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Posts Tagged ‘socks’

Appreciation

I’ve given a lot of thought in my 5 years as a knitter to the hardly insignificant issue of appreciation. As a knitter it is wonderful to have an appreciative “giftee” around who truly loves receiving knitted loveliness from you. We all have them, and they are often easy to find. However, we also all have people in our lives who put on a badly faked smile while enduring the token try-on and say “wow…this is just what I have always wanted,” while really thinking, “Really? Doesn’t he know that you can buy socks for 2 bucks at Wal-Mart?”

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My girlfriend Michelle is a knitter’s dream. She proudly wears and shows off anything that I make for her. She loves that her boyfriend knits cool stuff for her, and that in turn makes me incredibly happy. In this pic she’s wearing a lace scarf that I knit her over the summer and a pair of cabled gloves I designed for her that include conductive thread so that she can use her iPhone without getting her fingers cold. She totally geeked out over both gifts, and that fuels my knitting addiction in joyous ways.

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My younger daughter is another one who has shown her appreciation time and time again. Here she’s sporting her Christmas gauntlets that she loves dearly and wears often. She also has a sweater that she rarely is seen without…an item I had knit for her rapidly-growing big sister who outgrew it before it was finished.

I have had some knitting projects go unused by the people for whom they were knit. I still occasionally think about the co-worker who emailed the staff enough pictures to make a grandmother want to vomit, and yet I never once saw the baby blanket that I’d spent 2 months knitting for said baby. Trust me, I was looking. A lot. At every picture she sent.

Now I do understand that hand-knitted garments aren’t for everyone (though in my biased opinion they should be). I don’t stop knitting for “newbies” out of fear that they will never wear the item that I invested my time and energy in. Not all knitwear will be hits, but those that are, like the socks I knit for my friend Georgia, will make it all worthwhile. 2 months later, she’s still raving about those socks.

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Miserablishness

Last week there was a professional development day for teachers in my district. This means kids got a day off and teachers didn’t. I usually look at professional days with considerably less sense of “ugh” than many teachers because I view them as good knitting days. Having finished a sock last night I vowed to make some serious headway on sock #2 while meeting with all of the other visual and performing arts teachers in my district to discuss assessment, evaluation, and other such fun and exciting topics.

After greeting some colleagues the meeting was about to start so I reflexively reached for my knitting bag to pull out the yarn I’d made sure to place in there earlier this morning. My heart sank with the sudden realization that I had left my needles at home!! Nooooooo!! When I finished sock #1 I had left the needles sitting on my end table.

The day’s plans were shot. The one thing I have to keep my sanity and focus during long meetings was gone. I spent some time on my phone looking for yarn stores close by, thinking maybe I could go out and buy some needles during lunch, but the closest one was at least 15 minutes away, and we had a stupid working lunch. I had to do something!  My old pre-knitting pastime of  doodling took over.

To say that I was miserable that day is an understatement. I was experiencing terribly intense miserablishness. I’ve gotten so used to relying on my beloved yarn and needles during a meeting, but this time I couldn’t. I had just been talking to my daughter that morning about my hope of knitting half a sock during the day’s meetings, and it ended up being a day wasted.

Since that fateful day I have now gotten to the heel flap of the sock, which I can’t show pics of yet in case the friend I’m giving it to reads this blog. I have a day off today and hopefully some time this week that I can finish it and move on to another of the bajillion projects I have in the queue.

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UGH!!!

A few days ago I finished the final hexagon on my crazyass hexagon socks. I stood up, did a little dance, and then proceeded to start…the…toe?

Oh, no.

What the crap?

In my hurry to get the final row of hexagons done, I had not paid close enough attention to which end of the sock I had done that last row on. Four hexagons that were supposed to be working toward the toe. Four hexagons that were, instead, on the cuff.

It looked like a knee sock for an eight-year-old.

I wish that it had been as simple as surgically removing the hexagons and just stitching them onto the other end, but then again things can never really be that simple, can they? I had to rip out all four hexagons individually and restart that row from scratch.

After a couple of days’ break from the accursed thing, I am happy to report that I have gotten past the frustration (somewhat), have completed the final four hexagons ON  THE CORRECT END OF THE SOCK and am working on picking up the toe stitches.

I am so ready to move on….

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You don’t have to go far in the knitiverse to hear about “second-sock syndrome,” that phenomenon of great disappointment when, just after you’ve proudly finished an amazing sock, you realize that you have to do it all over again so that you’ll have a pair. I’ve heard knitters gripe about this, or even give up on it altogether…I remember Camden, Maine’s Unique One yarn shop being full of ladies with mismatched hand-knit socks because they just decided to alleviate second-sock syndrome altogether.

Sock 1...ain't it pretty?

I tend to treat the second sock a little differently. Take the beloved Hexagon socks, for example. It took me a little over a month to finish the first sock. Granted, I took on a couple of other small projects in the middle (a pair of mittens and some worsted-weight house-socks) but that was largely because I just wanted a break. Well, I finished the first sock recently and I couldn’t be happier. It looks cool, feels great on the foot, and is destined to be the talk of my elementary school once I start wearing the pair to the music classes I teach.

Sock 2 just over a week in.

So how did I celebrate? That’s right, by immediately casting on sock #2. Not only did I begin the second sock, but I attacked it with a vengeance. My goal has been to knit at least 2 hexagons per day, but some days I got 3 or 4 done. I spent that month on the first one, but after one week on the second sock I had finished the heel and was plunging into the foot portion. You see, once I get the first sock done and see how amazingly cool it is, I want to wear it. But I don’t do mismatched socks. Besides, even mismatch aficionados would’ve found it hard to find something to wear with this one.

So I’m tearing through the second sock with hopes of finishing it this week, even after a very busy weekend that included very little time to knit.

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I am often told by friends, colleagues, acquaintances who have seen my skill level as a knitter, “You should sell this stuff…it’s really good!” After thanking the Muggle (non-knitter), for such statements almost always come from non-knitters, I have a pretty standard explanation.

“If I sold what I knit, I’d either get paid pennies per hour, or have to charge way more than people will pay, even if using crappy yarn,” I’d answer. “Besides, if I did it as a job, I don’t think I’d enjoy it so much.” According to Daniel Pink’s book Drive, and I agree, the greatest way to stop motivation in its tracks is to attach a dollar value to the task. I know that seems counter-intuitive in our culture, but his research looks sound and I think he’s right.

So how can I justify the craft of knitting in my life? After all, as a button a friend gave me states, “Yes, I know I can BUY socks for TWO BUCKS at Wal-Mart.” How does it make sense to drop 20 bucks on a hank of sock yarn, no matter how hip the colors are?

Joy.

I love to knit, and as entertainment goes it’s pretty cheap. For that $20 I have a guarantee of around 30 hours of doing something that brings me joy, considerably more than that if I’m knitting anything by Cookie A. That’s a cost of about $.67 per hour. These days, what entertainment can you buy for that price? Not much.

It costs:

*$11.00 to go to a 2-hour movie by myself with no snacks.

*$16.00 to attend a 2 1/2-hour community theater performance.

*Between $15 and $25 (plus parking or train fare) to go to a concert at the Paradise Rock Club in Boston.

*$4.50 for a Pumpkin Spice Latte at Starbucks and though I could hang out there for a while, I’d have to hang out at the coffee shop for 6.71 hours to get that kind of hourly price and my coffee would be very cold after that.

*Dinner at a nice restaurant with a special someone: about $50-70.

*Retail therapy (aka shopping) could vary in cost, but I think I’m safe in saying it’d be more than $.67 per hour.

That’s just a short list. Granted, there are other things you can do for comparable price, such as watch TV, read a book from the library, or play the guitar. My point is that as entertainment goes, knitting is a real bargain. And as an added bonus, unlike any of the above items, it produces something that is generally pretty fabulous and will continue to bring many hours of enjoyment as it is worn.

So when was the last time your $2 socks from Wal-Mart gave you as much joy as my $20 skein of sock yarn?

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Last year I took a break from Christmas gift knitting. It was a difficult time for my family, and I didn’t need the added stress of that Christmas deadline to add to the problem. Besides, I had no idea what to make anyone last year.

Sometimes you need a sabbatical to get the ideas flowing again, and it definitely worked this time. I had a lot of fun knitting for family (and a close friend) this year, and I am happy that all of the gifts were appreciated. Here’s the roundup:

Project 1–Christmas Stockings: When I was a wee lad my Aunt Gerry made stockings for all of the nieces and nephews. Mine was a really cool intarsia thing with a Santa jack-in-the-box on it and my name at the top. I didn’t get to see Aunt Gerry very often, but every December I thought of her when I put that stocking up. It was special because of that connection, and I wanted the same thing for my 6-year-old nephew, Logan.

The idea incubated over time and I decided this would be a good Fair Isle learning project. Using the Cascade Christmas Stocking pattern, I went to work, not only on Logan’s stocking, but stockings for his whole family. After 3 failed starts and navigating some buckling issues, I finished them fairly quickly and am very happy with the result. I sewed in a fleece lining to keep gifts from snagging on the strands behind the Fair Isle patterning, and my daughter braided loops out of the three colors used in the stockings.

I love this mix-n-match kind of pattern (though the reindeer are from somewhere else), and the fact that they all have similar but different stockings. When the package arrived and was open, Logan cried, not because he was so moved by the fabulous knitting, but because it wasn’t toys. Once he got over that, though, he said “I can’t believe that Uncle Aaron made those…they’re FABULOUS!”

 

Project 2–The Mom Socks: First off, I must say that I’ve been a bad son. In the four years I’ve been knitting, all I’ve ever made for the lovely woman who gave me life and so often wanted to slap that life right out of me during my childhood, is a cell phone sock. This year it was time to make something more for her. The problem is that she lives in Charleston, SC where winter is a few scattered days, so a warm, woolly hat or scarf was out of the question, and there’s no way I had time to make an adult-sized sweater that could only be worn for a brief time anyway.

It had to be socks.

I spent a great deal of time looking for the perfect sock pattern for her. Good, solid, practical socks that look good, especially with the variegated yarn I’d already gotten (the colors are perfect for her!). I ended up going back to a favorite designer, Erica Lueder, and Hermione’s Everyday Socks.

These socks have a nice, subtle texture to them, not quite so blatant as seed stitch or moss stitch. They just kind of flow nicely, and work well with this yarn. Speaking of the yarn, that’s Knit Picks Stroll Multi sock yarn in the Atmosphere colorway. I made a conscious decision to use a machine-washable yarn because I didn’t want to burden my mother with hand wash only socks. And based on my own experiences, Knit Picks Stroll is about as indestructible as sock yarn can get, yet still nice and soft.

Project 3–Slouchy Tam: For my final Christmas project I wanted to make a hat for a dear friend of mine who has expressed a love for my knitting. Furthermore, she has also geeked out, on more than one occasion, over the color of yarn I used in the Cassidy Sweater. Since I had about a ball left over after the sweater and the stockings (yes, I used it in those too), it was time to find a hat.

I knew from early on that it had to be a tam. Some people look great in tams, others look stupid in them. Whenever I looked at my friend with the knitter’s eye–you know, the look you get when you’re imagining what lovely yarny goodness will look like on somebody–I saw a tam every time.

The pattern is the Slouchy Tam from Jimmy Beans Wool. It was written for use with the colorful Plymouth Kudo yarn, but it works really well with a single color as well. And as it turns out, she really is a tam kind of girl…it looks great on her. She told me after I gave it to her that she was hoping I’d make her a hat for Christmas. Glad I could make her wish come true.

 

So that’s it. Now that the Christmas knitting is done, it’s time to do something I haven’t done in quite a few months…knit something for me. More on that in a later post.

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Last night I finished a pair of socks, so naturally today I cast on another. I will not disclose the pattern or the yarn of the socks in question because, well, I’m afraid that the person I’m knitting them for as a Christmas gift will read this blog post…the Christmas season does start early for us knitters!

I will at least mention that the socks are another Cookie A design, whose nonstandard, innovative way of looking at socks explains why the ribbing is kinda’ different. Not obscenely different in a weird, sadistic, it’s-a-good-thing-Cookie-is-0n-the-other-side-of-the-country-so-I-can’t-stab-her-with-my-needles kind of way. It’s a simple six-stitch pattern: K1 P1 K2 P2.

My older daughter and I have been recently listening to a lot of Muse, particularly their classic Showbiz album. As I work this slightly nonstandard rib, the chorus to the song below keeps playing in my head. If you’re a knitter, close your eyes as the chorus plays and just drink in the cadence of the rib pattern. You may not totally get it. Maybe I’m completely nuts. Just try it.

K1 P1 K2 P2

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