Thirteen months to knit the first chart, four days to knit the rest. It was a lost weekend of the best kind. Evelyn Clark, I love you.
You might think, after working a month and a half on preparing a sock knitting presentation for my spinning guild, I’d be sick of sock knitting – almost, but you would be wrong. I promised mom a pair of birthday socks, and before I headed off into the wild blue knitting yonder to cast on hats and sweater and non-socks, I needed to finish a labor of love. These are the Punctuated Rib Socks from Knitting Socks with Handpainted Yarn, a book I’ve now knit two patterns from (a record!). The yarn is Aslan Trends Santa Fe, a soft, economical sock yarn that I would call the “poor man’s Koigu” if I were feeling snarky, but I’m not. Nice to knit with, my only complaint is that I needed to swipe my one and only Addi size 1 out of the Fionn sweater I’m working on. Added incentive to finish the socks, since I found out after just a few rows of the sweater on straights that I am no longer a lover of straight needles unless they are DPNs. See the pair here. I feel like I’m definitely going through a dark yarn phase, which is inconvenient when your knit night is in a bar.
For the opposite of dark yarn, I present these Maine Morning Mitts, knit out of long-stashed Kureyon intended for a Lizard Ridge afghan. I think I held off making these because I was concerned I couldn’t get two mitts out of one skein – I am here to tell the Internet you can make two Maine Morning Mitts with just 100 yards of worsted weight yarn (I did shorten the cuffs a bit, but I’m confident even the originals are one-skeiners). These were quick and fun and they knit up in a week, satisfying my raging case of startitis. They also served as a convenient distraction from the hooligans who shot my new car with a BB gun while the Knit One Purl Too crew was out to dinner in a perfectly nice Cleveland suburb. At least the insurance adjuster thought the mitts were nice, and everything’s back to normal now. Frankly I cannot believe that I drove my new car to Chicago and all over the Windy City without a scratch (the Dan Ryan! the Ike!), then I come home and some loser tries to make my Honda Fit into a hoopty.
In my righteous indignation over HooptyGate I have not one, not two, but three finished objects for you – this weekend, I stuffed and sewed a Quincy Quade Quentin monster, and I have to say that while it was a lot of work because I am not a sewer, I am charmed. I’m also pretty proud that he looks suitably monster-y (with the help of Knit One Purl Too’s monster engineering staff, aka my husband, who suggested teasing the stuffing to make it less lumpy, installed the safety eyes and cut the teeth for me). I loved making him, and even though the finishing was more involved than I expected, it reinforced my love of getting details right on knitted objects. Finishing work is actually fun for me.
But if I love finishing, why do I have so many things started? I have 9 things on the needles right now, which seems ridiculous. I’ve started things I haven’t even logged as projects on Ravelry, like a Cassidy cardigan (I met Bonne Marie Burns in Chicago last month at YarnCon and yes, I was a total fangirl: “I love your patterns!”) and the Desdemona shawl in Lorna’s Laces Helen’s Lace (I may have gushed a little at the Lorna’s studio sale: “I love your yarn!” – that’s what happens when you buy yarn once a year; you get excited), and a pair of Roger socks for a dear friend. You would think all of these works in progress would have me a little overwhelmed and maybe a little guilty – but so far it just feels like really good knitting. In other words, you would be wrong.
I am not a knitting quitter. I’m not really a quitter, period; I think persistence is a virtue that serves knitters well (e.g. the Slogalong – Cable and Rib and I are proud members). I have abandoned just one project in my years of knitting, and I was happy to do it, because no one reknits a sweater three times, right? Right?
But here, my friends, is the bitter truth: I am frogging Meadow Flowers.
I really don’t think I have enough yarn, and the fear of running out is outweighing the love for a great pattern. I have ~500 yards (probably less) of small-batch hand-dyed yarn, and the pattern takes 500 yards. Even I admit this is the knitting equivalent of stuffing ten pounds of sugar in a five pound bag. So, so often, I choose the hard thing. I go the long way. I pick the complicated option. I was all set to swap yarn samples with Cassie to see if the extra yarn she had matched mine…Then it occurred to me: I could simply pick a new shawl pattern which requires less yarn. Brilliant! And also, easier!
This handy list, complete with yardage makes the picking of a new pattern fun, in a scientific, research-y kind of way: Shetland Triangle? No – not enough yarn. Flower Basket Shawl? Yes – er, in fact, I already have yarn stashed for this, so planning on knitting two of them might not be the best choice. This PDF featuring arrowhead lace staff projects from Interweave Knits contains the Arrowhead Lace stole (technically more yarn than I have, but it’s an “end-it-whenever” project) and the Little Arrowhead Shawl, a Pam Allen joint that takes just 280 yards of yarn. I could just about make two of them – but then I’d end up with the same nailbiting “will she or won’t she have enough yarn” situation. I can’t tell which shawl I should cast on for quite yet, but I do know it’s time to restash the Twinkletoes sock yarn Au revoir, Meadow Flowers!
In happier news, even though it is clearly not mitten weather, I have finished the Pop Up Paws, so that’s one project down. Vital stats: 2.375 balls of Bergere Irland yarn to make the largest size in a tweedy brown purchased from toadal discount yarn. Size 3 and 5 needles, with the rounded mitten top option (mitten cuff changed to 2×2 ribbing from garter because I wanted to). I liked this pattern a lot, and would recommend it for the sheer volume of detailed information within, plus the fine fit of the finished product. Thumbs (and fingers) up!
In even happier news, I was the lucky winner of Bonne Marie’s “spring fling” contest, and I am now the proud recipient of the Ariann pattern and seven beautiful blue skeins of Cotton-Ease. If you know of my general ambivalence toward cotton, you might have asked why I would risk winning a yarn with cotton in the name? One word: color. It’s so, so pretty, and I think it will be beautiful as a summer cardigan – one cannot live by wool alone. Swatching has commenced, eagerly. Thank you, Bonne Marie!
Stay tuned for our next episode in which I extol the virtues of Combination Knitting (and the charming Annie Modesitt), and the entrelac sock goes on a road trip to meet Lucy Neatby.
First, for those who asked, in a concerned way: no, I did not finish the shawl in time for Halloween. I am not in any way bitter about this, because Susan sent a loaner(!) Charlotte’s Web in a similar color – so lovely, it was an inspiration to me and difficult to return. So my Halloween costume was complete [I was part of a group that went as the Bennett sisters from Pride and Prejudice, and for the record, I actually sewed part of my dress, though not the part you see here with the fancy scoop-neck elastic. -- ed.]. Thank you so much, Susan!
You would think that without a deadline, I would return to the Meadow Flowers Shawl invigorated…but no. I am not abandoning it by any means, but an odd moment brought me to my senses. Every Monday, I reflect on what I might take to Knit ‘n Drink Tuesday at the local watering hole. Meadow Flowers is not appropriate for a dimly-lit bar, and with my Trekking socks finished, and the Retro Ribs finished, I felt as though I had nothing to knit. I even swatched for the Ribby Cardi, but found that true gauge would require new needles – roadblock, as they say on the Amazing Race, so no go on short notice. Of course, there are socks: “I need to cast on for a new pair of socks – I have nothing to work on!”
But that’s not true.
There’s always the Cabled Rib Cardigan from Men in Knits. Started in September 2004, I stalled out shortly thereafter because a. it’s a big sweater with no end in sight and b. there are twenty cable twists on the back every four rows. Fiddly. I think this is what happened: I figured out how the pattern worked, then yawned at the prospect of repeating the same exact pattern for yards of knitting. But now, it’s the perfect almost-mindless project for the months of sweater weather ahead. And, slowly, I can see it growing. There’s
ten inches and some change twelve and a half inches here, with four two and a half inches to go before the armhole shaping (be still, my heart – Shaping! Something besides “knit, purl, cable!”). Bonus “yarn pron” b r o o k l y n t w e e d-style stitch closeup here.
Because I am independently crazy like that, I had already started figuring out just how many stitches were in this sweater when I read about NaKniSweMo (answer: at least 97,936 – there are 35,000 stitches in the back alone). I wanted to know where I was in relation to a completed sweater, percentage-wise. Answer? It’s too soon to be thinking about the completed sweater – just knit.
Thing 2879 you might not know about me: I am a NaNoWriMo winner, class of 2002. It was a heap of fun (genre: chicklit, number of appearances by the dear, departed Peter Jennings: one), but given that I have just completed a freelance writing assignment that required a huge amount of writing, I’d rather commit to
finishing making steady progress on the back of my oldest WIP by November 30 – after all, I have less than 22,000 stitches to go. Like the Retro Rib socks we saw in our last entry, this Cabled Rib Cardigan appears to be a Commitment kind of project; for the knitter of average speed, you have to really want to finish the garment because you may be knitting on it for several years (not counting any time it lays fallow in your project basket). [One side benefit of restarting this project? I found my missing socks - they were in the felted bag I use as a project bag for good ole Cable and Rib - woot! -- ed]
So, is this blog going to be “all Cable and Rib” all the time for the next two years while I finish this sweater? First of all, I am finishing this thing before the end of 2007, if I have to ring in the new year with Dick Clark and my Addi Turbos. I am totally starting a knitalong called “I Thought I’d be Done By Now,” membership: me. Second, I have never been a “small project” kind of person, but I think that’s going to change – I’ve been watching the Lonesome Skeiners and getting inspired, plus the 2006 Knitting Pattern a Day had a few winners that I might or might not be looking into if I were making an effort to knit up my stash, which I totally am, one skein of Blackwater Abbey at a time, as I work my way up the back of this huge cardigan. Only nine and a half skeins to go – whee!
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.
As forewarned recently, freelance writing is taking up much of my free time these days, leaving precious few hours when I just get to let ‘er rip and knit away on something without thinking about what else I should be doing. I find this lack more than a little tragic, but I have updates nonetheless:
From the “food for thought” department I offer my latest post over at Knitting Simplicity, The secret? You can only knit so much. I took the time to flash my stash in a different way because it occurred to me that I needed to have a different way to measure how much yarn I had. Not four tubs worth, or vaguely “three sweaters and some projects” but the nitty gritty: how long was it going to take me to knit it up? Now I know, and it’s made me a lot more aware of the difference between knitting and acquiring yarn (which is not really knitting, no?). I feel no need to live the life of a knitting monk and forgo all luxury, but with four years worth of knitting upstairs, I think I should at least use at the same rate at which I buy.
From the “I love the Interwebs” files, I got an e-mail this weekend informing me that I had made $2.39 because someone bought a t-shirt I forgot I had designed and stuck on the internet for the world to see. Dear Person Who Obviously Has The Same Sense of Humor as Me: thank you for making me laugh – if I see you on the street, you’re getting a hug even though I’m not that kind of person. As for the rest of you, feel free to join the Knitters on Wry Humor Club by purchasing a shirt if you like – who am I to say no to the snark? [I had a whole little explanation here about how I hadn't mentioned the shirt before because I'm generally anti-commerce and anti-blog ad, particularly for my own blog - but 80 percent of the explanation would be that I simply forgot the t-shirt was there, so I'm putting my "knitting and money" soapbox away for the remainder of this entry. - ed.]
From the “are you done yet” department, I bring you what I like to refer to as “one plus” Trekking socks. Without a heel as a cue, I am at the stage where, to a civilian, the second sock could be anything, so it’s very handy to have sock number one to pull out and show the uninitiated that I am not making some sort of super-fancy toilet paper cozy. [Note to the Toilet Paper Cozy Knitalongers: I am not mocking you, I am simply stating my priorities. Send hate mail to email@example.com - ed.] It should also be noted that though imperceptible to the outside world, progress is being made on the Retro Rib. Soon, socks will be busting out all over here, and my knitting street cred will be firmly re-established.
From the stashbusting files, I bring you the thing that is captivating me more than any other during my oh-so-few free hours: The Meadow Flowers Shawl from Knitter’s Stash. Before I tell you about the project itself, it’s probably worthwhile to deconstruct what I consider to be my perfectly normal 15 minutes of project obsession (or, how I knew it was time to start knitting lace or die of longing):
00:01: Find new project on Internet, in this case, the Leaf Lace Shawl; note that I also
blame credit the Evelyn Clark knitalongers for the outbreak of lace knitting fever in my house – they have a photo of not one but five lovely Leaf Laces on their home page.
00:02-00:05: Google around for images of the project (why is no one making the Stacy Pullover from Big Girl Knits, or Cozy from Knitty? Very, very hard to feel the project love when you want to make something that has not taken the Interweb by storm).
00:06-00:07: Join the Yahoo group for the knitted item, often discovered when Googling for FO pictures. If there is no Yahoo group, read the entire group blog. This, of couse, blows the 15 minute plan out of the water, but I now consider myself perhaps one of the greatest living experts on the Ribby Cardi without actually having knitted one – yet. Ribbing variations, knitting in one piece, making your own zipper stops? I’ve got you covered.
00:08-00:12: Scour EBay for the appropriate yarn at the best price. Google “[yarn name] yarn sale”. If the total project cost is more than expected or desired, research yarn substitutions. Consider limited stash options.
00:13-00:14: Consider selling off some of the stash to fund the new project. Cringe at the idea of getting pennies on the dollar for perfectly good yarn.
00:15: Resolve to finish current projects and love what I have; file away project obsession on the “someday” list. For the curious, the someday list currently includes Jane Ellison’s Lizzy cardigan (in Silk Garden, rather than Silver Thaw, I think), knitty’s Cozy, and the Color on Color Scarf from Scarf Style (otherwise known as “the scarf that made me buy the book”), among other things – I have enough yarn that is not for projects on the “someday” list that it makes me want to acquire yarn slowly because as evidenced by the 15 minute bonanza above, I have no trouble finding new things to knit in a big hurry.
Which brings me back to Meadow Flowers. I love the Leaf Lace Shawl, but thankfully no impulse purchases were required – I had stashed away an equally pretty pattern with what I consider to be a very clever knitted-on border. If I’m lucky, my Meadow Flowers will be very similar to the lovely version that Susan knitted in 2004; I bought the same color of Twinkletoes from the same vendor on Ebay. Helpfully, I did not make any notes about yardage when I wound it into a ball, so I am winging it – when it looks like I’ve used 2/3 to 3/4 of my yarn, I’ll begin the knitted on edging. I’m also using a size 5 needle rather than an 8 because I like the idea of more substantial fabric. While not quite a mindless project, the Meadow Flowers has many plain or nearly-plain rows, so it does not require laser-beam focus at every moment. Huge amounts of not-quite instant gratification and a first lace project that will look beautiful – and it only took me two years to get around to starting it.
I have said over and over that I am not a shawl person. Perhaps I am a stole person (it’s less pointy, after all), but with all the things to knit in the world, I felt comfortable saying “No shawls for me, thanks.” And then I was overtaken by an unbelievably powerful wave of Must. Knit. This. Now. when I saw Susan’s Meadow Flowers Shawl (more details in her July 5th entry. It’s lacy, but not fussy, and I love the pop of color – orange is the new black after all. Will I be able to resist purchasing Knitter’s Stash (a book I’ve heard mixed things about) without looking through it first?
That’s my policy, by the way- I’ll buy a novel without having read it, but I won’t buy a knitting book without reading through it first – you lose the element of surprise, but you never, ever feel like you’ve wasted your money once you’ve spent it. Case in point? I would totally buy Knitting in the Old Way (which I thought I wouldn’t be interested in), but I was nonplussed with A Treasury of Rowan Knits; 80 patterns, and I just couldn’t get excited (unsurprisingly, the one I liked best was a cabled sweater, “Percy”). I keep wanting to be a Rowanette, but so far, I just heart Audrey. Sigh.
Yay! I finished the first sleeve of the Lush turtleneck, and purchased my first set of T-pins. While that would mean that I’m technically 40% done with the sweater, I’m probably going to frog most of the back to correct a row of twisted stitches that I can see, so they matter. The only downside? Lush does not like to be handled overmuch – it develops an angora halo quickly, and frogging and reknitting might stress it out. By the time I’m done with my first sweater, both of us will need a therapist!