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Working with Tolt
December 06, 2017
Stock Your Sock Drawer - David Moore
Do you consider yourself a “sock knitter?” Why do you like to knit socks?
While I may not be the most experienced sock knitter, I am most definitely a sock knitter. In fact, in 2016 I set a personal goal of knitting 12 pairs of socks in 12 months — and did it!
I like knitting socks for many of the same reasons that others have and will give to you:
First, I love knitting. It is challenging and soothing at the same time. (Where else can you find that combination?) Socks are so, so, so useful — we wear them every day! (Although, truth be told, I’d rather go barefoot.) Socks are deceptive: they look difficult, but are as easy as you want them to be, and while they seem very pedestrian (pun intended), they can be works of wearable art. They are portable: I may need to leave my sweater project behind when I travel, but my small sock project bag (OK, bags) can go with me anywhere. And the variety of sock yarns is endless: there’s something for everyone!
When did you knit your first pair of socks? Was it harder or easier than you thought?
I knit my first pair of socks a few months after I learned to knit, in 2014. As I met more and more knitters and read knitting blogs, I realized that “everyone” was knitting socks. I was curious as to why. So I decided to take the plunge, and knit my first pair using the
Churchmouse Basic Sock
pattern (a good, go-to vanilla sock pattern for a newbie).
Based on my gauge for that first pair (11 stitches per inch, made even tighter after my partner washed them improperly!), it must have felt difficult! But really, I think it was my fear of failure that was worse than actually knitting the sock. Until that point, I had never even considered the construction of a sock — I just bought them and wore them. Ultimately, though, the process was very straightforward: each step naturally led to the next, until voilà: a sock was born. It really was a matter of trusting good patterns and good designers.
Are you a DPN or Magic Loop knitter and why? Has it always been that way? If not, when and why did you make the switch?
I started my sock-knitting adventures on DPNs. Then I knit a few pair using Magic Loop. Then I tried a set of 8” circulars. It turns out that I like all three methods. Each has its strengths and uses and joys, depending on the pattern and my mood. And sometimes I just like to mix it up to give my hands a break from repeating the same movements and handholds. (I like to think that this will minimize the likelihood of getting a repetitive stress injury.)
For example, the 8” circulars are great for speeding down the tubes of the calf and the foot, especially when the stitch pattern is very straightforward — stockinette, or a simple knit-purl repeat such as a mistake rib (alternating rounds of a K2, P2 four-stitch repeat with rounds of a K1, P2, K1 four-stitch repeat). But you can’t knit a traditional heel flap and short-row heel turn, or the toe decreases, with these tiny circulars — you need to switch to DPNs or Magic Loop at those steps.
I don’t generally suffer from “gappiness” or loose columns of stitches at the point where you switch needles while knitting with DPNs or Magic Loop. But if a pattern is somewhat more complex, I’ll often default to Magic Loop: with two needles, you only have two places (on either side of your sock) where you switch needles and risk creating inconsistent tension. Magic Loop (or two circulars) is a must if you want to knit two socks at a time — but I’ve never suffered from second-sock syndrome, so that isn’t usually a factor for me. By the time I’ve finished the first sock, I can’t wait to start the next!
That said, DPNs are classic for a reason: they just work. Ultimately, if I had to spend a year on a desert island with only one set of needles, it would be 2.25 mm DPNs: much more versatile.
4. Do you have a favorite pattern or heel and toe construction?
Because my partner and I both have somewhat narrow heels, the traditional heel flap and short-row heel turn almost always fits perfectly — there’s generally no need to monkey around with stitch counts, etc., to create a custom, huggy fit.
It took me a while to find an afterthought heel that worked for us — I think I tried half a dozen or so of the better-known variations, and ultimately it was the plain ol’ afterthought heel (in which the heel shaping basically mimics the toe decreases) that worked best for us. In fact, I came up with a method that uses the already-knitted toe as a guide for when to start the heel decreases, which results in a perfect fit almost every time. (More likely, I repeated someone else’s discovery!)
The great thing about learning multiple construction methods, and modifying them to fit you or the recipients of your knitted socks, is that you can pick the option that works best for the person and the pattern and the yarn. For example, if I’m using self-striping yarn, I almost always use an afterthought heel because it allows me to decide how to place the stripe sequence to achieve the effect I’m seeking.
Is there a favorite sock yarn at Tolt that you have worked with or want to work with?
Hazel Knits Artisan Sock
, hands down. It’s brilliant! The feel of the yarn (in my hands and on my feet) is wonderful and the colors are amazing. I’m not a big fan of variegated or speckled yarns (just a personal preference — color pooling drives me batty, for example). On the other hand, I’m not a fan of really flat, solid, lifeless colors, either. Hazel Knits’ colors hit that sweet spot for me: the range of colorways, across their offerings, is amazing, and each skein is full of these subtle variations of light and dark that really bring life to the fabric when it’s knitted up. Even plain vanilla stockinette socks have depth and movement, without going over the top. (Again, that last phrase reflects my own preference: I fully respect those who like rainbow colors and go all out in that direction!)
Do you have any tips, tricks or advice you can give to other sock knitters, new or experienced?
My top piece of advice would be to simply go for it! Have no fear!
I understand: it took me months to finish knitting my first pair of socks, and it seemed like it would be the only pair I would ever knit. So I didn’t want anything to go wrong! But with socks — as with all knitting — if you find you like it the process and the result, you will knit more, and more, and more. And when you do, suddenly you’re doing it for the joy of it, not because you need perfection or (in most cases) because you’ll need to go without socks altogether. So enjoy the process, learn from your mistakes, and enjoy walking around in something you can proudly call handmade (and foot worn!).
Stock Your Sock Drawer - David Moore
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