Sorting through my stash revealed approximately 145g of natural/cream colour Aran yarn. I remember buying the unbranded skeins in a Bradford wool shop in 1981 or thereabouts (in what seems like another life) for an Aran jumper. I think it was something like 40% wool, 60% acrylic. The jumper shrank and felted a very little each time I washed it, however carefully, until I gave up and gave it to a petite friend who wanted a thick jumper
I browsed on Ravelry for aran-weight, ankle socks patterns. Cursing myself a bit for not having learned to do toe-up two-at-a-time, which would have allowed me to knit up the leg until all the yarn had been used, I settled on one by Drops with a cable design down the instep. Even though I didn't know the yardage of the yarn, I reckoned that 145g should be enough for a pair of ankle length socks. First problem - no 4.5mm dpns. Typical, isn't it? Even after adding to my sets of needles, I still don't have the size I want to start a project. I found a set of four 5mm dpns and decided to go with those. A swatch (20 sts/26 rows to 10cm) revealed that I would probably have to go up to 5.5mm dpns to get their gauge with their suggested yarn, so I cast on for the middle size, given my chunky feet and legs, and hoped for the best.
I had to read the pattern through a couple of times first. It's not as if the pattern is complicated, but I found the way in which it's written and laid out difficult to follow and frankly irritating. Looking at some of the pattern and project comments, it seems a number of people found the same. I read M1 and further on, M2. What? Make 1 or 2 stitches? Why? Then I realised the charts were labelled M1 and M2. You get to the bottom of the heel flap and have to go back up to read a previous section of text above the main pattern to find the heel decreases. You reach the toe decreases, but there's a section to read through first before you can carry on. The text says work M2 over M1, but I think that 'over' means 'instead of' because there is no way to work the cable pattern and decrease on the same stitches. The decreases create a nice leaf shape at the end of the cable.
Several people also noted the baggy cuff, but mine was enormous and the number of rows made the back of the sock slouch downwards. So I frogged and cast on the smallest size. I got as far as the pattern start and decided I didn't get the two rows of knit to start, or like the change from the rib to the pattern, so frogged again to think about what to do.
After these couple of false starts, without which this would undoubtedly have been a fast knit, I decided not to follow the pattern so closely and decided on the following:
Cast on 42 sts.
6 rounds knit (instead of 2, creating a thin reverse stocking stitch curly top, and this could have done with being 9 rounds, perhaps. Or additional rounds of rib, and if I'd had the smaller size needles, I would probably have switched sizes to make it a little less baggy).
6 rounds P3, K3 rib. I started the rib with the purl, so that the purl panels continue unbroken when the pattern starts.
6 rounds with instep pattern (1 pattern repeat)
14 rows heel flap - I may have been able to get away with 12
Pick up 10 sts on heel flap edges before and after instep pattern row 7 (although if I went for 12 rows, I guess I would pick up 8 sts each side).
Start gusset decreases on instep pattern row 8; K2tog before the instep pattern section, SSK after, decreasing on even rounds until there are 21 stitches on the sole section again.
A total of 48 pattern rows - 8 pattern repeats, then toe decreases. I could probably do with fewer, and the 'leaf' shape would still work if the toe decreases were started after a pattern row 4 instead of a full pattern repeat.
Row 10 of toes S1, P2tog, psso, but somehow (watching TV and not concentrating!) I ended up with 6 stitches top and bottom on the first sock and 7 on the second. I Kitchenered, but think perhaps a gathered toe as in the original pattern would work better.
All these modifications set me wondering; how many changes does it take before you effectively have a different pattern?
They were quite big on me when I first tried them on, and I could perhaps have gone down to fewer stitches in the foot as suggested in the pattern. Testing for shrinkage, I gave them a quick hand wash and they smelled so much of wet wool, I wondered if the yarn might be 60% wool. They didn't seem to shrink at all, but they are baggy enough to cope with a little. The cream colour means that they are definitely socks for when I have my feet up! They're nice and warm. All I need now is a cup of tea (and perhaps a woodburner to warm my toes by!).