Sometimes it's good to have knitting goals and timelines. In 2009 and 2010 I devised my personal sock club, where each two months or so I rediscovered some sock yarn I already possessed and knitted it up into socks. Across those two years I completed more than a dozen pairs of socks - usually within or just beyond the time limit I'd set myself. This year's sock club has had a variation - a group of people voted upon and chose the patterns for the year. Even though they weren't patterns I would normally choose, I managed the first two pairs of socks for the year. But the third pair of socks - Leyburn - completely defeated me.
They were my first ever pair of toe-up socks, and my second ever short-row heel - and I hadn't enjoyed the first one. I'd decided at the beginning of the year I'd knit each of the patterns chosen and that I'd knit each of them exactly as written, hoping I might learn some new techniques and nudge myself out of my rather unadventurous approach to sock knitting.
However, the Leyburns proved to be a bit of a challenge. They've made me ask myself what is reasonable to expect from a free knitting pattern. If you buy a pattern you expect it to be at least accurate and clear. If it is also well presented and easy to follow you consider it praiseworthy. I'm not sure if you can have the same expectations for free patterns. I can imagine some adventurous knitter trying out their new ideas for a sock (or a scarf or a cardigan, etc), having it admired by friends or acquaintances, and being urged to 'just make a note of what you've done so we can have a go at it'. And then the pattern gets noted on Ravelry or other internet sites and used by others.
Then some of the others - me, in this particular case - have problems with the pattern... it's not detailed enough, it's not clear why I have to do things in a particular way, or it tells me to 'use your favourite short-row heel' when this is the first time I've knitted a toe-up short-row heel and I don't know enough to have a 'favourite'. With the benefit of hindsight, this was clearly a mismatching of pattern and knitter.
Added to which, this is the knitting I took on holidays with me. At the very time when I needed knitting that was unproblematic and could be picked up and put down easily, I was searching the internet for examples of short-row heels and trying to work out how to incorporate them into the overall pattern (I think this took three attempts and three unravellings). With hindsight, clearly a mismatching of project and location.
So, I don't want to blame the pattern-writer. It was a free pattern, which I think is an invitation to knit at your own risk. I should have been much more careful to prepare myself for the challenges of the pattern and should have realised these socks weren't a good holiday project. But even so, I did not enjoy knitting them. I've abandoned them for the moment. I will have no socks finished for the May-June project for sock club. I have to declare a 'Fail'.
So I've moved on to the next pattern chosen by the group for the sock club - Nancy Bush's Fox Faces.
I've heaved a huge sigh of relief. Nancy Bush - a guarantee of a clearly written pattern. Top-down - my preference. Dutch heels - love them. Round toes - yippee. I'm not using the yarn I drew randomly for this project as it seemed a bit short of the yardage required, so am substituting yarn that was a prize from MissFee's blog anniversary - Angel Yarn in Denim Mix colour. It seems as if one departure from the rules I set for myself has licensed me to make others.
I'll report in on progress at the end of August when they're - hopefully - done.