Sunday, January 23, 2011

One Toe Over The Line

I mentioned last week that I was experimenting with keeping a few knitting books on my ereader.  It's not the right experience for every book.  I don't think I could bear to end my life-long love affair with riffling pages and affixing sticky notes.  But it works surprisingly well for some pattern collections, especially those I might reference regularly.

I downloaded Wendy Knits: My Never-Ending Adventures in Yarn as a trial run.  I was immediately taken with the generic, toe up sock pattern.  Not that I was ever going to knit a sock from the toe up, mind you.  I knit a lot of socks.  Oodles.  But I've always been a dedicated flapper and the very idea of a short row heel made my head hurt.  I knit very nice socks.  Who has the time to be learning a new way to knit heels?  And toes, for that matter...

Well, it seems that I do, at least at the moment.  With the recent bout of back to back storms, I've been sitting at home more than I've been teaching the next generation.  I worked literally a day and a half this past week and I have a bad feeling that there is another snow day looming in the immediate future.  I finally gave in and did my provisional cast on.  I was trapped inside and going a little stir crazy anyway.  Why not add a some "heel crazy" to the mix?

The toe-up sock requires two short row endeavors so there was ample opportunity to traverse the learning curve.  Some lessons I learned very quickly.  For example: if it takes you half an hour to "unzip" your provisional cast on, then you have probably done it wrong.  I taught kindergarten.  I've done my share of wintertime playground duties.  I know a stuck zipper when I see one.

Other questions didn't resolve themselves quite so quickly.  I came perilously close to going online and polling the knitting community regarding the best time to ice down my hands.  Should I do it right after screwing up the first heel?  Or wait until the third try?  Would taking a therapeutic dose of pain relievers before starting eliminate the need for ice altogether?  What is the best course of action here???

Of course, I eventually figured out that knitting probably shouldn't hurt and that, like the cast on, I was probably doing something wrong.  I finally reviewed a few online tutorials for instruction.

Finally, after days of snowbound knitting, I ended up with this:

Not bad...if you squint and think very positive sock thoughts.


It is fair to say that these will never be "clog socks."  They might be "church socks" since they are very Hol(e)y in places, though.  At first I found myself disparaging the short row, but then I recalled how I used to have to stitch up the heels of my socks back in the day.  There was always a gap after I picked up the stitches.  Now I don't need to do that because I knit very nice flappy heels.  I've no doubt I can come up with a neater way to do this with practice.

In spite of the flaws, I'm not displeased with the result.  The toe-up sock goes pretty quickly and when you're done...you're done.  No weaving of toes, just one little strand of yarn.  And I'm pleasantly surprised by the fit.  It's really a nice sock, if not a perfect one.

I started the second today.  In the event of further weather, I will have something to work on while I wait out the snowflakes.  At this rate, I should be able to replenish my dwindling sock supply in short order!

Actually, if this weather pattern persists, I imagine I'll be able to meet my sock needs for life.

SA

15 comments:

Jeanne B. said...

I didn't understand short row heels, either, until I stumbled across Cat Bordhi's tutorials on YouTube (link displays several of hers; start with the top two.)

Now that I have a handle on short rows, I'm a huge fan of toe-up socks, mostly because I can check the fit better as I go than I can when I knit cuff-down.

I like your new sock. It's pretty!

Anonymous said...

Nice Annie - I have done one pair of toe up socks. I don't have the whole fit down - exactly when to do the heel. On cuff down I have it memorized. I did enjoy it and when the first attempt was too big I just gave them to my sister. Patti

kmkat said...

Yay for you! I converted to toe-up socks a couple years ago. I weigh my skein, wind it into to identical balls, and knit away with never a worry about running out of yarn or fussing about exactly when to start the heel. After a few pairs I changed the short row heel slightly to work it on about 5-10% more than half the stitches instead of exactly half. This deeper heel seems to fit my foot better.

The Beaudelaire sock at Knitty.com is a toe-up design with a heel flap and gusset. I haven't tried it yet, but Erika at Red Shirt Knitting assures me that it works as written for whatever sock yarn you are using -- no need to do a bunch of math to account for different gauge. Someday I will try it. Not yet, but someday.

Kath said...

I've a toe-up pattern on my list and it's been there for a while because I just can't motivate myself to change how I knit socks when I'm already quite satisfied with doing 'em top down. But since you've been brave enough to lead the way....

Julia G said...

Love the sock! Wendy's toe-up short row sock was the first sock I ever made, and it's still a favorite. Not to make your head spin, but when you're ready to graduate to Judy's Magic Cast on for the toe, you will love the toe-up sock in all its non-holey perfection even more -- I think Wendy includes the technique in her second toe-up socks book, but it's easy to find on the internet.

Instead of the provisional cast on of say 28 stitches, then decreasing to the toe, then increasing your way back up, fending off holes all the way, you just loosely cast on 8 stitches each alternating between 2 dpns for a total of 16 stitches, then M1 2 times on each side every other row, neatly and seamlessly, and knit happily up to the heel.

The magic is the technique for casting on those first 16 stitches, which if one patiently follows the steps without too much cussing, works like a charm.

The other advantage of the short-row heel is that you can stick it anywhere -- you can knit a sock as a tube, knit in a piece of scrap yarn where you want your heel to be, and come back and mess with it later (the Yarn Harlot does this with "movie socks"). I've also used it to fix sock that was way too long -just unraveled it at the heel, ripped out the offending inch of knitting, wove the front half together and made a new heel in the right spot.

Mel said...

I'm a confirmed toe-upper - when I actually get around to knitting socks. Comes of having big feet and needing to make sure I'm not using more than half my yarn to do the first sock. Having played around with a few ways of doing them, I've come to the conclusion that the way that works best for me is the sherman short row toe (no P3tog tbl!) and the widdershins heel (a flap! in reverse!). I've also concluded that I'm not very good at the follow through needed to do socks.

Donna Lee said...

I think short row toes and heels look more like traditional socks. I stopped having holes when I stopped picking up the wraps. I just went out on a limb and left them there and they seem to fill in the holes. It's magic. I don't do toe up often. I'm still a cuff down woman. Mostly.

Karen said...

Beautiful sock!! You did a great job.

Elaine said...

It's beautiful! What a nice job you've done! Toe-ups really intimidate me, but there's a Ravelry KAL for toe-ups coming in Feb and I'm on board for that.

debsnm said...

I always figured that if, when you were done, you got what you were trying for, then it's a success! It looks like a sock, and you said it fits like a sock, so that makes you a success at knitting toe-up socks!

April said...

Toe Up Socks scare me. I tried to knit one once using "Judy's Magic 8" cast-on and it was just a bad scene. I didn't even get to the heel part.

I love the color of your new sockie!

Beth said...

Your sock looks great! I prefer to knit toe-up socks. I use Silver's Sock Class tutorial and it is really, really helpful to me.

Leah said...

That is a lovely sock.

I prefer top down and heel flap because I have high insteps. That is cool that I could use more than 50% on the stitches on a short-row heel and have it fit nicely. I have done some of Cat Bordhi's toe up socks but I have abandoned the Judy's magical cast on because I find knitting socks on circulars a total pain and that cast on with DPNs is torture. I have done a provisional cast on to get started instead or just cast on in a line and used the wool end to close up the hole in the centre. There isn't much hole when I cast on 4 stitches.

Wishing you many more happy returns in the sock knitting department.

Knitting Linguist said...

Very nice! I tend to knit my socks toe-up either if a) I'm knitting color-changing yarn and I don't want to mess with the striping (noro), or b) I'm knitting for my husband, who has the world's biggest feet, and I want to use as much yarn as possible for each sock. I don't use a provisional cast-on, though, I do the nifty wrap the yarn around two needles and then knit it cast on (I'm sure there's a name for it, I just don't know it right offhand). :)

knitseashore said...

Congratulations! Coming from someone who never knits socks, I realize this may not be much of a compliment, but I mean it to be. It's always great to learn something new when yet another snowstorm threatens your sanity. :)