Sunday, March 11, 2007

Round and Round, the Mermaid goes ...

Behold, the never-ending Mermaid Socks! Pattern from Lucy Neatby's Cool Socks, Warm Feet. Yarn is Fearless Fibers superwash merino, in the Glorious Green colorway. The socks were knit on size 1 and 0 dpns. Cast on was January 27, 2007 -- socks were finished on March 9, 2007.

The knitting of the socks was a bit of a saga, so if you just want to ogle their loveliness and keep away from the drama, you may click off now. You have been warned.

These were knit for Meg Weaver, my partner in the Knittyboard Sock Swap. Meg said that she liked "plain" socks, in solid, heathery, or lightly variegated colors, and that her feet were always cold so she liked wool. She preferred short row heels. She thought that maybe she'd like a twisted rib or eyelet rib sock. Easy, right?

When the rules of the Sock Swap were posted, we were told to sign up in one of three groups based on socks that we have knit before this exchange:

  • Sock Newbies (0 pairs)
  • Sock Beginners (1-5)
  • Sock Pros (5+)
I signed up for Sock Beginners (1 complete pair of socks, plus two Christmas stockings that I only half-counted because they were knit flat and seamed). My partner informed me that she had been knitting for 13 years (!) but was kind of new to socks so she signed up for beginner as well. But immediately I felt the pressure.

I had 3 wonderful skeins of Fearless Fiber yarn, including 2 almost solids, in brown and green. So I decided to swatch and do a "practice" sock with the brown, then make Meg's socks. I could not find one solid definition of "twisted rib," so decided to try a couple of different ones. I swatched and didn't like them. I then received Cool Socks, Warm Feet in a book swap, and instantly fell in love with the Mermaid Socks shown in the book. They were ribbed, and it was twisted (well, spiral, really). It had a short-row heel (which I had never done) that looked a bit easier than the ones I'd seen with picking up wraps, etc. And better yet, I had also just purchased the 2 Lucy Neatby Sock DVDs, and much of the sock is demonstrated by Lucy herself on these DVDs.

By that point, two weeks had gone by, and I was feeling the time pressure. I disposed of the "test" sock and went right to the main event. I cast on, and knit. And knit, and knit, and knit. I saw reference on some blogs that this sock took a l-o-n-g time. So I knit, and knit, and knit. Turned the heel with only minimal problems, though it took 6 hours of my life. Began the foot. And then, about 8 or 10 rows into the foot, the knitting emerged from behind the needles, and ... CRISIS! The pattern did not match up. The ribbing was off by two stitches. I tried to convince myself that it wasn't that bad, that it was a design feature. I kept knitting. After a few inches, I could no longer live in denial. It was right on the top of the foot where it met the ankle -- the most visible part of the sock. I was afraid to frog in case I couldn't recapture the stitches, and I did not want to relive those 6 hours turning the heel again. I waited a few days until I could go to my knitting class and enlist the help of my instructor, who is now dubbed Saint Mary of the Golden Needles.

Mary saved my sock. She helped me rip back and pick up the stitches in the proper manner, and then she did much of the un-knitting for me, since she is about 1,000 times faster at it than I am. She guided me through determining the proper place to resume the pattern. She answered my stupid questions like, 'is that a yarn over, or a mistake?' She has my eternal gratitude.

The rest of the sock, and the next, went mainly without incident. It just took a long, long time. And my work schedule was not only packed, but involved much travel, which took away from my knitting. In all, I was 10 days late for the February deadline. Considering that I lost close to that amount of time with my error on sock #1, it's not too bad.

Oh, and remember my frustration that the leg of the sock was too short, despite having measured and re-measured? Well, when I received the socks that Meg knit for me, I was delighted to see this:

They are identical in height. Insert large sigh of relief here.

Overall, these were a fun knit, even with the stress I put on myself. I learned a lot, and really pushed myself. I'm not sure that I would have continued on, if these were for myself ... or at least, I would have lived with the error. But in the process of fixing the problems, I learned better how to read my knitting, how to think before blindly following the written pattern. I also learned how to weave in ends as I go, which is a skill that I will use going forward.

And I will make them again, using a self-striping yarn -- what this pattern was really designed to highlight. Next time I think I may reverse the pattern on one sock so that they spiral toward each other, or away from each other (depending on which sock goes on which foot). But I will definitely knit them again.