Cabled socks: Done!

I finished my toe-up socks with heel flaps and gussets. I really like how they came out. Here they are resting on the floor:

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I’m also very happy with how my heels came out. They fit me just like my cuff-down socks do which is just what I wanted:

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Now that I’m armed with my very own personalized toe-up vanilla formula I’ve casted on some self-striping toe-up socks. I’m taking advantage of the fact that the yarn comes in two balls and knitting them two at a time.

I fell into the yarn hole!

The last time I bought yarn I said to myself, “this is the last time.” That was supposed to be when I took advantage of a sale.

Well, wouldn’t you know that last night I looked at my shopping email. Why did I do that? I was slightly bored watching a slow moment in an episode of Stranger Things, a Netflix series. And low and behold I saw that Love Knitting was doing a summer sale with stuff discounted up to 70% and then, in another newsletter email, an announcement that you get 25% off on top of that.

So… I was weak. I bought a sweater’s worth of yarn (like I need another batch of that). I bought a pattern to knit the yarn into (I’ve been eyeing this pattern for so long), a ball of Cascade Heritage prints for socks and two skeins of Cascade Fingering weight yarn (I have always loved Cascade yarns). The yarn for the sweater is Rowan Pure Wool and the pattern is Alec XL which is a pattern written for different yarns but they’re basically similar to the Rowan Pure Wool.

So, this is the last time I’m buying yarn for a very loooooong time. It had better be!

Oh, I also bought Opal sock yarn in the turquoise colorway to replace that Regia yarn I had to throw away. Yes, that’s right, I’m going to have my bright blue Kalajoki socks if I have to travel to the ends of the earth to get them done.

Success

After frogging I have accomplished my mission to get the heel I want on my toe-up socks for my personalized pattern. I decided to switch to my mini circular sock needles and just work on one sock at a time so I could get through my heel and make sure it would fit my foot. Check out my work:

So, now that I’ve mastered this thing, maybe I can be helpful to other people that usually knit cuff-down who want to design their own heels with gusset and heel flap on a toe-up sock. I warn you, though, that a lot of this reflects my personal opinion and preference so it may not apply to you.

  1. This generic pattern with charts and formulas could be very helpful. It’s where I began: view the pattern here and the chart here.
  2. Then, adapt your personalized sock to your needs. For example, I always use Judy’s Magic Cast-On so that’s how I cast on.
  3. Measure your row gauge so you know when to begin increasing for the gussets. For my gusset increases I used M1R and M1L. It’s also a good idea to use stitch markers to delineate where your original heel stitches are (you only work on those for the heel turn). To do the math for this first figure out how many gusset stitches you’ll be adding to the sock (see 4, below). For example, if you will be adding 28 gusset stitches and increase every other round, you will be knitting a total of 28*2 rounds, or 56 rounds. Divide the number of gusset rounds you’ll be knitting by the number of rows per inch your row gauge is. Following with my example’s numbers, if the row gauge is 13 rounds per inch, your gusset area of your sock will be 56 divided by 13 4.3 inches. Subtract that number from your desired total foot length (don’t forget that this foot length includes the turned heel). Start increasing your gussets when you reach this resulting number of inches on your sock’s foot. If you wish, you can also increase every round in the final half of your gusset area so you can do the math to account for that if you wish.
  4. An increased gusset on a toe-up sock is much more stretchy than a picked up gusset on a cuff-down sock so keep in mind that you may need fewer gusset stitches. I typically need to pick up and knit a total of 40 gusset stitches (20 on each side of the sock) on a cuff-down sock (casting on 80 stitches with a gauge of 8 stitches per inch). For my gusset on my toe-up sock I only increased 36 and I could have got away with 32. Generally, the rule for gussets is that you need to add 1/2 the number of cast on stitches but for toe-up socks this isn’t necessarily true.
  5. To turn the heel you need to knit short rows. Typically, information in books and online instruct you to use wrap and turn short rows to do this. My personal opinion is that if you want a heel flap and gussets on your sock it’s because you want your socks not only to fit your foot well but also you want to make your socks live a longer life. Wrap and turn short rows on a heel will last a while, but they’re problematic and will wear out in less time than a heel knit on a cuff-down sock using the typical “decrease across the gap” type of heel turn. Also, with finer yarns (like sock yarns), the wrap and turn method is likely to leave little holes in the knitted fabric. My solution was to use German short rows. They’re sturdy and don’t leave little holes. They’re also very easy to do. If you want to learn how to knit them just use Google and pick a YouTube video you like. There are tons of tutorials for this.
  6. I like to put a garter stitch border on my heel flap (knitting my socks in either direction). It’s 5 stitches wide. It adds interest to the flap and also keeps the slip-stitch ribbing (and also eye of partridge stitch) even, lovely, and stable.
  7. When you knit the flap you have to knit (and purl) the last stitch of each side of the flap together with a gusset stitch. Each time you turn your work you slip the first stitch.

I hope this is helpful to anyone who wants to try this out. It took me a little extra time to get my ideal heel onto my toe-up socks but I’m really glad I took the trouble to figure it out. My feet probably are too! And really, I’m very satisfied with myself today!

Tinto de verano

Well, after I finished working I got going on ripping back my toe-up socks and reknitting them with the gussets correctly placed. I knitted for a couple of hours and this evening we had dinner with tinto de verano to drink.

What is this drink? Well, I suppose in English we’d call it a “wine spritzer.” It’s red wine mixed with lemon flavored soda (Fanta, Sprite, or 7UP, etc.) served with plenty of ice. Here in Spain it’s ubiquitous during the hot months of summer. You can even buy it pre-mixed (industrial style) at the supermarket. I prefer to make my own because I like to control the amount of wine and soda. Would you like to try one? Go for it, following these steps:

  1. Open a bottle of red wine.
  2. Get a glass.
  3. Put ice in the glass.
  4. Pour the red wine into the glass until it’s half full.
  5. Fill the rest of the glass up with lemon soda.
  6. Drink.

If you prefer white wine, then use white wine, although the taste won’t be exactly the same.

A lot of people in my family always ask me what type of red wine they should use so I imagine maybe you, too, might have that question. It’s quite simple: use the red wine you want to use. Here in Spain, a lot of people make tinto de verano drinks with cheap wine. We have lots of wonderful options for cheap wine here from vino cosechero (wine made from this year’s grapes, sold in bottles with no label), boxed wines, cartons of wine, and economy wines that are actually of high quality. The latter wines are inexpensive in Spain but are sold in the United States for much more. Even though lots of people here use cheaper wines for mixing, there is absolutely nothing wrong with using more expensive wines. At my house we use what we have on hand, which is typically a wide range of cheaper and more expensive bottled wines.

More trivial information: if you mix red wine with cola it’s called a calimocho. And yes, please do try out a calimocho and see if you like it. I prefer the tinto de verano but I’m sure cola fans will love it.

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Back to my toe-up ambitions

Most of my life, I’ve been knitting my socks cuff-down but I’ve been interested in knitting them toe-up because I’m just a curious knitter. Last year, I knit myself a pair of vanilla toe-up socks based on my usual vanilla cuff-down formula that never leaves my brain. They were rainbow colored! For those socks, I tried a wedge-shaped heel, lifting it from a sock pattern I had. The heel, although (surprisingly) comfortable, wasn’t ideal for me, because it required knitting three stitches together, which left some tiny holes running up the false seam of the wedge shaping.

I’ve decided to return to my quest for a perfect toe-up formula to clack around in my brain because my Kalajokis didn’t work out and so my big circular sock needles were available to cast on some more socks. I must say that the toe-up construction and two-at-a-time method for knitting socks are a couple made in heaven. It’s very easy to cast on the two socks on the magic loop and just start knitting them. This time, I decided that I was going to try to imitate my cuff-down vanilla sock formula and make a heel flap. Heel flaps are best for my feet, anyway (wide and high arches). This was my progress on them before I started playing with the heel:

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By the time I took the photo (yesterday) I felt a bit suspicious about the length of the feet, because I wasn’t sure when I wanted or needed to start my gussets. After consulting some sources, I judged I was correct, because just about every reference agreed: start increasing the gusset when your foot is about two inches shorter than the actual length you want.

The problem is that I need a bigger gusset, which means I need to knit more rounds to create the necessary big foot Sasquatch wide gusset. So, guess what? I have to frog, because I’ve tried on the socks and they are way too long for my foot. The good news is that I have some fun plans for the weekend: I’ll be knitting the perfect gusset and heel flap for my feet on my own special toe-up socks. That is cool.

What lesson might you learn from my frogging? Well, when you’re knitting a toe-up sock with a gusset and a heel flap for a person with rather wide feet, you need to start your gusset increase rounds well over two inches from the length you need the foot to be. Think, I don’t know, three or four inches. In the end, I think this is why so many toe-up patterns go for the short-row heel with no flap. It isn’t easy to figure out where your gusset needs to begin. Well, actually, it is easy: measure your row gauge and calculate how many increase rounds you need. That’s what I should have done, but I guess I was hoping for everything to just work itself out.

By the way, in case you’re wondering how many gusset stitches you’ll probably need: divide the number of stitches you cast on by 2. The resulting number is how many gusset stitches you need.

Taking advantage of sales

One of the fun parts about summer in Spain is that everything goes on sale from July to August. Yes, there are other fun parts about summer in Spain. This is just one of them.

I’ve bought clothes, shoes, etc. Also, I’ve bought some knitting and crochet supplies. Check out my loot! I’m wicked excited to get started with this stuff.

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One of the things I always buy when I see it on sale is rag yarn because the good quality kind can be quite expensive. There are plenty of cheap rag yarns available that, although they may be nice for making baskets and buckets, are too heavy for making bags. The lightweight”good stuff” around here can sell for about $7 to $12 a skein. I found these ones in the picture for about $4.95 so I went a little crazy. Also, note that I have no hard feelings toward Regia 4-ply sock yarn. I bought a couple of skeins at 20% off. It’s a beautiful gray color.

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In total, I spent about $25.00 (a rough conversion from Euros).

Now, I just need the sales to end (both online and in physical stores) so that I can save some money. The temptations are too strong.

If anyone wants to know, here’s how I take advantage of sales:

  1. If an online or physical yarn store asks me if I want their newsletter, I say, “Yes, please, that would be wonderful.” I always use my shopping email address (yes, I have a shopping email address) so that I don’t feel overwhelmed by marketing emails.
  2. I take advantage of offers about free shipping. A lot of online stores say “spend X amount of money and get free shipping!” Well, I order my knitting and crochet supplies in bulk, planning what I’m going to do with the yarn and other stuff a few months into the future.
  3. I don’t buy stuff “just because it’s on sale.” If the sale and my needs coincide, then I buy the stuff.
  4. I know myself and my go-to small projects (afghan squares, socks, bags, and doilies) and that helps me make decisions about what sale prices I will be taking advantage of.

Straight to the trash

I promised I would write about my bad news when it isn’t American Independence Day. It’s July 5th so, here it is: remember those blue Kalajoki socks I was happy to be working on? They’re gone. In the garbage. Being dealt with at the Valladolid Province Waste Treatment Center.

And I don’t feel one bit bad about it. Annoyed, yes, but regrets? Nope.

This is the first time in my life I’ve ever thrown away a knitting project. There’s always been a way to save my knitting from any problem or catastrophe. This time there was nothing more to be done because of THE YARN GRRRRRRRR.

About the yarn: It was Regia 4-ply sock yarn. It was beautiful and soft. I’ve knitted socks with this yarn before and it has always been wonderful to work with it. But, as we all know, sometimes we get a bum skein of something. In this case, the yarn was just falling apart. I’m not sure why. I rewound the skein into a center-pull ball so maybe I put too much stress on it with my winding. On the other hand, the yarn was very happy to cooperate with me halfway down the leg of my socks. By the time I got to the heel flap the yarn just started to fray and become thinner and essentially disintegrate. It’s the weirdest thing that’s ever happened to me. I will in the future use Regia sock yarns of course. It is very atypical for this to happen, maybe a once in a lifetime thing. I can hope, right?

So, that’s my bad news. If I hadn’t bought that skein with the actual intention of knitting a pair of Kalajokis with it I wouldn’t be so irritated. But, what can a knitter do? If the yarn is defective, it’s not salvageable. Socks knit from a nylon thread aren’t very warm and that’s what I was being left with, nylon thread without any wool. I’ll just have to shop around for another bright blue skein of sock yarn and start over again.

For me, this situation is funny. I really wish now that I had taken a picture of the project in the trash for us all to contemplate and make snarky comments. I remember last week when I threw it away I just stared at it sitting in the bucket laughing like a crazy person because I never, ever in my whole entire life imagined myself doing such a thing.

Has this ever happened to you?