After finishing my pullover based on the Diamondback sock pattern, I began to feel the need for a pair of socks colors that coordinated with the pullover. A Ravelry friend needed test knitters for a beautiful sock pattern she was preparing to publish, a stranded design that made very effective use of two or three different multis, so two birds, one stone. The designer is Carolyn (Candy) Degel, LadyJhia on Ravelry, and her socks are named “Linear Progression”.
Candy thought of everything in this design and gave options for every imaginable way of making socks for every possible configuration of the human foot. I chose the top-down option, which starts with a folded hem at the cuff and has a two-color short-row heel, and decided against the ankle and knee sock versions, the latter of which had calf gussets of varying widths. That was the last easy decision I made with these socks. My problem was that my feet, calves, and ankles are hopelessly standard. Ordinary size medium socks fit me without any special thought or effort, as long as I use U.S. size 0 needles instead of whatever larger size the designer recommends. (I ignored this wisdom, knitting these socks, and was very sorry.) Candy has given a great deal of thought to the sizes standard sizing ignores, so this time I had to make unfamiliar decisions.
I really like the way Candy used Judy’s Magic Cast-On to establish the two sides of the hem. JMCO is a method for creating a double-sided cast-on by winding two ends of the yarn around two needles in a figure-8 configuration. I had used JMCO for casting on toe-up socks, but it had never occurred to me to use it for hems, which are a frequent feature of the sweaters and dresses I’ve knitted in the past and will knit in the future. I have used temporary cast-ons in which I have figure-eight-ed my yarn around a needle and a piece of waste yarn, but getting an accurate count of the hundreds of stitches I need in my hems is nightmarish. Impossible, in fact. Keeping the needle from twisting the temporary cast-on is also nightmarish. But if I used JMCO on 60-inch circular needles, I should be able to get an accurate stitch count and join the temporary cast-on without twisting, which is an awful thing to discover after you’ve knitted eight 500-stitch rounds. Being introduced to different ways to do things is one of the benefits of knitting someone else’s patterns.
I decided to use a larger needle than my usual size 0 for the hemmed cuff whose top edge would hit at or near the largest point of my calf. It wasn’t a bad decision, but I should have swapped out the size 1 I used for a 0 as soon as I connected the two sides of the hem. Anyway, I didn’t switch to a smaller needle and knitted the leg and down past the heel in a state of brainless bliss. Candy included options for people with low, medium, and high insteps that gave varying heel gusset depths, and I chose the medium option. I knitted a little past the ankle bend and tried on the sock, and that was the end of my brainless bliss. I had a couple of inches of excess fabric sticking out beyond the edge of my foot, like a nose. Maybe more like a duck bill.
I was also having trouble keeping track of my short rows in the heel, using the method that had worked for Candy. It wasn’t working for me. Her method was to knit to the stitch before the gap created by turning the work and slipping that stitch, and I wasn’t able to see where that gap was and was knitting these rows twice, or missing the place where I was supposed to do the turn-and-slip. I posted these problems on Candy’s Ravelry group, and she immediately got very busy analyzing why my heel was fitting so badly. Part of the problem was my needle size, the other part was that I needed to use the low instep option rather than the medium instep option, which was giving me all that excess fabric bunching up at the bottom edge of my heel. As for the short-row heel, Candy got to work figuring out where things were breaking down, creating photo tutorials illustrating how to do the heel, and ultimately researching other short row heel methods. The one I liked best was the one in Miriam Felton’s Shadow Wrap Short Row Heel video. I got a tight and tidy join at the line forming the angle of the heel, and I will use this method for all my future short-row sock heels.
Designers like Candy and Kirsten Hall, who work so diligently to create accurate, idiot-proof patterns, are heroic in my book. They crunch numbers endlessly trying to accommodate foot sizes and shapes of infinite variety while still staying true to their design, and they hone their wording over and over again to make their instructions comprehensible to people who don’t think the way they do. They are exemplary in their responsiveness to feedback. They certainly don’t do it for the money: knitting design isn’t exactly lucrative. They do it out of love, love for the craft, love for problem-solving, love for a job well done. What they do hurts my brains. I’m grateful that they find pattern writing to be a satisfying endeavor.