There’s nothing more frustrating for a crafter than owning a pair of knitting needles and having no clue how to use them. The last time I touched my needles, I was a teenager who thought it would be fun to learn how to knit so I could make my grandfather a scarf for Christmas. After an hour of struggling to cast on, I asked my mother to show me how, but its pretty tough for a left-hander to duplicate the handiwork of a right-hander. Trying to reverse the entire process gave me a massive headache, so I had her cast on for me before showing me how to make the stitches. I managed to learn a basic knit stitch, but the finished “scarf” looked more like a poncho. To this day, I’m pretty sure whatever I was doing was not knitting. My knitting needles trickled to the bottom of a drawer and haven’t moved in years.
Even though my first attempt at knitting was a failure, I never lost the desire to learn how to turn a skein of yarn into something cool. All I needed was a miracle to solve the southpaw conundrum and address my issues with hand-eye coordination (the calling card of a true klutz). Who knew that miracle would show up during a Fourth of July shopping trip? In the knitting aisle of a Hobby Lobby, I stumbled upon the Authentic Knitting Board Sock Loom. Technically it only makes socks, but what a great way to start my knitting journey!
The KB Sock Loom comes with a fantastic DVD that offers easy-to-follow instructions for every step of the process from casting on, making a cuff, and creating the heel and toe. Every step is broken down and repeated multiple times, which makes it easy to follow along in real time. Before I knew it I had completed my first pair of socks! My left-handed self will never again worry about trying to reverse the process or struggle with getting two needles to work together.
I’d heard knitting was addictive, but I never believed it until I made that first pair of socks. Now, I can’t stop! I’ve already made five more pairs and there’s another on the way. Thin, thick, bright, neutral, striped, smooth, and ribbed – my new handmade socks are quickly replacing my boring white crew socks.
The first four pairs of socks I made were a basic rolled cuff design. This simple flat stitch sock was a great way to learn and get comfortable with the overall process of top-to-toe knitting.
Surprisingly, no pattern is necessary beyond deciding how long to make the leg and foot. There is a mathematical formula to calculate foot length, but I just used one of my old socks as a model. After I figured out my size, I recorded the number of the rows I stitched for both the leg and foot so I could replicate the results on future socks.
Once I got the hang of making a basic sock, I decided to be brave and attempt a ribbed cuff. It turned out to be so easy, I couldn’t believe I hadn’t been doing it all along!
For this pair of socks, I experimented further by using a thicker gauge yarn. The socks looked a lot bigger than the others, but they ended being a perfect fit. All I had to do was make a few adjustments by reducing the number of rows to knit for the leg and foot. I can’t wait for winter to show up so I can wear these really bright and fun socks!
The success of making a ribbed cuff gave me enough confidence to attempt a ribbed pattern that runs the entire length of the sock. I got this layout from a great pattern book by Leisure Arts, (see links below) and I’m still shocked at how easy it was to complete!
My knitting addiction is only getting worse as I just ordered a new pattern book full of beautiful sock patterns. Not to mention a new knitting board that does everything from scarves and tote bags to hats. Within a month, I went from being a knitting outcast to a woman with a yarn basket that looks like this:
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My sock knitting adventure started with these tools of the trade:
I’ve seen this brand of knitting board at all major craft store chains for around $25.00. However, I’ve noticed they’re a little more expensive online. Well worth the price, in my opinion, as they are very well-made with a hardwood frame and metal pegs.
Row counters in the knitting aisle are typically made of cheap plastic. My grandmother taught me a long time ago that a metal sports rep or tally counter is easier to use and very sturdy. I found mine at a Sports Authority, but they are readily available on amazon.com. A counter is essential for keeping track of row and stitch counts.
All three of the above books offer amazing patterns and additional how-to instructions. They are worth every penny!
A few things I’ve learned:
- Keep a knitting journal to record your personal sock pattern, (i.e. row and peg counts), or things you figure out along the way.
- Dropped stitches are easy to fix as long as you don’t panic!
- Yarn tension will make or break a sock. Pulling the work yarn too tight will make it impossible to pull loops over the pegs. However, allowing the yarn to hang too loose will create holes and a general mess. Loops should be snug around the peg, but not tight!
- To keep track of knit and purl stitch patterns, (as for a ribbed cuff) put masking tape around the edge of the knitting board as a means to mark the pegs.
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