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Hi there, nice to have you visiting! I'm Heidi and this is the blog for Heidi Bears. Here is where I post all the happenings in my work and daily life. Here and there you'll find info on things that have caught my attention as well as the odd tutorial. I hope you enjoy your visits. I love to have feedback, so leave me a comment!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Designing a basic sock...Part 1

Hi all my blogfriends! I finally got a moment to blog...not that I have been snowed under by quests tedious and draining...au contraire! Our knitting group decided to do a travel-get-together today, to test out and become familiar with the new Gautrain here in Johannesburg. Now, for all the readers who do not live here in South Africa, you may not have heard of this new-fangled thing... we have a veritable fledgling public transport system now!!!!! It may seem like nothing to be very excited about....but, when you realize that there is no safe, affordable public transport at all in South Africa, then truly this is a wonderful thing! The Gautrain was fabulous :) Clean, safe, efficient, on time (!) and comfortable and user friendly....I mean, what can one ask for more than that? We went to a local bookshop, ate cake, chatted (and it must be said...I actually did do some knitting!), bought some beautiful books...and came home happy and amazed! Well done to the Gautrain people! And now onto the blogpost...how to design a basic sock for yourself...


Obviously...your foot
A tape measure
A knitted gauge swatch in your chosen yarn and stitch of choice (I am going to do a basic, stocking stitch sock pattern to start with...)
Note pad and pen
Ruler with inch/cm lines

Ok, lets start at the beginning...

What is a sock really? If you break down the fancy patterns, stitches, different toes, heels, cuffs, and so on, what you have is a tube with a little sticky-outy bit for the heel. This is wonderful, because if you've looked at your foot lately, it isn't really much of a tube at all. And yet, if the tube is appropriately sized, and the sticky-outy bit for the heel is the correct size...it fits! So....if you can design a knitted tube with a closed end, that fits the circumference of your foot well, all you need to add is the heel bit, which wonderfully, will be determined in part by the very number of stitches you use to knit the tube! Ok, I know that there may be people out there (perhaps like Shrek...), who have feet that may be a little different in proportion...I am merely attempting to explain how to make a sock for a normal, average person's foot... :)

An ideal sock is seamless, with no lumpy bits that make wearing them uncomfortable, so knitting them in the round is ideal. I know that there are people who knit socks flat and then seam them up, but when you see how easy it is to knit them in the round on a Magic Loop, you'll never knit them flat again!

Yarn and needles

There are obviously endless possibilities in choosing a yarn for your socks. That being said, it is generally a good idea to stick to sock weight yarn, or a double knit weight (or something in between...) If you are seriously intent on creating your life's work sock wise...by all means use a lace weight...but if you actually want to end up wearing your socks some time this century, choose a yarn that will knit up relatively fast. The yarn manufacturers will give you some indication on the ball band, what size needles to knit on. This recommendation is not terribly helpful (in my opinion...), when it comes to knitting socks. In reality, needle size is not that critical...how it feels and looks when you've knitted a swatch, is more important.

Let's discuss an example...

I am going to be using a DK weight yarn (100% superwash merino) for the sock demos in the subsequent posts. The general indication would be to knit this on needles ranging from 4-5mm. I knitted a swatch on size 4.5mm needles, and found that the resulting fabric was too loosely made and hole-yish (?is that even a word)...it wouldn't be snug and warm. When I knitted a swatch on size 3mm needles, the fabric density was perfect. So, play around with some swatches (they really don't take that long to knit...), until you are happy with the way the knitting feels and looks. I am only referring to a stocking stitch socks folks...obviously a fragile, pretty lace designed sock is going to be loose and hole-yish... :)

Right...yarn and needles chosen... now to start with the real work...

Because you are knitting the sock from the toe up, you are able to periodically measure the sock on your foot, and by how it fits, decide if your tube is long enough. So in reality, the length of your foot is only critical in determining if you have enough yarn for your project, however I will walk you through the process... ( If you are knitting a sock for someone who hasn't handily left their foot in your keep, you will have to take into account the length of the recipients foot.)

Firstly, measure your foot around the widest part of it...this will generally be around the ball of your foot. Secondly, you need to measure the length of your foot. Stand with your heels against the wall, and ask someone to place their finger at the tip of your big toe. Note the point, and measure the distance from the wall to that point. (If your big toe is not the longest toe in your foot, mark the point in front of the longest toe). Measuring your foot with a ruler while contorting your leg into an unnatural backward bend, is certainly going to give you an erroneous result ;)

Ok, you have your two measurements... now subtract 10% from each...this is to allow for so called "negative ease"...which really means that you want your sock to "hug" your foot, and to achieve that , you need to have a sock that is slightly smaller than the actual measurements of your foot. This is the reason why is is advisable to knit the sock in a yarn with some elasticity (or springyness)...wool is probably the best or if you are allergic to wool, a cotton/bamboo/linen etc that has some elastic type addition to it. If your ankle is a lot bigger than your foot circumference, you must measure this as well. You will need to increase the number of stitches you have as you get to the leg portion of your sock, or it will not go over ....

It's a good idea to keep a small notebook with details of your sock...note the yarn brand, yarn weight, needle size you've decided will work best for your sock, as well as your foot measurements.


Yes, the dreaded word.... this is really important...trust me it will take a lot less time to knit the swatch and work with accurate measurements, than it will take to frog two socks and re-knit them (by which time you will probably never want to see a sock again!)

You have got to make a gauge swatch, folks!!!! Because the actual row gauge(the number of rows you have in an inch) is not as critical as the stitch gauge (the number of stitches in an inch), I tend to knit a swatch that is wider than it is long. In an ideal world, one should gently steam and block the swatch...but since life is too short, I just make sure that the work is on my cable rather than the needle (this allows the swatch to "relax" and contract to it's natural wannabe state...), and then measure my number of stitches in an inch. In the pic below I have indicated the stitches in a red "v". If you look at the stitches between the pins indicating the inch, you will see 6 and a half stitches. The half stitch is actually important, so don't fudge it at this point...count the half...

Ok, to recap...

-Choose your yarn
-Using needles slightly smaller than the recommended needle size on the yarn ball band, knit a swatch to see if you like the density/look of the knitted fabric
-Measure your foot length, and the width at the widest part of your foot (usually the ball of your foot), and if necessary, the ankle/leg width
-Determine your stitch gauge by measuring the number of stitches in an inch of your swatch
-Write it all down...you will need them for the next post....

If there are any things you are uncertain about in this post...please sen me a mail...I will try to clarify... :)

Have a great evening,
Lots of Love,
Heidi :)


K said...

Aha!! It appeared!! Much relief. And YOU are far more fun than going somewhere and sitting through some (maybe relevant, maybe not) class. You know, it took me about five or six hours to put up the rainbow cake blog, and it wasn't a tutorial, and my lighting was terrible. I can't imagine how you find the time and focus to do these gorgeous bits of sharing for the rest of us. Bless your heart, my girl.

(Do you hear the thunder? First real storm of the entire summer. What a strange year this has been.(

Linda said...

My Dear Friend, this is amazing, thank you so much, the mystery of knitting socks is actually becoming clearer to me:)

Baa-Me Kniits said...

Brilliant, I am off to swatch. I can cast on with the magic method but am getting a bit confused at the start of my knitting. As I turn the needles so that the knitting needle is on top and the purl stitches are facing...got that, I get lost when you say twist it a bit to start with the first knit stitch. Are the purl bumps still facing me?? Hope this makes sense??

Lilacs 4 Angels said...

I was taught that if I am knitting in the round, like two socks at a time on two needles, that the swatch should be in the round also.