The House of Tatterdemalion


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A Tale of Two Socks

October 28th, 2007 by tatterdemalion

half of the one and half of the other

I had planned on writing something witty and profound this weekend. Somehow it had something to do with this picture, or I wouldn’t have taken it. But I have managed to completely forget what it was I had intended to write, so you all will have to make do with second rate material. Please excuse me while I drege the recesses of my mind to come up with appropriate text. . .

. . .socks. . .socks. . .socks. . .

Here’s a bit of pointless text—the bucket my feet are resting on (I was supposed to be cleaning my room when I took this picture)? That is not a bunch of junk. That is my “You Never Know” bucket. Technical type people would label it “Assorted Trims”, but that’s really not as accurate as “You Never Know”. You never really know what’s in there, and you never really know when you’ll need it. When I sorted through it to move the contents from a hard-to-get-at drawer to this container, I found all sorts of things I’d forgot I had. I’d tell you what they were, but I’ve forgotten again already. But I know enough to look there when I need something to finish off a project.

Now, back to thinking about relevant text. . .

Oh, you may have noticed I’m knitting two totally different socks. They aren’t meant to be worn together, but one pair is really, really complicated, and the other is really, really straight foward. When I get bored of the plain one, I work on the complicated one, and when my mind gets tied in knots with the complicated one, I work on the boring one.

The green one is your basic top-down sock.

The Green Sock

It’s made from DK weight super-wash wool that I got from I’m using 2.5 mm needles and 60 stitches. It’s a mind-numbingly boring sock, but it’s a good sock to work on when I’m at my grandparents, because I can drop it instantly whenever Grandpa needs help going the bathroom or some other such thing. And when I come back to it, I still know exactly what I need to do: knit. No purls, no counting, no yarn overs, just knit until it’s long enough to fit my foot.

The white one is with the leftover yarn from my kool-aid dying experiment. It’s fingering weight merino wool, undyed. It’s a cross between this pattern for the lace design and this pattern for it’s instructions on how to knit socks toe-up.

the white sock

the knitting pattern

See, I don’t really know how much of this yarn I have left, and I know I want to use it all up. So if I suddenly run out, I want to just have short socks—not toe-less socks. And if I have a lot more yarn than I thought, I want to keep going until I have knee socks. And I didn’t want to mess around with dying the rest of this yarn, so I wanted a pattern that looked good in white—and it had better be a pattern, because I didn’t want to knit plain, white socks.

I chose to pay attention only to the part of the description where it says “These socks use a 12-row lace pattern that looks complicated but really is not!” and some how missed the fact that it also says “Difficulty level: Advanced.” This is only the third pair of socks I’ve ever knit after all. I figured that since I could read the instructions (it’s only simple yarn-overs and decreases and normal knit stitches), it really couldn’t be that hard.

And it isn’t really that hard. Except that I decided to do it toe-up, as well, and I’ve never done toe-up socks before, and my knitting teacher, Bub, has also never done toe-up socks.

This is where it gets funny.

So Bub has been knitting since before I was born. In fact, she’s probably been knitting since before my mother was born. She is very thrifty, so I was really surprised that she’d never knitted toe-up before, since it’s such a great way to use up every last bit of yarn. The thing is, since she is old enough to be my grandmother, she doesn’t get these “new ways”. If you wanted to learn something, you found a living human being to get you started. If you wanted to buy something, you walked down main street in town, and bought it.

Old arts and crafts pretty much dyed out—she teaches people at the senior citizens center how to knit, and there basically isn’t a lot of people around who do knit. So she basically can’t learn from the people around her (she’s teaching them) and so what ever more learning she wants to do as far as knitting is concerned she only finds out by buying books from the brick-and-motar Barnes & Nobel. Yarn shops fizzled up and died (along with most other stores in the this area, which is now quite depressed, but still has a Wal-Mart if you drive out 40 minutes). Thus she knitted with arcylic for many years because “that was all you could buy!”

Enter me, the tech-savvy (ha, ha, ha) youngster who does new-fangled things on the internet. I find free patterns online at places like and MagKnits, I find mail-order yarn stores that sell NOT-ACRYLIC yarn, and subscribe to VogueKnitting in which I find extensive yarn-directories and discover there actually is a place, kinda sorta locally, where one can buy real yarn. I look up all the hot new knitting books, and inter-library loan them, just to see what can be done.

And I decide to knit toe-up socks.

So she thinks this is perfectly brilliant idea, and asks for the instructions, because I don’t have time to get started on them at the moment. So I print the instructions out for her. Next time I see her, she is griping that she couldn’t make any sense out of them at all, and that it’s all too complicated for her.

Undeterred, I finally get some time, and cast on the toe of my sock.

So then she gets all excited, because it all makes sense now, and can I please leave her with the instructions for casting on (again). I leave her the instructions.

Shortly, she is asking how one goes about doing the heel gusset. I tell her I don’t know, because I haven’t even gotten started on the lace part of my sock, but I will be glad to print out gusset directions for her.

Next time I see her, she has ripped out all of her work, because those instructions “didn’t make any sense at all” and she can’t see any way of it working the way they described. She sounds uncannily like my brother when he’s insisting his math book doesn’t make any sense at all, because there is no way that will work.

Months pass, but I finally get to the point I am beginning to work on the heel gusset. The instructions seem rather straight foward to me. She sees me working on it, and gets excited all over again, because now it all makes sense.

So, she promptly re-casts, and re-knits up to the gusset (without telling me), and the next time I see her, she says she’s going to need my help with turning the heel (because the instructions just don’t make any sense at all and she can’t tell what it is they’re trying to get her to do). This statement of needing my help produces an awkward pause.

“. . .or haven’t you gotten there yet?”

No, I haven’t gotten there yet. In the time it took her to once again re-cast on, knit up to the gusset, and knit the gusset, I have yet to finish knitting the few inch that compose the gusset. But since she is trying to make these socks for her grandson before she goes down to visit him shortly, I say I’ll make every effort to finish the gusset, and turn the heel that evening.

So she calls my bluff, literally, and calls me that evening, saying “Okay, now what?”. A friend had called, and I had spent quite some time talking, so, um, I haven’t looked at the heel yet. I’ll take a look at it and call you back.

After about 45 minutes of meticulous charting on grafting paper, I’m pretty sure it’s easy to do and that directions make sense. I call her back, but of course it can’t be explained over the phone, so she promises to stop by the next day.

Needless to say, I spend quite some time the next day actually turning my heel, just on the off-chance I don’t have it all understood and when she actually does what I tell her to do it doesn’t work. Besides, I have to have it figured out well enough to scale it down, because the pattern was written for a woman’s foot, and she’s making a sock for a 6 year old.

It takes hours to explain it to her. Hours and hours. She just can’t wrap her mind around it. Oh, she can understand what I’m telling her to do, but she can’t understand how it will work. She keeps thinking it can’t work when it can, and I know it can because I’ve just turned my heel. Half-way though, as she stares off in an effort of concentration, she notices a piece of high class art-work that one of my brothers has drawn, which she says accurately describes how she feels. Me, too.


She finally does come to terms with it. And she goes home.

Next time I see her, I have realized that I turned my heel too early, and I really need a bigger gusset, and will have to take out my heel and continue working the gusset. She has finished a sock and half—she’s in the middle of turning the heel on the second sock.

Being the modest type (tongue firmly in cheek), I have to say that yes, I am clever and creative and determined to work on whatever I want to work on, despite all the red warning flags srcreaming “Trouble! Hard! Difficult! In over your silly little head!!” But I am slow. Veerrrry slow.

And I’m still not done cleaning my sewing room.

Posted in Knitting | 1 Comment »

One Response

  1. Jesse Says:

    Honey, you need to learn how to throw things away. You can always buy what you need, and you probably need a lot less than you think you do.

    My Mom has LOADS of fabric left over from – literally – decades of sewing.

    When my siblings and I were kids, she used a lot of it in quilts, in making little outfits for us, and while we were teens, for making boxer shorts.

    But, it’s been a few years since any of us have been teens and that fabric hasn’t seen the light of day until recently, when she’s been very successful selling a lot of it on ebay. To other women, in other parts of the country, who will in turn make quilts. . .

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