Socks. Socks! Such a mundane and necessary object, yet lots of knitters feel very passionate about them. I love watching how the perfectly formed heel appears on my needles. Creation from the long string of an amazing 3D sculpture that not only looks good, but actually fits my foot and keeps it warm. It feels like magic!
So why do some hand-knit socks do not fit well? I think the problem here is that a lot of knitters just knit from a pattern they like, only worrying about the length of the foot or the width of the top. But ignore the difference in the type of the leg and foot we are making socks for. There is no need to be a slave to the patterns written by someone else! You can make up your own or mix and match. The sock parts are pretty much interchangeable. You can take your favorite ribbing, borrow the leg from one pattern, use the heel and gusset you like and try out a new and interesting stitch from a stitch dictionary on the foot.
The main thing, when constructing your socks is to remember the anatomical peculiarities of the leg and foot you are knitting for. An example – DH and DS#1 have very skinny legs, mostly bone, with a big knot of muscle and very wide feet. Add to this that DH has a child size length of the foot and you will understand that a sock knit from the regular pattern would not fit him at all. If it would be wide enough to pull his foot through – it will hang very loosely on his leg. If it will fit his leg well – well, let me just say that trying to push his foot through would not be pretty. So, if I want to make shorter socks for him, I need to pick a pattern that would be very elastic, would pull in at the leg a lot and at the same time it needs to be wide enough to accommodate the wide foot without forcing the sock up. This means either cables or creative ribbing for the leg – otherwise it looks like a stick in the bag. I have two pairs of socks waiting to be ripped out because I ignored my previous experience. On the other hand the plain stockinette on the foot is simply not elastic enough, so again I add some (not all, and never on the sole) ribbing.
Now, if I want to make the sock higher I need to remember that knot of muscle I mentioned before. So I cast on double the amount I will need. Knit one or two rows of ribbing, then decrease sharply by doing 2K2Tog, 2P2Tog. Then knit as usual, but make an extra long leg.
On the other hand, I have relatively short and narrow feet. And narrow ankles with a tendency to swelling. But my legs swell a lot and have a very large circumference.
So I cast on double the amount of stitches (40 on each of the four needles), knit one round plain, K2Tog on the next round, then knit 3 more rounds. And only after this I start ribbing. I decrease 2 stitches from each needle right before I start the heel and 2 more stitches from each needle when I knit the gusset. This leaves me with 16 stitches on each needle for the foot. I make socks for my Father the same way.
Another problem is that many people believe, that if the pattern has been published (especially in a prestigious magazine or a glossy book), it MUST work. Well, I have seen lots of gorgeous socks that will knit up nice enough and will probably fit, but whoever designed them forgot about gravity. You know, the thing that pulls things down. A very long lacy leg is not going to Stay up, unless you build in some serious heavy-duty ribbing into the sock. The other way around gravity is using the duct tape every time you put on your socks unless you really love the sloppy slouch effect.
So my main advise is look at your victim’s a.k.a. grateful recipient’s feet, think about the way they are build, and pick the pattern that will make these footsies happy and do not forget that even thin yarn has mass – remember gravity!