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Weaving In Ends

When I was a very young knitter both in age and experience, I knit my first sweater and wore it to an event called Rhinebeck where I was introduced to a rather famous knitter. Since the knitter is still living and still famous I will avoid naming the individual. The person doing the introduction was crowing about how well my first knitted sweater turned out. The famous knitter looked at the cardigan then pulled it off me and scrutinized the inside of the sweater. She said that the hallmark of good knitting was a very neat wrong side where the ends of the yarn are woven in so they cannot be seen. While most of my ends met her approval, some did not. She took the time to demonstrate how these should be handled. She did this by undoing them and then weaving them back together again. While I am grateful for her sharing her talent, I was traumatized by the whole thing. I didn’t knit another thing for five years and when I did, I dreaded the moment of weaving in the ends. I still do.

Shawls produce the ultimate dread regarding weaving in ends so they can’t be seen. After all, the wrong side of a shawl is easily visible and I’d rather you see my underwear than die of embarrassment from an improperly woven in end. So here is what I’ve learned since that first fateful trip to Rhinebeck.

With a sweater, yarn ends can be hidden in seams. Not so with a shawl. Often the edges of a shawl are patterned in lace which doesn’t make a great place to hide yarn ends. Unlike with a sweater, where the rule is join in new yarn at the edges where it will be lost in the seam, this doesn’t happen with a shawl. Sometimes I need to join new yarn while in the middle of a row. It is best to pick a point where there is a block of stockinette stitch surrounding the join. I keep my joins simple. The more simple, the less noticeable. I join new yarn by wrapping the new and old yarn around the needle and knit the stitch. This creates two stitches, which I mark so I remember to decrease it on the wrong side row. Below is an example of where I joined yarn in mid row. This kind of join has never unraveled for me. In fact the garment will wear out before the join gives way. It is, for me, the surest way to join yarn.

weave-in-ends-1

When it comes time to weave in the ends of the yarn, I want to prevent a hole. I do that by crossing the yarns.

weave-in-ends-2

Then when weaving in I weave yarn A one way and yarn B in the opposite direction. By weaving in, I mean that I am piercing the yarn of the purl stitches and drawing the yarn end through them.

weave-in-ends-4

I pierce three going down one row and then pierce three going up the next row. It is like duplicate purl stitching except that I am piercing the yarn and drawing the yarn end through in order to have it hold. If I just duplicate stitched, the end of the yarn would always be exposed as the garment is used. By piercing I am burying the yarn end.

In order to “lock” my weaving I select a purl stitch, pass the needle and yarn end underneath without piercing, draw yarn end up and pierce it as close to the purl stitch as I can get so it locks into itself.

weave-in-ends-3

This locking works very well with slippery yarns. Then I continue to work three down and three up piercing the purl stitches. Should my yarn end come unraveled the point at which it locks will stop it from further coming undone. In the end, my weaving in of ends looks like this:

weave-in-ends-6

I hope this helps some. My way is not the only way. There are many techniques for weaving in yarn ends. Give them all a try and find which one works best for you.

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The number of picked up gusset stitches is half the number of the total of heel flap rows. At this point, put the stitches held on the locking stitch markers back on their respective needles on either side of the instep.

Pick up the correct number of gusset stitches plus 1 extra, if needed, on either side of the instep. Carefully create the extra stitch so it will close any hole made by stressing the running thread during heel flap and heel turn work. This is done in one of two ways. Every knit stitch wears a little collar at the top. For a lifted increase knit into the little collar. The second way is to simply knit into the stitch in the row below. How you make the extra stitch is less important than where you place it. Search for the correct placement by trying different areas. You’ll know when it is right. On the next round, decrease the added stitches.

You also need to decrease the stitches added to accommodate a high instep. These decreases are done on the sole of the sock. Usually they are made 3 or 4 stitches away from the center of the sole.

Decrease the gusset stitches until the original cast on number is reached. Gusset stitch decreases are made on either side of the instep. On the right side of the instep knit to the last 3 sts then work a k2tog, k1. Work across instep stitches. On the left side of the instep work a k1, ssk. Work to end of round. On the next round work even, with no decreases. Alternate between decreasing on one row and working even on the following row until you’ve decreased to the original number of cast on stitches. Measure the length of the foot and jot down the number.

It is at this point that most sock patterns tell you to work even until the piece measures x amount of inches (cm) from back of heel or X amount of inches (cm) less than desired total foot length. This is where many knitters go wrong. They follow the numbers given instead of using the numbers from their actual knitting.

In order to know how many rows you need to work even until toe cap shaping begins, you need to know the length of the sole of the sock when the gusset decreases are complete, your row gauge, how long (the number of rows) the toe cap will be, and your desired foot length. My total actual foot length is 9″ (23) cm. My desired foot length, however, is 8.5″ (21.5) cm. Yes, I shorten my desired foot length by 1/2″ (1.5) cm because I like my sock to gently hug my foot. If I knit it to my actual foot length of 9″ (23) cm the sock tends to be floppy on my foot. Please be aware that many, many knitters vehemently disagree with shortening the sock’s foot length by any number. I’ve tried it their way and it doesn’t work for me. So I suggest you do the same. Try knitting to your actual foot length and see how it fits. If it is too loose, decrease the length by 1/2″ (1.5) cm and don’t even mention it in knitting circles. I know there are no knitting police but there are opinionated knitters. What they don’t know won’t upset them.

How To Figure Toe Cap Length

The beginning of the toe cap calls for decreasing 2 stitches either side of the instep for a total decrease of 4 stitches per round while knitting even, without shaping, every other round. Thus, one complete decrease of 4 stitches takes two rounds. We want to halve the number of cast on stitches and find out how many rows it’s going to take to get it done. 56 cast on stitches divided by 2 = 28 sts remaining at the end of the first part of toe shaping. The calculation looks like this: _______ cast on stitches divided by 2 = ______ sts remaining from first shaping of toe.

How many rows will it take to decrease 28 stitches? Divide the number of stitches that need to remain by the number of stitches being decreased in a round. 28 divided by 4 = 7. I will have 7 decrease rows. The calculation looks like this: _______half the cast on stitches divided by 4 = ______the number of decrease rows. Since it take 2 rows to complete a decrease I multiple 7 by 2 and get 14 rows total in the first shaping.

_______number of decrease rows times 2 = ______total number of rows in first shaping.

How many inches does 14 row equal? To find that, divide 14 by the number of rows you are getting per inch. For me its 14 divided by 7 = 2 inches (5) cm. The calculation looks like this: _________total number of rows in first shaping divided by ______my gauge of rows per inch = _______length of first shaping.

The last half of toe shaping occurs on every round until there are anywhere from 7 or 8 to 16 or 18 toe stitches remaining. This is also the part of shaping where you can tailor the sock’s toe shape to fit the slant of the toes. The more stitches remaining at the end of this shaping the more square or wider the toe shape. Finding the total length of this part of the toe cap is similar to that above. Take half the number of cast on stitches and subtract the number of stitches you want to have left across the top of the foot. 28-8 = 20. The calculation looks like this: _____half the number of cast on stitches minus ______number of stitches I want to remain across the top of the foot = ______the number of stitches I need to decrease. For me the number I need to decrease is 20.

Again I need to find out how many rows will it take to decrease 20 sts. Divide the number of stitches to be decreased, 20, by the number of stitches decreased per round, 4, = 5. It will take me 5 rows. The calculation looks like this: _______number of stitches to be decreased divided by ______number of stitches decreased per round = ______number of rows worked. To find the length of this part of the toe work I divide my row gauge, 7, by the number of rows I need to work to complete the decreasing, 5 = 0.71. This means the length is just shy of 3/4 of an inch (2) cm. The calculation looks like this: _____my row gauge divided by ______rows needed to complete decreases = length of this part of toe cap.

So I should work even until the foot of my sock measures 5.75″ (14.5) cm or until the foot is 2.75″ (7) cm less than my desired length. This is what the calculations look like: ______length of first part of toe cap plus ______length of second part of toe cap = ______ total length of toe cap.
Next calculation looks like this: _______desired length of foot minus _____total length of toe cap = length of foot when I begin toe cap decreases.

I hope this helps clear up some of the mystery of knitting a sock that fits. At some point in the immediate future, I am going to publish all the sock math on one page so you can use it to customize your fit.

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Heel Turn

To find the number of stitches for the heel turn divide the number of heel flap stitches by 2. The equation looks like this: _______ heel flap stitches divided by 2 = __________ number of stitches in the heel turn. The first decrease of the heel turn begins 2 stitches past the center of the heel. For example, I have 28 heel flap stitches. Divided by 2 that gives me 14 stitches and I am at the center of the heel. I then add 2 stitches to the 14 for 16 sts. This means I knit 16 stitches before beginning the first heel turn decrease by making an ssk, k1, turn work.

The next row is a WS row and worked thus: Slip 1 purlwise, p5, p2tog, p1, turn work. The purl 5 is a fairly standard number for a heel. The ssk in the previous row and the purl 5 in this row set up the heel cup. The number can be changed, but when doing so be sure the number of stitches on each side of the heel cup are equal.

The next RS row is worked by slipping 1 purlwise, knitting to 1 stitch before the gap made on the previous row, performing an ssk, knitting 1 and then turning the work.

On the WS row, slip the first stitch purlwise, purl to 1 stitch before the gap from the previous row, p2tog, p1, then turn work.

Repeat the last two rows until half the number of heel stitches you began with remain. For example, I began with 28. At the end of the heel turn I should have 14 stitches remaining.

Heel Turn When You’ve Added Stitches for a High Arch

Omit the added stitches from the equation for the heel turn. Work the equation as is with the original stitch number. The two or four extra stitches remain outside the working heel turn area. They will be decreased early in the gusset work.

Other Advice for High Arches

While I have not worked nor read the Arch-Shaped Stockings pattern by Meg Swanson it presents an entirely different way of dealing with high arches and sock construction. If your arch is very high, it may help you get to a better way of constructing socks that fit. For the sake of transparency, I do not know Ms. Swanson, nor am I employed by her. The suggestion to look at her pattern is just that, a suggestion.

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I know people hate the g word in knitting but knowing your stitch and row gauge is crucial for a sock that fits. If you are guessing your gauge or assuming it is the same simply because you are using the same needles and yarn cited in the pattern, you aren’t getting a well fitting sock at the end of your efforts. Further, if the yarn you are using is familiar to you because you’ve knit with it before, still check your gauge. Depending on the dying process, yarns that are dark in color tend to use more stitches per inch than lighter colored yarns. The lighter colored the yarn, the more rounded and loftier the yarn. The darker the color, the more brittle, squashed and dense. Same yarn, different colors, different gauges. Knowing your stitch and row gauge guarantees socks that fit.

Once you know how many stitches per inch you are knitting, then you can figure out how many stitches you need in the total sock. To make this sock easy, let’s knit it using stockinette stitch only, meaning we’re knitting all rows.

Cuff Down Socks

The number of stitches per inch times the adjusted circumference equals the total stitches in your sock. For example, a gauge of 8 sts per inch times my 7” circumference equals 56 sts. The calculation looks like this. Go ahead and fill in your numbers.

________number of stitches I’m knitting per inch times _______my adjusted circumference number = _______the total number of stitches I need to cast on.

Because the sock begins at the cuff, work a 1 x 1 rib as follows: K1, p1. Repeat to end of round. Make the ribbing at least 1” (2.5) cm long. Then begin knitting all stitches on all rounds until the leg of the sock reaches the top of the heel flap.

Heel Flap: To Fit or Not

The typical heel flap is 2” (5) cm less than the total leg length of the sock. If you have average feet the calculation looks like this:

___________total leg length of sock minus 2″ (5) cm for heel flap = ____________length at which I switch from knitting the leg to knitting the heel flap.

The length of the heel flap is an important measurement that can make a sock fit or not fit. You have some decisions to make if your foot is not the average foot. If your Achilles Tendon area is longer than 2″ by 1″ or more, the heel flap needs to be longer too. If you have a high arch, you want the heel flap longer to accommodate it. In both cases, the length of your heel flap would no longer be 2″.

How To Find Your Heel Flap Length

The heel flap is where the sock is divided in half. One half of all the leg stitches become the top or instep of the sock, the other half the sole or heel flap. Divide the total number of stitches originally cast on by 2. For example: 56 sts / 2 = 28. I would have 28 instep stitches and 28 sole stitches. Go ahead an fill in your numbers.

_____total cast on stitches divided by 2 = _____ number of stitches for the heel flap and number for instep.

If you have a high arch, the number of stitches for the heel flap is going to be greater than the number of instep stitches. For high arches it is suggested 2 or 4 stitches be added to the last row of the leg of the sock. The only way to find out what number works here is by trying. Add an even number of stitches, work the heel flap and try on the sock to see how it all fits and make adjustments up or down in the stitch count accordingly.

The math for dividing the sock into instep and heel flap stays the same even though you have added stitches because your are dividing the original cast on number by two. Precisely half the number of original cast on stitches are instep stitches. The rest of the stitches, the heel flap, will be either 2 or 4 stitches greater than the instep. The number of heel flap stitches also signals the number of rows you need to work. Extra stitches make the heel flap longer. This gives the sock more stretch to navigate the heel-ankle-instep-ankle-heel area.

Here’s Where Row Gauge Matters

At this point, check your row gauge. Measure the sock over a 4″ (10) cm length and count the rows. Divide the total number of rows by 4. This is the number of rows you are getting per inch. Take the number of rows per inch and divide it into the number of heel flap stitches. The answer is the length of the heel flap.

__________number of heel flap stitches divided by ________number of rows per inch = ________length of heel flap. Does the length equal what you need in order to make the sock fit? Try on the sock. If you find the fit too large, reduce the number of added stitches. If the fit is too tight, increase the number by twos to keep it even.

Go back to the equation that tells you when to stop working on the leg and begin the heel flap. Substitute your heel flap length in place of the 2″ (5) cm.

Set-Up The Heel Flap
Place the instep stitches on holders, or if you prefer, leave them on your dpns and just ignore them. I leave them on the needles and place 3 stitches from each side onto locking stitch markers. This helps prevent holes from forming between the stitches I’m working for the heel flap and the stitches on hold. It eases the amount of stress placed on the running thread between the working stitches and the stitches on hold. The more stress placed on the running thread the more gruesome the hole.

To set up the heel flap for working, divide the number of heel flap stitches in half. For example, my heel flap is 28 stitches / 2 = 14. I’d knit 14 stitches, stop, turn work then purl across 28 sts.

______heel flap stitches divided by 2 = _______ number of stitches to knit across. Turn work around and purl across all heel flap stitches.

Heel flaps are worked back and forth in rows as follows.
Row 1 (RS): *Slip first st purlwise with yarn in back, k1. Repeat across row. Turn work.
Row 2: Slip first st purlwise with yarn in front, purl to end of row. Turn work.
Repeat these two rows until you have worked the number of rows designated by the number of your heel flap stitches. For example, my number of heel flap stitches is 28. I would work 28 heel flap rows.

Next we’ll begin the heel turn.

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Once the shape of the foot is known, then comes the measurements. Take the first measurement around the ball of the foot; the padded area just below the toes.

ball of foot measurement

This figure is the circumference of the sock. For average feet and legs this measurement ensures a proper fit around both foot and leg. Jot the number down and subtract 1″ (2) cm from it. You want the sock to measure 1″ or (2) cm less than your full measurement. This smaller size helps the socks gently hug the feet and stay up on the legs and not bag around the ankles. My circumference number is 8″ (20) cm. Subtracting the 1″ (2) cm from the 8″ (20) cm gives me 7″ (18) cm. My adjusted circumference number is 7.

Socks knitted in stockinette stitch have about 4″ (10) cm of stretch in the fabric. This is how my socks go over the 11″ (28) cm that make up my heel-ankle-instep-ankle-heel area.

heel-ankle-instep-ankle-heel area

heel-ankle-instep-ankle-heel area

11-7= 4″ (18-28= 10) cm. If the heel-ankle-instep-ankle-heel area is greater than 4″ (10) cm from the adjusted circumference number make a note to add 2 or 4 stitches to the sock in the gusset area only and/or look to lengthen the heel flap. In the picture below, the gusset is the stockinette stitch area that looks like an upside down V.

gusset, heel turn, heel flap

gusset, heel turn, heel flap

The next measurement is foot length. Put a ruler or tape measure on the floor and measure your foot from the longest toe to the back of the heel. If your foot resembles the Greek tapered foot where the second toe is longer than the big toe, unless it is longer by an 1″ (2.5) cm or more start the measurement from the big toe to the heel. Remember the sock is going to stretch.

foot length sock

The last measurement is the leg length. Put on a sock that has the leg height you want. Measure from the base of the heel up the leg to where the cuff stops. This is your sock’s leg length.

Sock leg height

While you’re at it, measure your Achilles tendon area. This is where the heel flap on a sock goes. It should measure about 2 or 2.5″ (5 or 6.5) cm. If it is much longer than this (an inch (2) cm more) make a note that the heel flap needs to be longer.

achilles tendon

Finally, I put all the information on a drawing of my foot and put it in a folder in a file cabinet. Everyone who has ever had me make a sock for them has a folder with the drawing of his or her foot notated with sizes and alterations made. This makes it easier to knit socks that fit them again.

foot scan 3

foot scan 4

Now that the measurements are complete, next up is sock math.

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Sock knitting is not complicated. Knitting a sock that fits is also not complicated. To knit a sock that fits calls for a little math, knowledge about the shape of the feet on which the socks will go, a fearlessness to toss out techniques that don’t work for you, and the ability to break rules.

A Little Foot Anatomy

Knowing your foot shape helps. Foot companies, especially ballet foot wear use these four typical types of shapes:

foot scan

foot scan 2

Knowing your foot shape helps. Foot companies, especially ballet foot wear use these five typical types of shapes:
Notice how the shapes differ. Put your foot on a piece of paper and outline your entire foot. Now look at the tracing. Which picture above most closely resembles your overall toe shape? Rounded? A straight slant? Are they more square? If you can draw a straight line over three toes, your foot is square. Most square feet are wide at the toes and narrow at the heels. Complicating this type of foot even more is the high arch, which normally goes with it.

Most shoes and socks use the Greek wide toe shape as the “norm”. If your foot doesn’t fit this ideal shape there are a few places in sock knitting where you can go wrong and throw off the fit. As for my feet, I am Egyptian taper toed while The Skipper is Greek tapered toe with a narrow heel. He also has one foot that is larger in circumference than the other so for him I am knitting socks for two different feet with two entirely different sets of numbers. It is harder to knit socks that fit him than it is to knit socks that fit me because I need to break technique rules and standards for his socks to fit.

The next thing you want to check is the arch of the foot. The foot has three types of arches: normal, flat, high. Most shoes and socks are made for— you guessed it— normal arches. If you find your sock feels tight around the area that goes from the heel and across your foot just below the ankle that probably comes from having high arches and/or high insteps. You need to increase the number of stitches in the instep/arch area by making a gusset to add stitches and then decrease before you start the heel. Short-row heels are not for you. Normal arch and flat arch feet can get away with no having gussets in their socks, if they want.

foot scan 3

foot scan 4

arches_feet

If you’re not sure about your arches, take the wet foot test. Wet the bottom of your foot then step on a dry, flat surface. The type of imprint you make will tell you what you have.

Once I know the ins and outs of the foot I am knitting for I can tweak stitch count numbers and change techniques to make sure the sock fits properly. I can also stay away from techniques that won’t give me the best fit.

This is not a one size fits all. Knitting a perfect fit sock is trial and error at first. When you get to know what you need to tweak and how those changes in numbers will affect the pattern you’re working from, things get a little easier. Every sock you make is a learning experience and it starts with knowing the shape of your feet.

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When working socks from the toe up, my preferred provisional cast on is the short-row. The kind with the wrap and turn (w&t) at the ends. Sometimes, however, this doesn’t work. Depending on the yarn, holes form at the w&t points when the wraps are picked up and knitted or purled together with their stitches. I border on being pathological when it comes to holes in knitting. The only time a hole in knitting is acceptable is when it is intentionally made. All other holes drive me more crazy than I naturally am. So when I was knitting my most recent socks and holes started to appear at the w&t points in the toe it was time for alternate action.

I’ve tried the various non-short-row provisional cast ons and don’t like them. I dislike them for any number of reasons but the main two are: 1) they don’t look as neat as a short-row toe; 2) they don’t add reinforcing to the area of the sock that gets heavy wear and thus is worn through more quickly. I like my socks to hang around with me longer than a season or two, which is why I knit so many. The more I have, the more choice, the less chance of one pair being excessively worn till it’s thread bare. After all, I use them from the beginning of autumn to the end of spring. That’s a lot of wear to spread out.

So instead of ditching the short-row, I changed the type of short-row from the w&t to the yarn over short-row. The problem of holes in the toes was solved. Suzanne Bryan has a good YouTube tutorial on how to work the yarn over short row here for both the knitters who pick and those that throw. Check it out.

The yarn over short-row is begun on a RS row and knit to one stitch before the end of a row. With one stitch remaining on the left needle, turn the work.

WS Row: Work a backward yo by simply laying the yarn over the needle as if to purl. (Do not wrap the yarn all the way around the needle as you would for a normal yo between two purl stitches). Purl the first st. When the completed purl stitch is slipped to the right needle a yarn over should be between it and the stitch already sitting on the right needle. Hence, three stitches are now on the right needle. Purl to one stitch before the end of the row. With one stitch remaining on the left needle, turn the work.

RS Row: Make a normal yo and knit to one stitch before the backward yo. Turn work.

WS Row: Move yarn as if to purl and purl the first st on the left needle. When stitch is complete and slipped to the right needle, make sure a yarn over is between it and the stitches already on the right needle. Purl to one stitch before yo. Turn work.

Repeat these rows until the desired amount of unworked toe stitches remain.

Begin the second part of the short-row toe by knitting or purling the stitches with their yarn overs as follows:

RS Row: Make a normal yo then knit to the first backward yo. Reseat the backward yarn over so the rear leg of the stitch is now in front. Knit the yo together with the next st. Turn work.

WS Row: Make a backward yo and purl across to the first yo. Work a SSP (slip one stitch knitwise, slip the next stitch knitwise, return both sts to left needle and then purl them together through their back loops). Turn work.

RS Row: Make a normal yo then knit to the first 2 backward yos. Reseat both yarn overs and return them to left needle. K3 together (the 2 yos and the next knit stitch). Turn work.

WS Row: Make a backward yo and purl across to first 2 normal yos. Work SSSP (slip one stitch knitwise, slip next stitch knitwise, slip next stitch knitwise. Return all three stitches to the left needle and then purl them together through their back loops). Turn work.

Repeat the last two rows until all wraps and their stitches have been worked. For the heel, follow the same procedure.

I’m pretty happy with the results.

Toe up socks knit with Schoeller and Stahl Fortissima Colori in Mexiko Country colors on US 1 (2.25) mm needles.

Toe up socks knit with Schoeller and Stahl Fortissima Colori in Mexiko Country colors on US 1 (2.25) mm needles.

knitted socks toe up 2

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