Before I moved to Orangeville, I had attended one or two Creative Needlework Festivals in Toronto. Back then, around 1996/97, there was not much knitting on the internet. I was a member of About.com (Delphi back then) and spent a lot of time on the knitting forum---although not as much time as I spend on the computer now! We moved to O'ville late '98; I didn't go to the Festival that fall as we got married on Thanksgiving weekend, LOL. In O'ville, there wasn't much knitting going on either. You could get yarn at Wal-Mart and Zellers, and in a gift/art supply shop downtown. In March of 99, I saw an ad in the newspaper for a talk at a museum on the history of knitting/socks, and then weekly sock knitting classes. I thought "Why would I want to knit socks?" I had never used double pointed needles, and I"m not sure if I had knitted circularly at the time. Eager to meet other knitters, I went to the talk, and signed up for the classes. I learned about 'sock yarn' as opposed to regular yarn. We had to buy it from the teacher, who was also a weaver and got it from her supplier (people say it's like crack, LOL).
The classes were held in a little area of the county museum. It was a pretty drive up there, about 25 minutes. You could take either boring old Highway 10, or scenic but deadly Airport Rd/County Rd 18. I usually went up on Highway 10 (it was Sat. morning, LOL) and back on Airport Rd. If you go here and watch the "Main Gallery" show, you'll see a bit area between the log houses (yes, there are real log homes INSIDE the museum). This bright area is a large window which over looks Airport Rd and the farms. The view isn't spectacular; it's just a farm with a cedar woodlot, actually rather dreary in the spring. But I chose two yarns that looked like that farm---a grey/moss marl and a solid moss. Got started, knitted for a while on the 2x2 ribbing and found out the next week I was knitting inside out. LOL. Easily fixed. I finished the first sock and was so impressed with myself! I even knit the second one. The instructor handed out an old Patons/Baldwin/Beehive instruction sheet on grafting the toe, and I've never looked back.
Before the classes ended, I bought some more of the yarn, Schoeller-Esslinger Fortissima 6 ply to 'use up' the leftover yarn from these socks. A few months later, the teacher offered a few knit nights in her home and I bought a few more balls. I think this was the official start of stashing (as opposed to making the Kaffe Fasset sweaters when I bought lots of yarn but for a specific project that I then actually made).
I remember going to the Creative Needlework Festival in October 2000. I had signed up for my first classes that summer, never even thinking about the fact I had a newborn. On the Friday I took Huey and all the 'stuff' (this was pre-sling days when I was still hesitant on nursing in public--I knew I could, but it was physically awkward for me). The first class was something with Lucy Neatby. There were about 12 women around a table, in a large room that had several other classes going on in different corners (one was Lily Chin, one was a sewing class). Huey had slept all the way down of course, and woke up for the class. He was awake and active, but not crying or anything. Part way through, an 'official' came in and asked me to leave! I don't recall seeing 'no babies' in the booklet, but I didn't have it anymore. It was in there next time!
I spent the rest of the time shopping. One of the first booths was always Koigu. (It is possible I saw it before this time, at an earlier show). I bought two skeins, one cream, one brown/moss/purple. I wanted to make Rob socks. I had tried before, with some Kroy, but he didn't like them. The Koigu was $11/skein back then....it seemed a fortune to me, but there wasn't much available in 'specialty' sock yarn! There was also Shelridge Farm, and I don't remember any other ones. Everyone seemed surprised that a) I knit, and b) I knit socks. They weren't quite the hot item they are now. I popped into the afternoon class I was supposed to take, and got the handouts.
The next day, Saturday, Huey stayed home and I went to my other class. It was about how to be a knitting teacher. At one point, a woman mentioned that some stupid lady had brought her baby to a class and thankfully she got asked to leave. I spoke up and said that stupid lady was me and I spoke with the instructor after and she was not the one who complained, and hadn't minded the baby....she was more upset about being in one room with other classes going on (especially Lily Chin's bright yellow sweater). It was interesting, to say the least.
Anyway. The Koigu. I played with it for a long time. I also got a mini skein from one of the classes and thought it matched, but it turned out to be slightly different (I think Koigu has way too many 'colours' that are very similar). I ended up with many mini skeins, getting the two multi colours mixed up. I learned that I didn't want anything stranded on the bottom of my foot, and I felt that a sock yarn blend would be better for the foot. At the time, that meant sewing the sole to the top. I decided on Kroy for the sole, using leftover yarn from the first pair of socks I made for Rob (that he didn't like and I now wear). I needed more. Bought more, found out it's 4ply and I had been using 3 ply. I think I kept the heel turn and toes in 4 ply. THe guage for the sole was different than the top of the foot. A simple project took forever (I don't know. It certainly was not instant gratification. I wanted perfection.) At some point I decided they would be for me instead of Rob when he kept insisting he doesn't like wool socks. Finally, I ended up with these:
Why do my ankles always look so thick in hand knit socks? I really don't think they are that thick in real life! Anyway. There is no stretch to these socks, and they are a pain to get on. Once on, they feel great, but I never wear them cause they are so unstretchy. They also got slightly felted. I put them on yesterday when I was so cold, but realized soon that the sole was still good old Kroy, and while warmer than Wal-Mart socks, not as warm as 100% wool. Also, I was surprised to find out the heels are wearing really thin---the same coloured/yarn Kroy socks that I made Rob that I now wear quite a bit are not that worn!
So, I actually do not have a pair of 100% wool socks yet! The Shelridge Farm wool I used finally last year, they accidentally got a little felted too and I gave them to my cousin's daughter. I guess I better hurry up and finish the entrelac socks in the STR. Of course, because I'm so cold, I'm working on a pair of felted clogs. They are going good and I guarantee you that next week when it warms up again---that's when they are being felted and dried! LOL.
I find social history of knitting very interesting. Have I ever posted why/how I learned to knit? Also, knitting trends are interesting. When I started knitting socks, people were like 'Why?' and there was very little sock yarn available, mostly boring standards like Kroy. The increase in popularity of socks can be directly linked to the Internet, and probably has a lot to do with http://www.knitty.com/ too. You can see changes in sock pattern history, from lace, to plain but self-striping/hand dyed striping, to the current popularity of semi-solids paired with twisted stitches and large patterns taking the whole sock to show. THe number of yarn dyers specializing in sock yarns is phenomenal! There is a new interest in sock architecture too which is fabulous, although I do feel a little sorry for a new sock knitter trying to choose what to do! Back then, there was heel flap or short row heels, star toe or wedge toe, and all were done top down. That was it. Only a few sock books (but lots of old vintage patterns around), and the designs in some of them look quite old now, LOL. My nine years of sock knitting has been interesting, but I really wish I had more socks in my drawer to reflect this history!!!