I love Argyle socks, but don’t you agree it is time for a new, classic intarsia motif for socks? Being Annetarsia means it has to be dead-easy. What makes an argyle diamond easy to knit is the simple diagonal line. The only way to make it easier is to extend that line into a spiral, so of course that is what I did! For the Astoria sock (from the forth-coming book, “Annetarsia Knits” ) I had to use more than 2 colors so that no one would be tempted to knit them with stranded knitting. Plus, I wanted clear colors with good contrast, to really show the stitches of the spirals. I went stash-diving on a search for the perfect yarn.
At Sock Summit 2009, I was first introduced to the wonders of Miss Babs’ yarns. Beautiful yarn bases, unbelievable colors that made you wonder how many shades there could possibly be of (insert color here), anyway? It was over-whelming, and although I bought quite a bit of yarn, it wasn’t enough. Let’s be honest, when you are designing colorwork, there are never enough colors available. Fortunately, Miss Babs is still coming up with more of them. Nothing I had in my stash was quite right, but I knew that Miss Babs had more where that came from.
Miss Babs’ yarns are terrific for intarsia knitters, and I recommend them to all my students. Not just because of the colors and the bases, and the great quality of the yarn. But because she makes them available in small skeins of 133 yds, so that I can buy more colors. Let’s face it, yarn is our medium, and there will never, ever, be too many colors to choose from.
I swatched a prototype sock and sent a photo to Miss Babs, to see if she would help select yarn and colors for the book project. Left to my own devices, I would never be able to make a decision, and I would end up making 50 different swatches – which sounds kind of fun, but I was ready to knit a sock. Miss Babs was very understanding, and sent me Yummy Toes Fingering in Oyster for the Main color, and Nori and Russet Shadows for the contrasting spirals.
Miss Babs really is a person. But she does not work alone. There are about 8 full time people, and about 4 part time people, all women, working for Babs right now. Many are instrumental in financing their households, if not the sole provider. They have a studio where they work, across the driveway from Babs’ house, with the office space above the studio space. Babs keeps expanding the space, and outgrowing it almost instantly, which is a testament to hard work, good products and excellent service.
The crew works full-time during the week, sometimes a bit longer, and occasionally weekends (mostly right before a show when they are crazy busy getting everything ready!) Skeins that have issues are given to Carmen, who is apparently the designated “yarn whisperer”. She is really good at transforming naughty skeins into nice ones, so she handles those. Skeins with more serious problems are turned into the 10 yard samples included with each order, and handed out at shows.
Although the business is a team effort, everyone agrees that it is Babs’ brilliant color sense that separates their yarn from other dyers– creating the unique “Miss Babs” signature.
For the “monochromes,” (my favorite) there is usually minor color variation. Some variation is acceptable, and is why they suggest people buy sufficient yardage for their project all at once, so the crew can help visually match the skeins. (With intarsia, some variation is no big deal, as the sections are mostly small, and separated with other colors. Intarsia is incredibly forgiving in that respect. ) Miss Babs also creates “Babettes,” the one of a kind colors. Some Babettes are repeatable, in that Babs knows what colors to combine in what way to achieve the overall look, but each skein and each batch is different. Having Babettes in your stash would be incredibly helpful for increasing color range to choose from. Most intarsia only needs a small amount of yarn per color, so you could “steal” a few yards from a Babette and really punch up a project.
There is no “store” set up at the Miss Babs studio. The staff prints off orders from the website each morning, pulls the yarn from racks and bins, (don’t you wish you could see them?) and sends it out. Customer service is a priority, and any questions are handled promptly and personally by the staff. When there is a big show, like a Stitches Event, they essentially set up a store at the event! That is why they have to work over-time in preparation, getting such a massive quantity of yarn ready. And why the line is always so long on the first day. First come, first served!
Miss Babs has generously donated a yarn kit in the same colorways that I used to knit the Astoria Sock! Leave a message in the comments, to be entered in a drawing. I’ll be posting more about the actual design, later. But trust me when I tell you that this is a great first project for using my “in-the-round technique”. You might need some luck to win this great yarn pack, but not to knit the socks!
Don’t forget to enter the Craftsy giveway for my upcoming class, “Next Steps in Intarsia”. It will help you knit these socks, if you want to get started!