Changing My Mind


Call it perseverance, a woman’s prerogative, or trying to redeem myself with sock purists, but I’ve discovered that knitting socks in the round can be fun. The reason? I’ve discovered knitting on two circular needles as opposed to four or five double pointed needles (DPNs). The blogs I read describing this technique seemed to suggest that it was a skill worth trying but that it could take a while to master. The first is true but as to the second, nothing could be further from the truth. As long as you remember to knit from the same set of needles all the time, it’s almost as quick and easy as knitting on two straight needles. Notice I said, almost. I suspect two straight needles are faster, but only just.

No more stabbing myself on double pointed needles, no more row markers that slip off the needles (if the instep is patterned and the sole plain it's easy to see where a row begins), and no more frustration. And if you're really clever and knit two socks at once on two circular needles (that's my next goal), no more counting rows as hopefully you'll automatically knit the same number of rows for both socks.

After my failed attempts it would seem that it could only be madness that made me want to try to knit a sock in the round again, but the idea of a sock being finished (apart from sewing in two or so loose ends) as soon as the knitting was done was very enticing indeed.

That plus I’d been wondering how it would go doing a toe-up sock using the same heel and toe technique that I use for socks on two needles. I decided to try it only to discover that the idea had been thought of long before I thought of it (there goes my one chance at fame!). With a few minor – very minor – adjustments I now have a sock pattern that can be knitted up on two straight needles or two circular needles. For me, starting with two needles was a great introduction to socks and probably made the transition to circular needles so much easier. I have a feeling though that while I’ll be knitting socks on circular needles more often in the future I won’t be discarding socks on two needles either. Both have their place.


So without further ado, here’s the pattern that works best for me. Both owe much of their construction, instruction and inspiration to Sox on Two Stix and the Universal Toe-Up Formula at Knitty.com.

However before you pick up those needles and start knitting, a word about gauge/tension and measurements. I don’t know of anyone who likes to knit a gauge/tension square and if the truth were known, I’ve never made one in my life, preferring to undo and start again than take the time to check my tension (all that wasted time!). However I do have a good idea of my own personal tension for most of the common yarns and needles, and it didn’t take me long to realise that for every size in needles I went down I gained a stitch for 8 ply (double knit/light-worsted), 10 ply (Worsted/Afghan) and 12 ply (Aran/chunky) or two stitches for 2 ply, 3 and 4 ply (also known as sock, sport, fingering, or baby yarn). Since I like to knit my socks on smaller needles (at least 3 sizes smaller usually) this saved me from having to knit a gauge/tension square. So really it’s up to you whether you knit one or not but it could save time (don't say I didn't warn you).

However, gathering some measurements before you start are not an option. Most of these have been taken from the Universal Toe-Up Formula.

My measurements and essential abbreviations are as follows:
Yarn = Y
Needles to give desired tension = M
Needles to give desired tension for ribbing at cuff (often a size smaller but optional) = O
Foot Circumference = FC
Multiply foot circumference (FC) by 0.9 to determine Sock Circumference (for a snug fit) = SC
Length of Foot = A
Desired length of sock leg from bottom of heel = B
Tension/Gauge stitches per inch or 2.5cm = G
Multiple Sock Circumference (SC) by Gauge/Tension (G) = C (answer in whole numbers)
Determine number of stitches to cast on for heel by dividing C by 2 = D
Length of Heel (measure after working heel or toe if doing toe-up socks) = H
Length of Sole to be knit and determined by subtracting H from A = F
Determine number of stitches at end of toe and heel by multiplying D by 0.4 (omit decimal places) = E

Other: Provisional Cast On: Using a smooth contrasting yarn cast on D stitches on M needles and knit 3-4 rows (i.e. in garter stitch). To remove (when indicated in pattern), carefully cut away the cast on edge and remove the remaining threads. Sometimes pulling just one thread will make it miraculously 'unzip' but how and why this works some times and not others remains as much a mystery as the sock that gets lost in the washing machine only to turn up five years later.

Wrap and Turn (W&T): On a right side row: knit to point specified in instructions, bring yarn to front of work, slip next stitch to right hand needle, take yarn to back, turn work, keeping yarn wrapped around first stitch on left hand needle, slip stitch just slipped to right hand needle,purl stitches from left hand needle. On a wrong side row: purl to point specified in instructions, slip next stitch to right hand needle, take yarn to front of work, turn work, keep yarn wrapped around first stitch on left hand needle, slip stitch just slipped to right hand needle, take yarn to back of work to knit stitches from left hand needle.

Yarn Requirements: I use two 50g (approx 1-3/4 ounces) balls for women's socks and three 50g balls for men's. But the advantage of both of these patterns is that since you knit the leg last, you can determine the length of the leg by the amount of yarn that is left (i.e. once you've run out of yarn it's finished).

SOCKS ON TWO STRAIGHT NEEDLES


BEGIN SOCK: Using Provisional Cast On described above, begin sock. After working 3-4 rows garter stitch, switch to yarn for sock (Y) and purl one row.

HEEL:*** Row 1: Knit until one stitch remains, W&T
Row 2: Purl until one stitch remains, W&T
Row 3: Knit until two stitches remain, W&T
Row 4: Purl until two stitches remain, W&T
Continue in same manner until E stitches remain unwrapped between the wrapped stitches (this will be a wrong side row).
Next row: Knit to first wrapped stitch, knit wrapped stitch, W&T
Next row: Purl to first wrapped stitch, purl wrapped stitch, W&T
Continue in this manner until all wrapped stitches have been worked (i.e. purl D stitches). ***

Measure length of heel (H). This number will be subtracted from desired length of foot to calculate length of sole to be knitted (F).

SOLE: Work in stocking stitch (stockinette) until sole measures F.

TOE: Work from *** to ***

INSTEP: Begin stocking stitch (stockinette) or stitch pattern. Work same number of rows as for sole.

LEG: Left Foot - Using DPN (double pointed needle and it's easier if it's a size smaller than the needles used to knit the sock) pick up D stitches from heel. The easiest way I’ve found to do this is to turn the work so that the wrong side is facing, and beginning on the right hand edge, pick up the loops in the main yarn which can easily be seen above the last garter stitch row of the contrast yarn that was used for the provisional cast on. A stitch from each end will need to be picked up to give the correct number of stitches. Purl these stitches from DPN. When the right side of the work is facing these stitches should be to the right of the instep stitches and the sock should not be twisted (it might look a little strange but with a little manipulation it should be recognisable as a sock and the instep or sole should lie flat and not twist). Remove provisional cast on and check that no stitches have been dropped. Knit one row, knitting into back of both stitches at ‘seam’ where instep and heel meet. Purl one row.
Right Foot - Knit one row. Using a DPN pick up D stitches from heel as for above. Knit these stitches from DPN. When the right side of the work is facing these stitches should be to the left of the instep stitches and the sock should not be twisted. Remove provisional cast on and check that no stitches have been dropped. Purl next row, purling into back of both stitches at ‘seam’ where instep and heel meet.

Work on these stitches in rib or pattern until desired length less cuff. Rib cuff (on smaller needles if desired - I've found this necessary for men's socks but not for women's). Cast off by purling 2 together then slipping the stitch on right hand needle back onto the left hand needle, purl 2 together, slip stitch to left hand needles, etc until end. Join leg seams and sew in yarn ends. Make a second sock following instructions for right sock for leg.

SOCKS ON TWO CIRCULAR NEEDLES


BEGIN SOCK: Using Provisional Cast On described above and circular needle one, begin sock. After working 3-4 rows garter stitch, switch to yarn for sock (Y) and purl one row.

TOE (KNIT BACK AND FORTH): *** Row 1: Knit until one stitch remains, W&T
Row 2: Purl until one stitch remains, W&T
Row 3: Knit until two stitches remain, W&T
Row 4: Purl until two stitches remain, W&T
Continue in same manner until E stitches remain unwrapped between the wrapped stitches (this will be a wrong side row).
Next row: Knit to first wrapped stitch, knit wrapped st, W&T
Next row: Purl to first wrapped stitch, purl wrapped st, W&T
Continue in this manner until all wrapped stitches have been worked except for the very last one (i.e. omit last purl row). ***

Measure length of toe (H). This number will be subtracted from desired length of foot to calculate length of sole to be knitted (F).

SOLE AND INSTEP: Using second circular needle pick up D stitches from cast on edge and knit these stitches. The easiest way I’ve found to do this is to turn the work so that the wrong side is facing, and beginning on the right hand edge, pick up the loops in the main yarn which can easily be seen above the last garter stitch row of the contrast yarn that was used for the provisional cast on. A stitch from each end will need to be picked up to give D stitches on both needles (C stitches in total). Work on two circular needles in the round until sock measures F, remembering to always knit from the same needle (i.e. if the stitches are on needle one, then knit with the the free end of needle one).

HEEL (KNIT BACK AND FORTH): Work from *** to *** on just half the stitches (i.e. on D stitches). If the instep is patterned and the sole in stocking stitch then the heel will be worked on the needle that holds the stocking stitch stitches. If the instep and sole are both stocking stitch, then decide which will be the heel. It doesn't really matter as long as you remember to include a heel!

LEG: Pick up other circular need and working in the round, continue until leg measures desired length less cuff. Rib cuff and cast off. Work on these stitches in rib or pattern until desired length, on a needles a size smaller if desired. Cast off by purling 2 together then slipping the stitch on right hand needle back onto the left hand needle, purl 2 together, slip stitch to left hand needles, etc until end. Sew in yarn ends. Make a second sock to match.





Lime green socks knit on two circular needles in the round using Froot Loops pattern. Navy blue socks (for DH) and the variegated blue socks (for Son#5) knit on two sticks using a variation of Trail Mix pattern. Completed socks were knitted on two needles using merino wool and a twisted cable pattern which doesn't photograph well and which looks far more complicated than it really is.

Comments

busymomof10 said…
WOW! You are amazing! My Mom is an expert knitter, so I'm going to forward her the link to this post, and see if she might be up to a sock challenge! :)
Jules said…
Hi Busymomof10, I've been afraid to knit socks in the past but after finding the instructions for socks on two straight needles and discovering how easy they were and progessing from there to socks on two circular needles, I realised there was nothing to be afraid of at all and decided to share my pattern in case others felt like me and just needed an easy pattern.

Let me know how your Mom finds it. Since I'm the only one who has used it so far i'm not one hundred percent sure that it's universally knitter friendly!
SchnauzerMom said…
I don't like to make those square gauge checking things either. I've got a pretty good idea about my gauge and tension too.

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