Sunday, May 15, 2011

Rock the Socks

Now that spring is (mostly) here, I'm in a bit of a knitting funk. I can't settle on a project. Oh wait, I never can settle on a project. . . hence the random bags of partially complete sweaters or hats or creatures.

I think part of my spring indecisiveness is that most of my major projects are straight up wool, and wool isn't that fun to knit in the spring and summer. 

Luckily, fibers have come a long way since the days when you could pick between scratchy wool or less scratchy wool. The possibilities are endless - cotton, linen, wool, soy, bamboo, organic, blends, acrylic (ugh), and even re-purposed or non-traditional materials (like old long johns, for instance). A few years ago my mom came across a soy-polypropylene blend, Wick, from a company here in Maine. It is perfect for socks, and I eventually made two pair from the yarn. I'm debating using more to make a cute tank top or cami.

obsession in action
Luckily, too, I have a current obsession with knitting socks.

Socks can be daunting to some knitters, especially those who struggle with reading patterns. The hardest part for most people seems to be the heel, though if you read and follow the directions step by step, usually it all works out. Just trust in the pattern. I promise.

There are many styles of socks: top down, toe up, short-row heels, gusseted heels, tapered toe, rounded toe, three needle, magic loop, flat-knit with seams. Everyone develops their own preference. I dig the three-needle, top down style for the short sneaker socks I've been making lately, and I like toe up socks for longer socks with a stitch pattern (cable, etc.) up the calf.

a solo sock (not sure where its
mate is) from yarn from grandma;
and a pair of Wick
Sock-specific yarn is often fingering or sport-weight which means it's a much thinner strand/weight of yarn, requiring smaller sized needles, though you could use just about any yarn within reason, or that a pattern called for. A lot of companies sell yarn that self-stripes (or self-pattern's), sometimes called magic striping. I like these - they eliminate the need to work several skeins at once, and generally result in fun-looking socks. The downside is that sometimes the pattern or striping or color combination isn't fantastic. But, socks are usually covered up for a majority of the time they are being worn, so I suppose it really doesn't matter. 

I think it is important to have fun socks. Case in point: knee socks, my must-have for the winter months, particularly warm, woolly socks in especially fun colors and stripes. Smartwool makes wool knee socks in great colors and patterns - it is hard not to buy too many of them. And when I was out in Portland, Oregon, several years ago, I discovered the fun and whimsical knee socks from Sock It To Me.

knee socks in lemon drop!
I've tried my hand at knee socks, though I need to figure out how to get them to stay up better. They tend to sag over the day, and I end up with '80s slouch action going on. Maybe my calves are too big (which explains the difficulty in getting ski boots to fit nicely). I could probably add a thin elastic thread to the upper leg, as long as it didn't make the fabric too bulky. These were made from Lion Brand sock yarn, and I think I was able to get the pair from one skein, as it is a fairly large skein, with significantly more yardage than typical skeins of sock yarn.

socks for mom
I've done a couple of pairs for others in the past few years; before my sister started knitting, I knit up a pair for her from yarn our grandmother gave her, and I've made a pair for mom - an experiment in toe-up, cabled socks (though her feet are a half-size or so bigger than mine, and I think they were a hair tight. Sorry mom!). The nice thing about toe-up socks is that you can knit them as long as you want (or can) them without worrying about running out before the toe gets closed up. Of course, you can always buy more yarn - though that eliminates the challenge! As well, I've knit several pairs of infant/baby socks, probably one of the fastest things to knit.
misc. leg warmers
just like classic
athletic socks!
 I've also made several pairs of leg warmers; one pair with some random bulky yarn, one with some sock yarn my grandmother gave me for Christmas several years ago, and a third pair for a craft trade with my friend K, in Driggs. I have the makings for another pair similar to K's, but in white with three blue, purple, and green stripes on top. For me, of course.

I recently made the discovery that I can get a pair of shorty sneaker-socks out of a single skein of one of my favorite brands of yarn by Knit Picks, Felici (they used to make a similar variegated one, called Dancing, but I haven't seen it on their site lately). Score. I currently have five pair. And counting. I won't need socks for years!
stripey shorties, clockwise:
two pair dancing
one pair felici
one pair random sale yarn
one pair wick
The pattern I've been using, Classic Socks, is really simple and straight forward, and I nearly have it memorized. It is published through Yankee Knitter Designs, and is great because it includes sizes for babies through adults, women and men, and directions for three yarn weights: fingering, sport, and worsted.
current stripey shorty; next step: toe!
I suppose I could challenge myself with stitch patterns if I made longer (taller) pairs. There are endless variations out there, and I have several books that feature a ton of different patterns, from classic to folkart. But for now, the short stripey socks seem to fit the bill.
future shorties;
the bottom two skeins are a
bamboo yarn, and may actually
end up taller with a stitch pattern,
if I get ambitious . . .
Perhaps my knitting funk will be over for a few months!


  1. Your mom's socks weren't too tight. I see the sock obsession is inherited, though some are more prolific than others! Knit on!

  2. As always, I am TOTALLY impressed with both your skill, and your endeavors!

    For socks, I take the easy road. I have a 'bucket' list of sorts that I will knit socks for everyone I love. Thankfully, I haven't defined "love" (although it's much broader than I'd started with!).

    Comfy Socks ( me to this lifelong goal! A dozen or so down, who knows how many more to go?? The pattern calls for yarn on 11 needles. That's kind of bulky; I use 8's or 9's, and get a good result...correcting as I go. I LOVE knitting socks, as I can think about the person who will wear them as I knit, and send good thoughts...
    Thank you , Meg, for continuing the craft...and conversation!

  3. I think you've just given me incentive to knit a pair of socks for fun. Thanks! Alicia

  4. These are great, Meg. Your skill is impressive. I want lemon drop knee socks! ;^) You need an Etsy store so I can buy these lovely creations!