Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Adventures with Socks, Part One

No, gentle readers, "socks" is not a cat (or a chinchilla, although The Chief's first pet chinchilla was named Sock, as she was too small to make a coat out of...). "Socks", in this context, is an article of footwear I am attempting to knit. Attempting being the operative word, here.

Actually, I am attempting a sock. Just one. I probably don't have enough wool for two, and who am I kidding, this thing is not actually going to be wearable, so why on earth would I want two? I have some chai, some green wool (like I've ever worn green socks in my life), and a set of bamboo needles (because, you know, I'm a klutz, and bamboo sort of grips the wool so you don't have to be overly dextrous...that's the theory, anyway. We'll see if it holds up.). My process looks something like this...

1. According to the sock book, my knitted cast-on that my mother taught me over the phone back in August is neither flexible nor strong enough for socks. I realize with a sinking heart that I am going to have to attempt the finger gymnastics required for the "long-tail cast-on"...and I can't make head nor tail of the instructions in the sock book, so it's back to my beginner book to see if I can figure it out. I'm persistent, and I have chai, so it's only a matter of time. Really. (For those who do not knit, casting on is getting that first row of stitches onto the needle; there are a number of ways to do this, all of which, in my opinion, are not for the spatially challenged.)

2. My beginner book says nothing about this vaunted "long-tail cast-on", but does show a "slingshot" cast-on. Which looks like it involves as much finger gymnastics as the "long-tail cast-on", and might even be the same thing, but what do I know? I take a sip of chai and hope that they are the same thing. Any normal person would be able to tell, just by looking, if they were the same, but I am, as we have noted before, spatially challenged, and I will just have to close my eyes and...no, wait, closing my eyes is probably not going to work...I mutter a swift prayer to the Universe and begin.

3. Long pause and much inappropriate language.

4. I realize that this "long-tail cast-on" is just as complicated as it was the last twelve times I tried to do it. No matter which way I turn the book, it still involves me visualizing a two-dimensional drawing of fingers and yarn and somehow transforming this into a three-dimensional process. Translation: it ain't gonna happen.

5. My thirteen-year-old son hears me muttering dire imprecations under my breath. He sidles up to me and glances at the picture in the book for about three seconds (I swear, his eyes just sort of brushed over it), takes the needle and yarn out of my hand, and proceeds to cast on three stitches. He hands the needle back to me and says all innocently, "So what's the problem?"

6. I put away the knitting in disgust and decide that the only thing I'm likely to knit in the next twenty years is scarves. Lots of scarves.

7. After dinner I decide upon a new tactic. With coloured pencils I carefully colour the little strands of yarn in the picture, each one a different colour, so that I can see what, exactly, is going on in the picture.

8. I take a deep breath and try again. After a while, I begin muttering to myself again.

9. My son glances over at me. "You're holding the yarn wrong," he tells me. How he can tell this from six feet away, I have no idea. He comes over and loops the yarn around my fingers in the proper arrangement, then holds my hand and guides my needle up and down and in and out...and something clicks and I finally get it.

10. Moral: my son should be doing the knitting around here, not me.


Wellness Writer said...

Actually, I saw a book in the knitting store about men who knit. So maybe your son will take up knitting and write books about it! That way he could support you in "your old age."


Jazz said...

Ooh, what a plan! I've been trying to figure out how to get the little ones to figure into some sort of "retirement" scheme...my son actually did think he might like knitting for a bit, and tried it with enthusiasm...for about half a day. Hasn't picked up the needles since!

I saw a book like that, too. Actually, men being into needlecrafts isn't that unusual to me...my grandfather did beautiful needlepoint, my dad occasionally does cross stitch (he's just the sort of meticulous, detail-oriented soul who enjoys that sort of thing), and the professor I worked for in grad school was a quilter!

Gianna said...

one of my good male friends goes no where without his knitting needles!!

that's how I see him in my minds eye...the man with knitting needles...

and he's not gay!!

Wellness Writer said...

Jazz and Gianna,
I don't know any men who knit,sew, or quilt, but it is a nice image, isn't it?

A woman who's a high school friend recently told me that in 1966, she tried to take auto shop instead of home economics in high school. No wonder, since we spent 10 weeks learning how to make cinnamon toast.

She wanted to learn how to fix her car since her older brothers had all left home. Needless to say, the answer was "no."

These days the same high school doesn't offer auto shop or home economics. So, I guess we'll have generations of people who won't learn how to do anything that might possibly be useful.

Our schools are so terrible that only half of the class graduates compared to 90 percent when I was in high school. But that's another issue.

P.S. Jazz, I guess knitting isn't as much fun as video gaming, is it?

Jazz said...

It's funny, isn't it, how most people, when they think of a guy doing needlework, assume he's gay. None of the guys I've known who do needlework are!

Jazz said...

Well, I wanted to take woodshop instead of home-ec, and this was in 1977, and I was also told flat out "no." I already knew how to cook and sew, and hardly needed to, as you said, learn how to make cinnamon toast for ten weeks!

My children's school (middle school, at least) has all the kids, regardless of gender, taking both cooking/sewing and shop classes. My son wasn't too crazy about the sewing part, but he did rather enjoy eating the cinnamon toast!

I'm sure knitting is nowhere near as much fun as video gaming (in my son's opinion), however, I put no restrictions on knitting time, and I do restrict video gaming pretty heavily (like NONE on a school day).

Tamara said...

It is very cool that your son could help you out. But, how the heck did he know the correct way to hold the stuff? Was it an intuitive hit?

I just thought that was a wonderful story!

Jazz said...

He's really good with puzzles and patterns, just seems to have an intuitive grasp of that sort of thing. Very good at math, very good at logic problems...I'm so jealous. I mean, I did a ton of math in college and grad school, and it was always a struggle. He just looks at math problems and seems to know how to do them. Must be rough, eh?

susan said...

I still want to learn how to knit. A sock sounds ok, and if it doesn't work out, you can always turn it into a Christmas stocking!

Jazz said...

Actually...it is turning out okay (not as hard as I thought, although handling five needles at a time was a bit tricky at first, and my sock book screwed up their pictures somewhere, so I had to figure some stuff out on my own), it is green, and I only have enough wool for one, so my daughter has asked if she can have it for a xmas stocking for her beloved stuffed frog! I have said yes, but am noting that she is turning into a bit of a wool pig...

Aqua said...

Ha, ha...sorry for your stress, but what a great story. Ithink you should make a pair of hai green socks for your son, just to say thanks for the help. You think he's wear them;>)

Radagast said...

Oh, never, never try to outthink a child! If you're actually prepared to engage with them as an equal in an argument (ie, the object being agreement, not defeat for one or the other of you), they'll beat you into a cocked hat, every time. That's what I find with my two, anyway.


Jazz said...

This child, in particular.
The nickname Hell's Barrister is hardly accidental. The child has been pulling that lawyer stuff on me since he was about two, when he brought me a tube of diaper rash ointment from the changing table and told me rather proudly that he had not touched the "goop", which he had been explicitly told not to touch. He had, however, touched everything else, including dumping an entire container of baby powder all over everything. He's an expert at finding loopholes, and he remembers everything.

*sigh* He's going to make a great litigator someday!

Jazz said...

My son, on principle, would never wear anything I made him unless it was supremely cool...and mothers, by definition, are incapable of making anything supremely cool, let alone having a clue what that even means!

However, I am not letting this stop me making a scarf for him for Christmas!