How to Knit Baby Socks
You will need:
Choose your yarn.
You choose pink. Something so pink it’s sickening. Emetic, you think. You cannot help yourself. You want a girl, desperately, and this makes you feel deeply silly. You do not believe in gender essentialism. You do not even believe in the gender binary. And yet, you want your baby to be a tiny little fat ballerina with long lashes and golden curls. So, you choose pink.
There are as many techniques for casting on as there are knitters. What’s most important to remember is that it may take a few tries to get going. For example, if you choose the long-tail method, you may underestimate how much yarn you will need. Then, you’ll find yourself casting on in ignorance, thinking you are heading toward the perfect pair of baby socks, only to find that you simply do not have enough yarn. You will have to rip everything out and start again. People don’t tend to talk about this part, but you are not alone.
A good number of stitches to shoot for is 32. Don’t obsess too much because, again, you really have no way of knowing how big this baby is going to be. And that’s the simplest thing about this whole endeavor: the baby’s size. And you can’t even predict that! Her health, her character, the way she exaggerates stories or stays out all night without calling or decides to become an artist or a Young Republican—none of this is in the realm of your control. It’s best you understand that now. So, anyway, about 32 stitches should do it.
Join in the round taking care not to twist.
If you twist your stitches, you’ll end up knitting a Mobius strip instead of a sock. There are infinite beautiful variations in the human species, but none, as of yet, has presented a Mobius foot. There is no right way to do this thing you’re trying to do, but there are several wrong ways, and this is one of them.
Knit the cuff.
K1, P1 for about two inches. Did you know knitting and purling are opposites, which means there’s really only one stitch? It’s all about how you look at things. Knit and Purl, used in combination, can create a variety of textures, including ribbing, which is what we’re after here. Ribbing is very elastic, which will help the socks stay up when your little one is kicking and squirming and crawling across the floor. Your husband says, “We need to buy some rugs. A kid can’t crawl around on this old wooden floor.” You wonder how people raised kids before rugs. Do you really need to buy rugs? What else don’t you know?
Knit the heel flap.
K16 or half the stitches in a round. Turn and purl your way back across these 16 stitches. Continue working flat in this way until you have a little heel flap that looks about the right length. Half an inch, maybe. (See: Stop trying to plan and control everything.)
Turn the heel.
S1, K3, K2tog, K1, turn. S1, P to 1 stitch before the gap. P2tog, closing the gap, P1, turn. Continue in this way until you have worked to the desired length of the heel flap. Spend some time staring at it thinking about the little foot that will fill it one day. Hopefully. Feel a little stupid because you are not even pregnant yet. That’s how much you don’t know if you can do this. You haven’t even done the first part. Pick up stitches along the vertical edge of the heel flap. Knit across the instep stitches. Pick up stitches along the other edge of the heel flap. Continue knitting to center of heel.
Knit the gusset.
This is the worst part. It doesn’t really look like a sock and you’re not sure it ever will. You’re too embarrassed to let anyone see your work. “Did you tell your mother we were trying to get pregnant?” you ask your husband. He swears he didn’t. “Well, you must have told her something,” you say. The woman has taken to asking if you have a bun in the oven—that’s really the phrase she uses, bun in the oven—every time she sees you. It is the first thing she says. You are no longer a person in her eyes; you have become an oven. Each time she asks, you try to keep your voice measured as you say, “We aren’t even trying,” which is not entirely true. But it’s not entirely false. You’re not trying in earnest yet. Not really. You’re not really ready. You still haven’t finished the first sock.
Knit the toe.
“You’ll never feel ready,” people say. Or, “There’s no perfect time.” It hasn’t escaped your notice that these people are usually men. Fathers, yes, but still people who need not wonder whether they’ll be able to drink wine when they go to Portugal in January. These men, to your knowledge, have never been compared to ovens.
For an adult sock, you would knit some length for the foot before decreasing down for the toe. But this is a baby sock, and while you don’t really know exactly what size the baby’s feet will be, they’re definitely going to be tiny. Like, so unbelievably small that you can’t stand it. You’re going to feel a wild desire to put those tiny toes in your mouth. Sometimes, when you think about little feet, you actually feel pain at your core, like your body is hungry for the child that isn’t even real yet, the child you’re not sure you can make, the child you’re not sure how to raise, the one you know nothing about except that you would give anything for her. Or him. But, hopefully, her.
Repeat for second sock.
About the Author: Célèste Fohl holds a BA in creative writing with a poetry focus from the University of Cincinnati and is pursuing her MFA in the nonfiction program at Lesley University. Her work has been published in the journal Short Vine and several indie-press anthologies. Célèste lives with her husband and their cat in Cincinnati, where she works as a senior copywriter for a top ad agency. Follow @celestefohl on Instagram to see what she’s knitting right now.