Thoughts on socks


Everywhere I look these days (it seems) I run into another article about Marie Kondo and her book/philosophy The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. I’m xnot sure I agree with all of her ideas (though maybe I’m just too intimidated to really try them), but I do love how everyone who writes about her talks about her feelings about socks.

For example, Oliver Burkeman writes in The Guardian: “Kondo thinks you should treat your socks like tiny people, and that when they’re in your sock drawer, they’re “essentially on holiday”.” (The illustration with that story is fantastic.) I also love this bit from Janet Potter’s review in The Millions: “Kondo’s a little hard to pin down. She’s simultaneously a hard-line pragmatist and a far-out child of the moon. For every no-nonsense truth she lays down — “storage experts are hoarders” — she comes out with an impassioned plea to stop balling up your socks — ‘This should be a time for them to rest. Do you really think they get any rest like that?’”

Both of these (and all the other things I’ve read about this book) do actually make me want to change the way I store my socks, if not specifically because I think they (the socks) have feelings, but because I have feelings about my socks. I have favourites. I have different memories and associations attached to different pairs, based on where/when I knit them or where the wool is from. I am genuinely sad when a pair wears out, and I take pains to prolong their lives — whether by knitting them at tight gauge, hand-washing them, or keeping a good rotation so that the wear is spread around. (Or, all of the above, actually.)

Okay, writing that down makes me feel a little strange, but still. If you knit socks you probably understand. And really, that last point is the impetus to keep knitting socks after you already have enough (however you define that). I really like Tanis’s method of keeping some pairs in reserve, but I know myself well enough to know that I don’t have the willpower. I love the feeling of a fresh-off-the-needles pair of socks, and it’s fun to add something new to the rotation, which also helps soften the blow when you realize that formerly favourite pairs are being reached for less and less, as their wear begins to assert itself. (These socks, in particular, were favourites, knit at a time when I had very few pairs of hand-knit socks which meant they were worn constantly, and now have been worn almost to pieces. I really ought to replace them.)

I have actually been thinking a lot about socks in the last little while — ever since Karen asked what knit people couldn’t live without. I’ve been wearing my sweaters like crazy, but the real star(s) of my hand-knit wardrobe are my socks. I have notoriously cold feet (I just tend to run cold everywhere really), but I have noticed a huge difference these last few winters. I’ve always worn wool socks, but there’s a big difference in warmth and quality between the ones I knit myself and the ones I used to buy. For the first time, maybe ever, my feet are reliably warm, and I have no doubt that it’s because the socks I wear now are better quality.

This post was actually supposed to be about Dawlish, which I finished the other night, but it seems to have gotten entirely away from me, so I’ll talk about Dawlish next time. It’s almost funny how much there is to say about something as basic as socks, but then I guess they’re a garment that everyone wears and people often have surprisingly strong feelings about. Where do you stand in the sock camp? Has knitting your own socks changed how you feel about them? (Confession: I used to be a sock hater. So yes, you could say I’ve changed my tune.)

21 thoughts on “Thoughts on socks

  1. lindsey kelly

    I’ve been seeing that book popup everywhere too! And every time I looked there was almost 200(!) people on the wait list at the public library, so finally I just bought it. I felt like it was fitting in with my current thoughts on my wardrobe (and the whole capsule wardrobe) and our home. The last year we’ve been trying and failing to keep things more organized – at that point our baby turned 1 and I felt like, ok I have the parent thing down and now I can readjust our settings and try to generally be more tidy. I realized that A- we have too many things we aren’t currently using and B- nothing has a good ‘place’ to be so it’s really hard to put it all away.
    SO anyway, I bought the book and read it (it’s pretty short). I found it a bit cheesy (which I attribute to the translation and try to overlook) but basically I think it will work well for us. It’s nice because instead of doing one room at a time or something like that, you do it be category. All of your clothes, all of your books, ect (and there’s a specific order in the book). The part about the socks really spoke up me with my hand knits too!

    1. Angela Hickman Post author

      I love the idea of tackling categories instead of rooms. It seems so much more manageable and methodical, and it’s so much easier to compare books to books to books (or whatever) than books to clothes to photos, the way you might in one room. I suspect it also helps with reorganizing, since for me at least, I have bookshelves in every room in the house, and bringing all of them together to assess their contents would for sure lead to a more organized arrangement of what gets kept.

  2. Variegated Stacks

    I love the Cold Snap socks. I am a new sock knitter. I haven’t grazed Kondo’s book yet, but looks interesting. I have always worshiped socks. I have a love obsession with colorful socks. I am looking forward to knitting more socks and testing out various yarns. If anything my new fondness for knitting socks will probably grow exponentially. Thanks for writing this thought provoking post.

  3. Kim Wepplo

    I’m almost ready to delve into socks (seeing that the ones I covet are $15/pr). I am wondering if you could please share a link to the pattern you use, either paid or unpaid is fine with me. I’m a bit nervous about this plunge but SO dang excited too!

    1. Angela Hickman Post author

      Oh, I am so excited for you! Socks were the first thing I knit that wasn’t a scarf/cowl, and there is nothing to be afraid of! A few people have gotten in touch to ask about a pattern, so I’m going to do a follow-up post with links and suggestions. I’m aiming to have it up by the end of the week!

  4. Kat

    I love my socks so much. There’s a part of me that wants to be the kind of person who can accept the end of a sock’s life with grace, but like you said, there’s too much memory and emotion built up in them. I only buy socks for cycling now, because I don’t want to punish my beautiful handknits with sweaty exercise feet.

    1. Angela Hickman Post author

      Little sport socks are the only store-bought socks I wear too, though I am starting to think I could knit some little sports socks with the leftovers from my other socks. Two-ish pairs out of a skein would make it easier to part with pairs that are worn out.

  5. sewsable

    I need more knitting time to make more socks, I love my handknit socks with a passion; unfortunately so do my family. Every time I cast on a pair my son or my husband ask me if the new pair is for them. I’m currently working on a pair for me, I even dyed the yarn for me and if I get the sizing slightly wrong I’m tinking and they’ll be for me.

    1. Angela Hickman Post author

      Oh, you’re way too nice! Haha. I usually give away a few pairs of socks a year (they’re so good for Christmas gifts) but for sure the majority of the socks I knit are for me. I do actually need to cast on a pair for L soon, but there’s no rush on finishing them, so they’ll be my background socks for a few months. I’m thrilled to hear you’re going to knit some just for you! When I used to teach sock knitting, I always told my students to make their first pair for themselves, since it’s much easier to knit for others when your own feet are warm!

  6. kiwiyarns

    Socks are definitely the thing I love to knit so much! I can never not have a pair on the needles. I think it’s physically impossible! Although I would say ‘all knitted things’ are the things I could not do without (very definitely, my life would not be the same if I did not have my favourite sweater and socks to wear and warm hats and cowls for winter).

    1. Angela Hickman Post author

      Choosing a single “vital knit” is so hard! I’m on a slow path to replacing as many of my store-bought items with hand-knits as I can, and each time a new item enters my routine I wonder how I ever got along without it! Socks, though, are the pinnacle of that for me. I can’t imagine wearing store-bought socks anymore, other than the little sport sockettes (which I’m now thinking I could make for myself using leftovers. Hmm.)

  7. Kristina

    I knit socks and I definitely understand. There’s just something about handknit socks that makes them a really gratifying project and item of clothing. I love my handknit socks so much! Just last week I was told I had to read Marie Kondo so now that you’ve written about it too I probably should 🙂

  8. Bekah

    I am a lover of knitting handknit socks, but haven’t yet taken to wearing them that often… I think I just need to find a better way to wash them – I don’t know what the best way is, and so after I wear them they have a tendency to just sit there until I’m brave enough to attempt washing them – I just don’t want to ruin them!

  9. Kepanie

    I’m afraid I don’t cherish my handknit socks as much since I hardly wear them because I usually wear shoes that don’t require socks and we have carpet here. But in sure this will change when we move into our new home as it’ll be colder.

    1. Angela Hickman Post author

      It took me a while to get into the habit of wearing handknit socks, but once I did I never wanted to go back. I think living in Toronto definitely helps with that though, since it’s sock weather for at least eight months of the year here.

  10. Pingback: An unplanned pair | Pans & Needles

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: