“I just want more of her.” A wonderful piece on the late lamented food writer, Laurie Colwin.

Into the Rabbit Hole

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Dear Kay,
Heaven help me, I’m making a sock.
As you might know (seeing as how you were sitting beside me most of the time, knitting mitered squares), I’ve been on a little odyssey this spring, spending a fair amount of time in beautiful yarn shops filled with beautiful yarn. While you were focused on your project with that freaky, laserlike focus, I had nothing. A scarf, another scarf, part of a scarf. A piece of knitting with no destiny. It made me really susceptible, really vulnerable to the knitting that was going on around me.
I kept running into people who were knitting socks. Everywhere I looked, I saw socks, and sock yarns, and happy sock knitters, all of whom exuded this nutty socky vibe. Socksocksocksocksock. Those tiny needles looked so inviting, so very much my cup of tea. Cabled socks, socks with beads, big socks, little socks, every where a sock sock.
But in my years of knitting, I have always resisted knitting socks. It seemed just TOO humble a use for something you make yourself. A dishcloth? I can get behind that. But a sock, with thousands of tiny stitches? That you walk on?
Stephanie enabled the situation when she climbed into my car in Nashville, lobbed a skein of Fleece Artist merino sock yarn at me and yelled “THINKFAST!” I was like a seal going for the fish. I carried that thing around the house the way Linus drags his blanket. Once I had officially sanctioned sock yarn from Canada in my possession, I knew it was only a matter of time.
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I bought sock yarn in Philadelphia at Loop. But I didn’t buy needles. Circular or double points? I knew I had to decide, but I didn’t really know which way to go. People have strong opinions about this issue. By the time I got to Kansas City, Leslie was handing me a copy of Cat Bordhi’s slim and elegant book. And some Size 1 Addi Turbo 24″ circular needles. And pointing me toward the sock yarn department.
I could barely wait to get back to the hotel room to start a sock.
You learn things when you knit a sock. Like, why is it that people on knitting blogs are all the time taking pictures of their feet with half-finished socks on them? Why is this? Now that I am knitting a sock, I know why. It’s because of this:
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This is a sock not on somebody’s foot. It is the most deflated, uninspiring thing I’ve ever seen. OK I’ll say it: it’s flaccid. It IS.
(By the way, I just remembered where I learned about THAT word. Remember The Thorn Birds? Remember THAT book? That mini-series? That whole Australian outback/sheep station/Catholic priest/forbidden love deal? Flaccid’s in there. It has to do with Our Tortured Hero Father Ralph de Bricassert, but that’s all I’m going to say. You can buy the book on Amazon for one penny, and if you’re in the eighth grade the way I was when I read that book, you are going to learn a LOT.)
So far I’ve discovered the joy of turning the heel, of picking up gusset stitches, gusseting, and screwing up. I’ve learned that sock knitting at night–the heel bit, I mean–is like doing Sudoku at bedtime. After about two minutes, you go aw hell I’ll just wing it, but then you discover that winging it is not so great, so you chuck it across the room and konk out. The good news is that your sock is waiting for you the next morning, when you’re fresh as a daisy and ready to tink out your boo boo.
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Another thing I learned: some sock yarns don’t repeat; they rhyme. This Trekking XXL yarn is kind of nutty, but as you reminded me when I was casting on, “You don’t want to knit a sock that looks like a store-bought sock.” Small chance of that.
Anyway, I’ll finish up the toe part soon and let you know how it goes. I’m game for double points, for toe up, for the whole shmagilla. I’ve got it bad, and that ain’t good . . .
Love,
Ann
PS Can you tell it’s our 16th wedding anniversary? I think we’re up to, like, the polyester anniversary. Happy anniversary to everybody else who is celebrating today. Yay mahwidge!

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84 Comments

84 Comments

  1. Not only are you knitting socks, you’ve outted yourself to the whole world. You’re in for it now. I can’t wait to read more about it!

  2. I have been keeping a bottle of good champagne in my refirgerator for a long while now, just waiting for an occasion requiring a big enough celebration (like maybe a positive tenure decision?) but I am thinking this is it. A sock on MDK!! And it’s really beautiful.
    Just wait until you bite into that Fleece Artist.
    I am so happy!
    Aara

  3. Cool! We were also married in 1990, though in the more temperate month of October.
    Mazel tov, and also I like your sock. I have Trekking XXL envy.

  4. I’ve got a TON of sock yarn I’m looking to unload now that I’ve falled down my own rabbit hole. Interested?
    Just kidding.
    Maybe.

  5. Oh yeah and happy anniversary! Marriage ROCKS!

  6. Oh, honey, you are lost and gone forever. I suppose now would be the time to mention that a certain mondo yarn store in Northampton, MA, has Regia sock yarn on sale for $6/ball?
    And congratulations on the anniversary! I think the traditional gift for a 16th anniversary is peridot and expensive Brittany sock DPNs.

  7. Welcome to the club! And did you know sock yarn doesn’t count? That tidbit of knowledge is also courtesy of the Yarn Harlot and because of it I have a considerable stash of sock yarn over which I feel only pleasure, no guilt. Lovely.

  8. Happy anniversary! You should make the 16th gift “Belated Socks”.
    By the way, I had a dream that you and I (get this) were shopping for MAKEUP together in Green Hills and that I peed on myself for some reason and then I saw that my high school reunion was being held like feet away from the makeup store we were in, and there was my old boyfriend. MAKEUP.

  9. Mazel to v on the anniversary, the socks, and everything, but there is one thing that I don’t get. In our house, Friday nights are reserved for one thing: What Not to Wear. I watch religiously with my daughter. So here’s the thing: The only shoes that seem to be acceptable for females of a certain age (read: my age) are shoes with which you have to wear hose, not socks. Socks seem to be out of favour. What to do? What to do? How does one balance this situation? What do you suggest? I am flummoxed.
    Carol.

  10. I was probably in eighth grade when I read the Thorn Birds also, but I don’t remember learning anything. dang, maybe I did, but I forgot it by now. I do remember liking the book.

  11. I love how you give a fresh voice even to this blogged-to-death subject. I look forward to more musings on the eternal menial task of sock knitting. Also? So pretty! That one you’ve done may be as flaccid as a priest’s you-know-what, but it’s to die for!
    BTW, we are still ten-year-apart twins because I was married in 2000. This year was my sixth anniversary. And now I’m having a kid. On whom I will inflict potholder loop yarn ball making. Yay!

  12. I knit a slip stitch heel flap on a pair of Trekking XXL socks in that eggzact colorway this morning. It’s like we’re having a happenstance nano knitalong (HoNK)!
    Congratulations to you and the Mister!
    xo, c.

  13. Oh my goodness, sock knitting _and_ The Thorn Birds. What more do we need to be truly happy?

  14. Welcome! Sock knitting is the best and I’m glad you’ve finally given in. But beware the draw to buy every skein of sock yarn you come across…it’s dangerous to enter a LYS. Your sock looks great! Can’t wait to see it on your foot.
    Happy Anniversary!

  15. Happy Anniversary!! So is the next book going to have socky patterns? Will Kayyee soon fall into the rabbit hole with you and start knitting laceweight denim socks? Inquiring minds need to know!!! (And socks for small boy feet go much faster…just sayin’…maybe in a poison dart frog colorway…)

  16. Gosh, I learnt loads from the Thorn Birds. Stuff I’d never dreamt of…. (you are on about Adult Behaviour aka Rude Things, yes? I was quite young…)
    Socks! Ha! It’s just karma coming around for getting me into them after following a link of yours. I like the vicious pointyness of dpns, though.
    And (eventually) wishing you a very, very happy anniversary, with many more to come. Drink fizzy stuff tonight (and I don’t mean coca cola).

  17. oh my…..I just SO was Meggie Cleary. Rachel Ward was great – but I was having none of that Richard Chamberlin chap – in MY minds eye – Richard Gere was my Ralph ….
    “Father forgive me………….”

  18. Add me to the Junior High Thorn Birds Club…I’m an obsessed sock knitter, and I’m glad you’re here with us for a while. You’re doing an awesome job. Already to the toe! You’re home free!

  19. how’s about hand knit socks for the man of the house? delicious trekking colorway!

  20. I’m just knitting my first sock too. Kind’ve compulsive huh? Although my husband was none too impressed when I lost a bamboo dpn in the bed….and yes I was knitting at night in bed. How sad!

  21. Welcome to the dark side: sock knitting. Resistance is futile.
    Happy Anniversary!

  22. Socks ROCK! You will undoubtedly be, forever hooked. Good news is that I hear that sock yarn stash doesn’t really count! yay! :D
    Have fun, good luck and welcome to the rabbit hole.
    Trekking XXL is great stuff – I have a pair well abused, but they still look great!

  23. Ha,ha,ha ! Now we must assimilate the Kay unit…

  24. Your sock looks great, and congrats on the anniversary!
    I’ve never read the Thorn Birds, but it aired a couple of months before my birth, and I was named after Meggie. I sometimes wonder what that means my parents expected for me in life….

  25. Happy Anniversary!! Lovely sock!

  26. You’ve come over to the sock side – congratulations!! And everyone is right – sock stash doesn’t count. Why? Because they knit up so quickly (well, quicker for some than others) that you end up using it up before it has a chance to become one with the rest of the stash. Isn’t that slick?

  27. I don’t think I can go there. Just cast on my first log cabin–did manage 2 pairs of mittens this year, but SIZE 1 needles??????
    Happy Happy Anniversary. Glad you are home to celebrate it.

  28. I was going to say, it’s Stephanie’s fault. It’s her fault almost everyone is knitting socks now, I think. Personally, I’m still resisting. But I knew it was a historic moment when I saw you pick up That Very yarn in Kansas City – dah dah dah DAH….
    Glad you’re having fun!

  29. I hear ya, sister. All too clearly.
    2nd Koigu sock now almost done for my lifelist. Its not a rabbit hole, I fear its a Bermuda Triangle.

  30. Happy Anniversary and Congratulations on the sock! Socks are great and collecting sock yarn is the best!

  31. Congrats on your anniversary! PS? Your socks are hawt. Very hawt.

  32. happy anniversary! 16 years! you are a rockstar.

  33. Page 28, The Godfather, 7th grade, 1969.
    Great sock, but here’s where I’d run into trouble: you have to make another one. Identical.

  34. It’s 16 for us today, too . . . and not a bad one in the bunch. The happiest to ya from the pacific northwest!

  35. Felicitations and the happiest polyester aniversary to you and Hubby!
    BTW, welcome to the collective. I fell down into the “must knit socks” hole a couple of months ago. Two-cirs rock!

  36. Happy anniversary and welcome to the sock-knitting tribe.

  37. Mahwidge is sacwilligious. Happy ANN-iversary!

  38. Yes, I do remember that part of the book. Love the sock. I am waiting for Norma and Margene’s Trekking along to use my Trekking 100.

  39. Happy anniversary! And, the sock looks great . . . obviously, things are coming together, huh??

  40. Whoops – mahwidge ISN’T sacwilligious. Mahwidge is sahquid.
    Forgive me – my brain must have leaked out my ear.

  41. 16 for us this year, too, in October! 90 was a very good year!
    As for “mahwidge” … I went to a memorial, very serious, in ‘dress solemn’ clothes, and the chaplain doing the eulogy talked just like that: “Dese men weh hewoes … dey weh doing deir doody …” My husband leaned over to me, and whispered , “Mahwidge …” and I had to cough to keep from laughing. Sad. :)

  42. What to celebrate first??? Happy anniversary and happy new sock! Terrific view of the sock from the top.
    Have a great weekend!

  43. Yeah for your sock knitting! I just started knitting socks this year and I really like it a lot!
    We’re celebrating our 21st wedding anniversary this month. Yeah May weddings!

  44. Awww……wuv, twuuuuue wuv! Happy Anniversary and happy sock knitting!

  45. Ohhhhh, Socks!!! I lurve socks–having just fallen down the very same rabbit hole myself a few months ago. Have tried top-down and toe-up, plain stockinette, figuring out my own pattern, and lacy. All on DPNs so far, as I felt like I should get comfy with one method (and familiar with how things work, sockwise) before trying another, but I plan to try 2 circs and Magic Loop eventually, too.
    Amazing how much fun there is, just in socks. And I’ve only made one pair for someone else, so far (my 4-year-old wanted orange knee socks), as I felt like I should get reasonably good at it before attempting them for a pair of feet that isn’t always handy for a quick try-on. I think I’ve found a fun little addiction. Perhaps a sub-addiction, if knitting is the main one.
    Happy Anniversary too! Everyone else beat me to the Princess Bride quotations, darn it.

  46. you think the gusset was fun, just wait til you get to the toe. That’s the thing about the sock, all kinds of good stuff between the cuff and toe :)

  47. It’s our anniversary too – happy happy. And my preteen self liked Bryan Brown in the Thorn Birds more than Richard Chamberlin. Maybe getting used to the Aussie accents at that age has predisposed me not to mind it when my kids watch the Wiggles now?
    Almost done with my baby kimono…

  48. Whoa, I’m time tripping here. Ahead to the sock fixation (I have yet to do a real sock, but have happily made a couple of diagonal rib socks from Kids Knitting, and there’s yarn waiting for real socks), and back in time to “The Thorn Birds.” I kept waiting for my mother to snatch that book out of my hands — I was sure I was getting away with something! At least, that was the way I felt until my grandmother handed me her copy of “The Other Side of Midnight.” !!

  49. Your sock looks beautiful. Congrats on losing your sock knitting virginity! ;)

  50. No comment on the sock knitting. It scares me when Emma uses the verb ‘to assimilate’. I want to remain an outlier.
    BUT I have to jump in and say that, without looking (since I don’t have a copy of the Godfather handy), JUDY I KNOW EXACTLY WHAT IS ON THAT PAGE!!!! Sonny at the wedding, no? I was in Junior High School (pre-Thorn Birds I guess), and every time I heard my mom coming down the hall, that paperback slid down the side of my bed and hit the floor with a THUNK while I pretended to read the Wholesome Young Adult Literature that had been propped beneath the Godfather. xoxo Kay

  51. On family vacation (in a “wood panelled” station wagon, no less), I stole my mom’s copy of “Thorn Birds” and started reading it. I was 10; I’d finished the “Little House” book I’d brought. My mom freaked out when she discovered where her book had disappeared to. I totally remember looking up flaccid when I read the whole thing it a year or two later!
    I bought self striping sock yarn Easter weekend, and started knitting once I’d finished my kid’s Easter knitted gifties (hoodie and jumper)(I finished at 11:45 pm Saturday). Started to knit sock two this last weekend and realized that the tension for the ribbing is completely different for the two. Ooops. Guess they are destined to be mine, and will only be worn with pants!

  52. Hooray for socks! Welcome to the sock-addict club!

  53. seriously. can someone actually eggs plain to me why one would want to knit a sock? i just don’t get it. and trust me, i have one of the largest stripey sock collections west of PCH.
    and if you were in LA, you’dve anniversaried most marriages, 4 times over. mazel tov.

  54. Hi ladies! I just saw your new book- so cute and I love the blog-style text too! I have never been inspired to make a dishcloth, or to buy peaches and creme for that matter, but now i’m going to.
    I read the Thornbirds last summer! and I bought it online for a mere penny! so much entertainment for a penny… i think I’m really going to like your blog. thanks for sharing your knitting lives.

  55. Ahh, the Thorn Birds….I really hoped to meet a straping young sheepherder after reading that book when I was in 8th grade. Not much of a chance of that since I grew up in Philadelphia.

  56. The Thorn Birds was also v.v. big in France (like so many other things) where its title was Les oiseaux se cachent pour mourir. V.v. tragic, isn’t that?
    happy anniversary!!

  57. Who’d have thought one could segue from sock-knitting to “The Thorn Birds” and back again? If anyone can, it’s Ann! I remember reading that book at sixteen, but I think I was so dunce/naive I didn’t get any of the juicy parts. I can’t believe my mother, good Catholic woman that she was, let me read it :). Or maybe she never knew…the joys of middle-age…I hardly remember anything.
    Great “rabbit-hole” picture. I just started knitting socks for myself this year, after many years of work socks for hubby. Hand-knit socks feel awesome on one’s feet.
    Happy anniversary! (We’re twenty years this year!) Good thing I wasn’t eating or drinking when I read the word “mahwidge” – I would have snorted it out for sure! “The Princess Bride” is a huge favourite around here.

  58. Ya-hoo! The sock looks great. That’s one of my favorite yarns, and favorite colorways. You’re already knitting like an old sock pro. Pretty soon your sock stash will overshadow all the other yarns in the basket. It’s always O.K. to buy sock yarn! Can’t wait to see the pair, on your feet.

  59. Congratulations! We have our 18th Anniverasry this year.
    LOL! funny post, socks have never been so funny as when you write about them, LOL!

  60. Congrats on the anniversary and the sock. I hope you don’t catch sockitis! Too late, perhaps :)

  61. Ah, socks. They’re the best. And can I say I started reading this, looked at the picture at the top and thought “Ooh! Trekking XXL #100! Excellent choice!” and sure enough, there it was. Trekking is awesome, except I think there’s something in it. It somehow tries to take over your stash:
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/allaboutemy/116938693/
    I have no idea how that happened. *whistling innocently*

  62. Congrats Ann ! We’re coming up on our 13th anniversary this year (hopefully not unlucky for us !) and I can’t believe how quickly those years have passed so 16 years must be even more so ?
    Heather x
    ps. I’m hoping that your sock is knitted in a slightly fuzzy yarn and that it is not my slightly fuzzy vision letting me know I need new contact lenses ??

  63. We got you over to the dark side! Yay!
    Of course, y’all have gotten me over to the warshrag side.
    I hope that this is the first of many socks for you, Ann!
    Watch out, though: they are VERY addictive! (just like warshrags!)

  64. I read the Thorn birds in the eighth grade and I’m ashamed to tell you that my copy (my beloved copy) still falls open to the beach scene. You know the one. The Thorn Birds series is still responsible for some completely unreasonable feelings towards Richard Chamberlain and this weird verbal tic I have at parties. Someone will say that he’s gay and I’m suddenly knocking a drink out of their hands and screaming “You take that back!”.
    Powerful literature. Life changing.
    Knit the sock. Enjoy the marriage.
    Congratulations on both.

  65. ahh sweet socks. You distracted me from my sock knitting passion, with dishcloths and baby kimonos. It is only fair that we lure you over to the sock side of the universe. Nothing is as wonderful as happy feet in hand knit socks. :)

  66. Welcome Welcome Welcome! The reason everyone wants to knit socks, is that God gave us two feet and there are so many feet in the world, you can never make enough socks. I make it a knitting philosophy of mine to always have a pair of socks on my size one double points. Socks in progress means equilibrium for me. Welcome welcome welcome. My socks don’t soar on circulars however. I use 8 double points to wow my friends…..no second sock syndrome for me!

  67. Hey — you two look great in the new Family Circle magazine! The one with the strawberry mousse on the cover! My mom got her issue in the mail yesterday and there — on two pages (74 or 76) — is a really cool article about you two, the Afghan-A-Long and some discussion about a future charity project that we can all participate in! Please tell us more!
    BTW — the sock is fab – I just finished my first one as well.

  68. Mahwidge. Mahwidge is what bwings us togevvah today….Love…that dweam wiffin a dweam…
    Thornbirds?! OMg! I think I was about the same age when I read it, and I, too, learned a LOT (WHY on earth did my mother LET me read it at that age???). Yes, socks w/o feet do look rather flaccid and weird. Love the colors, though!

  69. May 12, 1984 — our anniversary. And would you believe — we completely forgot it. At 9:30 last night, I realized what day it was, turned to my husband and said, “Happy Anniversary, honey.” We had a good laugh over that double senior day (not merely a senior moment). We’re going out to celebrate tonight and pretend that it’s what we’d planned all along. Happy 16th to you!!
    Re sock knitting: Magic Loop is the way to go (I’m one of those opinionate sock knitters. You never have second sock syndrome because you can do two socks at once. Plus you get such satisfaction when you finish a whole pair at once. That’s my 2 cents.

  70. Some coincidence! I’m knitting my first toe-up socks in the same colour of Trekking XXL. I’m using the beautiful pattern for Elfine’s socks from Amelia /Anna (autoscopia.com/amelia).
    Happy sock-knitting!

  71. Congratulations on knitting your first sock! And Happy Anniversary!
    The sock may look flaccid (that word sounds vaguely obscene), but once you put it on you will be amazed. I still look down at my feet when I’m wearing socks I knit, and am amazed. I made that! Holy Friggin’ Cow! A handknitted sock is a beautiful thing.
    I think there are as many ways to make socks as there are sock knitters. If you like making them you will find your way. I prefer cuff down, heel flap, on two circs, but one sock at a time.

  72. I’m knitting my first “real” pair of socks after 3 years of knitting and already I am starting to look at different sites and in stores just for sock yarn. One of my knitting resolutions this year was to become a sock knitter. I think I can safely say, that is going to happen. Isn’t it a great feeling? :)

  73. I remember the Thornbirds in 8th grade… I think it’s the first book I blushed while reading, although I can’t remember why now. Perhaps flacid. Our 16th is still a few years away, but my foray into sock knitting is not. I was lulled in at MDSW, I some how came home with sock yarn… I think it was the feeding frenzy over the Socks that Rock that did it! I can’t wait to hear you impressions of all the different stratgies!

  74. Happy Anniversary!
    I’m on a sock-knitting kick; they are wonderful knitting.

  75. It’s beeeeyewteeeful, Ann!!! Seriously. I remember my first sock, which met Stephanie at Threaded Bliss. When I proudly showed it off at the yarn shop, they were worried. It looked small, and it was shaped JUST LIKE YOURS, and they thought when I put it on my foot it wasn’t going to fit! But the elegance emerged when I put it on. It fit perfectly, snug and warm. And yours will, too… as long as you don’t knit it too long or too short in the foot. It’s BEEEEYEWTEEEFUL!!!!

  76. Well it’s about time! Been reading MDK for years and waiting, waiting, waiting for the sock bug to finally bite!
    And Kay, you’re not exempt, I have a new sock pattern on my blog specifically for COTTON :)
    Happy Anniversay Ann!
    And nice Family Circle article!! My Mom brought it over today, all excited that there was a “knitting story” in her magazine! Congrats ladies!

  77. AWESOME sock! Welcome to the socknitting obsession :) and a very Happy Anniversary to you!

  78. Hi Ann. Socks are the best. They come in many flavors, intracacies and are very portable. I like bambo needles best, your stuff won’t slide off. Yes I own some very small crochet hooks and I keep one in the knitting bag. I started knitting with socks and dpns. A flat blanket or scarf seemed too boring, cliche, or beginnerish. I do those now that I’ve proven that I can handle working 4 dpns and turn out matching socks. Why? don’t know.
    I’ve heard of using two circular needles. I will keep watching you to see how it goes. I’m oddly suspicious of them. ;) Happy Mother’s Day to all!

  79. Welcome to the sock obsession. I’ve knit mostly socks for the last two years or so, and nothing but socks since I started a new job that requires me to commute via subway. My friends are becoming concerned.

  80. “ready to tink out your boo boo”
    This is clearly a phrase that no one other than a knitter would vaguely understand. In fact, I think it’s a phrase that would make most of my middle-schoolers giggle uncontrollably. (Aw, hell, I was giggling in here.)
    “some sock yarns don’t repeat; they rhyme.”
    My new favorite quote, as I’m fussing over a second sock. :)

  81. That is a very nice first sock. :) I love socks, but that’s because they’re very portable and I can knit a dpn at a time while waiting around.

  82. Ann, Happy Anniversary! It’s mine too, also 16 years. Congratulations on your first sock – I am still working on my first. It’s in the “I’ll finish it later” pile for now.

  83. I almost fell out of my chair when you mentioned “The Thorn Birds,” Ann. It seems that many of us read that book at the same impressionable early teen age. I sure remember the “flaccid” scene. (!!!) Actually, at the time (freshman in high school), we had a list of vocabulary words each week and we had to find “real world” uses and quote them in our homework. Wonder what my English teacher thought when I cited “The Thorn Birds”…

  84. Please. Please. Tell me which colorway of Trekking XXL yarn you used for those beautiful socks. I HAVE to knit them for my sweetie right NOW!
    Can you send me an email to let me know????