Why Knit Socks

February 28, 2013

What made me decide to knit socks in the round on double-pointed needles as my third project? It was a cross between wanting to learn more while challenging myself to accomplish something new and a consistent topic of debate at Image

My first pair of knit socks…I’ve since learned a little and hope to not have as many ladders…Can you tell which one was my first?

KnittingParadise.com. I love learning new things, so socks appealed since they held many elements I had not yet tried. I also felt challenged by the debates of whether socks were as difficult as claimed or if they were as easy as some claimed.

To paraphrase Knitting Paradise forum posts I read nearly two years ago, some say, “Why bother? All the work, when you buy new pairs for cheaper than you can the yarn?” Some said, “I’ve knit half a dozen pairs(or a dozen), and love it. I rarely wear store bought socks anymore.” Some said, “They’re impossible! I just can’t get them.” Some said, “It was the first thing I learned to knit as a child; I don’t know why they taught me to knit socks.”

I’m working from the back to the front here. I commented on one of the forums that included “I don’t know why they taught me to knit socks first (as a young knitter).” I thought about this comment and considered some options. After all, clothing in mass production is a rather new concept when looking at history. In addition, mom, and possibly grandma were quite busy. Some may have been taught to knit socks first and so taught their child or grandchild or niece or nephew to knit socks first since that’s how they were taught.

I also considered that during times when people knit their own socks because they knew how and likely weren’t commercially available, the child may have sat at mom’s knee and bugged to learn to knit. If mom was knitting socks, or the child had worn through yet another pair, why not be practical and let the child knit their own socks. While it is a challenge to knit socks, I do see good reason to start with them, in some cases. After all, once you’ve managed knitting in the round, of what does one have left to fear?

Others say knitting socks are impossible, and at some points they seem to be quite difficult, sort of like untangling the yarn in the first place. There are points in the knitting of socks that do sound confusing. For some, knitting 8 stitches and turning when there are fourteen on the needle is just not acceptable. But I found with my first pair, as wonky as parts of them looked, I still figured it out. I only sought true help for the toe. Yes, I did have to rip out a row of stitches when turning the heel; I’d picked up the stitches at the wrong side of the heel flap. But my tortured heart and beloved sock project survived the frogging, (Rip it, rip it…), and we continued on to pick up those zany side stitches and knit it correctly. I haven’t had a problem with this since…I’ve only knit the equivalent of baby booties since(and 3 of them for a cactuar-a Final Fantasy video game character).  I wonder if this is where the idea that socks are impossible to knit comes from.

Moving on, to those who have knit a dozen pair, and rarely wear store-bought socks anymore…Kudos! I hope to join these leagues. They’re not cheap. I just bought a skein of yarn out of my income tax return (which I try to keep low, so I can have the money in my hand during the year), and the price of this yarn made me want to wince. However, good yarn and good socks should be worth the price, and she hand-wound the skein for me according to how I was going to knit it. When I told her it would be one at a time, on double-pointed needles, she set her yarn winder up and told me, “When I knit my first sock one at a time, I finished it, only to be disappointed that I had to do the exact same thing again.” I had found that too, I told her, but I figured then I was half done, and needed the second sock so I could wear them.  In addition, the second sock was much easier than the first. I knew where to look for the problem areas. I can’t wait to join the leagues of those who have knit a dozen socks and rarely wear store bought anymore.

Winding the yarn…similar in color to my next pair of socks…I’ll take a photo to add below here soon…
In addition, I’ve found small knitting projects like socks travel well, and make a great conversation piece. I try to keep a book I’m reading in order to facilitate lines at the post office or secretary of state as well as the doctor’s office. Since I’ve started knitting, I take my project with me nearly everywhere, so if I have some waiting time, I get to sit down and make progress on a project. It can be especially helpful when substitute teaching, as some days, you don’t do much at all. However, with substitute teaching, I’ve worked with active enough groups that I haven’t been able to get in a single stitch that day either. But this blog is about knitting, isn’t it?

Then there’s the practical question, ‘Why would anyone spend all that time and much of their frustration knitting socks when they can buy a package at the store cheaper?’ There may be as many reasons as knitters, or at least methods of knitting those darned socks we love. It does begin with love…we simply love it. For some, its the sense of accomplishment. For some, those socks are like a thousand little hugs for the feet. Can you imagine how you would feel if someone knit you the gift of socks and you found they were the best fitting gift you ever had? My best friend even knit me socks on the knifty knitter using worsted weight yarn, so they’re more like slippers, but I wear them even if they’re not perfect. After all, she cared enough to spend her time making them for me. They work best for around the house, and aren’t what I would have knit, but they’re special, and I think of her when I wear them.

In addition, the yarn isn’t that much more, and if you knit them well, these socks should hold up for years, or be able to be darned if they spring a small hole. Many people can’t do that with store-bought socks. Plus, I find the colors and varieties more interesting. In addition, I love the pattern work that you can knit into them. So, why bother? Because some days, it will have been the only way you stopped long enough to take care of yourself. Because when you knit them for friends or family who will appreciate them, you’ve a great gift for less cost than you likely would have purchased one. Because, some days, boring white socks without patterns just aren’t good enough and you’d rather have a pattern you knit into the socks because you liked it, not because some designer dreamed it up and had someone else create a print and dye the socks with said pattern.  Because, in the end, when you do anything good for yourself, you should step back and say “I’m worth it.”


2 Responses to “Why Knit Socks”

  1. I’m one of those dozen plus pairs folks 🙂 I’ve knit them over many years though, I think my first pair was done in 2007 or so. Some sock yarn is less expensive than others but still very sturdy – Kroy is one of my favorites. It’s super warm and inexpensive and wears like iron. I wear hand-knit socks nearly exclusively all winter. Another benefit is that they are a tiny project that can even be kept in the car for times when you are waiting somewhere. They are great for summer knitting too. I watch for sales and have even done test knitting for sock yarn so there are ways to keep cost down. (Asking for gift certificates!) Your socks look great and I hope you keep making them!

    • Thanks finngarianmama! You came to mind specifically while I was writing about the dozens of socks…part of me can’t wait. This time, I bought Heritage Cascade Yarns in Rainforest…I’ll get a photo of the yarn up soon…I promise.

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