Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Knitting Socks Using Math

This is for the intermediate knitter that has had a little experience knitting in the round and knitting a few socks.
As I am writing this post I have been working on trying to figure out the mathematics in making a sock template that will help anyone make their own sock patterns. I think I have got it.
Not every one has all of the different sizes of double pointed needles or the same thickness of yarn, I know I don't. So here are the beginning pointers for you.
If you like thinner socks you will want smaller needles (#1 through #3) and a thinner yarn (such as sport weight). For thicker socks you will want from a size 4 through a size 9 set of needles and a worsted weight yarn.
Once you have acquired those get a tape measure out and measure around your ankle. If you are planning on making knee high socks measure around just below your knee above the calf. Write both of those numbers down. Measure from knee to ankle for knee high socks.
Knee high socks should have a decrease in stitches nearing the ankle. It depends on your width.

Now take your needles and yarn and do a gauge! I prefer to make a gauge using the stockinette stitch. Cast on 20 and work 10 rows. Measure how wide this gauge is. This will help you to find out what you need to start your socks. If your gauge is 2 inches divide that to your ankle circumference making sure you have an even number. If you need add one more stitch.

Example: (convert to your metric measurements for outside US) if you are using a size 4 needle and worsted weight yarn and 10 stitches equal 1 1/2 inches, your tension in knitting shows you that you will need to cast on 40 stitches to fit an ankle that is 5 to 7 1/2 inches with the stretch of a rib stitch. Your tension and needle size may show that you need more or less.

For a nice elastic fit use a rib stitch of knit 2 pearl 2 in the round.
Usually stitches are divided evenly between three needles, since you can't divide 40 by 3 you can go 10-20-10, but you need to be careful when you have to first pearl on any of your needles, to make sure that you bring the yarn forward so that it will be under your free needle when you start that row.

To start the heel flap you will need to have half of your stitches on one needle. Most patterns will have you use the first needle as the middle of the back of the sock, so if you have 40 stitches 20 will be half and that is easy enough to do. If you have a pattern which calls for 48 stitches, that gives you 24. To get those stitches on to one needle, you can will need to knit to where the half way mark is. If you have 60 stitches that are equally spread out 20-20-20 you need to get 30 on the top of the foot needle and 30 for the heel flap.

The length heel flap will depend on the measurement of the heel and the length of your gauge. Make sure that you slip the first stitch of every row on your heel flap. You will need this to pick up the stitches for the gusset.

I do like the "slip, knit, slip, knit across and slip one (as to pearl), pearl across" method for a reinforce heel.

This is where the math can get intimidating.
When you have reached the length of the heel you need to end with the Slip-knit row.
For turning the heal you will Slip one (as to pearl) then pearl to one more than half of the stitches, pearl 2 together, pearl one and turn. Count remaining stitches. If you have (as an example) 7 remaining you will slip (as to knit) one, then knit until you are 10 from the other end, do a SSK (slip, knit, pass over slipped stitch) then knit one, leaving the remaining 7 unworked.

For thinner socks with a finer yarn (needle size 2-3) this will have to be adjusted, as it will make the heal too pointy. Instead of knitting to one beyond the center you will go to one before 2/3 of the row. The turned heel should have a rounded look, if you have to back your work up go ahead, just keep track of your changes so that you can make another sock to match it.

I am trusting that you have made socks in the past and know how to finish the heel, work the gusset, foot and toe, as these are pretty much standard in all patterns. It is all about measuring and doing the math. The gusset is finished when the top of the foot has the same number of stitches as the bottom.
You can add your own personal stitches and patterns into this to create your very own socks or you can keep it basic for function. All you need is one basic sock pattern, a set of double pointed needles, some yarn, find your gauge, do the math and find your size.

I will post pictures to this when the camera comes home.
(I miss her so much already! But I hope she is having a great time!)

I would like to thank so many of my friends that sent me links and patterns of over 650 socks that I skimmed through to get the mathematics on this. Sorry it took so long to go through those!
If you find any errors please let me know so I can correct this. It is really late here now and I have math brain now.
Please pass this post on to people that may want or need it.

Thank you for stopping by.
Please feel free to comment!
Dee Dee

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