It’s been cold here in Texas over the last couple of weeks. It got down to 22º which may not be that big of a deal to you, but it meant I had to bust out my socks. The rest of the year I go sockless, but once the temperatures get down into the 30’s I find that my toes and ankles get a little too chilly. Which fills me with panic; I don’t remember sock styling. Can I wear socks with any style of shoes? I have a large number of ballet flats. Can I wear socks with those? It seems weird. The whole sock thing just feels odd.
I do like to wear socks at night, though, to cover up the ice bergs at the end of my legs. There are no socks more comfy than hand-knit socks (OK, those really fluffy ones are very comfy too but they lack any sort of charm). During the very cold weeks of January and February, I find myself being drawn to knit. (Surprisingly I don’t like to knit when it’s 100º.) I don’t care much for knitting hats because they make my hair look terrible either because of smooshing it down or static. And I have made a bajillion scarves already. So socks it is.
I learned to knit to make socks. Actually, I learned to knit to make leprosy bandages. Back in the day, our church used to take donations of hand-knit bandages to send to lepers in far off places; hand-knit bandages being more durable than gauze and can be washed and reused many times. But no charity wants those any more. Apparently they figured out it would be better if they handed out antibiotics instead.
But, as I said, leprosy bandages used to be a thing. I first heard of them when I saw my aunt knitting one and after her explanation of what they were and how to find directions, I couldn’t wait to learn how to knit. I cannot resist quaint and old-fashioned things and what could be more quaint and old-fashioned than knitting a bandage? It felt so Civil War-esque. I had a full-blown daydream of me knitting in a book shop or restaurant and having people continually asking what I’m doing. I would pause, setting down my knitting with a sigh, and earnestly look into their eyes. “I’m knitting bandages for lepers,” I would explain. “Oh, you wonderful and talented person!” They would gush. But in reality hardly anybody ever asked what I was knitting and invariably if they did ask their reply would be, “bandages for leopards?” If I bothered to clarify, they would usually look alarmed and mutter, “gross,” while they walked quickly away.
I started knitting my first and only leprosy bandage when I was pregnant with Arabella and by the time I finished it she was in kindergarten. Looking at the bandage is like a visual history of my knitting skills. It starts off really terrible-looking and gets wider and then narrower as I learned to make my stitches more uniform. There are several little holes where I dropped stitches and didn’t know how to fix it. Ultimately the bandage was just too embarrassing to give away, even to someone losing their fingers and toes. Now it has a nice spot in my box of medical supplies for the end of the world.
So here we are today. I bought some soft yellow and white merino wool a few days ago and got right to work on a new stripey pair of socks. It’s fun and jolly while you’re making the first sock. By the time you finish one, however, you pretty much never want to knit again, but you have to make yourself do the second or there’s no point.
I should be done with the pair round about the time that the weather is glorious and bluebonnets are blooming far and wide. But won’t I be glad next winter when I open my sock drawer and there they’ll be?