Friday, March 16, 2007

The Sock Lady is Born

They call me "The Sock Lady" because I'm addicted to knitting socks. By hand or by machine, socks are my favorite things to knit. Why? Because they are a portable project, take a minimal amount of time to complete and if you've ever worn hand knit socks you wouldn't even ask why.

I started knitting socks in 2001 after coming back to knitting and finding the holey scarves knit of sequined yarn on fist sized needles did not hold my interest. They may have been easy, quick first projects for some, but they were a nuisance to me. I bought Learn to Knit Socks by Edie Eckman and a sock fanatic was born.

My first pair were these:

Not the prettiest, but the best of the two color choices of Lion Brand WoolEase sport weight and the closest to DK weight available in AC Moore the day I bought the yarn. I don't care! I love them and still have them . . . somewhere.

They were made using four US 3 aluminum double pointed needles. That was what was available in the craft store at the time. I found a yarn shop after that and switched to bamboo needles. I also found a society of sock knitters online, a whole sub culture full of information, tutorials and patterns. I went directly to using five needles size US 1. I had found my knitting niche.

In 2001 Cat Bordhi hit us with Socks Soar on Two Circular Needles and I was there!

A huge investment in 24 inch Addi Turbos ensued. I like to work on both socks at once and more than one pair at a time. I put away my sets of bamboo double points and soared on two circulars . . . until 2002 when The Magic Loop, Sarah Hauschka's "magical unvention" by Bev Galeskas was published by Fiber Trends.

Away with the sets of two circulars. I started buying Addi long circulars in pairs. I found that 32" is the ideal length for me. I learned the method with the recommended 40" but moved down to the 32 inch, the least amount of length suggested, which turned out to be my favorite. Since then many tutorials have appeared for knitting two socks at once on either two circulars or one long circular (40"). I don't like working of two socks on the same needles. I prefer to have each sock on separate needles and working from one set to the other.

During all this hand knitting of socks and changing of needles and methods, I stumbled upon a reference to something called "antique circular sock machines." A machine for knitting socks? Could this be a faster way to use up the requisite sock yarn stash of a sock fanatic? I jumped head first into the notion and found another subculture, complete with historians, refurbishers, restorers, online Yahoo groups and its own organization, CSMSA. Knitting nirvana!

By this time I had developed my own basic pattern for hand knitting socks, a plain stockinette sock with heel flap and gusset. My quest was to find a machine to duplicate my basic pattern. I decided on an AutoKnitter with a 60 needle cylinder and 30 needle ribber since my basic sock was a 60 stitch cast on and 1x1 ribbed cuff. My first machine socks, not from the AutoKnitter but from my third machine, a Gearhart, are pictured here:

They duplicate my hand knit socks except that they have short row heels. Taking into account the equipment, accessories and supplies I bought before producing a pair of machine socks, I estimate these socks are worth $3,000. I plan to frame them. I have the yarn to make an identical hand knit pair and frame them as well, for comparison--$3,000 vs $13.00 socks. Actually both pairs of socks will be 'hand knit', one pair by hand on one long circular needle and the other pair hand turned on a circular sock machine.

Although I turn some socks by hand, knitting socks with one long circular is still my favorite knitting.

That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

The Sock Lady

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