Unfinished Friday: Why My Socks Aren’t Done Yet

The fancy socks I started a month ago are almost done, but how to finish them has me stumped. I need to graft the toes closed, and I cannot get Kitchener stitch to work.

Kitchener stitch is a way to join two rows of stitches that are still on the needles by creating a row of fake knitting between them. When you knit socks in the round from the top down, you eventually need to close the tube up at the toe. Done properly, Kitchener stitch does the job beautifully, without leaving a seam. The goal is an invisible join.

Apparently, I am not capable of doing Kitchener stitch properly, despite the fact that I’ve been knitting socks for almost 30 years. After two tries, I got something on the first sock that now looks fantastic when I compare it with sock number two. Also, the sock for the left foot came out way too long, so I had to unravel a bunch of it to get it closer to the right length, and lost my shaping in the process.

Invisible join? I think not! (Plus I dropped some stitches. ARGH!)
Invisible join? I think not! (Plus I dropped some stitches. ARGH!)

Even if I liked my latest attempt at grafting (which I don’t), I dropped some stitches in the process and need to undo everything to pick them back up. If I want to be happy with the sock, I probably need to unravel it even more so I can re-shape the toe. And then I get to close it up with my ugly Kitchener stitch one more time.

Which is why I set my knitting aside and turned to my spinning wheel.

When I got my new wheel, I started out spinning some wool that came with it. It was easy to spin, only I didn’t know that. I’m a beginner. It wasn’t until I switched to a new fiber that I realized the first one had been a dream to work with in comparison.

I’m not sure why the Corriedale is so hard to spin, but it is. The wool doesn’t draft smoothly. It comes apart as I’m trying to feed it to the wheel. I can’t keep it from slubbing (generating random lumps that are obvious in the finished yarn). I tried carding some of it, hoping that additional preparation would make it easier to use. Instead, it got worse.

Faced with these unexpected challenges at the spinning wheel, I immediately made a list of things to do. I can read up on the characteristics of the type of wool I’m trying to spin and see if I learn anything helpful. I can take a sample of the roving to my friend who is a spinning expert and see what she has to say about it. I can get out some of my other wool and start playing with that.

Note that “Set this aside and forget about it for a while, possibly forever” is not an option, like it was with the socks.

Why is my spinning frustration not stopping me cold? Because I am still a beginner and I know it. I have loads to learn about spinning and I need to ask for help if I want to get any better at it. I’m pretty sure things will improve if I take the time to learn more about it.

Since I’ve been knitting socks forever, asking for help with that didn’t even cross my mind. However, I’m actually a beginner at Kitchener stitch. I’ve managed to avoid it almost completely over the years. I can’t see any other way to finish these socks unless I staple the toes shut, and I’m worried the staples will scratch.

Instead of giving up, it’s time to look through all my knitting books, check out the how-to videos on YouTube, read blog posts and ask my knitting friends for any tips they have for dealing with this stitch. It clearly works for at least some knitters out there, so I should be able to get it to work, too.

I just have to be willing to ask for help to learn how.

What do you do when you get frustrated by things you think you should already know? Are you good at being a beginner or do you find it uncomfortable? Are any of your projects stalled because you got stuck?

Author: Kit Dunsmore

Kit is a writer and an artist who adores living in Colorado. Whether she's hiking in the mountains or walking the prairies, she's always watching the wildlife in order to learn more about the natural world.

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