There has not been a complete cessation of sock knitting. These little numbers came about because a friend who had attempted knitting her first sock had declared that she was not able to finish. Her arthritis just would not allow her to do it. She gave me the wool and the needles. I decided I’d knit her some socks from what she had chosen (a Patons ombre sock yarn).
As regular readers will realise, I’m not much for matching and these don’t quite match–but not too shabby by my standards! They kept me company through some epic online conferences run through Zoom, in particular.
There is just a little left for mending when the time comes. I’ve already had reports of them going camping and hiking and hopefully they will be treasured and worn a lot.
The latest tuffsocks are done. I am spending hours on Zoom at present and it’s great knitting time. I’ve knit these for India Flint, and I had to giggle when I was knitting these while watching one of her online classes, some weeks back. She has a new class all about string making, one of my pleasures in life (and things to do with string). For those who can afford an online class–India is one of the enormous number of folk losing their work at this time and I am sure she would appreciate your support. If you read this blog there is an excellent chance you would love her classes. For those also facing loss of income, or just not able to afford it–there are some lovely free items at the link above too, including a grounding meditation you might enjoy if it’s not too calm at your place right now.
Here they are, finished.
Kangaroo Island “black” merino lamb, dyed with eucalyptus scoparia. And the by-now familiar calf shaping move for inside-boot wear.
The reinforced heel. Silk and cotton blend thread for reinforcement.
Feet knit with Ryeland from Victoria, dyed with walnut hulls. Why did I not reinforce the toe? Mysteries in sock knitting (in other words–I have no idea what I was thinking)! There were a LOT of walnuts from friends who have moved to a house with a huge, beautiful tree. This is the result of my dyeing effort.
Here’s hoping they will warm and cheer India in the winter that is coming under such complicated circumstances.
Are you ready to think about something else? I recommend the EarthHand Gleaners’ Society. They have an entire YouTube channel of awesomeness and storytelling from Canada. The most recent post is Sharon Kallis pitching their central question: ‘how can we be makers without first being consumers?’ and beginning a project of engaging with people who can’t leave home, around what they can make with things that are already in their homes and gardens. It’s quite delightful! She is asking for people to be in touch and tell her what they have to work with so she can help people problem solve what they might like to make. The rest of the channel is full of beautifully produced little films. This one is Sharon Kallis using what she has in her own home and creating her own video, so it has a lovely DIY vibe that is quite different. Maybe you’d like to participate? Her book is just so wonderful, I think this will be fun and include small people and parents beautifully.
Sometimes it seems there is some kind of barrier to commencing a project. I got myself over a hump of not knitting slippers while quite a few people wished I would recently–and I did it by making all the decisions on one day, and starting the next. I gathered wool leftovers in about the right quantities, bagged them up, located needles and pattern, found stitch marker and darning needle… and while I was there, made 4 kits, each in its own bag. This decisively tipped the balance away from other activities and toward slipper knitting in the evening, and slippers are still piling up as a result.
Yesterday my covid 19-best informed and most rigorous friend essentially made the case for my shutting the gate and not going out at all from here on for some time. This is a contribution we can make, she said. We do not need to go out, and we can make sure we are not cases clogging up very much needed health care resources, and nor are we vectors for the virus to spread. Protecting the health care system (and need I say, health care workers, some of whom I am glad to have as friends) is a crucial goal at this time. And I won’t share all else that she said, bracing as it was.
That took some processing, but made complete sense, which is more than can be said for some of our government’s actions. Yesterday was a day on which 1000 people died in Italy alone, in a single day. Also the day I first heard that this virus has reached the Gaza strip. And on which news of lockdown in India reached me. Others face much larger challenges than I do. So I’m sitting with that decision, that has already been made by, or enforced on, so many others already. And I finished a sock.
And I thought, maybe I should make sock kits as well as slipper kits–because I do not own even one single ball of sock yarn anymore, and hours of spinning will be required to create one. I’m sure it will happen. But for now–sock kits that will mean I have simple knitting for all those Zoom meetings and calls. Knitting for long phone calls, maybe, sometimes. And for whatever other situation calls for sock knitting as a reassuring, soothing, fidget-managing, pleasurable activity.
Tough realities lie ahead. And if having a sock ready to go helps me manage them better–that would be a good thing. Anything that helps with rising above, is to be welcomed at a time of global crisis.
I feel sure there are many such stories out there. If you wish to share yours, please do!
For those interested in using up scraps, I have found the series #yearofthescrap at The Craft Sessions blog enchanting. I can only aspire to creating such beautifully designed gloriousness from scraps. I can’t bring myself to care enough to thoughtfully design, rip and design again. And regular readers know, I’m more likely to just charge in and make stuff. For me that works out! But for those who feel differently, or perhaps aspire to better designed scrap projects, or simply seek inspiration for their stash busting hopes–please do wander over.
And–I am thinking it might be good to share resources for when you want to think about something else. When you can’t turn the radio on and hear more about the pandemic. When you can hear your own anxiety about climate change keening alongside the anxiety about the virus. And so forth. Last night I watched Inhabit. It is now available for free–though of course, donate if you are able. It is an exquisitely beautiful film offering a permaculture perspective on preparing for the future. It showcases particular North American practitioners and projects, and it is rather wonderful viewing.
Planning for a six week trip, you can bet I packed knitting, socks especially! This is the story of one pair. In the first picture, a miracle has occurred: we have one night in Montpellier, France, and instead of staying downtown we stayed a long way from town (the reasons are complex but the booking has been made in advance from Australia), right near the stadium where the FIFA women’s soccer world cup is under way and our one night is the Australia v Brazil game!! My beloved is a former soccer player, so we had to go. The French couple beside us were charming. Eventually as she high fived my beloved because Australia scored, he turned to me, and said: “so she’s the soccer loving one and you’re the one who knits?” and laughed heartily when I said “You have worked it out–but how?? I was trying to keep this a secret!”
In the picture below, I’m on the train from Montpellier, France to Milan, Italy, en route to Rome. It was a big day, livened up by being mistaken for a man in the women’s toilets in two countries, three languages, three cities. Who can say exactly why this happens–but somehow we got to Rome. These socks began as a bag of somewhat orange leftover sock yarn, left over after pairs I’ve knit over the last 10 or 15 years. Apologies for the refusal of style involved here!
The second image was taken in Rome. I’d been to the Museum of the Liberation [of Rome from occupation by Nazi Germany]. It now takes up a building that was the headquarters of the SS during the occupation. A place where leaders of the resistance were imprisoned, tortured, killed or sent away to be killed. It was both educational and harrowing. I hope that under circumstances of fascism I would be part of the resistance, and I am interested in educating myself about how resistance can be undertaken, how it succeeds, how it is responded to. I wept. As I write, I am watching a documentary about the Myall Creek massacre (of First Nations Australians by white people]. Just to be clear, resistance is not just something that only happened or happens in other countries.
So after the Museo della liberazione, I found a bakery that had a buffet lunch option. I studied Italian for four years in High School in the 1970s and 1980 (! how have I become this much older?) and all I have left, even after a tune up with an online language app, is some words and some transactional communication. I decided to brave it, and through a combination of pointing, asking as nicely as I could, expressing gratitude as best I could, and the generosity of the gentleman on the other side of the counter, I ended up with this sensational plate for a very reasonable price, including a drink and fresh bread. It was the best meal I had in Rome.
These socks have gone to a friend who has told me many times she doesn’t care about colour, just use up the odds and ends! I received her mother’s knitting stash after her Mum died and I could see what a thrifty woman she was. It is not the kind of stash people on Ravelry talk about. It was only stub ends, not even one entire ball. As you can see, these socks are in no way a regular pair. On the other hand, they sure will keep my friend’s feet warm when she is out feeding rescue donkeys these chilly mornings in her gumboots. I understand she received them with chuckling I can hear in my mind! Perfect.
Dear friends, it has been a long while! I’ve been travelling and I have a lot to write about. I’ve had a big change in my paid work too, and it will mean I have more mental space and physical time for making and blogging, I hope. In the meantime, here is an update on the state of the tuffsock spinning project.
This post is part of the Tuff Socks Naturally project, an open, collaborative project exploring more sustainable alternatives to superwash and nylon in sock yarn. You can join in on the discussion on this blog or on the blog of the fabulous Rebecca at Needle and Spindle or on instagram using the hashtag #tuffsocksnaturally.
A little while back, a new vendor came to my Guild meeting. She brought braids of many different breeds, including some that are not readily available in Australia and many that are endangered. Well. Buying imported wool is not a decision I am going to try to defend. But I was so curious to try Southdown–and the Suffolk was entirely different to the local Kangaroo Island Suffolk I have been spinning. And I can only say that after all these years spinning I still have periods in which I think ‘preparing fibre that has been grown with no thought at all for a handspinner is not worth the effort!’ and others when I think: ‘local fleece is the only fleece I should ever spin!’ If you want consistency, my friends, go and read another blog, because you’re not going to find it here! I took these two braids home.
The Suffolk and silk blend spun up like a dream and I would not have guessed this was the same breed as the local Suffolk. Variability within breeds is only to be expected, but clearly the local sheep has been bred for meat, with its fleece being made into carpet if anything. Perhaps the UK Suffolk is still being bred for fleece quality. There may well be such Suffolks in Australia, if I knew where to find them. On the other hand, machine processing and the addition of silk have made the UK Suffolk less springy and bouncy than the local breed, which may mean it will be less durable at the same time as it is unequivocally finer and longer in staple.
The Southdown was also lovely to spin. So now I have two new experiment yarns in the tuffsock department, ready to knit. or perhaps to dye…