Saturday, June 23, 2012


Two types of cabled socks for men (RJK design)
My grandmother knit socks, slippers, and gloves. In fact that was just about all she knit. She rarely used a pattern. When we were little, she would trace our feet on a piece of paper to determine how big to knit slippers for us. She mostly knit ribbed socks for my grandfather.

I also remember watching her knit gloves—yep, all five fingers. She used safety pins to hold the stitches for each finger. Grandma had immigrated to the United States in 1908 when she was eight years old, lived through the Depression, never accumulated much, and basically used what worked instead of buying anything “fancy,” like stitch holders.

A few years after Grandpap died, she went into assisted living for what turned out to be the last year of her life. During that time, she became much beloved for knitting hunting socks for the male employees. She was 93 when she peacefully passed.

My sister inherited Grandma’s knitting needles and some years ago passed along the double-pointed needles because she wasn’t planning on using them. What a treasure! They were still in the small brown paper bag in which Grandma had wrapped them. They were all metal and looked well used, some even slightly bent. The smallest size was 000.

Voilá! The heel!

So about eight years ago, I took a leaf out of Grandma’s book and decided to try my hand at socks. They looked intriguing. How in the world did that heel get made? I’d also never used double pointed needles. The pattern I used came from Sockology by Lang Yarns, which has a number of lovely designs. It also has a very handy chart for the number of stitches needed for various shoe sizes: toddlers, children, women, and men. My pamphlet is a bit dated, but Lang has released other Sockology pamphlets, so check online or in your local yarn store.

While knitting with four thin needles requires some adjustment, knitting in the round takes even more. For me, the first row after the cast on is awkward. If you aren’t careful you can easily twist a needle and end up having to start over.

You also need to be careful about making the leap from the last cast on to the first knit stitch or you’ll end up with an unsightly gap. One trick for this is to cross the first and last cast-on stitches before knitting the first row. Gap problem fixed!

Oh, and you can also easily twist stitches. While this is a valid stitch, you might not want to do all of your socks this way. It will also make it difficult when doing other stitches. If you are familiar with circular knitting you won’t have a problem. You already understand that the project is always facing one way, rather than the usual one side being knit and the other side being pearl. With socks, you only ever look at one side.

So I got to the point where I was to start the heel. I’d studied the pattern, but it made little sense to me. I’d never done this kind of thing before. I proceeded carefully, and as I went along, the heel just started making itself. It was like magic!

While my first attempt became “my” sock, the next pair was for my husband, who was delighted. I believe my nephew Ian became the next recipient—and he liked the socks as well. From then on, it was learning to make the socks better. Each time I knit a new pair for my husband, he discards two pair of the commercial ones. (My biggest fan! XOXO)

After the first couple of socks, which were either ribbing or a ribbed cuff and stockinette, I made my own designs, mostly using cables. I also have done lace for some women’s socks. I must confess that I have not written down these patterns and will try to do so in the future.

Not long after I started knitting socks, they became “in” for knitters and patterns began showing up everywhere. So if you haven’t tried them yet, please do. I’m sure you’ll love them as much as I do. There are so many ways to knit them … and so many, many lovely yarns!

My stash runneth over,

Reah Janise

No comments:

Post a Comment