I am quite unashamedly fond of self striping sock yarn. It makes warm snuggly socks and through great ingenuity and some sort of yarn printing whizz trickery which I’ve never really figured out, what looks like a complete mismash of tiny lengths of colour when wound up in the ball becomes a pair of beautiful and hopefully matching stripy socks.
I say hopefully matching because that’s where the knitter comes in and with the involvement of a human being in the process comes the potential for error. But over the years I think I’ve got matching a pair of socks down to a fine art. Firstly, when I’m about to cast on I find a colour change in the yarn, make my slip knot at the precise place of that colour shift and then cast on by the long tail method. It means that all of my stripy socks have a little ring of a different colour sitting on top of the ribbing which I rather like and it means I can find the starting point again for the second sock. Technically if I’ve started in the same place each time then 20 rounds of ribbing followed by 60 rounds of stocking stitch should bring me to exactly the same point in the yarn. Technically.
But my knitting has a little degree of variation in it. If I’ve had a wonderful relaxing day, the children have been angelic and have now all gone to bed without a murmer and H and I have settled down for a quiet evening then I might be a little more relaxed in my knitting than say at 4.30 on a winter’s afternoon when we haven’t been out because the weather’s foul, the girls are alternately climbing the walls and trying to run off with each other’s toys, Pip has decided that today is a day for being held at all times, and I’ve picked up the needles for one round only just to try to find some inner calm before returning to the melee (not that a day like that would ever happen to us of course!!). So to allow for a little life getting into the knitting I knit 60 rounds on the first sock and then keep going to the next colour change before I start to turn the heel, and then just knit to the same point when I’m on the second sock.
And usually it works, usually it produces a nice matching pair of socks without too much thinking about where the stripes fall.
But there’s one sort of sock yarn that gets me every time. From the outside it looks like your nice ordinary ball of stripy sock yarn. It sits innocently enough in my stash, just waiting to be knit, knowing that at that point I will have forgotten everything I ever knew about it’s wily ways. It’s the ninja of self striping sock yarn. The stealth striper.
It starts innocently enough, and it’s often not until you’re most of the way through the first sock that you notice that while the first two repeats went blue, blue, blue, green, the next set has skipped the green.
That alone should be warning enough, but no, further down there’s a section where there are three bright blue stripes, not two. This is the sock yarn sent to test fortitude in the face of mischievous wool.
I’d like to claim that having noticed all of this in the first sock I duly pulled out about half a ball’s worth of the remaining yarn to check that I was definitely about to cast on in the right place but I’m afraid to say that in the first round of stealth striper vs knitter I was not victorious. It’s lucky it’s not a knockout competition. I pulled out enough yarn until I’d seen two bright blue stripes worth come tumbling out and then cast on at the very end of the second. Several rounds of dark blue duly appeared and then, what was this. That wasn’t supposed to be there, the next yarn should be navy, not bright blue. Oh the curse of the mysterious third blue stripe strikes again.
I pulled the needles out, cut the yarn and started again. This time, I was going to be sure. I pulled through to the end of the next bright blue stripes, checked that the next stripe would be navy and cast on. The ribbing was perfect, the stripes were lining up nice and neatly, birds were singing, unicorns frolicked across the back lawn.
Only several inches into the main body of the sock did the ninja sock yarn turn its silent needle. I was flying along, finally confident that the socks would be ready in time, when I realised that something was missing. The green stripe in the middle of the cuff to be precise.
“I’m sure I could kind of fudge it somehow” I said. H handed me a bottle of cider, the bottle opener and gently added; “You know you’re going to pull it out. You know you won’t be happy if they don’t match. Better just to get it over with”
Stealth Yarn 2, Knitter 0.
But, as if to prove the saying correct, and worryingly suggest that all endeavours will require two initial failures before they can succeed, it was definitely a case of third time lucky.
Because these socks match. They match on the cuff,
they match on the heels and they match all the way down the foot to their tippy toes.
Which as they just so happen to be a certain someone’s 70th birthday present,
is a very good thing indeed. And they’re warm and snuggly to boot.