ursula: (sheep)
[personal profile] ursula
I made stockings with clocks for [personal profile] holyschist:

Stockings with clocks

I used a naturally dyed Malabrigo sock yarn. The dye was a little bit uneven, so the stockings have some natural striping. My needles were size 2 bamboo needles. I usually prefer metal needles for work this fine, and indeed I broke one needle while trying on the sock. However, this was travel knitting-- I started the stockings at a conference in Kentucky, made significant progress at a conference in Toronto, finished them in Providence and Seattle, and sewed in the ends in Minneapolis-- so I wanted to avoid pointy metal in my luggage. My gauge was about 19 stitches to 2 inches, and about 14 rows to the inch.

The stockings are designed to come just under the knee, and to be worn with garters. They're meant to fit a short woman. For general proportions and shaping, I followed the 1655 stocking pattern in Natura Exenterata, which is quoted in the appendix of Richard Rutt's History of Hand Knitting. My pattern wasn't an exact copy of the Natura Exenterata pattern, in part because I was making a stocking to fit a woman my size and using a different gauge, and in part because the directions in Natura Exenterata are genuinely obscure. I know [livejournal.com profile] xrian is working on a closer interpretation of the pattern; I'm curious to hear how her interpretation differs from mine!


The stockings are worked in the round using 4 or 5 needles. I cast on about 100 stitches, and worked in garter stitch for about a thumblength. (My "thumblength" or "thumb" measure is from the joint of my thumb to the end, so a little bit more than an inch.) The Natura Exenterata pattern doesn't do this, but the Gunnister stocking does, and I find a band at the top is convenient for catching a garter. After that band, I set up a "seam" by purling one and kniting one at the end of the last needle, then knitting one and purling one at the beginning of the first needle. I continued the seam all the way down to the heel. It adds a little bit of stretchiness, and helps you keep track of where you are. A single purl stitch would be just as authentic, but I prefer to knit across the join of two needles.

The Natura Exenterata pattern and the Gunnister stocking both begin with decreases, but since I was planning a stocking that starts below the knee, I continued in stockinette for another thumblength, then decreased two stitches every six rows (one decrease on either side of the seam) until I had 76 stitches remaining. I then continued until the total length of the stocking was 10 thumbs.

I divided my stitches so that there were 26 stitches on each of 2 heel needles, and 24 stitches on the instep needle(s). Then I worked the clock for about two thumblengths. The clock is a decorative pattern. Mine were long, narrow triangles in knit and purl stitches, on top of knit-purl rectangles. The points of the triangles were purl stitches that fell on the last stitch of the first heel needle and the first stitch of the last heel needle. Rutt charts the Natura Exenterata clock, which has the same shape but also involves making stitches or knitting them together occasionally.

After working the clock, I re-divided my stitches so that there were 26 stitches on the instep needle(s) and 25 on each heel needle. Then I started working back and forth on the heel needles (still in stockinette) to create a heel flap. I decreased two stitches every four rows until 13 stitches remained on each heel needle. I put my decreases at the seam, but another time I might put them at the edges of the heel flap instead; I think this might make a nicer shape to the stocking. At the point where only half of the heel stitches remain, the Natura Exenterata directions become more complicated. Rutt's directions have you start turning the heel here, but I believe he's in error; I think the idea is to make faster decreases, in order to make a more rounded turn at the point of the heel. I decreased 4 stitches on my next right-side row, two next to the seam and two halfway between the seam and the edge of the flap. If you're working with more stitches you should keep on with these faster decreases until your two decrease lines meet. Since I had 4 stitches involved in the seam, this happened pretty much immediately. I knitted to the center of the heel, put the right sides of my sock together, and used a third needle to cast them off together, creating a seam. (There's a description of this heel technique in Dame Christian's Pre-literate stockings pattern.)

Next, I picked up 50 stitches from one side of the heel flap, knitted the instep stitches, picked up another 50 or 51 stitches from the other side of the heel. I knitted the next round. On the following round, I decreased one stitch in four (knit two, decrease, knit two, decrease, etc.) on each of the heel needles. It's not quite clear what the Natura Exenterata directions want you to do here: they tell you to "take up" stitches, which almost certainly means an increase earlier in the pattern, but one typically expects a decrease at this point in the sock, so I went with decreases. Then I knitted a plain round. On the next round, I decreased one stitch in three on each of the heel needles. At this point, I was just about back to 76 stitches; you can decrease every other row at the end of the first heel needle and beginning of the second heel needle if you need more decreases to return to your pre-heel number of stitches.

I then knit around until the stocking was two inches less than the length I desired. I re-divided the stitches so that half were on the heel needles and half on the instep needle(s), then decreased every other round one stitch before the end of the first heel needle, one stitch after the beginning of the instep needle(s), one stitch before the end of the instep needle(s), and one step after the beginning of the last heel needle, until half of my stitches remained. Then I decreased every round until only 8 stitches remained. I bound off the final stitches with a third needle, the same way I had joined the heel stitches.
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