I’ve knitted my first pair of socks. I know, I’m as surprised as you are. I hadn’t knitted for ages, and was so rusty that I actually had to look up how to do knit and purl stitches. So why did I suddenly embark on knitting socks? The short answer is that I fell in love with some yarn.
I read Lucy’s Attic24 blog, and — although she is an expert crocheter — she has started to started to post about knitting socks. I was intrigued and tempted, but at that point, it was no more than an idle interest. I can’t find it now, but I’m sure that at some point Lucy linked to West Yorkshire Spinners Signature sock yarn, and that was the point that I decided that I had to make some bullfinch coloured socks. I love wool as a fibre (even more so if it is locally-produced in the UK) for fabric and knitted garments, and when you add in a colour range that is taken from the colours of British birds (in the sense of birds that you find the British countryside — it includes peacocks), I’m practically yelling “TAKE MY MONEY!” at the web page.
Of course, there was a small problem: I hadn’t knitted for years (and then rather poorly), and I had never made socks. However, one interesting result of learning to sew, and sewing and drafting my own clothes has been that I’ve become somewhat fearless when it comes to crafts1. If I’m excited to produce the end product, I’ve discovered that I’m game to try learning to do new things with my hands. I’ve also found that a combination of free online tutorials (like Christine’s excellent Sockalong) and Craftsy video classes work very well for me, and I can manage to puzzle most things out by combining both.
Lucy Neatby’s class My First Socks was incredibly helpful. I combined that with various online resources on using the ‘Magic Loop’ method, which involves using a fairly long circular knitting needle (two rigid needles attached to a flexible cable) instead of for our five short double pointed needles (DPNs), which was the focus of the class. I used the pattern which came with the class, which was her ‘Simply Splendid Socks’ pattern.
As with sewing, there’s something addictive about handling real materials and wrangling them into 3D shapes. I had quite a bit to learn, but actually, knitting socks (at least, a basic pattern) isn’t that hard, even though it feels like magic, particularly when you turn the heel, and the shape starts to develop. I also really enjoyed the magic loop knitting, and felt less clumsy with the needles than when I last knitted on conventional needles. Self-striping yarn like this is also brilliant, because you get an exciting pattern emerging as you go, without having to do anything fancy.
My first socks turned out pretty well. They’re a bit uneven in places (that will improve with practice), and I think next time I will make them a tiny bit smaller so they are more snug, but they fit, they are immensely comfortable and warm, and have that wonderful feeling you only get from wool. Even better, I have bullfinch coloured feet, which gives me immeasurable amounts of pleasure.
I don’t think that I’m likely to start making large-scale knitted items like jumpers or cardigans. I’m a slow knitter, and I know that I prefer craft projects that produce quite quick results. That’s one of the reasons I enjoy sewing so much, because you can see your progress almost immediately, and most sewing projects can be finished in a week of working on it when you have free time. Socks are perfect because they are small enough that they don’t take long and have easily identifiable milestones (like finishing the cuff, or turning the heel) by which you can measure your progress. It also compliments sewing well, because I can knit in front of the TV or when travelling, which I can’t do with my sewing machine. Socks are a great portable project to pick up when you have a few spare minutes.
I’ve already got another ball of ‘bird’ yarn — kingfisher, this time — which is glorious, and I can’t wait to start my next pair.
Sadly only for crafts. It would be great if I was that confident and fearless in my professional life. ↩︎