In the past several posts, we've learned about the parts of a sock, and what the available choices are for each of those parts. Now, I'm going to show you how to use this information to come up with your own unique socks, by walking you through the decision process as I put together the pattern for my own next pair of socks. The description of this process probably won't give you quite enough information to recreate these exact socks for yourself (in particular, I'm not posting the chart for the heart lace yet), but as soon as I've finished knitting the first sock, to make sure there aren't any unexpected quirks in the process, I'll put the pattern together in a more polished form, and post it for download.
It just so happens that the next pair of socks I want to make is going to be a pair of pink anklets, with turned down cuffs. Pink looks good on me, and I wear a lot of it, but I happen to have very few pink socks, and none of them handknit; this situation obviously needs to be rectified. What's more, as if bright pink socks aren't sufficiently inherently girly, they're going to be on the frou-frou side, with eyelet hearts on the turned-over part of the cuff. And a ruffle. If that's too much for you, I'm afraid that's just too bad; these are the socks I want to knit. And coming along for the ride should be instructive, even if you never ever want to knit these. I'll have some more subtle patterns another time.
Any sock yarn will do for these socks, although the detail will show up more clearly in a solid or very slightly variegated yarn than in something that's got more going on. For my own pair, I'm going to use DMC Senso microfiber/cotton, which is a crochet yarn; I've used this before, and it's nice for a cotton blend, although I like the wool/cotton a bit better than the microfiber/cotton. It's also available at craft stores, which is nice for those who don't have a convenient LYS, and quite inexpensive (around $2.15 per 25g ball -- I expect to use 3 for these socks, including swatching). Most importantly for my current purposes, it comes in a great vivid pink, which is just what I was looking for.
As with any design project, I begin by swatching. I like my socks to be tightly knit, so I'm going to knit these at 10 st/in, which I can get with a size 0 needle. However, for the formal pattern, I'll take pity on you; it'll include instructions for 8 st/in as well. My feet are 8.25" around at the ball, which means in a wool yarn I usually go down to 7.5" or so, but this yarn doesn't have too much elasticity, so I'm going to stay with the 8" that's a common default for women's socks. At 10 st/in, that gives me 80 stitches to work with.
Now, let's think about direction. I want two design elements on the cuff: the ruffle, and the lace hearts. The ruffle I've got in mind is a bell ruffle, which has triangles of knit stitches separated by narrow strips of purls; the straight strips of purls make the wide end of the triangles flare out like a bell. It can be done from either end, but doing it from the wide end to the narrow involves a lot of decreasing, which I happen to particularly like, and doing from the narrow end to the wide involves a lot of increasing, which I don't. The lace pattern for the heart would actually work either way, but the decreases frame the heart a little bit more clearly than increases do. So that's two factors that lean toward starting from the cuff, and I'm inclined to go that way anyway; I can do toe-up socks just fine, but I like the elements of a cuff-down sock a bit better. So this sock will start from the cuff.
The cuff on this sock is going to turn down, and of course I want the heart and ruffle elements to face out when they're turned over. That means that in relation to the rest of the sock, they're going to be on the inside of the tube. However, I really don't want to knit them from the wrong side, sentencing myself to purl decreases. Therefore, I'm going to use a nifty little trick, and change the directionality of my knitting; I'll knit the outer part of the cuff with those elements facing out, and then I'll push the whole tube through its own center, turning it inside out, and change my direction of rotation. Changing direction in this way leaves a little gap, just like the turns on short rows do, but this can be compensated for in exactly the same way as one compensates for short-row gaps; in this case, I'll do a YO as the first stitch of the first round in the new direction, and then work that together with the last stitch of the round, and that will close the gap up beautifully.
So, let's start plotting this out. I've swatched out some bell ruffles, and the ruffle I'm going to use will have 3 columns of purl between the knit triangles, and the triangles themselves will start at 11 stitches and decrease to 1, so for every 4 stitches at the top of the triangle, I need to have 14 at the bottom; 4 goes into 80 twenty times, so I need to cast on 20 x 14 stitches, or 280. This is the disadvantage of a ruffle -- it takes about a million stitches at the outside edge -- but the decreases do bring the number down quite quickly. Now, normally I'd do a twisted German cast-on for cuff-down socks, for the stretch, but I don't need it here, since the lower edge of the ruffle will never be stretched completely; instead, I'll just use long-tail, which I find attractive, easy to do, and easy to work from. So, I'll cast on my gazillion stitches and do my ruffle, and then I'll work a few rows plain to give me some separation between the ruffle and the heart lace.
The heart lace pattern I'm using is a 16-stitch repeat, which means I'll have 5 repeats of it around my sock; the 8st/in version will have the same lace, but only 4 repeats. Now, if I've had my stitches evenly distributed for doing the ruffle -- which I probably will, since 70 is enough to cram on any one needle at the beginning -- then I'll want to rearrange for the hearts, so full repeats are together; that means 32 stitches on one needle, and 16 on the others, or if I were using 2-circs or magic loop, I'd do 32 on one portion and 48 on the other. After completing the heart and a few rounds of stockinette after it, I'll rearrange again, knitting forward a few stitches into one of the hearts and making that both the beginning of the round, and the side "seam" of the sock, where the heel and instep will split; this rearrangement will make one of the hearts centered on the front of the ankle, and take me back to 20 stitches on each needle.
Now it's time for the turning row. I'll turn the sock upside down, so the knitting is sticking up from the needles instead of down, and just push it right through the middle, so it's hanging down again, but the reverse-stockinette side is out. Starting with a yarnover, I'll knit one round, knitting the yarnover together with the last stitch, and then I'll purl one full round; these two rounds of garter stitch will give me a nice break for the cuff to turn over on.
From this point on, I'm going to do ribbing; this isn't a particularly elastic yarn, so ribbing will help it stay up and fit well, and is also more interesting to knit than stockinette. I'm going to use k2p2 ribbing, which is the stretchiest for me, under the cuff, but at the gauge I'm working at, this gives me very fine lines, so for the foot, where it will be visible, I'm going to switch off to a wider k4p4 ribbing, and I'll do a transition between these, so the change looks planned and not abrupt.
I like my ribbing to be symmetrical on the foot, so I'm going to start the round with a k1, and then do p2,k2 around to the last stitch, which will also be a k1. I'll do this ribbing until the length from the turning row is about the same as the length from the top of the ruffle to the turning row, and then I'll use about 1/2" to do a transition from k2p2 to k4p4, on the instep side of the sock only; I'll keep the heel side in k2p2 for now. I'm going to make the k4p4 ribbing symmetrical as well, starting my rounds with a k2; this means that one of my current k2 ribs is lined up on what will be the middle two stitches of a k4 rib, and the next k2 is lined up on the what will be the middle two stitches of a p4. I want to move those k2s that are lined up on the p4s so they smoothly join the ribs on either side to form the k4; this is a neater transition than just stopping one and starting the other. The way I'm going to do that is by using a left cross on one knit stitch and the purl to its right, and a right cross on the other knit stitch and the purl to its left, so I split them apart and put two purls in between them; I'll knit even for a few rounds, and then do another set of crosses to move the knits over to join the others that form the k4, and move their adjacent purls together to form the p4s. I'll work one round with the instep side in the k4p4, just to have it well-established, and then I'll split for the heel.
If I were making these to be clog socks, I'd probably keep the heel flap in stockinette, and most likely put another repeat of the heart lace pattern on it, but since I'm much more likely to be wearing these socks in sneakers, I'm going to do my heel flap in eye-of-partridge, instead. My end-of-round is at the left side of the sock, so I've just worked across the heel stitches, and I'll start my heel flap on the WS stitches. When I do eye-of-partridge or heel-stitch, I like to set things up so I'm doing the slip-alternate-stitches bit on the WS rows, for less purling. I also purl both end stitches on the WS rows, and slip both end stitches on the RS rows, rather than slipping the first stitch of every row; it makes staying in the slip-stitch pattern easier. I like to end on a RS row, and then do a Dutch heel; this is the one which fits my foot the best.
After completing the heel turn, I'll pick up gusset stitches and return to knitting in the round; the sole and gussets will be in stockinette, with the instep in k4p4 rib, starting and ending with k2 so it's symmetrical on the foot.
I'm going to do a wedge toe, decreasing from 80 stitches to 32, which is a little more than a third of the width. I'll have 48 decreases to do, at a rate of 4 stitches every other row, so that gives me 24 decrease rows; at the gauge I'm working at, that's a bit less than 2 inches, so I'll work until the sock is about 1.5" shorter than my overall foot measurement, which will give me a toe that's close to my actual toes but not stretched across them.
And now, I have to go actually knit that, and write up the pattern, so you can knit it too! It'll be coming soon.