Sunday, December 11, 2005

Uncle Kevin's Socks

I finally finished these giant socks for my Uncle Kevin. I've been working on them off-and-on since about last year at this time. (People often ask me how long it takes to make things and it's hard to say, since I knit a bunch of different things at once, and often stop a project for months, only to pick it up again. )

Kevin is my favorite uncle (even if he is a Republican!). He's a charming and lovable guy. He tells funny, colorful, unpredictable stories with ease, and he has a fine singing voice too. Both of these qualities are enhanced by a few beers, which he does enjoy. At every family gathering he and my dad would get a little buzzed and sing very loud. For some reason this upset their wives, who would try to get them to shut up, but we kids loved it.

I can't hear: "Bye-bye Miss American Pie", "Blue Moon", "Molly Malone", "Sea Cruise" or any Beatle's tune without thinking of him. He gave me my first record albums: the Beatle's Abbey Rd and Sgt. Pepper's, and I listened to them a million times.

He's very Irish, and I love that about him. He's a lifelong local politician and attorney. Also a former judge, so he married my husband and I. He also helped us with the closing on our house, and always gives me legal advice for free. I'm happy to be mature enough now to recognize that he won't be around forever, and I should do something to show him I love him and I appreciate how much he means to me. He's had a bad case of Lyme disease lately, so I worry about him.

When I first tried to learn to knit there was much cursing, ripping back and feeling discouraged, but my uncle was very interested in my progress, and always asked me to knit him some heavy wool "hunting socks" (he doesn't hunt, he just calls them that). He described watching his grandmother knitting such socks for him, and every so often taking a sip of the whiskey she kept in the cabinet.

He kept pestering me about the socks, but back then I wondered if I'd ever learn to knit at all, let alone make socks on 4 double-pointed needles, or "turn a heel". I did want to though. I appreciated that he cared, and didn't just say: "Why don't' you just buy some socks, what's the point of trying to make them?" like the rest of my family did.

"What color should I make them?" I asked. "The color doesn't matter, any color. But really thick socks" he'd say, "made of wool".

As I persisted and was frustrated, and one night, at a certain point I felt my hands guided, as though by another pair of older woman's hands. Was it the hands of my sock-knitting, whiskey-drinking great-grandmother, from Co. Galway, who I never met? Or just developing muscle memory and motor neurons? Who knows? But I like to think it was her, and maybe she taught me so that I could finally make these socks for Uncle Kev. After that, my knitting improved dramatically.

Kevin is over six feet tall and has size 13 feet. These socks are so big they look silly! But I had him measure his feet, so I think they are right. Even if they are a little big, it's not hard to shrink them in the wash.

There is a story my mother always tells about how my uncle came to visit us when my dad was stationed in the Air Force at Waco Tx, and our dog, Rain, a German Shepherd puppy, chewed up his shoes. He had to go home on the plane wearing a pair of my dad's shoes, which were way too small. His heels hung off the back.

He's very skinny too, so I hope I didn't make the calves too big. (I have huge-former-waitress-calves, so I tend to make them on the big side, but he has string bean legs. )

The pattern was from my favorite, and most used knitting book: The Knitter's Handy Book of Patterns by Ann Budd.

The yarn is a strand of gray Icelandic wool from Tongue River Farms (this is awesome yarn BTW, I bought it at the NY Sheep and Wool festival a few years ago, and I liked it so much I bought a bunch more of their yarn this year). and a strand of natural Brown Sheep Nature Spun sport weight held together to get that rag-wool look. They are really, really soft and not scratchy at all.

The idea of making the cuff, heel and toe natural and the rest of the sock gray came from Folk Socks: The History & Techniques of Handknitted Footwear by Nancy Bush. It's a traditional Irish/Scottish/Welsh type color combination. The author describes knitting a pair of socks like this in Wales, and an older man coming up to her and saying "My mother used to knit socks just like that".

I plan to wrap them with a big red satin ribbon and send them soon. I hope he likes them!


Blogger mireille said...

Those are wonderful. And it must be a good feeling to have finished such a project right before Christmas. Kevin is lucky! xoxo

11:24 AM  
Blogger Bubbles said...

I'm sure he will love them! I loved the story of your Uncle Kevin! It reminds me of my Uncle Dick, also an Irishman and a bit of a conservative who can weave a colourful tale [often to the embarrassment of his wife and others]. He is a farmer and the hardest working man I know AND my favorite uncle of all time!

11:44 AM  
Blogger PFG said...

So very Irish sounding. Just like many guys I grew up with. I can almost picture him.

I am sure he'll love the socks. Who wouldn't?

All my hope for him kicking the Lyme disease's ass. It is a battle and it requires what sometimes seems like endless support, strength, and understanding from friends and family. Never doubt that your support helps. It is absolutely crucial in fact.

9:13 AM  
Blogger Liquidplastic said...

Wow! These are beautiful Kate. Your Uncle will love them. You are both so very blessed.

But I didn't know that Lyme disease could be cured? I got to research this a bit more. A friend of mines have it.

Merry Christmas to you and your Uncle.

1:09 PM  
Blogger Kate said...

Thanks guys! Yes, my poor uncle has a bad case of lyme too. He actually had a spinal tap and cat scan and he had encephalitis as a result of the lyme. But now he's doing better. I guess once you have it, it's sort of always in your system, but you can regain your strength. He's on intravenous antibiotics.

The weirdest thing is, his whole family has it! His 2 sons and his wife and even their cat! And a bunch of their neighbors too. I guess there's just a ton of lyme bearing ticks out there.

Normally we visit them in the summer several times, but the past couple of years we haven't been able to make it, and I felt bad about it, but now that I know how much Lyme disease there is there right now, I'm secretly glad we didn't go! Isn't that terrible?

My dog gets ticks from running in the woods all the time, but mostly just dog ticks. I found a deer tick on myself once but it wasn't engorged yet, which is good. I spend a lot of time outdoors so I try to always be on the lookout for them. I love nature, but those nasty ticks are the exception for me. I think they are so gross! And they can really make you sick. :-(

4:13 PM  
Blogger glamkitty99 said...

Pretty and warm!

6:47 AM  
Blogger PFG said...

My apologies Kate if the following lyme discussion is too much. Tryna keep it short.

Amias - yes, there is a lot of controversy about what happens when you get lyme, whether it is curable (or "curable" for everyone), how to "cure" or even treat it, what is happening with apparent "non-responders", etc. Ask the insurance companies and they say "3 weeks of generic oral antibiotics cure lyme disease!" Ask someone with Lyme and odds are you'll hear something different. Ask 10 people with Lyme and you'll start wondering wtf is going on. I can chat about it with you elsewhere, e-mail, or stop by my blog. I do have some lyme posts...not many. It kind of creeps me out to bring it up myself. Superstitious I guess. It was a bad bad time for me.

Kate - I lived in a Lyme corridor in CT, that's where I picked it up. Sounds like the same kind of situation as your uncle, his family, and neighbors. I've been told by those who are native to this area that chickens help. They eat ticks apparently...? I grew up outside Boston. This is all so "green acres" for me.
Perhaps you should send Uncle Kevin a nice chicken with the socks.

10:26 AM  
Blogger Kate said...

I suggested he get Guinea hens! I hear they are the best at eating those ticks. :-) He laughed at me, but if I were in his place I'd get some in a heartbeat. Seriously!

1:15 PM  
Blogger ticharu said...

I go on at length about recording, you go on about wool and knitting, it's funny.
Lyme is total drag, mother nature trying everything to get rid of us, the good and the bad, the cool ones and the evil ones, she doesn't see any difference.

4:35 AM  
Blogger katiedid said...

Those are great socks, and I'm sure he'll love them.

I've heard some really awful things about Lyme disease, so he has my sympathies. Sounds horrible to me.

Just in case you don't post again before the holidays, I want to wish you a Merry Christmas :)

3:25 PM  
Blogger Scott said...

The socks are too cool and the talk of Blogsville ,, lol
The lyme thing is sad, I was going to mention the Guinea hens, then saw you wrote about them,, My friends White Crow and Ol Buzzard got some chicks for this reason... might have to get a few myself...

7:33 PM  
Blogger Nerdine said...

you know one of the most treasured gifts i have ever got were some homeknitted socks I got from my gran years and years ago. They're plain and grey - nothing special at all - except they were made especially for me by a gran I didn't have the pleasure of visiting too often as she lived far far away. I have tried learning to knit socks myself, but I don't have the patience.. I finish one and never finish the other...

Ticks are just gross... I had one some years back and had a huge infection from it. Took me two months on antibiotics and small surgery to get rid of... I shudder just from the thought of ticks...

1:59 AM  
Blogger Urban Chick said...

wow - those socks look amazing! as if they came out of a catalogue!

whenever i'm over at your blog, i always log off thinking how i must take up knitting!

1:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Those socks are great! I'm so impressed. I feel like I lack any creative energy at all. So when I see someone exhibiting artistic, creative talents-- I'm so inspired.

7:15 AM  

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