Saturday, January 27, 2007

The Gusset Experiment

As I've said before, the main reason I adore Simple Socks, Plain and Fancy is the nearly fool-proof method for making socks that fit. But it's only nearly fool-proof: many people prefer the fit of the standard top-down sock that uses a gusset for shaping, and affords a roomier fit around the top of the instep.

So the Gusset Experiment is based on this hypothesis: the fit of the sock can easily be improved if, at a point roughly one inch (or x rounds) before starting a short-row heel, you begin increasing every other round on both sides of the sock. Complete the short-row heel, and then begin decreasing on subsequent rounds until you've returned to your desired circumference. I also propose that x is generally equal to 20% of the number of circumference stitches, the same number as the width of the toe or the point of the heel in Priscilla Gibson-Roberts' formulation.

My first pass at this was with some gray Trekking XXL, which knits up 8 sts/in for me on 2.25 mm needles (size 1). For my foot, that means 72 stitches for the circumference. I cast on 14 stitches (20%) for the toe, and began knitting the typical toe-up version of a banded toe.

After several inches into the foot, I checked my vertical gauge. 14 rows was a little over an inch, so about an inch before reaching my desired length, I began adding stitches on either side of the instep, increasing every other round for 14 rounds. (M1R, knit across instep, M1L). I then knit the short row heel over 36 stitches (50% of the original circumference count).

I learned that I prefer decreases at the opposite side of the gusset from my increases. So since I increased on the instep side, I would decrease on the heel side. (Knit gusset stitch together with first heel-side stitch, knit heel stitches, join last heel-side stitch with gusset stitch using SSK). When all the additional gusset stitches have been decreased away, I've reached the point where PGR recommends beginning the ankle ribbing.

These socks were feeling a bit snug -- they never would've fit properly if I hadn't put in the gusset increases. In the picture to the left, you can see how the gusset makes the sock wider at the point it needs to be. To keep the sock from pulling too tightly at the ankle, I didn't decrease all the additional stitches, and worked the ankle over 76 stitches instead of the original circumference of 72. (The back of the ankle is simple K2P2 ribbing; creates a better fit for me than continuing the dragon scale pattern all the way around).

Wider Wyvern Scales
Early in the year, a listsib mentioned the Wyvern Sock pattern. I glanced at it, thought it was interesting, but probably not for me. But then I began a pair of socks in gray Trekking XXL for my gusset experiment, and once I had completed the toe, the yarn said, "Make me into dragon scales."

Because the Trekking has a smaller gauge than the pattern calls for, I needed to widen the scale pattern; my scales are worked over 32 stitches instead of the 26 in the original pattern. My chart is below.

One sock down. One to go.


yarmando said...

You didn't read that whole thing, did you? Seriously? It was so tedious. Total "writer-based prose." I'll try to do better next time.

Anonymous said...

I did! I have been struggling with the same issue with PGR's formulation and have a pair of Jaywalkers that I can barely get over my ankles, so this is perfect and timely!