I’ve finally managed to knit a pair of socks. Several pairs, even. I have managed to make socks before – they’re fun to make, but they’ve all been rugged individuals, no need for a mate. In other words, I never got around to knitting an actual pair – I excelled at knitting single socks.
But I have finally defeated the dreaded triple-S, also known as “Second Sock Syndrome.” At least, I’ve adopted tactics to wage a successful battle against the affliction. Basically, it’s to knit two at a time (aka TAAT). I keep at least two sets of DPNs (double pointed needles) in each size, and alternate between the two nascent socks, an inch at a time. A bonus to the two-at-a-time method, besides actually finishing projects, is that any design elements and pattern tweaks made in one can be copied immediately to the other – your pairs will actually resemble each other, or mirror each other, as desired. This is probably not an issue for those who are able to adhere to written patterns, but it’s extremely useful for those of us who constantly deviate from written instruction, embellish them freely, or just plain wing it without a pattern, designing on the fly.
As I’m afflicted with a pernicious variant of SSS, the SAS (Second Anything Syndrome) – I use these tactics to aid in the overall battle to finish projects that involve any sort of paired thing: socks, gloves, mittens, anything with sleeves…).
TIPS for Working TAAT (can be utilized for any paired item – socks, gloves, sleeves, etc.)
- Always change to work on the second of the pair immediately after performing any shaping and/or design elements, e.g., increases, a lace repeat, turning the heel, or whenever you deviate from a pattern.
- Utilize elements of the shaping and/or design as stopping points, or as indicators when to switch to the other of the pair. For example, for my socks I used the lace pattern as the indicator when to stop knitting or to switch to the mate – it’s a 16 row lace pattern that also has a natural stopping point at row 8 – so most of the time I would knit 8 rows at a time, unless concurrent shaping indicated otherwise. If you are knitting plain socks you may need to count the rows – switch every six rows or so, or if you’re using a self striping yarn, switch at color changes (only works if color changes are coordinated; counting rows is more reliable otherwise).
- Switch between the two items frequently, even during plain knitting sections. I try not to get much more than an inch ahead at any time.
Another thing that helped me with successful sock knitting was trying a new method or two. It turns out that toe-up socks make more sense to me, and since I’ve yet to follow an actual sock pattern (I’ve collected a few techniques from several books and squashed them together) being able to try the socks on as they grow has been quite valuable in creating pairs that fit perfectly. Also, I love Turkish cast-on (also called Eastern) – it looks great and is so much fun to do. I use the DPN method, but it can be done with circular needles as well.
I’m currently working on my fourth pair of socks. They’re my first try at cotton socks and will feature a lace design along the front. That’s the plan anyway.
Books used to glean sock-knitting techniques:
- The Knitter’s Book of Socks: The Yarn Lover’s Ultimate Guide to Creating Socks That Fit Well, Feel Great, and Last a Lifetime, Clara Parkes
- Sock Knitting Master Class: Innovative Techniques + Patterns from Top Designers, Ann Budd
- Socks from the Toe Up: Essential Techniques and Patterns from Wendy Knits, Wendy D Johnson
- Sensational Knitted Socks, Charlene Schurch
- On top: Knit Picks Stroll Tonal in Gypsy
- Middle pair: Schoppel-Wolle Crazy Zauberball, #2082
- Last pair, but first knit: Knit Picks Stroll Multi in the Vintage colorway (I worked at things a bit to make the tiger stripes).