Thursday, 7 July 2011

Knitting in the memories, stitch by stitch

Today I have a yarn to spin, a tale not of two socks, but socks in their multitudes, padding softly along the corridors of my mind.


I am happy to say that the orphan sock is orphan no more, and has a friend to play with, and the two of them have been warming my feet most delightfully as I sit slaving away at my desk.


When I took a photo for my project page on Ravelry, I noticed that the older of the pair had a distinctly dishevelled air and is somewhat bigger than its friend, possibly symptomatic of my sloppy state when I started knitting it last autumn. But taken as a pair, they do signify some progress on my part, and so the sight of them is encouraging enough for me enjoy wearing them in their lopsidedness.

Which led me onto the thought that although it is a commonplace to regard craft as a form of self-expression - we choose our patterns and colours according to our taste, and arrange our materials in pleasing ways so that our fabrications say something about how we see ourselves, in a quite deliberate way - for me, what I make seems quite unconsciously on my part to become a repository of memory and experience which is conjured back into existence when I take up that piece of my making on another occasion.




It might seem a bit pretentious to recall Wordsworth and his idea of poetry as 'emotion recollected in tranquillity' as I look at a slightly wonky sock, but I have come to the rather bizarre realization that this power of recollection is why I love sock knitting so much. Socks are so easy to knit, so portable, and I can almost remember my favourite pattern off by heart now, so I knit socks in the midst of family life, and thus with every stitch they accrete memory and emotion and feeling and seemingly of their own accord they gain a symbolic power which just doesn't happen for me with cardigans.


So I have a pair of Accidental Socks - the first pair begun in A&E on a Friday night when the Ploughboy had had an unfortunate encounter which led us there - I remember the bad light and distraction which led me to knit the cuff in a horribly mean single rib, and the sense of our being in the midst of a multitude of human tragedies, large and small.


I found myself knitting the second on another weekend evening with another son on another late night visit to a hospital. This time the corridors seemed empty but the light was of the same sickly and overcast hue, and the memories stay strong because of the socks.


And then there are my favourites: my Brittany socks,


which in their colours capture the intense blue sky and sea and sunshine of a Breton early summer,


the pale sand and stones and shells,


the happiness of returning to a favourite place after a too-long absence, and finding it unchanged, like an old friend.


And the retrospective poignancy of that time only a year ago when a little princess was still a little girl,


and somehow in the revisiting of the scenes of former family holidays,



and the knitting of those socks on the beach, I find contained in them a series of happy memories of seas and skies and cathedrals, a cornucopia of past joy, which sends my heart soaring.


Those stitches going round and round keep my feet cosy and my heart warm, and once again I think back to those Romantic poets: Blake seeing a world in a grain of sand, and holding infinity in the palm of his hand ...


... and I think about knitting socks. I can meditate and be mindful, I can be a present and attentive (relatively speaking) mother and wife, I can make productive use of my time, and then every time I pull one of those socks from my drawer, like a rabbit out of a hat, those memories come tumbling out to make me smile and weep, and relive them once again.

I have just cast on another pair - Skein Queen Squash in Electric Lime, 64 stitches going round and round: I wonder where those stitches will take me, and what memories they will contain?

37 comments:

Lola Nova said...

Such a beautiful post. You have caught me on a melancholic morning, gray cast to the sky and a feeling of time slipping away much too quickly. So, your story of socks has hit me, especially lovely my dear!

carrad said...

I have been contemplating sock knitting but have always thought that I'd never get two matching. Maybe it doesn't matter exactly. And I've just looked at two lovely blogs, yours and Making It Vintage, which are sock-dominated in their posts. This could be a portent! PS, love your socks and thoughts on them. xxx

KC'sCourt! said...

Lovely post
Julie xxxxx

marigold jam said...

Lovely post Pomona. I have never knitted any socks but they do seem to be popular amongst other bloggers I know. Lovely yarns and colours and if they are knitted with a memory in every stitch then I can see the appeal.

Menopausalmusing said...

Love those "Accidental Socks".... I have happy memories of holidays where the children were small enough for me to knit a sleeve on the outward ferry journey and the other sleeve on the return ............. Oh, and sitting knitting a bright yellow cardigan in an airport on Crete in the wee small hours.

Nimblefingerssteadyeyebrows said...

You've got my fingers itching to cast on a pair of socks! Laura x

Angela said...

Can you recommend a good sock pattern for TWO needles with a seam, as opposed to knitting in the round, please?

Angela said...

Thanks so much for the pattern recommendation!!
Perhaps I ought to persevere with double pointed needles

Lisa said...

What a lovely post. Memories encapsulated in such an every object, but one so warm and cosy.
Lisa x

millefeuilles said...

Oh wow! I love the way you write and what you write about. I feel the same about knitting (and embroidery) as you do. Yes, we bring the threads or yarn together to make a whole but we also weave in our patience, endurance, our experiences, and, more lasting still, our feelings and memories.

Thank you for putting into words what many of us feel. (I used to silently thank V Woolf for the very same gift ;-) )

Peeriemoot said...

Love those greeny-blue socks :-).

This is comparatively shallow, but as I do a lot of my knitting in the evenings after the kids are in bed, my finished objects often remind me of what I was watching on TV at the time!

Barbara said...

Love the way the socks bring out the colours of nature.

Amy said...

I made a sashiko embroidery pillow cover while in the hospital being induced. It will always hold memories. I knit a blanket while waiting for a different overdue pregancy. It too holds so many memories. I completely get it. It seems most of my memories are pregnancy related but such has been my life in recent years!

dragonfly said...

Right! That's it. I am taking my long-abandoned second sock with me on my train journey north tomorrow. This was just the inspiration I needed. Thank you.

greenrabbitdesigns said...

Lovely post. :)
I have to say I do like your Brittany socks!

Little Blue Mouse said...

Who'd have thought socks could evoke such memories?
Lovely post.

Mrs. Micawber said...

A very beautiful post. It's interesting how a creative endeavour can fix images and memories in our minds. I've experienced that with cycling - each time I ride I try to choose three things I see or feel on that ride and describe them in the fewest and best words. When I re-read the words, even years later, I can see in my mind the exact sight that inspired them, and remember what road I was on when I saw it. It's as though I've captured a small piece of beauty and made it mine forever.

I have some hospital-related crafting memories as well, but those aren't as pleasant to dwell on!

Thank you for your lovely words and images.

Frances said...

Like you Pomona, I also have certain associations with some of my knitting creations.

When I make the first sock of a pair, I keep a careful log of the row count of each part of the sock, hoping that the second sock will be a good match for its mate. Then I keep those notes to help me if I ever used the same gauge yarn for another pair of socks.

I do love that brillian lime green. Feet in those socks are going to be very happy feet! xo

Arianwen said...

Love the Monet Socks! My mum is just about to retire and interested in learning to knit (finally) because she likes handknitted socks. I am going to show her your post for inspiration.

Catherine said...

oh do love your sock poetry..quite, quite sublime! I can smell the blue of your seaside. You had great presence of mind to take your sock with you in an emergency..good job! I can't stand being stuck for long periods of waiting with nothing to do. Perhaps there should be a sock pack popped in to the first aid kit in the car : ) Well that would be useful if I actually knitted socks..better at crochet myself...granny squares then might do the trick. Everything alright after the A&E visit? Much love Catherine x

melanie said...

What a lovely post! I love your socks, they are fab :) xxx

Irina said...

Lovely socks! great yarn as well. I got some new yarn recently and can't wait to start new socks for myself!

summerfete said...

Yep love the Breton countryside too!
have a great weekend!

Crafty Green Poet said...

what a lovely post. Such meditations while knitting, I really wish i could knit, but the skill has always eluded me!

Frances said...

Pomona, thanks for your comment...I guessed that it was a change in the knitting gauage tension that allowed your socks to be slightly different. I just mentioned my keeping the row count was my own way to sort of try to get my socks to match.

Let me say again how much I enjoy your posts. xo

bibbitybob said...

Hello I've just stumbled across your blog! Your socks look fantastic, I love them. Knitting is something I just cannot seem to master. I loved your posts, your photographs are lovely x

Fading Grace said...

I am adding sock knitting to my very important things to do in my life list, I LOVE your socks
xx

Jooles said...

what a lovely post :o)
I have been making my first granny stripe blanket and it was only the other day when i thought excactly the same, it is like crocheting/knitting in your thoughts and feelings, meeories and wishes, i guess it is what makes hand made so unbeatable
love love love your socks
j x

Mousy Brown said...

When I am knitting socks I get so many comments about "you can buy 5 pairs for £5" etc - now I will send them in your direction as I think this post sums up so nicely why I bother! Lovely! :D

sea-blue-sky & abstracts said...

Memory and association - a fascinating subject.

Have you noticed how when gifts are received for example, use or admiration bring the giver to mind? And as a result, he/she is remembered always. Have a good weekend. Lesley x

Rae said...

Such a lovely post, and such beautiful socks, I so admire people who can knit and evern more so people who can knit socks - I was given my first pair of hand knitted socks recently and they are just the nicest thing anyone can put on their feet

elizabethm said...

Well clearly I love your socks, especially the glorious greeny blue ones, and I love your wit and sensibility and am quite sure that, if I were lucky enough to meet you, we would get on like a house on fire as all your passions are mine. I just wish I didn't have a knitting bag sitting down to my left with the ignominious remains of what should be a lovely pair of socks except that I seem to have lost some stitches about an inch back and can't work out what to do about it and can't bear to take the whole thing back so have to hum loudly and wonder whether I can afford to buy any more cyclamen. There is always more of an excuse in failed gardening.

momof3girls said...

What a lovely post-both your words and your creations. I keep yarn with me all the time so that my hands can stay busy. Makes me feel kinda like the Proverbs 31 woman. You remind me of her too. :)

Rowan said...

Lovely post and lovely socks too. I still have to attempt the knitting of socks, even though the gorgeous self striping yarns attracts me immensely I can't get past the idea that knitting socks is difficult! Maybe I should try it though I shall be concentrating too hard on what I'm doing to knit any memories into them I'm afraid:)

Chrissie said...

Loved reading this post Pomona.

Nicky said...

Think I'll have to start knitting socks if it makes me as lyrical as you Pomona - you should be writing magazine columns or a book....or more posts (Warm glow at thought or more lovely words....)

iNd!@nA said...

gorgeous post, delightful socks...

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