Monday, October 21, 2013

Knitting Up an Achilles Heal Sock

Yes, its "heal"... Its intentional, its the pattern name.

If you like interesting construction and want a sock that shows off a lovely multicolored yarn, then this sock is for you. We are all enamoured with those lovely multicolored sock yarns. Unfortunately, those yarns do not work well with most sock patterns, since they obscure the pattern. The Achilles Heal Sock pattern was designed to work well with these yarns. This sock was selected as the October-November Green Planet Yarn Sock Club sock.

I chose to knit this sock with a lovely skein of HandMaiden Casbah Sock in colorway Renaissance(I think - the skeins never come labeled). Casbah Sock is 80% merino, 10% cashmere and 10% nylon, one of my favorite combinations for socks. The yarn is soft and feels great on the feet.

The first issue that I had to resolve was the size of the sock circumference. This sock has a chevron pattern. The angling of the stitches effectively reduces the number of stitches. In other words, even though the sock has 64 stitches, its more like having a 56-60 stitch circumference.

On the plus side, the extra long ribbed cuff was designed to provide the necessary stretch as the sock moves up the calf.

I came up with two schemes to increase the sock circumerence:

For a 68 stitch sock, repeat the following:
Round 1: K1, M1R, K5, K2tog, P1, SSK, K5, M1L, K1
Round 2: K8, P1, K8

For a 72 stitch sock, repeat the following:
Round 1: K1, M1R, K6, K2tog, SSK, K6, M1L, K1
Round 2: K all stitches

I chose to go with the 68 stitch sock and follow the pattern needle size of US 1.5 (2.5 mm).

I cast on 68 stitches using Tilly Buddy's Very Stretchy Cast On. I knit 31 rows using 1x1 twisted rib for the cuff. I prefer twisted rib since it forms a tighter, more consistent rib. I knit 31 rows instead of 35 rows to reduce the cuff height by about 1/2"
I continued the leg using my 68 stitch pattern. I knit 24 rows instead of the specified 20 rows. I added the 1/2" i removed from the cuff to the leg. This colorway is working well, so far.
The pattern call for 31 rows knitting the flat version of the pattern. This section is the instep portion of the gusset. I continued with my 68 stitch pattern, except that Row 2 is now: P8, K1, P8. You can see that chevron stripes have expanded a little, since I'm knitting half the number of stitches.
The back of the sock...
The next section of the pattern uses a provisional cast on to reconnect the instep to the sole of the sock. I used a crochet provisional cast on and some scrap sock yarn to cast on 32 stitches. At this point, the pattern calls for working the foot and finishing the toe. I completed the non-pattern round (where the foot left off) and knit 10 rounds to create a stable band from which to work. On the 9th round (a pattern round), I changed the pattern to reduce two stitches from the pattern as follows: K1, M1R, K5, CDD, SSK, K5, M1L, K1. My instep stitch count is now consistent with the pattern's stitch count. The stable band enables me to move to the heel of the sock. I find fitting a sock without the heel to be a guessing game. If you have a longer foot, you can work more rows in the band to stabilize it further.

Carefully pull out the provisional cast on and thread the stitches on a needle. I use one of my favorite tools for this, a 40" 000 needle. Using a needle that is thinner than the one which created the stitches allows me to thread the needle through the stitches without pulling. Once all of the stitches are on the 000 needle, I transfer them to the needle I'll use for knitting.

The gusset/heel setup round is started at the heel. Since I split my skein into 2 balls, I didn't break the yarn from my toe. I pulled out the second ball and attached it at the start of the heel. The heel is started by decreasing the extra purl out: K1, M1R, K5, CDD, SSK, K5, M1L, K1. The pattern calls for a pickup and knit of 31 stitches (I'll knit them tbl). Since the gusset instep had 31 rows, I must pickup a stitch at each row -- a difficult pickup for a tight knitter. I made use of one of my sharp, US 0 (2.0 mm) double points as a tool to pickup the stitches through the tight edge. There are 31 stitches on the left side of the gusset and 31 stitches on the right side of the gusset. There are now have 4 needles in a single sock!

Round 1 places markers and resets start of round. The remaining round's decreases are knit based on the marker positions within the heel. The rounds have almost twice as many stitches now. The pooling has changed dramatically. A total of 26 rounds were knit based on pattern directions.
The heel short rows start on the sole side. The pattern calls for wrap and turns, but I'm going to use Shadow Wraps instead. I threw in a lifeline in case my short rows were off balanced. 15 short rows completed.
Completed the heel. Followed the heel shaping directions without modification. Watch out for the last row. The pattern says to turn the work and then SL1, P2tog. THIS IS CORRECT. You will turn the work and work 2 stitches only on the sole needle from the wrong side. The stitches will then be rearranged so that the 2 worked stitches from the sole needle and the 2 adjacent stitches from the heel needle will be on one needle. The remaining 4 stitches will be on the other needle before grafting begins.

I am now moving back to the foot. At this point I need to try on the sock and get an idea of how long the foot needs to be before starting the toe. I make sure the sock is seated correctly on my heal and then stretch the sock about 1/4" to determine how much further to knit. Pattern says to stop 2" from end of toe. I have about 1 1/8" to go. I am going to hang a marker in my knitting to use as a measuring point.
An additional 17 rows were needed to finish the foot using a US 1.0 (2.25 mm) needle. I'm threading a lifeline just in case I'm off on the length and to make sure I get the pattern for the toe correct. There have been mixed reports about an error in the toe directions.
Well, there are several errors in the toe directions. The marker placement works for the first round of the toe, but doesn't work for subsequent rounds. There is also an error in round 10 which causes the ssk to use the first 2 stitches instead of the second 2 stitches. When you get to round 18, the ssk uses the second 2 stitches. The final round doesn't set you up correctly to begin Kitchenering the toe. So I had to make some modifications, starting with the final foot round:

Final Foot Round: K sole stitches, K7, pm, K to 7 before end of round (this marker isn't used, but it is placed by the original pattern instructions), PM, k to end of round. The markers are placed between the k2tog and ssk on both sides of the instep; this placement is more important than the count.

Toe, Round 1: K to 3 sts before end of sole sts, k2tog, k to 2 stitches before first marker, k2tog, SM, ssk, k5, M1L, k2, m1r, k5, k2tog, SM, ssk, k to end of round. 3 sts decreased.
Round 2: K1, ssk, k to end of round. 1 st decreased.
Round 3: K to 2 sts before first marker, k2tog, SM, ssk, k5, m1L, k2, m1R, k5, k2tog, sm, ssk, k to end of round. 2 sts decreased.
Round 4: K to 3 sts before end of sole sts, k2tog, k to end of round. 1 st decreased.
Round 5: K1, ssk, k to 2 before first marker, k2tog, sm, ssk, k5, m1L, k2, m1R, k5, k2tog, sm, ssk, k to end of round. 3 sts decreased
Round 6: K around.
Round 7: K to 3 sts before end of sole sts, k2tog, k to 2 sts before first marker, k2tog, sm, ssk, k5, m1L, k2, m1R, k5, k2tog, sm, ssk, k to end of round. 3 sts decreased.
Round 8: k1, ssk, k to end of round
Round 9: K around, removing markers.
Round 10: K to 3 sts before end of sole sts, k2tog, k2, ssk, k to 3 sts before end of round, k2tog, k1.
Round 11: K1, ssk, k to end of round.
Rounds 12-17: Repeat rounds 10 & 11
Round 18: k1, ssk, k to 3 sts before end of sole sts, k2tog, k2, ssk, k to 3 sts before end of instep sts, k2tog, k1.
Round 19: K around (I added this round to add a little more length to the toe. You can ignore this row if you want).
Round 20-24: repeat round 18 5 times.
Round 25: k1, ssk, k2tog, k3. STOP HERE. (I've altered this round to stop in the middle of the instep. when the stitches are rearranged, you will be correctly setup to Kitchener the toe closed.)

Rearrange stitches so that each needle has 2 stitches from the sole and 2 stitches from the instep. Graft toe closed. This method is essentially giving you a moccasin toe.

The above modifications maintain the decrease pattern used in the sock. If I were to redo this sock, I would modify the toe even further so that standard decrease methods were used, placing the 7 pattern rows within this framework.

Why did I name these socks Neon Nights? The way the yarn pools reminded me of those neon signs that move through many different colors. I saw this neon installation on a trip to Shanghai many years ago and it seems like a perfect inspiration for these socks.

More photos of these socks can be seen at Neon Nights.

Prairie Willow can be found on Ravelry at noliegirl. Prairie Willow is an avid knitter and jewelry designer. My jewelry can be found at Prairie Willow Jewelry;

Photos copyright Prairie Willow Knits. Pattern copyright by Lucia Light and or Knitty

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