A combination of exam stress and second sock syndrome means these socks have been a shamefully long time in the making; but as with any knitted project, I think they were definitely worth the wait.
Intimidated by the seemingly impossible task of knitting a heel, I had always avoided knitting socks and it was only in January this year that I finally pushed aside my apprehension and cast on my first pair, having placed ‘learn to knit socks’ firmly at the top of my New Years resolution list for 2016. As with most things, my fear quickly evaporated once I got started, and I realised that turning a heel actually wasn’t actually as scary as I’d imagined. I found myself with a finished pair of luxuriously soft hand-knitted alpaca socks, taking pride of place in my sock drawer, before the end of January.
That said, I do still think of myself as a newcomer to sock knitting so I tend to stick with simple patterns that are well within my comfort zone, and this pair was no exception. I opted for Erssie Major’s P/hop Socks: an easy ribbed DK sock pattern which I used for my first pair. Not only is it uncomplicated and easy to follow, it’s also for a good cause: the pattern is one of several donated to the Medicins Sans Frontieres P/hop fundraising project. P/hop stands for ‘pennies per hour of pleasure’ and the idea is that you download a knitting pattern for free and, as you are knitting, ask yourself: how many hours of pleasure has this given me? How many new techniques have I learnt, for free? What would it all be worth? What is the p/hop rating for what I have just knitted: 10p an hour? 25p an hour? There is no set price, but you are encouraged to think about it and donate what you think it was worth – you can give 50p or £50, it is entirely up to you. For me, this pattern helped me to overcome my fear of knitting socks, and that’s worth a lot.
Now, let me get on to the yarn… the beautifully striking yarn that I fell in love with at first sight. It might just be one of my favourite yarns ever to knit with. Trailing Cloud’s Nimbus Sock Yarn in ‘Mind The Gap’ is a colourway inspired by the colours of the iconic London Underground Tube map. It’s a self striping yarn which means you can just carry on knitting and watch the bright, colourful stripes appear before your eyes. It’s the perfect accompaniment to my simple sock pattern: the colour speaks for itself so a complex pattern isn’t necessary. The yarn is 75% Bluefaced Leicester, and 25% Nylon: a ratio of wool to nylon commonly seen in sock yarn.
Gloria at Trailing Clouds updates her online shop every Thursday evening, and the yarn quickly disappears as eager knitters flock to get their hands on a multi-coloured hank or two. I joined them one Thursday evening in February; impatiently watching the time creep closer to 9pm when the stock would be updated and I could add some of that quirky explosion of stripy colour to my own yarn collection.
When the yarn arrived, I set straight to work: caking one of the hanks, casting on, and knitting row after row, watching the neat, colourful stripy tube materialise. I made quick work of the first sock; then immediately cast on the second, keen to have colourful stripes adorning my feet. The project stalled just before the heel turn. The cuff and leg had materialised at a fast pace before studying interfered; and I managed to knit the heel flap on and off in the odd stolen spare moment: a row at the hairdressers here, a few stitches on the bus there; and even on one occasion, a few stitches on the London Underground, which I absolutely could not resist given the relation to the yarn.
Walking out of my exam on Saturday afternoon, finally turned loose after months of having my head buried in the books, I could barely contain my excitement at having free reign to indulge in as much guilt-free knitting as I wanted. Eager to knit something – anything – after weeks of knitting starvation, my abandoned half-finished sock suddenly took on a new appeal. So, with any hint of second sock syndrome now a distant memory, I gladly picked up my needles and revelled in knitting row after row, an uninterrupted chain of stitches that ran from Saturday afternoon right through to Sunday; breaking only to take up camp in Brewdog on Saturday night for the obligatory end of semester drinking session.
On Sunday evening, I went through the familiar motions of Kitchener stitch to close the toe, weaved in the loose ends, and finally put the socks on; admiring the colour, the cosy feel of hand-knitted socks on my feet, and the feeling of satisfaction at finally seeing them finished after months of denying these socks the chance to become a pair.