Tag Archives: Spinning

Lovely locks

It’s that time of year again, the Rare Breeds show at the Weald and Downland Museum is coming round again.  I think it must be six years since my first entry, which was made using a spindle created from a CD and a chopstick!


I have one project well underway, but I’m hoping to get a skein of polwarth ready to enter as well.  I bought a small amount of locks a few months back, have washed them and started flick carding them.  They were not really dirty to start with, but a gentle soak and rinse made the locks look like something out of a washing powder advert!

In attempt to keep my hands from complaining too much about overuse, I am swapping between carding and spinning.  Spinning this fleece is a pleasure, I must remember to take my time plying as that is where I tend to get impatient and it all goes horribly wrong…

 

Bracelet plying

Waste not, want not, as they say…

I’ve been spinning some lovely, but rather slippery, fibre recently.  It took me a little while to get to grips with it, so I’d used quite a few handfuls of it before reaching a point where I could spin it consistently. I figured that my early attempts wouldn’t make great finished yarn, so, once I was happy with what I was producing, I tied a slip knot in the singles to mark the end of the experimenting, split the remaining fibre, spun it and plied it.

This, of course, meant I had quite a lot of singles left on the first bobbin.  I knew I would need to try a few needle sizes to get the right gauge for this project, so I thought that I might as well ply what was left and use it for swatching.

I have used bracelet plying in the past, but it has usually ended up with me being on the brink of going to A&E to be cut out of the mess that was wound round my hand, having cut off circulation to my finger!

This time I opted for the high-tech, finger-preserving, “DPN poked in a book” method:

  • Pop the DPN between the pages of the book so it sticks out of the long edge
  • With the front of book facing you and leaving a long tail:
    • Take the single up from the spine of the book (on the right of the DPN), behind the DPN, down to the spine of the book (on the left of the DPN)
    • Take the single under the spine to the back of the book, up to the top (on the left of the DPN), wrap it in front of the DPN, bring it down (to the right of the DPN) until you are back where you started.

Eventually I ended up with this:

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Using a book has its advantages (apart from keeping your fingers intact) – you can put this down at any point and come back to it later.  No more odd looks from the postie as you struggle to open the door…

When I’d wound on all the singles, I set the wheel up, put the start and end of the singles together and tied them to the leader.  I then gently slid the DPN up and out of the book:

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I then poked the DPN between the singles and the front cover to hold the space that my hand would go through.

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I edged the bracelet off the book:

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Then pushed my hand through the loop:

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I fiddled about with the two singles until they fed onto the bobbin without catching themselves up in the rest of the bracelet:

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And I was away!

I wish that I could show you a huge skein of neatly plied yarn to encourage you to try this for yourself.  It was all going so well… I did manage to get a fair amount of extra yarn this way, but I also let my attention wander somewhat and ended up with this:

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Maybe a smaller/tighter bracelet would have helped?  Or maybe concentrating more…!

Violent Violet’s socks

Sometimes (OK, quite often) I run before I can walk. I have a good idea, which is overtaken by a better idea, then I tweak it a bit more and see further possibilities. It all gets too complicated, too ambitious and nothing actually comes of it! After a spell of ill health last summer (if you have a kidney stone, make it a small one, having a 3cm one removed is not a great deal of fun…) I thought I had found a fun project, spinning and knitting socks as a gift for someone.

It started so well, we agreed on the pattern and the colour and I set to work. These socks were going to brighten anyone’s day. The fibre became affectionately known as violent violet:

IMG_1179 Worried in case I ran short of yarn, I spun 200g of fibre into a 3 ply – making something for someone else made me feel I needed to do things “properly”, none of that chain plying, what if they felt the bumps??? So far so good.

The knitting started and then life just kept getting in the way. Then the guilt set in, they sat staring at me every time I sat down, still with just the toes completed. Another spell of ill health and more guilt because I was at home all the time and still the wretched things weren’t getting any further along.

Eventually progress was made, and after I gave myself a stiff talking-to I managed to turn the heel at Christmas. I kept thinking ‘if I just did one pattern repeat a day they’d be done by the end of the month’… I kept torturing myself with thoughts that after all the effort they wouldn’t fit – we have the same size feet, but mine are unusually narrow so every time I tried them on they flopped about and it all looked wrong!

Finally, finally they are winging their way to their new home. I hope they are worth the wait!

IMG_1885 The pattern is Coming Together Socks and Violet is not really violent at all, in fact she is generally known as Violet Merino from World of Wool.

Of Friends and Sheep

When I was little I had a friend who was a few months younger than me – at the age of six the age gap was very important! As we grew up the age difference meant she was in a different school year to me, but we had similar interests – beer, music, motorcycles 😉 (we were older than six by then…). Eventually our lives went their separate ways.

Recently we were reconnected by the power of the Internet. However, we are now many miles away from each other, I’m still on the Sussex coast whilst she’s in Shetland – but she pops back down south to see her family, so we’ve met up a couple of times over the last year. The icing on the cake to rediscovering an old friend is finding that your old buddy keeps sheep and has no qualms about popping a homegrown fleece in her hand luggage when she flies back to visit family! I guess apologies are due to the other passengers, no matter how clean fresh fleece is, it does have a certain perfume to it…

The first bag of fleece was from a fine chap called Black Boy. I’m no expert at washing fleece, but managed not to felt it, then combed it, spun a small two ply skein which was awarded a third place rosette at the local Rare Breeds show in the summer.

Black Boy's fleece

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Currently I’m working on some white fleece from another sheep in her flock, Suzie the Shetland. This is slowly going through my drum carder – I had forgotten how much time and effort goes into feeding locks in and slowly turning the handle.

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There’s still a fair amount of Shetland scenery embedded in the carded fleece, but hopefully that will fall out when I spin it – I want to make something for Suzie’s owner and it probably would be more comfortable if it was made of wool not thorns!

Is anybody out there?

There’s not been much happening here for a while, has there?

Due to the miracles of medical science (aka a man with a scalpel, hammer and hoover, who kindly relieved me of a massive kidney stone) I have begun feeling much more like my old crafty self 🙂 I have started having ideas, trying things out and making things. I even had a day out at Unwind in Brighton. It’s like startitis on steroids…

For the moment, I’ll leave you with some photos of yarn, mostly spun during the Tour de Fleece using fibre from Katie at Hilltop Cloud

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Rainbows

I’ve made a start on spinning a rainbow.  This fibre:

has gradually been filling my Ladybug’s bobbin, with  lovely colour changes:


I’m intending to crochet this yarn when it’s finished, so I am spinning it in the other direction to normal (drive wheel going anticlockwise).  I have to keep reminding myself about this, it just does not feel natural!

Test-driving my new toy

Back in the spring, I entered Shiela’s competition on the Handspinner website to create a blossom themed project.  My hat was selected by the judge as a winner and the voucher I was given has been burning a hole in my pocket for a couple of months.

Now, I love my Ladybug wheel dearly, but have never been too happy trying to ply multiple singles from the inbuilt lazy kate.  I tried a four ply.  Once was enough…  So, I decided to use my voucher to buy an Ashford Competition Lazy Kate.

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I’ve only used it once, but what a difference it makes!

I had been working on spinning a consistently fine yarn.  About a year ago a group of us on Ravelry were trying to spin 800 yards of two ply from 100g of fibre.  I had been spinning for about six months back then and got to about 500 yards and was pretty chuffed with that 🙂  I didn’t start spinning this fibre with a goal in mind, but I ended up with around 550 yards of three ply – so that’s 1650 yards of singles and if I’d made two ply I’d have got just over the magic 800 yards.

The fibre is Whisper from World of Wool – £3.50 for 100g:

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A little luxury…

It’s the last week of the Tour de Fleece this week and I have saved some luxury fibres for the final sprint.

Shiela from handspinner.co.uk made a ridiculously generous offer in a recent newsletter – she was sending out sample packs, containing a selection of the luxury fibres she stocks in her shop, completely free of charge!  I think it was rather a popular offer, and when mine arrived I was delighted (but I also felt rather sorry for Shiela, who must have spent hours and hours doing nothing but stuff fibre into little bags and label them).

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In the pack there is around 20 to 25 g of each fibre – white baby alpaca, white angora, white kid mohair, cream camel, coffee coloured cashmere and darker brown yak.

I thought I’d start with the yak.  It was so soft and fluffy!

However, Mr Yak and I had a bit of a dispute about forming a yarn that didn’t fall apart.  We agreed to have some time away from each other and review things in a few days.  If he hasn’t come round to my way of thinking by them, he might have to have a trip through the carder and blend with something else!

The baby alpaca is far more amenable, and is slipping smoothly through my fingers, truly a luxury fibre.  I have a vague plan about creating a luxury scarf, perhaps a striped feather and fan pattern?

Rare Breeds in the rain

The annual Rare Breeds Show took place yesterday at the Weald and Downland Museum in Singleton.  The Museum is a beautiful place and can look like this:

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Thanks to the joys of the British summer, much of the day was spent looking at a view more like this:

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Even the sheep took shelter:

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Although the weather did spoil things somewhat, there were plenty of animals to admire.

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I had the chance to catch up with some of the members of Chichester Spinners, as well as meeting up with a few people I had only previously chatted with online.  I thought there were far fewer fibre/spinning related stalls this year though, which was a shame – I had money in my pocket and most of it stayed where it was, I only bought a Jacob fleece and a tiny pack of dyed silk totalling a whopping £7!

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As well as the displays there were the handspun classes, which filled plenty of tables:

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Hats and Shawls
I had a very pleasant surprise – the mixed colours of Gotland fleece that I entered in the natural coloured skein class won not only first prize but a special award from the judge!

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What’s up, blossom?

I hope the weather has been kind to you – I have been enjoying the spring sunshine, and happily crafting away.  Shiela, of www.handspinner.co.uk, is running a competition which coincided nicely with my plans – to enter you have to create something inspired by her photo of blossom.

I spun a two-ply yarn, one strand was tencel, the other a repeating colourway of various tufts of pre-dyed merino and some white shetland fibre.  In a rare moment of ‘finish-a-project-itis’ I picked up my needles and put together a top-down hat.  There wasn’t a lot of yarn, so it’s baby-sized, but that meant that the stripes worked out pretty well (and the only head it would fit was that of a toy rabbit…):

Shiela’s competition is still open, so why not join the fun and games?  Click here to find out more!

Batts and attempts at long-draw

I have been at the drum carder again…  Last week I read this blog post by Vampy which describes how to create batts with colour shading (basically layer the colours, split the layered batt into strips, fluff the fibre strips out sideways and feed them through again).  The photos showed lots of sparkle being added – how could I resist 🙂 ?

This was my attempt number one:

It worked, but I think the fibres were a bit too close in colour to show the colour changes clearly.   I used three different colours, pale blue, teal and green but it looks more like two colours.  I tore the finished batt into about 5 strips and spun them in order, then navajo plied them so the yarn would fade from dark to light:

Now, it’s not perfect, but could you just note that most of the yarn is pretty smooth and even.  I’m currently knitting it into some iPod cases using 1.5 mm needles and it’s looking fine.  I’d like to mention that now, because some of the later pictures are not so pretty…

I tried another batt, with a wider colour variation:

This colour combination seemed to come to me from nowhere.  Whilst congratulating myself on my amazing creativity, I realised it wasn’t my creation at all!  I had been looking at artwork online by Lorrie Whittington, a local artist, who has used this pallette of blues and purples in some of her work and it had obviously imprinted itself on my mind!   Do go and take a look at her work, it is swirly and whirly and beautiful!

This time, I split the batt into a dozen or so strips to try and get a more gradual change in colours:

Again, I spun singles.  Then, half way through the bobbin something in my head said ‘try long-draw’…  I’ve been meaning to, having watched Ruth at the spinning group whizz through yarn effortlessly.  The sensible thing would have been to try it out on some fibre that was hanging around waiting to be spun, something ordinary or in a colour I didn’t like particularly – goodness knows that there’s plenty around!  But no, something took over and I started playing around half way through using the batt I had so carefully laboured over. 

I could not quite bring myself to remove my left hand from pinching the yarn and stopping the twist, but my right hand was happily moving backwards with the fibre stretching out in a trail as my hand went back.  I even managed to get rid of my vice-like grip on the fibre, remembering what I had been told at the Weald and Downland when I tried the Great Wheel – ‘imagine it is a butterfly in your hand, you don’t want to crush it’.  So, my attempt was probably nothing like long-draw at all.  I’d call it coward’s long-draw at best!

This was the result – a small skein of yarn which starts off purple and even and smooth and then deteriorates into lumpy bumpyness as it turns blue.  It didn’t help that I plied it whilst my daughter was watching Mary Poppins – there’s something about Dick van Dyke doing a Cockney accent that reduces me to tears of laughter…

I’m pleased I had a go, but it served as a reminder as to how much there still is to learn about fibre and spinning.

How many plies does a girl need?

It’s almost a year since I started spinning on a wheel.  I’ve been stocking up on bobbins and whorls as the membership discount that I purchased when I bought the wheel runs out pretty soon.  I’ve now got 5 standard bobbins and 4 high speed ones, which should be enough to keep me going for a long while.  At around £30 per bobbin that’s a lot of money on bobbins – one of the (few) downsides of a Ladybug wheel.

I decided to put the bobbins to good use and try a 4-ply yarn.  I had 100g of grey cheviot which I had already made a start on – I was impatiently trying out double drive and waiting for the high speed bobbins, so started on a standard bobbin, then put it to one side when the exciting new shiny high speed bobbins came along.  Fickle, me???

So, there was about 35g on the existing bobbin so I split the remaining fibre into roughly even sections and spun three more bobbins worth. So far, so good!  I went and fiddled with the inbuilt lazy kate, adjusting everything so all the bobbins sat nicely and the tension bands went where they should.  I think I overdid it as it was hanging onto the yarn a bit too much whilst plying, so I’ll have to go and tweak it again.

Plying four singles at once was interesting…  I tend to ply using a whorl which is a couple of sizes larger than the one I used for spinning the single, but even this resulted in a somewhat overplied finished yarn.  I think it was a combination of trying to keep four singles under control, them all fighting the lazy kate and me treadling like a demon.  Although it wasn’t perfect it did make a lovely round yarn.  Of course I ended up with three bobbins with varying amounts of singles on them, so made some more 2 ply to use it all up.  I have a picture in my mind of a hat I’ve seen somewhere with a seed stitch brim, then plain stocking stitch and a knitted flower on it.  Despite looking in many place I can’t find it online, so maybe someone wore it in a TV programme.  If the yarn isn’t too wire-like it may turn into something like that.

I want to try this again though – I have a vision of a lovely fat squooshy yarn which I could make into a great big wrappy round scarf.

A really big wheel…

Another day out at the Weald and Downland Museum in Singleton today.  It’s the Ruby Anniversary of the Museum this year, which is worrying as I am older than the museum…  Last night I went to the bonfire party and today there were more special events. 

There seemed to be relatively few people at parts of the weekend I attended, possibly as the Musuem made everyone buy tickets, even members who had already paid for year-round entry – the cost to attend the full weekend would have been more then we paid to become members for a year!  It’s understandable, but also a shame as there were plenty of new things to see and do, including the Red Devils parachuting in this afternoon.

This lovely spinner let me attempt using this wheel.  I’ve never done long draw before, and this enables you to have a really long distance between the fibre and the spindle!  She turned the wheel so I could concentrate on the fibre – it was OK to begin with and I kept backing away from the spindle-tip, and further away, and further away – I was almost in the next county, then the fibre broke.  I had another go trying to spin the wheel myself and nearly took the top of my finger off, and produced a snarly bit of yarn which she kindly plied for me to keep as a souvenir.

I wore my finished Liesl today (which I think gave the game away that I might be a spinner and got me the offer to try out the wheel)!  I found some buttons at www.eternalmaker.com that I thought were just the job:

I think I did quite well to come out of the The Eternal Maker with just these three buttons – it’s too tempting in there sometimes, not good for my purse!

Candy Floss

 

Another Tour de Fleece project – pink merino, BFL and sugarplum angelina carded together and spun as singles.  I did several hot/cold/hot/cold soaks to set the twist and felt the yarn slightly so it would all hang together, which it seems to have done, even if it is still a bit curly wurly!

Tour de Fleece – Black Welsh Mountain Fibre

Here’s my first finished spinning for the Tour de Fleece:

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It’s 100g of Black Welsh Mountain fibre that I bought from World of Wool.  I wanted to try out this fibre as I’d been promised a fleece, but apparently the poor old sheep are still wearing it (and must be sweating away given the weather at the moment).  It was my first go at using my Ladybug in Double Drive and it worked out OK, althought I found the takeup a bit light for my taste.  Thanks to the Schacht Spinners group on Ravelry for helping me to get all my string and whorls the right way round – I will try and write up what went where soon.

How much yarn can you get on a bobbin?

Lots!  Lots and lots and lots and lots…

This is the purple shetland fibre that I dyed in my second attempt at dyeing, plied with the various blue/purple/teal/green/angelina fibres that I carded together.   This measured up to be around 700 yards of somewhere between lace and fingeringweight yarn.  The purple has dulled down the brighter colours somewhat.

I had ideas of making a lightweight cardigan, knitting a thin yarn on big needles and weighing the cuffs and edges down by adding beads.  I’m not so sure now, this might become a wide stole, maybe based on a feather and fan stitch.  I tried a swatch, just to see how it knit up.

Thick and thin

Not so long ago I ordered this fibre.  I wasn’t sure what to do with it, but thought I’d have an arty moment and try out spinning thick and thin yarn. 

The fibre just flew onto the bobbin!  I used my new slow speed bobbin and the thick bits turned out lovely and squishy if a little bit overly plumptious and the thin bits were, well, to be honest, rather too thin and twisty.  I wasn’t sure how to set the yarn so just gave it a soak in hot water and swirled it around a bit hoping it might felt a bit.  Picperfic (who sells somes very pretty fibre on http://www.etsy.com/shop/picperfic) suggested alternating between very hot and very cold water, so I will give that a go next time.

This is how the yarn ended up and how it looked when knitted.  I started a hat, but it was a disaster because it was sunny, I was outside and not paying attention at all, so it got frogged!

   

Another year older, another year wiser?

Today’s my 42nd birthday.  How did that happen, eh? 

The last year has been a real mixed bag with some almighty lows, but the odd high too.   Probably the best thing to come out of the last year is spinning. 

It’s only a year since I started fiddling around with a spindle, then I bought my Schacht Ladybug last November and used it pretty much every day since.  I have fibre falling out of boxes and bags, and skeins of handspun here, there and everywhere. 

I bought the Ladybug blind – nigh on £400 in one go, just like that – not like me at all, usually I am so careful and analyse, compare, make lists etc.  Ladybirds have featured in my life before, I painted the tank of my GS400 (motorbike) as a ladybird many moons ago – it seemed a good sign and thankfully this time round it worked out perfectly.

I’m still far too easily distracted by shiny pretty things (can you ever have too much angelina)?  I flit from one project to another, rarely achieved a truly finished project as new ideas keep on coming and interrupting.

I must take stock some time soon and see if there is any way of making spinning/knitting a bigger part of my life.  If there was a magic way of making my living doing it, perhaps it would take all the fun out of it?  Be nice to find out though…

It’s a wrap…

This project seems to have been on the go forever.  It started it’s life back in February, when I purchased some Stoney Shores fibre from www.wheeldalewoolcrafts.co.uk.  I spun this as thinly as I could to try and get somewhere near the finishing line of Ravelry’s LimeGreenJelly group’s 800 yard race (I got just over 500 yards which amazed me, but shows I have a way to go when it comes to spinning fine)!

   

I decided to use this pattern http://shop.sweetgeorgiayarns.com/products/cashsilk-fern.  It took about 5 months of knitting here and there to get it to what I thought was the right length, and yesterday I finally cast off.  This gave me a chance to play with some more new toys – I had bought a foam hopscotch mat and some blocking pins and not had a chance to use them until now.  As you can see, it certainly grew a little:

 

I thought it was all done, then remembered I had ends to weave in – here is the finished article:

A sock’s-worth of yarn

      

The fibre I dyed at the weekend was surprisingly lovely to spin.

I have spun one braid (about 80g) and navajo-plied it, which gave me about 200 yards – hopefully plenty for one sock!

I need to spin the rest before starting the socks, as I want to try knitting these two at a time on a circular needle.

What’s on the wheel?

Earlier in the year I bought a pack from http://www.thefibreholics.co.uk/.  The packs give you a range of different fibre (or yarn) samples – usually about 20g from five or ten different suppliers.  There were lots of lovely goodies, but one of my favourites was called ‘To My Valentine’ by Juno Fibre Arts and I bought a full 100g from her Etsy shop.  It’s combed Wensleydale top in lovely violet and green shades and stood out because it was different from the pinks that most of the others had gone for (there was a Valentine theme to the pack).

I’m spinning away at the moment and will probably navajo ply to keep the colour changes. 

If it looks good when it’s done, I think I’ll enter the yarn in the Rare Breeds Show at the Weald and Downland Museum in July.  There is a category for ‘fancy’ yarn (I love the use of the word ‘fancy’ here, it hints that it’s not proper wool, it’s been mucked about with and is an insult to sheep).

What a lovely postman I have…

Nice chap brought me two parcels today – goodies from www.handspinner.co.uk and www.wheeldalewoolcrafts.co.uk.  Hopefully I will have time next weekend to make a start on dyeing some fibre.

Prize-winning daffodils

I recently entered a competition on www.handspinner.co.uk, Shiela Dixon’s (the self-titled ‘dealer in addictive substances’) site – the aim was to produce something that captured the daffodils in her photo.  My entry was a first go at using thick/thin yarn with a bit of corespinning and wrapping thrown in for good measure – all things I had read about and seen elsewhere, but never had tried out myself. 

This was the end result – and it won!!

The competition was judged by Alison Daykin of http://www.alisonyuletextiles.co.uk/, so having a professional textile designer say lovely things about my work made my day – my entry “was by far the best, almost achieving the look and feel of a daffodil”. 

My prize was £40 of goodies from Shiela’s shop – I’ve gone for some Power Scour and Fibre Wash for use with some fleece that should be with me soon, some dyes, silk and 3mm needles.  I also ordered some superwash/nylon blend fibre from www.worldofwool.co.uk which I hope to dye and spin to make socks – I ordered plenty of it as I got nowhere near enough yardage from my recent attempt at spinning sock yarn!

Even prettier…

I really enjoyed spinning this – I now understand what people mean when they say ‘it almost spun itself’, it was like pouring the fibre into yarn. It twinkles, it’s lovely but it’s nowhere near enough yardage for the socks I had in mind.  Maybe a hat…

Pretty isn’t it?

Here’s some lovely fibre that arrived this morning – so lovely I had to start on it today and have spun about 25 g already.

It’s from FeltstudioUK on Etsy – you can see how it sparkles in the sunshine.  I’m planning on making socks from it, but it depends how much yardage I get.  It’s pretty – maybe too pretty for socks that won’t be seen – but I don’t mind having secret fancy socks!