Monthly Archives: October 2006

Oh, how I wish this were a pair of socks!

Even though I have given in to the brainless joy that is “using markers in your lace knitting,” and the lace repeat in the Meadow Flowers Shawl is not so very big, I am still taking every opportunity to have a learning experience. And by that, I mean I. Am. Screwing. Up. Right. And. Left. The 12th flower lace repeat has become a tiny and very cute version of Dante’s Inferno – a lacy hell in which I feel as if I have always and will always be knitting the same eight rows of flowers over and over.

I would feel differently about my learning experience had I not said two things to myself: first, “This is the only thing I’ll work on until it’s done.” and second “I want to wear this shawl for Halloween.” Eagle-eyed readers will hear the sound of New Year’s knitting resolution #4 breaking: Ix-nay on the deadline-oriented knitting. I know that was technically meant to stop me from a frenzy of Christmas gift knitting in the wee winter hours, but this feels the same – I have too much left to be knit (the shawl progress calculator tells me each row equals approximately one percent of the total shawl), and too little time to knit it – there is no effing way I will possibly be finished by October 31. As an added bonus, I’m almost positive I’ll run out of yarn before I’m done too.

Oddly, I find the surest thing to jinx project progress is talking about it. As in “I think I’ve got the hang of this now” or “It’s getting easier” or “I’ll probably make another mistake before I’m done.” Approximately 39 seconds after I said that last one to my husband the other night, I saw that the top petal of flower 12 was off by one stitch across an entire row – three rows back. To make matters worse, my husband had said “That shawl definitely looks bigger” not an hour earlier.

[Imagine picture of shawl here, mid-rip, with knitter in background soldiering on but losing will to live, bit by bit. Reconstituted shawl is alarmingly similar to this picture taken weeks ago – ed.]

On the bright side, I am a champion lace ripper now. In all seriousness, I don’t know why I expected anything different. I have not knitted lace before, and much as I’d like to be, I am not really an intuitive knitter – I often have to circle around a technique several times with information from different sources before I can read my knitting or I get it. So I’m in the holding pattern that constitutes my learning curve. My lesson from all of this? You can knit something new to you, or you can knit to a deadline, but trying to do both may require a sense of resigned inevitability and the liberal application of curse words.

But if this were a pair of socks or a cabled hat? You bet I’d be done on time. Damn.

I don’t know nothin’ about birthin’ no babies, Miss Scarlett.

You never know, when you start a project, that this will be the item that takes for-evah to finish. You love each project when you start it, so bright and full of promise – new yarn, new pattern, maybe even new needles; what could be wrong with that? And yet, sometimes something happens…I feel like it should not take a year and a half to finish a pair of socks, even for size 11 feet, but it did.

500 yards of yarn later, a pair of socks

Vital stats: The Retro Rib socks by Evelyn A. Clark from the Winter 04 issue of Interweave Knits in Mountain Colors Bearfoot Glacier Peak, 1 1/3 skeins on size 2 1.5 needles, kicking it Magic Loop-style. Started May 2005(!), finished October 11, 2006.

With a time to completion like that is it any wonder I hesitate to buy even one more skein of yarn? It reminds me of a Vows column I read in the New York Times where the couple agreed to date until they were done reading Don Quixote together – as they fell deeper in love, they read more slowly; at the time that was written, they were on page 17. Obviously, the more I love my husband, the more slowly I knit things for him, right? Right?

Anyhoo, the best thing about these socks is that if I like having them off my needles, I love how they look on the feet. I recommend the Retro Rib pattern without reservation. Nice, no? All the detail pops out, the ribbing looks great, the pooling is not as noticeable – it’s almost enough to make me turn right around and make him another pair of socks. If only his feet were smaller. On the bright side, the leftovers from his socks are enough to make a pair for myself – as soon as I can look at the yarn without feeling like I’ve just given birth to a baby that’s been gestating for a year and a half, I might just do that.

For now I’m back to working on the Meadow Flowers shawl we last saw here. I think I am a stitch off somewhere, but I’m really hoping to have this done in time for Halloween. Why? You’ll just have to wait and see – all I can say is that it doesn’t involve any socks.

Stashless knitting is the new black.

Before I get to the juicy bits in this entry, I’m pleased to introduce you to my latest pair of socks.

If Lily Pulitzer went camping, this is what she'd wear

Finished Object #6 for the year; this ties me with last year’s output with three whole months to go. Stats: Trekking XXL, Color 107, my standard sock pattern with the German Twisted cast-on and the Sherman short row heel and the grafted toe I love so much. Total time to completion: a month and a half. I feel as though there’s at least one-third of a ball left, so I could have made the legs much longer than my preferred 7 inches. I feel a pair of toe-up socks coming on, simply to avoid the yarn wastage. On the bright side, I can add another partial ball to my collection in preparation for my Stashbuster Spirals.

Since all I do is talk about knitting around here, I thought there was little left unsaid, but I was wrong. Ten knitterly things you don’t know about me:

1. I am the only knitter who doesn’t harbor a secret fantasy to own or work in a yarn store. Perfect stash, yes. Yarn store, no. I am too bossy for retail, and I would only be able to tolerate requests for cheap novelty yarn for so long. I wouldn’t mind living closer to a yarn store, though. A knitting friend of mine turned down the opportunity to live in the apartment over her LYS this week, and I remain flabbergasted she showed such restraint.

2. I’m yearning to be a stashless knitter. After the recent discussion that sprouted over at Knitting Simplicity regarding my admission that I’m harboring a fugitive four years worth of knitting, I have been testing out the idea that stashless knitting is the new black. I think there would be such delicious freedom and lack of guilt buying the materials for the next project I’d like to work on when I’m ready to start it and I actually need them. I’d make an exception for a small posse of sock yarns, but that’s it.

3. I’d love to work for a knitting magazine. Dear Pam Allen, please hire me; I am a kickass editor and I’d like to knit staff projects for Interweave along with Ann Budd. Imagine it – a knitalong with Ann Budd. We could braid each other’s hair and gab about American Idol between yarnovers (bonus points if you get that reference). Dear Trisha Malcolm: I am not sure I fully understand the appeal of Vogue Knitting, but I own the big book and I buy at least one issue a year, so I’m really trying. If you hire me, I promise not to make fun of any patterns in the magazine.

4. With the exception of dishcloth yarn, I kind of hate cotton. This is the biggest dichotomy in my personality. I am more than a little fiber snobby, but I knit with the most pedestrian yarn there is and love it. Other cotton? Not so much – the fading, the hand, the firmness, all combine to make me go “ick.” To be fair, I seem to remember touching some Blue Sky Organic Cotton last year and liking it, so I may revisit the issue. I also have half a ball of Tahki Cotton Classic to swatch with because I keep thinking about mitered squares.

5. Elizabeth Zimmerman may be may favorite knitting writer, but I probably won’t knit very many of her patterns. Don’t get me wrong, I love Elizabeth’s Percentage System, and I think the Baby Surprise Jacket is kntting genius, but tunic sweaters are not my thing, and I like my garter stitch in limited quantities. Nonetheless, Knitting Around is like the best novel to me.

6. I find stockinette beguiling; ribbing would be my second choice. I like a challenge as much as the next person and I own a cherished copy of Aran Knitting by Alice Starmore, but I love just being able to pick up a project in progress and knit, even if I only have a little time. No fussing with a chart, no thinking about where I left off, just knit, knit, knit. Nice. Perhaps this is why my husband’s cabled sweater has languished.

7. If I could knit just one thing for the rest of my life, it might be socks. Socks have it all: a chance to sample lovely yarns in manageable quatities, portability, the quick gratification of smaller projects, endless pattern variations and technical challenges – they are, as the kids say, the bomb. Plus, even though many sock patterns are easy once you have mastered the basic technique, nothing impresses a civilian like sock knitting.

8. These are my favorite colors. I’m sure there’s some sort of personality analysis you can do with these squares to show that I’m either going to be President of the United States or a serial killer. I think I was a Winter at one point, if that says anything to you, but now pink and orange sock yarn just makes me swoon. mycolors.jpg wintercolors.gif

9. I save scraps of yarn, even small ones. It seems weird to me to throw away even short lengths of yarn after I’ve cut them off an end that’s been woven in, so I have a baggie of “yarn lengths too short to be a partial ball.” Perhaps someday, I’ll make them into a great Magic Yarn Ball, knit it up and felt it into something fabulous. For those keeping track of my eco-friendly tendencies, in addition to yarn scraps and listening to enviro-podcasts while knitting, I also save and reuse plastic picnic silverware as lunch utensils. Alert the media!

10. Even though I love the knitting books I own, I have knit very few patterns out of books. This always surprises me every time I come to the end of a project and am choosing a new one – I have so many patterns already that you’d think my eye would no longer roam, but I’ve owned Knitting on the Road for two years and have yet to make anything out of it. Knitting in the Old Way, Scarf Style, Wrap Style, and every damn issue of any knitting magazine in my house – I’ve made nothing. Yet you’ll have to pry Priscilla Gibson-Roberts’ book out of my cold, dead hands before I give it up, and if Kathy Zimmerman ever writes a knitting book, I’m first in line – I will step over you (after I have knocked you down) to buy her cabled goodness. Perhaps 2007 will be the year of knitting from my pattern stash.

Before I leave you, I urge you to check out the Lonesome Skein Knitalong, a short-term group dedicated to helping you get the most out of your stash diving with patterns for small amounts of yarn. If you are a fan of the knitting links I am constantly putting in my sidebar, know that I have shared some of my very best pattern finds with this group – if that doesn’t entice you to check it out, you’re a knitter made of stone. Who doesn’t like a good pattern? Obviously, I can’t resist.