A sock of beauty

I’m knitting the most beautiful pair of socks I’ve ever encountered. Normally it takes six to twelve weeks for me to get through socks. This time, I finished the first in eight days. I’m in love.

They’re the OceanWind Knits Sleepy Hollow Socks. They start out like this, with a delicious and beautiful yarn (Claudia Handpainted Yarns 100% merino fingering weight, in Ocean Depths color).

You turn the yarn into this:

There’s a magic moment in knitting when the yarn stops being yarn and you can see for the first time the object it’s becoming. That’s the moment it becomes real. Until then, it’s loops. Then, suddenly, it’s a sock.

This was the  most complicated project I’d ever begun, so I was relieved when it not only took form but turned out to be absolutely  luscious.  The pattern is just a dream. It’s stretchy and squishy and it feels nice and it looks nice. I just wanted to keep knitting it.

And it occurred to me: these socks won’t be seen. They’re wool. I’ll wear them beneath pants and boots. What’s the point of beautiful socks?

That was Ash Wednesday. The reading for that day said:

But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

and that’s the point. There are beautiful things we do within our souls, and which God does within our souls, and no one sees them because they’re done in secret. But the beauty is still there. The mercy, the prayer, the hope, the charity, the generosity.

I said to God, “Have  mercy on the world. We make beautiful things sometimes.”

I finished the toes of the sock with four feet left of yarn.

Which is kind of how our lives are, too: we should make use of just about everything of it we can before we have to surrender it back to God.

And here’s my final beautiful sock:

Now I’ve started the other. It’s just as wonderful. Who knew I could enjoy a sock so much?


  1. cricketB

    Gorgeous! The yarn is great for that pattern — enough solid areas it doesn’t overwhelm the pattern, and enough striping that the pattern teases and invites the eye rather than throws itself at you. That heel is nicer to the stripes than flap-and-turn.

    1. philangelus

      I have two more skeins of this yarn in a lovely calico colorway: black, gold,brown and tan. That’s why I was so pleased to be able to do the sock on one skein of yarn. 😉 I had extra of this color, but not of the calico.

  2. Ivy

    Those are very pretty. Think about all the work your feet do all day long. They hold your entire body up. They move you from place to place. They deserve to be clothed in something pretty. Those are lovely socks. 🙂

    1. philangelus

      That’s also why I was afraid of running out of yarn while finishing the toes: they need to be rugged and I didn’t want to join yarn in a working area of the sock.

      1. Ivy

        Can I introduce you to the idea of working toe-up? That way, if you run out, you just join at the cuff, or get a somewhat shorter leg.

      2. cricketB

        There are better and worse places even around the toes, depending on how your shoes fit. But, yeah, easier if there’s no issue. Mom had 2 sets of needles, so she did a few inches on one sock, then the other. The yarn she liked did just under a pair per ball (or maybe 2 balls). She did top down, MC to start, CC for flap and turn, MC for gusset and CC when she ran out. Dad had a whole set with green accents. I’ll have to ask her where she did the join.

        1. cricketB

          I called Mom last night. She doesn’t remember doing the heels in the CC.

          Five balls made two pairs. She used one ball for the cuff and most of the foot, usually all but three or four inches of the toe.

          She didn’t worry about where to join, just knit five stitches with both yarns held together wherever. I’m not sure if she then cut it or wove it in a bit more. The yarns never separated and Dad never complained.

        2. Ivy

          You can do the heel a few ways. You can do an afterthought heel. That is, you knit across with scrap yarn, then knit across with your real yarn and continue on down the foot. Afterward, you pull out that row of scrap yarn and work a short row heel with your contrast yarn. This lets you rework the heel easily when it wears out.

          You can start the heel flap with the contrast yarn, then return to the main yarn when you pick up the gusset.

          You can do a short row heel with the contrast yarn, and return to the main yarn when you go back to working around the whole sock.

          For the toe, change one row before starting the decreases, so you have one plain knit row in CC. Incidentally, you can then rip out and replace worn toes much the same as an afterthought heel.

          I did this with some butterfly socks years ago. http://theknitter.com/may20yebuso.html

          1. cricketB

            There’s also EZ’s moccasin socks, where you do the leg and top first, then pick up the edges to do the heel and sole.

            EZ also suggested doing the afterthought heel on 2/3 of the stitches rather than 1/2.

            My one pair of afterthought heels were too tight around the arch and lower leg. I need the room around my arch that a gusset provides, so next time I’ll increase a bit where the gusset would normally be.

            My biggest headache with toe-up is where to start the gusset. Every time I do the math I get a different answer.

          2. Philangelus

            Hey,guys, I was looking for the black belt knitting club and… Oh, never mind, I seem to have found it. 🙂

          3. Ivy

            If you’re just doing a rounded heel, start when the slightly stretched sock is 2″ shorter than the length of your foot.

            Most patterns don’t bother with a true gusset for toe up, which is the downside of that technique. Widdershins (http://www.knitty.com/ISSUEsummer06/PATTwiddershins.html) has one, and that starts when the sock is 3″ shorter than the length of your foot.

            I try it on after the heel turn, and it it doesn’t work I use this trick http://dailyskein.wordpress.com/2009/05/07/afterthought-lifeline/ to get the needles to where I really want to start the heel or increases and rip back to there for a redo. It’s actually a little easier to do this trick while the sock is stretched over your foot.

            The ultimate cheat? Fixation. 🙂

          4. cricketB

            I’m only green belt, but part of the requirements for black is teaching hours.

          5. cricketB

            Jane needs deeper nesting for comments.

            My KW bedsocks start the gusset 4″ from the tip of my heel and are just right. That afterthought lifeline is like Cat Bordhi’s Personal Footprints. Those are truly custom-fit socks. (Note to self: Don’t settle for Cat’s YouTube teasers. Get the book.)

  3. Information_Queen

    Wow, I love those socks! I think I might just have to practice my knitting so I can make socks like that!

    1. philangelus

      These scared me going in because they are so difficult and I’ve never really followed a pattern before. Not without modifying it somewhat. :#) But itwasn’t as difficult as I thought it would be.

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