I do knitting and crochet repair and finishing work for our local yarn shop. I don’t particularly enjoy it (I would rather be knitting), but there are rewards, and it helps pay the bills. I’ve been doing repair work for at least fifteen years now, and am getting a little better at it. My favorite kind of job is the one where Grandma began a sweater for dear daughter, and then passed away before it was completed. If I can figure out how to finish the job well, the sweater becomes a precious memento of the dear departed. Another job I really like is when a knitter begins a project, puts it down for a while, then gets confused or lost, and just needs to be straightened out and relocated in the pattern. Some people just love to knit and crochet but hate sewing, and are happy to pay me to sew the pieces together. My least favorite kind of job is when the expensive machine knit cashmere sweater gets pulled out of the closet, and is found to be full of moth holes. The moth larvae actually eat away the fiber, so there is often no remedy but to lasso the hole with matching sewing thread and pull it shut like a purse string. It works, but it’s hard on the eyes, and often leaves a little pucker in the fabric if the hole is
bigger than a pencil eraser.
This week I was given a well-loved baby blanket to repair. It had a hole in it as big as my hand. Oftentimes a hole like this is the result of a bad pull or snag that causes just one strand of yarn to break, and then all the surrounding stitches unravel. This repair was just a matter of snagging the stitches and knitting them back up again, then grafting the edges together. The final repaired area was a little irregular- a few spots were too tight, a few too loose- but it was ready to go back into service as a useful and well-loved blanket once more.
As I worked on the blanket I couldn’t help but remember a few times when there was a snag, a sharp pull, a broken heart, and an unraveling of the fabric of my life. The love of my life who broke off with me. The eagerly anticipated babies who didn’t live long enough to be born. Thanks to the healing powers of God’s love, with plenty of support from family, friends, and church, and lots of time, my heart is raveled back up. It will never be quite the same as before, perhaps always a little more sensitive or scarred in places, but it works. I am whole again.
Friday, February 19, 2010
We are having an unusually cold and wet winter here in the Sunny South. Cold enough to have my family begging for hand knit wool socks. A few years back I made my husband a lovely pair of very long tweedy green wool socks out of commercial yarn of uncertain origin. Being a “person of color”, I found them incredibly boring to knit. My husband is very tall and slender, so I started the socks at the toe and dutifully worked up THE WHOLE BORING BALL of yarn (which is my excuse for no longer having the label). Don’t even ask about his sweaters! I’ve knit him a bunch, and he loves them, but he has an extra-long torso, very wide shoulders, a tiny waist, and gorilla arms. Thus his sweaters are triangular in shape, just like mine. Except mine are triangular with the wide dimension at the waist! But I digress…
These beautiful long tweedy green wool socks (of which only one and a half remains in the photo above) were gratefully received, but remained politely unworn in my husband’s sock drawer for about five years. I wasn’t too surprised that they stayed there for maybe a winter, or even two. This is the man who appreciates my knitting so much that he wears his hand knit slippers with socks so he won’t get them dirty! His sweaters typically stay “on display” in the closet for a year or two, and then only get pulled out for special occasions or those extra-cold winter days, and then only to church! But five years? And with all these extra-cold days? I finally had to ask him! He dutifully pulled out the socks, and struggled to put them on. And struggled, and struggled. After about ten minutes of wrestling, he proudly displayed one sock-clad foot! GAH!!!! Bless his heart, he was just too polite to tell me that the socks were way too narrow, and the sewn bindoff of the cuff would barely fit over his long heel bones!
I’ve learned a lot about making socks to fit in the past five years. Suffer no more, sweet husband! After five years, I could face these socks again. Begone, long skinny socks! I cut off the top of the cuff, began to unravel, and made shorter fatter traditional cuff-down socks out of the beautiful boring green tweedy yarn. Begone, cold feet!
This is the time of year when I get green-deprived anyway. Even for Charleston, things are especially grey, brown, and dreary this time of year. I lived in the northern Midwest for a few years, and green-deprivation was far worse there. But in late winter I love working with green yarns, not to mention making (brilliant, vibrant) green in the dye vat. Bright green is a rather tricky color to stick to both wool and cotton, and thus a somewhat rare color in commercial yarns. I am very pleased to provide it.
Click HERE for my free pattern for toe up socks.
Click HERE for my free pattern for cuff down socks.
Click HERE to purchase some lively spring green hand dyed crochet thread. You won't find this color at WalMart!!
HERE is some lovely Shamrock green cotton sock yarn.
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Footnote: I am pretty sure we got my husband's sock off before gangrene set in.
Wednesday, February 17, 2010
I love socks. Hand knit socks. I was born with extra-wide feet. Women’s fashion shoes, even the extra wide ones, never fit me. Mail order shoes never fit me. When I had to shop for shoes, I learned to go straight to the boys’ shelves. About ten years back I tried out my first Birkenstocks, and it was love at first wear. Here in Charleston SC, with our mild winters, I could wear Birkies year round, as long as I wore them with wool socks in the winter and it wasn’t raining. I needed little sweaters for my feet in the winter. It wasn’t long before I also made the serendipitous discovery that when I wore wool socks for hiking, even in the summer, my feet didn’t blister!
I was more than happy to knit my own socks. The more colorful, flashy, and funky the socks, the better. I loved the hand dyed sock yarns, especially the way the colors lined up into puddles when I knit. But the effect was so unpredictable— sometimes the colors would stack beautifully in one sock, and the second sock knitted up to just boring old stripes.
There had to be a way to dye the yarn so that the colors would puddle up, and once I found it, there was no stopping! Socks flew off my needles! After I had given away all I could and filled up several personal sock drawers, I started selling them on ebay (seller name "shbknits"), and did very well for a while. Once a single person bought up my entire inventory of socks, and then gave them all away to teenage cancer patients!
Knitting socks is great, and I still love it, but dyeing the yarn was fun too. My first dyeing project used Koolaid, and turned out somewhere between hideous and terrible! As my techniques improved I learned to like the clear, transparent shades of Koolaid (not to mention the fruity odors!). I turned to Wilton icing dyes to get deeper, more vibrant colors. Eventually I moved on to professional dyes. This is because one year I made a beautiful pair of red and green Koolaid Christmas socks for myself, only to have them turn pink and blue after a washing! The commercial dyes are pretty easy to use, and they don’t fade or wash out.
As an experiment I offered up for sale some of my hand dyed sock yarns on ebay. Once I discovered that the yarn sold for as much or even more than the socks, there was no turning back! As the ebay sales mushroomed over the next two years I
The pattern for colorwave socks is available HERE
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