Yesterday, I had the great pleasure of attending a hand knitting seminar with the inspirational Cat Bordhi. Cat is known for her innovative designs for scarves, bags and socks. It was Cat's first book on socks - Socks Soar on Two Circular Needles - that actually got me to try socks again after a disaster on double points that left me with two socks, knit the same, but totally different in size.
Cat's latest book - Personal Footprints for Insouciant Sock Knitters, is about yet another new approach to socks. The socks involve no math, no short rows and no partial knit rows. Every row is knit in the round. The fit is perfect!
The socks are personalized for the wearer, and the initial sock is developed as a foot map - or footprint template is created. Once the template is developed, it can be used over and over for more socks for the same person.
In class, Cat coached us as we developed our templates. Most of us found that we needed fewer stitches for our feet than the traditional sock pattern calls for. My Socks That Rock yarn, knitted on size zero needles, needs only 48 stitches to fit my foot.
My leg opening needs 60 stitches. It would not be easy to do this with a standard sock pattern, but in a Footprint Sock it is no problem at all! This also explains why some socks give me such a poor fit.
Footprints socks are cast on at the toe, with a very simple cast on. The toe is increased, and when it is big enough, the foot is knit straight to the first increase point. This point varies from person to person based on the topology of their foot. Some people's foot gets thicker toward the ankle very quickly, while others, like mine have a gradual slope.
When increases are needed, they are done randomly or in a pattern on the sole of the sock. This leaves the top of the sock free for whatever designs the knitter wants to incorporate. The number of increase points and increases varies from person to person. The increase points and reference lines are marked on the template by trying the socks on the template. Subsequent socks only need to be tried on the template to see where the increases and other maneuvers are needed.
Once the increases are complete, the socks are knit straight to the leg opening point. This point is at the center of the leg. The correct sock length is found by trying on the sock and stretching it at the sides until it reaches the center point of the leg.
At that point, the row is marked on the top of the sock with a marking thread. One more row is knit, and a second marking row is added. The leg opening is later cut, stitches are picked up and the leg is knit up from the opening.
Knitting continues to the heel point where the heel is decreased in a similar manner to the toe. The opening is closed later with a three needle bind off.
In addition to the easiest toe ever, Cat showed us a very stretchy bindoff that will be useful for not only socks, but for any bindoff that needs to be very stretchy. This bindoff will get lots of use, I am sure. Cat has videos of this bindoff and other techniques in the sock on YouTube.
I confess, I probably would not have tried this method for making socks unless someone made me sit down and do it. Putting this much effort into what amounts as a "sock swatch" is not my nature.
In class, I managed to get my initial footprint knitted almost to the leg opening point. Last night, I knitted almost to the heel decreases. Once the footprint is done, I can open the leg and add the cuff. Then I have to do the second sock - not my strong suit for sure. The next pair of these will definitely be done two at a time.
I have to say that so far the fit is the best ever! I think I am going to love these socks.