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Sock knitting evolution (Or MamaDeb catches up with the rest of the universe)

July 28, 2008 Leave a comment

When I started knitting socks, I used five double-pointed needles. These weren’t a problem past the first couple of rows, other than when I turned the short-row heels. I couldn’t take them out of the house at that point. I thought the 7″ dpns were too long, but the 5″ ones broke in my hands. I’m too strong for birch (although Brittany will replace them for free.)

Then I decided to learn Magic Loop. This took me, oh, seconds, I think, and while I’ve started socks with dpns since, and even tried the two-circular method, I always end up back at Magic Loop. This shows that there’s no One Right Way for everyone, that it’s good to learn different methods and that there will be a best way for YOU.

Along the way, I also learned to knit socks cuff-down *and* to knit flap-and-gusset heels. I’ve discussed this before, of course. At this point, I don’t care which direction I knit and I very much prefer f&gs heels to short-rows.

To knit f&gs with Magic Loop, I followed the directions in Charlene Schurch’s books for two circulars, since they’re essentially the same thing – an adaptation of the dpn instructions. In dpns, the sock is divided among four needles, as evenly as possible. These needles are numbered, beginning with the left of the instep, 1-2-3-4. (If one is using four dpns, the instep is all on one needle, with two and three becoming the sole.) In circulars, no matter which method, the sock is divided in half. Eventually, this division becomes the instep and sole.

After one turns the heel (done only on the heel needles/side), the heel stitches are picked up. At this point, dpn users renumber their needles so that the orientation right side/left side of the sock instead of instep/sole (or front/back of leg.) Schurch has circular users do the same thing – move the stitches such that the right half the food is on one side/needle, and the left is on the other. To simulate the spaces between the needles that clue when to decrease the gusset, one uses stitch markers. This works fine, although there are times I want to do heel stitch on the back of a toe-up sock, and slipping stitches between needles is awkward, and there’s always the awkward point of deciding when and how to move the sock back to the “correct” orientation – plus there’s always the problem of the stitch pattern, which might need k2tog in the middle of the instep or something. (This problem also exists for dpns, of course, which is why you see sock instructions specifying dividing stitches unevenly.)

Despite the problems, it works fine, and I’ve knitted many a pair of socks this way. In my last completed pair, Monkey Socks, that’s how I knitted the first of the pair. However, before I knit the second one, I read a book by Debbie Macomber where she had her characters learn to knit socks using two-circs. And her knitting pattern (a Nancy Bush used by permission) did not change the orientation – the instep stayed in one piece on the instep needle, and the gussets stayed with the heel and sole stitches on that needle.

In between my finishing the first sock and beginning the second, my brother-in-law and his wife had a baby girl (welcome to the world, Winifred Celia!) So, I had to finally make-up the cardigan I’d knitted for her big sister and, while I was doing that, I figured I’d also make a pair of baby socks for Wynn. Those tiny sockies were ideal for trying *that* method of making heels.

Oh, my goodness. Just not having to move the stitches made these so much easier, plus it was easier to keep track of when to decrease (and when not.) And I didn’t have to divide the instep in half. But the best part was that when I was finished with the gusset decreases, I could just move into knitting the instep and sole with absolutely no fuss.

It was a trifle more awkward when I used that method for the second Monkey Sock because it’s not easy having 32 stitches on one needle and 54 on the other, but it was manageable and, anyway, it corrected with time.

By tonight, I’ll be testing this on a toe-up sock. Maybe I’ll have pics.

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