When nothing else feels right, cast on a sock
Remembering that life is a balance between doing and being
Last weekend, I shared a cheerful picture of my holiday sweater knitting. Later that same day, I realized my new sweater-in-progress wasn’t going to fit the way I wanted and, worse, I was likely going to run out of yarn.
In years past, I would have continued knitting, rationalizing that I can dye more yarn if I run out and knitting is forgiving with fit. You see, I’m a bit more of a product than a process knitter. I really really like finishing things. I mostly knit on just one project at a time because it feels good and soothing to reach all the little milestones within a project. With a raglan sweater like the one I’m working on, I feel a surge of energy when I reach the point of separating for the sleeves, another zing when I finish the body, then there’s one sleeve, two sleeves, maybe a bit of finishing, and I have a new sweater!
Ripping back is hard for me.
Lately, though, I’ve been thinking about what makes certain sweaters the ones I reach for, time and again, and which sweaters, no matter how much I enjoy knitting them, remain mostly unworn.
I want to make more sweaters that I wear (not just ones that look pretty in my closet).
Sometimes, this means thinking hard about why a sweater works (or doesn’t) and doing uncomfortable things like ripping back.
One question I am learning to ask myself is: how does the sweater feel on my body?
I intended for my Brooklyn Raglan (links to Ravelry), the sweater I’m currently working on, to have just a bit of positive ease—between 3 and 4 inches—but I made a series of goofs and realized that the actual sweater on my needles was going to have 8 inches of ease, just like the Love Note I recently finished and which I’ve been wearing nonstop.
No problem, right? But, here’s the thing: ease and fabric interact. The yarn for my Brooklyn Raglan is a new DK weight merino/rambouillet superwash yarn that I will be adding to my base line-up in 2023. It has a scrumptious super-tight twist. The tight twist gives sharp stitch definition and it makes a firmer fabric. It’s less swooshy-stretchy and has more structure. The cloud-like fabric of my Love Note, which combines my Cashmere Blend and Mohair Lace yarns, feels different on my body than this firmer fabric is going to feel.
The sweater I wanted was one that would skim my bust, look a bit boxy around my mid-section, have a nice deep yoke (so nothing would crowd my armpits) and be a nice slouchy, sweatshirt style. The sweater I was knitting, though, was giving me the worst combination of oversized and stiff.
I didn’t want to rip back. I really didn’t. I didn’t want to “lose” a whole week’s worth of knitting, and I didn’t want my suspicions about how this sweater was going to feel to be true. But, the more I knit, the more I realized that, yes, this project was going sideways.
I did what I needed to do, but it hurt my heart a little.
I then followed my own best piece of knitterly advice:
When knitting or life goes awry, cast on a sock (or hat, or shawl, or the piece of knitting that you find most soothing).
For me, there is something about knitting at a sock gauge. It soothes me to see the tidy and orderly rows and columns of stitches as they begin to line up. When you can’t control much about the world out there, being able to see tiny stitches begin to line up, one after the other, row by row, making fabric, well, it feels good.
The rhythmic movement of my hands helps turn off my brain. The part of me that is soothed by being is able to just sit, in the moment, letting my hands move in those familiar ways and feel the tactile pleasure of the yarn.
The part of me that thrives on doing is satisfied too.
For me, with socks, the small milestones mean I am always completing something: a cuff, the leg, a heel flap or turn, a gusset, a foot, and a toe. Adding a new pair of socks to my sock drawer feels both practical and also wildly luxurious. I love the way handknit socks grip my foot, never too tight and always just right. I love the way the yarn and pattern can be exactly what I want, maybe striped or maybe cabled. And I love how they contain all of my knitterly magic.
You have this type of soothing knitting in your toolbox, too. It might be socks, or it might be a shawl, or it might be a hat. If you don’t yet know what it is, I hope you will find it soon. It’s good to know and good to have, to return to, time and again.
I will return to my Brooklyn Raglan soon, but for now, I’ll share with you a picture of my knitting table at the current moment, with not one but two socks that I created this week:
Thank you so much for warm reception to last week’s Targhee Sweater yarn restock. If you ordered something, I love all of the color combinations you chose! There are some beautiful hats, mittens, and stripey sweaters about to be created.
If you haven’t yet ordered something and would like to audition this yarn base, which is one of my very favorites, there are still some beautiful colorways in the shop—and I’ve just added a few, new one-of-a-kind colorways, plus a bit more of Moonlight, my perfect creamy neutral.
FYI: I include a copy of my Blossom hat pattern with every Targhee Sweater order, so you always have something to make with your skein(s).
As we approach the winter solstice, I hope you are finding plenty of time and ways to nourish the soft animal of your body. I find myself drawing inward, wanting to rest a little more, snuggle a little more, and hibernate a little more. This year, unlike so many others, I’m giving myself permission to do just that. I hope you are, too.
I also want to say thank you for being here.
Many of you initially found me via Instagram. That space increasingly feels noisy and less like the spot for connection that it once used to be. This space, here, though, is recapturing much of that old magic for me. I never thought of myself as a community builder, but I actually think that’s what we’re doing here. You’re not just a community of people who buy my yarn (although you also buy my yarn and I am so happy you like what I make!).
We are a community of people who are sometimes quiet, sometimes loud; people who are progressive; people who love the diversity among us; and people who make slow and quiet stitches. There is joy and power in like-minded community. Thank you for being here.
PS: If you enjoy my writing, please click the heart button below. It seriously makes my day!
Thanks for reading Anne is making ….! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my creative work.
I love that socks always fit. Cast on 64 stitches on a size 1 needle and I am good to go. My body might change shape but my feet don’t.
I am more of a process knitter myself, always having at least three different projects going and shifting between them as I feel the need. When I do need a diversion project though, it is usually a shawl of some kind, often a lace pattern, and lace weight yarn, I love those kinds of textures.