Lesson 2: The Plain Area

Today, we start working in the round and do 11 rows/rounds. The pattern reads:

Row 8—k52 (distribute to 4 needles), Join to work in the round: overlap last 3 sts on right needle behind first 3 sts on left needle then k2tog three times (1 st from front needle with 1 st from back needle each time).

Plain Area: On 52 sts, work 10 rounds of 49 stockinette sts with 3 mock-seam sts in the back worked as p1, k1b, p1. (The k1b aligns with the last overlap st and is the beginning of the round.)

Row 8 is a right-side row. After knitting 52 stitches, distribute those stitches to 4 sock needles. I use a 5-needle sock set when knitting socks because having 4 needles in my work at all times makes the piece more flexable. You might be using another method but, whatever you are using, you’ll need to be able to bend the piece of knitting so that the beginning of the row meets the end of the row. You’ll have 3 end-of-row sts on your 5th needle.

Joining: Overlap last 3 sts on right needle behind first 3 sts on left needle then k2tog three times (1 st from front needle with 1 st from back needle each time).

If you find this difficult, you can rearrange stitches as follows: move the first three stitches of the row to a cable needle (a toothpick or bobby pin will work too). Bend the piece of knitting (without twisting) so the ends meet. Holding the 3 end-of-round sts in back and using the left needle (that is in the beginning-of-the-round sts except for the first three), pick up the last stitch of the row from the 5th sock needle. Then pick up the nearest stitch from the cable needle. Repeat that until you have the three end-of-row stitches alternating with the three beginning-of-row stitches on the left needle. Then knit two together three times.

Plain Area: Plain areas serve a practical purpose on a gansey sweater. Ganseys were work garments and the lower edge often became warn. Although ganseys are knit from the bottom up, the lower edge could be removed, stitches picked up and a new edge knitted down. Also, the initials of the sweater owner were often worked into the plan area in a texture stitch. On this sock, the plain area gives us an easy place to lengthen the leg of the sock. If you want your sock leg longer than 8 1/2 inches from cast on to heel bend, now is the time to do it.

Seam Stitches: Another feature of ganseys is mock seams under each arm that extend from the welt to the under-arm gusset. We are working one mock seam up the middle back of the sock. It uses 3 stitches—p1, k1b, p1. The k1b aligns with the last overlap st and is the beginning of the round. Knitting one stitch in the back of the loop twists the stitch and makes it stand out more than a regular knit stitch.

Confession: I knit a gansey sweater for my son while he was away in the Navy. He either grew or I measured wrong because it didn’t fit him. I’d worked his initials into the plain area of the sweater. Rather then raveling out the sweater, I just kept it and wore it myself with his initials on it. Whenever he sees me in it, he reminds me that I never got around to knitting him a replacement.

Tomorrow, we start using the chart on page 2 of the pattern. If you’ve never used a chart, don’t let it scare you. I’ll walk you through it.

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