Sunday, September 21, 2008

Am I a sock knitter?

I've finished my sixth pair of socks, using the Leyburn sock pattern and Fannie's Fingering Weight yarn by Farmhouse Yarns. These were my first toe-up socks. As a result of my unfamilarity with the method, they are not as technically correct or as well-fitted as some of the others. Nonetheless, they are a pretty pair of socks. Both the yarn and the pattern are great, and together you've got a winner.

I've swatched for my seventh pair of socks, but am unhappy with the result. My sock knitting is momentarily on hold, and I'm taking this moment to evaluate.

When I started this blog last year, I wrote often about knitting socks--but I never published what I wrote. It was, I was sure, offensive. I'm putting some of those old thoughts in here, unedited, and I'm worried that even in that context they are still offensive. If you do take offense, I hope you can look past the offense and see how my thinking has evolved as I became familar with sock knitting.

Up until this year, I had never knit a sock, even though I started out by knitting slippers, many years ago. The slippers were basically knitted squares, sewn together. I have a dim memory of reading a pattern for socks and not understanding the phrase "turn the heel". I immediately lost interest in knitting socks and stuck to knitting squares.

Turn the clock ahead a couple of decades, and you could find me reading knitting blogs and starting my own. At that time, I wrote the following:

Ok, I think every blog can have one. Here's my disclaimer: No socks were knit in the production of this blog.

Now, I understand socks. I have bought sock yarn. I have discussed taking sock knitting classes. I have even bought wool socks. To be technically correct, they were called mohair socks. I mean, can you imagine something more itchy? Well, maybe mohair underwear. But I thought mohair socks would be itchy, and I was wrong. So I completely understand that there is very pretty, very soft, altogether lovely, sock yarn out there to be bought. And that hand knit wool socks are scrumptious to wear. I will probably knit socks someday. I would likely enjoy a sock knitting class.

Since I wrote that, I have reviewed it several times, usually when I considered knitting a pair of socks. I did not publish it because I didn't want to offend my fellow knitters, especially since almost every knit blogger I read knits socks. I didn't know if a sock knitter would find my disinterest in sock knitting offensive, I just assumed she or he would.

Soon, something I read dispelled my doubts about knitters taking offense.

One of the more famous knit bloggers posted an entry about sweater knitters, making generalized statements about them. Offended by its tone and especially by the comments, I wrote the following:

However, I feel the gauntlet has been thrown down. Suddenly, to my complete astonishment, sweater knitting is disparged by sock knitters. Some even feel the need to defend scarf knitting. Bag knitting is praised. Ya know, what the heck is wrong with knitting whatever you want? Of course, the answer is nothing. Nothing whatsoever. The problem is not what you knit, it is how you present what you knit. That speaks. It is not the knitting of socks that bothers me.

My beef is the blogging of socks.

There is incessant, constant, repetitive, redundant, blogging about sock knitting in the knitting blog world. If you don't believe me, just Google it, or use whatever search tool you prefer. Search for "hand knit ...." or "knit ...." and change the last word. Check the "total results." "Hand knit scarf" vs. "hand knit sweater" vs. "hand knit hat" vs. "hand knit mittens", whatever you use, "hand knit socks" outnumbers them all. In most cases, 2 to 1.

To be understanding, I realize that the blog world demands FOs. And that socks are pretty quickly knit, in most cases. They are the perfect blog fodder.

Just not here.

I'm not excited to read about sock knitting. I admit, next year, or whenever I get addicted to sock knitting, I will seek out sock knitters blogs and avidly wait for the next post about socks. I will eagerly take pictures of my nearly-completed sock and post it on my blog. I will buy tons of sock yarn and dozens of sock knitting books.

Just not now.

It is obvious to me upon re-reading this excerpt, that I took a good deal of offense at the comments about sweater knitters. After all, I was knitting a lot of sweaters by then, and I was personally appalled that another knitter would make negative comments about "sweater knitters". I was angry, and also frustrated that I saw so many blog entries about socks that I couldn't understand. I finally decided not to publish it because I knew it would just add to the dissension between sweater-knitters and sock-knitters. Now it is part of my story, and the points I made actually then are actually turning back on me, as you will see.

Back to my chronicle of socks...

I had made unwise yarn purchases. I had bought a lot of variegated yarn, and some of it was sock yarn. I also had a good bit of fingering weight yarn that was a little too itchy for shawls or scarves. There was nothing to do with the yarn but to knit socks. Once I realized that most sock patterns tell you how to turn a heel, rather than just saying "turn the heel", like that long-ago pattern, it was easy.

I actually thought I might just knit a few socks and not put them on the blog. Then I chose a lace sock pattern for my second pair. Those socks took a long time to knit, so I caved and posted them.

Shortly afterwards, I wrote the following:

Except that I put up one pair of finished socks and got 12 comments telling me how beautiful they were. I just put up a lace cashmere scarf and then a sweater, and got one then two comments.

Hmmmm. You can see how that was a relevation to me. Since then, I have decided to blog about socks. I've been posting socks whenever I finish them, along with my other FOs. Now I'm going a step further and reviving some of my old thoughts about socks, and blogging about sock knitting.

 I don't have any new thoughts about sock knitting. I've done it, I like the finished product, I've learned a good bit. I'm a little like someone at the beginning of a relationship. I'm dating sock knitting. I haven't committed yet. Only time will tell if sock-knitting and I will live happily ever after together or if we will go our separate ways.

I still have my doubts. It takes a lot to knit a sock: fairly expensive yarn, hours of knitting, tiny little cumbersome needles. (I know how to knit on dpns, on magic loop and on two circulars. I find all three methods of knitting small circles more cumbersome than knitting a large circle on one circular needle or knitting a rectangle on straight needles.) I'll reserve judgement as to the worth of sock knitting until I see how the 5 pairs of socks I have knit for this winter wear.

I do have a new attitude toward blogging about socks. I like to read about socks. I enjoy seeing someone else's hand-knit socks. I'm interested in the patterns and the variations. I've bought books on sock knitting, not many, just three, but I like the ones I've bought. I'm looking forward to learning more about sock knitting.

I'm sure that this story I'm trying to tell is like a parable. There's a moral here somewhere. I thought sock-knitting was a waste of time. I didn't care to see hand-knit socks. I held a poor opinion of the people who knit them.

All that has changed, simply because I tried it. Now I understand. I walked that mile in hand-knit socks and my eyes have been opened. I've learned because I've tried something new, and I've gained understanding with that learning.

 ETA:  Since I wrote this, all of these socks have worn out.  I've knitted new ones to replace them.


beverlyanne said...

Hmm, interesting post. It's not surprising that you didn't want to read about sock knitting when you were uninterested in doing sock knitting. I am surprised that anyone would disparage other knitters for their choice of project,which by the way you didn't do in your comments about sock blogging. I learn a lot from what other people are doing and find inspiration there too. I tend to want to knit everything I see.

Marjorie said...

I'll do your meme later this week. I think your change of heart shows your growth as a knitter. I also have thought "I'd never knit [fill in the blank]" because I think of myself as a sweater knitter. But it is fun to knit shawls for experience of doing lace without worrying about fit, it is fun to do socks to try out different yarns and stitches, and it is fun to do scarves because you have a "big swatch" if you're experimenting with the yarn and something practical from your efforts. And so when I read that a knitter doesn't want to knit something, I just hope that the knitter will change his or her mind someday (including me).

Jenny Girl said...

I understand what you mean about sock and sweater knitters. I just ignore these people, becasue really, who do they think they are? The knitting police/ruling class? PULLLLEASE!
I am so not offended by anything you have written, here or otherwise. You write what you want to write. It's your blog chickie!

Wool Enough said...

I know exactly what you mean. I used to feel a bit scornful of lace knitting. All that effort -- and for what really? Well, somewhere after my 40th pair of socks, I caught the lace bug and now have two lace shawls on the needles.

Oh, and spinning. I used to fast forward thru blog posts about spinning. Then something caught my fancy, I bought a spindle and some fiber. And now . . . now . . . I'm spinning the yarn that I will use to knit a lace shawl.

The moral -- be careful what you scorn; it is likely to sneak up and bite you in the nether regions.

Patricia said...

Interesting. Socks are the box cake of knitting. They are quick and satisfying. I have two baskets of socks that I don't wear and have given away countless pair. The last four that I finished. Those who don't knit just love them.
I am gradually using up my stash and working on more sweaters. The trouble is, the heat. I just need to look north!

Dave said...

Yup, you're a sock knitter. Perhaps not an avid sock knitter, but a sock knitter nonetheless.

They may not be Starmores or Fassetts, but socks have their niche. For me, it's the quickness and the colour. I wouldn't knit, and don't want, a sweater with green and purple and blue and yellow and whatever, but a sock like that is fun. They're also a good way to try out new techniques and constructions.

To each their own, and it's good to keep our minds just a little bit open, because we never know what might be our next "our own".

vlb5757 said...

I am learning how to knit a sweater and it's been fun. I sure wouldn't throw rocks at someone who doesn't want to be a sock knitter just like I was wild about the idea of knitting a sweater.
I guess I like knitting socks because in theory it's a "short term" project. A sweater is much more of a time committment than I wanted. I have loved doing the sweater so far.

sydney said...

Interesting. Socks are my carry along knitting. Plus I realized while reading this post, that I tend to like almost all handknit socks I see on the blogs. Maybe because I'm willing to wear patterns and colors on my feet that I wouldn't wear elsewhere on my body. I like to knit sweaters too. It just takes me longer to knit them. But I like reading about all kinds of knitting. Even if I think I wouldn't knit it for myself.