Apparently, this is one of the earliest depictions of kilts, a German print showing Highlanders, from c. 1630.
Back in 2008, I was saying things like 'If I ever knit a sock...' Round about then, Helen and I started knitting at lunchtimes. I made a knitter's crossword! Yet when I referred to socks (and there's also one typo), I only mentioned double pointed needles.
I started my first pair of socks in September 2009, and it was on double pointed needles. It only took one sock for me to become discouraged. As I said in a follow-up post, "there's another major reason some of us - cough cough - don't like knitting socks: you have to make another one exactly the same directly after you've finished! I knit my first sock last month and now I'm suffering from second sock syndrome; can't seem to get started on the pair! It might also have something to do with the size of needles - I used tiny 2.5mm ones; perhaps I'd enjoy the process more if they were bigger and the wool thicker... Or if I could knit both at once! My next pattern will definitely be a two-socks-at-once pattern."
Helen came to my rescue, and I started another pair of socks, working on both at once on two separate circular needles (while listening to Scottish band Runrig).
By January 2010, Helen had discovered the magic loop method, which lets you knit up two socks at once on one circular needle. Finally, knitting both socks at once! By February, they were complete, and I wrote: "After the ones on dpns, where I only made one sock, and the ones on straight needles, where I only sewed up one sock and ran out of wool for the second, it's nice to be able to say "I've made a pair of socks!" Hooray for the magic loop method."
And then, it came to me. Kilt hose! And no, not just because Jamie Fraser knits socks and wears a kilt. I do have a couple of friends from Scotland, and one of them happened to have a birthday coming up in a few weeks. What could be easier than making a pair of kilt hose?
I ordered the wool from elann: 10 or 12 (I can't remember) skeins of Oatmeal Heather Highland Wool.
As much as I loved the magic loop method, I found it impractical for the kilt hose, as I'm not good at spatial imagining/planning. I couldn't figure out how to adapt the original magic loop pattern to the additional stitches of the kilt hose. Also, knitting on two circular needles was less tight, and gave me more room to see what I was doing.
The pattern I used was John Anderson's Kilt Hose by Robert Jenkins. The pattern is named for a Robbie Burns poem:
"John Anderson, my jo, John,
When we were first acquent,
Your locks were like the raven,
Your bonnie brow was brent;
But now your brow is beld, John,
Your locks are like the snow;
But blessings on your frosty pow,
John Anderson, my jo!
John Anderson, my jo, John,
We clamb the hill thegither;
And monie a canty day, John,
We've had wi' ane anither;
Now we maun totter down, John,
But hand in hand we'll go,
And sleep thegither at the foot,
John Anderson, my jo."
As far as traditions go, Jenkins specifies that "Kilt hose are traditionally worn 3" below the bottom of the kneecap, though 3-fingers distance is close enough if you aren't in the Regiment or have very wide fingers
So far so good. I was halfway up the calf when summer came and I switched to cooler projects with cotton wool, and that's where I stopped.
Autumn and winter came and went. I made another pair of socks using the magic loop and briefly noted: "And now, back to our regularly scheduled kilt hose." In January I had another brief note about "the neverending kilt hose (I knit an inch up the legs yesterday!)".
In between, I'd knit so many other things (not to mention all the writing related projects), but meanwhile I'd missed the deadline for Burns night, and I was on my way to missing birthday number two. I'd bring along the kilt hose in my knitting bag, and while I knit other projects at lunch, friends would point and ask "what about those? are you ever going to finish them?"
They'd become my longest-lived UFOs, or unfinished objects.
Last month, having completed all my other UFOs, I cleaned out the knitting bag. And there were the half-calf kilt hose, staring up at me from the bottom. My friend's birthday was in a little over a month. Maybe I could finally meet a deadline!
I dropped everything. Editing, blogging (I got posts up but fell way behind on commenting), laundry. I didn't log into Facebook for a week and a half and started getting "you have notifications pending" messages in my email. Instead of bringing a book with me, I knit on the train on the way to and from work.
Surely I must have reached the 3" limit, I thought. I held it up to my friend's leg - at least six inches left to go. Eek!
I woke up and knit. I knit before going to sleep. I had three skeins left. Finally, one day, I measured, and I was ready to begin the cuff! There were some tense moments when the pattern seemed less clear than it could be (especially when they tell you to turn the socks inside out, and that you'll be knitting on the reverse side, but don't quite tell you when to switch and knit facing the other way...), but at least when I made a mistake, it was the same mistake on both socks. To the unknitting eye, it might look like part of the pattern...