Another Hobby Blog

Friday, March 17, 2006

About Socks

(My appologies for the delay in posting.. it's been quite a week: I've had almost no internet access (I'd be lucky to maintain a connection for 2 minutes at a time, and then when it failed, it could be days before I got another chance! .. also, my dryer kakked and I had to wait until this morning before the new one could be installed .. and I still need to make lemon meringue pie!)

(...On the other hand, Mia's wonderful yummy pecan-shortbread cookies have sustained me! :) I'm so glad Bethieee's willing to share! Mia cooks WONDERFUL things!! Thank you, Mia!)

Back to the socks: I am so excited to be involved in this round of SockapalOOOza!

There has been a great deal of excitement and interest building around my exploration with stranded colorwork for the pair of socks I am making for the exchange. (And let me tell you, I am as excited as the rest to actually see it coming alive!)

One of the respondents asked if I would talk a bit about socks.. maybe share some great ideas for beginner sock patterns!! .. Wow. That's a bit of an honor.. sure, I'll try. :)

Well, as it happens, patterns are not my forte. As you may have already noticed, I really don't follow patterns. Not that I Can't... (although I do seem to have more than my share of problems when I try...) but that I DON'T. There are exceptions: the Fiber Trends Huggable Hedgie that came in the mail from my SP spoiler!! Yay hedgie!! ... but now that I've made one Fiber Trends Huggable Hedgehog(tm), I will probably never knit a second one from the pattern. I'll take what I have learned, plus the inspiration and the excitement I gained from knitting the first one, and I will invent my own hedgehog. I'll keep the pattern around, of course, so that I can loan it out and use it to teach people, but in-between those duties, it will probaby collect dust.

Patterns frighten me. Patterns intimidate me. Patterns turn my brain into mush. Patterns make me feel like a complete idiot. Patterns are not my friend.

So instead of reccommending sock patterns, I'll talk about Socks themselves, and later I'll share the socks I have knit. :)

MOST IMPORTANT handknit socks are love. A beginner's pair of socks especially so!! A sock is made of thousands of stitches, each one formed by someone's hands. A sock is an investment of time and attention and energy. .. and when you're making the socks for someone else, especially someone you don't know very well, an investment of Hope.

When I joined up for SockapalOOOza, I did mention that I'd made a few pair of socks before, and that I'd even taken part in one sock exchange. So imagine my surprise when I discovered that my sock-sister was working with the beginners! It is not what I was expecting, and at first I was not sure that is what had happened... maybe the beginners' sock-sister also got some overflow or something?? hmmm.... but at this point, it is beginning to look like I did get put into the beginner's group after all..

..and I couldn't be more Thrilled!! I get someone's first pair of exchange socks!! handknit with hope and excitement and nervousness and determination!! So much investment of energy and personality!!! Yay! :) I can hardly wait to see what they will be like! :) :)

To my sock knitter: I trust you. :) You wouldn't have joined this exchange if you didn't think you had it in you to succeed, so I trust you. I can promise you that I will love the socks you send, whether you love them or not. I am really excited to find out who you are at the end of the exchange, and I hope that you are enjoying the sock-knitting journey!

I do hope I don't end up intimidating anyone with my own excited exploration of stranded knitting... After my success in the Knitting Olympics, I was eager to challenge myself again! I am actually very nervous about the socks I am knitting: will they work out the way I want them to? Will I get them finished on time? Will they make their recipient happy??

They are a huge leap of faith for me. I think I have made a total of 10 pair of socks. That's it: 10 pair. I am fortunate to have almost my entire history of socks available for photographing, so please let me introduce you to: My Socks! :)

Here they come, in order of creation:

1st pair of socks ever: Yarn- Regia. Needle size- 2 (probably) Gauge- 9 sts/inch stockinette

Take notice of the matching stripes throughout the socks.. matching at the heels, matching at the toes... in this case, it is not an indication of skill! It is more likely an indication of an anal-retentive need to control.

I had only ever knit flat things before this pair of socks.. and not all that many of those, really. But Bethieee was knitting socks, and she swore it was easy, so I had her show me how. She suggested I try following a pattern, but I swore that I couldn't, wouldn't, and might as well just give up now if that was what it was going to take to get a pair of socks. She finally capitulated and talked me through the process one step at a time:

1- cast on loosely (this is for a cuff down sock) enough stitches to encircle the leg at the height you want the top of the sock to reach.
2- knit some ribbing in the round. Maybe an inch or so high. (this sock was made before we decided that 2x2 ribbing gave a nicer finish than 1x1).
3- knit in the round the rise between the top of the sock and the top of the ankle.
4- knit back and forth on half the stitches a short-row heel following the instructions from... (I'm not sure which book we referred to at the time, but there are good instructions in several sock books, including: Simple Socks Plain and Fancy by Priscilla A Gibson-Roberts, The Twisted Sisters Sock Workbook by Lynne Vogel, and Folk Socks by Nancy Bush).
5- knit in the round from the heel to the bottom of the little toe
6- IMPORTANT: make sure that when you start your toe, it's not at right angles to your heel! ;)
6a- knit a toe with (either) the short-row techinque (requires grafting after completion of the toe)
6b- OR knit a toe with paired decreases at each edge of the foot every other row. (can be reduced far enough to eliminate the need for kitchnering.)
7- repeat the process for the second sock. Hope you can remember what you did for the first one or that you can translate the notes you took!!

2nd pair: yarn- Regia, needles- sz2, gauge- 8-1/2 sts/inch stockinette

For this pair I used a gusset-and-heel-flap construction instead of a short-row heel. (Several years later, I have come to the conclusion that I have a mild preference for the gusset-and-heel-flap construction because it doesn't slip around so much on my foot when I'm wearing it. :) )

In the second pair, the anal-retentive need to control gets worse.

As a creature who seeks comfort in patterns and repetition, the first pair of socks drove me nuts. .. especially since at the time much of my environment was in chaos and in my knitting I strove to create order.

Look back at that first pair of socks, will you? I bet you didn't even notice the problem that drove me absolutely NUTS. Count the color stripes.. (pink, orange, red, pink, orange, yellow, red, pink, orange, yellow, red, pink, yellow (3 stripes, no less!), red (1 stripe??), pink (3 stripes again), orange, red, pink. WHAT THE ?????)

In the second pair, I fixed the problem. Using the same yarn, same needles, same gauge, plus one extra ball of yarn, I got a very different pair of socks. I cut out the offending stripes that were in the wrong places and worked the cuffs, heels, and toes in Regia's co-ordinating yellow.

After having a chance to wear both the first pair and the second pair, I decided the first pair was for Bethieee. It fit her slightly better, and she didn't mind the screwy color progression at all.

Now I look back at this second pair and just shake my head. Really. .. all those extra ends to weave in just because I could not tolerate the stripes in the wrong places!!

3rd pair: yarn- Lorna's Lace, needles- sz 1, gauge- 11 sts/inch stockinette. (I broke quite a few Brittany DPs and permanently warped several Crystal Palace bamboo DP's on these pairs of socks!)

I loved working with the Lorna's Lace yarn!! compared to the Regia, it felt luxurious and soft! WOW!! what a difference! ... so now what am I going to do with all the other Regia I bought before I knew better??

No ribbing at the cuff this time! Tried a turned and hemmed edge instead with little picots at the turn. Short-row heel, short-row toe (kitchnered)

The yarn that remained after the pair of socks was made I doubled and knit on (sz 4?) larger needles into a headband. I cast on too many stitches, so it isn't really snug around my ears. It doesn't stay put, and it's not really wide enough. Maybe some day I'll pull it back out and redo it with fewer stitches around, a 2x2 rib, and wider top to bottom... on the other hand, it would probably be easier to just make a new headband from entirely new yarn. ;)

4th pair: Regia again, size 1, gauge 10 sts/inch stockinette. (important note: Regia is a slightly thicker yarn than Lorna's Lace Shepherd Sock!)

turned picotted cuff with beads in the picots. heel and toe both done in short-rows. cuff, toe, heel in contrasting (fair-isling) colorway. still anal enough to match up the stripes.

From this pair of socks I learned: a tighter gauge does not make a better sock! This sock is so stiff it almost stands up by itself, and it is so tight that it almost does not fit over my heel. Also, it is so tight that it does not breathe: my feet get very hot and sweaty in this pair of socks!


the aborted 5th pair would have been The Stripey Socks (which recently got ripped and became The Stripey Scarf). The gauge was much too tight again, so it would not have been enjoyable to wear anyway.

The aborted 5th pair (worked much too tightly!!) did so much damage to my hands that for several years I did not work any more socks in fingering weight yarn.

During this span of time, however, I made a couple pair of socks from worsted weight yarn naturally dyed with blackberries and other plants for the Rennaisance Faire costumes.

RF 1st pair: yarn- Lion brand Fisherman's Wool (natural dye), needle: sz4, gauge: 6-1/2 sts/inch stockinette

designed my own knee socks using the basic concepts I'd learned from the smaller socks. :) Darn good job.. I love these socks!

But Bethieee fell in love with them too, and I figured I could make more, so I gave them to her. (darnit!!) They're a super color, they fit me well enough, and they're just... oh, drat. she won't give them back, either!

The gauge is a little bit tight, but not uncomfortably so.


RF 2nd pair: yarn- Fisherman's Wool again, needle: sz 4, gauge: 6 sts/inch stockinette.

These ended up too big for me, so I finished them for Keithr. :) He needed socks for his RF garb anyway, especially since his outfit shows his socks! (My skirts really don't, so I can get away with storebought knee socks). Unfortunately, I don't know where he's put them right now, so I'll have to get a picture later.

RF 3rd pair: yarn- Fisherman's Wool, needle: sz 6 or 7, gauge: 5 sts/inch stockinette.

From this pair of socks I learned that a gauge that is too loose will not stay up without a garter. Also a loose gauge slips around on the feet more and will wear holes sooner.

5th pair: yarn- Cherry Tree Hill (I think?) from my SP6! needle- 2, gauge- 8 sts/inch stockinette.

From this pair of socks I learned that when you get a good gauge and a good yarn, the sock is exquisite!! :)

yarn- Cherry Tree Hill (I think?), needle- unknown, gauge- 7 sts/inch stockinette

This is not my work.. this is the pair of socks I recieved from Cindy in the SET exchange! :) I LOVE this pair of socks!!! For one thing, I did not make it! That means I don't look for the things I could have done differently.

the heel rise is done in an interesting slip-stitch pattern, and it is a very comfortable, cozy pair of socks to wear!! Thank you, Cindy!!!

The pair of ribbed socks I made for my SET pal. :) I think they turned out pretty nicely. :)

6th pair: yarn- unknown sock yarn, needle- sz 1, gauge- 12 sts/inch 2x2 rib

From this pair of socks I learned the obvious: 2x2 rib takes more yarn than stockinette. DOH! ... I am almost done with the sock, it fits well, it feels cushy (although it might also be too thick to wear inside a shoe, now that I think of it...), and I am going to run out of yarn before I run out of toe. .. so I'm thinking about what I want to do to fix the problem. In the meantime, I'm working on the sockapalOOOza project!

As you can see, I am basically a one-trick pony. I've made minor alterations here and there, but I've never followed a pattern, so I'm not sure which one(s) to suggest!

Basic socks make me very happy. :) Fancy socks might make me happy, too, but I don't know. I haven't yet made a pair of fancy socks, and I haven't yet tried wearing a pair of fancy socks!

I love lots of colors. :)

I am confident that I will love whatever pair of socks is made for me! :)



  • At Fri Mar 17, 08:15:00 PM PST, Blogger laurie said…

    must admit i'd wondered how you ended up in the beginner's're far from one! (despite your being *coughanalcough* ;o) fussy about the stripes lol...i'd have loved to have watched that)

    i think your math is a wee bit off though...MY socks are/were your sixth they only count if YOU wear them? ;o) they did in fact 'turn out pretty nicely' (understatement alert!) ...i love them :o) response to your email soon, i haven't been online enough lately to do so

    let's see if my comment will stay this time...for some reason they keep disappearing :o(...if it does this time i'll take the hint and quit trying


  • At Tue Mar 21, 06:26:00 AM PST, Blogger Heide said…

    Holy cow BatMan, that is more socks than I've probably knit in my life. I am amazed!

  • At Mon Mar 27, 04:02:00 PM PST, Blogger Janey said…

    Darn and double darn! (No pun intended.)
    I wish I'd had Bethilee's #6 to guide me when I was knitting my first pair of socks. (#6 is the one that says: IMPORTANT: make sure that when you start your toe, it's not at right angles to your heel!)
    I ended up with one sock having a right angle to the heel and and the other one was not at right angles.


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