My Sock Moment - N°5
"26 Pairs of Socks in 2017” – that is this year’s knitting motto and also the name of the Facebook group of Torsten, from the Realmenknitpink.com blog. We think this activity is very exciting and are happy to learn more about it, in an interview with Torsten.
Hello Torsten. Would you please give our readers a short introduction?
From your blog I know that your grandmother taught you to knit when you were 10 years old. What kinds of things did you knit back then?
Well, I guess like all beginners I started out with straight rectangular or square pieces, like hotpads or scarves. My parents both worked outside the home and my grandmother lived with us during the week and in her own apartment on the weekends. She slept in my brother’s room and had her sewing machine in my room. She was a trained seamstress and worked at home, sewing fitting adjustments for various clothing stores in Wuppertal. In those days, the stores still had this service. When my grandmother was at her sewing machine in the afternoons, she had to keep me occupied. So she started unravelling older, finished pieces of knitting and showing me how to knit them again. That’s how I started knitting. But I'm drifting from the question. My first pieces were scarves, hotpads, and pillow covers, but, as far as stitch appearance and general workmanship were concerned, these could probably only be appreciated by people who loved me very much. My mother always wore my scarves to the office. Back then I was very proud that she wore my “works” and today, in retrospect, I am still very grateful to her. I now do the same thing with my daughters. No matter how colorful the objects may be, when I have received them as gifts, I wear them with pride!
In your profile you say that you learned to knit socks only 6 years ago. Why did it take so long? How did it happen and how did you learn? What do you especially like about hand-knit socks?
As a young man, I once tried working with double-pointed needles and failed deplorably. Then I just dumped everything in a corner. A couple of years ago, I discovered a knitting group in Wuppertal which met every other week. There I had a very patient mentor who gave me a couple of tips and showed me a couple of tricks, for example how to avoid the typical “ladders” and the easiest way to turn a heel. Then the first pair was finished (following instructions for “Sylt” by Regina Satta) and it hadn’t been at all painful.
26 pairs of socks in one year – in addition to a job, family, and possibly other knitting projects – is very ambitious, isn’t it? Is it the first knitting challenge that you have set yourself? And where did the idea come from? Why socks and why 26 pairs?
It’s my first knitting challenge. The idea developed through Lutz’s “Tatortsocken” project. There the goal was to finish a pair of socks within 4 weeks, to celebrate the 1,000th “Tatort*”. During this time I finished two pairs, in other words, one sock each week. The year has 52 weeks – so one sock each week makes 26 pairs. Socks are always in demand because they always get “used up”. So this many pairs is no problem. What would I do with 26 scarves? :-) In addition, I always have socks on my needles anyway because they are good to work on in the plane, on business trips, or when I am sitting and waiting at my children’s sporting events. A set of double-pointed needles, in a KnitPro tube, is small and handy, and easy to take along. And for my challenge, all sock pairs count – my size 47 socks, but also the baby socks for my new nephew who was born in January. Since several babies are expected in our circle of family and friends this year, I can use baby socks to catch up when – as is the case right now – I get a little behind my schedule.
*Tatort is a long-running, German police procedure television series
By now, your Facebook group “26 Pairs of Socks in 2017” has slightly more than 200 members. So actually you are conducting a large, year-round sock knitalong. Was the activity planned as a community project? And would you have thought such a large response possible?
Social media make online knitting groups like this possible so virtual knitalongs are becoming more and more popular. What about this do you like best and which advantages do you see, compared to a “live” knitting group?
I am in several “live” knitting groups. With such groups you are always tied to a particular place and time. Since we became parents I am no longer as flexible as I used to be and only manage to come seldomly to live meetings. There are a few knitting group activities in which I always participate and I already have a ticket for YarnCamp 2017. I never want to have to give up this personal exchange or the wonderful contact with other bloggers/knitters. The virtual groups have the clear advantage of being available always and everywhere. If I am on a business trip and have a question about a complicated pattern I can always immediately find someone who can help me get back on track.
Do you think that, even without your initiative, the members of your group would have knit that many pairs of socks and have now just gotten together anyway? Or did the formation of the group serve for many as a driving force, to reach a larger personal goal this year?
For me personally, it was to primarily serve as the motivation needed to acheive my goal, especially during such periods as the heat of summer. I am sure that some members would have reached their goal without the group but for many it is the motivation which is necessary to keep working. I am curious how the second half of the year will be, when the time left for achieving the goal will become tighter. At the moment, I am a little behind and the group keeps “pulling” me along.
Some members had already knit 30 pairs of socks by the end of March. What do you think is greater in the group, the ambition to reach the goal or the joy of knitting “together”?
I think it is a mixture of both. There are a few “extreme knitters” in the goup, some of whom knit 150-180 pairs a year and who reached the goal of 26 pairs weeks ago. Many of these socks are intended for charity. For me, this is a mystery. In my daily life, such a huge quantity of knitting time is just not possible next to my work and family, but I do admire the people who knit such quantities. For me, the ambition of achieving a personal goal is clearly the most important, but I think that most of the group like the pleasure of knitting together and sharing the finished objects. In addition, I have collected a substantial amount of sock yarn through the years and I am using the challenge to finally reduce this stash. In addition to the challenge, this year I have imposed a yarn purchase ban on myself, since my stash is bursting at the seams.
One sock every week for one year – that’s the quota needed to reach 26 pairs. How do you organize your knitting time? Do you really knit one sock a week? Or do you knit more sometimes and less at other times? Do you knit every day or on the weekends? How are you keeping up with the schedule and how are the other group members doing?
I don’t always really knit one sock a week. For example, I had vacation at the beginning of the year and could work ahead. That way I won some time which I used to finish off other UFOs (e.g. the YarnCamp scarf by Tanja Steinbach). The fact that I knit several different sizes (size 35 for my girls, size 40 for my wife, and size 47 for me) means that I am sometimes faster and sometimes slower. But then I can catch up with baby socks. With them, I finish at least one pair per week. In the group, all sock types in all sizes are allowed – as long as they have heels.
Can you tell us what your perfect sock moment looks like? Where do you like to be when you are knitting? While you are knitting do you listen to music, or an audio book, or watch television, or do you like to talk to someone? And how often does your sock-knitting reality correspond to your perfect scenario?
I knit preferably while watching television, even if that means it is more “tele-listening”. Talking to someone is only possible with simple patterns. I always see that at knitting get-togethers. If I take along a complicated pattern I usually end up frogging more than I got accomplished during the get-together. I also knit when I am waiting for the kids or in the train or airplane but most of the time I knit at home, while watching TV.
Sock knitting is a community topic but also primarily a family topic. Classically, we receive hand-knit socks from grandmother or mother or are taught to knit by a family member, as was the case with you. How is it in your family? Do your daughters receive some of the 26 pairs and do they like to wear them? Will you also teach them to knit?
My daughters like to wear the socks that I knit for them because they are soft and also so unique – something that not everyone has. My older daughter likes them more subdued and my younger daughter prefers them to be colorful and offbeat. Both of them are very sporty and don’t have much interest in knitting at the moment. If either of them does ask at some point, I will happily teach them, of course.
Do you feel that the enthusiasm and active participation in the group is equally present now, during the summer? How about your own personal motivation during the hot season? Do you wear wool socks all year round? Are you knitting ahead for winter or do you knit summer variations?
I don’t think things have changed during the summer. Most of the members are very enthusiastic and active and also knit during the summer. During the summer, I like to knit a lighter lace or eyelet pattern or sneaker socks.
And now for one last question. What kind of socks are you working on right now, and who are they intended for?
Torsten, thank you very much for the interview and the exciting insights! We wish you continued knitting pleasure and wonderful sock moments!
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