Sock knitting. For the longest time, these words were so daunting to me. The stitches are so tiny. How do you shape it so that the heel turns? Picking up stitches.... yeah, no thanks. Seaming a toe? Pass. I would always look at handknit socks with wonderment and think, "Those are some talented knitters right there."
After a few years of knitting blankets and scarves, I got tired of knitting rectangles. So I decided it was time. I had to try and tackle a sock. People had told me that it wasn't as hard as I thought, but i wasn't sure if I could believe them. Last year for my birthday, my parents got me a kit that was the yarn & patterns to learn how to make three different types of socks. They also came with instructional videos to take me step by step through the process. My kind of learning. Thanks, parents!
It still took me about a year before I actually grew the nerve to give this a shot. I started with the first set of videos in the series.... a top-down smocked guernsey sock. This pattern, by Lucy Neatby, was beautiful. It wasn't just your average stockinette sock. It has a beautiful and simple stitch pattern through the leg and top of the foot to keep things interesting. My mom chose the same yarn and colorway that was shown with the pattern... Cloudborn Fibers Merino Superwash Sock Twist in Coffee & Milk. The yarn was so soft and squishy, I couldn't wait to cast on.
FIRST SET OF CHALLENGES
I think I restarted this project about 7 times because I couldn't figure out what type of needles suit me best. I decided I was going to try with DPNs. The pattern was written for DPNs and gave you instructions based on which of the four needles you were working on. So, I figured working with the same type of needles as the pattern was a safe bet. I found a set of aluminum DPNs in my bag that were the right size. And so I went... fumbling through holding so many needles at once actually wasn't my main issue here. The aluminum needles were so slippery, that they would just fall right out. I would immediately panic and try to carefully slip the needle back through the live stitches without dropping or twisting any. This happened a few times before I gave up on DPNS. I didn't have any bamboo ones in the right size to try because I typically knit too tight for those to work well for me.
Next up, magic loop. I am no stranger to magic loop... it is part of the reason I invested in an interchangeable needle set. So, I assumed I would be able to handle this no problem. I placed stitch markers where the pattern said each needle would be so that I wouldn't get lost, and was on my way. After knitting a few inches, I noticed I was getting huge ladders up the side of my work now. This was super frustrating because I typically don't have that issue. After going down a spiral on Google to figure out what was going on, I realized that once I completed the set of stitches on the first needle and had to spin around to the next needle, I was pulling the yarn too tight and making the last stitch on my first needle the size of the cable, not the size of the needle. Immediately, I had an "aha!" moment because I did notice that it was really hard to get some of the stitches over the join between the cable and the needle. I restarted my project a few more times, trying to focus on this tension without any luck.
So off I went to my local yarn store. Luckily, I have an amazing one just a few blocks down the road. I went to the desk and told them my problems. I asked if they would suggest wooden or bamboo DPNs for me. The nice woman working there told me she had the perfect solution... Addi FlexiFlips. She said they're her favorite for sock knitting. She even pulled out a set from behind the counter and let me use them for a bit to see if I liked them before investing (they're not cheap!). It only took me a few minutes to get used to them and I could tell that this woman just solved all my problems. I don't have to juggle four needles and I can keep the slick metal material that i love working with. Super bonus: I even had rewards dollars on my account there that would almost completely pay for my indulgence. Super excited, I walked on home and begun again!
THE ACTUAL SOCKS
Once I got going with these Addi FlexiFlips, I was on my way. I completed the 2x2 ribbing in no time, and was onto the smocked guernsey pattern. Thankfully, the video companion to the pattern taught me a quick way of using a darning needle to help wrap the yarn around the stitches when I needed to. This was a huge time saver for me! The leg went super fast and within a couple days, I was on to the heel flap.
Now, this was something I was super nervous about. I've never had to make my knitting turn and go in another direction. But once I watched the video and saw Lucy do it, I wasn't scared. Turns out it was super easy! Lucy's videos also helped me pick up the stitches and get everything back onto my needles. Another daunting task made simple. I have to say, I don't think I would have been able to complete these socks with such confidence if I didn't have the video companion. Everything from here to the toe was a breeze. I really started to enjoy the rhythm of the socks and couldn't wait to get home from work to continue knitting them.
The toe was seamed up using a toe chimney. So I had to switch to a scrap yarn and knit stockinette for a few inches. Then, i stuffed that into the sock, stuck my hand up there and held on to the chimney while grafting the toe. I decided to graft the toe in a contrasting color. Lucy suggested doing this on a swatch for your first time, but I was so excited to finish this sock that I just bypassed a swatch and hoped it would work. The contrasting color allowed me to really see what I was doing and make sure I grabbed every stitch. This was super important because the next step was to undo the toe chimney and remove it. If i hadn't grabbed all the stitches with that contrasting yarn, I would have had live stitches and risked my toe unraveling. Luckily, this didn't happen. Phew! The only downside is now i have a blue line across the toe of my socks. But eh, who's really going to see that besides me and my boyfriend anyway?
The second sock took slightly longer than the first sock, just because the excitement and intrigue weren't the same as the first time I was doing it. But it was still so cool to watch these take shape. I have such pride in my first pair of socks. My boyfriend was so jealous that he immediately asked me to make him a pair. So I took a break from my three-class sock course and made him a pair of simple socks. I had picked up a pattern a while back that happened to use all the same methods, but was a simple ribbed pattern instead of the smocked guernsey.
Overall, the yarn was wonderful to work with. My only complaint was I had some color pooling with the grey. It faded between the light and dark beige beautifully, but I would just get clumps of grey throughout. It was worse on the second sock than it was on the first. But, they're still beautiful and I am amazed that I successfully made them!
Moral of the story: don't be intimidated by socks. Listen to everyone when they tell you they're not very hard! But, also listen when they tell you that they are addicting. It is all true. I now want to make all the socks in the world.