Sunday, January 08, 2006

Working For A Living Is Hard!

Now I know why I’ve never had a full-time job in my life. By Thursday I was totally worn out! I begged off on Friday since Thursday was already one day more than I’d planned. Yeah, I know — nobody feels sorry for me at all. I like being a kept woman, I tell ya! But at least now I have some “play” money that I earned by the sweat of my brow (plus the crick in my back, pain in my thighs, and strain in my arms) and that feels good (now that I’ve recuperated). Sorry if you missed me!

I did bring home a few goodies too: some moorit sliver that may be Shetland but nobody knows for sure (a pretty brown though and soft), some natural black merino sliver, and 2 hanks of very fine merino/cashmere yarn. The latter might be too soft for lace like I was thinking originally, but maybe I could resurrect my fine-gauge knitting machine and see what happens. I don’t know, but it’s awfully nice stuff. Oh, I also got 2 little tubes of polyester thread with beads on it to see what it will do when plied with wool. Plus a cone of natural grey 2-ply Dalesman wool yarn for my dye classes. I like to overdye grey yarns and sliver to show them how nice the muted colours can be. So I think that was a pretty controlled collection, especially since I was handling literally hundreds of kilos of yarns and fibres! But I’m still dreaming about balls, and cones, and hanks, and bags of fluff…and what I could do with it all if I had several more lifetimes.

I also have a Finished Object to report. I completed the Regia 6-ply Crazy Color socks. They’re drying right now after their bath, so I’ll have to take a picture tomorrow. I’ve already cast on for another pair of Confetti socks though so there’s no reduction in the UFO list. Yet. I’ll see what I can do tomorrow when I finally have a day to myself.

Speaking of socks, I’ve been using a simplified method of knitting my socks that works easily for me. I don’t have to carry a pattern around with me everywhere, just a ruler or measuring tape to get the leg and foot lengths right. The rest all works off the original number of stitches that I cast on. Here’s the gist of the formula:

1. Use a number of stitches for your cuff that is neatly divisible by 4. You need to take into consideration your knitting gauge with your chosen yarn and needles, how tight or loose you prefer your socks, and how stretchy your yarn (or pattern stitch if you use one) is. Socks are small enough so that if you aren't happy with your results after knitting part way down the leg, you can easily frog and start again. I've given up making swatches for socks!

2. Use a set of 5 dpns so you can take advantage of the neat number you cast on. Divide the stitches evenly between the 4 needles and knit with the 5th. The number of stitches you have on each needle will be The Magic Number that you need to make the rest of the sock.

3. Use the tail of your cast-on as the marker for the rounds. Knit your desired cuff (1/1 rib or 2/2 rib or whatever) and then knit your leg down to the top of the heel flap.

4. When you get to the heel flap, knit across needle 1, turn, sl 1 and purl across needle 1 and needle 4. These will be your heel flap stitches and they're all on one needle for ease of working. The tail will line up with the centre of these stitches (the back of the leg). See, no counting!

5. Remember to slip the first stitch of every row of the heel flap as if to purl (but with the yarn at back on knit rows). On the right side rows, work the heel stitch: [sl 1, k 1] across. On the wrong side, purl. Repeat these 2 rows until you have as many slip stitches on the edge of the flap as your Magic Number. This time you do have to count!

6. Now you start the heel turn by slipping the first stitch (as usual) and knitting The Magic Number of stitches PLUS 1 more. You should have a total of The Magic Number plus 2 on your right hand needle. Continue SSK, k 1, turn. You’re turning in the midst of the row with stitches still unworked. That’s why this part is called a “short-row”.

7. Sl 1, purl 5, p2tog, p1, turn. This row is always the same no matter how many stitches you cast on.

8. Sl 1, knit across to just before the "gap" that you can see in the row (where you turned before). SSK together the stitch before and the one after the gap, closing it. Then k 1, turn.

9. Do the same on the purl side: sl 1, purl across to just before the gap, p2tog across the gap, p1, turn.

10. Repeat these last 2 rows until you've used up all the heel flap stitches. Heel turn completed with very little counting!

11. Right side of heel: sl 1 and knit across to the middle of the heel (in line with the tail). Using another needle, knit across the rest of the heel stitches and then start picking up the sl sts at the side of the heel flap. To avoid the hole in the corner of the gusset, pick up one extra stitch. Your needle should have half the heel-turn stitches, plus your Magic Number of heel flap stitches, plus one.

12. Now knit across the instep stitches on needles 2 & 3 (the ones that have been sitting idly while you made the heel turn) as normal. With the next free needle, pick up the extra corner gusset stitch and then continue up the side of the flap picking up the Magic Number and then (still on one needle) across the half-heel to the centre. As for your first needle, your last needle also should have half the heel-turn stitches, plus your Magic Number of heel flap stitches, plus one – only in the reverse order.

13. Now you need to decrease the gussets every other round. Knit across needle one until 3 st before the end, k2tog, k1. Knit across the instep needles (2 & 3). On needle 4, k1, SSK, and knit to the end. Next round just knit all the way around. Alternate the dec and plain round until you have your Magic Number on each needle again. Hint: you can remember whether to do a k2tog or a SSK by whether the decrease area is at the beginning or the end of a needle. At the end of a needle, it’s always k2tog. At the beginning, it’s a SSK. Also you can tell whether the round you’re knitting on is a decrease round or not by looking to see if there’s an obvious doubled stitch between the stitches on your needle (where you decreased) or not. If you can see that doubled stitch this round is knit plain. If your previous round looks like normal knitting, this is a decrease round.

14. Knit the foot until you're ready to decrease for the toe. Usually this is about 2 inches before the end or try the sock on and see if it comes up to the joint of the big toe. Some people like their socks snug and some like them more roomy.

15. Just like when you were doing the gusset, knit needle one until 3 sts before the end, k2tog, k1. On needle 2, k1, SSK, knit across. On needle 3 (like needle 1) k until 3 sts before the end, k2tog, k1. On needle 4 (like needle 2) k1, SSK, knit across. The next round is knit plain. The decreases will create a wedge toe. As for the gussets, you can remember which decrease to use by whether it’s at the end or beginning of the needle. K2tog at the end of a needle, SSK at the beginning.

16. Continue alternating the dec and plain rounds until you have about 6 stitches left on each needle. (You can have less or more depending on the foot shape.) Continue to knit across needle 1 so the stitches on 1 and 4 are on the same needle (bottom of foot). Combine the stitches on needles 2 and 3 onto one needle (top of foot). Now you can graft the stitches on the 2 needles together with Kitchener stitch.

The above method takes advantage of several things: an even division of stitches among the 4 needles, the tail as the marker for the beginning of the rounds and for back-of-leg orientation of the sock, using "knitting to just before the gap" instead of a specific number to work each row, and 1/4 of the cuff stitches as a constant Magic Number to use to calculate other areas of the sock. This simplifies things a lot! Once you've followed this formula enough times, it's easy to size up or down to fine-tune the sock for a different foot or yarn. I've made socks for babies up to adult males using the exact same methods, just adjusting the Magic Number and the lengths of the leg and the foot.

I also try always to work on both socks alternately so they match more exactly. I don’t have to remember where I’ve deviated from the pattern or count rows. I also don’t have Second Sock Syndrome. Of course it means that I have to have 2 sets of the same double pointed needles. I knit differently with different brands so they have to be exactly the same. I use either Clover Takumi bamboo, Addi Natura bamboo, or Boye Silvalume aluminum. The common grey Aero needles don’t come in sets of 5 so I’d have to buy 3 sets to have enough. The nice short Brittany birch needles are too brittle in the smallest sizes to be useful. I’ve broken about 4 of them but I’ve never broken a bamboo one in the same size. And I don’t knit tightly either. They seem to break where the size is impressed into the wood. My personal ideal sock needles would be really polished bamboo, 5-1/2 inches long, with nice medium (not too blunt or too sharp) points, in sets of 5 (ok, 10!), and in sizes 1.75mm, 2mm, and 2.25mm. Oh, manufacturers, where are you?

1 comment:

Ev said...

Excellent! I'll be referring people to your great explanation of a basic sock. If you don't mind, I'll even post a link to it on my blog.