Yesterday our Bluestocking knitalong drew to a close. Hundreds of pairs have been knitted, and it has been amazing to see the glorious array of socks and stockings, in so many different yarns and hues, that have been contributed by club members from all around the world. I’ve found it especially moving (and seriously impressive!) that many of you chose to knit along with every pattern release, making a pair of socks or stockings for each eighteenth-century woman of learning featured in the club. Our friend Rebecca Osborn, (who you may remember from the My Place project earlier this year) is one of those with all seven bluestockings under her knitting belt, so we asked her to tell us more about her own summer in socks. Take it away Rebecca!
What do you knit when you’re on the go?
When you’re tired of darning when your toes show?
When your stash is already at overflow?
Socks, socks, socks!
Kate’s “Bluestockings” club hit me at exactly the right time. It was utterly unexpected. After knitting forty or so pairs, I had quite burned myself out on socks. When I heard that the new club was socks, I thought I would pass it by. But when the first pattern came out, I had exactly the right yarn in my stash. So I joined the club, and giddily started knitting sock after sock.
What was it that sucked me in? So many things.
The joy of knitting a brand-new pattern with a community of like-minded knitters? Definitely. I am a solitary maker who relishes the connectedness of online crafting communities. These are the most exciting when we are exploring something new together. And the bluestockings group fit that bill so perfectly. The smaller number of smaller patterns let me knit through the whole thing as each pattern appeared.
Was it the toe-up construction and variety of techniques? Those captured my interest, definitely. The wrapped-needle cast on was new to me, but intuitive once I got the hang of it. The heels were new and intuitive for me as well. I appreciated that the patterns were balanced between plain knitting, colorwork, and single-color texture patterning.
Was it the accessibility of sock knitting? Essential. I spend the summers traveling – both back and forth between town and our friend’s cabin, and on a long summer trip to visit our families. The reliable gauge of sock knitting meant that I could creatively draw on my stash. I knit four patterns at home before departure. Then, even though I didn’t know what the upcoming patterns would entail, I packed a small range of sock-knitting needles and a variety of sock yarn for a six week trip, and managed to make the remaining patterns.
I think what sucked me in the most was the stories. To me, knitwear design is a powerful art form because it invites participation. It is a work of art that invites you to make it your own. That power is exponentially amplified for me when the piece connects me to a story. It’s one thing to contemplate a beautiful work of art. It’s another to take up your hands, and using your own choices and ideas, to join in the same story.
The opportunity to learn about and from these fascinating women in history was personally challenging. My own walk as a woman who is both an intellectual and a homemaker has been up and down. I have an embarrassment of rich choices in how to live my calling – these women had to find ways to use their gifts within the varying limitations of their lives. From Phillis Wheatley Peters, an enslaved woman who found her way to freedom through her writing, to Elizabeth Montagu, who used her position to empower and network herself and others, each of them pushed boundaries to make their mark.
I connected most with Mercy Otis Warren. I wrote about this on my own blog, but simply to learn that there was an intellectual at the time of the American Revolution with such a prophetic understanding of the equality of all people, was both comforting and challenging. She reminds me of the saints of Hebrews 11 who believed although they did not see the promise fulfilled in their lifetimes. We need that faith and patience yet.
Not all my knitting was accompanied by such deep thoughts. Perhaps like most of you, I knit while doing other things, often watching a show or listening to my husband read. At the cabin, I knit while watching arctic foxes and arctic hare forage on the tundra, or while playing card games with my family. On vacation, I knit in the car, on the metro, at a baseball game, even on a scenic chairlift.
“Bluestockings” is an old term for ordinary socks. These socks were not ordinary, but they took up that ordinary place in my life. Knitting socks is comfortable and ordinary. The extraordinary stories that connect these socks is our little secret. I hope your bluestocking knitting has brought you as much joy this summer as it has me. Thanks to Kate and team for the journey!
Thanks so much, Rebecca, for sharing your summer of sock knitting with us! Our Bluestocking book is due to be published next week – watch this space!