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Brewer Burns

Friday, December 01, 2006

The First Sock

It’s December 1. The first day of the last month of the year. There are only thirty days left until the end of this year, and only twenty until the darkest day of the year. When I woke up this morning and stumbled out of my bed into the living room the view over the top of the closed curtains through the big window in front was of ice-and-snow-frosted pine boughs. I think that it’s natural during this time of ever-lengthening darkness and cold to reflect on the year that has just nearly passed by.

For me some of this reflection has centered on my knitting. It was just last October that I picked up the fall issue of Vogue Knitting and became truly enthralled with the idea of knitting. By this date last year I had already knit two truly atrocious fair isle hats, another project that shall remain nameless, and was already in the midst of Christmas knitting. Last year I made a scarf (cobbled together from a couple different lace stitch patterns) for each woman on my Christmas list. This amounted to...eight scarves. Yes. Eight. I’m pretty sure about that number. Eight scarves in exactly the same pattern. Poke my eyes out with a thousand size seven needles please. I learned a very valuable lesson from this experience. If you’re going to do the Christmas knitting thing then you should really pick different patterns for different people. For your own sanity. Hence the diversity of the Christmas list this year.

It was also, truly, a torture for me to knit those scarves (which I was knitting up until the point that I had to send them out) because I really, really, wanted to start on some socks. Ever since I decided to take up knitting, I’ve been enamored of the idea of knitting socks. Even before I knew what a dpn was I was searching knitting blogs for talk and pictures of sock knitting. I knew that I wanted to knit socks and I was going to do it. My first foray into sock knitting, however, did not turn out as planned. I decided, once I had purchased some sock yarn (I believe the brand name was “crazy” although I can’t be certain) in a mottled blue and white colorway, and a set of size 3 dpns I went in search of a pattern. After some googling I decided to try out the “sock calculator” pattern. Why? Well, I liked the idea that I could knit a swatch, measure the intended recipient, plug in the numbers and get a pattern custom written for my socks. No wondering about sizes or attempting to modify patterns to fit. That’s a good thing when you’re a brand new knitter. So, I swatched, I measured, I plugged in figures and printed out the pattern and off I went.

Unfortunately there were many things working against me. First, I was a brand new knitter. Second, I was an overly cocky brand new knitter. The sock calculator gives you a pattern for a knee high pair of socks. But I didn’t want to make a knee high pair of socks. I wanted to make a medium-length pair of socks. So, when I got the pattern, I simply figured out where the middle of the calf would be and started there. Yeah. That was never going to work out right. Luckily, I didn’t know that. My real problems started with the heel turn. Not the actual turning of the heel. Through the help of the internet I got through that alright. No, after the heel turn. You see, what I didn’t know was that there was a mistake in the pattern (really, a glitch in the program) which miscalculated the number of stitches that you should have after you’ve turned the heel and picked up the gusset stitches. So, I’m sitting there. Brand new knitter. First sock ever. And I have too many stitches. Too many. And I had no idea what to do. I ripped out several times and reknit the heel. I went back over the heel and the directions for turning the heel. I read the directions and added up how many stitches I should end up with if I knit it as directed and still. I had too many stitches. I swore. I cried. I may have stomped my feet. Finally I just decided to forget that I had too many stitches and keep knitting. I did finish that first sock but it was hideous and would have fit Stephen (the intended recipient) like a men’s size nine work boot would fit a horse. Everything about that first sock was wrong and as soon as I finished it I knew it and promptly frogged it.

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