Two at a Time

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So, remember when I complained about how much I hate knitting two items on the same needles at once? Remember my frustration over yarn tangles and boredom?  My steadfast refusal to never ever knit two things at a time again? Okay, maybe I kept that last part to myself, which is probably a good thing because I’m about to flip flop. That’s right, people: I’m officially endorsing the two-items-at-a-time knitting strategy. Not for every item, of course… I still maintain that trying to do those two sleeves at the same time was a bad idea, not least because it killed my desire to ever finish that sweater (I will finish it, though, dammit! I will!). The problem, I see now, is that sleeves are far too large an item to knit comfortably at once without a long enough circular needle to do magic loop. Socks, on the other hand, are just right.

I was inspired to give this technique another go when a knitting friend (yes, I have those now) showed me a pair of fingerless mitts she’d just finished. These mitts, knit in a Noro yarn, were absolutely gorgeous, and I imagined that she’d probably been anticipating wearing them all summer. There was one very obvious problem with them, though: one mitt fit her hand perfectly while the other was comically large. It wasn’t because she’d changed her needles, and the yarn certainly didn’t get fatter or anything like that. Unfortunately, it’s just a sad fact of knitting that your gauge can change if you’re not paying attention (and sometimes even when you are paying attention), especially when you’re trying to create two identical items separately.

Fast forward to last weekend, when Keith and I found ourselves in Hamilton for the annual Supercrawl. My favorite Hamilton yarn store was having a sale on Koigu KPPPM, so I grabbed two skeins with the intention of making a pair of very special socks for Keith’s birthday (I was actually going to make Keith a sweater for his birthday, sweater curse be damned!, but, one day, Keith turned to me and said, “I know you really want to make me a sweater, but what I really want is socks. No, really. Just socks. Lots of socks.” And I am nothing if not obliging…). This Koigu yarn can be mightily expensive ($14 for 175 yards), and the smaller yardage means you need two skeins to make a proper pair of socks. And because it would bother me to no end to waste even a little bit of this precious yarn, I decided to take a crack at something that had been intimidating me for a while now: knitting socks two at a time from the toe up.

So, I’m here to eat crow because, now, I love knitting two socks at once (I’m using this tutorial, by the way). Sure, yarn tangles are still a minor annoyance, and it’s definitely a bit slower  to knit two at a time than it is to knit one top-down sock on DPNs. But there are several advantages to knitting socks this way that have me thinking I might abandon my DPNs forever. In no particular order, here are some of the reasons why I’ve grown to love this style of sock knitting:

1. The socks are both of uniform size and shape.

2. When the pattern I’m using to make socks is fairly plain and easy to manage, I don’t need a row counter to keep track of my work. If I want to know whether or not the socks are the right size, I can simply slip them on my feet and know instantly whether or not I’m ready to turn the heel. Once the heel is done, I can keep going up the leg until they’re as tall as I want them to be.

3. It is obvious which side is the front and which is the back.  The picture at the top of this post is obviously the front, whatever Keith will see when he looks down and admires his custom socks. Here’s what the back side looks like:

First toe-up socks back

Plain, easy, obvious, and no fuss.

4. No laddering! This is possibly my absolute favorite thing about toe up socks because, try as I might, I can never seem to avoid the big gaps in the fabric where my needles join whenever I use my DPNs. Sometimes the ladders go away after a wash or two but, very often, they distort the fabric and make my socks look raggedy. When I make my socks toe up, on the other hand, my stitches are uniform and beautiful:

First toe-up socks side

So, them’s my reasons. I am definitely a convert to toe-up sock knitting and I plan to make many pairs of socks this way in the future.

Fellow knitters: What are  your favorite ways to knit socks?

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