Socks and Life Lessons

Knitting socks may hold one of the great secrets to life.

When I first started knitting socks, I joined this Yahoo Group of sock knitters. All socks, all the time. Don't post about anything other than socks or you get reprimanded.

You would not even believe how big and busy this board is. It has more than 11,000 members!

If you're not a sock knitter, though, or even for those of us who are fairly new, it's freaking amazing to think that so much correspondence and interest can be generated about SOCKS. (Nothing else or there is some hand slapping. Don't ask me how I know this but just don't join unless you want to talk seriously about knitting socks and ONLY ABOUT THAT.) I mean, I couldn't believe it at first--after you talk about HOW to knit socks, I mean, how much more is there to say?

Go on, it's me here. You can 'fess up. You're thinking the same thing.

I cannot adequately explain the lure of knitting, and talking about knitting, socks. I just can't. Trust me that once you are hooked, you'll need some sort of 12-step program to understand how not everyone sees this as the most fascinating subject on the planet. Plus, there are as many varieties of hand knitted socks as there are SOCK KNITTERS, my friends. And sock knitters are amazingly helpful and generous in sharing their time and expertise and patterns and pictures of their finished work. For some of the participants, it almost seems like a full-time job.

But here's where *I* confess. When I first joined, I heard people talk about how "the yarn hadn't told them what kind of sock it wanted to be yet."

You can just imagine my response, right?

But I kept quiet and still people kept talking about experiences they'd had "trying to make a yarn be something its not."

But then, I took this gorgeous yarn and tried to knit a sock with it. Specifically THIS sock

I was TRYING to make THAT sock into THIS sock. But you can see how the color is "pooling" in areas, which makes me crazy.

This wool is so beautiful but used in this sock pattern, it looks splotchy and the pattern looks... funky. (Plus, it appeared to be growing with each round. It would have made a nice sweater for the dog by the time I got through with it.)

So, I tried it again.

And again.

And just once more for good measure. Until I looked like this.

And then, just as I was losing all hope, I "got" it. The yarn was telling me it didn't want to be that pattern. It wanted to be THIS one.

(I'm sorry but I think I uploaded the big version of that picture so if you click on it, it's going to look like the sock that ate JAPAN or something.)

Look at how the color doesn't pool on this one. Just look at that!

It's a plain pattern called "Bamboo Walking Socks" and it really shows off the gorgeous yarn. Makes Barb VERY HAPPY.

You know, I'm a writer and I've had similar situations where characters didn't want to do what *I* wanted them to do. They just wouldn't go there. I don't know why it was such a stretch to think that sock yarn would be the same way.

And I have children, as you know. Before I had them, I thought they came into the world like little lumps of clay and that it was my job to mold them into fine upstanding people. (Every mother reading this just spit soda at her keyboard. "BWAH HA HA HAHA! MOLD them! HAH! That Barb Cooper--she is so silly!") But see, they come into this world like certain yarns and you have to wait for them to TELL you what they need to be. If you try to fit that gorgeous introvert into an extroverted pattern, you will find one splotchy sock whose true beauty may never shine through, regardless of your knitting.

(Work with me here --I'm making a total ass of myself for a reason. I have a point. That almost never happens.)

My point is that I should never judge the utterings of knitters until I've knit their patterns. And sometimes, my friends, you gotta listen to what the yarn is telling you it wants to be.

Words to live by.

PS: It's very hard to take pictures of yourself, even when you're TRYING to be silly. Be gentle.


Candy said…
I think I'm the only woman on the planet that has absolutely no freaking desire to knit or crochet or do anything with yarn. Dude... socks are cheap at Target... and I think they're on sale at Sears this week *laugh*
Barb Matijevich said…
Well, you know, I'm kind of a artsy-craftsy kind of girl. And for me, knitting socks is the ultimate expression of love. I spend hours knitting them, a lot of money on materials, and then, by GOD, someone wears them outside to get the mail and puts a big hole in them.

And I don't care. Because it's a metaphor for the shield that I wish I could give my loved ones against all that's bad in the world.

You don't have to knit to express that. But my guess is, Candy, you do *something* similar.

Barb, who is feeling very philosophical this evening. Heh, heh.
Anonymous said…
Don't worry, Candy. I feel the same way about scrapbooking. Spend 3 hours sticking 2 pictures and some glitter on a page??

Anyway, Barb, your socks are lovely. I belong to that same list and often read posts thinking, "Oh boy here we go...".

Funny thing, I went and searched for that pattern you used and found it on the Crystal Palace site. The socks in that pattern picture are all but screaming that they do not want to be this pattern. Your's are much prettier. You did a good job listening to your yarn.
Anonymous said…
You hit the nail squarely on the head! To understand the mystique of sock knitting, you must try it, must become obsessed and reach the stage where if you are not knitting them you are talking about knitting them. The 12 step program can't be far behind. Welcome to the club!!! Ruth in N.J.
Anonymous said…
And today I pulled out half a shawl because that yarn just refused to be a shawl. It's happily becoming fingerless gloves and looks gorgeous. Some teenager on my Christmas list is going to be thrilled.
Anonymous said…
My mother tried to teach me how to knit. I think knitting might skip a generation because Madeleine (9) is really into it.

I was making brownies the other day. But they didn't want to be just any brownies. They weren't happy until I'd added 100g of chopped hazelnuts and another half a cup of white choc chips.

I really liked this post. Maybe one day I'll learn to knit; you're certainly more inspiring than my mother.
Susan said…
Wow! I really did not like that pattern when I saw it on the internet but yours is beautiful! Talk about the yarn wanting to be a pattern.... It's now on my want-to-do list. So what yarn is it?

I love your blog! I discovered it a few weeks ago and now I'm a regular reader.
N. Maria said…
I was laughing so hard looking at the faces you were making! I do that too, but you publish your picture!
I knit a little.......every day. I'm one of the crazy sock knitters, too.
Bo... said…
Love your socks! (Yes...the yarn does whisper to you, doesn't it?....)
annette2u said…
Wow Barb you said it all for us.
Love your finished sock and will try the pattern.
I actually thought the same thing when I joined the socknitters group and thought it would only be a few messages a day but alas it is just so busy and I love it.
Hugs and have a wonderful blessed week
Unknown said…
Brilliant! Sock thad the article.
You are really rather pretty too. And funny. What more could a man want?(apart from a man)
Unknown said…
OOhh I hadn't read candy's little note.
It's the firing squad for her i am afraid to say.
Damsel said…
Now, I don't know sock knitting from a hole in the wall, but you struck a chord with me and the yarn-whispering. My first project, the scarf, is stinkin' up the place, and I think it's because the two yarns I bought just don't want to be scarves.

Which sucks for them because I don't yet know how to even make a SCARF, much less something else for THEM to be happy.

Maybe this is too much for my people (yarn?)-pleasing self.
LizzieK8 said…
There is a yarn store that has a sock club. You sign up, pay your money, and each month they send you enough sock yarn to make the socks and the pattern to go with it. I think needles and other extras are included, too.

The store got such an enormous response that their bank questioned all these purchases at the same time each month. Thought it was a scam and refused to let them use their bank for it. The store switched banks, the sock club still lives on and those stupid bankers who couldn't believe people liked to knit socks lost a LOT of money!
Anonymous said…
I used to sound just like Candy. All my knitting friends just kept telling me that sock-knitting is addictive. First, though, comes the addiction to sock yarns (they are gorgeous) and then comes the inevitable sock-knitting addiction. I have a coat, minus the sleeves and collar, and a sweater, minus the sleeves and collar, and I DON'T WANT to give up sock-knitting time to finish them. And how do I get in on the sock-knitting on-line groups?
Your socks are beautiful!!!
jmok (Atlanta sock knitter)
Sarah said…
There's so much to talk about socks! Sock patterns, sock yarns, how many needles, how to hold the yarn, other people's socks. I could go on and on....
Oh wait. I do.
DK said…
Oh, right, that's how I met you!! I was trying to remember the other was the SockKnitters Group! Which, sadly, I've been deleting the emails on sight lately because I'm so limited for time, and those digest emails are HUGE!

I don't know what it is about socks, but by the time I moved my whole knitting group back home was addicted to them like a bunch of crack junkies. God, I love socks...

And your point is very well made! And it's a far reaching principle - can't make a Walking Sock into a Tidal Wave Sock, can't make an introvert into the Belle of the Ball, can't even make a psychiatrist into a gynecologist, I guess. It's all about letting the "truth" of something be what it is. Om.
Wahooooo! That's MY sock! It's on my foot. My right foot at the moment, but soon it will be the left foot's turn. Thank you for my sock, I love it so!
Anonymous said…
That was great! I have encountered this problem many times, with many projects. I forced my Tofutsies to become Tidal Wave socks, though.
Mokihana said…
I LOVE knitting socks! My first pair was for Yarn Harlot's Knitting Olympics, and I haven't stopped since. My favorite yarn is hand-dyed on Maui, and has colorways with local kine names.

But wait! I love Socks That Rock! And Lorna's Laces. And anything hand-painted and... and... and....

I have several pairs on the needles as we speak.

I'm gonna look for you on Socknitters. I love that list!

And by the way...your socks are just lovely. I'm gonna look up the pattern.
Anonymous said…
I don't get the whole sock-knitting thing. I don't disparage it; I am just not an avid sock knitter. I don't think the socks like me. The pictures? Priceless.
Mokihana said…
I am a crazy woman sock knitter: I love love love knitting socks! Fast, portable, and warm. And no one has a pair of socks like mine!

The yarns do tell me what kind of sock they want to be. My main problem is that they're all yelling at me at the same time!