28 November 2006

Heel Trauma and Lessons Learned

I have 533 feeds on my bloglines. If you haven't seen me in the comments much, that's why. But I have a feeling I'll catch up.

On the other hand, the chapter is progressing. Almost to the point where I kind of like it. Almost.

I've been really, really frustrated with my knitting lately. So frustrated, that I've been mostly reading with what spare time I have. So frustrated that every time I walk past my WIP basket, it growls at me. And I growl back.

I've been thinking about what to do with the peacock sock, and receiving all your wonderful, generous, sympathetic responses with great gratitude. I'm working myself up to facing the fact that some frogging will have to happen. I've decided that while I'm okay with a little eccentricity in my knitting, total madness will irritate me, so I'm going to go with a suggestion that was not in my poll because it came from the brilliant minds of several of you, my genius commenters. I'm going to rip back enough of the toe of the finished sock to make them evenly unfinished, and then I'm going to finish both the same way, with another yarn. I haven't decided which other yarn yet. Since both feet will at least match each other, I might just go with the alpaca (I kind of like the idea of the extra warmth at the toes, since it will be both toes). I would ideally like to use Kroy, but even though there are two sources that I know of for it in NYC, both involve a train trip, which means it costs $4 and is almost the same as shipping anyway. Since we only have to be on campus 3 times a week (between the two of us!) we can no longer justify an unlimited metrocard, and when you start to think about how much each trip costs...well, it's just nutty. Anyway. I can't think of any other errand to do near P&S or Smiley's to justify the trip, plus P&S has only a small selection of Kroy and may not even have a tolerable solid color. Crazily enough, I didn't even ever realize that Smiley's is here in NY (thank you, anonymous!!), but again, I can't quite justify the trip when I have a huge stash...not to mention that if I went to Smiley's, there's just a little itty bitty chance that I might come home with extra sock yarn, not to mention some more Paton's Classic Wool, my felting yarn of choice that I can never have too much of. So, no, that wouldn't be a safe trip right now.

So that's pretty much the result of my endless pondering of all your comments since my last post, at least in terms of these socks. I've also learned tons, and been pushed to think a lot, about the whole nature of socks and what I want out of them.

While I've been pondering all this, I was working here and there on my first toe-up flap sock, using the Widdershins pattern as modified for 64 sts by David Demchuk.

You are looking at the just-finished Heel v.3.0. Yes, while agonizing over the future of the peacock sock, I was knitting this heel THREE TIMES. And this is after, mind you, David did a lot of re-knitting and figuring out for me, so that it shouldn't have been nearly this hard. What I've learned is that Hubbster's not the only one with weird feet. I think the big secret that the cotton/elastic commercial sock conglomerates have been hiding from the world is that everybody has very different feet, requiring different socks. And since this is of course the point of knitting them yourself, I really want to get it right. So even though my first version, following David's directions but -- ahem -- accidently screwing up a little could technically be pulled over my heel, it was really too tight, so I did it again, and this time got the instructions right. But the heel was still too short to fit me well. While Hubbster has wide, very flat feet, I have long, narrow feet (I knew this) and, I believe, tall, narrow ankles (hadn't so much noticed this before). So, Hubbster needs both height and length in the gussets, to get the sock over the enormous ankle part of his foot, which lacks an arch. I need lots of height in the gussets and flap, but not so much gusset length, as my foot gets really skinny really quick on either side of the ankle.

Meanwhile, I have also learned, with ya'll's help, a great deal about the Yarn Harlot's square-flap formula. When I first did it, I thought to myself, "well self, I'd better not do my usual 'knit until square' thing where I fold it over and if I can stretch it to the other side I decide it's 'square' only to find out after I've done the next part of the knitting that it's really a short, squat kind of 'square'." No, I thought to myself, I'm knitting on bloody #0 needles, I'm going to do this right. So I got my measuring tape (digging it out from the couch cushions) and I measured, and even checked to make sure I was measuring in a straight line, and that damn peacock sock flap was precisely 3.5 inches each way. And look where that got me.

So what I decided was that I needed to figure out the perfect proportion of gusset to flap for me and for Hubbster (nobody else gets socks on #0 needles, no way!), and just always use that proportion, ignoring the word "square" altogether.

I figured out that Hubbster's sock could have done well with 6 fewer sts in ea gusset, but no fewer than that (that's why I'm not ripping back that far - I won't save enough yarn for it to be worth it). I figured out that I need a bit more than 25% of the total number of sts (which, judging from the comments, is what most of you do, and which I see in most general sock patterns), but not as much more as Hubbster. This also affects how far in from the toe you need to start the heel, which was a factor in my trouble with the Widdershins pattern, among other things (also, that Widdershins has you increasing for fewer gusset sts than will eventually be attached to the flap - the extra sts needed beyond that are increased at the center heel section, when you "turn" it).

In the end, my formula is: a PGR toe (which I like because it's less pointy than the traditional one), then, after 2.75" for me or 4" for Hubbster, start gusset increases. Mine need to add up to 29% of total sts on each side, 41% for Hubbster. Then, I do the Widdershins short-row heel turn, but simply skipping the increases. This doesn't make it quite as rounded, but it's rounded enough for my foot:

Then, you just knit up the flap, which is the usual 50% of total sts, consuming the gusset sts as you go, at the same rate as a top-down sock. The sock you see here, v.3.0, still has only 25% of total sts for the gussets, and is still a little on the strained side, which is why I made my ideal 29% (based on measuring how many more sts I wish were there but aren't). And I think I'll be sticking with the regular slipped-st heel rather than EOP, just because EOP takes up too much yarn. Although since Hubbster's socks will clearly always require more than the usual amount, I might as well do them on his, if I'm going to have to always buy three skeins anyway!

So, in sum, I've had a traumatic couple of knitting weeks, and neither pair of socks is remotely done even now, but I have learned a hell of a lot, and I know now my own absolutely perfect sock formula and how to get there.

Which has now been added to a little project I've been working on...a 6-page knitting cheat sheet, containing everything I ever need to know to keep knitting for the rest of my life. Seriously. I actually made one a few years ago, but it was lost when my laptop got stolen, along with a lot of other great knitting stuff (which just goes to show, you can't just back up "work" stuff, you must backup ALL docs, everytime). I gave up on the project for a long time after that, then came back to it recently. I put in it all the technique tips and reminders I'm always having to run to a book for (like the order for kitchener stitch, or which decrs to use in what order for v-necks vs raglans, etc), plus the essential points for the most versatile patterns - EPS with all the shoulder shaping options, my own (new!) essential sock formula, wash cloth, slipper, mitten and wrist-warmer patterns, the pi shawl. The instructions for the basic lace and cable motifs that I like best. I put this all in columns in 10-pt font with tiny margins so that it all fits on 3-dbl-sided sheets that can be folded like a book. Right now, I still have room for 2.5 columns, and I swear I could happily knit for the rest of my life using only the info here! The only pattern I use regularly that isn't there is the Galeskas felted clogs, and I'm not sure I can fit that into the remaining space. I type everything up in my own abbreviated way, leaving out the things that are no-brainers for me, and adding in reminders for the things I always screw up (ahem, kitchener). The real point of this is to take it with me to Russia next year, so I don't have to take a whole suitcase full of books, but I also like to have it on shorter trips. So far I've taken versions of it on trips and it's always missing the one piece of info I want, but now that I've been through that a few times I think I've added almost everything - this year's xmas trip to Georgia should be a good test, as there will be plenty of knitting time and I plan to bring only the 6 pages, yarn, and (hopefully! if Santa has been good to me!) the KnitPicks options needles.

Here's a slightly blurry pic of the socks, the only one taken without flash so you can see the colors and the pretty pooling. It's in-house cashmere sock yarn from School Products, with a little nylon. It's spun with little curlicues like boucle, which makes the socks very soft-looking and soft-feeling, but also makes it tough to see the sts when you're ripping back.....

And because I can't resist a good meme:

(click to make it legible)


Carrie said...

533 feeds! I have 90 sites bookmarked, and sometimes even that becomes overwhelming. Then I just have to indiscriminately click on them all in rapid succession so that all the new feeds "go away"...

Re: the metrocard. I completely feel your pain. When I first moved to this city I didn't have a job yet, and I agonized about every single trip. Sometimes I walked ridiculous distances which took way too much time that I didn't necessarily have to avoid paying the $2. When I got my job I had to get an unlimited metrocard because it is too far to get there without it. I then realized that part of the reason I felt so isolated and unhappy was the damn pay-per-ride metrocard.

I don't wish to be an enabler, but I have an unlimited ride card... (so what's on your wish list?)


Anonymous said...

P&S is going out of business and sale starts tomorrow.
Smiley is having a hotel sale in Manhattan this week. Holiday Inn on 57th Street. Check their web site for a list of yarn.

Beth said...

I sometimes think I'm a pretty good knitter. Then I come here and read about your knitting. When I knit socks I'm just happy if they fit my calves and are long enough for my foot to fit in. Now I wonder if I should be thinking about it more.
You're putting me to shame.
Happy to hear about the diss. I'm sure it's great and can't wait to see it published.

Kat with a K said...

Oooh, I like the knitting cheat sheet idea! Hmm....

The Purloined Letter said...

I'm so glad someone else is both behind on reading blogs and mad at her knitting!

Robin said...

Thought I was bad with 400 feeds unread! I'm catching up too though...