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Sock It To Me!

I'm the last person who should be blogging about socks. Mind you, I've bought plenty of them, and I wear them every day (I won't wear socks with sandals, but since I won't wear sandals it's not really an issue), I launder them (or at least put them in the laundry hamper), I even inadvertently create holes in them (sometimes around the heel, but mostly around the big toe, mine's apparently especially pointy and vicious) but I don't really knit them.

Oh, I try. I've knitted three so far, and by three I mean three left socks, all different patterns (or perhaps three right, or a 1-2 split, however you like to think of it). I hadn't worked my way up to doing a pair of socks yet, because, as I may have mentioned, I'm a process knitter. Knitting the second sock is boring, and it wasn't about getting more socks (I have so many socks), it was about enjoying the knitting.

Here is one of my rare finished socks:

Incidentally, it's on top of one of my rare finished quilts (I apparently only quilt once every five years, in summer, and if my husband's away visiting his family).

If you're considering socks, there are some pros and cons to take into account:


  • They don't take very long, especially if they're for people with petite feet.

  • After you knit the first one, you will have little problem following the pattern for the second one.

  • As with any knitting project, you can use a number of different techniques such as intarsia or Fair Isle.

  • There are a bazillion ways to create the heel, and it's kind of fun to experiment with the different techniques and see what feels right for you.

  • You can use magic loop, or two circulars, or double-pointed needles (DPNs), whatever works for you.

  • And when all is said and done, you get socks!


  • They take much longer than you feel they ought to (due to the lightweight yarn used), especially if they're for big feet.

  • After you knit the first one, you may become bored having to knit the second one—its the exact same pattern, urgh.

  • Most of the different techniques you might want to try have their own special "con," like making the sock less stretchy, or leaving floats that increase the possibility of snags from toenails.

  • You will always wonder if the heel you're knitting is the best option, given so many alternatives.

  • Because they're small, you're constantly having to negotiate switching needles or tugging magic loops ... there's none of that "in the zone" you can get on, say, a nice hat (I like hats) on 16" needles, going around and around.

  • When all is said and done, you get socks :-(

My current sock project is for my middle nephew, and because I love him, I know that I will finish his second sock. I will also make sure that he understands that this selfless, saintly gift is the equivalent of a trip to Europe or a small previously-owned car, in terms of my own complicated cost/effort equation (if I normally make $100 an hour, and who's to say I don't?, and I knit for 20 hours to make two socks, then those socks basically cost $2,000, I'm just sayin'.) Here is my project, midway:

I got tired of those point needles pretty darn quick, and investigated some alternatives. I hadn't realised some needle manufacturers made 9" circulars, which are perfect for knitting—and upon this discovery, I immediately ordered a set, and the knitting simply flew by. Here is the finished first sock, and note how different the colours appear by daylight (above) and artificial night light (below):

And here I am, midway through sock 2, using the little 9" circulars. I absolutely love them: turns out I don't particularly grip my ordinary needles past the first inch and a half, so these tiny needles connected by a cable feel perfectly comfortable for me.

As it happens, I know a sock person (i.e. she likes knitting socks, she's not made out of socks). What is she knitting? Socks. What does she want for a present? Why, sock yarn of course. We're awfully similar in a lot of other ways (two eyes, two legs, we both like musicals), but she's a sock person, and I'm not. At least, not yet. Although with 9" circulars at my disposal, maybe I'll get there some day.

Here are some tips in case you are considering becoming a sock person, or at least knitting your own first sock:

  1. The weight of the yarn is not as important as the material. Do not assume because a yarn is thin, it must be "sock yarn." If it has no nylon (or nylon-like material) in it, it will wear away into nothing almost immediately after being placed on your (or your loved one's) foot. Ordinarily I sneer at artificial fibers, but not with sock yarn. Nylon = strength.

  2. You must commit to toe up or cuff down. This is a nerve-wracking decision, usually complicated by a worry that one will run out of yarn before finishing the second sock. If you are a worrier, then choose toe up, since you can always make the cuff of sock 2 the teensiest bit shorter, but you can't shorten the foot section without the sock not fitting. Pro tip: I often add contrasting colours for the toe and heel just to be absolutely certain my precious sock yarn will last for both feet.

  3. If you want it to fit, you must rib it. My single favourite sock (which is, ironically, also my favourite single sock) has a rib the entire length of the sock. It clings to all my curves (I'm very curvaceous around the foot region, not so much elsewhere).

  4. But, if you're doing a rib, or other fancy stitch pattern, don't carry it under the foot. Nobody wants to step on cables or such like--keep the bottom of the foot in stockinette.

P.S. I haven't gone this far yet, but you can also knit two socks at the same time on the same long circular needle, apparently, which helps alleviate second-sockitis (or two sweater sleeves, for what it's worth). I tried to mentally knit my way through the instructions and got lost awfully quickly, but I know other people have managed it within going insane, so it must be doable.

Off the Needles:

  • Café Knitting (photos forthcoming ... it needs blocking)

On the Needles (and actively being worked on):

  • Sling Heel Socks (1 sock done, now 3 inches past the second toe)

  • Caldwell Vest (finished the armhole shaping on the back, now in the last plain bit ... of the first piece of a three piece garment)

  • Itineris Shawl (on the home stretch, tires are down, plane's about to land, only 1/2 the final strip to knit)

On the Backburner:

  • Another 1898 hat (it's just such good airplane knitting, I had to do it again. I've finished the band, and misplaced it)

  • The second Sophie's Universe blanket (Round 50)

  • A swatch of stockinette in white worsted (third of three needle sizes) for my Master Knitting Course

  • Persian Dreams Blanket (round 6 of Hexagon 9)

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