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.150907_untitled_11 7.51.27 PM

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.150907_untitled_10 7.51.27 PM

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.150907_untitled_6 7.54.10 PM

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.150907_untitled_9

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.

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22 thoughts on “Elephants Remember Socks

  1. I actually really hate to wear sock (I’m weird. Don’t ask!), but these really are beautiful and would tempt even me! I’m not surprised your mom loves them; truly these were a gift fueled by great affection for their recipient.

    1. Before I discovered wool socks I hated wearing socks too, so I completely understand! 🙂 My feet are always cold, but for years I’d just deal with that rather than wear socks. lol

  2. Okay, so you might be getting sick of hearing me say this, but I SO FREAKIN’ LOVE THESE!!! And your mom truly, truly is one of the sweetest people on this planet, and I can completely understand why you say she’s worth it!

  3. OK, I’m impressed. 1) 12 sts/in?!!?!? I can imagine the pain of that. I bought 00 needles this year, but I kind of hate using them — so tiny. 2) I’ve yet to make stranded socks I can get on. 😦 Actually I’ve only made one pair of stranded socks so far, but they didn’t go over Mom’s heels, either. Hopefully I’ll find a recipient for them soon, and hopefully my WIP second pair of stranded socks will have a better outcome (if/when I ever get back to them).

    1. I don’t think I’d mind the 000s (they’re circular, so I had to magic loop whereas usually I make socks with dpns) if I weren’t also trying to keep my stitches as small as possible, you know. I’m going to try knitting with my ‘normal’ tension on the 000s the next time I come across a pattern that calls for 9-10 stitches/inch and see how I feel about them then. They’re Addi Lace, and I love the tips & the texture at least! But the next project I cast on is on size 1s, and they feel hilariously big & sturdy by comparison.

      Have you tried making an extra-long heel flap & picking up more stitches for the gusset than usual for your socks? That’s the only thing that lets my mom get these on (she has high arches). That would be so sad, making an entire pair that didn’t fit.

      I’m hoping to do more stranded knitting projects over the next few months, to improve my technique. I love how the finished pieces look more impressive than the work that went into them, but I still have to ‘think’ about my floats, instead of just getting them right by instinct. So I need more practice!

      1. I love stranded knitting, too! It’s kind of a bummer how, as you gain knitting experience, you have to find more challenging projects for them to be able to hold your interest (in certain circumstances, at least). And yes, I have ways to deal with the arches normally, but the pattern I was using didn’t allow for very straightforward modifications. Hopefully the next pair will be better! 🙂

        I just recently have started sometimes magic looping socks, too; such a different experience! I prefer Hiya Hiya to Addis, but just because I can’t deal with the nickel plating, which is sad, because the smoothness is awesome! And yes, I’m frequently astounded how giant my 2.25mm needles feel even compared to 2.0mm ones.

        1. Magic looping usually feels so cumbersome for me compared to dpns (fussing with the cable twice a row, versus just moving on to the next needle), but I liked how it cut down on the corners for a stranded project. So I might try it out again for colourwork projects that are too small for regular circular knitting (I have an interchangeable set of 0-3 and 4-9, so *could* magic loop for any type of yarn).

          Boo to complicated patterns that don’t let you customise! I hope you have better luck next time. 🙂

          Luckily, I’m not nearly as experienced a knitter as you are, so I still find lots of challenges, hehe. Quite a few of my challenges lately are from self-designing patterns vs the actual knitting. But I miss cables; I need to add them and their challenges back into my life! The faster I knit, the more expensive it is, so anything that slows me down is a good thing.

  4. I don’t know anything about knitting but these look amazing! You are so patient and creative. It’s hard to think of a better present since it was made with love.

    P.S. I wanted to thank you for recommending Claire of Sea Light to me on the other blog (it was a few months ago or more). I was mesmerised by it and it contributed to my goal of reading more diverse authors.

    1. Thank you so much Ioana! I’m so glad you enjoyed Claire of Sea Light; would you like a list of more Caribbean authors to try out? I can’t remember if you’ve read many of them before.

        1. I definitely don’t mind! I’m mentally composing my reply; I might make it a blog post as well, so that I can spread the Caribbean love. 😀

  5. Oh, how lovely! And such dedication to knit on such tiny needles at such a tight gauge. But it sounds like your mom is truely deserving of such an act of love.

  6. Those look amazing! I’ve been following your original blog for several years and had to pop over to see your new blog. Happy to see knitting included. I am learning to knit – just started last year, and am very much a beginner. (still on the scarves and simple hats type of projects). But am hoping to figure out how to knit socks once I get a little better!

    1. Welcome to knitting! Socks are much more achievable than they seem; if you’ve done hats you know how to do ribbing and decreases. So the only other things you need to know is how to pick up stitches & how to graft, and you’re all set for top down socks. The internet has so many great videos, you can definitely start knitting socks if you want to. 🙂 (I’d suggest starting with a ribbed pattern so fit is less of an issue.)

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