Wednesday, October 8, 2008

My Hands Have Decided

I think it would be fair to say that I am not a person who likes change. Once I get an idea in my head, I tend to cling to it rather tenaciously.

Some examples:
  1. My strongest memory in kindergarten is of the day I didn't manage to get my own mat for rest time. (Most kids just grabbed whichever mat was closest.) I spent the entire rest time sitting up very nervously on the borrowed red, plastic monstrosity, looking around and trying to figure out where MY mat was. I couldn't relax and I definitely couldn't rest.
  2. Ditto for my favorite table at B&N...or anywhere else.
  3. I insisted on having the same type of small, 3-ring binder and fine-lined paper for my journals for years - even if it involved searching every store in town. I only gave that one up two years ago when I realized how crazy it was making me.
  4. I tend to always order the same foods.
  5. I'm having trouble giving up the idea that I'm supposed to get a PhD because that's what everyone assumed would happen when I left high school....in 1992.

Believe me, I could go on.

One of the knitterly ideas I've clung to is that of tightly knit socks. Indeed, I recently posted about my frustration over the loose gauge that most sock designers use. Simply put, I was taught that socks were better off being knit at as tight of a gauge as possible, and I took that seriously. Plus, I discovered that I like to wear firmly knit socks. For me, they are just more comfortable!

However, as I stated on my Monday List, Socktoberfest has led me rethink my gauge theories - especially after an uncomfortable knitting session last Friday. The central question was this - Do I want to continue to knit my own personal socks on a 2.0mm needle, or should I start knitting them on 2.25 mm needles as I do for all other socks? I knew there were several things to consider.

First up...how much of a difference was there really in the gauge? To answer that, I pulled a mound of my handknits to check. I found that with a 2.0 mm needle I get somewhere between 10 and 10.25 stitches/inch - depending, I'm sure, on the type of yarn I was using and/or the mood I was in. On a 2.25 mm needle I pretty consistently get 9.5 stitches/inch. Sooooo..... I'm going through all of that extra effort for 1/2- 3/4 of a stitch.

Next, is it really effecting the comfort level that much? The good news here is that I have a pair of socks for my Dad on the needles, and we have very similarly shaped feet. I pulled it on...and didn't notice that much of a difference. Huh.

And how much extra work does it require to use a smaller needle? Easy enough to answer - again thanks to Dad's socks, for which I have a very standard pattern. When I knit for my (very appreciative) father, I use 68 stitches, with 85 rows on the leg* and 56 rows on the foot. (Yes, Dad and I both have very short, square mutant feet.) For my own socks, I have to use 76 stitches, 78 rows in the leg and 62 rows in the foot.** Of course, I generally like shorter socks....but you get the point with the foot length. So the answer is that there is a LOT more work that goes into socks on a 2.0 mm needle.

Finally - and perhaps more importantly - What is this doing to my hands? Last Friday night was a huge wake-up call for me. I spent three hours working on a sock, and only wound up with about an inch and a half because I had to put it down so often. It was uncomfortable, and I didn't enjoy it at all. I took an honest look at my sock knitting history, and I realized that I had faced some level of discomfort for all of my 2.0 mm socks.

My hands decided the issue for once and for all yesterday. I spent the morning working on a sock for the Princess. Even though I was using a 2.25 mm needle, my hands were stiff and they hurt. While it is true that I can officially blame most of that on a chilly house (As soon as the indoor temp went above 70 my stiffness and aches went away and I once again was able to knit with ease.), the whole experience was enough to force a decision.

I do NOT want to risk hurting myself over what amounts to an opinion. I am capable of admitting I was wrong and of changing my ways. I DO want to be able to knit socks - or anything else - for a very, Very, VERY long time.

2.25 mm it is.

I think I'll go cast on some socks.

* Rows on the foot are measured from the end of the gusset to the start of the toe.

** When I went to Ravelry to verify my numbers, I found this in the notes of the last pair of socks I made for myself, "Other notes: This might be the last time I use 2.0 mm needles for my socks. Yes, they are knit very tight and are very durable. BUT, it takes me forever to make them and they wear my hands out fairly easily. In comparison, it feels like I zoom through other socks on a 2.25 mm needle." HA!

1 comment:

Margene said...

That is some tight knitting! I like my socks around 8 st. per inch. It wears well and I don't kill my hands by holding onto needles that are too small. My fave size is 2.5mm In many cases change is good.