An afterthought

The middle sock was my first (modified sweet tomato heel). The left sock was second (different modification to the sweet tomato heel). The black cuff/heel/toe was the last (short row with the sweet tomato stitch pickup technique).
Perfect technique, far from perfect yarn matching

I love the Paton stretch sock yarn and I love wearing the socks.  I only have one pair of socks I like as much, a Smartwool sport sock that fits as well as the socks I make for myself.

In the socks I’ve done so far, I’ve got two modified versions of the sweet tomato heel and a short row heel using the sweet tomato stitch pickup technique.  This time I’m going to work a modified version of the afterthought heel.  The single row of black yarn near the needles is where the heel will be inserted.

After three pair of socks, I think I’ve found my rhythm . . . sort of.  The trick is to wear glasses strong enough for me to see the stitches.  I’m no longer dropping stitches or inadvertently adding stitches.  Who knew?  Go me!

I’ve refined the pattern I’m using (toe up sock).  My wedge toe has more of a pleasing curve (magic cast on 40 stitches, increase every row for 4 rows, every other row 2x and every 4th row 1x for a total of 68 stitches).  Now that I’ve got the technique down and have wised up and started wearing strong glasses things are coming together nicely.  I just need to test drive this heel technique to see which one works best for me (least number of holes and fits the best).

Because my feet are so short I can get a whole pair of socks out of a single skein of sock yarn if I don’t need tall socks.  If you discount the ~30 hours it takes to make a pair of socks, these are a bargain at about $6 a pair.  If I want the socks taller than a 3″ crew, I need just a touch more yarn, thus the black toes, heels and cuff.

This latest pair of socks show I can’t seem to get the quality of work paired with the pattern matching.  Admittedly, this yarn is the left over from the very first pair of socks, so I’m cutting myself all kinds of slack.  As I seldom leave the farm, the likelihood of anyone but me noticing the pattern doesn’t match is pretty darn small.  And if they do notice, I’m pretty certain I won’t care.

Neat stuff!

Second sock, done except for the ribbed cuff.

I’m about 2/3 of the way done with my second 6″ crew sock.  It’s going very nicely.  My heel-turn technique is improving (fewer holes) and my work is nicely even.  I love the cast-on technique for toe-up knitting.  The heel turn method is easy and easy to adapt to fit my specific heel.  Getting a good fitting sock with no pattern is easy, after the fifth heel tear-out on the first sock.  Go me. <grin>  The next pair I’ll do differently still and they will be even better . . . and faster!

I’ve got a couple yards left in the first skein of yarn which isn’t going to be enough to finish this sock.  The second skein will let me finish this sock and should leave me with enough to make another pair with short cuffs.    I couldn’t buy quality socks for the price I paid for the yarn so color me happy.  I guess that’s one of the blessing of having small feet . . . more sock per yard.

At this point, I need to solve my needle problem.  I’ve ordered another brand of needle AND some fix-it stuff.  If one won’t work, the other should.

The top needle is straight from the package as-built by the manufacturer. The bottom needle has been altered to remove the hip which causes the yarn to get stuck on the cable.

The fix-it stuff is for the problem I have with the join between the tip and cable for the square needles.  They really are a good concept, but the design/execution could really use some work.  Let me explain.

The socks I’m making are worked in super-fine yarn.  Other than crochet thread for doilies, that’s the finest yarn sold in skeins for hand knitters.  The yarn manufacturer recommends a size 3 needle but I like tightly knitted socks so I’m using a size 1 needle.

For the stitch transfer to go smoothly for finer yarns, the join between the cable and the needle really has to be flawless.  Add together the fine yarn, small needle size and tight knitting and getting the yarn back on the tip from the cable becomes tricky in the best of situations.  As you can see, the join on the top needle in the above picture is a far cry from ideal.

When I got the square needles, I was appalled at the price (easily twice the price of needles the same length and size at but I really liked with the squared off shaft which reduces hand strain and the slightly shortener tip which fits my hand better.

The total limpness of the cable is a true wonder.  When you make socks using two 16″ cable needles, stiffness in the cable prevents even tension in the stitches where the needle change occurs.  This is magnified for tight knitters.  That forced unevenness drives me nuts.  The limpness of the cable on these needles solved that problem.  The difference in appearance between the first sock (done largely with stiff cable needles) and the second (completely knit on limp-cable needles) is graphic.

To fix the hip-join problem between the tip and the needles I used my brass hammer and cobbler’s jack and reshaped the butt of the tip.  This worked really well right up until the altered shape of the butt impacted the integrity of the cable sheath.  Click the needle image and you’ll see what I mean.  The extra sharpness at the butt over time caused the sheath of the cable to separate and peel back giving an additional place for the cable to snag the yarn, though it’s still an improvement in moving yarn back onto the tip over the original shape.  Unfortunately, in one needle it caused complete separation between the tip and the cable.

I’ve got some neat stuff coming that I hope will allow me to solve the tip/cable join problem and let me continue to use these too expensive but wonderfully shaped needles.

Check out Sugru.  It’s an air curable silicone rubber which bonds to aluminum.  When my multi-color 8-pack arrives, I should be able to reshape the join to a smooth ramp AND take the stress off the cable sheath at the join.   If it doesn’t work as well as I think it might, I might be able to use it instead of cork for the heel seat in my shoes!  The uses for this stuff have got to be endless!

I have decided I need a purple pair . . . I just need to find the right purple.  Every girl should have at least one pair of purple socks.  The Patron Stretch Sock yarn is so awesome I am hesitant to try another type yarn.  I’ll have to see what kind of purple they make.


My mother was an awesome knitter. She could also crochet like nobody’s business. There wasn’t a baby born that she knew of that wasn’t blessed with something from her hands. Growing up we all wore sweaters she knitted.  I still wear a pair of wool socks she knitted.  I’m pretty sure they weren’t knitted for me but they shrunk to where I’m the one they fit!  <grin>  I can live with that!

Patrons Stretch Sock yarn on size 1 needles.

I was searching for something . . . I can’t even remember what, and I ran across an online knitting magazine. Therein I found discussion regarding magic cast on for socks. The technique was so cool I just HAD to try it. So here is Judy’s magic cast on!

I’m halfway through the heel turn and I’m using a modified Cat’s Sweet Tomato Heel Turn.  Instead of dividing the stitches into thirds (two for the heel, one for the front) for three sets of increases I’m greatly increasing the number of heel stitches for the first and third set of short rows while decreasing (not proportionally) the center set.  This should allow the heel turn to better fit my ankle and heel.

Pattern?  Yeah, not using a pattern.  I never have.  I do the math to figure out how many stitches/rows for the needle/yarn combo and run with it.  The last knit project I made was a denim/navy heather double yarn short jacket worked on big needles.  It had pockets, a collar and a big brass zipper up the front.  I wore that jacket for a long time, passing it on when I was done wearing it.  That was a lot of years ago.

I watched another video about a technique called “magic loop” which allows socks to be knitted on a single long circular needle.  I’m not so enamored with that.  I really like using two short circular needles to knit small round stuff.

My mom’s entire stash of needles has only one size 1 16″ circular needle and it’s got a rough join where the cable fastens to the tips which makes sliding the work from one tip to the other a bit of a chore.  I could live with it but a set of newer needles would be better.  I’ve got plenty of double-ended needles but I prefer cable needles.

I tried to find new needles locally but no joy.  I bought bamboo needles at Michael’s but I knit pretty tight and the yarn doesn’t slide on the bamboo needles easily enough to suit me AND the join between the needle and the cable is not seamless.  The join uses a metal collar to connect the parts and it doesn’t look very sturdy AND looks like it would snag fine yarn.  Maybe they might work great for someone who doesn’t knit tightly, but they aren’t going to work well for me.

Terry stopped in at the local knit shop but they don’t carry aluminum circular needles.  I ordered two 16″ size 1 circular needles from a vendor on Amazon but the join where the cable meets the aluminum tip is two full sizes bigger than the needle.  Tell me where the logic is in that?  There is no way I could get my work off the tip and onto the cable.  I can’t even use them until I make a draw die and fine down that lump!  Plus the cable’s so stiff I would have to fight it constantly while I’m working.  I’m going to have to heat the cable up and cool it straight, and even then that’s not a perfect solution.

I was at Fabric Depot yesterday and they had the same needles I got on Amazon with the same two-sizes-larger lumps where the two materials join.  Been there, got those.  They also had the bamboo needles I got at the local craft store with the you-have-got-to-be-kidding-me yarn snagging pin-punched metal collar join.  <wince>  Next trip to town those are going back.  There’s nothing I can do to fix them and make them usable.

Fabric Depot also had a needle I’ve never seen before . . . squared off tips on cables, a square circular needle!  I know that sounds kind of strange, but the needles really are square and the cable is real soft and flexible.  I bought two short (16″) and 1 long (42″?) and I’ve got my sock transferred to the new 16″ needles.  The tip length fits in my hand perfectly, they don’t have that stupid bend in the aluminum right before the tip meets the cable, the cable is soft and doesn’t interfere with my knitting and I am mostly in love.  They do have one draw-back.

The butt of the tip, where the tip joins the cable, has a rounded end into which the cable merges.  This causes a small but abrupt “hip” which stops the loops of yarn from sliding smoothly back onto the tip.  With that in the way I can’t just shove the loops back onto the needle, I have to stop and coax them from the cable onto the tip.  Despite this work-slowing design flaw, the needles are an improvement over the other needles I purchased.

When I’m done with this pair of socks I’ll rework the butt join to see if I can solve this problem, either reshaping the hip to a more gradual 45° slant or developing a collar to sit against the hip to ease the transition.  It would be perfect if the manufacturer would change the design to fix this as it’s a drawback to an otherwise perfect knitting needle.  I’m having so much fun knitting socks I’m pretty sure I’m going to have to knit more than one pair and I refuse to fight every transfer of stitches from cable to needle.

One more nice thing about this needle . . . the size and length are stamped right into the tip.  I don’t have to dig out my needle gauge to make sure I’ve grabbed the right size.  Sweet!  Now, if they were just as perfect everywhere else . . .