Thursday, July 12, 2007
Jaywalkers, a tribute
The sock, handmade, is not just a sock. One long piece of yarn looped into a fabric, a pattern of v’s that warms and protects, it is the result of hours of labor with tiny knitting needles. It belongs on display, framed perhaps, to be admired for its beauty and craftsmanship.
The pattern is simple enough, the rows of v’s forming larger v shapes nested together. The center stitch of each large v stands out in relief, creating long vertical stripes the length of the sock, stopping just an inch before the toe. It is shaped as you would expect a sock to be shaped, but the toe is unusual. The sides veer in towards the middle, but stop with a blunt end about an inch across so it is like a trapezoid, and with no visible seam. The top edge is ribbed –two knit stitches, two purled, all the way around the top - to hold it snugly in place.
Blending together like a chest of jewels, the colors are luxurious: turquoise, rich purple, vibrant blue, sea green, a little bit of sand. Like the precious stones, the colors have some shine, and the hues are similar enough not to jar, but to complement, as though they were meant for each other. The colors pool in a few areas, leaving, for example, an oblong shadow of purples trailing through a sea of turquoise. A small bit of red, not even an entire stitch, is just a small mark I tried to wipe off, thinking a rogue piece of fiber was stuck in the fabric. Perhaps a manufacturing error in the yarn, it is now hidden on the bottom of my foot.
Pulling on the sock is an experience best savored slowly. The thin fabric is deceivingly warm, a surprise every time. It’s almost a shame to put shoes on. The fine merino feels silky and expensive, maybe a waste for socks, but it feels so good I want all my socks to be like this. It would take years of knitting to fill my sock drawer with these. You may ask why I would bother: socks are cheaper bought from the store, an afterthought picked up on the way to the cash register. Clearly nobody has knit you a pair by hand; if you can’t enjoy simply wearing your socks, you have missed the true experience of sock wearing. It’s like grinding fresh Colombian beans to brew your own coffee compared to mixing up some of the instant powder.
Unexpectedly, the sock smells not of sheep or even of processed wool, but of something sweet, unidentifiable in this context, and much unlike the other, lesser, socks in my drawer. I can’t imagine intentionally smelling any other sock, except its sister. (Yes, there are two perfect socks!)
More a pashmina than a utilitarian foot covering, the sock lies useless in the summer months, waiting for cold weather when it is needed. For now it is not clothing but a piece of art to be looked at not for its usefulness, but for its beauty.