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Plain Vanilla, Printer-Friendly Pattern for Kick-Back Two-Color Socks

This is a summary of the Cybersocks lesson which is archived at Kick-Back Two-Color Cybersocks, taught by Judy Gibson ( Warning: it does not include charts, photos, tips to make your life easier, explanations, or alternative choices--just the basic instructions.

Choose your yarn and a pattern chart.

Get a gauge

Socks should be knitted at a fairly firm gauge for durability. Knit a flat swatch in your chosen color pattern to get an idea of how it will look, and to check your gauge.

Calculate the number of stitches to work on

If the distance around the ankle and around the center of the foot are fairly close, work with that approximate measurement. If not, use the leg measurement and plan to adjust the number of stitches for the foot. Because color-patterned knitting is less stretchy than single-color knitting, your target number of stitches will be more than you're probably used to--enough to fit exactly, down to about 10% less. (Standard socks are 10-20% less than the exact fit.)

Multiply the number of stitches per inch in your swatch by the number of inches in your leg to get the high-end number, and subtract 10% of that number for the lower end of the range. Choose a number within that range which will allow an exact number of repeats of your chart. If your chart has a very large repeat that's hard to fit exactly, you can fudge your figures by inserting a vertical pattern up the back of the leg. Pay attention to centering the design on the front.

If the number of stitches needed for the repeat of the ribbing doesn't fit into this chosen number, cast on fewer stitches, and increase in the first round following the ribbing.

Knit the leg

Work the ribbing on needles a size smaller than those you used for the swatch. Knit an inch and a half or two inches of ribbing. Change to the larger needles and knit one round in the background color, adding the stitches needed for the color pattern if necessary.

Knit in your color pattern for about two inches, then place the stitches on a string and try on the sock. Make sure it fits over the heel and can be pulled as high as you want the top to come. Measure the distance from the top of the pulled-up cuff to your ankle bone. This will be how much to knit before starting the heel. If it feels good, continue knitting. If not, recalculate your numbers and start again.

Knit the leg to the length you have chosen. It is best to stop at a point in the color pattern where the next round will be a single color, if at all possible--preferably the same color as the heel, if you're doing a single-color heel.

Divide for the heel

The heel is worked on half the stitches, while the instep stitches are held until later. If your pattern needs to be centered on a single stitch at the front of the leg, then both the heel and the instep numbers will have to be odd. For example, instead of dividing 52 stitches into 26 + 26, divide them into 25 (heel) + 27 (instep).

Knit to the center of the back of the leg. If you are going to knit the heel in a solid color, cut off the other color. If you will be doing a different color pattern on the heel (such as salt-and-pepper, alternating colors every stitch), begin the color patterning.

Knit half the heel number, turn, slip one as if to purl, and purl until you have the entire heel number on one needle. This is the heel needle. The "seamline" where the rounds began and ended are centered above the heel.

Knit the heel flap back-and-forth, slipping the first stitch (as if to knit on knit rows, as if to purl on purl rows). Continue until you have as many slipped stitches along the sides as half the number of heel stitches, ending ready to start a knit row.

If you will be making the foot on a number of stitches that is very different from the number used in the leg, you can prepare for this by knitting a shorter or longer heel flap. If the difference is small it can be accomplished by a few gusset decreases more or less instead.

Turn a round heel

Mark the center 2 to 5 stitches of the heel flap. Make sure the number of stitches on either side of these stitches is equal, or the heel won't be centered. Slip one as if to knit, and begin knitting across the heel until you've knitted the center stitches. SSK, knit one, and turn. Slip one as if to purl, purl one plus the center stitches, purl two together, purl one, and turn.

Work the heel flap back and forth, always slipping the first stitch and continuing to the gap, working together the two stitches across the gap, plus one more stitch before turning. You should end ready to begin a knit row. See the Socknitters site for instructions for other kinds of heels.

Pick up gusset stitches

Knit across the heel, pick up stitches along the side of the heel flap by knitting into each of the slipped stitches (twisting if necessary), knit across the instep stitches, and pick up stitches along the other side of the heel flap in the same manner, then continue to the center of the bottom of the foot. If you need to pick up the gusset stitches in a color pattern (woe!), read the next section before you do it.

Plan the color pattern for the gusset

For a very simple chart, this doesn't matter! Just, if possible, make the contrast stitches line up vertically down the top of the sock. Skip down to the instructions for the gusset decreases. For more complex patterns, read on.

Decide on the number of stitches you'll be using for the foot. Subtract the number of instep stitches from this number to find the number of stitches that will be on the sole of the foot. The remaining stitches will be decreased out on the sides by the gusset decreases. The instep and the sole patterns have to match up when the gusset stitches are all gone. So...assuming the next round is a pattern round, establish the pattern without decreasing, like this--

Count leftward from the first stitch of the round, for half the number of the sole stitches. This is the point where the sole pattern will ultimately meet the instep pattern. Notice where in the pattern chart the instep stitches will begin. Work (mentally) to the right in the pattern the number of stitches it takes to get to the beginning of the round. THIS is the point in the chart where you start knitting your color pattern.

Knit in the color pattern until you are two stitches from the instep needle. Then, no matter whether it matches or not, knit these two stitches to match the instep pattern, knit across the instep in pattern, and knit two more stitches to match on the other side.

In the same manner, figure out how the sole stitches will ultimately match up with the instep stitches on the other side of the sock, and continue knitting from the point in the pattern that will make it match when the gusset stitches are all gone.

Work the gusset decreases

Now continue knitting around the gusset, following the established sole pattern on the sole and gusset stitches, and the instep pattern on the instep stitches. Decrease on this round and on alternate rounds, by knitting to within three stitches of the instep needle, knit 2 together in the instep pattern color, knit one, knit across the instep, knit one, SSK in the instep pattern color, and knit to the end of the round.

When your gusset stitches are all gone, the pattern should be perfectly continous around the foot. If you managed that, congratulations!

Calculate the length of the foot

Continue knitting in pattern until it's time to begin the toe. You need to know (1) the length of your foot, and (2) how long the toe will be.

The number of rounds it will take to make the toe is calculated by taking the number of stitches to be decreased (total stitches minus the number to be grafted), and dividing by 2. Four decreases every other row is the same as two decreases every row.

Using your sock as a row gauge, count that number of rows and measure the distance. Knit the foot until you are that distance short of the needed length--or a round or two more--and begin decreasing for the toe.

Work the toe

Decrease round:

Knit to within 3 stitches of the side of the foot, K2tog, K1.

K1, SSK, knit across the top of the foot to within 3 stitches of the side, K2tog, K1.

K1, SSK, knit to end of round.

Plain round: knit around.

Repeat these two rounds until you are down to the number of stitches you want for the end of the toe. Knit to the side of the foot, arranging the sole stitches on one needle and the instep stitches on another. Graft the stitches together.

Note: I like to work the last two or three decrease rounds without a plain round between in order to round off the "corners" of the toe. If you want to do this, make the foot a couple of rounds longer before beginning the toe decreases.

Copyright (c) Judy Gibson, 2000. Permission granted for personal use only, not to be reprinted or published in any way without explicit permission from me.