Lost Arts studio

A lot of the fiber arts I enjoy are things like tatting, netmaking, chair caning, and even weaving, where people will come up to me when I demonstrate and solemnly tell me, "That's a lost art."

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Location: SW Outer Nowhere, Michigan, United States

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02 July 2007

Stretchy Sock Ribbing

Now that's a stretchy sock ribbing.

But I don't like it, and I won't use it again. Why not? Because although it doesn't slide down, it looks scrunchy and slouchy on my ankle.

In fact, I am seriously debating whether to pull it all back out again and knit a ribbing I like better. I have to decide whether I would rather be finished, or be finished with socks I like. (Put that way, you can probably see what direction I am leaning!)

Bells and I have been exchanging a couple of comments on socks, and what makes a sock fit.

Around the foot, what makes a sock fit is a little "negative ease". Negative ease is a fancy way of saying the knitting stretches, so if you make the foot part of the sock just a little smaller than the foot itself, it will cling gently to your foot. Too much negative ease gives you a sock that feels too tight and squeezes the circulation right out of your foot.

If you take a cloth tape measure and loop it around your foot, and slide it from the ball of the foot, towards the heel, over the heel, and onto the ankle, you will learn a lot about your personal foot that will help custom-fit your socks.

For example, from the ball of the foot to the instep, my foot hardly changes size at all: it is almost tubular. So a plain tube sock fits this part of my foot nicely.

But at the heel my foot suddenly increases in size from 9.5 inches up to 12 inches. All of the sock patterns I've ever seen advise you to knit the heel on 50% of the stitches.

If I do this, I end up with a sock that has to stretch too much at the point of the heel. This does more than stretch the sock: the shallowness of the heel cup (relative to the size of my heel) causes the sock to pull down at the back, and the sock feels like it is falling down. Not to mention that the overstretched heel is likely to wear out faster than if it were not stretched.

My solution is to knit the heel on more than 50% of the stitches. In theory, if I took 9.5 over 12 (0.79), and multiplied 0.79 by the number of stitches in my sock, I would have a perfectly sized heel -- but almost 80%? That makes me nervous. I've never dared go that high. Usually I knit my heel on 0.6 - 0.7 times the total stitches. (I like to knit short-row heels, but I imagine a gusset heel should also work.) This gives me a much deeper heel cup, to match my big ole' heel.

Then comes another sizing challenge: after that really big, deep heel, my ankle narrows down at the narrowest part to an inch smaller around than my foot. But if I reduced the number of stitches, I would make the ribbing and leg part of the sock too small to get it over my heel. So even though it seems like making the ribbing tighter would help my sock stay up, I have to avoid making it too tight to stretch over my heel.

That means stretchy, stretchy ribbings, like K3 P3. I like to use spiral ribbing, where you just bump the ribbing repeat over by one stitch every X number of rows. The ribbing on my blue socks is a variation of spiral ribbing.

Does any of this make any sense? I've been re-typing it until it's starting to look like scrambled eggs!

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Anonymous CoffeeLady said...

Totally makes sense! When I knit "plain" socks, I always make customize - for a perfect fit. Yet, following a pattern (mindless knitting?) I don't, often resulting in socks that don't fit well. Good post - made me think! My (pattern) sock knitting will not be the same from now on. :-)

9:29 AM  
Blogger amy said...

I didn't take into account negative ease on my first pair of socks, which is odd that I didn't even think of it, since I make hats all the time, which work on the same principle. Is there a % you use for socks? I tend to use 5% for head circumference. This is a great bit of information--useful to have. My second pair fit much better, as did my son's, and then I took a break from socks for a while...

10:27 PM  
Blogger Bells said...

oh, lots of stuff there I've really not thought about before. Thank you for that. I'm sure it will help!

3:49 AM  
Blogger Olivia said...

yes it's a very useful post. Stuff I'm still working out so very helpful, thanks!

12:59 AM  

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