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Archive for September 15th, 2009

Hot Waves Design Structure

Tuesday, September 15th, 2009

hotwavestwocolors16It is the last day of my very-fun “Win a Joy of Sox Book” week. I want to take this time to talk about my design which is in the book, entitled Hot Waves.

We talked about fear of color yesterday. My sock is constructed in an unusual way for western-style socknitters. It has a toe structure few have tried, and an afterthought heel. Both of these features would be typical in an eastern-style/Turkish sock. They are almost unheard of in a European/ American/ western-style modern sock design.

It is possible that someone might be afraid to try a sock with these features, if they do not understand how they work before they begin. I would love to see folks try my pattern, so I am going to try to encourage folks by explaining the unusual bits.

Rectangle-Start Toe

toeuprectangle20The toe starts with a small, stockinette square rather than a wrapped start. Once the “toe rectangle” has been knit, stitches are picked up around the edges of that piece of fabric, and increases begin to shape the wedge of the toe. (The illustrations here were knit using bulky yarn so you can see the stitches, though my design in the book is executed in fingering weight yarn on smaller needles.)

toeupfinished50I enjoy knitting this toe, and I have taught children as young as 4th grade to make socks with this start. Just after all stitches are picked up, if the sock is made of thick yarn, the piece on the needles looks like a nose warmer (see photo). The kids I teach enjoy this phase very much, and will model the piece on their nose for one another, needles and all.

Here is only one example of a kid doing just that. For the record, both of the girls in this photo started socks. One finished two pairs. Both were in elementary school at the time.

Afterthought Heels a la LynnH

If you do not study socks obsessively as I do, you may not have heard of an afterthought heel. This is literally where you start a sock, and knit from top to toe or toe to top but skip the heel entirely.

In my designs, I use a half-round of waste yarn to mark the place where that heel will go later. I pick up stitches around the hole before picking out the waste yarn, and then knit the heel. Here is a photo of the 2nd colorway for the Hot Waves sock design, partly through the process of knitting the heel.

hotwavegreenheel

Other Afterthought Methods

For the record, another way to do it is to snip a yarn where you want the heel, pick out half a round of stitches, pick up the stitches around the hole and start a heel. I think I read in an Elizabeth Zimmerman book that she would do it this way. I knit two pairs this way and they worked out fine, but I think it takes a bit more courage to try that!

Mine is Not a Shallow Heel

The afterthought heel is not unknown, but often folks who try it, follow the common advice to “knit a toe” where the heel goes. Often they find it far too shallow to be comfortable, and they give up on this structure entirely.

The afterthought heel I used in this design is decreased like the shape of a person’s heel, and is longer than a toe. It looks quite odd in a laundry basket, but is extremely comfortable on the foot (or at least on my foot, Brian’s foot, and friend/test knitter Mary’s foot… maybe yours as well).

A Beautiful Design Element

For some reason, I find knitting this much more pleasant than a heel flap with gusset. I also believe on an art/visual level, that it is a prettier design. Heel flaps seem to sort of disrupt the design. In this sock, there was no way to get that beautiful stripe pattern, using any other type of heel. I love the bullseye effect!

Stripes Made Simple

This sock also employs stripes as a major design element. Some are afraid they do not know how to start a new color. Others think they need to cut the yarn every time they start a new stripe, which means far too much sewing in and finishing after the knitting is done. It also would make an uncomfortable sock, with all that sewing underfoot.

hotwavesonmannequinfoot16When you start a new color for stripes, just literally drop the working yarn where it is. Pick up the new yarn with the cut end hanging to the floor. Lleave 4-6″ (10-15cm) of the new yarn’s end hanging down. Hold the yarn in place as if it is connected to your sock. I do this with my left hand.

Then knit the first few stitches with the new yarn (the end connected to the ball) a bit more carefully so the end does not pull out. After that, it’s attached well and you can just knit away as if nothing happened.

When you get to the point where you need to change colors again, just hold the working yarn straight up into the sky, then move left/counter-clockwise and drop the yarn. Reach down under from the right, and pull up the new yarn color where you left it hanging. Make sure there is no major slack in the new yarn from where it was attached before, and then knit with that yarn again.

Wider Stripes

If you find you are making a stripe more than about 4 rows high, you may choose to twist the yarns together on every 3rd round. At that point, you can just drop the working yarn left, pick up non-working yarn from bottom/right. Immediately do it again, returning the working yarn you need to continue using. In my pattern there are a few places where you knit 5 rounds of one color, and I did this little “trick” when I knit my own samples.

Check the tension on both yarns to see that they stay flat against the surface of the sock. If they look smooth, continue your stripe pattern.

Two-Color “Stranded” Knitting

For the record, you could make this sock with just stripes, and skip the two-color wave pattern if you wished. I think the waves make it much more interesting and fun, but the toe/heel striping and the three-color combination would still make a fun addition to any sock wardrobe.

I designed this as “colorwork lite” on purpose. There are merely nine rounds in the entire sock which require two colors on the same round. You need not have ever done this before to give it a try. The main thing to remember is that you must knit much more relaxed than you ever typically knit, or those rounds will not stretch well. You do want the sock to slip on, over your heel.

hotwavesgreenstitches450

Relax, Relax!!!

Stranded knitting is called that (also called colorwork or Fairisle) because the yarn you are not using creates a strand of unused yarn across the back side of the fabric. That strand is not stretchy at all. Some of us are able to remind ourselves “knit relaxed, knit relaxed” for the rounds which are stranded. Others may find that going up 2-3 needle sizes for those few rounds will help them make a workable stretch in the final piece.

Do practice stretching the stitches every time you finish working one needle, so you stay focused on that stretch. It is worth paying attention while you are on the important rounds. Even consider stretching the actual sock to see if it will be large enough for your heel when you pull it on, if there is room to stretch it while on the needles.

Question of the Day

OK, I spent this post talking about me and my creative work. I would love to hear about you, as well.

How did you find my blog? Is this book what brought you my way?

What are you creating these days? Knitting, crochet, gardening, canning, cooking, entertaining?

Do you ever knit with two colors? Stripes? Stranding? Do you like trying new techniques? Does it help you to learn a bit about how it is done before diving in? Did I help you imagine something new in your own creative life?

Again, a text comment gains you one entry in the drawing for the free Joy of Sox book contributed by Lark books. A link to an illustration/photo related to your answer gains you an extra bonus entry for the day. You may enter for every day of the contest, even if you find that entry on a different day than I posted it.

You have until midnight Eastern time (New York City/Washington DC) to enter. I will pick a name Wednesday and announce it here. WooHoo!!!

Thank you, every single one, for being with me here. Whether you comment or not, I appreciate you more than you know. Commenters, you bring light to my days, contest or not. Thank you ever so much.