Igor: Dr. Frankenstein…
Dr. Frederick Frankenstein: “Frohnckenschteen.”
Igor: You’re putting me on.
Dr. Frederick Frankenstein: No, it’s pronounced “Frohnckenschteen.”
Igor: Do you also say “Froaderick”?
Dr. Frederick Frankenstein: No… “Frederick.”
Igor: Well, why isn’t it “Froaderick Frohnckenschteen”?
Dr. Frederick Frankenstein: It isn’t; it’s “Frederick Frohnckenschteen.”
Igor: I see.
Dr. Frederick Frankenstein: You must be Igor.
Igor: No, it’s pronounced “Eye-gore.”Gene Wilder and Mel Brooks,
If you follow any of the blogs/tweets/othermedia about Sock Summit and the runup thereunto, it won’t be news to you that one of the big new Crazy Knitter Stunts for this year is an event called Fleece to Foot - you know, like Sheep to Shawl for socks - and that the challenge pattern for said event is the result of another competition called Design for Glory. (If you’ve been living under a rock and either of these facts IS news to you… go clicky on the linky and get edumacated. It’s OK - I’ll wait here.)
And once you know those two things I doubt it will come as a shock to you that I submitted an entry in the latter. (I’d be competing in the former, too, but alas it conflicts with my teaching schedule, so instead I’ll be cheering intermittently from the sidelines.)
The design met with some extremely gratifying private praise from the ST folk (actually - not all of it so very private, if you follow them on Twitter), but ultimately… it did not make the cut. (Though in fact it makes eight cuts itself - but oops, I’m getting ahead of myself.) I think I know why. I have to confess I knew all along it was kind of a long shot. It’s - OK, now prepare for a shock, because this is, you know, totally out of character for me - it’s slightly, um, crazy? over the top? maybe even a bit… scary?
Yeah. A bit scary. And it SHOULD be scary, because it is after all a little monster. And now, O intrepid and adventurous knitters, my little monster can be your little monster too: behold my latest mad-scientist creation, Fronkenshteek.
When I read the rules for the Fleece to Foot challenge, the word that leapt out at me in huge flashing neon letters was “PAIR.” (It appears in bold-face. Twice. So somehow I have a feeling this was not a matter of chance.) Now, in my line of work I knit a lot of individual prototype socks, and I can get through one sock pretty quickly. But I am not immune to Second Sock Syndrome. Making the same thing twice over is already a challenging proposition for many knitters; the idea of doing so in the kind of rapid succession called for there is, well, gulp-inducing at best. So I set out to reduce that burden to the degree possible. The result: a PAIR of socks divided into five segments, each of which (except for a little connective tissue here and there) is KNITTED ONLY ONCE. It’s done in five different ways - one for each segment - but in each case each member of the team is working both socks simultaneously.
For maximum speed and efficiency, all segments are worked in the round - even those that will be seamed at the assembly stage.
- Segment 1: Both cuffs are worked together, as one long ribbed cylinder divided by a round of waste yarn.
- Segment 2: Both ankles are worked together, as one wide steeked cylinder.
- Segment 3: Both insteps (actually not just the instep but the band that goes around both foot and ankle at that point; a piece I think of as the “Ace Bandage”) are worked together in a vaguely Albers-esque center-out squarish configuration. Steeked, of course.
- Segment 4: Both feet (from toe to Ace Bandage) are worked together, double-knit one inside the other, in the immortal parlor-trick style of Tolstoy’s Princess Anna Mikhailovna Drubetskaya.
- Segment 5: Both toes and both heels are worked together - sideways - in one lumpy steeked piece, vaguely oblate, that looks a bit like a collapsed tennis ball or a deflated starfruit.
Then the bits that call for cutting are cut…
… the bits that call for raveling are raveled, the bits that call for joining are joined…
… and finally the Bermuda Triangles that provide ease for the instep are knitted - individually - in situ.
The resulting socks are relatively simple-looking; they derive their chief visual interest from the contrasting lines and angles of the grain of the fabric.
(I also used contrasting yarn for the joins on one of the prototypes, with a satisfyingly Frankensteinian effect.) But they’re a comfortable fit, yea even unto the seams under toe and heel. They are fearfully and wonderfully made; an ode to the Process Knitter, or rather the Team of Process Knitters.
Think of them as Performance Art.
Now… you don’t HAVE to make these babies as a competition event; you don’t even have to make them as a team. It’s perfectly possible for a single knitter to do the whole thing on a normal sort of schedule. But half the fun is in the collaborative choreography - especially when you get to the assembly stage, which is not unlike a knitters’ version of Twister. (Heh… am I dating myself?)
Of course there may be just one problem with that: Who gets to keep the socks? Simple solution: Just do it five times, rotating roles. So every member of the group gets to make all five segments… no member of the group has to repeat a segment… and every member ends up with a pair. Hey, it could happen.
See, this whole thing got me thinking (and you KNOW how dangerous THAT is) about knitting as not just a fiber art but also a social phenomenon. As you may recall, until a few years ago I thought of knitting as a purely solitary pleasure - or near-solitary, anyway, since the only other knitter I knew, and knitted with, was my mother. After her death it was just me, and I still loved knitting, but I didn’t have a whole lot of momentum for it, and it kind of got lost in the shuffle for a while. Until one fine day I stumbled across the Brave New World of knitting on the internet, and suddenly I realized with delight and astonishment that knitting is not solitary AT ALL, not necessarily. No! Knitting is a GROUP activity if you want it to be - both virtually and in meatspace. And… I want it to be. Hey, knitting in the twenty-first century is the personification of the Global Village!
More than ever now, thanks to Ravelry, my S&B is wherever I am - in the sense that anywhere I go I know I can find my people and we can have a great time knitting together. But more literally, my S&B is my weekly meetup - local people whom I first met through Ravelry but who are now my real-life friends, live and in person. More marvelous still, several members of this group are now part of the shiny new Tsock Team, because it turns out that when you need help and support and special skills, all you have to do is click your heels together three times and murmur, “There’s No Place Like Home.”
And get this: members of that same group are teaming up even now and preparing to cast on Fronkenshteek. I’m as psyched about this as if I were up for a Nobel prize, because this design is my CELEBRATION of Social Knitting, and every group that takes it on as such is joining in that celebration. How cool is that? THIS is what it really means to “knit two together.”
So now I’ve put the pattern up as a downloadable PDF in my shiny new Ravelry store (we’re also planning to kit it up at Rhinebeck time, but I just don’t want to wait). Yup, my first (but not my last) pattern for sale via download. See? I’ve got a Buy Now button and everything!
And here’s the deal: I WANT YOU TO SHOW ME YOUR STEEKS!
Bring them to me when I’m at a show - hell, accost me in the street if you happen to run across me - and cut them with me. Cut them in my booth, I dare you. Or hey, if you like I will cut them for you. If you’re too far away for that, send me pictures of steek-cutting in progress. One way or the other, I’ll make it worth your while, see if I don’t.
Why should the sweater knitters have all the fun? Who says they’re the only ones who get to have that little thrill of fear and that big badge of accomplishment? This design includes a whopping EIGHT STEEKS per pair - show me a sweater with that many, right?
So look here: If you’re coming to Sock Summit… and if you cast on now… you can come and find me there (I’ll be all over the map, most of the week) and…
I promise not to go anywhere without my scissors.