The Evolution of Making Socks

I learned to crochet and knit when I was a little girl. Sewing and embroidery, too, but this post is about knitting. My mother showed me how to knit when I was probably 10 or 12, but crocheting seemed easier to me since it only involved one hook and one loop at a time, rather than two long needles with multiple loops to keep track of. So I took up crocheting in the fifth grade. I learned the granny square stitch and carried my crocheting back and forth to school. Soon other fifth grade girls took up crocheting and we competed to see who could make the biggest granny square.

In ninth grade my home-ec teacher included a unit on knitting in her curriculum for the year. Everyone in the class knitted  a pair of slippers. I must have been more coordinated by then, because I enjoyed it more. When I finished my slippers I knitted myself a sweater. After that I alternated between crocheting and knitting over the years.

Several years ago I learned to knit socks. They’re a little trickier than slippers or sweaters. The traditional way to make them involves 5 straight needles, which always seemed overwhelming to me. But an older lady at church assured me that knitting socks was not hard and she would be willing to help me learn. She brought me a pattern, so I bought a set of 5 straight needles and a skein of worsted-weight yarn. I soon caught on and managed to complete a pair.socks1They were pretty bulky with worsted-weight yarn, but I’ve found that’s the best weight to use for learning a new technique. I entered them in the fair that summer and they won a red ribbon. Not too bad for a first effort.socks2Later, I discovered that it was possible to make socks with a circular needle… and I also discovered self-striping sock yarn. Not just variegated, but actual stripes that show up as you work. I enjoyed the circular needle technique more than the 5-needle technique, and working with self-striping yarn is very addictive.

Then I came across the 2-at-a-Time Socks book and learned to knit both socks at once. This was even better because this way when you’re done, you’re done. You don’t finish one sock and then have to knit another one just like it. Plus with the striping yarn it’s interesting to see the stripes come out different on each one as you work.
I made 2 or 3 pairs with stripes and then got a shaded denim-blue yarn and started another pair. I don’t know if I set them aside to take up another project or if my knitting bag just got misplaced, but I just came across the half-finished socks a few weeks ago. I was trying to remember when I started them and found a picture in my 2011 folder. Yikes!
socks3I had been in the mood to take up knitting again, so I finished them recently.

socks4They turned out nice. I love the color and they are good and warm. The only problem is, they are slightly too short. As I was getting close to the toes I realized I was running out of yarn so I made them a little shorter than I would have otherwise. They do stretch and I can wear them like that, but I made a mental note to make the leg part shorter next time to leave more yarn for the foot.

I went shopping for more sock yarn. I picked out this skein before I noticed that the “color” name is Route 66. I have a quilt made with a Route 66 fabric that I cover my legs and lap with in the family room. I love how the colors of my project coordinate with my quilt, though I didn’t plan it that way. Fun, huh?socks5So I started this pair and made sure to keep the legs shorter before turning the heels. Several rows into the gusset decreases (if you knit socks you’ll know what that means– if you don’t, it doesn’t matter) I noticed that I had made a mistake in the heel. I was trying to decide whether to take out several rows or just keep going. Sock yarn is not cheap and I wanted these to fit better than the previous pair, so I decided to take them out and start over.

Then, I discovered that the library has the Toe-Up 2-at-a-Time Socks book by the same author as the other one. Perfect! This way I can start at the toe and just keep knitting up the leg until I run out of yarn. The length of the leg doesn’t matter nearly as much as the foot. And so, I’m back to the beginning with my Route 66 socks. I also have some beautiful gray and red sock yarn for the pair after this.

Socks make a nice take-along project for summer, so that’s what I’ll be working on for the next few weeks anyway.

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