General Knitty Chat

Don’t be scared of knitting socks! Some common Misconceptions about sock knitting

I’m knitting socks at the moment. I love knitting socks but it wasn’t always the way, I was really quite a late comer to sock knitting. There were a number of reasons for this which I’d like to discuss with you today in case you feel the same………

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Aren’t hand knitted socks too bulky and sweaty for everyday wearing?

For some reason I had the opinion that hand knitted socks would be too hot and bulky to actually wear day-to-day. If you share this thought then please let me assure you that hand knitted socks are not bulky (unless that is the look you’re going for of course – and frankly, on a cold winter’s night who isn’t coveting a pair of toastie bed-socks?!) and nor are they sweaty. In fact, modern sock yarns are pretty amazing – for the most part they are a 75%/25% wool/nylon blend of smooth and breathable fibres which fit snugly and comfortably and have been specifically designed to wick moisture away from your feet so they don’t feel sweaty.

Check out the array of sock yarns at your LYS – I think they are designed to be tempting on purpose! All of those amazing colours together in one ball of yarn – it’s your chance to knit with colour combinations that you’d never dream of knitting with for any other garment. Sock knitting is big business, there are yarn companies who dedicate themselves solely (pun absolutely intended) to producing sock yarn, some companies go so far as to guarantee their yarn for 10 years – find me a sock maker who will guarantee the life of your socks for 10 years!

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For those of you who think you’re limited to wool/nylon blends you may like to know that you can now buy all kinds of fibre blends in sock yarn – cotton blends for summer, silk and cashmere blends if you fancy a bit of luxury, so get the image out of your head that a hand knitted pair of socks is a sweaty bulky mass too big to fit into anything except your Uggs.

Socks are so cheap to buy – why bother knitting them?

The second thing that put me off sock knitting was the utilitarian part of me who thought “I can buy 6 pairs of socks for £10 at M&S, why would I want to spend hours knitting myself a pair and spending at least £6 on the yarn?” I can’t believe I actually thought this way but I did, and to be honest, I don’t think I’m alone.

In generations past, one of the main reasons knitting was so popular was because it was cheaper to knit your family’s clothes than to buy them. Nowadays, with our discount shops and supermarkets full of cheap clothes this is not the case. Rarely would we knit ourselves a sweater as a cheaper alternative to buying one from a store. Knitting your own clothes is a nicer, better, more fun alternative but not a cheaper one. I guess that as socks are traditionally such an everyday boring garment they are quite far down the list of things knitters want to spend time and money knitting. But here’s the thing that made me change my mind – handmade socks are an investment piece – they will last you for years; in fact, you’ll get bored of them before they wear out. And during their life they will make you smile and feel uber-luxurious every time you put them on – how many plain black pairs of M&S socks have made you feel like that?

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And for those out there who are thinking “they’re only socks, nobody’s even going to see them, why bother knitting myself pretty ones?” I ask you to think back to the last time you wore some really nice underwear (hell, maybe even a matching set – remember those days?!) And think about how you felt. Did you care if anyone else was going to see it? If you’re like me – and seriously guys, nice, let alone matching underwear is a rarity these days – but on the odd occasion I can be bothered I do feel good about myself, maybe even just for the 5 minutes I spend getting dressed … but it’s a good start to the day and this is the way I feel about hand knitted socks. They feel like one of life’s little luxuries and I challenge you not to have a smile on your face or feel special when you pull them on in the morning.

Sock Knitting is really, really difficult

This was the third thing that put me off sock knitting at first. It just looked really difficult to do and involved terms and expressions that were alien to me and sounded like I’d need a degree in further applied mathematics to understand.

Can you believe I actually knitted a few pairs of gloves and STILL thought socks were beyond me?!!!

If you share this fear and would love to knit socks but think it’s way beyond your capabilities please please please let me reassure you on this. Sock knitting is NOT difficult……… OK, it is at first…… But didn’t you find knitting your first sweater difficult? Yes, of course you did, and your first pair of socks will be no different. There will be tears, there will be frogging, there will be more frogging and maybe even cursing but you will master it in the end and months later you’ll wonder what seemed so difficult in the first place. This is the way knitting is and we should all know that by now.

tkn46_books__sockknittershandbookThe internet is your best friend for sock knitting – there are so many blog articles, Youtube videos and online tutorials for sock knitting it will make your head spin; not to mention the help you can probably find at your LYS. The best advice I can give you is to find a pattern you like the look of and cast on. I favour cuff-down or top-down socks. There’s no sensible reason for this other than the fact that the first sock pattern I ever knit was for cuff-down socks so that’s the way I go now.

Knitting the leg is easy, it’s just a tube – if you can knit in the round you can knit the leg of a sock – no special skills required. Then, when you come to the heel, read through the pattern – twice, maybe three times. A lot of sock patterns (especially ones you buy rather than free ones) are written with the novice in mind and will take you through the process of knitting the sock step by step with clear instructions. You may find that after reading through the heel part of the pattern you are confident enough to have a go – maybe you’ll need to look up a couple of terms and techniques online, but I urge you to cast-on and get to the heel before reading through the rest of the instructions. Why? Because you’ll have spent hours getting that far, you’ll probably have fallen in love with the yarn and you’ll be more likely to push yourself to understand sock knitting and have a go at it rather than to read through a pattern before you start and decide it’s too much trouble and not bother casting on. You will thank me for this advice later (I hope!)

If you shared any of the misconceptions about sock knitting that I once did then I hope this article has helped you to re-think sock knitting and maybe even have a go. They really are wonderful things to knit. They give you the chance to knit with fun colours you’d never knit with for anything else, they are portable, they are (relatively) quick to knit, they don’t require a huge financial investment, they make great gifts – and people (knitters and non-knitters alike) are always Super impressed that you made them yourself!

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