Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Dissecting Socks

A while back Purly_Whites started a Nancy Bush Sock Master's Study. The idea is brilliant but I don't think I want to knit every single (or most) of Nancy's socks. I like her patterns, she is an enjoyable writer and she has studied and redesigned a multitude of sock patterns.
I decided I was going to do my own mini-masters. The reason behind it is that in my book the "perfect" sock pattern has yet to be written.

  • I like longish socks. Nine inches is long for me given my 5 ft height!
  • I do not like to knit socks from the cuff down. The perfect elastic cast-on method just does not exist.....yet. Plus there is always the guess factor on how long can you really knit the socks and still have enough for the foot.
  • I do not like short row heels, I prefer the gusset and heel flap. Short row heels do not "hold" the heel properly.
  • I do not like the flat frog mouth like look that the toe-up socks have, sorry but they are not anatomical by any means. This is caused by starting the sock with 1/3 of the stitches needed for the circumference. Provisional or Turkish (or like) cast-on give the same results.
  • Most stitch patterns just do not look right when knit upside down. I know you can turn them around but who really wants to?
  • I hate the bits of sock yarn left over from every single pair of socks I knit!
The "perfect" sock pattern would be:
  • Started from the toe up.
  • The toe has to have a cone or cone like shape, not end on a tip nor be too flat.
  • The heels have to have gussets and heel flaps
  • Allow for stitch pattern insertion right side up
  • Length to be determined by knitters choice and yarn availability.
  • Guess work is not in place
I own lot and lots of sock pattern books, I have read multiple sock patterns. As far as I can tell there is no perfect sock pattern out there. I have knit a LOT of socks!

First things first I knit the four ribbed socks from Knitting Vintage Socks. In the text Nancy says that each one of those four socks has a different toe and heel construction method. Exactly what I needed.
Here is the result:

Purple socks (on right)
Simple ribbed socks.
Total length for toe: 3.25 inches
Toe decreases over 32 rows
Opinion: I don't like them, the toe is too pointy

Blue Socks (left top)
Lichen Ribbed Sock
Total length for toe: 2 inches
Toe decreases over 22 rows
Opinion: I like them. The cast off method is pulling the yarn through the last remaining stitches. Does this really hold for toes?

Brown Socks (left middle)
Yarrow Ribbed Sock
Total length for toe: 2 inches
Toe decreases over 22 rows
Opinion: I like them. Same cast off method as the ones above.

Green Socks (left bottom)
Oak Ribbed Socks
Total length for toe: 2.5 inches
Toe decreases over 28 rows
Opinion: I like them, even thought the toe is a bit longer than the prior the toe is shaped along with a double ribbing.

My favorites are the ones with the shorter toes.
In all 4 pairs the heel shapes are pretty much the same. What changes is the stitch pattern in the heel. I really don't think this makes a big difference in wear. It might if the heel flap is knit in plain stockinette vs a slip stitch ribbing.

The last ones in the study are the generic toe-up Turkish cast on method:

Total length for toe: 2 inches
Toe increases over 22 rows
Opinion: I don't like them. The toes are too flat/wide. The increases are done on the same 4 places each time. The previous examples divide the toe decreases evenly along the circumference.

The challenge:
Figure out a toe up sock with a better toe shape.


Leigh said...

I absolutely love toe-up socks. I have a standard toe, but then I've never tried a comparison like you have. Does all this mean you are going to write the "Perfect Sock Pattern"??????

Laurie said...

I do like your science. I agree with the rounder shorter toe. I haven't liked what I've seen of the toe up sock toes, and the short row heel would never fit me. I knit from top down, figure out how many rows of decreases looks good and gives me toe room, then adjust the number of kitchenered stitches to give a rounded toe. In usual sock yarn, it is 10-11 on each side. I have a long skinny foot.

Anonymous said...

You say there is no such thing as a cast-on that is stretchy enough for a good top-down sock. I disagree ;), because - after *mumble mumble* years, I've finally learned the modified long-tail cast on (is it called German cast-on? can't remember). And what I like best about top-down socks is the kitchener toe finish. With no seam at all (!!!) my socks don't rub on my toes - heaven!

Gwen S.

PS, for my "Fred feet", I decrease every row for the toes, and the 1 1/2" toe length fits me perfectly.