Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Time for the Toe-Up Challenge?

A friend asked, why bother knitting socks? Fine-gauge, cotton-rich socks are easy to find and cheap to buy, easy to wash, dry quickly, comfortable to wear and last for years. This is a good question, and the answer was initially, to learn how and prove I could. A few years ago, I couldn't imagine myself knitting socks, then decided it was a skill which I lacked and should acquire, although I still couldn't see the fascination. Since then, I've discovered that these small items in which you invest time and, yes, more money than you would when buying mass-produced socks are lovely, personal and individual in a way that the mass-produced ones cannot be. I feel as thought I've knitted a piece of myself into them.

I've done a couple of pairs of socks since I told myself that my next pair would be to learn to do them toe-up (instead of cuff/top-down). Time for some new skills.  While I was thinking about it, I realised that I would be learning a new technique for the toe (Judy's Magic Cast On or JMCO).  As these are otherwise 'vanilla' socks, with no pattern, I thought I would go the whole hog and try to learn how to do two at a time on a circular needle using the Magic Loop technique, and throw in Cat Bordhi's Sweet Tomato Heel while I was at it, perhaps. Why not? I had earmarked some of the Drops Fabel for this, so I have two balls to work from, instead of trying to knit from an outer and centre end of a 100g ball (and, knowing my luck, becoming irretrievably tangled!).

I've had a little go at magic loop before, using DK (at the start of the seven colour socks) and found the business of transferring half the stitches around from the needle to the cable or vice versa a bit strange. I ended up unravelling what I'd started because the tension was rather uneven, with a ladder between the stitches either side of the cable loop. Still, practice makes perfect, right?

So, dig out wool, pattern, stitch markers, circular needles ... ah, problem. No circular needles the right size, except one old set of 2.5 mm with a very short cable which wouldn't loop effectively or hold two pairs, although the short cable was presumably designed for sock knitting. The law of stash rules again.  I feel another wool and needles order coming on. Note to self - buy some 2.5/2.75 mm circulars with an 80 or 100cm cable for doing two at a time magic loop.

In the meantime, I looked for other toe-up patterns with instructions for dpns. There were a few, including one for 'Dummies', which seemed to make a lot of assumptions about the knitter's knowledge of techniques and involved references to wrapped stitches. As I read through the patterns, I became increasingly baffled by the instructions.  I could get the technique for the wrap and turn, but couldn't wrap my head around things like double wraps and picking up the wrap instead of a stitch or ... I don't know what. I evidently need to find a video. When it comes to knitting, I'm more of a visual learner than I thought I was.

I ended up with two patterns earmarked; one for basic toe-up socks which could be done one at a time on dpns as well as circulars and an intriguing pattern for 'Origami Socks'.

Still feeling baffled by the issue of wraps, and how much of a dummy I might be if I couldn't understand the pattern designed for dummies, I went with the seemingly simple Origami socks. I found a 100g ball of Rico Superba Bamboo, which I couldn't remember buying, but was rather nice. Since I would be doing one sock at a time, a single ball was fine.

I was a little confused by the instructions, but decided that since the heel shaping resulted in a sort of triangle, the shaping would start when the foot tube measured from toes to point of heel, 100 rounds after picking up from the toe ‘strip’ for me (size 39, 24 cm foot). The 100 rounds, plus the fiddle of picking up stitches from the P2tog decreases, was enough to start me wondering about second sock syndrome.

Once I’d finished the heel shaping and had started working in the round again, I looked at the shape and size of the sock and wondered if I could actually get it onto my heel, so transferred my stitches to a cable to try it on. My fears were born out; the shaping is too ‘subtle’, and with no gusset and only a shallow heel cup, I couldn’t get the tube of the sock to stretch enough to manage the front of ankle-back of heel measurement (33.5 cm on me). This sort of shaping issue is something I’m going to have to watch for with other toe-up patterns.

Yes, it could probably be fixed/made to work by increasing the number of stitches and/or doing some sort of hybrid heel shaping, but I’ll leave that for someone else with more experience to play with. So lesson learned, frogged and abandoned. A few hours work, unravelled in a few minutes. Hopefully yoga class this afternoon will help me feel less irritated and ready to start another pair of socks this evening.

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