Sunday, February 14, 2010

I can knit socks and so can you!

Wow, it has been so much fun making socks. I've talked about this before, but making socks has become my 'go to ' project'. When I had to wait in the hospital with my Dad (he had a stroke and is recovering well), or taking my turn at waiting at physical therapy, I got really comfortable to take my current sock out of my purse and work away on it. I met one man I had formerly met waiting for Dad and he said, "You're the one that knits, right?" and yes, that was me! The sock knitter. It was fun sharing about how his wife is now taking knitting lessons at our LYS (local yarn shop).

Anyway, I want to share how easy it is to make socks- for those that were timid like me to try it. I will tell you what it took for me to do it, but you can find your own way, too.
I've said before that I've tried to learn to knit, but despite 2 excellent teachers, felt I couldn't relax and just knit. The yarn I had bought apparently was a '2nd'. It kept breaking and I now know that it was the yarn and not me. So get some good quality yarn.
My Yarn: I started with a good quality, DK weight yarn. It was self striping, Crofter's I believe, and easy to use. Since I have used good fingering weight, but my favorite is the DK weight. But the important part is that it is a GOOD yarn. For your first pair of socks, be a yarn snob!

My Tools: I used a Size 4, 9" circular made by HiyaHiya. Yes, it is small. I watched it being used and decided it looked easy so I tried it. DPN's always look scary to me. I think I could use them now, but why, when I have my fun little circular. It is stainless steel, so it slides along nicely.
My Pattern: I don't really have a pattern. I know, that's amazing since I hadn't done this before. I just filed what the gal from The Fiber Factory at Stitch and Pitch said; Just do some knit 2 pearl 2 ribbing for an inch or 2, then just knit. So that's what I do. I cast on, knit 2 pearl 2 in circles (yes I mark my first stitch so I can make sure I didn't mess up in my count), then I knit in circles till the sock is about 6". Then the heel. Heel flaps scare me. I watched several YouTube videos and decided I could do a short row heel without using a 2nd needle (at first I only had one so that was why I did it this way). After the heel, I continue knitting in circles till it's about 2" before the length of my foot (or whoever's foot I'm doing) then do the toe just like the heel and sew it off with the Kitchener Stitch.

The Videos: I'll try and link the videos I used. First I watched several 'cast-on' videos. I had been shown and tried it, but each time I tried it on my own I got stuck. These are the 2 that I look back at when I need to. Long Tail Cast on is what I use most often:

When I decided I wanted to try from the toe up, I used this cast on by Cat Bordhi. This one is done when you use 2 circulars, then go back to one when you've increased to the number of stitches you need:

It's a bit corny, but it gets into your brain. To decide how many to start with, divide the number of stitches you need by 2, then that number by 3 (eg. for my husbands socks with fingering weight yarn, I needed 72 stitches to work with. I started with this toe up method at 12 stitches on size 2, 32" circular).

Cat Bordhi has also been my go to helper for the heel. I like a short row heel. It looks a bit funny, but is very comfortable and if you follow her advice, you'll like the way it turns out. Don't worry, your first one will look funny and maybe have a few holes, but it's inside a shoe, who'll see it!

She shows this 'heel' with 12 stitches, but you will use the number of stitches that is half the stitches you are using, then follow her numbers till you get down to 1/3 of your stitches. (eg. for socks for me, I start with 44, so I hold back 22 and start the short row heel with 22 and stop when I have 8 unwrapped and start 'unwrapping' my way back). I would suggest watching a few short row heel videos. The Lifestyle Sock is another great video:

For closing up the toe in my traditional cuff down socks I use the Kitchener stitch. I actually like doing this, I get into a rhythm and it's a very rewarding finish to a sock project:

Whew, that's a lot of videos! But think of it as taking a class. I think you, too, will love to make socks. I've discovered I like doing the magic loop method, too. But I don't really like size 1 needles. I feel like I'm knitting with toothpicks, but that's just my opinion. Maybe I'll change my mind on that, too, as I get more experienced.

Ok, now I'll try to give you a my pattern:

Basic Socks Recipe


350 yards DK weight yarn (approximate yardage)
Size 4, 9" circular needle
2 Stitch markers
Tapestry needle for closing toe

Cast 44 stitches on your circular size 4 needle. Make sure the stitches aren't twisted and join together. Mark your first stitch.

K2 P2 around and around until you have between 1 and 2 inches. Do what looks right to you and just make sure the 2nd sock matches.

Now, start knitting. Just knit around and around, moving your marker over at the start of each round. Knit until the sock measures 6".

Short Row Heel: Knit 22 stitches (that's half) Place Marker. Start your short row heel as in the Lifestyle socks video, decreasing by wrapping and turning one each knit row and one each purl row, as in Cat Bordhi's You Tube video the next 22 stitches (just keep the other 22 on the needle, you'll come back to these. Continue decreasing in this way until you have 8 un wrapped stitches. Now start your increasing by unwrapping one each row, unwrapping as in the cat's video.

When you have finished unwrapping all, go back to knitting in the round all 44 stitches. I like to leave both markers so I do the short row toe at the same spot.

Keep knitting in the round until the sock is 2 inches shorter than your foot.

Now start the toe exactly the same as you did the heel. When you have 'unwrapped' all the stitches and have 22 stitches on hold and 22 that you just finished working with, slide them so 22 are at each needle end, with the marker dividing the two on the circular. Cut the end with a long tail for weaving back and forth and begin the Kitchener stitch.

When finished, weave in the ends and start on the 2nd sock. As you are knitting the 2nd sock, make sure it matches the first in the cuff and heel and toe placement and you'll have a perfect match!

This 'recipe' fits most women. For men, using DK weight, I'm told 48 stitches is good, and for a larger size (like my size 13 footed husband), 52. Just stay with something divisible by 4. I used this 'recipe' for my 4 yr. old grandson and started with 32 stitches. It was good but a bit of a stretch on the 9" circular so I switched to the magic loop method and used my size 4 32" circular. Look up magic loop on YouTube and you should be fine.

I love my little 9" circulars and I think you will too!