Tuesday, November 28, 2006

In praise of the hand knitted sock!

I love hand knitted socks. Why? They are so comfortable, they are so warm, and they look cool and feel wonderful.

I knitted my first sock about three years ago. I still own them and wear them occasionally, even though the toe is twisted on one of them. They are my first hand knit socks and I am proud of them. I do, however, remember the despair and agony of knitting them.

I had returned to knitting on a regular basis after a few years of knitting in spurts. I had mainly knitted chunky stuff on hugmungus needles for years - quick fix knitting (stuff I never wear). Then I discovered loads of new yarns and funky patterns and kind of rediscovered a passion. Everything I read online and in magazines mentioned sock knitting. I had always belonged to the school of thought that believed that 5 pairs of socks for £2.50 was the way to go and at that price and ease of purchase what was the point of knitting them. Then whilst browsing an online forum I found this whole sort of sock knitting subculture - weird - right? Nope, I was curious. Why the fascination? How do you knit a sock?

A couple of weeks later, wasting time (yet again) I was perusing an online knitting store (a new hobby at that time *sigh*) and lo and behold they had self-striping sock yarn in cool colours and even more cool they had a sock knitters starter kit - everything you need to make socks including an easy pattern. Sold to the lady in the pink hat.
I spent the next couple of days laying in wait for the mail delivery - poor Plod didn't know what had hit him (these were early days in knit related postman stalking). Finally, it arrived. Ok so the size of the needles shocked me and the yarn was like four ply and I was used to virtual woolen rope. But what the heck, in for a penny. I scanned the pattern - checking the abbreviations first to see if there was anything I didn't know how to do (my own method for seeing if a pattern is do-able), it all looked ok.
Time to cast on. Now my Ma can knit - really knit, so after 3 attempts of casting on over 3 needles - I asked her, she couldn't remember and the pattern did NOT explain how. Trial and error allowed me to stumble upon casting on onto one needle and then divvying up the stitches. Next how do you join the round? *gulp* Do you know after 20+ pairs of socks and numerous other knit in the round projects - I can still f***k this up. And again Ma had forgotten how she used to do it, but between us and six attempts we got there in the end. Now it should be easy right?

Hahahahahahaha! First row horror - vamps, werewolfs the work, for gourdness sake. A women who learnt to knit over 30 years ago and her Ma who learnt to knit over 50 years ago - it was like two chimps with a biro. I truly believe that that lunchtime I reinvented the 70's dance craze the funky chicken. I appeared to grow extra arms with giant elbows that had a mind of their own to learn Ashanga yoga. I must have unpicked that row numerous times.
I didn't give up though. I took myself off with a "Thanks for nothing Ma - some knitting guru you are" attitude and persevered. Bingo - by Jove I got it. Round followed round from rib to just knit - bliss I could see the attraction. But fate had in store another horror - heel flap -great! I got that, turn the heel - yep doddle. Gusset-what did I ever do to deserve that? Funky chicken mark 2. I did actually throw it across the room - needles catching the light and glinting malevolently - knowing they'd won. Pah! Eventually, after a prolonged rant against the stupidity of sock pattern writers and a sulk. I went on-line and found an on-line sock tutorial from a very clever lady - Terry Royea - she saved me that night -thank you, a million times, thank you.
My sock groweth. I reached the toe - I understood the decreases, I can do the stitches - I just did them in the wrong fricking place, which I discovered after I had mastered the horror of grafting with Kitchener stitch, and was trying my first ever sock on. Did I unpick it? Did I ell. Nope I still have and sometimes wear that twisted sock. It is A) an object lesson (sock 2 was straight) and B) I think my own anger and angst probably mentally scarred and damaged that sock, and to ignore it after such a traumatic birth would be heaping cruelty upon cruelty.

For all the trauma that my first sock caused, I was bitten by the sock bug. None of my family, who knit, knit socks - I infected my Ma and Sis to some extent though the madness doesn't run as deep in them. I now always have 2 or 3 pairs on the go. I have never suffered from 2nd sock syndrome and have no odd lonely one offs laying about the WIP pile. They sometimes have wait a couple of months for their mate to turn up, but they are always at least cast on and in progress. I have balls of sock yarn in waiting as I can't bear the thought of not being able to have a pair of socks on the go. I have needles of differing sizes and woods, Ebony, Birch, Rosewood and Bamboo, stitch markers, 100's of different patterns and a busted sock drawer cos I can't fit any more in it. The boys have socks as well but 98% I knit for me. Now I just have to find room for a new chest of drawers just for my socks.

1 comment:

Holly Burnham said...

Thank goodness you perservered through sock making and have now entered the sock addiction zone. I love making socks and want the whole world to make and wear them!