Archives For The Handmade Sock Society

CH 250: Shell Cottage Socks

Helen —  February 15, 2019 — Leave a comment
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Shell Cottage Socks knitting pattern

Photo by Deb Hickman

Today on the podcast I have a bit of a catchup and a decision that maybe February is the new January. I also have some personal knitting progress to share. Most of all, I am super excited to introduce our first pair of socks from the new season of The Handmade Sock Society. I’ve got some background on the inspiration for the design and for the whole collection, including a subtle Harry Potter connection.

Show Sponsors:

 

Alongside an eclectic yarn range, which includes Hazel Knits, Icelandic Lopi & CoopKnits, we stock a carefully chosen selection of needles and notions. We’ve also recently launched ‘hand dyed by meadowyarn’, our very own in-house, hand-dyed yarn range. Working in our tiny dye studio, nestled in the Suffolk countryside, we are able to indulge our love of colour, producing complex tonal, kettle-dyed shades across a range of weights and bases. With regular updates our collections evolve and grow, inspired by the landscape and people around us.

 

AYS is a wool boutique specialising in hand dyed yarns and luxury fibres from around the world. You’ll always find a well curated collection of yarns and colors on the shelves and a friendly knowledgeable staff on hand. Some of our favourite brands include Hedgehog Fibres, SweetGeorgia Yarn, Julie Asselin, Shibui Knits and The Fibre Co. You can find A Yarn Story on Walcot Street in Bath or online at www.ayarnstory.co.uk

Show Links:

Skog Candle

Sky Map Wrap by Emily Foden

Sew Sweet Violet

Clio Pullover by Elizabeth Doherty

Ysolda Blend no.1

The Shell Cottage Socks

The Handmade Sock Society Season 2

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Photo by Adriel Kloppenburg on Unsplash

Today on the show I am so excited to tell you all about our newest mystery collection: the Handmade Sock Society. I also have some tidbits of knitting news from my own projects, a VERY BIG announcement about the future location of Curious Handmade Headquarters, and all the winners from our first Shawl Society Book giveaway.

Show Sponsors:

 

Alongside an eclectic yarn range, which includes Hazel Knits, Icelandic Lopi & CoopKnits, we stock a carefully chosen selection of needles and notions. We’ve also recently launched ‘hand dyed by meadowyarn’, our very own in-house, hand-dyed yarn range. Working in our tiny dye studio, nestled in the Suffolk countryside, we are able to indulge our love of colour, producing complex tonal, kettle-dyed shades across a range of weights and bases. With regular updates our collections evolve and grow, inspired by the landscape and people around us.

 

AYS is a wool boutique specialising in hand dyed yarns and luxury fibres from around the world. You’ll always find a well curated collection of yarns and colors on the shelves and a friendly knowledgeable staff on hand. Some of our favourite brands include Hedgehog Fibres, SweetGeorgia Yarn, Julie Asselin, Shibui Knits and The Fibre Co. You can find A Yarn Story on Walcot Street in Bath or online at www.ayarnstory.co.uk

Show Links:

Sky Map Wrap by Emily Foden

Meadow Yarns

Magpie Fibers

Big Blue Moma Baskets

The Wool Kitchen

The Handmade Sock Society Season 2 is now available to buy on Ravelry!

Run away to a quiet cottage in Cornwall, a remote hideaway overlooking the sea. Outside, the waves crash against the rocks, but you are snug and warm, wrapped in blankets and toasting by a little wood-fired stove. There’s peace to be found in the wildness of the ocean and comfort to be gleaned from the humble pleasures of life on a windswept beach. No matter how fierce the weather may be, the sound of the sea can soothe a ruffled heart. When you’re feeling brave, you can climb the cliffs and take in the exhilaration of the view, or strike out in a sailboat and test your skills and courage against the wind. There is nothing else to do and nowhere else to be but right here, and every moment in this place is full of inspiration.

The second season of The Handmade Sock Society takes us on a voyage away from the complexity and clutter of our modern schedules to a seaside retreat where we can steal a little time for ourselves, our thoughts, and our handmade projects. There will be moments of rest and of excitement, the joy of the unknown and the ease of the familiar, and most of all, the indulgence of as much sock knitting as our hearts desire.

The Handmade Sock Society Season 2 is a pattern subscription club inspired by the beautiful Cornish coastline. The six secret sock knitting patterns in the collection are ideal for any knitter who is obsessed with hand-knitted socks, loves a bit of suspense, and enjoys creating along with other enthusiastic makers. The first pattern of the series will be released in early later this month, and then there will be another pattern release every other month until December 2019. There’s never any pressure to “keep up” with the crowd, and our leisurely release schedule should allow knitters of all skill levels and knitting speeds a nurturing and relaxed experience.

Join the Handmade Sock Society Season 2 now

Pattern Release Dates: 
Sock 1: Thursday 14th of February
Sock 2: Thursday 11th of April
Sock 3: Thursday the 13th of June
Sock 4: Thursday the 8th of August
Sock 5: Thursday the 10th of October
Sock 6: Thursday the 5th of December

The Shawl Society Book Giveaway Winners:

A huge thank you to everyone who entered and everyone who has bought a copy of my book. Your support is heartwarming!

The Shawl Society Season 1 book on Amazon.co.uk

The Shawl Society Season 1 book on Amazon.com

Winners of Shawl Society Pins:

thereadingstitcher 

jjyauch

nightingaleanddolittle

aviatrix

purls_and_lace

cnschmidt16

ireneknitter

certainstyle_makes

jillyflower653

navel2468

Grand prize winner:

LaurieandOwen

I hope you enjoyed catching up with or reviewing the first three installments of The Sock Series. It’s lovely to hear from newish knitters who are building their confidence around sock knitting. By the time the first pattern of this new season drops, you’ll be unstoppable! I know we have a lot of expert sock knitters in our community, too, so if you have a special tip or trick you’d be willing to share with the rest of us, please let me know: sharing with—and learning from—each other is one of the great joys of the knitting community.

I’ve had a lot of questions about when we’re going to kick off this season, and I’m excited to say…

Membership for The Handmade Sock Society Season 2 opens TOMORROW!

I’ll send out an email with links as soon as it’s live with more details and everything you need to know. I can’t wait!

In the meantime, I want to celebrate this community and the around-the-corner kickoff of The Handmade Sock Society Season 2, so I’ve started a giveaway thread in our Ravelry group! The winner will get a hand-picked special skein of sock yarn from my stash…I’ll choose something I think you’ll like! I’ll also be offering a free pattern of your choice to six more lucky winners (one for each design!) To be in for a chance to win, all you need to do is

  • Make a project page for THSS Season 2 Socks #1
  • Post in the giveaway thread with your favourite seaside memory or place…if you’re landlocked and haven’t spent any time by the sea, where would you love to spend a peaceful week on your own, with your knitting? Share your dream seaside escape with us! Photos are highly encouraged but not required. 🙂

Now…back to the Sock Series!

Today I want to share a technique that I learned from a very dear knitting friend of mine, Paula from The Knitting Pipeline. Paula is an incredibly skilled knitter, and always so generous with her knowledge.  She showed me this very helpful sock-knitting tip on one of her wonderful retreats, and I’ve been using it ever since.

Anatomy of a Sock: The Heel Flap and Gusset

A feature of sock knitting (and one of the bits that scares most newbies the most) is the need to “turn the heel” of the sock. This is how you achieve the “L” shape that makes a sock a comfy, well-fitting sock instead of just being a scrunchy tube. It’s one of those things that sounds so much more complicated than it is. Once you’re actually doing it, it’s not so complicated at all, especially if you have a clearly-written pattern (and maybe a patient knitting friend online or in real life) to walk you through it. There are several different ways to create a heel, but one of the most common (and one of my favourites) is the heel flap and gusset. 

The actual knitting of the heel flap and gusset is actually pretty simple, as you’ll know if you’ve ever knit a sock of this type. But there is one issue that can haunt even experienced knitters: the hole in the gusset. What causes these pesky holes, and how can you avoid them?

When you create the heel flap of a sock, you’re only knitting half the stitches. Once you’re done, and after you’ve shaped the “cup” of the heel (usually with short rows…don’t worry, it’s actually quite easy!) you’ll need a way to resume knitting in the round. So, you pick up the stitches along the side of the heel flap you’ve just created until you reach the waiting stitches at the front of the sock. You could just keep knitting across, but if you do, there will always be a little gap there. This gap is what creates the holes (also known as pig’s eyes!) and it can be very frustrating. Who wants a little hole in a brand new sock?

The solution is usually to pick up an extra stitch or two in the gap, but as I learned, if you’re not careful how you pick up those stitches, you can sometimes inadvertently create an even bigger and more noticeable hole. There are a few different ways to tackle this, but the one I learned from Paula is so easy and foolproof that I’ve used it on every single sock since. 

I could try to explain it, but luckily, I don’t have to. The amazing Paula has already made a fabulous, easy-to-follow video, which makes it crystal clear:

Isn’t that ingenious? It’s so simple and so effective. I hope it’s as helpful to you as it has been to me!

If you are a regular listener of Paula’s wonderful podcast, you’ll know that right now she’s dealing with some scary health stuff, with all the grace and good humour we would expect from her. I know that messages of support and encouragement mean a lot to her right now. You can drop by her Ravelry Group to say hello and keep up with her health updates on her Caring Bridge site. She is very much in our hearts and I know so many knitters are sending her so much gratitude, love, and strength right now. 

Happy knitting,
Helen x

Around this time last year, I sent a series of emails full of tips and techniques for knitting handmade socks. They were such a hit in the lead up to the first season of The Handmade Sock Society that I turned them into a blog series, too. As we’re getting ready to start our second season of THSS, it seems like the perfect moment to revisit The Sock Series (and also add to it)!

It was such a joy to watch so many people stretch their sock-knitting skills in the Society last year. I received wonderful emails from knitters who had never made a single sock before but managed to find the courage to dive right in. I marveled at the seasoned sock knitters who said that they’d discovered a new technique or hack that they’d never tried before.

I absolutely love the way that the members of our community are always learning and growing. It pays to stay curious, especially when you’re passionate about making things. So, for everyone who is thinking about filling a box of socks this year (or even just casting on their first-ever pair) here are some links to the first three posts in The Sock Series to get you started:

Part One of The Sock Series: Choosing Yarn for Handmade Socks

Socks work harder than just about any other type of knitwear out there. They need to withstand constant friction and moisture, two things that can quickly break down delicate fibre. This means that for the most comfortable and long-lasting socks, you need to think carefully about your yarn selection. In this post, we take an in-depth look at what makes a great sock yarn great, and how to pick the right yarn for your handmade sock project.

Part Two of The Sock Series: Sock Knitting Needles and How to Use Them

One of the reasons new knitters are sometimes scared of socks is the fact that they are knit “in the round”. The first time you see a set of double-pointed needles or a magic loop, it’s easy to think you’re looking at something really complicated. This post demystifies the most common sock-knitting techniques, from DPNs to two-at-a-time and beyond.

Part Three of The Sock Series: Stretchy Cast-Ons for Hand-Knit Socks

When you’re knitting a cuff-down sock, you need to make sure that you use a flexible, stretchy cast-on method, so that it’s easy to get your foot in and out of the sock. There are so many great cast-ons out there, and I highly recommend experimenting until you find on you love. In this post, I share just a handful of favourites.

New! Part Four of The Sock Series: Avoiding Holes in the Gusset

Those pesky holes in the corners of your sock gusset can be a real pain, but there’s a simple trick to help you get rid of them as you knit!

I hope you’re getting excited for our next season of The Handmade Sock Society, and that you’ll find something here that helps you along the way. I’ll be adding more articles to The Sock Series over the next weeks, so don’t forget to check back. And if you’re not on the mailing list yet, you can sign up right here to get the new posts and all the Curious Handmade news right to your inbox. Happy knitting!

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Today on the podcast I’m still deep in organizing my new sewing room and wondering which of my WIPs to pick up and finish next. I have information about the special yarn I’ve chosen for the 5th shawl in The Shawl Society Season III which will be released next week. A few tantalizing hints about how that yarn will be used just might have snuck their way into this episode! Finally, I have a list of KAL winners from The Shawl Society and The Handmade Sock Society so far!

Show Sponsors:

Alongside an eclectic yarn range, which includes Hazel Knits, Icelandic Lopi & CoopKnits, we stock a carefully chosen selection of needles and notions. We’ve also recently launched ‘hand dyed by meadowyarn’, our very own in-house, hand-dyed yarn range. Working in our tiny dye studio, nestled in the Suffolk countryside, we are able to indulge our love of colour, producing complex tonal, kettle-dyed shades across a range of weights and bases. With regular updates our collections evolve and grow, inspired by the landscape and people around us.

AYS is a wool boutique specializing in hand dyed yarns and luxury fibres from around the world. You’ll always find a well curated collection of yarns and colors on the shelves and a friendly knowledgeable staff on hand. Some of our favorite brands include Hedgehog Fibres, SweetGeorgia Yarn, Julie Asselin, Shibui Knits and The Fibre Co. You can find A Yarn Story on Walcot Street in Bath or online at www.ayarnstory.co.uk

Show Links:

Hay Pullover by Clare Mountain

Laine Magazine

Copper Corgi Yarn

Clio Pullover by Elizabeth Doherty

Bear in Sheep’s Clothing

Bear in Sheep’s Clothing is having an update today, September 14th in her Etsy Shop!

Eva Faith Esty

A Homespun House Yarn

Yorkshire Dale Yarns from Homespun Wonders

Olann Yarns

Maytham Shawl KAL Winner

Ivy over the Door KAL Winner
Winter Rose Socks KAL Winner
Magnolia Socks KAL Winner

Astrantia Socks KAL Winner

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Today on the podcast I fill you in on the lovely camping trip we took last weekend, and chat about how my 18 in 2018 Happiness Project is going so far. I’ve also got more musings on decluttering, announcement of our recent giveaway winners, and an introduction to the latest pattern in the Handmade Sock Society!

Show Sponsors:

Alongside an eclectic yarn range, which includes Hazel Knits, Icelandic Lopi & CoopKnits, we stock a carefully chosen selection of needles and notions. We’ve also recently launched ‘hand dyed by meadowyarn’, our very own in-house, hand-dyed yarn range. Working in our tiny dye studio, nestled in the Suffolk countryside, we are able to indulge our love of colour, producing complex tonal, kettle-dyed shades across a range of weights and bases. With regular updates our collections evolve and grow, inspired by the landscape and people around us.

AYS is a wool boutique specializing in hand dyed yarns and luxury fibres from around the world. You’ll always find a well curated collection of yarns and colors on the shelves and a friendly knowledgeable staff on hand. Some of our favorite brands include Hedgehog Fibres, SweetGeorgia Yarn, Julie Asselin, Shibui Knits and The Fibre Co. You can find A Yarn Story on Walcot Street in Bath or online at www.ayarnstory.co.uk

Show Links:

The New Forest

Last week The Maytham Shawl was released! There are some lovely WIPs showing up on Instagram already, just check #MaythamShawl and #TheShawlSociety to see what members are up to!

On Monday we released the third pattern in The Handmade Sock Society: The Astrantia Socks

As gardens burst into frenzied bloom under the strong sunlight of in midsummer, Astrantia is content to sparkle in the shade. She’s not the showiest plant to flower at this time of year, but once you make her acquaintance, her twinkling charm is irresistible. The name Astrantia is drawn from the Latin word for “star” and when you see the masses of spangled blossoms it produces each year, ranging from palest white through pale mauves, warm pinks, and dusky burgundies, that celestial title makes perfect sense. This flower also has a more humble folk name— “Hattie’s Pincushion”—a rather sweet connection to the stitching and making we hold so dear.

The Astrantia Socks mark the midway point of this season of The Handmade Sock Society. Our third pattern is a celebration of the uncomplicated beauty to be found tucked away in quiet corners, even when the world is at its loudest and brightest. Written in three sizes, these socks are knit from the top down with a sweet bobble and twisted rib cuff, and are finished with a german short row heel and a wedge toe. Three pretty Astrantia flowers adorn the side of a simple sock: the pattern is mirrored between the pair.

Voolenvine Yarn

Coast Trek

Fred Hollows Foundation

Impressionist KAL Winner

 Post 19 – You can see her gorgeous shawl here!
TSS III Kickoff Giveaway Grand Prize Winner

RachelFtz post 20

Hue Loco

10 Pattern/Collection Winners

1. ElfinPetronella post 128

2. Wenditoo post 30

3. 4mugglemom post 12
4. marinegar 221
5. quiltangel post 184
6. vixis post 205
7. sealight post 62
8. Niveas post 180
9. Claussdk Post 153
10. terimwal Post 169
All winners please get in touch with me on Ravelry, and I’ll arrange to get your prizes to you. If you’re a winner of a pattern or collection, have a browse through my Ravelry Designer Shop and choose your prize, then message me on Ravelry with your choice!

Clark Socks by Jaclyn Salem

Clark Socks KAL in Brooklyn Knitfolk –  May 6 – July 8, WIPs are allowed.

 

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Two pairs of Winter Rose Handknit Socks by Curious Handmade with books about flowers

On today’s podcast I have a giveaway winner to announce, a new Handmade Sock Society pattern to introduce, and another fun planning challenge to help put a bit more fun, lightheartedness, and excitement into the new(ish) year!

Show Sponsors:

Alongside an eclectic yarn range, which includes Hazel Knits, Icelandic Lopi & CoopKnits, we stock a carefully chosen selection of needles and notions. We’ve also recently launched ‘hand dyed by meadowyarn’, our very own in-house, hand-dyed yarn range. Working in our tiny dye studio, nestled in the Suffolk countryside, we are able to indulge our love of colour, producing complex tonal, kettle-dyed shades across a range of weights and bases. With regular updates our collections evolve and grow, inspired by the landscape and people around us.

AYS is a wool boutique specializing in hand dyed yarns and luxury fibres from around the world. You’ll always find a well curated collection of yarns and colors on the shelves and a friendly knowledgeable staff on hand. Some of our favorite brands include Hedgehog Fibres, SweetGeorgia Yarn, Julie Asselin, Shibui Knits and The Fibre Co. You can find A Yarn Story on Walcot Street in Bath or online at www.ayarnstory.co.uk

Announcements

I am so delighted to welcome sock knitters new and old to our mysterious sock fellowship.
You can now join at the Early Bird Price for a short time.
There’s already lively conversation going on in our Ravelry thread, and from past experience I know that this is going to be an incredible group of passionate, friendly, community-minded knitters. I can’t wait to get started!
Midwinter Stitching Embroidery Workshop
London, Saturday 24 February
10am to 3pm

Show Links

Meadow Yarns Unthank Road – Yarn Fictions

Zweig Pullover by Caitlin Hunter

Recollection by Renée Callahan

East London Knits Etsy

The winner of the Recollection giveaway is Rachel with her comment:
 February 2, 2018 at 11:47 pm

“While we were dating, my (now) husband learned to crochet. The two of us worked together to knit a log cabin afghan out of just about all of my acrylic stash. We still have it and put it on our bed every winter. There are special memories to each bit of yarn as well as a wonderful memory of making the afghan.”

Please contact me by email or on Ravelry with your Ravelry name and I’ll get your copy over to you!

Winter Rose Socks

Happier Podcast

Happier in Hollywood Podcast

The Creative Penn Podcast

Interpretations

Brynn and Co Etsy Shop

Brynn and Co Instagram

Laine Magazine

Little Skein in The Big Wool

Stitches West 

Choosing a cast-on method is a very individual thing: what one person loves another person might find tricky. It’s smart to play around with a few different techniques and practice a little until you find a method that suits you.

The type of cast on you need will depend on whether you’re knitting your socks from the top down or the toe up. I’ve collected some interesting methods and handy resources for you about both types of cast ons. These are just the tip of the iceberg, though. If you want to explore further afield, YouTube is full of clever knitters willing to share their sock cast on knowledge. If you want to save some time and learn a bunch of methods in one fell swoop, this Craftsy class: 40 Ways to Cast On and Bind Off (currently at a bargain HALF price) is a great way to get a PhD in casting on (and binding off), and it will set you up, not just for socks but for a whole range of future projects!

Top down: 

Top down socks are the most common construction. The main concern is to choose a very stretchy cast on, so that your foot can slide easily and comfortably into your sock, and the cuff won’t pinch or cut off the circulation to your foot! There are a lot of stretchy cast ons out there, but these are two that come highly recommended

Knitted cast on:
This isn’t the stretchiest cast on out there, but it is my go to cast on for most projects – its probably not the best one but it does the trick and sometimes you just need to get started with the skills already in the bag!  This is a great little video tutorial to help you learn the Knitted cast on, by the always fabulous Very Pink. A common alternative that lots of people already have down, is the long tail cast on, another good option.

German twisted cast on:
This is the cast on that my friend Dani of Little Bobbins recommends. This variation on the long tail cast on is simple to learn, and it’s very well suited to socks: very stretchy, deep, and sturdy. And with the extra twist, it’s a little fancy, too. There is an excellent lesson on this technique in the Craftsy class referenced above (40 Ways to Cast On and Bind Off). I’m planning on learning and practicing this one so I can have a lovely stretchy sock.

Toe up: 

There are many different ways to begin your toe up sock and a provisional cast on is one of the most common. One of the most popular is:

Judy’s Magic Cast On
The magic in this cast on is that it allows you to begin your sock with a seamless toe, so there’s no finishing! It can be a little fiddly to master this one, but I think the payoff is worth it. Craftsy has a free written tutorial which you can follow step by step. Again there is a really clear video lesson in the Craftsy class previously mentioned.

The first Handmade Sock Society collection will be mostly top down socks and there will be at least one toe up …just to keep you on your toes (sorry, terrible but I couldn’t resist!).

 

Casting on socks for the first time can be a little fiddly, so remember to slow down, breathe deep, and give yourself some grace to practice and start over until you’re comfortable. Once you’ve found the cast on that suits you, it will become second nature. If you would like to share your favourite cast on methods please come and chat in the Curious Handmade Ravelry thread for The Handmade Sock Society.

I hope this series of sock-knitting guides has helped you feel confident and prepared for knitting your own socks, even if you’ve never cast on a single pair before! If you’re feeling ready to dive into the deep end, The first season of The Handmade Sock Society is a great place to start. With six wonderful secret sock patterns to discover and a warm, supportive community to cheer you on, I think you’ll be amazed at what you can accomplish!

Part 1 of The Sock Series: Choosing Yarn
Part 2 of The Sock Series: Needles and Techniques
Part 4 of The Sock Series: Avoiding Holes in the Gusset

This is our second guide in my series of sock knitting advice, in honour of The Handmade Sock Society’s first season. I know there are a lot of veteran sock knitters in the Curious Crew, but I also remember how intimidated I was by the idea of knitting socks before I got my first one on the needles. As always, I love encouraging knitters to stretch and learn new skills! My hope is that with the help of these tutorials and resources, everyone who wants to try their hand at socks will feel confident and excited to begin.

Once you’ve chosen your pattern and your perfect yarn, the next step in sock knitting is to decide what type of needles you are going to use to knit your socks. Knitting a small diameter tube like a sock means knitting in the round, and there are two main ways to achieve this feat:

Magic Loop

It sounds very mysterious, but Magic Loop is actually a very simple way to knit socks. Using a long circular needle which is pulled back and forth as you knit, it allows you to knit in any small diameter. Craftsy has an excellent free tutorial on Magic Loop here. If you want to deep-dive into the subject, they also have a “Knit Smarter with Magic Loop” course taught by Lorilee Beltman (currently on sale)!

I love Magic Loop because I Iove just having one type of needles (ie circular) for all my projects and because it’s so portable. Magic Loop socks are the ultimate travel knitting, because you can move all you stitches to the cord for safekeeping and not worry about any slipping off in your bag.

Some people even knit two socks at a time using the Magic Loop Method! My friend Mina of The Knitting Expat podcast, has a brilliant episode on this technique.

You can knit Magic Loop on any circular needle, as long as the cord is long enough: 32″ or 80 cm is most popular, though if you’re doing two socks at once you may want to go up to 40″ or 100 cm. You want a circular needle with a flexible cord and smooth joins. If you can afford it and are planning to knit a lot of socks, this is somewhere that investing in high quality needles can really pay off. Using less expensive or stiffer needles, you may find it difficult to move the stitches back and forth, which can be frustrating.

Newer on the market are 9 inch Circular Needles such as these Clover Takumi Bamboo Circular needles where you don’t need to do Magic Loop, you simply knit around and around. They have a short cord and short needles. Some people love them because they are faster because you can simply keep going around and the fabric is more consistent. Some people don’t love them because they feel too small to hold comfortably and they can also be harder to find in shops.

Double Pointed Needles (DPNs)

While Magic Loop is considered the sock-knitting standard by many, a lot of knitters prefer using double pointed needles for socks. The triangular shape created by three DPNs holding stitches as you knit has a lot of fans. Some people prefer the rhythm they achieve knitting with DPNs, without having to move the loop around. For others, it’s a matter of time-honoured tradition!

DPNs can look a little scary if you haven’t knit with them before: all those needles, all those ends…is that a knitting project or a hedgehog? While working with DPNs for the first time can feel a little fiddly, it’s really much more simple than it appears. You can also look at the process step by step in this free article from Craftsy and again, if you want to get really confident about double pointed needles before THSS begins, there’s a Craftsy class from sock expert Ann Budd called “Essential Skills for Sock Knitting” that includes a section on DPNs and lots of other sock knitting tips.

DPNs are available in a wide range of materials, from wood to metal and plastic. Wood needles tend to be a little more “grippy” or “slow” than super smooth metal needles. If this is your first DPN project, you might find it easier to keep all your stitches where you want them on wooden needles.

Two Sets of Circulars

When I sent out the email version of this guide, two very helpful members of the Curious Crew wrote to me to remind me of another great way to knit socks: using two sets of circular needles. Some people find this message easier than Magic Loop and gentler on their hands than DPNs. The recommended length for circular needles using this method is 24″or 60 cm. This tutorial at The Spruce has great pictures and lots of advice on mastering this technique, and there is also a very clear video here on Youtube where Amy Detjen walks you through circular knitting using two circular needles!

I write my patterns for the Magic Loop method, because it’s my personal favourite. You can convert a pattern written for Magic Loop to DPNs and vice versa, usually without too much trouble. If you do want to use DPNs instead, you’ll just need to divide the stitches evenly among your needles. If you’re using 4 needles, your double pointed needles 1 & 2 will be the “Needle One” referred to in the pattern, while needles 3 & 4 will be “Needle Two” in the pattern.

Just for reference, switching a pattern written for DPNs to Magic Loop is even easier: just pop all the stitches onto the loop and use stitch markers to mark where each DPN would begin or end.

I hope you’ve found this overview of sock needles helpful! Whenever I’m trying to master a new technique, these kinds of resources make it all so much easier. My wish is that these guides will do the same for you.

In the run up to our first season of The Handmade Sock Society, I decided to put together an email series to encourage new or hesitant sock knitters who want to challenge themselves to knit their own socks. I know newish knitters can sometimes find the idea of socks daunting. Socks have a somewhat fearsome reputation, but once you’ve knit your first pair, I bet you’ll wonder what all the fuss was about. There was such a lovely response to the emails that I decided to republish them here on the blog, so that anyone thinking about taking the plunge into sock knitting can use them! These are some of the hints, tips, tricks and techniques I’ve found most helpful in my own sock knitting journey.

Choosing yarn for socks

With any type of project, yarn choice plays an enormous role in how the finished object fits, looks, and performs over time. When it comes to picking out yarn for socks, there are some particular qualities to look out for and some things to avoid so that your lovingly handmade socks spend more time on your feet than at the back of the drawer.

Fit and comfort

A sock‘s fit is largely determined by the design of the pattern and your knitting gauge, but fibre and yarn type choice can make a significant difference. Socks get stretched and pulled a lot more than other handknits every time they are pulled onto a pair of feet, which means that you need a yarn that is bouncy and resilient by nature. An elastic, springy yarn will help your socks keep their shape, which is important because saggy socks are no fun.

-Yarn weight: The weight of your sock yarn is usually determined by the pattern, and it has a large impact on how a pair of socks will fit. There’s a reason that finer yarns are popular for this purpose: handknit socks are much thicker and bulkier than store bought socks. Heavier weight yarns can be great for bed socks, boot socks, and kicking around the house, but just remember that they require a lot more shoe real estate.

– Fibre: Natural fibres such as wool tend to have the best memory and will spring back into shape, which makes them an excellent base for sock knitting. Anything with a lot of drape, however, like cotton, bamboo, or silk, can end up droopy after a few wears. For socks, I would avoid yarns with more than 10% or 15% of any of these fibres.

– Spin: The way a yarn is spun can also affect the way it will behave. Tightly spun yarn with a high twist can also add structure to a sock, helping it keep its shape even with heavy wear.

Durability and ease of care

Unlike a shawl or even a cardigan, socks need to withstand a lot of friction and a lot of washing. That can be a tall order for handknits. Once again, the fibre of your sock yarn and the way it is spun can have an effect. We’ve mentioned that wool makes a brilliant sock yarn, but 100% wool has its drawbacks. After a day stuffed into a warm shoe, pure wool yarns can end up felting. The same felting friction can also cause holes to develop in wool socks, particularly in the heels and toes. While it’s a hundred times easier to darn a handmade sock than a store bought sock, we want that to be a last resort.  So what can we do to chose yarn that will stand up to the demands of the sock life?

Wool type: There is a lot of variation in wool types from different breeds. Sometimes there’s a compromise to be made between softness and strength. Abrasion can be tough on soft wool, causing pilling and holes in your socks. The super-soft merino we cherish for scarves and other accessories which sit close to the delicate skin on our necks and faces isn’t the hardest-wearing fibre. Good news: the skin on our feet is a lot less sensitive, and often the harsher, more rustic yarns you couldn’t use for other projects are perfectly comfy in socks.

– Spin and ply: As mentioned before, a tightly spun yarn has more structure, and makes for a sturdier sock. More plies also mean more strength. You should probably stay away from lofty single ply yarns for all but the most decorative of baby booties.

– Blends: Designated sock yarns are usually a blend designed for a good balance of comfort and durability. Usually, the secret ingredient is a man-made fibre like nylon or polyamide, at anywhere between 10% and 25%. If you choose a yarn without a “strength” fiber like this, you can consider knitting thin nylon thread doubled with your yarn in the heels and toes of your sock. Mohair blends are a lovely natural alternative for anyone trying to avoid nylon content.

– Superwash: Socks need a lot of washing. There is a lot of conversation these days about superwash wool vs fibre-conscious alternatives, and it’s a decision each knitter needs to make on their own. But many if not most commercial sock yarns are made with superwash yarn. Even if you do choose a superwash yarn, most handknits are still better off with a hand wash. A drying rack full of handmade socks is really a delightful sight!

Colour

Socks offer an amazing opportunity to branch out and explore shades and colourways that you might never choose for a garment. One skein is usually a low-stakes investment, which explains why so many of us have stashes full of single skeins of vivid, beautiful sock yarn. Colour is such an individual choice, but there are a few rules of thumb I keep in mind when choosing yarn for socks.

Pale, light colours can show dirt and stains more quickly, which is something to keep in mind if you’re knitting boot socks for heavy hiking wear vs fancy special occasion anklets.

Dark colours hide dirt, but they can also hide delicate stitch patterns and cables.

– Variegated yarns can also obscure fancy stitches, and may show some pooling or flashing of colours. Again, socks are one place it’s easy to go a little crazy, so experimenting with some really out-there variegation can be a lot of fun.

– Self striping yarn can be very motivating as you watch the colors change row by row, even on simple socks! They type of heel you do on your sock will have an impact on the striping action.

I love speckles for socks right now: they really are the best of all worlds. The specks camouflage flecks of dirt while the lighter colours let the stitchwork shine.

So there you go! That’s everything you need to know about picking out sock yarn! I hope that was helpful. Next time, I’ll walk you through some of the most popular cast on methods I know for socks.

Happy sock knitting!

Part 2 of The Sock Series: Needles
Part 3 of The Sock Series: Casting On
Part 4 of The Sock Series: Avoiding Holes in the Gusset