Monday, November 12, 2007

Machine-Knit Sock: Proof Of Concept

Machine-knit, hand-finished proof-of-concept sock

Here's my sample sock, made on my Bond Antepenultimate Knitting Machine and finished by hand. I make no claims for its beauty, and it is intentionally too small for any feet in this household (to save time and yarn), but it has shown me that I could produce viable socks this way. I'm going to try a Bootsie-sized pair in wool to see if machine-knit socks are truly satisfactory.

I knit a rectangle in stockingette stitch, beginning and ending with waste yarn. Then I seamed the rectangle into a tube. Socks knit flat and seamed have a well-deserved bad reputation. In the 1940's and 1940's, hoards of young knitters made two-needle argyle socks, and sewed them up with miserably lumpy seams. They presented the hand-made treasures to their sweethearts, and demanded to see them worn. Stuffed inside shoes, the lumpy seams were instruments of torture.

Greek-motif wool sock in shades of teal, side view

To avoid this pitfall, I tried Caddy May's Tips for Flat Seams for Socks, especially her "Enlarged edge stitch latch-up" technique from her knitting and spinning Web site,Knitting Any Way. Cady May also has a blog, Meanwhile, Back In The Holler. (Her holler is in Tennessee.) The "enlarged edge stitch latch-up" is indeed flat, although not so inconspicuous as a mattress stitch seam.

Once the sock tube was seamed up, I pulled out the waste yarn at each end of the tube, picked up stitches on double-pointed needles, and knit ribbing at one end, and a sock toe at the other. Then I snipped a thread where I wanted the heel to go, unraveled half a row of knitting, and made what Elizabeth Zimmermann named the "Afterthought Heel." There are many versions of this available on the Web, but I learned mine from Ms. Zimmermann's Knitting without tears: Basic techniques and easy-to-follow directions for garments to fit all sizes. The Internet sock knitting community seems somewhat critical of this technique, but I think they can be quite decorative and comfortable, and I offer this pair of socks I made in 2004 as an example.

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