Monday, August 3, 2015

Sock Dreams

(I could make this post into an analogy about how trying different ways of knitting socks is akin to trying different diets and while you might have varying forms of success with them, eventually you'll stumble onto THE one that works best for you...but hey, it's not always about weight loss/maintenance around here...or IS it??) 

I usually don't dream.  I think that's mostly because I don't sleep very well, or deeply, for long - which could be a whole other post - I suspect most women over a certain age have this issue, and pretty much deal with it the best they can.  One of the many perks of being female, right?

But, weirdly, if I'm knitting on a sock in the evening (TV plus knitting happens fairly often), and especially if I'm in my pondering mode of "how can I make this work" I will go into a twilight sleep at night, where I feel like I'm just one step below being awake, and I dream about cast on numbers, increases, and all things sock-related.  It doesn't make for a restful night, but I usually do wake up with a sock plan by morning.

You see, I'm trying to come up with my ideal toe-up sock - a basic pattern that fits my foot, and one that I will be able to plug in a more detailed pattern for the body of the sock, if I want.  I would like to figure out that with yarn of a particular weight (sock yarn is usually "fingering" weight), I can always cast on XX number of stitches, using XX sized needles, do XX version of a toe, knit the foot for XX inches, then do the XX heel, and move on to the leg of the sock and knit that until I'm tired of knitting (I do believe that is a known length for socks - the "eh, I got tired of knitting so I moved onto the cuff" length).  After several months of working at this, I think I'm almost there.  It has been a process, so I wanted to share it with you (and truth be told, document here in case my C.R.S. takes hold later on).
 
 Cuff down socks with standard heel flap and turn.

There are two directions you can go when knitting socks.  One is cuff down, where you knit the leg of the sock, then do a heel, then the foot, and finally decrease the stitches toward the toe, where you then close it up using the kitchner stitch, which grafts the two sides together.  I've completed two pairs of socks this way, and I don't mind anything about the process, from the heel flap and turn, to doing the kitchner stitch, which seems to intimidate a lot of knitters, but the only challenge for me is that I have to hold the darning needle in my right hand (I'm a lefty) while doing it.
Toes of cuff down socks - I didn't decrease as much on the darker sock before starting the kitchner stitch to close the toe, which is why they look a little different.  And if you're wondering why I didn't decrease as much on that pair...well, in a word?  Math.  I got my numbers mixed up - intended to end up with 16 stitches to graft which would have been 8 per needle, but started with 16 per needle.  It still worked, and hey, it's all part of the learning experience.

The main detriments to knitting a sock cuff down are either that you might run out of yarn before you finish, or you might end up with a lot of leftover yarn because you were hedging your bets against the amount of yarn you have.  For those reasons, I prefer to knit socks toe-up, because as long as I have wound an equal amount of yarn into two balls, I will end up with socks that are the same length, which can be as long as I want (see reason in paragraph three regarding sock length), or I can knit until I've used up all the yarn (knee socks, anyone?).

You might say that I'm obsessing over toe-up socks.  I've completed two pairs, one single, and have started another single because I keep trying different cast ons for the toe.  I need to go back and knit the mate to one, but in the meantime I found another way to cast on, which is why I haven't completed that pair.  I like knitting toe-up socks; not only will I use up most, if not all, of the yarn, but I can also try the sock on as I go, which is great for checking the fit plus it's motivating to see the progress (slightly dying to insert a diet/weight loss reference here...but I won't).

Here's my first toe-up sock (all of the patterns listed below are on Ravelry):
I used Judy's Magic Cast On, plus Basic Toe Up Socks with a Heel Flap.  It worked, but if my mind wanders for one split second while doing the Judy's cast on, I have to start from the beginning again.
Cast on using Toe-Up Socks Using German Short Rows by Staci Perry.  Fascinating to see it work, but wowzers, it was mentally challenging.
This one was hard - I took the Fish Lips Kiss Heel and turned it into a toe.  It took a few tries to get it right.  I need to knit the mate to this sock as soon as I can talk myself into tackling that particular cast on again.
If this was the Bachelorette, I think I'd give this sock a rose!  I used a Turkish cast on (via Fluffy Knitter Deb), which was really easy, and then I used All the Math's increases, plus her formula for the stitch count.  I'm going to do the Fish Lips Kiss Heel on this sock, and with that, I believe I will have my ideal sock pattern!

As you can see, it's taken me a while to get the basics of sock knitting down.  I have barely begun to touch on patterns - I did a very simple one in the dark pair of cuff down socks, just to get my toes wet:
Yarn is Malabrigo Sock, colorway is Arco Iris.  Pattern is Vanilla Latte Socks.  I love that they go with my shoes and am looking forward to cooler weather, when I can wear them!

I have more yarn in my stash waiting to be turned into socks, so I'll be busy with this project for quite a while!

14 comments:

  1. How funny that your post is about sock knitting today!
    Yesterday I spent some time on Youtube watching the
    girl from verypink.com's video's on knitting socks.
    I liked her videos on magic loop knitting for socks and
    she used short row cast ons too.

    After knitting for almost two years now I still haven't
    knit socks or used double pointed needles. I prefer
    circulars there just easier to hold and work with for me.

    What pattern do you recommend for first time sock knitters?
    I really want to try worsted weight and bigger needles the first
    time. I think the skinny yarn and tiny needles and double points
    is why I haven't tried so far plus I seem to be having a love affair
    with knitting sweaters.

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    1. I love the Very Pink videos - that is Staci Perry, and I used her German Short Row pattern for one of my socks! She's so clear with her filming and directions - one of the best out there.

      I am not a huge fan of double pointed needles, especially when you have only three stitches on each needle to start. Too fiddly for me. What sold me on trying socks was a 9-inch circular needle. If you start cuff down, you can cast on enough stitches and knit in the round, which goes fast, plus no DPNs. You will need them for the heel flap, but you'll only be knitting half the stitches for the flap and it's really pretty easy.

      My first pair was with worsted weight yarn - I could see the stitches much better than with sock yarn, and yes, with bigger needles I had a finished sock pretty quick. As for an easy sock pattern, I highly recommend the one from the book Knitting Rules!: The Yarn Harlot's Bag of Knitting Tricks. I have this book and wished I'd started my first sock with her pattern - as it was, I used it from the heel flap on to the toe. She's really clear with her instructions and isn't all rigid on how to knit. Good luck - believe me, if you can knit a sweater, you can knit a pair of socks! :)

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  2. I'ts amazing how you can do this! I can only crochet afghans. Never even tried knitting anything. You rock!

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  3. I love the different patterns that you use on your socks. The few times I have knitted socks I remember how difficult it was.

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  4. You are SO talented! Before ya know it you'll be knitting compression socks...lol

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    1. Actually, one pair is a little on the small side - I could consider them compression socks! ;)

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  5. This is really interesting. When I was knitting socks, I had one basic pattern that I used, for the same reasons you list--I knew how many stitches to cast on, etc. It was from an old book called Homespun, Handknit.

    I never tried a toe up sock. I didn't mind kitchner stitch. I'm trying to figure out why you have to hold the needle in your right hand? But one big advantage to toe up socks, I think, is that the cast on of the cuff down socks tended to be too tight, or at the least, not elastic. Seems like a cast-off row at the cuff would be much better.

    Oh, and one last comment. I did try on my socks as I went. Sometimes it was a little struggle with the four point needles. I think if I had one, I would add in a fifth needle just for the try on.

    Your socks are all so pretty, and especially the workmanship on them--all the increases and decreases, pattern work, etc. are just beautiful.

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    1. I hold the darning needle in my right hand because that's the side where I start doing the kitchner stitch...I suppose I could switch hands, but I suspect crossing over doing that stitch might mess me up. Luckily it's not too many stitches to have to be awkward with.

      On the cuff down socks, I cast on over two needles to give me some extra stretch. My calves are not delicate flowers, so I knew I had to give those socks a fighting chance, LOL!

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  6. OMG, I nearly spit out my coffee when you wrote this!

    If this was the Bachelorette, I think I'd give this sock a rose!

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    1. I wondered if anyone would catch that reference! :)

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  7. Hello again, Shelley! I love your work - you're so talented! I've been wanting to learn for years how to knit. And the non-sleeping deal at night? I totally get you.

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  8. I am so lost when it comes to knitting stuff. I am glad you can do it so well! The socks are very pretty.

    I dream a lot - crazy, crazy dreams. They are the stuff of many fun conversations with IRL people :D

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  9. Wow, that is some fancy-ass knitting you're doing, it looks so pretty and I had no idea how complicated it could get!

    And I SO hear you on the sleep thing. Hot weather + hot flashes = crappy sleep, at least for me. Hope yours gets better soon!

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  10. oooh the socks.
    if I could really knit em and not just dream Id wear and pair with my FLUEVOGS every d*mn day!!

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