Do you remember your first pair of socks?
I learned to knit in Switzerland when I was around 12. My father was on sabbatical and knitting was part of the school curriculum. My first knitting project was a pair of baby booties. My tension was so loose that the booties fit my father. Right after that, we had to knit a real sock. But it was one sock, not a pair. We had to knit a sock with a knit-and-purl texture to use a a basis for learning the duplicate stitch. . When it was done, we stuffed it, turned it upside down and put it on a broom stick to make a hobby horse. I still have it. In fact, it was photographed for an issue of Knits several years ago. My tension was so bad that my sock ended up three times bigger than anyone else’s and the stuffing shows between the loose stitches.
My next pair of socks was a departure from the hobby horse sock. I made two pairs of Norwegian knicker socks; green and white for my mother and brown and white for my father. The socks were for them to wear cross-country skiingand they did for several years. The pattern was from a Dale of Norway book. I was in high school by then.
When did you start to make socks in earnest?
I really got into socks about 4 years ago. Knitting socks gave me something to do while sitting in meetings at work. And I could carry them around with me to other places, too. Especially after 9/11, it became easier to get bamboo double-pointed needles through airport security. The needles weren’t any more dangerous than a pencil.
What’s your favorite method of knitting?
I like the basic pattern set up in my book (which I learned from Folk Socks). Once you cast on, you know how many stitches are going to be needed for the heel, the gusset, the foot, and the toe. I memorized the proportions years ago so now once I cast on, I don’t even need a patterneverything is based on the number of cast-on stitches..
What makes a perfect pair of socks?
They need to be hand knitted. For the last two winters I’ve worn only handknitted socks. I no longer buy socks because I don't want to give up bragging rights when I say that I only wear handknitted ones.
You have a husband and three sons. Do they wear your socks?
Yes, on occasion. David, my husband, has a couple of pairs of wool socks, but he rarely wears them. He’s never cold enough. When it's so cold that I'm wearing six pairs of socks and standing over the heater, he might feel chilly enough to pull on a pair of wool socks.
more photos of Ann with Hobby Horse.
And your sons?
Alex, the oldest, wears his on weekends and evening as slippers. Eric will wear only white sport socks. Nick would wear socks if I made some for him. He has a pair that I had intended for the book, but they weren’t worked in superwash and they shrank when I threw them in the washer with the rest of the laundry. They fit him for a few months but his feet are as big as mine now.
What will your next pair be?
Right now I’m working on a pair of toe-up socks. I’ve been teaching a workshop on toe- up construction at my local yarn shop and in one of the classes, the students were so good that I got bored. So I bought some yarn and started a toe-up pair using the stitch pattern that I used on the foot of the sock I designed for Classic Elite. I liked it so much I wanted to do a whole sock in it.
Do you have a favorite pair of socks that you’ve knitted?
Actually, it’s the pair I gave you. I like the juxtaposition of the manly cables with feminine lace. I like the airy, wispy quality of the yarn and the way the halo on the yarn softens the holes of the lace. And the yarn feels pretty darn good as it travels through my fingers to the needles.
One thing people always ask me is whether or not I reinforce the heels and toes of my socks. I always tell them, “No.” I hate having the reinforcing yarn flopping around when I’m knitting; I’d rather knit a new pair of socks than deal with that annoyance.