Basket Case

So much for making my mention of the purple sock series a little quickie throwaway. OK, OK, screaming throng! More on this subject. Not an actualpattern yet, as such, but some further discussion and eventually some recipe-ish guidelines.

First of all, the requisite assurance: definitely no Third Sock Syndrome, and apparently no Fourth Sock Syndrome either. I finished #3 on Sunday and cast on almost immediately for #4.

It wasn’t all plain sailing getting there, though. Did anybody besides me notice the whacking big mistake in the picture of this from the previous post?

Here’s a hint:

The basket weave pattern is supposed to alternate directions. But there’s one place where…

… it doesn’t. Let’s hear it for blogging. I hadn’t actually noticed that until I looked at the picture.

Phooey. At first I thought I could get around it with the old demi-frog.

No such luck. Because the crossed stitches are so loose until you cross them, they eat an unusual amount of yarn per row, and when you’re not working the basket-y pattern all the way around the sock the right-leaning row differs substantially from the left-leaning row because of the extra framing stitches. Not only was this more trouble than it was worth… it wouldn’t have worked anyway. So I sucked it up and full-frogged back to before the mistake.


So anyway… the stitch here is from Barbara Walker, Vol. I. She calls it Crochet-Knit Cross Stitch, and I’ve adapted it for working in the round, alternating the two variations to produce the basket-weave pattern. Basically it’s a four-row pattern – in the odd-numbered rows you create the elongated stitches by double-wrapping each one around the needle, and in the even-numbered rows you cross them like cables, two over two. First left, then right.

This is fine for the top of the foot, but it poses a problem for the ankle if you’re working it all the way round, because, being all-over-cabled, it has very little lateral give, and correspondingly an unusual degree of vertical stretch – in fact, it works very much like the old Chinese Finger Trap. So the sock is tight, not in the usual problem spot – i.e. the heel/instep angle – but in the ankle itself, which at a normal stitch count doesn’t stretch enough to allow the heel to pass through. I had built in one of my usual pseudo-gusset increase schemes before the short-row heel, and I quickly discovered that I was going nowhere fast if I also used the usual decrease scheme after the heel. So I didn’t decrease at all, and kept the extra eight stitches going up the ankle.

That’s an extra inch, and it’s just barely enough. I decided it was enough, for me, but though the sock fits nicely once it’s on it’s difficult to put on, which is why I’m still thinking of it in kids-do-not-try-this-at-home terms. Before I’d make a formal pattern out of it I’d want to work out a way to squeeze in some more increases above the heel. Can’t do them before the pattern section or the fabric will balloon out; can’t easily do them in pattern because the pattern doesn’t lend itself to gradual increases. I do have a notion in my noggin about a way to slip them into the transition point, but frankly for now I just want to HAVE these socks and I don’t have time to put a lot of complex engineering into them at the moment. Not, that is, unless the world out there would be happy to see me delay the standalone leaf pattern, and the shipping of Firebird, and the public release of Cleopatra, not to mention Swan Lake, and the next club sock after Firebird, and… well, you see where that line of thought leads. That way madness lies, and I’m crazy enough already.

That said, there’s no reason you couldn’t do a version of this sock with the basket-y stuff on the top and front only. Or take on the all-round version, with the clear understanding that in its present form it is just NOT going to work for the really deep of heel or the high of instep.

The first pair, however, the pair I made for Ada, was subject to no such strictures. That sock was built from a Turkish toe-tip cast-on, my usual 14 wraps (i.e. 28 stitches) increasing to a circumference of 64 stitches. Plain stockinette up the foot. A series of 4 sets of paired increases in the 1-1/2 inches before the heel. A wrap-&-turn short-row heel, Woolly Nylon held with the yarn for reinforcement. Three sets of the increased stitches decreased out above the heel, the last two left there because I needed a multiple of 6 for the ankle. The basket-y business on the ankle is a simple knit-purl texture thing: k3, p3 around for 4 rounds, then switch to p3, k3 around for 4 rounds. No reason you couldn’t do it on top of the foot as well… only… well, I didn’t. No particular reason, except maybe that this is a fairly dense fabric and I was concerned about bulk inside a shoe. (Of course, I then up and contradicted myself by doing the double-thick basket-weave thing on the present pair, but – well, it was an experiment and it was for me, and I decided I liked it. If you’re expecting rational and consistent all the time… you should probably be reading some other blog.)

If I’d had a little more time to think about it I would probably have done that toe a little differently – would have done what I did this time, which is a provisional cast-on and a short-row toe, with the reinforcing nylon added on the bottom only, that being where I’m hardest on my all-wool socks. Being half a size smaller than Ada, I used a slightly smaller circumference for my pair; even though I was getting my normal gauge of 8 SPI the thicker yarn means the fabric is not only denser but a little less resilient. I needed a multiple of 4, so I went to 60 stitches instead of 64. I started with a 30-st provisional cast-on, shamelessly borrowing a neat trick suggested by a friend on Ravelry: I substituted a toe-tip-style cast-on in place of the normal provisional set-up. I did a 30-wrap Turkish cast-on and started the short rows from one side of that, leaving the other needle in place. This way when the toe is finished there is nothing to unzip or pick up – no waste yarn, no extraneous motion – when you finish your toe you just arrive at the other needle and poof, you’re working in the round. Elegant. Thanks, Madmoon!

There are 4 sets of increases, so the ankle is 68 stitches, still the necessary multiple of 4, ending in 2×2 rib. Further deponent sayeth not, for now, except… that I’m vaguely thinking of this sock as “Footbasket,” because – well, if there’s enough yarn left (and I rather hope there will be) I’m thinking of making a pair of fingerless mitts with the same stitch on the back, and of course I would call those… “Handbasket.” What else?

Do I have basket-weave on the brain? Funny you should ask. Yes. Yes, I do. In a not-at-all-unrelated development, I’ve used an even smaller and less forgiving basket-weave stitch for the body of the Firebird. Tricky to work with because it has no stretch AT ALL so you can’t use much of it on a sock without doing all kinds of tricks to compensate – or waving goodbye to any semblance of ease.