This winter, I participated in something new. New for me, anyways. It was a Knit-A-Long, and has been going on for several years before I even tried knitting.
Last year, when I first started knitting lessons, I shyly added myself to an internet forum of knitters. They are a subgroup of an online forum I have been a member of for many years, and so I all ready knew some of them to be very helpful and friendly people. At the time I was learning knit from purl, they were organizing that winter's KAL (as Knit-A-Longs are known as). I watched as they, as a group, chose a sock pattern to knit--the entire group doing same pattern--and were given the name and shoe size of a participant to knit socks for.
It looked like great fun. The camaraderie was enticing, and seeing so many people of differing levels of knitting experience all sharing the highs and lows of creating a pair of socks was encouraging. It actually gave me the guts to say to my knitting instructor, three months after I had knit my very first stitch, "I want to knit socks now".
Socks were actually the reason I decided to take knitting lessons in the first place, but I thought they were difficult and mysterious, and something you had to be a really experienced knitter to create. However, the ladies of the KAL claimed to not all be super experienced with knitting, let alone sock making, and they seemed to be doing all right.
My knitting instructor gave me a very basic sock pattern to follow, showed me how to get going on tiny (size 2) double pointed needles, and the rest is history. I made six pair of socks before the end of 2013! I love knitting socks.
So, this year, when it came time for the sock KAL sign-up, I put my name on the list. I submitted pattern suggestions, and voted for which design should be this year's chosen sock pattern for the KAL. I received two swap partners: one whom I would knit a pair of socks for, and the other who would knit a pair of socks for me. The format of the KAL is person A knits for person B, person B knits for person C, etc until the final person on the list knits A's socks.
We exchanged particulars, like if we have favorite colors, or allergies to certain fibers, and what size shoe we wear. Then the knitting began. For two months, the group knitted. And shared 'oops' moments where things had to be torn out and redone. We helped each other through tough spots, both in the sock pattern, and in life. We made new friends.
At the end, with socks finished, we mailed them off to our receiving partner, along with little gifts in addition to the hand knit socks. We excitedly posted pictures of our feet in their new socks, and whatever other goodies were packaged up with the socks. And let me tell you, these are a generous bunch of knitters!
It was a very rewarding thing to be a part of. Not only did I get to look forward to receiving a custom made pair of socks at the end, I got to plan out what sort of surprise goodies I wanted to send off with the socks I was making. To think of a gift when none was expected was a new experience for me, as usually I get hints and downright requests for what people in my life want me to give them (another post, another time, on family members who are a bit demanding, at least in my eyes. . . )
Here is a picture of the socks I made, in purple, as that is the favorite color of the lady I made them for. Not pictured is the pound of homemade toffee I sent along with them, or the calendula seeds I also included (from my calendula plants, the petals of which can be used as dye).
And here is a picture of the socks I received, all the way from Nova Scotia (!!), made from cotswold sheep wool, from sheep living nearby. That, in itself is so cool that I can't even express how special it makes these socks to me. Not to mention how lovely they feel on my feet, so soft and cushion-y. The maker of these socks also sent me some soap she had made, as well as a skein of hand-dyed yarn.
The sock pattern came from Ravelry and is called Waterfall, if you would like to try knitting yourself a pair. Or, maybe find a group of knitters and organize your own KAL. You never know, you might end up with some new friends. At the very least, you'll have some really nice socks, every stitch of which was knit just for you.