Monday, July 9, 2012

Sock Lab Special Bonus Round: Cinch

Between my six-pair project this past winter and the Unusual Sockitecture KAL I ran for the Ravelry Sock Knitters group, I spent many months positively steeped in alternate sock geometry.  And then I had a little seed of an idea, and it caught fire and the next thing I knew, I had created this:

Last year during Tour de Sock, I was clamoring for all sorts of whacked-out sock patterns.  I wanted alternate construction.  I wanted colorwork and cables all together.  I wanted something no one expected.

So imagine how thrilled I was when my friend Sarah said she wanted to use my pattern in Tour de Sock this year!  The pattern is called Cinch and it was released yesterday for Stage 5 of the Tour.  It will be available to the general knitterly public on September 4th.

This sock borrows construction ideas from Stripe Tease.  The cuff is knitted in the round to provide a base for the four panels, which are each knitted flat and joined to the next by picked-up stitches at the edge.  The heel is a short-row, no-wrap heel and the toe is worked in the round when all four panels are complete.

The cable pattern is based on a Barbara Walker pattern called the Triple Gull stitch.  I love the smooth look of the crossed stitch - it comes from slipping the stitch in the row below the cross.  I added a fourth gull and flipped it upside down so the cables pointed down the sock instead of up.  I think they look like little corsets, hence the name of the pattern.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Sock Lab, Round Seven: Bluemchen

Ready for spring?  Check out these Bluemchen!

I have made many, many crochet afghans out of motifs.  I have never constructed anything similar with knitting.  These socks are created toe-up with two hexagonal flower motifs attached at three sides.  Two little triangles fill in the gaps at the sides.  A pentagonal flower motif forms the heel, with a short gusset above.

I found some great alternate instructions on Ravelry which helped me figure out how to eliminate all the seaming in this sock.  The motifs were cast on provisionally, and the little gap-triangles were formed with short rows.

Some lessons learned with these socks: long floats are ok!  My stranded tension came out better when I wasn't putting the knitting down every four stitches to twist yarn strands around each other.  I tacked some of the floats together when I wove in my ends.

And crochet can be used to bind off a sock.  Nice and stretchy!  Who knew?

Sock Lab, Round Six: Estonian Heel Socks

I read this pattern over before I started my whole Sock Lab adventure, and it made very little sense to me.  I read it again after knitting Skew, and it clicked immediately.  The concept is a dead simple and seamless way to make a heel-out sock: make a four-sided motif which is concave, to form a heel cup.  When the opposite corners can meet over your instep, work two adjacent sides of the motif in one direction to make the foot, and the other two adjacent edges in the other direction to make the leg.

The original pattern calls for a star toe that ends up sort of on the top of the foot, but I chose to use short-rows to level off the bias and make a standard toe instead.

I had a bit of a problem with fit.  By the time I had a motif that could fit over my instep, my stitch count made for a baggy leg and foot.  I decreased every four rows as described in the pattern, but next time I will decrease more rapidly or switch to smaller needles for the foot and leg.  I ended up having to shove some decreases in at the end so the foot of my sock wouldn't be too long.

Ravelry link.  I'd make these again!  They have an unusual and dramatic look to them, and what a fun use of striping yarn.  X marks the spot!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Sock Lab, Round Five: Skew

I took a half-hearted stab at Skew a few years ago, but I only got to the toe of Sock #1 before I hibernated the project, and then something else happened... oh yes, I had twins and my crafting time/brain became pretty limited.  When I picked them up months later, I felt disoriented in the pattern and didn't really feel the love, so I ripped them out.

Two years later, and success!  The pattern is very well written but it does require a little more attention at the sticky parts, especially, of course, the heel.  It seemed like the pre-heel set-up and the post-heel gusset took a little longer than on a regular sock, which may have added to my sense of vigilance.


What has made Skew famous is the dramatic and unique "Origami" heel.  It is formed by asymmetrical increases which create a flap off to one side.  This flap is seamed closed with a 15-stitch Kitchener, which makes it tuck in neatly and form the cup of the heel.

On Ravelry, I have read it many times: a first-time sock knitter navigating the heel for the first time.  Whether top-down or toe-up, the heel seems to be a little miracle of geometry that is hard to visualize.  The advice is usually "Run a lifeline, take a deep breath, and just follow the pattern blindly."  Skew felt like that for me - I really had no idea how this heel was going to come together until the moment it did.  Exhilarating!

My Skews fit my feet fairly well (although I made the foot a shade too long), but the feedback is that the fit is specfic around the ankle.  That band across the back of the ankle can make the sock too tight for people with wide feet or ankles.

The yarn is my own hand-dyed, using a base of Wildfoote Luxury Sock, which was squishy and lovely.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Sock Lab, Round Four: Sidewinders

I could not truly say that I have explored alternate sock construction if I hadn't tried turning all parts of a sock on their sides.  Sidewinders is my first completely lengthwise sock, and it was a great choice of pattern - well-thought out, simple idea, multiple sizes, excellent instructions, good results!

In order to get gauge I used needles one size larger than I usually do, and I think that was a mistake - the sock fit fine, but maybe a little baggy by the end of the day, and I like my yarn knit up tighter in general.  My yarn choice was great - striping yarn whose color changes were long enough to make nice stripes even though each row of my sock was up to 150 stitches long.

My favorite part of this sock is the way the stripe dips down at the heel.

My only difficulty with the pattern was that I ended up with ladders in the two sections that involved paired decreases.  I switched from skp to ssk, and thought that was helping, but when I wore the socks it was clear that I just wasn't able to tighten up the area between the two decrease stitches well enough.

I solved the problem by repairing: I threaded a small loop of yarn at the bottom of the ladder, and, with a small crochet hook, created a new stitch between the decreases by looping up the rungs of the ladder, then same way you would pick up a dropped stitch.

This is not the pattern for you if you have a mental block about grafting, as you graft the entire seam from cuff to toe!  It took about an hour per sock seam.  It was a little unnerving to go along on blind faith, since you can't really try on the sock until the seaming is done, but then - voila! - the moment of trying it on is very satisfying.

My husband says these socks look like lizard skin!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Sock Lab, Round Three: Spread Spectrum

I once had a therapist who told me that "the last 5% takes 95% of the effort" - who would have guessed that she was talking about a pair of socks I would knit eighteen years later.  Almost every part of these socks was knit twice.

This pattern, Spread Spectrum, is designed to be done in one piece with intarsia, an afterthought heel, and a wedge toe worked in the round after picking up stitches at the end of the foot.  It took me very little time to realize that intarsia really wasn't very much fun. (I've been spoiled, I guess, by starting intarsia projects with crochet - so much easier.)  A delightful brainwave, though, I was able to immediately apply what I had learned from making Stripe Tease socks, changing the method of construction completely but not the actual architecture or end result:

The bands of the cuff were made one at a time, joining as I went by incorporating slipped stitches picked up from the edge of the previous band.  Aside from the lace patterned cuff, the only variation in the cuff bands was the number of stitches / width of each band.  Don't forget, when you cast on, to add selvedge stitches, one for every seam!

The foot of the cuff was cast on as a separate piece, and joined to the cuff piece using slipped stitches on the instep only.  The rest of the cuff and foot edge stitches were left unattached to make a base for an afterthought heel.

Sock #2 defied me over and over.  It started when I kitchenered the cuff into a tube and learned at the end that I had two stitches more on one side than the other.  Which meant all my bands were misaligned - too egregious to just fudge the extra stitches at the end of the kitchener.  At one point making the foot, I discovered my stitch count was off, and found a dropped stitch more than half-way up the piece.  Ribbit, ribbit.  I accidentally attached the foot and cuff backwards, so the kitchenered seam of the cuff would have been in the front of the sock.

Then the finishing.  For some reason the toes turned out different lengths.  I adjusted the length of the foot panels because I thought I knew better than the pattern, and the foot came out too long.  I tried a standard afterthought heel on one sock and a star heel on the other.  Then I put the damn things on, and the fit was terrible.  The seam under the toes bothered me.  The fit at the heel was too tight.  The foot was too long and the toe was too short.

So I photographed them for posterity, and ripped them out up to the cuff.  Well, my daughter got to do that part because how often does a four-year-old get to frog an entire sock foot without getting in trouble?

I remade the bottom part of the sock using a Sweet Tomato Heel and the Stripe Tease pattern.  Though the stitches go in the normal direction, it still shows off the yarn in an interesting way, and the fit is much better.

The yarn was gifted to me, and is all exactly my favorite sorts of colors except that really bright neon green.  I haven't decided yet whether to overdye the socks and leftover yarn to tone that one shade down a bit.  The effect of these socks would be ruined if the color variegation weren't visible.

Was glad to do this pattern once, but won't tackle it again.  The effect of using variegated yarn in narrow bands to better show the colors can be achieved in Stripe Tease without the fit challenges of a sideways sock.  Also the sideways construction of the cuffs makes them slouch.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Sock Lab, Round Two: Stripe Tease

I was chomping at the bit to start this pattern the moment I discovered it.  The brilliant General Hogbuffer has come up with a technique and recipe that is intuitive, easy to modify, and perfect for a variety of uses like finding a good way to show off variegated yarn, or using up leftovers.  I didn't do either, choosing yarn very similar to his own choice, and the results were spectacular:

The concept is blessedly simple: work the cuff in your usual stitch count + six. The extra six stitches are selvedge.  Knit one stripe in the flat, from cuff to toe, with a slipped stitch edge.  Then pick up stitches when you are done with one stripe, and work the next stripe, joining as you go by incorporating the picked-up stitches.

I thought I hated picking up stitches, but with a slipped-stitch edge, it was really simple!  This technique opened up all sorts of possibilities in my brain, and the method is a really nice alternative to intarsia or shudder seaming.  The pattern Stripe Tease can be found for free on Ravelry.  I knitted these in Mary Maxim Step It Up yarn ("Tie-dyed" colorway) on 2.25mm needles.  The yarn was a pleasure to work with - splitty, as singles yarn always is, but with consistent thickness and fantastic cheery colors.  The label suggests hand-washing but there was no shrinkage (just a bit of fuzzing) when I washed these socks on cold/delicate and dried them on the gentlest setting.
I would totally knit this pattern again!  I already have plans for a few more pairs.