FO – Toe-Up Magic Stripes Socks

I actually finished these socks at the end of November, but today is the first time I’ve had anywhere near enough light to photograph them.

I know there is some kind of irony (or foolishness) that I live with a professional photographer, yet it never occurs to me to ask him to shoot my knits. He’s now on a month-long trip around Asia, so please bear with my attempts.

These are very probably my favorite socks I’ve ever owned, hand-knit or otherwise.

Pattern: Universal Toe-Up Sock Formula by Amy Swenson in the summer 2006 Knitty
Size: custom fit to a lady’s size 9 with 9-inch foot circumference and 9.5-inch foot length (see notes below)
Yarn: Lion Brand Magic Stripes 75% wool 25% nylon, color 310-201 Denim Stripe; I used every speck of 3.50 oz./100 g (330 yd/300 m)
Needles: Knit Picks 6″ nickel-plated double-pointed needles, set of 5 size 1 (2.25 mm)
Modifications: None, as they were custom fit to my feet.

Started: October 27, 2007
Finished: November 30, 2007

I absolutely loved every bit of this experience, as it was such a clear, specific, and elegant process. Every calculation paid off for a uniquely perfect fit.

The formula starts with a gauge swatch (you can see mine here), once you’ve got the combination of needles and yarn for the fabric you want. In this instance, my gauge was 8 stitches per inch.

From there, I used my foot circumference and length measurements and a lovely little formula from the pattern to derive a set of numbers. This was all incredibly easy math and because I’m a nerd for numbers, I loved the way mine worked out.

For my own future reference, my math and cheat sheet numbers are as follows:

gauge = 8 st/inch on size 1 DPNs

foot circumference = 9 inches
sock circumference = 9 x 0.9 = 8.1 inches
length of foot = 9.5 inches
length of foot – 1.5 = 8 inches (A)
desired length of cuff = (when I run out of yarn) (B)

sock circumference x gauge = 8.1 x 8 = 64.8 –> 64 stitches – Key Number (C)

Number of Stitches for Toe & Heel Short Rows: divide C by 2 = 64 / 2 = 32 (D)

Number of stitches at end of toe and heel: multiply D by 0.4 = 32 x 0.4 = 12.8 — > 12 (E)

Cheat Sheet:
A – 8
B – when I run out of yarn
C – 64
D – 32
E – 12

The toes and heels are worked exactly the same, using short rows with wraps. Both are exquisitely comfortable and because I knit the sole to the exact length of my foot, the heels cup my feet so nicely.

I took this project with me on the subway, and I think it may have been what saved my sanity. This semester I was taking a French class in Manhattan, which involved three hours of traveling through rush hour twice a week. It doesn’t sound like a lot, but it really adds up in terms of fast little rows of stockinette.

As I approached the end of my first sock, I started compulsively weighing the skein to determine the exact middle. I was excited at the prospect of using every last centimeter of yarn because I was working toe-up.

I found the half-way point and realized that I would be incredibly close to the stripe sequence at which I’d begun my first toe right at the mid-point of the skein.

It therefore only took a little bit of winding off and weighing to match my stripes precisely. As it happened, I was left with a small enough length of blue that I could split it evenly for the top stripes and incorporate it into the pattern where it belonged.

I really love when things go my way.

While I know that this pattern is basically just a generic toe-up formula, I think it’s perfectly written to make simple sense of sock construction and get a custom fit.

It literally took me less than three minutes to calculate all my numbers and the pay-off is tremendous.

I can’t recommend this method highly enough. The formula is also adaptable to other stitch patterns than stockinette, like cabling, lace, entrelac, and so on.

In this instance, I thought the stripes were such a strong design element that a simple and clean stitch best showcased what I loved about this yarn.

All in all, I couldn’t be happier with this experience. I was so happy, in fact, that I immediately cast on for another pair of socks within minutes of finishing these. No second (or sixth) sock syndrome around here!

Previous Entries on this Project:
Oh oh oh they’re magic…

Oh oh oh they’re magic…

Fresh off of my Jaywalker euphoria, I cast on for another pair of socks. Well actually, that’s not the full story.

(Why are my sock stories always sagas?)

I had this ball of Magic Stripes yarn in the Denim Stripe color way which I bought last Christmas. I’m totally aware of people’s feelings about this yarn, but for some reason it just called to me.

While I was still working on my first Jaywalker, I cast on another pair in this yarn and plugged away.

I actually got almost to the heel-turning point before the concept of yardage entered my mind. 330 yards divided by 2 gave me much less yarn than I needed for a full pair. About 25% less. I did some math, I weighed some things, and when it came down to it, I didn’t really want Jaywalker anklets badly enough to have to calculate what percentage of the cuff to rip back. I also really didn’t want to knit a whole pair of socks constantly sweating the yardage.

I contemplated trying to find another skein in this dye lot (90), but Ravelry turned up empty and I couldn’t find it for sale online. It occurred to me that they weren’t lying on the package. It really could provide two socks in one ball, just not two Jaywalkers.

A-frogging I went. Man, it never really gets easier.

I decided the best way to handle my predicament was with math. This is probably a strange concept since this whole dilemma started by an aversion to math, but there it is.

I weighed my skein, measured my foot, then… made a gauge swatch. It is indeed the world’s twee-est gauge swatch, and I felt ludicrous doing it, but it was informative. I got exactly 8 stitches to the inch, and if I were estimating, I would have said 6.5.

I plugged some numbers into a brilliant worksheet, and suddenly I was casting on for toe-up socks.

The pattern is brilliantly simple (Universal Toe-Up Sock Formula from Knitty, summer 2006). It began with a crochet cast-on, a short-row toe (interesting and very easy), then undoing the crochet, picking up the live stitches and working in the round. I mangled the crochet in unpicking it, but I didn’t have any problems with the live stitches.

From there, I just zipped along. During a phone conversation with my mother and brother (they put me on speaker), I finished the foot. When I hung up, I turned the heel in literally a few minutes. I was amazed.

I weighed my sock at this point, minus the weight of the needles (can you tell that my digital scale is my new favorite toy?). It is 32.4 grams, leaving me 16.4 grams for the cuff, approximately 54 yards (I could explain all this math if you’re really interested, but it involved cross-multiplying and ratios). I think that will be plenty.

I really love this yarn, which consistently surprises me. I see baseball, Americana, and sometimes the 1970s when I look at it. Occasionally it makes me think of clowns, and though I’m genuinely terrified of clowns, this yarn mitigates that and I just enjoy it. It ventures into that “so wrong it’s right” territory for me, and for that, it’s won my heart.

I also have unending love for this pattern and its adaptability. I carefully tried my sock on at the point of this last photo, and the fit is spot-on. It is exactly the right toe-to-heel distance and has a really enjoyable snugness. It probably helps that my foot has exact measurements of 9 inches circumference and 9.5 inches length. My worksheet yielded beautiful numbers (64 stitches, exactly 8 inches for the sole etc), which has only added to the pleasure.

I have skeins of two more sock yarns due to arrive soon, and I may use this pattern (or another toe-up) for both of those. I like not having to worry about yardage. I like it a lot.

Happy Socktober!

It is with great pride and happiness that I present my finished Jaywalkers:

I am so in love with these socks.

Pattern: Jaywalker by Grumperina, from the September 05 MagKnits.
Size: larger (9 inches around foot, 9-1/2 inches from top of leg to bottom of heel)
Yarn: Patons Kroy 75% wool 25% nylon, 4-ply sock yarn, color 54801 Krazy Stripes; I used two 50-gram balls and 7.4 grams of a third (about 30 yards), for an approximate total yardage of 436 yards.
Needles: Knit Picks 6″ nickel-plated double-pointed needles, set of 5 size 1 (2.25 mm)
Modifications: I unintentionally added a few straight rounds in the right toe. I vastly prefer the one done according to the pattern.

Started: originally in October 2006, then put on hold many times
Finished: October 24, 2007

I have mentioned my deep and intense love for this pattern before, but really, these have been the perfect first socks.

The pattern was easy to memorize and had just enough variety to stay interesting while remaining a perfect “pick up and go” kind of project.

I learned all about sock construction, including turning a heel and Kitchener stitch, and I cannot wait to make more socks after such a wonderful experience.

This yarn was a pleasure to knit with, through and through. The finished product is so delightfully cozy.

Smokey instantly approved.

I must trust him. That cat is an expert in comfort.

So there you have it. My first socks, my first knitting with wool (and my feet can tolerate it!), and a wonderful project through and through. I can’t recommend these highly enough!

Previous Entries on this Project:
A Jaywalker walks into a bar… ouch
The Jaywalkers Saga
Sock Bliss
Unconscious Knitting

A Jaywalker walks into a bar… ouch

(Two guys walk into a bar. You’d think the second would have learned after watching the first.)

If you haven’t rolled your eyes enough already, then get psyched for continuing adventures in knitting absurdity, brought to you by my Jaywalkers.

I mentioned that I’ve been knitting these socks during subway rides, and it turns out I’ve spent much more time on the subways than I realized lately. The socks were really cruising along, and I was thinking any day now, I’d be ready to turn the heel.

Umm, that would have been about two inches ago. Whoops!

I briefly considered if one sock towering two inches over the other would bother me, and the obsessive-compulsive portions of my brain went into a small conniption at the thought of it.

So, I ripped back those two beautiful inches.

Trust me, sweet Jaywalker, this hurt me a lot more than it hurt you.

The good news is, to alleviate my wounded knitter’s pride, I successfully and rapidly turned the heel and made great headway down the foot. If hell freezes over and I actually finish these for Socktober, I will have the comfort of warm and brightly-striped feet!

The Jaywalkers Saga

Way back in October 2006, before the days of this blog, I started a pair of Jaywalkers. It was my first sock, my first time knitting with DPNs, and all around a new experience.

So it’s not surprising that I abandoned them until December. When I picked them back up, I’d forgotten what I was doing, messed it all up, didn’t rip back properly, and made a disaster. It’s almost a good thing I did this, as I was knitting them in the smaller size and they were way too tight. I started back over, and in several feverish sessions over Christmas break and into January, I got all the way down to the toes.

Then I ran out of yarn.

See, I have relatively long (and I think pretty lovely) toes. While they elicit many compliments and make my feet look quite nice in sandals, they’re not exactly practical for sock knitting, as they give me a size 9 women’s shoe. Last year and for years previous I was a size 8.5, but either my feet grew or I could no longer tolerate squished toes, so now 9 it is.

I tried using a different, thinner sock yarn for the toes (Knit Picks essentials in grass), but it was a duller, more olive green, and the change in gauge was abrupt and unsettling. When I royally butchered the three-needle bind-off, I took it as a sign, ripped it all back to the original yarn, then proceeded to create one of the worst tangles in my knitting career as I tried to wind a center-pull ball of the Knit Picks. The whole experience was so frustrating that I sloppily jammed the stitches back onto my DPNs then shoved the whole pile into my knitting basket, where it has remained.

As I mentioned previously, I had been going back and forth on what to do. If I tapped into my second ball of sock yarn, it wouldn’t leave enough for the matching sock. I knew I couldn’t deal with one sock being shorter than another, nor was I inclined to rip out the first heal I ever knit to reduce some length from the leg. So I concluded I would have to buy another ball of yarn. Then I was bummed that I would only be using a few yards from said ball, and I became tempted to rip back again to add length to both legs. But, again, the reluctance to rip out that really quite nice heel… and here we have it. I’ll use the rest of the third skein for something else.

I ordered and received this third ball, with little consideration of dye lots because I was using such a small amount, at the very tip of the toe. It couldn’t make a difference, right?

Hahaha. It might not be obvious in this photo, but the green in the new ball is so neon and different from the green in my originals that it makes my heart ache. Had my original skeins come in such a garish bright shade, I’m not sure I would have gone on with the project.

I tried the sock back on to see just how much electric lime I would be adding, and oh, it was more than I’d realized. Poor little (filthy) toes… all out in the cold and exposed.

With a sigh, I joined the second ball, reconsulted the pattern for the first time since January, and tried to figure out what I’d done. Arbitrarily, I added a few straight rounds to lengthen the toe decrease section slightly. I think I might have rushed into it the first time when I was staring down the end of my yarn, and I was getting anxious that I’d do all this work to finish, only to have my socks squish my toes.

I had to relearn a three-needle bind-off (some might rightly say I never knew it in the first place), but I think it came out okay.

And now I have my first finished, hand-knit sock. For all the heartache, frustration, and annoyance it caused me, it is really, really lovely.

I love its adorably clever little heel… I even love its neon toe.

This is an exceptional pattern, the fit is delightful, and I really have to give it up to Grumperina for such a fool-proof design that even a first-time sock knitter could pull it off. I can’t recommend it highly enough.

I was so excited to finish this sock that I immediately cast on for its mate, which is well under way thanks to more than a few lengthy subway rides.