More New Socks

I made myself finish the second of the latest pair of socks before I would start my sweater. (I swore that knitting WILL NOT turn into yet another collection of unfinished projects!)

These are knit on the sock loom in a basketweave pattern out of Lang “Mille Colori” Socks and Lace superwash yarn. I doubt that I will use this brand of sock yarn again. I love the color, but there were so many slubs and very thin places that I am concerned about how the socks will wear.  DSC01381

I named them “Whovian” socks as they remind me of the multicolored knitted scarf that the Tom Baker Dr. Who always wore.



Latest Socks

I just finished the latest pair of socks today. They are knit from a luscious variegated washable wool and nylon sock yarn from a German yarn company (Austermann) using a basket weave pattern for the legs. This yarn contains aloe vera and jojoba oil which makes it soft and delightful to work with.


I knit the next pair for a Christmas present. They are now warming Beth’s feet so I can finally post a picture. I used Patons Kroy Socks jacquards yarn, and knit them in plain flat stitch. The jacquard yarn does all the work to make the patterns.


I like the basket weave pattern so much that I already have a new sock on the loom to make another pair.

Harp Weekend, Rehearsals, and Socks, Oh My!

No, the space gypsies did not return me to my home planet – I’m still here, despite my long absence from my blog. I returned from an intense, inspiring and instructive four days at the Southeast Harp Weekend blown about by the edges of what was still Hurricane Sandy, and fell into three weeks of extra rehearsals and practice for the upcoming end-of-semester concerts.

The Harp Weekend ended up being totally perfect for where I am with my harp and what I want to learn. Not only were the instructors in my classes excellent players, they were also excellent teachers. I’m already using new ideas from Dee Sweeney’s Music From the Soul class when I play at the hospice unit, as well as Nadia Birkenstock’s approaches to learning a new piece of music. I’m experimenting with Kim Robertson’s Musical Sandwiches as segues between my arrangements of Christmas carols.

The outer bands of Hurricane Sandy arrived in Asheville on Sunday afternoon, bringing spitting rain and a temperature drop of 20 degrees within two hours. I drove home in wind gusts following a glowing column of rainbow light until the sun dropped behind the western mountains. We had two days of potent wind gusts at home but no serious rain, snow or damage.

I left Harp World and reentered normal time and space facing extra Consort rehearsals, harp ensemble repertoire still not up to tempo, and recorder ensemble repertoire not yet mastered. Three weeks later, the recorder ensemble repertoire is in pretty good shape – there are a couple of entrances that still throw me, but with two more rehearsals before our concert, I think I’ll be ok. The recorder pieces for Consort are in my fingers; it’s the harp piece that continues to prove that I cannot actually count to four.

The harp ensemble concert is next Monday, and my brain/eye/finger/two-hand coordination is maxed out several beats below our performance tempo. My friend and I have a secret pact to divide up the left and right hands for the two most challenging pieces, creating one whole harper between us. I’ll play a good bit of one-handed harp on the remaining tunes, with selected left-hand notes added in when there is no danger of my right hand crashing and burning.  Last year the prospect of one-handed harping created an engraved invitation for the Inner Critic to come calling. This year I remain grounded in gratitude to be playing what I can play, and that’s slammed the door in IC’s face.

Second Socks

Knitting socks is now my before-sleep decompression activity. My brain slowly winds down with the meditative repetition of looping one strand of yarn over another strand. I finished my second pair a couple of weeks ago, and started another sock that will be a Christmas present (so no pictures yet.) These socks are knit with self-striping yarn, so while they look complicated it was the yarn that did all the work.

I am looking forward to reducing my practice and rehearsal time so I can catch up on all the blogs I’ve not read, and all the comments I’ve not replied to. Alas, that probably won’t happen for another couple of weeks. And now I hear my harp and metronome calling, demanding that I get those descending passages of Angels We Have Heard On High lined up with the metronome’s 100 beats-per-minute clicking.

In case I don’t find my way back to the computer next week, I’d like to wish everyone a bountiful Thanksgiving Day. May we all enjoy sharing the gift of gratitude!

Socks, Surprise, And SoulCollage®

First Socks

I finished knitting my first pair of socks last week. They are soft and warm and funky and I’m thrilled with how they turned out. I especially like the different colored toes.

I’m also surprised by how much I enjoyed making them, by how much I enjoyed learning to knit on the sock loom and working with yarn to make something hand-crafted and useful. My burst of excitement that started with reading C.B. Wentworth’s blog entry about knitting socks continues. Minutes after I worked in all the loose yarn ends on this pair of socks, I cast on stitches for the next pair.

The second pair of socks will be much easier. This time I understand how the sock loom works, and I know how to do the stitches. Plus, I’m using a plain knit-stitch and self-striping yarn, so after the first bit of ribbing, there won’t be any pattern stitches to count and remember. I suspect most people would start with a plain, easy sock for their first one. Not me. I seem to thrive on starting with a complex version and then once I know I can do it, relax into doing something easier.

I’m delighted with sock knitting showing up in my life. I never expected to be able to knit anything, let alone socks, or to so enjoy this way of creating. I didn’t expect that a sock loom would lead to new friends, to Wednesday evenings sharing wine with other knitting women in a yarn store, surrounded by laughter, luxurious colors and textures of yarn, and vibrant creativity.

This kind of surprise, the surprise of finding something that totally engages me completely out-of-the-blue, is a delight. Much of what I love to do, like traveling, weaving, playing the harp, and playing the recorder were long-held dreams that I was finally able to fulfill. Knitting socks is a total surprise. So was playing African drums. I hadn’t heard African drums played, hadn’t thought about playing drums, and didn’t know anything about them until accidentally finding myself at a drum circle. After five minutes of immersion in those deep, ancient rhythms, my heart said “I must do this for the rest of my life.” It was drumming that led me back to music, drumming that gave me courage to begin the harp. And it was my hands getting sore and having to stop drumming that opened up time and space and courage to join the recorder ensemble.

My delight with SoulCollage® is another accidental surprise. A friend invited me to her birthday party at Catherine Anderson’s studio. I made two SoulCollage® cards that March evening, and four years later, I am still making them, and still welcoming the teaching and the wisdom that the cards carry.

This month I am back in Catherine’s studio, taking her class Walking the Paths of the Warrior, Teacher, Healer, and Visionary, based on Angeles Arrien’s book The Four-Fold Way. Last week we studied and created SoulCollage® cards inspired by the Teacher archetype. The way of the Teacher is to trust and to be open to outcome instead of being attached to outcome. My list of outcomes to which I stay firmly attached seems endless. Recurring items include being able to play my ensemble repertoires, being able to sight-read, and being able to perform with confidence and without shaking.

An aspect of the Teacher archetype is the Trickster, also known as The Fool, The Clown, The Court Jester, Hermes, Krishna, and Coyote across the world’s cultures. Catherine describes the Trickster archetype as:

“. . . a Teacher who shocks people into seeing their attachments and habitual patterns. Tricksters typically present surprises and the unexpected as a way of waking people out of their routines. Individuals who have difficulty with surprises or the unexpected have attachments, fixed perspectives, and a strong need for control. When we are attached, we often become controlling and rigid. The Trickster archetypes teaches us about detachment.”

Trickster energy ran rampant as I leafed through stacks of images for my SoulCollage® cards. Perhaps it was my desired outcomes connected to playing the music that lingers just beyond my competence that drew him to me. Three cards emerged, all with images and wisdom direct from the Trickster’s realm (click on a thumbnail to see the larger image):

The Happy Fool turns his back on the journey and lives in today. He holds a healthy disrespect for propriety and convention, and is unapologetic about disturbing the illusion of order. He tells me to live instead of think and plan, for he guarantees and promises that my well-thought-out plans will go awry.

No Sense stays balanced despite the lack of solid ground, and keeps pedaling forward into whatever happens next. She tells me to stop trying to make sense of things, that life is not reason-able, that I will never know or understand why things happen in this chaotic, unpredictable unfolding of being alive. She tells me, “You are not here to think and understand. You are here to live and experience.”

No Control valiantly steers his raft in the river of cosmic unfolding. He is a skilled oarsman and reads the rapids well. With help from his unseen companions, he keeps the raft upright. But he knows the limits of his efforts, knows that he will not bend the channel of the river to satisfy his desires. His survival depends on reading the currents and riding the waves, and on finding patches of quiet water where he can rest and gather strength. He tells me that I can’t fight cosmic currents, that I must ride the energy of life’s rushing waves, and steer as skillfully and ably as I can.

I need these messages and these messengers, need them more than I need the structure and routines that pretend to order my life. I need to look beyond the outcomes I grasp at, beyond the end points I think I must reach. I need to allow what is ready to germinate and grow head for the light. I need to leave room for the unexpected, need to be as open to the unthought, unplanned surprise of what emerges next with music, or with life, as I was with the sudden appearance of the irrepressible notion that I must knit socks.

Help! My Sock Loom Is Holding Me Captive

It all started innocently enough. Just a small paragraph in C.B. Wentworth‘s blog post A Very Crafty Summer about knitting socks on a knitting board. I’d never heard of a knitting board. Not to worry. She promised to explain all in an upcoming post.

And so she did, promising her readers that I Made Socks And You Can, Too! I didn’t even finish her post before I started searching local craft store websites to see who might have a KB Sock Loom in stock. Not finding a sock loom within driving distance, I popped over to Santa’s Workshop, aka, and two minutes later a KB Sock Loom, complete with instructional DVD, and a sock pattern book were on their way to me.

I’ve missed creating with yarn, apparently more than I realized given this sudden intense desire to knit socks. I pretty much stopped crocheting several years ago, having made enough hats and scarves and baby blankets to last me and everyone I know a lifetime. But I never tried socks, because like C. B. Wentworth, I never really learned to knit. Yes, I knew the mechanics of holding the two needles and wrapping the yarn around them, but I never developed the skill needed to actually knit anything.  Instead, I became an expert in tearing knitting out. My mother was an incredibly skilled knitter, a make-argyle-socks-on-four-needles-without-a-pattern knitter, a knit-fine-gauge-sweaters-with-cashmere-fingering-yarn knitter. None of my dropped stitches or uneven yarn tension could be tolerated. Every four rows of garter stitch had to be inspected, and not meeting her standards, torn out and started over. By the start of winter, my hoped-for knitted scarf was only six inches long, and I gave up. I found my grandmother’s old crochet hooks in the bottom of my mother’s knitting basket, checked out a crochet book from the library, and taught myself. My mother knew nothing about crocheting, despite my non-knitting grandmother being an expert. Hmmmm . . . . . . .

Future Socks

My KB Adjustable Sock Loom arrived two weeks ago. I was ready. There was a big yarn sale at A.C. Moore earlier that week, and with a “25% off your total sale” coupon burning a hole in my pocket, I bought enough yarn to knit socks all winter long. I popped the DVD in the player, sat down with my yarn and sock loom, hit play, and cast on my first sock. And did it again. And then a third time. The DVD instructions are very clear and easy to follow, but a video cannot convey exactly how much yarn tension you need to create even stitches. Trial-and-error, as with all new things, is still required.

Using the sock loom is not complicated. If you are old enough to remember wooden thread spools, you may remember the process of driving four nails into the spool, wrapping yarn around the nails twice, and then looping the bottom yarn over the top yarn to create a knitted cord that emerges from the center of the spool. (In fifth grade, all the girls raced to see who could knit a cord long enough to reach from the top of the six-foot tall sliding board to the ground.) The sock loom stitches are variations of this same yarn looping. But it took me time to learn the motions for the stitches, to figure out how tightly or loosely to pull each stitch, and to learn how to hold the knitting tool in a way that does not create hand and arm tension. Sock progress was painfully slow.

The Sock Loom with Emerging Sock

Of course, I couldn’t start with a simple all-knit-stitch sock. For my first sock, I picked an interrupted ribbed stitch pattern from the book Sock Loom Basics: Using the KB Sock Loom by Leisure Arts. I figured that between the variegated yarn and the textured knit, people would have to put their noses practically on my feet to see mistakes. I’m not letting anyone that close. Now, Charley and the cats no longer stare at me when I begin chanting the pattern stitch: “Knit one, knit two, purl one, purl two.”

The biggest problem is that I’ve been obsessed with completing my first sock. It’s practically the only thing I’ve done for two weeks. I’ve not posted on my blog, responded to blog comments, or read and commented on my favorite blogs. I’ve barely practiced harp or recorder. Charley’s long walks have been pared down to a bare 20 minutes, or just enough to get the job done. To be fair to myself, I have to acknowledge that my single-pointed focus on the sock was assisted by a bout with the latest “virus that’s going around” that for the past week left me only enough energy to prop myself up on my pillows and, well, knit.

My First Sock

But today, I am feeling better and my first sock is finished. The two dropped stitches I had to fix are undetectable in the pattern stitch, just as I hoped. The sock fits perfectly. I successfully cast on its mate on the first try last night, and finished the cuff. Now that I know how this whole sock knitting thing works, and that a real honest-to-goodness sock is going to emerge, perhaps I will be a bit less obsessed and get back to the parts of my life I ignored the past two weeks. But you know, I can’t wear my socks until I finish the other one. . . . .

Gotta go. I think I hear my sock loom calling.