Sunday, April 7, 2013

Knitting Socks as a metaphor for life

I knit socks. All the time. Recently I have been thinking alot about life, and about sock construction.

You can knit socks toe up, cuff down, from the middle out, and recently I knit a uniquely constructed sock that turned everything I knew about knitting socks upside down.

You can knit plain stockinette socks, socks with cables, socks with lace, and socks with texture.

You can knit socks with fine lace thread, fingering yarn, sport yarn, and even heavier yarns if you want slipper socks.

You can knit socks of one colour, or socks using intarsia (many colours), or fairisle (two colours).

You can knit socks with wool that patterns for you, or you can do it yourself in a million different ways.

For me socks are more than a way to keep my feet warm, or to keep my hands busy, or to learn new skills. They are certainly much more than a fashion statement, because even though my socks are definitely fashionable, they hardly ever match anything I am wearing.

The magic of sock knitting for me is two-fold. One - the turn of the heel. There is something almost mystical about turning a heel on a sock. And there are many, many ways to do it. I have learned probably ten different ways, and each one is magical. To me it is a miracle that a straight piece of knitting can turn and head in a new direction.

The second part of knitting socks for me is because it links me, stitch for stitch, with my grandmother and especially my aunt. Oddly enough, although my aunt taught me to knit, she never taught me to knit socks. But she, and my grandmother knit sock after sock after sock for their 'boys' in the army: my grandfather, my father, and my uncle. My aunt and grandmother used to knit sock after sock after sock up to the heel turn, and they would all be lined up over the upstairs banister waiting for that magical day when they would turn all the heels, one after another. An assembly line of heel turning.

I don't know of anyone who hasn't turned a heel, and then stopped to admire the simplicity and the mystery of it. It is always a moment in my knitting where I stop, and pause, and admire, and reflect.

Isn't it interesting that 'heel' has the homophone 'heal'. Perhaps that is why I knit socks. To heal. To heal my heart, my friendships, my family relationships, and ironically even my feet. I never thought of this before, but it rings so true.

I knit socks for family members: my daughter, my son, my sister,my brother, my husband, and recently I have starting knitting for friends as well. Good friends. Not because they ask, but because often when I am knitting a pair of socks I find myself thinking of someone in my life, and so organically those socks seek their owners.

I knit my daughter's partner of almost four years a pair of socks for Christmas. The relationship ended a week before Christmas. I don't believe in the curse of the 'boyfriend sweater'. Instead I think that I knew intuitively that the relationship was coming to an end, I thought of him as I knit those socks, even though I didn't start them for him, and they became a gift of thanks and appreciation for all that the relationship had been and will continue to be for my daughter.

So back to the title. We can knit our life together in a variety of ways - in ways that perhaps we hadn't thought possible, yet. We can live for comfort, or utility, or for grand things. We can live plainly, or fantastically. We can live to connect to the other, or to unravel. Unravelling of ourselves or our relationships - sometimes because we don't take enough care, or it doesn't fit, or it is just not for us. Sometimes the unravelled is fixable. Sometimes not.

I knit socks because there is a mystery in it. An adventure each and every time. And don't get me started on the magic of grafting the toe so the seam is invisible, and darning a well-worn pair of socks with the darning eggs my children made in school years ago. There are metaphors for life in those skills too.

I knit socks because in each and every stitch, every pattern, every turn there is a lesson.

Or a memory.

Just like life.


  1. Hi Mary-Anne, reading you blog posts is like taking a breathe of fresh air. I wish I could knit, partly for the experience of turning a heal, but also because it seems so healing and meditative to so many.

    For me knitting became stressful and tight. Painting is my cure-all. I taught Karleen to cast on and from there she has knitted in all sorts of directions.

    My mom knit a little sweat sets for the new great grand babies after giving up knitting years ago. Such treasures.

    Keeping all those feet warm must warm you heart. xo Carole

  2. Thank you, Carole. You were the one that helped me realize that although I am not the same kind of artist as you, I am an artist of another kind. A fiber artist.

  3. I wrote a long response to this post, but it has been lost in cyberspace... or perhaps your blog just edited me out

  4. This is such a beautiful post. I had more to say than that, but it just totally left me. Have a blessed day!


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