Sense and suitability

So. You have dry skin. Very dry skin. You are prone to eczema in the winter. You decide to make, of all things, a pair of knitted stockings. Out of wool, that fibre so well known for its not-soothing properties. You have the opportunity to choose something called “4 ply soft” which is, as its name implies, softly fluffsome. But no. You choose something called “4 ply tweed” which is as itchy, scratchy and close to barbed wire as its name might lead you to believe.

I believe that throughout history women have suffered for this and that thing (amongst them beauty) but voluntarily to construct, at great expense of time and effort, what amounts to a nether garment of ground glass seems a bizarre thing to do. But in life, as they say, one must take the rough with the smooth. It makes little sense, but is a suitable project (on the theme of “pairs”) to knit while listening to Emma.

stocking top

I have made a start on sorting out the drifts of detritus with which the house is infested. Sorting out and culling the vast numbers of books, videos and cds for a start. Ruthlessly. In this process I came across handfuls of photographs from various lengths of time ago and distances away. Some I’m keeping in order to embarrass the children at a future date but many I’m chucking. However the ruthlessness faltered on discovering the ancient school exercise book, carefully covered in plastic, containing a detailed history of my first ever dog, Vicky.


The home-made height and weight chart is reminiscent of those one is obliged to keep for babies but I recall enormous levels of anxiety about the health, nutritional status and well-being of my new puppy and not batting an eyelid over those of either of the babies. Maybe the one had prepared me for the other. Certainly for the first few days of puppy care I went to bed in fear and terror that she’d die in the night, probably as the result of some mistake on my part.

It is extraordinary the overwhelming rush of physical sensation that picture provoked. I recalled, instantly and vividly, the exact feel of hugging Vicky while she sat in that attitude, the dimensions of her neck and the texture of her fur. The “rough” in rough collie (in contrast to the smooth collie) refers mostly to the abundance rather than texture of the fur. And indeed compared to Maizy’s her fur was smooth indeed, long overcoat over a dense undercoat of softest fleece. I loved to bury my face in her ruff. I loved brushing her from the tips of her ears to the tip of her tail. Which was fortunate really since the breed requires regular and thorough grooming. I remember lying on the grass on my stomach in the summer reading a book and the heft of her as she lay on the backs of my legs, the press of her as she lay next to me with her nose against my arm. Hers was the only physical contact I had and all the sweeter for it.

I love to watch the children building up their own sense-memories with the cat and the dog. Both boys were, for a long time, much more keen on doing so with the cat. Who can blame them. The appeal is obvious. Quiet, phlegmatic, soft as angora and manufacturer of delightful sounds of cuteness. Maizy, on the other hand, is a hyperactive small yappy-type dog of uncertain temper and, least forgivable of all, coated in fur akin to coconut matting.

However my wise words about beauty being more than fur deep appear to be bearing fruit and both Mario and Maizy are now appreciated for more than merely their surface charms. “One has,” I intone sagely and no doubt in a highly irritating fashion, “to make the best of both the rough and the smooth”. I point out the extraordinary utility of rough shaggy fur for a dog in an uncertain climate in which rain and cold predominate. And how this means she doesn’t have to wear a wussy knitted coat when out and about. Unless at some future date I choose to make one and force her to wear it for reasons entirely unconnected with protection from the elements.

Hmm. I wonder. Perhaps there is a way in which a pair of extra-long scratchy socks might be adapted… but no. I have a cunning plan with respect to the stockings-of-sandpaper. I have various pairs of sheer, brightly-coloured and, most important of all, smooth tights which I can wear beneath the unsuitably textured accessories and thus both protect the over-delicate skin and provide added visual interest as the under-colour will show through the (deliberate) holes in the pattern of the stockings. And I shall hold them up with a ribbon in a suitably toning/clashing shade. Always assuming, of course, that I actually finish them.

10 Replies to “Sense and suitability”

  1. I always wear double socks. That way I don’t have to own more than a few pairs of extra-warm wool socks, as long as I put on fresh under-socks every day. Also keeps the boots from getting too rank.

  2. Vicky does look adorable. There’s a certain charm to having a dog which is taller than you – either on its fours, or twos. ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. ‘a nether garment of ground glass’ sounds even worse than rough socks… don’t even think about it…

    Oh what a joy to see Vicky! Wow, that brought back some memories, particularly of her puppies!! I know Lucy will have some responses to this one too…

  4. I was going to suggest wearing silk socks or something light under the “barbed” socks. Maybe the next stage of sock mania is to knit silk socks. With tiny needles…

  5. Dave – what a brilliant idea. But what do you do in the summer?

    Freya – thank you so very much ๐Ÿ™‚

    Neha, she wasn’t actually taller than me unless I was crouching down since I was in my early teens when I got her. But she could put her paws on my shoulders and lick my face. Does that count?

    TG – oh yes, the memories, the memories. In particular the plaster cast for the broken leg and its extraordinarily beautiful decoration by my friends. Did I tell you that the doctor who removed it (with a circular-saw type contraption like something out of James Bond) did so with particular care because he wanted to hang it on his office wall? Well I’m mentioning it now ๐Ÿ™‚ And yes, of course, the puppies. Aaaaaaw.

  6. Yes, I am another double-sock-wearer too – the handknit wool ones on the outside, cotton inside, and in summer – nothing but sandals.

    Your project sounds sooo wonderful, and the yarn is as fabulous as your sense of humor. I still have a pair of black lace stockings my grandmother knit for me back in the Carnaby Street era. They are gorgeous; I should put them on and blog them the next time I’m in VT. If she finished them so can you.

    A new routine of dead sea (or other sea) salts in the bath, and NO showers in winter — plus the usual application of large quantities of post-bath lipids — has all but cured the dry itchy skin problem I’ve had for years and years. You don’t need to buy expensive salts – our pharmacies have them in big containers. Worth a try. I used to go out of my mind with the itching, especially at night.

  7. Enormous lump in the throat and stingy eyes time, I thought it was her son. Oh the smell and feel of a rough collie coat! And how I didn’t really cry when he died because I was too wrapped up in my own stupid disastrous selfish life at the time. Gak!

  8. Dear Lucy. I’m absolutely sure that he was a happy dog, whether you cried for him or not. And they are, as we’ve discussed elsewhere I think in the context of ears, infinitely forgiving.

    I hadn’t seen Vicky for ages before she died. My mother took her down to the coast with her, decided she was too big for the house, had her re-homed and got herself a lakeland terrier instead. I was not told until afterwards, of course. There was little point in crying, particularly since my mother had usurped me in Vicky’s affections as is only to be expected if one leaves the dog to go to university.

    I have a great deal of residual guilt about Vicky. But there are lovely bits too.

  9. Oh, and Beth… thanks for the suggestion! I have to be swift with the application of emollients. Maizy licks them off like a kid with an ice-cream given quarter of a chance.

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