I finally finished the socks that I started around Christmas time. Yarn is Regia "Canadian Color" # 4743 (I think it's discontinued). As I expected, I ran out of that yarn, so the toes were finished in Kroy from my stash. (I think it's also a discontinued colour.)
These were made using my Old Reliable pattern: 72 stitches, cuff-down. Heel is turned using a “dutch heel”. (Google it.) Stitch pattern is a nice 6-stitch rib pattern from Nancy Bush’s Knitting Vintage Socks, page 28-29.
The toe shaping starts as what Bush calls the “Flat Toe” on page 23 of Knitting Vintage Socks, and as a “Wedge Toe” on page 66 of Bush's Folk Socks. If you’ve ever worked a sock from a Patons pattern, you’ll know the toe; that’s where I originally learned it when I started knitting socks nearly 30 years ago. (eek!) Starting on a multiple of 4 stitches + 8, four stitches are decreased on alternate rounds, 2 on either side of the sock. When 50% of stitches remain, I work the decrease round only, to 8 stitches; thread the yarn end through the stitches twice and fasten off. Many of you would graft the stitches using Kitchener Stitch when 50% remain. I used to do that until I saw this alternate method in Folk Socks and it is now my standard. Much less fiddly than grafting: fits my foot beautifully.
The heel flap is worked in Eye of Partridge stitch, with 3 stitches on each side in garter stitch, and the edge stitches are slipped on alternate rows. For the gussets, you knit up 1 stitch per slipped stitch. I first ran into this approach in Elizabeth Zimmerman’s “Knitting Without Tears” – which, come to think of it, I bought in 1979 – and have used it ever since.
Some of you may have noticed a few odd things about the heel of the sock, and I’m going to write a bit about these and explain why I do things this way. Maybe you might want to try them out in your own sock-knitting. You can click the thumbnail image for a larger one pop-up window. Move it with you as you read, if needed, to follow along.
Firstly, the flap may seem long. It is. Just about everybody realizes that knitted fabrics change with wear. Or everybody should realize that. We’ve all seen a cardigan sweater grow longer, or its shoulders bag out, or its fronts droop, or its sleeves lengthen.
We don’t think about this much in sock-knitting, but socks can also change shape in wear. Or maybe it’s just mine that do; yours might be different. Heels flaps will felt and get short and narrower. This means that the sock that fits fabulously just off the needles doesn’t fit as well after some wear and launderings. So I work the flap a little longer to allow for this shortening. Here’s a picture of the new sock and one that is a couple of years old. The flaps have the same number of rows and were worked to the same gauge using the same needles. See how the one flap has felted and shortened?
Secondly, the gusset shaping are at the bottom of the heel flap, rather than at the top of the flap – where they’re usually put – and I work them every 3 or 4 rows, instead of every second row, as is usual in patterns. This gives a slightly longer gusset that fits my foot better. Your foot might do fine with decreases every 2nd row: great, keep at it. The reason I’ve moved them away from the top of the flap is that I think this line of decreases creates some inflexibility in the fabric, at a spot where ankle and foot movements would stress the fabric, so that flexibility in the fabric would be most desirable. (I have no proof that this is true, but if you look at your foot and ankle and wiggle them around, and you tug at the fabric around the area of the gusset shapings, you’ll see what I mean.)
While I often put the gusset shapings at the bottom of the flap, I will also scatter them randomly along the length of the flap or integrate them into the stitch pattern. But they get worked at the same rate as if I were putting at the bottom of the flap: every 3 or 4 rows.
Thirdly, I work additional gussets to give some extra circumference where the sock needs it most. I’d watched many pairs of my socks dragging down across the instep around the heel flap (especially after the flap shrinks), and decided that the tube of the sock needs some extra circumference there. So I’ll work a small triangular gusset on each side of the instep, as outlined in this photo.
Or, I’ll incorporate the extra stitches for the gusset into the pattern stitch. In the new pair of socks, I expanded the width of the ribbing across the instep of the foot.
I love new socks.
If you're needing good instructions for socks, I highly recommend Charlene Schurch's "Sensational Knitted Socks". Good basic instructions, lots of suggested stitch patterns. I like the book so much that I gave a copy to Franklin, and he's been giggling with delight ever since.
In Other News
1) Thank you to everyone who emailed or commented to commiserate about my bout of eczema, and who have told me that the days are getting longer and that hopefully I am feeling better. Yes, I’m definitely feeling better. And the eczema is calming down. I am so grateful that the flareup was very minor, because I do remember the times when I was a weeping crust from my neck to my ankles, and so weary of people asking if it hurt and whether I had AIDS.
2) Lorraine, over at Spinner’s Quarterly magazine asked me to write a piece for the magazine. She edited it into shape in time for the January issue, which is now being mailed to subscribers. Watch your mailboxes. If you’re not a subscriber, you might want to sign on for a year.
Have a good week, everyone.