Saturday, November 06, 2004

The Big Secret

I don't like knitting socks.

The few times I mentioned this on The-Knitting-List-That-Shall-Not-Be-Named, I received replies that ranged in tone from well-meaning and concerned to horrified and hysterical. I was amazed by the amount and the intensity of the responses. I really have to wonder why people I don't know (or even why people I do know) would really care whether or not I like to knit socks, any more than they would care whether or not I eat brussels sprouts or what I choose for junk reading when I go to the beach.

At some level I suppose I do understand why other knitters try to convince me that sock-knitting is a fantastic spiritual experience. We all have our passions, and it is only natural that we want others to experience the transcendental joy that these passions bring to us. I suppose that, given some extra time and coffee, I might type a passionate response to a knitter who espouses the glories of Red Heart acrylic or to one who complains that double pointed needles are like knitting with an octopus. But I am lacking in time, and I am limiting my coffee intake (for the benefit of my nursling), and I have discovered that reading blogs is much more fun than reading knitting lists, so these responses are not forthcoming from me. I have decided that I aspire to the free-spirited approach to knitting, which means that all are free to use squeaky acrylic for whatever they choose, and to use double pointed needles as plant stakes, and to buy wool socks at LL Bean if desired.

But why (you may persist), why oh WHY do you dislike sock knitting? Is it the tiny needles? (Here, try some thicker yarn!) Is it the double points? (Here, use two circulars! Or the Magic Loop method!)

Here are the answers:
(1) I get bored after the first one (a problem commonly known as Second Sock Syndrome). Oh, I know, I could do a pair of mismatched ones, or pick a wild pattern that will provide no end of thrills. But knitting that second sock is torture to me. (I don’t have this problem with mittens. Why do you suppose that is?)

(2) My knitting time is very limited. With two young children, a household to keep at least marginally clean, a part-time job, and piles of books calling out to me to read them, I have vowed to only knit things that I love (except for stupid afghan squares, but that’s a different post). Yes, socks are portable, but so are mittens, and hats, and finger puppets.

(3) I just can't bear to put the beautiful end product on my feet. I mean, no one will really see them there. Yes, I do wear Birkenstocks, but usually in the summertime, without socks. Yes, I have seen the clear boots you can wear, but I imagine that they would be awfully sweaty. And invariably my beloved socks will develop holes in the heels and I will have to darn them, and darning socks is one of those jobs that goes at the very end of my list, right after washing all the windows and wiping down the baseboards. So the stunning result of hours of work will end up, well, sitting in the mending box for years.

(4) If I start making socks, then DH will want some. And he has big stinky feet. The only thing that makes me more horrified than putting my hand-knit socks on my own feet is putting them on his feet.

(5) I live in fear that the Washer-and-Dryer Elves will take them. Why would they want to steal crappy cotton socks from The Gap when they can take lovely handcrafted footcovers instead?

My opinion on this issue goes against all my other beliefs. Clearly, store-bought items are far inferior to hand-knit ones. Not only are they mass produced, but they are often mass produced by enslaved women and children in third-world countries. This is a problem for me. And it grieves me when people look at something I’ve knit and make comments like, "You knit that sweater? It cost you HOW much in yarn? Why would you do that, when you could buy one for $12 at Wally World?" Never, never would I make such a comment! You are all welcome to spend as much money on fiber and yarn as you like, and not only will I understand, but I will help you hide some of your stash from your significant other if needed.

But—and it pains me to admit this—I have sometimes thought, “Why should I spend $20 on this sock yarn when I could use that money to buy something else instead?”

Lest any of you talented sock-knitters feel that I am insulting your handwork or disparaging the meaning of your existence, let me assure you that I admire every beautiful work of knitted art that covers your toes and the toes of your loved ones. I am in awe. I nod respectfully at the altar of the Sock Goddess and I wish you unending piles of Regia, Opal, Koigu, and Lorna's Laces yarn. But I am freeing myself to choose a different spiritual path, and to leave my guilt and shame behind.

Now, felted clogs...that's a skein of a different color.