If you’ve decided to make 2021 your Year of Socks, I’ve got some helpful tips below to get you started!
Did you know I knit nine pairs of basic socks before I ever ventured into texture, cables, and colorwork? In 2019, I set out to knit a new pair of socks every month in the hopes of becoming a Certified Master Sock Knitter (this is not a real thing, by the way, just a thing I made up for motivation). Each month, I’d select my yarn and then cast on a plain vanilla sock. Mistakes were made over those first few pairs, but oh so gradually, my socks began looking quite professional! My stitches were tight and even, my gussets were in the right place, and my toes were shaped beautifully!
KNIT LOTS OF BASIC SOCKS!
Knitting those nine basic pairs improved my sock knitting tremendously, so it’s the number one piece of advice I give to new sock knitters – pick out some yarn that makes your heart sing, grab some needles, and start knitting up a ton of basic socks! You can find my free basic sock pattern and tons of video tutorials here. And what better time than now to embark on your own sock knitting journey! It’s a new year, and we’re all still mostly quarantined at home, so curling up with a good show or book, some sort of gooey, cheesy snack, and a new craft to learn is the perfect way to spend these quiet winter months. Read on to learn how knitting all those basic socks will make you a Certified Master Sock Knitter (which comes with no certificates, fanfare, or awards, it should be noted).
TENSION & CONSTRUCTION
One of the BEST benefits to knitting several pairs of basic socks is your tension resolution! Tension is how tight or loose you make your stitches. My tension tightened up and evened out over those many, many (MANY) rows of stockinette. Good, consistent tension makes for a lovely fabric where every stitch is the same size.
Knitting all those vanilla socks also familiarized me with the basic construction of a sock, allowing me to commit it to memory so I could get creative and experiment with more complex patterns later on. It became muscle memory so that I didn’t really have to think about how to do it anymore – I just knew, which allowed space in my brain to concentrate on more complex stitch patterns! If you’re not constantly having to look up how to do a heel flap or decrease gusset stitches, you’ve got the creative freedom to focus on how to incorporate colorwork or fancy cables!
Knitting a lot of basic socks also allows you to dial in the fit that works best for you. You’ll figure out what stitch counts work, and whether you need to elongate your heel flap to accommodate your high arch. Perhaps you have skinny ankles, so you need to knit your leg in a size small, but your foot in a size medium. The more socks you knit, the more you’ll figure out how to knit the perfect sock that fits your unique foot! Your first few pairs might be too baggy or too tight, but don’t give up, no matter how ugly they look! There are unicorn knitters among us who manage to knit gorgeous socks on their first try – I don’t know what magic they possess because my first sock was a lumpy disaster with a heel stuck in the arch of my foot! If you find that your first sock is so ugly it makes you want to cry, take heart, because my first sock led to hot, angry tears and a vow to never knit socks again (thank goodness I didn’t follow through with that petulant threat!).
Knitting alllll those vanilla socks will allow you to experiment with yarn (the best part!) so you can find what kind you like best. Sock yarn is generally a blend of merino (for softness) and nylon (for strength and durability). There are different ratios of merino to nylon: 75/25, 80/20, 85/15, and 90/10. You’ll also see smooth sock yarn, and yarn with a fairly tight twist. Some sock yarn is a blend of Bluefaced Leicester wool and nylon (BFL). It’s not quite as soft as merino, but you can’t beat it for durability! That little sheep produces some truly hardy wool!
I prefer 75/25 for socks I know are going to get a lot of use, and 85/15 or 90/10 for socks I’ll primarily be wearing while curled up on the couch.
There are three primary methods of knitting socks: double-pointed needles, Magic Loop, and tiny circulars. I prefer magic loop and use it 90% of the time. But you might prefer DPNs, or the ease of using a small circular. The only way to find out is (can you guess what I’m going to say??!) to KNIT A BUNCH OF BASIC SOCKS. Experiment with what feels best! If you’re having trouble with magic loop, give DPNs or tiny circs a try! Tiny circulars can generally be found online pretty easily! I like the Addi Easy Socks because one needle is slightly longer than the other, which helps with the hand-cramping I get with standard small circulars.
I’ve got a video tutorial for Magic Loop here if you’re unfamiliar with this method and would like to give it a go!
Once you’ve knit up a bunch of basic socks, and feel confident to tackle patterns, I’ve got several beginner-friendly socks to help you dip your toe in the world of texture, ribs, cables and lace!
From top left: Shorty Sock Pattern Set, The Little Black Socks, Thicksgiving Socks, Totally Rad Socks, Mermaid Avenue Socks, and Ode to Barbara Socks.
Finally, if you’d like to make 2021 your year of socks, please use the hashtag #yearofsocks2021 on Instagram so I can see and share your progress!! It’s so comforting to know that so many of us are connected by this shared passion of sock knitting, no matter how lonely the world may feel right now.
As always, feel free to email me for help, tips, advice, or just to share your socks!