Tuesday, 13 May 2014
Owl Socks Finished, Time to Reflect
I'm sure when I decided to knit a pair of socks, it was because I had been told (and therefore believed) that socks were challenging, difficult to knit because of the heel shaping. Like so much else I had been told or read about knitting, it has proved to be wrong. Or at least, if not wrong, then not completely right.
I should remember my own mantra: Lots of other people do it, how hard can it be? In this case, really not hard at all. As suspected, the self-patterning yarn makes the owls difficult to see (oh, well, that's owls for you!). I also discovered that on 2.75 mm dpns, 66 sts as per the pattern is the lowest I can go for the cuff and still get the sock on my wide (24.5 cm) foot and ankle, although the cables do reduce the stretch a little. If I were to make them again for myself, I would add some stitches, perhaps make it 4 stitches between owls instead of 3 to cast on 72, so that the owls aren't stretched out of shape as they are currently. And get some beads so that they can have eyes! And make the toe less tapered by starting it a little later and then decreasing every row for the last few rows. (I'm tempted to make another pair for me, as they knit up so quickly, but the next pair I make will be as a gift and the pattern as written will suit her foot size and shape just fine.)
While I was looking for socks to knit and before I had remembered these in my queue, I saw the phrase 'standard slip-stitch heel' on a few patterns. As it turned out, these socks have a slip-stitch heel flap - a new stitch for me (but there's plenty of scope there!). This was my fourth pair of socks, but the first pair with a slip-stitch heel. So it's probably not really 'standard' then?
Finding out that you shouldn't believe all you read, and that what you thought you knew isn't quite correct, can have an unsettling effect. I have books which show me how to hold the needles and yarn, how to cast on and off, increase and decrease. But now, with YouTube and various websites and blogs, I have access to a whole new world of information. There's no single, correct way to hold the yarn and the needles. You can approach stitches differently, twisting or not if you like, based on how they are mounted on the needle (whether the leading leg of the stitch is at the front or back). Instead of the three methods for casting on which I knew, (knit-on, cable and thumb, although I couldn't get the hang of the latter), and the single way to cast off, there are loads of them, with fibre artists inventing new ones from time to time. You can even knit backwards if you know what you're doing. And crochet isn't confined to rows, circles or afghan squares, but anything goes!
So, rather than feeling unsettled, I'm finding a new confidence in knitting and crochet. I'm enjoying the exploration enormously. There are several patterns in my queue which I've decided are possibly a bit too advanced for me at the moment, but their time will come.
Looking back, I realised that my lack of confidence didn't stem from only knowing a few basics, but from a few incidents which left me wondering why I bothered to knit, coupled with a lack of practice. For example, I was sitting knitting some interminable beige thing during a family garage sale in my teens and an older woman stopped by and came over to watch me knitting. After a couple of minutes, she grabbed my needles, held up my work and declaimed for everyone to hear that I was not holding the yarn or my needles correctly, that it was a horrible yarn in a terrible colour, that I was twisting the stitches and, in short, was just doing the whole thing completely wrong. She may have been right about the horrible yarn, but not about anything else, and what a nasty thing to do to anyone, let alone a teenager!
In my early 20s, after making a couple of sweaters for myself and friends, I made the mistake of knitting for my then boyfriend. Soon after the sleeveless, 4 ply V-neck and gorgeous, cabled Lopi sweaters were finished, he left me. The sleeveless V-neck was requested, but the beautiful, expensive sweater was not. It wasn't until years later that I ran across the concept of the 'Sweater Curse'; that knitting a sweater for your boyfriend (or significant other) can be the kiss of death to the relationship. It may feel like a curse at the time, but it's probably a blessing. Whatever, it stopped me knitting for a few years until I decided to knit a 4 ply cabled cardigan for myself, but then agreed to test knit a DK cabled cardigan for a local wool shop. Knitting against time burnt me out and the 4 ply cardigan went into hibernation (and is still there, so much for finishing all my WIPs!)
As the saying goes, that was then. Now for the next pair of socks ....