A Week of Interviews Claire Ellen and Uloborus

Welcome to a week of interviews!  This week I have a special treat for you… I’ll be featuring interviews from various designers from the latest issue of Sockupied.

Today, Tuesday, we have an interview with Claire Ellen, who created the truly stunning Uloborus Socks.  Claire is currently in Hungary in Karcag, and writes very eloquently about her experiences abroad.  And without further ado, I’ll let Claire tell you about her Uloborus Socks, and the process they went through before they became what you see in Sockupied today.

One of the things I love most about designing socks– any socks, all socks, all the time!– is that each element of the knitting can have a different motif or idea. A sock has so many different planes and angles, and each one can host a different pattern or the same pattern or a combination of different ideas. I love that the foot can be different than the ankle; the gusset can host a pattern or be plain; etc. The possibilities are endless. 

I was an English major in school, and an English professor once I graduated, and I love finding connections in novels and poetry. When I began playing with yarn, it was a simple process to include literary connections– they’re the two things I love most. Sometimes the connections only make sense in my brain, but it’s as though I can see a knit pattern that embodies some theme or character from the literature. It began when I saw a yarn at The Swift Stitch (my LYS in Santa Cruz) that just screamed Gimli, from the Lord of the Rings. That began my designing whirlwind, and it just keeps getting better! I’d never have dreamed that this silly little hobby of mine combined with an obsession with literature would result in such a degree of fame and fortune. Ha! But seriously, this was all really unexpected. 

As far as the Uloborus socks go, well, they’re really a continuation of the Lord of the Rings series of socks that I thought I had finished. I don’t know if it makes any sense to anybody else, but the collections of patterns are broken into groups of characters I thought went well together– The Fellowship of the Nine was an obvious starting place. Then came what I think of as the “Other Heroes” then “The Ladies,” and finally, a small (but hopefully growing soon) collection from The Hobbit. People were pressuring me to do a “Villains” group, but I’d had enough. I just don’t like the villains. Because, you know, they’re villains. Besides, I thought, how much black yarn can a person knit with? Anyway, I’d thought the collection was finished, and I wanted to knit other things. 

But Shelob (Tolkien’s big spider monster) got under my skin. Scary thought, that! I’d seen several spider-themed socks on Ravelry, and they’re beautiful! But none of them really captured the creepy-ick factor of Shelob in my mind. So I started swatching. And reswatching, and playing around with cables, then with lace, and then bam. It just happened. I was looking through a stitch dictionary, and there it was. Perfect! Just the right amount of Creepy-ick, with some beauty and some delicacy thrown in for good measure. The pattern needed a bit of fiddling, and I needed some additional stitches to fill out the sock, but I just knew this was it. 

Sockupied contacted me the day that I finally got the ankle swatch to work the way I wanted it. They were looking for submissions with a short deadline; I was playing with a stitch pattern, but also planning a move from California to Budapest! It’s a good thing these socks practically knit themselves, and the staff of Sockupied were so helpful, or they’d never have gotten finished up. As for the name, someone at Sockupied came up with “Uloborus” which is a super icky tropical spider of some sort. Good, eh? 

Working on these socks has left me wondering if I might not just return to Tolkien as a source of inspiration and do some villain socks after all. The Mouth of Sauron has a certain horrible charm to him that might translate well to a sock. Right now, though, I’m working like crazy trying to adapt to a new country, new language, sparsity of sock yarn, and a whole host of other issues. I’ve also got Shakespeare on the brain of late, and several socks published, in process, and being tested that borrow from the “Sweet Swan of Avon” for inspiration. 

I began designing socks on a lark. It was something to do with my evenings while my family watched basketball finals or CSI reruns. How could I have guessed that I’d love it the way I do. I’d rather knit socks than just about anything else. I’d do it whether anybody else ever knit my designs or not, and I’ll keep on doing it till it’s not fun anymore.