I have been bewitched by Sidewinders lately. Currently, I am knitting my third pair. I haven't knit any pattern three times, not even my own. There is a lot to explore with this pattern. Along the way I have come up with a few modifications.
The biggest modification is knitting them with two circular needles.Not only does it eliminate the toe seam, it has the added benefit of decreasing the number of stitches that need to be grafted. To do this I start (and end) at the ankle instead of along the centerline of the bottom of the foot/back of the leg.
The other modification is a gusset for a little extra room in the ankle, especially nice for those of us with high arches. This gusset (for lack of a better word) can be done with Nona's original design or my version. See the gusset information at the bottom of the post.
Here is a preview of the finished sock:
Click on any image to see a larger version.
The first step is to download Nona's fabulous pattern, Sidewinders: A PerpenSOCKular pattern. Once you have selected your size, make a note of the number of stitches at the ankle (between Acts I & II and between Acts III & IV). In my size (9-10 medium), that is 97 stitches. Please note that I shortened the leg of my sock; I will use the numbers given by Nona for my size as written to help you find your place in her pattern.
You will also need two circular needles in a size that gives you the correct stitch and row gauge. Row gauge does matter for this pattern.
Note: If your row gauge is a little off, see the tips below.
Knowing how to knit on two circulars is required for this method. The part you need to understand is that the sole stitches are on one circular needle and the instep stitches are on another circular needle. When you are working on the instep stitches, you use both ends of the instep needle. When you are working on the sole stitches, you use both ends of the sole needle. The instep stitches will never move to the sole needle and vice versa.
You may be able to modify this pattern for Magic Loop. I don't use this method, but as I understand it, it should be possible. Let me know if you try it.
Using the Turkish cast-on, cast-on the number of stitches given for your size at the ankle. For me it is 97 stitches. Do not divide the number in half to make a total of 97 stitches. You want 97 stitches on each needle. (Remember, I am using the number for my size, your size may be different.) Knit across both needles. We will place our stitch markers on the next row.
Note: Several people have asked if Judy's Magic Cast-On will work. While I am a big fan of Judy's cast-on (and almost always use it for toe-up socks), I don't think it is the best cast on for this situation. It would be possible if you slide all the stitches on the bottom needle (the one not being worked)onto the cable. The issue I see is that you'll end up with two rows of cast-on stitches instead of the one row with Turkish. Not an insurmountable problem. If you try it, let me know how it works for you.
Your sock should look something like this:
The picture does show some stitch markers in place. Don't worry that yours aren't in yet. That is next.
First half is all about increasing:
Turn the knitting to the wrong side. You are at the cuff edge and working on the sole needle. Work in the double garter pattern stitch starting on row 2 (see Act I). Place a marker after the cuff stitches (mine is red). Purl the number of leg stitches for your size and place a marker (mine is blue). Purl one stitch and place a marker (mine is white). Purl one stitch and place a marker (mine is blue). These three markers frame the area where the heel increases will occur. Purl the number of foot stitches for your size minus one stitch. Place a marker (mine is blue). There should be one stitch left on the needle; this is the toe stitch for the sole needle. Purl it. Rotate to the next needle (still on the wrong side of the work).
Note: If you wish to incorporate the gusset shaping, it happens on this row on the instep needle. See the heel gusset information below.
You are now working on the instep needle. Purl one toe stitch and place a marker (mine is blue). Purl the number of foot
stitches for your size. Place a marker (mine is white). Purl the number of leg stitches for your size plus one stitch (includes
one of the "heel" stitches). Place a marker (mine is red). There should be just the cuff stitches remaining on the needle. Work across them in double garter. Turn work to the right side. The difference between the number of foot and leg stitches on each needle is due to the heel stitches being separated out with additional markers where the heel shaping happens.
Note: There is a method to my stitch marker colors. I use red to mark the cuff. Blue markers indicate where increasing and decreasing will occur (at the heel and toe). White markers indicate the centerline of the heel.
Continue working across both needles. You will always turn to the other side of the work when you reach the cuff, never at the toe. Follow Nona's pattern for the number of stitches to increase at the heel and toe (for me that is 15 stitches at the heel and 16 stitches at the toe). Use the increases described by Nona.
Note: Because we are starting at the ankle, the instep needle is worked similarly to Act II (toe increases). On the other hand, the sole needle is worked like Act IV (heel increases). All of the increasing happens in the first half of the sock.
After a few rows, your sock should look like this:
When all of the increasing is complete, work the number of rows indicated at the end of Act II plus the number of rows indicated at the beginning of Act III (for me that is 8+8=16). At the middle of these rows you will be half way done.
Note: If you need to adjust for your row gauge, this is the time to do it. See the tips below.
Your sock should like like this when it is halfway done:
Second half is all about decreasing:
Now we start decreasing toward the opposite side of the ankle (opposite to the side we started at). Start decreasing at the heel and toe. If the number of heel stitches and toe stitches differ, start with the larger one. For example, I have 15 stitches at the heel and 16 stitches at the toe. On the first decrease row, I'll decrease only at the toe. On the subsequent row, I'll have 15 stitches at the toe and at the heel. (Remember these are the numbers for my size. Your size may be different.) You want the heel and toe stitches to be the same in number so that the decreasing finishes on the same row. Use the decreases described by Nona.
Here is my sock a few rows before it is done:
You can see an almost complete toe on the left, the almost complete heel at the bottom, and the calf shaping. You can see that the blue thread (cast-on row) runs right at the edge of the heel and along the edge of the foot to the base of the toe shaping.
Note: If you are incorporating the heel gusset shaping, it happens on the last row of decreases on the instep needle. See below for more information.
After the last row of decreases you have two options. The first is to start grafting the sock together starting at the cuff and working towards the toe. The second is to work across the first needle (half of a row) so the grafting starts at the toe. This is the option to use if you are incorporating the optional heel gusset so that you don't have to graft and incorporate the yarnovers from the heel gusset short rows. You may want to use the second option so that the double garter stitch works out to the right spot. If you need some help with the grafting, check out Nona's Grafting Epiphany.
Here is the sock just before grafting:
Here it is after grafting:
How will you know when to start the garter stitch pattern at the back of the leg? I do it this way. Take the total number of rows In Act I (for me it is 21 rows) and subtract the row number where the leg switches to stockinette (for me it is row 12). 21-12=9. The garter stitch pattern should start on a wrong side row. If the number you got doesn't land on a wrong side row, start on the next wrong side row. I started on row 10. To help you know when to stop the garter stitch pattern, make a note of how many heel stitches (or toe stitches, they should be the same, right?) you have when you start. Then you stop the garter stitch pattern when you decrease to that number on the other side of the foot.
If your row gauge is off just a little, you can increase or decrease the number of rows between the first and second halves of the sock. Don't add or subtract too many. I would stick to 1 or 2. Remember, since you are working both top and bottom simultaneously, you are actually adding (or subtracting) two rows as counted by Nona for every row you add (or subtract) using this method.
Through trial and error, I discovered that an extra row at the halfway point would make the double garter cuff work out exactly. I have not tried other sizes, so you'll need to assess this for your size.
Want more width at the leg? I do. I add extra short rows at the calf. This sock has 5 short row garter ridges instead of the three in the original pattern. My first sock was taller so I used a total of seven short row garter ridges. Make each one 4 stitches longer than the last one. I like to tuck them behind one full length garter ridge for a clean look.
If you are a tight knitter like me, you may want to knit the 4 stitches (instead of just the middle 2) at the middle of the heel loosely to have enough slack yarn for increasing on the next row.
Optional Heel Gusset:
I have high arches and generally stay away from short-row heels. Sidewinders have a short row heel that is cleverly turned to be knit sideways. Clever as it is, it fits like a short row heel. After two pairs of Sidewinders this was the last lingering qualm I had about the pattern.
Then it hit me. Add a gusset:
The gusset consists of a few short rows just before the heel increases and just after the heel decreases.
Before the heel increases:
It happens on the very first row (right side) when you are knitting the stitches for the first time. This does mean you will need to place your stitch markers on this row as follows: knit the cuff stitches, place a marker (mine is red), knit the number of leg stitches for your size plus one stitch (includes one of the "heel" stitches), place a marker (mine is white).
Now you will work the gusset short rows before completing the row. Knit 4 stitches past the heel marker (mine is white), turn, yo, purl 4 stitches past the heel marker, turn, yo, k8 (when you get to the yo, knit it together with the adjacent stitch, the 8 stitches will be worked: k4, k2tog, k3), turn, yo, purl 8 (incorporate the yo as follows: p4, ssp, p3). Repeat this process with 12 stitches each direction. Turn, and continue the first row placing markers (and incorporating the short row yo): knit the number of foot stitches for your size (counting from the heel marker), place a marker (mine is blue). There should be one stitch left on the needle; this is the toe stitch for the instep needle. Place a marker (mine is blue) and knit it. Continue working the sock pattern until the last row before grafting.
On the instep needle on the last row, repeat the gusset process above starting with 4 stitches past the marker each direction.
Well that is all the Sidewinder tricks I have up my sleeve. Please let me know if you have any questions or corrections. I'd love to hear them.