Monday, June 25, 2007

Wearable sculptures: Hand-made socks

Cat tucked beneath a blanket with only her head visible, next to a pair of feet encased in hand-crocheted socks
A pair of hand-made socks with Miss Elizabeth,
the official model for all things crochet.
In my opinion, there are fewer mediums of art closer at hand in our daily lives than the objects we wear upon our bodies. An example is a pair of hand-crocheted socks, or “wearable sculptures,” as I think of them.

My odyssey with handmade socks began with Crocheted Socks! 16 Fun-to-Stitch Patterns by Janet Rehfeldt and Mary Jane Wood (Martingale & Company). I completed my first pair according to their instructions but afterward decided to modify the technique so that the socks would especially be fitted to the left or right feet.

Modification is easy once you’ve a basic sense of the pattern. With the top-down method you follow the pattern as written until it’s time to make your decreases for the toes.

I begin making my decreases when the sock’s length has reached my littlest toe. Then, instead of decreasing stitches equally on both left and right sides of the foot, I decrease along just the one side so that it naturally follows diagonally along with the shape of my toes from littlest to big.

Only when the sock has reached nearly to the top of my big toe, will I begin making decreases for the other side of the foot as well — in the final three or four rows. With one sock completed for its designated left or right foot, I then make the other sock and thus finish the pair.

I’ve yet to tackle a sock that is crocheted from the bottom up but when I do, it will be the same in reverse: increase stitches on both sides for the first three or four rows and thereafter increase stitches only on the one side of the foot. The advantage of this modification is a sleek and tailored line that follows the toes’ natural contours — a set of wearable sculptures.

Published in ArtNotes, quarterly newsletter of the Lake County Arts Council