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Socks 101

As I came late to knitting, I came late to socks. But before Christmas, in a kind of experiment, Iíd made a pair of Christmas stockings, using my own leg and a sock as a guide. Theyíd turned out pretty well, though never meant to be worn.

Then, I received a Christmas gift copy of EZís The Opinionated Knitter, at a time when I some stash that I didnít know quite what to do with. It was cold out, and my feet felt like lumps of ice. Socks it had to be.

I got far enough in EZís instructions that I had the top of a sock. I couldnít figure out the heel instructions. I rummaged around, found an old leaflet pattern so fragile it was crumbling, and adapted something from a fading diagram. It didnít take long for Sock #1 to be finished, and then Sock #2 to join it.

Good. Not perfect. Harder than it should have been, with that Kitchener toe.

But I could fix it, I thought.

I began another pair, and then another, improving the pattern as I went: to make it easier, to make it fit better, and to make it accessible.

At first I worked on the plain ribbed crew socks, then on the heavy ones, then on the plain knee sock that youíll find in next monthís update and then to more knee-length socks: a zanzy black and white to wear with my Sandnes sweater and its storm hood, and pairs and pairs of plain merino cabled up the back, with yet another heel improvement for hiking and cross-country skiing.

I think anyone who knits, but is not yet a sock knitter, and who is intimidated with the fine yarn and needles used for many socks, can work a pair from these instructions, all in worsted. The instructions are broken into steps, which was what Iíd needed and hadnít had, and charts, so I could grasp the architecture of socks in general. The steps are logical, and if you follow the directions, make for the simplest sock consonant with good fit and performance. The more familiar you become with making these basic socks, the more you can dream up your own variations, and experiment with yarns.

You may also discover why sock knitters are often become sock junkies; theyíre easy to make, reasonably quick, and eminently portable when in work. There are no limits on colors or types of yarn, and there is a fitting formula that applies to everyone. The Dutch heel is easier than the familiar diagonal one; the round toe is easier than the Kitchener one; the heel reenforcement is easy and quick and really works for the wearer, and the diagram is step-by-step and will get you through your first few pairs.

Knit on!

The Materials you'll need for this Knitting Project:

You'll only need one set of needles for these socks: #6 for ribbing top, #6 with the single yarn for the foot.

If I were going to buy yarn especially for these, Iíd look for a plied knitting worsted with 10 to 15% nylon or acrylic content, and a snug twist, ideally in Smart Wool or Superwash yarn, which is machine washable and wonít shrink. Not easy to find, if itís findable at all.

On no account should you try using one of the popular unplied yarns, such as Brown Sheep Lambís Pride, or Reynolds Lite Lopi, for the feet of socks; they will pill like crazy, and wear badly. And they will felt to infant size the day your husband or teenagers try to help with the laundry (with lots of hot water, an excess of detergent, then a trip through the dryer on high!), though they are fine for sock tops, which get very little wear, if you keep them away from those who would be helpful.

The socks shown were made of wool worsteds: Brown Sheep Naturespun, Cascade 220. I have also made others from Patonís

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