For someone who has such a stash of sock yarns, and who also wears only handknit socks, you don't see me knitting socks too often. In fact, I won't pick up a sock knitting project until my socks are all worn out and in desperate need of darning - or all dirty. It's been at least 6 months since I last knitted a pair, which meant it was about time to get going with another pair. Preferably several, in fact, so I went and dug out some skeins of sock yarn. This got me thinking about sock knitting in general.
As I mentioned, I knit socks usually when I absolutely have to. There is normally a pair or two on the needles, waiting to be knitted when waiting at the car service or traveling, but it takes forever to finish a pair that way. Socks are perfect for travel-knitting, since they don't require a lot of thinking or concentration. But this means they're also very, very boring to knit. They would be more interesting with patterning, but I just prefer plain socks to any patterned socks.
My favorite type of sock is a plain stockinette stitch toe-up sock, with upside down French heel, and a 2x2 ribbed cuff. Sometimes I go wild and knit a small broken rib pattern on the instep and the cuff, but usually I prefer plain socks. Preference to plain socks is mostly due to the fact that most of my sock yarn stash consists of very colourful variegated or self-striping yarns. Choosing a pattern with such yarns would end up in neither of them showing very well.
Striping with two variegated would also be an option. I haven't knitted striped socks since "our boys" (= my younger brothers) were small and I knitted all sorts of socks for them in a collection of left-over yarns. In fact, I remember a time when I did all sorts of crafts but my knitting consisted only of socks for our boys. And they were well-worn socks too. In fact the high volume of socks knitted was due to the fact that they, being boys, went through them very quickly, and I didn't know how to knit very durable socks at the time. I'm not sure if we have a pair anywhere, anymore. But they were very traditional socks - cast on for a 2x2 ribbed cuff, which measured some 4 to 6 inches, then a reinforced heel with a regular sl1, k1 heel stitch, a sharp gusset decreased on every or every other row, and finished with a round toe. If striped, there would be 2 stripes in the cuff. The wilder version would have two stripes in the foot too. I don't think we even knew of variegated or self-striping yarns then, at least I don't remember knitting with them, ever. Those came later, but I was never truly drawn to them, until I started dyeing myself. And socks are perfect for very wild color combinations - small accessories as they are, and on your feet, they don't show as much as a scarf or a hat would. And you can choose colors which normally wouldn't be anywhere near your face. Such as orange!
Sock-knitting, while not necessarily fun, is very important then. Whether socks are worn only occasionally (like boot socks or slipper socks) or all the time, a good pair of socks is worth a lot of time and effort - and good materials. I prefer wool over any material. Cotton just feels odd in hand-knit socks, and loses its shape very quickly. (This can be due to the cotton used, or the fact that my feet are shaped very much like duck feet, they're only bigger.)
The best yarns I've used for my socks have been handspun.
But spinning sock yarn would make the process even slower, so when working with commercial yarns, I've loved Opal and Trekking yarns. They seem to last a long time, and they can be washed in a regular cycle without any damage to the knitted fabric. The colors are sometimes quite bizarre, but then again, my socks can be of very wild colors.
I always use the basic recipe for my socks: cast on 12 or 16 stitches (24 or 32 total) using Judy's magic cast-on, increase to 16 or 17 or 18 stitches per needle (64, 68 or 72 stitches total), then knit round and round and round until the gusset increases, which happen on every 3rd or every second row until I have about 20 new stitches. Then work the French heel upside down, with a small triangle at the base, turn the heel by knitting the 32, 34 or 36 stitches of the heel flap together with the sole stitches, and then work a 6 to 8 inch cuff and finish with 2 inches of ribbing. I've done it dozens of times, and it requires no thinking whatsoever, especially since I discovered that the foot is wide enough when I place the beginning of the sock on my left hand and my fingers have room to move around in the toe, and the gusset increases begin when the toe is long enough to touch the base of my thumb. The heel must be knit when the foot is long enough to cover my palm entirely.
There are slight variations to this recipe: sometimes I work a small pattern on the instep stitches, sometimes the ribbing is shorter than 2 inches, sometimes I work a Dutch heel instead of the French heel. I don't even have a preference for needles: I've knit them two at a time on one circular, or two circulars, or DPN's. I like bamboo needles, but mostly knit with metal ones.
But one thing is always certain: I cast on for socks at the toe.
Except when I knit my socks cuff down. :D