A Tale of Toe Woe: The Zombie Socks


One UFO Down: 17 Left To Go


I've had a pair of socks sitting in my knitting basket for, oh, I think it's been over a year now. Way back when, I wanted to make a pair of socks to be for Nicholas, so I opened up the bin containing my sock yarn stash and told him to Pick Something. He chose a lovely yarn (Socks that Rock) in a bright colorway that reminds me of that rainbow sherbet I ate as a kid. (He says if he has to wear boring professorial styles to teach, he might as well have nifty creative socks to wear so he doesn't feel too much like a Stepford Husband.)

The fact that these socks have been sitting unfinished in my knitting pile for OVER A YEAR boggles my mind–what's the problem? They really are Just Socks. They're not a complicated sweater, or an intricate lace shawl…in fact, the pattern is as close to zombie TV-watching knitting as you can get short of plain stockinette. It's not even a "real" pattern–I cobbled together a basic heel flap, and a basic heel, and a basic toe, all from the person who taught me how to knit a great sock instead of just a good sock: my former boss and co-worker, Ann Budd. (If you're interested in basic sock patterns and basic sock construction help, her Getting Started Knitting Socks is killer. And I'd say that even if I didn't work for Interweave, I promise.)

My Zombie Knitting Socks, I called them. They are so easy that I can't even say I designed them, because I'm sure if I looked on Ravelry I'd find that several people have thought of the idea before me. But they're my personal "go-to" basic pattern when I Just Want To Knit Some Socks.

So why did these really simple, really pretty socks remain Zombie Socks for so long? This was unusual, even for me. Thus, I sat down to examine the silly things–was there a mistake I had to undo? A gauge problem? What?

Turns out that the socks were ABT: All But Toe. That's my personal term for a pair of socks stalled by the K-word: the dreaded Kitchener Stitch.

Oh, please. What is UP with me and the darn K stitch? It's not like it's all that hard–so why do I get stuck on it so often, with socks languishing for months due to that one silly technique?

Upon reflection, I think it's because I know two things about myself and The K Stitch: I can't do the K without looking at the book, and I can't do the K well. It always comes out looking sloppy, completely out of step with all my other careful knits and purls.

I can knit a killer lace shawl. I can do twisty celtic knot cables. I can size a sweater up and down, I can tech edit, I can do lace charts and work out knitting problems in my head.

I just can't quite manage the K yet…and right now, there's other things going on in my life, and I don't have to be The Perfect Knitter Right This Minute.

But I did want to finish those socks rather badly. I could have grafted them on the needles, but I wanted to be daring and try out a new-to-me technique I learned from Lucy Neatby at Sock Summit: the Toe Chimney.

Want a little Toe Chimney Tutorial? Good, because I've made one for you. 🙂

It's fun, and it makes you feel like you've done something really clever, so what's not to like?

Sure, we all need to learn the Kitchener Stitch, because it's really useful for grafting everything from hoods to shoulder seams to the two halves of lace stoles. (In fact, here's a video tutorial on the Kitchener stitch from Knitting Daily TV episode #208. You can order the entire season on DVD here!)

But if the dreaded K stitch is all that stands between you and a finished pair of socks, at least now you know at least two other ways–grafting on the needles, and toe chimneys–to finish off those UFO toes!

Knit with joy…

– Sandi

P.S. Let me know what you think! You can email me at sandi@knittingdaily.com or you can leave a comment.

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