Why I Love Socks
A knitted sock cuff on double pointed needles
I love the idea of making socks because they are so practical. No matter what time of year it is, you can always use socks. Socks also let you experiment with color and I love playing with different colored yarns or watching the pattern in a variegated yarn emerge as I complete more and more rows.
I made my first (and so far only) pair of socks last year and was so proud of myself when they were finished, not just because they fit and looked so pretty, but also because they were my first project with double pointed needles. I’d always looked at double pointed needles with a bit of trepidation. It was hard enough keeping stitches on regular needles, but now these? With no ends? And four needles at once??? It was enough to make a person run back to their safe little crochet hook that only holds one stitch at a time.
But you know what? The more I worked with the double pointed needles, and the more I looked at how my sock was progressing like magic from the center of this unfamiliar framework, I started to grow quite fond of the double pointed needles. So much so that after the socks were done, I went looking for more DP projects and made a few hats as well.
I think one of the things that helped me appreciate the usefulness of the double pointed needles was the type of needles I chose to use. Instead of the slippery plastic or metal, which I did try at first and found myself dropping them all over the floor, I went with wood. Soft, silky bamboo. The bamboo needles held my stitches secure and they felt sooooooo good in my hands, I didn’t want to put them down. That’s one sure way to finish a project in record time!
So, why haven’t I made another pair of socks in a whole year? Well, I attribute it to the lonely sock syndrome. The downside of making socks is it’s a pair, which forces you to make one and then another. Usually by the time the first sock is finished you’re itching to work on something new, and the idea of starting up a duplicate of something you just finished makes you walk the other way every time you see your knitting bag. Or maybe it’s just me. I’ve never liked “assembly line crafting.” I tend to be more of a one-of-a-kind creator and quickly move on to another project. So making socks was new to me, and I had to persevere through that second sock so they would be DONE. And like I said, it did help that I fell in love with the bamboo needles and my yarn.
But if you’re like me and dread that second sock, there is another way to make a pair of socks. It’s the two-socks-at-once method that uses two circular needles. Learning this method is on my 2012 knitting to-do list. Wish me luck! If you try it before me (and you probably will), let me know how it works out for you.
Calm Your Knitting Fears
I’ve been crocheting for over 35 years now, but for the longest time I avoided knitting. I’d tried it as a child and didn’t get the hang of it, so I gave up. Then I tried it again as a young adult and also gave up after a chosen project turned into a pile of spaghetti yarn in my lap.
Yet something still drew me to knitting and it became like a yearning. Something I had to learn how to do. I liked the smooth texture of the knitted fabric; I loved all the beautiful sweaters I saw in magazines and wanted to make them. Crochet creates beautiful things too, but I found very few crochet sweaters that I liked.
So once again I picked up the knitting needles and my trusty copy of The All New Teach Yourself To Knit by Evie Rosen (Leisure Arts) and forced myself to learn. Third time’s a charm they say and this time more of the craft stuck with me. My determination to conquer it after all these years probably had a lot to do with it. After all, I was using the same instruction book, the same needles. Not much else had changed. I even managed to knit a few things that looked okay. Yay for me.
But the problem was that compared to crochet, where I could just grab a skein of yarn and a hook and casually make magic while watching TV, barely even paying attention to what my hands were doing, knitting stressed the heck out of me. I was a complete ball of tension every time I sat down to knit. Every muscle felt clenched; my palms were practically sweating. Why? Because of my fear of screwing it up.
You see, I learned how to make the knit stitches following the diagrams in the instruction book, but I didn’t really “understand” what I was doing. I couldn’t recognize and identify the stitches I was making the way I could with crochet. I didn’t know anything about why the stitches were on the needle in a certain direction, and I completely panicked if a stitch slipped off the needle.
But that was then.
A few years later, I have conquered my knitting fears (well, most of them!) and found a calmness, a confidence, a sense of “this is fun!” that I’m sure experienced knitters must feel when they work on a project. The secret? Learning to understand what knitting is (how it works physically on the needle), learning to interpret what I see on the needles (and allowing the stitches tell me what comes next), and exposing myself to enough new techniques that unfamiliar patterns no longer seem like a foreign language.
And I did it with the help of Fearless Knitting Workbook: The Step-by-Step Guide to Knitting Confidence by Jennifer E. Seiffert. This book builds your confidence and your skills in small increments from the very first page. It shows you how to knit, but then continues the instruction so you understand what you’re doing beyond making a knit stitch or a purl stitch. You learn to see a larger picture through studying what the needles and yarn are doing and how the stitches combine to form fabric.
The lessons in the book start with something very simple (but versatile), like ribbing, and slowly build on that, teaching you how to read chart, work cables and more. A whole new world of possibilities has opened up to me now that I can “read my knitting.” I feel more in control of my knitting and and more confident that I won’t lose my place or screw it up. And I enjoy it. It is a relaxing craft once you know what you’re doing. And dropping a stitch? While not exactly something I look forward to, it’s no longer a reason for a minor heart attack. And if I do drop a stitch, I get to use my favorite tool to rescue it–my crochet hook!
Don’t let your fears hold you back. You can do this!
Happy knitting, everyone!
Photo credit: ©iStockphoto.com/felinda