Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Viper Pilot Socks and the What Knitting Them Taught Me

I am pretty crazy happy with these socks. I was intimidated by the pattern. I was even more intimidated when I read about other people's experiences with them. I had trouble with the chart in the beginning. I thought I was going to run out of yarn. But, this is one project that totally went right.

(Well, except that they weren't done on time, which led to giving Joe a Christmas present of a single unfinished sock. Socks for Christmas are the stereotypical bad present. (I like to think that hand-knit socks blow that out of the water, but they are still socks.) An unfinished sock with working yarn still hanging on it and all the stitches on a variegated purple waste yarn so it can be measured: that's pretty bad. Also, I have a hard time believing the human foot is as long as all of the charts and my previous experiences knitting for them say they are. So back with a further along, yet still unfinished sock to put it on Joe's foot. Then, I apparently have trouble with estimating how much yarn is left and I was convinced that I wouldn't have enough to finish the socks. So I searched for a complimentary yarn that would help me carry off the story that I had totally meant for the toes to be a different color the whole time. It was a strategically planned design choice. But, God watches out for fools and children, is that how the saying goes? Because I even had a little yarn to spare. Not enough for another full repeat of the viper motif, but enough to use the leftovers in a crazy striped pair of leftover-sock-yarn socks I have planned for Bobby. But other than that, totally right.)

So, what these socks taught me:

  • I can knit. I know, sort of silly, but I've been having a crisis of confidence lately.

  • The human foot is longer than you'd think. I always think that socks are too long. That somehow my ruler which I measure with was shorter that day, and those numbers can't mean the same thing they did then. Or, that chart that tells average foot length based on shoe size, actually means 3/4 of an inch when it says 1". It's a ratio thing, like "foot inches," right? I am constantly stopping and remeasuring. It didn't help that the heel flap was ribbed so it's stretchy, so do you measure from the back of the sock, or from the back of the heel when you fold the bottom flap, where it's turned? See, not that easy? (Plus, it's really easy to convince yourself you should be doing the toe when you think you're running out of yarn.)

  • Which leads me to learning that I have no sense of how much yarn is left in a skein or how much it takes to complete a round. I'm hoping this will get better with time and experience, but a day after I tried it on Joe's foot I was certain that I had about one yard of yarn with which to complete the entire toe, and there was no way it was going to work. In actuality I had about 5 yards left after I'd grafted the toe and woven in the end. And that was on the smaller half of the yarn.

  • Clover needles are nice in a pinch, but not the smaller gauges. Brittany birch needles are great. Really like those. And most sock needles (the short ones, about 4" long) aren't quite long enough for me to be comfortable on an adult sock. I think I was developing a twitch over worrying the stitches would slip off into the ether.

  • I can pick up the stitches that are lost when Bobby triumphantly reaches over my shoulder and grabs a (decently long) needle out of my project bag that is in my purse while heading out the door. He was seriously proud of procuring that sharp pokey stick. I was seriously proud of not hyperventilating, yelling, crying (or even tearing up), and not losing any of the stitches.

  • Cabling without a needle is fun, exciting, extreme-death-defying-knitting, and a huge time-saver. However, I would caution against it if you're on a bumpy road. Or at least be really, really careful. Those stitches are just hanging out there waiting for a moose to jump in front of your car and you to pull and let them run up the length of the sock.

  • Sometimes knitting is about catching your mistakes and being able to efficiently fix them. I miscrossed one cable and was able to fix it a few rows back without taking out everything around it. That was exciting.

  • Fancy-pants socks are fun to knit. These were really, really fun to knit. I used to think that colorwork or a simple pattern with pretty yarn was the way to go, but these socks probably took a good two hours longer than they needed to because I kept admiring them. The cables and traveling stitches are just so pretty! (I mean, manly. They're masculine and rugged, Joe.) And the chart made things go fast! Or at least feel like it did.

  • One of the most important things: It's possible to enjoy an "obligation" knit. These were never an obligation in the sense that they were requested, but I felt an obligation to finish them (especially after he opened an unfinished sock for his Christmas present) and sometimes that stresses me out. But, with no firm deadline (wool socks are not a necessity on the beach in Hawaii, no matter how you spin it, so they didn't have to be done to prevent frostbite before they left) and, because it was fun to knit them, I was challenging myself and learning I never felt that sense of duty and obligation that drags a project down. I didn't even get second-sock-syndrome on this one!

  • And, perhaps most importantly: If you don't use the wool/bamboo/silk blend that was for the toes because you did actually have enough yarn, you get something pretty out of the whole deal for yourself! Just think of the possibilities here!

  • Strike that. This is the most important thing I learned while knitting these socks: if you need about 15 minutes of time and happen to have a child who happens to need fattening up anyway you can totally graft the toes and weave in ends for the small price of a handful of M&Ms. (A larger handful makes it and even sweeter deal. Oh, I'm so funny to me...)

So the socks are done. They taught me much and I am grateful to have been able to knit them. It was a good time, to always be remembered fondly.

Now, I am working on sweaters. I've almost finished this pullover for Bobby and have a cardigan cast-on. I'm mentally working out some logistics on the one for Bob. I've decided that if I'm really, really good until Ginny is born, then I'll treat myself to some yarn and knit for my "post-baby deux" body. (Anybody else notice how the whole pregnancy thing really throws off your pertinent sweater measurements?)

Do you remember that peaches song from the late 90s? "Millions of peaches, peaches for me. Millions of peaches, peaches for free." Well, substitute "sweaters" for peaches and that's where we're going. Though millions may be a bit of a stretch. And, despite what I tell myself or our budget, they're not free. And, now that I think about it, I'm not knitting for me yet. So, I suppose the song technically doesn't apply, but the idea of the abundance of sweaters, that's there, and I'm moving to that metaphorical country. (I'm resisting the urge to pack along the M&Ms.)


Northern Lights Fiber Co. said...

Great post!! The socks look amazing and Bobby is going to rock that sweater! I love how the cable looks on the sleeve!

Sally said...

I love the sweater! The socks are pretty awesome as well... have you tried Hiya Hiya needles?? I actually find that their bamboo (or whatever wood they use) are my fav's for the smaller double points. And, I agree about the shorter DPN's, I don't have any of those.

Arctic Knitter said...

Great socks! I have the pattern, but haven't given it a try yet - thanks for the inspiration!

Mags said...

Beautiful Socks! I haven't learned the art of cabling without a needle yet, I've tried a couple of times, but it just caused a lot of anxiety!

stringsofpurls said...

Love your socks and your sweater! Beautiful work!