Sock Architecture

I was asked recently about knitting socks, especially about sock knitting a la Cat Bordhi, knitting genius. Her book New Pathways for Sock Knitters, Book One is full of new ways to knit socks. Yeah, who’d have thought that sock knitting was a subject that merited such thought, scrutiny and discussion. Yet, in Ms Bordhi’s hands socks take all kinds of interesting twists and turns.

Cat presents eight different architectures for knitting socks.Now, socks have toes, and heels and cuffs. And there are lots of ways to make those components. In this book Cat is playing around with how the tube shape of a sock is widened out to allow for the fact that the human foot makes a right angle at the heel. Rather than positioning the increases at the side of the ankles, like most traditional sock designs, she moves the required increases all over the place, allowing for all kinds of tricky and clever designs.
Three of the architectures are for socks constructed from the cuff down, five are for toe up construction. In addition to the eight architectures she throws in an assortment of toe, heel and cuff construction techniques. The book is also full of all kinds of other technical details – increases, short rows, casting on, joining in the round – lots of good stuff.

Well, cute and clever is great, but the real question is – do they fit? I’ve been very pleased with the fit of the socks that I’ve made.

I made one pair, called Ocean Toes (cedar architecture) which is knitted from the cuff down. It is a lace pattern sock. I knit it to pattern specs – it is a bit snug getting it on over the heel, but the snug fit means that the lace opens up nicely when it is worn.

The other socks are all knit from the toes up. The ones I knit for myself are plain stockinette stitch, the ones for Wilf use knit 3, purl 1 rib, which makes them more elastic. One of the advantages of knitting from the toe up is that I can try the sock on once the heel is complete and decide if I need to decrease slightly to narrow the ankles slightly. And then I can try them on again to decide if I need to increase again to allow for – shall we say- curvy calves….

One thing I learned is that both row gauge and stitch gauge are critical to the fit of these socks. I had knit one pair of socks with a stitch gauge of 9 stitches to the inch and a row gauge of 10 rows to the inch. When I went to knit that pattern again with a different yarn I assumed that because I was getting a stitch gauge of 9 stitches to the inch I could just follow my original pattern. Yeah, not so much. Turns out the row gauge for the second yarn was 14 rows to the inch – enough to make a big difference. Row gauge determines where the increases for the foot shaping begin, and ultimately controls the length of the sock. By following a pattern created at 10 rows per inch I was on course to make Wilf a pair of foot binding socks. And he’s a good sport about the sock thing, but even he allowed as they were a little tight. The other clue was the fact that his toes were all curled up. I fixed that!

Okay – enough for now with the sock architecture. Any questions? I’ll answer if I can. And next time around I’ll have pictures from here in Bigfork.

Author: Sharon

I like to make things. I like to travel. I like to talk about what I'm up to.