Sunday, January 10, 2016

The Christmas Socks (a Tale of Woe), Part 3: It Ain't Over Till It's Over

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.

~ ~ ~

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.

So she swallowed her bitter disappointment, called Patience to her aid once more, and waited for the socks to dry. Then, a sadder-but-wiser knitter, she frogged and re-worked the misshapen toe (not forgetting to first wet and weight the ravelled yarn to straighten out its kinks). And I'm happy to report that she had just enough yarn left to weave in at the end.

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 get this project out of the house and out of her life mail the Socks to their intended recipient.

Meanwhile, she's started on a pair of mittens to use up the leftover yarn....

(Thunder crashes offstage....)

~ ~ ~

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

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


  1. Ha, this made me laugh! At least it all came right in the end.

  2. Yay! Congratulations :-D. (I've never bothered blocking socks - I suppose I might if I knitted lace socks but as I hate lace socks (memories of school socks circa 1978) that's not likely to happen!)

  3. And this harrowing tale is precisely why I have never knitted a pair of socks. I remain firmly in my Hobbit burrow and leave the adventuring to others - you brave, brave souls.

  4. Haha I feel for you I really do and I'm so impressed that you went to the bother of correcting your mistake I think at that point I would have stuffed them out of sight somewhere and tried to forget about them, but thank goodness it's a happy ending and they are lovely socks, when will you be making your next pair? :) xx

  5. You are a much stronger person then I am, I would have sent them just the way they were in hopes no one would notice. But alas I am no longer a sock knitter, they take entirely to much time and frankly I live in Florida where I wear socks twice a year. I hope there are no mishap with the mittens.

  6. You definitely should write a book. I smiled, I groaned, I gasped, and I rejoiced with you at the end of your saga. The socks are turned out beautifully.
    Blessings, Betsy

  7. Great amusement on this cold winter Monday! Glad you could remedy your "toe" situation. Now I know that I will never try knitting socks, since even you the yarn expert have difficulties. I trust the receiver of these lovely socks appreciates your knitting skills and patience. Keep warm, Linda@Wetcreek Blog

  8. Love your sense of humor, I'd have cried and destroyed the socks. Glad you got it straightened out.

  9. Well we all do these things! Im so impressed that you worked them back! Atta girl

  10. I had no doubt you'd finish those socks and that they would be awesome! And they are. :) I also, know that with knitting...sometimes, things happen along the journey that are not expected. I was cheering you on as I read you unraveled the error and fixed it. So very impressed. I always end up having to frog back to where I can figure out it's ok, which sometimes makes me throw the entire thing in the trash and give up. But I am trying to keep at it and press onward. You inspire me sweet friend with your bravery and you awesome talent. :) 2016, the year of knit! :)

  11. Oh my goodness it has been quite an adventure for our heroine, but she has learned a lot and done so incredibly well!! She deserves a very big round of applause for all of her hard work and a job very well done!!!! Fabulous socks!!! Enjoy knitting many more! xx

  12. I have made one pair of socks ( slightly baggy and saggy if I am honest but I had to prove to myself that I could). Since I have embraced being a serious if incompetent knitter I have never made anything which did not involve getting it wrong and frogging and slowly, humbly, eventually getting it right. I have decided, no doubt in order to console myself, that taking things back is the measure of my commitment rather than evidence of how hopeless I am. This is the first blog I have ever read which feels like life at my house.

  13. Oh my goodness.. I would have died if I'd had that happen.. but when I did make my ONE pair of socks I had similar issues. I'm so impressed that you did the pattern of cats on the socks.. what is the image on the mittens? ((hugs)), Teresa :-)

  14. Oh man, I thought I was the only one who could make several mistakes on the same project. Thank you for admitting that a talented designer can also, occasionally, make several mistakes!

  15. Huuuuuuu! Finally! Well done!!!!! :-))))

  16. Oh, poor you - but well done for persevering with the re-knit!

  17. Oh my gosh! I can so relate to "consoling" yourself by repeating that this is a learning experience after all. These socks of yours aren't just any old easy-peasy sock either--you should feel very proud of them.
    I have been wearing my (your?) ghost cone scarf these last weeks because it finally got cold over here. I love it so much!!!

  18. Just reading this resulted in the need for a little lie down on my part. But you are triumphant, the knitter not the socks won the day!

  19. You are glorious in your sock knitting success!! Not many would redo their toe, unpicking Kitchener stitch can be a royal pain in the arse. But these things happen. Your socks are lovely and I'm looking forward to seeing your mitts!

  20. I'm so proud of you for persevering to the very woolly end! (I have taken out heels and toes to redo them, too.) And this write-up would make Marigold very jealous!!! Have you pointed her this way! Congrats on finishing your first second sock! Now on to your first century!


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