Boot weather is the perfect reminder of the joy of hand knit socks

It’s that time of year when we, northern hemisphere sock knitters, can smugly and joyously rejoice and luxuriate in our hand knit socks, if we have prepared that is. Hopefully, by the end of this post if you haven’t knit socks before you may be convinced to give them a try.

Previously, when living in the north of England, I spent most of the year with my feet booted. There would be a few days (and overseas holidays) when sandals were appropriate, but mostly it was boots. For me boots mean hand knit socks. They are perfect inside a boot, both warm and cushy enough to see me through the day comfortably. I favour an ankle boot which also means the added bonus of exposing or flaunting a little bit of hand knitted ribbed cuff, a small contribution to the normalisation of hand knitting in everyday life.

My penchant for hand knits socks has long married perfectly with their portability and simplicity as a project; they can go pretty much anywhere and be worked on easily with little intrusion. They can be worked on while a chatty and sociable car passenger, on the bus or train, or whilst dog walking. In previous years I even used #dogwalkingsocks on Instagram to document my summer sock output; the idea being to knit simple vanilla afterthought heel socks during the summer, then set them aside so that when the weather turns, you can pop in the heels, and you can enter autumn with the excitement of fresh new socks. If you’re really lucky you autumn self will find that your summer self has considerately added the heels already. This slideshow demonstrates quite clearly both how portable socks are, and that I indeed walk the talk of taking them and knitting on them just about everywhere.

Jasmine of the Knitmore Girls podcast asked some time ago if other people prepped their ‘purse’ knitting, i.e. made sure they always had a portable project prepped to the stage where it could be knitted on anywhere you may happen to be, which I absolutely do. Indeed as I was listening to the podcast I’d been thinking of casting on a new sock toe so that I’d have something to knit at the climate strike march in town – this was pre-pandemic when such things were permitted. Do you remember all the waiting around before setting off that accompanies such event, not to mention the speeches, and even the slow pace of a march? All perfect knitting time. I got the toe cast on and knit as I went, a marching intervention for slow fashion, somewhat appropriate given the contribution of fast fashion to climate change.

However, all this pre-loading and prepping can have unforeseen side effects. When I joined the Crimson Stitchery WIP along, was it really 2 years ago, I realised that for all my planning and prep and my bulging sock drawer, my follow through had been somewhat lacking. Only then did I realise how many bits of socks I had started, but not actually completed. Some of this knitting had been prepped and begun but some appeared to have been prepped and then promptly forgotten about.

Auditing my sock knitting I found I had:

  • 1 sock in self patterning yarn completed minus the heel which had first been showcased on Instagram 2 years earlier when I lamented how the wet summer had adversely impacted on my summer #dogwalkingsock knitting, which I was concerned was going to leave me short that winter.
  • a navy sock with a rib pattern established on the centre of the upperfoot
  • a second navy sock with rib across the whole foot and toe
  • a blue toe
  • an orange toe
  • a grey cuff – approx an inch

The grey cuff was quickly frogged. I much prefer toe up socks for both afterthought heels or full on gusset and slip stitch heel. Also it was unclear to me at this point what yarn the grey cuff was supposed to complement. The rest of the socks were finished however.

Can you believe the socks in the final picture are still all unworn… I know, how exciting. this is aptly because I have the aforementioned bulging drawer, and because I darn my socks and keep them in circulation, and because I’ve now moved and to be honest, I spend more of the year in sandals than boots these days.

Luckily for me I can generally find happy recipients of socks as gifts so quite a few pairs have been knit for others. For example, my partner who for years said he wasn’t interested in hand knit socks, conceded to receiving a pair and hasn’t looked back. In 2020 iI knitted him 7 pairs of hand knit socks and there’s fair bit of knitting in his socks, generally about 95g of the skein.

While he’s the biggest recipient in terms of foot size, he’s not the only gift recipient these socks are among those which have also been gifted to nieces, nephews and friends:

I’ve also test knit socks for other designers:
Left: Stromfirth for Susan Crawford’s book, The Vintage Shetland Project
Right: Half and Half socks by Susanne Sommer

I also have my own sock design, the Ringwood sock (left) I also have my own sock design, the Ringwood sock (left) that can be knit either toe up or top down, and another pattern in tech editing (right) and a number in various stages of pattern writing and knitting:

I hope that if you’re not a sock knitter, this post has inspired you to give it a try, I feel I have to include the warning that, as may be evident from this post, it is a little bit addictive. If you are a sock knitter this will all sound very familiar I’m sure.

Take care, and if you’ll excuse me while I go put on a brand-new pair of hand knit socks, until next time, happy knitting.

Tess xxx

If you want to scroll through some of the contents of my sock draw, feel free:

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