Ripping Back to Move Forward

Cuff and a couple of inches of knitted sock-in-progress. I finished the Personal Footprint sock. Jack says it fits better than any sock he’s ever owned, so there’s the best kind of recommendation for Cat Bordhi’s technique: it works.

Flush with success, but on my way to work, I grabbed a cake of sock yarn (Knit Picks Stroll Tonal in the colorway Canopy), my favorite sock needle (also Knit Picks, a 2.75 mm 40″ fixed circular in Harmony wood), and my copy of Wendy Johnson’s Toe-Up Socks for Every Body, where lived the next sock pattern I was going to do, the beautifully cable-rich Manly Aran Socks.

As I’ve probably mentioned before, I’m an extremely tight knitter, and I make it a habit to automatically go up a needle size when I work from a pattern. (Despite all the threats about gauge, and my incredible lack of swatching, this tends to work beautifully.)

Of course, when I got into work, I realized that pretty much all of the socks in this book call for two needle sizes, a smaller one for the foot and the next size up for the leg. Which would be fine… if the smaller size, the one I would need right away, wasn’t a size 0, 2.0 mm. I do have a 2.5 mm needle, the next size up, but I didn’t have it with me (of course) and there aren’t any yarn shops near my workplace, so I couldn’t even make a frantic lunchtime pilgrimage to get one. Sighing, I pulled out my little December shawl and worked on that for awhile.

The problem that I’m having with that shawl (this is the pattern that finally hit the What Do I Do With That Gorgeous Handspun From the Ren Faire jackpot, remember?) is that whatever wool it was spun out of was extremely short-staple, which means it sheds little fibers when I work with it. I don’t mind being covered with fiber; I am A Fiber Artist after all, and fuzziness comes with the territory. What I do mind is that those short fibers seem to like going up my nose, and so when I knit on that shawl, I tend to end up with an allergy attack. Unattractive, impractical for work, and anyway what I want to knit right now are SOCKS.

Of course, the answer to almost any knitting problem, particularly “What do I knit next?” is always Ravelry. What I settled on was Beth LePensee’s Nutkin Socks, which not only called for a 2.5 mm needle, but said it worked well with subtle striping yarns, which I suspected that the Stroll Tonal would be.

Now, let me disclaim: there is nothing wrong with this pattern. It’s beautiful, it’s well-written, and it knits up gorgeously. The first picture, up above, is the sock knitted to pattern. It has a strange cuff – you knit six rows in stockinette, knit a purl row, then knit six more stockinette rows. At that point, you fold the cuff at the purl row, and pick up and knit together the cast-on row with the live row, creating a…folded-over cuff. I was uncertain, but I did it anyway, and even managed to pick up the stitches without twisting so the pattern would come out straight. Then I knitted. The pattern is simple enough that I had it memorized within a row or two. Technically a lace pattern, as the cable-looking design is created with one YO and one SSK per motif, it’s a brilliant little traveling row (i.e, in the first row, for each motif you purl 1, yarnover, knit 3, slip-slip-knit, knit 9, and purl 1 and in the second row, you p1, k1, yo, k3, ssk, k8, and so on), it’s meditative and extremely addictive, to the point where I was halfway down the leg, four pattern repeats in, by the end of the night.

And that’s where I ran into problems. The pattern, you see, was for a woman with an 8″ foot circumference. I was knitting for a man, a man with serious calves. I pointed out to myself that I was using a larger needle than the pattern called for, never mind that I always use a larger needle than the pattern calls for, because I’m a very tight knitter. I pointed out that it looked exactly like the picture, never mind that the picture was of a woman, presumably with an 8″ foot circumference. I denied and I knit and I knit and I denied. I was, after all, at work, so it wasn’t like I could try it on him. I clung so hard to my denial that I didn’t even try it on myself. The cuff and the first repeat looked pretty stretchy, but by the time I got to the fourth one, I was eyeing the cuff and his leg with something vastly approaching dismay…and acceptance. There is no way that’s going to fit, I thought to myself.

But then, my dear readers, I did something smart. By this time, I was home, so I handed it to him and had him try it on. In good news – it fit. That was the extent of the good news, because the way it fit suggested that I should immediately be starting on the heel, and I really didn’t like the way the pattern looked when it was stretched.

I looked at the sock and I looked at him and I looked at the yarn and I looked at the sock, and I admit, my friends, that I was weak. This beautiful, beautiful sock, and this delightfully fun pattern, and I bet it would fit me, I thought but did not say. And then I looked at the yarn, in his favorite color, the yarn that he’d raved over when it arrived and again as he saw the progress I’d made on the sock, and I looked at this man I’m going to marry, that I love more than anyone…and I pulled out the needles. And I frogged the entire thing. All the way back. It was very sad, but this man is deserving of my time and of socks that fit, and if I was going to knit socks for myself, I was going to knit the laciest, girliest socks ever designed by woman, and I was going to do it in purple yarn. There was no point in hijacking his yarn and his pattern so I could save myself some work.

I went back to perusing Ravelry, but eventually I gave up and looked at the Nutkin pattern again. It was only written in one size, but she does mention that you can adjust the size by adding additional motifs, or using larger needles or yarn. Well, I had the yarn, and I loved the needle, and I loved the fabric that the two together were producing. It was thick and solid and would make good socks. But

an additional motif would add 16 stitches, and 16 stitches should be enough to go around my man’s serious calves.

So I cast on again. This time, I made the cuff a 2X2 Nutkin Sock, Take 2rib, and I actually like the way it looks better. I worked on it all day yesterday, and I got through three pattern repeats. I have almost knitted through the frogged yarn, so I’m nearly back to my starting place.

And here we go with “knitting is like life,” because it’s okay to make mistakes, it’s okay to admit that you’ve made one, and it’s okay to go backwards in order to go forwards more correctly. This is particularly true in the healing process. Some days I really feel like I’ve regressed, and I’ll never be as together as I was before I met Isabel… but that’s okay. I’ve definitely grown, just in directions that aren’t as evident, and I need to give myself permission to struggle with things, even if they were easy before. If it was a physical injury, it would be more evident, but I’m not any less injured because the damage isn’t immediately obvious.

What have you frogged lately, metaphorically or literally? How soon did you give yourself permission to admit that you’d made a mistake? If you could do it again, what would you do differently?

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~ by Amber on June 16, 2011.

2 Responses to “Ripping Back to Move Forward”

  1. Oh hey, this reminds me: whatever happened to those gloves you were knitting for my mom?

    • They’re sitting next to my work chair, staring at me accusingly every time I sit down, reminding me that I need to re-visit the pattern because the hand it was designed for was obviously not a human hand. That is the only excuse for the thumb positioning.

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