I told M yesterday after blogging that I had forgotten to take pictures of the single Braided Cable Sock before packing it up to ship. He didn’t say anything, got his box knife, slit open the box and then said, “You should have pictures and blog about it.” I see. This led me to thinking, which led me to science geeking–be glad you only know me virtually. So I present to you today a lesson in Sock Genetics.
Well, the background is a bit lurid and distorts the colors, and the camera angle makes the foot look very long, but we can still ascertain that this sock is comprised of a ribbed cuff, a braided cable with a garter-type rib, a garter-edged heel flap of some sort and a non-standard looking toe. From whence came this combination?
Looking through my hand knit sock drawer, I think I can deduce the parents of this sock as shown in Figure 2:
Figure 2: The Specimen Sock (center) with its two potential parent socks on each side.
On the left, we can see a braided cable sock with a ribbed cuff and a single knit stitch rib between braids. On the right, although harder to see, is a simple rope cable but a garter rib identical to our specimen sock. These data strongly suggest that these two socks are the parents of our specimen. However, our specimen seems to have evolved a more pleasing ribbed cuff that flows into the cable pattern more nicely than the grey parent (1×1 rib), and is perhaps less clunky than the pink parent.
Heel flaps can be very distinctive. Figure 3 compares the three heel flaps:
Figure 3: Heel flap comparisons among the specimen socks and its proposed parent socks.
All three socks have a garter edge to their heel flaps; it makes for a very nice transition to the gusset (see below). The grey sock has a simple slipped stitch heel flap–very functional. The pink sock breaks back into the rib from the cuff, but does again look somewhat clunky. Our specimen also returns to the rib, suggesting that this is a dominant genetic trait in a Mendelian manner.
Here in Figure 4, we can see how well the garter edge to the heel flap transitions to the gusset. In this scientist’s humble opinion, it is a most desirable trait. We also note, that this photo, even with its strange black hole at the bottom, does represent the sock colors most accurately.
Figure 4: A shameless show-off of a nice heel flap-instep-gusset design and execution.
Finally, the toe is often a distinguishing trait among socks. Figure 5 compares the pink and specimen socks. The grey sock has cabling until the toe and has a standard, grafted toe (data not shown).
Figure 5: Toe comparison between the specimen sock and the pink sock, a potential parent sock.
Both the pink sock and our specimen sock return to ribbing for the final part of the sock foot (above the top of the ball of the foot), clearly evolved for comfort to its wearer when the wearer is shod. It should be noted that a comfortable sock is more often worn, and being worn is generally considered the goal of a sock. Considering the sock toes, the pink sock clearly exhibits a standard, grafted toe as does the grey parent sock. Intriguingly, our specimen sock appears to have an entirely different toe! This may be due to a recessive allele present in each parent. Let’s try to get a closer examination in Figure 6:
Figure 6: A single point of a Star Toe of 3 Points.
A Star Toe of 3 Points! A Nancy Bush recessive trait. My, this sock might have what it takes to go places. Each parent must have a gene for the Star Toe of 3 Points, but it is masked by the more dominant Standard Toe gene. Our specimen sock must have inherited the ST3P gene from each parent, like some human children with blue eyes can have parents with brown eyes. Well, I wasn’t expecting that.
Clearly our data indicate that we have found the parents to our Specimen Sock. We hope that our findings are of use to the reader and sock knitter, and may help to explain, in some small part, the socks running out in the wild.