Right now I am finding a lot of peace in knitting socks. And this time it’s not my usual go-to vanilla socks, which permanently live on the sofa ready for me to pick up and knit in front of the television, only putting them down because I don’t have the concentration to turn the heel. Instead, I have rediscovered the joy of complexity and pattern in knitting.
I spent a good few hours browsing through Laine’s 52 Weeks of Socks, matching the patterns to the mountain of sock yarn I have in my stash, but I already knew I was going to start with Amanda Jones’s ‘Branches’ pattern – not only is she an incredible designer, she is also my friend, so it was always going to be.
The first challenge was the Old Norwegian Cast-On. Without Amanda by my side to show me how to do this technique, I turned to YouTube. Frustratedly, I kept pausing and rewinding the video. I discovered the problem wasn’t necessarily the tutorial, but my current inability to focus on anything screen-based. With that, I closed the laptop and dug out Leslie Ann Bestor’s rather excellent Cast On, Bind Off book instead, and I was able to cast on straightaway. The dance between needle and yarn with this cast-on is so wholly mesmerising that I am annoyed I didn’t make time for it before.
Amanda’s sock pattern uses three charts: the clever Coin Stitch; the straightforward Lantern with cable twist detail; and the beautiful Branches. The Coin Stitches run through the sock in steady columns to support the Lantern and Branches repeats. Knitting the leg alone took the same amount of time it would normally take to make one vanilla sock and cast on the other. There is no option with this pattern – you have to slow it down. You have to write down the rows and tick them off as you knit them. It was incredibly satisfying.
Watching the pattern emerge was magical. In meditation those who practise it talk about ‘beginner’s mind’, that is when you set aside your preconceptions and knowledge and just remain open and eager within the experience. Knitting these socks, I was reminded of being a child and the first time I was shown how to knit – red yarn on short pale-blue needles – and the fascination I felt when the loops neatly formed as I tentatively pulled them across from one needle to the other. And these past few days, just lifting the loops over to form the Coin Stitches or even knitting into yarn-overs to see the lace bloom beneath, I was transported back to that first time.
Knitting has always been my stress relief – stress caused by a hectic lifestyle and non-stop deadlines – but, in this rare circumstance of having too much time, I can temporarily step back into the mindset of my childhood, where the days are seemingly endless and offer all the time I need to learn and create.