Every now and then I get e-mails and comments asking for tips on making socks. Most of them are questions about what pattern I use and what type of yarn I buy and where. I hope to answer those questions here.
Sock knitting isn't for everyone. I never knew I would be so into knitting socks. Why would I be? Socks are knit on four needles, the stitches are tiny, and a pair of socks can take up to 20 hours to make. It's not logical, but I LOVE doing it. I caught the bug, and now socks are by far my favorite thing to knit. It's second-nature mindless knitting to me at this point, and I find that to be a comforting pastime.
My foray into using double pointed needles started with making these adorable baby moccasins. Getting over the awkwardness of using four needles (double pointed needles or dpn's) was so hard at first, but once I got the hang of it I was in love.
After that project I decided to attempt adult-sized socks. I first learned using this excellent pattern pamphlet bought at a Jo-Ann craft store. Included in the booklet are patterns for socks in fingering, worsted, and chunky weight gauges, not to mention a slipper pattern and a fair isle sock pattern. The instructions are so clear and there are color photos for every step of the process. I've since developed my own pattern with my own measurements, tricks, and toe construction (NOT grafted), but the basis of all my sock knowledge came from the Paton's book.
I might eventually share my own pattern, but for now it's mainly in my head with only random, haphazard notes jotted in my knitting notebook. I should say that the first sock I ever knit was HUGE! My gauge was wrong, and I found the foot length measurement in the Paton's patterns to be a bit off. Now I always test my gauge first, and after knitting a ton of socks I've made my own modifications so that I have a pattern that fits the way I like.
Meanwhile, there are tons of great free basic sock patterns on Ravelry. You can search by gauge and everything. Once you get the hang of it, you'll surely be able to develop your own pattern for your particular foot too. Most plain sock patterns are more or less the same, but the important thing is practicing and testing them out until you have what you want. In the beginning I made socks that didn't fit, and I made a ton of mistakes. It's essential to develop the patience to go back and fix things or to start over and try again. And again. If you enjoy the process of knitting, it's not that big of a deal. It just takes time.
In all things I do I'm obsessive, and knitting is no exception. In fact knitting might be the worst. I obsessively listen to Kelly Petkun's Knit Picks podcasts (thanks to Lissa), and I've learned a thing or two about socks from her. I knit all my socks one at a time from the cuff down on dpn's, but a lot of people do two at a time on two circs. Some do toe up. Some people use the magic loop method. I don't do those things even though they might be easier. I DETEST using circular needles. I LOVE using dpn's, although it's probably a little slower. Every knitter is different, and you just have to find your own way.
As far as yarn goes, I like to stick with merino for socks. It's non-itchy and very cuddly. Soft yarns do tend to pill, but you can always use a lint shaver for that. I don't like to use synthetic blends. They don't feel good, and they look cheap. (No offense to anyone, it's just my personal taste.) Natural fiber all the way. If you're going to spend twenty hours with a yarn, why not use a nice one?
I spend a LOT of time sourcing yarn. I mean hours upon hours upon hours. That's why I don't usually give away my yarn choices. However, I will say that I go shopping a lot in person. That's always the best. Purl is one of my favorite shops, but I also shop at several Brooklyn stores like The Yarn Tree and Brooklyn General. Sometimes I search Ravlery for hours looking for something specific if I can't find it in a shop, and then I end up buying online.
See what happens when you get me started talking about knitting? Phew, long-winded and bo-ring. I could talk about knitting all day every day. But my hope is that you'll find this post helpful and encouraging. Now go knit socks! And remember, if you get stuck you can always find an online video to help you.