The biggest mistake I made on my first sock was to not check my gauge. I also discovered the horrors of gutters:
See the horrid gaps between my stitches?
The gutters (or ladders) were stitches were my DPNs switched. They didn't show on the leg because of the lace pattern. I didn't notice them until I got to the toe, and I (wrongly) thought they would maybe block out as I wore them.
The trick I learned to avoid this horrid gap is to rotate my stitches. TECHknitting has a great post that explained it all to me. Tip #2 worked great for me, and I still use it whenever I knit with DPNs. I also sometimes use this technique when I work on Magic Loop. Sometimes my tension is prefect and there are no gutters, but it's a good trick to have up your sleeve!
Another thing I learned was to trust my instincts. Look at this toe:
That's right, the decreases are on the top and bottom of the foot, instead of on the sides. I read the directions over and over and over, and I didn't think it sounded right, but I went for it. The orignal directions for the pattern did not call for a grafted toe, but it was a skill taught in the front of the book. I thought it looked totally weird to put the decreases on the top and bottom of the foot, but I followed blindly. On the second sock I moved the decreases to the sides and it looked right. As a knitter, I can get very stuck in following the pattern. I am trying to overcome this and unlock my inner Yarn Harlot :)
I learned how to graft before I knitted my first sock, but I had to refresh my skills pretty much every time I attempted the Kitchener stitch. This is my very favorite tutorial on the Kitchener stitch. In fact, I loved all of Staci's videos -- her site is the first one I visit when I want to see a new skill demonstrated.
The last mistake I made on these first socks was also linked to the toe:
As you can see, my decreases are all popped out so that my toe shows through. This can be avoided by knitting a row plain in between decrease rows. Not all patterns are written like this, however. I still haven't mastered doing decreases every row without them showing horrible. So now I adjust my patterns, if necessary, and start the toe a half an inch earlier so I can add the knit rows. If anyone has any toe tips, let me know!
The other option of course, is to knit your socks from the toe up! I'll talk about that in my next post.