December 11, 2014

handcrafted | thoughts on knitting socks


Sock knitting was not a bandwagon I jumped on early in my knitting journey. It took me a good 5 years--and the gift of a pair of beautifully knit socks from my friend Eileen--to actually give sock knitting a serious try. My first attempts were met with confusion about turning a heel (I don't think it helped I was trying a tricky toe-up pattern) and frustration over picking up stitches to form the gusset. The sock yarn was put aside and I focused on things like cardigans and hats over the next few years.

I think the turning point for me was understanding short rows and discovering the beauty of Magic Loop (more on that in a moment) knitting. Handknit socks are incredibly comfortable and warm too; I wear mine almost constantly throughout the winter and a couple pairs inside my wellies when I have to shovel snow. I am a convert!

I have tried learning sock knitting techniques from books, but unlike sewing I do a lot better watching someone else demonstrate the methods. In my case this usually means YoutTube (though I have an amazing local yarn store that has offered advice on occasion). KnitPicks series is the one that I found worked best for me. This series really was a "lightbulb" moment for me, as all the parts of a sock are explained, and construction techniques patiently reviewed.


the entire playlist for Kelley's Sock Class series can be found here.

All of my socks are knit using the Magic Loop method with one (long--I usually knit with a 32") cable needle. I really dislike using double-point-needles (dpn's) because they have a tendency to slide out of my stitches. Once I learned the magic loop technique, I was hooked! I use it for just about all of my small circumference, in the round knitting.

I tend to prefer toe-up sock knitting at this point (I'm not keen on grafting), but I still knit an occasional cuff-down pair. I have found my favorite cast-on method is Tilly's stretchy cast-on. A normal cast-on method can be tricky since it doesn't build enough spring into the ribbed top of the sock, unless you space the stitches further apart on your needle as you cast on. I however have had mixed results with this, and I think in part it's because I knit rather tight. I like the linked method because it's easy to remember and provides a pretty stretchy edge. (Conversely, if you knit a toe-up sock, a stretchy bind-off is a good idea too! I don't have a favorite; there are a myriad of techniques to choose from!)

If you're a knitter, you know Ravelry is the place to find patterns. I admit, when the knitting bug bites I spend a bit too much time digging around there! But I have found some excellent sock patterns. I have a tag for ones I've favorited, but here are a few (free!) basic styles that I've knit and enjoyed:


  • Rye by Tin Can Knits - probably the easiest/quickest since it's knit in DK rather than fingering.
  • Hermione's Everyday Socks by Erica Lueder - simple to remember, all-over texture pattern!
  • Basic Ribbed Socks by Kate Atherley - I've knit this up a few times, and it's an easy pattern that is satisfying and the ribbing helps fit a variety of foot widths (good for gift socks!).
  • Area 51 by Louisa Sisson and Emma Grundy Haigh - admittedly, the only "lace" sock I've knit, but easy and accessible for those of us that hate lace knitting (and are geeks. I love that this pattern taps into some of my favorite nerdoms!).
  • Vanilla Latte by Virginia Rose-Jeanes - another super simple, ribbed style (I sense a trend here!), but I like the mix-and-match aspect of this pattern. Great for trying out different heel, ribbing, etc. styles.

I've discovered that while I enjoy the occasional complicated pattern, I do prefer the basic styles. Sock knitting--for me--is about relaxing and having a relatively quick project. I can whip up a pair in about a week of committed evening knitting, which is much faster than cardigans and sweaters.

Now yarn... I must admit while I stick to a pretty strict budget with most of my other knitting, sock yarn is where I indulge a bit more (especially if it's a gift for someone). I haven't found one yarn that I love and have used again and again, because there are lots of great sock yarns out there and I like trying a new one for each project! (I've started buying some smaller brand sock yarns ("indie" yarns, I guess?), and my gosh! The colors!!!) KnitPicks has some great options, and having used their fingering weight for sweater projects, I can attest that it's a very good bang for your buck.

As I'm still relatively new to sock knitting, I'd love to know what your favorite methods, resources and patterns are! What tips do you have for sock knitting?

7 comments :

  1. I am currently hoping to learn to knit in the new year, so reading all your musings on making socks is quite interesting! My sister has a Craftsy class on how to make a sweater, so my first big project will probably be that. Knitting seems like such an interesting, versatile craft, and I can't wait to discover the secrets behind it! Having inspiration like you and your immense knitting skills will definitely motivate me to really pick up the craft and run with it. There are SO many different possibilities and patterns, especially in the vintage/retro world!

    xo,
    -Charlotte
    boyerfamilysingers.blogspot.com

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  2. I knit the Rye socks last year for my son when he was 6 months old, but I haven't attempted any fingering weight socks yet, even though I've been hoarding patterns and yarn, lol. I have the Hermione sock pattern in my Ravelry library, but haven't seen these other patterns yet, thank you for sharing! :)

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  3. A simple pair of cuff-down socks is my absolute favorite, I go back to them again and again. Not only are they fun to make, but they are so comfy! I made one pair for my husband a few years ago and now that is all he wants for every Christmas/birthday gift. Another great thing about sock knitting is that you can get a pair out of one skein which means I can bust through my stash. This is my current favorite pattern http://www.ravelry.com/projects/jarvisle/basic-ribbed-socks. I just add on about an inch or two (depending) of 1x1 ribbing to the top for extra grip. Thanks for this post, it was a lot of fun and full of good info :)

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  4. I've knit two half pairs of socks, but never finished a set! I really need to work on finishing the matches for those poor socks. :)
    -Lauren

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  5. Thank you for sharing these links and video! I have been knitting for years, but generally stick with really simple projects. My husband has asked me to knit socks for him, but I have never tried, thinking it would be too difficult. Maybe 2015 will be the year I will give sock knitting a try! : )

    May you have a blessed day!

    -Sarah

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  6. Ooh, I totally get it! I'm also quite enamoured with socks right now. They're so much quicker and lighter, making them perfect summer knitting projects! ("Hello!" from Argentina) My first were worsted weight, which are super cozy and warm:
    http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/beginner-worsted-weight-socks-for-magic-loop-toe-up-or-top-down
    (The videos definitely helped)
    Now I'm on to "proper" fingering weight socks using the Fish Lips Kiss heel:
    http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/fish-lips-kiss-heel
    http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/climb-2
    http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/police-box-sox

    Have fun!

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  7. "Climb" by Jane Richmond is a simple toe-up sock. This pattern has been my first attempt at sock making and after finally figuring out the heel flap and such I realized how easy this pattern really is.

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