THOUGHTS ON SOCKS (My Knitting Philosophy)
Trying on a sock just after turning the heel.
•There is nothing wrong with mindless knitting (and indeed, a good deal to be said for it – many women knit precisely because knitting becomes “mindless” and therefore meditative, once you know what you are doing). Simple ribbed socks, or plain-Jane, stocking-net-stitch socks that show off a fancy, self-striping yarn, are the easiest knitting out there. Totally mindless. Call it “stupid knitting” – once you know what you are doing.
•I love “stupid knitting”. I’ve got the rest of my life to prove my competence in other areas – knitting is one thing that doesn’t have to go on my resume.
•There are two kinds of sock heels in this world – the kind that have a heel, heel flap, and gussets (round heels, square heels, band heels), and the kind that don’t (short rows and afterthought heels). Maybe it’s the Capricorn in me, but I prefer structure. Socks with a traditional heel, heel flap, and gussets have the best fit, and fit is everything when it comes to socks.
•Socks can easily knit from stashed yarn, and a knitter can shape their stash around socks, because they are easy to knit from a single skein. That said, I’m not a big fan of big-stash ladies.
•Having a large stash is wasteful – a lot of it never gets used, and is simply given away, or it gets thrown out. Rachel Herron, author of “A Life in Stitches” and owner of www.yarnagogo.com, points out that our grandmothers who knit never had large stashes. They knit carefully according to the project – and budgeted enough extra for mending only. Herron’s grandparents were sheep farmers in New Zealand – yarn was made to sell, not to show off in a stash to demonstrate one’s discretionary income or careless spending habits.
•But there is one thing that can be said for having a small stash. In terms of emotional well-being, four or five versatile skeins in a stash will get you through an extended period of no money far better than money will get you through a time of no knitting.
•Socks are quick and easy gifts. For those who aren’t married, the gift of socks is a lifesaving alternative to knitting a sweater before one has a ring, or is safely hitched – this is known as the “Sweater Curse”. The “Sweater Curse” is a myth, but most knitters know better than to fuck with it.
•Socks are portable. They can sit in the trunk of your car for years until you finally get around to them. I should know.
•Hand-knit socks and sweaters should look hand-knit – there should be some small design element (lace, picot border, a few Fair Isle motifs) or creative use of color that lets the viewer know that this is a hand-knit item. Otherwise, what’s the point?
•Cost is the elephant in the room. I’m serious. A fancy skein of hand-dyed yarn costs $28.00 these days. $28 for socks! Are you kidding? Socks cost $2 at WalMart. The most expensive, manufactured pair of socks I own – the Smartwool socks that I hike in, and could not live without – cost me $18. So, I’m spending $23 to $28 for fancy, hand-dyed yarn to knit socks that I must hand wash. I’m spending more for socks that don’t have the knitting technology found in a pair of Smartwool socks. Where class warfare exists in knitting, socks are at the center of the war.
•In terms of cost, socks are the poorest value out there. For a knitter, the item with the highest “added value” is probably a shawl - it takes only two skeins of yarn to knit a large, heirloom piece that can be handed down to one’s children. Try doing that with socks.
•Socks wear out, and get lost. But they’re not as bad as fingerless mitts. Nothing gets lost more easily than a fingerless mitt. No sooner do they come off the needle than one of them goes missing. You might as well just knit a matching set of three, and pray...
NEXT UP: The Astrology of Knitting