@wisehilda do you always block your socks
— Carrie Ingram (@Ingram1016) May 29, 2014
I get asked this fairly regularly.
My answer, in 140 characters or less:
@Ingram1016 Nah. Only if they are going to be photographed. Otherwise, just wear 'em & wash. They are socks after all. ;-)
— Kate Atherley (@wisehilda) May 29, 2014
In slightly more than 140 characters: Nope.
But, you ask, what about those sock blocker things they are always trying to sell me?
If so many companies make them, I must need them, right? And the knitters of the olden-times used them, so they must be IMPORTANT. You can find sock blockers at antique shops all the time. Witness this post on a blog about antiques. And a quick search on eBay provides a fair number of different versions, of different vintages.
Here's the thing: sock blockers date back to times when knitters weren't likely to be using superwash wool. That is, they were making socks from wools that would felt with wear and washing. And so blockers were used. They were, in the words of the antiques blogger whose post I linked to above
Yup. Size. Blockers were used to help keep the felting process at bay."the best way of keeping socks and stockings the right size and shape after laundering".
So, unless you're knitting socks out of non washable wool, it's a big old nope. Simply not necessary.
Now: if I'm photographing the socks, or sending them off to be photographed, or presenting them as a gift, I will wash them. But even then, I just hang them over a laundry rack or towel rail, once they've been wrung out.
The only time I'll actually stretch them out, on an actual blocker, is if they are made of lace. Lace looks best stretched, and so I like to stretch it before I wear it so they look nice when I put them on.
But honestly: the best sock blockers in the world? Look down. They're at the end of your legs.