Saturday, January 9, 2016

Why Knit Socks?

There are two threads in the Loose Ends area of the Ravelry forum lately that I have been looking at occasionally the past few weeks.  "Things I will never knit" and "Things that I am glad I can knit".  Under the "Things I am glad to knit" there are several entries for very useful, one of a kind, filled my need when I couldn't get something to do what I wanted, type entries. (A mostly fingerless mitt to stop a very young child from chewing on, swallowing or maybe even choking on,  the bandaid that was on their finger for example) but there are a lot of entries that actually match the "Things I would never knit".  Blankets, scarves, lace shawls, fingerless mitts, the list actually was pretty similar.

The one clothing item that seems to bring the most discussion is socks.  People love knitting them, hate knitting them, are ambivalent towards knitting them. People love wearing hand knit socks, hate wearing hand knit socks or are ambivalent towards wearing them. 

I used to sit firmly in the camp of "Why knit socks when I can buy 10 pairs in a pack at (insert name of discount or big box store here) for next to nothing?"  Until I started knitting socks.

So why even try to  knit socks?

My first pair of socks were knit because I refused to be intimidated by a knitting pattern.  Socks in my mind were hard to knit, first they are knit with thinner yarn than most of the sweaters I had been making up to that point, smaller needles, in the round and then that most intimidating thing of have to "turn a heel".  What did that even mean?

My first socks were not attractive.  I don't have any pictures but they were bright pink, either sport or worsted weight leftovers from a baby sweater, unshapely, uncomfortable and generally enough to make the cat laugh at my efforts!  But, as I said, I wasn't about to be intimidated by knitting, so I tried again and the second results looked more sock like and actually fit.

As time went by I discovered how many stitches per inch I found most comfortable and longest wearing. My first socks were knit from the cuff down, and that is still my "go to" way of knitting socks, especially as, after a while, the pattern became optional.  Not having to drag a pattern around with me while I was knitting and having a project small enough to slip in my pocket (or purse when I still carried one around) was a huge advantage.  With that basic pattern in my head I could try out new stitch patterns or techniques and have something useful when I was finished, instead of just another swatch floating around the house.

As time wore on I discovered that the hand knit socks my kids had lasted longer than the "buy many for a few dollar socks" from the store.  They fit better and kept our feet warmer in the winter.

So why knit socks?

Your reasons may vary, but here are mine :

1) They are a portable project.  You can carry it around with you to fill the time when waiting on other people.

2) Sock Yarn can be relatively inexpensive and easy to buy.  Compare the cost of a skein of sock yarn to the amount you will need for a full sized adult sweater and there is a huge difference in initial outlay!  Big Box Craft Stores have a (limited) supply of sock yarn and put it on sale regularly.  For less than admission to a movie, with popcorn and a drink, you can have hours of knitting enjoyment and warm feet afterwards!

3) Your commitment to the pattern can be short lived.  With nothing else going on, or if I am waiting for long periods of time on other people, I can knock out a pair of socks in just a couple of days.  Blankets, sweaters and scarves can all take up to months to finish.  And if my commitment to a certain stitch pattern doesn't last through two socks, well FrankenSocks are a thing!

4) You can experiment to your hearts desire with stitch patterns and colorwork.  Want to give lace or cables a try?  You can do that with socks!

5) They fit better than the store bought type.  Do you find that the top of your sock cuts into your calf after a day of wearing?  You can customize the top to make it fit just right.  Narrow feet? Decrease a few more stitches after the gussets. (I told you I knit mostly cuff down socks, reverse for toe up and increase less!)

6) They wear better.  I have two boys who wear work boots for some if not all of their school day.  Work boots are hard on feet and socks.  TOB has actually worn holes through store bought socks after a single wearing, but his hand knit socks last months before starting to show wear.

7) Turning the heel is knitters magic in action. It never ceases to amuse me.

8) Wool has it's own magical properties.  Wool will keep you warmer, but breathes so you don't overheat.  It will keep you warm while it is wet, so if snow does end up on the inside of your boots you will still have warm toes.

So my questions to you are:  Do you knit socks? Why or Why Not?


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