How Do You Knit Socks?

When I knitted my first socks two years ago, the entire process of making socks was a mystery. What’s a gusset? What’s a heel turn or a heel flap, and are those two different things? What’s this Kitchener stitch everyone talks about with reverence and awe but can never seem to remember?

My first pair of socks found me, as I signed up for a subscription service that sent a sock kit as the new subscriber freebie. I had pondered trying to knit a pair of socks for some time, but even as an experienced knitter, I couldn’t figure out how in the world the process worked. But I gamely got myself an outrageously small set of circular needles and dove in.

This first pattern I tackled featured an “afterthought” heel. You make the body of the sock and go back and knit the heel afterwards. This process includes putting in a lifeline and the terrifying act of pulling the lifeline out on this project you’ve toiled over for a week, trying to get the thing back on your toothpick sized needles. I survived the experience, presented my husband with the cozy wool socks he had asked for years ago, but pondered whether I would have the nerve to knit another pair.

A month later, I gathered myself and tried another sock pattern. This time, mercifully, there were no afterthought heels or any other high wire acts involving life lines. As I got to the heel flap (whatever that was), I slavishly followed the instructions through a mystifying process of slip stitches, picked up stitches around a tiny rectangle, and a series of decreases that somehow looked like an increasingly larger triangle. But finally, I successfully rounded the corner of the heel and ended up with a piece of knitting that actually looked like the embryo of a sock. I even mastered the Kitchener stitch and sewed up the toe neat and pretty.

Was this steep learning curve worth the effort? Oh yes. Hand-knitted socks are a luxury on par with hot chocolate made with real cream and topped with high-end marshmallows. On a cold day, nothing compares.

I admit I have not tried any more afterthought heels. Life seems too short to deal with lifelines when you don’t have to. But who knows what the future holds? Live dangerously once in a while. I do like the color contrasts you get when you make the heel a different color, so I might give it another go one of these days.

Want to learn to make socks?

  • This is my go to resource for sock knitting – a classic, in my opinion: Getting Started Knitting Socks by Ann Budd. It includes everything you need to know about knitting socks. Invaluable is an extensive stitch dictionary for adding pizzaz to your socks. You can make them as plain or fancy as you want.
  • Want to try a new method? A new book with a new and innovative method is coming out soon, Knit 2 Socks in 1 by Safiyyah Talley. I’ve gotten a pre-publication peek at this book. You basically make one long tube, then make a cuff, a toe, and afterthought heels later.

Will I try afterthought heels and the dreaded lifelines again? Maybe. The beauty of trying and succeeding something challenging is that you gain both mastery and a new sense of confidence in your work. Worth it? Oh yes.

Blessing to those trying new knitting techniques! Cindy

Cynthia Coe is the author of The Prayer Shawl Chronicles, a collection of interrelated short stories about knitters and those they meet through knitting and sharing prayer shawls. 

Copyright 2022 Cynthia Coe

Legal Disclosures: I provide links to products (including books I have written), and as an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases (which means I may get a very small fee if you click through the link and buy something).

Knitted Socks – The New Luxury Accessories?

I’m always amused by what the New York City media discovers as new, hip, and exciting – pleasures the rest of have experienced for years. I’ve rolled my eyes in the recent past as the New York media has discovered Krispy Kreme doughnuts, heirloom tomatoes, the joys of shopping at Target, and the saintliness and cultural significance of Dolly Parton. 

So I shouldn’t have been a bit surprised when I opened the weekend edition of a major New York publication this past Saturday to see that “fancy socks” are the new fashion hot ticket. The subtitle of the article of the publication’s fashion page speaks of “fashion hosiery” as the next best thing which will – gasp – even rival your fab “five-figure handbag.” (What universe does this writer live in?)

I sighed, gazing at the lovely ankle socks featured on the newsprint in front of me. Those bright green socks on the end, I thought, look like a pair I knitted just a couple of months ago. I had no idea I was so hip, so fashion forward. 

Despite my eye rolls, I have to agree with the assessment of socks as high luxury. I knitted my first socks about two years ago. Socks are not easy, they take a while to knit, and do a number on your eyesight. But I decided right then and there that handknitted, custom made socks were the most luxurious things I had ever put on my body. As I slipped on my first pair of all-wool, handknit socks, I audibly groaned in pleasure. And they fit perfectly…because they were made to measure for my very own feet. 

But we knitters knew this all along, didn’t we? Bold, bright colors – we’ve already got that yarn in our stashes. Sparkles and intricate patterns – heck, we use those design elements as a matter of course. 

We’re just glad the New York media is finally getting a clue.

*Update! I tried to publish this blog post twice, but I found it “trashed” and blocked on my social media platforms. Hmmm…some really large publisher doesn’t like anything even close to criticism???

Happy Sock Knitting, Cindy

P. S. There’s a new sock knitting book coming out soon, Knit 2 Socks in 1, by Safiyyah Talley. Publication date is March 1. 

This method of knitting socks is an interesting concept is you’re a fairly accomplished knitter and want to try something new and different. The concept is to knit one long tube with some safety lines, then put a toe, a cuff, and “afterthought” heels onto your set of socks later. Highly recommended for hand knitted sock aficionados who grow weary of “second sock syndrome.”

Cynthia Coe is the author of The Prayer Shawl Chronicles, a collection of interrelated short stories about knitters and those they meet through knitting and sharing prayer shawls. 

Copyright 2022 Cynthia Coe

Legal Disclosures: I provide links to products (including books I have written), and as an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases (which means I may get a very small fee if you click through the link and buy something).

Knitting Through Times of Crisis

I’ve never understood why anyone would willingly work on a tedious, difficult, and mentally taxing knitting project. Until now. 

Since my teen years, I’ve always been a “meditative knitter.” Give me a project that’s easy to memorize, not too difficult, and lets me zone out. I love to make prayer shawls, easy pullovers, and straightforward yoke cardigans. 

As I’ve tried to up my knitting game, I’ve tried more difficult patterns and techniques. This past fall, I took a course in double knitting at the Vogue Knitting Convention in Ohio. Double knitting took every bit of concentration I could muster. I found myself thinking, “if I’m ever in a situation where I want to block out every single thought in my head, I’ll do this kind of knitting.”

Well, here we are. On the evening of March 12, the school system closed for the year. By the next afternoon, the shelves of my local grocery store were cleared by panic buyers. Then, six weeks later, my husband was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive form of cancer and given only months to live. 

Needless to say, I’ve spent a lot of time knitting my way through these crises. During the worst moments, I’ve sat in my home office, working on an extremely intricate pattern with tiny needles and ultra-thin yarn, blocking out every single thought and emotion running through my body. I still work on a meditative project each and every day as my personal self-care and spiritual discipline. But I’ve also added a half hour of knitting that vanquishes thoughts of everything else going on my life, if only for a few minutes. And this has helped me simply get through each day, taking me away from the huge responsibilities suddenly placed on my shoulders.

So now I know why knitters work on all those difficult, intricate patterns and stitches. For me, it’s a more hard-core form of the meditative knitting I’ve always done. At times like these, I value my knitting for giving me peace, for giving me something tangible and constructive to do, and for helping me keep my sanity in a time of crisis. 

Blessings to all my fellow knitters facing times of crisis, Cindy

Cynthia Coe is the author of The Prayer Shawl Chronicles, a collection of interrelated short stories about knitters and those they meet through knitting and sharing prayer shawls. 

Copyright 2022 Cynthia Coe

My Season of Knitting Cardigan Sweaters

I wear cardigan sweaters all the time. Here in the Smoky Mountains of East Tennessee, we rarely have bitter cold weather. But in the pastel beauty of the Appalachian spring and among the yellow and orange leaves of autumn, we have cool mornings and crisp evenings perfect for a light sweater. During the heat of the summers, cardigans are perfect for peeling off by midmorning or to cope with excessive air conditioning indoors.

This year, I pledged to learn to knit my own cardigans. My closet is full of fairly inexpensive, store-bought cardigans, but I didn’t have a single cardigan sweater I had made myself. As a longtime knitter, I found this situation embarrassing and unacceptable. I admit, I found all the shaping, button bands, and tricky necklines highly intimidating. 

But I resolved to learn the skills needed and become a Cardigan Queen. Two months into the year, I’m pleased to say I’ve completed two cardigans and have another well under way. I started with a yoke-neck cardi. Much to my surprise, my first cardigan took less than two weeks to complete, fit perfectly, and is now a “go-to” part of my wardrobe. 

The verdict is still out on the “saddle” neck cardi I’m making, using a kit from Kitterly. It’s complicated, using German short rows, make-one-lefts and rights, cable cast-ons, and some other techniques I hadn’t used before. But I followed the directions and somehow got several indescribable shapes onto one set of needles to form a corset shaped garment that is starting to look like a sweater. 

Will my season of cardigans come to a successful conclusion? Probably. Though my season of cardis is not yet in full bloom and I still have a lot to learn, the seeds of a fruitful harvest of all new cardis is firmly planted, taking root, and in a promising growing season. 

Here’s What I’m Using to Make Cardigans

Margaret Hubert, One-Piece Knits: Essential Designs in Multiple Sizes and Gauges for Sweaters Knit Top Down, Side Over, and Back to Front (This book of charts proved easier than it initially looks. I’ve easily adjusted the charts slightly to fit me. Several techniques are included. Highly recommended.)

Yarn: Knitcrate offers very high-quality yarns at very affordable costs. If you subscribe to the “member crate,” you’ll get enough yarn for a small project (patterns included). At the end of the month, you can get fantastic deals on the featured yarns (and get enough yarn for a sweater). Buy early – they sell out! Click this link to get a crate for only $5.

Kits: I’m using kits from Kitterly. These kits are pricey but include high quality yarn and well-designed but complicated patterns. They work, but you’ll need to pay close attention to the directions. 

Blessings on you own season of knitting, 

Cindy

Cynthia Coe is the author of The Prayer Shawl Chronicles, a collection of interrelated short stories about knitters and those they meet through knitting and sharing prayer shawls. 

Copyright 2022 Cynthia Coe