Fitting in stitch patterns
When approaching your sock design, the first thing you’ll need to work out is how to repeat the stitch pattern around the main ‘tube’ of your sock, the leg. For this you’ll need an approximate idea of the number of stitches you’ll need to cast on for a well fitting sock. If you’ve knitted plenty of socks before you’ll probably have an idea of this: for my feet, it’s 64 stitches. This is also a really handy number, as it divides by 2, 4, 8, 16 and 32. If you’re not sure, swatch with your chosen yarn in your stitch pattern. Measure around your ankle carefully, and remember you want at least 2cm negative ease in socks so that they don’t fall down.
Now, take a look at your stitch pattern. Does it fit easily into that number, or close to it? If your stitch pattern is 11 stitches across, you could do six repeats and end up with a cast-on number of 66 – that’s probably fine. If it’s 10 stitches, you might have more of a problem, as you’ll have to choose between a 60-stitch and a 70-stitch cast-on. For me, that would lead to a sock that’s either too small or too big.
In this case, or similar, you’ll probably want to look at either adjusting the stitch pattern itself to make it slightly wider or narrower, or adding in something between each repeat of the pattern. This can be a single stitch, or a second stitch pattern, or just some ribbing – whatever seems to work alongside the stitch pattern you’ve already chosen. It’s a good idea to have an even number of repeats, to make it easy to divide at the heel, and to have a cast-on that’s an even number. If you cast on an odd number of stitches, you may have trouble with the split at the heel, and also with the ribbing. If you want K1, P1 ribbing at the cuff you’ll need a cast-on number that divides by two, for K2, P2 ribbing it will need to divide by four, and so on.
With the spiral socks, I started with a very flexible stitch pattern. I knew that I needed a [K2tog, yo] with each repeat of this separated by knit stitches – but how many knit stitches was completely up to me. I chose to put six stitches in, creating an eight-stitch repeat. This fits perfectly into my 64-stitch cast-on, but also works well for a 56- and 72-stitch cast-on. Bear in mind that if you’re hoping to grade your design to different sizes, a very large stitch pattern width will be difficult to work with.
Let’s imagine your chosen stitch pattern is seven stitches wide. You could repeat this nine times around a sock, giving a cast-on number of 63. This could work, and if your heart is set on it then don’t be put off even though it’s a bit more tricky. But if you want to make it simpler, you could look at adjusting the pattern.
A single column of purl stitches between each repeat will make it eight stitches across, and that will go into a 64 stitch cast-on more easily, making all the sums for the rest of the sock much simpler.
Alternatively, you might decide that you don’t want an all-over stitch pattern on your sock, and instead use a strip down the front of your sock, with the rest in stocking stitch or plain ribbing. In this case, the pattern would work nicely repeated four times across the front of the sock, whatever your initial cast-on.
Using a flexible stitch pattern like this spiral design makes the maths easier!