Thursday, December 19, 2013

Two Socks, One Week: Deconstructing the Pattern (Part 2)

So, a propos of yesterday's post, today is when I suggest you review the Simple Sock Pattern from beginning to end. When it comes to familiarizing myself with new patterns, I like to find a comfy spot, get myself a snack and a glass of wine. Natch, sub in any beverage, the consumption of which you find pleasant. My point is that relaxation is your friend.

Happily, this pattern is a simple as they get (IMO), and it doesn't reinvent the wheel. If you've made socks before, and you've watched my magic loop videos (presuming you haven't used the technique in the past), you're likely going to have a very easy time of this part.

Let's kick it off with Page 1, the administrative part of the pattern - the place where you'll find all kinds of necessary information about what you'll need to create a sock having dimensions described by the pattern. Pay attention to the length of your circular needle cable. I've mentioned it before, but do ensure your cable is at least 32 inches long, or the magic loop is going to be tricky to impossible. Remember, in the video tutorials, how I refer to the 2 loops of magic loop? If your cable is shorter than 32" it becomes very tricky to find the span required to create both of them.

You'll see, by the indicated gauge, that my knitting, on needles of 2.25 mm is a loose 7.5 stiches per inch. Many get 9 stitches per inch on a needle of that thickness. The good news is, that if your calf is a bit sturdier than mine or your foot a bit wider or taller (note: my dimensions are provided in detail on page 1 of the pattern) , you can still use the same needle size and pattern numbers indicated and, chances are, unless you knit as loosely as me, you'll be fine. See these posts for more detail...

The remaining important piece of info, on Page 1, is that about required notions. They're easy to come by online or at any knitting store...

Finalize the Bits and Pieces: It's December 19 today. That gives you a full 10 days to get anything you may be missing. Do you have enough yarn? Do you feel the need to get another cable needle, just in case? On that note, this line (not plugging the eBay vendor, whom I don't know) of ChiaoGoo needles is very affordable and the cable is particularly excellent for magic loop projects as it is quite malleable. The needle to cable join is entirely adequate too. Sara tried them, on my suggestion, and she loves them. And neither of us particularly likes bamboo. Note: They're NOT the metal ones with the red cable.

Now Let's Take it in Order: Read the rest of the pattern, first time through, at a high level. I hope that this pattern facilitates this because I specifically articulate the 9 steps involved in making each sock. Once you have a sense of each step for each sock, all you need to do is ensure that you have a comfort level for the specific stitching that happens during each step.

Then Read That Pattern Again: Look carefully at each step. If there's something you've not done before, check it out on the net, in a book, or feel free to leave a comment asking for clarity. Sure, we'll talk about various elements of each step during the week long KAL, but maybe you want to get some concepts ironed out ahead of time...

This pattern comes with handy charts for keeping track. So that's one thing you won't have to worry about. But get yourself a nice notebook, for future projects, and maybe take some extra notes to help you next time.

Decide to swatch or not. And then do it, if you're going to. And don't forget to a) swatch in the round and b) block your swatch, if that's the approach you choose.

A bit of extra info: The two diagrams in this pattern show you the circumference of the sock in terms of a) stitch numbers at given points and b) "DPN needles" (denoted by the three tick marks or, for the magic loopers, stitch markers).

One of the reasons I've done this is to show you how a pattern using DPNs (i.e. 3 needles with stitches evenly distributed over each, knit with a 4th needle) is easily converted into a magic loop pattern (wherein you simply have to keep track of half the stitches on one side of the cable and the other half on the other side of the cable.

If you've never made socks before, via any method, this aspect won't be particularly relevant though the diagrams should still assist you re: stitch numbers and marker placement. If you've always used DPNs, I hope that this will help you in understanding how the set up is distinct between the two methods, though the outcome is the same.

The thing to consider - and I'll remind you when we start the KAL - is that your stitch markers are the ultimate guide. Just keep approximately half the stitches on either side of the cable, at any given time, and follow the instructions.

So, this is it on Simple Socks till Dec. 29 (will aim to post on Dec. 28, if possible, travel depending), when I'll be back to chat about the day-to-day knitting associated with each step of making each sock. Be prepared to knit for 105 minutes on that day - unless you're fast - in which case you may get through that day's suggested steps, in less time still. Please leave your questions, whatever they are, in this post and I'll respond to them, as best I can, over the next 10 days. I also encourage all readers with knowledge to weigh in and give us your perspective.

  • Feel free to do this in your own time, with your own pattern (if that's what you prefer), on your own terms. I think it's empowering to complete a project quickly. But those finished objects are just as lovely, even if they take longer than a week to finish.
  • If you're going to follow along - but not participate, feel free to ask questions, or to answer them.
  • If you intend to participate - or even if you're not but you want to give this KAL a bit of press - please link to it on your blog or tell your knitting friends.  


  1. At your suggestion I read through the pattern today and looked up abbreviations I was unfamiliar with (ssk). Grafting I'll have to learn. When I got into this I had no idea of the learning curve I'd be on.
    My cast on method is different - it's a long tail done on the thumb. I've been watching videos of the standard long tail cast on and practicing. As long as I don't stop, I'm good, but if I lose momentum I find it tricky to get going again. When I compare the resulting edging of this style to my variation, I can see that the little line of loops underneath the stitch that form the edge slant a different way. I'll persist with the standard method, it will be good practice.

    One question I have is do you cast on with 2 needles? ie use both needles (of the circular needle) to cast on, in order to make a looser/ more elastic edge for the sock?

    I'm currently trying to knit a little swatch in the round on 2.75 mm needles. However the length of these is 29 inches. Only 3 inches shorter than the 32" you said was the minimum. Will the magic loop really be too difficult to do on 29" needles?

    Final observations - I've never knitted on circulars before. How do you deal with the loop of cable? It has a mind of it's own and gets in the way. And when sliding stitches from one end to the other, getting them over the join from cable to needle is a bit of work isn't it? These needles are Susan Bates brand, with metal tips.
    Would it be better for me (the absolute newb with circulars) to get those bamboo ChiaoGoo ones you recommended?

  2. These are great questions!

    OK: Don't worry about grafting now - I'm going to post a video showing it. SSK is super simple. I love doing it! Knitting is a terrific resource for videos showing all of these things...

    In terms of cast on, egad, there are so many methods that are almost the same but produce a different outcome. If you're not all worn out by learning, go to the Euro Knitting video from a couple of posts ago and do that version of long-tail cast on. Otherwise, the one shown on is the one I have always done.

    I do not cast on with 2 needles. The cast on happens only with one needle. I don't want a super large cast on stitch because I think it tends to look sloppy. Mind you, I already knit very loosely, so (even though cast on is always the tightest row), going looser would not work for me. Maybe someone else can weigh in on this...

    Try the 29" cable length and see if it works. If it does, then great. Note that cable length is generally measured (by needle companies) from tip of needle to tip of needle so, if you've just measured the length of your cable, you haven't got the "real" length. Mind you, even if the tip to tip length is 29", give it a go and see if it's comfortable. If it is, great!

    Ah, the cable. It does have a mind of its own sometimes. Depends on the brand. I actually think that ChiaoGoos are the best from this perspective - the metal cable ones I've referred to and linked to. That cable tows the line. Some peeps say you can steam the cable to get it to be more malleable (every time you pick up the work) but I don't actually think that works. I just get used to it. At first it's weird. After a while I just understand the cable and we live in detente :-)

    1. Clarification: Only steam the plastic cables!

    2. My understanding and experience of casting on with 2 needles is that it is less elastic and quite a lot tighter than using the thumb method. However I a tight knitter so maybe that's why?

    3. Sorry I can see the confusion... when I said to cast on 2 needles, I meant, still using the long tail cast on method, but form the stitch over 2 needles lying side by side. This will make the stitch bigger than if you put the stitch onto 1 needle as is the usual way.

    4. F: I did understand what you meant - and I've used that method for provisional cast on in the past. I don't do it with socks. The eastern european long tail cast on will produce a very stretchy edge however. More than stretchy enough. And the regular long tail cast on - the one I've done every time, since I only just found the Eastern Eur one, is quite adequate.