«RETURN TO 501 Queen Streetcar

Streetcar knitters spin a good yarn



Carola Vyhnak Urban Affairs Reporter

Amid the chaos of frazzled commuters, cellphone chatter and log-jammed traffic, Kate Atherley is the picture of serenity.

With the quiet clickety-click of her knitting needles, her tension unravels as the rows of stitches grow. On an unpredictable streetcar ride, knitting is a constant pleasure for Atherley, 42, who never hops on board without a project in tow.

"It's done in time that would otherwise be unproductive," says the professional knitter, who teaches, designs and writes about the time-honoured craft on her website, wisehildaknits.com.

It's a common theme among hobbyists who've made it hip to knit on the 501 Queen streetcar.

"I'm not one who just sits idly on the streetcar and stares out at traffic," says Robbie Laughlin, a 31-year-old computer teacher who first picked up needles five years ago. "Knitting gives me patience, and it's a great way to relax."

With yarn stashed in his messenger bag, he's knitting "all the time on the streetcar — anywhere I can squeeze it in."

For Beach resident Jane Gutteridge, a sock-in-progress is her constant companion on the daily commute along Queen to her downtown job as community marketing manager for the National Film Board.

"You never know if there will be a delay," she says. "It helps pass the time and it's a way of zoning out, a calming experience."

The "huge fan of public transit" can churn out more than a pair of socks a week even with stops along the way at her favourite bakery, ice cream parlour and wool shop.

Knitting's a great icebreaker for fellow riders, Gutteridge, 57, observes. "It gives people the courage to talk to strangers because they can ask about it without being threatening."

"Sometimes I see people eyeing me so I will hold it up and say, ‘It's a sock.' Then they'll tell me about their mother or grandmother who used to knit."

Atherley, who can practically knit in her sleep, finds herself people-watching as her fingers feel their way around the wool. In fact, she can identify the day and time by the passengers.

There's the Saturday morning crowd still in their Friday night party clothes, taking their "streetcar ride of shame" home. Eyes down or fixed on the passing scene, they keep to themselves, she says.

Then there are the weekday evening dinner- and moviegoers who give her "funny looks" at the sight of her busy hands. But the Saturday afternoon riders are the friendliest. Many of them visitors to the city or folks enjoying the weekend, they're quick to strike up a conversation, Atherley says.

Like her, they love a good yarn.

Wise Hilda's Basic Ribbed Sock

More interesting and better fitting than a plain sock, but not so interesting that you have to pay attention.

This sock design was developed as a solution to two problems: socks with a plain stocking-stitch leg can fall down, and I find k1/p1 ribbing very tedious.

Sizes:

Women's S (shoe size 5-7), Women's M (shoe size 7½-9), Women's L (shoe size 9½+), Men's S (shoe size 6-9), Men's L (shoe size 9½+)

Materials:

100 gm/400m fingering weight sock yarn

1 set 2.5 mm needles — dpns, two circulars or a long circular as you prefer

1 stitch holder (optional)

Gauge:

32 sts, unstretched, across 4 inches/10cm in (k3, p1) rib with 2.5mm needles.

Glossary:

ssk: slip 2 sts, one by one, knitwise, insert left needle into the fronts of these two slipped sts, and knit them together.

Method:

Cuff

Cast 56 (60, 64, 64, 68) sts onto a single needle. Distribute sts evenly across your needles as you prefer. Join for working in the round, being careful not to twist.

Ribbing Round: *K3, p1; repeat from * to end of round.

Repeat Ribbing Round until sock measures 17 (18, 20, 20, 20) cm/6.5 (7, 8, 8, 8) inches.

Turn Heel

This portion is worked flat.

Heel flap row 1 (RS): K 27 (27, 31, 31, 35). Put remaining 29 (33, 33, 33, 33) sts onto a holder if desired. Turn so that WS is facing.

Heel flap row 2 (WS): Slip 1, p 26 (26, 30, 30, 34), turn.

Heel flap row 3 (RS): Slip 1, k 26 (26, 30, 30, 34), turn.

Heel flap row 4 (WS): Slip 1, p 26 (26, 30, 30, 34), turn.

Repeat the last 2 rows 9 (10, 11, 11, 12) more times. RS is facing for next row.

Heel turn row 1 (RS): Knit 18 (18, 21, 21, 23) sts, ssk, turn.

Heel turn row 2 (WS): Slip 1, purl 9 (9, 11, 11, 11) sts, p2tog, turn.

Heel turn row 3 (RS): Slip 1, knit 9 (9, 11, 11, 11) sts, ssk, turn.

Heel turn row 4 (Ws): Slip 1, purl 9 (9, 11, 11, 11) sts, p2tog, turn.

Repeat last two rows until all sts have been worked. 11 (11, 13, 13, 13) sts remain, and RS is facing.

Re-establish Round and Create Gusset

Knit all heel sts. Using that same needle, pick up and knit 15 (16, 17, 17, 18) sts along selvedge edge at side of heel, using slipped sts as a guide. With a new needle, work in rib pattern across the 29 (33, 33, 33, 33) sts of instep – those sts that you'd set aside on the stitch holder. Using another new needle, pick up and knit 15 (16, 17, 17, 18) sts along selvedge edge at other side of heel, using slipped sts as a guide. Work 6 (6, 7, 7, 7) sts from the first needle, to the center of the heel.

The beginning of the round is now at the center of the heel. If you're working on two circulars or magic loop, place a marker in this position.

There should be 20 (21, 23, 23, 24) sts between the start of the round and the start of the instep, 29 (33, 33, 33, 33) stitches on the instep, and 21 (22, 24, 24, 25) between the end of the instep and the end of the round. 70 (76, 80, 80, 82) sts total. Rearrange the stitches if you need to. If you're working on dpns, those first 20 (21, 23, 23, 24) sts should be on your first needle, the instep sts on your second needle, and the other 21 (22, 24, 24, 25) sts on the third. If you're working on two circulars or magic loop, the instep sts should be on one needle, and the other stitches on a second needle, with a marker for the start of the round at the mid-point.

From here on in, the 29 (33, 33, 33, 33) instep sts will be worked in the rib pattern, and the gusset and sole will be worked in stocking stitch – that is, knitting every round.

Decrease Gusset

Gusset setup round: K5 (5, 6, 6, 6), ktbl 15 (16, 17, 17, 18), work across the instep sts in pattern as established, ktbl 15 (16, 17, 17, 18), k to end of round.

Gusset decrease round: K to 2 sts before instep, k2tog, work across instep sts in pattern, ssk, k to end of round.

Work an even round, keeping ribbing pattern on instep.

Repeat these last two rounds until there are 13 (13, 15, 15, 17) sts between the start of the round and the instep, and there are 14 (14, 16, 16, 18) sts between end of instep and end of round. 56 (60, 64, 64, 68) sts total.

Foot

Work until foot measures 6.5 (18, 19, 19, 21) cm/6.5 (7, 7.5, 7.5, 8.5) inches, or 6 cm/2.5 inches less than foot length. (Note that the finished sock should be a little shorter than the foot. This makes for a better fit.)

Shape Toe

From here on in, you'll work entirely in stocking stitch. Rearrange the sts so that you've got 28 (30, 32, 32, 34) on the sole and 28 (30, 32, 32, 34) on the instep. If you're working on two circulars or magic loop, you will have the same number on each needle; if you're working on dpns, divide the stitches of the sole evenly across two needles.

Toe decrease round: Knit to three stitches before start of instep, k2tog, k2, ssk; k to 3 sts before end of instep, k2tog, k2, ssk, k to end of round.

Work 3 rounds even.

Work a decrease round followed by 2 even rounds, twice. [6 rounds total]

Work a decrease round followed by 1 even round, three times. [6 rounds total]

Work decrease rounds until 8 stitches remain.

To finish, cut yarn, draw through the final stitches and tighten. Weave in ends.

111221_501_knitting

On an unpredictable streetcar ride, knitting is a constant pleasure for Kate Atherley, who never hops on board without a project in tow.

MATTHEW SHERWOOD FOR THE TORONTO STAR

111221_501_socks

Wise Hilda's Basic Ribbed Sock.

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