Saturday, March 26, 2011

Mastermind Resized

If you or your loved ones are not fortunate enough to have medium-sized men's feet, you can now rejoice, because Mastermind Sizing Variations are now available.

Please let me know if you discover errors in the expanded pattern.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Presenting "Mastermind"

All of these changes in the way I make toes, gussets, and heels add up to a new basic sock pattern. I call it Mastermind.

Mastermind walks you through making a medium-sized men's sock. I'm working on padding out the pattern so that you can make larger and smaller socks, but I'm struggling to make those instructions clear and uncluttered. (It's the heel turn; doing that is complicated enough without having to make it work for 5 different sizes).

Anyway, thanks for reading along. I hope you give "Mastermind" a try. Let me know if you run into problems.

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Evil Genius Evolves: The Heel

What makes the Evil Genius pattern "mine?"

The general plan came from Widdershins, the toe from Queen Kahuna, the gussets from New Pathways, and the overall fit from Stitch Stud. I just put it all together and stirred in a bit of personality. But I also added stitch markers in the middle of the heel, marking the place in your short rows where you stop, make one, knit one, then wrap and turn. That's it. That's my only real claim to "genius."

And I'm about to throw it away for something better. And easier.

It's the wraps. Everyone hates them, but they seem to be a necessary evil: something needs to be done to close the holes left by the short rows. And then it hit me: what if I used the make one to close the gap?

It's so simple! Instead of adding stitches near the end of each short row, just work short rows and skip the wrapping. In your transition round, where you normally work the wraps together with the wrapped stitch, just pick up a new stitch in the gap.

Before and after shots:

Short rows, no wraps Gaps closed after transition round

The first time I tried it, I couldn't believe it. It was beautiful, smooth, easy, and nearly flawless. I say "nearly" because, as you can see in the picture above right (embiggen), a little hole tends to form at the right-side edge of the heel. It's not unexpected -- a similar hole is a hazard in every sock pattern I've ever encountered -- but I've yet to find an elegant, non-fussy method for avoiding or eliminating it. Any suggestions?

Shoulders of Giants
In my previous post on gussets, I mentioned the role Ted Myatt played in getting me to think about gusset placement and fit. I have to credit Stephen Houghton for pointing me in that direction (as well as so many other fruitful directions). This latest epiphany about the heel was inspired by Tallguy. He patiently explained his ideas to me in email, but it took me nearly 4 years to really get it. Thanks, guys, you are the real geniuses; I'm just an appreciative fan.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Evil Genius Evolves: Gussets

The challenge to toe-up socks is figuring out where to start expanding for the gussets. I used to think the answer was to count rows, and I remain a die-hard row counter -- it's how you make one sock the same size as the other. Still, I get how lots of math turns people off. And that's how I came up with my new lab assistant, Gus.

Gus first made his appearance in the Evil Genius lab during the Arch-Villain project. Rather than issuing complicated instructions to calculate how many rounds long your sock should be and then subtract the gusset and heel rounds, I said:
When your sock is about 4 inches long, measure the distance of 26 rows (or rounds). It's probably between 2 - 2.5 inches. This is your gusset length -- let's call it "Gus." Continue working until your sock is "Gus" inches shorter than the total length of the foot.
Simple. Direct. Effective. And whimsical enough to be non-threatening. I've thought for some time that Gus could be put to more frequent use around the lab, particularly since I can specify whatever I want for the distance. For my own socks, Gus is usually 51 rows, or around 4 inches.

Gus, it turns out, can help me solve a persistent problem: frequently, my socks are a wee bit too long. So if I give Gus some elbow room, round him up by ¼-½ inch, that removes the extra length.

The great Cat Bordhi discovered that gusset increases, when worked 2 increases per 3 rows, could be placed anywhere around the sock. The standard Evil Genius pattern puts them in a fairly conventional line up along the instep, but Ted Myatt argues convincingly that they should be moved away from there. I've grown fond of placing them along the sole, at the width of the heel base, because that provides a nice set up when it comes time to turn the heel.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Evil Genius Evolves: The Toe

Changes are afoot in the lab. I've been conducting some sock-knitting experiments lately, and they're producing some very pleasing results. To begin, I've settled on a new standard pattern for my toes. It's very round at the beginning, increases rapidly but smoothly at the start, then transitions into more gradual increases for a slightly longer toe and (in my opinion) a better fit.

With desirable, fingering weight sock yarn and a 32 inch, size 1.5 (2.5mm) circular needle:
  • Cast on 14 stitches using Turkish cast-on and knit 1.5 rounds. (If you prefer Judy's Magic Cast-On, cast on 14 stitches on each needle and knit 1 round).
Begin to think of the first 14 stitches as the sole (bottom) of the foot, and the other 14 stitches as the instep (top).

I use a couple different increase methods in my toe because they produce subtly different effects. For the first increase round, I use KLL and KRL, or what Cat Bordhi calls LLinc (La-Link) and LRinc (La-Rink). This increase pulls the stitches together, reducing the tendency for increases to create corners at the tip.
  • Knit 1, KRL, knit until 1 st remains on the sole, KLL, knit 1. Repeat for instep.
Now I begin using my preferred increases -- yarnovers, which I twist in the next round so they don't leave a hole. For a left-leaning increase, I knit the yarnover stitch through the back loop. For right-leaning, I work what I call a k-twist.

k-twist: Slip next stitch knitwise onto the right needle, changing its mount. Slip the stitch back to the left needle purlwise; the front leg of the stitch now lies in back of the needle while the back leg of the stitch comes down the front of the needle. Knit the back leg like it's a normal stitch, which further twists it to the right.
  • Knit 2, YO, knit until 2 sts remain on the sole, YO, knit 2. Repeat for instep.
  • Knit 2, k1tbl, knit until 3 sts remain on the sole, k-twist, knit 2. Repeat for instep.
Repeat the last two rounds until there are 26 stitches per side, 52 stitches total.
  • Knit 2, YO, knit until 2 sts remain on the sole, YO, knit 2. Repeat for instep.
  • Knit round, twisting the yarnovers as established.
  • Knit round plain.
Repeat these three rounds until your sock is the desired circumference. Usually, that's 32-36 stitches per side, or 64-72 stitches total.

More notes:

My old Just Start Knitting toe never quite worked for me. It tended to twist on my toes, and sometimes I could feel a ridge created by the round of doubled stitches. Also, it just didn't look as good; I prefer stitches smoothly flowing from instep to sole over the tip of the toe. Anatomically correct toes helped with the twist, but I dislike checking whether my socks are on the right feet.

I'm most pleased with the effect of doing the first increase 1 stitch in from the edge, then moving subsequent increases another stitch in. It makes a smooth transition from the cast-edge into the increase lines.

I've been using these toes exclusively since I put all this together last summer. I hope you like it.