Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Sock Virgin...

...or why knitting socks is a lot like writing a love scene.

I love to learn. Always have, and hopefully always will. As a sock virgin, I'm happy because my love affair with learning has been fed -- almost to the point of gluttony.

One of the greatest things about being a writer, for me anyway, is that I'm always learning new things, whether I'm researching some obscure fact or just learning more about my characters and their story world. I've even learned a few things about myself, which is always a good thing. My most important lesson, however, has been to never take myself too seriously. By that, I mean never falling so in love with my words that I can't rip them right out of the pages. I've learned this is also true of knitting socks, because every single time I think I've caught on, I end up having rip stitches right out of the socks I took way too seriously.

Hence the picture here. This is my first attempt at a sock. It's wrong. Horribly wrong. I misread the pattern and didn't realize it until after I'd turned the heel, finished the gusset and had started working my way toward the toe.

So what could knitting socks and writing love scenes possibly have in common, aside from the fact that I've often had to rip out my words and start over? Well, there are many components that go into writing a love scene, not to mention the great need for Patience. Right there is the probably the second most important lesson I've learned this month when attempting to pop my sock cherry. Patience is definitely a major compoent -- for studying and understanding the pattern directions, which at first (and sometimes second or third) glance appear to be written in a foreign language. More patience is required when attempting a new cast on technique which promises elasticity so said sock will slip onto a normal sized foot. When writing a love scene, patience is also a requirement. Some things just can't be rushed, and my characters will be the first to complain if I attempt to rush things they just aren't ready to commit to.

Patience was definitely a requirement in completing my first attempt at Fair Isle knitting, but patience, and a whole lot of persistence in learning new techniques definitely paid off. My eldest granddaughter will have a nice warm, cozy sweater to keep her warm during the long North Dakota winter this year.

But back to socks...

The greatest love scenes ever written are the greatest because of Emotion. Emotion is part of what gives us all that "ahhhh" moment in fiction. That moment when the hero and heroine know that this is the absolute right thing for them, even when it comes at the worst possible moment in their story world. Not always an easy feat to accomplish in writing, and I'm betting my RTY mates here will no doubt agree with me. What I never realized, however, was how much Emotion would play into my trek into Sockdom. I've been nearly reduced to tears when I realized I'd misread the pattern. I've sworn in anger when, after realizing I'd read the pattern wrong, the sock I was so diligently working to complete would only fit Shrek's big feet. My heart broke when I realized the only way to fix the problem would be to start over from scratch.

And oh, the Conflict that caused me! But conflict is important. It's the glue that holds our stories together. Without conflict between the hero and heroine, there is no story. And any love scene worth tangling the sheets is steeped in that conflict. Creating a sock has had me steeped in conflict -- many, many times. I hate it. I love it. I'm never doing this again. I can't wait to make more so I can give them as gifts. Conflict, conflict, conflict!

A very wise writer once told me back in the day when I was just beginning to learn my craft that in order for my readers to believe that my heroine did someting really stupid, it had to be motivated. Think about some of your favorite books or movies. Going down into the dark scary basement is a stupid thing to do when there's a crazed murderer on the loose, but the hero has to go down there because that's where the heroine has been tied up and he has to save her -- she's the love of his life, after all. Motivation! Ah-ha! And yet another necessary component to reamining in sockdom. Motivation to continue venturing forth, because I refuse to be a Sock Hop Wallflower.

Now what kind of writer would I be if I didn't allow my characters (and by extension, my readers) to experience that all important Ecstacy? Not a very good one, that's for sure. I'd have a whole lot readers, not to mention my character, highly irritated with me. Everyone needs a payoff. And Ecstacy is sure to be had once that sock is completed. The joy of knowing that I finally got the pattern right, that my heal is turned properly and I'm well on my way to completing a sock that will actually fit the foot of a human being!

So, with my Learn to Knit Socks booklet's Basic Sock pattern, my freshly reballed sport weight yarn and a new pair of US#1's, I'm back in the game and ready to Sock Hop once again. Since I'm bumping up against a deadline at the moment, I can't exactly promise I'll manage to complete both socks by month's end, but I've got a good start going -- again. And that's something, right?


Blogger Jean Brashear said...

Well, Jamie, I love writing love scenes and don't need patience for them, but I don't know that I'll ever feel that way about socks! As a fellow sock virgin, I can't say I'm doing anywhere near as well as you on that count, so major kudos. I am truly impressed.

I have several pressing commitments right now that are keeping me from progressing very fast on my first sock (and grandgirlie Xmas presents have to come first, along with deadlines!) But I'm nearing the point where I'm going to have to figure out that first heel (and man, do I ever hear you on instructions looking like a foreign language, however well-written!)

So maybe, IF I manage that heel, I'll feel heartened. I'm not giving up, just...nervous.

So thanks--your post is a welcome and inspiring one.

8:06 AM  
Blogger Fran Baker said...

Fantastic summary, Jamie.

Sister sock virgin, Fran

8:53 AM  
Blogger LaurieKnits said...

I'll never reach ecstasy because I gave up. Add in "Perseverance" and that's where I get lost. After four attempts at a sock I threw down my slippery metal dpn's(yes, and this was only my first mistake!) and decided to attempt to master the techniques before losing what's left of my sanity and attempting to cast on another sock.

I admire your perseverance and can't wait to see the finished socks!

10:16 AM  
Blogger Nancy Herkness said...

Laurie, I love you! A fellow Sock Flop!

I stand awed before you persistent sock hoppers who have learned to waltz with DPNs--or Magic Loops. Keep those fabulous photos coming so I can drool as I happily knit my forgiving entrelac shawl on giant Addi Turbos. Hats off to all of you--and to you, Laurie, for having the courage to just say no to socks.

The Sock Grouch

12:03 PM  
Blogger Jamie Denton said...

Jean - I have to say I really was surprised that the heal was so easy -- once the directions finally clicked. Although, it did take me two tries -- three if you count the latest version of my new and improved sock.

It's kinda like giving birth -- you forget the pain once it's all over.

1:43 PM  
Blogger Jamie Denton said...

I threw down my slippery metal dpn's(yes, and this was only my first mistake!)

I have to say that I'm a metal needle fan. I haven't tried bamboo or any of the other fancier ones, but the plastic ones just don't have that flow for me.

That said, however, I'm finding that using US#1's is brutal on my hands. Using the US#3's that the book recommended, but which make the sock way to big, were so much easier on me.

1:46 PM  
Blogger AuntieAnn said...

Have you all considered the "Fuzzy Feet" pattern? It's knit large and then felted, so any mistakes will melt away.


I have just recommended this to a friend who wants to start sock knitting, and she's raring to go (bonus -- I gave her my very boring skein+ of beige yarn, which I never want to knit again).

2:45 PM  
Blogger Barbara Bretton said...

Great suggestion, AuntieAnn. (And super great sweater, Jamie!) Also if you really desperately want a pair of handknit socks but choose to give circs and dpns a pass, why not knit a pair flat on straights? It's perfectly legitimate. Seabury Socks are a great place to start and there are other free patterns available on the 'net for your knitting pleasure.

2:49 PM  
Blogger Nicole said...

Well, I like sock knitting, so does that mean I'll do okay in my first love scene? I'm planning a romance novel for NaNo (mainly because I've been a tad scared of the sex aspect and figure if I "have" to write it in 30 days I'll just do it without worrying too much).

3:40 PM  
Blogger LauraP said...

Knitting or writing, you just have to find your niche, right? Love the sweater. It's so pretty.

AuntieAnn - thanks for the link! Those felted socks would be perfect dorm slippers for my daughter. Must try that pattern.

9:47 PM  
Blogger Jamie Denton said...

Well, I like sock knitting, so does that mean I'll do okay in my first love scene?

Gosh your first love scene? That's truly virginal (grin). I think I blushed the entire time I wrote my first love scene, which feels like a hundred years ago now.

Speaking of which, I need to go write a love scene now.

12:01 AM  
Blogger LaurieKnits said...

AuntieAnn, thanks for the link to the fuzzy socks. They look so comfy. I'm printing it out now and may give it a shot after I visit my LYS for some feltable wool (I bought some awful acrylic sport weight junk for my failed socks).

10:06 AM  
Blogger Nicole said...

Gosh your first love scene? That's truly virginal (grin). I think I blushed the entire time I wrote my first love scene, which feels like a hundred years ago now.

Yeah, I have a feeling I'll be blushing my way through this one, too. Though I have done an almost-make-out scene, so maybe I'm better prepared than I thought.

3:24 PM  

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