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The Queen of Socks

The Queen of Socks

- by Jackie Hayes

I grew up thinking socks were the Mount Everest of knitting. Any time I heard knitting socks mentioned it was always full of mentions of 'turning the heel'. Unlike many of you, I hadn't learnt this mystery in school. It scared me and I avoided sock knitting. Then about 10 years ago I was introduced to sock knitting by a good friend (she knows who she is). She handed me a basic sock pattern, showed me how to cast on in the round and said 'Knit the leg and when I see you next week I'll show you the next step'. The days couldn't pass quickly enough. I was hooked! Then it was the day to turn the heel. I was so excited. By the following week I had a sock. The next piece of advice was to cast the second one on straight away or you can find yourself suffering from the well known phenomenon of 'one sock syndrome '.

So, what do you need to start your sock journey? Let's start with the yarn. Socks are the garment that probably take more pressure than any other garment. The combination of the weight of your entire body and the rubbing of your socks against your shoes mean you need a tough yarn. Sock yarn is generally made up of 75% wool and 25% polyamide. This is a type of nylon which strengthens the yarn and means your socks won't wear out really quickly. There are many brands but here at Winnies our go-to sock yarn is Drops Fabel. It has a great range of colours,  both plain and variegated. But we are also very fond of the Opal brand. Opal produce some beautiful variegated yarns which change quite often so if I see one I like I always snap it up quickly because as the well known DIY store says 'when it's gone its gone'. But don't worry, as they are always replaced by the next, even nicer, colours.

Salor, By Hunter Hammerstein Usak, by Hunter Hammerstein Afshari, by Hunter Hammerstein
Salor, by Hunter Hammerstein.
Made with Drops Fabel 602, Silver Fox
Usak, by Hunter Hammerstein.
Made with Drops Fabel
105, Turquoise and 112 Apple Green 

Afshari, by Hunter Hammerstein.
Made with Drops Fabel 110, Rust and Opal Regenwald 2816

The next thing you need is your pattern. There are thousands of them out there. If you search socks on you will find everything from the vanilla sock (so called as it is a plain sock) to socks with cables and lace and even one called Ugly Duckling (pictured below). This uses one ball of plain yarn and one ball of variegated yarn, this might be that ball of variegated yarn is not your favourite. Using a technique called mosaic which uses slipped stitches on every second row you can produce a pair of socks that definitely turn that unloved ball of yarn into a beautiful swan.

Ugly Duckling socks, by Hunter Hammerstein

Ugly Ducking, by Karin Aida knit
with a variegated yarn from
my stash and Drops Fabel 105,

There are also many great books on the subject of socks. A few of my favourites are Socktopus by Alice Lu and Silk Road Socks by Hammer Hunterstein. For those of you who enjoy colour work there is a lovely book of patterns called Socks from Norway. And of course Drops Designs website has hundreds of sock patterns; fine shoe socks, hiking socks, slipper socks, the choice is endless. If you are like me you will spend as long looking at patterns as knitting them.

Of course you will need some knitting needles to make your socks. Traditionally socks were knitted on double pointed needles (dpns). Other options are using a long circular needle using the magic loop method - there are many excellent videos on the drops website and on YouTube. It really is a case of trying each technique until you find the one for you.

Add the yarn, pattern and needles together and before you know it you know it you have cosy toes. The joy of wearing hand knit socks is one that you won't believe until you try it. We have a broad variety of sock yarns, books, needles and other accessories you may need to start your sock knitting adventure.

First Pair of Socks Pyrite, by Carol Feller
First Pair of socks made with Drops Fabel Pyrite, by Carol Feller.
Made with Drops Fabel 200, Grey
and Opal Comedy 9833 Joke

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