I like knitting socks, but casting on can be a chore—considering the number of stitches an average cuff-down sock needs. The very first sock I attempted to knit was for my knitter grandma. She had given me a “challenge”: knit a pair of plain vanilla socks at a gauge of 8 sts/inch. I was nine. Needless to say, this was the smallest gauge I had ever knitted at. Since we were from two states away, I began the sock as soon as we left her driveway. I had plenty of time to finish a sock, right? Well, first I had to cast on … let’s see … 64 sts?! How was I supposed to do that? Feeling uneasy, I began to cast on with the backward loop cast on, my favorite one at the time. (NOTE: I’m not really sure why I even liked that one. Maybe because it was quicker than a long tail cast on.)
That took a while. Finally, I joined to work in the round (something that I had learned recently) and began the knit 2, purl 2 ribbing. To my dismay, I couldn’t even insert my needle into the first stitch without injuring my finger. An hour or so later, I had the first round completed. After that, it was not so hard to knit. A few weeks later, I had ONE finished sock! The problem? There was no way ANYONE (Except maybe my newborn cousin) could fit it over their foot. The cast on I used was so restricting and inelastic that I was forced to undo it (plus the circumference was about 4 inches wider than it should have been).
I didn’t knit another sock for four more years.
The point of the story is: Always use a flexible cast on for sock cuffs. As a general rule of thumb, any long tail cast on should suffice for sock knitting. My favorite cast on for socks is currently the Old Norwegian cast on. At first, it is a little difficult, but it is just as easily executed as the traditional long tail cast on.
I never did finish those plain vanilla socks for Grandma. I went from a newbie who wouldn’t check his gauge, to a daring adventurer, looking for the hardest sock to knit. The socks I eventually knitted for her were Cookie A’s Kai-Mei socks.