Tuesday, June 1, 2010


I have not kept it a secret that I don't like sock yarn. The stuff feels like cobwebs to me and I really do NOT like knitting with it. But that doesn't mean that I don't like knitting socks! No sir, or madame, in fact I love it. Socks are so predictable yet so infinitely varied. You can do anything crazy you want to the top and yet trust that once you get to that trusty heel flap, you'll be in familiar territory. Granted, you'll have to keep the top of the foot a little crazy too if you want it to look really polished when you're done but really - there's mystery wrapped in comfort. Wonderful things, socks! But I hate sock yarn. So what do I do? I knit socks with worsted weight. This generally means a thicker sock, and it has also meant that I have generally written my own patterns for socks since most sock patterns are assuming you're using sock yarn. I mean, why wouldn't you, right?

So a few months ago now, a socks for yarn swap was started on Hyena Cart. The rules of the swap were that a "sender" sends the "knitter" some yarn to make socks for the "sender" and ALSO sends additional yarn as payment to the "knitter". I *love* swaps like these because I *love* yarn. I posted on the swap thread that I would love to participate, but ONLY if I could knit with worsted yarn and receive worsted as payment as well. One lovely lady, we'll call her "Lovely J", agreed! She was feeling adventurous, as was I, and we decided I'd make some knee socks! She sent me some Mosaic Moon "Goblin" with red trim on targhee as payment. YUM! That yarn has actually already been knitted up and sent to a customer. More on that later.

So after talking with the Lovely J, we decided that I'd spice up the socks with a cool twisty cable along the shin and I'd contour the sock to her leg measurements, since the bulk would be knit in stockinette. If we had chosen to have the sock be ribbed the whole way, we could have gotten away with fewer measurements since a rib will cling to whatever it's surrounding. Not so with stockinette. With knee socks, you need for the socks to really cling to the leg - and that meant measurements. So the Lovely J measured her leg in 14,539 ways and sent me the numbers. That's when the math started. Stitches per inch, rows per inch, gauge swatches, needle sizes, subtraction, addition, division, multiplication, fractions, proofs, you name it.

I decided on size 8 needles because it gave me the best stretch while not threatening to cut off the Lovely J's circulation halfway through the day. I went with a 1X1 rib at the top because it's a little prettier/less clunky than something like a 2X2 rib, especially with something with that small a diameter. The cable I chose was from a stitch book I have, and it's called (unceremoniously) Plait 1. So I started. 1X1 rib for a while, then start the plait. Then a rapid increase for the bulk of the calf. Then a slow decrease as her leg tapers to the ankle. Oh, it sounds so easy typed out right now. But that 7 inches of material took months to perfect. Maybe I'm a math idiot. While I did ace 9 graduate level statistics courses, I was never a wiz at what is known as "applied" math. Word problems and such. So I frogged. And frogged again. And frogged again. All the while, I must say, the knitting itself was pretty fun. I'm relatively new to cables so the twisties and the turnies were all quite titillating. Since I was creating the pattern as I went, I had to be *very specific* about what to do on each row. I have an excel spreadsheet with 400 rows on it devoted to these socks alone.

Finally, I reached the trusty heel flap. Oh, heel flap how I love thee. I love the slip stitch ribbing. I love the slipping of the first stitch. I love going back and forth so quickly. I love turning the heel, even! Those little bitty short rows. I chose a modified rectangular heel for this pair of socks, though I did toy with a pointier V for a while. I just thought the rec looked one a little better, what with the tapering of the leg and all.

So I turned the heel. And then started the gusset. I won't lie, the gusset is my least favorite part. Not because I don't like picking up stitches. Heck, I pick those suckers up with the best of 'em. It's because when you're done picking up all those stitches you have a hundred trillion stitches on two of your needles and like...7 on the others. It's an awkward position your hand has to fit into and it's no fun. Thankfully, it's all about decreases for the next several rows. Soon enough you're back to manageable stitch numbers on each needle. But then here's where my trouble REALLY started. I left too many stitches on the needles. I made the foot of the first sock pretty dang ginormous. And looking at the size of the rest of the sock, the Lovely J has thin legs. Why did I think she might have Flintstone feet dangling from her slender stems? The truth is I didn't think she did. The TRUTH is that I did my math completely wrong. Somehow I didn't notice until I reached the toe, however, and realized that it was taking a long time to shape the toe. A full 3 inches to reach the end when it should have been only 2 inches. That's when I noticed. The foot was huge. Nearly the size of the calf! Not happy. So I frogged AGAIN. And I started the foot again. I stopped just before closing the toe, and after some more wonkiness happened with the way I tried to have the cables sort of look like they just untangle at the end toward the toe..honestly, typing it all out is boring even ME so I can't imagine how your eyes must be bleeding by now.

I'll be quick from now on. THEN I KNIT THE OTHER SOCK. THE END. There, see? I can be brief.

After nearly 3 months, the Lovely J was about to get her socks!!! I washed 'em, blocked 'em, and took a few pictures.

And then...just this morning...I saw that she had posted some action shots!!! The Lovely J has given me permission to show her snazzy legs on here, so without further ado....

I give you...(well, technically I gave the Lovely J)...

Cabled Knee Socks.


Molly said...

If you keep posting things like this I will be broke because I will do nothing else but pay you to knit for me. OMG I love them, they are so cool!

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