All those things I said I was going to do and look what happened. I think I've been bitten by the Sock Bug. Those are the soles of what are, to be painfully honest, my second-ever pair of socks. More about the first in a moment. These here are real socks, ones that fit (so far), in Fleece Artist 'Sea Storm' sock yarn (feels a little harsher than the Cherry Tree Hill, but not badly so), knitted toe-up two at once on two circulars. I started (!) on Magic Loop, which is really no different in method, but two circulars allows me to knit the pattern in 2.5mm and the soles on 2mm which by all reports will make them last longer and be softer underfoot. The glittery thing is my stitch counter, more beads (the fabulously detailed black&whites are Corina's lampwork) and silver-coated copper. When I desperately needed a counter yesterday I remembered a bracelet in what looked like leather and large wooden beads I'd seen on a website and invented an equivalent. As soon as he saw he said "It's an abacus". Clever man :-)
I refuse to think about the heel yet, but I've already learned a lot. I comprehend Second Sock Syndrome: I'm certain the thrill of making these will carry me through to the end, er, top, but I already understand that after making one by itself the second would be less a thrill, more a matter of grim determination. I'm testing a theory about the causes of the pain that some bloggers report when knitting socks. I have found that the wool can hurt my fingers, and I do get arm pain sometimes. The two usually occur together, and I think it's a function of tension/stress AND the need to see what this fine-ish yarn is actually doing on these thin needles. When things started to hurt I analysed what I was doing, how I was holding the work (three cheers for Pilates and previous wrist/elbow problems that have taught me that these things matter), and found that I'm holding the knitting far more tightly than I need to -- the wool on the needles is biting into my fingers because of the ferocity with which I'm pressing down on it -- and I'm holding the knitting close to my face, high up my chest so my middle-aged eyes can see what I'm doing. By looking OVER the top of my reading glasses to see it, which is too stupid for words. To hold the knitting up I'm bending my arms, compressing my elbows and wrists, which is painful if I do it for long periods especially when I'm tense. The solution I've found is to consciously stop stressing and hold the work more naturally. Work in better light - I'm looking for a lamp to stand by my comfy chair - and, if you wear reading glasses, make certain you're using them correctly. My VDU glasses (reading lenses set up for the distance I should be sitting from the computer monitor, essential for someone who spends hours every day in front of one) were a significant improvement because the 'Reading' bit of my bifocals is set up for a closer distance than is comfortable for holding knitting. For some people it might be worth getting a really cheap pair of glasses made up for their comfortable knitting distance in the same way that weavers have glasses set up for weaving.
Those first socks. Let's keep this short, shall we? Toward the end of my First Phase of Knitting I diversified away from aran with a brief foray into intarsia (Phase Ib, as an archaeologist might classify it). Rowan, Kaffe Fassett, 'nuff said. Lots and lots of bits of expensive wool left over, sat in a bag for ages until the day when, while cleaning a particularly inaccessible bookshelf, I came across a Patons? 1970s? booklet of sock patterns I'd never done anything with. Everything was striped and for no reason I can now comprehend it occurred to me that the leftover bits could become striped socks. So I bought some dpn needles, cast on and started knitting. I gave no thought to gauge, to suitability of yarn, I just followed the pattern with the yarn I had. I didn't even think to keep track of what I did where and when so the socks (I was so certain I was knitting socks) would match. I just knitted, and if you try to imagine what I made, your imagination will probably fall far short of the awful reality. They were vaguely sock-shaped, but that's where any resemblance to 'Socks' as wearable items ended. One was a bit too large for him, the other a bit too large for me. Neither was sufficiently beautiful to be a Christmas Stocking or a sculpture, or a cat toy. I have no idea what happened to them, and I don't care... I love what's on my needles now to the point of distraction. In fact I hear their siren song now. Excuse me, I could be knitting socks :-)