I am not an experienced knitter but one thing I’ve always wanted to do is knit a pair of socks. So, when I saw a sock-along on Christine’s blog, I thought it was time to start the adventure.
Despite the sockalong saying that all that was required was the ability to knit and purl (which I can do), I have found every step of this so far to be incredibly tricky and difficult. I suspect quite a lot of knitting experience and know-how is really required… But I am not going to give up and I thought it would be useful to share my disasters and insights and some useful links to how to find out how to get out of trouble.
Choosing the sock yarn
Finding some sock yarn wasn’t that tricky. You can knit socks out of any type of yarn but socks to go inside shoes or boots that aren’t too thick and heavy and that are still hardwearing and attractive requires sock yarn. This is 4ply yarn that is 75% wool and 25% nylon. The wool gives the sock warmth and the nylon makes it hardwearing and allows it to hold its shape quite well when pulled about.
Sock yarn can, however, be eye-wateringly expensive. In my local yarn shop in Doncaster I bought some King Cole Zig Zag for £5.60 for a 100 g ball, which should knit a pair of socks with some left over.
I paid twice that for some lovely sock yarn from Loop in Islington, but for a bigger yarn quantity that should make two pairs of socks. Having checked Woolwarehouse though, they have some Drops sock yarn for only £1.30 for 50g. Its on sale at the moment and you would need two to make a pair of socks but at £2.60, that is the best value sock yarn I’ve found. It comes in 54 colours too!
So many knitting needles
I have only ever knitted on straight needles and not very successfully even then. My most recent make was a moss stitch scarf in chunky yarn for my daughter – which did turn out quite well. But for 4ply sock yarn, the needles are like pins in comparison.
The sockalong shows how to make the socks using either double pointed needles (DPNs), a small circular needle or a longer circular needle. I’ve tried all three and I can tell you they are all HELL.
Well, at first I suppose. I see plenty of people knitting socks on Instagram, clicking away with all three types and actually say its relaxing. I think I have a way to go to get to that level!
Having tried DPNs, and having thrown them to the floor with frustration, I thought that a 30cm circular needle was the way to go. But this type of needle in the size required seemed to be as rare as hen’s teeth – I couldn’t find anywhere online with any in stock, even Ebay and two local yarn shops didn’t stock them.
Going to London for supplies
Actually I didn’t go just for the knitting needles – I was going anyway for work but on the way down on the train I thought there must be shops in the capital that would have these elusive knitting needles. I was idling the time away and put a couple of posts on Instagram and Facebook and was delighted when I got a couple of replies telling me about possible places I might get what I needed.
Two people mentioned Loop in Islington and when I checked the map I realised that I was going to be within a short distance of there for my first meeting, and might also pass it on the way back to King’s Cross.
I love walking in London – I have never lived there but have spent a lot of time over the last 30 years going there for work meetings and its nice to get to know how the different landmarks, features and places connect. That is hard if you go everywhere by tube and the buses are always just stuck in traffic, so no fun at all.
So, I headed out of King’s Cross station (very pretty ceiling) and started off on the way to Angel tube station in Islington.
It was a gorgeous day, bright and sunny and quite warm and the streets, although busy, were quite lush with fresh leaves and blossom.
It didn’t take long to get to Loop in Camden Passage, just up the road from the Angel tube station. Eeeeeek – it was closed but there were two ladies sort of loitering outside. I realised they were waiting for it to open – in just 5 minutes. I looked at my watch – I could just manage to nip in, buy the needles and then scamper off to my first meeting but there would be not even 5 minutes to drool over yarn.
The staff there are very helpful and I got the small circular needle straight away. I was chatting about what I was going to do with it and the lovely lady who served me started showing me how to use a long circular needle to knit socks using the magic loop method. So I bought one of those too…
In between meetings I had more chance to walk through London, as my next appointment was in offices on The Strand. More lovely sights to take in, a contrast of modern and traditional, including Australia House.
I also passed through an old burial ground, right in the heart of modern London, carpeted with bluebells…
My walk took me by the old Smithfield market too but by this time my stupid iPhone was doing its usual trick of running out of charge and, sadly, I had not taken by little camera as a back up, so no more scenic pictures 🙁
My second meeting took longer but did include a nice but healthy lunch involving olive bread and hummus. By the time I had finished the work stuff, I realised I was right at the other side of London but still had 3 hours before my train left. I always get the cheapest singles to keep the cost down and the train out wasn’t until 7.30pm.
I stopped for coffee and to admire my new purchases… and took a quick snap after sneakily plugging in my phone for a quick boost of power…
Looking through my info from the shop I realised that the lovely Loop didn’t close until 6pm so I decided to get a tube ticket and get back to Angel to go and do that bit of yarn drooling I had missed earlier.
It is only a small shop and they have some gorgeous hand dyed yarns from rare breed sheep. Totally beautiful but a bit on the pricey side. I bought my sock yarn but then the fabulous shop lady I had met earlier said I could go up to the second floor, where a sort of informal knit and natter was in progress, to have a proper knitting lesson on the magic loop method.
I spent a very happy hour sitting on the sofa there starting off a sock. I’d love to be able to tell you that I carried on with it on the way home and its now one of a pair of lovely socks keeping my footsies warm as its a bit chilly again today.
That was sock two that never made it past the first few rows. I got into a total mess and couldn’t work out which way I was going. Rip little proto sock in both senses of the term.
Yesterday I started sock effort three with my small circular needle and managed to get to the end of the cuff and beyond:
Alas, late last night after frantic emails to the Facebook group for the sockalong, I realised that my sock was not the right way out. After checking various sites, tutorials and You Tube until about 11.30pm I worked out that I had joined the knitting when I had put it on the circular needle the wrong way.
G.U.T.T.E.D. Again… RIP another proto sock.
I found this explanation from Lion Brand VERY useful for working out which way round and I stress that I think its important to knit an even row of ribbing. I might be wrong about that but that’s what I’ll do next time.
The next effort begins today – I am going to be combining it with crocheting an Attic24 chunky bag to keep me sane!