I realised after Monday's post that I've been making socks for ten years now. In that time I've racked up a fair few pairs, and although I'm by no means an expert I have learned enough, I think, to pass on some gentle guidance along the lines of 'this is what I do and it works for me' to anyone wishing to have a go.
The first pair I made was the product of a kit containing pattern, wool, and needles which I bought from a now defunct online shop. In retrospect this was not the best choice, but I knew nothing so plunged in anyway: the wool was on the scratchy side and 'pooled' quite badly, the pattern's specified stitch count was too high for a good fit, and the heel was a short-row one - mystifying if you're new, as I was, to wrapping and turning. However, I muddled through, finished the socks and I wear them still (they live in my gardening wellies at the back door), but I vividly remember the sense of accomplishment I felt when I closed the toe and put them on because for me to have made them at all was A Big Thing(1).
These days my sock-knitting is formulaic in that I always make them top-down with a heel flap and gusset (much easier for the beginner, I'd say, than the short-row method), use double pointed needles (I like HiyaHiya Sharps in 2mm or 2.25mm), cast on 64 stitches if they are for me or my daughters, often reducing to 60 stitches after the ribbing as we like a snug fit), and Kitchener the toes. I knit them concurrently, so I'll cast on one and do five or so rows of ribbing, cast on the second and do likewise, then go back to the first for another five rows, catch up on the second and so on to the end; that way, when number one is finished, number two is just a few rows behind it and Second Sock Syndrome cannot strike.
As to where to start, Susan B. Anderson's How I Make My Socks is as good a basic pattern as any, and if you want to add a little interest you could superimpose the stitch patterns from Hermione's Everyday Socks(2) by Erica Lueder or Vanilla Latte Socks by Virginia Rose-Jeanes. Socks, for me, are mindless knitting and I don't want to have to follow a complicated pattern so although I have made cabled ones, lace ones, stranded colourwork ones, and the foxy ones with the very intricate cuffs, mostly I stick to something plain or with no more than a simple twist (such as here).
A non-knitting friend asked me why I go to the trouble of making socks given the wide range available to buy. Partly, of course, the pleasure comes in the making - I enjoy the largely meditative process, they are relatively quick, highly portable, and easy to pick up and put down, but creating a bespoke product, one which meets the recipient's requirements in terms of fit, colour and style, is in itself gratifying. Bought socks, even luxurious cashmere ones, are not invested with quite the same love and care.
If you've ever thought of casting on a pair I'd urge you to try, though I must warn you that once the bug has bitten you may find yourself stalking dyers' shop updates(3), having your head turned by colourway names or associations, and requiring a spreadsheet(4) to keep track of your carefully curated yarn collection, but there's no harm in the madness, just a lot of satisfaction and fun.
(1) It still is. The other day when I showed her what I was working on, my mother said, "but you were never a knitter!", mystified that one who showed little interest in or aptitude for the craft when young should have taken to it as I have now.
(2) The Hermione pattern is written for circular needles; I have posted my dpn adaptation notes here.
(3) I bought wool at 3 am once - Skein yarn doesn't hang around, and in my defence I had a heavy cold and couldn't sleep, but even so that might be said to be extreme...
(4) Yes, I have such a thing.