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.