You will need:
• a knitting machine (standard gauge or mid gauge)
• 100g of sock yarn or 4ply yarn
• a ball winder
• a wool needle
• some waste yarn.
First wind your yarn into a centre pull ball using a ball winder. If you want to create a double stranded blank wind the yarn again using the ends from the centre and outside.
Set up your knitting machine and cast on as many stitches as you need using a closed cast on method. Your tension for the blank needs to be quite loose. If the stitches are too tight the dye will not penetrate the stitches fully and you will get a patchy, heathered effect.
Knit the blank until you are almost out of yarn (as a rough guide you need 3 times the width of the row of yarn to knit one row on the machine). Now you need to put the live stitches onto a lifeline. You can either thread the lifeline through the stitches while they are still on the machine or you can knit a few rows with some waste yarn, remove the knitting from the machine and then thread the lifeline through. To secure the knitting tie both ends of the lifeline together with the loose end of the blank. Make sure the lifeline is long enough so that the blank can be laid out flat for dyeing.
Some of the patterns require a blank of a specific width. This is to ensure the pattern turns out right when the sock is knitted. This requires a little preparation but it is essential and worth taking the time to do.
To make a single strand, single width blank (i.e. one row of the blank will knit 1 row of your sock) you need to find out your machine stitch length and sock round length.
To find your machine stitch length cast on 20 stitches on your knitting machine and knit a few rows. Mark the yarn at the end of the row with a marker pen, remove the knitting from the machine and unravel 1 row. Mark the other end of the yarn and measure the distance between the 2 marks in centimetres taking care not to over stretch the yarn. This is the amount of yarn needed to knit 20 stitches on your knitting machine. Divide this number by 20 to get your machine stitch length. Make a note of this number and of the tension settings on your machine.
To find your sock round length cast on your chosen sock pattern, work a few rounds, mark the end of the round with marker pen, unravel 1 round and mark it again. Measure the distance between the 2 marks in centimetres. This is the amount of yarn to knit 1 round of your sock, or 1 sock round length. Make a note of this number.
Divide your sock round length by your machine stitch length. Round this to the nearest whole number and this will give you the number of stitches you need to cast on your machine to make your blank.
If the amount of yarn I need to knit 20 stitches on my knitting machine measures 27cm:
1 machine stitch = 27/20
and yarn I need to knit 1 round of my sock measures 69cm then:
machine cast on = 69/1.35
So I need to cast on 51 stitches on my knitting machine to create a blank where 1 row will knit 1 round of my sock.
If you want to knit a double stranded blank you need to use double stranded yarn on your knitting machine to get an accurate measurement. You only need to use a single strand for your sock sample though as the double strand is used to knit 2 socks, not 1 double thickness sock.
If you want to create a double width blank just multiply the cast on number by 2. In my example I would cast on 102 stitches (51 x 2 = 102).
Don’t be put off by the maths. It’s really not that hard and the more accurately you measure and calculate the blank width the better your patterns will turn out. I promise it’s worth it!