In my recent efforts to relearn (remember) how to knit, I bought a copy of Clara Parkes’s The Knitter’s Book of Socks. It is a great book that talks even a beginner through the different types of sock yarns and ensuring a perfect fit; it offers patterns for a variety of styles and explanations of techniques. Armed with this book, this month I tried to knit my first pair.
Technically, this is the second pair of socks I have knitted. Two decades ago I tried to knit multicoloured cotton Argyle socks for my grandfather. With hindsight, I suspect that they did not fit very well, and all the loops on the inside would have made them almost impossible to get on and off without catching on a toenail. My grandfather politely accepted my offering, but I do not remember seeing him wear them.
I learned a lot from making these socks:
- Buy the best quality circular needles you can afford.
I am all for hunting for good deals and have previously bought regular knitting needles from op shops, but I made the mistake of buying a poor-quality circular needle. I had a voucher for a chain store, so it cost me nothing, but when I needed two circular needles the same size and bought a good-quality Addi one from the specialist knitting shop, the difference was obvious. The cheap ones kink and create all sorts of havoc as you try to knit. I went back to the knitting shop and bought a second Addi circular needle and have retired the dodgy one to the role of stitch holder.
- Expand your repertoire of casting-on and casting-off techniques.
The Knitter’s Book of Socks talks you through all the specialised casting-on and casting-off techniques you need for socks. You do not need another reference to knit any of the patterns, but Parkes gives links to helpful online videos like Cat Bordhi’s Youtube video that explains Judy Becker’s cast-on method. While making these socks, I learned a new technique each for casting on and casting off. If you want to learn more about casting on and casting off, a great reference is Leslie Ann Bestor’s book Cast on, Bind off. I am trying to use a new method with each knitting project until I have tried them all.
- Use your kitchen scales to judge how much yarn you have left.
As I neared the end of the first sock, I found my digital kitchen scales a great help in determining how long I could make the leg and still have enough yarn for the second sock.
- Do not try to unpick knitting in turbulence.
Yes, you can take knitting needles on some aeroplanes. (Always check with the airline first, and leave your scissors in your checked-in bags.) I was happily knitting away and watching the in-flight movie until about 45 minutes before landing, when I spotted a big oopsie that meant I had to unpick several rows. I pulled it all off the needles and was carefully threading it back on when we hit turbulence. It is not easy concentrating on detail when you are prone to motion sickness. Although I was turning green (according to my husband), I had to carry on trying to pick up the stitches or I risked losing the lot.
Overall, I am happy with the results for a first attempt. I really liked the variegated yarn and the pattern, but I should have taken the writer’s advice and not combined the two in these socks. I was particularly nervous about how the variegated yarn would look around the heel, and I misjudged the dominance of the green. These will have to be bedsocks, unless I decide to take my fashion cues from Ugly Betty. I think the next pair I knit from the book will use a solid (or semi-solid) coloured yarn.
The Knitter’s Book of Socks really is a fabulous book. I have already flagged a few other patterns I want to try.