Thursday, February 14, 2013

Sock Number One: Part One

Why did I want to knit socks? Because it was a challenge. I love socks -- I owe many pair of bright, striped, polka dotted, owl speckled, store bought socks. I get socks for my birthday and at Christmas. Love me a new pair of socks. So it made sense that sock knitting would come up sometime.

Christmas 2011. My mom bought me my first skeins of sock yarn, some Clover bamboo DPNs, and a book: I Can't Believe I'm Knitting Socks. She was so excited that she found this book. She still brings it up sometimes. So adorable.

I'm sure there is nothing wrong with this book. In fact, I know there's not. It was all my fault. I did what Elizabeth Zimmermann warned us all against: I cast on without knitting a gauge swatch. I was too excited, I couldn't waste fifteen or twenty minutes to knit a swatch! I wanted to knit socks now now now!

So naturally they turned out perfect and that is the end of my story.

Ha. It would be funny if it weren't so sad.

The recommended yarn was Fine, number 2, for the pattern I wanted to knit. My yarn was Super Fine, number 1. So I cast on for the smaller size on a size smaller needles and thought I would be just fine. Fine, fine, fine.

The recommended needle size was US 4. That's right, size 4. Another pattern in the book, using Super Fine yarn, called for US size 3 needles. The logic seemed sound.

But I broke the rule! Swatch, swatch, swatch!

I have never again seen a sock pattern that called for needles that big. Most patterns call for US 2 at the biggest, and even then, I always use US 1. I learned that lesson well, when my brand new first sock was huge and misshaped. I went down to US 1.5 later, and after that to US 1s. I always knit fingering weight socks on US 1 now, I just adjust the pattern to fit my gauge. I like the way fabric looks the best on US 1, so that's what I stick to. I also feel that the socks hold their shape longer when they are knit on smaller needles. Do some swatching with the yarn you want to use and the needles the pattern calls for. Each and every yarn is different, just like every knitter's gauge. It is worth the time and heartache to just check.

In the interest of honesty, I did not learn that lesson on these socks. Nope, not until sock number... 6 or 7 did I finally start swatching. I am stubborn and I want to cast on, dang it!

Sometimes the pattern will lead you on a path to huge ugly socks, instead of the cute purple Chevron socks you were hoping for. That's okay, that's how you learn. I still have my first pair of socks. I think about ripping them out and doing them right, but I was so proud of them, misshaped and all. And my mom, she was so very proud of me. So I never told her that I never knit another pair of socks out of that book she was so very excited to give me.

Gauge wasn't the only lesson I learned from these socks! stay tuned for Part Two, where I relive these mistakes:

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