Lesson Four: Finish the Sock

Back to Lesson Three | Extra Credit Unit: Avoiding Patterned Gussets

In Lesson Three, you turned the heel on your sock, ending with a purl-side row of heel stitches, ready to begin a right-side row.

If you need to start a different color yarn for the pickup stitches, do it now. If you need to pick up the gusset stitches in a color pattern (woe!), make sure you understand the "planning the gusset pattern" section before you do it. This turned out to be much more difficult than I expected when I began this project. If you, too, think maybe you've bitten off more than you intended, see the extra credit unit on Avoiding Patterned Gussets.

Pick up gusset stitches

Use any standard technique for picking up the gusset stitches. See the Tips and Tricks section of the Socknitters Home Page for a very clear explanation. Here's a basic set of instructions--nothing new here:

Knit across the heel, pick up stitches along the side of the heel flap by knitting into each of the slipped stitches (twisting if necessary), knit across the instep stitches, and pick up stitches along the other side of the heel flap in the same manner, then continue to the center of the bottom of the foot. It won't matter if you get precisely the right number of stitches, or exactly the same number of stitches on each side. The color planning will work anyhow. Trust me.

Note: if you are accustomed to tightening up the hole that sometimes forms at the "hinge" of the gusset by picking up an extra stitch from somewhere among the stitches from the earlier rows that are at that point, be careful to pick up from a stitch of the same color as the yarn you're using for the pickups. If you pick up from the other color, it will be pulled into your new color pattern and be very obvious. If you can't pick up from the same color, then try this: instead of using the old stitch as a place to pick up a stitch, lift it and twist it and place it on the needle, to be worked together with the stitch adjacent to it on the instep side. Do your pickup through the two stitches.

Take a look at the gusset shaping

A gusset is an extra piece of fabric that helps give a little moving room to a garment made of squarish pieces. You'll see gussets at the underarms of tight-fitting drop-sleeve sweaters, at the crotch of high-kicking karate trousers, and at the heel shaping of a sock.

This photo shows the heel and gusset of the kickback cybersock worked in the 8-stitch repeat pattern. The yellow lines mark off the main divisions of the sock -- above the A-to-C line is the instep, which is the top of the foot, worked on half the number of stitches you used for the leg. Below the B-to-C line is the sole of the foot, also worked on half the number of the stitches. And the gusset is the triangular wedge in the middle, A-to-C-to-B. The extra stitches that were added by the heel shaping (A-to-B) are decreased one by one, until none remain at C, and the pattern around the foot matches up perfectly again.

Notice that the line of gusset decreases is not exactly along the line between the instep and the gusset, but rather, is two stitches nearer the sole (just below the A-to-C line). I don't know why this is the standard practice, but it does make the decreases easier to work, since they don't have to bridge the gap between the sole needle and the instep needle. You don't have to factor this into your planning; it'll work out okay.

For a very simple chart -- like the 2-stitch repeat pattern for this class -- how the patterns match up doesn't matter! Just, if possible, make the instep pattern line up perfectly with the leg pattern. See this detail from the rust-and-gold sock for an example -- I paid no attention to how the odd-colored stitch line up down the top of the sock, or how the pattern fits together at the gusset decreases. Guess what? Nobody has ever noticed, and neither do I! So if your pattern is very simple, skip down to the instructions for the gusset decreases. For more complex patterns, read on.

Plan the color pattern for the gusset

Decide on the total number of stitches you'll be using for the main part of the foot. Usually it's the same as the number of stitches the leg was worked on, but you might want the foot to be a little wider or narrower than the leg. Subtract the number of instep stitches (on the instep needle or needles) from the number of foot stitches to find the number of stitches that will be on the sole of the foot. The remaining stitches will be decreased out on the sides by the gusset decreases. The instep and the sole patterns have to match up when the gusset stitches are all gone. If you take great care in planning this first pattern round, the rest of the knitting of the foot will work out automatically. Do not do any gusset decreases in this round, just knit it. You've got enough to think about!

This photo shows the sock at the stage where you should be at this point -- the first plain round of the pattern was worked when you picked up the stitches around the foot. The instep stitches are on one needle (or you might prefer to work the instep on two, with five needles in all), and each side of the foot, with gusset stitches and half the sole stitches, is on another needle. The beginning of the round is marked in the photo. The the yarn loop labeled with a letter B marks the boundary between the sole and the gusset, the same spot marked by the B in the earlier photo. The letter A marks the boundary between the gusset and the instep, also as in the earlier photo.

I decided where to tie the yarn loop by counting leftward from the first stitch of the round, for half the number of the sole stitches. And do the same on the other side of the foot, so that the stitches between the two loops are yarn make up the sole of the foot. The loops mark the point where the sole pattern will ultimately meet the instep pattern.

Now, looking at the pattern in the white stripe on the instep needle, notice where it begins, at A. There's one background stitch and then the three-stitch diamond. To continue the instep pattern for the green stripe that you're working now, you'll need to have one background stitch and then the three-stich X. You can see this at A in the first photo.

Here's the crucial point -- for the foot pattern to line up perfectly when the gusset is gone, the pattern at point B has to continue perfectly from where the instep pattern is. So, pretending the gusset isn't there -- that A and B are side-by-side -- the start of the pattern will be the three-stitch diamond, as you can see at B in the early photo. In other words, in the green stripe, the X above the letter A fits exactly against the diamond below the letter B. (And similarly for every stripe on down the gusset.)

Of course, you're not starting to knit at B, you're starting at the center of the sole of the foot, marked "Start of round." So you need to count the pattern rightward from point B to the start of the round to know where to start knitting your pattern.

Knit in the color pattern through the sole stitches and also the gusset stitches, until you are two stitches from the instep needle. Then, no matter whether it matches or not, knit these two stitches to match the instep pattern, knit across the instep in pattern, and knit two more stitches to match on the other side. The line of the gusset decreases is the only point where the patterns don't match up.

In the same manner, on the other side of the foot, figure out how the sole stitches will ultimately match up with the instep stitches, and continue knitting from the point in the pattern that will make it match when the gusset stitches are all gone. You no longer need the yarn loops, and can remove them.

Congratulations! Take a break, you've earned it!

Work the gusset decreases

From now on it's easy. Continue knitting the foot of the sock, following the established sole pattern on the sole and gusset stitches, and the instep pattern on the instep stitches. Decrease on this round and on alternate rounds, by knitting to within three stitches of the instep needle, knit 2 together in the instep pattern color, knit one, knit across the instep, knit one, SSK in the instep pattern color, and knit to the end of the round.

When your gusset stitches are all gone, the pattern should be perfectly continous around the foot. If you managed that, pat yourself on the back! You're a sock designer.

Calculate the length of the foot

Continue knitting in pattern until it's time to begin the toe. You need to know (1) the length of your foot, and (2) how long the toe will be.

The number of rounds it will take to make the toe is calculated by taking the number of stitches to be decreased (total stitches minus the number to be grafted), and dividing by 2. (Four decreases every other row is the same as two decreases every row

Using your sock as a row gauge, count that number of rows and measure the distance. Knit the foot until you are that distance short of the needed length--or a round or two more--and begin decreasing for the toe.

Work the toe

Make sure you have exactly half the stitches on the upper needle (or two needles) and half on the lower two needles. Also make sure the instep and sole are centered on these two needles, that is, you haven't shifted left or right along the way, or the toe will be twisted.

Decrease round: Knit to within 3 stitches of the side of the foot, K2tog, K1. K1, SSK, knit across the top of the foot to within 3 stitches of the side, K2tog, K1. K1, SSD, knit to end of round.

Plain round: knit around.

Repeat these two rounds until you are down to the number of stitches you want for the end of the toe. Knit to the side of the foot, arranging the sole stitches on one needle and the instep stitches on another. Graft the stitches together.

A slight variation: I like to work the last two or three decrease rounds without a plain round between in order to round off the "corners" of the toe. If you want to do this, make the foot a couple of rounds longer before beginning the toe decreases.

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