The Gift of Woodland Socks

In my 2020 end-of-year review, I mentioned I fell down a sock-knitting hole. For all that talk about my newfound fondness of sock knitting, I have neglected to actually show you any fruits of that fascination! Let this post be the start of my sock show-and-tell.

I haven’t knit a lot of socks in my time as a knitter; I knit a few house socks in Alafoss lopi years ago, but that’s it. I don’t know exactly what happened to change that: I obviously knew colourwork socks existed before the winter of 2020. Possibly that is a testament to how well the patterns that caught my eye are tailored to my taste or, alternatively, how the weight of everything terrible of the past year just gave me a huge craving for the type of comfort, warmth and protection that is best conveyed by the way of a handknit pair of socks. Not only that, but apparently my new found love for sock knitting also came with the urge to share that love as I’ve since finished more socks to gift to others than I’ve made for myself! In any case, the socks I’m showing you today aren’t the first pair I cast on, but as it was one of those pairs I gifted away, they came with a deadline and as such became the first pair I finished.

The pattern for this pair is the Woodland Socks by Sangmi Lee. They are allover woodland themed colourwork socks dotted with pine trees and a few wooden cabins and snowflakes here and there. Between this pattern and the moon sock WIP you’ve seen me working on before, I feel that you couldn’t have come up with a sock collection better tailored to my taste if you had specifically aimed for that (highly detailed and peculiar) design goal.

The Woodland Socks are knit toe up and and feature a short row heel. At the time I was knitting these I was knitting another pair of socks that was knit cuff down and featured a heel flap construction. I thought knitting them simultaneously was pretty neat as it gave me an opportunity to see which, if any, construction I prefer. Turns out that so far I don’t really have preference as to what heel I prefer to knit, though in fit a heel flap might have the edge for now. Since I’m such a beginner when it comes to socks I feel that I need to have some more socks under my belt to really draw a conclusion, but the figuring out is part of the fun I think.

I’m a picky gift knitter/sewist and usually only do handmade gifts once in a blue moon and only for people close to me. Especially for knitted gifts the time invested is just really big and taste is such a specific thing. Lately though I’ve been more open to making stuff for others but I let the intended receiver have a big say in the picking and choosing phase of the gift making because time is too short and the queue too long for me to knit gifts that others are not charmed by. So for these socks the receiver picked both the yarn and pattern themselves. I let him pick a pattern, from a selection of favourited sock patterns in my sock folder, and can you believe he went for exactly this pattern that I fell in love with a few days before?

The main colour is this bright orange- peach – burgundy variegated yarn, hand dyed by a small indie dyer in my country. It is dyed on a sock yarn base so it consist of 75% wool and 25 percent nylon. Later on in my sock knit journey I’d like to experiment more with no nylon sock yarn but for now I first want to see how a traditional sock yarn fairs over time. Especially because the recipient is hard wearing on their socks (meaning I expect to patch these up somewhere along the line) and I want to see how much wear I can expect from handknit socks before they wear out.

The speckled contrast colour is from a leftover skein I had in my stash. It is light grey, variegated with darker grey and near-white bits, speckled with neon pink, purple, black, orange and ochre speckles. It’s so interesting to see how background colour effects this skein. I previously used it for small stripes in a shawl with a dark purple main colour and the yarn looks pretty much white, whereas in these socks it is clearly grey.

The pattern is written for magic loop, but I had no trouble converting that to dpns (in case you didn’t know, the knitter on this side of the screen strongly favours dpns). I used a circular needle for the Turkish cast-on at the toe and then switched to dpns. You can do a Turkish cast-on on dpn’s too, but I find that a bit more of a faf than on a circular needle. The colourwork is of the “you have to pay attention” kind. Every row is different so it’s not super rhythmic and intuitive, so if you are looking for something you can knit on the go I’d maybe save this for another time. That said though, I found it knit up pretty fast and smooth anyway, and it kind of surprised me in that. I suppose that part of that is because I’m used to commit to elaborate allover garments that take me a long time to complete. Compared to that this was a nice change of pace.

I knit size 2 on the recommended needle size and the fit is pretty good. I let the recipient try them on for fit at regular intervals so I’d be sure they would at least be able to get them on. My gauge was a bit smaller, but that since that is actually an advantage for the longevity of socks I was fine with that.

I wasn’t really sure how to block them ( going on my zero experience with sock knitting) and because it was a gift I wanted to make sure I did it right. There is nothing quite like trying a technique or specific item you’ve never done before in a skill you consider yourself quite proficient in otherwise to make you consider that perhaps you actually know nothing about anything. Googling it made me almost convinced that it could only be done properly with sock blockers. To be sure, I asked around on instagram and in my stories and I’m so glad that I did as the overwhelming response was it be fine to just hang or lay them to dry (which is what I did) as an added bonus I got a lot of little extra tips kindly shared from experienced sock knitters which felt like a little boost to the start of my sock knitting!

I finished these in the depths of winter and they’ve seen quite a lot of wear already. They’ve been on some intense hikes, particularity during our deep winter snow storm explorations. So I’d say they have been well tested for warmth at least! So far I mostly noticed that the sole of the foot of the socks is more sturdy than the rest of the sock, as if it has felted together a bit on the sole. It makes sense as that portion gets most friction when wearing it. I don’t know if that is normal for handknit socks and if it happens with all sock yarns, as I have little to go by but thought I would note it here so I can compare it to future socks.

Knitting these was a good experience for me, I learned some new things and I’m enjoying trying out different constructions in tandem and find out my preferences. I also completely understand why socks are such a popular choice for gift knitting! It is fun to experiment with, feels like a decent, ‘bigger’ gift, but doesn’t have the commitment a full sweater would have and it is rewarding to see people stomp around in socks you knitted. It’s a relief that these socks were such a good experience as at the time of knitting them I had also committed to knit a pair for the same person as a birthday gift a month later. After I finished this pair, I almost immediately cast on for that pair. In the meantime these have seen it’s fair share of wear already. I can tell you that I intend to knit up this pattern for myself at some point as well as they are the most perfect woodland themed socks I’ve ever seen and who does not want a pair of perfect woodland themed socks?

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