It was definitely a tempting thought to put them off, finish something else, or just forget about it. But the friend already knew the socks had been started. She had loved the first pair. She had wanted another. And it was Lent. (What does that have to do with it? She's Catholic; I'm Episcopalian; we share a liturgical calendar if not all the theology either way, so we both "get" Lenten discipline though Episcopalians are a lot more elastic in their interpretation. We are on each other's prayer list.) From there it's straightforward, for those of you on the same liturgical calendar and probably impenetrable for those of you who aren't. But it helped me through some of the stickiest bits to think that way. Knitting socks requires just enough concentration to keep my brain from jumping off a track of meditation to something like current politics. When my concentration wavers, mistakes occur. (Did I really just knit two/ purl three two ribs back? Yes, I did. Un-knit, or "tink" those intervening stitches and correct the ribbing. Etc.)
And oh, the joy of finishing. And finding that--as near as I could make the stiff socks lay flat--they *were* the right length, and all my scribbled calculations and frantic intermediate measurements turned out very close to right (or actually right, but I'll know when K- puts them on.)
Yes--when we're young, self-discipline is too often presented as something other people have and we don't...it's an either/or thing, and if someone's trying to convince you that you don't have it, they usually don't do it in a way that lets you understand it can be an incremental effort. It's "Jill NEVER lets HER room get messy; she ALWAYS keeps her things neat. You're a messy slob" or "Jack NEVER gobbles at the table and eats too much candy and ice cream; HE never has to buy chubby jeans. You're just a pig, you never stop stuffing your fact." And of course "Jack/Jill ALWAYS does his/her homework RIGHT AWAY..."
So we don't, as kids, understand that nobody's really that perfect, that the intersection of their experience and their innate mindset gave them more of whatever than yours did you, and we think a) we're really that rotten and b) there's no way in hell's half-acre that we could achieve self-discipline.
Yet, bit by bit, we can, even without outside encouragement.
2015-03-18 01:11 pm (UTC)
Sock success :)
From GS in Minnesota:
One cannot overemphasize the value of determination/stubbornness. It sure seems to get us through more of our mistakes than luck does! I'm glad you learned so much, glad you persisted (they look nice), and very glad you're sharing the relative importance of a lot of what you learned. I'm going to be trying to learn to crochet socks this summer, and there's a lot of learning between now and then for me to do!
2015-03-18 01:51 pm (UTC)
Re: Sock success :)
Stubbornness does indeed work in a lot of situations (not all--not the times when it really is better to quit digging that hole you're in and climb out before the sides fall in and bury you.) There's usually a point in every book when quitting looks good because it's gotten itself in a tangle...but the only way out is through, one word, one sentence, one paragraph at a time.
Crochet is not my metier...my mother taught me that, as she taught me simple knitting, but I never progressed beyond granny squares, and now I have trouble with the whole concept. So I admire anyone approaching socks with a crochet hook and a ball of yarn. I wish you well. A few things I learned by starting to knit socks at 67: 1) It's easiest to knit socks for yourself, because your foot is always there for you to use as a measure. 2) Use yarn that feels good to your hand, and in a color you like. It's much easier to keep going when the yarn cheers you up. 3) Start with a minimal ambition: that you'll consider your first socks a success if they go over your feet and your feet like the feel. The refinements, after the first pair, come pretty easily, but perfection on the first pair is unlikely (at least in knitting.) 4) A little too big feels better than a little too small. Most of us have never, as adults, had socks that really fit, because of the elastic. 5) Ignore anything I said that makes no sense to you or makes you say internally "That's not how I want MY socks." Your socks, your rules.
2015-03-18 02:11 pm (UTC)
Re: Sock success :)
I would suggest trying to make a pair of slippers first. Same sort of heel design as in socks and you work from the toes up. Then you can try an actual sock pattern and work from the cuff down. That's how I finally figured out how to crochet socks. But you might find it easier to make socks before slippers. Have fun whichever way you choose.
The finished socks look good and chances are the back will be hidden under pants so no one will see the laddering. My congratulations for finishing with yarn that was so hard to work with. The last time I tried working with yarn that split and tangled into knots on me I gave up the yarn and did the project with different yarn. I can be very patient but that yarn pushed me past my limit. Lol.
This yarn has now pushed me past ever wanting to knit with it again. I sent the leftover yarn (maybe enough to crochet a few potholders or mend a torn sock) off with the socks.
If I find more of it buried in my mother's stash, I'll give it away. And I think I must buy a very accurate scale, so I can weigh yarn that's in partial balls/skeins, and see if there's a gadget that you can pull yarn through to find out how many yards/meters of it you have. I've found some partial balls and skeins in my mother's stash already that's good 100% wool and I'd like to use--but I can't plan what to use it on until I know how much there is.
And I'm now three inches into the ribbed cuffs of the next pair of socks, made with lovely-to-feel Mountain Colors yarn. I just had to work on those tonight, to get the feel of the other off my fingers. (Three inches was not from scratch; both cuffs had been started and I probably did about three inches total across the two socks.)
and see if there's a gadget that you can pull yarn through to find out how many yards/meters of it you have.
Such a gadget exists, and I think costs $15 or so at Michaels. It's not terribly accurate, but certainly good enough for your purposes.
There are much fancier (and more expensive) versions for people who need accurate skeins (say, after dyeing).
2015-03-25 02:09 am (UTC)
Hey, I think they are wonderful. I don't knit, she says confessing this. Mage
Thank you! (It's never too late to learn to knit if you want to...but no guilt-points are awarded if you don't.)
I'm just learning to knit and I'm having fun with it. So far I like big wooden needles and super bulky colorful yarn.
I hope one day to be able to knit socks. I have large ankles and calves and all mass-produced socks squeeze my ankles.
Never thought I'd say that I like knitting, but I find it very meditative. I like the feel of the fiber in my hands.
I do like your posts on socks! Inspiration!
When you want to start on socks (you don't have to wait NEARLY as long as I did!) here's some advice--much of it given to me by various people in little snippets, some my own.
1) Materials: Start with worsted-weight yarn, which makes sturdy socks on size 4 or 5 US needles (and thus you can see the stitches easily, fix mistakes easily, etc. Pick a color that makes you really happy to work with it, and not too cushy a "hand"--it needs to feel good in your hand, but a fluffy or extra-soft yarn won't wear as well under your feet. You can knit socks with a cable needle (using the magic loop technique) or with double-pointed needles. I learned to knit in the round with DPNs from my mother, so I use them. If you do use DPNs, learn to use sets of 5. It really does help prevent laddering between needles, which can be a problem with the ribbing on cuffs. If you want "bulky" socks, they may not fit in shoes well, but would make really fun house socks/slippers.
2. Sock Psych 101: Always have both socks of a pair going at the same time. This prevents one-sock syndrome where you knit one sock and then lose the determination to knit another. Cast on both socks on the same day (if you have to stay up another 15 minutes at midnight to cast on the second sock...) Turn both heels on the same day, preferably one right after the other (reinforces the skill of turning a heel to do another one right away--second one's easier), start toe decreases on the same day, and finish the socks on the same day (and put them on your feet right then--it's time to celebrate. They don't feel as good 'raw' as they will after washing, but you can gaze at your tootsies and be proud for a half hour, then take them off. Or not.) If you go on with sock-knitting, I find it helps to start a "following" pair when about halfway through the "front" pair. Do a row or two every day on the following pair--no more--and they'll have a good start by the time you've finished the front pair. I find that motivating. You may find it crazy.
LJ won't let me post long comments in my own LJ (grump) so here's the second rock:
3. Sock Psych 201: Socks exist to make your feet happy. A sock success is a sock that will go on your feet without a struggle, that feels good. Feeling good is the most important criterion for a sock. Your first sock may have knitting mistakes (mine was full of them), be a little too big (I could walk right out of mine) BUT it felt so much better than the socks I'd been buying. It was easy to refine the fit with the next pair, and the next. Now my socks feel even better. Mostly socks are inside footwear and not all that visible. Thus: your socks can be successful from the first pair. To have success with the first pair, pick a simple basic pattern: ribbed cuff, plain knit sock, a simple heel. The fancy stuff can wait until you've got your own sock pattern that fits your particular toes, foot, heel-and-instep, ankle, and calf. You don't have to be a great knitter (I'm not) to make comfortable, wearable socks.
4. Techniques. Long-tail cast-on. There are good videos on YouTube if you don't know that one. It's perfect for socks because it's stretchy, particularly important if you have large calves. I use a needle at least 2 sizes larger than the one I use for the sock fabric (thus, usually a size 7, while knitting sock with size 4 or 5. Knitting in the round, including knitting 2x2 ribbing in the round. For stitches: knit, purl, slip a stitch, knit-2-together, purl-2-together, and a decrease that leans the opposite way from K2tog; there are several. (I can never remember which way they're said to lean, but they have to lean the opposite way, whatever you use, so the gussets point toward the toe and the paired decreases make a neat pattern on the toe shaping.) a left-leaning and a right-leaning decrease. I use knit-slip- knit, pull slipped stitch over the second knit stitch. Simple and fast. The one called SSK defeats my tiny brain. It's helpful to have a simple increase in case you want to work around an extra wide place in your foot (a bunion, for instance) or find you have decreased a bit too much and want to add it back.
5) Patterns. There are bazillions of sock patterns, some absolutely gorgeous, but published patterns are made for average feet of a given range of shoe sizes. The assumption is that the circumference of the leg, ankle, and foot will relate in an average way to the length of the foot. (And your feet probably don't. Mine don't. The feet of the people for whom I've made socks don't.) Socks made to average measure will fit better than the "one size fits all" or "small/medium/large" commercial socks but not nearly as well as socks made for particular feet. We have to buy shoes designed for average feet (or what the shoe manufacturer fondly believes are average feet!!) but making your own socks means you can fit your feet *exactly*. Your feet will love you for it. This is why starting with a very simple pattern is a good idea--you're not having to recalculate for cables, or pattern repeats in colorwork, or anything but your own knitting gauge with that yarn and the feet that will be inside the sock. For instance: standard patterns assume the same diameter/circumference of the leg, ankle, and foot beyond the heel/instep. Not my leg/ankle/foot.
My regular socks are 60 stitches on size 7 needles at cast-on, 60 on size five for the 5 inch ribbed cuff, 56 for the inch and a half before the heel flap starts, a 2 or 2.5 inch long heel flap (depends on the exact yarn and whether it's a crew sock or a shorty), which means the distance from point of heel up over the top of my foot runs 78-80 stitches, with a steep gusset decrease (decrease 2 successive rows, then non-decrease row, rather than alternate rows, to give ease to a high instep and then snug back in for the high arch) to 52 stitches, two non-decrease rows and another decrease to 54 for the balance of the foot. I fit each sock to my own toe slant (I have very pointy feet), which means it's different for each foot (not only direction but exact shape) and that means no extra bulk in shoes, plus ample room for the longer toes and no side-to-side compression.
As you can tell, I've become a happy enabler of people who want to knit socks. I'm not an expert, but the fact that I am now a happy and confident (if far from perfect or expert) sock knitter gives me more connection to those who are teetering on the brink of sock-knitting. Or I like to think so.
The moment may come when you say "Ok, NOW I'm ready. If it does, dive in right then. I'm so glad I sat there that night, staring at the ball of red yarn with longing and then said "OK, that's it, I'm doing to start right this minute and not worry about whether I'm doing it perfectly." Once over that hump, things got easier. The absolute best description of turning a heel I've ever read is in Stephanie Pearl-McPhee's (Yarn Harlot's) book _Knitting Rules_, which also has a basic sock "recipe" (and it's what I started with, pretty much.)
And now that I've run past LJ's character-limit for comments twice...I'll quit.
Thank you so much for the tips and psych 101! Very valuable to a beginner!
2015-03-30 04:05 am (UTC)
And she likes them a lot!
The friend for whom I made the socks likes them a lot (yay!) and wants more. I think I need to teach her to knit (half-joking. She's got a lot on her mind and I know she needs more warm socks where she lives than I do.) She has picked out some yarn colors of wool yarns I'm used to working with, that I know will stand up to a number of wearings. So some yarn has been ordered for her. (And of course, while ordering "her" yarn, I also ordered some for me, because no stash is ever complete even if it's outgrown its storage container(s), right? Right. Time to rework that closet anyway.)
She's coming for a visit, so I will have access to her feet, and can refine her pattern right here, and both give her her own pattern (hint! "If you learn to knit your own, you'll have more socks than if you wait for me to knit them...") and make her even better socks, though not more than a couple of pairs a year because...well...I'm selfish and I want to keep up with my own wearing out and build up a backlog for future loss of vision and stuff like that.