I’m an Accomplished Sock Knitter… but I used to suck at at it

Even as a baby, beginning knitter I had big plans for making my own socks. At the time I was struggling with that pesky purl stitch but I knew, someday, I’d make socks. Lots and lots of socks for my poor semi-permanently-frozen feet. (I’m a big wimp in the winter and I’m always cold. Have I mentioned that? Probably only 100 times.) I’d tried making crochet socks once. Once was enough to cure me of that. Socks have to be knitted. So I took up knitting, in large part, to make socks.

“Socks baby! Here I come.” said past-tense Jenn.

The first sock I made was a total disaster. It wasn’t a sock at all. It wasn’t even a tube. It certainly wasn’t meant for any part of the human body. Meh, I thought. It probably had something to do with how I’d never knitted anything in the round before. No big deal. I made a pair of leg warmers and got really good at going around and around. And around.

Then I was ready for sock knitting! I got a new pattern! I got pretty yarn! And I ended up with another disaster. Huh, I thought. This sock knitting seems a bit tricky.

Then this thing happened where my mom sent me alpaca batts that she had cleaned and carded herself. The batts were from a little alpaca named Kahlua. Guess what color he was? The color of gorgeous. He was gorgeous creamy coffee and I had him in my hot little hands.

“I’ll make socks for mom!” said past-tense Jenn. “From the batts she gave me!”

Yes, I thought that. Even though I hadn’t yet successfully made a sock, I still thought I could do it. I thought I could do it in time for her birthday no less. Why? Because I’m a crazy person.

I spun the yarn as a worsted weight single and I spun it slooooow. I wanted it to be perfect. Then I bought I book, a whole book, that was like a step by step how to make socks even if you are a dummy book.  I started my new sock with Kahlua. When I got to the heel I messed it up. So I carefully ripped back and started again. Messed it up. Started over. Messed it up.  Again.

The yarn, being handspun, was toast. It couldn’t stand up to that much work and re-work. I had ruined it. I had ruined Kahlua.  I called mom and confessed that I had wasted all of her hard work trying to make a stupid pair of socks and now she would be getting a lousy store-bought gift for her birthday. I cried on her too.

(Btw, mom just shrugged it off. She said something like “Oh well,” and “that’s okay,” and “I’m carding the next batch for you, sweetie. It should be in the mail in a few days.” But I still cried.)

Then I marched down to my LYS with the book they had sold me and my mangled not-a-sock and demanded that some one, any one, Help Me. The store clerk working there told me socks really were too much trouble and not to bother with it. But a customer over heard me ….

(Yeah, that really did happen. I couldn’t believe it. How could she say those things while working in a yarn store??!! I guess she couldn’t because I’ve been back there many times and I’ve never seen her again.) 

… and took pity on me. She told me to buy Knitting Rules!: The Yarn Harlot’s Bag of Knitting Tricks and use the sock recipe that starts on page 131. She gave me many kind words and a big burst of confidence and she made the knit sock dream seem possible again. So I bought Knitting Rules, and a ball of yarn. I went straight home and got to knitting.

And I made a sock. Oh.My.God. I made an actual sock. I made it on the first try. Working through the sock recipe was easy. It was so easy and made so much sense that I finally understood just what I had done wrong in my previous attempts.

So I made the second sock right away. Guess what? They didn’t fit me. They were too big. Do you think I even cared? Nope! I had a pair of socks! I still have them in fact. I wear them over other socks and treat them like house slippers.

They’re old. They’re pill-y. I still love them. I’ll be wearing these babies until they fall apart.

The next pair I made was, of course, for mom. Finally. She got her socks for Mother’s Day I think. They were from handspun alpaca, jut not from Kahlua. They even fit her, and how awesome is that?

I’ve been making socks ever since. After a few pairs with the sock recipe I was brave enough to try other patterns again. I’ve made all kinds of socks. Nancy Bush talked me into trying out historic sock making techniques.  I got sucked up in the excitement of Cat’s Sweet Tomato Heel Socks. When Fish Lips Kiss heels were what the cool kids made, I made those too.

What I like best now are toe-up, magic loop, two-at-a-time socks with an easy-peasy short row heel. I’ve made so many that these days I can grab a ball of yarn, no matter the weight, and cast on and go. I don’t work from a pattern. I’ve developed my own version of the sock recipe.

This weekend I made myself a new pair. It was sort of a reward for getting Mary Lennox finished up.

Check out those puffy stitches! These are made with Lambs Pride Bulky on size 9 needles. Lolol. No I can’t actually wear them inside my shoes. They are so thick! I’m wearing them to bed. These are bed socks and my toes have never been warmer.

I’ve gone from thinking knit socks would defeat me to knowing I can make any kind of sock in any way I like. I have lots and lots of hand knit socks in my sock drawer. But I don’t have enough. Not yet. I probably never will have enough and that’s okay.

P.S. I found out (much) later that I am not the only knitter that conquered the sock thanks to the Yarn Harlot and her sock recipe. When Stephanie Pearl-McPhee (her actual name)  goes on book signing tours, people bring her their first pair of socks to show that they did it. She takes pictures of them and posts them up on her blog.  I’m just one of thousands of desperate wanna-be sock knitters whose sanity was saved by that recipe.  If you want to try socks for the first time, start there.

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6 thoughts on “I’m an Accomplished Sock Knitter… but I used to suck at at it

  1. Yes, I thoroughly understand the ‘sock thing’. I started knitting them this year, having become addicted to knitting in the round, and have now produced wearable items…..though it did take several false starts. There is nothing quite like a hand-knitted sock, provided that you get the toes smooth of course!

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    1. I meant to add too that I never got on with double pointed needles too well and had nobody to help me with magic loop having only seen it online and couldn’t get the hang of it. Then I discovered Addi’s tiny 20cm circular needles – neat, and no ladders like I got with DPNs. I usually move to a 30cm after turning the heel, then back to 20cm when the stitches reduce.
      I have not tried the toe-up method yet, but that should keep me occupied over the winter.

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      1. Good to hear that you found a method that works. There is no wrong way to knit! Part of what I love about hanging out with other knitters and crocheters is seeing all the different ways to do the same thing.

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