Saturday, December 6, 2014

Playing Favorites

My sock drawer looks pretty darn full of awesomeness, if I do say so myself. I made all of these socks, except for the fourth pair down from the top on the left. Those were a gift from a wonderful friend. Thank you, Kathleen.

The first pair of socks I made for myself (second from the top on the left) were actually my fourth pair ever knit. I used 100% wool yarn given to me by another wonderful friend. Thank you Ellen. Ellen sent me the yarn in the hopes of encouraging me to try sock knitting. It took a few years, but eventually I did. And the reason I tried, and succeeded, is because I had help and encouragement from yet another friend, the wonderful Judy Sumner, who sadly is no longer with is. But I think of her every time I knit a pair of socks.

Of course every pair of socks in the drawer has a story behind it, and many of those stories have already been told here at Bag of Chocolates. I knit my first pair of socks in 2006 and have loved every one of them. I have given many pairs of socks away to a lot of very special people - family members and dear friends. I have donated handknit socks to organizations that help others. I have made socks in all sizes, from footies to crew length to over the knee socks, for baby feet all the way up to size 18 basketball player feet. After years of being afraid to try knitting socks, once I got started I couldn't - and still don't want to - stop. 

Usually I knit my socks cuff down on double pointed needles. There are many other ways to knit socks, but this is the way that makes me happy. I have tried knitting from the toe up. The knee socks I mentioned were knit that way. I have tried several different kinds of heels, but the classic heel flap and turned heel is my favorite. I have tried lace socks and colorwork socks, socks with cables and ribbed socks. My favorite is still the plain stockinette sock, which some people call a plain vanilla sock.

Some people say they have trouble forcing themselves to knit the mate to the first sock. After making the first one, they want to move on to different yarn, or a different pattern. This is called Second Sock Syndrome. Of all the pairs of socks I have made since 2006 (and unfortunately I don't remember how many that is. More than 50 pairs, certainly) I have only neglected to knit a second sock once. I decided to try knitting from the toe up to see if I could manage it, so I made a toe up baby sock. It worked out fine, so I immediately started that pair of knee socks for my niece. I never did go back and make the second baby sock.

Not only do I have a favorite method and pattern for knitting socks, I have come to realize I have favorites when it comes to sock yarn, not necessarily for knitting but for wearing and washing. Some socks I wear again as soon as they are clean. Others spend most of their time looking pretty in the sock drawer. 

There is so much gorgeous sock yarn out there to choose from. And more and more, you'll find independent yarn dyers who sell absolutely beautiful sock yarn on their Etsy sites. The system seems to be that the dyer makes up a bunch of colorways, then schedules a "release". If you manage to grab some in time before it sells out, you're one of the lucky ones. Given the fact that my clock is 7 hours head of Eastern time, you can probably guess how good my chances are of that. This used to frustrate me and I would feel sorry for myself.

But you know what? I stopped and thought about it, and thought about which pairs of socks make it out of the drawer and onto my feet most often, and which don't. And I realized that the pairs I wear the most, and which still look almost the same as the first time I wore them, are the socks knit from established companies, like Opal, Regia, and Zitron (Trekking). Even though the other yarns are gorgeous, they don't hold up well, and often bleed color when they are washed (by hand, they can't handle machine washing like the three companies I mentioned). Not only that, many times the knitted fabric starts to felt, even if it is a "superwash" yarn base. Then the socks become thick and stiff, and don't have any stretch to them. Those factors, plus the fact that handwashing socks is a pain, means those socks are mostly decorative rather than useful. Now, I'm sure there are many very capable dyers - and not just indies but other companies - out there who do their best to prevent these things, especially color bleeding out of the yarn. But it can be a risk.

Right now, the socks I wear the most are the first six pairs on the bottom, starting on the left. And now that I've finally realized what I truly love in a pair of socks, I don't feel too badly about missing out on all the cool hand-dyed sock yarns. I have seen how poorly they hold up, and I would rather stick with yarns I know will keep on looking good after years of use.

And speaking of socks, I am currently working on a pair for Liat and that pretty gray cabled sock for a friend. Time to get knitting!

1 comment:

Stefanie said...

That is a lovely shot. Made me smile. I haven't knitted a pair of socks for quite some time. When I think about it, I think should I buy another set of DPN's or an Addi Turbo to knit two at once.