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

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!

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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

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!

So, you’ve swatched and measured and done some math (stitches ÷ inches = sts/in).  Now what?

Well, now you measure the foot and do some more math.  Start by tracing the foot in question, holding the pencil perpendicular to the floor (betcha thought you’d never have to do that again after 3rd grade, huh?).  Now measure the foot from the tip of the biggest toe to the back of the heel.  Why trace instead of just measuring?  Two reasons: 1) it’s easier to measure a flat piece of paper than a foot held awkwardly at a decent measuring angle; and 2) tracing automatically adds a tad to the length of the foot which will make for a better fit lengthwise.

Now the circumference measurements – you want to measure snugly just behind the ball of the foot and around the ankle, just above the ankle bone.  For most people, these two measurements are nearly the same, varying only by about ½ inch.  (Occasionally, there will be a larger difference, usually because of an injury or edema.  In that case, you’ll have to fit the foot and ankle separately)

Those are all the measurements you need.  If you want further refinement, you can do one more – a heel height measurement.  To do this, hold a ruler behind the heel while standing and measure from the floor to the place where the heel and ankle join (where the back of the heel bends).  It may help to put a wee mark on the bendy spot first and get a helper to do the measuring, as this one is quite difficult to do on your own foot.

So, your measurements are complete: Ankle circumference, foot circumference, foot length, heel height (that last is optional).

Next: Casting On!

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

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…

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