Friday, March 16, 2007

Getting Philosophical on Socks!

A little over a year ago, I started knitting socks for the first time. I didn’t think it would be a big deal, I’d just take a class, learn to knit them toe-up and then cuff-down, and be done with it. Something else accomplished. Marked off my list of “wish I knew how to...”

Well.

I’ve now knit 5 pair (only one was a gift). All toe-up, as it’s the method that fits my feet the best, so why bother with another way? My time is limited…

This is an amazing feat – no I did not intend the pun – as I have also churned out well over 200 Nana Sadie Rose bags in that time, plus assorted knitted items and even read a book or six, worked a full-time job, taken care of a part-time business client, maintained friendships and family ties, and also managed a major move under extreme pressure.

And the most frequently asked question I get when people see me knitting a pair of socks (ok...they only see me knitting one sock at a time!) is:

“Why would anyone pay $20-$25 for yarn and spend hours and hours to hand-knit ONE pair of socks when you can go to Walmart and buy 6 pair for $5?”

Actually, it’s really a fair question, in spite of the fact that I tend to look the questioners squarely in the eye as if they are from another planet.

I had the same question over a year ago (before I knit my first pair).

My standard answer is also pretty simple. “If you’ve never worn a pair of hand-knit merino socks, you cannot understand. Once you do, you’ll never again question it. And no, I will not knit you a pair, it takes me too long to knit my own, and I’m going to have a drawer full before I stop...but I’ll be happy to help you learn to knit your own...”

Why Socks?

1. Warmth. There is no way a pair of cheap cotton/acrylic socks from Walmart can keep my feet as warm as merino wool.
2. Quality. These socks FIT my feet. I have very small feet (size 5.5). The standard Walmart sock “fits women’s size 6-9” which means I have a LOT of sock stuffed in around my heels and toes that is not needed.
3. Sensuality. There. I’ve said it. If you’ve never worn silk underwear, if you’ve never felt velvet against your skin, then you can’t imagine the sensual quality of merino against the soles of your feet. Imagine a hot bath in steaming scented oil of your favorite flavor, the water slipping over your skin…imagine velvety rose petals strewn across slick satin sheets…fresh strawberries dipped in dark chocolate…
4. Peace of Mind. The process of knitting keeps me sane, and the small needles (usually size 1 bamboos) and fingering weight yarn combined with a portable project means that wherever I am, I can indulge in a bit of emotional release just about anytime.

There’s more of course. But a list is so ... cut and dried. I’m working for the soul (!) of knitted socks.

Once upon a time, I danced. My very highly-arched feet were stuffed into toe shoes that made it possible for me to bear the entirety of my weight upon my ONE BIG TOE. I spent hours and hours every day in those shoes, on first one and then the other of my big toes. I was…”A BALLERINA.”

I never made it to NYC, but I danced daily in preparation for it. At the end of every day, my toes were dented and bruised and very, very red. The end result has been misshapen feet, with an early propensity to bunions and corns in both traditional and non-traditional places. My arches ached and often got the worst “stitches” and cramps in them…charley horses? In my calves…all the time.

As beautiful as ballet is, it’s a hard, painful life. There’s a reason why ballerinas have to end their careers in their early 30s. Their bodies simply cannot handle the demands the art places on it beyond that time. (Yes, there are exceptions to every rule, but usually ballerinas become dance teachers, and they spend their remaining lives in ballet shoes, not toe shoes, for a reason!)

The arthritis that has developed in my middle toes (I’m convinced from being scrunched between the big toe and the outer toes for years on end) is eased by the softness and warmth of hand-knit socks. Wearing hand-knit socks also means that I must wear shoes with a wider toe bed, which is certainly healthier for my feet. Clogs just fit the bill (they also help keep the heels of the socks from wearing out faster).

And may I offer a hint to those gentlemen who might be reading with whatever measure of interest in Nana? The fastest way for a man to make it into my life is to offer to give me a foot massage. Spend long periods of time, with warm oil, gently stroking my toes, the arch of my foot, the heel and back around again, and I’ll probably agree to do just about anything.
;)
(But be careful, because tickling those same feet sends me in the opposite direction really, really fast!)

But this IS about socks, right? Well...what I learned with my first pair of merino wool socks is that those handcrafted, form-fitted, ideally-shaped-to-MY-foot toe-up socks, knitted in stockinette is a very close second to a foot massage in my book. My toes are enveloped in softness, comfort, and warmth that lasts all day. There is no bunching, no excess fabric, the socks fit like a glove, if you will…

Especially if the sock yarn is 100% merino. Sinful luxury. And the price of $20-$25 per pair? Peanuts.

All the colorful hand-dyed goodness is just eye candy. Pure fluff. Tons of fun. And I look for fun wherever I can find it now that I’m a Woman of a Certain Age.

So go ahead. Buy your Walmart mass-produced, low-quality cotton-acrylic blend socks. Keep your toes chilly.

But I’ll keep knitting my “expensive” socks. It’s a therapy unrivaled…a combination of process (knitting) and product (the socks) that cannot under any circumstance be surpassed. And actually, when you think about it, hour for hour, $25 for gorgeous sock yarn is a lot cheaper than either psychoanalysis or therapeutic massage would cost me.

JMHO!

4 comments:

Ruinwen said...

I'm glad you enjoy making socks. They always turn out so lovely!

I have yet to finish a pair but I buy hand knitted socks for winter because nothing is as warm and soft in my big clunky boots.

:)

Jane said...

You know that I'm one of those who has yet to learn the wonders of hand-knit socks, but trying to find machine-knit fluffy acrylic socks is becoming almost impossible. Everything is cotton and I hate cotton socks - they always ride down on my heels so I constantly have to pull them up. My poor collection of K-mart acrylics from the Men's Dept. (I wear a size 8.5 shoe so the men's socks fit fine) are wearing thin and patching holes in them has become a lost cause. I may have to resort to knitting socks after all. {sigh}

Shelob said...

What a wonderful analysis! Great stuff -- and soooooo true. I'm working on socks in Paton's Classic Wool (merino) at the moment, since I love thick socks. Marvelous stuff! And I'm determined to try some merino superwash when I find it. I'm also shooting for a whole drawer full of multi-season wonderful wool socks!

somebunnysloveDOTcom said...

Can I have a big AMEN for the SISTA?!
I finally have been able to wear a "real" pair of knitted socks (in Mountain Colors Mountain Goat) and I dread having to take them off!
=:8