Of Socks and Serenity

There is a serenity that comes with knitting socks. It doesn’t come with knitting large projects, nor with crocheting items large or small. It also, strangely enough, often doesn’t come with knitting socks, either.

Elderly woman, knitting (3333245715)
The thing about socks is that they’re basically foot-shaped. As a foot is not a simple piece of architecture, neither can the sock intended for it be. And so, like most peaces in this life, the serenity of sock is not always easily come by.
As Stephanie Pearl-McPhee observes, “In the nineteenth century, knitting was prescribed to women as a cure for nervousness and hysteria. Many new knitters find this sort of hard to believe because, until you get good at it, knitting seems to cause those ailments.”

I had the realization about the whole sock-serenity connection while working on a pair of DK (8ply) socks. I’d fought the sock-knitting urge for so long – so many other things to do! – but some part of me knew that knitting a sock was What The Doctor Ordered (or would be, in a more sensibly organized world).

It was a battle: getting the pattern, finding I didn’t have needles large enough for the DK version, wrestling with the fact that I was getting the gauge for the 4ply version with the 8ply yarn… but I pressed on, and behold! I was rewarded. The sock revolved on the needles, and serenity ensued.

Mrs. Theodore Roosevelt LCCN2009631491
Said serenity was amplified by how quickly the sock knit up – and then cast into hazard by the sock continuing to knit up, and up, and up. I gave up at the point where the sock was longer than my foot. Note to non-sock knitters: a sock has negative ease, which means it should be about 10% smaller than the foot for which it is intended. The same size as the foot is a bad idea, and 10% bigger is Right Out. Result: recurring outbreak of Frog.

Not having any needles large enough to knit a DK sock from an actual DK sock pattern, I returned to the thought of knitting a sock in the more traditional 4ply.  But not with the pattern that called for 4ply but worked better with 8ply. No, I was going to try something different: the Humble Sock.

No, really, that’s what it’s called. To be precise, The Humble Sock Goes Toe-Up by Nikki Burns. It’s written for both 5 DPNs and Magic Loop, but the cast-on specified appears to require the use of two circular needles the same size, which I have not got. Never mind! Judy Becker’s Magic Cast-On is always there for me, although sometimes it takes me a few goes to get it right.

NT 2014 Frontier Muster and Trade Faire (14174766151)
Especially when trying to do it from memory. And still trying to knit off another pattern. Increase rounds every round at first? [head explodes]. I don’t know how many times I cast on that toe, but every time, something went wrong and I frogged it. At last, as I sat in bed last night sipping my hot water, it occurred to me that I didn’t have to follow the pattern as set. All I had to do was make sure I had a toe with the right number of stitches after the right number of rows.

A bit of brief arithmetic this afternoon and I cast on again. Everything went smoothly, and the serenity of sock has descended once more. At least until I get to the heel…

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