Friday, May 9, 2014

Knitting Argyle Socks

I finished another pair of argyle socks last week, making real some of the ideas I had while knitting the first pair. I like to see a idea worked to fruition before I make a final decision on its success. Overall, I'd rate these a moderate success. I started these socks from a provisional cast on at the toe, then worked them toe-up so that I could knit the crisscross lines right-side-up. I also began the argyle pattern just above the toe.

I'm sure now that I prefer toe-up for argyles, simply because I want the single stitches of the criscrosses to be little right-side-up v's. I also like having the argyle pattern run down the instep.  However, I don't like it running all the way to the toe.  I'll try starting the next pair at the gusset, so that the argyle patterning will run about halfway down the instep.  I also see a problem in the chart alignment on the foot.  I really don't like the half-diamonds on the sides of the instep.  I unwittingly created half-diamonds when I expanded the chart for the first pair to create this second pair.

The design for the first pair had the contrasting diamonds on the sides of the socks and a seam in the back. Extending that same chart down the foot split the diamonds on each side of the instep in half.  I can correct this problem by moving the contrasting diamonds to the middle of the sock.

Another change I made in this pair was to move the seam from the back of the sock to the side.  Mirroring the pattern on the socks placed the seams on the inside of each leg, hiding them in a less visible area.  While knitting this pair, I found that the problem is not is seam placement alone. The seam is fine either place, side or back. It simply belongs in the main color diamonds so that it can be sewn with one strand of yarn. The seam here (visible on the sock on the right in the photo above) marries two different colors in the sole and jumps between colors in the leg.

The toe-up construction I used in this pair requires either a short-row or an afterthought heel.  The short-row heel I used was easy to work in the flat piece of knitting along one side of the instep.  Seaming joins it to the other side of the instep.

The contrasting heels were a necessity. My original plan was to knit the heels, toes and cuffs in a contrasting yarn to stretch the coverage of the main color yarn. (These socks took less than 200 yards of the main color yarn, Patons Kroy in Glencheck.) After the first toe was finished, it was obvious that the contrasting toes split yet another diamond in half, adding insult to injury. 

Luckily, when the socks were done, there was enough of the main color yarn to reknit the toe.  The diamond above the toe is now more complete, even though it has a black line across it.  The black line that remains is a bit of the toe that I started just after the provisional cast on, on the theory that picking up stitches in the same color yarn would make the transition between toe-up and toe-down knitting less noticeable.That's ok--it looks a bit like the seam line found on commercially-made socks.  Additionally, the first sock I knit still has the black cuff.  There might be enough yarn left to reknit it in the main color.  However, I'm not sure which color cuff I like better, black or gray.  If I ever do pick a favorite, I might reknit the one or the other cuff so that they match. 

I tried a couple of new (to me) types of short-row heels in these socks.  The sock on the left in the photo below has a Fish Lips Kiss Heel.  The one on the right has a double-stitch heel.  The Fish Lips Kiss namesake shape is visible in the left heel.  The double-stitch heel has that same shape on the left side only.  The rightmost side is saggy.

Both of these are my favorite type of short-row heel, one that uses two rows in between the two halves of the heel.  The in-between (boomerang or yo-yo) rows are used to work the turning stitches created in the first half before creating even more turning stitches in the second half.  I have always preferred disposing of the first set of yarn overs or wraps halfway through to having two wraps or yarn overs to work at each turn in the second half.

I was relieved to find that the Fish Lips Kiss Heel includes these two rows in the middle.  I also find the turning stitch in this type of heel easy to work.  Besides that, it looks good.  I have always wanted to use a stitch that was less bulky than the yarn overs or wraps.  This one is not only less bulky, it produces a smooth join at the heel turn.  All I can see on the outside is a 90-degree turn in the stitches at the side of the heel. 

Comparing this heel to a short-row heel with yarn overs was easy.  I have knit a lot of those heels with yarn overs!  I was less certain as to how the Fish Lips heel would compare to a short-row heel with double stitches.  I haven't really tried that type before.  Luckily, I have a sock book that features that type of heel in several patterns.  I used those instructions to work the heel in the second sock.

The first thing I noticed was how similar the double-stitch heel and the Fish Lips Kiss heel are in overall appearance.  However, the join at the double stitches is not as tight and smooth on the outside as it is in the Fish Lips Kiss heel.  Also, the double stitches are harder to work.  I had trouble getting my needle into them once I tightened them enough to make a good join.  I got them tight enough when making the turns on the purl side, but not when making the turns on the knit side of the heel.  That's why the indented "Fish Lips Kiss" shape is visible only one side of the double stich heel.

Another change I made on the double stitch heel was to try working the middle two rows all the way across the sock.  Since the other colors I needed for the instep pattern were there, I could work across the heel with the contrast yarn, and then pick up the appropriate colors to work across the instep.  That's something new I learned with this sock--with intarsia, it is possible to knit a heel in a contrasting yarn and still knit boomerang rows across the instep without disrupting the pattern.  I have always had to just work the middle rows across the heel only when I knit a short-row heel in a contrasting color in a standard one-color sock.

I found both of these heels, the Fish Lips Kiss heel and the double-stitch heel (which is from Around the World in Knitted Socks, a book by Stephanie van der Linden) handled the middle rows in the same way.  It works, but it isn't as integrated into the sock.  I'm still looking for a better method.  I know now that I can use intarsia to work across the instep for the first round, but then the yarn won't be in the right spot on the second round.  Once I finish the heel, I can work across it with the instep yarn.  How will a boomerang heel look with just one round in the middle?  I could use the intarsia-in-the-round technique and work back across the instep after the boomerang round.  Would that be an improvement over working back and forth in the heel?

I'm thinking about these and other questions as I knit a third pair of argyles.  I started this third pair to try a different construction, one that has three seams.  I'm also working out sizing issues.  My ultimate goal is to knit a pair of argyles that incorporates a bit of a tartan that has ancestral connection for me.  That means I'll be knitting and writing about more argyles!

Don't worry, I'm not so single minded that I can only knit argyle socks.  I've picked up a cowl I started last winter.  Look for it and my argyle project notes on my Ravelry project page.