Spinning, Knitting, Crocheting, Organic Gardening, Living off-grid, and chasing sheep - because- I'm, like, NOT SANE!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The Simple Sock......

Recently, I came to think that socks would be where I would try out all the fancy stitch patterns, kooky ideas, and general non-conformity. I began to feel compelled to 'do something original' with every pair I knit. I mean, don't get me wrong, it is a seemingly sane track to be on. Socks, indeed, ARE a fantastic place to play around with whatever style suits you and is within your ability.

Ahem, apparently my ability is searching for its inner youth and I seem to have lost any knitting prowess I had or pretended to have. What you see before you is a pair of finished socks. Yes, your eyes are right, they are grossly mis-matched in stitch pattern and one clearly looks as if it is a little odd. But, I tell you, they ARE FINISHED! 125 I toyed with ripping sock one when the pattern was off. Actually, I ripped it twice and then toyed with ripping it a third time but seemed to be distracted by some maniacal desire I had to see the stockinette patterning of this yarn. I'm a little attached to this colorway . And, anytime I'm excited about a colorway (particularly when I toss a whole bunch of stuff out of my WIP basket and flippantly re-direct every stitch toward knitting the little morsel) I tend to not notice the obvious flaws.

Mind you, the ole brain is sure showing its mileage these days. One might think if I was so keen to see the stockinette portion of the sock, I might have knit the thing in stockinette instead of choosing a stitch pattern for the leg and then having to wait to knit the stockinette portion until the foot. Toe up, even though I rarely do it anymore, might also have been a wise option. But, we're not speaking of wisdom, here. It's about passion! All my favorite colors mushed together in a single sock and then there's that unit the things and I did on the Silk Road last year, and my love of all things eastern in terms of design, textiles, etc......I just wanted it so bad. And, worse, it's not like I even picked a difficult stitch pattern. It's a really easy stitch pattern, in fact. It's a freakin chevron stitch pattern. I could do it in my sleep! Except that, when you are self-taught (and it seems to be worse for those of us who said, 'rules? bah!!!' and refused to look up each and every term for their patterns and just started 'winging' it) there is always your sword, hidden neath the tall weeds of your seasoned experience, upon which you may fall and fall hard. It all comes down to my war against yarn overs.

I mean, I don't really have anything against yarn overs in places where they seem truly rational - such as lace. Isn't the whole object of lace to have holes in your knitting? But, in sock knitting land, holes are like a cattle prod coming at you - a panicky sort of thing. There's holes from laddering as you switch to the next dpn. Over time you defeat them but the first time they attack a pair of your cherished knit socks, you feel heartsick. And, yes, I am still clinging to my dpns even if it does make me a dork. Every time I think I might be ready to switch to a new method, the beautiful little wooden needles sing sweet little songs that say, 'don't leave us' and I just crack and forget about what seems an inevitable betrayal. There's holes in the instep when you first start knitting socks and don't realize how important the tension and direction of your decreases are to a solid gusset. There's holes at toes if you're casting off too loose, and also if you're toe-upping and have that turkish cast-on to find rhythm with. If you knit socks, you will come to fear and loathe holes. You might even make a concrete rule that resides deep in the cracks of your consciousness and refuses to accept the possibility that a yarn-over could be appropriate, EVER, in a sock. You could refuse to ever do it again. If you knit socks with lace patterns, you will surely be counted as a brave soul.

So, I have developed an 'anything but a danged yarn over' mentality when I knit socks. It works in the simple sock. My favorite recipe for a simple sock is to p1, k1 for four rows, then k3, p1 for 4-6 inches, then stockinette from the mid-calf to the ankle, heel and toes of your choosing. It makes a great, long sock that fits around the calf snugly, but comfortably. Somehow, even when I knew that the increase was supposed to be a yarn-over, I insisted on making 1 instead. It, of course, didn't work. So, you might guess I would rip it, start again and FOLLOW THE DIRECTIONS AND MAKE IT A DANGED YARN OVER. No. I ripped it and assumed I had made some undetectable error and proceeded to knit it the same way, AGAIN! Of course it didn't work, you knew it wouldn't. But I, I was in genuine denial....which was promptly cured when I tried it the third time and realized that I am just a fool. I thought to turn around and go back once more but by then my knitting time was almost over and I was distraught. I put it away to think about it all.

127Optimism springs eternal for me which I'm sure makes some people want to squash me. I picked it up the next day and decided that it couldn't possibly be as bad as I thought, proceeded to milk enough of my morning knitting time out to get past the heel and, you guessed it, still refused to yarn over. Might I mention that the knitting of the stockinette portion was every bit eye dazzling and thrilling as I'd anticipated and well worth the blunders? I love it. The color, the way it stretches and melts together....I'm thinking of doing it again. 130 Only, this time I'm doing it is a simple sock pattern. The chevron patterning is awesome with this colorway and, as you can see on the second sock, when done right it is quite pleasing to the eye. I guess I needed only have faith that the yarn-over would not result in the end of the sock loving world but I clearly lacked it. Here you see proof - yarn-overs can happen and your socks will still live to tell the tale. This might be the same reason I've sworn that this yarn MUST be knit with size 1 dpn's instead of 2's. Lisa, if you're out there and you don't hate me already, you might now. I have since discovered that you can knit a perfectly good, hard-wearing sock on 2's which means, of course, that I lied to you. How you endure my friendship is a continual mystery. Break out your 2's and don't ever listen to my advice again! Unfortunately, I don't knit only for my eyes. There is the safety of my family members, the concept of a world without hostile crazy women creating mayhem throughout the land, and the practicality of knitting to actually wear what you make to be considered.

126I wear my socks. I make them to be worn. So, I'm not about to rip this whole sock out and deny myself the pleasure of having a perfectly useful (as long as I never lift the left side of my skirt up when I walk up steps) pair of socks to wear - or of having a perfectly good reason to knit another pair of simple socks with The Silk Road.

But what I have come to is this - an agreement. I agree (yes, with myself, just join in and don't worry, you'll feel right at home with the insanity of it all momentarily) not to try to knit any of the gorgeous, delicate, pattern intense socks I have in my queue until the summer season is over. I have plenty of shawls, cardis, and other projects to work on that I can stretch my limited mental capacity to complete. For me, socks are meant to be therapy. And, as you've no doubt determined whilst strolling through my head today, I may be in need of some....or some more. Socks are the part of my day that aren't judgmental. They aren't there to ask me what I've accomplished, who needs what, or to mark the time. They are the thing I do when I have to wait (which I despise - think crabby ole cat hissing here) as they fit in my bag and are a sort of mini-meditation anywhere you go (provided you don't have to also haul along a chart, some holders, and the other gadgets that come with patterning. They are the thing I do when I wake (which is a gruesome process, I promise) and have the much needed cup of heavenly brown elixir. They're not there to challenge me, or to taunt me, they're there to just be that soothing, simple knit that keeps me content even if the day is about to go so awry that midnight will come before I crawl into bed, drooling on myself, and whimpering.

138I of course, only really came to this wisdom AFTER the aforementioned disaster. It seems that my initial impulse to raise the bar EVEN HIGHER kicked right in, true to form. I set my sights on a honeybee pattern with faggoting because the Walker Treasury says it was a popular pattern in Slavic Knitting and I'm a sucker for anything that holds tradition in my own family tree so I settled in to knit a very daunting, complicated stitch. Did I swatch it first to make sure I understood it? Nah, just cast on a sock and keep on going. RIBBIT, RIBBIT. After the fourth time, I realized that to make the little bee body, I had been going about it all wrong. The optimism was in full force until after attempt 5 when I realized (cuz I'd never gotten this far without screwing it up before) that I had totally missed the faggoting stitches. Doh! I might have stopped but at this point I was pretty much foaming at the mouth. My next step in 'knitting something you will surely hate' was to combine this sweet, pretty purple 'morning glories' with another colorway that contrasted something like a clown suit on your president. You take two things that, on their own, can be entirely acceptable. In the case of the yarn, even beautiful (sorry, I've not know enough clowns to say I've met a beautiful one - I mean, how could you know, anyway, since they are disguised in paint? ) and combine them into something that is deeply disturbing. No one feels comforted by seeing their president juggling tennis balls and honking his foam nose. Clearly, I have not been well.

131I am glad to report that after a consolation in the form of a very good beer, I did begin to see reason. I pledged to keep myself a simple sock knitter until life settles a bit. To hold sacred that morning and waiting time for the sheer pleasure of knitting the simple sock in some hand-dyed yarn that will make its own eye-dazzling patterns. Something that will be worn well and the feet will be glad to have them. Something that doesn't need anything from me other that the level of thought and consideration that I can easily give it. So, I did. And all is well. As well as it gets, anyway.......