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.

Sunday on the Riverwalk

Once upon a time in Bigfork the road east to the Swan Valley ran along the north side of the Swan River. It was a narrow twisty thing, barely wide enough for two vehicles to pass, and given the drop to the river, there wasn’t much room for error. Eventually a bigger road was built on the south side of the river, and the old road fell into disrepair and was eventually closed. People in the area decided that the road would make a great walking trail, and through time and co-operation of various people, organizations and corporations the trail came to be.


The path begins just above Bigfork and follows the river, which rushes far below. Its a nice, wide, level path, great for people, bikes, horses and dogs. The sound of the river rushing below makes a great backdrop. It is early in the season and there is a lot of water coming down the river – this year’s whitewater festival in May must have been a good one.


Wilf’s spiffy camera with the zoom takes great pictures, but you don’t get an idea of how far below us the water actually is in this shot.

Walking east we eventually come to the dam. The osprey nest by the dam is occupied this year and in this picture you can just see the head of the chick peeping over the sticks. The parents must have been out on food duty – we could hear the chick calling quite away before we got to the nest.


A new addition this year is a really spiffy new outhouse. It is a great improvement over the bright blue porta-potty that was there in previous years. Stenciled on the door of the ladies side it says ’Charlotte’s Roost’ – perhaps Charlotte is the benefactoress of the new Necessary House?


We stopped for a bit beside the lake behind the dam to look for fish. Didn’t see any sign of them, although we saw what might have been a beaver on the other shore. There was an insect hatch going on and Wilf was able to pick several specimens from the branches of the trees, where they were resting after hatching.


Until later!