I recently finished some socks for Sean, in my now favourite non-solid sock yarn, the Regia Kaffe Fasset series. The stripes in these colours are a joy to knit, but I’ve done it a few times now and there’s not much left to say, so I thought i’d hand it over to the recipient this time to tell us why he loves socks. He’s got a few pairs and you can read his thoughts on it while admiring the ever joyful colour combinations by that colour genius, Kaffe Fasset.
After much prodding, occasionally even with pointy sticks (Ed – it’s true. I had to prod a lot!) I am here to talk, well write, about why I like hand-knitted socks (Ed – note. there’s no gun to his head though).
Well what’s not to like? They are socks and they are handmade, with love, usually, although at times I suspect the odd bit of frustration, anger, annoyance and apathy gets knitted into them as well. With any luck these coarser emotions end up in the toes, balls of feet or heels to ensure they’re hard-wearing (Ed – excellent observation!). Even if they don’t, I suspect the majority of the love in them makes them as much a joy to wear as they feel when first tried on.
I think you creators of socks know this already, as I am sure there have been as many socks made for the feet of knitters as there are knitters of socks, if not more. Although I suspect the number of socks given away is the greater number.
Now I still wear commercially made socks. I think I’m hard on them and the capacity for machine-made socks to have layers of nylon and wool or cotton can make them hard wearing and reasonably long lasting. However the great feeling of a new pair of commercial socks is only good for the first wearing or two, after that they are like all your other socks (well the mass produced ones anyway). Once a sock gets that scratchy non-stretchy feeling its time for them to be turned into truck blankets or whatever else gets made with such materials by charities to make a few dollars.
Hand knitted socks are kept for more special occasions. (Ed: He does wear them through the week; just not every day) Why? I think they deserve better attention, they feel so different, you know they were made for you , which makes them special from the first time the toes (or tops) are test fitted, they maintain that fresh new feeling for longer.
They have a history.
Beginning as stash, they come into the house and sometimes get to hibernate in their proto-form for months or even years, and I suspect a decade of pupation has occurred in some instances. Having made it through the stash, the pupal stages of socks are gently but firmly cast on. From there they will get to experience both the mundane and the sublime journeys and events with their creators. From daily commutes, long car trips (Ed: during which I try to avoid driving as much as possible, hoping he hasn’t noticed), engrossing tv or movies, even conversations over a beverage, the threads of their creators lives get knitted in. It’s a kind of magic.
Then once completed and tried on for size, they get a water based baptism with special unguents called “wool wash”. They are dried and blocked and usually presented, sometimes wrapped but always passed on to someone who will be rapt with their gift.
Handmade socks are special. They almost feel too anachronistic to wear every day, but like anything handmade they can and should be worn with love and the knowledge that the person who made them crafted them with love over a period of, days, weeks and months, one stitch at a time, so that when you pull them on they fit and you have some magical (and in this case, stripey) feet.
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Here’s the basic recipe for these socks.
2.25mm needles (magic loop for me)
Start at the toe on 24 stitches, increase every row to 72 stitches
Knit to three inches short of heel
Work gusset heel
Knit leg til you feel like stopping. Knit a lengthy cuff. Sean likes the lengthy cuff. It wears well on him.
Sewn bind off for good stretch/fit.