I’ve been wanting to knit a proper sock for ages. I started with some baby socks in a DK weight yarn, which of course knitted up in no time at all. Then I progressed to 4 ply which is what most socks are made of when I did some socks as part of that baby set I made in the summer. There is something entirely magical about the process of crafting an actual sock from needles and yarn, I mean, you start with a tube and end with a tube and tubes were something that I always thought were going to be beyond my knitting ability.
But sometimes I guess we all fall into the trap of underestimating ourselves. We live in a society that is paranoid about failure and it’s easy to be too scared to try something for fear of failing. Too easy. We need to start in childhood, to learn that life isn’t just about success, achievement and progress, that effort is not second fiddle after all and that sometimes, actually, failure is an important part of learning and growing. In fact, sometimes failing is what makes success, it’s certainly what fuels growth. If we don’t dare to risk then we stagnate. Comfort zones are just that, comfortable. But that old, saggy armchair might be comfortable to curl up in but it doesn’t do your back any good. Do we have metaphorical spine too? We can curl up in familiar curves and be too terrified to try something new, to take a risk. How we do learn to take risk? I don’t know, possibly it’s one of those things that requires jumping into deep ends after all.
The most magical part of any hand knitted sock is the heel. How one of those can be formed from what really are just quite basic stitches and steps, well I just love simple things especially when they look deceptively complex. Simple minds and that.
I guess we need to learn from others and to trust them too. I don’t always quite know how the ‘magic’ of knitting works exactly but I can take a pattern and trust (most) designers to guide me on that journey, step by step. I guess that is how we learn most things, we need teachers. Some people do have that knack of just trying, just experimenting, just risking and they learn from themselves, they teach themselves. But they have incredible self strength, even self confidence. They also are likely surrounded by examples, usually positive, although negative examples can sometimes produce surprisingly positive results. We may not need physical lessons to learn to walk, we are somehow impelled to take that physical first step, but we will have seen others walking, even our toddler brains must grasps the advantages of such locomotive powers. We need to surround ourselves with people who build our strength and confidence, we need people from whom we can learn and grow. It does require trust. You have to sometimes find a bigger person’s hand to hold, to steady us, in those first steps.
I had some navy blue yarn, a sock type yarn in the usual wool and nylon blend, even though it’s labelled and marketed as 4 ply. I haven’t worn navy blue since middle school. Middle school wasn’t a pleasant experience. Not at all. I found it remarkably difficult to have that old colour between my hands again, a colour which is forever tied to a specific period of my life.
It’s funny how not so long ago, women didn’t really wear much black. It was always navy blue. Black was the colour for grief, reserved only for those times of sorrow. Women wore blue shoes, carried blue handbags and wrapped themselves in blue coats. That changed somewhere in my childhood. Black became the de facto colour. Black everything, shoes, bags, coats and trousers. And tops. And jumpers. If black is the colour of grief in our culture, why do we insist on wearing it so much? What are we mourning?
After middle school, I, naturally, went to senior school where we had a black school uniform. I don’t think I’ve worn navy in any form since then. It was strange to have the wool between my fingers, it reminded me so much of the gansey that I wore in Year 6, the colour, the gauge, the texture. (I always have had an independent streak, it seems. I never wore a sweatshirt or a polo shirt, I was a jumper and tie girl). It’s funny how a skinny piece of yarn can be so fearful. I was loathed to cast it on and my heart ached as the rows started growing.
Why does the past have such a hold on us? Yes, we can learn from History but we also need to find a balance, we need to know when to let go, when to move on. If we allow the past to keeps us its in bonds, how can we claim to be the bigger, better person in a situation? We need to loose ourselves from those bonds, we need to un-shackle ourselves and stand again. But how do you go about doing that? To identify that need is one thing but to do it is much harder, the past is insidious. It can come to us in subtle ways, unbidden, a mental spectre of pain and torment, it can take the form of a thread of wool.
I think it’s not necessarily about forgetting the past, forgetting is not always possible. But we can forgive, not exactly in the most obvious sense of pardoning wrong and wrong-doers, there are some things that will always be wrong and as such unforgivable in that way. And pardoning should never mean making excuses. However, we can make our peace with it, the past, our pasts. We have to accept what has happened and accept that it is past. That is where the strength is. That is where we begin to lose those bonds, those shackles. If we forgive in this way, we can go forward. Even if we are always haunted by the most hideous of memories. We have to draw a line someone, refuse to let those people in the past continue to affect our present. We can choose not to continue being victims. We can learn to walk again.
Learning to walk requires more than that single person, you have to find help and accept help. So it is in our figurative, metaphorical, psychological lives. We have to empower ourselves. We have to accept that we are worthy of help then find it and accept it. We have to decide how to reform our lives, where lines will be drawn, even how we will protect ourselves in the future. We need to find the right people to hold our hands.
I kept knitting. The sock grew. And I’m glad that I kept on with it. Navy blue is back in my life. Even if it’s just one sock. The colour can’t control me, it cannot make those experiences happen all over again. It can bring old memories back but I can choose to associate it with new ones too.
I took my knitting to a party where it was mainly friends of friends. But friends who expect me to knit in social situations and who aren’t in the least bit surprised when I do, nor are they surprised anymore that I can knit and talk. (That’s a small but significant thing, knitting whilst your eyes are elsewhere isn’t just a party trick but it does allow you to knit more often and in more situations). There was good food and pleasant talk, games for the children (and the not-so-young) and pub-style quizzes. I knitted through it all, a sock slowly forming and coming to a finish in my hands. I was called to join a team because apparently my random, erratic knowledge does become desirable in certain circumstances, after all.
I finished up the sock and just had the last few stitches on two needles. I was facing another challenge. In the middle of party. A sock toe is finished often by grafting, also known as Kitchener stitch. I have not done well with grafting in the past, it requires a sewing needle and a logical train of thought. And coordination. None of which am I good at. I had to recently graft something (was it something in my lunchbox project? I can’t remember). I consulted the guide that appeared in the back of the Knit Now magazine. And I got it! I grafted whatever it was successfully. So, I knew that I could bring my sock home and research the matter the next day. What did I do? I decided to it from memory. (I have had a few moments of daring lately, it seems). And I did! Honestly, I grafted an entire sock toe in the midst of a particularly chaotic shoe relay (yeah, I’m telling the truth about the second part too). I was quite chuffed with myself. And then I cast straight back on for my second sock. Without even having the pattern with me.
The problem is that sock yarn comes in 50 g balls. As you might guess, a hand knit socks does not weight 25 g. Why would it?! No, it weighs 30 g. How frustrating is that?! So I had to make a decision. How was I going to finish my second sock?
I had picked the navy blue yarn out of the bargain basket. I don’t know if there was more than one ball of that colour, possibly not. It was a very long time ago anyway, way before socks even became a remote possibility. I had however picked up a ball of the same yarn in a different colour. Black. You know, it’s pretty similar to navy blue. Yes? A little? No? OK. Well, even I have to have some standards, I guess. A part blue, part black sock can’t be a good look, even for me. So what to do next?
I dared. I bought myself another ball so I can keep knitting. I’ll share it with you shortly.