“One can never have enough socks” – Dumbledore (Harry Potter)
When I was still in my teens, my mom taught me how to knit, which at the time, was not nearly as fashionable as it is now. It was reserved for older women, often grandmothers with enough time on their hands, who having learned from their own mothers, were now masters at this beautiful craft of ‘making’. And while store-bought socks were often the worst gift you could receive as a kid, somehow, hand-knit socks fell into a completely different category; they were made with love, from one of your favourite people, something to be cherished.
I knit well into my twenties, alongside raising small children, and working part-time, but with more than a few time takers, knitting fell to a dark and lonely corner, not to see the light again for decades. Fast forward, to time I spent living with my mother, I began to knit again mainly because Grace, a prolific maker, seemed to always have a knitting project on the go. So, with needles in hand, I started to spend time with her, taking a refresher course, and enjoying tea and knitting patterns over slow conversations. And as my mom aged, and no longer had the energy for larger projects, we worked together to make gloves for those living on the streets; deliberately easy, fast projects that used up all her wool and brought some warmth to us and others.
When I moved to our communal family property two years ago, I decided to resurrect my love of knitting and resolved that what I had always wanted to make was socks. Being more of a barefoot gal, my desire to create socks is more about gifting others, although I made that first pair for myself so that my mistakes would live on my own feet while I perfected the process. And as luck would have it, while my mother is no longer here to share her knitting wisdom, a beautiful and truly sock-loving teacher, Sarah-Mae, co-owner of a fabulous nearby yarn and fibre studio is here and has been generously sharing her wisdom, and her appreciation of socks with me in classes that have been as much about community and connection, as they have been about creating.
Being a proponent of the ‘slow movement’, making socks is a perfect slow thing to do. Socks won’t be rushed, at least for me; they require patience. When I donned that first handmade pair, I could feel the love in every stitch. That first sock project was ripped out more than once, to start again, to fix the mistakes; teaching me to slow down, to focus on the process, stitch by stitch, row by row. There’s a lovely cadence to knitting, a rhythm that slowly reveals your unique sock as it literally takes shape, down the leg, into the heel, along the foot, and finally to the toes. Progress is slow and steady and encourages a measured approach. I love that they arrive in pairs, even when they don’t match, and that they offer up that second chance to get it right. When you’re not quite ready to let go of a really fun one that you just completed, you get to do it all over again, with sock #2.
For me, socks have not been an easy endeavour, I feel as though I might have knitted two sweaters in the time it took me to knit that first pair of grey socks. As a long-time student of meditation, however, knitting socks has simply become another solitary form of contemplation. It’s been satisfying and a true lesson in patience; returning to something already begun, in putting down and lifting back up where you last landed, in measuring progress in the tiniest of ways, stitch by stitch, row by row. And when I knit, that’s all I do. I have to concentrate so I don’t drop a stitch or repeat the wrong row, so it’s a good meditative way to linger, and to remain truly present. And while my second sock project is much more fun than my first , I am loving the repetitiveness and slow progression of watching my self-striping sock make its way from top to toe, knowing that the recipient, will love wearing this gift of love as much as I am loving making it.
I recognize that not everyone has the time or desire to knit socks, so I invite you to find that one thing that does help you slow down, that encourages you to stay present, that simple ordinary thing that represents extraordinary simplicity and joy. Find that art, that practice, that creative pursuit, that forces you to ‘be’ even as you ‘do’. And if it turns out to be socks, I get it!