Questions to sock knitters

On Sunday August 28, 2011, in Uncategorized, by Nat Ford

1. Is it enough to give you a stitch pattern and tell you to use your favourite heel and gusset (this is how I knit socks) or should I write my favourite heel/gusset into the pattern and/or provide alternatives?

2. What heel/gusset do you prefer for your toe-up socks?

3. Do you prefer a pattern to tell you exactly what to do and how to do it or a pattern that lets you use your own interpretation/variations?

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23 Responses to Questions to sock knitters

  1. cpolk says:

    1. for me, yes. for every sock knitter out there? not a chance.

    2. I will always modify a toe-up sock pattern that uses a short row heel. They do not fit well without some elastic quality to the yarn. for simple socks I will gusset and fleegle. but if I decide that these socks are clog socks, then I do gusset, rounded short rows to shape the bottom of the sole, and then work the heel pattern as i’m absorbing the gusset stitches. (I have a pair I did last year that put me off knitting socks ever since. I should get a photo of them when it’s sock season again. they’re not from a pattern. i self inflicted this one.)

    3. both? I like explicit instructions for what heel technique the designer used, just to try out a new heel technique. but if it honestly doesn’t matter to the design of the sock, I like “Substitute your favored instep increase here” and “you can use your preferred heel mathod here so long as you have x stitches on the back needle and x stitches on the front when you’re ready to knit the leg.”

    • natalie says:

      Thank you – you sound like me! I prefer toe-up but will adapt top-down and I usually end up using my preferred heel/gusset (Wendy D Johnson’s “Basic Gusset Heel) because it fits my high instep the best of any that I have tried. I am also not keen on heel flaps.

      What do you think WDJ would think if I wrote that heel pattern into a pattern of mine? Hmm. I will have to look into that.

  2. Meg Weglarz says:

    1. I like the idea of giving your preferred heel/gusset AND suggestions of optional heel/gussets. I know it would take more time but it would be both generous of you and gives people a chance to learn new techniques … or not.

    2. I have yet to find a toe-up heel that I like and I have tried many – I even wrote a pattern for TU socks years ago but I just don’t like them.

    3. I like both options.

  3. eastskye says:

    1. I think it’s up to us to write a complete pattern. Experienced sock knitters are going to do what they want anyway … writing a complete pattern gives newer or less experienced sock knitters something to guide them. Sock knitting isn’t intuitive, and it takes awhile to ‘read’ your knitting and be able to make substantive changes to a pattern. Beginning knitters don’t have preferences anyway, so good written directions are essential.

    2. I enjoy making Cat Bordi’s new Sweet Tomato heel … making short row heels before this was not on my to-do list. It’s a great heel! My default gusset/heel arrangement is Wendy Johnson’s gusset heel. Easy, intuitive, and practically idiot proof … which is why it’s perfect for me.

    3. I think both options: when the stitch pattern is particularly difficult, I am grateful for step-by-step directions for the gusset and heel, especially if the stitch pattern goes down the back of the heel, or for stranded colorwork patterns. Other times, I just ignore the designer’s wishes and do what I want.

    Good luck writing patterns! The more new toe-up patterns, the merrier. Makes my heart happy to see new ones. 🙂

  4. Susan Moskwa says:

    1. At my current skill level I would be able to deal with either one, but when I started (and for my first several socks) I definitely wanted step-by-step directions. I need to knit each type of heel (short row, heel flap, etc.) from directions a couple times before I get the general feel for how it works and can adapt it to a new pattern or remember how to do it if it’s not written down in the pattern I’m working from.

    Additionally, some patterns work better with a particular type of heel. If you’re doing contrasting-color toes/heels/cuffs, a short-row heel looks really nice. Some patterns flow down into the heel flap in a way that would be hard to replicate with a short-row heel. If it doesn’t matter it’s nice to tell the knitter that they have a choice, but sometimes the heel can be a deliberate design choice. A nice middle-ground might be to suggest one type of heel (and give the directions for it), but to indicate that if people want to substitute their own favorite heel, here’s the place to do it.

    2. I don’t have a favorite; when knitting from a pattern I’ll do whatever the pattern specifies, and when designing I choose based on the other elements in the design. I’ve used Fleegle heel, toe-up heel flap + gusset, and short-row heels w/ gusset depending on what the design called for. If forced to choose one I’d probably say the Fleegle is my favorite because it’s so simple and has no wraps. I’m also eager to try out Cat Bordhi’s tomato heel, for similar reasons.

    3. If I can only choose one or the other, I’d rather have a pattern tell me exactly what to do. When I was a beginner I would follow it exactly, and now that I have more experience I know (without needing to be told) how to change and adapt things. But it would be nice to have a pattern that does something in the middle — provides a specific instruction, but also gives you guidelines for changing things where it’s appropriate. For example, I wrote a sock pattern in one size, but added something like “If you want to size up or down, cast on a number of sts divisible by 5.” That way people who don’t want to have to think can follow your instructions, but it’s really easy for people who want to get creative to know how and where to do so. (That sounds a little silly… “Please tell me how and where to be creative”… but the point is that you make it easy for people to do their own thing without having to reverse engineer the entire pattern to figure out what the stitch repeat is, or whatever.)

  5. Mary B says:

    1) I think you should put in a heel/gusset that fits with the pattern (not necessarily your favorite) and offer alternative suggestions that also fit somehow. Such as with a diamond design with a garter center: eye of partridge heel flap but alternating with a garter short-row heel. You can write the directions for the one and just mention the alternate. As said before, beginners will knit the pattern and more experienced knitters will change what they want anyway.

    2) I do a sort of Japanese short-row heel or the Fleegle heel mostly.

    3) Yes. I like the pattern to tell me the designer’s intent but I tend to make alterations for fit etc anyway. I would like to recommend using charts and if possible multiple sizes.

    • natalie says:

      Thank you for your reply! This post/thread is giving me lots to research. I have not come across the ‘Japanese short-row heel’ but have knitted a few other short-row heels, with and without wraps.

  6. Heathers says:

    1. I think this depends on how much (if anything) you are planning on charging for your pattern. I am certainly capable of popping a heel/toe onto a stitch pattern, but if I paid the going rate for a full sock pattern that told me how to do every little thing and all I got was a stitch pattern with the instructions “add heel here” I’d be rather cheesed. That said, I’ve seen lots of stitch pattern only instructions out there for free or a low cost and I think that’s fine – as long as you are up front about what the customer is getting.
    2. I generally knit top-down socks
    3. Tell me exactly what to do – to a point. I don’t expect you to write out every k2tog, but I’d like more instruction than say “knit a heel”. I think you have to be careful with leaving things up to interpretation. People interpret things in the strangest of ways, and it’s no fun knitting a sock and having it turn out looking like a giraffe because my interpretation of your pattern wasn’t the same as yours.

    I’m a designer too, and it amazes me the questions I get about my patterns. What I think is very obvious may be to some knitters – but not all of them.

    • natalie says:

      Thank you for your thoughts! I am going to err on the side of too much rather than too little information, I think.

      By the way, how would you rather I describe the stitch pattern and so on *without* every k2tog?

  7. Lisa says:

    1. For me it is enough to have a stitch pattern. But I always knit the same heel and toe. I know some people want to be challenged and try new heels & toes.

    2. I only knit top down & short row heel.

    3. With socks it is not so important as sock knitting is not that difficult, but generally I think those patterns that tell you every step clearly are the best. AND I have to say that if you want to sell a pattern, the customer have the impression to really get something for their money if there are explicit instructions! That’s important, isn’t it?

    • natalie says:

      Thank you for your reply. As it turns out my current sock design has become a little more complex and so the toe, heel and gusset stitch patterns are actually integral to the design. I imagine that the stitch pattern for the instep would be usable by anyone slotting it into their usual toe, gusset and heel sock pattern but the full impact of this pattern relies on all being knitted as I have designed. I will probably write variations into the pattern – I usually do!

  8. 1. Is it enough to give you a stitch pattern and tell you to use your favourite heel and gusset (this is how I knit socks) or should I write my favourite heel/gusset into the pattern and/or provide alternatives?

    it depends–I can manage quite well with just a stitch pattern–and some general info–and sometimes, it doesn’t really matter what heel or toe style is used–but some times its does. and how much is the pattern? I would be turned off by half a pattern at full price (i have a pattern for a cuff and toe design (and the leg/heel/instep generic) the “pattern” is (well will be –i haven’t uploaded it yet) will just be $2–since it is not a complete pattern.

    2. What heel/gusset do you prefer for your toe-up socks?
    depends on yarn, and other factors.. including novelty–I sometime like to try out new ideas–and different heels. I don’t have a single favorite design–but there are details i like.

    3. Do you prefer a pattern to tell you exactly what to do and how to do it or a pattern that lets you use your own interpretation/variations?

    I often provide details (and why) and suggest alternates. Again–some times, its the details that make the sock–I like the look of tubular cast on with 1 X 1 Ribbing–and other cast ons for 2 x 2–Its almost the same question as #1–

    but truthfully, i would buy a simple top/ generic design–I might knit it if was very interesting–and free. but to me, there are so many customizable details in a sock–i want those details to be thought out, and tried–If i am going to do the work of provided the detail, why am buying the pattern? chances are i could just look up the stitch pattern in a guide. (i have created new stitches for my socks–something not in any book–and new heels too.. (not in any book) a generic sock with pattern X? I could build that pattern my self!

  9. Lisa says:

    1. If the pattern is written for more experienced sock knitters, yes. If not, then I would include your favorite heel/gusset. I view patterns as a guide and if I don’t like something, I’ll change it to suit me better but I am aware not everyone thinks like that.

    2. I don’t have one set heel/gusset that I use for toe-up socks. I’ve used the short row heel but I’ve also done a heel flap/gusset on toe up and liked the way that worked too.

    3. I prefer it if a pattern lets me use my own interpretation.

    I hope this helps!

  10. imawale says:

    I prefer to knit top-down socks and two at the time. With toe-up, it’s not clear where to begin the heel and the binding off of the cuff looks never very well.
    Most of time, a pattern stitch is enough for me to knit socks. I choose a heel, rather flat heel/gusset for winter socks and short rows for summer socks, but not only.
    Like the other people, I think if you create a pattern, everything has to be notified:
    – beginners have to follow step by step,
    – experimenters like to see other ways to do, even they don’t follow it.
    I like mostly chart explications, and even only that. It’s the easiest to follow. I like the magazines from Burda-Verena: “The World round with 80 socks” with just charts. Do you know them?

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