Today is laundry day. My hamper is empty, but I’m running low on one of my favorite wearable items. So, it is time to wash socks. These socks are special. They are hand washed and laid flat to dry. But they are so worth the effort!
What is it about socks that make so many of us go crazy? Former President Bush 41 brought crazy socks into the mainstream, but many of us have been lurking around the fringes for years.
I love socks, and the adoration for this humble little article of clothing goes back many years. Socks are small, fun and cute. That seems to be a constant theme for the the random items that capture my fancy. And after all, does there really need to be any other reason to have things in our lives? I think not.
As I reflect back, I believe the sock fetish began with the Christmas of 1985. I bought and received themed socks. From there the collection slowly grew into all holidays; then there are my favorite characters such as Snoopy, Spongebob, or animals…cats, sheep, bunnies or mice. Before I knew it I had a collection that overwhelmed the sock drawer. I have since reduced my supply of store bought socks, which really just means I don’t replace them as they wear out or disappear in the laundry.
I have a new sock obsession and its a game changer.
Knitting Changed My Life
Not only did refining and building my knitting skills lead me into a whole new world of yarn, friends, business, and publishing but it introduced me to the wonderful world of hand knit socks.
Until I visited Yarns To Ewe in Houston I had no idea that people hand knit socks. Actually, the production of socks never crossed my mind until then. I was smitten. The colors of the yarn were wild and fun. Until then I had no idea there is a specific kind of yarn for socks. It was mind blowing and exciting all at the same time. Just as the love for the small and cute factor of the socks themselves, each colorful 400 yard skein would be enough to make a complete project. No more worries about calculating or having a pattern. I could now walk into any yarn store and buy, with confidence, a ball of yarn and know I would always be able to make something. While this knowledge was liberating, it also led to a sock yarn addiction that continues to this very day. I own enough yarn to knit forty or fifty pairs of socks, and yet, the sock section of any yarn shop is still my favorite place to shop.
As my inventory of store bought socks dwindles, I am now on a mission to have a completely hand knit sock drawer. A lofty goal. The journey will be a long one.
Here is my sock knitting bag with four pairs of socks in various stages of development. Socks are knit on very small needles with a thin yarn. There is much debate in the knitting world as to what is the best type of yarn to use for socks. I have only knit with wool blend yarns, typically wool mixed with a little nylon for strength. Strength is important when knitting socks. After all the work that goes into a pair, you want them to last as long as possible. I travel with this bag because socks are the perfect travel project. Small, easy to pick up and put down, fun and can be a soothing repetitive knit.
Why Knit Socks? Why Wool?
When it comes to knitting socks I either get “Wow, that’s cool” or “Why?” The latter is generally said with a furled brow and wrinkled nose which indicates what the person is really thinking is…”Don’t you know you can buy those at Walmart for $5.00?” To those folks there is no amount of explanation that will convince them hand knit socks are the best ever and worth ever stitch. I don’t waste my breath. For the ones who think it is cool, well they might be worthy of a pair of hand knit socks, only time will tell.
For me there is another reason. I have a very small foot and socks for “normal” people don’t fit. Either the heel is visible outside my shoe or I have to tuck the end of the toe under my foot creating a very uncomfortable situation. Hand knit socks can be made to fit any foot, no matter size, peculiarities or structure. Books have been written on the subject.
As for the wool, well here is where it gets interesting. I can get on a bit of a soapbox, but I will remain on subject.
1. Wool is a thermo-regulating fiber. It does for us just what it does for the sheep – keeps us warm when it is cold and wicks moisture away from our skin to aid in cooling when it is warm.
2. Wool is a naturally renewable resource. The sheep grow wool but it must be sheared – generally once a year depending on breed – so that the sheep don’t suffer from disease, parasites, or joint damage due to too much weight. Shearing is vital and so using their wool is a responsible use of natural resources.
3. Wool has natural strength, spring and elasticity – vital qualities for socks to fit and last.
4. Wool has natural antibacterial qualities and does not need washing as frequently as other fibers. Washing wool is also quite easy – I use hot water (no agitation) and a wool wash which lifts the dirt from the wool fibers as they soak. Once the water has cooled, I rinse them in the same temperature as the cooled water. This keeps the wool from shrinking and forming a felted like fabric.
5. It also does not absorb odors. That alone makes it perfect for socks.
Hand Knit Sock Community
Lest you think I am some strange one off human being that came up with her own way to have unique socks, let me introduce you to one of my tribes…the online sock knitting community.
Instagram has (to date) 84,284 posts tagged #handknitsocks
Ravelry, an online social/creative resource for all kinds of fiber arts, has 115 groups devoted to sock knitting (including hand cranked circular knitting machines).
Facebook – too hard to count – but there are lots of them there too.
Let’s just say I’m not alone. This isn’t even the hey day of hand knitting socks for pleasure. I think that happened in 2009-2011 when two Sock Summit events drew thousands of avid sock knitters from across the country along with teachers and vendors. The link will take you to an article from Knitter’s Review. It is quite interesting. I wish I could have gone to one of those events. Those were the glory days of the modern yarn business. It has been on a decline for a long time, but that’s a ‘whole ‘nother subject.’
Subcultures Allow Us To Belong
I am not talking about the kind of fringe society folks that get attention from a news crew. No, I’m talking about hobby/interest based groups who gather in person or via social media to share their particular hobby.
With social media we can all find folks who love the same things we do, and suddenly we aren’t isolated and weird anymore. It is easy to get tricked into believing we are some kind of anomaly in a world that only favors certain people with particular gifts. My family thinks I’m kinda weird and crazy for the things I do that make them want to poke their eyes out. But they love that I love it. That’s what matters.
You are not an anomaly, no more than I am or anyone else. We were created with a purpose – that’s a drum I will constantly bang – and there are other people with the same or complimentary gifts. If we all find our tribe and pool our resources, what a wonderful world it could be. I’m ready to do my part. How about you?
Until tomorrow…keep looking up, embrace today and go have some fun!