I am so behind on blogging! Right now we are in Maryland, enjoying the summer heat with Jared’s family and getting ready for my sister’s wedding. More on that another day. But the socks I knit last month are definitely worth reflecting on, so now that I have a few minutes – big girls out sailing with their granddad, little girl having a nap – I will do so.
The third sock pattern in the Bluestockings series is named “Elizabeth Carter.” It’s a plain vanilla toe-up sock pattern. It brings together the construction elements shared by all of the patterns in this series. Many of those elements were new to me, but have become familiar through the four and a half pairs I’ve knit so far. These include the wrapped cast on for the toe, which I love, and the simple heel turn, which is very similar to the many (many) basic top-down heel turns I have done. There are any number of options for binding off, but I followed the recommendations of several fellow bluestocking knitters and tried Jenny’s Surprisingly Stretchy Bind-Off (or JSSO). I enjoy it tremendously, and find I like the look of it better when I turn around and bind off on the wrong side.
This plain vanilla sock is, more than anything, an opportunity to play around. That’s what I did with these socks.
For yarn, I used the fraternal sock yarn I spun from Crafty Jak’s Targhee base in the “Into the Deep” colourway. I spun for two socks different ways: the sock on your left is a three-ply fractal, and the sock on the right is a traditional three-ply with colors lined up in plying. The results were interesting: both are obviously striping yarns with some areas of marling and some areas of intensity where the colors come together in all three plies. But in the fractal socks, these intense, lined-up areas are rarer and shorter. In the fractal, marling dominates with solid accents; in the lined-up traditional, solid stripes set the tone with marled accents and transitions. In this colorway, I find myself more drawn to the lined-up traditional.
In terms of sock design, I decided to play around with the sole of the foot. I have been wearing through my hand-knit socks at an alarming rate, specifically under the ball of the foot and under the heel. Now that I’ve started making hand-spun hand-knit socks, I really want them to last a little longer. I’ve messed about with prophylactic darning on new socks, but that took nearly as long to do as knitting the socks, and was not very fun. So this time, I tried something different: covering the sole of my socks with slipped stitches.
I used to do this all the time on heel flaps: on the right side, slipping every other stitch, and on the wrong side, purling across. But I never wear through my socks on the backs of my heels (even when I don’t do the fancy heel flap). I need that reinforcement on the bottoms of my socks. Problem is, this sort of stitch significantly shortens your fabric relative to stockinette stitch in the same yarn. Not a problem on a heel flap, because it’s an isolated flap that joins the rest of the party differently and on an angle. But on the bottom of the foot, you’re still going around the rest of the foot at the same time. So if you just did the slipped stitching on the bottom and stockinette on the top, you’d have a sock with a toe that curled sharply downward. Of course, I could always do the slipped stitching all the way around, but (a) this would use up a fair bit more yarn, and (b) I didn’t want to.
So, I added short rows to the mix. I experimented with how often to add a short row, and this is what worked:
* Round 1: K1, Sl 1 on the bottom; K on the top.
* Round 2: K all the way around.
* Round 3: K1, Sl 1 on the bottom; turn and purl across the bottom; turn again and K1, Sl 1 across the bottom, and K across the top.
* Round 4: K all the way around.
Along the arch of the foot, between the ball of the foot and the heel, I didn’t want to go on with the slip stitching since that’s an area of low wear. But the slip stitch draws in a bit, so if I’d just worked stockinette there, the fabric might pooch out a bit – not attractive around the narrowest part of my foot. So I just connected the two areas of slipped stitches with 1×1 rib.
Sound convoluted enough? It was actually pretty engaging and fun, and made the foot portion go by very quickly. Add to this the excitement that I started the slip stitching before the toe increasing was complete, and I incorporated through the heel turn and up the back of the heel, and it was like the knitting equivalent of water-skiing. Just ridin’ the waves.
Time will tell if this is any more durable than other solutions. But I just love this handspun sock yarn, and I couldn’t knit idly by a plain foot and watch them fall apart without making an effort.
I do love plain socks. Even if I go and make them complicated. Happy July!