I love socks. Not as much as my daughter, who would probably buy a pair a day if she had the opportunity, but I do love socks. I also consider them one of the most useful things to knit. I mean, you can only find so many scarves useful before they start just taking up room in the closet, but everybody wears socks, right? You wear your socks till you wear them out, and then you need more.
So, it was only natural that I would no sooner learn to knit, than I would want to learn to knit socks.
I’ve had friends who knit tell me that a beginner really shouldn’t tackle socks. Socks are complicated. There’s a lot of stitch counting, increases and decreases, heel turning and joining gussets. Plus, socks are round. You can’t just take a pair of straight single pointed plain old knitting needles and knit a sock. You need some way to make them tubular (and suddenly the theme song of The Exorcist is running through my brain). This means learning to knit either on circular needles, or double pointed needles.
Most of the tutorials on the Internet … and let me tell you, the line-up of how-to-knit tutorials, and sock tutorials, on the Internet is unending … start you out on double pointed needles (DPNs). A dear, dear friend of mine (visit her Tangled and Warped blog … see the right side bar) warned me that at first knitting with DPNs is rather like wrestling a porcupine … but you get used to it.
I’ve now completed my fourth scarf (three of which were successes, and one of which got turned into a hood to hide some of the utter destruction caused by learning to knit continental style on needles too large for the yarn). So, in my classic obsessive way, I found a sock tutorial site online that I really like, picked up a set of seven inch #6 double pointed needles, and I’m … wrestling porcupines.
I actually think I’ll prefer the circular needles. I’m not just saying that because my hands are being turned into a spaghetti strainer by the DPNs. I have been watching videos and reading tutorials for a while now, and I find that I’m just drawn to the two-circular-needle style such as promoted by experts like Cat Bordhi. She’s got a line-up of sock knitting books out that have peppered my Amazon wishlist, and I love the humorous style she portrays in her YouTube videos.
So, I’m starting out on larger DPNs and worsted yarn, which will really make more of a slipper than a sock that you can fit into a shoe … or that I can fit into a shoe, anyway, since with my foot the way it is even that is a task and a half. They’re good for practice, though, and learning to juggle about three thousand very sharp points. It feels like three thousand, though in actuality it’s only six plus the two on the working needle. So far, I’ve got the cuff and heel flap done. Today, I tackle what is reported to be the most difficult part of sock knitting … turning the heel. It really doesn’t look that hard. It will just take a lot of concentration.
I’ve discovered that I need to take notes, lots of notes, as I progress. Knitting in the round turned out, as I struggled to work around all of those extraneous needle points, to be a lot harder to focus on than straight knitting. While I’d done k2 p2 ribbing before in practice, and it’s very simple, I kept losing track of whether I’d finished up with a knit or a purl on each needle. Once I started making a note of that on paper, the pattern straightened out. I’ve got sticky notes all over the place with kkp|, kkp|, kkp| all over them — marking the rows on the cuff and making sure I kept the pattern straight. Once I get the hang of this, I’m sure it won’t be necessary to do this any more, but it helps for now.
I also had to go with a different hold of the thread than I’ve gotten used to. I’m much more comfortable with continental knitting than english style now … but my yarn hold doesn’t work that well with the DPNs. My fat fingers were getting in the way. Thus, the process is very slow right now.
But, despite all the fumbling and fussing, and the fact that I hit a huge yarn tangle in the skein of worsted I was working with and wasted three hours the first night untangling it … I’m knitting a sock! How cool is that?
I was warned that sock knitting can become an obsession. I think I can see why. I’m finding it frustrating and satisfying at the same time.
And I can’t wait to graduate to circular needles.