I don't consider myself to be a crafty person; my one attempt at scrap booking resulted in a sticky mess that would have embarrassed a pre-schooler. After years of trying and failing, I've come to terms with the fact that my one crafty outlet is knitting (and yes, this was before the resurgence of knitting as a hipster cool hobby). I grew up watching my mom knit but first lesson came in first grade when my Brownie troop was making acrylic potholders. This was in the late 1970s so acrylic, and garishly colored acrylic at that, was all the rage. I'm not sure who thought acrylic was an appropriate fiber to place on a hot object but my little troop toiled away in the school cafeteria learning this ancient craft. I gradually moved onto scarves which after all, are potholders on steroids. I continued to knit off and on over the years and with time the sophistication of my projects, both in style and materials, increased. During college I spent two summers working in a now defunct yarn shop where I became even more proficient in complex designs. I also spent a ridiculously large portion of my salary on yarn since I learned early on that half of the fun of knitting is buying and collecting yarn for my "stash. While living in D.C. I discovered the oh so cool Fiber Space yarn shop in Old Town Alexandria where I spent money we didn't have on yarn for future projects. A few years ago I learned about Ralvery, an on-line database that allows me to keep track of my projects, yarns, and supplies with the click of a mouse. For a database junkie like myself, this discovery seemed too good to be true.
Two years ago, with my closets crammed full of sweaters I came to the realization that by knitting socks, I could complete projects quickly and that as a project, a pair of socks was a lot more portable than a full sized adult sweater. I personally don't wear socks but my friends and family did so away I went with my knitting until even they were running from my hand knit creations. In a attempt to find an appreciative audience for my socks, I stumbled across Socks for Soldiers. This not-for-profit organization that is run out of a single woman's home in Ohio sends hand made regulation socks (and other essential items) to American soldiers on the ground in Afghanistan- or any other location where American troops are deployed. At last I had found an outlet for my hobby, and vast yarn stash, while supporting a cause (the soldiers, not the war) that is personal.
Like so many organizations these days, Socks for Soldiers is run completely online. I've never met any of the other knitters and my only contact with them is through occasional updates on their online forum. By posted comments and email signature lines, I suspect that I am a good two to three decades younger than most of the other knitters, I am one of the few people whose military connections are though an officer rather than enlisted personnel (this is abundantly clear through written comments and asides) and my politics and (lack of) religious views would cause their yarn to jump into knots. Regardless of these factors, we are all happily supporting a cause that we believe in. Just like the military, the rules for knitting socks are strict; colors, patterns, and sizes must be uniform and the regulation olive drab knee high socks are tedious to knit. We are allowed to knit leisure socks which can be brightly colored and fun and this is where I focus most of my energy. Its fun, it empties my stash (which allows me to replenish) and it supports those in need.
I knit occasionally while in Albania; the heat and my schedule just wasn't conducive to fondling wool for extensive periods of time. But not that I am in Belgium, things have changed and so has my production rate of socks. The weather is usually cool and with my family's schedules I find myself spending a lot of time hurrying up then waiting. Sometimes I'm waiting for a few minutes but other times I'm sitting for a lot longer. And knitting, especially small portable projects, is the perfect way for me to pass the time. I've lost track of the number of sock projects I've completed over the past few months but it certainly is a lot. I do know that I'm making regular excursions to the post office to ship my completed projects back to the States where they are then repackaged and mailed back overseas.
So as a war that isn't a war but continues to place our troops in harms way appears to be gearing up once again, I will continue to do my little part to support our troops. I have no idea who the recipients of my socks are but I am sure they are appreciative of the thought and energy that went into making them. (I did meet a solider at the post office at the base in Kosovo once, who upon noticing my customs forms with the Socks for Soldiers mailing address, commented that he had once been the recipient of socks while he was deployed and that he still wore them). And I thought that was pretty darn cool.