This week, I’m knitting with Universal Yarn Odette which is a light blend of fine superwash merino and alpaca, combined with the strength of nylon. Its open and airy chain construction exudes a heathered and feathery halo that is perfect for a multitude of projects.
On Day 2 of my posts this week, I made several swatches and was amazed at how Odette adapted beautifully on various needle sizes. Today, I’m making a pair of socks using Bordeaux as my color choice, which will go perfectly with the Olympia Pullover I made yesterday. Every day, I go for walks in my neighborhood as a means of exercise, but to also get out of the house. I have quite a collection of hand-made socks, which I love wearing during the cold winter months. If my feet are cold, I’m cold; but if they’re nice and cozy, then I’m comfortable.
I love making toe up socks with a short row heel for myself and some of the other women in the family. For the men, I usually stick with top down and gusset heel to leave them ample room for their larger feet. During the swatching exercise, I used a 3.0mm needle and, based on the gauge, thought it would work for socks. Truth be told, once the toe was complete, I tried it on and decided that it was too loose. So I ripped it out and started again with a US 2 [2.75mm] and was much happier with the results. Socks need to be knit at a very tight gauge for wearability and I want them to last. By the way, I’m still wearing the first pair of socks I made well over 20 years ago. The toes are getting a little thin, but still have some of leftover yarn to re-knit them. I may just do that for nostalgic reasons. It goes to show how long hand knit socks can last.
My version of toe up socks is a little different than most patterns. I start with Judy’s Magic Cast On, like many toe up patterns do, but the difference for me is in the number of starting stitches and the increase rounds. Most sock patterns, whether they be toe up or top down, typically do the toe section by increasing (or decreasing if top down) 4 stitches (2 on the bottom and 2 on the top) every other round. I start with 6 stitches on each needle and use 6 increases every 3rd round. The number of rounds ends up the same, but I prefer this method as it makes a rounder toe.
Judy’s Magic Cast On for Toe Up socks was invented by Judy Becker. It’s brilliant and there are tutorials available to demonstrate the technique for both magic loop and double pointed needles (dpns). But like most knitting techniques, others try it and come up with variations that make it even better. If you follow Judy’s original instructions, you have twisted stitches on one needle. It’s easily rectified by knitting into the back of these stitches to right them, which I’ve done for years. Then I came across some YouTube videos where people had perfected the technique by loading each needle from left to right. The result; no twisted stitches. I’ve since retrained myself to load my needles left to right instead of inside out. Like I said, it’s not a big deal, but it’s a great example of how this craft evolves.
How long should you make each foot? The sock should stretch over your foot, but the amount of stretch depends upon how you knit. If knit very tightly, it won’t stretch as much as when knit a little looser, or loose (don’t want loose). Too much stretch will affect the wearability as will when knit too loose. I aim for ¾” – 1” shorter than the actual foot length. If you’re making socks for yourself or someone you have access to, you can measure the length of the foot. If you’re making socks for someone else and ask “how long is your foot?”, they’ll respond by saying they wear a size 7.5 and 8 in boots. Not very helpful. I use a website (Softmoc) that has a conversion chart for shoe sizes to inches and centimeters for all ages and genders. Shoe manufacturers often vary in sizes, so the chart serves as a guideline only to the length of each recipient’s foot. Socks don’t need to fit exactly like a pair of comfortable shoes; socks should be smaller so they fit snugly on the person’s foot. By referencing this chart, I have a better feel for the targeted finished length of the foot – I aim for 1”, and no less than ¾” smaller than the actual foot length.
The other consideration for toe up socks is the cast off technique. A conventional cast off tends to be restrictive when putting the sock on or off. The solution is to use a stretchy cast off method. I like to use Jeny’s Surprising Stretchy Cast Off of which there are many YouTube videos available, however, I’ve described the technique in the pattern instructions. You’ll notice in the instructions to do a Yarn Round Needle (YRN) instead of a regular Yarn Over (YO) for the knit stitches. A regular YO tends to make the cast off edge flair out, while the YRN doesn’t.
Another technique of note is picking up the wraps on the short row heel when doing the purl stitches. I use my right needle to pick up the wraps from the right side of the work and place it on the left needle in front of the stitch. When you purl them together, the wrap disappears on the right side. If the wrap(s) is behind the stitch on the left needle, it will be visible when purled together with the stitch.
This pattern is written for magic loop. I gave up on dpn’s many years ago after losing several needles through the boards of my back deck. Since switching to magic loop, I’ve never looked back. I call this pattern the Spiral Toes Waffle Socks. The spiral toes are based on my method for toe increases, but the waffle stitch is a great TV knitting technique for socks, and looks spectacular with the heathered, feathery look of Odette.
For the Spiral Toes Waffle Socks, you will need:
- 2 skeins of Odette in color Bordeaux
- US 2 [2.75mm] circular needle in 32” for magic loop, or double pointed needles
- tapestry needle to sew in ends
32sts x 40 rows = 4”[10cm]
Sized to fit average woman’s foot, easily adapted to make smaller or larger by a multiple of 4 stitches.
M1 make 1 st
w&t wrap & turn
YOP yarn over purlwise
YRN yarn round needle
Waffle Stitch Pattern
Rounds 1 & 2: *P2, K2; repeat from * to end of round
Round 3 & 4: Knit
Spiral Toes Waffle Socks
Using Judy’s Magic Cast on, cast on 12 sts (6 on each needle), leaving a lengthy tail.
Round 1: Hold tail to secure the first stitch, knit 1 round.
Round 2: Holding both working & tail yarn, knit1 round (12 sts on each needle).
Round 3: With the working yarn only, knit each individual stitch (12 sts on each needle).
Round 4: *K4, M1, repeat from * to end of round (6 sts increased – 3 on each needle).
Rounds 5 & 6: Knit.
Repeat Rounds 4 – 6 increasing 1 additional Knit stitch before the M1 (eg, K5, K6, K7, etc.) until there are 30 sts on each needle (or desired number).
Rounds 1 & 2: *P2, K2; repeat from * across the top of the foot, and knit all stitches on the sole of the foot.
Rounds 3 & 4: Knit.
Repeat these 4 rounds until foot measures 2” less than desired length from the tip of the toe, ending with a Row 2 on the top of the foot, and ready to start the heel.
Short Row Heel Instructions
Working with heel stitches only, proceed with short rows as follows:
Row 1: Knit across heel till 1 st rem, w&t.
Row 2: Purl across heel till 1 st rem, w&t.
Row 3: Knit across till 1 st before wrap, w&t.
Row 4: Purl across till 1 st before wrap, w&t.
Continue working in this fashion until 10 sts have been wrapped on either side of the center 10 heel sts.
Row 21: Knit across to 1st wrapped st, pick up wrap & knit together with the st, w&t the next st.
Row 22: Purl across to 1st wrapped st, pick up wrap & purl together with the st, w&t the next st.
Row 23: Knit across to next wrapped st, pick up both wraps & knit together with the st, w&t.
Row 24: Purl across to next wrapped st, pick up both wraps & purl together with the st, w&t.
Continue working in this fashion until all wraps have been picked up and worked on the left side of the heel. There should still be 1 wrapped stitch on the right side that has not been worked.
Pattern across top of foot stitches.
The 1st stitch on the heel has 2 wraps. Pick up both wraps & knit together with the st. Continue to knit across the heel sts to complete the round.
Work 1 more round of pattern across the top of the foot, and knit across the heel sts.
Proceed in pattern around all stitches until desired length ending with a Round 4.
Cuff: *K1,P1; repeat till end of round and desired length
Jeny’s Surprising Stretch Cast Off
K1, YOP, P1; Pull both K & YOP over P st; 1 st on right needle
*YRN, K1; Pull both st & YRN over K st
YOP, P1; Pull both st & YOP over P st
Repeat from * until all stitches have been worked
Weave in toe and cuff ends.
Who would have thought that a yarn rated as Light could be knit to a fingering weight gauge and look so lovely? Odette truly is a chameleon when it comes to gauge. The heathered appearance of the yarn is perfect for the waffle stitch pattern. They are cushy, soft and warm. I’ll be wearing them regularly on my winter walks, and take care when laundering to ensure that I have them for years to come.
Please join me tomorrow, as I take Odette in a different direction again – using larger needles and leftover yarn from the sweater and socks to make a warm funnel cowl.
This is part 4 of 5 in this series
Go back to part 3: The challenge of combining 7 different colors on a knitted sweater