Sunday, March 22, 2009

Laetare Sunday

But there is no joy in Mudville. We lost. We didn’t entirely disgrace ourselves. There were flickers of hope, even in the second half. But that’s not the same thing as winning. Subsequently, Ireland beat Wales by two points in what must have been a thriller, and won the Grand Slam. But I was weary and sad, and didn’t watch.

I got my Adult Surprise swatch done during the match, and during the second half, as hope waned, I read and re-read the pattern as given in The Opinionated Knitter, and decided that it contained serious errors. This is a bold statement, Mrs Miles of Drummond Place vs. the Schoolhouse Press. EZ, the great enabler, the scorner of Blind Following, becomes positively Delphic when it comes to the Surprises. She delights, there, in baffling us, and demands blind following. Maybe I had it wrong?

Last night, knitting away at the Princess, I decided in one of those blinding flashes of the obvious, that the solution was not to take the Adult Surprise to London after all, but to revert to socks as usual and order a better version of the pattern. The Games are still four months away.

This morning, just now, I went to the Schoolhouse Press and did a search on Adult Surprise. And what to my – surprise! – should I find, but an erratum sheet which addresses the very points that puzzled me. So most of what I had intended to write this morning is now unnecessary, but I can take the Surprise with me after all. I don’t know what I’ll do.

Thinking about socks: maybe someone can advise. For a long time now, more than a decade, I have knit Plain Vanilla socks for all. For gents, I knit them with 64 stitches on 1’s, on the one-size-fits-all principle, and no one complained until recently, when my husband had such trouble getting into his latest pair that I passed them on to James. He wears with perfect comfort socks knitted in earlier years which have adjusted themselves to his feet, slightly swollen by diabetic narcolepsy or whatever it’s called.

But what should be my next move? 64 stitches on larger needles? 72 stitches? 72 stitches on larger needles? Socks represent a sufficient investment in time – especially gents’ socks – that I want to get it right first time. And whatever I do will render the result too big for anyone else. Please advise if you can.

I have embarked on row 29 of the 13th repeat of the Princess centre. I mean to finish with row 38 of the 14th repeat, so pretty soon I will be doing each row for the last time, an encouraging thought. I have laid two rows now of the garter stitch foundation for my signature box, so the Die is Cast. I may reach the foothills of the actual lettering today.

Laritza has recently finished the centre – she’s not the one who knits at faculty meetings – and is worried about the corner. I think she’ll be fine. I think people who worry about the Princess pattern – Ted, you used to be one – are making needless trouble for themselves. Sharon knows what she’s doing – and she knit the prototype in cotton, which is presumably a bit less accommodating in the blocking than wool. Relax.

I spread my Princess out yesterday, to cheer myself during the match. (That's the television, in the upper left-hand corner.) No wonder a row takes a long time.


  1. Anonymous8:57 AM

    How about diabetic neuropathy? Although I like your version better!

  2. Hi Jean,

    When I knit socks for my husband I use 72 stitches and 2,5mm (1.5 US) dpns. His UK shoes size is 10,5. I hope that helps.

  3. Anonymous12:05 PM

    Jean, if you like the fabric and density on size 1 needles, then just add some stitches rather than risk a too-loose fabric, I think. Adding the judicious ribbing here and there, e.g. center of foot (as in some athletic socks) and leg would accomodate any swelling and adjust to his foot.
    I guess another option would be to go up a needle size, but use a slightly thicker, cushier yarn than usual to preserve the density.
    All of this being said by someone who has only knit one pair of socks for her husband, and quite a few more for herself!

  4. Anonymous12:17 PM

    Go with more stitches - 72 usually works for the male of the species. But don't increase your needle size - the tight knitting makes the socks wear better.
    LOVE your blog - I'm just not much of a commenter.
    in Minneapolis, land of many yarn stores

  5. Hi again,

    I should have mentioned I'm a tight knitter so my gauge with 2,5mm dpns might be the same you get with your needle size. I always rib the top of the foot and the whole leg to get more fitted socks (I don't mind ribbing a all).

    Happy knitting

  6. I knit my husband's socks on size 1's with 84st cast on but I do a 1x1 rib all down the leg and the top of the foot. This is using sockweight yarn. It uses more yarn but it gives the socks an excellent fit and keeps him warm. He wears a US size 11D, which I confess I don't know the UK conversion for.

  7. I recently learned, I think from a Lucy Neatby DVD, that if you double the yarn for the twisted German long tail cast on, the edge will be extremely stretchy.
    I just finished a pair of the Primavera socks, which are very ribbed, and are not particularly feminine (perhaps almost art deco?). I think an extra column could be added to the pattern easily.
    K3 P1 sounds just fine too though as a stretchy alternative.

    And that shawl is really amazing! Thanks for showing the recent progress.

    Lisa in Toronto

  8. The only thing I can think to add to all of the previous comments is my one experience with too-big socks.

    They were knit for a male friend in handspun wool, but unfortunately, my friend died before I could present them. It was all very tragic and sad.

    The socks sat in my drawer for three years, as they were too big for my feet. Finally, I decided to wash and dry them in the machines and they emerged a perfect size for me, plus being denser. I am wearing them at this moment.

    Of course, this wouldn't work for super wash wool.

  9. I love the knitting curmudgeon's pattern for the Traveling Wilbury socks. It's the only one I use for serious socks and they always turn out perfectly, no matter what gender I knit them for. I don't know why, I think they must be magic.

  10. Loosening up the gauge makes the socks less comfortable on the soles of the feet while walking - also they won't wear as well. the diabetic feet are sensitive i hear.

  11. Hi Jean - I knit socks for my husband with 64 sts on 2.5mm needles, to fit UK size 9. I too would suggest adding stitches instead of changing the needle size, you probably don't want a looser fabric. Maybe you could try 68 or 72 sts next time? Working the leg and the top of the foot in 2x2 ribbing makes the fit very forgiving.

  12. Anonymous5:10 PM

    Jean, I routinely knit my socks on 72 stitches, using a combination of 2mm and 2.25mm needles to give a firmly knitted fabric. I like 72 sts, because I can use stitch patterns with multiples of 2, 3, 4, 6, 8, 9, 12, 18, 36. (I think that covers the possibilities, but maybe I've missed one.)

    Of course, if hubby's foot is larger than leg, you can start on 68 sts and reduce to a larger number when doing gusset decreases. (You'll have thought of that, though.)

    The other thing I did that really improved the fit of my socks (and made it easier to get them off and on)was to move the gusset decreases to the bottom of the flap, rather than the top where most people put them. This allows the fabric around the ankle to be more flexible in use. If you have the line of decreases at the top of the flap, it functions like a seam and reduces flexibility in an area where you need a lot of it. This lack of flexibility doesn't seem to matter much around the bottom of the heel.

    I don't know if moving the decreases to the bottom of the foot will be uncomfortable for someone with sensitive feet. In that case, all you have to do is simply work decreases in random locations anywhere within the triangle formed by the gusset stitches. The point is to shape the triangular gusset; where the decreases are positioned is not that important.

    And the last thing I've done to improve the fit of my socks is to work the gusset decreases every 4th row (or sometimes every 3rd) rather than every second.

    Long comment, sorry. Hope you find it of some use.

  13. Anonymous5:11 PM

    Sorry, that was me who left the preceeding comment. Posted without leaving the URL for my blog and thought you might not realise it was me.

  14. Anonymous5:58 PM

    I read you every day and I believe that is the funniest thing I have ever heard you say!!

  15. Adding stitches rather than changing need size sounds sensible.

    You'd want the socks to be easier to pull over a sensitive foot, so ribbing down to the ankle (sigh, I know) might help and then what about using one of those stretchy sock yarns?

    Bingo! I just tried googling and found this article in Knitty, Summer 2007. It's all about knitting socks for diabetics!

  16. Ooops, I see the URL got mangled. Here it is again:

    If you drill down through the Knitty menus, after you get to the Summer 2007 issue, look for the article called "Socks for Diabetic Feet" by Ennien Ashbrook.

    Oh, and if you type diabetic into the pattern search on Ravelry, several socks patterns pop up.

  17. Anonymous5:48 AM

    Luni on
    "Three Sleeves to the Wind"
    wrote a post about
    Knitting Socks for Tender Feet

    She purled the soles so the smoother side would be inside.
    She also wrote:
    "About halfway through the leg,
    I realized that although the
    k3, p1 ribbing was smooth
    on the outside it produced a "bumpy" inside. I was afraid that the single k1 rib would rub
    against my friend's leg and irritate his sensitive skin.
    When I began the heel flap,
    I turned the sock inside out, placing the smoother k3 side
    of the knitting to the inside.
    .... About a half-inch before
    the heel, I added an additional
    purl stitch to the pattern,
    making a k1, p1 section across
    the instep to allow more stretch
    there. Once I knit the heel,
    I continued this k1, p1 for
    another half-inch before switching
    to plain stockinette for the foot."

  18. The sock problem comes down to gauge! Perhaps you used a slightly thinner yarn in the problem socks.You can add stitches in multiples of 4. You could add ribbing, especially if his foot swelling is not always the same.

  19. Thankyou for asking this questin, Jean. In my fantasy world, the one where I become an enthusiastic and prolific sock knitter for all my difficult-to-buy-for male relatives, I've wonderd about how to adjust fit for bigger feet. Excellent resources pointed out by everyone!