Sometimes I look at my life and have to laugh at how much it differs from what I thought it would be. It seems there really is something to that saying about a butterfly in China causing a tornado here. Small incidents can indeed cause vast changes.
If you would have asked me to knit you a pair of socks a year ago, I’d have probably laughed. “I don’t do socks,” was my usual reply. My knitting career began a few years ago after an illness, from the desire to do something useful while I was mostly immobile. So, I made hats. Lots of hats. They weren’t very pretty at first, but they got better.
Then I discovered lace. Mind you, I used to hate lace. I refused to wear it, deeming it too girly for my tomboyish self. Suddenly, though, learning how to make pretty string into gorgeous wraps somehow scratched an itch I didn’t know I had. So I knitted lace. Lots of lace. The more difficult, the better.
Throughout it all, my hubby was not only supportive, he actively challenged me to expand my skill—and managed not to choke too loudly at the cost of the yarn that I simply had to have.
Mentioning that his office got cold in the winter and that he could use a pair of fingerless mitts was one thing. “Can you do them with cables?” he said. Until that moment, I had refused to do cables, seeing them as too ubiquitous, and a little intimidating, for what I wanted to do. But hubby wanted cables, and cables he got.
One fine day, he mentioned that if I ever learned to do socks, he wanted a black and green vertically striped pair. The challenge hung there like a red cape in front of a bull. I actively started looking for suitable yarn and pattern.
Determined to surprise him, I only worked on the socks well after he’d gone to bed. When I finished the last stitch, I admired my handiwork for a second until it hit me. I did socks. Hmph, I told myself. Just the one pair. I’m not going to make a habit of this.
Christmas came, and he loved his socks. After he wore them the first day, he told me they were the most comfortable socks he’d ever worn. So comfortable, in fact, that his feet didn’t hurt after being on them all day. He even called them Superior Socks.
What’s a girl to do when her hubby loves handmade socks so much? Make him more, of course. Spoil the man a little bit. After all, it’s not like he’s going to wear one of those fancy lace shawls any day before Hades freezes over.
There was just one hitch though: socks take a LOT of time. I timed myself, did the math, and discovered that, at my top knitting speed, a simple pair of socks took me 24 hours to make. Figuring for yarn cost and labor, that worked out to over $200 per pair.
In addition, working exclusively on socks meant I wasn’t knitting lace. Crazy as it sounds, I’ve found that knitting really difficult lace keeps me saner and more cheerful. I must have made a crack about it, because apparently my darling hubby takes remarks as challenges, too.
One day, a box arrived at the door. Inside it was something I’d only seen on videos: a sock-knitting machine. “Now you can concentrate on your lace again,” said hubby with a grin.
You know you’re in for a steep learning curve when the manual says, “You must let every single mistake be your stepping stone to success! Give yourself time to learn how to operate the machine.” In other words, “You’re going to screw up a lot; if you get mad and quit, you’re not going to have anything to show for it.”
So, the machine and I spent a lot of time together. After many frustrations, we finally learned forged a relationship. Her name is now Scarlett because she’s a fast piece and wound a little tight.
With Scarlett, though, I can literally crank out a pair of socks in about two hours. Speedy Superior Socks! Naturally, hubby has all the socks his heart desires, and I still get to do my lace. He’s also encouraging me to think about making socks as a cottage industry, so others can have Superior Socks!
Nope, this is absolutely not what I thought I’d be doing. Now, I DO do socks, and lots of them. It seems like whenever I compare what my plans were to what actually happens, where I’m at always surpasses what I’d dreamed. I wonder what I’ll be up to this time next year!
Shana Thornhill lives on farm near Marion. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.