|my first successful sock September 2011|
The whole idea of sock knitting was quite intimidating to me so it took a while to get up the nerve to give it a go. So for those who have some experience knitting but have been reluctant to give socks a go here are the things I've learnt that really made it an enjoyable experience.
1) choose your yarn. You probably want to do this in conjunction with all the other steps below (and the pattern will give you the guidelines you need) but if you're ordering your yarn from overseas you want to do this first :-)
If possible get some yarn with some nylon in it. This means the wool will wear better and hopefully last longer after all your hard work. You'll need around 100-120g of 4ply also called fingering weight yarn to make one pair. It really depends on what size you're making but even making a pair of large men's socks if you have 360m you should be fine.
A cost effective choice is cascade heritage yarn which you can get shipped in and purchase on line. I haven't used it myself I only recently found out about it but it gets good reviews.
The colours can be seen here. One on line retailer who seems to have quite a wide variety is http://www.jimmybeanswool.com.
Some of my favourite more luxury yarns are:
* hazel knits artisan sock
* string theory yarn caper sock
these ones have more colour differentiation even within the solids and are visually interesting without being too busy.
You can also go in to your local yarn store and see what they have. Unfortunately in Australian stores there usually isn't that much variety to choose from.
2) check your foot size. If you have a standard medium ladies foot there are heaps of free patterns to choose from. It depends on the designer but roughly: measure the circumference of the ball of your foot and the circumference of your ankle and if it's around 9 inches then you're a medium. The length of your foot can be more variable the pattern will usually specify that you knit to a certain length usually 2 inches less than the length of your foot before shaping the toe.
Also be careful because usually the designers specify the size of the sock rather than the size of your foot. So a good sock size is about an inch smaller in circumference than your foot. So for a medium this would be an 8 inch sock. If you have a different circumference foot you might want to buy a pattern, the designer usually provides multiple sizes. Otherwise you can play around with yarn thickness and needle sizes but this gets a little complicated.
3) choose your pattern. There is of course a huge variety. If you have a 9 inch foot you have heaps to choose from. You just need to decide on
- the method: cuff down or toe up
- the texture: vanilla (plain stockinette), ribbed, lace, cables and combinations thereof
- there are also heaps of different options regarding types of heel and toe, and whether you use double pointed needles, 2 circular needles, or 1 circular needle (magic loop). I suggest starting with the double pointed needles... you may need a couple of different sizes. I've used 2, 2.25, 2.5, 2.75 and 3mm needles at various times. I knit tightly so I mainly use 2.75mm. The suggested size is usually 2.25mm.
Some of my favourite free patterns are:
* monkey socks by Cookie A: my all time favourite sock designer and an easy lace pattern
* hedgerow socks by Jane Cochran: love the texture and the toe
* on-your-toes socks by Ann Budd: try the toe-up method and also has a knee-hi option
* business casual by Tanis Lavallee: my favourite male sock pattern at the moment (also comes in 2 sizes: sock circumference size 8 or 10 inches)
* blackrose socks by Suzi Anvin: cute lace pattern, different left and right foot socks, and 4 sizes!
These aren't free or particularly easy but see what you could work towards :-) Check out Cookie A.
4) check the gauge... boring I know. But unless you're knitting socks with dk or some other thicker wool, when you're working with smaller size needles whether you knit loosely or tightly is going to have a significant impact. Most sock patterns have a recommended gauge of 8 stitches per inch, but check your pattern.
This post was longer than I expected so part 2 will include the tips and tricks which can really help you get good results once you're getting started.