Here at last is the harrowing conclusion to our stirring saga of Will over Wool,
in which Mrs. M - who had never yet completed a Second Sock -
undertook to knit a Pair of Gift Socks.
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At the end of Part 2, our heroine was sitting pretty, with Sock One complete and Sock Two nearly so. Just a foot and a toe - a few hours' work - and her Tale of Woe would become a Song of Victory.
Swift and steady - more or less - was the knitting of Sock Two's foot. Our heroine's stitch tension (never her strong suit) was dramatically improved by the practice of "knitting ahead", or working an extra few stitches at the end of each dpn, thus minimising the chance of unsightly ladders.
We will gloss over the 3 accidentally-slipped stitches she found about 15 rows after slipping them, and the many attempts it took to: a) drop the right stitches, in the right order, down to the mistake; b) fix the mistake; c) pick all the dropped stitches back up again. Frogging and re-knitting the 15 rows would probably have been quicker; but our heroine regarded it as a Learning Experience. Nothing daunted, she knitted on, and found herself at last on the brink of Toe Number Two.
Toe Number Two! Magic words to one who had never yet finished a Second Sock. How excitedly did she work the decrease rounds! With what modest yet growing confidence did she Kitchener her way across the opening! How joyfully did she lay the socks toe-to-toe across her lap, admiring their pleasing symmetry!
Never again would she bear the shame of Second Sock Syndrome. She could hold her head high among the knitters of the world; she had Completed a Pair of Socks.
(Pause while knitting readers remember with nostalgia their own sense of accomplishment on first finishing a P. of S.)
But the ordeal was not yet over. You will, I am sure, sympathise with our heroine when I tell you that she waited several days before blocking the socks. She told herself she needed to research the best sock-blocking method - but the truth is she was afraid. What if something went wrong? What if the Socks stretched hopelessly out of shape? What if they (gasp) felted?
(Lest my readers be alarmed, let me hasten to assure you that the Socks did not felt. Fate had yet a blow in store for our heroine, but it was not so cruel as that.)
Common knitting wisdom dictates the following method for blocking wool socks: saturate the socks in tepid water (with or without a few drops of cleaning agent), being careful not to agitate them. Without wringing or twisting, squeeze out as much water as possible. Then roll them in a towel and squeeze (or step on) the rolled-up towel to extract still more water. Socks may then be shaped and allowed to dry.
Our heroine has never liked swishing small items in a sinkful of water - too drippy and messy when it comes to hauling them out. So after a bit of thought, she devised her own sock-wetting method, as follows:
1. Stack the socks, roll them up lengthwise, and put them in the bottom of a large plastic cup (a quart-size yoghurt container works well). Add water to cover:
2. Give the socks some time to soak up the water. When they're saturated, pour off the excess. Now insert another cup of the same size, and press it firmly against the wet socks. (Do this over a sink while holding the cups sideways or upside down, so the water can run off.) The second cup acts as a plunger to help squeeze out the moisture.
3. Remove socks from cup and admire their cake-like appearance.
Now for the clean towel, the rolling, squeezing and stepping...
...then the grand unveiling, and the laying-out of the socks on another towel to dry.
Our heroine was thrilled with how well the Socks looked after blocking; the transformation was almost miraculous. Most of the blips had evened out; the bumpy heel-turns were now smooth and tidy; the colourwork looked crisp and clean.
She gazed with affection at the damp socks, product of many hours' labour. But the affection soon turned to horror....
Toe Number Two pointed the wrong way. She had decreased in the wrong places.
They say that when a man is drowning, his entire life flashes before his eyes. Here are a few of the thoughts (rather bitter, I'm sorry to say) and images (strangely movie-related) that passed through our heroine's head as she gazed on the misshapen sock:
a) Aaaugh! Aaugh! Aaaaaugh!
b) ("That is the sound of ultimate suffering.")
c) If I were Tolkien, I'd have written a book called The Lord of the Socks. Instead of a Ring, Frodo would stagger through Middle-Earth dragging a set of dpns, working on a sock that could never be finished. His only hope would be to find the Yarn Shop of Fire and throw the @#*% thing in.
d) These are the Socks of Doom. How can I possibly mail them? Surely the plane will crash, or some dire mishap befall the poor postal employee who tries to deliver them.
and finally, when she had calmed down a bit...
e) What a great ending for the blog post.
(Our heroine was more of a philosopher than she realised. As a knitter she sighed and clutched her head, but as a writer she took consolation in the creative opportunity. Every cloud has a silver lining, they say.)
Lest our story take on the length of a novel, let us cut to the chase:
Our heroine knew she could never mail a sock with a cock-eyed toe. It didn't look right, it wouldn't fit right, and it certainly wouldn't wear well. Toe seams should run from side to side across the toes - not from the top of the foot to the bottom.
Thus ends our woolly saga. A Tale of Woe indeed, with only glimmers of triumph here and there - but rich in learning opportunities (or so our heroine consoles herself).
Sock Two is once more on the drying rack; in a few days, she hopes, she will be able to
Meanwhile, she's started on a pair of mittens to use up the leftover yarn....
(Thunder crashes offstage....)
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I could never have made these Socks without frequently tapping into the wealth of knowledge shared by a generous online knitting community. The following sites were especially helpful:
By Gum By Golly - how to keep yarn from twisting when working stranded colourwork
Paper Tiger - on colour dominance in stranded knitting
Techknitting - Kitchener stitch, blocking, help for wonky ribbing and all things knitting
My Jewel Thief Knits - useful foot size chart
Knitty - wonderful basic sock tutorials
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