Friday, 5 February 2010

Socks and some thoughts

Yes I knit socks and I usually have a pair on the go. The current pair are Spring Forward from Knitty


I started them on Monday and they're just flying up which always makes me worried that there's something wrong with them and that they won't fit but a quick check assures me that indeed they do.

I often regard the first sock as a kinda gauge swatch, yes I know I'm tempting fate but at this stage of sock knitting I have a fairly good idea of what will and won't work. I pick the sock pattern based loosely on the gauge on the ballband and often increase the needle size by one because I have big ankles. I also cast on with the cable cast on turn around knit a row and join (how to speak gibberish to non-knitters) this is because I like the look of what would be the inside of the cable cast on if I joined immediately. I have tried other methods of casting on, which all claim to be loose, nope, they don't work for me. That, though, is part of the fun, trying different things.

Currently I prefer knitting socks from the cuff down, yes there is another option, toe up. This won't stop me from trying some more toe-up.

What is it about socks that make them so attractive? They're very portable, everything I need to knit them fits in a medium sized toilet bag, this makes them ideal for bringing with me when I'm going to work. If I'm on the bus I knit, during breaks in work I knit, when waiting for Mac in Blanchardstown, I knit, if I agree to meet someone in town and I'm waiting in a coffee shop, I knit.

The other thing that's interesting about socks is that it's a chance to try out patterns, techniques, and other things with what appears to be a small risk. You can also hide the evidence under shoes and clothing but have that warm feeling that you're hiding bright colour and something you made yourself.

Though the strange looks you get sometimes while you knit in public also have an amusement value!

Things to note about socks:

If you wear ankle-boots or the like you will need about 6 inches of sock before the heel, you will also want some form of reinforced heel, boots rub.

There is something balanced about having the above the heel part about as long as below the heel for me this is also about the 6 inch length.

The average sock pattern is designed for someone for whom where the calf muscle hits is about the same as where the widest part of the foot is. This isn't always true (for me my calf, about 6" above where the heel is is about 12" while the widest part of my foot is 9"). There are a number of ways of fixing this. Another repeat or two is the easiest solution. You can decrease down after the heel, you will be anyway.

When you pick up stitches after the heel you may not have as many as the pattern states, honestly, this doesn't matter, so long as you have the same number by the time you reach the main part and you're happy with the look of the heel, this is what's important, take a deep breath and just knit. Skip the first stitch along the edge and pick up the slipped stitches I usually pick up a bridging stitch between the heel stitches and the top of the foot stitches, this is because I like how it tightens the gap.

A heel usually has as many rows as you have on the needles. You can easily count how many rows you have by counting the loops on the back of the work if you're working a slip stitch heel, if not, it should be approximately square, if you fold it diagonally it should be as wide as it is tall. If you have a deep heel or a short heel adjust for you, ignore the designer if it suits you. Patterns are like recipes, people stress less about substituting in recipes than they do knitting patterns.

If you're doing a short-row heel a quick formula is usually ((stitches on needle)/2)+1 and then ssk & k1 (I regularly substitute knit two to the back of the loop) turn sl 1 k5 p2tog p1, continue slipping the first stitch k or p to the 1st stitch before the gap k or p 2 tog k or p1. Depending on how many stitches you have on the needle you may end up with the last row without the final k or p1's the important thing is balance, it should be the same on both sides.

The decreases on the heel cup don't really matter, honestly, it will probably felt.

Yarn for socks: There are patterns for almost every weight of yarn. Lighter than double knitting will mean that they're more likely to fit in your shoes without warping them beyond use with ordinary socks. If you don't hand-wash you will want to look for superwash wool with some nylon, though not all of it works. It can be useful to have friends with kids who will wear felted socks around the house. Superwash yarn is also good if your feet sweat a lot. No matter how superwash they are there is a high likelyhood that the heels, balls and heel-cup will felt (you really won't see the decreases after a while). Dryers aren't good for socks, trust me.

Another reason for sock knitting is the quantity of yarn it uses, an average pair of socks for me use a bit under 100g of yarn, this is 1-2 balls of wool. For mac it's around 100g and can sometimes be a little over so 1-3 balls. This can be where toe up wins over cuff-down, you can half the amount of yarn and knit until you run out, leaving very little left over and not running out before you finish the sock.

Anyone else have some comments?

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