Tuesday 11 October 2011

in which I speak of socks

Last month, I was supposed to teach a full day workshop on knitting socks from the toe up. Unfortunately, I became very ill with acute sinusitis and was unable to stand, let alone tutor all day.

In the weeks leading up to the sock workshop I had, of course, concentrated on sock knitting.

In a previous post, I showed you my sample sock (seen again at right with my 20cm long dpns).

Before I even designed the sample sock, there was the pair I started in April and finally finished last month for the Wonderful Man.

Next, I cast on another pair of self striping / "fake isle" socks. I thought I might wear them but they are way too big for me. I had become so used to knitting man-sized socks that I automatically made them 72 stitches - much too wide in the foot for me!

Moda Vera Noir colourway Merlot
So, two days later, I cast on yet another pair of socks -- I had to keep practising Judy's Magic Cast On. For me, it's the trickiest part of the sock. The cast on itself is easy but knitting those first two rows can be a little fiddly on 2.25mm (US 1) needles.

The socks I cast on are Ribbed Ribbon socks (Ravelry link) by Wendy Johnson from her book, Socks from the Toe Up. These socks don't have the short row heel we were going to do in the workshop. However, I decided it wouldn't hurt me to try something new so I did the heel exactly as the pattern stated.

I knitted the first sock on two circulars (according to the pattern). I find it cumbersome - sliding the stitches from the plastic cable (where they often catch) on to the needle; and the needle-not-in-use always seems to be in the way.Give me dpns any time!

The combination of circular needles and a lace pattern makes for very slow knitting. It took me three hours to complete one pattern repeat of 24 rounds! With dpns and "plain vanilla" socks, I could finish the whole foot or leg in that time!

I also can't decide whether I like the socks or not (for many reasons):
  1. I think they may be a couple of rows too short in the foot. They are perhaps a little too snug!
  2. I think I'd like the toe area to be a little longer; perhaps twenty four rounds instead of eighteen.
  3. The yarn (Cleckheaton Cocoon 70% merino, 30% nylon) has gone fluffy already and they haven't been worn or washed. I know it's baby yarn but it has the same composition as sock yarn - obviously it is spun less tightly! Why did I choose to knit socks from it? I only have self striping yarn or variegated yarn in my stash and didn't think either would do this lace pattern justice! Mind you, I don't think this yarn is doing the pattern any favours either!
  4. I have gauge but my pattern looks clunky rather than elegant like the photo of the sock in the book (which I can't show you here for copyright reasons) or the ones seen here.
In our house, we have a saying: "If in doubt, don't!"

Because I couldn't decide whether to continue or rip out the Ribbed Ribbon Socks, I cast on yet another pair of socks on the Monday afternoon. It would have been good to have gone to the workshop on Saturday wearing a pair of handknit socks!

This third pair is knitted from Patonyle (the old 50g balls) which I bought at the Australian Country Spinners Mill Shop in 2008 and had almost forgotten.
In fact, the yarn didn't have a label but a search on Ravelry confirmed my suspicions. The pattern is "plain vanilla" because the yarn is self striping. I used Judy's Magic Cast On (32 stitches) and increased in every second row until I had 64 stitches. I knit until the foot instep touched my leg then did an hourglass heel (which is what I would have been teaching the following Saturday). Because it was late at night and I was tired and not well, I made a mistake and had to rip out the whole heel again. I went to bed that night thinking about socks.

When I woke on Tuesday morning, I knew the answer! The increase in alternate rows creates a narrow toe which doesn't suit the shape of my foot. I need a completely different shape, one more like a commercial sock.

And so I did the only sensible thing -- I ripped out the whole sock! If I had continued and ignored the toe, I would have regretted it and probably never worn the socks.

I still have to bind off the first sock and cast on the second, so it's just as well I didn't want to wear them to the workshop-that-was-postponed, wasn't it?
As for the Ribbed Ribbon socks - what do you think? Should I finish the pair, or count my losses and rip this one out?


  1. I would finish the ribbed ribbons socks - I agree with you, the toe could be a bit longer, but it is a very nice looking pattern.

    I always do my toe up socks using magic loop, never dpns. I think mainly because it is much easier to do JMCO on a circ needle. But everyone needs to work out their own favourite method, I think!

  2. Magic loop-you either love it or hate it but find what makes your knitting heart sing and stick with it! It is good to try the other methods then you know you are not missing something! lol I like the blue lace sock but if you don't like the fit, rip it out! I rarely hesitate when I finally know that it is not right! Ripped out a mitten last night after I finished it because it was fingering weight-too small and the pattern called for worsted weight yarn-how could I have missed that!!!!! Oh, well.

  3. There is nothing as lovely as a pair of hand knit socks! There is nothing more disappointing than a pair that doesn't fit right.

    Your workmanship is beautiful.

  4. You make want to give knitting socks a try! For me it has only been scarves, cowls, hats, and other simple things! Double pointed needles intimidate me!

    Found you at Small Blog Meet! Let's be friends!

  5. Hi Lynne,
    I'm a dpns fan but have tried other ways. Always return to my dpns tiny (length) needles. I've gradually come to the conclusion you reached about ripping. I've done more of that than usual lately.

  6. I've never knitted with DPNs before, it looks complicated than knitting with circular needles. I use to knit with knitpick interchangeable needles and found them to be quite smooth.

  7. Your pattern doesn't look clunky at all. I'm not sure I would have used the Cocoon for adult socks it seems a little "soft" and may not wear so well. You know I have used it for the kids socks (rainbows) and now I think about it, they haven't become very fuzzy at all so maybe the fuzziness you have with these will go away?

  8. Oh and I knit socks magic loop on one needle, not two, the extra needle would drive me spare!


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