Monday, January 29, 2018

Sock it to Me

The weathermen were just messing with us. 
It did warm up for a while and rained and rained and rained, but tonight we'll be back in the thirties(F)brrrr. 
So we're still doing winter things...like knitting.

I learned to knit with Sr. Bridget in first grade. Yellow wool, tiny needles. Every stitch a tongue biting struggle. They were so tight they might as well have been glued to the needles. And when, mysteriously, my ten tight stitches took off on their own and grew to thirteen, and fifteen and nineteen tight stitches, I was sure I'd be in trouble.
Until I hit on a cunning plan.
If I knit two tight stitches together, almost biting my tongue off in the process, at each end of the needle for a few rows, I could get back to the legal limit and hope that Sr. Bridget wouldn't notice the bulging edges in the illegal part.
It made a very nice bonnet for my doll.

New adventures in the needle arts awaited in third grade. Knitting on four needles - 
socks! 
But heartscald lay ahead. Getting the hang of stitches in the round wasn't bad, the problem lay in turning the heel. The rest of third grade is a blur.
Such childhood trauma sends you to the therapist's couch in adulthood so I obliterated it from my brain.

 But there was no getting away from knitting. It was all around me - my mother, my granny, my aunts, the neighbour ladies - were all avid knitters.  Every baby ever born got a hand knitted matinee jacket with matching booties and hat. My mum knit my navy cardigan for school and every other jumper I wore.  Woe betide the hapless child (me) who happened by as she embarked on a new project. Wool came in skeins which had to be wound into balls. I'd have to stand in front of mother's chair with both arms extended.  She'd drape a skein over my wrists and tell me to hold it taut while she wound it into a ball. But never fast enough for me, convinced as I was that one more minute of such torture and my arms would fall off. I'd eye the skeins still to be wound and groan. Begging for mercy didn't work. I was young and healthy and she assured me that this would build character.

Auntie Ita, on the other hand, made knitting fun. Not really our aunt but a friend of the family, I spent many afternoons at her house. She showed me how to knit fancy tea cozies and hot water bottle covers, perfect gifts for mums and grannies and aunts at Christmas. She also let me help her to knit teddy bears and other stuffed animals for childrens' charities. 

Little by little I came to love knitting especially when I could choose my own patterns and yarn.

The big breakthrough came when I decided to knit myself an Aran sweater.  Here's a close up of the pattern.



I think I was 18 when I knit it and I still have it all these years later. It is without a doubt the oldest piece of clothing I own.
All those honeycombs, cables and diamonds make Aran knitting much more interesting than just simple plain and purl. Because you can see the pattern forming, it also seems to go faster, and of course everyone thinks you are so clever for being able to do it! What they don't realise is that anyone who can knit plain and purl can make any of those complicated looking designs.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

So, winter weather. 
A friend comes over one day and wants me to teach her how to knit. It's one thing to do it, quite another to teach it, but, with a little refresher course from Google, we're off to the races.
Scones and cups of tea are consumed, the problems of the world are, if not exactly solved, thoroughly discussed, and before we know it she has the basics down and is knitting up a storm. Would that I'd caught on that fast in first grade!

She comes another day to knit and, so that I'm not sitting idle while her needles fly, I go digging among the artifacts, knowing that if I dig deep enough, there's a sock project I abandoned several years ago that could be excavated and finished. And wouldn't I feel like the clever girl then!

And so it came to pass. I finished the sock. It's a little on the ginormous side since I'm a lazy knitter, and a loose one, never bothering to check my guage. It would be a better fit on Finn McCool but nothing daunted, I'm calling it a slouchy sock - you know, the ones that puddle around your ankles when you're wearing leggings? Yeah, those ones. The yarn is a heathery blend of greens and purples and it knit up quickly and I did feel like a very clever girl. I'll feel even more like one if I finish its partner, hopefully in a lot less time than the first. Because what use is one sock to anyone, with the possible exception of Long John Silver?



I'd better hurry though. The window for doing wintery things, like knitting, is closing fast.
Meanwhile Finn McCool is waiting for his second sock.

21 comments:

dianne said...

i like big socks and i cannot lie...

being liberated makes all the difference - in knitting and reading and quilting and all manner of things that are done because we WANT to, not because we HAVE to...

Marigold Jam said...

Brilliant post! I remember being switched from wooden needles to horrid plastic ones for my dishcloth as I'd been talking (always a problem for me and I was often in trouble for it. I can well remember my first knitted garment for myself it was a white Orlon(?)4-ply cardigan and it took ages. That was before I realised that thick yarn and Aran type patterns were less boring to work. I have bookmarked that Celtic Times web page as it looks most interesting. Hope you get the other sock madfe before the heatwave arrives!

Sabine said...

Wonderful post. It can be tough if you love knitting but live in a hot and humid place. So hurry up with those socks.

I knitted my first aran sweater for my baby daughter when she was 6 months old and one almost every year until she threatened to unravel it on the spot. Teenagers!

gz said...

working together...can't fault it...much better than school knitting

Colette said...

Oh, how I wish I could knit. I even took lessons, but just can't get the tension right in my hands. And one of the reasons I wanted to learn was because I love to watch people's hands as they knit.

Secret Agent Woman said...

I can't imagine learning to knit is school. Kind of wish I knew how, though. That sweater pattern is gorgeous. I bought an Aran Island sweater (a long cream-colored cardigan) in Galway. I absolutely love it.

Dee said...

Dear Molly, I have a number of slouchy socks that puddle at my ankles, but oh, they keep my feet warm.

I wish I'd had you for a teacher when I tried to teach myself to knit. I got nowhere and so turned to crocheting, which is, I think, much easier. I did make a crocheted Aran sweater, but the crocheting was so tight that i never wore it because it felt like wearing a horse blanket. I don't think a drop of water could have gotten through it.

Like you, I have unfinished projects in a bin. This winter I want to finished my crocheted throw which is a series of squares does in different stitches. (Is that the right word?????) So I hope to begin. I've brought the bin in from the garage, but haven't done anything about starting again. We'll see.

Happy knitting. Peace.

marilynn in NM said...

knitting is absolutely the best therapy ever and it lowers your Blood Pressure...just 15 minutes of knitting.... calms you down and you can put love and prayers in every stitch. When my oldest was recovering from open heart surgery and I was a caregiver while his wife finished her degree...knitting saved me. It saved me while I was dealing with radiation therapy the next year. There is such a need for scarves.. everyone does hats for chemo patients but I was told its cold/chilly in the infusion
rooms and children (of all ages) love scarves (no fringe as it interferes with ports and etc) and knit little scarves to match for the cuddly friends who go to infusion
with the children.

Molly Bon said...

Dianne - I'll drink (cocoa!) to that. Creativity is not about conforming. Rules, once you know them, are made to be broken!

Marigold - You'll be pleased to hear I've made it past the heel on Mr. McCool's second sock!

Sabine - you must be quite an expert! Have you made one for her lately? Now there are such stylish patterns...

gz - I agree. Most things are more fun to do with a friend.

Colette - Persistence! There's a trick to how you loop the yarn over your fingers that controls the tension....

SAW - In Germany they even teach the boys to knit. Glad you got a souvenir you enjoy so much!

Dee - Well, it's looking like my pair will be one slouchy, one not so slouchy. Same yarn, same needles but in the five year gap my gauge has tightened up! Oh well, if Finn McCool turns his nose up at them I'll keep them to warm my own toes next winter. I learned crochet as an adult but never took to it like I did to knitting. Sounds like you're talking about granny squares for your throw.

Marilyn - Yikes! You figured out how to comment. There's a halo waiting for you in heaven for all those scarves you've made. Win, win, right? You enjoy knitting them, they enjoy wearing them.

SmitoniusAndSonata said...

We knitted every Friday afternoon in Mrs. Murphy's class, while she read from the Lives of the Saints. It didn't put me off, I'm still knitting the Annual Scarf.

Friko said...

Knitting? As soon as the lessons stopped, I stopped. I never could get the hang of it. Nor dressmaking or sewing of any other kind. But I liked embroidery, and Crocheting. Nothing useful though.

I see that you have several Backman’s among your reading list. I have just discovered ‘A Man Called Ove’, I think I will enjoy him.

Molly Bon said...


S&S -With a teacher with a name like that I'm sure you had expert instruction! At least you could distract yourself from the reading by counting your stitches!

Friko - Embroidery is also very satisfying... And if you like "Ove" you will love "Britt-Marie." I have a post about it if you scroll back a few.

Thimble Anna said...

Ohmygosh -- I learned to knit as a child too, but I can't even imagine tackling a sock at that age. Slippers were about all I could handle LOL. And you must be a good knitting teacher. Apparently I suck at it -- I've had several friends and relatives (8 at last count) ask me to show them how to knit over the years. I always excitedly give them a class and then ... nothing. None of them have ever become knitters. Oh, the shame!

Molly Bon said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Molly Bon said...


Anna-Banana - Not really. She was a quick on the uptake and, did you miss the bit about Google? Without a YouTube tutorial we'd never have gotten off the ground!

Pauline said...

I remember trying to learn to knit when I was a young mother. I could sew a fine seam and made most of my own clothes as well as those of my children, but I'd never picked up knitting needles. Then I was introduce to crochet and I made an infinite number of doilies and egg cosies and doll clothes. Now I merely come and read about people who sew and knit and crochet. I'll be in FL in early April. Can you arrange to have the heat turned on by then ;)

Anonymous said...

En vous lisant , je me retrouve enfant devant ma mère , les bras tendus pour l'aider à faire sa pelote de laine .. Que de souvenirs ... Je n'ai plus tricoté depuis longtemps et on a du mal à trouver de la laine pour faire des "pull over". J'espère que la 2eme chaussette est finie ? Parce que l'hiver est encore là !!

Amitiés de jo d'Avignon

Molly Bon said...


Pauline - Having amassed an enormous pile of UFO's I can't give myself the luxury of just reading about others' industry. I have nightmares about kicking the bucket prematurely (as in before I finish all those projects!)and the pain in the neck (and parts lower) that that would be for my children. Imagine my restless ghost seeing them chuck all my treasures off to the nearest charity shop or, worse yet, into the nearest dumpster? So I must get busy! And yet, all I have accomplished in this department, two months into the year is 1 1/2 socks. Oh dear.
Would you like to try to meet up April?

Jo d'Avignon - So nice to hear from you again. I love any opportunity to read French and pat myself on the back when I understand it! Mostly my projects are quilting ones but I still have oodles of yarn to use up so I may make scarves for charity as my good friend M does. A warm scarf is such a comfort in cold weather...As for the socks, I did finally finish the second one. My tension tightened up in the five year gap so la 2eme is tighter and slightly smaller than the first. But then who has two feet exactly the same size?

As for l'hiver? Gone without a trace! Temperatures have been up to the high 80's, everything is growing, I've seen some brand new butterflies and the bugs are back in force!



Dee said...

Dear Molly, in your profile you say that you are still haunted by the nuns. I wonder what that means about your experiences in Catholic schools. On March 21, my convent memoir "Prayer Wasn't Enough" is being published through Amazon. I hope you get a chance to read it because I'd so be interested in your take on how it reflects--or doesn't--your experience of nuns.

In a way, I'm still haunted by being in the convent. Not in a bad way, but in the sense that basically I am a person committed to a lifetime of living simply. That doesn't necessarily mean that only nuns do that--I'm trying to do it now and have been since I left. But it does mean that the convent was foundational to who I am today. And those years--with both their joys and their sorrows--are rooted into my being. Peace.

Share my Garden said...

I have no knitting skills but my mother-in-law was a wonderful knitter and made a fisherman's ganzy for my husband many years ago. It has been much worn and treasured but has needed a bit of darning in recent years. Each fishing community had a different pattern so that if a fisherman was pulled from the sea people would know which place he came from. My husband's jumper is the Staithes design, small village on the Yorkshire coast.

Molly Bon said...


Dee - Will look for your book and hope it does well. The nuns were great in some ways but very conservative in others and totally committed to the idea that the Church had a right to dictate every aspect of people's lives. But the lessons I learned from them took root and influence my thinking and my actions still today. So, mixed feelings! There are also a lot of things they drilled into us that I'd be very happy not to have had. And guilt, of course, was the great motivator, that and don't be getting too big for your britches!ySimple living is a noble aim. I think we are weighed down with our abundance here in the US. I'm constantly trying to pare things down but it's a slow process....

SMG - Lovely to have a new visitor here, especially when I feel my blogging is just limping along right now! Also nice to hear from someone who knows what a 'ganzy' is.
I've heard that about the knitting patterns being a way to identify drowned fisherman in the Aran Islands. Sad, but at least you'd know they went out warm....I'll be by to visit your garden soon!