13 Jun 2007


You know how it is when you get a Really Good Idea for a knitting project and you just can’t think abut anything else. I know you do.

Brain ArtWhat happened when I talked about Brother Amos socks in the last podcast, is that the idea for said socks lodged deep within the knitting cortex of my brain, which you can see here, in pink. (Click the image for more inside views of knitter’s brains.)

Brother Amos, in case you missed the memo, is the dour patriarch of the Starkadder family; the fiery religious nutjob of a preacher in Stella Gibbons’ novel Cold Comfort Farm. Weekly sermons to his flock, the Quivering Brethren, are completely over the top, yet never wander too far from reality, and they’re one of my favourite parts of the novel.

“Ye are all damned!”

Makes me laugh out loud every time I read it.

What I wanted to knit were not necessarily socks that Brother Amos would wear. He would, I am absolutely certain, be unlikely to embrace the frivolity of handpainted yarn, let alone lace. Instead, I wanted to knit socks that I would wear; socks which somehow capture the essence of Brother Amos, himself. The idea prodded and poked until I had found suitable yarn from stash, and would not let me rest until I had designed and knit the socks.

Trekking XXL

After scouring Barbara Walker’s stitch dictionaries One and Two, I settled on a lace pattern called Flame Chevron. The beauty of this pattern lies in the sculptural curving lines of the stacked SSK and K2tog stitches that create the flickering flames. (The perfect reminder that, in Brother Amos’ world view, we’ll all “fritter and fry” one day for our transgressions.)

The openwork created by the yarn overs, as Barbara says herself, is “rather incidental”. In fact, the pattern can be worked without the yarn overs, by substituting M1 increases, and the result, says the divine BW, is a “fascinatingly textured solid fabric”.

Worked in something approaching a solid coloured yarn, socks in the solid stitch pattern would be suitable, I think, for a man, and might even be something Brother Amos would wear on Sundays. With the stitch pattern and a ball of nearly flame-coloured Trekking XXL in hand, I went to work.

I believe I am on record as a toe up gal, with strong leanings towards heel flap construction, and a decided preference for socks that stay up. On the bind off issue I have been a reluctant practitioner of EZ’s sewn stretchy bind off method – the one that employs a darning needle and far too much time. It works, but it adds a step to the finishing and, being sewn, means that undoing your knitting is not easy. While I have never in the course of my knitting life found an occasion to unknit a sock, you never know. It could happen.

Still in pursuit of the perfect sock pattern, and bearing all my requirements in mind, I knit. For two weeks I knit and ripped and knit, and… I think I’ve done it.

I think I may have actually have gone and done it.

The resulting socks, finished this week, tick all my sock boxes. Judy Decker’s Magic Cast On? Check. Sherman Toe? Check. Widdershins-esque gusset and heel flap? Shaped calves for stay-up-osity? Check and check. Flexible, easy and totally clever way to end the the sock without sewing? Oh yes, check!

Intrepid test knitter, Rebekkah, of Bowerbird Knits is currently having a go at the pattern. (Check out her kilt hose – the woman knows from socks.) The pattern for Brother Amos’ Socks includes sizing for both men and woman, and two stitch patterns – Hellfire Lace and Brimstone. And the yarn…

Well, you can, of course, knit these in whatever colour your little heart fancies. However, MamaE has got the dyepot simmering, and has promised a Hellfire colourway hot enough to scorch the soles of your feet, and a smouldering Brimstone colourway of glowing charcoal, with touches of bright embers. I can’t wait to to see them myself, and will post pictures as soon as they arrive. Once the socks have been knit, and photographed, the pattern will be available for download.

Camera slutsJust so you know, I’m not being coy about the socks, teasing you with description while withholding images. I did try to take pictures of the finished socks today, and met with the usual obstacles to photography. I will try again when the Official Dog Wrangler returns from work.

Having been immersed in a sock knitting cavern with Brother Amos for the past couple of weeks, I emerged this morning, blinking into the light, and realized that it’s podcast production time again. I could wonder where the time went, but you know how it is when you get a Really Good Idea for a knitting project and you just can’t think about anything else. I know you do.

Posted on June 13, in Blog


  1. Mama Cat wrote:

    Am I first?

    I love these socks and must knit them. I have some orangey-reddy yarn that would be perfect. Can’t wait to see the pattern.

    I have not read Cold Comfort Farm but am now going to toddle over to audible.com to see if they have it … most of my “reading” these days is done while driving the car. (I have Age of Innocence still in the queue …. looking forward to that one too)

    Posted on 6.13.07 ·
  2. Petunia wrote:

    Oh, my, I’m gonna have to make these socks, too. I was thinking, maybe in blue-y shades, the patt would look like ocean waves? Sounds more soothing than Fire/Brimstone! More like something this old broad could deal with? Heading for the stash now. That way, I’ll be ready with yarn in hand when you release the pattern. Thanks for all you do, here and on great podcast.

    Posted on 6.13.07 ·
  3. Diane wrote:

    I do know, oh I do! Which is why I have 8 wips on-the-needles and five not-yet-on-the-needles but that must be finished by the end of summer! But haven’t you noticed, those projects that really grab you, and have you whirring ideas around in the cortex in the middle of the night, they not only feel soooo good to knit – but they seem to get finished much quicker too than all the other must-do stuff.

    Love the brimstone socks – hubby might just get some non-lacy flame socks next time round πŸ˜‰

    Posted on 6.13.07 ·
  4. Cool! (Or, should I say, HOT!)

    Posted on 6.13.07 ·
  5. tina wrote:

    I have to tell you, they are fabbo! I have a pair of wonderful yarn/blah pattern on the needles. Well, the second sock of the pair anyway. Your Brother Amos’ makes me want to chuck it all——— Can’t wait for the word from ‘testing’. If indeed you have created in me my own burning desire (pun intended) that makes me go into my own cave of sorts, well I just hope you can live with yourself! Yes indeed!

    Posted on 6.13.07 ·
  6. Anna wrote:

    Fantastic! It will be a wonderful day to get that flamey-Trekking I’ve been lusting over and this pattern. They just seem to go hand in hand.

    And the puppies? Darling.

    Posted on 6.13.07 ·
  7. Ruth wrote:

    I’m glad to see the dogs are back in your photos. I missed them! Love the socks, too.

    Posted on 6.13.07 ·
  8. Zabet wrote:

    *makes a snarky comment about you FINALLY updating, giggles, and runs off*

    Posted on 6.13.07 ·
  9. Malin wrote:

    Oohhh, the socks look great! I’d love to knit those!

    Posted on 6.13.07 ·
  10. Terrie wrote:

    Cool socks! Your dogs are just adorable πŸ™‚

    Posted on 6.13.07 ·
  11. Gill wrote:

    I can’t wait for the Brother Amos sock pattern to become available. Since you mentioned socks for Brother Amos I’ve been thinking of flickering flame type patterns and you’ve designed just what I had in mind. I’ve already got the yarn in my stash – Jitterbug in Fire!!

    Posted on 6.13.07 ·
  12. E to the M wrote:

    Can’t wait for the Brother Amos socks, they may be here in time for the Summer of Socks 2007!

    Posted on 6.13.07 ·
  13. Rebekkah wrote:

    Hijacked, indeed.

    This post has been hijacked by ZOMBIE dogs, waiting to eat your knitted BRAINS. The cute is just an act. (And I’m sleeping with the lights on tonight.)

    Posted on 6.13.07 ·
  14. BryAnn wrote:

    Love how the dogs just look at you. And love the BW treasuries and the Brother Amos socks.

    Posted on 6.13.07 ·
  15. Chris wrote:

    Those socks are awesome! I think the non-yarn-over pattern would be something my fiance would actually love and wear! I’m so in love with the look of the socks and the variation that would be created in a pair with yarn-overs and a pair without that I decided to knit them for our wedding next fall. We’re a firey couple and wearing socks that are different but yet the same tickles me. I can’t wait for the pattern to be ready! I’m glad you got an idea for a knitting project that you just couldn’t ignore!

    Posted on 6.14.07 ·
  16. Alissa wrote:

    Brenda, I would love to say I like the socks, but honestly my eyes were drawn to the absolute cuteness of the dogs. I will have to go back and try again. I just started listening about a month ago and I am up to episode 39. What can I say, my commute sucks and you make it much MUCH more tolerable. Thank you.

    Posted on 6.14.07 ·
  17. Patricia wrote:

    Great socks. What are you dangling over the dogs…or is it pure admiration?

    Posted on 6.15.07 ·
  18. Zabet wrote:

    Oh, btw, wanted to add this tidbit about toe up socks and stretchy bind offs: I’ve found that a crochet hook and a slip stitch work quite well if you chain an extra stitch in every 4 or 6 or so sts. You’ll have to play with it to see what works best for you, of course. The first time I tried this I would BO 2 and Ch 1, which left and entirely TOO STRETCHY (but pretty lettuce-leaf) edge. See? CROCHET IS NOT EVIL.

    And have you managed to stop putting silly knots in your knitting yet? *peers at your over her glasses*

    Enough chatter, finish episode 50! πŸ˜€

    Posted on 6.15.07 ·
  19. Abby wrote:

    First there were Elfine’s socks, and now Brother Amos! Ok, someone just needs to do Ruben and Seth and Flora and Aunt Ada Doom…Bit inconsiderat of Stella Gibbons really, writing so many great characters.

    Can’t wait for the pattern to be ready, I’m dying to add them to my Summer of Socks list.

    Posted on 6.15.07 ·
  20. Caroline wrote:

    Mama E is in my spinning group, she’s one of these young talented annoying creatures… I kid, I kid (creak).

    Posted on 6.15.07 ·
  21. Debbie R. wrote:

    Love the socks…….The dogs are adorable. I love the way they are looking at you in that photo… πŸ™‚

    Posted on 6.16.07 ·
  22. Teresa wrote:

    Awwww … love the puppies.
    The socks are great. Love the colors.

    Posted on 6.16.07 ·
  23. Thea wrote:

    Love your blog! The adoring pups in your pics are irresistable and the Flame Chevron socks are too. I will jump on that wagon and knit those gorgeous socks. Cheers to toe-up!

    Posted on 6.19.07 ·
  24. Charlene wrote:

    I’m knitting up your Victorian style gauntlets ‘Mrs. Beeton’ from knitty.com. I’m enjoying reading your fling blog and Cast On podcast. The socks look great, love the colour, and even more I couldn’t resist commenting about those two pairs of big brown eyes staring up at the camera….they’re so cute!! More pictures please!

    Posted on 6.21.07 ·
  25. Stephanie wrote:

    I NEED the socks pattern!!!! I find my self coming to this site multiple times a day to see if it has been posted yet!?!

    Posted on 6.22.07 ·
  26. Melissa wrote:

    The dogs…ah the dogs….so very wonderful. I actually do like it when I hear a snore or two on the PodCast. I am not a sock knitter yet, but you have inspired me. I love the wavy points, and will probably do a pair in some ocean colors. Looking forward to ep. 50!

    Posted on 6.26.07 ·
  27. Dame Wendy wrote:

    You have a blog!! Oh happy day! How did I miss this news? Your dogs are the cutest fuzzies I’ve seen in a long time. πŸ™‚ I just love their expressions.

    Posted on 6.27.07 ·
  28. Angie wrote:

    Your puppies are as beautiful as your socks. If it makes them happy to be on the blog, it makes us happy, too.

    Posted on 6.30.07 ·
  29. Kathleen wrote:

    Got here rather through the back door. I was trolling around Ravelry the other night and came upon MamaE’s shop where I fell in love with the Brother Amos yarn. So now I have yarn on order, a new book to read, podcasts to listen to, and a pattern to wait for. How much better does it get.


    Posted on 7.13.07 ·
  30. Barb wrote:

    I want to say THANK YOU for the great podcasts. I just found your show Cast On via iTunes and absolutely love it. I have spent the day downloading back podcasts, and have listened to about 8 of them today (!). I have a ways to go to catch up, but wanted to say your show is wonderful. I love the sweater of the day, but also your comments, and the great music you choose. I especially like how you are free to discuss what is on your mind. I just listened to “On Gauge (Episode 13) and was moved by your comments. Thank you, thank you, thank you for encouraging the love of knitting.

    Posted on 7.20.07 ·
  31. Kat wrote:

    Brenda – great socks – but your sock “mates” are just adorable. I have 2 Cav’s also – Copper and Penny. Thanks for the podcast – you are one of a kind, and one I never miss!

    Posted on 7.20.07 ·
  32. Beverly wrote:

    Socks are great! I love the flow of the stitch pattern.

    I will say to you what I say to my best friend every time she sends dogless me a picture of her bassett/beagle mix, Oscar: I want your dog(s)!

    So precious!

    Posted on 7.23.07 ·
  33. Cathy wrote:

    They are just great! Absolutely gorgeous!! I will knit those as soon as I see the pattern!!

    Love the podcast and your pups!!!

    Posted on 8.14.07 ·
  34. Sarah D. wrote:

    OMG! That is my favorite movie! I definitely think you have captured Brother Amos completely:)

    Posted on 9.17.07 ·
  35. Sandy wrote:

    I have to tell you that I *love* your dogs! The socks are pretty ok, too. πŸ˜‰ Just kidding. I can’t wait to see more pictures because the close-up looked fabulous.

    Posted on 10.4.07 ·

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