John picked up the parcel from the top of his bag-pretending-to-be-a-stocking. The silver wrapping paper twinkled under the lights from the Christmas tree and he looked around at the three tiny faces between us, all of them as much wanting to see what it was, as to have him open it so that they could dip into their own stockings once again.
“It feels squishy,” he said, giving it a careful squeeze, “and it’s a good shape.” He held it out to the kids; “socks or pants, what do you think?”
“SOCKS!” said the girls. “Um, Mummy, how do you make pants?” asked Pip.
John carefully peeled back the tape to reveal:
A bag of Christmas coffee. Well if I’m going to go to all the trouble of knitting him a pair of socks for Christmas, I’m not letting Father Christmas take the credit for them – he’s got his own elves for that.
The socks, for socks there were, came later, after church and after breakfast, amid a sea of unwrapping that launched the occasional tidal wave of paper and ribbon from where we had tried to corral it into the corner. This time he eyed me more suspiciously,
“Is it coffee?”
The yarn is part of my Yarndale haul, and one of only two skeins of sock yarn that I bought that day, despite immense temptation. I’m not into computer games at all, and never really have been, so many of the puns at Gamer Crafting’s stand were entirely lost on me, but the colours were not. Brilliantly vibrant and with some awesome contrasts, I was very very tempted by a brilliant blue that edged into turquoise striped through with my favourite orange. John’s motto when it comes to handknitted socks is “the brighter the better” and that very nearly came home as the most vivid skein I could find in the entire show. Except that my eye just kept being drawn up and across to a small pile of skeins, soft and cosy, black for the most part but alive with silver sparkle and striped through with a rainbow. Reverse Rainicorn it was.
As sock knitting goes they are delightful in their ordinariness; they’re the same socks I always knit for John, a 72st cast on, 20 rounds of 2×2 ribbing, heel flap and a wedge toe, but I’ve found in recent years that I need my sock knitting to be nice and plain and simple, it’s something for my fingers to fidget into existence, so that I don’t have to think too much about what I’m doing, but I can read or talk or watch a film, while the yarn soothes my busy soul, and then, almost without my noticing, there’s a sock. It’s a special kind of magic.
While they hid in the bottom of my knitting basket, venturing out only when John was at hockey matches or I was on the train, a second pair of socks had very much not got the memo.
I thought that the whole point of making a deal with the Christmas Knitting Elves, of getting to a point where your adult self actually looks at what is achievable and seriously reigns it in, without even buying the yarn for the fantastical never-going-to-be-finished project, was that in return, it would behave itself. No pixies would come to mess up my stitch count in the middle of the night, my yarn would travel obediently from skein to ball without even a hint of a tangle, and there would not, under any possible circumstances, be knots in my yarn.
Two inches into the first of Dad’s socks, I hit a knot. If it had been a variegated sock yarn I would just have carried on without a care in the world. If it had been the second sock of a pair of self striping I would have known where to wind to to match the pattern. On the first sock you do the only thing you can do, and knit on, and know that somewhere in the middle of the foot you’re going to work out what the stripe repeat looks like, and you hope against hope that the knot has simply cut a couple of rows out of the stripe sequence and all you’ll need to do is take a couple of lengths out as a loop and carry on.
Did I mention the yarn hadn’t got the memo. It’s Trekking XXL, which comes with really long self striping repeats, and with a sinking feeling I eyed up my sock and realised that the yarn after the knot had restarted about four rows up. Almost an entire pattern repeat missing.
And so while these look like any other self striping socks I am actually ridiculously proud of the stripe matching on them. I have my tried and tested techniques for pattern matching; start the cast on and heel flaps at a colour change even if the latter isn’t technically the end of a round, but this took pattern matching to the next level.
I had to cut in a new section of yarn in the cuff to match the original knot, and then when I ran out of yarn near the toe I used some of the yarn that I’d pulled out to continue the pattern all the way to the end.
It’s a yarn miracle. Perhaps, after all, the knitting fates were smiling.