cast on 40 - 44 - 48 sts, (10 - 11 - 12 sts left on each needle) on 4mm needles. [I cast on 56 sts for my chunky legs, 14 per needle, although the main thing which will restrict the stretch is how tightly you carry the yarn between stitches for the colourwork.]
Work 8 - 9 - 9 rounds stockinette.
[Change to colour 2.] Continue in pattern on chart 1.
[The cross pattern is worked over rounds 3-5 of 7 rounds in stockinette.  There is one stitch of background colour between the crosses (which are 3 up, 3 across). The Cross pattern is interspersed with 4-4-5 rounds of background colour in purl/reverse stockinette.
So the pattern proceeds by adding the next colour to do the cross pattern with that colour as background and the crosses in the previous colour, and then 5 rounds purl with the background colour, then adding the next colour and repeating until you have used 6 colours.]

When the chart is complete, work 7-8-9 rounds with colour 7.

Heel
"Parish Decrease" (or knit your usual heel) [This is a square heel]:
The heel is worked in the same colour as the ribbing (= the colour you have on the needles). Work back and forth over 20 - 22 - 24 stitches (10 - 11 - 12 on each needle) [or in my case, 28 sts, 14 per needle.] with a pattern as follows:
1st row (RS): Slip 1 Knit 1 rpt
2nd row (WS): Slip the first stitch and purl rest of the stitches.
Repeat these 2 rows, approx. 4 - 4.5 - 5cm

Continue the ‘parish decrease’ as follows: [to turn the heel]
RS: Slip 1 Knit 1 etc. the first of the two needles. Slip 1, K1, Slip 1 on the other needle (3 stitches), dec 1 stitch. [I thought I should have a wider heel, so did S1K1 twice on the second needle - 4 sts before decreasing using K2tog.]
Turn.
WS: Purl back and [then] 3 stitches from the next needle , dec 1 st . Turn. [For me, 4 sts on the second needle, P2tog decrease.]
Repeat this until you have decreased on both sides, when you have 4 stitches left on each needle (all knit). [The K2tog/P2tog decreases are worked 'across the gap', leaving a central heel section of 8 sts for the original pattern, 10 sts for my wider heel.]
Pick up stitches on both sides of the heel so that you again use four needles and knit around in stockinette.
Decrease in "curve" on the side (at each side of the ankle) so you have 10 - 11 - 12 sts on each needle (= total 40 - 44 - 48 sts), less if you want a narrower foot.
[This is where the original pattern assumes you know how to do all this. How many stitches you pick up depends on how many rows you did for the heel flap, plus a couple for the corners. I did 14 rows, so picked up 9 stitches on the first edge of the heel flap onto the same needle holding the heel stitches, knitted the instep stitches onto another 2 needles, picked up 9 sts on the other side of the heel flap and continued to work half the heel sts onto the last needle (Needle 4) so that the rounds started mid-sole. There were 16 sts on heel/sole needles and 14 on instep needles. I wanted to decrease to 12 sts on all needles and worked as follows:
N1 Knit until 3 sts remain, K2tog, K1
N2 K1, SSK, knit the rest on that needle
N3 Knit until 3 sts remain, K2tog, K1
N4 K1, SSK, knit the rest on that needle
Then knit a round without decreases.
Repeat this decrease row and plain round, until all needles have 12 sts.]

Change colour [to colour 2]
And knit 5-6-7 rounds stockinette.
Continue pattern from chart 2.
[Add colour 7 as background, 2 rounds in col 7, 1 round alternating sts of cols 7 and 2, 2 rounds col 7, 3 rounds with crosses pattern in col 2, 2 rounds col 7, 1 round alternating sts of cols 7 and 2, 2 rounds col 7.
Change to colour 4 and repeat the 7 round 'crosses' pattern, using colour 5 for the crosses.]

After completing the chart, continue the toe in colour 3
Work 4 - 6 - 8 rounds Stockinette or desired length (depending on how long you want feet).

Decrease for toes:
Round begins mid-sole of foot.
Needle 1: K until there are 3 sts left, knit 2 together, knit the last st
Needle 2: K1, SSK, knit the rest of the stitches on the needle
Needle 3: As needle 1.
Needle 4: As needle 2.
Knit a round without decreases.
Repeat these 2 rounds until you have approx. 8-10 stitches left.
Cut the thread and pull it through the stitches and sew/bind off. [I used a kitchener graft.]

Sew in all loose ends.
Knit second sock the same.

The original colour variations are as follows. The codes in brackets are the yarn types - Embla Hifa 3 are 4 figure codes starting with 6, the other codes refer to Fjell Sokkegarn:
Colours and quantities: 1/50g, 2/100g, 3/100g, 4/50g, 5/50g, 6/50g, 7/100g
Rainbow: Purple (Lilac) (6077), Purple (Mauve) (519), Cobalt Blue (518), Green (6024), Yellow (6069), Orange (6070), Red (505)
Mountain: Mottled light grey (6054), dark grey (130), medium grey (115), light grey (110), unbleached white (100),  Charcoal (6056), black (511)
Sun: Maize yellow (6002), cognac brown (525), dark red (513), Red (505), Orange (6070), Yellow (6069), Ochre (526)
Sea: Light blue (6081), Denim Blue (507), navy (506), turquoise (512), bleached white (504), Cobalt Blue (518), Cobalt blue/black (538)
Rose: Lilac pink (6044), Dark lilac pink (S524), deep pink (521), Purple (Mauve) (519), bleached white (504), grey-purple (523), Pinky-lilac (520)
Forest: ochre/black (536), light olive (529), olive/black (539), black (511), unbleached white (100), cognac brown (525), dark green (510)
Autumn: Purple-brown  (6099), Ochre (526), dark green (510),  light olive (529), dark brown (6010), dark terracotta (6503), cognac brown (525).