Those darn socks: Knitting class ties together learning

NW dd6 PHOTO darn socks BOOK of SOCKS IN FOREGROUND

Maryann Amrich (left) gets a helping hand from instructor Georgette Ouellette. A group of women are learning how to knit socks during an eight-week class at the Raymond Village Library. (De Busk Photo)

 

“The thing with socks is you don’t need a lot of materials. It doesn’t take a lot of space to carry the supplies and take them places. Anytime you are going somewhere — to your children’s dance or sport practices, to a basketball game, to a doctor’s appointment, or on a vacation, you can take your knitting with you. I have even done it while riding my exercise bike at home. I feel productive because when I finish I have a pair of socks to wear.”

Georgette Ouellette,

Raymond resident and avid knitter

By Dawn De Busk

Staff Writer

RAYMOND — Raymond resident Cheri Dwinnell can check off something that has been on her procrastination list for six years. And, she can check it off with extra-fine knitting needles.

That’s because she is taking a class on how to knit socks at her local library.

“My desire started six years ago when my oldest daughter was pregnant and wanted me to make baby socks for her,” Dwinnel said.

For six years, Dwinnell has stored the bags of yarn, the knitting supplies, and the patterns she had purchased. She was stumped when she tried to interpret the instructions on the pattern. So, she put the socks on hold — although she is no stranger to knitting, she said.

NW dd6 PHOTO those darn socks CLOSE UP OF HANDS“I used to crochet. I used to quilt. I taught myself to knit. I picked it up when I was a little girl,” she said.

“Now, I am learning to knit socks,” she said, adding she likes to acquire new skills.

“I think, right now, I am having a hard time; but, I am enjoying it. I enjoy laughing at myself,” Dwinnell said.

Laughter and sock-knitting has been taking place in unison at the Raymond Village Library on Monday nights.

Local resident Georgette Ouellette is leading the eight-week-long class; and, the six women in the class are embarking on their fourth week of making a sock from calf to toe.

Ouellette said it is a good sign that none of the women turned heels and quit the class after turning heels on their handmade socks last week. It can be a challenge: Decreasing the number of stitches at the heel of the sock, and keeping track of which of the four knitting needles is being used, Ouellette said.

In the end, it is well worth the effort to learn how to knit socks because it is a skill that is portable, relaxing and productive, she said.

“The thing with socks is you don’t need a lot of materials. It doesn’t take a lot of space to carry the supplies and take them places. Anytime you are going somewhere — to your children’s dance or sport practices, to a basketball game, to a doctor’s appointment, or on a vacation, you can take your knitting with you,” Ouelette said.

NW dd6 PHOTO darn socks LADY WITH PURPLE SCARF LEARNING ONE

Raymond resident Georgette Ouellette assists Cheri Dwinnell through the process of learning to knit a sock. Ouellette led a class on knitting socks at the Raymond Village Library this winter. (De Busk Photo)

“I have even done it while riding my exercise bike at home,” she said.

Some skills can be self-taught.

Other skills make a lot more sense when the learning process happens with an instructor and a handful of people.

All of the women who are learning how to knit socks concur that being in a small-sized class has been extremely helpful.

According to Maryann Amrich and Peggy Jensen, there have been times that a struggle turned into a realization — thanks to the person sitting next to them who figured it out first.

“I think once I learn it, this could be really fun,” Amrich said.

“My goal for me is: I want to make socks for the women in my family for Christmas next year,” she said, including her sister and her nieces.

“That will be my special gift for them,” Amrich said.

Jensen said her inspiration for learning this skill was her sister.

“Well, I have knit sweaters, mittens and hats in the past. I have a sister who has knitted socks for years,” she said.

“I just wanted to be able to do it. Like everyone else, the pattern is so confusing if you don’t have anyone to ask,” she said.

Jensen was simultaneously knitting a pair of socks with two balls of yarn planted on the table in front of her, while the other women were working on one sock at a time.

Like other women in the group, Ellie Luders, of Raymond, has delved into knitting in the past.

“I’ve knit sweaters and mitten. So, I decided to try my hand at socks,” she said.

Luders chose a brownish-blue yarn because “the first time around, I thought I’d go more conservative,” she said, returning her focus to the petite needles and whispering to herself the number of stitches she had completed.

Amrich looked up from her work — a mix of slate blue, charcoal gray and winter white yarn — and said, “We would highly recommend this class.”

“There is something really fun learning it with a group of people. Learning by yourself can be boring and frustrating,” she said.

“We all help each other. We help each other. We keep each other company.

We encourage each other, we laugh together,” Amrich said.

Dwinnell chimed in, singing the same praises for learning how to knit socks.

“When you have a chance, take a class,” she said.

Instructor Ouelette said she had taken classes through the Adult Education program, studied online tutorials, and talked to other knitters to improve her hobby.

“Taking a class is easier. I can help them along the way because every mistake they are making, I have made,” she said.

“It’s great when they have an ‘ah-ha moment,’” Ouelette said.

“People can do this on their own; but, they are intimidated,” she said.

Not only can the pattern sometimes be hard to comprehend, but also the supplies (fine-weight yarn and tiny Number Two needles) are different to work with, she said.

She said The Knitter’s Book of Socks by Clara Parkes is a great resource for those interested in all the aspects of knitting socks. The Raymond Village Library carries a copy of that book.

When it comes to choosing yarn, Ouelette recommended yarn that is at least 70% wool with the other material being manmade like nylon or polyester or acrylic. Also, people should purchase yarn made from washable wool. Thirdly, she advised knitters to never throw handmade socks in the dryer. If the socks don’t shrink, the material will lose its longevity, she said.

“The wool yarn itself is stretchy, and you need a manmade fiber for strength,” she said.

“You want something that can take the abuse you put on your feet,” she said.

There was a moment of silence while everyone was concentrating on the task at hand.

“These ladies are having a fun time — I know that,” she said.

“Right now, I think it is stressful for you ladies, but this can be very relaxing. You can get through a lot by just knitting,” she told them.

“I knit while I am waiting in the car, at doctor’s appointments, or while I am on the plane. I feel productive because when I finish I have a pair of socks to wear,” she said.

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