Friday, January 07, 2011

Socks!

What can I say about socks that hasn't already been said?!

Sock are closed end tubes, (so is a hat) that, most frequently, have a bend, for a better fit.
Socks are simple!

Basic socks can be made in LOTS of ways, but the two most common are:
Toe up (an eastern style) or Top down (a european style) (in the US—both styles are common!) In addition, sock can also be knit crosswise, flat and seamed, and other novelty styles.

The basic shape (a bent closed ended tube) can be done with thousands of different details
Starting with the top or cuff down--
There are a number of cast ons, and edging, then, frequently there is a cuff. Frequently the cuff is ribbing (and I couldn't begin to count all the styles of ribbing!) but garter stitch, and edgings (I-cord, or lace, or double knit tubes.) are almost as common! Combinations of details, (lace and ribbing, or icord edging and ribbing, other combinations are as varied as can be. It not uncommon for a sock to have several cuff details!

Then there is the leg (the portion of the sock above the heel)
In sports socks this can be non-existent! On the other extreme are full length hose that end somewhere in the mid thigh. Knee (sock that end just below the knee) to 'medium' or mid calf socks are, I think the most common. The leg portion of the sock is—frequently-- about 7 to 9 inches (but 3 inch 'short socks” and lengths between 3 and 9 are commonly found.

The choice of the length of the leg, is often, one the knitter makes (depending on their comfort and the quantity of yarn at hand!) There is no “proper” length (well not in the US—there might still be a standard in part of europe—but not one that I know of!)
The stitch pattern used in the leg of the sock can be a simple stocking knit, or any one of thousands patterns—from simple to lace, to multi stranded color work.

At the bottom of the leg, is the heel –a shaped portion of the sock-- and heel again are an area where there are many choices, many variations.
The 2 biggies are:
1—heels made with a flap, (flat knit) a turn (a small portion shaped with short rows) and a gusset.(F/T/G)
And
2—Non Flap style heels (Short row and afterthought vie here for being most common, but they are not the only options)
There are several other styles—but most are less common. Some are 'combination' heels—short row heels with gussets.

In the F/T/G heels, there are to my limited knowledge—(I knit a lot of socks but I am not an expert in sock styles/details) at least 6 ways to make the turning, and as many ways to place gusset. The flat knit 'flap'? It generally stays the same—but there are dozens of common stitches patterns used in the flap—but really almost any stitch pattern can be used.

Even with limited choices, 10 (say) common stitches for the flap, and 6 ways of turning the heel, and 6 more ways to place the gussets, this one style of heel (a F/T/G) has 360 options!
And this is just one style of turning a heel!

I like to think of the options as 1 from column A, (flap) 1 from column B (turning) 1 from column C (gusset)!
I have knit a few socks (in my lifetime, about 250--(a beginner to sock knitting by some reckoning!)) and I've never 'repeated' a combo yet. (and I still have lots of options available to me!)--Of course, 1 reason for no repeats yet, is a good 40% of my socks aren't F/T/G style—but some other style of heel.

It's easy to see why some knitters fall into habits of making the same style heel MOST of the time—there are so many choices, it often easier to pick a single style and stick with it.

With non-flap heels there are more choices then the short row and afterthought heel—there is the peasant, the turkish, the strong, the gurnsey, the welsh, and the novelty heel—novelty alone is almost an endless list! And almost every one of these heels have several options (some short row heels use wraps and turns, some don't!)

I suspect that sock heels have a history as long and as interesting a the world's languages, with some styles sharing (like languages!) old roots (the indo-european root style of a heel!)

The foot of the sock, is frequently patterned as the leg was (or wasn't!) on the instep, and has a plain (stocking knit) on the sole. With stranded color work socks, there is frequently a different pattern on the instep than there is on the sole.

Finally, the toe. And once again there are a number of options.. Pointed (eastern style toes) or truncated trapezoid toes (most commonly called a flat, or French toe), round toes, star and cross toes.

This list of options is just the beginning (there is a whole 'nother set of options with toe up socks!)

Plus there are the yarns options. Sock yarn come in several weights (lace weight/super fine, worked with size 0(zero) needles to thick boot liner socks knit with worsted weight yarns (on size 5 or 6 needles.)

Some socks (Highland cabled socks, for example) are knit with worsted (or even aran weight) at the cast on and leg, and heavily cabled, but at the heel, there is a change.. no more cables, (which creates ease) and the heel and foot part of the sock knit with finer yarn (something like a sports weight) and smaller needles.

Every element of sock—yarn, gauge, direction of knitting, cast on, cuff, leg (pattern), heel, foot, and toe and finishing offers dozens of choices.

And yet, in the end, socks are simple. They are closed end tubes, with a little bit of shaping at the heel.
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