Thursday, February 3, 2011

Socks Education Part 2: The Anatomy of a Sock

In order to fully enjoy the experience of socks, you need to have a solid working knowledge of anatomy.  Let’s take a look at the common crew sock.

The cuff; in my opinion the key to a good sock.
The Cuff.  The traditional way to knit socks is to start at the cuff and work toward the toe.  If I’m old-fashioned enough to believe in using DPNs, then you can bet I’m traditional enough to knit a sock beginning with the cuff. 

While the heel may be the most difficult part to knit, it’s the cuff that is most likely to have the biggest impact on the success or failure of your sock.  If it’s too tight, it will be hard to put on and it will cut into your leg.  If it’s too loose, the leg of your sock will fall down.  In either case, you will be mad at your socks for the entire time you are wearing them.  The moral of the story here is to pay attention to your cuff to heighten your enjoyment of socks.

The Leg.  The leg of your sock is easy to knit.  You just knit round and round and round until it’s as long as you want.  There is no shaping to the leg with this basic pattern.  The leg is, however, the part you want to look most attractive as it will be visible above your shoe.  The leg is the place for stripes, two-color knitting, or a lace pattern.

The leg; enjoy this calm before the storm (aka the heel).

The heel; it's not that bad, just take it step by step.
The Heel.  It’s the heel that will cause you the most anxiety.  There are several different methods for “turning” a heel, all of them tricky and confusing, unless you are used to it.  Have faith that the pattern is correct and follow it to the letter.  This is not the time to wing it.  We are going to make a “common heel” as it is the most traditional (I feel like I should be singing “Tradition” like Tevia in Fiddler on the Roof).  In addition to being traditional, it’s comfortable because it cups your heel.

Let’s take a deeper look that the heel’s anatomy.  There are three parts to the heel:  the flap, the "turning," and the gusset. 
The flap is the part that covers the back of your heel from the ankle to the bottom of your foot.  The flap is on half the stitches on your needles.  The rest of the stitches are reserved for forming the gusset.

The second part is the turn which is where you get the term "turning the heel."  By decreasing at the ends of the flap over several rows, you form a curve that cups your heel.  
Finally, the gusset of the common heel is formed by picking up stitches on the left side of the flap, knitting across the reserved stitches (the top of the foot), then picking up stitches on right side of the flap.  When you pick up stitches for the gusset, you end up with many more stitches than what you originally cast on.  Consequently, you will need to work a series of decreases to get back to the original number of cast on stitches.  The decrease rows further shape the heel so it is rounded.

That’s the “why” of the three parts of the heel.  There will be another post on the “how.”  Right now, just take a deep breath and relax.  I’ll talk you through your first heel when the time comes.

The foot; the vacation after the heel.
The Foot.  The foot is just like the leg.  You knit round and round and round.  I generally work the same pattern on the foot as I did for the leg, but there is no law that says you have to.  You can freestyle it on the foot.  It might feel good after adhering to the strict rules of the heel.

The toe; we're almost done.
The Toe.  The toe requires some shaping, but it’s not as complicated as turning the heel.  You also have to close up the toe either by threading the yarn through the remaining stitches, casting off and sewing the hole closed, or by using the Kitchener stitch (aka grafting).  Anyone of these will work, it just depends on the look you want.

Are you feeling a little more comfortable with socks now that you know all the parts?  Come back tomorrow for Socks Education Part 3: Diving In with Gusto!  We’ll be casting on, knitting the cuff, and starting the leg.

The complete sock...  like you've never seen one before, duh!

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1 comment:

Janet said...

I voted and I believe I meet all the criteria to win! I already have plans for some of that fabric.

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