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Archive for January 17th, 2006

Cast-Ons for Toe-Up Socks

Tuesday, January 17th, 2006

If you are not a socknitter, forgive my passion today for a very niche subject. I am writing a LOT about only one part of a sock, for only one direction of knitting socks. We’re talking toes, for socks knit toe up (as opposed to top down design, which is more common in the USA/Western knitting culture).

Someone posted to the Socknitter’s list, a web page listing as many Heel and Toe Variations they could find on the web in free patterns/tutorials. I’m delighted that my LynnH No-Purl Heel is listed (under Traditional Flap-Style Heels – Top Down).

I spent my waking-up time today (supposedly my day off) working through the toe-up toe methods listed. It’s a sort of fun exercise since I’ve been doing a lot more toe-up socks lately.

Experimental toe-up afterthought socks by LynnHTurkish Cast-On is inspired by Meg Swansen’s version, explained by Deb. It’s a lot like the cast on I used in my own Turkish Toe-Up Sox, which I learned from a dance friend who knits in the Society for Creative Anachronism. My friend used the toe on a pair of white and blue cotton socks inspired by ancient Egyptian socks.

The version online uses two circulars, I use DPN’s for mine. She also uses a temporary slip knot for the tail (very handy), but we’re clearly kissing cousins.

I think it’s cool how a toe is literally Folk Art, passed from person to person and each has a different flavor but the same essence. Must be that was a little part of why Elizabeth Zimmerman (Meg’s mother, may she rest in peace) preferred to say she “unvented” things, a term I’m ambivalent about… but so many things are almost in the universal set of possibilities that we just have our own “flavor” of them, and it’s perhaps unlikely that nobody else ever in history had done it before us.

I mean, it’s two sticks, a string and a bunch of loops. How many options (at least for technique) can there be? Yes, Lucy Neatby’s Fiesta Feet Socks surely are so unique nobody else could have come up with that design. Yet even then, surely someone else did a garter stitch cuff before her, for example. She just combined enough specific details that the combination sings “Lucy.”

Back to toes. Kim’s No-Sew cast on is a figure-eight. I did it easily today, but when I first tried it (from Anna Zilboorg’s Fancy Feet/Simply Socks book) I was a very new socknitter and I did not do well with it. I guess experience has made the difference, the technique is not different though perhaps the words used were a help. Kim’s graphic is very good, for the first set of wraps.

Judy’s Phony Grafted Toe (from Judy Gibson’s You’re Putting Me On Socks) is also a figure eight, and she sites inspiration from Anna Zilboorg. Interesting how two people can explain the same technique differently enough that it feels different until you look at the results!

toe-up socks based on Sole Solutions Software, by LynnHThe Easy Rectangle Toe is a goodie. It is related to the Easy Toe Up option from The Sole Solution sock-pattern-generating software by Mary Moran (listmom of Socknitters).

I used Mary’s program to create the pattern for my first toe-up socks, liked her style, altered and adapted it a bit (different cast-on, different way of decreasing gusset stitches, different location of slipped stitches for reinforcement). I started teaching folks how to knit socks from toe toe up, made a handout, and it eventually evolved into the LynnH First-Time Toe-Up Socks, one of my most popular patterns.

(Mary does approve of designers being inspired by her software, for the record. My 9-page pattern with 13 photographs is certainly not the pattern her program would generate, and I use none of her words, but she did inspire me. I had never done a provisional cast on before I found her software, but with the photos in her help system I did it without trouble.

If you are even somewhat interested in her program, I give it an A+ for quality and ease of use. It’s an amazing value. No, I’m not affiliated other than having been on the Socknitters email list for a long time.

LATE UPDATE: I wrote Mary Moran to let her know she’d been blogged here… She wrote back, offering my blog readers a discount. She says:
Folks can get a 10% discount on any regularly priced order by just entering the word socknitters in the voucher field of their order and clicking redeem.Go to her site, Knitting Zone, if you are interested. She carries much more than just the software.

Inside the blurb for Easy Rectangle Toe, there is a mention of Lela’s pattern, which to me looks even more like the Sole Solutions version, a very nice toe indeed, with a provisional cast on which creates a less-obvious join than my version. (I believe my start is easier but you can see eight tiny blips on the top of the toe at the cast-on point.)

Aloha Toe gets many rave reviews on Socknitters, it’s part of the Crazy Toes and Heels by Queen Kahuna/Mary Ann Beattie. Big hit, and I did have to try it.

I don’t know why it is, but when a cast on calls for circular needles, I rebel. I like my DPN’s, they don’t flop around and get in my way… this is clearly only a personal preference, and I am totally OK when students want to knit on circs (either 1 or 2), but it just is not my style. (Yes, I’ve done it but it doesn’t make my heart sing.) I had to go get another soothing cup of tea before I was willing to go find some circs and try this one… the one getting major kudos consistently on Socknitters. Eventually I had to break down and at least try it to see what the fuss was all about.

She calls it a German/Long Tail Cast on variation. It’s basically like the cast on I use most often, but you cast on alternately between two needles. It has little blips between the needles (similar to my own First-Time Toe-Up toe but my blips are at the tip of the toenails on top of the sock, and hers are at the very centered tip of the toe). Her blips are a little less noticeable than mine. And it would be very comfy for folks who cast on Continental/Long Tail, to understand and enjoy.

I must say, that once you figure this one out (she has wonderful photographs to walk you through it) it feels a bit magical to know how it’s done! She is good at doing a walk through with photos and words, on paper. And really, you could do it on DPNs if you were stuck in the mud as I seem to be! LOL

Knitting Fiend’s Toe-Up Cast On is really an elegant option. It uses a half-hitch cast on like my square-toe version, but she has you knit only one row where I go 8 and the above version has you do 6. This means no picking up stitches on the sides of a rectangle, only the bottom.

You pick up stitches in the half-hitch cast on, so it has blips like mine, but the blips are on the exact end of the toe like Kahuna’s (maybe less noticeable, though I can’t compare because I ripped out each toe before trying the next one). I think this one is a really brilliant combination of possible features which works very well.

All these options are quite useful and I can perform them equally easily. I have favorites I repeat over and over, and I have a new one I am putting in the new no-purl sock I pictured yesterday, which is not like any of the ones I tried today but could easily have been used by a folk knitter I never met.

That was fun! Maybe you’d like to try one or two new techniques yourself.

Photos: 1) The first pair of toe-up socks I made with the Turkish Cast-On my friend Sally taught me. It was my first or second afterthought heel, too (it was very shallow, I’ve figured out how to do them better in later attempts). Yarn is Regia, I think it’s called Las Vegas. 2) The first pair of toe-up socks I ever made, using a pattern generated by Sole Solution Software. It has a provisional cast on and a version of “square toe” which I think she calls Easy Toe-Up Toe. Yarn is Debbie Bliss DK merino (washable, wonderful stuff).

Mid-Michigan Knitting Guild

Tuesday, January 17th, 2006

Tuesday night (third Tuesday, to be exact, which is today) is the Lansing area knitting guild meeting. It’s a fun group of people, you don’t have to be specifically invited and it’s not like an in-club or place where you jury in. If you like to knit, you are welcome. You don’t have to join right away, just come and see how you like it.

The meeting is 7-9pm at the University Lutheran Church on Harrison Road, very close to Trowbridge Rd (take Trowbridge exit from 127/496, turn left at Harrison, second church on left but you have to go past the Islamic Center, which is the 3rd large building, and do a left-handed U-turn to get there through the boulevard). We meet in the lower level, there is an elevator if you need one.

If you say hello right away, people are very friendly and welcoming. Since the group is large (50 people at a meeting sometimes), sometimes the people you meet are also new, or don’t come all the time. They may not realize you are new, but once you say hello it’s the most friendly group you can imagine.

Please join us.