Monday, July 22, 2013

Provisionally Speaking: In Which Count Sockula Continues To Heel

Question: What’s both top-down and toe-up and easy all over?

Answer: The Provisional Cast-on.
Count Sockula did not invent the Provisional Cast-On. Whoever did that was a genius.
However, CS is calling this the Providential Cast-On, because this is what we hit upon in restlessly, feverishly, frantically searching for a method so we could GET TO THE HEEL RIGHT AWAY.
Studying toes and heels has been one of CS’s primary Sock Goals. And last time, two new Frontiers were explored: an afterthought Garter Stitch Heel (it worked!) and a conventional, short-row, wrapped heel. Which did NOT work, but that was Operator Error.
This time, however, the short-row heel worked. Beautifully. Thanks to Knit Purl Hunter’s excellent blog and video ‘lessons.’ (Last time CS forgot to slip the first stitch on the second half of the heel). KPH likes to use a counter to keep track of stitches. CS uses markers. Whichever way you like.
Wow. Short-row heels. Cooool. Not at all scary.
So you cast on your total number of sock stitches, which means you make a crochet chain with a thickish, smooth yarn in a standout color (CS used white). Then pick up loops in the back of each crochet stitch with your sock yarn and knitting needles. Lots of sock books teach how to do a provisional cast-on. Blogs, too.
Then you blithely commence to knit the sock as if toe-up. Work the heel and finish off the cuff as if working a regular toe-up sock. The only difference is that you are starting in the middle, right before the heel. You can knit as many or as few rows before you work the heel as you want; for this test pair CS probably knitted an inch of fabric before starting in on the heel.
Once the cuff is finished, you pick up the stitches from the provisional cast-on (by turning over the crocheted chain and picking up stitches in the little bumps on the back of the chain) - simply work the rest of the sock as if top-down: knitting toward the toe. Use your favorite method for completing the toe. Sometimes CS likes the star toe. Sometimes not.
Now if you don’t like the heel, you don’t have much to frog. If you do, finish the cuff and then pick up the foot stitches and finish the sock! Socks seem to go faster for the Count this way. That’s the beauty of the Count Sockula Providential Cast-on Method. There. I’ve named it.
Then, for the second sock, the Count tried to work a Japanese Pick heel, loving all things Japanese. But again, Operator Error crept in. As in, there were gaping holes because CS foolishly tried to follow two different sets of instructions. When CS gave up this dualism and went to the simplest set of instructions, the holes stopped appearing and all was right with the world. We left that heel as was, and completed the sock anyway. No one will ever know, unless they examine CS’s feet, and If You Can See That, You’re Too Close.
Maybe this Count Sockula Providential Cast-on method won’t work if you are knitting a sock with a complicated pattern and maybe it will.
Yarn: Moda Dea Sassy Stripes, ‘Vintage,’ which would not be one of my favorite colorways, because it looks faded, except that the black keeps it from looking elegantly faded, if you know what CS means. But the ball of yarn was sitting in a carrier all ready to tackle.
Needles: Size 4. Different ones, short woodens for the pick-up and toes, Clover bamboos at some point, Prym circs for the rest.
It was a learning experience. I would size down at least one needle to # 3 for the heel next time. I stole, ahh, borrowed, two instep stitches for each end of the heel needle to make the heel deep enough. CS might even want to size the needles down to 3 altogether next time and laboriously cast on more stitches than the mere 40 this test sock was worked on.  Here is one sock with the heel and cuff (just a simple K1, P1 rib) completed, and the second just started.  Just a couple of unassuming little socklets:

If, like Count Sockula, you are a can’t-wait-to-get-to-the-heel type, give this method a try.

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