Monday, September 22, 2014

Evolution of a sock pattern


Modified Joan Hamer socks
I tell folks I use Joan Hamer’s sock pattern a lot, but there have been changes.  That sock, available for free, is a good starter pattern:  following the traditional structure but using a bulky or double strand of worsted weight yarn and size 8 needles, it goes really fast and is a great way to start knitting socks.  But over the years, I have made some changes:

1. I prefer to knit both socks on a long circular needle, which has an impact on how I interpret the pattern.

2. Using a double strand of worsted weight, I never did bother with the smaller needle for the top ribbing – I knit tightly enough that going smaller than an 8 (5mm) for such a thick yarn just seemed like overkill.  The original pattern calls for a double strand of Lion Brand Wool Ease, which is a light worsted weight.  If I am using Red Heart Super Saver, which also calls itself a worsted weight, I use a single strand -- but I don't normally use that for socks because I found that acrylic wears out pretty quickly.  These socks were made with a double strand of blue/green thin worsted weight wool (from a cone of yarn I got somewhere) held together with a single strand of 100% nylon brown sock yarn (ancient stuff I got somewhere else).

3. I like using a 3x1 rib for socks:  Ribbing for the whole leg of the sock makes it hug the leg more, which I like.  Plus, it looks different on the two sides so I can tell where I am easily (especially near the beginning, in case the knitting gets turned inside out for some reason.  I may or may not switch to stockinette for the foot.

4. After discovering that my sweetie generally wears holes in the heel, I switched to the afterthought heel from the standard heel flap/turn/gusset structure of the original pattern.  There are a number of tutorials online for afterthought heels.  I learned this from reading Elizabeth Zimmermann.  It is easy to forget to switch to stockinette at this point, so sometimes the whole thing is ribbed, as I did here.  If I remember, I switch to stockinette about an inch before the heel placement (working from the top down).

When I compared my foot to his, and my foot is 9" long, I saw that his foot is about 2" longer than mine - easy to remember:  When the foot is 7" long (I will be adding 2" for the heel later), it is time to start the toe shaping.  Starting with 32 stitches around, I decrease down to 6 stitches on each side, then graft / Kitchener the toe to finish.

5.  For the afterthought heel:  Pick up the stitches that were on the waste yarn (that would be 16 on each side).  To prevent a gap, pick up one more stitch on each side, in the corners.  That way, there are 34 stitches around.  Stitch 1 round even before starting the toe shaping for the heel decreases.  On the toe of the sock, there is always an even number (starting with 32 stitches around).  On the heel, starting with 34 stitches around (17 on each side), there are always an odd number of stitches on each side.  Decrease down to 5 stitches on each side, then graft / Kitchener the remaining stitches to finish.  Speaking of gaps, leave about 4 inches of tail to have some yarn for finishing, at the beginning, end of toe, and at the heels.

6. Sometimes, when it is time to replace the heel, I crochet the new heel, using a single strand of worsted weight and whatever hook comes to hand, which is more likely to get done.

Other than that, the pattern is just the same.

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