Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Sock Knitting: It Ain't Rocket Surgery

What's rocket surgery?  It's just a phrase my family uses to mean something brainy and complicated.  We make a lot of verbal whoopsies in my clan, including frequent blending of metaphors and reversing of words in sentences.  This came about when one of us couldn't decide if something "wasn't rocket science" or "wasn't brain surgery."  Meaning that you don't need an IQ of 160 to figure it out.

Socks are like that, although I didn't think so at first, and I know many other people feel the same way.  I thought I would share my sock knitting light-bulb moment.

I'm working on knitting my seventh pair of socks right now, and my third pair of Yarnissima socks.  Let me start out by saying that I love Yarnissima, a.k.a. Marjan Hammink.  Her designs are creative and unique, and typically well-written - especially considering the fact that English is not her first language.

In fact, the first pair of socks I ever knit was her design, KawKawEsque.  I wanted something ribbed that would provide a snug fit, but didn't want to get bored knitting vanilla socks.  Also, since I had no idea what I was doing, I was afraid of using a "recipe."  I needed someone to lay out all the steps for me, and I felt that this pattern did it nicely.

However, that pattern made knitting socks seem much more complicated than it really is.  Was all the knitting through the back loop important to the structure of the sock, or does she just like the way it looks?  Do I have to do short rows to make a heel? What is going on with this gusset thing?  Why am I constantly shifting stitches between needles?  I didn't know what was necessary to the creation of a sock and what was a creative part of an original pattern.

Then I saw people knitting socks without a pattern, like my friend Malia, and I was blown away.  I didn't understand how someone could knit a sock without constantly referring to a written set of directions.  They are so complicated!  WHAT ARE YOU DOING YOU'RE GOING TO DIE AAAAAUUUUGGHHH!!!11!!!1!

It wasn't until I knit my husband a pair of socks using Sherry Menton's fantastic Elementary Watson Socks pattern that I really and truly "got it."  That pattern and its introduction to the Fleegle heel  really made a light bulb go on in my head.  In truth, a sock is just two tubes of varying width connected by a corner.  Everything else is just decoration.

Once I realized that, I was able to calm down and enjoy my sock knitting.  I can now buy a pattern like Spina di Pesce and say, "Provisional cast-on and anatomical toe?  I don't feel like it.  Substitute Judy's Magic Cast-On and standard toe increases." I can decide whether I want to cable the gusset.  I can use a  Fleegle heel instead of short rows if I feel like it.

It's a sock, not rocket surgery.  My take-away, after my extensive experience knitting 6.25 pairs of socks, is this: If you want to learn a new technique, or get fancy, do it!  Complex socks have their time and place, and they help you grow as a knitter.  But if you're not in the mood, mix and match toes and heels and gussets and foot patterns in a way that's comfortable for you.  Relax and knit something gorgeous and cozy.

Off to finish my Spina di Pesce. Happy sock knitting!

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