I knitted a sock!

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Last night I grafted together the toe of my first ever sock, and wore it for an hour while casting on its match. Oh, the comfort! No shop-bought sock could compare. The early efforts I made were quite hilarious, however. Below are some of my disasters on the journey to getting this sock knitted.

I knitted my first ever sock! A knitted blue sock worn on a foot
I always knew how to knit…

The thing is, I grew up knitting. But, I grew up in the 70s and 80s. Knitting was quite different then, and obviously, there was no internet to learn techniques you weren’t exposed to by the knitters around you. Everything was knitted flat, bottom up. There were family stories about my great grandmother knitting socks, but no one I knew did that kind of knitting, or knew how.

I was reading Sister Mountain’s blog recently (always worth a read, check it out here) and she did make me laugh when she mentioned that she learned to knit in the noughties, when everything was different, and the internet hadn’t gone and changed knitting so much. And all I could thing was, ‘oh, honey, how do you think I feel? I learned in the nineteen seventies!’

But my knitting was a disaster as often as it was a wonder.

I was a careless knitter. I was a messy knitter. Too interested in the elaborate and challenging, and not interested enough in perfecting the basics.
And when the arthritis hit and knitting became painful, I gave it up.
That left a gaping hole in my life, and a short while later, I picked up a crochet hook, and asked google ‘how do you crochet mittens’. (I had cold hands that day)

Then I learned how to crochet in my 40s

Ahhh… whole new world of wonder! Now I had the internet, Ravelry, YouTube, and now I was a crocheter, with lots of resources at my fingertips. From not knowing how to do a chain stitch, I set out to really STUDY crochet, and master it. And from the early days the idea started to ferment in the back of my head that what I was learning I could apply back to knitting.

One book above others influenced me, which was the Crocheters Skill building Workshop by Dora Ohrenstein. With a background as a singer and voice teacher, she believes crochet, like singing, is a physical skill which can be mastered. Tension doesn’t have to be ‘too loose’ or ‘too tight’. You practice until it’s ‘just right’. And from the outset I thought if I took a Dora Ohrenstein approach to my knitting, I could take it up again. Not accept my loose tension, poor posture and hurting shoulders, but FIX them. But I was too busy for a few years mastering crochet and writing my first few patterns.

Finally, it was time for me to try out some knitting again. I completed a few small projects, and even put a free pattern up on Ribblr. But what I really wanted to do was start from scratch, pretend I didn’t know how to knit, and STUDY it, like I had done with crochet. So as to perfect it.

The Irish KAL

The opportunity presented itself with the Irish KAL, (Ravelry link) which lined up with my lifelong desire to knit a pair of socks. I picked out the Stocai Bunasach (basic socks) pattern by Ailbiona McLochlainn. For the first time, I was going to knit in the round, after a lifetime of knitting flat.

I watched a few videos, pulled out a circular needle, and tried to cast on using the recommended technique on the recommended needle. It. Did. Not. Go. Well.

I decided the yarn was too dark, I couldn’t see my stitches. So went looking for other 4 ply in my stash.

So I tried DPNs
A very wonky red sock cuff with a dropped stitch

Next I tried with red wool, and DPNs (double pointed needles), as my main problem had been the way the stitches wouldn’t slide over the joint between the cable and the needle on the circulars.

I got a bit further, but it was a mess. Once I got to shaping the heel, I realised I couldn’t follow the pattern, as it hadn’t been written for DPNs, and I didn’t know enough about what I was doing to make the adjustments.

The cardigan pattern I chose was made from the bottom up, with both sleeves made in the round just like the socks, so I could keep practicing the same skill, while taking a break from socks. Sleeve one came out OK, I’m sure with a bit of blocking that ladder would come out. Sleeve 2 came out better. But I lost at yarn chicken. Gaaahhhhh!!! Arrgggggg…. Bleurgh! That cardigan can’t be finished now. I’ll need to frog it and do a smaller size. Are the knitting Gods having a laugh with me or something?
Right then, back to socks! Onwards and upwards!

I got confused about size. A blue knitted sock with wonky heal.

So I started again. Some old blue 4 ply wool from my stash this time. Wait a moment, what size is the right one? The pattern Sizes went 0 (1, 2…) I counted 1 (2, 3) at some points, but the correct way at others. And that’s how I ended up having a turned heel for my ankle. It wasn’t pretty.

OK, try again, I'm stubborn. A grey knitted sock down to the toes, with damaged cuff

Still, I blamed the wool. (If it’s not the needle’s fault, it’s got to be the wool, right? Couldn’t possibly be my carelessness, oh no!)

I decided I was going to give it one more go, but in double knit, not 4 ply, so I could use the smaller stitch count and get them done quicker.

I don’t know where those grey wool oddments in my stash came from. The yarn was too soft and weak and kept snapping at the join (those darn needles!). Still, I got to the toe shaping, and decided to try on the sock, just to be sure.

snap, snap, snap, snap… that was all the cast on stitches bursting as I pulled it over my heal.

You have got to be kidding me! Knitting Gods, cut me some slack, here!

This. Is. The. Last. Time!

If this doesn’t work, someone or something is getting thrown in the bin!

I went back to the blue yarn. A nice pure wool 4 ply that felt just right for socks. The ball band said ‘Jager’ which seems to be an old company long gone out of business. My stash is full of oddments like that.

This time I watched the YouTube over and over for the cast on. I must have cast on and ripped out 20 times before I decided I had mastered the stretchy cast on.

Rib, yeah, OK so far. Leg. Little bit of a visible ladder, let’s hope blocking hides that. Turned heel in the RIGHT PLACE. Foot. And finally the toe. First time getting this far.

Have tried grafting using the stitch formerly known as the ‘Kitchener Stitch’ before, but decided to google and YouTube it to get it right. Fell into a rabbit hole of blogs about whether knitting stitches should be called after colonial asshats who developed concentration camps. The Fibre Arts should not be infected with racism, but it’s weird how it can pop up in strange places you wouldn’t normally think about.

Anyway, a few hours later, went back to the sock, grafted the toe, sewed in 2 ends, and…

gentle folks… WE HAVE A SOCK!

Celebrate with me please, I’m so happy about this!

So in my quest to study knitting and learn ALL the tecniques, there’s a few things to celebrate here with my first sock.

A new stretchy cast on tecnique.

Using a magic loop to knit a small circumference on long circular needles.

One tecnique for turning a heel.

The outrageous cost of knitting needles.

I mean, have you ever noticed just how expensive knitting needles are? I had some super cheap circulars, and some DPNs, and lots and lots of straights in muddled sizes acquired over a lifetime. But that problem of the last stitch getting stuck and damaged on the join of the circular needle was one problem I just couldn’t find a way around, except by trying out better quality needles.

Knitting stuck on the join between needle and cable
Knitting stuck on join between needle and cable.

When I’m crocheting, I try to always use Tulip Etimo. If I don’t have one of those, Clover Amour come a close second. But a good hook makes all the difference. In my earlier knitting years I would not have thought of needles that way. They would just have the one type in the shop, and you just bought those. So I googled ‘trustworthy knitting needles’. Didn’t really get an answer. And ended up buying a set of KnitPro Zing interchangeables. Oh, boy the difference between knitting on these and the super cheap nasty ones. No more stuck stitches on the join. Just one problem remained. It was supposed to be a set of any size I could possibly want. Except that it, erm… … was NOT.

It has a 3.5mm, 4mm, 4.5mm (all of which have been used since I bought them a couple of weeks ago. A 5mm, yeah, OK, makes sense. 5.5mm, 6mm, 7mm and 8mm. I’m looking at that 8mm, thinking WTF? Can you just imagine how thick a yarn would need to be to use that monstrosity? Or wearing a cardigan that heavy? A woollen cardigan in a yarn to use that needle would weigh more than me, I wouldn’t be able to stand up wearing it? What’s the freaking point?

Meanwhile, in normal knitting land, before we even think about socks … let’s say I wanted to knit double knit … I’m going to need 3.25s and 4s. Aran … 3.75s and 4.5s. (Or 8s and 10s / 9s and 11s as we called them growing up, and a little part of me still thinks of them as that) But where are the 3.25s and the 3.75s? They are missing! So anything other than chunky yarn (which I personally hate) and this kit is not enough and you still need to purchase more. Gurrr…. arggg. It cost SO DARN MUCH!

A set of Knit Pro interchangable knitting needles

Back online I went, buying even more needles. But since I flipped and flopped about what yarn I was using, even then I still ended up with all the wrong sizes, and ended up knitting the blue sock on the horrid one that snagged stitches at the join.

Dear KnitPro, I do love your needles, but maybe think through what sizes you put in your cases?

So the only remaining question is ... How long will that sock sit in my work in progress pile?

So here I am. One sock made. Enough money spent on a pattern and many, many knitting needles. I could buy half a yarn shop. (But they will all get used again, over and over. Some oddment balls of yarn from my stash used up. And one sock. I’m still incredibly proud of myself!

All that’s left to wonder is … *when* will the second sock get made?

… *will* the second sock ever get made?

Or will it just smother under the snow-capped peak of Work in Progress mountain?

Acknowledgements: This article was proof read by Amanda Youngs. Any remaining errors are my own.

By Ciara

I learned to knit as a young child, and came to crochet much later in life when I could no longer knit. Sharing the joy of crochet with sustainability and slow fashion in mind is a passion

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