Many knitters will tell you that socks are the perfect project. They are portable, adaptable, and have an excellent cost-to-knitting time ratio. There is an endless supply of sock yarn out there, at a variety of price points, and you can make them as functional or fancy as your mood (or focus level) requires.
And yet...you will find yourself inevitably asked the question by a well-meaning friend or family member, "Why would you spend all that time making socks, when you can buy them for a few dollars per pair at the store?" While the answer "Because I want to" should always be sufficient, here are some other possible answers you can give that might help them 'get it':
- Store-bought socks don't fit as well as a pair of socks made to fit a specific foot. Factory goods are made to fit a range of sizes and shapes of foot, but there's something delightful of pulling on a well-made pair of socks that were made to your own precise measurements.
- Wool socks are seriously warm, but don't make the feet sweat. They also don't need to be laundered as often as commercial socks, so...you're saving water and helping the environment.
- Most commercial sock yarns contain a very high percentage of non-degradable, man-made materials. While sock yarns often contain nylon as well, the percentage is far lower, leaving less of a footprint on the environment. More exciting, some sock yarns are now being made that consist only of natural materials like silk or linen to give the sock added durability.
- Knitting is often referred to as a craft, but when you combine the physical skill and vision it takes to combine the right pattern, colours, and textures together into a three-dimensional piece, what you have is really wearable art. When you add in the awesome variety of absolute art that is hand-dyed sock yarn, you end up with a unique, unrepeatable item of clothing that truly 'belongs' to the person it is made for, a true act of creative love.
- You're supporting the local economy, particularly if you buy your yarn locally and from Canadian dyers and wool producers.
- They're easy to knit once you have the knack of them, and an excellent way to be productive while doing otherwise "time wasting" sedentary activities like watching television, being a passenger on a long commute, or waiting in line. I don't personally think that any down-time is wasted in terms of mental health, but sometimes it's nice to realize that that Netflix binge resulted in something tangible. If you're someone who feels guilty for taking time to just relax, knitting socks is a great way to alleviate some of that anxiety.
- They're really portable. Once a sweater, blanket, or even scarf reaches a certain point, it's awkward to cart around with you due to the size, but a pair of socks and the items to make them will always tuck neatly into a small bag or even pocket.
- Making socks (well, any knitting really) is an excellent fidget for those who find such things helpful to pay attention. Knitting has been shown to help improve concentration and focus, and there are many educators who believe it can aid greatly in mitigating some of the learning challenges faced by those who need a more kinetic approach to learning. Of course, this is only really true if the project is one that doesn't demand more attention than the subject being studied. As someone who found that knitting through lectures was more useful than taking notes, I can attest that the cuff, leg, and foot of a plain pair of socks is just about as good as it gets as a learning fidget!
Knitting is kind of like baking. You can go and buy a loaf of not-great bread at the grocery, and only spend a little bit on it. You can go to a nice local bakery, and get loaf made by a dedicated craftsperson for considerably more. Or you can learn to bake, and understand and enjoy the process of creating it for yourself. There's a clear difference in taste and enjoyment that's reflected in the work and cost of each, and while all will absolutely serve the same ultimate purpose in nourishing the body, the joy that some people have in taking part in the creative process is what makes it worthwhile for them.