When did knitting socks become a challenge?

Anyone who knows me knows that I knit a lot of socks. Often I will mix up techniques just to keep things fresh and interesting. Very few people know that my kryptonite is often the dreaded Short Row Heel.

I don’t know why I have trouble with Short Rows. I find them awfully fussy, and I often find that for some reason my stitches tend to warp and stretch. One designer will suggest knitting your wraps with your stitches in one manner, and others will suggest forgetting about the wraps altogether. I find that if I knit too tight, I get holes. If I knit too loosely, I get holes and gaps. If I try to find just the right tension, I’m apparently knitting things together in the wrong manner. It’s frustrating enough that on the Watching You socks that I just finished, I knit the same heel five times.

Yes, you read me right. Five times.

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By the time I finally managed to get that heel looking relatively nice (the holes and gaps weren’t too noticeable or gappy or sloppy), I had practically checked out of the pattern. It was starting to drive me crazy, and when one is just starting her Yule knitting for the year, crazy in September is not where you want to be. Because I didn’t want to lose the heel mojo, I quickly cast on for the second sock. That was sometime in the morning last Saturday. We took a bike ride that evening, and I finished the sock the next evening around 7pm. I think that’s the fastest I’ve ever knit a fine-gauge 64-stitch sock.

My bugaboos with this pattern?
– the pattern was based off a knit-two, purl-two rib. I just slogged through a pair of socks in this rib, and at 72-sts around for those socks, I was kinda ribbed out (if you know what I mean). K2P2 ribbing was just not something that I was excited to devote another week or two to doing.
– I previously described the lace pattern as a “free form Jazz Odyssey“. This was somewhat accurate, as the directions were essentially to just plunk the eyelets down anywhere you pleased within the ribbing, possibly about 10 to 20 rows apart.  While I will admit that this has an interesting effect, it also felt like I was stopping and starting with the “damned ribbing”, so it was a bit like a speed bump along the way. Of course, I started looking forward to the lace bits as a change from the “damned ribbing”, so perhaps the good outweighs the bad.
– the heel. How many ways can I mutter, swear and curse at a heel technique? Don’t get me started. The Husbeast was honestly afraid I would devolve into a rabid beast, foaming at the mouth at the thought of short row heels. Seriously, he had to stop me from launching into a rant about short row heels to one of our closest non-knitting friends who politely asked if I enjoyed the sock I was knitting. The fact that I was ripping the heel out for the second or third time might have had something to do with it.
– I knit the second sock so fast that I irritated my tensioning finger. Mild rope burn from soft yarn. You’d think it couldn’t happen, but you’d be wrong.

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Don’t get me wrong, despite all this, I don’t think it’s a bad pattern. If I wasn’t trying to adhere to the spirit of the Scarefest, I probably would have modified the shit out of the pattern to suit my own self-centered whims, and as a result probably wouldn’t be seeing the awesome way that the yarn is actually working with the pattern! I love the way the colourway turned out on these socks. The ribbing, as much as I might complain about it, actually makes the yarn look better. Also, the designer built a gusset into the heel. I rarely, if ever, see a gusseted short-row heel, so this is a little bit of awesome.

I don’t know if this will go into the pool for Christmas socks. They may wind up going in my own sock drawer. I’m really not sure anyone in the family would want a pair of socks that has seen more foul language than a sailor on shore leave or an IKEA installation (thanks, Dad! And here you thought that expanding my vocabulary in that direction was a bad idea! I call it catharsis…).

And no, Mum. These socks are too small for you. If you want more yellow socks, you’ll have to wait 😉

Funnily enough, while I did pick up Robin’s sweater to knit after completing these, it wasn’t deliberately as a palate-cleanser. It seems to have worked just as well, though. There’s a new Scarefest sock just released today, and I’m actually looking forward to knitting it.  Hooray, sweater!