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The Stalled Sock

Where are you going, my little one, little one
Where are you going my babe, my own?
Turn around and you're two,
Turn around and you're four,
Turn around and you’re a young girl going out of my door.

- Malvina Reynolds

The socks were not for me.  If they had been, once stalled, they would have been tucked into a Ziploc bag, stored away with all my other UFO’s. But these socks were a promise to a friend, and knitters keep their promises.

Usually when socks get stalled, it has to do with turning heels, and kitchenering toes. Not these socks. Knitting them this summer as my oldest daughter, Meera, a new college graduate, prepared to move to distant city, these socks got stuck in a multitude of mindless mistakes.  Each stitch I touched and retouched, twined itself to this hard, next step in motherhood when your child’s nearly adult wings open and take flight.

Plain Janes, I had knit dozens of these top-down socks. In dark teal Sock-Ease yarn, two were started, one after another, each with their own set of double pointed needles. This old sock knitters' trick of two at once, usually is a failsafe method of keeping both socks consistent, and preventing "second sock syndrome."* I cuffed one, then the other—both with a knit 1, purl 1, rib.  Confidently, I choose a simple pattern stitch; a six row repeat- four rows of 2x2 rib, then two rows knit. This gave the leg an interesting texture. It was a good beginning.

Then, two weeks before Meera left, she began moving her stuff out of her apartment.  As boxes and bundles appeared on our front porch, I skipped heel gusset increases, and forgot the essential knit rows in the pattern.  And as our the hallways crowded with her sewing machine, dressmaker’s form, books, and fabric galore, ladders–the too loose stitches at the ending of needle caused by not pulling yarn tight enough when moving from needle to needle—plagued the soles. The socks and the house were a mess. By the time her futon bed and bookcases were lugged back up to the room we will always call Meera's, the legs, heels, gussets, and soles had been knit and re-knit. My needles sensed each load she brought bringing us closer to her moving day. On the day she set off, a heel was knit twice.

Letting go is never easy for a parent or a knitter. I couldn't keep my daughter a child, shelter her forever. No matter how much I would miss her being near, I wouldn't want to. And I couldn't hold on to the socks either; stumbling about, knitting the same pair over and over. Besides, I had a promise to keep.

The day after Meera left, still too soon for me to call and hear her voice again, the socks and I, met at my knitting chair in the early morning. A careful examination revealed an inconsistent gauge. One sock was noticeably tighter, probably the one I favored that last week as Meera popped in and out of the house with boxes and her move imminent. What’s more there was sloppiness to the stitch definition. I gave this thought. The needles I used were 0s--tooth pick-like slivers which I found a bit to slight for my hands. The ball band’s sock pattern’s gauge, the same as mine, was achieved by size 2s. Knitting a new swatch on the larger needles matched the desired gauge. Pleased that the ball band proved to such a reliable friend, I unraveled the socks for what I hoped would be the last time, and after consulting its sock pattern, and cast on the suggested 64 stitches. Working patiently, paying attention, I shifted the socks out of neutral, moved them forward and kept going. From cuff to toe.

Was the new pair perfect?  No. A few minor imperfections. Like forgetting to add the knit rows to the pattern stitch. This last time around, I did not reknit. Instead I altered the pattern, knitting rest of the sock as a rib.  Like Meera, it was time to let them go too.

*Second sock syndrome: Finishing one sock and realizing, you have to make another one. Exactly the same.

Meera's Moving Day Socks

(A variation on the "Basic Socks" pattern; click here for the original pattern for reference.)

1 ball Sock-Ease (any color)
Size 2 (2.75 mm) double-pointed needles (set of 5)
Stitch Markers
Stitch Holders
Large-Eye Blunt Needle

28 sts + 40 rows = 4 in. (10 cm) in St st (k every stitch in the round; k on RS, p on WS when knitting back and forth). BE SURE TO CHECK YOUR GAUGE. When you match the gauge in a pattern, your project will be the size specified in the pattern and the materials specified in the pattern will be sufficient. If it takes you fewer stitches and rows to make a 4 in. [10 cm] square, try using a smaller size hook or needles; if more stitches and rows, try a larger size hook or needles.

Pattern Stitch #1

Rnds 1-4: Knit 2, purl 2
Rnds 5, 6: Knit
Repeat rnds 1-6

Pattern Stitch #2
All rows: Knit 2, purl 2

SOCK (make 2)
Loosely cast on 64 sts. Divide sts evenly onto 4 double pointed needles.
Place marker and join, being careful not to twist sts. Work in K1, p1 rib for 1 in. (2.5 cm).
Work in Pattern Stitch #1 until piece measures 6 in. (15 cm) from beg.
Place last 32 sts on a holder for instep.

Heel flap (worked back and forth on 32 heel sts only)
Row 1: Sl 1, k across.
Row 2: Sl 1, p across.
Repeat Rows 1 and 2 until heel flap measures 2 1/4 in. (5.7 cm), end with a Row 2.

Turn Heel
Row 1: K 19, ssk, k 1, turn.
Row 2: Sl 1, p 7, p2tog, p 1, turn.
Row 3: Sl 1, k 8, ssk, k 1, turn.
Row 4: Sl 1, p 9, p2tog, p 1, turn.
Row 5: Sl 1, k 10, ssk, k 1, turn.
Row 6: Sl 1, p 11, p2tog, p 1, turn.
Continue in this way, working 1 more st between dec until all 32 sts have been worked, end with a WS row - 20 sts for heel.
Next Rnd: K across heel sts, with same needle, pick up and k 19 sts along heel flap, with 2nd needle work across 16 sts of instep, with 3rd needle, work across 16 sts of instep, with 4th needle pick up and k 19 sts along heel flap, k across 10 heel sts - 90 sts. Beg of rnd is at center of heel sts.

Shape Gusset
Rnd 1: Knit 29 stitches, work instep sts (the 32 stitches on 2nd & 3rd needles) in Pattern Stitch #2, knit 29 stitches.
Rnd 2: K to last 3 sts on 1st needle, k2tog, k1; k across instep sts; on 4th needle, k1, ssk, k to end of rnd.
Rep Rnds 1 and 2 until 64 sts rem.
Work even in pattern (k sts until instep; work instep sts in Pattern Stitch #2; k sts until marker) until foot measures 7 1/2 in. (19.3 cm), or 2 in. (5 cm) less than desired total length.
Shape Toe
Rnd 1: K to last 3 sts on 1st needle, k2tog, k1, on 2nd needle k1, ssk, k to last 3 sts on 3rd needle, ssk, k1, on 4th needle, k1, k2tog, k to end of rnd.
Rnd 2: Knit.
Rep Rnds 1 and 2 until 20 sts rem. Divide remaining sts onto 2 needles and graft toe together.

Weave in ends.

Authored by

Michelle Edwards is the author/illustrator of A KNITTER'S HOME COMPANION and many award-winning children's books including CHICKEN MAN and STINKY STERN FOREVER. In her spare time, Michelle enjoys talking about books in schools throughout the US and beyond. Her newest book, Room for the Baby, will be available from Random House in Fall 2012. Visit Michelle Edwards at her website or on Facebook.
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