If I had to pick one single knitted item or aspect that is unduly mystified beyond all others, I think it would have to be the sock. I have seen people confess that they have been knitting 20 years, and yet have never made a sock because they're scared of them. I wonder what they think happens if you do one incorrectly?
Whatever their particular fears may be, I can assure you they're blown out of all proportion, because socks are just not that hard or that complicated. Let's take a look at what actually goes into a sock, and see if we can't take some of the mysteriousness out of it.
A sock is, basically, a long skinny tube, with one end closed in to cover the toes, and usually a bend somewhere in the middle to more comfortably accommodate the heel. Usually the tube is knitted seamlessly, in the round, for comfort's sake, but it's possible to find flat patterns. The bend is usually done with some form of short rows, but it can also be done with simple decreases. The closed end can also be made with short rows, or it can be made with relatively simple increasing or decreasing, depending on which direction you're working. So, we've got knitting in the round, decreasing and/or increasing, and possibly short rows. Taken individually, do any of those skills sound insurmountable? I doubt it, and I hope that this is sounding less intimidating already.
The outcome I would like to see from this post, and the ones that are going to follow it, is that my readers feel that they can tackle any sock pattern they might want to try, and that they'll be able to understand what they're being asked to do and why. Ideally, you'll even reach the point where you understand how socks work on a more fundamental level, and that will enable you to put the various building blocks together and possibly be able to start coming up with your very own sock patterns. With that in mind, let's take a look at the four considerations that really make up every sock pattern:
- Do you want to start at the closed end or the open one?
- How do you want to close in the toe end? This is strongly influenced by the prior choice, but not completely dictated by it.
- How do you want to make the bend for the heel? Again, influenced but not dictated by the first choice.
- What do you want the tube part to look like -- how big, how long, and patterned or plain?
The permutations of these choices are endless -- you could knit socks from now to the end of your days and never repeat a pair -- but the choices themselves are fairly basic, with a limited number of considerations that will help guide you to a decision. In the posts to come, we'll take a look at each of these, and then we'll sum up.