The best of socks, the worst of socks

Recently, my knitting life has been a sock-o-rama, as I filled requests for chunky fishermen-style socks. As I finished off the last pair, I was ready to knit something else. Perversely, more socks.

There are knitters and then there are sock knitters. Sock knitters are the crowd who make intricately patterned foot covers with super fine wool, socks meant to fit in your shoes and under your pants legs.

I have neither the eyesight nor the patience for that. I also have a bit of vanity – if I’m going to knit something, I’d like it to be worn in a way that shows it off to the rest of the world.

I thought I wasn’t a sock knitter until I picked up Vogue Knitting: The Ultimate Sock Book and I saw this pattern.

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These socks are a work of art I could show off with skirts or dresses. With these, maybe I could even start an adult knee sock fashion trend!

Off I went, pattern in hand, to my local wool shop. The nice saleslady talked me into the quality sock wool that matched the required gauge. Taxes in, that was $36.

I also had to replace my 3.25 mm circular needles, which had been destroyed during a previous sock mishap. Another $10.

That was $46 for the raw materials. I wouldn’t even spend that much money on a pair of technical running socks.

I started the project on a little holiday away. In the airport lounge in Halifax, I laid out my yarn and set to work.

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I spent the entire seven hour layover untangling and reballing the yarn, then starting and unravelling the sock several times until I got the hang of the pattern. By the time I boarded the next plane, I had a ribbing and the leg started.

I picked away at the sock during my 4-day mini break. I got used to the dental floss-like yarn, and I found the sweet spot in my eyesight where I should hold the needles. I started to appreciate the slow but intricate progress of the pattern.

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I slowly navigated the heel turn. A work of art, if I do say so myself.

Before I started the complicated heel decrease with added sole stripes, I tried the sock on.

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Yeah, yeah, I didn’t knit a gauge swatch. But the gauge on the yarn package matched the gauge on the pattern. Even if it didn’t match, there is no way I would mess with such a bonkers complicated pattern.

What now?

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I am not inclined to attempt another miniature feat of engineering to complete the pair.

I am not a sock knitter.

My husband offered to use it as a golf club cover.

What to do with all this sock wool?

I have a lifetime’s supply of very expensive dental floss.

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Welcome to the knitting cult. Here’s your project bag.

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Soon after I started my first lumpy scarf, I realized that I had joined a cult. A benevolent cult, of course. But once I started casually mentioning my new hobby, some seemingly normal people have swept away the (hand knit) curtain and I have been shown the light.  

Early on in my knitting career, I went for an eye exam. I’ve been seeing my optometrist, Dr. W,  since I was a teenager. She’s a pleasant but quiet woman, not terribly chatty beyond “How far down the chart can you read the letters?”

Dr. W asked me if there was any change in my usual crappy vision, or in my daily tasks involving eyesight. I mentioned that I had started knitting, which requires looking closely at tiny stitches.

“Oh, you knit? So do I!”

Dr. W then spent the next half hour showing me the details on the hand-knit cardigan she was wearing, talking about the differences in British and Newfoundland knitting techniques, and recommending knitting websites for me to check out.

Who was this woman, and what had she done with Dr. W?

Not long after that, through work, I heard about a set of traditional Newfoundland mitten patterns, by Shirley Scott and Christine LeGrow, of Spindrift Handknits. I placed an order.

The patterns arrived in an envelope at my desk, with a nice note from Christine, and this card.
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I wasn’t sure whether to be excited or worried.

And then there’s my friend Rayna Curtis. We first met in junior high school, and like many old friends, we reconnected over Facebook. It was her photos of her knitted creations which got me thinking “hmmm, maybe I should try this knitting thing.”

Now, Rayna is at a completely different level of knitting – which she refers to as one of the “fibre arts.” Here she is spinning her own wool.

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That’s her extremely cute dog, Kayleigh, hanging out in the background.

Rayna also dyes her own wool, she’s a test knitter for some well known knitting pattern makers, and naturally, she has her own blog, First Light Handcrafts.  So I guess she’s my Obi-Wan Kenobi of the knitting.

I reached out to Obi-Wan Rayna early on for some advice, and asked her to go yarn shopping with me.

I picked Rayna up at her house and she came out with a project bag and yarn for me, and a question “Do you know what a project bag is? Well, you do now!”

She was such a force of nature in the knitting store that other random wool shoppers came up to her asking for advice on yarn and patterns.

I’m looking forward to my next eye exam so I can pick Dr. W’s brain on her favourite Brooklyn Tweed patterns.

I carry that card in my wallet. And I use Rayna’s project bag every day.

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Now, I’ve never thought of myself as the evangelical type, but here I am, with my own knitting blog.

Someday, I hope to pass on a project bag, skein of yarn, or wallet ID card to another newbie knitter.

But if I ever wind up working crowds in the mall trying to recruit new addicts to the (knitting) needles, please stage an intervention.