Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Math anxiety

I'm about a month behind listening to Cast-On episodes, so I only recently heard Brenda kvell about the Widdershins sock pattern. I tried it before -- it was one of the aborted projects that I tried to do with the Handpainted Opal -- but didn't like it. Still, I know that Brenda has some of the same "sock issues" that I do, and if she says this may be the Holy Grail of sock patterns, then maybe, I thought, I should give it another shot. Other bloggers mentioned that the designer had written on her own blog about how to adapt the pattern to other stitch counts.

I thought I had sufficient math skills for my knitting (I whined to my GLBT-Knitsibs). I thought they were more than sufficient, actually. (Hey, I do Kakuro puzzles in bed).

And I was with the designer up to a point. I get that, if you have a 54 st circumference, you do gusset increases until you have 74 st: 27 for the instep, 14 each for the gussets, and 19 heel stitches. But I could not for the life of me figure out where that 19 comes from. The designer said:
For a round heel with a flap n stitches wide, the number of stitches below the heel turning is h(n) where h(k) = k for k.
Uh...what? I get what "h" is. I know I'm solving for "n." But what the hell is "k?"

The people on GLBT-Knit came through, leading me to realize that it's not about the math: there just need to be enough heel stitches to cover the bottom of the heel, whatever my gauge happens to be. So I made some quick notes and set off.

I leached the color out of this picture because these socks will be a gift, and the recipient sometimes reads my blog. I have to admit, except for the drama of the multi-variable equation above, the Widdershins construction is pretty cool. It reminds me a lot of Judy Gibson's You're Putting Me On socks. And I had an important sizing epiphany: a short-row heel would "begin" about halfway into your gusset increases. So with an L measurement of 6.5 inches, I'd want to begin my increases 15 rounds before I reached 6.5 (or around 5 inches, with my current gauge). Significantly more thinking is required than with my usual sock pattern, but I think this sock may be more comfortable for people with higher insteps. I think _____ is really going to like it.

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