New socks

I’m not a sock knitter. I love the idea of hand knit socks, but I rarely wear them and I find the knitting quite boring. But then came cold baths. And suddenly I need lots of new socks.

I love Irene Waggener’s book Keepers of the sheep. A couple of years ago I knit myself a pair of pants from the book. Another project I wanted to knit was the new socks.

Socks in the bath tub

I take baths in my lake every day of the year. When the water temperature sinks, the energy in the body rushes to the vital parts – the torso. The outer ends of the extremities are left – literally – in the cold. Hands and feet get very cold when the body works very intelligently to protect the torso. This is where socks and mittens (and a hat) come in handy in the cold bath.

I know cold is a relative term here, but for me that temperature is around 13 degrees for my hands and a couple of degrees below that for my feet. During the autumn as the water temperature sinks I put on neopren gloves and wool socks in the bath. When I saw the new sock pattern in Irene’s book I realized they would be perfect for cold bathing.

Tqasher Jadeed

Eventhough I haven’t knit very many socks in my life I realize that the engineering of the Tqasher Jadeed –new socks – is different than the models I have seen. As with all the other patterns in Irene’s book, this one is built up as a try-as-you-go process where you need to be confident enough to trust your instincts when it comes to the fit. All of the parameters – needles, yarn thickness and numbers – are sort of fluid in a very compelling way. The technique for toes and heels are there of course, but the rest is up to the knitter to balance.

A book page featuring a photograph of a pair of white hand knit socks with a ribbed leg. A twisted yarn end ties the socks around the calf.
Tqasher Jadeed, new socks. A lovely pattern in Keepers of the sheep. Photo published with permission from the author.

Elsa the Gestrike sheep

I had the perfect wool to match the socks, from Elsa the Gestrike sheep. I got the fleece a couple of years ago when I helped out on shearing day at my friend Claudia’s sheep farm. Elsa had beautiful grey wool with lots of variations in her fleece.

I divided the fleece into categories of different staple types. The biggest pile was with long, conical staples with around 50 per cent undercoat and 50 per cent outercoat. They were the perfect match for my socks. When I met Irene Waggener this summer I brought some of the wool to show her what breed I had knit the pants with and would knit the socks with.

Yarn and socks

I carded the wool into rolags and spun quite fine singles with an English longdraw. To get the strength I wanted for the socks I 3-plied them with more twist than I would for a different kind of project. The yarn is around sport weight.

I really loved the resulting yarn – rustic but smooth and with a blueish grey sheen to it. It was a joy to knit with, very straightforward and sweetly rounded.

A bath

Happy as a clam I skipped down to the dock with my new socks the other day, the ties secured around my wrists. I knit the socks quite large, which suits me perfectly for my bath. In the mid winter when both water and air temperatures are considerably lower than 8 °C, taking off the socks after the bath needs to go fast. I need to get clothed quickly and my hands lack some dexterity in those temperatures, so too snug a snug fit on wet socks isn’t ideal.

These were very easy to take off dripping wet after the bath (I change into dry socks for my four minute walk back home). Still, I am considering fulling the socks slightly for just a tad slimmer fit. I’ll think about it after tomorrow’s bath. The water temperature has just sunk below 8 °C.

At the dock

I had some shots of the socks at the dock from last week, but the other morning the fog left a beautiful light across the lake and I wanted to take just a couple of more. I mounted the camera on the flexible tripod and set the timer on a picture every three seconds. To start, I took a few pictures on my feet as I was about to get in the water. That done, I wanted just one more picture of my socked feet in the water. I put the tripod on top of my head, as I have several times, and walked down the ladder.

A very blurry picture taken from the sea bed.
I call this “Lake Mälaren seen from the sea bed”.

In a split second the tripod with my phone fell in the water. I gasped for air and just stared down into the darkness, astounded by the fact that I hadn’t been able to catch it in the fall. It was really actually no kidding on the sea bed. I fumbled around with my feet, but I could’t feel it. The lake bed is very steep by the ladder, I can stand just below the lowest step but not ten centimeters further out. I was paralyzed. My bathing friends noticed the commotion and came to me, they had been in the water for a while as I had been fiddling with the first camera setup. Gunilla offered to dive once to see if she could find the camera. She did, but she could neither see nor feel anything.

A thousand thoughts rushed through my head, all too fast and too unreasonable to get a hold of. Mostly about how ridiculously vain I had been, chasing a good shot and ruining both my camera and my sweet dip. I gasped for air again. All my previous knowledge about breathing techniques to calm down were blown away the second the camera broke the surface. I felt again with my feet around me as far and as deep as I could reach, and I found something. It could be a leg of the tripod, and it could be a branch. The weight was no clue as other rules of gravity reigned in the water. I grasped it with my feet and hoisted whatever it was up. My still shocked breath mixed with a deep sigh of relief as I had the camera in my hand. It was still taking pictures.

Irene, I know you wanted to see my new socks together with the Sirwal pants, but that will have to wait a couple of months. They are still way too warm, I usually wear them to my walk down to the dock when the air temperature sinks below -6 °C. I can’t wait for winter!

Happy spinning!

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