Grackle & Sun

Knit|tinK: EarthSea Socks

These were a long time coming. Slow knitter, frequent tinker = Me. Remember when I dyed some sock yarn with black beans? I finally got that yarn knitted up into some socks. Took a while, because I played around with different construction, and ultimately changed needle size entirely. And, you know, I moved and they sat in a box for a while until I dug them out a couple weeks ago and started over again. Moving is bad for craftal expediency.

These socks were knit toe up on 2 circulars, two-at-a-time. I always begin toe-up socks with a Turkish cast-on. It is my favoritest ever—so easy to do and, most importantly, very easy to remember how to do. Mind like a sieve. Then I knit my standard Super Rounded Toe which goes something like this:

Part One:
After casting on a reasonable amount of stitches (I cast on 9 stitches per side for a total of 18 stitches, and I wear a US size 9 shoe), increase 4 stitches every row until 1/2 the number of needed increases are made. The increases are made at the beginning and end of each half of the sock—2 stitches on the instep and 2 stitches on the sole.

I do my increases like this:

Row one: K1, Inc, knit however many, Inc, K1 (repeat for second needle)
Row two: K3, Inc, knit however many, Inc, K3 (repeat for second needle)

Rinse, repeat.

EZ’s backward loop cast-on and the lifted increase both work very well. I did an EZ increase for the first set of increases and lifted increases after that.

Part Two: 
Increase in the same manner every other row until only 3 increase rows are needed.

Part Three: 
After last increase row from Part 2, knit 2 rows plain. Increase, then knit 3 rows plain. Increase, then knit 4 rows plain. Increase one last time. Then carry on with the sock.

This method works really well for making a nice rounded toe as opposed to the typical pointy toe that many sock recipes call for. Below you can see the difference between a standard toe and my Super Rounded Toe that I did for Dave’s Business Socks:

And then for some extra fun, I did something different for these socks that I’ve never tried before—I knit afterthought heels. It was convenient because I got to the heels while we were at a Comic Con with the kids, and I really didn’t want to stop knitting, which I would have had to do for any other heel type. Mind like a sieve, remember? However, I grossly underestimated the amount of waste yarn I’d need to mark my placement for the heels and had to improvise in order to survive. Not much yarn to be had at a Comic Con.  I did, however, find a plastic bag that someone left on a bench. So I ripped a long strip off of it, gave it some twist, and continued knitting merrily on my way. You do what you gotta do out in the wild.

A word about afterthought heels. EZ (Elizabeth Zimmermann, the Great and Powerful Oz) only gives an outline for how to do this method, requiring, as she does, for us to use our own brains. So I did some interweb research to try to find out more information as to avoid unnecessary and repeated tinkage. One can but try. In particular, I wanted to know exactly where the waste yarn (or for the very brave, the cutting!) should be placed. The interwebz proved very vague on this point. My inclination was to place the waste yarn in the same location where one would start a Sweet Tomato Heel–just before the ball of the heel directly below the crease where the ankle turns into the instep. I found one reference that agreed with this placement, and so I ran with it. Which was a good call, because it fit perfectly.

Then I knit up to the top, added some ribbing and finished with EZ’s sewn bind-off, which again, is my favoritest.

A note on the yarn at this point: Argh. It turns out that ammonia is a pretty harsh modifier. There was breakage within the skein, but only where I modified it with ammonia. Those are the greenish coloured sections. Clearly I applied it too strong for too long. Lesson learned. Because of the number of places where I had to piece the yarn back together (nothing crazy, but enough to be annoying), I don’t expect these to hold up too long.

After the bind off, went back and picked up the stitches on either side of the plastic bag waste yarn. Then I snipped and removed the waste yarn (easier said than done) and was left with the sole stitches (half of the total stitches) on two needles.

At this point, I had to experiment a little bit. In my reading about afterthought heels, one complaint I encountered was that the heel didn’t fit well—specifically, that it pulled too tight across the instep. My first thought for correcting this was to add some short rows in the corners on each side in order to add a bit more depth. I tried this, and while it added the needed depth, it also created a little puckery pocket on each side of the heel. Boooo! That was not attractive. Tink!

I fixed the problem by picking up additional stitches in each corner (4 on each side) and then knitting 5 rows plain before beginning the decreases for the heel. This worked beautifully. The afterthought heel is essentially a toe. Yup. You knit a toe where the heel is and, miracle of miracles, it fits.  After knitting 5 rows plain, I began decreasing 4 stitches every other row. Just like on the toe, these were done at each corner of each half of the sock, leaving a knit stitch worked at the end: K1, K2tog, knit however many, K2tog, K1. I did not do matched decreases, I just did K2tog. It works fine. When I got to the last few rows, I decreased every row until I had 9 stitches on each needle (18 total).

Then I committed the Kitchener Stitch.

Here are the finished socks:

I was skeptical about how the afterthought heels would fit, but they’re actually really comfortable. The only thing I don’t like about them is the impossible donkey ears of the Kitchener grafting. I worked the first two and last two stitches together to improve the issue, but it doesn’t entirely correct it.  See what I mean?

In the future, I think I’d try a star decrease pattern on the heel instead.

It was interesting to see how my haphazard over-dye job knit up on these socks. What is most curious is that one sock is quite a bit darker than the other. I want to learn more about dyeing for different striping patterns. More to play with. :D

As always, tinks on me. ;)  Tune in next time for some cute baby knits.


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22 thoughts on “Knit|tinK: EarthSea Socks

  1. They look lovely, and the afterthought heel (which I’ve never tried) looks really comfy and a great fit. I love the EZ sewn bindoff too. I use a strategy for those donkey ears that I learned from one of those famous knitters: Cat Bordhi? Lucy Neatby? Before grafting, take the stitch second from the end of each needle and pull it over the last stitch and off the needle. Yours look good to me… and all small knitting crimes in a sock eventually blend in with washing and wear IMHO. Hope you’re enjoying snug feet!

  2. What a great looking pair of socks! I particularly love the colour combo and the way the variegation has worked out. Interesting what you say about the ammonia modification – do you remember by any chance what your pH was (I know you are good at keeping track of pH) and for how long your yarn was modified for? I’ve never done any testing re: how fast wool gets destroyed in high pH so I have no idea of how careful one needs to be.

    I always stick to a traditional sock knitting pattern that I learned at school (mainly because I always remember it so have no need for engaging brain – my mind is very much like a sieve too), so I’ve never had a go at toe-up socks, rounded toes or different kinds of heels, but yours look so nice I think it’s time for me to try some new techniques so thanks for all the tips!

    • Thank you! You know, I’ll have to dig around for my notes to be sure, but I don’t think I’m the one who made up the modifier baths on that particular dyed day so I’m not sure about the strength. I think my mistake was that A) I did the dip until I saw color change, so it might have been in there a good few minutes and then I don’t remember rinsing the yarn off right away. I think I might have let it dry. Don’t quote me on that, but it might have happened that way. There was a lot going on that day–10 dye pots plus. Lol. I’m not very knowledgeable about modifiers. It’s something I want to learn more about.

  3. What an adventure-but they turned out lovely!

  4. Great sox and the post reads like a whodunnit novel. Thanks for sharing.

  5. Ooo, I like the way these striped! And I think I’ll try a rounded toe for my next pair too…

    • Thank you! If you try out the toe, please let me know how it works out for you. This was something I came up with a while ago and I like it, but I’m curious how it translates from my brain and hands to the brains and hands of other knitters. :D

  6. Wow, what great details about your project! I found the same thing with afterthought heels: if you knit for a bit plain before you start decreasing, it makes them much deeper and better-fitting. Your dye job is pretty neat, too!

  7. These socks turned out just beautiful–I love the colors and the unusual heel. Way to go on lovely hand-dyed wool! Do you spin too?

  8. I’m not a big sock knitter and am very impressed with how yours turned out!

    • Thank you! I was unsure when I started out with socks, but quickly became hooked. There’s nothing like turning a heel to make you feel like the cleverest person with two sticks. :D

  9. I love how you know the different types of decreases, I just wing it. I have never tried an afterthought heel but I might have too. It looks like something that I would like. I love the colors of your yarn too!

    • Thanks! I wish I knew more about why to use a particular increase or decrease do that I could get better about designing. Things to work toward. There’s plenty of reasons to wing it, too, though. You should definitely give the afterthought heel a go!

  10. Those are wonderful, Dre! I want to try your toe method when I get brave enough to tackle socks. It looks like a winner for sure. I hope that you share that on Ravelry because it is a great innovation, in my humble opinion.

    I love the colors you got, and I don’t see that one sock is darker than the other. I just like the striping.

    Happy spring!

    • Thank you very much. The rounded toe is not my innovation–there are other ways of doing it. This is just a slightly different version that I came up with for doing toe-up socks that suits what I wanted. I do hope you’ll try socks, though. They are so much fun!

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