Knitted socks have been around for a long time. While non-knitters and even some in the knitting community don't understand the purpose of labouring long hours to make something that can be purchased in packs of 5 for 2 dollars, those of us who have tried it know better. It's not about economy of time or money - it's about enjoyment... the beautiful yarns, the delicious patterns, and the way they just feel better on Your feet.
While there are many techniques employed in making socks, i'll focus on just two today. i'm a 2 circs girl, but i'll try to be objective. :)
Let's start with DPNs. Double pointed needles are the traditional way to go. Using 4 or 5 long "toothpicks", one travels in a triangle (or square) around the outside of the sock using the 4th (or 5th) "free" needle to knit with.
Pros include: Most sock patterns are written for DPNs and will detail set-up (so many stitches on each needle, chart breaks, and so on). i would also guess (but i'm putting up a poll to confirm, so please vote!) that there are more sock knitters out there who use DPNS, so if You get into trouble it may be easier to find someone who can help You. And knitting with a bristling wreath may allow You to knit in peace. ;)
Cons are: If You're not paying attention, it is unhappily easy to pull out a needle instead of using Your free one, thereby forcing You to rescue a lot of tiny loose stitches. Along the same lines, if You toss the sock haphazardly into Your knitting bag You are liable to lose a needle (there are, at least, devices made for safe containment during transit). Also, the more needles that are involved in a project, the more places You can have ladders, pesky spaces created by the gap where two needles join.
Star-student Jessie (who learned to knit at January's LTK class) demonstrates how to knit socks on double points at our class Saturday:
When using 2 circs, the stitches are evenly divided between two circular needles - You then knit with one set of needles at a time.
Pros: With only two points of join and the fact that the cable is thinner than the actual needle (enabling You to pull needle-transition stitches tighter) there is less likelihood of developing ladders. The length of the cable also means that Your stitches are more likely to stay put - You can tie the cord in a knot, if it makes You feel safer. And finally, since everything is hooked together You won't drop a needle, making it easier to knit while waiting in line or sitting somewhere You don't want to lose a needle, like an airplane or a movie theatre.
Cons, however, are: Since most sock patterns are written for double points, You will likely have to translate Your pattern from a number designed to be divided by 3 to one divided by 2. It is possible as well to knit with the wrong needle, producing one free circular and a convoluted S-twist. And circular needles themselves are more expensive, especially when You have to buy 2 sets (this is particularly bad if You only knit socks with needles that size - otherwise You can get 2 different lengths and use them for other projects).
Another recent convert to sock knitting works with 2 circs:
Next week, we'll discuss top-down vs. toe-up!