Sock Along with Joyce Williams
Our dear friend, author, and knitter Joyce Williams passed away on August 4th, 2011. Joyce was a treasured assistant at our knitting camps and someone we admired for her knitting skill and innovative designs and techniques. Most recently, Joyce helped edit Knit One Knit All, a collection of garter stitch patterns by her mentor Elizabeth Zimmermann. Joyce is also the author of Latvian Dreams and co-author of Armenian Knitting (see at left). Her Knit Along provides a glimpse of her knitting genius and a way to hear her voice once again.
Joyce also offers personal notes and other tips at the end of the Knit Along.
Two Socks on Two Circulars (and One Sock on Two Circulars) with Joyce Williams
Our sock Knit Along by Joyce Williams, author of Latvian Dreams and Armenian Knitting. Joyce has knit two pairs (not at the same time) of comfortable and durable socks for trekking in Peru. She'll give us instructions for both; one pair using Guernsey wool, the other Satakieli. However, gauge does not have to be determined in advance and any yarn suitable for socks may be used. We'll learn Joyce's innovative sock knitting techniques, developed by her in the early 1990s, including a variation on Turkish or Eastern European Cast On and a short row heel. Two socks will be knit from the toe up at one time on two circular needles with several options for the tops provided as we knit. And, Joyce will explain how to knit one sock at a time, on two circulars, as well for those knitters who have not previously knit socks on circulars.
*If you wish to make long socks you may want
2 skeins of Satakieli, though it does have exceptional yardage. Schoolhouse
Press will honor returns at any time as long as the wool is in its original
state (unwound skein). We always recommend ordering more wool than you
think you need.
From Joyce about Gauge: One of the advantages of knitting socks from the toe up is that you do not need to know the gauge in advance. Socks tend to wear better if knit at a tight gauge so I will knit the Guernsey socks at a gauge of 7 sts/inch (recommended on wool band). The Satakieli I knit at a gauge of 7.5 sts/inch, rather than the wool band recommended 6.5. Both sock gauges can be obtained by using US Sizes 1, 2 or 3, although I use Size 0 because I am a loose knitter; loose knitters consider 0s or 1s. Tight knitters 2s or 3s. Or, whatever size helps you attain gauge of 7 sts/inch in Guernsey, 7.5 sts/inch in Satakieli.
From Joyce about Preparing Wool: When Knitting two socks at one time, I work with either, one or two balls. However, one needs to pay a little more attention each time you switch from one needle to the other when working with both ends of one ball. The yarns will twist around each other if you don't pay attention, and it is more difficult to untwist them when working with only one ball. Beginners to this technique should use two separate balls of wool as they knit the pair of socks on two circular needles.
March 9, 2009: Section I
Note: Below is a PDF file of Section I for easy printing. It does not include certain portions of this web page so I recommend reading through the knit along online first and using the PDF in conjunction with what resides on this page. The PDF begins with "Please Read" section to end of Joyce's notes.
Also, if you wish to join the Yahoo group to participate in discussion with other knitters, go to Join Knit Along Chat! (You'll need to become a member of Yahoo, if you aren't already.) See Joyce's notes about the group and questions for the instructor in her Please Read section.
Socks Knit for the Sock Along
At the time I was asked to do this Knit Along (or Sock Along), I had plans in November to take a Craft Cruises knitting cruise from Fort Lauderdale, Florida to Lima, Peru with Cynthia LeCount Samake and Nancy Thomas as the knitting instructors. There was also a week long extension Cynthia was leading to Cuzco and outlying villages where we would visit spinning, weaving and knitting artisans. An overnight trip to Machu Picchu was also scheduled and while I was there I intended to climb Hyuana Picchu, the mountain so frequently shown in the background of shots of Machu Picchu.
As long as I can remember I have worn white wool sport socks year round when hiking. Consequently it did not take me long to know what type sock I wanted to knit for the Sock Along. I had enough Guernsey yarn left after knitting the longer socks to make a short pair to wear with walking shoes.
As many of you know, there was a little hiccough in my plans that necessitated spinal surgery mid-August. That negated the idea to climb Hyuana Picchu, but I still kept my fingers crossed that the Cuzco trip could be a go. Fortunately three weeks before I was to leave the neurosurgeon gave me the go ahead so I was able to use both pair of socks; the longer ones at Machu Picchu and the shorter ones visiting the villages.
I started out to knit the dark green socks with a skein of Satakieli yarn that I had left after knitting a cardigan using one of the large charts in the back of Latvian Dreams Knitting From Weaving Charts. I intended to have them solid green, but you will notice I changed my mind and decided to incorporate colors on the top that were in the sweater. I have knit several pair of socks with the ridges all done with one color, so the additional colors are not necessary. I really like the comfort of these tops.
Please Read: You will note this Sock Along is written in two different colors. The black is the pattern, and the green (guess what my favorite color is) explains how I work specific functions, why I take certain steps, etc. The green will also include some meaningless chatter not really useful to you at all, but will give me the pleasure of being able to chat with knitters and answer some questions I frequently receive. I admit sitting in front of a computer is not a pastime that I enjoy and I am terrible at checking in with groups. I do that at very random intervals. If you have a question you wish answered by me during this Sock Along, please send the question to: Michelle (email@example.com). Michelle will forward the question, and I can assure you it will be answered much more quickly than it would be if posted to the Yahoo Knit Along group. Remember, this involves questions you wish me to answer directly, not comments or questions in general to the group. Those should be sent to the Yahoo site.
Let us start knitting! You may use any yarn suitable for knitting socks. I have knit two pair of socks plus a shoe top length sock for this Sock Along using: Pair 1 and short pair: 2 balls Guernsey wool Pair 2: 1 skein Satakieli wool (Both yarns available from Schoolhouse Press.) Needles: 2 – 24 inch circular needles. Optional, but very highly recommended: A gallon zip lock bag; not the type with a slider, but type you squeeze together to close.
When knitting socks I prefer to knit at a slightly tighter gauge than called for on the belly band of the yarn. Because there is less friction on stitches when tightly knit, they seem to have a longer life. I am all for long-lived stitches! Guernsey knit at 7 sts/in is quite tight, so I did knit those socks at recommended belly band gauge, but Satakieli socks I knit at a gauge of 7.5 sts/in rather than recommended 6.5 sts/in. You may wish to take this information into account as you select your needle size.
When I first started knitting small circumferences using two circulars, I used two 16 inch circular needles. I soon realized if I worked with 24 inch circular needles I had a longer straight portion of the needle to hold on to, thus making it easier on my hands. I also realized I could not think of anything I could not knit if I owned two 24 inch circular needles of every size. Think about this next time you head out somewhere and think you might be stranded on a desert island. It is definitely something new knitters should keep in mind as they start out their new needle collection.
Needless to say, my needle collection (I hate the word stash – my collection deserves more dignity than that!) has multiple numbers of each smaller sized 24 inch circulars, and a little lesser numbers of the larger sizes of 24 inch circulars, plus multiple numbers of 40 inch circulars. One does not want to be limited to how many projects they have in progress, even though progress sometimes necessitates a rest along the way. The two 24 inch circulars I use for projects with as few as four stitches total and will knit with them up to the point where the project is plus 25 inches in circumference. Then I use the one 24 inch circular until I feel the stitches have become too crammed on the needle, and I go back to using two needles. (I am referring here to projects that keep getting larger in size such as circular shawls.) When the project has reached plus 40 inches I go to a single 40 inch circular.
Note to knitters that have not previously worked with two circulars: You may want to try one of the two following options to get adjusted to working with two circulars before attempting doing both socks at the same time.
1. Cast on 8 or 10 stitches and work on knitting a small practice pouch until you are comfortable with the technique. (Follow the sock instructions but work only the instructions that apply to sock 1, and eliminate the increases.) For the first few rows it appears that you are knitting in two opposite directions, but shortly you will see a pocket form and it will be noticeable that you are knitting in the round.
2. Cast on and increase as in instructions, but one sock only. After you feel comfortable with the technique (probably after you have knit a few rounds beyond the increases), at the end of a round put the stitches from needles #1 and #2 on hold on separate pieces of yarn, or on two smaller size circular needles. Quite naturally if you happen to have two more of the same size circular needles, just leave the stitches on them and start second sock on another set. Then knit the second sock to the same length. Place the first sock onto the needles. Be sure that the beginning tail is at the left edge and the working yarn is on the back needle at the right edge of the socks. Continue to work both socks as instructed.
All the socks in this Sock Along are knit the same until after the heels are turned.
Cast On: (These socks are knit from toe to top.) Use 2 same size 24 inch circular needles. With working yarn make a slip knot with at least a 3 inch tail on stiff portion of what will be referred to as needle #2. With both needles in left hand, hold tip of needle #1 above and horizontal to the tip of needle #2, tips pointed to the right. Bring working yarn from slip knot behind needle #1 and around the front of needles #1 and #2. (Picture 1)
Starting Wrap (1)
Wrap both needles in this direction 8 times, which is half the total number of stitches you are casting on. Make a backward loop with the working yarn and place it on tip of needle #1 only.
With second ball of yarn make a slip knot as before and place on needle #2. As just previously done, wrap both needles from back to front 8 times. (Picture 2)
Wrapping Complete (2)
Lightly hold working yarn and last wraps next to needles with index finger and thumb of left hand, and slide needle #2 (the bottom needle) so wraps are on the flexible portion of needle.
I have found that no matter what size sock I am knitting, or what gauge I am using, by wrapping the needles 8 times (for a total of 16 stitches) it gives me a toe that fits whoever I may be knitting for. If you choose to, you may certainly use a different number of wraps. A good starting point might be the number of stitches you tend to decrease down to when working a sock from the top down.
Round One: To assist me in keeping my yarns from plying while working two socks, at this point I place my yarn balls in a gallon size zip lock bag. I have yarn from each ball coming out of the bag at opposite ends of the “zip” and I seal across the top. (Picture 3)
Yarn in Ziploc bag (3)
I place my bag of yarn in my lap. With opposite end of needle #1, knit wraps of first sock off left tip of needle #1. (Picture 4)
First Knit Wrap (4)
Bring sock 1 yarn over the needle and leave it in front. (By leaving it in front, when you turn your work to start knitting with other needle, it will be available to bring to the front and be ready to be used when needed.) (Picture 5 and 6)
First sock yarn left on front (5)
Yarns brought forward from back needle in position to be knit with front needle (6)
Remove backward loop made with sock 2 yarn from left tip of needle #1 and with sock 2 yarn, knit across the wraps for sock 2. Slide needle #1 so all stitches are on the flexible portion.
As you knit the first edge stitch of each sock, remove stitch just knit from tip of left needle, and align the new stitch on right tip with the last stitch (or wrap) on flexible portion of the opposite needle. Continue to align the following new stitches to the stitch on its right as usual when knitting.
Turn work. Slide wraps for sock 2 to left tip of needle #2. (The tip of the needle will have the initial slip knot, and the working yarn will be coming from needle #1 which will be behind/below needle #2. Hold working yarn, remove slip knot, and with yarn coming from needle #1, knit across wraps of sock 2. Leave working yarn forward. Take hold of working yarn for sock 1 from needle #1 which will be behind/below needle #2. (You will be looking at the knit side of your knitting.) Remove initial slip knot, (picture 7)
Ready to remove slip knot (7)
and knit across wraps for sock 1. Slide stitches on needle #2 to flexible portion of needle. You have just completed one round.
As you continue knitting around, place the cast on tail first to the inside of your knitting, and next round place it on the outside of your knitting. (Picture 8 and 9)
Cast on tail inside (8)
Cast on tail outside (9)
This way you are weaving in the tail as you go. When your knitting is approximately 1-1/2 inches long, discontinue the weaving in and out and leave the tail on the outside of your knitting. You neat knitters, avoid breaking off or cutting the tail. This acts as your marker. The tail is half way through a round, which makes the beginning of the round the edge without the tail.
As you work rounds, when you turn your knitting between needles, one time the working yarns will cross over each other. Next time you turn, turn your work or the bag with your yarns to uncross the cross over. When you want to put your knitting away or take it somewhere, simply slide both front and back of socks onto the flexible portion of the needle, roll the knitting up and place it into the zip lock bag.
Some miscellaneous things I have found useful. Each time you turn and start with a different needle, be sure you are knitting onto the same needle you are knitting off of. You can do this by visually looking at the circle the needle makes, or you can tug slightly with the tip of the needle in your right hand to confirm the tip of the needle in your left hand moves. Doing this brief check each time you start with the different needle may save you time in the long run as you are not going to have to undue (tink) stitches you knit onto the wrong needle.
If your knitting is interrupted in the middle of one of the socks, slide the tips of the needles out so your stitches are further away from the tips. It is very easy for the needle to slide out of the stitches if left too close to the tips. If you are interrupted between two socks, when you go to pick up your knitting the needle with both socks on it will be the needle in the back. The sock just completed will have the working yarn at the left edge on the front needle, and the yarn you will start to knit the next sock with will be on the back needle. Begin to knit the last sock as usual.
When you pick up your knitting sometimes one sock will have flipped around and the flexible portion of the needles between the two socks will be twisted around each other. Be sure to untwist before you proceed with your knitting.
Very Important: If your stitches are not easily sliding over the joins of the flexible portion and the tips, check to make sure you are not tightening up the first stitch on each needle too much, or that your increases are not too tight. If all the stitches have to be forced over the join, it usually means a bad join. If this is the case, the biggest favor you can do for yourself is to return the needle(s) to where you purchased them and get a new needle or set of needles. Recently when leaving on a trip I grabbed two circulars and some yarn to start a pair of socks. Both needles had bad joins, and I struggled through the pair of socks only because the other project I had with me was much larger and the socks were easier to take along in my purse. From now on I will check joins when leaving on a trip where I cannot purchase more needles.
Toe Increases: Increase until you reach the width of your foot at the base of your toes (stand on a ruler to get this measurement or wrap a tape measure around your foot), or you may try on the socks until your desired width is acquired.
It will first appear that you are knitting in two opposite directions, but after a few rows it will be noticeable that a pocket is forming and you are knitting in the round.
Toe Increase: This increase has two stitches between the increases at each side of the sock. (Picture 10)
Sock Toe (10)
Round 1: Needle #1 and Needle #2, both socks. Knit 1, right increase of your choice, knit to last stitch, left increase, knit 1. Remember to change the yarn ball you are working with between the two socks.
Round 2: Knit around.
Repeat Rounds 1 and 2.
When you have reached desired width (which is half the circumference of the sock), continue to knit round and round until you have reached desired length to turn the heel. You may measure the length of your foot to determine desired length, or you may try a sock on. You start to turn the heel when the sock reaches the back of your heel. I suggest you may also want to try the sock on after you have reached the measured length. If the sock stretches horizontally at all, it might affect the total distance required.
Raised Bar or Running Yarn Right Increase: Yarn as it travels between two stitches is referred to as a bar or running yarn. From the back, go under bar with tip of left needle and catch bar. Insert right needle tip from the left under the left leg of bar at front of needle, forming a loop. Knit loop off left needle. (Picture 11 and 12)
needle under bar from back (11)
right needle tip from left under left leg of bar (12)
Raised Bar or Running Yarn Left Increase: Yarn as it travels between two stitches is referred to as a bar or running yarn. From the front go under bar with tip of left needle and catch bar. Insert right needle tip from the right behind right and in front of left legs of bar to back of left needle, forming a loop. Knit loop off left needle. (Picture 13 and 14)
needle under bar from front (13)
right needle tip from right (14)
Knit in the Row Below Right Increase: Insert right needle tip from the right under right leg of stitch in row below. Place stitch onto left needle by inserting tip of left needle through center of stitch and in front of right needle. Knit stitch onto right needle. (It is a twisted stitch.) Knit stitch above stitch just knit. (Picture 15)
needle in stitch in row below (15)
Knit in the Row Below Left Increase: Catch left side of second stitch down from stitch just knit on right needle (third stitch down on right needle) by inserting left needle tip under left leg of stitch and out through center of stitch. With right needle knit into stitch from left side of stitch, twisting it. (Picture 16)
Left needle in second stitch down (16)
Knitters certainly do not knit the same way. I feel the raised bar
increase gives me the best appearing increase, while Meg Swansen gets
the best results with the knit in the row below increases. You may wish
to experiment and use one on one sock and the other on the second sock.
At the end of this section of the Sock Along, I will throw in some of my chatter which answers questions I am frequently asked. Reading definitely not a requirement! Be back on March 18. Hope most of you will be close to approaching your wanted foot length at that time. Those of you that have the pleasure of a lot of time to knit and reach your sock length before then, please be patient as you wait for us to join you. (You certainly must have a project or two you can work on while waiting.) It is so nice to be able to have most of us knit along together rather than some having to feel rushed and in need to catch up. Remember this is a Sock Along, not a marathon.
I am often asked how I came up with the idea of working with two circulars. In either 1990 or 1991 I knit a many colored body of a sweater depicting winter on the farm where I live. I used Shetland jumper weight yarn and incorporated Bohus style knitting. It did not have a specific overall pattern, but I threw in random scenes as I knit. The body had so many colors and overall intensity I felt I wanted to have the sleeves a solid color. Since the sweater was representing winter, quite naturally I chose off-white for the sleeves which I had frequently used in the body.
I picked up sleeve stitches around the armhole and started to knit down toward the cuff. I was working with a 16 inch circular needle when I reached elbow length and decided I would like to try the sweater on to see how I liked the solid off-white sleeves. Being rather a lazy knitter, I decided to knit half the sleeve stitches on a second 16 inch circular rather than put all stitches on hold on yarn. I liked the sleeve color and decided to continue on. I grabbed a third 16 inch needle and knit the stitches from the original needle. When they were all knitted, I just automatically grabbed the opposite end of the needle I had earlier knit the second half of the sleeve stitches with and knit them. Midway through I realized what I was doing and at the same time it dawned on me I could knit small circumferences using two circulars. I continued to knit and decrease the sleeves all the way using the two 16 inch circular needles.
I have not knit with double points since that time except when working twisted I-cord. I have absolutely nothing against double points, other than the fact I never liked using them. It always seemed to me it was a dangerous feat with all those ends poking out in all directions. Fortunately it was my mother’s favorite method of knitting and the many years I was knitting ski sweaters for myself she would knit matching socks for me. However, I did knit the sleeves of the sweaters myself using double points, but never really enjoyed what I considered was knitting dangerously.
After I started to use the two circulars I demonstrated it at Meg Swansen’s Knitting Camps and also self-published the technique in sock and glove patterns as well as on self-published videos. I gave workshops teaching the technique around the country. Word of mouth spread the technique and it was brought up frequently on KnitU, as well as being published as a technique on the Sock List with my permission. In 1999 I was contacted by Nancy Thomas, then editor of Knitter’s magazine and asked to write an article about the technique. I did write the article and it was published in the summer 2000 issue of Knitter’s .
I am also asked about Cat and I both simultaneously coming up with knitting on two circulars. We both independently came up with the idea, not simultaneously as is reported in some sites on the Internet. To quote from Cat’s first book: “I did not wake up in the middle of the night with a sudden realization of how to knit this way. Instead, I spent months puzzling over how to use two circulars to knit a tube, following blind instinct, seemingly making no progress. It seemed obvious that it must work, but how? Having knit many socks on double pointed needles, I thought the process would follow the same steps. I kept trying to work from one needle to the other, tying myself in spiraling knots that I had to back out of. I don’t recall precisely how I muddled my way to “ Eureka!”, but within days of solving the mystery Joyce Williams' excellent article on knitting with two circulars appeared in the summer 2000 issue of Knitters’ Magazine .”
Next question: How did I come up with my method of starting at the toe? In the Sept/Oct 1993 issue of Piecework magazine Anna Zilboorg had an article on Turkish socks which are commonly knit from the toe up. This is the first I had heard of knitting socks from the toe up. Anna gave very clear instructions with drawings on how to do it. Since I thought it to be a wonderful idea, I proceeded to try it exactly as written which was wrapping the yarn around two double pointed needles and knitting them off with a third needle. After spending 20 to 30 minutes attempting to do as instructed with no luck, I told myself I really did not want to start socks from the toe up.
A few days later the “duh!” came. I had been using two circulars for several years. Why did I think I had to use double points for this technique just because the instructions told me I should? I got out my circular needles and slid the wraps on the bottom needle so they were on the flexible portion which made it much easier to knit the wraps off of the top needle. One thing that still gave me trouble, however, was that the original instructions did not have you secure the yarn end in any way which I had trouble holding onto as I was knitting off the wraps. Thus I came up with the slip knot on the bottom needle.
Another change I made was the direction of the wraps. Anna’s sketch showed the yarn being wrapped around the needles from the front to the back. This is traditionally what the Turkish would do as they have the left leg of their stitches in the front of the needle. (Now days you seldom see Turkish knitting where they knit into the front of the stitch, but rather into the back of the stitch so it is not twisted.) If you come across older Turkish knit socks you will see stitches twisted to the right as the knitter had knit into the front of the stitches. As you will note, I tell you to cast on wrapping from back to front so the wraps will have their right leg in front of the needles and you may knit into the front of the wraps as you work them off the needles without twisting the stitches.
And, what is the advantage of knitting from the toe up? For one thing you end up with a seamless toe (although I guess you could also consider weaving the toe stitches together seamless). Increases give you a smoother fabric than decreases. Thus, for those with sensitive toes, the toe up method would be the better way to go. And, last but not least, starting from the toe you can continue to knit until you run out of yarn and quit, no matter where you are beyond a short distance after the heel turn.
March 18, 2009: Section II
Note: Below is a PDF file of Section II for easy printing. If you do not have a color printer, I suggest, after printing off a copy of the Sock Along, highlighting or marking the sections of the text that are green. This should help you determine what is pattern instruction and what are techniques or other comments.
Turning the Heel: (Worked on Needle #1 only, one sock at a time.) To determine the number of stitches for the short rows, divide the number of sock sole stitches (those on needle #1) by three; i.e., the short rows will be worked on one-third the stitches on each side of the center third. (If you are working on 30 stitches for the sole, you will be working with 10 stitches in each section. However, if working with a number not divisible evenly by 3, have the larger numbers at each side and the lesser number in the center; i.e., with 32 stitches for the sole, have 11 stitches at each side and 10 stitches in the center of the sole.)
1. Knit across one-third the stitches (possibly plus one – see above) wrapping yarn from back to front over right needle so left side of loop is over front of needle. (Photo 1: Wrapping yarn from back to front over right needle.)
(By doing this now, you may later knit the stitch together with the yarn over on its left without having to replace the stitch on the needle to avoid a twisted stitch.)
2. Knit across next one-third stitches in normal manner (two-thirds of heel stitches worked). Reverse.
Numbers 3 and 4 below are for knitting back and forth onto your left and right needles separately (knitting back backwards). I feel this is a very useful method of knitting to learn as it works very well when working bobbles, entrelac, turning heels, etc., and you may even go as far as I have and never turn your knitting or look at the inside of it again when knitting flat. (When working garter stitch I purl onto my left needle.) Since the majority of people never see your sock heel, it is a good place to practice. If you prefer you certainly may work the short rows in your favorite method.
Knitting onto left needle:
A. Insert tip of left needle into center of stitch on right needle going behind right needle. (Photo A: Yarn over left needle, insert left needle into back of stitch on right needle.)
B. Wrap working yarn from back to front to back around left needle. (Photo B)
C. Lift tip of right needle up and over wrap on left needle, (Photo C)
and release stitch from right needle. (Photo D)
Repeat steps A through C.
3. Make a tight yarn over left needle. Knit onto left needle (see photos A, B, C, D above) one-third center back stitches, reverse. 4. *Make a tight yarn over right needle. Knit onto right needle (Photo 2) across to yarn over. (Photo 3)
Knit up to yarn over. (3)
Knit two together (the knit stitch on the left of the yarn over together with the yarn over so the yarn over is eliminated behind the knit stitch). (Photo 4)
5. Make a tight yarn over on left needle. Knit onto left needle to the yarn over. (Photo 5)
Insert tip of left needle from the front into the stitch on the right of the yarn over, then into the yarn over, and behind the right needle. (Photo 6) Wrap the left needle as usual. Lift the right needle with yarn over and knit stitch over the tip of the left needle and remove right needle.
The yarn over will be eliminated behind the knit stitch.*
Repeat steps 4 and 5 until the last stitch on Needle #1 is knit together with its adjacent yarn over. Bring yarn to front.
Repeat the short row heel turn on sock 2.
Knit across both socks on needle #2. When you start next round, at the start of each sock on needle #1 only, knit two together through the back loops (the first stitch and the yarn over on its left), then continue to knit around.
For the Guernsey socks (off white), knit around for one inch and on the Satakieli sock knit around for two inches. Of course, no matter what yarn you are using you may knit a top of your choice.
Be back on March 24.
I have done some reading on the Yahoo group site and it made me want to relate my experience to you. I had been knitting for about 40 years when I met Elizabeth Zimmermann. One of the first things I learned from Elizabeth was also one of the most important things I ever learned about knitting. That is; look at your knitting and learn how to read it. Prior to meeting Elizabeth I would knit any pattern no matter how difficult, but I read the pattern as I knitted and never really read what was happening in my knitting.
If you are having trouble keeping track of needles #1 and #2, remember: you are always going to be knitting onto the same needle you were knitting off of: needle #1 is always needle #1 and needle #2 is always needle #2 and the parts of the socks that are on them will always remain on them. The best way to make sure you are knitting with the same needle is to visually make sure it is forming a circle when you start using it.
Also, the instructions have you weave the tail up the side of the toe and leave the end hanging out after weaving for about an inch or so. This means that the tail is the separation of needle #1 from needle #2 half way around the round. So when you see there is not a tail at the bottom edge of the sock where starting to knit on a needle, you are knitting onto needle #1. And, if you see the tail is below the edge where you are starting a needle, you are going to be knitting with needle #2. If you are a neat knitter and do not want a tail hanging out, simply place a pin on the first side you knit which will always be on the needle #1 side.
When you make an increase, read your knitting to see what an increase looks like. In our sock along the increase is made after the first stitch of each sock. On the following row look at the second stitch. Since the increases are every other row, if the stitch is an increase it means you knit around and if it is a knit stitch you make another increase before knitting the second stitch in from the edge. When you are increasing multiple rows apart it is probably easier and more efficient to use row markers, but when increasing (or decreasing) every other row it may not be necessary to use markers.
I know when I started to look at and read my knitting, the amount of frogging and tinking I had to do went way, way down. (Although at that time I do not think those words were in existence yet!)
Ultimately, do what works best for you but I truly hope this Sock Along will inspire you to continue “looking at and reading” your knitting. Hearing those words from Elizabeth was the best thing that ever happened in my knitting life.
March 24, 2009: Section III
Note: Below is a PDF file of Section III for easy printing. If you do not have a color printer, I suggest, after printing off a copy of the Sock Along, highlighting or marking the sections of the text that are green. This should help you determine what is pattern instruction and what are techniques or other comments.
Longer Guernsey Sock Top – Off-White: As a slight variation from a plain ribbed sport sock, I chose to do a knit two, purl two ribbing with a two over two stitch cable at the center back. To work a plain knit two, purl two ribbing your total number of stitches should be divisible by four. Or, if you prefer a knit one, purl one ribbing, your total number of stitches should be divisible by two. If you wish to do the two over two cable at the center back, your total number of stitches should be divisible by four plus two stitches. Decrease or increase if necessary in the last row before starting the ribbing to obtain the desired number of stitches.
If you wish to work the two over two stitch cable at the center back, count from the start of needle #1 to the space between the two center back stitches. Mark this space with a coilless pin. To determine where in the ribbing to start the round, count the stitches to the right of the coilless pin by knit two, purl two, knit two, purl two until you reach the beginning of the round. It will depend upon the number of stitches you have for your sock where in the ribbing you will start the round. Whatever it is, begin the round with the necessary knit or purl stitches. The last two stitches before the coilless pin marker will be knit two. After the marker knit two, purl two to end of sole stitches. At the start of needle #2, use the appropriate stitches to continue on with the established ribbing. On the third round, cross two of the center back knit stitches over the other two center back knit stitches.
Cables without using a cable needle: For cross overs knit to the 4 center back knit stitches, remove the 4 knit stitches from the left needle. To make a right front cross over, with the last 2 knit stitches in front, replace the first 2 stitches onto the left needle. Pick up the last 2 stitches onto the right needle tip, and then replace then onto the left needle. (Photo 1)
Photo 1: Right cross over without cable needle: The 2 right stitches have been replaced onto left needle, and 2 left stitches are ready to be replaced onto left needle. Then knit all 4 stitches onto right needle.
Knit the 4 stitches and continue on in ribbing. To make a left front cross over, remove the 4 knit stitches from the needle. With the last 2 stitches in back, replace the first 2 stitches onto the left needle. With right needle pick up the last 2 stitches in back and replace them onto the left needle. (Photo 2)
Photo 2: Left cross over without cable needle. The 2 right stitches have been replaced onto left needle, and the 2 left stitches are ready to be replaced onto left needle. Then knit all 4 stitches onto right needle.
Knit the 4 stitches and continue on in ribbing.
Work cables using a cable needle: To make a right front cross over, place first 2 stitches on a cable needle and hold in back, knit next 2 stitches, replace stitches on cable needle onto left needle (Photo 3) and knit.
Photo 3: Right cross over with cable needle: Two left stitches were knit while 2 right stitches were held in back on cable needle. The 2 right stitches are now ready to be replaced onto left needle and knit.
Continue on in ribbing. To make a left front cross over, place the first 2 stitches on a cable needle and hold in front, knit next 2 stitches, replace stitches on cable needle to left needle (Photo 4) and knit.
Photo 4: Left cross over with cable needle: Two left stitches were knit while 2 right stitches were held in front on cable needle. The 2 right stitches are now ready to be replaced onto left needle and knit.
Continue on in ribbing. (You may notice I do not own a cable needle so used a sewing needle instead.)
Continue to work in pattern, crossing the cable stitches over each other every fifth row, until you have reached your desired length ending with a cross over round. I mirror imaged my cross overs on each sock by crossing over to the right on one sock and crossing over to the left on the second sock. Bind off loosely in either a knit or purl bind off.
A very good way to mark rows I learned from Lizzie Upitis. Take a piece of yarn, fold it in half, and tie knots amounting to the number of rows between needed decreases, increases, or in this case a cross over. The cross overs will occur every five rounds, so tie five knots. When you prepare to knit the first cross over, place the top loop onto the right needle between the purl stitches just prior to the knit 4 stitches. Purl 1, work the cross over and continue around. Each time you come to the knotted yarn, drop the needle down one loop. After you have worked the round with the needle in the fifth loop, the following round you will move the needle back up to the top loop, purl 1 and work the cross over and continue to move the marker as before dropping down a loop with each round. (Photo 5)
Photo 5: Yarn Row Marker moved down to next loop with each round. Photo indicates that you are working on the third round.
Short Guernsey Sock Tops: After knitting one inch above the short row heel turn, purl three rounds, knit three rounds, purl three rounds. Bind off loosely in purl (same as knit bind off, except you purl the stitches).
Satakieli Socks - Green: After working two inches of stocking stitch after heel turn, purl five rounds, knit four rounds, three times. End with purl five rounds. Bind off loosely in purl (same as knit bind off, except you purl the stitches).
I deviated from the above solid color by changing the colors for the knitted rows. I have fond memories of seeing Elizabeth Zimmermann do this two color technique in 1986, the first year I attended Knitting Camp. Someone during their show and tell had shown something using the horizontal purl and knit ridges in one color. I then noticed Elizabeth reach into her yarn basket and pull out two colors, a gold and off-white. She started purling rounds with the gold, then knitting off-white rounds, purling gold rounds, knitting off-white rounds, etc. The knit off-white stitches tucked in between the gold purl rows and were just enticingly visible. I recalled that incident as I approached the top of these socks, and decided to use the technique with colors I have used in a sweater knit with Satakieli yarn.
I worked as follows:
When I started the colors my intention was to carry the green at the beginning of the rounds behind the second colors. After the second round I figured it would be faster to weave in ends than trying to work carrying four colors, so broke the green when changing colors. This does mean you have a lot of ends to weave in.
If you wish to use the color variation technique and do not have more Satakieli colors, other yarns of the same gauge could be used.
That is it for the Sock Along. I will be back on March 30 explaining some of the things I have experimented with while knitting socks through the years which you may (or may not) find helpful.
Knitting Two Socks On Two 24 Inch Circular Needles Sock Along
This section is about my own personal experiences knitting socks, and at the end I suggest ways you may vary the basic sock design described in this Knit Along. We will switch to black for that part if you wish to skip over my green chit chat section.
I started knitting at age seven, but I did not knit many socks when I was younger as my mother loved to knit socks and I was fortunate that she would knit them for me. I started to knit more socks after my mother was no longer physically able to do so due to a stroke. I knit them following the steadfast way she had always knit socks. They had a variation of the Dutch heel, and her heel flap was knit with a knit one into back of the stitch, knit one regular. It definitely seems to make a better wearing flap, but it is not as smooth as the traditional flap. I have sometimes used this stitch pattern when working my short row heels as it is under my heels that my socks tend to wear out. (I may be small, but I stomp down hard when I walk)
My problem with the heel flap was that I would have a hole (which sometimes seemed huge) at the top edges of the flap that I did all kind of things to try to fix, but never was really satisfied with the end result. One of the main reasons I knit is because I am entranced by the rhythm of the hand movements and the feel of yarn going through my hands. I am not a perfectionist when it comes to tension, etc. and rely on wear and washings to even things out. Every once in awhile I will decide to knit more evenly and will concentrate on making all stitches even, but after about five minutes I am back to merrily knitting away enjoying myself and paying absolutely no attention at all to tension. But, those holes at each side of the top of the flap bothered me!
Once I knew Elizabeth Zimmermann and started to look and understand what was going on with my knitting rather than follow a pattern stitch by stitch, I realized I did not have to do things just because that was the way they were done. I decided to see if I could come up with a solution that would not require me to knit heel flaps. I looked at commercial socks and saw their heels appeared to be short rows. I knit a shoe top length pair of socks using short rows for the heels with just a stocking stitch curl at the top. I thought the heel turn might not be enough and the socks might sink down into my shoes as tube socks seem to do. I put my new socks on and headed to the golf course (with a pair of regular golf socks in my golf bag in case the new socks would not work). After walking 18 holes (and no improvement at all in my golf game) the socks were still above my shoe tops.
I thought I had maybe come up with an “unvention”. (Those of you not familiar with Elizabeth, she felt despite the fact she came up with an idea she had never previously known about, someone else at some time must have had the same idea. Thus she called her ideas “unventions” rather than inventions. (I believe in her theory.) I decided to check and found that the short row heel had been used for many years, but it was worked in both directions rather than one. I proceeded to knit a sock with the heel short rowed in both directions. I found it did not fit any better, left the holes I was trying to avoid with heel flaps, and took twice as long to knit. The second sock was knit with my previous one way short row heel. (Since no one usually sees the heels or toes of my socks, quite often my pairs are not exactly a pair.) This experimenting took place sometime in the late 1980s (pre-1993 when I discovered socks could be knit from toe up) so these socks were knit from the top down. When working from the top down the short rows are worked from the side edges toward the center, rather than from the center out as when knitting socks from the toe up. All socks I have knit since then have used the short row heel worked only in one direction, either from edges to center or center to edges although I do continue to experiment and will knit a new heel design I see or come up with another idea myself. At one time I had a very strange looking long tube with lots of angled heel turns separated by several rounds.
Shortly after working the short row heel I attempted to knit a pair of stranded knit socks and discovered that the short row alone in stranded knitting did not have enough stretch to put on the foot. Thus, I came up with a method of incorporating a gusset without a heel flap and with a short row heel. (See black section for working a gusset if necessary in a toe up sock.)
I also experimented with shaped toes for right and left feet, one pair with separate big toes (decided I did not like my big toe off by itself), increasing and decreasing to shape the feet, lots of knee socks for cross country skiing and wearing with skirts in the winter, etc. After all that I have ended up in recent years knitting pretty much the basic sock pattern I gave instructions for in this Knit Along.
So, why have I ended up usually knitting a plain old sock? For some years I shaped the toes of all my socks for right and left feet as I was totally convinced they fit so much better. Then one evening when getting ready for bed after wearing a pair of knee socks an entire day that had a cable down the side, I realized the cable was down the inside of my leg. These socks had right and left shaped toes. I decided that if I could not tell my socks were on the wrong feet after wearing them all day, why go through the work of having to check what foot I was putting my socks on. I have not shaped toes since that day. Of course, I still had to worry about where a side cable ended up, but started to knit socks with a cable going down the center front or back so I did not have to think about what foot they were going onto in my groggy morning mode.
Someone during the Knit Along asked if I worked ribbed arches. Back when I was golfing quite a lot I had some golf socks that had ribbing in the arch area. They fit tighter through the arch so decided to knit a pair of socks with a ribbed arch area. After going through the extra work of ribbing, I tried them on and immediately realized that ribbing is a stretchy fabric and pulls in when not on and appears tighter, but stretches out when you put it on. Those socks did not fit me any tighter through the arch than my plain old stockinette stitch socks which also form to my foot and do not leave funny ridges on my feet when I wear them. I then closer examined my golf socks and saw that their ribbed section also contained elastic. I do not use elastic in my knitting as I have seen enough of it in commercial products wearing out faster than the garment. I do not mean to discourage people from working ribbed arches, but personally I much rather knit stockinette stitch than ribbing. Since the ribbing did not improve the fit on my foot, I will stick to my favorite stitch for arches.
I have a large supply of knee socks that I now seldom wear so my knee sock knitting days seem to be over even though I greatly enjoyed knitting them. The change in their usage came about because I now live in a rural area and my life style has changed and I infrequently wear a skirt. I also do not cross country ski as often (because of snow falls not cooperating). I usually knit socks to match sweaters I knit, but it is for my own self gratification. Very seldom does anyone realize my socks match my sweaters as I am usually in jeans or slacks. But noticed or not, I will continue to knit socks.
About the only time I now knit on socks is when I am away from home. My motto is: “Never leave home without your sock knitting.” I always have a pair in my purse and take them out when I have to wait somewhere, wherever it may be. Socks are small enough to always have with me, and easy enough to work on so I can people watch as well. Sometimes it takes me a very long time to finish a pair as I have not been kept waiting. I find myself actually hoping for slow service so I can have some knitting time. I also think my sock knitting makes me a better person. Instead of impatiently waiting, I am merrily knitting along and whatever or whoever finally shows up is cheerfully greeted.
Variations that can be made with the basic sock pattern given in this Sock Along: It is fun to watch the patterns emerge from pre striped, etc. yarns and they work very well with the basic pattern given in this Sock Along. I find it especially fun to see what happens around the heel and it is an incentive to work fast through the foot for those that get bored working that area. I am not nearly as fussy as some knitters who go to great lengths (literally) so the dyes match. I have worked from both ends of one ball and found enjoyment watching the stripes form in opposite directions at different times. (It does not take a whole lot to make me happy when I am knitting.)
I have pretty much finished that phase of my sock knitting, and back to working solid color socks with texture or even stranded knit color patterns. For the stranded knit socks I work the single color feet two at a time, but when I get to the top I work the stranded knit part one sock at a time. That does present the one sock syndrome, but I am not a juggling parlor trick person and would rather have the syndrome than work with four balls of yarn at a time. I can get snarls in my yarn when I am only working with one ball.
A couple tales about my non-dexterity yarn handling: One day I was sitting across the room from Meg and working on a stranded knit project. After a while Meg said to me; “Joyce, I have been watching you knit and you have never crossed the two yarns. How are you getting your yarn into that tangled up mess?” My reply was, “T’aint easy!” Another time Dale Long was watching me get my two circular knitting out that was being worked with two colors. He figured it was taking me forever to untangle everything so I could start knitting. His comment was; “I think I will stick to my double points.” My comment to him was; “You should have seen me with those. I would have to put stitches back onto at least one needle, plus untangle the yarn. This is speedy!” But, my non-dexterity yarn handling has made me a very good back lash getter outer when fishing.
Back to business. As mentioned above, I usually like to knit socks to match my sweaters. In my book Latvian Dreams, Knitting From Weaving Charts (published and available from Schoolhouse Press), there are three pair of socks where I used the basic foot pattern used in this Sock Along, and took portions of the sweater pattern and used that at the top of the socks. One pair has a textured top and the other two have stranded knit tops.
In the book Gathering of Lace (published by XRX) there is a picture of my sock on page 141. Again it was knit using the basic pattern, and has a fold over lace top. Meg Swansen (the gatherer of the lace) wanted me to have something in the book that would include my variation of the Eastern European cast-on as well as my use of two circular needles, both techniques used in the Sock Along. These techniques come in very handy with lace knitting. The cast-on is an ideal way to start circular lace (you may start with as few as four total stitches). You continue to knit on the two circulars until the circumference is large enough to go onto one. If working on a large piece such as a table cloth, you can continue going onto a larger and larger circular. When the knitting gets too crowded on the largest circular, you can go back to knitting with two large circulars. The two circular technique works for both small circumferences and huge circumferences.
Lace and texture patterns may be started on your socks right after you work the toes on the top side of the socks (needle #2). I start the patterns one or two stitches in from each side of the sock tops so the edge is not involved with the pattern. If you are going to be wearing the socks with clogs or shoes you may want to wait to start the pattern until you are near to where they end on your foot. Work the pattern on the top side of the sock until you turn the heel, and then work the pattern all the way around. If not adding a pattern until after the heel is turned, I do not start it until at least approximately one inch beyond the short rows. When finishing a sock with ribbing I start the ribbing at approximately two inches above the short rows.
There are many, many choices of lace patterns in A Treasury of Knitting Patterns, and A Second Treasury of Knitting Patterns by Barbara G. Walker (published and available from Schoolhouse Press). You will want to choose a lace pattern that has a relatively small repeat, and also one that is not too open as you do not want the lace to be too stretchy. In the same books there are many texture patterns, also with relatively small repeats, that may be used for socks as well as twist stitch patterns and cable patterns. Many of the cable patterns are grouped together, but taking just one of the cables and placing it on the sides, front of back of socks can be very effective. One cable breaks up the monotony of plain stocking stitch, but not as time consuming as having lots of cables. The Harmony Guide Books and some Japanese pattern books are also good sources for ideas. I have also used charts for texture found in books for Guernsey fisherman sweaters.
I have to admit I have a slight problem with Barbara Walker’s books. They have way too much in them that give me ideas and I can spend hours looking through them, amazed at all the beautiful patterns there are to work with. In fact, almost did that very thing just now! If you do not own at least one of them, put them on your gift list. The first two Barbara Walker books I mentioned do not have charts, but the patterns are smaller and I feel more conducive to using in socks than those in her other books.
I mentioned earlier that I knit stranded knit socks from the top down and add a gusset as the stranding does not have as much stretch as stockinette stitch. Although I have never had the need to add a gusset when working the socks with one color stockinette stitch, someone following this Knit Along found the socks too tight over her arch. The stranded knit socks where I add the gusset are worked from the top, but I feel it could be done by reversing the procedure. (Be forewarned, I have actually never put a gusset in from the toe up, so you are on your own. If you try it, let me know how it works.)
Determine how wide you would like to have your gussets. I usually added an inch on each side for the stranded knit socks, but they had hardly any stretch at all. For a stockinette stitch sock I would think each gusset ½ to ¾ of an inch wide would be enough. Work to approximately half way up your foot. Say you are working at a gauge of 8 sts/inch and want a ½ inch gusset. You would need 4 extra stitches on each side. The distance to the start of your heel short rows will be about the same distance you have already knit. Using the portion you have knit, determine how far apart each increase evenly spaced will be. (It does not have to be exact.) Count how many rows there are between two increases. Make a yarn row counter with knots (see Section III) equal to the number of rows counted between increases. Knit across needle #1 as usual. On needle #2 (top of sock) knit 1, place row marker, right increase 1, knit across to last stitch, left increase 1, knit 1. Repeat on next sock. Continue to knit around and increase as indicated with row marker. If you have made all your increases before reaching the length to work the short row heel, no problem! Just keep knitting to the correct length. The same applies if you are approaching the length to start your short rows and have not completed the number of rounds required to knit the increases. Go ahead and make the increases one or two rounds before starting the short row heel even though the row marker does not indicate enough rounds have been knit. (This is referred to as fudging. Perfectionists may find it fun to do every once in awhile.)
Work short rows as in the Sock Along pattern. On the following number of rounds equal to the number of increases made, work stitches on needle #1 as usual. On needle #2, SSK, knit across to last 2 stitches, K2tog. When you are back to the number of stitches you had on the top prior to increasing for the gusset, continue to work around working sock top of your choice.
This is the end of the Sock Along. I certainly appreciate the nice comments that have been sent my way. I am glad so many of you had fun. I threw new stuff at many of you, and it was nice to see so many willing to try new techniques. Elizabeth and Meg were a great influence on me to broaden my knitting knowledge and experiment with new techniques. I hope I pass that influence along to others. As Meg said to me one time shortly after I knew her when I asked her a question at a workshop, “You’re a smart girl, and you can figure it out.” Go figure and enjoy your knitting!
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