03 January 2007

Widdershins - The Generic Version

Last summer's issue of Knitty focused on knitwear for the extremities - socks, gloves, wristwarmers, hats, etc. - and contained the widdershins sock by Brooke Chenoweth Creel. This pattern was generally well-received, its primary innovation (unvention, perhaps?) being a toe-up version of the round heel & sl1, k1 heel flap, which allows the knitter to do a toe-up sock and still have a fairly classic, durable heel construction.

The only real problem with the pattern is that it was written for a foot of 8 inches in circumference. For folks who want to knit this sock for larger or smaller feet, this presents a bit of a challenge, as it means sorting out questions like how many stitches should go where, and what exactly does p31, p2tog really mean to me? I sat down and sorted it out such that with the socks I'm currently knitting it only took a couple of quick calculations in my head and promised Don and some other folks with math anxiety a few weeks ago that I'd write it all out.

Explanations for most of the abbreviations are on the widdershins pattern linked above. For general information on sock construction, there are several good books available, so I'm not going to launch into exposition on that subject. Because the pattern doesn't specify and because I'm anal-retentive, I do directional increases (m1l and m1r), directions for which can be found here. To make the calculations easier, I work the sock on a multiple of four stitches, rather than the odd number specified in the pattern. My assumptions here are that the sock is being knit with sock yarn or similar weight and that the knitter understands some basics of sock construction.

The first step, obviously, is determining gauge and calculating a number of stitches that is divisible by 4 such that n x 4 = total stitches desired. As I do socks on 5 dpn's, I want to end up with n stitches on each needle when I have finished my toe. My personal preference at the moment is to do a figure 8 cast-on such that there are n stitches on each needle, then divide the stitches fairly quickly onto four needles and alternate plain rounds with increase rounds as follows to make a wide band toe:

k2, m1l, knit remaining stitches on needles 1 & 2 until there are two stitches remaining on needle 2, m1r, k2, repeat for needles 3 & 4. Alternate with plain rounds until each needle holds n stitches.

Note: This should work equally well for two circs by placing stitch markers to divide the stitches on each needle in half, such that you end up with n stitches on either side of the marker.

At this point, you could either do a plain sock or pattern and will knit in pattern until the sock is about 2½ inches shorter than the desired length (or 3 inches shorter than the foot, as you want the sock to stretch a bit to conform to its intended foot). It is important to do your gusset increases on the needles that correspond to the sole and heel, particularly if you are patterning on the instep, but other than that it really doesn't matter whether you do them on needles 1 & 2 (as I do) or 3 & 4 (as the original pattern does). You just don't want to do them on 2 & 3 or 4 & 1, or you will end up with a heel perpendicular to the toes. For sake of consistency, I'm writing instructions here as on the original pattern.

Knit in pattern across needles 1 & 2
On needle 3, k1, m1l, knit to end of needle
On needle 4, knit until one stitch remains on left needle, m1r, k1

Alternate the above increase round with plain rounds until you have increased 10 stitches each on needles 3 & 4

Turn Heel:
Knit in pattern around until needle 4
On needle 4, k8, m1l, k1, w&t
p10 to end of needle 4, p8 on needle 3, m1p, p1, w&t
k10 to end of needle 3, k6 on needle 4, m1l, k1, w&t
p8 to end of needle 4, p6 on needle 3, m1p, p1, w&t
k8 to end of needle 3, k4 on needle 4, m1l, k1, w&t
p6 to end of needle 4, p4 on needle 3, m1p, p1, w&t
k6 to end of needle 3, k2 on needle 4, m1l, k1, w&t
p4 to end of needle 4, p2 on needle 4, m1p, p1, w&t

Knit one complete round, picking up wraps and knitting them with the wrapped stitches as you come to them. This should bring you back around to the end of needle 3 and you should have n + 14 stitches on each of needles 3 & 4.

Heel Flap:
Knit n - 1 stitches on needle 4, ssk & turn work without wrapping

sl1, purl to end of needle 4, purl n - 1 stitches on needle 3, p2tog & turn without wrapping.

sl1, k1 to end of needle 3 and continuing on needle 4 until you have n - 1 stitches on your right needle, ssk & turn without wrapping.

Continue in this manner, always slipping the first stitch after you turn your work and decreasing at the end with p2tog or ssk, as indicated above.

As you continue in this fashion, you should begin to notice a gap between the ssk or p2tog of the previous row and the next gusset/heel stitch to be taken up. Continue until all the gusset & heel stitches have been used except for one remaining gusset stitch on needle 3. When you do the final SSK on needle 4, you will NOT turn the work but continue on around needles 1 & 2 in pattern and k2tog on needle 3 to incorporate the final gusset stitch remaining on that needle. This is important, as you will otherwise end up with the holes at the top of the gussets that this pattern is supposed to avoid (ask me how I know this). You can then continue up the leg and finish as desired.

So far I have only done this with n as an even number, but I've considered the possibility of an odd n and it doesn't seem to me that it should make a significant difference in the end result, so long as one remains attentive to the stitch count (and we all do that, right?). Other areas where I could see a need for modification of this method would be adjusting the number of gusset or short row increases when doing very tiny feet or when working with significantly different yarn weights. Any feedback as to whether you find this helpful or if something needs clarification would be very welcome.


Anonymous said...

Geez, what a brain you are! Thanks for all that work!

Franklin said...

Thank you. My head just exploded.

Stell said...

thank you, i have been trying to work this one out as you say 'for all those who do not have 8" feet'. Will use to knit next pair and let you know how it goes, for now just pleased to see others one step ahead of where i am going. Which could mean i am going in the right direction :-)

eyeknit said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you! This is exactly what I have been puzzling out since turning the heel on my first Widdershins. For this first pair, I'm using a thicker yarn so that I can achieve the 7 sts per inch gauge, but I usually prefer a thinner yarn and a gauge of about 8 or 8.5 sts. I think you've allowed me to construct any number of wonderful widdershins--again, thanks! This method of construction is genius.

The socklady said...

Thank you from me as well.


=Tamar said...

Thanks for the good clear description. There's a typo. Feet 8 inches in diameter would be over 25 inches around. I think you mean 8 inches in circumference, which is big enough.

Mel said...

Thanks for pointing that out, =Tamar. All fixed now.