Friday, April 13, 2007

Diamonds are a girl's best friend

I have re-designed the argyle sock for my Master Knitting Level II sock.

I spent a long time planning the sock before I ever started knitting. I studied as many charts for other argyles as I could lay my hands on in order to understand how the diamonds worked. My original design incorporated diamonds in the contrast colors centered in the front. The contrast diamond corners had one-stitch points. The main color diamonds had two-stitch corner points. The diamond lines intersected at the center of the contrast diamonds in one stitch. They intersected at the center of the main color diamonds in a block of four stitches.

Like this

These contrast diamonds are 33 stitches across and 33 stitches high. The main-color diamonds are 32 stitches across and 32 stitches high. The pattern is 67 stitches wide. The edge stitches are both center columns of contrast diamonds. This creates a problem, because in order for the contrast diamonds to be centered down the front of the sock and for the pattern to match going down the back the seam has to use 1/2 a stitch from each edge, which is not ideal for a couple reasons: I don't think a half-stitch seam looks as good as a full-stitch seam, and I think the seam would look especially bad where the center of the black diamond meets, because that's just one stitch of color there and I would worry about tension issues. If I used a full stitch, which would create a nicer looking seam, there wouldn't be a center column up the back of the sock. The contrast diamonds would meet like this:

Unless I added an extra column of plain stitches at each edge, in which case I'd have a seam like this:

Even more frustrating is that every photo of argyle socks I've seen shows the socks from the side or the front, so I can't see what the seam looks like. Maybe it's okay if they don't match exactly, I thought.

Some of the argyle knee socks in my vintage sock pattern book

have calf shaping and it's clear the patterns can't match all the way up.

See the gray knee-high with the red and brown diamonds? That one doesn't match up.

The finishing instructions in this book are no help, either. "Sew up back seam neatly, matching colors."

After complaining about my seam dilemma at knitting group, Shelly (who has made argyle socks for her MK Level II) insisted there were stitch counts that worked out perfectly, but she couldn't remember for sure what they were. I insisted it wasn't possible. Turns out we were both right.

The pattern can't work out if the top and bottom points of the diamonds have single-stitch corners--regardless of stitch count--if you want a full-stitch seam because on either side of the seam there has to be only 1/2 of the diamond's single-stitch point. You can only get that with a half-stitch seam.

I reworked the pattern to switch the shape of the contrast diamonds with the main color diamonds (which had two-stitch points at all corners), but I didn't like the way it looked. I didn't want the block of four black stitches in the middle of the contrast diamonds. I don't know why. I just didn't.

So. Back to the internet. I found Flory's pattern, which mysteriously had contrast diamonds with single points and line diamonds that all intersected at one stitch in each solid diamond. Huh. I looked closer. How'd she do that? I counted stitches. Aha! Her single-pointed diamonds were not all the same size. I re-did her chart with gridlines and colors so I could see better what was going on. I also flipped it around so the instep is on top, and added another repeat on the leg.

While I liked the idea of all the line diamonds intersecting at just one point, the single-points on the top and bottom of the diamonds still meant an odd stitch count, so the seam would still be an issue.

So what's my solution?

Contrast diamonds with single-stitch points on the right and left, but two-stitch points on the top and bottom. This allows the sock to have an even number of stitches so the diamonds can be centered up the leg in the front and back, and but it doesn't require the contrast diamonds to have a four-stitch intersection of the line diamonds. It's two stitches, not one, but I like it better than the block of four, and I get my full-stitch seam to boot.

This pattern has 74 stitches across the leg (2 will be used for the back seam). The "extra" stitch at each edge is plain. There's no need to continue the line diamonds to the edge, since they'd just be hidden inside the seam anyway. The old sock was 67 stitches across the leg. I increased this one to 74 because I was getting 10 sts/inch with the Opal yarn. I have an 8" ankle and usually knit a 7" circumference sock because I like about an inch of negative ease. I also like a number divisible by 4 so I can do k2p2 ribbing because I like that better than k1p1. So that gave me 72 stitches, plus the seam stitches.

Anyone interested in charting their own argyle should start with the stitch count they want (56, 64, 72, etc.), then divide by 2 to get the width of the contrast diamonds. The height of the contrast diamonds will be 1 less than that. The width and height of the main color diamonds will be 2 less than the width of the contrast diamonds. For example: my contrast diamonds are 36 sts wide, 35 rows high. The main color diamonds are 34 sts wide, 34 sts high, as they have two-stitch corners at all points. Of course, if you want smaller diamonds, you can always do four across instead, but the approach is still the same.

If that made your eyes cross, here's a chart:

Total stitch count

(not incl seam stitches)

Contrast diamond width, in stitches

(stitch count / 2)

Contrast diamond height, in rows

(contrast width – 1)

Main color diamond width/height in stitches and rows

(contrast width – 2)





















(Don’t forget to cast on two extra stitches for the seaming!)


Deborah (a.k.a. Mt. Mom) said...

Thanks, Rox. This was *very* informative; esp. about how to start making your own pattern -- concrete and practical, to allow the creativity to shine through!
Welcome to Level 2!

Connie said...

Gosh darn it! Now you made me go and pull out my old pattern book with the argyle socks!!