Tag Archives: socks

Socks and geeks

I haven’t been knitting on the bus to work lately; I’ve gone back to walking half the journey and am finding myself tending to read for the other half, so in nearly two months I’d only managed to knit one of my Dunkerton Sweet socks and the cuff and half of the first leg pattern repeat of the second. And then I went to Nine Worlds yesterday and after knitting my way through panels on Historial Headcanons, Women and Fanfiction, Unlearning Bias and Doctor Who and transhumanism I had finished the second sock and had to sit through the panel on the Fantasy of White History knitting-free (result: one chewed thumb, because I am a fidget and can’t keep my hands still).

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I actually had to start these socks twice; the first time I used a 2.25mm needle, as recommended by the pattern, but the yarn I was using (Brown Sheep Wildfoote) is quite a substantial sock yarn and on a 2.25mm needle it was really hard to work the lace pattern, especially the centred double decreases, so I ripped it out and started again with a 2.5mm needle which was much easier. I found the heel flap a bit fiddly the first time round, but much easier the second time; I also struggled slightly with the question of how to rearrange from having 33 stitches on the top of the foot and 27 on the sole to 30 on each for the toe, though this is mainly because I didn’t follow the pattern’s suggestion to place a start of round marker in the middle of the sole and therefore couldn’t do as suggested and just count stitches from there. In the end I opted to move one stitch from the inside of the foot (where the pattern goes furthest down towards the toe) and two from the outside on each sock, which seems to have worked, but I should probably have used the marker.

As for my first con experience, it was fun but exhausting. Partly that was because I only went for the day, which entailed getting up at 6am, leaving the house at ten past seven to get a bus into town for the 8am coach to Heathrow and getting to the con at 10am, then doing the whole thing in reverse in the evening (though it was quicker then, and I ended up home only two and a quarter hours after heading off at 8pm) which made for a long day. Partly it was because there were so many people around, and there didn’t really seem to be anywhere to just sit and breathe for five minutes; the panels were scheduled with half an hour between them but that really only seemed to be time to find the room where the next panel was, with maybe time to say hello to a couple of people in passing, or go to the loo or get a cup of tea if the queue wasn’t too long, so it very much felt as though I spent 10 hours alternately rushing around and listening to intellectually stimulating discussions. There wasn’t any downtime, and I was glad I’d brought sandwiches with me because not only did there not really seem to be anywhere to buy food (short of a full sit-down meal in one of the hotel restaurants, which I wouldn’t have done on my own, or the McDonalds next door) but there wasn’t time or space to eat it; I ended up eating my first sandwich while standing in a corridor waiting to get in to the Women in Fanfiction panel and the second while sitting in the room for the Fantasy of White History waiting for it to start. It was also a lot less of a social experience than I’d expected it to be; I saw lots of people I knew, but mostly it ended up being hellos in passing while heading in opposite directions, or occasionally ten minutes’ chat while waiting for a panel. I can see that staying in the conference hotel (or one of the other hotels nearby) would have helped a lot with the length-of-day and no-quiet-space problems, although being there for longer would have made bringing food more problematic and I can’t see that it would have helped with the lack of time to socialise. And, of course, it would also have been a lot more expensive.

Still, exhaustion and introvert ambivalence aside, I really enjoyed the day. It was nice to see various people, albeit briefly, and to meet one long-standing internet friend in person for the first time. I loved seeing the various cosplays people had come up with (in the absence of getting to see Liwella‘s Missy costume in person, my favourite was the woman who had knitted her own Wonder Woman outfit, closely followed by the bowl of petunias), and the panels were interesting and seem to have reawoken a critical part of my brain which had been dormant for far too long. With the result that I’m having all kinds of random thoughts, which you lucky people get to hear! (Or not; if you’re only here for the chat about what I’m making you may want to click away now, assuming you didn’t already do that several paragraphs away.)

One thing that impressed me was the democratic nature of fandom. Of course, there were some people on panels and some people listening to panels, but the membrane between “people on panels” and “people listening to panels” was clearly permeable, and in most cases about 40% of time in any session was devoted to audience questions/contributions to the discussion (the exception was the Fantasy of White History panel, where the panel ended up having a fascinating, incredibly enthusiastic discssion among themselves for the whole session; given the topic, and the overpowering whiteness of the audience, this didn’t seem like a bad thing at all). I was particularly struck by some of the comments from the panellists in the Women and Fanfiction panel about how, for them, writing fic was about creating a community of people who loved the same fandoms and characters as they did, and not about “practicing” so they could become professional writers. Somehow, this reminded me of the negative feelings I’ve been experiencing about the knitting world recently (see my post from a few months ago lamenting the decline in amateur blogging and podcasting, if you want the details) and it struck me that maybe the problem is that (even though yesterday was my first con) I’ve been on the outskirts of fandom for longer than I’ve been knitting and I’ve absolutely internalised the idea that activities which are ancillary to the production of the thing the fandom is about (blogging, fic, podcasting, running meetups) should be about creating community and sharing the love, whether that love is for a book, a TV series or a craft, and that I see people who decide to monetise those activities as betraying the community. But then, this morning, I followed a link to this terrific post by Kari Sperring, and I was particularly struck by this:

We are, as I said, an institutionally sexist culture. Women are embedded in this, too. I have had to have brisk conversations with myself more than once as to *why* I find self-promotional posts by women more worrying that those by men, for instance.

It made me ask myself whether, by resenting the monetisation of activities ancillary to my favourite hobby, I’m really being complicit in a culture which systematically devalues women’s inputs to the status of “hobby” rather than accepting them as “businesses” and valuing them accordingly. And then I read this by Maureen Kincaid Speller, which suggests that “ancillary activity as a method of building community” is maybe not as unproblematic in the world of SFF fandom as yesterday’s panellists may have made it appear, and that there are plenty of people there who are blogging as a step to professional reviewing gigs. So maybe the lovely utopian community-creating ideal is one that belongs to the past, or maybe it was always something that happened mostly in female spaces, because culture tells women that (unpaid) community-building is more important/valuable than using our talents to earn a living. (The giant Metafilter thread on emotional labour probably refers here, though I’m afraid I haven’t yet managed to find the time to read all of it.)

So, I’m conflicted. On the one hand, women using their skills and talents to find ways to support themselves financially which work for them and their families? Ways which take crafts which were traditionally seen as female and systematically undervalued because of it and actually make money out of them? Well, that’s great. I ought to be happy about it. But on the other hand, I don’t feel as though the knitting community is a community any more. Obviously, there have always been designers/dyers and then the rest of us, who are “just” knitters, just as in fandom there are authors and fans, but the membrane was permeable: desigers and dyers are also knitters, just as many authors are also fans of other things, and we were united by our common passion. Now, it feels as though a new divide has emerged, and on one side are the people who see knitting and knitting-related activities as their business, who have carefully curated online identities and use their blogs and podcasts and social media to promote each other’s businesses, and on the other are those of us for whom knitting is still just a hobby. I don’t want to make my hobby my business; I happen to be very happy in my job, and I don’t want the thing I do for fun to be tainted by the frustrations attendant on any money-making activity. But the trade-off for that seems to be that I’m no longer a member of a community; over the last six months or so, it’s become increasingly clear that all I am is a consumer, and that’s been making me very sad (and has also been tainting my enjoyment in knitting as a hobby, because that was so bound up with loving being part of the community).

TL;DR: capitalism ruins everything. Bah.

FO: Leyburn

Getting back into the swing of actually finishing things, after a slow start to the year, my latest socks:

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The pattern is Leyburn, though I modified it to knit top-down as I’m not a fan of toe-up socks (I always end up making the feet slightly too long, and I find a flap and gusset heel gives a much better fit in any case).

I picked the pattern to suit the yarn, a skein of Laughing Yaffle sock yarn that was the yarn that demanded to be knitted when I went stash-diving for sock yarn on a grey February day. The slipped stitches work well with the variegation, and the pattern was fun to knit; if it seems to have taken me a long time to finish them that’s just a reflection of the amount of bus-time I have these days (less than I used to, because on swimming mornings I end up with two 10-minute journeys rather than one 25-minute journey, and it hardly seems worth getting my knitting out, and I often end up using the homeward journey to catch up on the day’s activity on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram rather than knitting). The slipped stitches do make for a tighter fabric, and the tops of the legs are quite tight around my calves despite being worked over considerably more stitches than I’d normally use, but they do fit, and they’re lovely bright socks for spring.

Holiday knitting

Yes, I know my holiday was two months ago, but then I stopped knitting for a month because of my elbow*, so I have only just finished my holiday knitting projects.

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Stefanie Bold’s Berlin socks, in the oldest skein of yarn in my stash, a skein of Opal Handpainted which I bought in 2007, years before I discovered indie dyers. I really like how this pattern works in varigated yarn and I’m very pleased with the socks.

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And Martina Behm’s Brickless in Wollmeise merino superwash. I’m less pleased with this; it’s a lovely pattern, and beautiful yarn, but the pattern is written for a much heavier yarn and although lots of people have knitted it in 4-ply I’m not sure it really works. After knitting the specified 6 repeats I had a shawl that blocked out to 8 feet long but is mostly really, really skinny in a fine yarn; I’ve got it wrapped twice round my neck in the photo which is wearable but a bit of a faff to get right, and I would have preferred a shorter, wider shawl.

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As you can see, it’s significantly longer than the width of our double futon, but even at the widest point it doesn’t come all the way down the back and is mostly signficantly narrower. Which just goes to show that even where gauge isn’t critical, using a different weight of yarn to the one specified in the pattern can produce a less than ideal result.

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*I eventually cracked and went to a private physio about my elbow, and she diagnosed it as not being tennis elbow at all, but a combination of a pinched nerve and a strained bicep muscle. I have been doing my exercises, which have definitely helped, and have come to the conclusion that knitting doesn’t actually make it worse so I might as well start again. Still, I don’t suppose I’d ever have finished Wolf Hall if I was knitting as normal, and it is a very good book, so I don’t mind the month off that much.

Slow socks

It seems to have been quite a while since I last posted here, though I have been knitting away. (I haven’t touched my spinning wheel since the end of the Tour de Fleece, though – must rectify that tomorrow – and I seem to have lost interest in sewing again. Apparently sewing is something I get into every spring and fall out of love with again come July. And I haven’t been taking outfit photos because I’m bored of my summer clothes and can’t wear handknits when it’s this warm and am longing for boot weather again.)

I finished my latest pair of socks this week: Rachel Coopey’s Pavilion socks.

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This pattern was released in June as a mystery knitalong, but but the time I cast on in mid-June all the clues had already been released (I was going to start earlier, but wanted to finish the socks I was working on first). The yarn is Twistle, a now-discontinued high-twist wool/nylon sock yarn from The Yarn Yard. I love the rich colour and the way the cables pop in it.

I wish I could say that I really enjoyed knitting these socks, but I didn’t. It’s nothing to do with the pattern, which is complicated enough to be an interesting knit but never too complicated to knit on the bus, and is awfully pretty to boot. Nor is it anything to do with the yarn. No, the problem was that I decided to knit these socks on a KnitPro Karbonz circular needle I’d bought to try out, and I hated knitting with it. The carbon-fibre needles have metal tips at the points, and I found that the contrast between the slippery metal and the grabbier carbon fibre made every. single. stitch feel as though it was catching as it slid between the two, which was somewhat maddening and stopped me getting into the flow of the knitting. And then, one morning when I was knitting on the bus, this happened:

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One of the metal tips popped right off! On that occasion I managed to retrieve the tip from the floor of the bus and pop it back onto the needle; I carried on using them as I was worried about my gauge changing if I switched to different needles, but I wasn’t so lucky the second time it happened, just after I’d started the toe decreases on the second sock, when I couldn’t find the tip at all and ended up spending the rest of the working day without access to knitting before coming home and switching to different needles (and it felt to nice to be knitting without that little “catch” every stitch). So the broken Karbonz needle has gone in the bin and I don’t think I’ll be buying any more. I’ll stick to my wooden KnitPro sock needles in future!

More socks

I swear that most of my knitting time is spent on things that aren’t socks; I am currently on the second sleeves of two cardigans and have knitted three of the four clues of ├ůsa Tricosa‘s mystery shawl knitalong and about a fifth of a Nuvem*, but what gets finished seems to be socks.

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These are my eighteenth pair of Earl Grey socks, and are once again for T. The yarn is from the Knitting Goddess and was one of a month of special one-off colourways inspired by poems which she dyed some years ago now to raise money for Macmillan Cancer Support.

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This one was inspired by Yeats’s poem ‘The Lover Tells Of The Rose In His Heart’:

All things uncomely and broken, all things worn out and old,
The cry of a child by the roadway, the creak of a lumbering cart,
The heavy steps of the ploughman, splashing the wintry mould,
Are wronging your image that blossoms a rose in the deeps of my heart.

The wrong of unshapely things is a wrong too great to be told;
I hunger to build them anew and sit on a green knoll apart,
With the earth and the sky and the water, re-made, like a casket of gold
For my dreams of your image that blossoms a rose in the deeps of my heart.

This is one of my favourite poems, and is the poem I chose to have read at our wedding, so it seemed appropriate that the yarn should become socks for T!

*This is about twice as many WIPS as I normally have, which may explain why they remain in progress rather than being translated into finished objects; I normally have a pair of socks, for bus knitting, a shawl, for when I want complicated knitting, and a cardigan for when I want TV knitting, or something like that, but I keep joining KALs and ending up with more things on the needles.

This blogger went to Scotland, and all she posted was this lousy sock picture

Hello everyone! I didn’t mean to stay away from the blog for quite so long; I was on holiday for a week, celebrating my 40th birthday with two parties held at yarn shops and a trip to Scotland, but I’ve been back since Monday evening and I’ve got lots to post about – all the lovely new yarn and fibre I’ve acquired, touring the yarn shops of Edinburgh, visiting the Great Tapestry of Scotland, actually making the Ginger skirt I’d been planning for about two years, the two cardigans I’m knitting, my summer sewing plans – but all I’ve got today is a picture of my latest pair of socks.

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They’re not even particularly exciting socks; my standard top-down sock with a flap and gusset heel and a spiralling k5, p1 rib which I reversed on the second sock because I love mirror-image socks. The yarn is Knitpicks Felici self-striping in the Rainbow colourway. It’s the first time I’ve used Knitpicks yarn, which isn’t widely available in the UK (I got this from Great British Yarns who are the only UK stockists), and I enjoyed knitting with it. It comes in 50g balls which was quite handy as it meant I could use the second/spare ball for the heels of each sock and preserve the stripes down the leg and onto the instep, which I think was worth doing for these.

Anyway, I aten’t dead, and I might actually post about something more interesting than socks soon. Maybe.

Making something different

I’ve spent the last two days taking part in a participatory video workshop as part of a project aimed at reducing stigma around mental health issues run by a local charity with funding from Time to Change. There were seven of us involved; we all had some form of mental health problem but other than that we were a very diverse group (well, as diverse as you are likely to find in Oxford, which is not a very diverse city). Our ages ranged from mid-20s to retirement age and while affluent educated Oxford was certainly represented there were also people from less privileged backgrounds. We spent the weekend getting to know each other, learning how to use the camcorders, sharing some of our experiences of mental health problems and finally recording 30 seconds each of talking to camera as well as some shorter clips to show more about us as people and make the point that we are far more than just our mental health issues. (No prizes for guessing what got filmed for me there…) I had thought that I would talk about my experience of depression, and maybe about how crafting helps me, but in the end I chickened out of that because I’m currently in a place where sharing a hopeful, optimistic story about how I fill my life with things that make it easier to live with depression felt too much like a lie, but given how small Oxford is (one of the other volunteers mentioned that she used to follow me on Twitter and read my outfit posts, that’s how small it is) and that one of the ideas is that the video might be shown in workplaces I wasn’t brave enough to say what I’m really feeling right now, that after five years of trying so many different things I don’t feel that my depression has got any better and am very short on hope for the future. Not where someone from work might see it, maybe in a few months’ time when (hopefully) I will be feeling better because it won’t be winter anymore and some of the other stuff that’s putting me under stress will have been sorted out. Because yes, there is a stigma attached to mental health problems, and while I am increasingly open about mine because I am tired of not being I’m still wary of admitting to feeling suicidal, especially in something where there isn’t a timestamp and a string of other posts to show how the negative emotions ebb and flow. Anyway, 30 seconds isn’t very long so I just talked about how important I think it is to talk about mental health, and how talking has helped me to build up my support network but other people have also told me that my openness has helped them to be more open as well.

It was a really interesting weekend, and the other volunteers were a lovely group of people who I’m really pleased to have had the chance to meet, but I also found it very, very tiring to spend so much time with people I didn’t know well, in a fairly small space, never mind the emotional drain of sharing some deeply personal things, and I ended up having to leave a couple of hours before the end of today’s session because I was exhausted and had got to the point where I really, really needed to be home and have peace and quiet (and a nap, which is what I did once I got in). I was sorry to miss the end, but I think it was the right decision for me, especially as I have work tomorrow.

Obviously, all this means that I don’t have a lot of crafting to share this weekend; I’ve been too tired to knit anything complicated like the edging of the Ysolda shawl, let alone spin or sew. On the other hand, I did finish my second pair of Regia 6-ply walking socks, which are pretty much the same as the first except for having contrast ribbing and toes because the first pair took slightly more than half the yarn.

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This is a good thing, because the canal towpath is very muddy at the moment and the first pair really did need a wash!