I took up knitting in 2013 in part because I’d fallen in love with store-bought wool socks, and I wanted to be able to make my own. I made my first pair that spring, and as my mother’s birthday was in June, I thought I’d knit her a pair as a present; this has become a new tradition.
When I began knitting, I quickly discovered Ravelry and stumbled across Rose Hiver’s Like Water for Elephants sock pattern, which was then free. My mother has loved elephants for as long as I can remember, and I dreamed of the day when I’d be skilled enough to make her a pair of socks from the pattern. With two years of knitting under my belt, I felt ready for the challenge when her birthday came around this year, and I downloaded the pattern.
To my dismay, I discovered it was for a seventy-two stitch sock, which at a typical 8-9 stitches per inch gauge would result in something far too big for my mother’s feet, which fit into size 5 or 5 1/2 shoes. The pattern is so meticulous, and on such a grand scale, that there was simply no way to remove the dozen or so stitches I’d need to, so instead I bought a 000 needle and resolved to keep my tension as firm as possible. Since I am a naturally loose knitter who uses size 0 needles to obtain eight stitches to the inch, and since I’m one of those rare knitters whose stranded colourwork gauge doesn’t turn out much tighter than my regular one, these socks required conscious attention and tense hands for each round.
The other challenge for me was in the yarn choice; my mother is wool-sensitive, and lives in Texas, so when I knit for her I have to find alternative fibers. I used Hikoo CoBaSi for her last birthday socks, which manages to be an enjoyably bouncy yarn despite its lack of wool content, and has some beautiful colours; this time I used the natural cream shade as well as a vivid turquoise named curacao. The yarn’s bounciness contributed to my tensioning concerns, and I could only hope that blocking would smooth out colourwork like it does in wool yarns. Luckily, blocking had a wonderful effect; I took these photos when I’d blocked the first sock (whose elephants face left) but not the second and you can see the difference.
With all of that, I feel a sense of triumph in reporting that, knit at twelve stitches to the inch, they fit perfectly, and I expect they will wear like iron. The fabric almost feels more woven than knit, but a longer heel flap and generous gusset, along with the yarn’s elastic content, gives just enough give to pull them on and off. Aside from the stress on my hands involved in such firm tensioning, I loved knitting these; I always find colourwork addictive and there’s nothing like waiting for an elephant to emerge to convince you to do ‘just one more round’! Rose Hiver’s attention to detail is stunning, and the end result seems fit to grace a Mughal court, with the intricacies and curving lines. I opted to make elephants on the foot of the sock as well as the leg, which is easily done by substituting the charts. Since my gauge was so much smaller, the socks ended up shorter as well as more narrow; luckily my mother prefers short socks but I did end up adding a few rounds before the toe decreases to get the necessary foot length. The pattern tells you where to do this.
Best of all, my mother is in love with them! In fact, she marvelled at them, which is just the reaction I was hoping for. There aren’t many people for whom I would knit at twelves stitches to the inch, especially in a plant fiber yarn; in fact, I wouldn’t even do it for myself. But my mother is a wonder; she’s filled my life with love and support and done her best to make all of my dreams come true. She is one of the most generous people I have ever met, and has that even more rare ability to give without attaching any strings at all; not once has she ever implied I, or any other of her recipients, owe her anything for the time, money, and attention she’s lavished upon us. Being able to give her something in return, even something as small as a pair of socks, is more than worth the struggle I had to make to achieve a tight enough gauge. Each tiny stitch was made with love, and I hope she carries that love with her whenever she wears these tiny elephants and all of their attendant finery.
The technical details are available on my Ravelry project page, as well as nicer photos from my Instagram account. I finished the second sock yesterday and was quite impatient to write about them here, but I forgot to take photos until the light was already past its prettiest. I’m also still learning a new processing software and couldn’t manage to fix these. So apologies for the substandard shots; clearly I need to learn a bit more about photographing knitwear! These are much more impressive in person. Luckily my mother’s coming to visit me next month, so I’ll be able to photograph them on the feet they were knit for.