Fat Knitting Superhero, disguised as Mild Mannered Yarn Shop Employee.

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Today’s post…

…isn’t really a post.  It’s a statement that my back frickin’ HURTS and I want it stop and I’m cranky.

I’m going to go self-soothe by knitting crocheting birdies from the most awesome Linda Permann‘s book Little Crochet to use as gift Christmas ornaments.  Darned things are supremely addictive – I knitted crocheted 2 of ’em so far today, using Noro Silk Garden Sock yarn, like she did for hers.  I do need more beads, though, as I haven’t anything appropriate.  Which means I have to go bead shopping before Christmas.  DARN!  (HEH)

Crappy Cell Phone Pic because my back hurts too much to go search for the camera

Top-Down Socks – Leg

Now that you’ve cast on, and presumable done a bit of ribbing for the cuff, you have a choice.  Either continue with ribbing all the way down the leg, or just do an inch  or so of ribbing and finish the leg in some other stitch pattern.  Your choice!

The only thing you want to remember is not to make the leg too long.  It can be as short as you like, but calf anatomy limits the leg.  Basically, you don’t want the leg to be long enough to need calf shaping, unless you plan to go all the way to the knee, in which case, it’s technically a stocking, not a sock.  Just make sure that your sock-leg won’t go higher than the base of the gastrocnemius muscle (aka calf muscle – but gastrocnemius is fun to say).  For most legs, that means about 8 inches max – maybe 9 inches for a tall guy or 6 for a small woman.

Anyhoo, just make the leg as long as you want it!  Easy!

Top-Down Socks – Cast-on (part 2)

A sock needs a VERY STRETCHY cast-on (unless you want a sock that cuts off your circulation).  You can try to do a long-tail cast-on loosely enough that it will work, or you can do other tricks, like casting on 50% more stitches than you need and then decreasing them away in the first round.  OR – you can just do a cast-on that is inherently more stretchy.

My favorite stretchy cast on for socks (and hats and gloves and anything else that needs a LOT of stretch) is the Twisted German cast-on, also sometimes called the Twisted Norwegian cast-on, or as my friend and former boss Melanie called it, the Twisted Drunken Crazy German cast-on.

So, without further adieu, here ’tis!  The second video shows how to join stitches to knit in the round and conceal the jog at the beginning of the round.  ENJOY!

Top-Down Socks – Cast-on (part 1)

It’s finally time!  Hooray!

First, a small bit of math to figure out how many to cast on.  First, look at the ankle and foot circumference measurements.  If they are within ½ inch of one another, we’ll use the smaller of the two.  Socks need “negative ease“, so we don’t want the bigger number unless it’s a LOT bigger.  If the difference between ankle and foot circumference is greater than ½ inch, use the ankle measurement alone.  Take that number and multiply it by 0.9 (to get the negative ease), then multiply that by your stitch gauge (stitches/inch).  Round the results it to the nearest whole number.

Ankle or foot measurement (whichever is smaller)___________ x ___________ sts/in ≈ ___________ sts for cuff

If you’re lucky, this number is exactly what you need for your stitch pattern to work out.   Say you want to do k2p2 ribbing for the cuff and your math gave you a number divisible by 4 – that’s LUCK!!  Most likely, it’s not.  So, round it again.  In most cases, you want to round down to the necessary number of stitches, but if the stitch is particularly inflexible, you may need to round up.

Tomorrow: techniques for casting on

Well, that’s today blown to heck

It has been a crazy busy day today! The dentist has been visited (No cavities, Mom!), the grocery store has been emptied into my cupboards, packages have been mailed, gifts for Youngest Son’s teachers have been planned, and the house has been tidied.

So, I hope you’ll understand if I wait until tomorrow for the sock casting-on post!

Top-Down Socks – Swatching

There are two possibilities for swatching when it comes to socks.  You can be traditional and swatch first, then cast on, or you can be a rebel and just cast on and think of the first 4 inches of the sock as a swatch.  As always, there are some things you should think about first.

Cuff As Swatch: For most basic socks, this works pretty well.  The idea is that you make a (hopefully educated) guess about the number of stitches to cast on and appropriate needle size and just cast on.  Work in pattern for 3 or 4 inches, then check the gauge and, perhaps, try it on over the ball and arch of the foot to see if it fits properly.  If it doesn’t fit, or isn’t working in any other way, rip it out and start again.  It’s usually easy and time-saving, and this is how I swatch for most socks.  BUT!  It isn’t for every circumstance.  Times not to swatch this way:

  1. If this is your first sock ever, please do a real swatch, unless you’re going to a Yarn Harlot event soon and you want her to take a photo of you and your Sasquatch-sized sock.  It’s worth the time!
  2. If the cuff has one pattern and the foot another, like a ribbed cuff and stockinette foot.  Ribbing cannot tell you if the stockinette will fit.  Most of us have a somewhat looser gauge for ribbing than for stockinette, so using a ribbed cuff to stand in for swatching a stockinette foot could lead to a very poorly fitting sock.
  3. If you’re doing a fancy stitch pattern, or doing multiple patterns, you need a separate swatch for each stitch type, so a sock with an inch of twisted rib, then a lace leg and stockinette foot will need three swatches.  Unless, like one of my early mistakes, you want a sock that cuts off the circulation in your leg and is still baggy in the foot.

Actual Real Swatch:  To make a meaningful sock swatch, it must be knitted the way you’ll knit the socks, which means – in the round!   Cast on 40 stitches (this makes the math easier), then, with your chosen needle, knit until it’s about 3 inches long.  As you’re knitting, consider whether you like the yarn/needle combination.  Is it too floppy?  Change to smaller needles, work a purl round, then re-commence knitting.  Too stiff?  Do the same, but change to a bigger needle.  Too splitty?  Try a blunter needle, or change yarns.

Keep going this way until you have a decent-sized swatch.  Then wash and block it and measure.  If it’s lace, pin it out well.  If it’s ribbing, stretch it a bit.  Then measure the width.  Remember that we started with 40 sts?  That means that the laid-flat stitch count is going to be 20 sts (half of 40).  So, to figure out stitches per inch, we divide 20 by whatever measurement you get.   “Per” means “divided by,” if that helps you remember.  Remember that for most sock yarns, you want to aim for at least 7 sts/in, so if you get only 6.5 sts/in, you may need to try again with a smaller needle.

Stitches_____________  ÷ Inches______________ = ___________________sts/in

Next sock post, we’ll talk about what to do with those numbers, once you have ’em.  Meanwhile, Happy Swatching!

FIBER FESTIVAL!!

We’re going to Kid-n-Ewe today!!

http://www.kidnewe.com

Today is “Addenda Day,” apparently…

So, an addendum to the Sock Yarn post, brought about by a discussion with Jim (the world’s greatest husband) about his favorite sock yarn, Malabrigo Sock:

Malabrigo Sock is certainly luscious and beautiful and silky and soft and is a perfect sock yarn EXCEPT – it has no reinforcing fiber. It’s 100% merino with no added nylon or silk. Having said that, it has almost all the other qualities of a good sock yarn. It has multiple plies and is smoothly and firmly twisted. Go ahead and use it, but be aware that it may develop holes faster than some other sock yarns. You can mitigate the consequences by adding a strand of wooly nylon or sock reinforcing thread, especially in the wear-prone areas of the sock.

I’ll address Noro sock yarn another day…

One more comment on needles…

I forgot to mention this the other day, but it’s an issue that comes up frequently at the yarn shop.
Sock needles will almost always end up curved a bit. Most wooden, bamboo, and metal needles (and other natural materials) will, with the pressure, moisture, and warmth from your hands, curve a bit. This is absolutely fine and nothing to worry about. It just means they’ve become “real,” sort of like the Velveteen Rabbit.
Certain materials won’t bend much (if at all): Carbon fiber needles (like those ProgrammerAtArms mentioned in his comment yesteray), laminated hardwood needles, and glass needles are unlikely to ever curve at all. That’s because they are made from bend-resistant materials, not because they’re better.
I, personally, LOVE a really curved DPN. It feels personal and loved!

NaBloPoMo – another fail!

I’ve been doing pretty well with the daily posting and have really been enjoying it, but today (er I mean yesterday – it’s after midnight) was super busy and I just got overwhelmed. So… No post right now, but I will do the sock swatching post tomorrow, um I mean later today. After I sleep.

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