Thursday, June 21, 2007

Sock Knitting 101

I just finished reading a blog where the writer mentioned using sock knitting software. I decided that maybe I ought to explain my method. The above pair of socks is not an example of a beginner's project, but I did use the criteria stated below. I attempted to learn making two socks at the same time on circular needles with this project. I gave it up after the first color change and haven't gone back to that method since then. These socks were made of Koolaid dyed yarn. At the time my daughter learned to dye and dyed small samples of hand spun yarn. The colors changed every 4 rows.

Sock Knitting 101:
My "software" actually could better be described as "hardware" since all I use is a measuring tape, a pencil and an old envelope or other scrap of paper. So here follows Renate's generic sock pattern. This assumes you know how to cast on, divide stitches over 4 needles, join stitches, make a heel, gussets and toes. I recommend using the 5 needle sets--four for holding stitches and the fifth for knitting. Using 5 needles rather than dividing stitches onto three needles allows less stress on the stitches and one can thus avoid the "ladders" in knitting that so many knitters complain about.

I use this model for all socks shorter than knee high socks.

Preparation for knitting the sock:
1. Measure circumference just above ankle.
2. Measure foot from back of heel to longest toe.
3. Measure height of heel.
4. Use smaller needles than suggested for yarn. The tighter the stitch, the longer the socks last.
5. Make a small gauge swatch. Don't bother making it in the round. I usually just make a stocking stitch swatch which will give you the no. of stitches per inch. Once you have made a swatch, you'll probably never will have to make another one as long you use the same weight of yarn and the same needles.

Knitting a sock:
1. Multiply no. of stitches per inch x ankle circumference and cast on that many stitches, divide no. of stitches onto four double pointed needles, join and knit 2 inches in k1p1, or k2p2 or any combination thereof. Then knit leg to whatever length you want it.

When you have reached the length you want, divide stitches into half. Knit over one-half of stitches for heel flap.

Heel flap: 1 selvage stitch, 2 or 3 stitches in garter for nice looking edge (if you want), knit 1, slip 1 to last 3/4 stitches with 2-3 stitches garter, 1 selvage stitch. Knit back and forth to height of heel measurement. Then turn heel by mentally dividing stitches into thirds.

Turning heel: Knit 2 thirds of stitches. Turn and purl back two thirds of stitches, less one. Purl last stitch of second third together with first stitch of third third, purl one more stitch and turn. Knit back and knit last stitch of middle third together with first stitch of last third, Knit 1, turn. Purl row, knit row decreasing always 1 stitch until all stitches of first and third third have been used up. The last row in the heel turn will be a knit row.
An example for turning a heel would be: You cast on 60 stitches; therefore you would knit heel over 30 stitches. 30 stitches divided into thirds = 10 stitches.
Row 1: Knit 20 stitches, turn
Row 2: Purl 9 stitches, purl 2 together, purl one stitch and turn
Row 3: Knit 10, ssk, k1, turn
Row 4: Purl to last stitch before gap created by turning, p2tg, p1, turn
keep repeating this process until all side stitches have been used up.
If you end up with an uneven no. of stitches when dividing heel stitches into thirds, add the odd stitch to the middle third.
Your last row will be a knit row which will allow you to pick up the stitches on the side for the gusset.
Actually, any type of heel can be used, including short-row heels.

Gusset: When you get to end, pick up selvage stitches, knit stitches of needles 2 and 3 and pick up stitches on other side of heel flap. Then make gusset.

Foot: Knit until sock measures length of foot measurement minus 1-1/2 to 2 inches, depending on how long your toes are, then make toes. (Personally, I knit until the foot covers my little toe and then start the toe decrease.)

Resources: Charlene Schurch's Sensational Socks is an excellent sock book since it gives detailed instructions on sock sizes and shoe sizes and widths. But the above "recipe" is about all you need for knitting any sock, unless you want to make knee socks or my grandmother's dreaded stockings I had to wear as a child. Knit with love, but dreaded because they were soooooo itchy.

If you have a particular design in mind, you may have to adjust the no. of stitches you cast on, so the pattern will fit into the no. of stitches. A couple of stitches more or less won't hurt anything.

I would appreciate feed back whether or not these instructions are helpful. What would you change in the instructions, etc. etc.

"Knit on!"

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