Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Knitting Socks or Learning to live with Addiction

The Purple Stocking by James Jebusa Shannon

"There may be a metaphor in creating something for the feet that in turn inspires all kinds of mind wanderings, or it may be that the Zen 'beginner's mind' works perfectly with socks so that I am just there, observing and seeing what occurs. For every time I do knit socks, some new pattern of thought emerges."

~ Jane Brocket, The Gentle Art of Domesticity 2007

As a knitter, I had never quite been able to grasp the attraction of knitting socks. There are knitters on the internet who devote entire blogs just to the knitting of socks. For the life of me I just couldn't justify all that work, and expense, (most sock yarn is $15 a skein which equals one pair) when you could just go out and buy them in bulk. And four needles? All tiny, and double pointed, and no matter how I tried I couldn't seem to get the hang of using them, and what about this fifth needle that came in the pack, what was it for? Loss prevention? Lacy socks, cabled socks, socks with incredible designs. Why? I figured they were all nuts and swore I'd never do it. I resolutely refused to give in to the lunacy that was sock knitting.

And then a good friend wanted help with her knitting. I helped her get back on track, and she was soon able to complete several stagnating projects and some new ones as well. But, I kept avoiding that pair of half finished socks languishing in her basket. More than anything, she really wanted to knit socks. It came down to a choice of upholding my principals and the all-mighty dollar. She was eager to learn to knit, and I had the ability to teach. Avarice won out. On the sly I began to examine socks and sock patterns. I shyly asked for help from one of those "crazy sock knitters." I was welcomed with open arms into the fold. With the click of a mouse button I purchased and downloaded a highly recommended beginners sock pattern and my first ball of sock yarn.

Sweet Tart Socks, Lana Grossa Meilenweit Fantasy #4833, US size 0 dpn

As I cast on that fateful first sock I kept telling myself I would not succumb. I was doing this for educational purposes only. Turns out that's like saying you only use alcohol medicinally. Half way through that first sock I had to admit it was rather fun. Turning the heel was downright euphoric. After picking up and knitting the gusset I was hooked. The second sock and then the second pair were cast on without a second thought.

Juicy Citrus Socks, Trekking XXL #158, US size 0 dpn

Elliot loves them too

My complete fall from grace came when I uncovered the dirty little secret of the sock knitting world. Self-patterning yarns. Those socks of intricate designs and multitudes of color I'd been admiring were fake. They were not painstakingly knit in a minute fair isle design, the yarn did it all by itself! Color after luscious color rolls off the ball as you knit. Every row brings new designs; new color combinations. What rapture. What wild abandon. I couldn't stop. Just one more row. Just one more color. What entrancing design will happen next? I've never been a knitter so attached to my work that I carry it with me. Now I carried it everywhere. I couldn't bare to be separated from it. Those four little needles became natural appendages. All my other knitting had been cast aside in favor of socks.

The Frozen North socks, Opal "Berries" #195, US size 0 dpn

The hypnotic rhythm of that endless spiral round and round. Complete peace and relaxation of the mind. Is this ZEN? The mind travels to exotic lands where the air smells of spices, or a damp sandy beach where rollers break at my feet. Sock knitting also allows me to indulge in my favorite hobby, watching films. It also keeps me from eating, because I can't let go of the needles long enough to put anything in my mouth.

Balls of sock yarn began to arrive in the mail and my knitting basket began to bulge alarmingly. Trekking XXL, Meleinweit Fantasy, Kaffe Fasset, Socks That Rock, Opal, Lana Grossa. Brown paper wrappers covered in German. I ordered yarn from the UK and even France. The family was beginning to ask questions. I started stashing the boxes of yarn and opening them in secret.

the sock stash

"Sock yarn may be the knitter's version of methadone. It's what you buy when you don't really want to buy a lot of yarn, or when you just need to take the edge off. It's dangerous, easy, and comes in irresistible self-patterning varieties that make you feel clever."
-Stephanie Pearl-McPhee, Knitting Rules, 2006

I reluctantly began to admit to myself that I had a problem. Admitting you have a problem is the first step to recovery. I had become what I had once abhorred. A SOCK KNITTER. The real problem was, I didn't want a cure, I didn't want to stop. So, like any junkie, I did exactly what my dealer had done for me. I hooked another innocent.

I drew Beth in with my tantalizing descriptions of the thrill of heel turning. The orgasmic rush as the colors ran through your fingers and twisted themselves into kaleidoscopes of color before your eyes. As bait I bought her first pair of sock needles and a ball of yarn. I gently lay the Doctors Without Borders sock yarn from The Unique Sheep in her lap, and then I set the hook. "Fifty percent of your purchase goes to Doctors Without Borders", I mewed innocently. I used her free trade tree hugging environmental activism against her. Elisabeth received gift cards for yarn as birthday gifts (my suggestion, of course) She spent every dime on sock yarn.

Beth's Frank Miller socks, The Unique Sheep Verve-Doctors Without Borders, US size 1 dpn

Beth's Greek Socks in progress

Yesterday, Elisabeth showed me the new sock yarn that had just come in at One Planet Yarn..."it comes from a small family run farm, lovely happy sheep, everything is organic...don't the colors look just like hibiscus flowers?"

Knitting socks is like crack cocaine. One hit and your hooked.

On the needles: Bird Nest socks (the yarn reminds me of pale blue eggs and twiggy nests), Trekking XXL #82, US size 0 dpn

"Socks are a miracle of engineering. When you knit a sock, you're doing it the same way it has always been done. You're connected with knitters over the last 700 years, all making socks and watching them wear out."

-Stephanie Pearl-McPhee, Knitting Rules 2006



Elisabeth said...

I love the photo of Elliott snuffling -- he hates knitting but he likes socks.

That has to be the most unflattering photo of my feet/legs ever.

Servidores said...
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Georgia said...

I LOVE this post. As an avid knitter I refuse to get into the whole sock knitting thing. I did knit a pair once when I was 18, but I've totally forgotten how. All your reasonings for NOT doing it are mine...will I succumb to peer pressure and get hooked? I must say, after this post I'm tempted to go over to the dark side....

little bird said...

I ask this now because I have no idea where else to go. That and you mentined it in a MUCH earlier post (and how I found your blog). WHAT IS A PINK?? It smells musky that much I know. I'm sorry, I know this is out of the blue. There is a book I love that reffrences pinks, in the last sentence and I love that last line, enough to get a tattoo. But, until I know what the thing looks like I want to wait. I want to incorperate it into the design. Your help would be greatly appreciated.
You can find me at I am not all that internet savvy, but I have tried google, that's how I ended up here.