Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Taming the Want Monster

"I have enough yarn...said no knitter ever."
"If someone tells you that you have too much yarn, stop talking to them. You don't need that kind of negativity in your life."
"The one who dies with the most yarn wins."

Many have you have probably seen things like this all over the Internet (substitute the key word of your choice: books, glitter, etc.). We are flooded with messages like this, right along with all of the reposts and shares for giveaways, contests, and sales. It is so easy to get sucked in, to - quite literally - buy into this "gotta have it" mentality. It reminds me of a book I used to read to my girls, The Berenstain Bears Get the Gimmies. 

When did this relentless pursuit of MORE start filling our lives? Probably it was always there, a natural part of human nature. But when it is out there in your face on all the social media sites, it really becomes overwhelming. Or at least, it does to me. I have been battling the want monster for a long time. Like with anything you practice regularly, it has been getting easier.

But I still have a way to go. In recent weeks I went through my yarn stash and uploaded it to Ravelry, a website for knitters, crocheters, spinners, and weavers. I was shocked when I clicked the "magic" button and discovered exactly how many miles - yes, miles - of yarn I have sitting in my house. The photo above, by the way, is only of all of the sock yarn left over from already-completed projects. I also have a whole heck of a lot of brand new skeins of yarn, and not just for socks.

But since the want monster still slips the chain now and then, on Christmas Day I found some really pretty sock yarn on sale and ordered three skeins. I was very happy and excited about getting them. Then yesterday, I got an email saying one of the colors, the one I liked the most, natually, was out of stock and had been discontinued by the yarn company. I was so outraged and disappointed! You'd think I had just been told that there was no more yarn anywhere in the world! That's when it hit me. The want monster was completely in charge again.

There is nothing all that special about that skein of yarn that warrants such an extreme reaction. What business do I have getting so unreasonably upset about something like this? Don't I already have more than enough sock yarn to knit socks, wrist warmers and hats for a whole year? Sock yarn that I just absolutely had to have, way back when? If I'm not happy with what I already have, why am I basing my happiness now on what I just bought? What is with this relentless pursuit of MORE? That path only leads to dissatisfaction and emptiness.

So I am pledging to myself to strive for LESS. Less stuff, less clutter, less outside pressure. I am "unliking", "unfollowing", and unsubscribing right and left, to free myself from the constant pressure to buy the latest thing. I am working to clear out the stuff in my house that doesn't make me happy, that I don't use, or haven't worn in more than a year. 

My word for 2015 is Simplify. I am really looking forward to it.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Playing Favorites

My sock drawer looks pretty darn full of awesomeness, if I do say so myself. I made all of these socks, except for the fourth pair down from the top on the left. Those were a gift from a wonderful friend. Thank you, Kathleen.

The first pair of socks I made for myself (second from the top on the left) were actually my fourth pair ever knit. I used 100% wool yarn given to me by another wonderful friend. Thank you Ellen. Ellen sent me the yarn in the hopes of encouraging me to try sock knitting. It took a few years, but eventually I did. And the reason I tried, and succeeded, is because I had help and encouragement from yet another friend, the wonderful Judy Sumner, who sadly is no longer with is. But I think of her every time I knit a pair of socks.

Of course every pair of socks in the drawer has a story behind it, and many of those stories have already been told here at Bag of Chocolates. I knit my first pair of socks in 2006 and have loved every one of them. I have given many pairs of socks away to a lot of very special people - family members and dear friends. I have donated handknit socks to organizations that help others. I have made socks in all sizes, from footies to crew length to over the knee socks, for baby feet all the way up to size 18 basketball player feet. After years of being afraid to try knitting socks, once I got started I couldn't - and still don't want to - stop. 

Usually I knit my socks cuff down on double pointed needles. There are many other ways to knit socks, but this is the way that makes me happy. I have tried knitting from the toe up. The knee socks I mentioned were knit that way. I have tried several different kinds of heels, but the classic heel flap and turned heel is my favorite. I have tried lace socks and colorwork socks, socks with cables and ribbed socks. My favorite is still the plain stockinette sock, which some people call a plain vanilla sock.

Some people say they have trouble forcing themselves to knit the mate to the first sock. After making the first one, they want to move on to different yarn, or a different pattern. This is called Second Sock Syndrome. Of all the pairs of socks I have made since 2006 (and unfortunately I don't remember how many that is. More than 50 pairs, certainly) I have only neglected to knit a second sock once. I decided to try knitting from the toe up to see if I could manage it, so I made a toe up baby sock. It worked out fine, so I immediately started that pair of knee socks for my niece. I never did go back and make the second baby sock.

Not only do I have a favorite method and pattern for knitting socks, I have come to realize I have favorites when it comes to sock yarn, not necessarily for knitting but for wearing and washing. Some socks I wear again as soon as they are clean. Others spend most of their time looking pretty in the sock drawer. 

There is so much gorgeous sock yarn out there to choose from. And more and more, you'll find independent yarn dyers who sell absolutely beautiful sock yarn on their Etsy sites. The system seems to be that the dyer makes up a bunch of colorways, then schedules a "release". If you manage to grab some in time before it sells out, you're one of the lucky ones. Given the fact that my clock is 7 hours head of Eastern time, you can probably guess how good my chances are of that. This used to frustrate me and I would feel sorry for myself.

But you know what? I stopped and thought about it, and thought about which pairs of socks make it out of the drawer and onto my feet most often, and which don't. And I realized that the pairs I wear the most, and which still look almost the same as the first time I wore them, are the socks knit from established companies, like Opal, Regia, and Zitron (Trekking). Even though the other yarns are gorgeous, they don't hold up well, and often bleed color when they are washed (by hand, they can't handle machine washing like the three companies I mentioned). Not only that, many times the knitted fabric starts to felt, even if it is a "superwash" yarn base. Then the socks become thick and stiff, and don't have any stretch to them. Those factors, plus the fact that handwashing socks is a pain, means those socks are mostly decorative rather than useful. Now, I'm sure there are many very capable dyers - and not just indies but other companies - out there who do their best to prevent these things, especially color bleeding out of the yarn. But it can be a risk.

Right now, the socks I wear the most are the first six pairs on the bottom, starting on the left. And now that I've finally realized what I truly love in a pair of socks, I don't feel too badly about missing out on all the cool hand-dyed sock yarns. I have seen how poorly they hold up, and I would rather stick with yarns I know will keep on looking good after years of use.

And speaking of socks, I am currently working on a pair for Liat and that pretty gray cabled sock for a friend. Time to get knitting!