I know this blog is a jumble of things. Knitting, politics, and further randomness that it must seem nonsensicalto someone who just stumbles across it. Sticking to one subject is not the easiest thing to do, especially when something strikes my fancy. Whether it be food, politics, gardening or some crazy video I find on youtube. I’m sorry if things get confusing sometimes, or jumbled, or make no sense. It’s a mix, like gazpacho. All kinds of things go into it, tomatoes, watercress, bread, cucumber, peppers, vinegar . . . Blend it up and you have a tasty dish for 90 degree days.
That being said, right now this particular post is about knitting. If you are uninterested, scroll down or move along. Nothing to see here.
My parents are going to Glacier National Park, Montana in August. On their motorcycles. From Iowa. Actually from about as far east in Iowa as you can go before falling into the Mississippi River. My Dad wants to drive about 300 miles a day and it’s about 1500 miles one way. Did I mention they are going to be on their motorcycles? Yes, it’s a once in a lifetime experience, they will see a lot of the country many people dont get to see (they are taking back roads to get there) and yes, a trip like that is very different on a motorcycle than in a car. I just keep thinking that they are going to have very sore bottoms. Very sore bottoms by the time they get there and that they may be a little bow legged.
I did committ to making them a few things to take on their trip: socks for my Dad, two pairs of fingerless gloves to help close the gap between their jacket and their riding gloves if it is cool in the morning, and a hat for my Mom. My Dad has helmet proof hair but my Mom is not so lucky. After a long push on Friday (stayed up till 1 AM knitting) the socks are done. Boys have big feet. Friday I knitted the most I have ever knitted in one day. About 10 1/2 inches. That may not sound like much but when you are knitting on 2.75mm needles with sock yarn it feels like a lot. I knit until I could not knit any more. But they are done and have been blocked and no socks for a while. Yeah! The other things should go a little faster.
I have learned some things about knitting socks though that I would like to share. I’ve knit quite a few pairs over the last few months. (6 1/2ish pairs since January)
1. At first socks are a pain in the ass. Dont try to knit a pair on tiny needles with tiny sock yarn first. Pick something with a little larger yarn (Thuja from Knitty was my first pair and it was easier to see how things came together)
2. Your first few pairs will not look as nice as you would like. There is a learning curve. I think I’ve only now gotten to a point where my socks look nice and not like a 5 year old knit them.
3. Do not try to kitchner if you are inebriated in any way. This stitch takes some patience to learn and can be very trying. The first few times I did it I kept wanting to throw my sock across the room. Just remember “knit, slip off, purl, purl, slip off, knit” it’s the chant I do so I dont screw up. And if you can try to put yourself in a place where you can finish grafting the toe together all at once without interruption (I’ve had to rip out a toe more than once because I put my sock down and couldnt remember where I had left off)
4. Pick a pattern with a repeat that is easy to memorize. This way you dont have to keep referring to the pattern.
5. It does matter which way your decreases lean. I knit Eastern Style with a combined purl which just means I like to knit through the back door. For me the process of K2Tog and SSK are a little backward from everyone else. (K2Tog is supposed to lean left and SSK is supposed to lean right) The reason why it matters which way your decreases lean is that your heel and toe will look much nicer if your decreases match up and lean the way they are supposed to rather than going off in opposite directions.
6. Take breaks and dont stress too much. This is something I am still learning. Stressing too much for me leads to more mistakes and knitting very tight (I knit a little on the tight side anyway) and stressing too much can lead to holding your body in a way that creates tension in the body (neck, shoulders, hands) that can make knitting a little on the painful side. This last part goes along with taking breaks. Eyes get tired, fingers get tired, muscles get tired, etc. Take a break, make a cup of tea, go for a walk, listen to some music, do some shoulder rolls and neck rolls. And if you feel you are getting stressed this is the perfect time to take a break for a while.
7. Remember to breathe. Sounds easy right? Not always. Remember to breathe.
8. When picking up heel stitches pick up a couple extra where the heel flap joins the foot. This will help prevent holes which means less fixing later.
9. Blocking, while not necessary, can make a pair of socks you are giving as a gift look nicer. Laddering and uneven stitching will look glaringly obvious if your socks are in a light colour. (I just learned this with my Dad’s socks) taking the time to block will make your finished pair of socks look a little nicer and will even out stitching and any laddering.
9.5. Blocking part II. You dont need any fancy equipment to block socks. Lace socks may require pins and foam squares to make the lace open up but in general this is not necessary. The method I use is a combination of Franklin’s and Debbie Stoller. Fill a sink with cool water and put in some mild liquid soap. Not a lot of soap but a little. Do not use hot water or cold water because this could shock the wool fibers and shocking wool is not in anyone’s best interest. Gently squeeze (do not wring) the soapy water through the socks and let soak for 30-40 minutes or up to an hour if you get busy and forget. Drain the sink and fill with cool water. Again gently squeeze the water through the socks and let sit for 30-40 minutes or up to an hour. Pull the socks out and squeeze water out of them. Do not wring the water out this is not good for the wool. Wrap them up in a clean (cat hair free) towel, put the towel in the bath tub and walk on it to help squeeze out more water. (Thanks Roger) Find a place to lay them out to dry all the way. I like my front stoop because my cat cant get at them and in the summer it is warm (warm weather outside is the best for blocking if you dont have to worry about neighbours or varmints) Measure the foot to make sure it is the same length and leave to dry.
10. Be paitent and gentle with yourself. If you look at your finished sock and realize you knitted a stitch when you should have purled dont stress yourself out over it. The average adult sized sock has 34,000 stitches in it. Whether you wear them or give them as a gift it is unlikely anyone will notice one or two messed up stitches. With anything, this is a learning process and the more it is done the better you will be. Practice will make you a better sock knitter and a better overall knitter. And you know if you knit a few pairs of socks and they are not your thing then that’s the way it is. Sock knitting may be popular right now but that doesnt mean it has to be for you. If you like to knit sweaters, hats, scarves, wraps, or weenie warmers more than socks that is just fine. No one should critize you for socks not being your thing. I have ended up knitting more socks than I thought I would because they are portable and make nice gifts (easier to do than knitting a sweater as a gift) and in Oregon it’s nice to have something warm and cozy on your feet in the rainy winter.