One of the great things about knitting is that you can customize or modify a pattern – even your own – in whatever way you choose. Of course, that opportunity does occasionally backfire, but that just means you have learned something. Again.
Here’s an example of a modification that seems to have worked out just the way I planned it. I found a cable rib that I liked in a book, and tweaked it a bit to use in my standard sock pattern. It starts out as a simple 2×2 rib, but morphs into cables that shift from side to side. Each ‘shifting’ cable element happens over a set of three knit columns, and is mirrored in neighboring sets, with an entire repeat spanning 24 stitches. At a gauge of 9 stitches per inch (about right for a fine-ish sock yarn) three repeats fit nicely on a 72-stitch round. Of course, 3 repeats is an odd number…
But it works just fine, as long as you don’t insist that the front and back are identical. I don’t. It is still perfectly balanced and symmetrical, and I am pleased. I made the first pair for my sister, in a lovely Jojoland Melody yarn that shades softly and quietly from one color to the next. The color changes aren’t identical in the two socks, so they’re fraternal instead of identical twins. My sister has always liked things just a little offbeat, so I thought it was a good match for her personality!
I’ll admit, I thought about keeping them. But I always think the best gifts are things that you would like to have yourself (just in case the recipient decides the gift doesn’t suit them and gives it back… I’m still waiting). Anyway, I liked the way the pattern turned out, and thought it would also make a good men’s sock. Since I wanted to make some for my generous and charming friend Darrell, I set out to knit a second pair. I sent him pictures of three blue sock yarns to choose from, and he picked the denim-y Regia Tweed 4-ply.
As I began working out the details, though, things didn’t fit quite as nicely as for the first ones. The gauge for this yarn was different, his foot is wider, and I don’t think his ankles are as trim as my sister’s. But I still needed to have the same number of stitches around the leg for that pattern…
Long story short, I knit the foot on smaller needles, inserting my mini-gusset as I neared the short-row heel. This time, I didn’t decrease the gusset stitches away, since they just happened to give me the number I needed for the leg.
But did you notice how much the cable rib pulls in on her socks? A regular rib would expand a lot more than these cables would allow, so I needed to build in some extra room. A couple of rounds after finishing the heel, I switched to larger needles and began the pattern. And it worked out just fine!
Also fortunately, cable patterns are nearly incapable of sagging. So even if they are not really snug, they certainly won’t fall down!
I may never know whether I should have switched back to the smaller needles for the ribbing at the top. I have a sneaking suspicion I should have, but am going to leave well enough alone.
Well, I finished the socks, and a first washing transformed them! They were nice to start with, but a machine-wash made them so soft and fluffy I was amazed at the difference. I still expect that they will wear well, but now they feel even better.
The Regia yarn was very nice to knit, and (Darrell said “Know thyself” and requested machine-washable yarn) easy care, including tumble drying. The tweed is beautiful. The only thing that worries me a little is that many of the little neps of color were not well-anchored in the yarn, and I expect will drift off with wearing and washing. Somehow, I don’t think that will keep me awake at night.
I was surprised that it was so hard to find a tweedy sock yarn. There are tons of unique and often beautiful hand-dyed sock yarns available, lots of self-patterning and self-striping yarns (not for me), and some lovely heathers and solids, but a real dearth of sock tweeds. Someone needs to fix that, but in the meantime, Regia will get my money for the next tweedy pair!