Thursday, April 10, 2008

I had another nasty comment yesterday – nasty in the sense that it offered a link to what threatened to be a most unpleasant website. Kathy spotted it first. I’ve had several of these lately – ostensibly from different sources – and if it goes on, I will have to switch to verification like grown-up bloggers.

I finished the first Fog sock, as hoped.

Stash Haus, you’re right that most plain vanilla sock patterns have ribbing all the way down to the heel. I can’t remember quite how my Standard Sock evolved. I took up sock knitting again 12 years ago – I can be precise because it was travel knitting for a trip to the US to celebrate my mother’s 90th birthday. I had recently discovered the Internet and Patternworks and Socka Colors. Those first socks were a colour I think is called teal and they’re still in my husband’s sock drawer although darned, and getting thin.

I used a pattern Patternworks sold. I carried it for a long time and all the writing got rubbed off. Now I know it by heart. But it was I, not Patternworks, who put in that longish plain section between ribbing and heel.

Why? I think that’s the way people like them, but maybe I am inflicting my own preferences on my audience. Ribbing all the way would be tedious to knit, but neater. I will raise the subject when next I have a group of them together.

Which might be soon…

My husband had hoped for an London-art-viewing session this month. With his recent round of mouth-centred ill health, he hasn’t felt up to it. But the last few days, he has started feeling, after all, that maybe he could manage it. He has got to have two of his few remaining teeth pulled this afternoon, where the abscess was. If he is comfortable tomorrow, we’ll go to Strathardle. I’m way behind with my vegetables…

And perhaps after that, London, in the week beginning April 20. My sister and her husband will be there. It would be jolly to see them. They will have to sleep under the billiard table if we’re in the spare room.

So we shall see.

Meanwhile, I reflected last night that sock-knitting incorporates two or perhaps even three knitting techniques which I remember learning from a human being. Almost everything I know comes from books.

I have no memory of learning to knit in the first place: presumably my father’s mother taught me. I think it was a friend at Hampton Elementary School in Detroit who taught me the long-tailed cast-on, and the idea – which I still use, with socks – of casting on over two needles held together, to ensure that the cast-on edge will be elastic.

Much more recently, a grown-up friend taught me to avoid that hole in the corner of the gusset by taking up two or even three of the horizontal threads that lie between the last gusset stitch and the first instep one and making a stitch of them. Same on the other side. Then decrease those extra stitches away in the first decrease round. I’m getting pretty good at that one.


  1. Thanks for the tips you give in knitting socks - one of my current projects. I especially appreciate the tip re avoiding the hole in the corner of the gusset. When I show my husband a sock I have just completed knitting, he always points to that hole. One of life's little annoyances. I will try your method soon.

  2. I switched to comment moderation specifically because I started getting spam comments. It requires a little more work on my part, but a few extra clicks are that taxing an exercise and I figure I can soldier on.

    My preference is generally to have ribbing through most of the sock leg, as I have narrow ankles and well-muscled calves which tend to cause socks to bunch unless there's ribbing to hold them in.

  3. it's amazing how those "fudging" stitches become part of one's life, and something you almost "can't" teach -- often you have to be frustrated enough to just "do" it and it does come out in the end. But thanks for posting the tip -- a good reminder to us all.

  4. I teach that gusset stitch trick in my sock class, it is harder for a newish knitter to grasp, but eventually they figure it out. I use my basic pattern (in my head) much like yours, Jean, especially for self striping yarn, but shorter ribbing and I shape gently towards the ankle. Unless I know the recipient is of the sturdy ankle variety. I like the stockinette, it goes faster and the shaping helps them stay up as well or better than ribbing.

    My spam filter in wordpress gets abut 99% of the smutty comments, and when I check the filter it is shocking to see how many there are.

  5. Anonymous2:20 PM

    I have never heard of that gusset trick--I shall have to try it out- I do something similar that I just figured out myself because I did not like the hole.

    I took up sock knitting because of a neighbor named Chet. He was a big tall environmental sciences grad student who had been a park ranger. Our dogs were friends and we would sit in the corner of the dog run chatting while they played. It was there that I told him I knit and he said that he did too. I think I must have stared at him in amazement, but he said there was a lot of downtime as a park ranger, watching for wildfires and the like, and he learned to make hats and socks because it filled the time and they fit better then store-bought ones. At the time I had never made a pair of socks, and I told him I thought that they were too hard. He laughed and encouraged me to make a pair. The next day I got the yarn and some instructions and it was history from there.... I owe all my sock-making to a big burly dude named Chet...

  6. When making a plain sock, I very much prefer a nice long plain section. My stepmother's mother once said about kneading bread dough that you do it until you're sick of it, pretty much sums up my feeling about ribbing. However, in an effort to get some kind of pattern into his life (or onto his feet), I'm knitting K2P2 ribbed socks for the boyfriend's big feet. I'm not sure my sanity will survive the experience.

  7. Anonymous6:54 PM

    re the hole in the corner: i knit that horizontal thread together with the first and last stitch of the heelflap resp.,
    and i do 2k2p ribbing all the way down almost till the flap. i have to admit that i like the look of a good ribbing.


  8. Funny! I've been knitting socks since I learned to knit (as a child) and I've never heard of the gusset trick. Do you just pick up from the one stitch, or do you take up stitches willy nilly?
    I think I'll have to go look for a tutorial!


  9. Anonymous3:16 AM

    I like about an inch plain between the heel and the ankle ribbing -- it seems to fit better, and stay put, if that makes any sense. That's assuming, of course, that I do more than an inch of ribbing at the very top, as I find ribbing horribly tedious.