Thursday, August 09, 2007

First Sock Syndrome?

Most knitters have heard of Second Sock Syndrome - where you make a first sock, and then when it comes to making the second, you're bored or frustrated or whatever so you can't stand the thought of making it. Startitis is another common ailment, where you're so excited about starting things you don't get around to getting past the start of several or many projects. I've been known to have a mild case of startitis now and again, but I've never really had much of an issue with SSS.

Well, I don't have either of those, but I keep re-knitting first socks over and over. The Harlot would say, why worry, it's all knitting, and with my limited stash, knitting a first sock 3 or 4 times with the same yarn keeps me occupied for weeks without using up precious yarn. I'm a perfectionist, though, and frogging and reknitting so many times is.. distressing.

It started with my greenurple Lorna's Laces socks I finally finished a few months ago. It was a new yarn to me, and with two coordinating but mismatched skeins I had to experiment to find not only the gauge I liked with it, but also a pattern that would use the colorways to best effect. It took several tries! I started with a pattern from Knitting Vintage Socks, but decided it wasn't working so well for me, so I frogged that and tried again with the pattern I finally made them in... and because of the tight gauge, it took me a while to finish them (my poor damaged hands!).

Then I got some KnitPicks Gloss that I started making Nancy Bush's Chalet Socks with.. and got about halfway down the first before deciding the pattern was too much work for me, and I dropped that sock and started over with the yarn on a Waving Lace variation. Due to gauge issues, I frogged those about 3 times... so I really started that pair 4 times! I have yet to frog the started Chalet Sock, but I finally finished the Waving Lace a couple of weeks ago - 3 months! For a pair of socks! Ridiculous! Exclamation points!!!

At the same time I got the Gloss, I also bought some Memories in a couple of colorways, one for Josh, one for me. I decided to make Jaywalkers out of Josh's.. and ran into several issues with the first version. I started it on #1s (my standard needle for socks, as I don't like the fabric anything bigger makes in most fingering weight yarn). First off, I didn't like the feel of the yarn through my fingers. It felt almost plasticky, especially compressing it down to work on the #1s. Then I noticed that the yarn itself - made of several plies, not the two-ply I'm most used to after several years of working as much with Koigu as possible - was catching on one of the needles. What was happening was that the imprint on one of my beloved Brittany Birch shorts had cut into the wood just enough to barely catch on the yarn. Well... I could live with this. AND THEN... about halfway down the foot - the standard place I try socks on for length - I decided it was time for a fitting. This was the worst news yet! The fabric of this sock is almost completely stockinette, and on the bias, at that, which makes it far less giving that the lace and ribs I was used to. It was too tight! (Smart readers will have seen this coming.) I nearly gave up on the socks then and there, but my yarn budget is so slender that I really can't afford to not use any. So... I frogged and reknit on size 2 needles. Muuuuuch better. The yarn, allowed to be fluffier (the fabric on the #1s was too tight for the yarn), no longer feels plasticky, the colorway stripes better, and the socks fit! I'm still not in love with the pattern, and at this writing have only forced myself just past the heel on sock #2. I have them designated as TV knitting - when I'm curled up on the couch watching TV, those are what I'm supposed to be knitting, nothing else right now. I don't follow that all the time, but I do enough that the socks should be done by the time cold weather hits (well, cold weather as in fall/winter with the rain and the frost and the occasional snow, not merely a Pacific Northwest summer with fog and threatened rain).

This brings me to my current active socks (ok, the Jaywalkers are active, but they're not what I'm excited about, so they don't count. ;-P). I purchased a skein of Cherry Tree Hill - closest I can get to Koigu from my nearest LYS (and don't get me started on that place!) a few months ago, and it landed in stash until I a) figured out what to do with it and b) cleared some projects from my plate. I almost succeeded in that, but then the June Knitty came out and I fell in love with the Sweet Pea socks. Setting the Waving Lace and the Jaywalkers and the other projects I have going aside (non of which I've finished yet, btw, including the Oxfam sweater), I immediately cast on and dashed through to my standard try-on point, where I discovered that yes, 4 stitches less at that gauge really does make a difference. *sigh* RIP-IT! RIP-IT! Then I finished my Waving Lace... and Becky posted her Monkeys. I'd been considering the pattern for a while, and decided the time was right. So I cast on while we were driving my brother to the airport... worked eagerly all that week... and right about the time we were beginning to talk money at the car dealership (oh yeah, we had to buy a new-to-us car last week. Sux0riffic.), I had the foot finished up to the toe. Now, talking money at the car dealership is not a good time to pull your sweaty stinky foot out of your Birkenstock to try on your sock, so I had to wait until I got home to discover that - you guessed it - it was too tight! Disdaining the directions as written (I did mention my dislike for the fabric from #2s?), I had decided in my infinite wisdom that the pattern is lacy enough that I would be just fine with my usual #1s. Boy was I wrong! There is far too much plain knitting (and not enough ribbing) in the pattern for it to stretch over my size 11 heels when knit on my usual #1 gauge! I did manage to discover that I really liked the fit over my feet, though. RIP-IT! RIP-IT! And reknit.. with #2s on the legs and heel flap, swap to #1s on the foot, and I started sock #2 last night! This pattern I am in love with.. although I'm beginning to think that the Monkey referred to in the name is not the hairy primate, but rather the vicious Monkey Puzzle tree the Victorians so loved. Those things is dangerous!

To make this long rambling story short, I've been learning a lot about gauge, and getting a lot of knitting, out of it, but not so many socks.


becky c. said...

Your blind loyalty to your #1's is cracking me up! I am the exact opposite, I try hard to make everything on 2's, and I like 3's even better. Bayerische are the only socks I ever did on 1's and they almost killed me. I do wish I had your stick-to-itness, I can only handle one trip to the frog pond before I banish the project to the UFO graveyard.

Anonymous said...

You are certainly getting your money's worth from that wool! I'm terrible about gauge too, I always go down a needle size from a pattern thinking I have small enough feet...
Usually it's ok, but when it's bad... well you know how that it is!