21 September 2004 - 9:49 AM
Ode à mes chaussettes
Like Pablo Neruda, I have an abiding fondness for homemade socks.
This doesn't mean I knit nearly enough socks for myself. On the contrary, I expend far too much energy on other projects which would be better spent on the making of socks. But it was on socks that I first learned to use double-pointed needles. There is a small magic in that, and a slightly larger magic in the process of turning a heel. I didn't wear clogs before I started knitting socks. I was so proud of my first pair with their perfectly-turned heels that I actually bought a pair of clogs just so I could show off the heels. Not that anyone probably noticed, but it made me feel good.
One of my favourite sock patterns is the free Lacy Sock in Worsted Weight Wool. (There is a photo in the Sock Tour at Socknitters.com -- scroll down to the bottom of the page). This makes a sock for someone with a very slender ankle indeed; as written the pattern might have fit me when I was eleven and sort of a skinny kid. It certainly wouldn't fit me now, even with a larger needle. Fortunately, the stitch pattern is a three-stitch repeat, which makes casting on a few extra stitches easy enough. On 4 mm needles, I cast on 45 stitches and deal with the dividing for the heel flap as a question of proportions (24 for the instep, 21 + an increase for the heel flap). The directions for turning the heel in this pattern are very good, too. There are other ways of turning heels, fancier, more decorative, more historical. This one works in that small-marvel way, and fits my narrow heel nicely.
While I was in Scotland, a friend from the Isle of Lewis taught me a traditional heel stitch which makes a better wearing heel flap. First row: slip 1 purlwise, knit 1, repeat. When slipping stitches, bring the yarn forward, as though you were actually going to purl the stitch, then slip and take the yarn back. This weaves the working yarn back and forth through the row and helps the heel last longer. Second row: slip one purlwise, purl across. Slipping the first stitch of each row makes a chained selvage, and that in turn makes picking up stitches for the gusset easier.
The first pair of socks I knit from the lacy sock pattern were in a café au lait-coloured wool. I thought of them as cappuccino socks, warm and fluffy. I loved them and wore them until they wore out.
Then I was without homemade socks for a long, sad while. I meant to knit myself some more socks, but just never got to it. I made plans, life happened.
During the September 2003 fu storm, I started knitting another pair of socks. I needed something to keep my hands and mind busy, and I needed socks. I was halfway down the foot of the second sock when something distracted me and I set it down. My poor sock sat neglected for months.
A few days ago, I picked the socks back up. They didn't need much work to finish them -- barely an evening's worth of leisurely knitting, including grafting the toe. I put them on to admire them. They are good and beautiful, the colour of lingonberry mousse, warm in spite of the lacy stitch, and ready in time for winter. I should make another pair before these wear out.