Who wants to knit the second sock? Sock knitting, children’s games and racism

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You already know me and my long introductions and my utilizing needlework to write about something completely different. So, if you are here only for the yarn related jump to the text beneath the next photo (although I would recommend to also read the graver introduction)

In my youth there was a game we played on the school yard which was called ‘who is afraid of the black man’. This game is still played. You have a catcher (originally the ‘black man’) who calls out to the group which is standing in about 15 m distance. The group answers that nobody is afraid. The catcher responds that he will then come and get them. Now the group starts to run and tries to reach the place behind the catcher. Everyone who is touched by the catcher changes her role and so the group of catchers gets bigger every round. The winner is the last person which could not get caught.
Reading the name and description of the game in today’s context made me perplex… The phrase ’afraid of the black man’ is strongly racist. As I was a child sadly nobody in my circuit cared about this and at that time I had no idea who this black man could have been. I think I assumed it is the chimney sweeper. But today I would not want children to use such a phrase as it is easily misinterpreted.
The game is said to be very old, perhaps reaching back into the late middle ages. The description ‘black’ in this game does (presumably) not refer to a darker skin tone but to death itself. The Black man was the personified death who was feared as he could infect everyone through touch with the bubonic plague. This illness was very long named the black death another hint that this game has a gruesome background but initially was not racist. But as so often with oral traditions nothing is absolute. So, it is also possible that the black man in the game describes a black clad executioner or a person infected by the plague. But more important than finding the alleged ‘true’ meaning of ‘black man’ in this game is, that it is not possible to prevent children (or parents) to understand and use the description ‘black man’ in a racist manner.
Easy solution: change the game! I especially loved the idea to change the initial phrase into “Who is afraid of Justin Bieber”… believe me I would run fast and far. But as Justin Bieber perhaps is not the personified evil (I just do not like his music), I would like to change the phrase into a much more realistic question:

Catcher: Who wants to knit the second sock?
Group: Nobody.
Catcher: And if I force you?
Group: Then we will run.

And I will run too… Currently I have two single socks which are waiting for their counterpart to be casted on. This second sock dilemma is a common problem and @muscara already wrote about the remedy: knitting two socks at the same time on a circular needle. But I so wanted to try out a (for me) new variation of the cuff I did not follow her sensible advice but knitted the socks again on dpn’s.

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When knitting and drink match in colour….

I started with a rolled cuff. Here for I casted on 48 stitches on a 3 mm needle (the yarn has 120 g on 50 m). I knitted the first 4 rows on two dpn’s flat in garter stitch. The fifth row forms the decorative element. Here I knitted 4 stitches and then turned my right needle with the knitting on it. This I repeated up to the last for stitches. Now I distributed all stitches on the remaining dpn’s and knitted on k2, p2 in the round. As I wanted my cuff a bit smaller I decreased 4 stitches in the second row of the k2, p2. I went on for seven more rows of k2, p2 and then changed to stockinette (about 45 rows).

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@cryptocariad Wandering Llama helped me to knit the sock

The heel flap I knitted flat and the heel turn I formed by short rows. Now I picked up stitches of the heel and then continued to knit in the round. For 18 rows I decreased every other row 2 stitches at the sides to reach the same stitch count on all four needles. For the foot I started with 42 stitches which I worked in stockinette over 24 rows.

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As my previous socks had too pointy toes for my liking I changed the decreases for this part. I decreased every other row 4 stitches and short before finishing I decrease every row. I finished the sock with 16 stitches distributed on two needles. To close the sock, I used kitchener stitch (with some beginning mistakes).
Now, please convince me to knit the second socks….please :-DDD

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If you ever want to play this game with your children I would recommend using a fictional figure to be afraid of like the invisible man/invisible woman, a zombie or a monster frog. Racism is still a major problem in our society and nothing (for example this game) which facilitates hate and discrimination should be tolerated.
For days now, I see posts in my Instagram and WordPress account were crafters describe events of discrimination because of racism. I read about the wish of BIPoC for the crafters community to take a firm stand against it. This is my perhaps uneducated and lacking try of taking a stand against racism (and naturally against other lines of discrimination) by not keeping silent. I am writing this post not on Instagram but on @steemit. Up today I thought the crafting community an inclusive community where everybody is cherished. But I think I never questioned my believe because I have so many privileges and therefore are perhaps unaware of discrimination. I still hope we can create a better place…

Thank you @crosheille for iniciating and @muscara, @shanibeer, @marblely for hosting the #needleworkmonday. If you want to see more beautiful projects with yarn, fabric and most of all needles, follow @needleworkmonday. Or even better grab your needles and keyboard and join the #needleworkmonday community.


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It is truly saddening the racism I myself still witness at times. As a black woman it was very hard reading about the game and very offensive. Although it seems it could have possibly been about death rather than a black man, the Middle Ages was a time when racism was extremely prevalent.

My father who is of dark skin still has anxiety and sadness over the racist remarks, attitudes and treatments from the unaccepting society that once was (and unfortunately still is). When we were young he used to tell us the things he went through in the electrical trade and how he had to work out in the bitter cold while the white apprentices got to stay inside in the warmth drinking coffee. It was very upsetting, almost to where I didn’t want to be around anyone of that race because of how “they” treated my dad. I say “they” because I learned it was not fair to put everyone in the same category. I learned this as I got older that every individual person makes their own decisions. Not all people of the same race act the same or have the same views. I learned that there are just some people who choose to be that way and there is nothing you can do but pray for them :) But sadly those experiences my father went through caused him to develop some prejudices of his own. Still today he has trouble with trusting other races or wanting to have any dealings with them. It’s like a ripple effect :(

Wow I almost didn’t leave any space to talk about your socks lol. I do thank you for highlighting this matter that needs to change and for sharing that you hope we can create a better place.

If I could knit as good as you I would love to knit your other sock...but I can’t. I love the thickness of them and how they fit your foot! I am so glad you at least have your llama friend to help you! 💗

Sending more hugs your way! 🤗🤗🤗

As I heard on a school yard that this game is still played and that there are people who defend it in its racists form I was speechless. It is so easy changed. There are many resources available for free how to change such old and outdated offensive games for children. No idea why people are so stupid (ok... sadly I have ideas why they behave like this, but it does not help, as racism and group-focused enmity is not only a problem of individuals but a structural problem)
I am more than sorry, that you and your family are still affected by racism. Your father’s history is gruesome, and I can relate to his rejecting other races. I think being constantly mistreated leads to a general loss of trust in humans and society. Not trusting could be a survival strategy.
As said above I hope I can change things in my environment for the better.

Thank you so much for sharing this personal story 💗

(and with the sock: I toughed up and started the second one 😆😆😆)

You would think people would take the time to change offensive activities but it just goes to show that people will be people . Some may still be ignorant and others just not caring.

Thank you. That’s exactly what it has become for my dad, a survival mechanism. It’s very sad how such treatment can stick with you all of your life and have such an affect on you.

Well good for you darling!! Can’t wait to see it :D

It's like, you've probably seen, those statues of a black jockey that some people have in their yards. I have never seen one in real life, but the online controversy is basically, they're such caricatures, some of them look like black face and not actually a black person at all, why don't people just not keep them anymore? They're obviously offensive. Then some people claim it meant during the Underground Railroad that that was a safe house, so it's actually a good symbol. But nobody can prove that - snopes says it's unproven, at best - so maybe that's true, but maybe it's not, and nobody walking down the street seeing that in your yard is going to know you have it because you think it's a good symbol, they're going to see a caricature and WHY DON'T YOU JUST GET RID OF IT, IT ISN'T HARD. Like the game, maybe it originated in medieval times and meant the black plague, but maybe it didn't, and nowadays that connotation isn't really there, so why not just change the game, it isn't hard. But people have to double down instead of just be considerate, which says to me that they don't have good intentions at all. If they did, they would just stop!

Thank you for this response! I agree with everything :)

You have 2 socks. You don't need them to match... just wear the 2 you have! Or make 1 more sock in similar colors and rotate them as needed.

It sucks to have to deal with Racism, I work with so many people who encounter it daily and have had some very educational conversations over the years. One of my coworkers was afraid for her son when he was taking the bus across town to visit his father. The kid is 17 and it turns out that traveling while Black in Chicago is dangerous. I have a couple friends in Chicago who warn me away from certain neighborhoods and areas, but often those are the places that I am going to work in. Privilege is going to those places and not realizing I was even supposed to be worried by being there.

I totally understand what you mean... My husband works in a non-profit organisation which helps refugees, migrants, poor, old etc... and because of this, most of our friends have the same opinion regarding group-focused enmity. Result: I live in a bubble and simply cannot comprehend emotionally (only intellectually) what daily discrimination does to you.

And with the sock... as I wrote to @cryptocariad: I am nearly there :-D At the place of two different socks (no idea why I am so sock-shy)

I had one of my knitting group ladies finish my second sock when I ran into the second sock sucks issue. Maybe send it to someone. 😁

I already contemplated this idea.... but the only friend of mine who knits is Silvia and I already want to bribe her into sewing in yarn ends

We had a similar song about the plague I grew up with.
Ring around the rosey a pocket full of posies and then we all fall down.

Crazy children played plague games.

I am reading and resteeming your post....

Thanks for your support during the recent dpoll for @steemitbloggers #powerhousecreatives. You resteeming it meant a lot. I had to call on you guys. lol

I know it has been a while but Mondays are hard for me to get the post out ... maybe have "late needlework Tuesday" lol
I will let you know when and if it happens. :) I have some photos of what I am working on.

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I read your post and could not understand how socks are connected with such a serious question that you raised. when I finally understood, I laughed :)))) I have never heard of such a game. It was very interesting to read about it and about your thoughts about the origins of the game. i think you are right that this is bubonic plague. I wish you inspiration with socks!!!!

Thank you for reading this more serious post. And your inspiration is dearly needed. I am curretnly thinking about making the second sock (of the striped ones) color blocked, this would be easier .... but I am still not sure.

I wish I could help you with the (sock) knitting, @neumannsalva, but my skills haven't reached that level yet :D

I really like that twisted cuff feature and the colour of that sock. I'd have to support @jamethiel's suggestion to wear 'odd socks' which is what @tinygalaxy does automatically and as a 'design' feature.

I have also been a victim of racism and discrimination and I have to say that since the Brexit palaver it's become worse. I'd better not enter into all that as it's too painful and hard to write about, but not being at the 'privileged end' I've always encouraged my children to question their own behaviour to not just follow the group and to reflect on their actions.

Oh no... I did not think that the Brexit would make the situation worse. I must admit, I am also always a bit shocked if I am confronted with open racism or discrimination. As you can see on my photos I profit from white privileges and besides this my husband works in a non-profit organisation which helps refugees, migrants, poor or old people. So most of our friends have very similar opinions (or do not dare to say racist and discriminating things in our face) - I am perhaps living in a bubble, were I seldom encounter structural or private discrimination personally. In Germany the biggest problem is, that society/media wants to externalize the discrimination problems by saying, it is only a problem of right-wing extremists.... but no, such problems are found in the middle of society... Sorry I rant without structure.

And with the socks: I am slowly accepting the idea of wearing two different socks :-D The striped ones were not so pleasant to make, as I do not like to work with several (ahem two) yarns at once. I do not know why, but it makes me nervous. So, I contemplate to make the second one not striped, but with big blocks of color. I know, it is only a beginning in wearing different socks :-DDD

It's hard but we just keep going, @neumannsalva - even when social media helps to some extent to bring issues to the fore.

I'm also looking forward to seeing what you decide to do about the dreaded second socks :D

I noticed that the toe of your sock has that square shape too. I thought that I had done something wrong when I saw that the shape of my toe was square. As I learn and continue to knit, I believe that I can change the shape of the toe so that it is more rounded. My crocheted slippers have a rounded toe that I am used to.

I live and face racism on a regular basis unfortunately. The effects of being mistreated because of your skin color is something that you never forget even if you forgive the perpetrator.

I am sorry to hear that you are still in 2019 confronted with racism (I have studied history and I am always amazed how persistent bad human traits and negative developments of society are). And I am not sure how you are able to forgive, but it shows that you are the more resilient and mature and loving person than the perpetrator ...
My husband and I help in an organization who cares for refugees and the open und subtle discriminations they endure when they finally reach Germany and hope to have found a secure haven .... I would lose trust in humans and society, if I were in their position. The discriminations are inside the whole cultural/political system and they do not originate only in extreme persons. As written above, I always hope we will change society for a better (but I am impatient).

And with the socks: I had to smile :-D My first socks (I made for my husband) were super pointy. Like socks for an elf :-DDD And the next one (the pink brown striped) are again so pointy... For the coral ones I modified the toe and casted of earlier and so they look to me more rounded :-DDD


These are my husband’s socks and for this photo (it’s from Christmas) I have already arranged them, that they do not look too pointy (but they are). I casted of at 8 stitches for the toes. And I always worked one knit round between the decrease rounds. I think this could be the mistake... perhaps decreasing faster will lead to a more rounded toe.
But I remember you knit toe up, so all my musings do not really help you.
If you want to try out the cuff down method, Interweave has some variations on the toe


and on this site are also toe up variations mentioned

Thank you. This is very helpful information. I had no idea that there were so many variations on knitting toes.

It's interesting how words and expressions change their meaning depending on historical events and the speaker's or listener's current circumstances. Semantics is truly a very fluid thing...

Oh, and I think I'd run if you tried to force me to knit a sock :DDD

No fear... I will not force you... but perhaps throw the sock an my good friend Silvi and hope the best <3

Ha ha ha!
Good luck to Silvi! :)))))