There is nothing like the feeling of hand knitted socks. Really. I promise. They are way better than any socks you could buy. They are warmer, much more fun and fit your foot exactly. Not they kinda sorta fit, cause you know, they have a lot of stretch to them. But they fit. Perfectly.
|Socks in Mohawk Wool from Every Day Knits|
Over the years I have made my fair share of socks. Some have lasted a long time, others…not so much. I have cursed and labored over a few pair, while others have flown off my needles. But each one has taught me something. Here are a few things that I have learned.
There are several ways to knit socks in the round – traditional DPNs, 2 circulars and Magic Loop. I am a big fan of Magic Loop, but what works great for one person may not for another. I recommend playing around with different techniques to find the one that is best for you. I personally get ugly ladders when I use DPNs. When I saw a friend knitting using the Magic Loop method, I knew that would be best for me.
Even with using the Magic Loop method, I still sometimes get ladders in my work. I would pull that first stitch so tight that I thought I would break the yarn at every turn (and actually did a few times). But I found out that it’s not the first stitch that matters. It’s the second stitch. It’s a whole math thing that a friend’s husband (a mathematical genius) explained to me. I was skeptical at first (what does this guy who doesn’t knit and teaches algebra know about ladders in knitting after all?), but I tried it his way. And well…he was right.
Next is gauge, but not in the way you think. Yes, figuring out your gauge is still very important (you want your socks to fit), but another factor in gauge for socks is density. The tighter your gauge, the denser your fabric will be. The denser your fabric, the longer your socks will last. This means using a smaller needle size (I can hear you groaning though the interwebs), but it’s well worth it.
If you are knitting cuff down socks, you will want to make sure that your cast-on is as stretchy as possible. One good way to do this is to cast-on on a larger needle. You can also cast-on over 2 needles to get a looser edge.
|Cast on over 2 needles with Alpaca Sox for more stretch in a cuff-down sock.|
On the flip side, if you are knitting your socks toe-up, you want to make sure that your bind off is loose – you will want to get the sock over your heel after all. There are several good bind offs that provide stretch including Jenny’s Super Stretchy Bind Off and Elizabeth Zimmerman’s Sewn BindOff.
You know how when you knit a scarf and you get to an awkward point, where it’s not so easy to flip the WIP, and at the same time, you can’t really twist it without feeling tangled? Yeah…that happens in sock knitting too. If you knit your socks cuff-down, you can fold them up inside the cuff as you go. If you are knitting toe-up, roll them up and keep the roll in place by using oversized stitch markers.
|Left: folded-up cuff on cuff-down sock. Right: rolled-up foot on toe-up sock|
Heels are important. For a long time I knit a short row heel. It’s an easy heel to do and doesn’t take much time (I can do one in about 35 minutes…I may have timed myself once or twice). But after a while I was noticing that I was wearing through those socks pretty quick and all in the same spot. It finally dawned on me that it was the type of heel that was my problem. Don’t get me wrong, I still love a good short row heel and for some people they are great. However, for my foot, they are a little too narrow and therefore the fabric wears out faster. I have since switched back to a traditional heel flap and gusset and am happy to report that my socks are lasting much longer.
Have you ever followed a sock pattern so faithfully that you find you get little holes where you pick up stitches for the gusset? Especially at the top of the gusset? Did you know that you can pick up extra stitches there and just knit a couple of extra decrease rows at the end of your gusset? Yep. No one will know. I promise not to tell any of the designers.
I find when working the foot portion of my socks that it is better to err on the side of caution and make them a smidge longer. There is a better chance they will shrink after many years of washing and wearing.
Darning. This is a topic that can divide many sock knitters. Some do it, some don’t. It’s a personal decision that only you can make. If you search Pinterest, you will find a ton of tutorials on how to darn socks. I admit that sometimes I darn my socks, while other times I just stand over the trash can saying ‘darn, I really loved those socks’ as I throw them out.
Wow…I still have about 100 things to tell you about knitting socks. But the most important thing is that you find what works for you.
Do you have some tips for me? I’d love to hear them.