Easy Come, Easy Go

My son wandered over to where I was sitting, quietly frogging a sock. “Are you taking out that whole thing?” he asked, surprised.

“Yes, I am,” I answered calmly. “There was so much wrong with it that it would never be useful, so I’m taking it all out and will re-do it.”

“Gee,” he responded, “if Dad and I had to re-do that much work on one of the cars, we’d be swearing and stuff.”

“Well, I was pretty upset last night when I realized this sock wasn’t going to work, but I’ve figured out what I need to do differently this time. It’s best that I just unravel the work and get started again while I’m in a decent frame of mind.” Chris wandered back to the garage where he and his dad were working.

I sat there, alternately frogging and re-winding the yarn, thinking about our conversation. Although I’d been somewhat upset at the thought of frogging over eight knitter-hours’ worth of work, I wasn’t terribly surprised at that outcome. Much of my knitting is experimental in nature, and this sock was no exception. Sometimes, my experiments work out and I wind up with a nice finished article and new skills, to boot. There are lots of times, however, when they don’t. When I am faced with a failed experiment, I try to collect all the data I can from it and adjust for my next attempt, or determine that I need to go an entirely different direction. Every project teaches me something, if I just stop and listen.

This was my very first sock. I’ve been knitting for nearly 20 years, and have never made socks, for reasons which deserve (and will get) their own blog post. So: first sock. What could possibly go wrong?

I decided on some plain and simple socks, so I pulled out the Yarn Harlot’s book, Knitting Rules, knit up a gauge swatch, and cast on, using her cheat sheet. Sixty-four stitches would yield and 8-inch sock. Fine, I thought. They’ll fit somebody.

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Yarn: Hawthorne by Knit Picks, colorway Nob Hill.

I knit and knit and knit, finally getting to the heel flap, which I duly knitted into a square, then turned it, and picked up the stitches for the gussets. In my zeal to begin the decreases, I read the directions for the decreases, and didn’t see the all-important following information: “knit every other row plain.” I was off and running, decreasing every single row.

Only when the decreases were done did I see that second line of the directions. I debated what to do. I considered leaving it as-is and then trying the sock on to see how screwed up the foot would be with the steeper gussets. I thought about ripping out the gussets and picking up the stitches.

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Really, that would have been the best solution, if the rest of the sock had gone well. I decided it hadn’t. I measured the sock. Eight inches in circumference, just as it should be. But it looked too large for any of the women in my family. While we all have just about 8-inch legs, the sock, I feared, would droop, as it really needed some negative ease. It probably needed to be about a 7-inch sock for any of my petite folk.

Then, I looked at the fast-decreasing ball of yarn. Did I even have enough for a second sock? I weighed it, and the sock-in-progress. The answer? Probably not. I’d probably run out of yarn after the gussets on the second sock.

I considered my options. Either find a one-legged woman with a largish, odd-shaped foot, give up altogether, or frog the thing and start over smaller. Smaller would get me socks that would fit someone in the family and I’d have enough yarn to eke out a pair.

I held the sock for a good while, turning it over and examining it from every angle, as thoughts turned over in my mind. I’d learned a lot from this project. I learned that socks do make good purse projects. I learned that I liked this particular sock yarn. I learned that the sock could have done with a bit of ankle shaping, and I know how to do that for Take 2. I learned that turning a heel is no scarier than short-row shaping for a shawl. I learned that picking up stitches for gussets is even easier than picking up stitches for the neckline of a sweater. And I learned (and alas, not for the first time) to read, read, read the directions all the way through.

Hoping that Take 2 is going to work out better:

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