Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Socks, socks, socks

Socks, socks, socks. It seems everyone is knitting socks. I like to knit them too. But I got to thinking, just what is the attraction to knitting socks?

Socks don't use a lot of yarn
A typical pair of socks uses about 100 grams of yarn. This makes socks more economical to knit. I know some people think knitters are nuts to spend upwards of $20 (or more!) on yarn for socks, but it's much more economical to knit socks as opposed to sweaters. Socks take about 100 grams of fingering weight yarn with about 150-200 yards per 50 grams. A sweater takes around 1200 to 2500 yards, depending on the type of yarn, style of sweater, and of course the size. A typical 50 gram ball of dk or worsted weight has about 100-150 yards, and at $8-10 ball you're looking at an average cost of $150 to knit a sweater. I don't know about you, but that sweater's got to be worth it.

Socks are an excuse to buy nice yarn
Since you don't have to commit a large chunk of cash to the project, you can knit with some nice yarn and some really fun colorways.

Don't need another room to store your sock yarn
Another benefit of socks not using a lot of yarn is that the stash you accumulate for socks doesn't take up as much room. I feel much less stash-guilt having 1 container storing 10 sock projects than 10 containers storing 10 sweater projects.

Socks are fast
Relatively speaking, socks are fast to knit. Since they use less yarn, they are therefore faster to knit than a sweater. There is a place for sweater knitting and sometimes I like the monotony of the long stretch of knitting for the front or back but often by the time I finish those I'm bored with it and not looking forward to knitting the sleeves. I could knit only vests and sleeveless sweaters, but I don't wear too many of those so there'd be no point in knitting them. The only downfall with socks is that sometimes after knitting one, you aren't interested in knitting the second - this is termed "second sock syndrome." Some people overcome this by knitting both socks at the same time on circulars or just getting into the habit of casting on the second sock right after finishing the first. Frankly I find "second sock syndrome" no more of a problem than being on "sleeve island." I don't know who first coined that term, but it seems to fit the feeling one gets when you just want the sweater finished and you have those sleeves yet to knit and you're thinking maybe sleeveless is the way to go.

Opportunity to use new stitch patterns
There are lots and lots of sock patterns out there now and much of the difference between them is the stitch pattern. Socks are a really great way to knit some fun stitch patterns without having to commit to a big project.

I wear socks
Scarves also don't use a lot of yarn and are therefore more economical, a way to knit with some really nice yarn, fast, and can employ lots and lots of fun stitch patterns. But how many scarves can a person wear, especially if you live in a warm climate? I could pretend I'm French and wear fashionable scarves but I don't particularly like knitting with novelty yarns and I already have enough silk scarves in my wardrobe to wear a different one every day of the week.

Socks are more portable projects
I enjoy knitting to pass the time in doctor's office waiting rooms, while riding in the car (riding, not driving!), or on the airplane. Who wants to lug around a big sweater or blanket? I knit almost constantly while flying, it keeps my fidgeting in check and passes the time, but carry-on space...and seat limited. A sock project is perfect.

Socks are easy
They are easy, they really are! Knitting in the round on double-point needles (dpns) only looks difficult, and perhaps dangerous to the non-knitter - all those pointy needles in your hands. But it's just knitting in the round: you knit on one needle, then the next, then the next, and so on, going around in a circle. The only tricky part is making sure you don't leave a gap between needles and this isn't a big deal if you're knitting with a "grippy" yarn, like wool. A basic top-down sock consists of a few inches of ribbing, some more inches of stockinette or any other pattern you fancy, the heel and gusset, some more inches of stockinette for the foot, decreasing for the toe, binding off and joining. Ok, so I glossed over the heel and gusset. I've only knit two pair of socks so far and I just followed the directions and lo and behold I created a heel and gusset (the part that connects the heel to the foot of the sock). It's really not that hard.

No seaming!
Well, almost no seaming. If you knit top-down socks, you need to seam the toe. But I just finished some sweaters and if they hadn't been gifts I might not have finished them. All the seaming! Shoulders, sleeves, side seams, plackets... All those ends to weave in!

No blocking!
I just finished some typical sweaters that each had front and back pieces and two sleeves. These pieces all had to be blocked so they'd lie flat and be the correct size. I crossed my fingers and cheered when they measured up. I'm not so lucky on another sweater I knit. The front and back don't resemble each other in width or length. I'm sure knitting them over an 8 year period had something to do with this. There will be a future blog entry to show this mess of a sweater.

Hand knit socks are great to wear
Before I finished my first pair, I was skeptical. How great would they be? But I have found my hand-knit socks very comfortable. I also like to show them off. They're one of a kind! And the sock yarn you can buy is just gorgeous...or just plain fun. I found self-striping and patterning yarn to be almost magical and some of the hand-dyed yarn colors are just delicious.

The first pair of socks I knit:

So why do you knit socks?


  1. yeaaaa! Congratulations! They look great and in spring time colors too.

  2. oh how I wish that I knew how to knit.
    Love the socks!
    And, the pcitures from your previous post are SPECTACULAR! They are all beautiful, but the otter is absolutely adorable!

  3. OK, I came through from crazy aunt purl; your line about the crazy neighbor with the AIRHORN cracked me up so much I'm still chortling. I realize it's not a pleasant situation, but it's just so - so - INSANE. God, neighbors. Thank heavens for sock knitting, eh? I knit socks two at a time, otherwise I'd hate the SSS (second sock syndrome). Plus, there's absolutely nothing that warms my toes like hand-knit wool socks.

    Maybe you should get your OWN airhorn. ;)