Friday, September 26, 2014

Fit, Ease, & Socks

I never used to care about my own personal gauge when I was knitting. I just followed the pattern with the needles called for or one size up when it came to socks. I made my socks fit and didn't care if they were too tight or anything. But something changed when I started learning more about my knitting and gauge and fit.

My current goal has been to get the perfect pair of socks. It even led me down the road to taking the gauge of all of my sock needles so I know exactly how I knit. The last two pairs of socks I knit fit well, but were a little slouchy and slipped off easily whenever I would take off my shoes. It was frustrating going from knitting socks that mostly fit but were a little loose around the ankle or too tight around the toes to socks that wouldn't stay on my foot when I wasn't wearing shoes.

That's when I starting reading up about ease.

The easiest way to describe ease is the space between your skin and your clothing. Imagine a loose fitting t-shirt. That item would have positive ease so that you can move around easily. Now, imagine a clingy slinky little black dress. That item would have zero ease. Now, imagine a simple ribbed stocking cap that you would wear in the winter. That item has negative ease and clings to you so that the hat won't fall off, but still fits.

Socks should have negative ease so that it clings to your foot and stays there so you can take off your shoes without your socks falling off. Reading around the Socks Knitters Anonymous (SKA) group, a lot of people like their socks with about 10-15% negative ease. That will make them small enough to cling, but big enough to stretch to fit your foot.

Yarn Over Cable Pattern by Charlene Schurch
So, what does that mean about the christmas socks that I'm knitting for my mom? Simply put, I have to do some math, but (luckily) the math is relatively easy thanks to the handy charts in Sensational Knitted Socks.

Her shoe size is seven which means that her leg will be about 8 1/8 inches around. With the five stitch pattern I'm doing with my personal gauge being 9 stitches per inch, that means I would have to cast on 70 stitches for a sock with zero ease. That means it would be a slouchy sock.

At 10% negative ease I would have to cast on  63 stitches. (10% of 70 is 7)
At 15% negative ease I would have to cast on 60 stitches. (15% of 70 is 10.5 round down to 10)

This means my goal cast-on number would be anywhere between 60-63 stitches. With the pattern that I'm using, sixty stitches turned out to be the perfect cast on number. This means that I should be knitting a sock that will fit mom's foot perfectly and not be too snug or too loose. But because this is a gift, I won't know for sure until Christmas day.

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