Monday, June 16, 2008

What I Love (And Don't Love) About Knitting Socks

Number one on the love list has to be the assortment of yarn available to the sock-knitter. Beautiful colors, delectable fibers. I can't walk into the Black Sheep without checking out the Claudia's....seeing what they might have new in the Araucania, realizing that I could never choose just one colorway of the Noro...

And while you might not want some of these brighter yarns in a sweater, as a pair of socks, I think they'll be fun. I fell in love with hand-painted yarn the first time I saw it, but you take your chances with how it works up. I've had good luck with scarves, but I've never been really happy about the sweaters I've tried out of it. (Though I've now seen some sweaters out of the very subtly colored Dream In Color yarn and I think I may have to try one of them...)

Love - 1, Don't Love - 0

Starting a new pair of socks is sort of a pain. Getting the cast on lined up on your needles, making sure it isn't twisted, doing those first few painful makes me feel semi-incompetent every time. "Look at the monkey knitting the socks!" small children say as they pass me by. On the other hand...well, that's pretty much balanced out by the fun of starting a new project, all excited to see how the yarn is going to pattern. So...

Love - 2, Don't Love - 1

The leg of the sock is where you can have some fun. There are gazillions of beautifully designed patterns out there but you can also open up a stitch dictionary and find one that works with the number of stitches you have on your needle. Depending on the pattern you chose, this portion of the sock can be pretty mindless (straight ribbing) or I-need-to-pay-attention knitting (lace patterns). I'm still pretty much at the "keep it simple, stupid" stage, but I am beginning to feel confident about stretching my wings a little.

Love - 3, Don't Love - 1

When you get down to the heel flap, it all seems pretty straight-forward. It's sort of fun to work back and forth instead of in the round. And I am beginning to see that there are possibilities in the heel flap. I've now learned that you can do a garter stitch edge and it'll look pretty cool. And that it looks even better if you have an odd number of stitches in the heel flap. And now I'm wondering how it would look to have a little cable run down the sides of the heel flap. In fact, the cable might run all down the side of the!


Love - 4, Don't Love - 1

Then there are the magic parts...the first one of which is the heel turn. Man, you just feel so accomplished! Here you are knitting along north to south and, hey presto, now you're knitting east to west! It's so simple when you see what you're doing (though I still lean on Charlene [Schurch...I spend so much time with her, I figure we're on a first name basis] figure out the first two rows of the turn), and so clever.

Love - 5, Don't Love - 1

The gusset. I always have to go somewhere quiet to do the heel turn and to pick up the stitches for the gusset. I still need to concentrate on it to make sure I have the right number of stitches, to make sure I remember the two extra stitches at the corner of the gusset, to remember to knit in the back of the picked up stitches. It's a thoughty little process. But it too has a little magic, as you see your stitches smoothly emerge from the side of the heel flap.

Love - 6, Don't Love - 1

The gusset decrease is another "pay attention" sort of place. I think on almost every sock I've made so far I've forgotten a decrease on one side. Usually I can catch it in the same row and back up and fix it. On this last sock...well, let's just say that the decreases on one side carry on for one more row than the decreases on the other side and leave it at that. So a little fiddly...but then you get that lovely row of decreases, marching so tidily (provided you remember them all). So...

Love -7, Don't Love - 1

Just when you think you've had enough of the thinking and keeping track, you enter the body of the foot. No more decreasing for a while and, if you decide to end your patterning at the ankle, just plain ole stockinette. I am getting so that I can really rip right through this section. And you know that you're getting close to the end, and that's always a thrill.

Love - 8, Don't Love - 1

And, just when you're getting a little bored with the stockinette (I have big feet), hey! you have these neat little toe decreases to make. For some reason, I have less trouble remembering to alternate decrease and non-decrease rows here, though I have to have Charlene whisper to me about the number of stitches I should have when I start every-row-decreases and the number I should have when I stop. But the decreases look so tidy and cute, curving in to cover your toes.

Love - 9, Don't love - 1

And then, the final bit of magic. Kitchenering the toe. I have to get the instructions out every time, sitting with Charlene on my lap (I said we were close) but it just blows me away every time. Oh, I'm not the best at it. But I'm getting better, I think.

Love 10, Don't Love - 1

The weaving in of the ends? Well, that could almost be a "Don't Love." But there are only two of them...and when you're done, you're done! No buying and sewing on buttons, or picking up and knitting a finishing touch...just pop 'em on your feet and you're ready to go! (Well, you might want them to match...)

Final score:

Love 11, Don't Love - 1

You know what this means? I think I'm a sock knitter!

(Which is good, considering the amount of sock yarn I seem to be amassing.)

Current Reading

After trying for the second time and slowly slogging through about 100-200 tedious pages of Kostova's The Historian, I have set it aside again (and perhaps permanently, unless someone can assure me that it picks up soon). Instead, I'm starting Robert McCammon's Speaks the Nightbird. At page 31, I'm already more engaged than I was with The Historian. Witch hunts and evil in the Carolinas in 1699. Yummy.


Rose said...

Nice post. After reading it I realize that I like knitting socks because it has enough changes to keep the ADD in me satisfied and interested. Never thought about it before!

Kaethe said...

Wow, great post. You could convince a non-knitter of the magic that is making socks. Actually, you did.

And I've got to read that McCammon. Carolina witches? Oh, yeah.