Tuesday, 26 May 2015

The First Sock is the Hardest: Turning Those Heels...

Gently inserted into everyday conversation, the mere mention of sock knitting tends to provoke remarks about its apparent difficulty and a comment on the intricacy of heel turning will undoubtedly be thrown in here and there as well. Even non-knitters or those only loosely connected to the fibre sphere will appear to sound like experts on the topic of sock knitting and inevitably convey a sense of a awe when they utter that ominous phrase: 'turning a heel'. 


And all of a sudden it seems that everyone has heard about how immensely difficult it is to turn a heel. "Turning the heel', i.e. the part of the knitting when you shape the heel of the sock and work your piece on several needles whilst decreasing, seems to simultaneously instil feelings of awe, fear and amazement whenever it is mentioned, especially if non-knitters join the conversation. It sounds somewhat magical, surgical and therefore terribly advanced. 


Sock Knitting Heel Detail

Excluding the community of seasoned sock knitters (you know who you are), the larger than life reputation attached to heel turning outside the knitting community has done sock knitting no favours. I would even suggest that beginner knitters often shy away from attempting to knit their first sock as a result of the mystery surrounding 'heel turning' simply because they heard somewhere - possibly across the table at a dinner party - that heel turning and sock knitting are somewhat akin to open heart surgery. 

From the humble perspective of a knitting novice, let me assure you, they are not.


Sock Knitting Toe Detail

Fair enough, sock knitting requires familiarity with a number of knitting techniques, but it's not rocket science territory. You need to be able to knit in the round and be comfortable knitting with multiple needles. It also helps if you are comfortable with the the feel and behaviour of sock yarn. Other than that, whether you are experiencing sock heaven or sock horror entirely depends on the 'knit recipe' you are following. I found the instructions in Kate Atherley Socks 101 incredibly straightforward and would recommend them to anyone attempting to master their 'first sock'. 

Here's one I knitted earlier. Exactly two years ago. The socks have been in use since and machine-washed several times. (I do love 'stress-testing' my knitted objects.) They are  sadly not the prettiest finished objects on the planet, but I have chosen to showcase the project on the blog regardless. 


Sock (Knitted Tutorial By Kate Atherley Sock 101) 


Kate's instructions will enable any knitter familiar with the basic skills to negotiate the hurdles of sock knitting. By the time you have finished the first sock, you will feel ready to go through the same procedure for its counterpart.

The sock pictured is knittable in an afternoon. And once you have completed a pair, your sense of achievement will make you glow for days to come, just because you managed to turn those damn heels...

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