Monday, 3 March 2008

What's in Blog Post Room 101?

It can be only one thing: socks!

I have always been clear, "I can't knit and I won't knit socks!" My reasons are:

  1. I loathe working with short needles of any kind, especially circulars and dpns. It comes from finally having learnt how to knit in Primary 7 (for those of you who are familiar with the Scottish education system) by tucking a needle under one arm.

    Anything other than long needles reduces my 'leisurely stroll in the park' knitting pace to an absolute, 'museum exhibit tourist crawl' as I struggle to keep my needles from exploding out of my hands in an outburst of pointy chaos and dropped stitches.

  2. I've always been very content that my socks are either black or white and bought in huge cheap bumper packs. This increases my chances of defeating the Sock Monster (who dwells inside my washing machine) and maximises my chances of finding a matching pair of socks at 6:45am (approximately) each morning, when dressing for work.

  3. I have an inherent suspicion of anything, even remotely, evangelically promoted by others. Included in this list are bananas and jaffa cake biscuits. The first is tolerable (if slightly green), the second is simply orangey, cakey, chocolately nastiness.

With the result that I have been a bit nonplussed by other knitters' facination with knitting socks: the process, the output and their ardent enthusiasm.

I have sat and watched strangers and good friends alike, knit sock, after sock, after sock with a determined, passionate glint in their eyes. I have witnessed the love and enjoyment of sock knitting on blogs and on Ravelry. I have quietly entertained (and ignored) many, sock knitting recruitment drives.

Don't get me wrong. I can appreciate the beauty of a well crafted sock. I enjoy looking at them and I am happy to celebrate other people's sock successes. However, you would still be hard put to explain why I should make something that people will rarely see (I wear my trousers long and I do not wear socks with skirts), is not in keeping with my character (loud socks), that would take me an age to create (really) and that overall, costs a lot more than a durable, long lasting pair of commercial socks.

For me, socks are a discreet, non-item, worn to keep feet warm, stop shoes from rubbing and prevent grime adhering to the foot when walking around shoeless at home. Simple, no?

So, given my clear, reasoned and firm anti-sock knitting stance, can ANYONE explain this abberration on my part?!

Yes, a sock. I have knitted and finished a sock (apart from the kitchener stitch bit). Albeit a rather plain and simple, badly knitted, red sock. A sock, nonetheless. Of my own free will too. I am perplexed - I don't recall anyone willingly locking themselves into their very own Room 101 in Orwell's 1984? Either I am ill or there are dark knitting forces at work?

Personally, I favour the idea of dark knitting forces and to be quite frank, I think that there have been scattered hints that the Dark Side of Knit has had me in its sights for weeks! The evidence:

  • inadvertant influx of sock yarn into my stash

  • a sock knitting Christmas package, lovingingly hand dyed and packaged

  • a mini sock knitting lesson from Dotty

  • the suspicious sight of a single skein of Koigu KPM in my Vancouver yarn stash photo

  • even my mother gave me a set of sock knitting bamboo dpns at Christmas.
I am not really sure that I stood a chance. However, there may yet be hope:

I have only knitted one sock and it doesn't fit very well. Hence the reason I have not yet kitchenered it. How can something be baggy and at the same time, be pulled forwards, off the heel, despite my knitting it to the correct length before decreasing for the toe?

So all that work and I find myself a bit discouraged by the outcome. I did hope that once I had put this sock on, I would 'get it' because handknitted socks might be far more comfortable than machine made ones. I thought that this might prompt me to become an instant hand knitted sock convert?

While I was intrigued by the overall construction of my sock, I did find it very needles-all-getting-in-the-way-fiddly and a little bit dull to work (sorry). In fairness, people sitting near me were lucky not to find themselves harpooned by flying toothpicks.

I made hard and lengthy going of it. While sock knitters around the globe have churned out 1-2 pairs of socks in the past two weeks or so (some impressively patterned, I might add)...

...this sock was cast on somewhere over Canada on the 18th February. So it's taken over two painful weeks to get this far. (This includes a 3 hour train journey to visit my parents last weekend, on top of my usual weekday commutes).

So right now the idea of repeating this experience to make another ill fitting sock does not appeal - I have other, very overdue knitting to tackle on my list.

Also, now that I have made one sock, I understand their construction and proven that I can make them - so, mission accomplished. There's really no immediate reason to make another one, is there? Certainly not another sock exactly the same - why would I want to make the same thing twice? (Shh, I know I knitted three almost identical scarves recently!)

Mind you, I guess that it is a shame to have a lonely sock circling the house. I suppose that I could try feeding it to my washing machine. You know, play the monster at its own game, by feeding it a single sock - just in the hope that it will confound all known convention and spit me out two identical red hand knitted socks, so I don't have to knit another for myself?

What? You mean I am supposed to lovingly handwash this thing? Um, if this sock doesn't survive the machine, it does not survive at all - items that require expensive dry cleaning or labour intensive hand washing in my house, tend to lie forgotten at the bottom of my linen basket. I have already had a rashy run-in with Eucalan via the scratchy Noro.

I think that the only thing that could possibly entice me to keep going and make the second sock (at some point) is something that Rabbitch said when I was in Vancouver. This was seconded by Dotty who wrote something a little similiar in a comment about my mini sock knitting lesson:

You are knitting socks?! Ha! Welcome to the Dark Side of Knit (it's ok, we have cookies)!

So there it is, in black and white - the typed out price for my anti-sock knitting soul: the chance to join a knitting club with cookies on offer. Good grief, is that all it would take?!

So um, Dark Side of Knit - how about upping that offer from cookies to chocolate brownies?

Y'know, just so I don't feel too cheap when I get around to ball winding that second ball of Koigu.


Brian said...

I don't think the dark side suites you G.

Dotty said...

You got one sock done!!! It looks great (aside from the poor fit) and the colour is very nice. Don't worry - it takes a coupla tries before you figure out the tweaks you need to make to a pattern so that it fits you exactly right. In your case, I would knit a shorter heel flap (mine are 2.25-2.5") for the second sock. That should make it fit a whole lot better.

Robynn said...

Hurrah! Well done on conquering your aversion. (Aside: bananas should always be eaten slightly green, yes. But you don't like jaffa cakes? No problem. More for me.) I'm sure we can conjure up some brownies for you.

I think Dotty's probably right about the heel flap - a shorter one might solve your problem. I'd also suggest you might try a short-row heel. (After all, you seem to be motivated by learning new construction techniques.)

I understand why you maybe didn't love the process. After all you just did a whole lotta stocking stitch, and nobody loves that. So maybe experiment with a more interesting stitch pattern next time. Either that or embrace the Sock Zone. Personally I find socks the one thing I can stand to do in stocking stitch - it gets wonderfully meditative; I just keep clicking, paying absolutely no attention, and it churns out a sock! Magic.

Oh, and be sure to claim a Soak sample next time I see you. It might just help you face the pain of hand washing - though I'm also quite a fan of the machine's "delicates" cycle, and so far all my socks have survived that very happily.

There is of course no rule that says you have to knit socks. As I told Claire t'other day, no, the knitting police won't come for you if you use sock yarn for something other than socks. And I *totally* get all your objections to the wearing of handmade socks when commercial ones are so darn functional and cheap. But, it cannot be denied, a sock knit from premium yarn that fits properly is a real delight. Then again... if it's just about the end result you might be better off bribing Mel to make them for you...

Roobeedoo said...

I agree with Robynn - its the stocking stitch that made this a dull process. Wary of evangelising, I would have to say that socks are the MOST interesting thing to knit because they have so much going on in a short space of fabric - shaping the leg, turning the heel, and the whole "upper foot / lower foot" thing when you use a stitch pattern. How about trying a really exciting pattern like Digitessa or Gothic Spires for your next pair? Go on - you know you want to (cue devilish laughter)!

Anonymous said...

Hugs. I love the socks. Of course, I would always be happy to supply you with a pair. ;)