Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Mrs. Micawber Knits a Sock, Part 3 ~ the Exciting (and Extremely Long) Conclusion

Welcome back to our sock-knitting saga, in which Mrs. M tackles her very first hand-knitted sock, following the excellent (if sometimes vague) formula set out by Elizabeth Zimmermann in the classic Knitting Without Tears
~ ~ ~

Last week we left our heroine, flushed with triumph over an unexpectedly smooth heel-turning, gamely stitching away at the foot of her sock (and slightly dreading the Kitchener to come)....


The sock-knitting experiment has been successful thus far (despite a certain inconsistency of tension). Will the toe be our heroine's undoing? Will grafting prove an insurmountable stumbling-block? These are the thoughts that haunt her waking hours - but Mrs. M presses on.

After briefly dithering over when to stop knitting the foot and start shaping the toe (EZ gives no clues about this - it's a case of by guess or by golly), our heroine decides to begin decreasing when the sock is about an inch shy of covering her foot.

In the sock-gospel according to EZ (sub-heading: "Shape for Toe"), the knitter is instructed to divide the stitches over 3 needles; half of them, for the front, on one needle (to be designated Needle #2), and the other half split between two other needles (to be designated #1 and #3.). Are your eyes glazing yet?

Half a mo - what does "front" mean? (Brief interval of quiet reflection.) Mrs. M concludes (rightly, as it turns out) that "front" equates to "top of the foot" - and divides her stitches accordingly.

This places the round-end marker and working yarn rather inconveniently in the middle of Needle #3, while the toe decreases are set to begin on Needle #1. Is this a problem? (Knitters are invited to comment.) Nothing for it but to stitch across until we reach Needle #1 ... and now for the toe-shaping. Knit to within 3 stitches of the end, k2tog, k1. So far so good; on to Needle #2.

K1, SSK.... A panic-stricken moment ensues in which Mrs. M a) forgets how to SSK; b) ruffles madly back through the book to find the instructions; c) discovers that all her previous SSKs have been incorrectly done. (Gnashing of teeth and striking of forehead.)

Our heroine pulls herself together and calls to mind the Galloping Horse Rule (learnt at quilting group in the dim and distant past, to be recited whenever a mistake is discovered): If You Can't See It From the Back of a Galloping Horse, It Doesn't Matter.

Daunted but resolute, she takes a firm grasp of her courage (also the needles and yarn) and soldiers on to the end of Needle #2 (k2tog, k1). Then across to Needle #3: K1, SSK. (Get it right this time, Mrs. M!). Knit to end. Whew!

Looks okay to me....

An easy round of plain knitting follows, then repeat the decrease round. Plain round, decrease round, plain round, decrease round, until there are 20 stitches left. And once again (dang it), the round has ended in an inconvenient place - smack in the middle of the sole:


Our heroine knits across to the end, wondering uneasily if these extra stitches will somehow cause a lopsided toe, but knowing she has no choice. Grafting simply cannot commence from the middle of the sock; it must start at one side.

Grafting? Yes - the dreadful hour has come....

But perhaps not so dreadful after all. For Mrs. M remembers that she holds a secret weapon: a sacred grafting mantra culled years ago from the pages of TechKnitter's* excellent blog, jotted on a bit of paper and carefully stored in the needle case against just such a moment as this, when the ghost of Kitchener looms o'er a hapless project, raising spectral visions of dropped and twisted stitches in a cramped, puckery seam - a sacred grafting mantra, I say, which, when chanted and followed, will allow the timorous knitter to graft her work with the knitting needles, on the knitting needles.

The precious relic, which contains not only the mantra, but a helpful diagram illustrating needle position (and a mystical string-bean-like shape hovering to the right), is retrieved from the needle case and set reverently on our heroine's lap.


The sock stitches are divided once again, onto two needles this time. A moment is spent in quiet contemplation of the relic, then, with a deep breath, Mrs. M cuts the yarn (being careful to leave a longish tail). Reminding herself that the tail must be pulled all the way through on every stitch, she begins to chant softly: "Purl the front and push OFF; knit the front and leave ON. Knit the back and push OFF; purl the back and leave ON."

After a breathless minute or three, in which nothing at all seems to be happening, a glorious sight appears: half a grafted toe! The mantra is working. (Thank you, TechKnitter!)


Almost before she knows it, our heroine is pulling the yarn through the final stitch - and a brand-new sock has been brought safely into the world.


Just look at that grafted toe....

Mrs. M rushes into the next room to show Mr. M what she has produced, and is slightly disappointed, though not at all surprised, to find that he takes it very calmly (so like a man).

And what, after all, is there to be excited about? The world is full of socks. Socks are knitted every day. But to Mrs. M, this one is special. Never before has it made an appearance on the stage of life; it is unique in the history of the planet. And despite its failure of perfect symmetry - its uneven tension and bumpy decreases and faintly concave toe - our heroine loves it, and wouldn't trade it for anything. (Except perhaps a Ferrari ... if it came fully insured.)


And so the curtain slowly drops on our woolly little drama. Laying her new sock lovingly in its basket, our heroine takes up her needles once more and begins to cast on the next....


~ ~ ~

*TechKnitter's blog, TechKnitting, is a wonderful compendium of knitting tips and techniques. A knitter with the mind of a structural engineer, she writes excellent tutorials which explain not only the how of a stitch but also the why. (And she happens to live in Wisconsin.)  :)

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

38 comments:

  1. Yay for you! I think your sock if great. I am always impressed by anyone attempting a sock. As I don't knit, I am in awe of those of you who do. Mr. M just doesn't understand how great this is.

    Good luck with the next one.

    Sharon

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks so much, Sharon. I think he'd be more excited if the sock was for him. :)

      Delete
  2. Sigh of relief and congratulations! Thank heavens there's crochet for the rest of us--one hook is all I can handle. I'm in awe of your sock which is one thing that will never appear on my knitting needles (I do own two).

    The Galloping Horse must be akin to the It's Not Brain Surgery Rule--also learned at a quilt store! Or as Julia Child said, "never confess your mistakes"!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I like the sound of the Brain Surgery Rule ... and Julia is always right.

      Thanks for commenting! :)

      Delete
  3. Your "sock story" put a smile on my face! You can be really proud of your achievement.
    Maybe I'll try knitting a sock one more time ;)
    Groetjes,
    Thara

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I will be prouder when I finish the second one - especially if it comes out the same size. :)

      Delete
  4. Whew...what a long story with a happy ending!:) I'm so so glad for you Mrs. M!
    You have to keep that sock as treasure and protect it from anyone intending to wear it..because the second one is coming and, well, the socks have to make a pair!
    Nicely done and I wish that the second sock knitting took you less time but with a good result:)
    Anna

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks so much, Anna. I WILL treasure it. :)

      Delete
  5. A happy ending is all we need after such intense drama Mrs. M :o) Well done you! I still tresure my very first pair of socks I made, I'm with you regarding the deep satisfaction and sense of VICTORY when you complete that toe!
    Its good to see that your courage to go forth and battle the second sock is ready and willing, look forward to seeing them on xox Penelope

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Penelope. Hope you're enjoying your weekend! :)

      Delete
  6. Why is it that when we tackle something so enormous like finishing a sock, our husbands act as if it were nothing, but when their "team" wins it's as if they won the lottery? And excuse me, but they did not even play on the team, whereas we not only knitted the sock, but had to slay a few dragons ( one named SSK and the other went by the name of Kitchener) along the way, too. Hmmm!

    I love your sock! I know you are on top of the world right now. I love how sock knitting always makes you feel so smart and wise....at least it always does for me. And then I realize, it wants a mate! :)

    Blessings always

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ha - good point about the husbands. Thanks, Vicki. :)

      Delete
  7. A chocolate sock, I love it.
    You are doing a great job right now.
    Hugs to you Sue,
    Meredith

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Chocolate with sprinkles. :)

      Thanks, Meredith!

      Delete
  8. Yay! Did someone say chocolate?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes - did your ears perk up?

      (And is chocolate allowed in Paleo World?) :)

      Delete
  9. Well done! It is a great sense of achievement when a sock is done and sock-shaped isn't it? And also well done for slaying the dragon of vague patterns - something that vague would have had me stabbing it with my needles!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes - I was very glad that it turned out sock-shaped. I really don't mind a slightly vague pattern - one that gives scope to the imagination - but really this one left out a few more details than I would have liked. A true learning experience.

      Someday I hope to make socks as gorgeous as yours. :)

      Delete
  10. Congratulations, I crochet with 1 needle and have problems, can't imagine fiddling with 3 I'd knit myself into the project.
    Loved the Galloping Horse advice. I've always held to the theory that as long as I'm consistent in my error it'll be ok.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Good point - my error was so consistent that it really looks fine. :)

      Thanks, Janet.

      Delete
  11. Your entries are LOL funny to me (galloping horse, mystical string bean, I can hear the organ music now!)! Congratulations on your achievement and thanks for the laughs to start to my day!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Sue. I love to poke fun at myself. :)

      Delete
  12. I applaud your success. One lovely sock with another on the way. You must finish sock #2 because the cold weather is coming back.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes - in fact it's here. 0º as I write this - which is 10 degrees warmer than the other night.

      Thanks Beth! :)

      Delete
  13. Your first sock IS like your first child and something very special. I haven ever knitted EZ's socks from top to bottom but I do always have to reach for Knitting without Tears each time I have to graft a toe, which although not as snappy as the mantra I find is OK to follow and I can never remember the mantra. Alternatively I do like to knit toe up and begin with 'Judy's magic cast on' and ends with Julie's super stretchy bind off

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That magic cast-on fascinates me (if it's the one I'm thinking of, with the yarn wrapped like a figure-8 around two needles).

      Thanks for commenting! :)

      Delete
  14. Dear Mrs. M.
    What a saga. You are a true warrior and I think one who could slay a dragon blindfolded with just your needles in hand.
    That sock looks so cushy and cozy.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Ellen - it looks cushy because it's made with (comparitively HUGE) worsted weight yarn! When I finish this pair, I'll have to start using the lovely sock yarn I've been given - teeny tiny skinny yarn that requires needles the size of toothpicks. (Sigh)

      :)

      Delete
  15. "If You Can't See It From the Back of a Galloping Horse, It Doesn't Matter." This is, of course, incorrect and should rightly read "If you can't see it from the top of a stump, it doesn't matter." :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Whoever made up the Horse quote obviously didn't know any Goats. Or perhaps they just didn't eat enough Peanuts, which as we all know are the perfect brain food. :)

      Delete
  16. Hahaha. I love your little narrative. Knitting and crocheting are fun and satisfying I think because they are a kind of puzzle, making flat directions 3-D. The puzzle you describe (The front? You mean top?) is so familiar. Of course--this can also be dead out frustrating too, eh?
    I've never made a sock (my knitting is still in the crooked scarf stage which I left it in when I was about 14), but it must be wonderful.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well, it is in a nice heavy yarn like I used. We'll see if I like it as well when I'm using sock yarn (which is only slightly heavier than thread, it seems to me). :)

      Delete
  17. Oh Sue I love your writing it's brilliant and always leaves me smiling. Well done on completing the sock a veritable masterpiece :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Linda! This was quite an epic saga, wasn't it? :)

      Delete
  18. It's gorgeous! And let me get The Lizard to make up for the excitement Mr. M was feigning... When I held up my first all-knitted sock (actually two because I did two at a time on two circs so I wouldn't have to count the rows), he either was very excited for me or pretended so well, I believed him! It might also help that the socks were for him, and they fit, and he put them on right away, and they were Noro, and that says it all, right???

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well, the Lizard is a special guy - we all know that. And I do think Mr. M would have been a bit more excited had the sock been for him - especially if it were a Noro sock. I'd love to see the pair you made.... :)

      Delete
  19. Hahahaha.....I do so get it....I think you are a tad luckier than me, as the nightmarish looming thoughts on getting to a certain part of a knitting project not only continuously bug me during the day, but also rear their ugly heads in my dreams....why do I dream 'when knitting goes wrong' dreams?

    Loving your galloping horse quote and marigolds stump quote....must commit to memory.

    Well done on your first sock....super clever especially with lack of real instructions.

    My hubby was totally unaffected by my sample socks, but that's alright my enthusiasm was enough for the both of us.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Wow, I don't think I've ever had a knitting dream. (What does that say about you?) :)

      Thanks Faith! The instructions weren't that bad - just vague in spots. I think I learned a lot more by interpreting them than if I had followed a line-by-line pattern.

      Can't wait to see your second pair of socks all finished up!

      Delete

I love comments! Speak on....