I have gone through an amazing evolution as a sock knitter. This is probably the story of most knitters with any standard garment that is knit over and over again. After you knit a certain number of pairs of socks, you start developing techniques that you like. This cast on, this style heal, etc. When I began, I bought the book “Two at a Time Socks.” I had been told horror stories of second-sock syndrome. Will I EVER EVEN GET TO THAT SECOND SOCK??? Two at a Time Socks allowed me to learn the basic rhythm of the sock, making both at the same time on one circular needle– my comfort zone. I still think it’s a nice method, and it was awesome for me to start with. But somewhere around my second dozen pairs of socks, I migrated to tiny wooden Brittany dpns. I started randomly knitting them from the two up. And I started using short-row heals.
Now, I have just described this as a migration. It wasn’t. It was an earth-shattering sudden change. An overnight, black and white leap from cuff down two at a time on a circular needle to one at a time toe up on wooden dpns. But the thought process preceding the switch lasted for about 6 months. I laid in bed, considering how I could avoid Kitchener. I dislike Kitchener. It always makes me feel discombobulated. I haven’t practiced enough. It’s so unfamiliar. Even today, my friend Kate (who I taught to knit a few year back) has to walk me step by step through my stinking Kitchener. And as I was dreaming of avoiding the dreaded-Kitchener, I decided that I also didn’t like the heel flap. They aren’t very attractive, and, well, if you’re going to change you might as well change!
So, here is what I do:
Judy’s Magic Cast-On (which I thought I had figured out myself, but then realized that Judy discovered it long before I started knitting). Increase to about 24, taking into account the requirements of your chosen stitch pattern– I have most of the vogue stitchionaries, so I just pick something I like and do the math. Most patters are in 3s or 4s, so 24 stitches works nicely, but you will also have to take into account gauge. Remember that you are only knitting the pattern on one side of the sock– I find it uncomfortable and strange to walk around on cables, and the wear and tear that the bottom of your socks get make it not so worth making them super pretty!
Knit until you reach the edge of your heel. I am a big believer of trying your socks on while you’re working on them, but you can also technically measure your foot. If you’re super concerned, have someone else measure your foot from the tip of your longest toe to the inside edge of your heel (where the arch of your foot meets your heel). This is where you’re going to stop, because you are getting ready to do a short row heel. I LOVE the short-row heel. It looks really finished. I usually wrap and slip my first stitches, but it’s not exactly necessary. (In my mind, it makes the stitches stronger. Perhaps this is whimsy rather than evidence-based. I’ve always wrapped my stitches when doing short-rows for anything…)
Once the heel is complete, I begin knitting in the round again. I pick the pattern back up at the very first row and begin knitting the pattern in the complete round. You are at the bottom of the ankle now, and you basically can knit until you decide that the cuff is tall enough (if you come up much past the ankle, you might have to do some increasing to accommodate your calf). I generally stop at the top of the ankle. I’m a bit lazy.
At the top of my sock, I generally knit about 5 rows of rib stitch (k1p1 or k2p2 or some such combination). On the last row I increase on every 4th or 5th stitch, and then use a sewn bind-off. I increase because I usually find that the bind-off, even though it is stretchy, is sometimes a little too tight to comfortably go over my heel.
So that’s my sock recipe. Now, go knit some socks!