How to avoid SSS – Second-Sock-Syndrome

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As I traveled around the province this fall, knitting was my constant travel companion. The easiest travel knitting project for me is socks. They don’t take much space and I have the pattern for them memorized. Just pick the needles, some fun yarn, and I am on my way.

Along the way I met many knitters who as much as they like hand knit socks, have either never tried to make a pair – because you have to make two of them (!) or if they tried, often times, never finished the second sock. Much to their surprise, this is a common affliction for many sock knitters. In fact it has a name – Second-Sock-Syndrome or SSS. Where we enthusiastically embark upon a sock project inspired by the yarn, the new needles, or pattern, and then once the first sock is made, you are mostly satisfied. Then we look to the second sock with dread. But the thrill is gone, we know what it will look like and how the yarn will behave. The second sock is a chore. (If you are a fast and prolific knitter, you probably have no idea what I am talking about – but the rest of us often suffer through the second sock.)

But I have found a way to get around SSS. Here is my cure.

First things first. Let’s look at the anatomy of a sock. When you knit a sock you knit seven sections that can be looked at individually. (If you knit from toe to top, just reverse the order, the principle that follows will be the same.)

  1. cuff
  2. leg
  3. heel flap
  4. heel
  5. instep
  6. sole
  7. toe

My technique for combating SSS is to knit the socks at the same time. And this is how I do it. First, I knit the cuff section for sock #1. Then I get another set of needles and I start another sock and knit the cuff section for #2. Then I do the leg portion for #1 and then the leg for #2 once that first one is complete. I keep moving along, doing one section at a time on the first sock, and then that same section on the second sock. If I am working from a large ball of yarn, the yarn for one sock comes from the outside of the ball, the other from the centre.

There are many advantages for knitting socks this way. Often I don’t work with a pattern. I just have the basics in my head. But I do need to remember how many stitches I cast on, how long each section is, how I turned the heel, and how many stitches I picked up after I turned the heel. These things are difficult to hold in your head if you make a full sock and then move the other one. Especially if a week or two (or several months) pass before you get started on the second one. When I do one section after another, I can easily see what I’ve done. And for the more finicky things like turning the heel, or picking up the stitches, I can quickly do them back-to-back.

Another big advantage is the true sense of progress. After all, you are making a PAIR of socks, why not see progress on the PAIR as you go along? And while it is possible to abandon one sock and never make the second one – I have a few examples that could prove this point, I have found it difficult, if not impossible to abandon 1/2 knit socks in progress.

2014-12-16 11.22.38The final reason that really sold me is this: when you have finished the toe on the first one, you then move onto the toe on the second one. That’s the stage I was at in the above photo. After that, all you have left to do is the Kitchener stitch on both and weaving in the ends.

And you have a pair of socks. Complete.

Doesn’t get much better than that.

2 thoughts on “How to avoid SSS – Second-Sock-Syndrome

  1. Louisa

    I’ve been knitting socks that way for years! A little more expensive for the needles since you need 2 sets (I use dpns) but when I graft the toes and run in the ends, I’m done. No having to start all over again! They also tend to match much better. I don’t know why more people don’t do this.

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