Joining the newly cast-on stitches to work in the round is one of my least favourite knitting techniques. As you will know if you’ve been around here for a while, I knit all of my garments in separate pieces which are then seamed together. Socks, however, are a different matter, they are knitted as a tube so the work just has to be joined at some point. The reason I find it so difficult is that the stitches, as you see in my photograph, are always reluctant to lie neaty on the needles. Instead, they believe they are strands of DNA and spiral uncontrollably. On top of that, until I have some point of reference I am utterly unable to recall which direction I should work in and how the three needles should sit in relation to one another. Part of me thinks this process might be easier on a circular needle, but previous experience suggests that is not the case.

For almost all of the years I’ve been knitting socks, I’ve worked the cuff as a flat piece on two needles and then joined it into a circle, adding in the third and fourth needles, when I move from the ribbed cuff onto the leg. The advantage of this is that I have a nice flat piece of fabric and it’s easy to make sure I’m not twisting it as I join it into a circle. The disadvantage is that I have to sew the cuff together once the sock is completed and, especially on self-striping yarns, that can look messy.

On my Popeye Socks, I’m forcing myself to be more professional and work in the round right from the beginning. It doesn’t make any difference to the initial cast-on, but I find the first round of knitting is a form of torture. Once the first couple of rows are done, it’s all plain sailing, but it’s easy to get disheartened right at the very beginning and want to run back to my safe way of doing things. The point is that I’m only going to increase my skill and feel more comfortable with this technique if I make myself do it. More than once. Lucky I’m planning on knitting six pairs of socks this year and that should give me the practice I need.

Straying from socks for a moment, this jumper is from a copy of a Phildar knitting magazine I picked up quite a few years ago on a holiday in France. I always rather liked the faux cardigan style and I think it would be a fun way to use a skein of fancy hand-dyed yarn, or a cake of one of those Noro-inspired yarns with a gradual colour shift throughout the ball. It could also be a candidate for using the spectacular buttons I’m always attracted to, but never buy because they would be impractical in use. A round or squared button works best for pushing through a bottonhole, but a button with lots of spikes – a starfish, for example – is less practical. Funny story: in looking for an example of a starfish button, I’ve just found exactly the buttons I would use on this jumper if I was knitting it out of my rust coloured wool…..

3 thoughts on “Round and round and round we go

  1. I like to knit a few rows of sock cuff flat. Honestly, the amount of seaming is negligible. That sweater pattern is really neat. How is it constructed?

    1. It does seem to be a lot more sensible to establish the rib before you join into the round.
      You’ve posed quite a question about the sweater pattern as it’s not written in my native language. However, digging deep into my schoolgirl French and using my experience with knitting patterns I’ll try to decipher it. The garment is knit in pieces and bottom up – back, front and two sleeves. You start the front by knitting two small rectangles of the main yarn in ribbing, then join them together casting on for the centre panel in between and work the rest of the ribbing (1 x 1 for the side pieces and 2 x 2 for the panel). Then you carry on, changing the centre panel colours as needed and working the centre panel in reverse stocking stitch whilst the sides are knit in stocking stitch. You must have to wrap the wool as you move from the side to the panel to the side again, but I couldn’t begin to know that in the French instructions.
      Personally, I’d follow a basic cardigan pattern, but make the two front pieces narrow and then knit a separate panel in the fancy wool and sew it into place. In the French pattern, the collar is worked after the cardigan has been stitched together.

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