Wednesday, August 31, 2011

How to Knit a Pair of Socks

Assume you know everything you need to know. Don’t bother getting a pattern. Don’t think about the correlation between needle size and yarn ply.  Don’t ask anyone for advice. Especially don’t ask your mother, who is an expert knitter.

Go to a discount store and buy a skein of the cheapest yarn you can find. Don’t even know if you’ve chosen wool or some sort of acrylic. Don’t think about the meaning of the word “blend.” 

Assume one skein will yield one pair of socks. Choose the color lime green. Base your choice on the fact that you don’t especially like the color lime green. Consider the reality that all your favorite socks, in your most beloved colors, mysteriously vanish in the laundry. Resolve that these lime green socks will be with you for the rest of your life.

Cast on. 

Immediately realize you don’t know what those two words mean. You understand them individually: cast — the people in a play; on — on the bus, on time, on your mark. You could go on. 

Sit and ponder what you need to do in order to “cast on” in a manner appropriate for knitting. Remember all the times you’ve heard people use that phrase. Think of your mother. Stop thinking of your mother. Think, instead, about your friend Julie Pinkus. 

Picture her in the dorm room you shared 43 years ago. See her surrounded by balls of yarn. See her hands manipulating knitting needles. Hear the click click click of the needles. Force your mind to see exactly what it was she was doing with her hands and the yarn and the needles. 

Realize you cannot force your mind to do anything. 

Feel despair. Really feel it. Wallow in despair and discouragement, and also in disgust. Wallow a little bit more. Just a little bit. Remind yourself not to overdo it; you don’t want to step on the down escalator and wake up in the pit of depression. Not because of knitting. Not because of the lime green wool (or non-wool, as the case may be) that is sitting in your lap. Not because of the two knitting needles that, with a bit of creativity, you could easily put to some good use. 
Think about the many things you could do with these needles. While you are thinking, transform the skein of yarn into a ball and throw it on the floor. Call to your cat. Observe her delight as she pounces on the yarn and rolls it from one end of the room to the next.
Take the knitting needles and plunge them into the soil of that huge plant you don’t remember the name of — that plant in your living room that’s been listing to the left for six months. Prop the leaning stems against the knitting needles. 
Go to the kitchen and get a piece of string from the junk drawer. Tie the plant stems and the knitting needles together. Realize this would have been a good use for some of the lime green yarn, but tell yourself it’s too late now, the yarn is covered with cat spit and you’d rather not handle it too closely. 
Think about what a good day it’s been. Your cat is happy, your plant is happy, your mother is happy — because she doesn't know what you've been up to. (If she did know, she'd wonder where she went wrong with you.) 

This story is dedicated to my friend Susan Koon, sock knitter extraordinaire. Today is her birthday.