On the Needles : Why Handmade Socks Make a Bad Surprise Gift

I met L during a summer she came back from Spelman. We both worked at a small department store; reshelving shoes and figuring out this week's sale signs while passing off the most annoying customers to one another. "She talked to me for two hours last week. It's your turn."  

She had a beautiful smile that would crinkle her eyes and and a slightly husky laugh that was oh so often directed at me. I was a clueless sheltered white girl in small town southern Arkansas while she was an educated black woman going to one of the most prestigious HBCUs in a city that was just blooming into the ATL that we know today.

Those laughs: they weren't mean-spirited just... knowing... in the same way that I giggle and groan at the "babies" I've had the chance to work with in the fifteen years since.

I didn't realize it at the time, but L was someone I actively mirrored my life after. I fell in love with her descriptions of the city and grew excited as she spoke about her upcoming trip to Japan to teach English. A few years later I would be on a plane to teach English in Asia and a few years after that, living in a studio apartment in a big city, but there in the shoe section, all of those things seemed impossible until she spoke them. 

hedgehog fibres sock fools gold

Twenty years on and she's a school administrator in LA who's Facebook posts make me laugh just like I did when we were in the tiny breakroom in Hope, Arkansas. 

And then she announced her two year old had cancer.

She was very matter of fact, very direct, and as always, so well spoken. She asked that unless they were praying or asking for prayers her daughter's name not be spoken. Her message of, "Do not delight in my family's trial," was something so radically different and refreshing in this day of constant status updates. 

And there I was with a two year old who did not have cancer, but with whom I shared a strange sisterhood. How does one reach out and support the woman I had unknowingly shadowed, down to the birth of our children, for years? Well, I would knit her socks. 

how to unknit a sock

She had liked a picture of the golden socks I had knit for myself a few days previous. I also remembered that she had shared that gold was the color of November and it's being Childhood Cancer Awareness month. I would knit her a pair of golden socks and show her that I was listening and sending a {somewhat awkward} foot hug to her from far away in the Ozarks. 

And so I started. It was the first sock project I started post-LASEK. And the tiny needles and skinny yarn were cumbersome until I finally fell back into the rhythm. And then I re-read the pattern.  

"Knit until sole is ___ long while slightly stretched."

Wanting this to be a surprise I had messaged her sister {also a friend who I had shared another former lifetime with} and found out that she wore a "size 9.5-10 shoe and she had a wide foot". All the sudden I questioned my original calculations.

"Will it be too small?" This lead me to re-read the project description again:  "No ribbing equals less elasticity." This made even more questions pop up in my head.

"What if the leg of the sock is too constricting around her calves?

What if the lack of running causes the socks to pool around her ankles?"

These doubts led to more- She's a mom of a toddler and a teen, one of which has a major illness.

"Does she even have time to hash wash these things?"

As I was binding off that first sock I knew my gut was telling me to slow down. My heart was in the right place but these needles might not have been. 

Blog socks 3.JPG

So I proceeded to rip it all out.

Part two soon.