Hand-Knit Socks

Debra Bronow - Manhattan Beach, California
Entered on January 20, 2007
Age Group: 30 - 50

I believe in hand-knit socks.

There was a time when knitting was a necessity, and in many parts of the world it still is. Where I grew up, in remote northwestern Alaska, it was more practical and expedient to knit a pair of mittens than it was to wait for mail-order gloves.

Today, in my warmer, more urban corner of the world, knitting is a luxurious addiction. It is a way to indulge my creative urges, support cottage industries all over the world, and even fit in some meditation.

Over the years, I have knit chemo hats and preemie hats; sweaters for adults and children of every size and shape; bibs and baby blankets; sturdy cotton dish-cloths and delicate linen hand towels. I presented both of my sons with hand-knit prayer shawls at their bar mitzvah services.

But always, there are socks in progress. As long as there are heels to be turned, I am patient with carpool lines, waiting rooms, and the longest traffic light in town. Socks are the perfect size to express personal style and practice new techniques. Stockinette or lace, toe up or top down, wool or cotton; hand-dyed and hand-painted, or a simple solid color—the possibilities are endless, and sock yarn is affordable.

Most hand-knit objects come with a long life expectancy and instant heirloom status. But that’s just not the nature of socks. Hand-knit socks are made to be worn. Though they really are sturdier than the store-bought kind and can be mended, even the best socks will eventually wear out. People who wonder why I knit sweaters are utterly flabbergasted when they see me knitting socks; they feel obliged to point out it would be quicker and cheaper to buy a bag of those one-size-fits-all polypropylene tubes. Some knitters wonder why I would waste good wool and precious knitting time on a project that probably won’t—and like underwear, really shouldn’t—be handed down to the next generation.

To me hand-knit socks are a modern-day equivalent of biblical foot washing. Hand-knit socks say I love you enough to make something completely mundane but beautiful, with the full knowledge they will be hidden by your shoes. I love you enough to pay attention to the details—to the size and shape of your foot, your high arches or narrow heels, your preferences for thick or thin in your footwear. I love you enough to make something that, if used properly, will end up smelling like sweaty feet. I love you enough to make something that I fervently hope will wear out before you do, and I love you enough to stick around to knit the next pair.

It always comes back to love, doesn’t it? Love and how we express it. Some people say it with roses. I say it with hand-knit socks.

Independent consultant Debra Bronow works with nonprofit organizations and college-bound students. She has been a knitter, writer, and artist since early childhood. Ms. Bronow lives in Southern California with her husband, two sons, a standard poodle, two spinning wheels, countless knitting needles, miles of yarn, and several freshly sheared fleeces.