Hand-knitting Socks-15th Mar 2022

A Christmas present for the husband

When I was a child, I don’t think I knew anyone who could knit. In the 1960s-70s, hand knitting was something that still had connotations left over from the war of “making do”. As clothing of all sorts became cheaper to produce in factories after the war, hand knitting joined the list of dying skills. I remember finding an old hand-knit sweater in a trunk that had belonged to my Mother and being astonished that any one could actually do that- knit something by hand such as a whole sweater! I think my Grandmother had made it. Not sure. Anyway, my Mother tried to teach me to knit, as she did know how, but it was not her favourite craft. Between us, we sort of got there with it. Our biggest issue was that she was left-handed and I was right-handed and some of the knitting stitches got a bit twisted in the process.

Years later, my 1st M-i-L, who was a terrific craftswoman, spotted where I was going wrong and got me straightened out. She was very patient and helped me learn to sort myself out when I had made a mess. She said, “When you can figure out where you went wrong and put it right again, then you can tackle anything.” And she was right. I guess some people would look at something like the socks I knitted above and think it was all very complicated. Well, there are things that are a bit more challenging about socks but the basic stitches of knitting are quite straightforward. There are really only two. Knit (or plain, as it was sometimes known) and purl. When knitting a flat piece, you knit a plain row first and then when you turn the piece to go back the other way, the next row will be a purl row. Knit one row, purl the next, etc. This produces a piece that will look as the socks in the picture look, with all of the little v shapes. You are seeing all knit rows here. If you turn the sock inside out, you see all purl rows.  The main thing to grasp if you know nothing about it is that a knit stitch looks like a purl stitch on the other side and visa-versa.

Knitting dates from around 1100 AD, if not earlier. The nature of knitted material makes finding examples older than that a rare event. As a craft, it has waxed and waned, depending on supply of raw materials and the need for people to craft things for themselves. There has been a huge revival over the past couple of years during the Covid lockdowns as people suddenly had plenty of time on their hands and felt the need to create. If you are curious, go to a charity shop, buy a pair of needles (not too long to start) and a ball of wool. Go on You Tube. Try this one- it has good reviews.

My particular passion is knitting socks. I think they appeal to me as they are such a small project. It is easy to carry just one sock in progress, one ball of wool and some short, double-pointed needles along in a hand bag to knit on the go. Once you get the hang of it, knitting in the round is fun and quite addictive. And, if you have never worn hand-knitted socks, I think they are a treat for the feet. The socks in the photo look complicated with all the colour changes but the wool is dyed by machines which are computer programmed to squirt out the different colours in a particular sequence. I use two balls of wool for a pair and make sure that the starts of each ball are the same. By that I mean, I hold the two ends together and let the wool out. I then make sure they match along a length of about 5 meters. If they don’t match I find the places that they DO match and then keep matching for about 5 meters. I sometimes have to cut a bit off of the beginning of one ball. Once I am sure they match at the beginnings, I knit the first sock. Then, when I start the second sock on the second ball of wool, the pattern near-as-dammit matches on both socks. Because of the clever dying method, the pattern makes itself and everyone thinks it is YOU who have been clever. HAHAHA! NOT!

If you are left-handed (I am talking to you, Sister) maybe have a go at learning to do it right-handed? As it is a skill that involves both hands and is a NEW skill, perhaps the brain will accept the learning process better. It certainly makes understanding knitting patterns a bit simpler and avoids twisted stitches. Just a thought!

I sometimes iron left-handed, but that is a story for another day.

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  1. I tried to teach a lefty to crochet. That didn’t work out, but we had great fun. I did go on YouTube and try to teach myself to crochet left-handed first, but my teaching skills must not be great. My simple crochet item is a phone bag. (If you go back to that Formica picture, you’ll see it. That was my first one). I like using cotton thread for them. Does knitting aggravate your hands? I have to wear a brace to crochet. Carpel tunnel in my wrist.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I actually find knitting is less wearing on my hands than crochet. The twisting that comes with a crochet hook isn’t great for my wrists. I did a lot of crochet, once upon a time, but I prefer knitting. x


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