sprite writes
broodings from the burrow

March 28, 2007

sock frustration
posted by soe 1:18 am

When I first learned how to knit socks, a woman in my knitting group copied a basic pattern from a knit-socks-on-two-circular-needles book for me to use. I took the pattern and headed out of town to a Cambridge yarn store where I bought two circular needles and some pretty yarn. Then I tried to cast on.

I cast on the correct number of stitches on one needle and then hit the “join in the round” part. This ought not to have flummoxed me in the way that it did. I’d knit a hat; I understood the concept.

But because the pattern was pirated, it didn’t include basic sock construction information. Nor did it include the crucial information that I was supposed to knit only one sock using two circular needles. I’d been under the impression that I was going to knit both socks simultaneously — one on each needle.

But I weathered through that and now consider myself safely an intermediate sock knitter — capable of mastering all but the most complex sock pattern.

And, really, this is an unfair lead-in to a discussion about this week’s sock knitting. Because there is nothing wrong with the patterns that I’m using. Or, rather, I assume not, because I’ve yet to advance past the cuff on either one.

This has been the most frustrating week I’ve experienced yet in knitting socks.

The first sock progressed through the cuff’s ribbing fine. I had some concerns that it might be knitting up too tight, but I figured once I got down to the leg pattern, I’d measure it and use it to determine gauge on the fly. When I got to the leg, I calmly began following the lace pattern until I got to the end of the first needle — and there were two extra stitches there. Uh-oh, I thought, I must have screwed the pattern up. So I tinked back the stitches on my 2.25mm twig needles. I began the pattern anew. Purl. Knit. Slip. Yarn over. Decrease. Increase. End of pattern. End of needle? Why, no. There were still those two pesky stitches there. Amazingly, I tried again. Then I paused and counted my stitches. 15. 15. 15. 17.

“One of these things is not like the other. One of these things just doesn’t belong…”

Yup. I’d cast on two extra stitches.

In the end, this early realization was fine because the sock was, in fact, too small. It barely fit my wrist, let alone getting over my heel to fit my leg. But I was back at the drawing board.

I will try again with US2s, but I don’t have US2s (2.75mm). I have US2.5s, which are the equivalent of 3mm needles. To the yarn shop I must go.

In the meantime, I thought I’d cast on for another pair of socks I’d been meaning to start. In one of my knitting books it suggests using a tubular cast-on for socks because that gives you an extra-stretchy cuff. Since the socks I’d made with a knitted cast-on have rather tight cuffs (Rudi broke through one not too long ago), I thought it might be worth a try.

Maybe I ought to have used thinner waste yarn for the original cast-on.

But by the time I’d reached the third row of ribbing, it was obvious that this was going to be a gigantic cuff. I frogged this sock, too, but not before noting it was the perfect size for a biceps bracelet.

(By the way, did you know that “bicep” is actually a bastardization of “biceps,” which is the correct singular form of the noun. Me neither. Also, in addition to the arm biceps, there is a leg biceps, located at the back of the thigh. The sock cuff would never have fit around my thigh. I’m not sure whether I should be glad about that or not.)

So that would be sock yarn 2-soe 0.

I have lost the battle, for the moment, but not the war. Sock yarn, be on guard!

PS: For the knitters out there, what cast-on do you use for top-down socks?

Category: knitting. There is/are 5 Comments.

FRUSTRATION! I have a (much older friend) who’d been knitting for 50 years and knit mainly socks and after looking at one of my first socks she proclaimed that I’d lose my leg if I wore it since the cuff was so tight. She sat down and proceeded to show me the Twisted German co…it is a variation of a Long Tail co and it is s-t-r-e-t-c-h-y. I swear by it now. And I even converted Phoebe (another BFer) to using it for top down. Try this: http://hipknitism.com/library/techniques/twisted_german.shtml

Also, if you Google Twisted German cast on there are even YouTube videos. If you still have questions, I’m happy to help :o)

Comment by amanda 03.28.07 @ 10:03 am

I use a longtail cast on for top-down socks and it works just fine. I’ve also used a tubular (or italian) cast on, one that doesn’t require a waste yarn — and that was plenty stretchy, although actually a little more so than I like. Long tail usually works fine for me.

that tubular cast on is here:

Comment by jennie 03.28.07 @ 1:32 pm

I use a cable cast-on over 2 2mm needles, or a picot cast-on with either a crochet cast on or a knitted one. I’ve got instructions for the Twisted German, but haven’t experimented enough to get anywhere near competency. Then again, there’s a reason my standard start is toe-up!

Comment by Sarah 03.28.07 @ 2:42 pm

I use the long tail cast on too. I have done the cable cast on too but this is a bit too tight.

Comment by isela 03.28.07 @ 3:09 pm

I wish I could help you after your brilliant suggestion with my camisole, but after my last experience with socks, I’ve sworn them off indefinitely. It does sound like you have some good suggestions, above. I hope they work out!

Comment by Debby 03.28.07 @ 11:16 pm