Of Blanket, Socks, Madness and Sharks

March is already upon us, and I just can’t believe it. Surely, it can’t be right. I apologise for taking so long to write another post. But I hope to compensate with enough information and little stories. Stop reading now, go grab a coffee, and make yourself comfortable.

Strips of Stripes ©Aurelie Colas

Strips of Stripes – Cover Photo
©Aurelie Colas

First, I owe you some news from my stripy blanket. It has a name and is called Strips of Stripes. I have released the pattern on February 27th, so technically, I was one day ahead of my self-imposed deadline of end-of-February. I know it’s silly, but it was enough to make me happy that day. Anyway, this “little” blanket has had lots of lovely comments, and some people actually plan to knit one too really soon! There are some people who are just as crazy as me. This is great news!

Taking the final pictures of the blanket was very fun. I had laid it nicely on the guest bed, with a few props: comfy pillows, my faithful sheep stuffed toy (gift from my mum), one of my favourite books* (Willy Ronis – “Derriere l’objectif de Willy Ronis” — a wonderful, inspiring and educational book on traditional black and white photography), and a tray with a tea pot and my sheepy mug.

Strips of Stripes ©Aurelie Colas

Strips of Stripes
©Aurelie Colas

And just as I started taking a few pictures, The Little Man decided to give me a hand. I tried to tell him that he would be able to play in just 5 minutes, but no. He wasn’t ready to listen… So instead, I thought I’d just include him in the pictures, and hope for the best (low light doesn’t make for sharp pictures when a toddler is around…). And that’s how I ended up with pictures where the teapot is up in the air, “pouring tea” in the mug, or where the sheepy mug is suddenly missing, then reappears… The Little Man loved “making tea” for mummy. I hope you’ll like the picture I selected as my “cover picture” for the blanket design.

And suddenly, March was there.

As some of you may know, I fell into sock knitting in 2012. I have knitted something like 40 pairs of socks since then. What is it about socks, you may ask? Socks are boring, you have to make two of the same thing, they end up hidden in your shoes, and they wear out after a while.

My latest stripy socks, made with 100% British yarn. Yummy-ness for my feet!

My latest stripy socks, made with 100% British yarn. Yummy-ness for my feet!

Well, my point of view is slightly different: socks are portable and so they can be knitted anywhere; handknitted socks are extremely comfortable; you knit them to fit exactly your foot, unlike store bought socks where one-shape-fits-all; they only take one skein of yarn; they are a great way to try out new techniques (and if you screw it up, it’s ok, it’s in your shoes!); they can be simple or complicated, beautiful all the same; and did I say how comfortable they were? They also keep your feet warm even if they are wet (like that time The Man and I ended up walking on a very wet path for hours… he will still bring it up in 20 years time…); they don’t make your feet sweat as much as cotton/synthetic socks (no more smelly feet either!), and they keep your feet warm in winter, and cool when it’s warm in summer (that’s British summer, not 35 degree Celsius summer, you don’t wear socks then!).

So, long story short: I wear my handknitted wool socks all year long. And yes, some are being a little worn out, but I can darn them. And simply knit more of them. If they were never wearing out, it wouldn’t make much sense for me to knit more of them, right? Well, I probably would, but there is a point where one would need to buy more drawers…

Anyway, I have had some socks recently showing some sign of wear (do you remember my recent post on darning?). And luckily, March is upon us. What is special about March? March is the beginning of… Sock Madness!

(You may need to refill your mug of coffee at this point…)

Sock Madness?? What’s that, you may ask. I had briefly mentioned Sock Madness in a post that’s very dear to my heart. I had written that Sock Madness is a competition where “an international and friendly bunch of knitters gather online and get challenged to knit crazy sock designs in no time”. It is, in my opinion, a good description of the event, but I think it is time to explain a little better what it is.

Sock Madness is an online competition starting in March, organised by two lovely ladies on a group/forum on Ravelry. It consists of 7 rounds (with one rest-round somewhere in the middle), with one unique exclusive sock pattern per round, designed by talented and creative volunteer designers.

The first round aims at filtering the registered competitors to enter them in a team. The aim of this round is to complete a pair of socks (following pattern released for this round of course)  within 2 weeks. Anyone not managing to complete the two socks in those two weeks is out of the competition.

After that, the competitors still in the run are assigned to a team. From Round 2 to the second-to-last Round, the goal is to knit faster than your team mates, as there is a set number of spots available at the end of each round. For instance, you may start Round 2 with 40 people in your team, and only the first 30 who complete that round will move on to the next round.

At the end of the second-to-last round, only one knitter per team is still in the competition. The last round aims at “crowning” the fastest of all teams, who becomes the Sock Madness Queen. Last year, Karin (from the Netherlands) was the Queen, and she has incredibly speedy fingers.

I had to hire my Crazy Molly to help me knit for Sock Madness 2012. I had made the (red) leg too tight, so had to re-do it.  These socks are Frick-Frack: one sock is knitted toe-up, the other top-down and... they look completely identical thanks to the reversible cable, heel, and moss stitch! Mad!

I had to hire my Crazy Molly to help me knit for Sock Madness 2012. I had made the (red) leg too tight, so had to re-do it. These socks are called Frick-Frack: one sock is knitted toe-up, the other top-down and… they look completely identical thanks to the reversible cable, heel, and moss stitch! Crazy!

These are the general rules. But in reality, there is a lot more to that. Sock Madness is also a lot about camaraderie, cheering on each other, knitting along (even if you get eliminated from the competition, you still receive the patterns and are more than welcome to knit along), helping each other at figuring out new techniques, why things go wrong, etc. There are even talented story tellers to help us waiting in between rounds!  It is quite amazing actually.

So, last month, I signed myself up for another Sock Madness. It is the 8th edition, and my 3rd time participating. (Janice didn’t sign up. She’ll be jealous that I have a drawer full of new socks after Sock Madness is over!). And soon after March started, I received the first pattern, which kicks-off the competition. The pattern is called Brucie, and is named after a character of one of the numerous stories and tales of Sock Madness. Brucie is a Shark! The Great Gansey Shark!

(Need more coffee? A piece of cake perhaps?…)

MaryAnn, one of the “ancient” Sock Madness-ers, explains: “All know the tales of the Great Gansey Shark. When people start to knit a Gansey and never finish is what calls to the Great Gansey Shark. It is said that the Great Gansey Shark will come in the night and pull those poor souls whom have not finished their Gansey down to the depths of the ocean itself, down to Davy Jones’s own locker, where they will be forced to spend all eternity singing bad sea chanty’s with the sailor claimed by Davy Jones himself.”

The sock pattern, Brucie, is split in sections from cuff to toe: “Shaaaaark” is the first section, with fins splitting the water. The second section is aptly named “Fish are Friends, Not Food” and features scales. The heel flap section is called “My What Sharp Teeth you Have”; while the foot bears the perfect name of “The Great Gansey Sock”. Pretty awesome, huh?

Am I done with these socks, you may ask? Of course not! I am not too far from reaching the toe decreases on the first sock. Yes, I have a while to go still… But it has been less than a week since the pattern was released. So technically, I am not behind schedule… yet! Although, you know, the first two finishers for this round completed their pair of socks in less than a day. (One of them is the Queen from last year…) And they crossed the finish line (= sent their email to claim they’re done) just 15 minutes apart! How crazy is that? There are speedy fingers in this world, I tell you.

Fish are friends - not food! Brucie socks at Macduff Aquarium

Fish are friends – not food!
Brucie sock at Macduff Aquarium

Anyway, I wanted to tell you about my Brucie socks. Today, I took them for a trip up North, in Macduff. Macduff is a little town just across the bigger town of Banff, on the North coast of North-East of Scotland. It is mostly known for its fishing and ship building industry. But also for its marine aquarium! This is where I took The Little Man and my Shark socks today. And we had a great time.

There were lots and lots of “fishies”. Big ones, small ones, red ones, black ones, striped ones, spotted ones, round ones, skinny ones, flat ones, long ones… you get the idea.

There were also jellyfish, crabs, lobsters, starfish, and…. sharks!!!

My Brucie socks had a bad fright...

My Brucie sock had a bad fright…

I learned lots of things today. In particular, that there are sharks along the coast of Scotland. Yup. Small sharks, but sharks all the same, right? They are dogfish. Most of them I think (if not all) were Lesser-Spotted Dogfish. I had never heard of those… in English at least. In French? They are called “petite roussette”, and although I knew the name, I had never met one!

Mermaid's purses (with embryos) and baby dogfish... and Brucie sock.

Mermaid’s purses (with embryos) and baby dogfish… and Brucie sock.

So I took Brucie out, and presented it(him? her?) some of its relatives.

First we met baby sharks, and pre-baby sharks. Those things hanging are called “mermaid’s purses” and are actually eggs-cases. Funny to think that there are so many sharks-in-progress just behind the glass… and I have one shark-(sock)-in progress in my hands!

Then, I took Brucie and The Little Man to see the bigger fishies, amongst them the adult sharks. But Brucie-sock seemed to scare them off!

First we tried saying hello to the Lesser-Spotted Dogfish. Funny that he’s called “lesser-spotted” with all those spots, right?

Hiya! My name is Brucie. How are you, Mr Shark?

Hiya! My name is Brucie. How are you, Mr Shark?

Oops, Brucie scared him off!

Oops, Brucie scared him off!

Woosh! The shark is gone!

Woosh! The shark is gone!

Then, we tried saying hi to another Lesser-Spotted Dogfish who lives in the big kelp reef. This is an impressive “fish tank”, open to the sky, which forms the centre of the aquarium, and can be viewed from nearly all the rooms. It has natural daylight, and a big block of concrete (or something similar) going up and down mimics the waves at the surface.

The dogfish was playing hide-and-seek with me, and when Brucie-sock appeared, he swam away promptly! Brucie must have scared him off too!

Brucie-sock, The Little Man and I had a nice time at the aquarium. If only there were more well-behaved kids around (and more well-behaved parents!), it would have been perfect.

Oh, and as we were heading back to the car, there were a few dolphins swimming by the coast and jumping, and playing… No picture, no video. Let’s say it was just for the pleasure of our eyes, and for our little brain to remember.

(That’s me off to take a coffee now… my cup is empty.)

Speak to you soon, I have a pair of sharks socks to finish.

Aurelie / spinnygonzalez

This entry was posted in Design, Knitting, Scotland, Socks and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Of Blanket, Socks, Madness and Sharks

  1. Tricia says:

    Hmm, I seem to remember a post where Janice said “oh go on then sign me up”,so… I did.
    Lovely post!

  2. Pingback: What I didn’t tell you about Sock Madness: Rainbow Pipes and Linen Stitch | The Auld (Woolly) Alliance

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