19 Dec 2023

Knitting Effin' Socks

Many, MANY years ago, my late auntie Chrissie taught me to knit. It was quite an ordeal for her because as a left-handed knitter, I SEEMED to do the right things, but my stitches were not quite kosher. She also ended up smoking about 60 cigarettes a day. But I don't think that teaching me to knit was the reason. Not the whole reason at any rate.

My late auntie Betty taught me to crochet and we used to sit up until late on a Friday night, our hooks flashing as we watched Don't Watch Alone. Which should really have been renamed Don't Watch With Your 12 Year Old Niece. It was me that ended up with the twitch after that.

Fast forward many decades are another dear now-departed friend, Fifi, decided to teach me how to knit socks. Reader, after she died, I had that half sock on my needles for over TEN years. I couldn't bring myself to go on. I couldn't bring myself to rip it out.

During lockdown I forced myself to get the sock back out and back knitting it. I had already done the tricky bit - the turning of the heel. I ploughed on for a few more rows before Nero decided that he loved the feel of real wool in his mouth and half my sock became an unravelled ball, the other half became salivary felt.

More recently, I became determined ONCE AGAIN to actually complete one or two of my craft projects and the sock needles glinted at me accusingly.

'I can't knit socks,' I moaned to the lovely Karen Wiederhold. Karen took up knitting socks during lockdown. She can churn out a pair of hand-knitted merino gents socks quicker than I can cast on 68 stitches. She has also designed patterns for all sorts of things for magazines.

'Try again,' she urged.

'I can't. I knit left-handed and it always ends up a dog's breakfast.'

Then, in a moment of supreme self-sacrifice she uttered the words that she has probably regretted most days subsequently 'I'll help you. There aren't many things that I haven't had to deal with when I was setting patterns.'

Now, reader, at this point you probably think that I got the (now ancient) denim blue sock yarn out and got started. Not a bit of it. Neither did I use any of the mysterious yarn stash that I have accumulated in a box beneath the spare room's bed. No. I did, of course buy NEW YARN.

It was lovely yarn in from one of the OPAL 4-ply ranges at the Wool Warehouse, but sadly, I don't seem to have kept the yarn band and nor can I find the receipt.

Anyway, we began. Oh reader, I wish I could tell you that it was all plain sailing this time around. Karen pulled on her Big Girl pants and led me through the long-tail cast on. Tick. No problems. Then 20 rows of ribbing (2 plain, two purl) Tick. No problem.  It was around this point that I realised that something funky was happening: I was knitting my sock from the inside out. 

There then followed several frantic and increasingly abstract concept video calls with Karen who was pretty baffled.  But she kept on gently explaining to me where I was going wrong. But it was like trying to explain Quantum Physics to a budgie. 

Several decades ago, I once pulled into a garage forecourt to fill my wee mini up with fuel. But then I realised that my fuel cap was on the other side to the pump, so I drove round the fuel pump and could NOT understand why my fuel pump was STILL on the wrong side. After a few minutes of sitting feeling baffled, the penny dropped and I tried reversing back into the pump. I was so spectacularly bad that I ended up just driving away in SHAME.

This was exactly where I was with my knitting.

No matter how many videos I watched and how many times I turned it all upside down or knitted back across a row, the bit of sock that I knitted was standing UP like a chimney, not hanging down like a ... sock.

There were tears. But I would NOT be beaten by a SOCK.  Karen persisted. She may have developed an alcohol dependency, IDK. I wouldn't be surprised ... it took a long while to sink in.

And so the months dragged on - Prime Ministers came and went, the economy plunged deeper than a Victoria's Secret bra ... but I made progress.  Sure, there were so many errors in Sock 1 that I thought I would never wear them, but, dear reader, I did get them finished!

TADAAAAH!!!!! My first ever pair of socks!

Kitchener toe! Woah - what has happened to my font?!

TADAAAAH - second pair of socks (with the original ancient wool!)

TADAAAAAAH - current pair of socks with yarn gifted to me by the patient and lovely Karen. You should check out her stuff! Pardon the pun, but I'm HOOKED!


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