What gauge for my sock tubes???
A lot of people aren't sure what the correct gauge is for their sock tubes, or have questions about how gauge is changed on the machine...
Measuring gauge can be a bit tricky sometimes!
The number of stitches is fixed per cylinder, and I only have 2 cylinders, one with 64 needles and one with 72, so all tubes that I make will have either 64 or 72 stitches. Your choice!
The stitches per inch (SPI) is adjustable on each cylinder within a range. The 64 and 72 cylinders have the same diameter, so the difference is how close the needles are together. What this means is that is is easier to get tighter gauges
on the 72 stitch cylinder than the 64 stitch cylinder. In practice, with most standard merino nylon blends, it is possible to go to 10 or more SPI on the 72 cylinder, or a bit higher than 9 SPI on the 64. This effectively allows me
to make tubes of the same diameter on either cylinder, but with denser or looser fabrics.
If you like tighter knits for your merino/nylon, you might be better off asking for 10 SPI on 72 as oppsed to 8.75 on the 64.
The smallest tubes I can make are about 6.7 inches diameter on either cylinder with the stretchiest fingering weight yarns, though it really has to be the right yarn to get that tight. Going looser is easy , but there is not much point with fingering weight yarns unles you want really floppy lacy socks. With most merino/nylon blends, the tubes get sort of ... floppy... when knit below 8.25 SPI.
This does entirely depend upon the yarn base though. The gauge is adjusted by changing how far the needle pulls the stitch below the previous row, paired with changing tensions of the yarn. A short pull with high tension equals tight gauge. Stretchier yarns can be knit much more tightly as they accept the tension a lot better. Yarns with less stretch ( I'm looking at you BFL!!! or yarns with lower overall amounts of wool) can be a little more difficult and will resist attempts to go to tight on the machine, and will protest by jumping right off the needles..
Here's a tube knit up to 8.5 SPI on the 64 needle cylinder. This is a good average SPI that works well with just about every fingering weight yarn I've ever cranked.See how It has been measured with the stitch gauge?
If you calculate 64 stitches, and divided by 8.5 stitches per inch, you would get a tube with a 7.5 inch diameter. Let's lay the tube flat and take a look...
Pretty close! that's about 3.75 inches laid flat, or about 7.5 inches around!
Most people like 1-2 inches of negative ease in their socks, so if a person measures around their foot and finds it is 9 inches, they would probably want sock tubes that are between 7 and 8 inches around.
If you have any questions about how tightly or loosely your sock tubes should be knit, please don't hesitate to reach out to me! A little discussion up front can make sure you're happiest with your tubes.
If you're ever unhappy with your tubes, because the gauge isn't what you expected or wanted, also reach out! Making your feet happy is my number one priority!
If you ever ask for a tube to be knit at a gauge that the machine/yarn just doesn't want to do, I will contact you and seek guidance. This has only happened a couple times, and only with unusually bulky sport weight yarns.