Socks for a PhD

Of course I had a project lined up in preparation for my PhD viva exam. What kind of knitter do you take me for? Whenever there’s a life event looming, my needles are on the go. I’m not superstitious, but you bet I was going to have a knitted item in the room with me for…luck. I could give you the boring Ravelry details about yardages and such. Or I can tell you why they’re one of the most important pairs of socks. Ever.

I had a skein of GamerCrafting Sparkle Sock (merino/nylon/stellina) that my pals Pip and Heather picked up for me at a yarn festival in 2018. The yarn’s colourway name was “Harley Deserved Better” and obviously they had to snag it for me. It then sat patiently in my stash as I spent a year trying to decide what it needed to be. Even then I knew it would likely make an appearance at my viva. It was Harley themed yarn, how could that skein not attend with me in some shape or form?

In the summer of 2019, I got my viva date. November. Knowing the building I was likely to have the exam in, I instantly ruled out a shawl. For some reason, the heating in SMLC has to be cranked up so high, you could probably fry an egg on a desk. The idea of sitting and sweating, face bright red for an hour trying to answer questions about my thesis? No thank you.

A ball of red and black variegated yarn

Dungeons and Dragons came to the rescue. I was playing in a regular game at the time and needed a project to work on during sessions. Socks! Easy to transport and shove in my bag, simple enough that I could put them down and pick them back up for dice rolls, lots of comforting and meditative stitches.

I settled on the Fika socks from Pom Pom magazine, Spring 2015 issue. I’d knit several pairs of these socks before and knew that this pattern would show off the yarn whilst fulfilling my knitting needs. I did make some slight changes as I’m anti-cuff-down socks, so instead cast them on toe-up, and swapped the heel out for a German short-row heel. If I’m honest, the pattern was more inspiration and I merely reverse-engineered it (as I had the previous times I’d knit it!) Either way, I had a cracking, utterly stress-free time working on these socks.

Feet in red and black handknit socks surrounded by books

I finished the socks with weeks to spare, of course. And wore them to my Viva. Nobody knew I was wearing them. For one thing I didn’t announce it to my examiners, but they were hidden from view by my boots. But I knew they were there. You honestly can’t beat the comfort of buttery soft merino stitches, and I defy anyone not to feel confident when there’s stellina sparkles involved too. I really like the ankles on these; the twisted rib is pretty, obviously, but it also makes them fit snugly.

I love these socks. I see summer D&D games and rolling dice. I see my friend’s office where I sat and prepared the hour before the viva. I see my examiners and remember the enthusiasm and praise they had for my Harley chapters. I see myself walking out of the building having passed. They’re a bloody good pair of socks.

I’m going to wear them to my graduation. Socks for a viva. Socks for a doctor.

Images copyright Cia Jackson 2020

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