Further Adventures in Dyeing: Translating Swatch to Sock

Okay, so you have a stripe pattern you want. And you know your knitting gauge and yarn usage (if not, see this post…).

Now you need to know how much yarn to wind to make the same stripes in a full size sock. Well, the circumference of your target sock is wider than your swatch, so you need to redo your calculations.

If you have a favorite sock pattern, you can use that to base your calculations on. If not, you can use reference materials. I have Simple Socks, Plain & Fancy by Priscilla Gibson-Roberts. In it, there is a table of how many stitches you need to cast on for a sock in various sizes. For a basic crew sock in women’s size medium with a gauge of 9 sts/inch, she recommends casting on 72 stitches, which translates to an 8 inch circumference.

Going back to my original calculations, I measured 18 stitches over 2 inches of knitting, requiring 8 inches of yarn. To make the rest of the calculations easier, I’m going to break this down and say that I need 4 inches of yarn to make 1 inch of knitting at 9 sts/inch.

For 72 stitches for the sock, at 8 inches in circumference, I need 4 x 8 = 32 inches of yarn per row. If I wanted stripes that were at least 4 rows wide, I’d need 32 x 4 = 128 inches of yarn for the stripe.

Of course, a number of factors will play into your plans such that the number of rows you actually get will vary a bit. When I came up with my usage calculation, I rounded up, to accommodate potential shrinking. And you could see in my finished swatch, I had closer to 5 rows per stripe, due to the extra yarn per stripe. Because I rounded after measuring usage per 2 inches, I’m building in extra yarn to each inch. I could choose to round up at a different point in the calculation and have closer to the desired amount. But knitting a little more tightly or loosely as you go will change things. As will how tightly you wind the yarn on the warp initially.

What if you change the number of stitches in a row dramatically? You’ve seen how striping changes across a heel and gusset. You may have also knit sweaters or other objects with self striping yarn and noticed that the width of the stripes in the body is narrower than that of the sleeves.

Playing with that concept, I wanted to make a swatch based on this stripe pattern:

Based on the previous formula, 8 wraps per color would give me about 4 rows per stripe. But what happens if I change the width of my swatch? If I cast off half of the stitches, my stripes would get thicker. To account for that, I did the first half of my stripes with 8 wraps per color and the second half with 4 wraps per color.

This is what my warp set up looked like:

And this is the resulting swatch:

The first 4 pattern repeats have about 4 rows per color. Then there’s a 2 row stripe (because I forgot when I was planning to cast off). Then the narrow section has about 4 rows per stripe again.

It would take calculations of epic proportions to wind yarn that keeps striping consistent across a heel gusset. And very careful knitting as well. But if you are dyeing for a specific project, you can dye separate skeins to maintain the striping in different pieces. Doing the sleeves and yarn for the yoke part of the sweater separately from the body section. Just sketch out your pattern and use the measurements of the garment to decide how you need to wind out your stripes.

Of course, something like this can be really tricky to plan for a larger project. If stripes of a specific size are important to you, then you probably should just use multiple colors of yarn.

For my Dye-O-Rama swap yarn, I’ll be planning to wind based on the women’s size medium calculations I listed above. I’ve also decided that I’ll aim for stripes that are at least two rows wide, because 1 row stripes are fussy (as you saw in my previous post) and end up looking more like randomly-dyed yarn (Koigu, etc). I don’t know quite what my stripe pattern will be yet. I have a long flight tomorrow, so after I finish my Rockin’ Socks, I might sketch out some ideas. But I ordered some acid dyes and the base yarn, and with any luck, I’ll have something to play with over the holiday weekend.


  1. DYE-O-RAMA Swap » Dyeing Large-Scale:

    […] Over the past few weeks, I’ve written a series of posts about planning to dye stripes, calculating what you need to wind, and winding it. Today is my last post in the tutorial series, talking about how to translate ideas for a small swatch into what you need to wind for a full sock. Click here […]

  2. Chris:

    Too bad I know you’re not my swap buddy. Damn, you’re going to produce a masterpiece!!

  3. Adam:

    Your dyeing series is so helpful and amazing, thank you! It’s so awesome to find someone who approaches dyeing and knitting from a mathematical perspective like I do. Even if Scout does tease me for it all the time :)

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