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Knitting = Thinking. Sometimes [Apr. 18th, 2016|12:20 pm]
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When I started knitting socks, using worsted-weight yarn, I used size 5 US needles.  I knew my mother had used size 4s to make the socks she made me, but I found it easier to see what I was doing with size 5s.   I created the pattern for those socks on my feet (trying the socks on repeatedly, and correcting from pair to pair until, with #4, I had something that suited me.   I'm a fairly tight knitter, so I was getting 6 1/2 stitches/inch and 8 rows/inch consistently, a dense enough fabric for the socks to last a reasonable time in the heavy use I give socks.   Variations in one yarn or another weren't enough to affect the socks' fit.  But I knew that dropping down to size 4 US needles would make a denser fabric tht should last even longer.  The problem was...gauge.  Taking the time to figure out my size 4 gauge in the round meant a slowdown in sock production and not until this spring did I feel I had enough backlog of socks to afford the time.

Ribbing w/ #5 US needles, rest with #4 US

I first tried out knittig with #4 needles when finishing a pair that my mother had started (for herself) for a friend whose feet were my mother's size.   That proved I could now (being more experienced) see the stitches well enough to make socks like that.  I made two more pair using first my mother's old acrylic yarn and then one in wool.   Then, on the  Birthday Socks this spring, I knit one section with size 4s...the stockinette between the ribbed cuff and the heel flap.  I did one with the same stitch count as number 5s (a little snugger than I like) and added two stitches (actually, did not reduce 4 st. between ribbing and stockinette, as I usually do) to that section, which produced the fit I wanted.  With #4s, I get 7 st./inch in stockinette and 10 rows to the inch, instead of 8.  Since the ribbed cuff doesn't wear out fast, I knit the ribbing of the current test pair (royal blue) on #5s, switching to #4s at the ankle, and using the stitch count I'd found worked on the Birthday socks.  I left the "front" of the sock with the extra stitches, knitting the heel flap with the familiar number, to see how I liked it.   Heel flap position on my heel...the heel flap difference in "wrap around" is about half an inch...a quarter inch on each side.  Next pair I do on #4s, I'll do the reverse, and see if I like the wider heel flap better.   I will need to wear the socks and walk some miles on the land in them to see if the narrower heel flap will work for me, and if the same stitch count in the middle--the "cup" for the heel--feels right.

Figuring the gusset decreases took real consideration.  First, beause of the difference in row gauge, there were more stitches to be picked up.  I have both a high instep and a high arch...a very long circumference around the back of my heel pad and  the top of the instep, and then a steep decline in circumference as the arch rises fast from the heel.  On #5 needles, I've been decreasing two rows, decrease one, to ensure no extra fabric under the arch.   On the #4s, I checked the fit every row, and found that I needed to combine both that rate of decrease and the 1:1 ratio usually suggested.  After the last non-decrease row, I could decrease that one extra stitch off  the top needles, back to even stitches on each needle.   There's another decrease (below the "bump" on the top of the foot)  coming up soon.  And then the work to get the toe fit right for L and R feet.

Stitch counts compared so far:       Size 5 US needles               Size 4 US needles
                               Ribbed cuff            60                                       (not tried)
                               Ankle                     56                                            58
                              Heel flap                 28                                            28
                              Instep   needles     28                                            30
                              After gusset           54 -->52                                   56 -->? (not there yet)

Using a smaller needle puts more wool in the project--denser fabric that should last longer--but also uses up yarn faster (of course) and take longer to knit for a slow knitter like me.  Every stitch takes the same amount of time, with either size needle, and puts the same wear and tear on my finger joints...so more stitches per sock means more wear on my joints.  Also, though I can still see stitches well enough, increasing vision problems, especially for close work, mean that eyestrain is more using #4s.  I plan to use them for mitts, but am discovering just how much harder it is to work with, essentially, one eye (the one that still has a cataract. The other eye has a focal point problem.)

I will use this pair, when it's done, to figure out whether it's worth the extra yarn and effort for the amount of durability gained.  This pair will be charted (number of days worn) and I will wear it more frequently, probably once a week, to get the answer faster.  If I can finish a pair of socks done in #4 needles in a month (about what it takes me now with #5s)  I may start using #4s for some of the socks. 


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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2016-04-18 10:54 pm (UTC)
Why? It's only socks. My mother was the genius. She designed sweaters...sometimes using a pattern that was intended to be knitted flat and turned it into a seamless garment, sometimes designing from scratch. I never got to see that part of it, but I benefitted from it with lovely sweaters. No seams. I do remember watching her (silently and from a slight distance) as she did the join on two, one simpler and one very complex. Two arm tubes (shaped) knitted into the body tube, often with a decorative cable running up the join if the sleeves were raglan.

Switch the needle size for socks is basically doing what I did before--knit a little, try on my foot, knit a little more, try on my foot, etc.
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[User Picture]From: jjmcgaffey
2016-04-19 05:32 am (UTC)
Yeah..."only" socks. I keep reading your knitting posts, especially ones like this where you talk out your methods, and thinking I really should just start a pair...

I knit quite a lot, but it's flat work - slipper-socks, knit flat and lengthwise and then joined into a tube. I do them with 15 rows of stockinette (at 45 stitches/row - about up to my anklebone, depending on how tight I'm knitting this time - this is on size 6 needles with worsted wool (ok, acrylic)), then 30 rows of garter stitch with doubled yarn (an extra strand knitted along with the main one), then back to 15 rows of stockinette in the base yarn. I use a provisional caston so it's easy to pick up; pick up the starting stitches and knit them together with the last row, to make a tube. Then loop-stitch one end for a toe (again, I dream of grafting them...but I'm connecting garter stitch with stockinette, and picking up would be a PAIN). I make them on a regular basis, and wear them for slippers around the house and bedsocks in bed, on cold nights. But while I can occasionally pull big Ugg-style boots on over them, I wouldn't want to wear them with real shoes. I'd love to knit real socks, like yours...and someday I will.

I have done circular knitting, both with circular needles and on DPNs - hats, mostly. And the start of socks - I've got one with almost an inch of ribbing, that's two or three years old at this point. Part of it is getting the right yarn - I have lots of worsted, but the vast majority is acrylic. I don't like wool socks, my skin objects (wool anything, actually). I really don't want to knit in cotton, especially for a first sock. I should just go ahead and make an acrylic pair, just for the practice, then see if my skin can handle wool or my skill can handle cotton.

Someday I'll figure this out. And reading your knitting posts moves me incrementally closer to that day. (BTW, I got Knitting Rules! recently on your recommendation - her sock...design, not really pattern...is helpful in the same way your knitting posts are).

Edited at 2016-04-19 05:33 am (UTC)
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2016-04-19 01:48 pm (UTC)
I knit a pair of wool socks for a friend who otherwise can't wear wool--skin sensitivity--and she had no problem with wool in socks. But go on and knit the acrylic socks, and see if you can get the fit you want first, then (if you want) try wool. It's possible that Superwash wool (which has been treated to permanently flatten the scales along the fibers) would bother your skin less (but beware--Cascade Yarns, a previously reliable yarn manufacturer, has recently changed where is yarn is made and according to reports on Ravelry its popular 220 Superwash is now not reliably machine washable.)

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