Sunday, October 5, 2008

Knitting socks for tender feet

I was so proud of one of my early pair of socks that I brought them with me while visiting friends this summer. Our host was very interested in them, so much so that I told him he could try them on. It was quite funny, seeing him put them on, pink toes and heels, brown and green yarn and all. He explained that he has very short feet for a man and that his socks always wrinkle up under his feet, making them quite uncomfortable. I didn't really believe him, but we compared, and his foot is the same size as mine. (I wear a women's size 7 1/2 shoe.) Naturally, I immediately jumped on the idea of knitting him a pair of socks. Then, he commented that he found my hand-knit socks uncomfortable because he could "feel the bumps on the bottom." He admitted he has very sensitive soles. I was more than a little concerned then than I would not be able to knit a pair of wool socks that he would find totally comfortable. Nonetheless, I have taken on the challenge.
First, I consulted Ravelry, and was rewarded with helpful advice, offered in this thread on the Sock Knitters Anonymous discussion board. I planned at the outset to purl the soles of the socks, putting the smoother stockinette side against his sensitive soles. Commonly known as a "Princess Sole", this technique is a bit more troublesome, but makes a more comfortable sock.
I knit this sock from the top down, and planned to use a slip-stitch pattern to make it similar to the socks my friend had tried and liked. However, the Wildfoote yarn I chose is too splitty to work well with any stitch more complicated than plain knits and purls. The pattern I originally selected began with a k3, p1 cuff. When I decided against doing the slipstitch, I simply continued the cuff pattern on down the leg. About halfway through the leg, I realized that although the k3, p1 ribbing was smooth on the outside but produced a "bumpy" inside. I was afraid that the single k1 rib would rub against my friend's leg and irritate his sensitive skin.
After all, a person with tiny little feet and such sensitive soles must have tender skin on his leg, too.
When I began the heel flap, I turned the sock inside out, placing the smoother k3 side of the knitting to the inside. Now I can't decide if I should call these Socks for the Tenderfoot or Inside-out Socks.
About a half-inch before the heel, I added an additional purl stitch to the pattern, making a k1, p1 section across the instep to allow more stretch there. Once I knit the heel, I continued this k1, p1 for another half-inch before switching to plain stockinette for the foot.
You can get a better view of the pattern I used for the heel and the Princess Sole here. It continues the slip stitches for the heel under the arch of the foot, then purls the sole. I'm sorry I can't model this sock for you. It is a bit too short to fit properly. I was so eager to see if the Wildfoote yarn softened up after washing that I knit the toe too soon. The Wildfoote does soften a bit, but it doesn't grow much after washing and blocking. Once I get a better fitting second sock knit, I will rip out the toe of this one and reknit it to match. You'll see modeled photos then.
Of course, such a plain knit sock is not that interesting or inventive. I've provided these details here in case you have a tenderfoot that needs socks.  I also have a simple method to knit them with minimum purling.  Click the link below for the free pattern.


Marjorie said...

I have occasional problems with socks irritating my feet, but it is usually the toe seam that does it on commercial socks. I did try, however, wearing a pair of hand knits inside out to get the knit side against my feet, and it did feel pretty good.

The really soft yarn I like the best is Mountain Colors Bearfoot, which is a wool-mohair mix. It is more delicate than pure wool or wool-nylon sock yarns but very warm and soft. I've knit it in really plain patterns because it is variegated.

vlb5757 said...

How sweet of you to knit someone else a pair of socks. That really was a labor of love. I haven't knit my DH a pair of socks yet but maybe one day here shortly. I counted my balls of sock yarn and I could knit two pair a month for the next year and still not run out. I am on a yarn diet right now so we will see how much I can get done without buying anything new!

Anonymous said...

I've heard that knitting the soles with the purl side outside was more comfortable for people with sensitive feet. I like the color.

Jenny Girl said...

Princess sole is a very appropriate name. I never would have thought.
I do wash my socks inside out to soften them up a bit, but I guess my feet are not so tender. Or I deal with it because I love the fact that I have on hand knit socks!

Patricia said...

Thanks for the reminder and the name of the technique. I first knit this type of sole when I made Fast Florida Footies. They have become my favorite socks. It's amazing the difference the stockinette makes on the soles of the foot.