The thing about handknit socks

On an earlier post about sock knitting, someone asked in the comments something to the effect of ‘how do you keep your handknit socks staying nice looking after you start wearing them?’

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The answer, of course, is that you can’t. Unless you’re only knitting socks with the hardiest sheepswool knitted at a very firm gauge – and probably even then, eventually – hand knit socks are just going to wear out. It probably doesn’t help us out that current sock knitting proclivities have driven the sock yarn market towards squishy soft superwash merinos and luxury blends – even with a bit of nylon added in, these soft yarns just aren’t going to keep the fresh-off-the-needles look for very long, once our feet start doing their job by walking around in them. But they just feel so niiiiiiice, so we keep knitting socks with them anyway.

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And even if we gave up the soft sock yarns and stuck to only the hardiest stuff, the fact of the matter is that anything worn on your feet inside shoes, day after day, is going to take a beating. In Stephanie’s immortal words, socks are not forever.

It’s all extremely nonsensical, of course – if your goal is to get pairs of socks that last forever. Interestingly enough though, I don’t know about you, but since I started knitting socks, I’ve never lost one of a pair. I’ve gotten holes in them, I’ve had some get over-washed and shrunk, I’ve had heels and toes felt up from extended wear and I’ve given away some that ended up too small for me to wear and I couldn’t bear to re-knit the same length of yarn into something bigger. I bet if you took a survey of knitters who knit socks, they would probably all nod at this and think all of these occurrences are totally normal and barely worth shrugging at. But unlike almost every pair of commercial socks I have ever purchased, every single one of my pairs of handknit socks has remained intact. I don’t know why this is, exactly, but I’m pretty sure that it has something to do with the fact that once you’ve spent many hours of time and patience very carefully making something super pretty that is about to get bashed around on your feet (because this is in fact its proper and intended use), you tend to give it that same bit of attention in the washing, drying, and putting-back-in-the-sock-drawer-until-next time phases of its existence.

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And truth be told, I’m not sure my socks are all that perfect in the instant when they come off the needles, either. Usually I knit my ribbed socks in the movie theatre (because that’s a solid 2 hours of knitting time thanks ever so much), and inevitably I hit one row where my fingers forgot what “knit 3, purl 1″ ribbing was and I ended up out of sync with a few purl stitches placed where they shouldn’t be. (The errant row on this pair is from Iron Man 3. I regret nothing, and was thoroughly entertained). Those mistakes can stay where they are, I don’t mind. They feel the same on my feet.

The point is that in the short time span after these new socks come off the needles, they are the awesomest, greatest, most satisfying and comfortable, cutest and brightest socks ever in the whole world.

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Until the next pair, at least.

Happy weekend!

*

Pattern: A Nice Ribbed Sock
Yarn: Sweet Georgia Yarns Cashluxe Fine, in ‘berry tart.’ (who says you can’t eventually finish that pair of socks that’s been in your handbag for 3 months? Well, not me, now.)

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44 Comments

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44 responses to “The thing about handknit socks

  1. Agree completely – I knit socks a lot and have never had a pair wear out yet either!

  2. What a great post!
    I have a friend that I gifted handmade socks to for Christmas, and he is terrified to wear them for fear of “ruining them”! He says that he’ll wear them for a few hours after work because they’re so soft and cozy, but only with clean feet. Then he takes them off, so they’ll “stay nice”.

    I tried telling him that this is ridiculous and that I can always knit new ones if he wears them out!

  3. Rebecca

    What would you recommend as the best sock yarns?

  4. I’m fascinated by people knitting their own socks or for their partners, friends or family. I am English and I don’t know anybody who does that – not since the wartime anyway, when people knitted them out of necessity. I have lived in America and found that many women wear trousers a lot of the time so maybe that is why they are so popular. I’m not knocking the habit. I think it’s great and I’m going to try it. Do people over there wear them for the warmth or is it to stop mosquitos from getting you?
    Thank you for the pattern. I like that it is a rib because that doesn’t look too difficult. It will be a while before I could take it to a filmshow though! Probably end up with two heels or two toes if I did that.
    So a fascinating post. I love your socks.

  5. Stella – except for a few pairs of athletic socks and the occasional dressy storebought pair, my hand knit socks are my regular fall and winter socks! I wear them all the time. With fingering/sock weight they’re pretty versatile. I’ve got a drawer full now of a couple of dozen pairs so I can always keep the rotation going. ;)

  6. Great post! Since I am just starting my sock knitting adventure this has been quite uplifting.

  7. Shari

    To everyone who ever said to me “they go in your shoes,why would you spend so much time/money on socks” I would point to the dozens of individual socks (storebought) that I’ve thrown out over the years bc they got holes in the soles (white athletic type), or were basically unrecognizable and unbearably saggy after the first washing (dress type). My handknit socks may get a bit faded or pilled over time, but they make my feet happy. And life is so much better w/ happy feet.

  8. Shari

    Oh, and I don’t understand what muggles do w/ their hands during times like movie-watching, doctors offices waiting rooms, etc. Don’t their hands get bored just lying in a lap?

  9. I am just learning to knit and want to start socks soon. I want to knit my own socks!!!

    I too love/live with my “mistakes” in my sewing and crochet (and knitting too I’m sure!). No time to be fussing over something small…

    @Sava – my mom has yet to use a trio of dishcloths I made with lovely, lovely yarn and patterns because they’re “too nice”. Nooooo!!! That’s why I made them! I can buy more yarn and make more!!! :)

  10. Laura s.

    Well said!

  11. Julia in KW

    Good post…I knit socks all the time and the only person who has lost socks is my son – away at school with dodgy laundry arrangements. My husband at first was concerned about handknit socks and worrying about them wearing out etc. but I have convinced him that hand knits are meant to be worn, love and worn again…and now he wants more socks…and more socks…and more socks…(I’ve created a sock monster!)

  12. I have 1 1/2 drawers filled with handknit socks. Like you, I’ve never lost one (in the wash or elsewhere). I have never tossed out a pair of socks until they got too holey or felted to wear, but I have gotten rid of plenty of store bought socks because they were no longer fashionable or well-fitting. I wear pants most days, so I can usually wear socks (and I have enough to coordinate with most of my wardrobe).

    I went through a spate of handknit sock “deaths” recently, so I’ve been knitting a number (6 pair finished thus far) this year. One can never have too many pair of handknit socks!

  13. I did the same thing while knitting Podster gloves… I was watching The Hobbit.

  14. I think hand knit socks are just pure magic. I am doing my best to knit myself a drawer full!

  15. The best hand knits are the most used, in my opinion.
    I go running in my hand knit socks, so they don’t look too fresh right now, but I love them all the same!

  16. Debra

    No way I could leave a mistake in. No way. It would drive me nuts every time I saw it. Now, if it’s something completely unnoticeable I could do it, but to look down at your feet and see a purl bump where a knit stitch should be …..not happening.

  17. Genia Potter

    If you never want to see your socks look worn and tired, give them away! ;o)
    And I once wore a pair of my wool handknit socks with my running shoes at Yellowstone in July and my feet were just as comfortable as they would have been in cotton athletic socks. Maybe more so. The insulating properties seem to work as well in heat as in cold.

  18. They are so pink and pretty…love them!

  19. Hi there. I just want to thank you.
    I live in the U.K and although we are great knitters over here we are a bit ‘worthy’ about our yarns. I go to yarn shops and I am faced with rather scratchy, cheap, manmade fibers that are not nice to knit with. Sure, we have the other side too with some great hand dyers, fantastic silks and cashmeres.
    But my thanks to you is that you link all your blogs to great yarn suppliers who not only love knitting, but love the products that they knit with. Finally I can lay my hands on yarns that I get excited about and want to stash away for a rainy day, or a summer vacation on the beach knitting socks!
    I always enjoy reading your blog and I hope that you know just how good you are.
    Have a great weekend!

  20. Tam

    “(The errant row on this pair is from Iron Man 3. I regret nothing, and was thoroughly entertained)”
    LOL!

  21. Lella7

    I have never made a pair of socks for myself! From the first pair that I crocheted to the most recent pair I have on my dp needles for an upcoming birthday gift– none were ever for me.
    Except for two dismissive recipients, they have always been received with great excitement and thanks. Hmmm, maybe I should make myself a pair to find out what all the fuss is about.
    Another thing I find is that the occasional small mistake goes entirely unnoticed (my giftees are not knitters), so my movie knitting is quite satisfying. So many movies, so many projects to knit in them; I foresee a very satisfying summer….

  22. My machine washable hand knitted socks have stayed a lot nicer since I stopped using regular laundry detergent on them. Laundry detergents often contain enzymes that eat proteins. I just use a wool detergent on any load containing something woolly.

  23. I love my hand-knit socks – I’ve not worn shop-bought socks in 2 years now – and I often surprise people by saying that. I’ve never lost a sock and I’ve learned how to darn the occasional holes. I’m currently trying to convince my husband that hand knit is the way to go!

  24. You’ve heard of ‘chain-smoking’? Well, I went through a spate of ‘chain-knitting’ pairs of socks – it almost bordered on obsessional! (I think I love them because they are incredibly easy – and NO SEAMS!!)

    I’ve had quite a break from these ‘small’ projects, concentrating on larger items (like blankets – I know: from the sublime to the ridiculous!) but looking at your gorgeous ‘footie-warmers’ here I feel the urge to get back to digging through my stash – after all, one can never have too many pairs of socks, can one! ;-p

    SueH The Knitting Assassin!

    Twitter – @Librarymaid

  25. What a lovely post. The best thing about handknit socks is they are handknit. Wearing them feels like a special touch of comfort, care, and luxury just for me. When a pair wears thin, I choose some gorgeous new yarn and knit another pair. I wouldn’t want it any other way. Most of my socks are knit from your pattern in 3 x 1 rib, three parts auto pilot knitting and 1 x paying attention knitting. I recommend the pattern frequently. Prairiepoet, Jane

  26. Suz

    Thanks for the info! I am casting on my first pair this weekend. I tried a simple hat ondpns to get used to knitting in the round, but I have noticeable changes in tension where I changed needles. My knitting is much looser there, and since I used four needles to he my work, there are four “tracks” from the bottom of my hat all the way to the top! How do you avoid that? Is it just a time and experience thing or am I missing something?

  27. Nice post! And wonderful socks, I love the color!

  28. Serena O.

    Hi Glenna,
    You say you knit most of your ribbed socks in the movie theatre. My question is, do you turn the heel or knit the toe of these socks there as well? I am into knitting during movies as well, but I always make sure I have a good strait stretch.
    Serena O.

  29. Ann

    I totally connected with your post because I was at the yarn store yesterday buying sock yarn. After a good hour of looking at what’s available and debating mono versus multi color, fiber content, etc. I ended up buying some soft squishy superwash merino (Madelinetosh sock yarn) because I’m knitting them as a gift and I thought it might be unkind to buy the handwash only yarn I’d buy for myself.

  30. It’s a shame that I don’t wear my knitted socks all that much! That’s why they stay so nice! The thing is I tend to choose very bright colors that don’t always fit my my clothes ;-) Nice post!

  31. Angela Hickman

    I totally agree. Sometimes I even like the slightly worn, softened look better than the straight-off-the-needles crispness. I wear my handknit socks yearn round (lace for the summer) and have never lost one.

  32. Alas, I have lost a sock in the wash and, of course, it was my favorite. I find myself nonsensically looking for it in all the same places and have kept the lone survivor, just in case. You never know, eh?

  33. Have you checked the corners of your duvet cover? :-)

  34. Love this post, am currently knitting my second pair of socks, and have more to make too. Think they make great presents. Hope the people who recieve my gifts don’t worry too much about washing them.

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  36. You have given me a great new perspective to handknit socks! Thank you! I am not brave enough to try socks yet,,,I am a relatively new knitter. I keep looking at trying though! :D

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  38. Hand knit socks are the only thing I want to wear in the winter. I’ve gotten my husband hooked on them too. They don’t look perfect after awhile, but they always feel soooooo good.

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  40. Sandra

    Hand knit socks will not only last longer, but are extra comfortable to wear if the sole of the foot is knitted the same as reinforced heel and toes, so its slip one knit one for odd rows and knit all stitches for even rows. For even better wear of heels and toes, invisible nylon thread can be knitted in alongside the yarn.

  41. Great post, and such a lovely pair of socks! Beautiful color!

  42. I love your socks! I’m still learning how to knit socks but I can’t wait to start making them for me and my family! Thanks for sharing!

  43. who knew a post about socks could be so entertaining? :0) love that you admit to messing up a row every now and then and just leaving it be.