My mother--whose stitches make mine look awful--said when she was teaching me to knit that some people naturally have more even tension than others because of their innate muscle tension and neurology. And that the key to improvement was not trying to control tension, but relaxing enough to knit with your own tension. I knit for awhile at that stage, back in my early 20s, and then quit. I think I finished two scarves and a baby cap. Somewhere there's about six inches of a sweater sleeve--I never finished the rest. Anyway, it was another 40+ years before I knitted again, over 20 years after she'd died...and I was astounded that--having knit so little really when I was learning, and with that gap--it took only a fairly short time before the "feel" returned and the stitches were evening out (the first few inches, though...awful.)
Now I've been knitting most days (not every day) for over a year, and that really does help. I'm slow--and I don't knit all day--so the actual production has been low--but my hands are put through the motion often enough that I've relaxed a lot. So...if you're having trouble with uneven stitches, just keep going. They'll even out when it becomes easier for you and you can relax into it.
Ah, nice insight from your mom about finding one's own tension. The minds is amazing like that. I still have a clear physical memory of knitting as a child, and would probably settle into it again rather quickly (once someone reminded me how to cast on).
When my mother started knitting sweaters for me (when I was in college and the military) she hadn't knit for years and went through several frustrating days of re-learning how to cast on.
We're lucky...Google and YouTube are your friends in the wilderness. I managed to cast on that first night (over a year ago) by unhooking my conscious mind from the process and telling myself firmly that my hands remembered...but my hands' memory was only for the simplest one-needle cast-on. Online, you can find sites with both static images and text, and videos for all sorts of things you only half-recall. Incredible wealth of help. In fact, you can find multiple videos, and pick the ones you find most helpful.
Incidentally, a crocheting friend tells me (and I noticed this) that the crochet videos aren't as easy to use as help, as the knitting videos because the crocheters don't seem to be able to slow down--or maybe the movements are more complex.
2012-04-16 06:48 pm (UTC)
My name is Karen and I've knit everything from seamless sweaters to baby clothes to mohair lace afghans -- but I've only ever knit a single sock (it's languishing in a drawer somewhere).
Now I desperately want to attempt your method of knitting two socks at once!
I can't really claim it's "my" method, Karen. Someone (and at the moment I can't remember whether it was a person online, in person, or in a book--or a combination) suggested that doing them in parallel avoided the "one sock syndrome." I will say it's been great for me, and much easier than trying to "start over" to make a matching sock later. Especially when other work interrupted me for weeks at a time. And most importantly on the tricky bits, like heel-turning,etc.
I do have some suggestions for starting. Get two sets of five DP needles in the size you'll use. (Since I like thicker socks, and am using worsted-weight wool, I'm using size 5s.) Get two one-gallon zip-closing freezer bags. Get two balls of the yarn. Label one bag A and one B. Into each bag goes one ball of yarn and five needles. In a separate freezer bag, or a fancy needle case if you have it, have your rescue kit: a small crochet hook (the right size for your yarn & gauge), a few big safety pins, a larger (one or two size larger) DPN and a smaller (even very small, for holding a few stitches while you fix something) DPN, a pair of scissors, a tapestry needle, a measuring tape, and a needle gauge.
The yarn you pick should be a color you absolutely love, something that cheers you up when you look at it, that you want to be around. (If that color is taupe instead of red, fine: it's YOUR color.) And--maybe especially important for you, because you're an experienced knitter and probably don't make nearly the number of mistakes I do--prepare yourself for an adventure--be ready to make mistakes and not beat yourself up. Think of Socks as through-hiking the Appalachian Trail...there will be days of rain as well as sun, falls, muddy boots, blisters, that moment when you realized that you should have packed something you left, and left something you packed and it's too late now. But a happy attitude (helped by your favorite color wool) and a pre-set agreement with yourself that no matter what they look like, you will come out with two socks and you will give yourself credit--will carry you through the discovery of something like "Oh, no, I didn't slip those stitches on the heel flap margin and how AM I going to knit into these tiny snug stitches?"
So then you measure your leg at the height you want the cuff...do a quick gauge swatch to see how many stitches you'll need to go around (you can ignore row gauge if you're willing to try them on regularly) and cast on and go. Just like that. (Advantage of cuff-down: all you need is that one measurement for quite a ways.) Each sock/yarn/needle combo stays in its own bag; you can take one along instead of both, if you're going somewhere that you don't want to take your big tote. The rescue bag must always come (says the woman who had to pick up TWO dropped stitches while waiting for church to start...)
I'm sure your first pair will be better than mine, because you clearly have a LOT of knitting experience. Way more than I do.
2012-04-16 10:24 pm (UTC)
Thanks for the encouragement!
I confess that my feet love wool socks -- to the extent that I've been buying men's wool socks for decades for the pure joy of having warm, dry tootsies!
I think my original mistake was using a superwash wool, which didn't block to my measurements.
With your guidance, I think I'll try again -- and red is my cup of tea too!
2012-04-16 10:50 pm (UTC)
Re: Thanks for the encouragement!
I love wool socks too--cushiony, wicking--and yes, bought men's ragg-wool boot socks for years. I have long feet. But I now have swollen ankles and the men's hiking socks are made for athletic men with lean ankles & lower legs--so their very snug elasticized cuff tops make my swelling worse. So...my socks have no elastic, have cuffs big enough for my ankles, long enough for my feet, etc.
The thing about socks for yourself...they're absolutely customizable, and you can do that just by trying them on repeatedly while knitting and making adjustments along the way. (It's easier to try them on when they're on 4 needles instead of 3, rhomboids or parallelograms being more flexible than triangles.) I didn't know, on the first pair, how much to decrease to make the foot feel right (more than I thought--but my instep isn't "high" and the feet themselves aren't swollen. So now I know, and this pair should fit better. I'm even considering what one book calls "anatomical" toes (making a right and a left sock, with the toe decreases non-symmetrical. Why not, after all? Shouldn't be any harder.
I am in awe of someone making a knitted lace with angora. The whole concept of lace REALLY scares me.
2012-04-17 04:44 am (UTC)
Re: Thanks for the encouragement!
(From Elizabeth D.) Swollen ankles come with warmer weather for me, since my twenties, even when I was much lighter. I use a pillow at my feet when I sleep, keeping the knees to feet on the pillow at a level just above or on a level with the heart, and it brings some of the swelling down. (I also tend to take aspirin for my non-RA factor rheumatoid arthritis... which just means that they can't figure out how I can have blood tests with high sedimentation and C-reactive protein without either RA factor or lupus factor. I know that not everybody can take aspirin because it lowers platelets.)
I've tried knitted lace too, and always dropped stitches and gave up. Socks are also beyond me, although I've knit baby blankets. Crochet I find easier than knitting. My mother did not knit.
Crochet is easier to see than knitting, although it is a much more recent invention, very similar to the Medieval lucet. I have crocheted lace, including Christmas decorations.
For crochet: The cast-on is simply to make a loose knot, and then with the hook pull a loop through it, keeping it very loose. That loop stays on the hook, so then pull a loop through that, and a loop through the next, in a "chain." The chain is not on a stick, but it is the "cast-on" row. Chains can also be used as connections in lace. Crochet wastes yarn because there is a back loop, and it does not lie as flat. The front loop that looks like stockinette stitch is the one that counts.
The actual "stitches" in crochet: the stick with a loop in it is stuck into a chain loop one or two stitches back in the chain, and pull yarn through, leaving the first loop and the pulled-through loop on. Then pull a loop through both those loops. That is one "single crochet" stitch. For a solid row, every chain loop gets a single stitch in it; for open work, it is possible to skip chain loops, but add a chain stitch between the single stitches. (I'm sure this is way too confusing.)
The "double" and "triple" stitches in crochet are more decorative. They are like the single crochet stitch in principle, but the yarn is wound around the stick once (for double) or twice (for triple) before the stick goes into the chain loop, and the loops have a chain through them two at a time.
There are a few more stitches too, but those are the most basic. I realize that my powers of description are not as good as the books, but it is much simpler to see every stitch, and as long as you don't drop the last loop on the stick, it is much harder to unravel than knitting. To me, knitting is prettier in general, but I like the crocheted lace better, and it makes a nice edging (single, double, triple, double, single, with a second row of single with some stitches added at the top of the wave and dropped at the bottom) along a baby blanket.
2012-04-17 12:44 pm (UTC)
Re: Thanks for the encouragement!
My mother did both crochet and knitting. I used to do some crochet, small simple stuff (as my knitting was then, too) but now crochet hurts my hand. My expert crochet-making friend re-taught me single, double, and triple crochet...but I found that more than ten stitches and my hand starts hurting. The finger movement of manipulating the crochet hook exercises the very joints I need to rest; the way I knit keeps them motionless (and yet something's being accomplished.) Too bad, because it means I probably won't ever finish the granny-square afghan my mother started for our son. (And it's in wool that's no longer available, although I suppose adding in another wool at this point wouldn't be terrible.) I will have to teach HIM to crochet, or suggest he learn from someone.
These are coming along beautifully. Neat stitches.
Thanks. I've got another thousand words to write this evening before I can get back to them.
A problem has developed. By slipping a stitch at the start of each row, I provided myself with slightly looser stitches to knit into, to reconnect the heel flat with its heel to the front of the sock. That is, the right side of the heel flap has a neat row of slightly larger stitches. The wrong (purl) side starts with big floppy stitches that no amount of tugging would fix, since (as I already knew from the round knitting) the purl stitches take any opportunity to hang around loosely (between needles, for instance.) I have an idea for a fix for this pair that will (maybe) work, but will probably horrify real knitters. Not saying what it is yet. Otherwise the two sides won't match--one will have more gappy bits than the other.