knit | spin

Slow Socks

September 5, 2015

This post is a bit of a cup-of-tea-and-a-lie-down after the strident excitement of the last couple of posts. A perfect time to show you a lately finished spinning and knitting project.

IMG_1351These socks are slow socks, or more precisely, slooooooow socks.

They took a long time to finish.

IMG_3309They began their journey into becoming socks in November 2011 when we were in Somerset, UK. I bought a plait of Blue Faced Leicester top, dyed by the wonderful Jill Jones, of Jillybean Yarns.

IMG_3190I thought I would just pack it away till I got home but found myself acquiring a spindle on our travels. This spindle is a thing of beauty. It is made by Ian of IST Crafts on the Isle of Wight, the whorl finished with a sliver of bog oak from the fens of Anglia. It sang its song to me and I started spinning that Jillybean BLF in Somerset.

IMG_5269The top was split in quarters all the way down the length as I wanted to preserve the colour changes. I tied a knot at the top end of each to remember which end to start from.

IMG_4810It travelled with us through Germany and came home to Melbourne. It would languish for months as other projects crowded in but slowly over time, four singles were spun. They were spun over a three year period I think, so the singles were not particularly consistent. In order to end up with two consistently sized yarns, I plied the thinnest with the thickest and the two mediums together. Whilst the thickness of the two yarns was even, the colour changes were not. The thick/thin yarn was quite marled in the colour changes whilst the medium/medium yarn matched up the changes quite cleanly.

IMG_5270I had always planned to do socks but these would look very different if I used one ball for each. So I decided on stripes to marry the two yarns together. As both yarns had the same colour sequence, I had to knit them from either end to get a colour contrast for striping.  Both skeins were wound into centre pull balls. The first sock was knit from the centre of one ball outwards with the contrast stripes being worked from outside inwards of the other ball. I alternated this for the second sock and ended up with two mostly matching socks.

IMG_1350I worked them till I almost no yarn left, holding just a little back for future darning.

These socks were a bricolage of techniques. I just cast on using Judy’s Cast On for the toes, working the side increases every second row until the width of the foot was achieved. Then I worked in stripes using Meg Swansen’s Jogless Jog till I reached the heel.

IMG_1353The heel was worked as for Cat Bordhi’s Sweet Tomato Heel and then I knitted in broad rib till the calf began to widen. I increased at a rate of 2 sts every 1.5 cm till it was time to knit a 2 x 2 ribbed cuff.

IMG_1348It sounds so simple doesn’t it but it took soooo long. Seasons passed, years turned, till these socks were done. But done they are.

In the time since I drafted this post, we have seen revealed the desperate movement of thousands of people seeking peaceful refuge across Europe. Knitted socks seem rather small and homely in the face of such suffering and hardship. So, my wish for all those trying to find a home away from war and poverty, may you know the small, homely pleasures of knitted socks soon. And may all of us who already know the small, homely pleasures of knitted socks act in larger ways to ensure this.


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  1. Sharing your wish for peace, safety and comfort for all those fleeing their homes right now. And congratulating you on a truly glorious pair of slow socks.

  2. WOW!! Thank you for such a lovely refreshing post and the results of my dying! It is always so lovely to see the fruits of my labors take on new forms and usefulness! May you have many years of wonderful wearing x

  3. What a great post, Rebecca!! Your perseverance is greatly admired. The spindle is lovely. Did you know how to use a spindle before purchasing this one? I hope your beautiful socks last a long, long time. Sloooow is good!!

  4. The socks are beautiful and the prayers and thoughts for the refugees so heartfelt. It does make one consider the simple hearth and home comforts when the news reveals the struggles of so many to just peacefully and simply live on planet earth. Why do so few inflict so much on so many? I do wish your socks and the love that went into the making of them could wrap each and every refugee in safety and warmth from the tragic events they endure. Joan

  5. Beautiful socks, R., and a heartfelt finish. You’ve introduced me to a new heel technique, too. A lovely post.

  6. I love these slow socks. They have taken quite a journey and considering all the thoughts and plans that went into them, they will no doubt be among your favorites.
    Thank you for adding the addition note about the refugees at the bottom of this post. This devastating event has occupied my mind whilst knitting over the last couple of days.

  7. Lovely socks and details of how you made them. Just a thought about the refugees and wishing them socks. I wonder if someone should start a sock knitting campaign for them. The patterns in the Knitting for Peace book by Betty Christiansen for socks, sweaters, caps, blankets, mostly for children may be very appropriate for this situation. Thank you for your thoughtfulness of these refugees.

  8. Your post made me think of the vulnerability of sheep (no wonder they are a common metaphor for the defenseless). I am grateful for many, many things.

  9. Oh Rebecca, they are stunning. They look as though they would be tremendously squishy as well. The colour changes work so well, demonstrating yet again your eye for colour and design. I have a spindle from IST which I haven’t used yet – I take it out and admire the craftmanship regularly though.

  10. Dear Rebecca,
    Your slooooooow socks are just gorgeous, and yes, they do represent everything that is good in this world. Which is pretty darn good. ( And thanks for the construction story. i’m learning stuff here.) The refugee situation in this world is just heartbreaking. I love the idea of a sock knitting campaign for refugees. I see whats happening in Europe at the moment and i feel helpless. It would keep their feet warm and let them know that we give a damn about whats happening to them.
    Yesss!!!!!! to the sock knitting campaign. (i’m serious here). And thank you Rebecca for sharing your beautiful socks with us and your compassionate thoughts on the refugee crises in Europe.

  11. It sounds like lots of folks are thinking similarly about refugees and how they can help. Apparently European aid organisations have asked people not to donate food and clothing as the response has been overwhelming and the goods cannot be distributed efficiently. The most effective things we can do according to the following article is to give money to an on-the-ground aid organisation and raising your voice to pressure more governments to take in more people. This might be an email to your MP or joining in larger pressure campaign.

    This next article from The Age newspaper in Melbourne shows a number of ways to help both the European situation and asylum seekers in Australia. There are details for a local resource centre who do need donated goods, including knitted clothes and wraps for babies.

    I found both these articles really practical. I hope they are of use to you too.

  12. Lovely socks – and what a great story of your spinning as you travelled around Europe and back to Melbourne. Your final paragraph on Europe’s migrant crisis and the recognition that all these people want is the small simple pleasures that we in settled homes take for granted is extremely powerful and moving. It could almost be a slogan of support on the lines of the Irish prayer May the wind always be at your back and the sun upon your face: May you have the pleasure of homely knitted socks soon. Let’s hope this groundswell of support is a wake-up call to the world’s leaders to be more courageous, and more generous.

  13. I am in a small state of shock that it is almost four years since your UK adventure. The time goes by so fast!!! These socks are stunning and were worth the long wait x

  14. I was so surprised to see your latest post begin with a photo of my home area, although I have lived in Hampshire for 30 years now i was born and brought up near Bridgwater in Somerset. I did part of my Duke of Edinburgh Scheme Bronze Award on the history and surroundings of Glastonbury. That photo made me feel amazingly close to you! we share interests, we have walked some of the same paths and viewed some of the same views You have spunSomerset wool and I have used some of your ideas in my knitting.Your socks are fabulous by the way and well worth waiting for.

  15. a beautiful recount of the creation of your socks, from whoa to go 🙂

    I love all the acquired knowledge that is embedded within them, from the splitting of the top to keep the colours, the spinning, plying, striping, and finally all the techniques collaborating in the final knitting.

    and may the displaced people who are currently suffering so much know even just a smidge of comfort and. we can do so much more than we are, it’s shameful

  16. Saw the first pic – nice socks. Saw the second pic – that’s Glastonbury Tor, hang on, this blog is written in Oz. Read the rest of the blog.

    With you on the refugee thing. Pity it’s taken the death of two small boys to get various governments to shift themselves.

    Mind you, I’ve also heard about how Oz deals with would-be refugee/migrants!

  17. Beautiful as always, both the work and the words. I love Ian’s spindles. I own three and I’m currently spinning some locally grown and prepared wool on two of them.

    Aren’t simple things like handmade socks so evocative of home and comfort and warmth? That was a beautiful way to end your post and thank you for the practical links on how to make a little difference.

  18. Oh Rebecca! What a wonderful journey your lovely socks tell! I haven’t been knitting that long so everything you did to get your socks to mostly match sounds like pure magic to me! 😀 And the spindle spinning, well we all know that is magical 😀
    Hugs and have a lovely possibly sock filled weekend!

  19. Beautiful socks Rebecca, using a spindle to make yarn is a wonderful method. You’re right it is slow but I find it so meditative. Thanks also for the links for aiding refugees.

    Best regards,


  20. How lovely to see Glastonbury Tor at the start of this post! (Late catch-up here) and to see the beautiful stripey result of wool from my parents’ area, plus the story of their long slow genesis and travels. May slow projects reign! (Mine always too fast and impatient)

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