I hereby announce I have solved all your problems.
Okay. Revised. I hereby announce I have solved all your sock-knitting problems.
Double okay. That also might be an over statement. But I’m trying, okay?
To be completely up front, I’ve barely been knitting socks for a year, which might technically mean I’m not even a “sock knitter.” That said, since casting on my very first pair, I now ALWAYS have a pair of socks on my needles, and I’ve gained some insight.
For those of you stitching away toward Operation Sock Drawer-type sock knitting enthusiasm, the following unsolicited tidbits are thus offered as my words of wisdom on the matter. Take it or leave it. I love you either way.
(These socks are fresh off my needles, constituting my second pair of Man Socks knit in Madelinetosh Tosh Sock’s Whiskey Barrel colorway. I quite like the color for being boring brown. They are just plain ol’ ribbed in no particular pattern.)
Use Pointy, Metal-Tipped Needles
Until recently, I knit my socks using the magic loop method on Size 2 (US)/2.75 mm bamboo-tipped Hiya Hiya needles. As far as bamboo needles go, I’d say these are on the pointier side of the spectrum for a wooden-tipped needle. However…I went through two pairs this year alone due to breakages (I would argue once wasn’t my fault and the second time was definitely my fault) and, weary of buying not-inexpensive needles multiple times per year, switched to using my metal-tipped ChiaoGoo needles* instead.
I thought I had been cruising along at warp speed with the Hiya Hiya’s. Nope. I had been limping along on the Santa Maria and didn’t even know it. Now that I’m working with sharp, metal-tipped needles, my sock knitting is progressing at Mock Speed.
So, if you are a sock knitter and have been dedicated to working with wooden-tipped needles (even if they seem sharp), just try using a metal-tipped needle, whether you are using DPN or the magic loop.
Trust me on this one.
Knit Plain Ol’ Vanilla Stockinette Socks
I know there are five zillion and one gorgeous sock patterns floating out in the universe, many of them enticing and tempting and all that wonderful socky goodness.
Personally, I feel like my socks are hidden in some sort of shoe half the time and no one will notice my hard work on some fancy pancy stitch pattern. I’d rather save the complicated stuff for a shawl or something that might actually see the light of day.
As far as sock patterns go, I’ve stuck to simple stuff over the past year: ribbed, Hermione’s Every Day Sock, and numerous pairs of Blueberry Waffle socks. They were all free and easy patterns, suitable for a novice. Top down. One at a time. Nothing too complicated.
It wasn’t until I knit my first pair of straight-up stockinette socks that I realized how QUICKLY knitting a pair of socks could go. It’s like I blinked and they were (both!) off the needles.
After knitting many pairs of gifting socks (which I learned I prefer to do ribbed so I can fret less about the fit) and am focusing on knitting socks JUST FOR ME, I am just doing stockinette socks for the time being. All the pretty gradient, self-patterning, and self-striping yarns make them interesting and beautiful and I don’t feel like I am losing out by not working from a pretty sock pattern.
Walk and Knit
The other benefit of knitting simple ol’ stockinette socks is that it is much easier to walk and knit at the same time. I’ve tried walking and knitting with ribbed socks and it’s achievable…but walking and knitting with stockinette socks is much EASIER.
If you are anything like me (e.g., prioritize knitting over exercise and just about anything else) and also perpetually failing to achieve a higher state of desired personal physical fitness, let me suggest taking your socks on a walk during mild temperatures (my fingers get too cold during the winter to make this possible). I keep my socks in my Go-Knit* pouch and have made great knitting strides, although my waste band begs to differ.
Would you like another M&M?
Take Your Socks Absolutely Everywhere
Don’t just walk with your socks. Take them everywhere. I admit I have developed a sort of neurosis about leaving the house without my knitting. I barely ever do it. As luck would have it, as soon as I go somewhere without a knitting project I of course end up with an hour to kill that I otherwise COULD HAVE spent knitting.
So, the socks always go. They are small and uncomplicated and travel well. Road construction with lengthy delays? Knit socks. Waiting for an appointment? Knit socks. Inadvertently find yourself at a bar drinking a bloody mary? Knit socks. Someone else is driving and your are the passenger? DEFINITELY knit socks.
All those random rounds add up and, BAM, you have a sock.
Some neuroses pay off more than others.
Set a Daily Goal
I have been coaching a knitting friend through her first pair of socks. I can’t say we’ve made a ton of progress, but this is what I told her: just knit eight rounds every night. That’s about an inch (2.54 cm). After a week or so of that, you’re ready to turn a heel. DOUBLE BAM. Eight rounds is NOTHING. You probably spend more time than that thoughtlessly scrolling through Facebook.
Knit your eight rounds (or whatever goal you otherwise set yourself), and you can thank me later.
Knit Smaller Socks
I’ve noticed socks commonly come in patterns based off 64 stitches. For me, working on Size 2 US/2.75 mm needles, 64 stitches comes out WAY too big. I use 64 stitches for Man Socks only, or women I know to have particularly thick feet and ankles.
When knitting socks for myself or averaged-footed ladies to gift, I go with patterns that use only 52 stitches for a better fit. Fewer stitches=smaller socks. Smaller socks=less time.
If you need to knit a gift for a man in your life, consider a hat instead. In worsted weight. Save the sock knitting for smaller feet.
That’s all I’ve got, knitters (for now). I’ll be thinking good socky thoughts for you and your soon-to-be cozy feet. Happy knitting!
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