Patience in the Process – A Journey in Knitting, and Socks

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My knitting journey began roughly three years ago and enlisted the help of a few friends.  Two of them gifted me, for Christmas, pretty much everything I would need to begin.  And through their help, and a little bit of you-tubing, I ended up completing my first project.  A scarf.  I was a huge fan of the larger needles at that time as I felt it was easier to see the stitches and could easily work each row without making mistakes.  I spent about a year making scarves; experimenting with various types of yarn and eventually smaller needles as I became more confident in my knit/purl abilities, discovering which ones felt most comfortable and which I preferred to work with over others.  To this day I admit I’m a total yarn snob and will always choose a good natural, wool yarn over any of the cheaper man-made materials.

After that first year I was ready for a change and with the help of my dear and talented friend Amber, I moved on to circular needles, kitting the first of what would be a year full of hats.  I became a bit obsessed with circular knitting and each hat seemed to bind off quicker than the last.  I mostly stuck with the easy to follow beanie patterns and spent many cold, winter evenings planted on my couch, mindlessly stitching hat after hat as I watched a ridiculous amount of shows on Netflix.  Circular knitting and hats in general were so easy, and I felt a great sense of accomplishment as my craft continued well past beginner level.  It was quite rewarding, especially considering how intimidated I had initially been to work with circulars.

Eventually I felt the need, again, for a challenge.  I grew tired of hats and picked up set of double-pointed needles to produce my first pair of fingerless gloves.  Double-pointed knitting required a little more attention but with an easy pattern I could still continue knitting without having to follow the pattern too closely.  Does anyone see a pattern yet? (yes, pun totally intended). I clearly realized that I avoided the more challenging projects.  I wanted to do actual gloves.  The kind with the fingers.  Or even those that are fingerless but have the mitten part that cover your fingers when it’s really cold.  Those would have been perfect for photography sessions in the middle of January.  And I wanted to do socks, and sweaters. But as usual, I stuck with easy.  I continued to kick out a couple more hats and then would take a break for the summer and work on other warm weather endeavors.

When it got cool again, I decided to try a cowl.  Looking back, it may have been a different project than I had done, but cowls seem to be easier than hats, and even scarves.  Unless it’s a lace pattern or any other intricate stitching, it’s a total mindless event.  You knit and purl, over and over, row after row, until it’s time to bind off, and then you’re done.  You can do it while talking on the phone, you can do it while waiting your turn at the dentists office, or in your car while waiting for a friend for a lunch date.  Just like a hat or a scarf, you can take them anywhere and you can stop in the middle of a row and pretty much know where you will start when you pick it back up.  After a couple cowls it became even more clear how much I was avoiding any project that required any kind of serious time or attention commitment from me.

So, fast forward to last week.  I found myself without a project at Craft Night.  I looked through some magazines, inspired by a few options, but still unable to commit.  I felt myself continuing to look for something new, different, but still easy.  The same dear friend I mentioned earlier said “I think you’re ready for socks! I have the perfect pattern!”  The hesitation swelled.  I wanted to just grab a skein of my favorite Manos del Uruguay and throw out another easy cowl.  But I knew the reason I was having such a hard time finding a project to start was due to boredom.  I NEEDED the challenge.  So as she handed me the pattern and said, again, “you are totally ready for socks”, I grabbed some sock yarn and began.

In the short week that I have been working on the first sock, I’ve learned some valuable lessons.  I’ve looked back at my knitting journey and can see what it has given me thus far.  It’s therapeutic.  With easy patterns, the repetitive stitching, watching the progress, seeing the end result, it’s all very soothing and healing.  Being able to work with my hands and create something beautiful that people appreciate and wear and love is absolutely fulfilling.  I’ve really come to love the “Makers Life” that I’ve been living.  And it’s especially rewarding when my own children want to join in and can crank their own projects out.  Even moreso because they are boys and have no hesitation about what society seems to condition as a girls-only craft.

But the socks, they are teaching me so much more.  It’s a challenge and a process. The patterns require focus, especially when you get to the heel.  Using double pointed needles requires a little more coordination and therefore more patience.  When I got past the initial ribbing at the top of the sock, I felt myself ready to plow through the next six or so inches to the heel.  But I couldn’t.  It isn’t like circular needles where you just keep going and going, even if you are knitting in the round.  You have to be patient.  You have to watch as you go to ensure your stitches aren’t too loose between needles.  You have to pay attention.

As I finished the tube part and came to the heel, a part of me wanted to wait until I could visit Amber to get me started on that part, so that I would have help and wouldn’t have to screw up and go back and fix something.  But I wanted to do it, and I wanted to do it myself.  So I took a deep breath, read through the next steps a couple times and began.  I’ve now made it past the heel to shaping the gusset.  And while I discovered that I dropped a stitch a few rows back, I still am pretty damn proud of myself for accomplishing this on my own.  The stitch can easily be picked up and I have pushed through the fear of not only patterns, but of committing.

Life is all about the process.  And for me, knitting has never been about the finished hat, the dozens of scarves on the shelf or the cowls crowding my etsy shop.  It’s about the process of doing, of seeing and of becoming.  It’s what you learn about yourself in each of those new stitches.  It’s those epiphanies and metaphors that pop out in each new row.  I’ve gained wisdom in this first little sock, and am looking more forward to what I learn in the next one than I am in actually wearing them.

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