No wonder they embraced machine-made nylon socks for men and nylon stockings for women when they became available, and didn't teach their daughters to knit socks.
So when I went to a knit-and-natter session at my local yarn shop late last year and saw someone knitting socks, I was surprised. When I saw that the sock was emerging in multi-coloured stripes and even a fair-isle effect, I was astonished, indeed gobsmacked. It was Regia Design Line sock yarn, designed by Kaffe Fassett. He was already well-known in the 70s for knitwear designs that combined lots of colours in wonderful ways, but I had no idea that he had branched out into designing sock yarn. I had no idea, either, that there are so many other sock yarn ranges on the market, or that knitting socks had become so popular.
I was so impressed that I ordered the Regia yarn and a ball of Wendy Happy sock yarn from an online supplier. The happy yarn is bamboo and nylon - my daughter bought a pair of bamboo socks and raved about them, so I thought that I'd like to try it.
The Wendy yarn is a colourway called Pisces, a mixture of shades of bluey-green toothpaste colours (Colgate Triple Cool Stripe, to be specific).
The swatch I knitted was beautifully soft and so I embarked on knitting my first pair of socks. It wasn't as 'happy' an experience as it should have been. The yarn was very slippery, though just about manageable on bamboo needles, and tended to split. I had knitted on four needles before, but it doesn't feel very congenial - I like to knit with one needle under my arm, which is obviously impossible, so the knitting feels unsupported and rather precarious. Still, finding out how to turn a heel (with the help of a YouTube tutorial) was fascinating - I had never met the short rows technique before and it is so clever. And it is so neat that the finished sock is one continuous piece of yarn from top to toe.
Even though knitting on four needles feels slow and fiddly, at least socks are small and don't take too long to knit. So I have my first pair of hand-knitted socks.
However. Although they look fine immediately after washing, as soon as I put them on my feet, the rib loses all its elasticity and they are much too big and baggy. I don't know whether it's the yarn or my knitting. I have been wearing them as bedsocks when it has been exceptionally cold and the bagginess doesn't matter (and they have been very useful).
I also now realise that maybe I don't really want fancy hand-knitted socks. I like shop-bought socks. In winter, exclusively plain black ones (except for bedsocks), lighter colours in summer. OK, I should have thought that through before. So I think that knitting socks is probably not for me.