I was having a very bad day. The mystery shawl was what I was working on, and it was going very well. Until the airline called. My son was flying home from the National Puppetry Festival in Minneapolis/St Paul. My husband had left, in plenty of time to get there. So when the airline guy called and told me that he wasn't there, I was really upset to say the least. I asked him if he had paged my husband, in case he just wasn't in the right place. No he hadn't. So after hanging up, about 15 very long minutes passed, while I wondered if my spouse was dead or laying somewhere bleeding to death. I pictured our car flying through the air and rolling down a ditch. I worried about how I was going to get my kid home, because my husband had the family car. I pictured us crammed into his 86 Toyota pickup searching the roads on a three hour stretch of highway for his dead and mangled body. I can manage to get pretty worked up in 15 minutes, and I was REALLY worked up by the time the phone rang. It was my husband, he had been sent to the wrong gate. That dude who called better be glad there was 3 hours driving time between... But I'm over that now, at least everyone was safe!
The mystery shawl was to say the least way too complicated to work on in my panic stricken state. I needed something fast and dirty. I had just gotten 4 lovely balls of sock yarn from a friend, coincidence? I think not. Divine intervention if you ask me, but regardless I set myself to mindlessly knitting around and around in the self patterning yarn. It was great. I knit about 10 rows in 2X2 ribbing, and thought, why not make one of those cute little ankle socks, then I can wear them now, without waiting until it cools off. So the Rescue Me socks were born out of the ashes of a huge scare because some moron doesn't understand how a mother's mind works. I don't get over these scares easily, the socks helped. You can finish a pair very quickly if you are a seasoned sock knitter, and quicker than most if you've never knitted a sock before. These are knit on double points, so if you choose magic loop, or two circulars, or some other wonderful technique I don't understand, you're smarter than me, and you can figure out how to use that yourself. I also worked on these socks during Beau's oral surgery, when I was also concerned, not scared, but too distracted for serious knitting.
Tips for success with a first pair of socks.
- chose a light colored yarn. This will help you see the stitches easier.
- Make a hat on circulars, then finish up with double points to get used to knitting with the porcupine.
- The first 5 rows are the hardest, if you have trouble, see if a knitting friend can get you started. If not, keep going, you'll have it before long.
- Try magic loop, or two circulars if you can't seem to get the double points to obey you.
- If you have ladders, try using 5 needles instead of 4, knit the first two stitches and last two on each needle extra tight. Stephanie Pearl McPhee (AKA Yarn Harlot) suggests wrapping the yarn counter clockwise on each first and last stitch to twist it. On the following row, you can simply knit into the back of those stitches to untwist them, while putting the yarn on counter clockwise to twist the next stitch. This is very effective, but I have to do the first two and last two stitches to avoid the ladders. AND I have to pull them tight.
- A solid yarn gets boring after so long, so consider a self striping or patterning yarn to add interest.
These shortie socks will use one 50 gr ball of sock yarn for one pair of ladies socks. You can often get two pairs of child size socks from one ball. When you knit your swatch, remember that you want a higher stitch count for durability. Look at the swatch, and decide if you like the density of the fabric, and keep knitting, changing needles until you get a good firm fabric. Your swatch will not need to be huge, usually three inches is fine, because socks are small, so a small difference, won't make a huge size change. When you measure your swatch, stretch it a bit, and pin it out. Socks need to fit snugly.
So measure your ankle, and knit a swatch, then multiply your gauge by the inches in your ankle. I knitted mine for my daughter, Teresa. I had 6 stitches per inch, and a 6.5 inch ankle. So 39 stitches. I bumped this down to 36 so that it was divisible by 2, and also to make the cuff nice and snug. I usually subtract about an inch worth of stitches, but in this case, there isn't anything to sag, so it isn't vital. It will be handy later if your stitch count is divisible by 2, 3, and 4. You don't HAVE to do this, it's just a little easier later on to divide them up for the heel, (2), and to determine when to quit decreasing (4) and then to have an even number on three needles (3). Obviously if you use 5 needles instead of 4, then a multiple of three is not needed.
I suggest you knit your ribbing in a needle size or even two smaller that what you used for your swatch, then knit 5 or more rounds of k2 p2 ribbing, or ribbing of your choice. Switch needles back to the original size and then knit three or so rows plain, then divide the stitches into two groups. Half on a waste yarn or stitch holder, and half on one needle. That makes 18 on a needle and 18 on waste yarn.
Knit back and forth, purling the wrong side, and slipping the first stitch of each row purl-wise. This is important! So don't forget if possible. My sock took 14 rows to make a square.
Once your flap is square you can begin turning the heel. Be sure to stop after a purl row, and ready to knit. This is so easy and fun, if you've never done it your going to skip around and feel clever for the rest of the day. But try not to do this in public too much, or people will stare.
If you have an even number on your heel stitches, as I do, then mark the center two with a piece of yarn. There should be the same number on each side of the two stitches. If you have an odd number of heel stitches, then just mark the center stitch, with the same number on either side of this stitch.
Now you are going to knit to one or two stitches past the center stitch or stitches. Since my sock is small, and had two center stitches, I slipped one knitted 10, k2tog, k1 then turned, this was only one stitch past my center 2. So you knit to the center stitch/stitches, knit one or two more, then k2tog, k1 then turn.
Now you will slip one, purl 5, p2tog, p1 and turn. If your sock is different then mine, you will purl back to those center stitches, purl the same number past them, then p2tog, p1 and turn.
Now you should be able to see two gaps on either side. There is basically three groups of stitches, with a gap separating each group. The center group, and a side group on either side of the center. The two side groups should have the same number of stitches, if not, then you need to go back and remove or add some until they are the same number.
Now, you will slip one, then knit to the gap, and then knit the two stitches bordering the gap together, which closes it. Knit 1 more, then turn. You have just knitted one more stitch from that side.
Do the purl side the same way, slip one, purl to the gap, purl these two together, then purl one more from the second side section and turn. You just continue this until all those side stitches have been consumed and you have one group again. Pretty simple really, but it makes a very nifty heel.
So my pattern for turning the heel looks like this:
Row 1: Sl 1, k10, k2tog, k1, turn.
Row 2: Sl 1, P5, P2tog, P1, turn.
Row 3: Sl 1, K6, k2tog, k1,turn.
Row 4: Sl 1, P7, p2tog, p1, turn.
Row 5: Sl 1, k8, k2tog, k1, turn.
Row 6: Sl 1, P9, p2tog, p1, turn.
You should have consumed all of the side stitches, and should have nice little cup for the heel to rest in. Wasn't that great? Somehow I feel more intelligent, and powerful after I made a heel. I have done some thing mystical and intrigueing about this process. So now, you have only 12 stitches on your needle, where as before you had 18. What you are going to do, is pick up the stitches along the sides of the heel flap.
If you look at the edge, you will see this lovely little chain of stitches. Each one spans two rows, because it was only worked every other row. One row it would be slipped, then worked on the end of the following row. We will pick up and knit one stitch in each of these little chain stitches. If you would like a huge hole there, you can just dip in and pull the yarn up.
I do not like a big hole, so I insert one needle from the left side, or back of the loop if you will, then while it is on the needle, I will knit into the FRONT of the loop. So insert the needle:
Then slip your second needle into the FRONT of the stitch.
Finally pull it through
This twists the chain stitch, and keeps it from making a big hole. I love it when I do this, it makes me feel so darned smug.
Knitting for me, is an expression of myself, and also something I can control. I have absolute control over it. I find that to be helpful when I have a crisis, or difficult time. Often I can knit through it with something simple, like the Rescue Me socks. So it's ok to mess up, your still in control, and it's ok to celebrate when you finally get something just right, or make a startling discovery!
So on my socks I knitted 14 rows or so, I had about 7 chain stitches on the side. I picked each one up, and now I have 19 stitches, plus 18 more on the waste yarn. I have picked up one side of the foot, and now it is time to knit across the top of the foot which is on waste yarn. You will need to put these back on a needle now. If you have trouble grabbing them, use a smaller needle to get them on, then just knit them off onto the correct sized one, and all will be well in sock land.
So at this point, you have picked up stitches on the left side of the heel, and then knitted across the cuff that was on waste yarn. Now you will pick up stitches on the second side of the heel flap. It may be that you have one less or more, or even a couple. Don't worry about this, as they will be decreased later anyway. If you decrease a few extra on one side, and not the other, nobody will know, because they are on opposite sides of the foot. If someone notices, you can be sure they are seriously OCD and should be humored, then forget whatever criticism they gave and go on, unless it's some really wondrous tidbit of knowledge that solves all your problems. In that case, feel free to send me a gift as a thank you, as I will be responsible for you receiving it by my odd number of picked up stitches theory. All I'm really getting at here, is there is often one more on one side than the other, and it doesn't matter in the least.
So to pick up on this side, I slip the needle in from the outside (left) to the right. I then knit into the front leg of the stitch again. You should get around 7 more this way, and now you are back at the heel. I usually have the heel on one needle, the side on one, the cuff on one, then the last side on one. You can use one size smaller or bigger for this, and it won't matter one bit, as long as it's only one size.
So now we arrange the stitches as follows. Leave the cuff stitches (18) as they are, whew wasn't that easy? Now put half of the heel stitches, with one side of the picked up stitches, on one needle, and half with the other side of picked up stitches on another needle.
We will number our needles as follows. With the right side of the heel flap facing us, and the heel pointing up, we have needle one on the left side, needle two has the top of the foot stitches at the bottom, and needle three has the second set of side stitches and half of the heel.
So to do our decreases, we will knit to the last three stitches on needle one, k2tog, then knit one. We will knit across the top of the foot plain with no decreases. Then on needle 3 we will k1 then slip one knit one and pass over, or ssk. Then we work one round plain with no decreases.
So to break it down,
Needle one: Knit to the last three, k2tog, k1.
Needle two: knit across with no decreases.
Needle three: k1, ssk, knit to the end.
You will repeat this, alternating with one plain row between each decrease row until you have 1/4 of the original stitch count on needles one and three. In my case 9. (9 and 9 make 18, plus the 18 cuff stitches = 36). You may end up doing an extra decrease on one side or the other, it doesn't matter, just don't accidentally decrease on both sides, if you only need to do it once. Once you have all the decreases done, you can divide your stitches onto three needles, in my case 12. Perhaps you are seeing an advantage to the number 36? It is divisible by 2, 4, and 3. So it's convenient and easy to work with. You may of course also leave them as they are. I move them because I have a terrible time with ladders, and I find that keeping them evenly divided helps me tremendously.
If you don't know how to find one of these magic numbers, ask a geeky 14 year old you know, or start hosting chess club meetings for local youth. They can help you, and you can do something nice too. Lucky for me, I have two such gentleman in the house, who get very excited about numbers and will go on and on about them, counting in base 13 and binary with big goofy grins and eyes cast heavenwards as they count in gibberish. If you are feeling really big headed, and need to let some air out, just go ask a programmer type what base 16 is, and how it works, it will solve your problem and leave you feeling less than superior in no time. I just keep knitting and wait for the number to be told to me while the two of them go on in their alien tongue, before they finally tell me 12. It is nice to note, that all multiples of 12 are divisible by 2, 3, and 4. So, 24, 36, 48, 60 and 72. One of these should work for size infant, to Lumber Jack Daddy size.
Ok, so back to the sock, I have 12 on each needle, so now I just knit around and around and around until the sock is about as long as the person's foot.
It should be just above the base of the toes before you start shaping for the toes. If you have square feet like me and my unfortunate children, then you might consider working your toe shaping a little faster, and with less of it. If you have nice pointy toes, then the traditional way will work wonderfully.
Rearrange your stitches so that the original half for the top is on needle two again. You may have just left them there, so you will need to do nothing at all if you did. So just slide 3 stitches from each side/bottom foot (needles one and three) onto needle two, the top of the foot section.
Now the toe section will work just like the side decreases did, only you will also decrease on the top section too.
Needle 1: knit to the last three, k2tog, k1.
Needle 2, k1, ssk, knit to the last 3 k2tog, k1.
Needle 3: K1, ssk, knit to the end.
Now knit one row plain, or repeat the decrease row if you have very square toes. Keep on decreasing until you have one fourth of the stitches that you began with. Don't be afraid to just try the sock on each row and decide whether to decrease or not, this will show you clearly how the toe will fit. If you used one of the magic numbers, you should already know how many. Mine was 9, but since I can't graft five stitches to four, I did one extra decrease for 8. Separate these evenly on two needles, and graft them together, or do a three needle bind off.
I hope you enjoyed our journey through the anatomy of the sock, and maybe you will try to make one, or even a pair too.