Have you tried making your own socks? In many ways, they’re the perfect knitting project: quick to make, very portable and endlessly giftable! We caught up with Christine, AKA Winwick Mum, whose Sockalong tutorials have taken the knitting world by storm.
Can you tell us a bit about the history of the Sockalong? What is it and how did it get started? How many people are involved now?
The Winwick Mum Sockalong is a series of tutorials designed to take beginners through everything they need to know about knitting a pair of socks. I’d been writing about sock knitting on my blog for some time and they came about when I got fed up of people telling me that it was too hard to knit socks. “That’s it!” I announced, “I’m going to write some tutorials for my blog and show people once and for all that they’re not hard!” That was in January 2015 and on 3 May 2015, the Sockalong officially started. I thought it would be great if maybe 30 people joined in, but by the end of the first day of setting up a Facebook support group for the Sockalong there were 500 people in the group and there are currently over 10,000 members – plus however many read the free tutorials which have remained on the blog since their first publication. There is now also an award-winning paperback and e-book version of the tutorials as well, called Super Socks, for those who don’t want to or can’t be online all the time.
New people are joining the Sockalong all the time but because the tutorials are free on the blog, there’s no way of knowing how many people are involved at any one time. However, each year on the Sockalong’s birthday I ask people to tell me how many pairs they’ve knitted during the year to try to get some idea of the total number of socks that have been knitted using the Sockalong tutorials – the running total is 10,960!
That’s a lot of socks! Tell us about your own first pair of knitted socks.
I knitted my first pair of socks for my beloved Uncle Harry when I was about 16. My aunt had recently died and as she always knitted his socks, he was worried that he wouldn’t be able to wear hand knits any more and asked if I could make some for him as he knew I was a knitter. It was quite a challenge – the pattern involved sewing up gussets and side seams and as I handed them over, I categorically knew that I would never be knitting a pair of socks again. I’m surprised I didn’t hear the universe laughing!
Years later, I spotted some self-striping sock yarn in a yarn shop and although I initially resisted, the lady in the shop won me over by telling me it came with a free pattern. I decided that patterns must have improved since my first socks and kerching! – a purchase was made – and the sock obsession was unleashed!
Your Sockalong instructions are incredibly detailed. What inspired you to put the time and effort into this project?
One of the hardest (and most off-putting) things about being a beginner is reading patterns where assumptions are made about your skills and knowledge. I wanted to write my tutorials as if I was sitting next to someone so that I could show them what to do and explain something that might not seem straightforward. I do have a background as a trainer and always particularly enjoyed working with beginners, so it seemed quite natural to me to write in-depth tutorials for people who already had the skills to knit socks but just needed the opportunity to take things more slowly.
Do you need any specialist materials for sock-making?
The Sockalong socks are knitted in the round on short circular, long circular (magic loop) or double pointed needles so they’re an essential, but apart from that there’s nothing that you’d need that you wouldn’t find in any knitter’s bag. Stitch markers (you can even make them out of spare yarn if you don’t have any), a wool needle, scissors and a tape measure. Finally, some way of counting your rows but you can use a pen and paper if you don’t have a row counter.
Once knitters learn the basic sock technique, are there any directions they can branch out to make more detailed and advanced socks?
Once you understand how to knit a basic sock, the world is your oyster! The idea behind the Sockalong tutorials (apart from taking over the world one sock at a time!) was for them to act as a springboard for people to discover the hundreds – thousands! – of other sock patterns that are out there. For those who find the leap from the basic sock to a pattern a bit far, I’ve written another series of tutorials covering cable, lace, intarsia and (coming soon) colourwork socks; they’re already available on the blog and are going to be the subject of my new book, More Super Socks (due to be published in September), which will include brand new exclusive patterns using these new skills.
How many pairs of socks do you think you’ve knitted in total?
I don’t know, I’ve lost count! At a guess, somewhere between 70 and 100 pairs, although they weren’t all for me. I’m lucky to have a family who appreciate hand knit socks so they have very well-dressed feet!
What tips would you give to a first time sockster?
Just do it! What’s the worst that can happen? You unravel your yarn and start again. There’s nothing about knitting a sock that you can’t do – you’ve probably made far more complicated projects already – and you can always use a lifeline if you worry you might have to take your knitting back. Oh, and be kind to yourself. You might have been knitting for many years but sock knitting is a new skill so give yourself time to learn and soon you’ll be knitting socks as if you’ve always been doing it.
Thanks Christine for your sock expertise! We’re looking forward to checking out More Super Socks in September.