Making Waves

Look! An actual FO!
pattern: Waving Lace Socks, Evelyn Clark, from 25 Favorite Socks
yarn: superwash BFL merino, from Collette’s Etsy Shop, in Stellar’s Jay
needles: size 1 dpns
dates: July 2 – September 13
modifications: none
verdict: These socks have caused me to start coming to terms with my love-hate relationship with sock-making.

what I love:

-working with tiny needles, tiny stitches, and tiny detail
-working with fine, gorgeous yarn

-the singular beauty of a slipped-stitch heel flap
-the magic of turning a heel
– and, of course, the portability

what I loathe:

I can’t seem to get the fit right.

First of all, these would have been too loose, even if I hadn’t made them too long. After I made the first one, I realized I should’ve used size 0 dpns (and I changed sizes accordingly for the second pair I made, for my sockapalooza pal). But of course I wasn’t going to change sizes for the second sock of the first pair. I guess I need to resign myself to always knitting socks on size 0s. Anything bigger than that and they are too loose. This is strange since when I make garments with bulky yarn, I typically have to go up in needle size because my knitting is tighter than the pattern gauge.

But what is the deal with me and too-long socks? This is the second pair I’ve made myself that have ended up about half an inch too long, and I don’t know how I can keep making the same mistake. And I know myself – I’m not going to go back any time soon and rip out the toe and the extra half inch and reknit them. And part of that is because of one final realization I’ve made:

Knitted socks just aren’t that useful to me. I know that at one time they were one of the most practical things a person could make. But now, they are definitely a luxury item. And I’m beginning to think they are a luxury I just don’t have the time for. I certainly enjoy the actual knitting of them. But in terms of final product, I would be much better off with, say, a sweater. Or a hat. Or mittens. Or a scarf. Or even a shawl. Seriously. Right now I am thinking of knitted socks as even less practical than a knitted shawl (this could have something to do with the shawl I intend to finish and wear for our niece’s wedding this fall).

Still, I love these socks. Love them beyond what’s reasonable. Love them despite the fact that they have disappointed me (or, more accurately, that I have disappointed myself by not making them to fit). I love them because of where they were knit, and when, and what they got me through.

These were intended to be for my sockapalooza pal. I had chosen this colorway because I thought it would be a nice match for blue jeans. I decided to make them my main vacation knit, and then it struck me that the colors were also reminiscent of the blue-green water of the Emerald Coast, where I was headed. That helped me make my decision about a pattern – the Waving Lace looked like little ocean waves; all the more so in these colors.

(not a great shot, due in small part to the fact that the two lifeguards below the blue umbrella in the bottom of the picture were eyeing me like I was nuts, and then point-blank asked me what I was doing)

I began these socks on the way to our ill-fated beach trip. Every morning I rose early, sat on the deck in the breeze, and knit while the house was quiet. Every night as we sat around the table, I happily knit these socks. I had had visions of actually knitting on the beach, but the stress and anxiety of keeping an eye out for two little kids playing on the sand and near the water made that impossible.

After Little Buddha’s accident, I didn’t pick up the needles again at the beach. Honestly, I was in such a state of shock and horror I’m not sure how I did anything at all other than stare at him, hug everyone every chance I got, replay scenes from the accident in my head, and cry. But as the shock began to subside, I started feeling the need for the needles again, so again I knit. Only now I knew I could not give these socks away. They felt too intimately connected with that beach, that beach house, that time with my family. I needed them. And knitting them helped me feel “normal” again. Knit on through all adversity, Elizabeth Zimmerman said. And so I did.

So yes, these socks are a luxury. A loose-fitting luxury that remind me every time I look at them or wear them of how very lucky I am for what I have that I almost didn’t get to keep.

Also, I was right. They do look great with jeans.

14 thoughts on “Making Waves

  1. Well, call them slipper socks. You know, the ones you put on in the morning when the floors are cold? Just trying to help!

    As far as “your problem”, I think you may be forgetting about negative ease in sock knitting. Overall length, with the tight way they should fit factored in there? I don’t know!! Just trying to help!

  2. The socks are beautiful. I agree with you about practicality. Right now I’m knitting through the sock yarn I have, and I’m not sure whether I’ll buy more when I’m done.

    Fit is a tough thing to nail down. Do you use follow a pattern and hope it will fit, or do you calculate when you need to start knitting the next part (gusset, heel, toe, whatever) in order to get the length you want? I think it’s easier to do the math, but everyone has their own way of doing things.

  3. I was going to say the same as Stacey. I’m assuming when you say they’re too long you mean from heel to toe, not that the heel flap is too long? Patterns are not always clear on the foot length, but you need negative ease, and I have learned to double check. If the pattern says to start toe shaping when the foot length is 1.5″ away from my toe, I’m going to double check that to make sure the sock isn’t the same exact length as my foot–you want it to stretch.

    To do that, figure out how many rows the shaping takes place over (count the even rows too) and work out the length against your row gauge. I usually aim for 1/2″ negative ease.

    They ARE beautiful socks.

  4. They’re beautiful — both colour and pattern.

    How is the fabric? Firm but flexible? Perhaps you can keep using the same size needle but fewer stitches? I *always* try on a sock before I start the toe to make sure it’s at the right length for my foot. Measure on this one to see just how long your toe decreases take, and then start the toe when the foot is that much shorter.

    I’ll voice a different opinion on length. I think it has to be exact. I like a bit of snugness (negative ease) around the sock, but not in length; otherwise, my toes feel squished.

    Either way, it sounds like you’re ready to give socks a rest and work on other stuff. A change is as good as a rest, or so they say. 🙂

  5. I am without useful comments on the socks. Never having knitted any. But I love them and they are gorgeous.

    And you know…the beach trip wasn’t really ill-fated…but glory-fated…no? Horrifying, sickening, etc., but ultimately…

  6. I’ve got to defend the usefulness of socks. I really wear mine, particularly in the depths of winter, they are so much better in boots than any store-bought socks could ever be for me. Plus, I adore knitting them 🙂

    I think your socks are beautiful and you just need to remind yourself, if you are decreasing for the toe at 1 1/2 inches from toe end, then go up to 2 inches, if you’re at 2, go up to 2 1/2, I’m feeling that would do the trick for giving you socks you feel you could use 🙂

  7. these socks are GORGEOUS and i LOVE that book!

    as for the fit, i haven’t had a problem with that thus far, but i always do measurements with the gauge before following the pattern, like if it says to start the heel 2 inches before, i measure my row gauge, how many rows the heel will be, etc… you probably know all that already, maybe just a fluke handknitting thing! i love them nonetheless, and the reminder of what a miracle you experienced makes them all the more beautiful.

  8. I think you need to take up cross-country skiing — a beautiful pair of socks like this over a liner would be not only warm but incredibly fashionable, at least where I live and ski! Cath

  9. Not useful?? What about in winter? There is nothing cozier than slipping on wool socks after a long walk home in the snow (assuming that, as is usually the case with me, you weren’t bright enough to put them on before the trip outside).

    I hope that you manage to enjoy the socks in spite of the very loaded memories associated with them (and, again, your insane claim that they aren’t useful).

  10. knit on, through all adversity… one of my favorite EZ sentiments.
    the socks do look beautiful. i had the same fit issue w/ my first few pairs… the thing that helped me is measuring row gauge, then calculating the rows for the toe decreases… helped me figure out exactly where to start the decreases for the best length. also, negative ease 🙂

  11. I have found that I need to take an inch off of any sock pattern’s foot. I think it’s partly because I like me socks TIGHT, and of course the knit stitch stretches. I like the sock to cup my heel perfectly, otherwise, what is the point of knitting the damn thing by hand?

    I know my sister, for instance, hates a snug sock, and doesn’t mind for the toe or heel to be flapping a little loose – something which I loathe. Maybe it comes down to preference?

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