Knitting a pair of socks is a lot like writing a novel. When I craft socks they demand I spend a considerable time living with them before they are fit to be seen in public. During this time the garment and I become very intimate.
The process takes place on many levels, from origin of idea to building row upon row of tiny loops, chaining the wool into a complete creation and I type, The End.
My imagination forms the socks into a kaleidoscope of finished work before beginning the construction process. I play with alternative endings, colorful characters that clash and are eliminated, or develop them into rich, even shocking forms. Will they be made from the wild colors of my mind, or rise out of a dutifully followed pattern? I suspect I’d be bored if I tried to structure a genre mystery using a blueprint from one of the many How To Write guides. A template can be seductive, but as with any formula, it is hard to deviate onto new ground while following the rules.
Perhaps I’ll use odds and ends left over from other projects. Tidbits and yarn endings I didn’t want to throw away, but probably should have.
My mind spins at the range of textures, choices spanning the contrast of mohair or lambs wool to give softness, nylon to add wear, or cotton for cool weather. One odd concept I’ve always loved is this: the weight of wool. Among knitters this is a common term, but for me it has always held mystery. So I imagine yarn of fingering weight, small but tough or light airy angora, or bulky yarn knit on larger needles for the work booted country dyke.
In many ways this relates to the author’s voice, this elusive term that defies definition, yet you know if it is present, or when it is generically absent, and the words have a certain flatness. You know that the author has reached for the Thesaurus one too many times.
Modern developments have introduced another decision, whether to knit them in wool that is machine washable versus the kind of wool I caress in a warm sink full of water and Woollight, gently squeezing the knitted creation out in a towel, and lovingly arranging them on a dry cloth on my dresser or kitchen table. The first wash gives the product shape, checks for flaws and leaves them smelling of the natural aroma of sheep’s lanolin.
Editing also lovingly shapes the final work. I am increasingly saddened by the quick ease of authors to self-publish. Most often they are deprived of this keen-eyed scrutiny, which enriches them as writers. For me the learning process is obvious comparing my first novel with my third. If you’re lucky you can have the opportunity to pull out and reknit the worn foot or foundation of a novel. In the years since my first novel Staying The Distance, was originally published, I’ve learned more about the building of a piece of writing. With the guidance of my editor, Jerry Wheeler, I reshaped and reconstructed a better fitting foot.
So, to all my knitting siblings out there, I wish you cozy feet this winter. And those of us who also write, try to imagine your novel as a friendly pair of socks.