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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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True to form I am still procrastinating over the list of things that need to get done. In honor of that, I have cast on socks for the sock adaptation tutorial.

After losing myself in the Yarn Vault for a period of time (total glee for Yarn Rascal), I selected Jill Draper’s Splendor Sock Yarn in the Glacier colorway. After I untangled Yarn Rascal from his three chosen skeins, I searched through my books for a sock pattern. With a foot circumference of 7.5 inches (19) cm, almost all sock patterns don’t fit so I have a wide selection.

I chose the “Dead Simple Lace Socks” from Wendy Johnson’s book Socks From The Toe Up. The smallest size for this sock measured 8 inches (20.5) cm or 8.5 inches (21.5) cm in circumference. Way too big for me.

jill draper splendor sock yarn 001

The first truth about adapting a sock pattern to fit your foot size is throw out all the numbers in the original pattern. The designer’s gauge no longer matters. Your gauge becomes the ruler. Thus, you need to knit up a sample. It’s at this point I start to whimper. I don’t want to “waste” time knitting a sample. I want to knit the darn sock. The adult in me must win this tug of war in order to produce a sock I can wear.

Next step: Knit a sample in the round. (I know, this stinks.) Cast on half the total amount of stitches of the size one up from yours. (It could be worse, I could have to cast on all the stitches.) For me, that was the size 8. Knit at least 1 inch (2.5) cm in stockinette stitch. (If the adult in you is strong knit 2 inches (5) cm for a more accurate gauge.) Then knit 2 or 3 inches (5 or 8) cm in the stitch pattern as written. (This is not too bad. I get a chance to see the stitch pattern and see if I like knitting it.) This accomplishes two things: 1) It gives you your gauge over St st and your gauge over the stitch pattern. 2) You become intimate with the stitch pattern making it easier to see what can be left out and what must remain if you are going to be happy with the results.

If the pattern is heavy on cables or has lots of twisted and crossed stitches the fabric is going to pull in. If the pattern is lacy it’s going to want to expand. Look at the difference in width between the stockinette section and the pattern section you just knitted. It will tell you whether you need to add or subtract stitches to your cast on count.

To find your cast on count measure the number of stockinette stitches over 1 inch (2.5) cm. This answer is the number of stitches you’re getting per inch. (I know that in reality it is best to measure gauge over 4 inches (10) cm. But I’d really like to start the sock.) Take this number and multiply it by your foot circumference number. Your foot circumference is measured around the ball of the foot, the padded area just below where your toes end. Stitches per inch times foot circumference equals the total number of stitches for your sock.

The second truth about adapting a sock pattern to fit a smaller or larger foot size: You’re not going to replicate the entire pattern as you see it in the picture. Compromises can range from simply losing a number of pattern repeats and having to insert stitch pattern fillers to losing a chunk of the main stitch pattern(s).

With the “Dead Simple Lace Socks”, the adaption was a loss of the number of lace pattern repeats as well as the placement of the lace portion around the sock. Whereas the original pattern had 3 lace repeats for its smallest size on the instep, I can only fit two.

My next decision was where to place them. Did I want them on either side of a center panel of stockinette stitch? Or did I want to widen the look out and place them on either end of the instep? I chose the latter because I didn’t want them guarding the center of the sock like sentinels. Instead, I wanted them to be part of the rhythm and flow of the sock design as Ms. Johnson had captured in her original version.

The more complicated the stitch pattern the more you’ll need to play around and adjust it to fit the stitch count of your sock. When trying to make a pattern fit, remember you have the front of the sock, two sides, and the back of the sock. A pattern works best if it flows with some sort of rhythm around the sock.

Enjoy your weekend.

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In the last post the 24 toe stitches had been evenly divided into three sections of 8 stitches each. The 8 stitches on the left and the 8 stitches on the right were wrapped and ready for the second part of the short-row toe.

The second half starts with picking up the first wraps then double wrapping the remaining 7 stitches on each side. I love double wrapping for two reasons: 1) It eliminates any holes that might form; 2) it reinforces the toe in the precise area where it will show wear first.

The inside of the sock with  a double wrap.

The inside of the sock with a double wrap.

Another picture of the inside of the sock with stitches double wrapped.

Another picture of the inside of the sock with stitches double wrapped.

I have sensitive feet. Yet the double wrapping does not bother my toe area. In fact, it feels darn good.

So how does the double wrapping go? The same way the first wrapping went.

Knit across to the first wrapped stitch. Pick up the wrap and knit it together with its stitch. Bring yarn forward, slip next stitch to right needle, move yarn back (creating a second wrap), turn work.

Slip first stitch from left to right needle, purl to first wrapped stitch. Pick up wrap and purl together with its stitch. Move yarn to back, slip next stitch to right needle, bring yarn forward (creating a second wrap), turn work.

Slip first stitch from left to right needle, knit to double wrapped stitch. Pick up both wraps and knit them together with their stitch. Wrap the next stitch. Turn work.

Purl to double wrapped stitch. Pick up both wraps and purl them together with their stitch. Wrap the next stitch. Turn work. Repeat until all stitches are worked.

All double wrapped stitches have been worked. Time to undo provisional cast on and pick up sole stitches.

All double wrapped stitches have been worked. Time to undo provisional cast on and pick up sole stitches.

Next, it’s time to undo the crochet chain and pick up the stitches its been holding. Start at the end that has the knot in it. Insert needle tip into stitch and undo chain. Repeat until all stitches

picking up stitches from bottom

Once all the stitches are on the needles I like to place a marker at each side of the toe to delineate the instep stitches from the sole stitches.

This is how easy short-row toes can be. No matter what type of cast on a toe up sock pattern calls for, it is easy to change it to a short-row toe instead.

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My favorite provisional cast on for toe-up socks is the short-row toe. I favor it because I can change the shape of it from squared-off to more rounded by changing the number of stitches left unworked in the middle. It’s easy to customize to any foot shape.

sock toe fiesta boomerang yarn short-row toe

For this sock I preferred the square shape. Let’s walk through how to make a short-row toe.

It starts with a provisional cast on. Select a waste yarn that is smooth and made of cotton. The waste yarn should also be a different color from the sock yarn and it should be of a similar thickness. With a crochet hook that fits the thickness of the cotton yarn, crochet a chain that is half the number of the total stitches needed for the sock plus an extra 4 chains. The total stitches I needed was 48. I crocheted 24 chains plus 4 extra. I finished off the chain and put a knot in the end to mark it as the end from which I will undo the chain later on.

Crochet has a smooth side and a bumpy side.

smooth side of crochet chain

smooth side of crochet chain

bumpy side of crochet chain

bumpy side of crochet chain

To start my toe, I picked up 24 stitches through the chain bumps on the bumpy side.

picking up stitches through chain bumps of provisional cast on

picking up stitches through chain bumps of provisional cast on

When finished it looks like this.

stitches ready to be purled

The stitches are ready to be purled. Once that is done I am ready to start my short rows.

A toe has three sections: the center and two sides. Usually these three sections have the same number of stitches in them. For my toe, I have 24 stitches which I divide by 3 to find out how many stitches should be in each section. My three sections are made up of 8 stitches each. However, some times the number of stitches in the provisional cast on are not neatly divided. In these cases, remember that both the left and right side of the toe must have the same number of stitches in them. Any extra stitches are added to the center.

Short rows include a technique called wrap and turn. Usually it’s abbreviated as w&t. It’s a very simple step. For RS rows, knit up to the stitch to be wrapped. Leave the stitch to be wrapped on the left needle, bring the yarn to the front, slip the stitch to the right needle, move the yarn to the back, thus wrapping the stitch, turn the work. Slip the wrapped stitch to the right needle and purl across the row to the next stitched to be w&t. Again, leave the stitch to be wrapped on the left needle, move the yarn to the back, slip the stitch to the right needle, bring the yarn to the front wrapping the stitch, turn the work. Slip the wrapped stitch to the right needle and knit across the row to the next stitch to be w&t.

When all the stitches are worked, the second part of the short-row toe begins. I’ll talk about that on Monday.

Have a good weekend.

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