Monday, May 5, 2014

What I've learned in five years of knitting socks

Last week it occurred to me that I have been knitting socks for five years.

According to Ravelry, I started my first pair on May 6, 2009, which means that five years ago today was my last day as a non-sock knitter.  After the deluge of socks I've been showing here past few weeks, you guys probably can't imagine that any more than I can!  To think there was a time when I thought that $30 on admittedly special hand dyed yarn for socks you then have to knit was totally silly, not to mention that knitting on those tiny tiny needles was for the birds.

Okay, they are in a way, but the tiny tiny needles also pack small and mean I can bring knitting with me everywhere all the time.  And the $30 +knitting time thing?  Totally worth it once you wear a pair of handknit socks.

Those first socks were pretty good.  Good enough that I wanted very much to knit more, obviously.  Still, I realized pretty quickly I wanted socks that were a little looser, with an easier-to-knit heel flap and gusset, plus maybe a different leg length.  My perfect pair, if you know what I mean.  So I started customizing and over several more pairs I developed a base pattern that fit my needs (and my feet) perfectly.

With a few notable exceptions - for example, the Six Day Socks, and the single DK-weight sock I made in a day, and the mohair pair I made in five days back when I was still experimenting with my ideal pattern no less - even once I started to get good at them I found that a pair of socks takes me about a month to make.  So I was very surprised when I decided to do a count on my project page at Ravelry of all the socks I've knit.  I left out slippers, because those are too fast to be fair, and I kept in all the socks I've given away.

How many pairs of socks was it, in the end?


Divided by five years' worth of sock knitting, that's just over a pair a month - even from the beginning of my sock adventure when, owing to a particularly dreadful few months, there wasn't a whole lot of any kind of knitting going on.

This means I have picked up the pace rather a lot, and am now knitting socks at an average of one every two or three weeks.  Probably.  Let's face it, I'm not giving up any more sock knitting time to look up statistics to that extent.

So today I thought I'd share what I've learned in five years of sock knitting.

1/ Handknit socks are incredibly comfortable and reassuring.  I don't suppose I will ever know why they make me as happy as they do, but apart from the hottest days in summer I am always just a little happier knowing I have a pair on.  

2/ Socks make an incredibly beautiful showcase for knit stitches and hand-dyed colours.

3/ It's not as difficult as you might think to pick yarn that is hardwearing enough to use in socks.  I haven't given any thought to my yarn choices at all beyond the one time somebody warned me against using a particular sock yarn for socks because it wears out too quickly.  And even though Kathi - the most expert sock knitter I know - warned me right up front not to wear my socks on a hardwood floor lest they develop holes faster, I have recklessly done so increasingly over the past couple of years.  Out of the maybe 60 pairs of socks I've kept for myself,

exactly two of them have developed a hole (so far).

Let's take a closer look at this one because...

... man, even the weak spot leading to a hole is so beautiful, isn't it?   The way the stitches hang on as their fibers get thinner and thinner, trying to maintain the integrity of the fabric.

4/ Handknit socks are heavy with symbolism (see above.)

5/ It's really not a big deal to darn a handknit sock, compared to knitting it in the first place. I say this with confidence as a person who has not yet gotten around to darning the holes in either of the two socks that wore out.

6/ Handknit socks are a great way to make connections.  I can't tell you how many times a salesperson, looking for some way to forge a bond, volunteers a remark about my socks.  It works every time. 

7/ Handknit socks are a great way to show you care, because they take far too long to knit not to drive that point home even to a non-knitter.  To say nothing of what a skein of hand dyed sock yarn costs, ahem.

8/ Socks are a great conversation starter, not only with other knitters who can spot you as a kindred spirit at twenty paces, but even with non knitters who just like cool things.

9/ Time to state the obvious... socks make a super compact, portable knitting project.

and lastly, my most recent discovery:

10/ Super stripey attention-getting socks are apparently not fashionable in non-knitting circles.  I say this because - notwithstanding Observation #6 - during my recent clothes-shopping frenzies, I was told by two different salespeople in two different places that my chosen outfit was going to look great on me... especially once I got rid of the stripey socks.

Meh, those people don't know what they're missing.

Speaking of which, I hope you don't miss dropping in again on Wednesday, because just like a faithful pair of socks I'll be here waiting for you!


Yvette said...

What a delightful history of your sock knitting. Thanks for sharing.

Mary Keenan said...

Thank you too, Yvette!